ISHM: August 4 – 10, 2017


Key Takeaways:

  • Eastern Mosul “On the Mend,” Though Sporadic Attacks and Retribution Fears Linger – According to the UNHCR, approximately 840 thousand civilians remain displaced from greater Mosul, with many families returning back to displacement camps after attempting to return to their places of origin at least once. Increased costs of living, lack of economic opportunity, scarcity of basic goods and services, and fears of sporadic attacks are causing families to again flee their homes in favor of camps. According to the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, “Eastern Mosul is a city that’s recovering. Conditions aren’t great, but it’s a city on the mend.” On August 7, the 9th Division of the Iraqi Army left Mosul in anticipation of operations to clear Tal Afar of ISIS militants, leaving security responsibilities in Mosul to local and Federal Police forces. Grande expressed concern for the protection of families in the region alleged to have ISIS affiliations, calling them “very, very, very vulnerable” to retribution attacks, detention, and summary execution. more…
  • Aid Agencies, Security Forces Shift Attention to Tal Afar – A spokesperson for the Joint Operations Command, Colonel Ahmed al-Jabouri, announced that operations to clear the city of Tal Afar of ISIS militants will begin “in the next few days.” Aid teams have been briefed by military planners regarding evacuation routes and muster points. On August 8, the Iraqi Army’s 9th Division arrived on the outskirts of Tal Afar and the U.S.-led international coalition established a military base nearby the following day. According to UN agencies and the International Organization for Migration, an estimated 10 to 40 thousand civilians are trapped in Tal Afar under ISIS captivity. more…
  • Iranian-Backed PMU Accuses U.S. of Attack, ISIS Claims Responsibility – On August 7, a rocket struck an Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Unit, the Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada Brigade, garrisoned near At Tanf, Syria on the Iraqi-Syrian border. The attack killed 40 PMU fighters and wounded 85 others, including several members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps stationed with the PMU. The PMU accused the U.S. military of the attack, an allegation vehemently denied by a Pentagon spokesman. Two days later, ISIS officially claimed responsibility for the attack, but the PMU continues to blame the U.S. and the international coalition. Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki called for an urgent investigation into the strike, fueling speculation of U.S. involvement despite ISIS’s claim. more…
  • Changes to Election Law Met with Protests – Proposed changes to Iraq’s Election Law were introduced in Parliament this week, including changes to required qualifications of candidates and the distribution of Parliament seats based on vote tallies, party bloc affiliation, and representation quotas. Some of the proposed changes would make it easier for candidates to run for elected office, including lowering the mandatory minimum age for MPs from 30 to 25, and removing a requirement that MPs hold university degrees. Other changes consolidate power among larger, more established party blocs and these amendments were met with massive protests by influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Several smaller political blocs have boycotted the vote on the changes in Parliament. more…
  • Gorran Votes to Reconcile with KDP – On August 10, members of the Gorran (Movements for Change) Party’s governing council voted unanimously to negotiate and eventually reconcile differences with the Kurdish Democratic Party, stressing the need for national unity and the unification of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Gorran has withheld its endorsement of an impending September referendum on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s independence, over the party’s insistence that governing authority be restored to the Kurdish Parliament. Several national and international bodies and governments have pressed the Kurdistan Regional Government to delay the referendum, citing concerns of potential instability and infighting following the outcome. The participation of disputed territories in the vote, particularly Kirkuk Province, has also been controversial as Kirkuk Governor Najim al-Din Karim recently affirmed that Kirkuk will participate, while other local leaders rejected the idea. 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.

Eastern Mosul “On the Mend,” Though Sporadic Attacks and Retribution Fears Linger

On August 4, the Iraqi government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed a partnership agreement to promote civic and community based reconciliation in Iraq. Through this new partnership, the UNDP will take a newfound responsibility in promoting and supporting local peace committees, and will adopt a leading role in collecting information and evidence of atrocities committed against civilians during the battle for Mosul. According to the Implementation and Follow Up National Reconciliation Committee (IFNRC), national reconciliation, and particularly community reconciliation, has become one of the top priorities of the Iraqi government.“Reconciliation is one of the highest priorities in the country. UNDP promises to do its very best to support the government and Iraqi people as they work together to rebuild their communities after the terrible experience of the conflict,” said United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande. The UNDP is currently working to physically rebuild infrastructure and cities within in Iraq, yet this new partnership focuses on establishing long term peace.

On August 4, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that as of August 3, 2017, 1,077,444 persons have been displaced due to the conflict in Mosul. According to the International Organization for Migration’s Tracking Matrix Index, 839,490 persons currently remain displaced from Mosul. There continues to be a static trend in migration of families outside of Mosul. Many of those continuing to enter displacement sites have previously been in camps, but decided to return to their places of origin. Due to lack of livelihood, high rent, security concerns, and increasing living costs, many people are returning back to displacement camps. In two days, about 141 people arrived at the Hammam al-Alil screening site, 25 kilometers south of Mosul, fleeing their homes from Baaj and Tal Afar. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are preparing a military offensive of Tal Afar in the coming weeks, rooting out one of ISIS’s final strongholds in Iraq.

On August 4, 13 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants were killed while attempting to sneak into al-Houd village in al-Qayyarah, 75 kilometers south of Mosul.  The Iraqi Federal Police continue to comb Mosul for remaining ISIS militants. Since ISF forces officially defeated ISIS in the city, terrorist members have continued to launch intermittent attacks against both soldiers and civilians.

On August 6, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) in Iraq held a meeting with female civil society leaders and local women. The meeting was overseen by UN Women Regional Director for Arab States, Mohamed Naciri, and provided a platform and opportunity to discuss current challenges of women and girls in Iraq. The meeting reiterated the important role that civil society has in voicing the challenges facing women and other minority groups. The meeting highlighted the importance of empowering women, which can play an important role in capacity building, enhancing political participation and leadership, and promoting sustainable peace.

On August 7, the Federal Police in Mosul arrested four ISIS militants who were found hiding inside water tanks in the village of Zalava, approximately 55 kilometers south of Mosul. While Mosul has officially been cleared of ISIS, many individual and small groups of terrorists continue to hide throughout the region.

On August 7, the UNHCR reported that displacement camps south of Mosul have primarily received families fleeing the ISIS held city of Hawija, 66 kilometers west of Kirkuk City, and from Sharqat, 114 kilometers south of Mosul. Displacement continues out of Tal Afar as many civilians flee the city and its surrounding areas, in preparation for the upcoming military campaign against ISIS, expected to begin in the next few days. At the same time, many families continue to enter displacement camps in eastern Mosul due to the scarcity of basic goods and services, lack of livelihood, financial constraints and rising living costs. Approximately 400 families have left displacement camps from north and south Mosul, due to lack of income opportunities and extreme heat in the camps. In a statement, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, described the situation in Mosul as “the biggest stabilisation challenge the UN has ever faced – the scale, the complexity, the scope of it,” estimating that only the first phase of stabilization would cost approximately US$ 707 million. The UN has called for more international aid, funding, and assistance in rebuilding and stabilizing the city.

On August 7, the 9th Division of the Iraqi Army left Mosul, and is headed toward the ISIS stronghold of Tal Afar in anticipation of operations to clear the region of ISIS militants. Safwan al-Assafi, a Defense Ministry official in charge of distributing military directives, announced that the 9th Division will hand over security responsibilities in Mosul to local and Federal Polices forces, before heading to Tal Afar.  

On August 8, the UNHCR reported that despite ongoing displacement, many authorities in some areas continue to deny fleeing families access to safety due to perceived affiliations with ISIS and other armed extremist groups. This report follows last week’s publication by the UNHCR which indicated that female-headed households are no longer being accepted into some displacement camps due to suspicions that the husband had either died fighting with ISIS, or fled with the group. In Kirkuk, authorities issued eviction notices to an estimated 235 displaced families and confiscated identification documents, forcing 70 families to immediately leave the province. Eviction notices had previously been handed out to families with perceived ties or support to ISIS, indicating that collective punishment remains an ongoing concern and threat to the stabilization and rebuilding process of the country.

On August 8, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, reiterated her concern over the utter destruction in western Mosul, stating that nearly a quarter of a million people have nowhere to return to anytime soon. Grande, however, said that the majority of people have returned back to eastern Mosul, where schools and markets have begun to re-open, despite a recent UNHCR report. The report indicated that many people are in fact returning back to displacement camps due to a lack of livelihood, high rent, security concerns, and the increasing living cost in eastern Mosul. Grande said, “Eastern Mosul is a city that’s recovering. People are home, schools are open, businesses are open, markets are open. Conditions aren’t great but it’s a city on the mend…Everyone’s gone home to eastern Mosul except for 20,000 people.” Grande continued her statement by discussing the nature of the evacuation of Mosul, calling it the “largest managed evacuation in modern history.” Currently, about 3.3 million Iraqis remain displaced from their homes, yet Grande estimates after the entire military campaign in Iraq is over, approximately 3.5 million Iraqis will be looking to head home.

On August 8, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, described the battle for Mosul as “the largest urban battle since World War II,” which has left hundreds of thousands of civilians at risk. Grande once again reiterated the fact that the humanitarian crisis in Mosul is far from over, as civilians continue to face spates of suicide bombings in the aftermath of the battle for Mosul. Security remains a concern for Grande and civilians in Mosul, yet Grande has turned her focus to protecting families associated with ISIS from revenge attacks by other civilians and security forces. “For families who are outside of tribal protection mechanisms, you are really very, very, very vulnerable if you are alleged to have been associated with [ISIS]…This is why we are in discussions with the government for special protection measures for them.” Grande said that the UN and the Iraqi government are considering measures to end collective punishment for these families and put a stop to this retaliation.

On August 8, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) arrested Ahmed Wahid al-Dulaimi, a senior intelligence official for ISIS. The detainee was responsible for intelligence units in eastern Mosul before the city was cleared of ISIS.

On August 8, Captain Ali Hamid Baseri, of the Federal Police in Mosul, imposed a curfew in Mosul’s Old City after he received intelligence that several armed ISIS militants emerged from hiding. Last month, the ISF officially cleared ISIS from Mosul, ending the eight month long battle to retake the city. However, small groups of militants remain hidden throughout the Old City.

Aid Agencies, Security Forces Shift Attention to Tal Afar

On August 4, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), sent emergency teams to provide frontline non-food assistance (NFI) to an informal internally displaced persons (IDP) site outside of Tal Afar, approximately 80 kilometers west of Mosul in Ninewa Province. Approximately 255 families have fled from villages in and around Tal Afar, establishing an informal IDP camp in Badoosh, 40 kilometers east of Tal Afar. Tal Afar originally had a population of about 200,000, yet current estimates reveal that there are only about 10,000- 40,000 people remaining in the city. Reports coming out of Tal Afar indicate that Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants are preventing civilians from escaping the city, by shooting at those trying to flee. Mainly women, the elderly and children have fled the city during late hours of the night, taking obscure routes to avoid being spotted by ISIS militants. A member of the IOM Rapid Assessment Response Team who visited the Badoosh IDP camp described the situation as “dire” and reported that those at the camp have received very small amounts of assistance. Because Tal Afar is comparatively remote and difficult to reach, the IOM hopes to give priority to these makeshift sites, prioritizing out-of-reach responses.

On August 7, Karim Sinjari, the Interior Minister for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), announced that Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces have arrested a total of 1,700 ISIS militants hiding within IDP camps. He further stated that “despite the liberation of Mosul, the war against ISIS will last for a long time due to the presence of sleeper cells in the city, especially in the tunnels.”  He added that “Military operations will start in Tal Afar…then Qa’im in western Anbar and Hawija in western Kirkuk.”

On August 7, Ahmed al-Jabouri, a colonel in the Joint Operations Command, announced that operations to clear Tal Afar of ISIS militants will begin in the next few days. Tal Afar is located 80 kilometers west of Mosul, and the targeted area for the operation covers 2,400 kilometers and consists of Tal Afar, Ayadi, Mahalabiya, and 47 nearby villages in Ninewa Province.  Tal Afar has been a primary ISIS stronghold since August 2014.

On August 7, Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General of the United Nations, announced that humanitarian preparations are taking place in order to assist civilians of the ISIS held city of Tal Afar. Dujarric estimates that there are about 10 thousand civilians trapped within the city, while approximately 50 thousand people are currently living within the surrounding areas. Humanitarian organizations have begun to provide water, hygiene assistance, and emergency assistance to the area. An estimated 50 thousand people are expected to be uprooted in the upcoming week in anticipation of military operations against ISIS in the city.

On August 8, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, announced that aid providers are bracing for the possible evacuation of hundreds of thousands of civilians, as security forces prepare for the imminent start of three separate operations against remaining ISIS strongholds in the region. Humanitarian aid teams have begun to move into areas where operations are expected to take place in Tal Afar, Hawija, and western Anbar. Aid teams have been briefed by the military regarding “mustering points” and planned evacuation routes.”

On August 8, it was reported that the cost of forged passports for fleeing ISIS militants have reached up to US$ 5 thousand each, as many members are attempting to flee Tal Afar into neighboring countries. In July, some reports cited that  fake passports for ISIS members fleeing the Kirkuk and Ninewa provinces could cost up to US$ 20 thousand.  

On August 8, the Iraqi Army’s 9th Division arrived at the outskirts of Tal Afar. An unnamed source from the division stated that “both the Iraqi troops and the U.S.-led international coalition began shelling [ISIS’s] infrastructure before invading the city.”

On August 9, the U.S.-led coalition established a military base near Tal Afar in order to oversee the campaign to clear Tal Afar of ISIS. Mahdi al-Khafaji, a spokesman for the Anatolia Agency, commented that “the establishment of the base came after consultations between the U.S. and Iraqi forces last Friday.”

On August 9, it was reported that a mortar missile killed an ISIS leader, who according to an unnamed source, was “in charge of the defense lines, was an Iraqi national, and was killed along with his companion.” The attack comes amid the beginning of the ISF and PMU campaign to clear Tal Afar of ISIS.

On August 10, Majid Ghraudi, a member of the Security and Defense Committee in Iraqi Parliament, noted that the battle to clear Tal Afar will begin next week. He added that “security forces will ensure the safety of civilians and families in the area.” PMUs have completely surrounded the district of Tal Afar, and have begun to cut ISIS’s trade routes from inside Syria.

Iranian-Backed PMU Accuses U.S. of Attack, ISIS Claims Responsibility

On August 4, Iraqi authorities found a mass grave containing the remains of 40 men who had been executed by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in 2015. The grave was located near the outskirts of Ramadi, a city 100 kilometers west of Baghdad in Anbar Province.

On August 4, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) imposed a full-scale curfew in the al-Baghdadi area in western Anbar. This comes after ISIS militants reportedly called for attacks against civilians and security forces in the cities of Baghdadi, Hit, Haditha, Ramadi, and Fallujah.  

On August 7, a rocket struck the Sayyid al-Shuhada Brigade of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) on the Iraqi-Syrian border, near an Iraqi garrison located near At Tanf, in southeast Syria. 40 of the PMU’s fighters were killed, and another 85 others wounded, including several of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard. The militia issued a statement, saying “we hold the American army responsible for this act” and that “it will not go unpunished.” The PMU branch claim that a long range High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) rocket was used; this past June the U.S. military moved their HIMARS from Jordan to their training base in At Tanf.

On August 8, Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve denied allegations that the U.S. was responsible for the At Tanf attack on August 7. ISIS later claimed responsibility in a statement circulated by its supporters, however, neither the PMU affected nor U.S. coalition officials have responded.

On August 8, Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council sentenced 27 ISIS members to death for taking part in the 2014 massacre at Camp Speicher, a U.S. military base near Tikrit, which resulted in the death of up to 1,700 soldiers. Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, a spokesman for Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council, stated that the decision was “based on Article Four of the anti-terrorism law. The ruling is preliminary and can be challenged by the Federal Court of Cassation.”

On August 9, Iraqi Vice President and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for an urgent investigation into the strike that killed two dozen PMU fighters on the Iraqi-Syrian border on August 7. He demanded that the perpetrators be held accountable for the “unjustified aggression.” The Iranian backed PMU, Sayyid al-Shuhada Brigade, continues to blame the U.S. led-coalition, despite their fervent denial.

On August 9, ISIS officially claimed responsibility for the At Tanf attack on PMUs near the Iraqi-Syrian border. In their online statement, the terrorist organization said it “staged a three-pronged attack that included a suicide bombing, followed by fighters storming the militia’s positions.”

On August 9, Iraqi Air Force warplanes conducted an airstrike, targeting six ISIS headquarters locations in the town of al-Qa’im, on the Iraqi-Syrian border in western Anbar Province. The airstrike killed several ISIS militants, and successfully cleared the rest of the headquarters.

Changes to Election Law Met with Protests

On August 4, influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr strongly criticised Parliament’s recent proposed amendment to Article 12 of the Election Law, 1.9, which concerns the upcoming provincial elections set for April, 2018. Among other logistics, the law dictates how to oversee and tally votes, and lists prerequisites for candidates running for local office. The amendment includes a new method for calculating electoral votes and distributing Parliamentary seats. The draft law was highly controversial, and many smaller blocs in Parliament opposed it. They argued that it was designed to secure a hegemony of voices in the government by installing a new electoral commission and election law that would consolidate the power of “the same old” large Parliament blocs, and prevent disgruntled civilians from entering local government. Sadr stated that the legislation, “and the survival of the current Electoral Commission is in the interest of corrupt [politicians]” and will cause “the death of the aspirations of people, and the aspirations for change and reform.” On August 3, he called on his followers to protest  corruption by attending a mass demonstration in Baghdad and other major cities across Iraq. In addition to condemning the proposed Election Law changes, Sadr called for the return of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their places of origin.

On August 4, thousands of Sadrist followers answered Moqtada al-Sadr’s call for anti-corruption demonstrations against  both the government and the highly debated amendment to the Election Law, congregating in Tahrir Square, central Baghdad. They demanded that Parliament reconsider the bill, and threatened to boycott elections if the controversial legislation is kept. In addition, demonstrators reiterated past demands, which include the end to financial and administrative corruption, which they claim is widespread within state institutions and services. They also called for the government to address major social issues, including extensive  unemployment.

On August 6, Parliament decided to reopen the debate on the draft Election Law, Article 12 part 1.9, deciding to adopt a reformed version of the draft, part 1.7. This change came in response to widespread protests and criticism that the 1.9 version was a corrupt means for large coalitions to consolidate power and oust any opposition voices from the government. However, the new version is still considered a disappointment for small blocs. Joseph Saleh, head of the Warka Democratic Bloc, noted that “small blocs walked out [of the session] but were unable to stop the quorum of the meeting,” allowing the larger blocks to continue debating the bill. However, they agreed to hold a re-vote over whether or not provincial candidates need to have a university degree. Currently, the law stipulates that a degree is a requirement, however critics argue that it would unjustly prevent qualified candidates from running. In addition, it was decided that the enactment of Article 37 of the provincial elections and district law, which concerns the organization of votes in the disputed Kirkuk province, would be postponed.

On August 7, Parliament voted 46 of the 53 amendments to the Election Law into effect however, the vote has yet to be completed because several small liberal blocs, and the Kurdistan representatives, walked out of the session, boycotting the vote. Article 12 of the law is one of the major points of contention, as it has to do with the methodology of local elections and candidate eligibility.

On August 8, Salim Shawki, a Member of Parliament (MP) from the recently formed National Wisdom Movement, announced his party’s support for part 1.7 of Article 12 of the Election Law, noting that the law will now expand the rate of participation in the provincial elections. One of the changes that the law retains from the previous 1.9 version, is the lowered age requirement for running for office, from 30 years to 25.

On August 8, MP Ammar Tohme spoke on behalf of the Fadhila political bloc, stating “we reiterate our rejection” of amendments to sections 1.9 and 1.7 of the Election Law, because “both systems lead to a significant waste of voters” and candidates. There are currently two main debates over the law: one concerns the qualifications for candidates running for local office, and the second is over the electoral system and how to distribute Parliamentary seats based on votes, political blocs, and representation quotas.

On August 9, leader of the State of Law coalition, Ammar al-Kahik, met with Speaker of Parliament, Saleem al-Jabouri, to discuss the draft Election Law. Together, they stressed the importance of the legislation, which they argue, will guarantee the representation of all Iraqis. Hakim stressed “the importance of consolidating the military in a political project that is reassuring for all Iraqis.”

Gorran Votes to Reconcile with KDP

On August 7, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Iraqi Foreign Minister and Chairman of the National Reform Movement, advocated against the Kurdistan Region’s upcoming referendum on independence, set for September 25 of this year. He stressed that the referendum is dangerous for the entire region, and that “Iraq’s power is derived from the unity of its components, the cohesion of its political forces, and the continuation of dialogue to overcome the challenges the country faces.” He argued that the referendum is not in the interest of the unity of Iraq, and emphasized that the country is recovering from the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and that security remains a top concern.

On August 8, a number of political and academic figures in Kurdistan launched a “Not Now” campaign against the upcoming referendum. Rabun Maruf, a spokesman for the campaign noted that “the referendum at this present time does not serve the greater interest of the Kurdistani people.” He added that “This referendum is not a step towards independence and a democratic, republic, and just state…it is also a historic and dangerous mistake.” The group argues that while the referendum for independence is fair and what the region deserves, the timing of the vote will provoke unrest and insecurity in the region. He called on civilians to “support this campaign for a better future for our generations, and to protect our country from disaster.”

On August 8, Kurdistan Member of Parliament (MP) Salar Mahmoud warned that if the Kurdish Parliament is not reactivated before the upcoming referendum, there will be a legislative political vacuum in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The Kurdish Parliament was forcibly suspended in December 2015 by the ruling Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), in political retaliation to the opposition party, the Movement for Change (Gorran). While the KDP recently agreed to reopen Parliament without conditions, Gorran has yet to respond to the offer. Mahmoud stressed that “it is necessary for the political parties to reach an agreement to activate Parliament,” and to “not waste more time.”

On August 8, the Gorran Party requested to receive the proposed Kurdish Parliament’s agenda before they agree to the KDP’s offer to reactivate it without conditions. Abdulrazaq Sharif, a member of Gorran’s National Assembly, said “we will respond to [the KDP] whenever they tell us about the agenda.” The suspension of the Kurdish Parliament in 2015 was due to a conflict over an amendment to the Presidential Law, which would extend the current term of President Masoud Barzani. Barzani is the leader of the KDP, and Gorran argued that it was an illegal means for the party to consolidate power. Jafar Sheikh Mustafa, a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) member, stated that “they should come to an agreement and compromise for the sake of the interest of the people.” The Referendum Committee stipulates that if Gorran does not commit by August 14, the KRG will have to develop an alternative approach to reopen Parliament with the majority of the MPs.

On August 8, Najim al-Din Karim, governor of Kirkuk Province, reaffirmed that the upcoming Kurdish referendum on independence will take place in the disputed areas, including Kirkuk. Kirkuk is claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad, and there has been an ongoing debate over whether or not the province will participate in the vote. Since the fight against ISIS began in 2014, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces control the majority of the disputed areas. Karim asserted that “the fate of Kirkuk and its future will be decided by the people.” He added that “the sacrifices and blood of the Peshmerga forces” are the reason for stability in the province. However, within Kirkuk, which is home to a mixture of Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen, there are ongoing disputes among leaders over the referendum, with many politicians affirming that the Provincial Council of Kirkuk will not allow the vote to take place.

On August 8, Iraqi Vice President and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spoke at a Turkmen Coordinating Body meeting in Baghdad, where he advocated for unity between Turkmen and Arabs, in a four-pronged strategy to stop the upcoming Kurdish independence referendum. The approach would include tactical, media, political, and international strategies. Malaki has been adamant that the referendum is “in violation of the Iraqi Constitution” and is a “strategic project that must be confronted.” The Turkmen communities in Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan, and the disputed areas, historically have had strained relations with both Kurds and Arabs. Currently, Turkmen leaders are split over deciding to support Erbil or Baghdad.

On August 9, Ammar al-Hakim, president of the National Alliance Coalition and leader of the new National Wisdom Movement, advocated for productive dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad. He emphasized that “the need to ensure the success of the national reconciliation project” and “the importance of preserving unity” among the vast spectra of Iraqi people, is paramount.

On August 9, senior leaders of the PUK and KDP met to discuss a range of issues including the effort to reactivate the Kurdish Parliament, and to mend intra-party relations. The meeting showcased a newfound will to create unity between the two parties.

On August 9, President of the KRG Masoud Barzani, commented that the Turkmen citizens in Tal Afar are loyal to ISIS, stating that “those who remain in Tal Afar are Sunni Turkmen, and a majority of them cooperate with ISIS.” Tal Afar is located in the Ninewa province, outside of the KRG’s official boundaries. However, there are vibrant Turkmen communities throughout both Kurdistan and the disputed areas, particularly in Kirkuk.

On August 9, British Ambassador to Iraq, Frank Baker, met with the Governor of Kirkuk Province, Najim al-Din, to discuss the political and security situation in both Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. During the meeting, they discussed the “issue of local elections in Kirkuk, which has denied citizens of the province [of local elections] since 2005,” and “the need to hold the Kirkuk provincial council elections unconditionally, similar to the rest of Iraq.” Kirkuk is scheduled to hold both the Kurdistan independence referendum and the Iraqi provincial elections, set for this upcoming September and April, respectively.

On August 10, members of Gorran’s council voted unanimously to negotiate and eventually reconcile with the KDP. During the conference, members stressed the need for national unity and for the unification of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. However, Gorran has yet to accept the KDP’s offer to reopen Kurdistan’s Parliament without condition.

IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

08/10/17Qarah Tapah, Southeast of Kirkuk02
08/09/17North of Baghdad10
08/09/17al-Mashahda, East of Mosul01
08/09/17Bab Sinjar, Old City, Mosul00
08/08/17Southwest of Baghdad02
08/08/17Batif, Zakho dirstrict, Kurdistan04
08/08/17Abu Hassan village, north of Baquba10
08/08/17al-Katoun, West of Baquba12
08/07/17West of Diyala10
08/06/17al-Hayekel, al-Ghazaliya district, Western Baghdad10
08/06/17Daqouq Region, South of Kirkuk04
08/05/17Baqubah, Diyala15
08/05/17Ramadi, Anbar Province 23
08/04/17al-Aghawat, Western Mosul30
08/04/17Western Baghdad17


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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