ISHM: July 21 – 27, 2017


Key Takeaways:

  • Destruction, IEDs, and Lack of Goods Leave Few Options for Mosul IDPs – Approximately 850,000 men, women, and children remain displaced from their homes in Mosul. The level of destruction and unavailability of basic necessities has forced more families to flee even after the city was declared liberated of ISIS earlier this month. Families who fled from the western to eastern side of the city are now making their way to IDP camps outside of the city due to the rising cost of goods and poor access to medical care in eastern Mosul. Approximately 48,000 houses have been destroyed since the start of the ISIS occupation in 2014, and according to Norwegian People’s Aid, “there are kilometers and kilometers and kilometers of active [IEDs], sensitive enough to be detonated by a child and powerful enough to blow up a truck.” Nayel al-Shammari, a Member of Parliament from Ninewa Province has called for better coordination among security forces out of concern that ISIS militants could return without a competent security and political structure. A patchwork of militias and government forces currently share overlapping responsibilities in Mosul, which underscores the difficulty in effectively responding to threats and emerging needs. more…
  • National Strategy to Address Child Health Needs Unveiled; Schools Reopen Despite Dangers – On July 23, the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the WHO, UNFPA, and UNICEF launched a national strategy for maternal and child healthcare to address the outsized needs of women, children, and adolescents in underserved and conflict-affected regions of Iraq. Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director, raised concerns that even though most fighting is over in Mosul, “children in shock continue to be found among the debris or hidden in tunnels…families have been forced to abandon their children or give them away, and they are now living in fear, alone.” In addition to protecting and reuniting these children with their families, UNICEF is working to reopen schools in western and eastern Mosul despite heavy destruction and a lack of basic services. Approximately 355,000 displaced children remain out of school in Iraq, including 90% of children in conflict-affected provinces. more…
  • Military Operations Planned for ISIS Centers of Tal Afar, Hawija – On July 25, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the development of a plan to clear ISIS militants from Tal Afar, 80 kilometers west of Mosul in Ninewa Province. The following day, the Iraqi Army moved 100 tanks and armored vehicles into the area. Iraqi and U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes have continued to target munitions stockpiles and militants in Tal Afar, leading to reports that ISIS militants have begun to flee the city. Airstrikes also continued this week in Hawija in Kirkuk Province, another ISIS stronghold. On July 26, an airstrike destroyed a major bridge leading out of Hawija in an effort to isolate the city and prevent the arrival of militants fleeing from Ninewa. more…
  • Pockets of Militants Targeted in Anbar, Diyala – On July 25, Popular Mobilization Units announced the start of operations, in conjunction with local police and Iraqi Security Forces, to clear the northeast of Diyala Province of ISIS militants. The same day, the Iraqi Army moved troops into the wetlands of northwest Anbar Province to conduct “extensive inspections” in an attempt to curb ISIS activity in that area. Earlier this week, PMUs clashed with ISIS militants near the al-Walid border crossing with Syria in Anbar Province. Holding cleared territory and reducing the threat of sporadic ISIS activity in Anbar, Diyala, and Salah ad-Din Provinces continues to be a challenge for security forces and popular militias as militants flee urban centers and seek to regroup. more…
  • Ammar al-Hakim Leaves ISCI; Gorran Movement Elects New Leadership – Iraqi Shia cleric Ammar al-Hakim resigned this week as leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) in order to establish a new party: the National Wisdom Movement. The new party will purportedly be open to all sects and seeks to attract a younger following. Hakim’s split has caused a major rift in Iraqi Shia politics as he intends to retain control of ISCI’s assets – a party which his late uncle founded while in exile in Iran in 1982. In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), the Gorran Movement elected Omar Sayid Ali as the party’s new leader following the death of Gorran’s first leader and founder, Nawshirwan Mustafa. Ali, who helped found the Gorran Movement, held a senior position with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan until he left in 2009 to establish Gorran. Ali said that he will remain committed to Mustafa’s position on reactivating the KRG’s suspended Parliament, a prerequisite for Gorran’s endorsement of the upcoming September referendum on KRI’s independence. KRG President and head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party Masoud Barzani congratulated Ali on his election and expressed hope that the two parties can reconcile their differences. more…
  • Iraq Signs Security MoU with Iran; Maliki Meets with Putin in Moscow – On July 23, Iraqi Defense Minister Irfan Hayali signed an MoU with his Iranian counterpart aimed at the “expansion of defense and military cooperation.” The U.S. State Department has not commented on the agreement, but both the U.S. and Iran have accused each other of attempts to influence Iraqi security and politics and destabilize the region in order to advance their own respective interests. Later in the week, Iraqi Vice President and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss security and policy in the Middle East. Newsweek speculates that Maliki, long opposed to U.S. influence in Iraq, is trying to “play Moscow’s economic, political, and military power against Washington’s.” 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.

Destruction, IEDs, and Lack of Goods Leave Few Options for Mosul IDPs

On July 21, a firefight broke out in eastern Mosul between an Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) and a local Ninewa militia, due to a “miscommunication.” Neither side reported any casualties.  The commander of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Ninewa, Major General Najim al-Jubouri, said that the issue was contained and anyone found in violation of the law would be prosecuted. The fight underscores the difficulty in effectively responding to security threats in Mosul, where a patchwork of militias and government forces share overlapping responsibilities.

On July 21, Iraqi Federal Police uncovered an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) prison in Mosul, which was reportedly the site used for brutal interrogations designed to get confessions and information out of the local civilian population. A video released by the al-Sumaria news agency showed a Federal Police member giving a tour of the building, where the torture chambers are now stripped bare.

On July 22, the Washington Post reported that for the three years that ISIS controlled Mosul, the organization had access to large supplies of radioactive material that could have been used to create a “dirty bomb”, capable of spewing deadly radiation across a large area, spreading chaos and terror. The material, cobalt-60, was stored in cancer treatment equipment in the basement of one of Mosul’s college campuses, in the same building that ISIS militants were reportedly constructing weapons since at least 2016. When the Iraqi military retook the campus late last year, government officials arrived to find the equipment untouched, either because the militants were unaware of its existence and uses, or because they did not know how to access it without harming themselves.

On July 22, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued a report indicating that although the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing western Mosul has significantly decreased, there remains a steady flow of IDPs entering camps east and south of the city. Most of the new arrivals into displacement camps are from western Mosul, yet had initially fled their homes moving to eastern Mosul first, staying with relatives, friends, or in rented accommodations. The lack of livelihood opportunities, slim supplies of basic necessities and goods, poor access to medical care, and sharp rises in cost of living have forced IDPs to enter camps in eastern Mosul. The UNHCR also reports that clashes with armed extremist groups in Tal Afar and western Mosul have also contributed to the continued steady flow of IDPs.

On July 23, Nayel al-Shammari, an Iraqi MP representing the Ninewa province, called for better coordination and leadership among security forces in the province, saying that the current chain of command was too convoluted to respond effectively to new threats. He voiced concerns that the return of ISIS or a similar organization was not unrealistic without a competent security structure, and said that “we believe that the leadership of the Ninewa Operations on its own is not capable of handling the security work it is tasked with.”

On July 24, the UNHCR issued a report regarding displacement figures within Iraq, stating that about 850,000 Iraqis remain displaced from Mosul. The report also noted that between July 17-20, a daily average of 450 individuals entered displacement camps in east Mosul. The majority of these arrivals are from western Mosul, yet had initially fled their homes moving to eastern Mosul first. The rising costs of basic living needs have recently forced these individuals into camps. At the same time, 2,000 individuals have left east Mosul camps to return to their places of origin. There has also been a significant decrease of new arrivals to IDP camps in south and north Mosul. An estimated 450 people, mainly women and children, have fled Tal Afar between July 19- 21, in anticipation of a new government led assault on ISIS in the city.

On July 25, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in western Mosul, claiming that the “evidence of a humanitarian calamity that is now just beginning to unravel paints the picture of a crisis that may go well beyond previous expectations.” The IOM released a report that assessed the extreme damage caused in western Mosul and the long road ahead for the city to rebuild. The report revealed the sheer amount of damage the city endured during the battle against ISIS militants, now that the dust has settled: rows of houses and neighborhoods lie in ruins, cars are reduced to “smithereens,” and what’s left of the city roads are now abandoned. Approximately 48,000 houses have been destroyed, with about 500 of those homes destroyed in the final week of fighting alone. Mosul’s Medical City, the largest health facility in the Ninewa province, is described as a “burnt shell.” IOM officials reported that cars containing undetonated bombs remain parked in front of schools. “The scale of destruction in west Mosul is enormous and the challenge of reconstruction is no small feat in ensuring the return of hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqis to their communities and livelihoods,” said IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Thomas Lothar Weiss. The IOM reiterates its commitment to aiding the people of Iraq in the long journey ahead in rebuilding and reconstruction of Mosul.

On July 26, Reuters reported that homemade bombs and explosives, laid on an industrial scale, by ISIS militants have plagued much of Mosul, hindering efforts for civilians to return back to their homes. Mosques, homes and schools in western Mosul had been booby trapped by ISIS prior to their defeat by Iraqi Security Forces (ISFs). Reuters reports that “retreating Islamic State fighters have sown a vast area with improvised bombs and mines as their self-proclaimed caliphate shrinks” reaching from the plains of Ninewa to Kurdistan. In addition to the numerous land mines that have been laid in open grounds, buildings have been wired with explosive devices, including refrigerators, heaters, doors and televisions that have been primed to explode at the flick of a switch or the opening of a door. Craig McInally, operations manager for the Norwegian People’s Aid anti-explosives project said: “There are kilometers and kilometers and kilometers of active devices, sensitive enough to be detonated by a child and powerful enough to blow up a truck.” The explosives being found are not just any ordinary homemade bombs, the explosives containing pressurized plates, intricate circuit plates and small metal clips. “This is an industrialized assembly line. These are guys who are educated. They understand electronics,” said McInally. ISIS militants are expected to continue to plant explosive devices as they begin to fall back to the Syrian border.  

National Strategy to Address Child Health Needs Unveiled; Schools Reopen Despite Dangers

On July 21, Doctors Without Borders released a report indicating that small children, infants and babies were most affected and harmed by malnutrition, in and around Mosul. The report indicates that the sharp rise of malnutrition in infants is not caused by lack of food, but by a scarcity of infant formula. The reports indicates that mothers are often unable to provide breast milk, due to extreme stress and exhaustion. In addition, the inadequate supply of food and clean water in Mosul remains a serious issue, forcing a large amount of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to enter displacement camps underweight. Doctors hypothesize that the high malnutrition rate found in infants, compared to any other age group, is mainly accredited to the fact that adults are able to put on weight at a much faster rate than infants can. In addition, mothers have faced difficulties in producing breast milk for their infant children, due to stress and exhaustion. The inability for mothers to produce breast milk is also accredited to the growing number of infant malnutrition cases. Since UNICEF and the World Health Organization only provide infant baby formula on a “prescription basis,” the number of infant malnutrition cases are continuing to rise. Doctors Without Borders have treated 450 severely malnourished infants in Qayyarah, alone.

On July 21, Geert Cappelaere, the UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, issued a statement regarding the immediate need to care for children in Mosul who have been abused, exploited and abandoned. Cappelaere raised concerns that even though the fighting may be over in Mosul, children continue to suffer. “Children in shock continue to be found, some reportedly among the debris or hidden in tunnels in Mosul. Some children have lost their families while fleeing to safety. According to reports, families have been forced to abandon their children or give them away, they are now living in fear, alone. Many children have been forced to fight and some to carry out acts of extreme violence” said Cappelaere. UNICEF also reports that children are being stigmatized for perceived affiliations with certain groups within region, as tensions remain tense within communities. Cappelaere urges for the protection and immediate safety of children and the urgency for children to be reunited with their families and loved ones.

On July 23, the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), launched the “National Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health Strategy.” The strategy is set in collaboration with the new national development plan, which focuses on the  achievement of sustainable development goals for Iraq’s healthcare system. The new strategy aims at tackling the numerous health challenges, health risks, disease outbreaks, and the high child and maternal mortality rates. The strategy also aims to address underserved areas in Iraq, increase measurement and monitoring of health progress, and incorporate humanitarian aspects, specifically in regards to the health of women, children and adolescents. WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA are committed to supporting the Iraqi government with the necessary support to improve the health care of women and children in Iraq moving forward.

On July 25, Theirworld, a British charity dedicated to serving the world’s most vulnerable children, reported that 80 schools have reopened in western Mosul. An estimated 60,000 students have returned to classrooms in the war-torn city. Although schools may have reopened, the thousands of children who are attempting to renormalize their lives remain traumatized and emotionally devastated. When Mosul was taken over by ISIS, most parents pulled their children out of school fearing they would be proselytized by the extremist group. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has heavily assisted in re-opening schools in both west and east Mosul.  Many challenges remain, particularly in reopening schools  western Mosul, due to the heavy destruction caused by war: damaged buildings, unexploded bombs, and lack of basic services are the most pressing issues facing the rebuilding of the city. “All schools must be checked and cleared of live bombs and four out of five water treatment plants in west Mosul are not functioning” said Sharon Behn Nogueira of UNICEF. Many schools in western Mosul are in need of repair and do not have electricity. UNICEF and the Department of Education are working closely to ensure that children receive these services and get Mosul’s children back into the classroom as quick as possible. “The worst of the violence in Mosul may be over but for too many children in Mosul, and in the region, extreme suffering continues” said  Geert Cappelaere, the UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. Approximately 355,000 internally displaced children remain out of school in Iraq, including 90% of children in conflict affected provinces, such as Diyala.

Military Operations Planned for ISIS Centers of Tal Afar, Hawija

On July 21, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) preachers in Tal Afar, about 80 kilometers west of Mosul, reportedly delivered Friday sermons focused entirely on soliciting donations from listeners. An anonymous source said that the sermons incorporated verses from the Quran to exhort listeners to donate whatever resources they had to the organization. This is the latest indication that the organization is struggling to sustain their operations as their territory shrinks across Iraq. As ISIS’s financial resources have dwindled, they have struggled to pay fighters and fund their militancy, and have resorted to increasingly desperate means to tap new cash flows, ranging from petty theft to the sale the organs of their slain fighters.

On July 22, an airstrike destroyed an ISIS stockpile of explosives in Tal Afar, causing an unknown number of casualties and reportedly destroying a workshop used to construct improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The military behind the strike was unstated, although coalition spokesperson Ryan Dillon, said over the weekend that “we are not going to wait for ISIS to dig in,” and indicated that the coalition was increasing its airstrikes on Tal Afar regardless of the Iraqi military’s timescale for invading the city. It was unclear if the attackers were aware that they were targeting explosives stash. In March, a U.S. airstrike in Mosul unintentionally hit an ISIS explosives stockpile, killing over 100 civilians. Tal Afar remains one of ISIS’s last redoubts in Iraq, and there have been strong indications by Iraqi military and political leaders that the city is their next priority to be cleared.

On July 22, an airstrike by the international coalition killed 15 ISIS militants near Hawija, 55 km southwest of Kirkuk. The coalition has reportedly been increasing its airstrikes in the area over the course of the past week, potentially in preparation for a long-awaited mission to clear the city of ISIS militants. Hawija remains one of ISIS’s last urban strongholds in Iraq. Iraqi forces have surrounded the city, but continue to be held on standby until operations in Mosul are  completed and Iraqi forces have had time to regroup.

On July 22, reports coming out of the ISIS-controlled city of Hawija revealed that women who were captured and kidnapped during the fighting in Mosul are being sold by the terrorist organization. The majority of the women being sold are from the small village of Imam Gharbi, approximately 70 kilometers south of Mosul. ISIS soldiers fleeing Mosul enroute to Hawija kidnapped women along the way. The women are now being sold in a “marketplace” for ISIS leaders in the city. ISIS is notorious for kidnapping women, forcing them to marry group members, and later using them as sex slaves.

On July 22, an explosion destroyed a field clinic for injured ISIS militants in Tal Afar. The perpetrators of the blast are not known, nor was the death toll reported. As Iraqi forces close in on the city, divisions have emerged between rival ISIS factions, and the increasingly restive local population is actively leaking intelligence to coalition forces and news agencies.

On July 22, a missile attack killed at least seven ISIS militants and injured seven more, all of whom were members of the all-women Khansaa brigade. The perpetrators of the attack, which was conducted on the brigade’s headquarters, are not known.

On July 23, ISIS leadership in Tal Afar reportedly began evacuating militants from the city, reportedly as a result of increasingly precise Iraqi and coalition airstrikes in the city. As the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) close in on the city, citizens have reportedly been increasingly willing to provide intelligence and support to help oust the militants.

On July 23, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a report regarding the general humanitarian concerns that have crippled Iraq in the past few months. The report reiterated the fact that a humanitarian crisis in Iraq remains complex and unpredictable, and is severely impacting civilians. OCHA estimates that about 11 million Iraqis are in need of aid, yet only 42% of the required funding to provide aid and assistance has been provided. Millions of people in Iraq do not have food security, and continue to rely on international aid assistance. OCHA prioritized the need that populations along displacement routes need immediate access to lifesaving food. There is an estimated 9.7 million people who are living in hard to reach places, in critical need of health care services. The OCHA also reported  that a Multi- Purpose Cash Assistance service has begun in Ninewa, Anbar and Salah ad- Din, for the purpose of assisting newly displaced families and vulnerable households.

On July 25, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the development of a plan to clear ISIS militants from Tal Afar, about 80 kilometers west of Mosul. The city, which ISIS has held since 2014, is one of their last urban strongholds in Iraq. Operations to clear Tal Afar and other cities were delayed as the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) focused their resources on Mosul.

On July 26, the Iraqi Army moved 100 tanks and armored vehicles into the town of Badush, about 50 kilometers east of Tal Afar. Iraqi Army officer Fahd Abdullah Taai said in a press conference that the move was in preparation for the upcoming operation to clear Tal Afar, which he said was in the final planning stages and would be announced soon by Abadi. A leader of the Abbas Division of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) forces, said that he had been given a green light to began preparing his militia for the battle, a sign that PMUs are likely to play an integral role in the battle.

On July 26, an Iraqi Air Force (IAF) airstrike destroyed a major bridge leading out of Hawija, in an effort to isolate the city and prevent militants from Ninewa from coming in to reinforce the city. The move restricts ISIS troop movements, but also makes it more difficult for civilians to flee the city, which is likely to see a brutal struggle for control between ISIS militants and Iraqi forces in the coming months.

On July 27, the Abbas Division PMU announced that they had called up 3000 fighters from their reserves into active duty as part preparations for the battle to clear Tal Afar. The Abbas Division, while predominantly Shia, is not a part of the Iranian-backed Badr Organization, and it receives both orders and weapons directly from the Ministry of Defense. Nonetheless, the use of Shia PMU forces is a complicated decision in a city that is predominantly Sunni Turkmen.

Pockets of Militants Targeted in Anbar, Diyala

On July 21, security forces repelled an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attack on the security forces’ headquarters at the al-Walid border crossing with Syria, in western Anbar. One security member was killed, along with an unstated number of ISIS militants, as the remainder of the militants retreated back into Syria.

On July 21, the reported leader of ISIS’s operations in Salah ad-Din was killed by a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) on the way to a meeting in the east of the province. Three other militants were killed in the blast. It was unclear if the bomb was intended to target the militants. An anonymous source claimed that the death was a “major blow” to the organization.

On July 22, Iraqi PMU forces clashed with ISIS militants along the Iraq-Syria border. The PMU reportedly destroyed several vehicle-based IEDs (VBIEDs) without taking any casualties, but a spokesperson said the clashes were still ongoing. The security situation along the border has been tense since PMUs reached the al-Walid border crossing in late May, with militias crossing the border to fight ISIS in Syria, even as Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi calls such moves “unconstitutional” and requests that the PMUs remain in Iraq.

On July 24, a military officer was killed by an IED he was attempting to disarm in western Anbar, 70 kilometers west of Ramadi. While most of Anbar’s major cities, including Ramadi and Fallujah, were cleared of ISIS militants over a year ago, the province is still working to dismantle explosives left by the militants, and military and civilian casualties from IEDs remain an ongoing security concern.

On July 25, the Iraqi army moved troops into the wetlands in the northwest of the Anbar province, in order to conduct “extensive inspections” with the goal of curbing ISIS activity in the area. While ISIS controls little territory in the area, the operation is likely intended to track down militants and weapons stockpiles.

On July 25, Iraqi forces killed two ISIS militants in an ambush and seized a truck loaded with weapons west of Ramadi. Most of Anbar has been cleared of ISIS control, but the border with Syria remains porous, raising security concerns in the west of the province.

On July 25, the Iraqi Air Force (IAF) destroyed an ISIS weapons stockpile near Lake Haditha, located in the northwest region of the Anbar province. According to a military spokesperson, the air strike killed “dozens” of militants. Another report put the death toll at 21, and said that the primary target was a rest house used by the militants. ISIS control has eroded greatly in the Anbar province, but the relatively remote Lake Haditha region remains a source of militant activity.

On July 25, the 110th Brigade, a PMU, announced the start of a major military operation to clear the northeast region of the Diyala province from ISIS control, in conjunction with the local police and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The goal of this operation remains unclear, however, as the announcement comes a week after the ISF’s regional commander in the area, Mazhar al-Azzawi, declared the same area to have been cleared of ISIS. The presence of sleeper cells and unexploded ordinance makes it difficult to establish security in areas, even after ISIS has been largely forced out.

Ammar al-Hakim Leaves ISCI; Gorran Movement Elects New Leadership

On July 22, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) officially contacted the Movement for Change (Gorran), the major opposition party, to discuss the upcoming referendum and the reopening of Parliament without conditions. Parliament has been suspended since 2015, and and conditions for reoping it have been a major source of contention within Kurdish politics. Gorran responded that they will not attend any referendum meetings until after  they have finished electing their new leader and executive body later this week. Salih Zhazhali, the newly elected deputy head of the Gorran National Assembly, commented on the KDP’s offer, stating that “the return of [the Speaker of Parliament] Yousif Mohammed is not enough,” indicating  that this new  agreement does not address the core issue, which was over an amendment to the Presidential Law. The amendment extended President and KDP member Masoud Barzani’s term, which ended in August 2015, a move widely seen by opposition groups as a power grab by by the KDP.

On July 22, the deputy chairman of Gorran held a press conference announcing that the party is ready to talk with the KDP about the upcoming Kurdistan referendum. Up until last week, Gorran had refused to participate in the upcoming referendum on the grounds that it was the KDP’s attempt to consolidate political power in the region.  

On July 24, Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), announced that after over eight years in power he will resign his position and establish a new party called the National Wisdom Movement. The ISCI has recently suffered internal disputes after Hakim announced a controversial new vision for the party, designed to increase youth participation in the the ISCI. In recent months, three high level ISCI members withdrew from the party because, as former leader Jalal al-Din al-Saghir stated, “we are no longer able to keep up with the new approach, which is completely different from ISCI’s original method and foundation.” Hakim’s sudden split has caused a major rift in Iraqi politics, which is already fraught with uneasy alliances and internal party disputes.  Hakim is an  influential cleric and politician, and in 2016 was elected leader of the National Alliance, the ruling Shia political bloc predominately made up of the ISCI and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Dawa Party.  In his statement, Hakim thanked “neighboring Iran and its leader, Ali Khamenei, and its people” for their support of Iraq.

On July 24, The Huffington Post published an article on Ammar al-Hakim’s announcement that he will leave the ISCI. The ISCI was founded by Ammar’s uncle Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim in 1982 to collect all Iraqi opposition groups in Iran under one umbrella.” The party, along with other Shia groups, returned from exile to Iraq after the U.S. led invasion in 2003 ousted Saddam Hussein’s Sunni government, and has since gained massive influence and power. However, the article stated that although Hakim “announced that he left the ISCI, he apparently retained all of ISCI’s assets” including the party’s TV station, affiliated organizations, provincial offices, and other properties, leaving the group a shell of its former self.

On July 25, Gorran announced that Omar Syed Ali has been elected as President of the party’s executive body, replacing the late Mustafa Nushirwan who died two months ago. Masoud Barzani, Kurdistan’s President and head of the KDP, called Ali to congratulate him, and to express hope that the two parties can work towards achieving unity in Kurdistan. Gorran has yet to respond to the KDP’s offer to reactivate parliament without conditions, which is an unspoken prerequisite to the upcoming Kurdish referendum. n a speech, however, Ali reiterated Barzani’s call for “national security” in the region. He stated that “The Region is going through deep political, economic, legal and social crises. It is clear that the region is up for big changes. Our responsibility to our nations as the Gorran Movement has grown.”

On July 26, the ISCI announced the election of Baquir al-Zubaidi as their new leader.  Zubaidi, in a Facebook post, requested that former leader Ammar al-Hakim return the party headquarters to ISCI control. However despite new leadership, reports indicate that inter-party disputes continue to plague the ISCI.

On July 26, a KDP delegation visited Gorran’s headquarters in Sulaimania in an effort to mend their relationship, and to discuss the upcoming referendum. The two parties have been quarrelling since 2015, when an amendment to the Presidential Law extended President Masoud Barzani’s term. However, the KDP has recently made a concerted effort to reconcile both parties’ objectives through dialogue, and Gorran spokesman Shoresh Haji stated, “the visit is the gesture of an attempt to resolve the problems of the Region.” In addition, he noted in concern with the KDP’s offer to reopen Parliament without conditions, Gorran will “respond to the KDP in the near future.”

On July 27, Kosrat Rasul Ali, deputy for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the major parties in the region, announced that Parliament must be activated by August 10 so that “no more time be wasted.” While KDP and Gorran have made moves towards reconciliation, Gorran has refrained from officially accepting the KDP’s offer to reopen Parliament without conditions.

Iraq Signs Security MoU with Iran; Maliki Meets with Putin in Moscow

On July 23, Iraqi Defense Minister Irfan Hayali met with his Iranian counterpart in Tehran, in order to discuss the strengthening of relations between the two countries, and to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on military and counterterrorism operations. Iranian state media reported that the MoU between Iran and Iraq is “aimed at expansion of defense and military cooperation” and includes provisions for the “security of borders, as well as educational, logistic, technical and military support.” Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) have been a critical force in the fight against ISIS, but many Iraqis fear the country’s growing military, political and economic influence in the country.  

On July 24, Newsweek published an article outlining the recent Iran-Iraq alliance “against militant fighters and ideology in the region by boosting bilateral defense ties, a move that could present a challenge to U.S. foreign policy goals.” Recently, the U.S. State Department has been concerned with the growing Iranian foothold in Iraq.  Newsweek stated that “both the U.S. and Iran accuse each other of attempting to destabilize the region and of finding foreign groups classed as terrorist organizations in order to advance their own respective interests.” However, the U.S. State Department has not responded to a request for comment on the Iran-Iraq deal.

On July 24, Vice President Nouri al-Maliki met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov,  and advocated for an increased Russian role in Iraq in order to help create a balanced policy, increase security, and prevent a “foreign political entity” from imposing its agenda in Iraq. Malaki expressed concern that in the aftermath of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) defeat in Mosul, new terrorist organizations will emerge. In addition he noted that Iraq has entered a “new stage,” in light of the upcoming parliamentary elections in Iraq, tentatively scheduled for April 2018.Sergey expressed Russia’s solidarity with Iraq, stating that “we aim to develop and expand cooperation and partnership, which traces its root back many years.”

On July 25, Vice President Nouri al-Maliki met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss security and policy issues in the region, and as Putin reaffirmed, “Moscow is closely watching the developments in the Middle East.” During the meeting, Maliki called for a strengthened economic cooperation, and praised Putin for Russia’s military and political contributions, saying that Russia took an “honourable stance” in Iraq. In addition, Putin commented that Iraq and Russia’s joint government committee is working intensely to promote economic cooperation, and stressed that “Russia is proactive in [military aid] and Iraq benefits from its assistance.”

On July 25, U.S. news outlet Newsweek published an article about Vice President Nouri al-Maliki’s “high-profile visit to Russia.” In the past, Maliki has fought the major U.S. role and presence in Iraq since 2003, and “as Russia asserts its own influence in neighboring Syria, Maliki reportedly seeks to play Moscow’s economic, political and military power against Washington’s in Iraq.” Maliki stated that “Iraq wants to strengthen strategic cooperation in such areas as electricity generation, oil sector, research cooperations, university training, economy and trade, as well as political and military spheres.”

IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

07/27/1720 km south of Fallujah01
07/26/17Suwaib neighborhood, southern Baghdad03
07/26/17Rabia, 60 km northeast of Baqubah01
07/25/17'Akarkuf, west of Baghdad12
07/25/17Albu Khaled district, northern Baghdad05
07/24/17Ma'alif district, southern Baghdad25
07/24/17Jamila, 75 km east of Baqubah02
07/24/17Taaji district, north of Baghdad02
07/24/17Hit, 70 km west of Ramadi10
07/23/17al-Madain, southeast of Baghdad02
07/23/17Western entrance to Fallujah31
07/23/17Radwania neighborhood, west of Baghdad02
07/22/17Radwania neighborhood, west of Baghdad02
07/22/17Jahiza, 5 km west of Baqubah01
07/22/17Sarbadia, 10 km west of Hit00
07/21/17Dibs, 45 km northwets of Kirkuk02
07/21/17Taaji district, north 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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