Updates for July 2, 2015
- Clashes took place in western Anbar between the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). ISF have reportedly cleared the al-Joba area which is close to the center of Hit and al-Baghdadi which is home to the al-Asad airbase where U.S. military advisors are based. If al-Joba is completely cleared, it will signal increased pressure on ISIS in the Hit area which ISIS took control of in October 2014. Overall, the Anbar campaign still has not included a major offensive by either the ISF or ISIS.
- An agreement signed by the Iraqi Shi’a and Kurdish political groups in Diyala may facilitate the return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to cleared areas in the province. The agreement will also have a tribal component as the Juburi tribe will work to vet returning IDPs. This is a positive sign given the ethno-sectarian diversity of Diyala and the need to allow IDPs to orderly return to the province. There are remaining challenges with the participation of Iraqi Sunni groups as part of the agreement.
- There is a water and pollution crisis in the Euphrates and the marshes in southern Iraq.
- Babil province which hosts around 13,000 IDP families will reportedly start to receive assistance from the European Union to address IDP needs.
- ISF and Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) have made progress in Baiji against ISIS. The area is not completely cleared of ISIS yet and next week’s anti-ISIS operations will be significant in determining the status of the area. Meanwhile, IDP families continue to return to Tikrit with the number reaching 3,118 families.
Clashes in Western Anbar Indicate Pressure on ISIS
On June 27, an anonymous security source stated that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) launched two attacks in western Anbar. The source added that 7 ISIS members were killed by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) during the two separate attacks at the Al-Joba and Majid checkpoints in western Anbar. On June 30, a military source confirmed that ISF and anti-ISIS tribal forces clashed with ISIS in the town of al-Joba. Another source added that security forces cleared ISIS from al-Joba, which is located in the Hit district in western Anbar.
On June 30, Jaafar al-Musawi, spokesperson of Kataib Hezbollah (KH) or Hezbollah Brigades in Iraq, stated that KH members, other Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), and security forces currently surround Ramadi from three sides and thus are preventing members of ISIS from supplying reinforcements. Al-Musawi added that the anti-ISIS forces are located throughout the region from Khalidiyah, east of Ramadi to five kilometers west of Ramadi.
Steps Taken to Allow IDPs Return to Diyala
On June 27, the governor of Diyala province, Muthana al-Tamimi, announced an agreement with the Iraqi Kurdish parties in Diyala to authorize the formation of a joint force of the Army, police and the Peshmerga to protect the cleared areas in Diyala and where Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) would return. According to the Citizen’s Alliance Provincial Council member, Qassim Oda, joint forces will also work to secure areas that fall within the Disputed Internal Boundaries (DIBs) areas given ISIS’ tendency to use the areas’ ethno-sectarian composition to establish a presence. Oda added that members of the Juburi tribes will work to vet returning IDP families. Iraqi Sunni member of the Council of Representatives (CoR), Raad al-Dahlaki, praised the agreement as it can provide security in the province but he was also critical of excluding the Iraqi Sunni political forces in the province.
Water Crisis in the Euphrates and Marshes
On June 27, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) confirmed that the Friends of UNICEF implemented its first water and sanitation program in Baghdad. The European Union is funding the project to increase public awareness and the efficient use of water and to improve hygiene practices in Iraq. The Friends of UNICEF is a group of young volunteers formed in collaboration with UNAMI to support all UNICEF programs focusing on issues related to children through the mobilization of the local community to encourage positive behaviors and practices.
On July 1, the Committee on Agriculture, Water and Marshes in the Iraqi Parliament known as the Council of Representatives (CoR) stated that there is increasing pollution in the waters of the Euphrates and in the marshes. The committee pointed out that the populations living in the villages located along the Euphrates River are threatened by famine, as well as the risk of death and displacement due to the polluted waters. It called for the provision of humanitarian assistance and activating relief programs to help assist people at risk of sickness or famine due to these conditions.
Babil to Receive Support from the European Union
On June 30th, the governor of Babil Sadiq Madlul al-Sultani stated that the European Union (EU) agreed to provide humanitarian assistance to displaced people in the Babil province. Sultani met with the EU’s Ambassador to Iraq. Babil province, which is located in south central Iraq, has received over 13,000 displaced families since June 2014.
Clashes to Clear Baiji Continue as IDP Continue to Return to Tikrit
On June 29, the security aid to the Governor of Salah ad-Din, Brigadier General Ibrahim Diab, announced that 3118 displaced families returned to Tikrit. Diab added that there is a committee supervising the return of the families and discussing ways to overcome difficulties and how to reduce waiting time. Diab further noted that the delay in the return of families is caused by power outages, which disrupts the computers that are used to identify the names of entrants in their cars. The Director of the Department of Immigration and Displacement confirmed that 250 trucks filled with refrigerated food and mattresses will arrive for the returning families.
On June 29, an anonymous source confirmed that 13 ISIS members were killed and two armed vehicles were destroyed when Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and PMUs repelled an attempted terror attack on the Alas and Ajil oil fields in the Hamrin area east of Tikrit.
On June 30, Federal Police Captain, Raed Jawdat, confirmed that Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) completely cleared Baiji from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Jawdat noted that ISIS suffered heavy losses in its members, weapons, and equipment, with dozens of corpses covering the streets.
Ahmed Ali is a Visiting Senior Fellow and the Director of the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor at the Education for Peace in Iraq Center. He would like to thank Sarah Walker, Nicole Ladouceur and John Chisholm for research support.