ISHM: October 20 – 26, 2017


Key Takeaways:

  • Allegations and Rhetoric Confuse Situation as ISF Take Over Disputed Territories – The Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi Security Forces continued to exchange allegations this week – each accusing the other of using internationally donated military equipment in unprovoked attacks in Kirkuk, Ninewa, and Salah ad-Din Provinces. The Kurdish Region Security Council released several statements this week accusing Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia Popular Mobilization Units of “multi-pronged attacks” using American-made weapons and vehicles. Iraqi Joint Operations command called the statements full of “misrepresentations and lies,” claimed that Peshmerga shelling was responsible for seven casualties in Alton Kupri in Kirkuk Province, and suggested that Peshmerga munitions being used were donated by Germany for use against ISIS militants. On October 20, the Peshmerga withdrew entirely from Kirkuk Province, though they continue to clash with PMUs in northern Ninewa – the extent and casualty reports of which are highly conflicting. The U.S. State Department and UN bodies have called for de-escalation and an end to inflammatory statements and provocation by both the Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional governments. more…
  • Reports of Casualties and Looting Amid ISF, Peshmerga Clashes – On October 20, Human Rights Watch reported that 51 civilians were injured and five killed in Tuz Khurmatu in Salah ad-Din Province during “indiscriminate firing” between Iraqi Security Forces and the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga. Amnesty International issued reports of human rights violations in the same area during the clashes, indicating that 11 civilians were killed and many properties looted or destroyed, primarily in the Kurdish portion of the city. Lynn Maalouf of Amnesty said that Iraqi authorities “would not tolerate attacks against civilians and would hold perpetrators accountable,” and called on the Iraqi government to adhere to their commitment and initiate investigations into the allegations. more…
  • Kurdish Elections ‘Suspended’ for Eight Months; Referendum Results ‘Frozen’ – The Kurdistan Parliament voted to extend its current session and officially postpone Parliamentary and Presidential elections by eight months citing the political fallout after the September 25 referendum on Kurdish independence. The Kurdish Gorran and Islamic Movement parties condemned the delay, calling it “a clear violation of the rights of voters.” In an emergency meeting, the Sulaimania Provincial Council urged the Kurdistan Regional Government to enter talks with the Iraqi federal government within the next 15 days out of mounting concern over the province’s financial situation. The KRG conceded to “freezing” the results of the independence referendum as a means to start talks with Baghdad, but Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi insists on the KRG annulling the results altogether as a condition for dialogue. more…
  • Abadi Dismisses Tillerson Comments on PMUs, Seeks Regional Cooperation – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued a sharp rebuke to comments made by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said that “Iranian militias that are in Iraq now…need to go home.” During Tillerson’s visit to Baghdad on October 23, Abadi reminded the Secretary that the fighters are Iraqis “who fought terrorism and defended their country” and rejected the notion that they are Iranian. Earlier in the week, Abadi was in Riyadh where he signed the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council agreement to encourage greater cooperation on economic, security, and cultural efforts between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The agreement signals another high point in Saudi-Iraqi rapprochement that has already included the reopening of borders, resumption of air routes, and reestablishment of diplomatic delegations. Abadi also visited Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey to discuss security and economic cooperation that will “create hope for young people,” according to the Prime Minister. more…
  • ISF “Coming to Liberate You” in Anbar – On October 25, the Iraqi Air Force dropped leaflets over Qa’im and Rawa in western Anbar Province, telling residents that “your security forces have resolved the situation and liberated all areas of Iraq…and now it is coming to liberate you.” The following day, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the beginning of military operations to clear ISIS militants from Rawa and surrounding areas. The cities on the Iraqi-Syrian border represent the last areas occupied by ISIS in Iraq. more…
  • Lack of Planning in Mosul Causing “Chaos” as Funding Urgently Needed – During a roundtable discussion on the “Planning Prospects for the Reconstruction and Recovery of Mosul” hosted by UN-Habitat this week, Bashar Kiki, Head of the Ninewa Provincial Council, said that lack of sufficient planning for Mosul’s recovery was leading to “chaos,” and encouraged transparency and accountability between the government and local population during reconstruction. According to UNOCHA, the 2017 Humanitarian Plan for Iraq is 62% funded and still requires at least US$ 373.7 million for operations this year. 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.

Allegations and Rhetoric Confuse Situation as ISF Take Over Disputed Territories

On October 20, the Kurdistan Region Security Council released a statement that the Iraqi forces had launched an “unprovoked, multi-pronged attack” on the Peshmerga in Alton Kupri, a town 20 km north of Kirkuk city, bordering Erbil Province. The statement noted that the Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed PMUs were using American-made weapons in their attack. During confrontations, the council reported that Peshmerga forces repelled more than 10 humvees and one M1 Abrams tank. The statement concluded that Peshmerga forces would continue to protect its people and interests.

On October 20, Governor of Erbil Nawzad Hadi informed the public that his province was “safe and stable.” Iraqi security forces reached Altun Kupri the day before, a town in the north of Kirkuk Province, bordering with Erbil. Hadi assured that that there is no threat or danger to Erbil, and added that “the Peshmerga are on full alert.”

On October 20, Niyazi Muammar Oglu, the Iraqi Member of Parliament (MP) for the Turkmen Front, reported that Iraqi federal forces were 25 km from the center of Erbil. However, the forces remained within the administrative boundaries of Kirkuk and are not expected to continue on into Erbil. On the same day, the Kirkuk police chief announced that Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) would stay 2 km from Erbil’s border.

On October 20, the Military Information Cell confirmed that Iraqi federal forces had redeployed in Altun Kupri, a town in Kirkuk Province near the border with Erbil. An anonymous source reported that forces had gone to Altun Kupri after clashes with armed groups.

On October 20, the Military Information Cell reported that Peshmerga forces had used missiles obtained from Germany against the ISF in Altun Kupri. The missile were given to the Peshmerga to aid in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and were not intended to be used against the Iraqi federal forces. “We are informing the public about this breach of non-compliance with the agreements on the use of weapons only against terrorist groups.”

On October 20, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of the Peshmerga, Jabbar Yawar, announced that the Peshmerga had withdrawn and were completely outside the borders of Kirkuk. “We do not know what Iraqi forces seek after Kirkuk,” Yawar said, and noted that weapons provided by the West had been used in the confrontation.

On October 20, United States (U.S.) Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert released a press statement expressing U.S. concern over the security developments in Kirkuk, and urged the Iraqi government “to calm the situation by limiting federal forces’ movements in disputed areas to only those coordinated with the Kurdistan Regional Government.” Nauert’s statement singled out Altun Kupri, in northern Kirkuk on the border with Erbil, for the violent clashes that occurred there. Furthermore, the U.S. reiterated its commitment to a united Iraq and to finishing the war against ISIS.

On October 21, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) welcomed the request by the U.S. Department of State a day earlier to stop the confrontations between the Peshmerga and the ISF. It also stressed its readiness for coordination between the Peshmerga forces, ISF, and the International Coalition. Furthermore, the KRG renewed its request for dialogue with Baghdad as soon as possible.

On October 21, an anonymous source reported that a large security force of the Directorate of the Southern Oil Police left Basra to go to Kirkuk to stabilize the oil fields in the region. The force had light and medium weapons and was tasked only with preventing any threats to the oil fields near Kirkuk. This mobilization may be in response to the fires at the Bay Hassan oil fields last week.

On October 21, the Joint Operations Command issued a statement countering an earlier Peshmerga statement about the clashes in Alton Kupri. Joint Operations Command called the Peshmerga statement full of “misrepresentations and lies” and claimed that Kurdish shelling was responsible for killing and wounding seven members of the ISF. A spokesperson said that “The Kurdish forces, which are 3 km away, are still firing mortars and the use of 23 mm artillery and German thermal missiles towards our sectors.”

On October 23, a spokesman for the German Defense Ministry confirmed that it would continue to provide the Peshmerga with weapons. This announcement came after ISF assertions that the Peshmerga had used German-made missiles against them. The spokesman said, “It is true that we can not guarantee that every weapon will remain in the hands of the fighters who fight the so-called militant organization, but the Kurds assured us that the weapons we will supply them will only be used against the terrorist organization.” He added that Germany would monitor the situation but saw no reason to doubt the Kurds’ assurances.

On October 23, the Kurdistan Region Security Council released a statement that it was concerned about Iraqi forces continuing to move closer to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). The statement noted that the Iraqi government was continuing to deploy tanks and artillery as well as American-made equipment.

On October 24, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, Jan Kubis, reiterated earlier calls by the United Nations (UN) to de-escalate the situation between Baghdad and Erbil. He said, “A solution lies primarily in stopping military activities and in de-escalation, including ending public inflammatory statements and confrontational actions, in continuous coordination on the military and security situation in disputed areas, where appropriate, in respecting the integrity of the Green Line of 2003 and notably in an urgent start of a partnership dialogue and negotiations between Baghdad and Erbil on the basis of the Constitution.”

On October 25, Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), stressed that rumors about coalition plans to bomb Kurdish targets were untrue. Several days prior, Dillon had said that the coalition was “monitoring the situation closely and strongly urge all sides to avoid additional escalatory actions…We opposed violence from any party, and urge against destabilizing actions that distract from the fight against ISIS and further undermine Iraq’s stability.”

On October 25, Col. Zafar Lewis, a Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) spokesperson, reported that Peshmerga forces had targeted his unit with mortar shells in north Ninewa Province. “They refused to withdraw,” he said. “They fired mortars at the city and wounded a number of civilians.” He reported that PMU and CTS forces had been deployed in Telskuf (25 km north of Mosul) and Alqosh (41 km north of Mosul).

On October 25, the Kurdistan Region Security Council tweeted a statement that Iraqi forces were planning an attack on an area northwest of Mosul. The statement held that ISF and PMUs were using heavy weaponry against the Peshmerga, which is unconstitutional under Iraqi law. In the statement, the Kurdistan Region Security Council also asserted that the KRG had implemented its obligations in an October 2016 agreement requiring a withdrawal to areas prior to the anti-ISIS operation in Mosul. However, the statement held that the Iraqi government was violating the agreement by using PMUs and military means to settle political disputes.

On October 26, a member of the Ninewa Provincial Council announced that the Rabia border-crossing between Iraq and Syria (108 km northwest of Mosul) had been returned to ISF control. An armed wing of the Syrian faction of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) withdrew from the area after ISF’s arrival. The ISF has been redeploying troops to restore its control in Ninewa, Kirkuk, Diyala, and Salah ad-Din since October 18.

On October 26, the Kurdistan Region Security Council released a statement that ISF and Iranian-backed PMUs had launched a four-pronged attack on Peshmerga positions in northwest Mosul, Bardiya and Hamad Agha, Mosharaf, and Rabia. The statement gave a list of PMUs that participated as well as noted that American-made weapons had been used in the attacks. According to the Kurdistan Region Security Council, the Peshmerga were able to repel the attacks and the Iraqi forces retreated, destroying nine military vehicles in the process (three tanks, five U.S. Humvees, and one Badger). They informed Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed PMUs had been preparing for this major attack for six days, and they called on the international community to intervene and for the attacks to stop immediately.

Reports of Casualties and Looting Amid ISF, Peshmerga Clashes

On October 20, Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman from the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, said that UNHCR had been providing aid to families who had fled Kirkuk fearing violence. Haq added that the Secretary-General appealed “to the Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to take coordinated steps to prevent and avoid further clashes, escalation or breakdown of law and order. He calls on the parties to jointly manage the situation and resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution of Iraq.”

On October 20, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that 51 civilians were injured and five killed by “indiscriminate firing” in Tuz Khurmatu (65 km south of Kirkuk), Salah ad-Din Province. Additionally, Iraqi forces allegedly allowed civilians to loot property for at least a day before taking action. HRW spoke to three Turkmen who described the actions and their resulting injuries. Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at HRW, said, “Iraqi and Kurdish forces need to resolve the current crisis in ways that fully respects human rights and avoids harming civilians or their property.”

On October 21, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that over the past week, 100,000 people fled from Kirkuk, Makhmur, and Tuz Khurmatu. Partner organizations quickly began providing supplies, with more than 15,000 emergency food rations distributed. According to Lise Grande, Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, “[e]verything has to be done by authorities on all sides to ensure the safety of families caught up in recent events. Nothing is more important than protecting civilians.”

On October 23, Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman from the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, said that 136,000 people were still displaced as a result of the recent developments in the disputed areas in Iraq. Lise Grande, Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, had reported that displaced families had returned, only to be displaced again. She also added that there were accounts of looting, violence, and destruction. Consequently, Haq appealed to the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to avoid violence.

On October 24, Amnesty International compiled reports of human rights violations in Tuz Khurmatu in the clashes between the ISF and Peshmerga. According to residents, 11 civilians were killed, and many properties were looted and destroyed, primarily in Kurdish areas of the city. Lynn Maalouf, Director of Research for the Middle East at Amnesty International, said, “The Iraqi authorities already stated they would not tolerate any attacks against civilians, and would hold perpetrators accountable. They must now put word to action, and promptly initiate impartial investigations into these violations. Victims must receive full reparation and those responsible held to account.”

Kurdish Elections ‘Suspended’ for Eight Months; Referendum Results ‘Frozen’

On October 19, a court in Baghdad issued an arrest warrant for Kosrat Rasul, Vice President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), accusing him of “insulting” the Iraqi armed forces. According to a Supreme Judicial Council spokesperson, the court believed that Rasul was inciting violence in a statement he made condemning the withdrawal of the Peshmerga from Kirkuk and calling the ISF an “occupying force.” However, his arrest is unlikely to be enforced since Baghdad has no enforceable authority in KRG administered territories.

On October 20, President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Masoud Barzani called on Kurdish people around the world to peacefully demonstrate against the aggression of the Iraqi government and its security forces. Barzani claimed that the recent actions of Iraqi forces in Kirkuk displaced over 150,000 citizens, and he described those actions as “attempts of genocide.” He called on Kurds around the world to “stand up against these attacks, crimes of murder, abuses and deportation of citizens… Support our people and demand… [to] stop this war and the siege on our people.”

On October 20, dozens of citizens demonstrated in front of the United States (U.S.) consulate in Erbil. The protesters, some of whom recently fled Kirkuk, condemned U.S. silence on the Iraqi forces’ takeover of Kirkuk Province and carried Kurdish flags. They claimed that the Popular Mobilization Units in Kirkuk were committing human rights violations such as burning and looting houses; some also claimed that the PMUs were committing a genocide against the Kurds. A large pro-Kurdish protest also took place that day in Dusseldorf, Germany.

On October 21, protesters stormed the Iranian consulate in Erbil and took down the Iranian flag. The Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the actions of the protestors. Spokesperson of the ministry, Ahmad Mahjoub, stressed that the government agencies in the region were fully responsible for the life and well-being of the consular staff. Pro-Kurdish demonstrations occurred that day also in London and Stockholm, protesting the mobilization of Iraqi security forces and PMUs into the disputed territories.

On October 21, Peshmerga commander, Sirwan Barzani, sent a message to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to intervene and stop the PMUs in order to prevent the collapse of relations between Kurds and Shiites. “We know for sure that the fatwa of your permission to form the popular crowd was to stand up against a terrorist,” Barzani’s message argued to show the PMUs irrelevance in confrontation with the Kurdish Peshmerga. The PMUs were created after Sistani’s call for volunteers to fight ISIS.

On October 22, a PMU leader, Jabbar al-Mamouri, reported that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) offices in four disputed cities in Diyala Province had been closed for several days. The reason for their closure, according to Mamouri, was fear of backlash from those who were angered by the KDP leadership’s abuse of human rights. Other political parties in those cities kept their offices open.

On October 22, the Kurdish Gorran party called on President of the KRG Masoud Barzani to step down. In a press conference, Gorran spokesperson, Shrush Haji, stated that “the Kurdistan presidency must be dissolved and a national salvation government be formed to overcome the current situation.” Gorran and the Kurdistan Islamic Group are aligned on their position to abolish the current KRG and form a new government to enter into a legitimate dialogue with Baghdad. Both parties opposed holding the referendum for independence last month.

On October 24, in an emergency meeting, the Sulaimania Provincial Council decided, due to the critical economic situation in Sulaimania, that the KRG should enter into dialogue with the federal government within 15 days. Head of the Provincial Council Azad Mohammed stressed that “the economic situation has reached a very deteriorating stage.” A statement signed by 12 of the council members said that Sulaimania Province does not “have any financial source and can no longer secure [its] salaries and budget.”

On October 24, the Kurdistan Parliament voted to extend its current session, as well as postpone its parliamentary and presidential elections, by eight months. Originally, the elections were planned to be held on November 1st, 2017. However, the Electoral Commission of Kurdistan decided last week to suspend the elections’ procedures. The political developments in the Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI) were cited both by the commission and members of parliament as the primary reason for postponement. The current parliamentary session was extended until the next elections. The Kurdish Gorran Party and the Kurdish Islamic Movement were both against these decisions. “The extension of the current parliamentary session… is a clear violation of the rights of voters,” said the head of Gorran in the Kurdistan Parliament, Barzo Majeed. Instead of extending the current parliamentary session, Gorran wanted to form an interim government and prepare for elections.

On October 25, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) warned of genocide of the Kurds in the disputed territories. The PUK’s Political Bureau said “this sectarian hatred” (referring to the violence that resulted from the Iraqi forces’ entry into disputed territories on October 16) “will lead to genocide of the Kurds in the disputed Kurdish areas if the United Nations, the government, the House of Representatives and the United States do not intervene quickly.” The bureau cited the United Nations’ and international human rights organizations’ recognition that the occurrences in Tuz Khurmatu in the past two weeks, including displacements, lootings, and burning of homes, have led to greater sectarian hatred. The bureau recommended forming an investigative committee in the Iraqi Parliament to investigate the facts, detect crimes, and make recommendations on how to take preventative measures and compensate victims.

On October 25, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) published a statement which differed from those made by the Kurdistan Region Security Council earlier in the week and conceded to “freezing” the results of the September 25 referendum on Kurdish independence. In the latest statement, the KRG proposed the following to the Iraqi Government: “1. Immediate ceasefire and halt all military operations in the Kurdistan Region. 2. Freeze the results of referendum conducted in the Iraqi Kurdistan. 3. Start an open dialogue between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraqi Federal Government on the basis of the Constitution.” On October 16, Iraqi Security Forces entered the Peshmerga-controlled disputed territories and have since been deployed in all of the disputed areas in Kirkuk, Ninewa, Salah ad-Din, and Diyala Provinces.

On October 26, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi rejected the KRG’s offer to “freeze” the referendum results. “We accept only the cancellation of the referendum and the adherence to the constitution,” he said.

Abadi Dismisses Tillerson Comments on PMUs, Seeks Regional Cooperation

On October 21, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Riyadh with a delegation of 10 ministers and 60 advisors to meet with Saudi officials and sign the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council into agreement, which is designated to coordinated economic, security, and cultural cooperation between the two countries. Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz invited Abadi on Friday, October 19. The agreement marks a major breakthrough between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, whose relations have been cold since Iraq invaded Kuwait.

On October 21, Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, former Saudi Intelligence Director, described Iraq as a “brotherly and friendly country.” “The existence of any area to divide any Arab country is rejected by Saudi Arabia,” he added, speaking from Washington, DC. He expressed that Saudi Arabia felt responsibility to help Arab countries that recently experienced major political transitions “find a new social contract that meets the aspirations of the people,” and he blamed the selfishness of some Arab leaders for the chaos of the Arab Spring.

On October 22, Saudi Arabia and Iraq formally established the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council. Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz thanked Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for accepting the invitation to attend the first meeting of the council and celebrated the strengthening of relations between the two countries. He said that what ties Saudi Arabia to Iraq is not just common interests, but also brotherhood, blood, history, and destiny. “We congratulate our brothers in Iraq on the achievements made in eradicating and defeating terrorism,” he added, and reiterated Saudi Arabia’s support for the unity and stability of Iraq. Abadi expressed “great satisfaction” in Iraq’s warming relations with Saudi Arabia. “We are serious about cooperation…and we will work to ensure the success of any step that will consolidate security, stability, prosperity and development,” he said. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attended the signing ceremony and encouraged Saudi Arabia and Iraq to continue developing good relations.

On October 22, during a press conference in Riyadh, Tillerson said that “Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home. Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control of areas that had been overtaken by ISIS.” Abadi responded to Tillerson’s remarks in sharp defense of the PMUs, referring to them as patriots.

On October 22, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi continued his diplomatic trip from Riyadh to Cairo, and then to Amman. Only a handful of high-ranking ministers joined Abadi in Egypt and Jordan, compared with a delegation of over 60 diplomats that arrived in Saudi Arabia for discussions on the Iraqi-Saudi Cooperation Council. In Cairo, Abadi met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and later that day, in Amman, he met with King of Jordan Abdullah II bin al-Hussein. With both heads of state, Abadi talked about strengthening bilateral cooperation, the threat of terrorism in the region, and Iraq’s vision for the region’s future — based on security and economic development, not war, to create “hope for young people.” Sisi expressed support and blessed Iraq’s victories against “the gangs of terror.” Hussein expressed Jordan’s support for Iraq’s unity and recent legal actions, and he praised Abadi’s “measures to save Iraqi blood.”

On October 23, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his accompanying delegation arrived in Baghdad to meet with Iraqi President Fuad Masum and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi after a short stop in Afghanistan. Tillerson and Abadi discussed enhancing U.S.-Iraqi bilateral cooperation against terrorism and the latest steps by the Iraqi government to impose federal authority in Kirkuk. Hours before Tillerson’s arrival, which was unannounced, Abadi’s office released a statement asserting that the PMUs must be encouraged because they “are Iraqi fighters [who] fought terrorism and defended their country.” This remark responded to Tillerson’s statement to the press a day earlier, in which he called on “Iranian militias” in Iraq to “go home” — a comment that suggested that PMU fighters are Iranian, not Iraqi. Tillerson’s statements after the meeting encouraged Erbil and Baghdad to enter into dialogue. “We are concerned and have been saddened by the recent differences that have emerged between the Kurdistan regional government and the Iraqi central government,” he said.

On October 23, in response to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s unexpected visit to Iraq, leaders of two prominent PMUs spoke out against his negative remarks on Iraq’s PMUs. Hadi al-Amiri, Secretary-General of the Badr Organization, said “US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is not welcome in Baghdad… I ask Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi not to receive him until he apologizes for his irresponsible remarks about the [PMUs].” Qais al-Khazali, Secretary-General of the League of the Righteous, tweeted to Tillerson: “Your forces should get ready to get out of our country once the excuse of Daesh’s presence is over.”

On October 24, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi addressed Iraq’s foreign policy outlook and the situation in Kirkuk in his weekly press conference. “Iraq is ready to take a leading role in the region and the world,” Abadi said. He cited the appreciation he received from Saudi, Egyptian, and Jordanian state leaders for the Iraqi vision for the future of the region, and he emphasised the remarkable Iraqi-Saudi rapprochement. He announced his plans to visit Turkey and Iran next, to convey to them Iraq’s vision for the region. On the developments in Kirkuk from the previous week, he said: “We have eliminated the attempts to divide unity and cohesion… the citizens of Kirkuk seem to cooperate well with the federal authority, despite incitement attempts.”

On October 25, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi flew to Ankara with a delegation including the ministers of interior, oil, planning, and electricity, and met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Prime Minister Ben Ali Yildirim. During the visit, Iraqi and Turkish officials discussed bilateral relations and cooperation on the topics of economy, trade, energy, water, politics, security, and culture.

ISF “Coming to Liberate You” in Anbar

On October 21, the commander of Anbar operations, Major General Mahmoud al-Falahi, announced that forces had bombed and killed dozens of terrorists in the desert in west Anbar (about 310 km west of Ramadi). In addition, the bombing destroyed 11 different vehicles and numerous booby-traps.

On October 21, the commander of the western mobilization battalion in Anbar, Colonel Jamal Shahab al-Mahlawi, reported that his forces were prepared to clear Rawa and Qa’im of ISIS presence. He said that “the regiment was supported by weapons, ammunition and fuel by the commander of the operations of the island and the commander of the seventh division and commanded the 28th Brigade of the army.”

On October 25, the Military Information Cell announced that the Iraqi air force air-dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets over Qaim and Rawa, in Anbar Province. The leaflets sent a message to civilians: “your security forces have resolved the situation and liberated all areas of Iraq… and now it is coming to liberate you… move away from enemy places.” The leaflets directed civilians to raise white flags on their houses when the “liberation forces” arrive. The cell made a similar announcement on October 15. Qaim and Rawa are located near the Syrian border. They represent the last remaining ISIS-controlled territory in Iraq.

On October 25, Jabbar al-Maamouri, a PMU leader, estimated that 150-200 ISIS fighters are hiding in Mutaibija area, on the border between Salah ad-Din and Diyala; most of whom had fled Hawija. He explained that the complex hilly terrain in that area enables ISIS militants many place to hide.

On October 26, over 10,000 people had arrived at displacement camps near Ramadi in Anbar Province. However, the UN predicts that 75,000 civilians still remain in western Anbar. The Norwegian Refugee Council is providing food, water, and hygiene kits to families who have been displaced. Western Anbar is the last area with a strong ISIS occupation in Iraq.

On October 26, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the beginning of military operations to clear ISIS militants from Rawa and its surrounding areas. Military forces including the air force of Iraq and the International Coalition, the Iraqi army, and PMUs launched the operation from four axes, one of which initiated in Ninewa Province and is heading to Qaim. Qaim is located 70 km west of Rawa and about 240 km northwest of Ramadi. In the early stages of the operation, the ISF’s seventh division removed the line of resistance between Ana and Rawa, enabling them to proceed westwards.

Lack of Planning in Mosul Causing “Chaos” as Funding Urgently Needed

On October 19, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released an update on the humanitarian situation in Mosul. According to UNHCR, the recent developments in disputed areas in parts of Ninewa Province had led to more displacements. However, 300,576 IDPs have returned to their places of origin since the beginning of the operation to clear Mosul of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants.

On October 22, the Government of Italy contributed an additional US$ 2.7 million to the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS). This program finances projects in areas liberated from ISIS, including providing grants to small businesses and short-term employment. Marco Carnelos, Italy’s Ambassador to Iraq, said, “[a]s the fight against Da’esh is coming at its end, it is critical to sustain Iraqi efforts for the rehabilitation of the areas that have been liberated…Italy is a staunch supporter of humanitarian activities undertaken both bilaterally and through UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization.”

On October 22, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) hosted a seminar in Baghdad to discuss Planning Prospects for the Reconstruction and Recovery of Mosul with an assortment of national and international partners. Bashar Kiki, the Head of the Ninewa Provincial Council, asserted that the lack of sufficient planning on the recovery in Mosul was leading to “chaos.” Kiki also said that “[t]he people of Mosul are very resourceful…we have to see how they already cope with the crises, and support them in their efforts where possible… It is important to build trust between local people and local government through transparency and accountability.” Mostaffa Elhiti, Head of the Iraq Reconstruction Fund, also stressed the need to find new ways to plan recovery in the city. Lise Grande reassured participants that the United Nations (UN) was still committed to helping with Mosul’s recovery, including through the UNDP’s FFS as well as the Recovery and Resilience Programme (RRP) to be unveiled at an upcoming conference. Rogier van den Berg, Project Leader of UN-Habitat’s Urban Planning and Design Lab, noted that the strategic planning would address the issues that Iraqis had highlighted.

On October 23, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched an emergency animal health campaign in Mosul. The campaign includes vaccinating nearly one million sheep, goats, cattle, and buffalo as well as providing 1,500 tons of high-nutrient feed for around 60,000 animals. FAO is concerned that, if not implemented, animals could transmit infectious diseases across national and international borders to both people and other herds. Furthermore, agriculture is an important part of life in many rural areas in Iraq. According to Fadel El-Zubi, FAO Representative in Iraq, “Healthy, productive livestock means income, food and financial security for farmers and their families…FAO is committed to ensuring livelihoods are protected, to promote people’s self-reliance and dignity, and reduce dependence on food assistance.” It is expected that around 2.7 million people may require some form of humanitarian assistance this year in Ninewa Province.

On October 23, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced that the 2017 Humanitarian Plan for Iraq was 62 percent funded. The plan still requires US$ 373.7 million. Water, sanitation, and hygiene require the most funding, with only 42 percent acquired.

On October 24, UNDP released a fact sheet about the FFS, which is intended to aid the Iraqi Government in stabilizing areas cleared of ISIS control. To date, 24 countries have donated US$ 455 million and have pledged an additional US$ 303 million.

On October 25, the Government of New Zealand donated US$ 1 million to UNDP Iraq FFS. Lise Grande, Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, said, “[t]he scale of destruction in western Mosul is the worst in the country. The electricity, water and sewage systems all need to be rehabilitated. Many schools and hospitals are either damaged or completely destroyed. Tens of thousands of people need jobs. With so much to do, we are very grateful to New Zealand for stepping forward with this contribution at this key point in time.”

On October 25, UNDP announced the status of many of its FFS projects throughout Iraq. In particular, in Mosul, UNDP has worked to rehabilitate priority facilities at the University of Mosul, repair the road to al-Athbah Hospital, and repair several water treatment facilities to provide safe water to about 472,000 people in East Mosul and one million people in West Mosul. UNDP is also providing cash grants to destitute families and rebuilding houses; 95 percent of the stabilization work is being done through the local private sector.

IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

10/26/17Commercial area in Taji, north of Baghdad03
10/24/17Near the National Theater in central Baghdad00
10/24/17Industrial neighborhood in southeast Baghdad02
10/24/17Tarmiyah (40 km north of Baghdad), Salah ad-Din Province10
10/23/17Al Nasr Wal Salam neighborhood of Abu Ghraib (20 km west of Baghdad), Anbar Province02
10/23/17Madain (28 km southeast of Baghdad), Diyala Province04
10/22/17Al-Saadi Street, center of Basra00
10/20/17Sha'ab neighborhood, north Baghdad02
10/20/17Radwaniya (17 km southeast of Baghdad), Anbar Province02


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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