Updates for July 11-17, 2015
- The situation in Haditha in western Anbar continues to be tense. As Ramadan ends and Eid al-Fitr begins, reports indicate government-provided humanitarian aid is not reaching all Haditha residents with questions about the distribution process inside the city. Militarily, ISIS is reportedly in the Alus area about 6 miles east from Haditha’s city center. According to a field commander, Haditha was attacked 300 times by ISIS over the past six months. This figure is unconfirmed, but ISIS has publicly stated its intention of capturing the city – an objective it has so far failed to accomplish as Ramadan ends. Nonetheless, ISIS pursuit of Haditha will likely continue.
- In Eastern Anbar, operations continue by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) to clear Fallujah. The operation has achieved slow progress, but it continues to be in its initial stages. An Iraqi organization indicates that 700-800 families have left Fallujah.
- Iraq is stepping up efforts to distribute aid to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), according to local officials. Meanwhile, the return of IDPs in Diyala is challenging with a national-level politician claiming that IDP families are paying money in order to be allowed to return.
- Four U.S. F16s jets have been delivered to Iraq’s Air Force. These are part of 36 F16s Iraq has bought. The jets have not conducted airstrikes yet, but their availability will provide the ISF and anti-ISIS forces with improved military capabilities.
- Security plans are in place across Iraq as the Eid al-Fitr begins.
Dire Humanitarian Situation in Haditha Continues as ISIS Attacks Withheld
On July 12, Ghassan al-Ithawi, field commander in Anbar, stated that Haditha is the only remaining outpost in the Western part of Anbar preventing ISIS from “realizing the dream of integration with the occupying of Syria.” Ithawi remarked that by controlling Haditha, ISIS would seize control of the largest dam in Iraq, which would threaten Baghdad and display significant strategic importance for the rest of the country. Sheikh Naim al-Gaoud, a prominent tribal leader in the Anbari Albu Nimr tribe, said that he does not know where the relief materials from Baghdad, intended for members of this city, have gone. Al-Gaoud declared that he believes “there is an agreement between a number of military and dealers on the sale of such materials in the local markets.” The price of a bag of flour in a market inside Haditha is reportedly 800,000 dinars. According to reports, some Haditha residents have been able to secure seats in military aircraft to escape the city and move to Baghdad, as the only land route leading out of the city had been closed off for military purposes. Al-Gaoud stated though that in the past three months, bribery in exchange for a seat to Baghdad on a military plane has become a common occurrence. In response to this, Sheikh Naim al-Gaoud called for “opening the land route between Haditha and Nukhayb [another town in the Anbar province], and not to make it a purely military corridor.” He asserted that this corridor would open up truck routes for the delivery of humanitarian aid and fuel to Haditha. Low levels of water in the Euphrates have meant that the electrical plant in Haditha, using the river for power generation, has only been able to generate one hour of power a day, versus the normal twenty-three hours.
Slow Progress for Anti-ISIS Forces in Anbar
On July 11, a security source confirmed that the Tenth Brigade of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) Badr Organization arrived on the outskirts of Saqlawiyah, 22 km north of Fallujah, to be part of the clearing operations in the area against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The Second and Fifth Brigades had already arrived, along with troops from al-Khorasani factions and the Asadullah Brigade. On July 12, Commander of the Eighteenth Brigade of the al-Khorasani Brigades, Hamid al-Jazaari, stated that the villages of al-Gheinan and al-Mutayer were cleared. On the same day, PMU military spokesman Karim al-Nuri, stated that in the morning, the PMUs launched an offensive operation to take control of the bridge that links Saqlawiyah and Fallujah.
On July 13, a source from the PMUs confirmed that the Jihad Brigades of the PMUs cleared the villages of Albu Khnefer, Hamoud Aziz, and Khalaf Sulaiman to the northeast of Fallujah. On July 14, an anonymous source in Anbar Operations Command stated that army units and the PMUs launched operations at an ISIS gathering in Saqlawiyah. The operation killed thirteen ISIS members, including some foreigners, and destroyed seven vehicles, three of which were mounted with machine guns.
On July 15, the Military Media Cell confirmed that security forces cleared the al-Tarrah area in the Fallujah area after troops arrived at the outskirts of the gas plant and the Zaidan asphalt plant in the al-Jerayshi area. Forces also cleared the al-Tash area in southern Ramadi. On July 15, an anonymous security source announced that Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) cleared the Mathiq area in Khaldiyah to the east of Ramadi. On the same day, operations continued to clear areas north of Fallujah and also in the Garma area. On the same day, a source in Anbar Operations Command confirmed that military reinforcements of tanks, shields, artillery, armored vehicles, and weapons arrived in Fallujah from the Habbaniyah base. The reinforcements will aid forces in the clearing operations in Anbar as the army and police work to isolate Fallujah and Ramadi.
Food Distribution to IDPs, Diyala Continues to be Challenging
On July 11, the Mayor of Tikrit, Omar al-Shendakh, announced that the Ministry of Trade distributed food rations to 3,000 out of the 6,000 displaced families in Tikrit. A second round of rations will be distributed after Eid al-Fitr.
On July 12, the Directorate of Migration and Displacement in Dhi Qar announced the distribution of food rations in cooperation with the World Food Program (WFP) for the month of July to 2,274 displaced families in the province. The Director General of the directorate, Ali Saleh al-Hilu said that the first phase of the distribution process will be launched in the Nasiriyah city center, where more than 1,000 displaced families live, and will continue later in the districts of al-Rifai, Shatra, Suq al-Shuykh, and Chabaish. The families receiving the rations originate from the provinces of Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Mosul, and Salah ad-Din.
The dire need to provide aid and protection to IDPs across Iraq persists. On July 11, Deputy Prime Minister Bahaa al-Araji ordered government authorities to expedite the processing of families fleeing military operations in Anbar as a result of the fighting between Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and ISIS and to permit their entry into Baghdad. On July 13, a member of the High Commission for Human Rights Masrur Aswad confirmed that about 800 families have been displaced from Fallujah. The War Media Cell announced that a large number of these families have fled to Albu Alwan. While the ISF and PMUs have called for the evacuation of remaining Fallujah civilians, ISIS is preventing families from leaving.
On July 16, Raad al-dahlaki, chairman of the Displaced and IDPs Parliamentary Committee, revealed that some displaced families are forced to pay 500,000 dinars to some local officials in exchange for their return to their homes in Diyala’s Udhaim area. al-dahlaki stated that there are “more than 40,000 families displaced from different areas in the province of Diyala, most of them [from] Baquba district and Khanaqin.”
On July 12, the Director of the Immigration Commission in Iraqi Kurdistan, Amanj Abdullah, warned that the migration of young people continues to increase, with over 300 young people from Iraqi Kurdistan migrating abroad every month, commonly by the Aegean Sea.
F 16s Arrive in Iraq
On July 13, a source from the Ministry of Defense confirmed that four American F-16 warplanes arrived at Balad Air Base in Salah ad-Din to improve the Iraqi military capacity. The delivery had recently been delayed due to security concerns in Balad, seventy km north of Baghdad. On July 15, Commander of the Iraqi Air Force, Lt. General Anwar Hamad Amin, confirmed that the Air Force will begin training sorties for operating F16 aircraft. He added that the F16s will begin airstrikes within days.
Eid al-Fitr Security Operations
On July 10, an anonymous source in Mosul claimed that ISIS is preventing the “establishment of the Eid prayers in mosques in the city of Mosul.” ISIS threatened that offenders will receive the penalty of 40 lashes and a fine of 50,000 dinars. Concerns over this was one of the reasons that on July 16, Major General Qassim Rashid Zuid, Chief of the Wasit Provincial Police, confirmed that police forces are starting to implement the Eid al-Fitr security plan to secure public areas as of dawn on Friday and will continue until the end of the holiday. The goal is to create a safe environment for citizens to exercise rituals and celebrations in public areas during the feast. There will be external checkpoints at the entrances of the cities with K9 units to detect explosive devices, along with an internal security force of local police, emergency rescue operations, national information and traffic operations, and ambulances on stand-by.
Ahmed Ali is a Visiting Senior Fellow and Director of ISHM at EPIC and Sarah Walker is a Research Intern at EPIC. They would like to thank Tarai Zemba and John Chisholm for research support.