ISHM: February 21 – February 28, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • Iraqi Officials Meet Foreign Counterparts; Shia Iraqi Politicians to Form Alliance; Meeting Held to Complete Government Formation – On February 25, the Lebanese daily al-Akhbar, reported that Nouri al-Maliki, Secretary General of the Islamic Dawa Party and Ammar al-Hakim, the Head of the National Wisdom Movement intend to establish an alliance described as a “nucleus of opposition” to the growing warmer ties between Moqtada al-Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri. On February 25, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi met with several Iranian officials. On February 25, Iraqi President Barham Salih arrived in Paris for a two-day visit. On February 25, the incoming Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Masrour Barzani, and the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Masoud Barzani met with Russian Federation Ambassador to Iraq, Maksim Maksimov. On February 26, the head of the Iraqi Reform and Reconstruction Coalition Ammar al-Hakim met with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Seyed Abbas Araghchi to discuss bolstering ties between Iraq and Iran. On February 27, Iraqi politicians gathered for a summit called by Iraqi President Barham Salih in Baghdad.The purpose of this meeting is to reach an agreement on completing the formation of the government, and discuss the presence of foreign (U.S) troops in Iraq. On February 27, Iraqi National Security Advisor Faleh al-Fayyad arrived in Moscow. On February 28, the Kuwaiti National Assembly Speaker Ali Marzouk al-Ghanem arrived in Baghdad for a series of meetings in Baghdad. more…
  • Militant Attacks Continue Across Iraq Despite Ongoing Security Operations; ISIS Prisoners and Families Transferred from Syria to Iraq – On February 23, members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attacked Sayf Saad village in Kirkuk province with RPG rockets. On February 24, additional 130 ISIS foreign and Iraqi arrested militants were transferred by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to the custody of Iraq’s military, totaling in 280 prisoners relocated within the last week. On February 25, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and Border Police launched an operation in the western desert of Iraq aimed at removing ISIS militants from their remaining hideouts in the region. On February 26, President Barham Salih announced his decision to adjudicate thirteen French citizens associated with ISIS in Iraq and his intention to try ISIS captives who perpetrated crimes against Iraqi citizens and the state. On February 26, a roadside bomb exploded in Fallujah in Anbar province, killing two civilians. On February 26, a group of ten ISIS militants killed a civilian and kidnapped another during an armed attack in Mosul city. On February 27, Iraq News reported that a mortar attack on Baqubah village in Diyala province killed two citizens and wounded three others. On February 27, the U.S.-led coalition conducted an airstrike in Tal Aswad village in Salah ad-Din province that killed seven members of ISIS. On February 27, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi announced that Iraq will take security measures vis-a-vis the families of suspected ISIS fighters. more…
  • Concerns Raised About Harassment of Aid Workers and Access Limitations in Iraq; New Humanitarian Response Plan Released for Iraq; Saudi Arabia Pledges Aid to IDPs; Protests Persist in Basra – On February 25, dozens of people protested in the province of Basra to demand more jobs and better services. On February 25, Human Rights Watch reported that Iraqi officials in Ninewa are harassing and arresting aid workers. On February 26, the Saudi Ambassador to Iraq, Abdul Aziz al-Shammari announced that Saudi Arabia plans to provide support to internally displaced persons (IDPs) as well as returnees in Iraq. On February 26, Mercy Corps published a report stating that extremist activity is increasing Iraq, which may create no-go zones and “aid deserts.” The Humanitarian Response Plan for Iraq for 2019 was released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 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 Officials Meet Foreign Counterparts; Shia Iraqi Politicians to Form Alliance; Meeting Held to Complete Government Formation

On February 25, the Lebanese daily al-Akhbar, reported that Nouri al-Maliki, Secretary General of the Islamic Dawa Party and Ammar al-Hakim, the Head of the National Wisdom Movement intend to establish an alliance described as a “nucleus of opposition” to the growing warmer ties between Moqtada al-Sadr, head of the Sairoon Alliance, and Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the Binaa’ Coalition. Al-Maliki also hopes to include Haider al-Abadi of the Victory Alliance in this newly emerging alliance, according to sources close to al-Maliki.

On February 25, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi met with several Iranian officials including the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi and the Iranian ambassador to Iraq. The main topic under discussion was cooperation between the two countries in the spheres of  trade, the economy, as well as issues pertaining to water and borders. The two sides also discussed the establishment of a common industrial zone, similarly to the one shared by Iraq and Jordan in the hopes of creating jobs and projects that would benefit both countries.

On February 25, Iraqi President Barham Salih arrived in Paris for a two-day visit. He discussed security conditions in Iraq, including the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Salih met with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the matter of French citizens who have traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight for ISIS and are now detained in Iraq after U.S. forces handed them over after their capture in Syria.

On February 25, the incoming Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Masrour Barzani, and the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Masoud Barzani met with Russian Federation Ambassador to Iraq, Maksim Maksimov, to discuss the fate of the Kurds in Syria following the announcement of President Trump on the removal of almost all U.S. forces from Syria, which serve as a protective force for the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-dominated militia in control of north-eastern Syria.

On February 26, the head of the Iraqi Reform and Reconstruction Coalition Ammar al-Hakim met with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Seyed Abbas Araghchi to discuss bolstering ties between Iraq and Iran. Recent developments in the region were also a topic of discussion. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi stated that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will soon be visiting Iraq to continue these talks.

On February 27, Iraqi politicians gathered for a summit called by Iraqi President Barham Salih in Baghdad. Those attending include Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi as well as Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Mohammad Halboussi. Kurdish leaders attending include the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Masoud Barzani, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Finance Hoshyar Zebari, and Deputy Secretary General of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Kosrat Rasul. The purpose of this meeting was to reach an agreement on completing the formation of the government, and discuss the presence of foreign (U.S) troops in Iraq.

On February 27, Iraqi National Security Advisor Faleh al-Fayyad arrived in Moscow and met with the National Security Council of the Russian Federation Nikolai Patrushev as well as Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Envoy to the Middle East Mikhail Baghdanov and Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin. The parties discussed cooperation between the two nations, how to combat terrorism, and the effects of the conflict in Syria.

On February 28, the Kuwaiti National Assembly Speaker Ali Marzouk al-Ghanem arrived in Baghdad. He is set to meet with Iraqi President Barham Salih, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Mohammad Halboussi. Al-Ghanim has stated that he would like Baghdad to host a conference of the Kuwaiti, Saudi, Jordanian and Iraqi leadership in the near future.


Militant Attacks Continue Across Iraq Despite Ongoing Security Operations; ISIS Prisoners and Families Transferred from Syria to Iraq

On February 23, members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attacked Sayf Saad village in Kirkuk province with RPG rockets. Residents of the town fought back against the assailants. One person was injured during the attack, but no deaths have been reported. ISIS appears to have managed to kidnap on the the local residents before retreating.

On February 24, additional 130 foreign and Iraqi arrested militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) were transferred by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to the custody of Iraq’s military, totaling in 280 prisoners relocated within the last week. Some family members of the suspected ISIS militants were transported with the prisoners. The destination of the militants and their relatives within Iraq is currently unknown.

On February 24, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a dispatch on the transfer of  suspected Iraqi Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) fighters and their families from Syria to Iraq. The total number of those transferred is unclear, ranging from 4,000 to 16,000 individuals according to different estimates. Several humanitarian agencies told HRW that the Iraqi Government has requested that these individuals be transferred to camps. Iraq currently holds tens of thousands of individuals it labels as linked to ISIS in camps where their freedom of movement is severely restricted. HRW warned that “the government should not confine people to camps who have not been charged with a crime other than being related to a suspected ISIS fighter. Doing so would contribute to a form of collective punishment, which constitutes a war crime.”

On February 25, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and Border Police launched an operation in the western desert of Iraq aimed at removing militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham from their remaining hideouts in the region. The operation will cover a total of 450 kilometers, encompassing the regions between western Anbar and the Iraqi border, including Wadi al-Qadaf. This operation follows numerous kidnappings and killings of citizens in the Anbar region and Wadi al-Qadaf.

On February 26, President Barham Salih announced his decision to adjudicate thirteen French citizens associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq and his intention to try ISIS captives who perpetrated crimes against Iraqi citizens and the state. French officials are not interested in repatriating their citizens from Syria or Iraq, and prefer that French militants affiliated with ISIS would be tried in Iraq.

On February 26, a roadside bomb exploded in Fallujah in Anbar province, killing two civilians and wounding two others traveling in a car. Security officials searched the scene for other explosive devices, but found none.

On February 26, a group of ten militants belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) killed a civilian and kidnapped another during an armed attack in Mosul city. Local security forces are investigating the incident.

On February 27, Iraq News reported that a mortar attack on Baqubah village in Diyala province killed two citizens and wounded three others. The wounded citizens were treated in a hospital not far from the scene.

On February 27, the U.S.-led coalition conducted an airstrike in Tal Aswad village in Salah ad-Din province that killed seven members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Security forces also located several explosive devices.

On February 27, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi announced that Iraq will take security measures vis-a-vis the families of suspected Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) fighters. Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi argued that these people pose a threat to Iraq’s stability. Abdul-Mahdi stated that there is a difference between families who were trapped under ISIS, “besieged families”- and families of ISIS fighters. He also stated, “we are keen on human rights, but this cannot be dealt with in the same way as those families who were besieged.”


Concerns Raised About Harassment of Aid Workers and Access Limitations in Iraq; New Humanitarian Response Plan Released for Iraq; Saudi Arabia Pledges Aid to IDPs; Protests Persist in Basra

On February 25, dozens of people protested in the province of Basra to demand more jobs and better services. The demonstrators also demanded that corrupt officials be held accountable and for the implementation of reforms. Since 2014, Basra has experienced major civil unrest due to high levels of unemployment, government neglected and poor government services.

On February 25, Human Rights Watch reported that Iraqi officials in Ninewa are harassing and arresting aid workers. The deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, Lama Fakih stated, “aid workers in Mosul and other parts of Nineveh have faced baseless charges of ISIS affiliation, and have even been arrested.” There has been at least 22 reported incidents of this kind in Ninewa in 2019. The report calls for Iraq’s security forces to protect humanitarian workers and establish standards for investigating incidents such as these.

On February 26, the Saudi Ambassador to Iraq, Abdul Aziz al-Shammari announced that Saudi Arabia plans to provide support to internally displaced persons (IDPs) as well as returnees in Iraq. al-Shammari met with the Iraqi Migration Minister, Nawfal Bahaa Mousa, and the two discussed how Saudi Arabia and Iraq may cooperate in implementing service projects “which will contribute to restoring stability to liberated areas, as well as providing humanitarian support to displaced families.”

On February 26, Mercy Corps published a report stating that extremist activity is increasing Iraq, which may create no-go zones and “aid deserts.” In some of the most affected areas, aid workers face daily challenges in reaching vulnerable populations. The Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) elements have started to regroup and carry out attacks in Kirkuk, Diyala, Salahaddin, and parts of Anbar, hindering access of humanitarian organizations to these regions. Referring to under-reporting of militant attacks, Mercy Corps Iraq Director, Tanya Evans, stated that “what we are reading in the media and what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq simply doesn’t add up.

The Humanitarian Response Plan for Iraq for 2019 was released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The report shows that 6.7 million people in Iraq are still in need of humanitarian assistance with $701 million required in order to help them. Almost two million Iraqis remain displaced from the conflict with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Priority will be placed onto individuals who are deemed more vulnerable such as those with connections to extremist groups, women, children, and the elderly. More specific goals of the Humanitarian Response Plan include the protection of Iraqis, with measures such as establishing community centers and mobile services for IDPs who do not live in camps as well as neutralizing explosive hazards throughout the country. Health is another main area in need of improvement, and aid organizations will focus these efforts in this sector mainly in IDP camps. Water, sanitation, and hygiene will be improved by the introduction of solar pumps, mobile water treatment units, and improvement of the management of solid waste. Education will also be tackled by humanitarian aid as they use their funds to pay for qualified teachers and volunteers.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs February 22- February 28, 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
02/26/19al-Fallujah, Anbar Province 22

 

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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