ISHM: June 30 – July 6, 2017


Key Takeaways:

  • Iraqi Security Forces Go Door-to-Door in Mosul’s Old City in Final Push to Clear ISIS – As ISF pushes into the last areas of western Mosul controlled by ISIS, fighting has intensified as the militants stage a final defense. On July 5, ISF sources announced that 100-300 ISIS militants still occupied 150 square meters in Mosul’s Old City, and Iraqi commanders anticipated that they would fully clear these areas within a week. Similar predictions of imminent victory, however, have proven overly-optimistic in the past, and ISIS’s resistance remains intense. As the fighting culminates, U.S. military advisors have increasingly helped to coordinate artillery airstrikes in the city to prevent civilian casualties and friendly-fire incidents. more…
  • Conditions for Mosul IDPs “An Experience Like Hell” According to UNHCR – Rapidly deteriorating conditions for IDPs fleeing fighting in Mosul have raised alarm among humanitarian providers in northern Iraq over the past week. A June 30 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report detailed abuses committed by security forces against civilians accused of ISIS affiliation, providing evidence of beatings, torture, and extrajudicial executions of unarmed civilians by ISF units. Similar allegations of abuse have emerged in past weeks as the numbers of civilians fleeing Mosul climbs. Meanwhile, inside Mosul, humanitarian conditions continue to deteriorate as summer temperatures rise. Food, water, medicine, and electricity remain scarce in some recently liberated areas, as well as for civilians still trapped in ISIS-held territory as militants seize remaining supplies. Bruno Gredo, head of the UNHCR in Iraq, said, “People have told us they were eating grass, so things are really desperate.” He continued, stating that displaced civilians arrive in camps resembling “someone who gone through an experience like hell.” According to UN reports, months of intense fighting in western Mosul have left large swathes of the city unlivable, preventing many IDPs from returning to their homes. This situation stresses already overstretched humanitarian responders, raising concern that capacity in displacement camps will not be sufficient to meet the needs of civilians. According to UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, up to 20,000 residents remain in ISIS-controlled territory, with 1,500 fleeing for every 100 meters that security forces clear. more…
  • Security Forces Look to Next Destinations After Mosul: Hawija, Diyala, Syrian Border – On June 29, ISF announced a much-anticipated operation to liberate Hawija, approximately 50 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk City, from ISIS militants. Hawija, which has been encircled by Iraqi forces since September 2016, is one of ISIS’s last urban strongholds. To the west, leaders within the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) requested Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s permission to enter Syrian territory at the al-Walid border crossing to fight ISIS militants – permission that the Prime Minister would not give. Meanwhile, counter-ISIS operations continue in Diyala Province, confining ISIS militants to the remote foothills of the Hamrin mountains. more…
  • Attack at Displacement Camp Extends Protection Concerns for IDPs in Anbar – On July 2, an ISIS suicide bomber killed 14 people at the Kilo-60 IDP camp in the town of al-Wafa, 60 kilometers southwest of Ramadi. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, strongly condemned the attacks, and expressed concern for civilian safety the country. Two days later, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), issued a report describing dire humanitarian conditions for civilians fleeing ISIS-held territory in western Anbar Province where temperatures exceed 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit). OCHA estimates that about 50,000 people could flee western Anbar once military operations to clear ISIS from the region commence. more…
  • U.S. Hints at Repercussions for Kurdish Independence – As Iraqi Kurdish leaders plan for the expected September 25 referendum on independence for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), they face a setback in Washington. On June 30, the U.S. Congress threatened to cut funding to the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces if Iraqi Kurdistan becomes independent from Iraq. The U.S. draft defense bill, released last week, makes continued funding of the KRG contingent on Erbil’s “participation in the government of a unified Iraq.” While the document is non-binding, the language of the statement is an indication of strong U.S. opposition to the upcoming referendum. Meanwhile, Erbil continues to face challenges to independence from some Iraqi Kurdish political parties, as well as national Iraqi figures. more…
  • Iranian Dams Restrict Water Flow in Iraqi Kurdistan – Last week, Iran completed construction of a new dam that blocked almost 80 percent of water flow in the Little Zab River, which passes through Iraqi Kurdistan. In retaliation for perceived inaction by Baghdad to intervene, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) reduced the water flow to south and central Iraq by about 130 cubic meters per second, in a bid to preserve water for Iraqi Kurdish towns impacted by the Iranian dam. On July 4, Iranian officials announced that they would re-open the Little Zab River and that “the water will continue and will not be stopped again.” 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 Security Forces Go Door-to-Door in Mosul’s Old City in Final Push to Clear ISIS

On June 29, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point released a study of roughly 1500 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attacks over the past several years in cities in Iraq and Syria now considered “cleared” of ISIS control. Their findings indicated that as ISIS is forced out of its territory in Iraq and Syria, it has begun to return to a more standard insurgency organization, conducting attacks on civilian and military targets without working to seize control of new territory. The researchers emphasized that military victories against ISIS strongholds are not sufficient to ensure long-term security and stability, and that ISIS remains a potent threat even in areas where they do not control significant territory.

On July 1, the Chicago Tribune reported on the U.S.’s changing role in the fight to clear Mosul of ISIS militants. U.S. advisors are helping coordinate Iraqi artillery and airstrikes with soldiers on the ground in the Old City, in order to reduce friendly fire. In the process, U.S. advisors are  within a few hundred yards of the frontlines of the conflict, often bringing dozens of U.S. soldiers with them for security. As Iraqi security forces close in on the last ISIS held territory in the Old City, the fighting is increasingly taking place in close range quarters. Iraq’s three armed services branches have struggled to keep each other fully-informed on their operations to avoid inflicting casualties on each other. After Mosul is retaken, the future of U.S. forces remains unclear, though Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has indicated a desire to keep some U.S. troops in the country, where 6,000 troops remain on the ground.

On July 4, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated the Iraqi troops on their “big victory” against ISIS in Mosul, saying “Praise be to God, we managed to liberate (Mosul).” Fighting in Mosul’s Old City continues, but the date held symbolic importance: it is the third anniversary of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s speech at Mosul’s now-destroyed al-Nuri mosque, when he declared the existence of his self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Abadi also announced that he had spoken with security forces in Mosul, and given instructions to stabilize and rebuild areas that have already been cleared of ISIS, where Iraqi forces have struggled to stop suicide bombers and counterattacks by ISIS militants.

On July 5, Iraqi Security Forces announced that they anticipated fully clearing Mosul of ISIS militants by the end of the week. ISIS militants are currently cornered in the western portion of the Old City, where Iraqi forces are locked in intense, close-quarters fighting.

On July 5, ISIS militants executed one of their preachers in Tal Afar, after his sermon hinted that ISIS leader and self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may be dead. The incident comes after months of speculation about the status of ISIS’s reclusive leader, who may have been killed by a Russian airstrike in May, according to the Russian military. ISIS leadership in Tal Afar has reportedly imposed a 50-lash punishment for anyone who discusses Baghdadi’s death. As ISIS territory in Iraq erodes, Baghdadi’s absence raises the potential for conflict and fracturing within the organization.

On July 5, Abdul-Wahab al-Saidi, a senior commander of the Counter-Terrorism Service, announced that only 150 square meters of the Old City remains under ISIS control, where he says roughly 100 fighters remain, most of them outfitted with suicide vests. A conflicting report by another senior Iraqi military official indicated that some 300 fighters still remain in ISIS’s shrinking territory in the Old City.

Conditions for Mosul IDPs “An Experience Like Hell” According to UNHCR

On June 30, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report raising concerns about the alleged beatings and unlawful killings of men and boys fleeing Mosul by Iraqi forces, particularly during the final stages of the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Eyewitness have told HRW that that within the past week, they saw Iraqi forces beating unarmed men and boys fleeing the battle. HRW also obtained information about Iraqi forces executing unarmed men during this same time period. One witness reported that three Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) members boasted about the execution of captured unarmed men who were thought to be ISIS affiliates. Two eyewitness said the saw ISF soldiers pick at least six men and boys out of a crowd of fleeing civilians at a security checkpoint, beat them, and then drove away. Another witness said that they saw soldiers pick out a man in a crowd, beat him, and then moved him into a building where he was later killed. Another witness from a neighborhood in western Mosul saw two Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) members take down the corpse of an alleged ISIS fighter that had been strung up to an electric pole and stoned to death. The same witness was also shown a video of a severely beaten man, who the CTS members claimed was an ISIS prisoner. In the video, another CTS member shot and killed the unarmed prisoner. One of the unnamed witnesses said, “I have heard of countless abuses and executions in this battle…but what’s changed is that in this final phase fighters are no longer hiding what they are doing and are comfortable allowing us to witness the abuses first-hand.” HRW is calling on Iraqi criminal justice authorities to investigate all crimes of unlawful killings, mutilations and abuses in a prompt, transparent, and effective manner, and to be held to the highest level of responsibility. According to the HRW report, extrajudicial executions and torture during an armed conflict amount to war crimes, and those found criminally responsible should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

On July 1, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), reported that a total of 451 Iraqi civilians were killed in acts of terrorism, violence, and armed conflict during the month of June 2017. Another 300 civilians were injured during the same month. Of those statistics, the Ninewa Province was the worst affected (289 people killed) followed by the Baghdad and Salah al-Din provinces. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, Jan Kubis, renewed his call for the protection of civilians during armed conflicts and condemned the continued deliberate targeting of civilians seeking to flee Mosul. Kubis said, “We are seeing the end of Daesh in Mosul as Iraqi forces closed in on the terrorists in the city’s old quarters, but there are civilians who remain trapped in the area or who are held as human shields by the terrorists. The well-being of civilians is a matter of extreme concern for us.” Kubis also condemned the killing of three journalists who were killed in Mosul while covering the battle.

On July 3, Bruno Gredo, head of the UNHCR in Iraq, reiterated his concern for civilians in Mosul as food, water, and medicine remain scarce to those who trapped in the city. He also showed concern for the worsening security crisis in Mosul, specifically the use of civilians as human shields by militant groups. Regarding the supply shortage in Mosul, Gredo blames the lack of supplies available on ISIS, claiming that the food remaining in the city was seized by ISIS militants, according to recent escapees, saying that “People have told us they were eating grass, so things are really desperate.” He continued by stating that Mosul’s displaced residents are often “totally emotionally and physically drained” by the time they reach IDP camps. “They look aghast… like someone who gone through an experience like hell.” Fierce fighting in Mosul has left countless parts of the city unlivable, as Gredo says he cannot see the immediate return of civilians in the future due to the level of destruction in the city. The inability of civilians to return home immediately raises numerous concerns regarding the capacity of humanitarian organizations to provide for the hundred of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs).  According to the UNHCR, more than 900,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Mosul. Gredo does believes that aid groups in the region suffer from a lack of resources to deal with the continued influx of IDPs, especially to provide for them in a long term capacity: “It’s like coming back from the afterworld and so we are doing everything we can, but to be honest I don’t think we have the tools with his level of trauma…they have seen unspeakable violence.”

On July 4, the World Food Programme (WFP) raised concerns regarding the humanitarian crisis in Mosul, as people continue to flee the city under difficult circumstances and extreme temperatures. The WFP are reporting that many civilians who are living in territories held by ISIS are food insecure and have not had access to clean water or medicine for months. As thousands of civilians continue to flee the city, the WFP reports that many humanitarian organizations have stretched their response capabilities thin, making much harder to provide aid to civilians who remain in Mosul.

On July 5, Save the Children, an international NGO that protects the rights of children, recently released research results, indicating that children from Mosul face severe and dangerous levels of psychological damage due to brutal fighting and years of living under ISIS abuse. Researchers found that children are so scarred by their memories, that they are living in a constant state of fear, are unable to show emotion, and suffer from “vivid waking nightmares.” The research was conducted at a displacement camp in south Mosul, and is the largest recent study on children’s mental health as a result of the conflict in Mosul. All 65 children in the focus group displaced signs of toxic stress – the most dangerous stress response. 90% of the children lost loved ones in the conflict, leaving the survivors  numb, emotionless and suffering from constant nightmares. The loss of loved ones caused the largest amount of stress among the focus group, as the children told stories that they witnessed family members being killed in front of them, shot by snipes, blown up by landmines, or hit by explosive weapons on their way out of the city. Dr. Marcia Brophy, Save the Children’s Senior Mental Health Advisor for the Middle East, says,”What was striking was how introverted and withdrawn children have become. They rarely even smiled. It was as though they had lost the ability to be children.” Save the Children warns that eventually the children will be able to rebuild a normal life, but without any urgent boost to the provision in psychological support, children may be left with lifelong psychological damage. Currently, funding for psychological support is significantly underfunded funded, as program needs have only reached 2% of desired funding.  

On July 5, Lisa Grande, the United Nations’ Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, said in a statement on June 5 that repairing Mosul’s basic infrastructure will cost over US$ 1 billion, an estimate that includes repairing water, sewage, and electricity lines, as well as re-opening hospitals and public schools. The estimate is nearly double the originally-anticipated costs, which have climbed after fierce fighting in western Mosul has completely leveled some districts. Long-term repair and reconstruction costs are likely to climb into the billions of dollars.

On June 6, Rudaw reported that tensions between civilians and security forces in Mosul’s Old City have severely escalated in the past several days, as Iraqi forces try to clear the last of ISIS from the city.  A Doctors Without Borders official stated that the fight for Mosul is taking a “devastating” toll on residents: civilians are caught between the crossfire and are often used as human shields by ISIS, the temperatures have risen to around 47 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit), and many of the suicide bombings are carried out by women hiding among civilians. All of this is playing out within an estimated 500 square meter sliver of territory, where some 300 ISIS militants are expected to be hiding among the civilians. Lise Grande, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, stated that up to 20,000 residents are trapped in ISIS controlled territory, 1,500 of whom flee with every 100 meters that security forces clear. It is difficult for the ISF to distinguish terrorists from civilians, which has prompted forces to turn against those they strive to protect.  At checkpoints out of the Old City, security forces are detaining boys as young as 14, accusing them of ISIS affiliation. Hadad, an officer said, “these are not children. They are cubs of the caliphate.”

On June 6, the German government announced that it would allocate another EU€ 13 million (approximately US$ 14.8 million) to the UNHCR to support its work of providing shelter and protection to Iraqi IDPs, in light of the recent surge of displaced persons fleeing Mosul. Nearly one million Iraqis have been displaced from Mosul since the fight to retake it began in October of 2016, and the devastation across many western Mosul neighborhoods will limit many citizens’ ability to return immediately.

Security Forces Look to Next Destinations After Mosul: Hawija, Diyala, Syrian Border

On June 29, Iraqi Security Forces (ISFs) announced that they would launch an operation to retake Hawija, approximately 50 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk City, from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) soon after Mosul is liberated. The city is one of the last urban strongholds of ISIS and has already been encircled by Iraqi forces, who anticipate an easier fight than the one to retake Mosul, which has now stretched on for over nine months.

On July 2, a major general leading the Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) forces at the al-Walid border crossing with Syria asked permission from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to enter Syria to fight ISIS militants across the border, and enter Syrian towns that they suspect are safe havens for the organization. The request came after his forces reportedly repelled an ISIS attack on the border crossing the same day. On June 5, Abadi said in a news conference that any effort to push beyond the Iraqi border would be unconstitutional, without directly referencing the PMU request.

On July 4, an Iraqi airstrike on the town of Safra, which is located about 45 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk, killed five ISIS militants, including an IED expert, and injured seven more, while destroying an ISIS weapons cache. ISF forces near Safra are preparing for a campaign to seize control of the city from ISIS after the operation to retake Mosul is completed.

On July 5, a leader of the PMU forces at the Syrian border, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, released a statement emphasizing the close relationship between PMUs and the Iraqi government, thanking the government for its support and reiterating their commitment to work with the government to achieve their mutual goals. The statement was released in the Iranian city of Mashad, where Muhandis was traveling for a conference.

On July 6, ISIS reportedly executed four of their leaders in the Diyala Province for their failure to gain a foothold in the area after investing considerable resources into attacks on security checkpoints and population centers during Ramadan. An ISF-led offensive against the organization in Diyala has confined them to the remote foothills of the Hamrin mountains in the northeast of the province. As Mosul falls under Iraqi government control, ISIS is redoubling its efforts to make gains elsewhere, though often with limited success.

Attack at Displacement Camp Extends Protection Concerns for IDPs in Anbar

On July 3, the United Nations unequivocally condemned the July 2 attack on an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp. The attack took place at the Kilo 60 transit site in the town of al- Wafa, 60 kilometers southwest of Ramadi in Anbar Province. A suicide bomber was hiding among a group of fleeing civilians: the device detonated, killing 14 and injuring 19 others, most of whom were women and children. Lise Grande, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq strongly condemned the attacks, stating: “The people who were attacked had fled to Kilo 60 for their safety. Many have travelled huge distances seeking help. We express our deep condolences to the families of the victims.” Grande expressed her concern for the safety of civilians in Mosul who continue to face extreme danger and reemphasized the need for all parties in the conflict to ensure the safety of civilians at all costs.

On July 3, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) released a report regarding their concern for the protection of civilians in Mosul and IDPs waiting to return. In the report, the UNHCR reiterated their concerns regarding the evictions and forced displacements of families of suspected members of extremist groups wishing to return home to Mosul. The UNHCR warns that collective punishment coupled with increasing impunity is a growing concern, as eviction notices continue in Qayyarah and parts of the Salah al-Din and Anbar provinces. In addition, they urge authorities to take targeted measures against individuals suspected of, or committed for, criminal offenses in accordance with the rule of law. The report also touched on the restriction to IDP camps that are lacking essential health services due to shortages within the camp and the inability to access services outside the camp.

On July 4, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), issued a report regarding the humanitarian crisis taking place in western Anbar. The report highlighted the increasing number of civilians fleeing western Anbar and other territories held by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), most of whom leave under the cover of sand storms. The report noted that between 150 to 300 people are making the 500 kilometer journey from Qa’im, located 300 kilometers west of Fallujah, to the Kilo 18 site in temperatures that reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit). OCHA estimates that about 50,000 people could flee western Anbar once military operations to clear ISIS from the region take place. Concerns have been raised regarding those in need of humanitarian aid in western Anbar as the humanitarian presence is currently focused only in the eastern portion of the province.

U.S. Hints at Repercussions for Kurdish Independence

On June 30, the U.S. Congress threatened to cut funding to the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces if the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) becomes independent from Iraq. The U.S. draft defense bill, released last week, makes the continued funding of the KRG contingent on Erbil’s “participation in the government of a unified Iraq.” While the document is non-binding, the language of the statement is an indication of the U.S.’s strong opposition to the upcoming Kurdish referendum for independence from Iraq, set for September 25. Most international and regional actors, including the U.S. State Department, are against the referendum and argue that it will divide and weaken the already insecure region.

On July 3, Iraqi Shia and Kurdistan Region Islamic parties broke out into a shouting match during the ninth annual Islamic TV and Radio conference in Iran.  A member of the Kurdistan Islamic Union (Yakgrtu) commented that  “unfortunately, a number of TV managers, Arabic and Islamic media representatives, especially the Iraqi Shias, described South Kurdistan’s referendum as an American and Israeli plot.” Supporters of the referendum argue that the vote does not contradict the basis of Islam, and that “it is a legal and legitimate right of our nation to determine its fate like any other nation.”

On July 4, British Members of Parliament (MPs) held a debate on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for the first time in three years, and politicians from across the political spectrum expressed their support for the upcoming referendum, claiming that the region has a right to self-determination and independence from Iraq. MP Jack Lopresti argued that Iraq made the separation inevitable by failing to meet a 2007 deadline to resolve the disputed areas in northern Iraq, as well as when in 2014 when Baghdad cut the Region’s share of the budget: “In effect, Iraq has severed itself from Kurdistan.”

On July 4, Ammar al-Hakim, a prominent Shia leader and head of the Shia National Alliance in Iraq, spoke with Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani about Israel’s support for the upcoming Kurdistan referendum. Hakim stated that “Israel has always sought to have a strong base in the Middle East and, because of this, supports holding the referendum, dividing Iraq, and creating divisions among the Iraqi people.” He argued that by dividing the Kurds and Arabs within Iraq, the referendum will ultimately influence and upset the entire region.

On July 4, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that a Kurdish delegation will visit Baghdad sometime in the upcoming week. He emphasized that the federal government has no preconditions on the delegation, but that the two groups are set to “discuss water ports, border issues, and outstanding problems.” The Abadi administration hopes for transparency, especially concerning both water and Kurdistan’s export of oil.

On July 4, the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) attempted to make a deal with Gorran, the primary opposition party, to reopen Parliament under the condition that Gorran will stop their pursuit of making an amendment to the Presidential Law. Their deal would have allowed Yusif Mohammed, the Gorran speaker of the KRG Parliament, to return and work until the end of the term, effectively reopening Parliament which has been blocked by the KDP since 2015. In return, the KDP asks that Gorran will stop attempting to reduce the power of the presidency, a seat currently held by the KDP. These two issue are the major sources of tension between the opposing parties. Previously the KDP had spoken with Gorran secondhand through the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the second largest party in the region, and holds tentative agreements with both the KDP and Gorran. However, “the KDP can no longer wait for the party which has not been able to execute its duties in resolving the crises.” Despite the deal, which was designed to promote intra-party unity going into the Kurdish referendum, Gorran refused any and all conditions for reinstating Parliament. Gorran spokesperson, Dr. Shorsh Haji, asserted that “we do not accept the expression ‘reactivate parliament’. We support the normalization of parliament and resumption of parliamentary sessions with the current chair staff.”

On July 4, Ali Feeli, a political analyst, commented on the widespread regional criticism of the Kurdistan referendum, which many say will destabilize the region. He stated that “some fears are exaggerated by the neighboring countries and even by Baghdad, and we must think about the logic of reason” and not to be persuaded by emotions. He argued that the referendum will strengthen regional ties, and he condemned the accusations that it will ignite further insecurity as simply Baghdad’s self interest to retain power.  

On July 4, the influential Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani to postpone and eventually cancel the upcoming referendum on independence, saying “Iraq is one and is for all,” and welcome to both Kurdish and Arab ethnicities. His statement comes amid concern for Faili Kurds in central and southern Iraq: this Shia Kurdish group is a persecuted minority among both the Sunni-majority Kurdish population, and the Arab-majority provinces of Iraq. Many Faili Kurds are concerned about being caught in the middle of the dispute between Erbil and Baghdad, and are considering forming their own militia to protect their community. Last month, Saad Muttalibi of the Baghdad Provincial Council suggested to Baghdadi Kurds that if Kurdistan proceeds with the referendum, Kurds living in the city will be stripped of their Iraqi citizenship and evicted from Baghdad.

On July 6, Sewa Abdul Wahid, the current Parliamentary chairman for the Movement for Change (Gorran) party, announced that she “met today with a delegation of Faili Kurds from the province of Baghdad and other provinces after being exposed to threats to deport them,” and expressed regret for “the mentality which still threaten and displace the Kurds and all those who [support the referendum]”. He stressed that “there is a danger to the Kurds in the rest of the provinces” and called on the federal government to adhere to their responsibility to protect Iraqi Kurds wherever they live in Iraq.

On July 6, five members of the Turkmen Front on the Kirkuk Provincial Council announced their rejection of the upcoming Kurdistan Referendum. Last month, this group filed a lawsuit against the President of the Council for lifting the KRG flag atop government buildings, arguing that this act is against the Iraqi constitution. The Turks are a minority ethnic group, whose capital is in Kirkuk, the multi-ethnic province in Iraqi Kurdistan. Historically, the Turks have had violent tensions with both the Kurds and the Arabs, both of whom hold a large majority in the region.  Currently, Turkmen leaders are divided on whether or not their bloc should support the KRG referendum, or side with Baghdad.

Iranian Dams Restrict Water Flow in Iraqi Kurdistan

On July 1, Abdulstar Majeed, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)’s Agriculture Minister, threatened to cut off water to central and southern Iraqi provinces if Iran continues to block the flow of the Little Zab River, which runs from the Kurdish region of Iran into Iraq. Last week, Iran finished constructing a dam that has cut the flow of the river by 80%, and affected “more than 80 thousand people of the Qaladze town” by reducing their access to crucial water supplies for irrigation, livestock, and fisheries, according to Majeed. In spite of this, Baghdad officials have remained “silent” on Iran’s dam projects; critics argue that this is a political move to weaken the Kurdistan Region and their bargaining position on gaining self-determination from Iraq.

On July 2, the KRG reduced the water flow from Kurdistan to south and central Iraq by about 130 cubic meters per second. 60% of the water supply in the region comes from Iran, and since the construction of an Iranian dam, the water supply from the Little Zab River has decreased significantly. Abdulstar Majeed, the KRG Minister of Agriculture, stated that “we are forced to keep more water because we need it [mainly] for drinking” and that the decision was “not political” in nature against Baghdad. The river feeds into Dukan Lake, which is one of the primary water reserves in Iraqi Kurdistan and located approximately 70 kilometers northwest of Sulaimani. Over the past year, the water level have dropped by roughly 18% due to both the reduced water flow and the lack of rainfall.

On July 4, Mohamed Hassan, a Kurdish official, estimated that the water flow from the Little Zab River decreased from 180 to 50 cubic meters per second, and that “the release of water does not even amount to seven percent of the river’s water.” The river originates in Iran and flows into Dukan lake in Iraqi Kurdistan, and serves as a major water reserve in the Kurdistan Region. Over 80 thousand people have been deprived of water, which has “created lots of problems on humanitarian and agricultural levels and for fish-farming projects.”

On July 4, Iran reopened the Iranian river that supplies drinking water to much of Iraq: Nazhad Jahani, the mayor of Sardasht in Iran, stated “that a segment of the Little Zab River will be released, which has been stored by Kolsa Dam in Sardasht…the restoration of the water will continue and will not be stopped again.” The Dam produces hydroelectric power to the region, however its construction reduced the flow of water along the river by 80%, depriving over 80 thousand Iraqi Kurds of water.

On July 4, a report was published concerning the water conflict between Iran and Turkey, warning that it will greatly affect Iraq’s water share, particularly in the northern, Kurdish region.  Turkey recently embarked on a series of massive dam-building project designed to combat the issue of dust storms. 22 dams have been built along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which run through Syria, Iraq, and Iran. A “Global Research” report shows that these projects have reduced the water flow into the rivers’ basin by 34% and caused 94% of the region to dry up. In addition, Iran’s series of tunnels and dams on the Sirwan River have greatly undermined agriculture in the Kurdistan region, drying up Lake Darbandikhan in the Sulaimani province. The majority of the rivers and streams in the Kurdistan region originated in Turkey and Iran. Reports warn that by 2018, large parts of the Kurdistan region will dry up, causing a water crisis in the Halabja and Sulaimani regions, resulting in “the sabotage of infrastructure, and agricultural and industrial water.”

IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

07/04/17Rashidiya neighborhood, northern Baghdad01
07/03/17Yusifiya neighborhood, south of Baghdad13
07/03/17Hawija, 60 km west of Kirkuk32
07/03/17Al-Bu'aid neighborhood, east of Ramadi00
07/02/17IDP camp, 60 km west of Ramadi
07/02/17Qara Taba, 100 km northeast of Baqubah10
07/01/17Hor Rajab neighborhood, south of Baghdad03
06/30/17Yarmouk district, western Mosul00
06/30/17Radwaniya neighborhood, southwest of Baghdad01
06/30/17Latifiya, 40 km south of Baghdad03


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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