ISHM: November 23 – 30, 2017


Key Takeaways:

  • President Masum Visits Kurdistan Region, Disputed Territories – Iraqi President Fuad Masum spent the week traveling through the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and Kirkuk Province, where he met with leaders from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdish Democratic Party, as well as Head of the Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. Masum’s trip signaled a beginning to conversations between the KRG and Iraqi Federal Government over Kurdish independence, even though official negotiations have not yet taken place. Barzani insists that as a result of the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court’s November 20 ruling which canceled the results of the September 25 referendum on Kurdistan’s independence, Baghdad must restore international flights to the KRI and pay back salaries of civil servants and members of the Kurdish Peshmerga. Meanwhile, the U.S. announced that it will provide US$ 364 million in funding to the Peshmerga in 2018, adding to the US$ 1.4 billion provided by the U.S. since 2015 to secure the help of the Kurdish fighters in clearing ISIS from northern Iraq. more…
  • Kubis Briefs UN Security Council, Meets with Sistani – Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, Jan Kubis, briefed the UN Security Council on the current situation in the country, including the need for Erbil and Baghdad to begin negotiations over Kurdish independence, the need for the international community to remain committed to Iraq’s military and non-military development, and the need for the Iraqi government to ensure that upcoming elections take place as scheduled in May 2018. Later in the week, Kubis met with Iraqi Shia leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf. The two discussed the need for assistance to displaced persons and a mutual commitment to fighting corruption in government. more…
  • British Prime Minister Visits Baghdad – On November 29, British Prime Minister Theresa May visited Baghdad, the first visit of a British PM since 2008. Following meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, May announced a pledge of GB£ 10 million to Iraq to aid in counter-terrorism capability, and an assistance program for border infrastructure and biometric capabilities. May also visited a coalition base at Taji where she visited with some of the 600 British troops currently stationed in Iraq. more…
  • ISIS Claims Responsibility for Suicide Bombing Near Baghdad – On November 27, two ISIS militants attacked a market in Nahrawan, approximately 32 kilometers east of Baghdad in Diyala Province. After reports of gunfire, one of the two attackers detonated a suicide vest, killing at least 17 and wounding 28 others. Iraqi police issued a curfew in the area following the attack. more…
  • Military Operations Continue to Target ISIS in Western Anbar – According to the UN Population Fund, an estimated 60 thousand people remained in western Anbar throughout the ISIS occupation and are now in urgent need of assistance. Military operations targeting sleeper cells and insurgent ISIS militants are continuing in the area, as well as in Diyala and Salah ad-Din provinces. U.S. Army Lt. General Paul Funk, Commanding General of Combined Joint Task Force – Inherent Resolve, said this week that the U.S. “will stay in Iraq until the situation stabilizes,” and that “the focus is on…maintaining stability of the situation through the establishment of defense lines.” The following day, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that security forces had cleared approximately 14 thousand square kilometers in western Anbar, but noted that the fight against terrorism is far from over. 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.

President Masum Visits Kurdistan Region, Disputed Territories

On November 23, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Spokesman Sven Dzi accused the Iraqi Federal Government of not following through on their pledge to pay salaries to civil servants in Iraqi Kurdistan, including the Peshmerga. “It is just talk,” Dzi said of the government’s pledge, after explaining that the Iraqi Federal Government had refused to receive biometric lists of employees from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). He argued that, based on the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court’s decision on November 20 to invalidate the results of the Kurdistan referendum for independence, the Iraqi Federal Government and Parliament must roll back the “unfair measures” taken against the KRI following the referendum, including the ban on international flights to the KRI and the reduction of the KRI’s share of the federal budget in the 2018 budget proposal. Dzi emphasised the salaries issue by pointing out the critical role Peshmerga forces took in the fight against ISIS. Had the Peshmerga not been effective during the fight against ISIS, he argued, “Kirkuk and many other areas… would have [become] like Mosul… The Peshmerga forces are part of the Iraqi defense system under the constitution and their salaries and financial dues must be secured by the federal government.” He noted that 1,802 Peshmerga fighters died during the fight against ISIS, 10,233 were wounded and 62 have gone missing.

On November 25, the Deputy Prime Minister of the KRG Qubad Talabani denied reports that the KRG would send a delegation to Baghdad for dialogue the following week. “The federal government did not set a date for the visit to address the problems,” he said, “any step taken by Baghdad in this regard were words only and did not come into force.”

On November 25, Iraqi President Fuad Masum began a five-day-long trip to the KRI to meet with a number of officials in the region and discuss the Erbil-Baghdad crisis, the restoration of Kirkuk, and the internal crisis between Kurdish political parties. He also announced a formation of a presidential committee to look into constitutional violations since 2005. During his first meeting that trip, with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leadership in Sulaimania, Masum stressed the need to focus attention on realistic solutions to the Erbil-Baghdad crisis.

On November 26, Head of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and former KRG President Masoud Barzani defended the decision to hold a referendum for independence on September 25. “The referendum is the voice of the just and peaceful people and can not be canceled through the law and any government,” Barzani said. He explained that “the reason for the current situation is not the referendum… Baghdad had been planning to attack on a long time ago and there were intentions prepared against Kirkuk.”

On November 26, Iraqi President Fuad Masum met with a delegation of Kurdish university professors in Sulaimania who presented Masum with a project aiming to achieve national reconciliation throughout Iraq. Masum expressed support for the project. He stressed the important role of “scientific and cultural institutions and universities in developing the cultural, social and developmental reality and spreading scientific and political awareness.” The members of the delegation supported the President’s assertion that “all efforts must be made to restore civil peace and reconciliation.”

On November 27, Iraqi President Fuad Masum arrived in Kirkuk to meet with local officials and discuss the security and political situation and the appointment of a new governor for the province. It was Masum’s first visit to Kirkuk after the Kurdish referendum for independence on September 25. “Kirkuk is a miniature image of Iraq and it is always a city of brotherhood and love,” Masum said in a press conference. “My visit comes out of the desire to keep Kirkuk away from future problems.” Regarding the appointment of a new governor in Kirkuk, Masum said it was the Provincial Council’s mission.

On November 27, Prime Minister of the KRG Nechirvan Barzani held a press conference in Erbil addressing the conflict between the KRI and the Iraqi Federal Government. He critiqued Baghdad’s actions regarding their intention to assert federal authority on the border-crossings and airports in the KRI, and stated the KRG’s readiness to cooperate on this issue. Barzani said that Baghdad has not shown readiness to meet with the KRI on how to hand over the border crossings and airports; “what we hear [is] only through the media.” He also questioned the meaning of “handing-over” the border crossings and airports, pointing out that all the workers in those sites are Iraqi nationals. During the same press conference, Barzani also reinstated the KRG’s respect for the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court’s decision concerning the referendum for independence of the KRI, and called on the Iraqi Federal Government to “cancel the effects of the post-referendum, according to the decision of the Court.” He pointed out that the KRG lost about 50 percent of its oil resources after the Iraqi Federal Government took control of Kirkuk. “The region in a difficult financial situation,” he said, reminding that the Iraqi Federal Government has yet to pay the salaries of the government employees in the KRI.

On November 27, former KRG President Masoud Barzani met with KDP members in Sulaimania and Halabja. In a statement from the meeting to the press, Barzani said that the KDP supports dialogue between the KRG and the Iraqi Federal Government if Baghdad was serious about resolving the problems through dialogue. He reiterated his argument that Baghdad had planned to send troops to Kirkuk whether or not the KRI held a referendum.

On November 28, Secretary of the Kurdish Communist Party, Kawa Mahmoud, called on the Kurdish delegation that would negotiate with Baghdad “not to accept the cancellation of the results of the referendum.” He argued that the referendum cannot be cancelled because it “represents the will of more than three million citizens of Kurdistan.” The Iraqi Federal Supreme Court ruled on November 20 that the referendum was unconstitutional and that its results were illegitimate.

On November 28, the KRG elected a new Governor to the Province of Sulaimania. Hafal Abu Bakr Hussein, a prominent member of the Kurdish Gorran Party, was appointed for the position. He has been the President of Sulaimania’s Provincial Council since 2014.

On November 28, former KRG President Masoud Barzani criticized the Iraqi Federal Government in a statement to the press outside his meeting with KDP members in Erbil. He accused the Iraqi Federal Government of starting the crisis with the KRI because, he claimed, of its violations of the Iraqi Constitution. He explained that the KRG was ready to conduct dialogue with Baghdad and had created the necessary atmosphere and conditions for dialogue, so the “process remains on the government of Baghdad,” he said, which must abandon its “impotent” conditions for dialogue. Additionally, Barzani commented that the Iraqi Federal Government’s use of military force (when it redeployed forces to disputed territories, including Kirkuk, on October 16) was “treachery” and “unacceptable.” He declared, “the current situation is temporary and will not continue.”

On November 28, Vice Chairman of the KRG Finance Committee Ali Hama Salih posted on Facebook that the KRI would face a “serious crisis” in 2018 as a result of corrupt practices and failed policies in the KRI’s oil business. He warned that a lawsuit would be filed against KRG Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, and KRG deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani.

On November 28, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani met with Turkish Consul to the KRI Mohammed Akef Anam. Barzani praised Anam and thanked Turkey for providing assistance to the victims of the earthquake recently. He expressed hopes for restoring strong relations between Erbil and Ankara. He stated to the press, “the Kurdistan region sees great importance to the friendly relations with Turkey.”

On November 29, Iraqi President Fuad Masum met KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and his deputy, Qubad Talabani, in Erbil to discuss the Erbil-Baghdad crisis. Later that day, Masum met with former KRG President Masoud Barzani. Masum’s trip to the KRI began on November 25 in Sulaimania. He met with several politicians and civil society organizations to discuss the crisis of the KRI with Baghdad.

On November 29, the commander of the U.S. Security Cooperation Office with Iraq, Gen. Bradley Baker, announced that the U.S. would grant the Peshmerga US$ 364 million in military aid in 2018. The U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) budget for fiscal year 2018, released in May 2017, details that the DoD would provide the Peshmerga US$ 270 million in stipends plus US$ 95 million in sustainment (i.e. weapons, ammunition, food, fuel, and mobility assets)  The U.S. has provided the Kurdish Peshmerga with over US$ 1.4 billion in the years 2015-2017 to help fight ISIS.

On November 30, Iraqi President Fuad Masum met with Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Salim al-Jabouri to discuss several political developments in Iraq, including the Erbil-Baghdad crisis. According to a statement from Jabouri’s office, Jabouri and Masum agreed on the need to develop a “serious and real dialogue in ending all crises” in Iraq, including a timeline for the return of IDPs, the reconstruction of war-torn cities, and “especially” the crisis “between the central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government.” Jabouri and Masum also discussed the upcoming elections, the 2018 budget, the need for cooperation between the Iraqi parties, and the security situation in Iraq.

Kubis Briefs UN Security Council, Meets with Sistani

On November 22, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission (UNAMI) in Iraq, Jan Kubis, briefed the United Nations Security Council on the developments in Iraq. Kubis began by addressing the Iraqi Security Forces’ victory over ISIS. Kubis also conveyed his sympathies to ISIS victims, both civilian and military. Kubis asserted the importance of continuing aid to Iraq. He said, “I encourage the Global Coalition against Da’esh, including regional countries and the wider international community, vigorously to continue both military, and increasingly nonmilitary, efforts aimed at helping Iraq to ensure the lasting, sustainable defeat of Da’esh and the restoration of stability throughout Iraq and the region.” Kubis then highlighted that as the fight against ISIS was ending, pre-existing issues in Iraq were again coming to the forefront. In particular, Kubis noted the continued disagreements between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi Federal Government. Kubis reiterated UNAMI’s previous calls for negotiation between the two governments. Additionally, Kubis mentioned that 80 mass graves had been found in Iraq since June 2014. He called on the KRG and the Iraqi Federal Government to properly investigate these graves to prosecute the perpetrators and identify the victims. Kubis also highlighted UNAMI’s funding priorities, including aiding the return of internally displaced people and rebuilding areas occupied by persecuted minorities like the Christians and Yazidis. Kubis’s testimony reiterated calls by UNAMI for the Federal Government to ensure that upcoming Parliamentary elections take place as scheduled in May 2018, and that the government commit to ensuring protection of journalists and respect for the rule of law across institutions.

On November 29, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, Jan Kubis, visited Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani in Najaf. Kubis commended Sistani for his sermons on humanitarian and social issues. Kubis also confirmed that the United Nations would continue its assistance of internally displaced people in Iraq. After the meeting, Kubis briefed the press on his meeting with Sistani and answered questions. In particular, Kubis noted that both he and Sistani had affirmed their commitment to fighting corruption in Iraq.

British Prime Minister Visits Baghdad

On November 29, British Prime Minister Theresa May visited Iraq as part of her trip to several countries in the Middle East. Her visit to Iraq was kept secret, for security reasons, until she departed towards Iraq from Jordan. It was the first visit of a British Prime Minister to Iraq since Gordon Brown’s visit in 2008. May received a full ceremonial welcome at the government palace in Baghdad, were she and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met and talked for 45 minutes. Abadi reported that the talk “focused on developing relations between the two countries and the two peoples, expanding cooperation and coordination and emphasizing the unity and stability of Iraq.” He thanked May for the visit and said that “her visit is proof of the United Kingdom’s support in the fight against Daesh.” May announced three commitments to Iraq during her visit: deepening the counter-terrorism cooperation with Iraq, granting £10 million (US$ 13.43 million) to Iraq over the next three years to help build its counter-terrorism capability, and working with regional partners to stop the disbursement of foreign fighters by developing border infrastructure, watch-lists and biometric capabilities. “We do need to ensure that we address the possibility of individuals from Daesh trying to set up elsewhere,” she said, “That includes, for example, working to ensure that their hateful material is not being spread across the internet and inspiring others to conduct attacks.” Before meeting with Abadi, May stopped at the Taji base, north of Baghdad, to meet with British troops. More than 600 British troops were deployed in Iraq at the time. They have provided medical and infantry training, and training to detect and disarm improvised explosive devices, to over 60,000 Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

ISIS Claims Responsibility for Suicide Bombing Near Baghdad

On November 27, two suicide bombers attacked Nahrawan, approximately 32 kilometers east of Baghdad in Diyala Province. Both attackers initially opened fire on citizens in the Shammari market, and one successfully detonated his suicide vest. The second attacker was killed before he could detonate his explosives. Initial reporting indicated that two people were killed and seven wounded. An amended report later that day indicated that casualties had risen. The second report stated that 17 people were killed and 28 were wounded.

On November 27, the Iraqi police imposed a curfew on the Nahrawan area southeast of Baghdad after the bombing earlier that day. An anonymous source reported that Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) had taken credit for the attack on an ISIS news outlet.

On November 28, an anonymous source reported that life had returned to normal in Nahrawan following the terrorist attack the day before. The source said that “the movement looked normal and markets and shops opened their doors in the region.”

On November 28, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, Jan Kubis, released a statement condemning the terrorist attack in Baghdad. He said, “The terrorists’ cowardly acts to stoke fear among Iraqis who are about to relish the imminent total victory over terrorism will not succeed. With their unity, strength and determination, Iraqis will deliver the knockout blow to the terrorists soon.”

Military Operations Continue to Target ISIS in Western Anbar

On November 23, Nayef Shammari, Deputy Chairman of the Security and Defense Committee in the Iraqi Parliament, announced that operations to clear Salah ad-Din, Ninewa, and Anbar Provinces of remaining Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)militants were expected to last for two weeks. He said, “the liberation of these areas means the end of [ISIS] entirely [in] Iraq.” Shammari asserted that Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) did not expect any difficulty and were working to clear sleeper cells in various areas.

On November 24, the Anbar Operations Command reported that 138 displaced families had returned to Anbar. Major General of the Command, Mahmoud al-Falahi, said that “security forces and health detachments accompanied these families until they reach their areas of residence.”

On November 24, the Military Information Cell announced that 45 villages had been cleared and 450 explosive devices destroyed in the second phase of clearing the Upper Euphrates. At the time of reporting, the operations to clear these areas were still ongoing.

On November 25, the Military Information Cell denied reports that operations to clear the Upper Euphrates were complete. The Military Information Cell reported that completion was at about 50 percent and operations were ongoing. The Military Information Cell also confirmed that when operations were complete, it would announce that news.

On November 26, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi chaired a meeting of the Iraqi Security Council. They discussed the situation in Anbar Province and the recent terrorist attack in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. In the context of the attack in Sinai, Abadi stressed the need for high-level intelligence cooperation between countries and said that terrorism must be fought in all countries. The meeting also discussed a recently signed memorandum of understanding on security between Iraq and Romania.

On November 27, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, released a statement after her first visit to Iraq on necessary developments after the end of the campaign against ISIS. In particular, most of Callamard’s statement regarded the treatment of former ISIS affiliates. She said, “The people of Iraq, the victims and survivors of the conflict, deserve a legal framework and a judicial response that properly reflect the nature of the crimes committed, which are on a par with atrocity crimes investigated and tried in other parts of the world. Such a role cannot be performed by a counter-terrorism law.”

On November 27, Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, the Commanding General, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, U.S. Central Command, reported that 97 percent of Iraq had been cleared of ISIS militants. However, Funk noted that ISIS “is a threat to Iraq and the coalition is ready to support the Iraqi partners who are defending their land to work for a prosperous and stable country.” At the same press conference, Funk also answered a question about continued United States (U.S.) presence in Iraq. “We will stay in Iraq until the situation stabilizes…The focus is on the existence of security lines capable of maintaining the stability of the situation in Iraq through the establishment of defense lines in areas of the army and police through the training of these forces by the international coalition. “

On November 27, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a statement of concern that IDPs in Iraq are being forced to return involuntarily. The statement said, “The Embassy views with great concern reports of individuals being forced to leave displacement camps… We strongly support the Government of Iraq’s initiatives to help people return to their homes, but believe that for those initiatives to be fully successful, they must have the full and informed consent of the individuals and families involved. To force people to return before they are ready and feel safe to do so risks their safety and well-being, and could result in their renewed displacement. Provincial and federal authorities should ensure all returns are safe and voluntary.”

On November 28, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that the ISF had cleared about 14,000 kilometers in western Anbar Province. Abadi noted that while ISIS was losing territory in Iraq, the fight against terrorism was far from over, highlighting the November 24 attack in the Sinai Peninsula.

On November 30, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) provided an update on the humanitarian situation in newly cleared areas of western Anbar. UNFPA estimated that 60,000 people had remained in areas such as Qa’im, Rawa, and Ana throughout the ISIS occupation, including 15,000 women of reproductive age. UNFPA deployed mobile medical units to areas in Qa’im and Ana, where there had been no access to medical facilities for women and girls who had been subjected to three years of gender based violence under ISIS.

IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

11/28/17Jaba (82 km northwest of Ramadi), Anbar Province00
11/27/17Albotaiya village, near Karma (53 km east of Ramadi), Anbar Province12
11/27/17Nahrawan (32 km east of Baghdad), Diyala Province 1728
11/26/17Nahrawan (32 km east of Baghdad), Diyala Province 16
11/24/17Yusufiya (29 km south of Baghdad), Babil Province15
11/24/17IDP camp south of Mosul03
11/22/17Suwaib neighborhood, southwest Baghdad11


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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