ISHM: January 25 – January 31, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • Iraqi Politicians Hold Series of Meetings with Foreign Officials, Expound Neutral Position in Region – On January 27, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister reported that several ministers from the Jordanian government arrived in Baghdad for meetings. On January 27, Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim stated in an interview that Iraq will not attend any events that are focused on countering Iran and will not get in the middle of US-Iran relations. On January 29, the Speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Mohamed Halboussi, stated that Iraq does not want to be a battlefield for conflicts, but seeks to become a “meeting point for all.” On January 30, King of Spain, Felipe VI visited Iraq to inspect Spanish forces based there and discuss reconstruction with Iraqi officials. On January 31, Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali al-Hakim stated that Iraq’s relations with Russia, Iran, and the United States are not in conflict with each other, but in fact are a source of strength for Iraq. On January 31, Iraq’s National Security Advisor Falih al-Fayadh traveled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to meet with security officials in the Kingdom. more…
  • KRG Share of the Budget Apparently Determined; Anti-Corruption Council Established – On January 29, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced the formation of a Supreme Anti-Corruption Council. On January 30, Kurdish representatives in Iraq’s Parliament announced that the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had been allocated 12.67% of the 2019 federal Iraqi budget. more…
  • American Ambassador to Iraq Replaced Amid Continuing Iraq-U.S. Security Cooperation, which is Facing Increasing Scrutiny from Iraqi Politicians – On January 27, a senior Iraqi military official stated that United States special forces were closing in on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). On January 28, Qais al-Khazali, the leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, stated that he expects Iraq’s parliament to vote for the withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq soon. On January 28, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced the end of the term of the United States Ambassador in Iraq, Douglas Silman. On January 30, al-Mada reported that the United States embassy in Baghdad is trying to mediate negotiations between the Peshmerga and the Iraqi Defense Ministry concerning the division of responsibilities in Kirkuk province between the two. On January 30, the United States declassified a report on the 2003 U.S. occupation of Iraq. The report totals 1,300 pages and details United States activities in Iraq from the invasion in 2003 through U.S. withdrawal and the rise of ISIS. more…
  • Iraqi and Kurdish Security Forces Continue Combating Militants as Militant Persist in Staging Attacks Across the Country – On January 26, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) announced that they thwarted an attempt by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to infiltrate Iraq from Syria. On January 27, two civilians were injured in an IED explosion in the city of Tikrit. On January 27, al-Sumaria reported two back-to-back IED attacks near Sharqat. On January 28, the district council in Anbar province stated that ISIS executed two judiciary members and kidnapped another. On January 28, a policeman was killed in an armed attack in northwestern Kirkuk. On January 29, an Iraqi security source claimed that an Iraqi airstrike killed six ISIS fighters who were aids to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, in Anbar province. On January 29, three people were killed by gunmen just north of Baghdad. On January 30, Baghdad reported that due to the removal of several concrete barriers that have been in place since 2007, hundreds of streets and alleys have been opened, facilitating movement. On January 31, several gunmen killed an elected official in Fallujah, 70 kilometers west of Baghdad, in Anbar province. more…
  • Turkey Conducts Deadly Airstrikes against PKK Targets in Northern Iraq, Sparking Protests – On January 26, Turkish soldiers shot at protesters near Dohuk, in Iraqi Kurdistan. One protester was killed and ten others were injured. On January 27, the Foreign Relations Committee of the Iraqi Parliament called on Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government to remove the non-Iraqi forces from the territory of the country, stressing a need to open dialogue with Turkey to bring an end to the shelling on northern Iraq. On January 29th, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) made a public statement in the Iraqi parliament blaming the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for being responsible for the destruction and abandonment by inhabitants of hundreds of border villages. On January 31, Turkey performed air raids on the PKK in northern Iraq. more…
  • Iraqi Officials Meet with International Donors; UNHCR Updates on Aid Provision; Heavy Rainfall and Pollution Endanger Communities – On January 27, the UNHCR published an update on winterization assistance it provided to displaced persons, refugees and returnees in several Middle Eastern countries. In Iraq, the UNHCR provided winter-appropriate core relief items (such as blankets, plastic sheeting, mattresses) to 495,905 people since December. On January 29, Al-sumaria news reported a meeting between Iraq’s President Barham Salih and a group of delegates from the World Bank, including the Executive Director and Board Dean, Mazra Hassan, to discuss cooperation between the World Bank and the Iraqi government in developing and advancing the country in various areas. On January 29, al-Mada reported that rainfall over the last 36 hours in 16 provinces exceeded 100mm. The rainwater caused material damages in houses and croplands in the Soran district, north of Erbil. Other provinces in Iraq have been affected by the heavy rainfall including Wassit, Babil, Baghdad, and Najaf. On January 29, Alistair Burt, the British Minister of State for the Middle East, announced a new aid package of more than €30 million by the British government to Iraq. On January 30, the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights warned Basra residents of the danger stemming from emission of toxic gas from oil fields. more…

For more background on most of the institutions, key actors, political parties, and locations mentioned in our takeaways or in the stories that follow, see the ISHM Reference Guide.


Iraqi Politicians Hold Series of Meetings with Foreign Officials, Expound Neutral Position in Region

On January 27, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister reported that several ministers from the Jordanian government arrived in Baghdad for a meeting to discuss developments in bilateral relations. The meeting was led by Fuad Hussein, the Finance Minister. Among the delegates from Jordan were ministers from the health, finance, energy, industry, trade, and transport ministries.

On January 27, Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim stated in an interview that Iraq will not attend any events that are focused on countering Iran and will not get in the middle of US-Iran relations. The statement was in reference to a conference set to be held in Warsaw in February and it has been dubbed an “anti-Iran” event. Many European countries have opted out of attending this controversial conference.

On January 29, the Speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Mohamed Halboussi, stated that Iraq does not want to be a battlefield for conflicts, but seeks to become a “meeting point for all.” This statement came following Halboussi’s meeting in London with British officials. Halboussi called on Britain to support Iraq through providing funds for reconstruction. He also asked Britain to support Iraq in the return of displaced people, as well as intelligence support and training of Iraqi forces.

On January 30, President Barham Salih spoke about the importance of uniting divisions among political forces in Iraq. The president held a meeting with the Head of State of Law Coalition, Mr. Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad. They discussed how a joint effort by the government to enhance stability in Iraq is needed. They also spoke about political and security developments.

On January 30, King of Spain, Felipe VI visited Iraq to inspect Spanish forces based there and discuss reconstruction with Iraqi officials. Spain currently has 551 military members deployed in Iraq and the King stated that their main task is to train Iraqi soldiers to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Iraqi President, Barham Salih hosted the Spanish delegation at the presidential complex, where they discussed post-ISIS reconstruction and the Spanish government’s role in the campaign against ISIS.

On January 31, Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali al-Hakim stated that Iraq’s relations with Russia, Iran, and the United States are not in conflict with each other, but in fact are a source of strength for Iraq. Hakim met the head of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Russian Senate, Konstantin Kosachev in Moscow to discuss an increase in economic cooperation between Baghdad and Moscow.

On January 31, Iraq’s National Security Advisor Falih al-Fayadh traveled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to meet with security officials in the Kingdom. Iraqi media reported that the Iraqi and Saudi delegations will discuss improved bilateral security cooperation, particularly along the Iraq-Saudi border, as well as the Iran-aligned elements with Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). Since late 2017, Iraqi politicians have sought to warm relations with their neighbors in Saudi Arabia through a series of high-level ministerial visits between officials from the two countries. However, few tangible agreements or projects have proved forthcoming from this rapprochement.

On January 31, the Iraqi Oil Ministry announced that it had signed a contract with China’s National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) to conduct seismic surveys at one onshore oil exploration block along the Iraq-Iran border, and a second offshore block in the Persian Gulf near Kuwait. If successful, the survey would represent the first such project undertaken in Iraqi territorial waters. After boosting output in 2018, Iraq is the second-largest oil producer within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), behind Saudi Arabia.


KRG Share of the Budget Apparently Determined; Anti-Corruption Council Established

On January 29, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced the formation of a Supreme Anti-Corruption Council in a effort to begin countering rampant corruption in Iraq. He also called for speeding up the establishment of the anti-corruption measure, the “national index for integrity,” to hold corrupt officials accountable.

On January 30, Kurdish representatives in Iraq’s Parliament announced that the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had been allocated 12.67% of the 2019 federal Iraqi budget. Mohammed Shaker, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), told al-Sumaria that, in return, the KRG agreed to provide 250,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) to the overall Iraqi export volume. According to the Iraqi Constitution, the federal government must pay a share of its budget to the KRG, but the exact percentage provided is often a source strong of disagreement between Iraqi and Kurdish blocs during annual allocation debates. The 12.67% allocation comes in addition to funding provided for Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga salaries, which the Baghdad government also provides through the Ministry of Defense. The Iraqi Parliament previously approved the federal budget for 2019 on January 24.


American Ambassador to Iraq Replaced Amid Continuing Iraq-U.S. Security Cooperation, which is Facing Increasing Scrutiny from Iraqi Politicians

On January 27, a senior Iraqi military official stated that United States special forces were closing in on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. According to the Iraqi source, after information on the whereabouts of al-Baghdadi was received by this squad, they moved from a military base in Erbil across the border into Syria. There have been no updates on their movement since.

On January 28, Qais al-Khazali, the leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, stated that he expects Iraq’s parliament to vote for the withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq soon. He argued that there is no longer any need for U.S. troops in Iraq following the defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) adding that troops may be forced out if they refuse to leave.

On January 28, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced the end of the term of the United States Ambassador in Iraq, Douglas Silman. Silman arrived in Baghdad in 2016. The prime minister expressed appreciation for the efforts made by Silman and emphasized the importance of strengthening relations between Iraq and the United States. Matthew Toler is expected to become the next US ambassador in Iraq.

On January 30, al-Mada reported that the United States embassy in Baghdad is trying to mediate negotiations between the Peshmerga and the Iraqi Defense Ministry concerning the division of responsibilities in Kirkuk province between the two. Shuan Daoudi, a former deputy for the province, explained that the northern part of Kirkuk may be handed to the Peshmerga, the southern part to the army, and the city center to the local police.

On January 30, the United States declassified a report on the 2003 U.S. occupation of Iraq. The report totals 1,300 pages and details United States activities in Iraq from the invasion in 2003 through U.S. withdrawal and the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It identifies numerous errors made by the U.S. including never sending a large enough ground force and not developing a comprehensive strategy to achieve the goals set by the political leadership, such as establishing a democracy in Iraq. In addition, the report states that there was not enough effort put into training the Iraqi army. The report found that Iran appears to be the only winner of the war. The report also found that U.S. leadership was wrong in its belief that the 2005 elections would bring stability and calm to the country. Instead, U.S. actions contributed to tensions between different groups.


Iraqi and Kurdish Security Forces Continue Combating Militants as Militant Persist in Staging Attacks Across the Country

On January 26, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) announced that they thwarted an attempt by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to infiltrate Iraq from Syria. The PMU statement read: “based on precise intelligence information, the artillery of the PMU and [Iraqi] Army shelled a gathering of ISIS fighters on the Syrian side, resulting in direct hits in the ranks of the terrorists.”

On January 27, two civilians were injured in an IED explosion in the city of Tikrit, 140 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, in Salah ad-Din province. The wounded were taken quickly to a hospital to be treated.

On January 27, an unknown assailant attacked the home of the President of the Council of Wasit province, just southeast of Baghdad, with a hand grenade. The only damage was done to material items and an investigation has been opened by security forces.

On January 27, al-Sumaria reported two back-to-back IED attacks near Sharqat, in Salah ad-Din province. The first killed two and injured 3 just south of Sharqat. The second IED went off as security forces were coming to the aid of those affected by the first attack. Two were killed and ten were wounded in this attack in southern Sharqat.

On January 28, a special army unit arrived in Kirkuk province in order to replace anti-terrorism forces. This is only the beginning of the replacement of anti-terrorism forces in Kirkuk with specialized personnel sent by the Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

On January 28, the district council in Anbar province stated that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) executed two judiciary members and kidnapped another. The incident occurred in the desert region of western Anbar Province, approximately 30 kilometers west of Haditha. The two killed were from Haditha, approximately 240 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, and the third from Wazia, approximately 290 kilometers northwest of Baghdad.

On January 28, a policeman was killed in an armed attack in northwestern Kirkuk.ِ A security source told al-Sumaria News that “one of the checkpoints in the Dibis District operated by the Federal Police was subjected to an armed attack yesterday” by militants belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), resulting in the death of a policeman.

On January 29, al-Sumaria reported that the local government in Basra is reviving a plan to install hundreds of surveillance cameras on streets in the province. This plan was first formulated in 2011 but was put on hold until now. The few cameras currently in place have helped identify criminals who carried out robberies and murders, among other crimes Basra continues to be plagued by insecurity, in part due to tribal clashes.

On January 29, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Peshmerga Lieutenant General Jabar Yamar stated that there is a need for the Peshmerga and the central Iraqi security forces to work together to target terrorists in disputed territories. No agreement has been reached on the matter to date

On January 29, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi declared during a press conference that Iraq is taking active measures to ensure that members of unwanted organizations do not enter Iraq through its western border. Currently, the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S. backed militia, is closing in on the remaining pocket under control of ISIS.

On January 29, an Iraqi security source claimed that an Iraqi airstrike killed six Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters who were aids to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, in Anbar province. According to the official, there is evidence that these ISIS fighters were responsible for repeated car bombs in several provinces, such as Ninewa, Salah ad-Din, and Anbar, and an attack conducted on the Iraqi-Syrian border.

On January 29, three people were killed by gunmen just north of Baghdad. The incident occurred in a popular cafe. The identity of the attackers are unknown and an investigation into the attack has begun.

On January 30, Baghdad reported that due to the removal of several concrete barriers that have been in place since 2007, hundreds of streets and alleys have been opened, facilitating movement. Iraqi officials have been lifting these barriers over the last year. Removing barriers and checkpoints is a sign of improved security in Baghdad and is part of an effort by the Baghdad authorities to project a return to normal life.

On January 31, several gunmen killed an elected official in Fallujah, 70 kilometers west of Baghdad, in Anbar province. An investigation into the incident has been opened by security forces.


Turkey Conducts Deadly Airstrikes against PKK Targets in Northern Iraq, Sparking Protests

On January 26, Turkish soldiers shot at protesters near Dohuk, in Iraqi Kurdistan. One protester was killed and ten others were injured. Additionally, two tanks were burned by protesters as well as other vehicles. Turkey stated that the protesters belonged to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Tensions were raised over the recent air raids conducted by Turkey, which killed four civilians. Air raids of this sort are regularly coordinated by Turkey near their border shared with Iraqi Kurdistan against the PKK. The recent announcement of the removal of U.S. troops from Syria has created nervousness about the possibility of Turkey targeting Kurdish forces supported by the United States. The U.S. has only pledged to protect Kurds and Christians in Syrian Kurdistan.

On January 27, the Foreign Relations Committee of the Iraqi Parliament called on Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government to remove the non-Iraqi forces from the territory of the country, stressing a need to open dialogue with Turkey to bring an end to the shelling on northern Iraq.

On January 29th, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) made a public statement in the Iraqi parliament blaming the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for being responsible for the destruction and abandonment by inhabitants of hundreds of border villages. Vian Sabri, the head of the bloc called at a press conference on the PKK to withdraw from border villages, since their presence is used by Turkey as pretext to shell the area. MP from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Aram Balti blamed the attacks on the Turkish army and the PKK. Similar to Sabri,he stated in an interview that the PKK fighters being present justified the Turkish attacks on innocent lives in Dohuk. He emphasized that Iraq should not be a place for settling political and military conflicts between the PKK and Turkish forces.

On January 31, Turkey performed air raids on the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. The Iraqi Defense Ministry stated that Turkey hit all of their intended targets. Just five days earlier, protests erupted in Iraqi Kurdistan against this type of attack by Turkey.


Iraqi Officials Meet with International Donors; UNHCR Updates on Aid Provision; Heavy Rainfall and Pollution Endanger Communities

On January 27, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published an update on winterization assistance it provided to displaced persons, refugees and returnees in several Middle Eastern countries. In Iraq, the UNHCR provided winter-appropriate core relief items (such as blankets, plastic sheeting, mattresses) to 495,905 people since December, about 72% of them internally displaced and the rest are refugees from Syria. The UNHCR also reported that 97,641 Syrian refugees and IDPs received a one-off cash grant in December 2018. The UNHCR and its partners also provided about 2,000 families with emergency assistance due to flooding heavy and rainfall.

On January 29, Al-sumaria news reported a meeting between Iraq’s President Barham Salih and a group of delegates from the World Bank, including the Executive Director and Board Dean, Mazra Hassan, to discuss cooperation between the World Bank and the Iraqi government in developing and advancing the country in various areas. Salih emphasized the need for more employment opportunities and economic and social development, while also recognizing the World Bank’s ongoing efforts to support Iraqi financial institutions.

On January 29, al-Mada reported that rainfall over the last 36 hours in 16 provinces exceeded 100mm. The rainwater caused material damages in houses and croplands in the Soran district, north of Erbil. Other provinces in Iraq have been affected by the heavy rainfall including Wassit, Babil, Baghdad, and Najaf. Several families have been forced to evacuate their homes. The Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human RIghts in Iraq issued called on Iraqi authorities to declare a humanitarian emergency in the provinces experiencing torrential rains, urging the government to take measures to save citizens and displaced people. No injuries or deaths have been reported.

On January 29, Alistair Burt, the British Minister of State for the Middle East, announced a new aid package of more than €30 million by the British government, aimed at helping the Iraqi government to boost the economy and reconstruct schools, hospitals and necessary infrastructure in an effort to allow displaced Iraqis to return to their homes. Burt stated that the UK would provide further support to address immediate humanitarian needs, such as ensuring that healthcare and electricity are reinstated in larger cities including Mosul.

On January 30, a meeting was held in Baghdad to discuss returning ownership rights of the disputed agricultural lands to their original owners in the Kirkuk region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Among those present are the deputies of Kirkuk, and representatives of the Iraqi president, the Federal Court, and other relevant ministries. This is the second meeting held to discuss the matter of ownership of agricultural land in the region since the independence referendum held in the Iraqi Kurdistan in 2017.

On January 30, the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights warned Basra residents of the danger stemming from emission of toxic gas from oil fields. The UN office urged the central and local governments to promulgate safety procedures regarding the waste fires in Shatt al-Arab and other sites south and west of the province’s center. They also demanded an explanation for the continued waste fires, explaining that they only increase air pollution in the area. The continuation of these waste fires threatens rivers and groundwater sources in the region.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs January 25- January 31, 2019

The following table includes both civilian and security forces who were either injured or killed due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), or suicide attacks.
DateLocationDeathsInjuries
01/27/19Tikrit, Salah ad-Din Province02
01/27/19South of Sharqat, Salah ad-Din Province23
01/27/19Sharqat, Salah ad-Din Province25


Please note: some geographic locations represented are approximations and this map may not represent all incidents.


Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor is a free publication of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center.


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