ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: January 11 – January 24, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • Iraqi officials meet with foreign counterparts; Legislation proposed to expel U.S. forces from Iraq; Iran works to expand trade with Iraq; Growing Baghdad-KRG cooperation – On January 14, the French government announced that it had agreed to loan Iraq EUR 1 billion to aid reconstruction of areas liberated from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). On January 14, Jordan’s King Abdullah II met with Iraqi President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adel Abd al-Mahdi in Baghdad. On January 19, the pro-Iran Fatah Alliance, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, and Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon Alliance finalized draft legislation to expel U.S. troops from Iraq. On January 21, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif addressed a business conference in Baghdad to announce new customs procedures to ease commerce between Iraq and Iran. On January 22, representatives from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi federal government announced plans to form a joint military committee to coordinate security operations in territories disputed between the two parties. On January 23, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abd al-Mahdi and Finance Minister Fuad Hussein met with Turkish Finance Minister Berat Bayrak. On January 23, Iraqi President Barham Salih met with Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari, the Special Assistant to Pakistan’s Prime Minister. On January 23, Turkey’s Ministry of Transportation lifted a 16-month-old ban on flights into Iraqi Kurdistan’s Sulaimaniyah Airport operated by Turkish-flagged carriers. more…
  • Efforts to complete government formation continue; No agreement reached on 2019 federal budget; New corruption allegations against local Iraqi officials –On January 20, the Iraqi Commission on Integrity announced that the Head of the Energy Committee in Diwaniyah Province had been arrested on charges of bribery. On January 21, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abd al-Mahdi named his preferred candidates for the Ministers of Education and Justice posts. He named Safana al-Hamdani to head the Ministry of Education and Kirkuk-born judge Arkan Bibani to head the Ministry of Justice. On January 23, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared that his State of Law (SoL) bloc in parliament would boycott a vote on the 2019 Iraqi budget. On January 23, the Iraqi Integrity Commission announced that it had sentenced the Secretary of Baghdad and the Director-General of the Department of Parks in Baghdad in absentia to seven years imprisonment for “intentionally damaging” infrastructure development projects in the Iraqi capital. more…
  • Prime Minister Mahdi visits Basra as protests continue to rage in the province – On January 18, demonstrators in the southern port city of Basra reportedly burned a police vehicle following attempts by security forces to disperse a large-scale protest outside the city’s provincial administration building. On January 21, Prime Minister Adel Abd al-Mahdi made a surprise visit to the southern port city of Basra as protesters across the province stepped up demands for the formation of a local emergency government. Iraqi media reported that Mahdi’s delegation met with Basra Province Deputy Governor Mohammed al-Taher regarding ongoing lack of basic services and simmering political unrest. The Prime Minister also reportedly promised to construct two new power-plants in the southern province to generate 600MW and 1000MW, respectively.
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  • Militant activity continues to plague Iraq amid lifting of road closures in Baghdad; Details emerge on ISIS’ now-destroyed chemical weapons program – On January 11, “at least two civilians” were killed and ten wounded when a car bomb exploded inside a market in Iraq’s western Anbar Province. Between January 12 and 20, security officials in Baghdad dismantled a series of concrete barriers across the Iraqi capital, part of an initiative to facilitate travel and circulation within the city. On January 13, a member of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) was killed in an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attack in Kirkuk city’s northwest quadrant. On January 17, villagers in several villages across Jalawla and Khanaqin in Diyala Province abandoned their homes following an increase in the number of ISIS attacks in the area. On January 21, the Washington Post published a story detailing the experience of an Iraqi scientist who admitted to manufacturing chemical weapons for ISIS inside Mosul. On January 23, a suicide car bomb exploded in the town of Hawija, approximately 93 kilometers north of Baghdad in Kirkuk Province. On January 23, Iraq’s Directorate for Military Intelligence announced that security forces operating in Salah al-Din Province had killed Saad Dallah, a an ISIS commander also known as the “Prince of Terror.” On January 23, four civilians were killed after Turkish aircraft bombed positions allegedly occupied by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in Iraqi Kurdistan’s Dohuk Province. more…
  • Locals in Kirkuk demand new anti-ISIS force as counter-terrorism forces redeploy in the province; UK to withdraw more than half of its combat aircrafts from Iraq and Syria – On January 22, representatives from Arab and Turkmen communities in Kirkuk Province demanded the formation of a new regional security force to boost counter-Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) operations in the province. On January 23, the British newspaper Daily Mail reported that the United Kingdom had decided to “withdraw more than half” of its combat aircraft from Iraq and Syria. On January 23, Iraqi media outlets reported that elite units belonging to the Iraqi Army’s Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) would be leaving Kirkuk Province. Iraqi military commanders quickly issued a correction to these media stories, noting that only the CTS’ 61st Brigade would be re-deploying from Kirkuk, but that the majority of currently-deployed CTS units would remain in position to conduct counter-insurgency sweeping operations. more…
  • Ramifications of heavy rainfall and flooding; UN agencies and NGOs distribute winterization and other aid – On January 12, the head of the Iraqi Fishermen’s Association in the Hammar Marshes, southern Iraq, reported that 3,000 fishermen in the region remain unemployed due to high level of water pollution and salinity. However, due to the heavy rains, now 50% of the marshes are covered in water, whereas previously only 10% were covered. According to a January 16 report in al-Mada, the Iraqi Ministry of Water announced that salinity levels in the Shatt al-Arab returned to normal following heavy rains and snow. On January 14, the UN’s World Health Organization delivered four large trucks filled with kits and medical supplies to previously displaced Iraqis who have returned to Diyala province. On January 15, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that it completed the three-month distribution of 25,000 winter item kits such as heaters and blankets, to address the needs of 150,000 vulnerable Iraqis across the country. On January 22, The National reported on a campaign launched by Iraqi public figures, including Iraq’s President Barham Salih, pledging to donate to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) winterization efforts, which include provision of cash assistance and goods essential in winter, as well as improving shelter conditions. more…
  • MSF warns about drug-resistance infections in Mosul; Basra Provincial Council approves demining project; New official statistics show rise in dropout rate among primary school students – On January 17, international medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) issued a statement warning that over 40 percent of patients in Mosul have exhibited “multi-drug resistant infections.” On January 18, al-Sumaria reported that the Basra Provincial Council announced a new project to clear the area of the marshes in the province of mines. On January 19, al-Mada reported that the Central Bureau of Statistics in Iraq released a new report regarding dropout rates from primary schools across Iraq, showing a rise in the number of students failing to complete even primary education. more…

For more background on most of the institutions, key actors, political parties, and locations mentioned in our takeaways or in the stories that follow, see the ISHM Reference Guide.


Iraqi officials meet with foreign counterparts; Legislation proposed to expel U.S. forces from Iraq; Iran works to expand trade with Iraq; Growing Baghdad-KRG cooperation

On January 14, the French government announced that it had agreed to loan Iraq 1 billion euros to aid reconstruction of areas liberated from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The announcement followed a meeting in Baghdad between French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed al-Hakim, and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abd al-Mahdi to finalize the loan terms.

On January 14, Jordan’s King Abdullah II met with Iraqi President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adel Abd al-Mahdi in Baghdad to “strengthen joint security cooperation” between the two countries. The Jordanian royal visit represents the first meeting between the two countries’ heads-of-state since 2008. Neither the Iraqi nor Jordanian governments issued further details regarding topics discussed.  

On January 19, the pro-Iran Fatah Alliance, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, and Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon Alliance finalized draft legislation to expel U.S. troops from Iraq. Representatives from these groups stressed that “there is no need for continued American presence in the country,” and based the current law on a security agreement reached in 2008 that had stipulated full U.S. military withdrawal by 2011. They further note that U.S. troops only returned to Iraq at Baghdad’s request in 2014 to assist in the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which has “concluded.” Iraqi Kurdish policymakers have explicitly rejected the draft legislation given continued ISIS activity across northern Iraq. The law follows President Donald Trump’s announcement in December 2018 that U.S. troops would fully withdraw from Syria. However, numerous international and Iraqi commentators have noted that pro-Iran factions’ efforts to expel U.S. troops are designed to score political points as Prime Minister Adel Abd al-Mahdi continues to struggle to form his cabinet three months after assuming office.

On January 20, Iraqi Kurdish media reported that “senior Iraqi military commanders” had agreed to allocate 68 billion dinars (approximately $57 million) to pay salaries for Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers who fought alongside the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The allocated funds would be added to the Iraqi Defense Ministry’s budget for 2019. The inclusion of a federal Iraqi budget line to cover Peshmerga salaries has been a persistent source of disagreement between Erbil and Baghdad since 2003, with disagreement deepening after the failed September 2017 Kurdistan independence referendum.

On January 21, following U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Iraq on January 9, 2019, partly to encourage Iraqi compliance with U.S. sanctions against Iran, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif addressed a business conference in Baghdad to announce new customs procedures to ease commerce between Iraq and Iran. Zarif reportedly told a gathering of Iraqi and Iranian business and government representatives — part of a formal Iraq-Iran Trade Conference — that Iraq-Iran trade in 2018 had reached $12 billion. Specifically, he noted that the Iranian government would allow Iraqi businessmen to enter Iran without a visa, as part of an effort to expand commercial activity within a free-trade zone established in November 2018. Zarif had arrived in Baghdad on January 14, starting a five-day trip designed to highlight strong bilateral economic and diplomatic relations between the two countries. During his stay, he visited Erbil, Sulaimaniyah, Najaf, and Karbala. He further announced that Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani would visit Iraq on March 11.

On January 22, representatives from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi federal government announced plans to form a joint military committee to coordinate security operations in territories disputed between the two parties. The new committee will focus primarily on operations in Kirkuk Province, and would fall under U.S. advisorship and supervision. Erbil and Baghdad previously established a similar joint military committee in 2009 to coordinate operations in Kirkuk, but this entity was dissolved following the movement of Iraqi Army and paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) units into Kirkuk in October 2017, following the Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum.  

On January 22, the Iraqi government announced plans to compensate individuals wounded during the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), as well as family-members of ISIS victims. Fuad Othman, a spokesperson for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs explained that a federal Iraqi government delegation from the Directorate of Victims of Terror will arrive in Erbil “soon” to finalize plans for the compensation scheme. Tavga Omer, who heads the KRG’s Human Rights Commission, noted that a committee had been formed with the Iraqi Council of Ministers to process compensation claims. She further explained that “any family of a martyr…will receive 50 million dinars (about $42,000). Compensation for the injured starts from 1.75 million dinars (about $1,500) and up to 5 million dinars (about $4,200).”

On January 23, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abd al-Mahdi and Finance Minister Fuad Hussein met with Turkish Finance Minister Berat Bayrak on the sidelines of the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland. The officials reportedly discussed efforts to boost bilateral trade relations between the two countries. In 2018, Iraq-Turkey trade volume reached $16 billion, which the two countries are seeking to raise to $20 billion in 2019.

On January 23, Iraqi President Barham Salih met with Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari, the Special Assistant to Pakistan’s Prime Minister. The pair reportedly discussed measures to enhance joint economic cooperation between the two countries. No other details were forthcoming from the meeting.

On January 23, Turkey’s Ministry of Transportation lifted a 16-month-old ban on flights into Iraqi Kurdistan’s Sulaimaniyah Airport operated by Turkish-flagged carriers. The ban was imposed following the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region’s September 2017 independence referendum.


Efforts to form a government continue; No agreement reached on 2019 federal budget; New corruption allegations against local Iraqi officials

On January 20, the Iraqi Commission on Integrity announced that the Head of the Energy Committee in Diwaniyah Province had been arrested on charges of bribery. The Integrity Commission issued a statement accusing the official of taking a “sum of money from a citizen in exchange for maternity leave,” and that the subsequent investigation identified two other officials who had assisted in the collection of the bribe. The three defendants would be subject to sentencing from the Iraqi Judiciary “in the future at an unspecified date.”

On January 21, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abd al-Mahdi named his preferred candidates for the Ministers of Education and Justice posts. He named Safana al-Hamdani to head the Ministry of Education and Kirkuk-born judge Arkan Bibani to head the Ministry of Justice. Iraqi lawmakers in parliament must approve the Prime Minister’s choices, but it remains unclear when such a vote will be held. In late December 2018, the previously-nominated Minister of Education, Shaima al-Hayali resigned from her post after allegations surfaced in Iraqi social media that her elder brother had ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Ongoing disputes between leading leading parliamentary blocs — most importantly the al-Bina Coalition, headed by the pro-Iran Fatah Alliance, and the Sairoon Alliance, headed by Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr — have delayed al-Mahdi’s government formation process three months into his prime ministership. Critically, the Minister of Defense post currently remains unfilled. Prime Minister al-Mahdi has stressed the need for compromise between parliamentary factions in order to finalize the incoming governing cabinet.

On January 23, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared that his State of Law (SoL) bloc in parliament would boycott a vote on the 2019 Iraqi budget. The SoL action follows a decision by the Iraqi Council of Representatives to postpone its vote on the 2019 Budget Law after parliamentary blocs failed to agree on appropriate funding levels for Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga. While Iraqi Kurdish parties seek a 14 percent share for Peshmerga and civil servants within the Kurdistan Regional Government, Iran-aligned factions have demanded a lower 12 percent allocation. Meanwhile, Sunni parties have complained that the current draft Budget Law fails to provide sufficient funding for reconstruction in areas liberated from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Later on January 23, Iraqi media reported that voting on the 2019 draft Budget Law had begun, but that final results were not likely “until dawn of the following day.”

On January 23, the Iraqi Integrity Commission announced that it had sentenced the Secretary of Baghdad and the Director-General of the Department of Parks in Baghdad in absentia to seven years imprisonment for “intentionally damaging” infrastructure development projects in the Iraqi capital. According to the Iraqi Criminal Court, these damages amounted to $12 million.


Prime Minister Mahdi visits Basra as protests continue to rage in the province

On January 18, demonstrators in the southern port city of Basra reportedly burned a police vehicle following attempts by security forces to disperse a large-scale protest outside the city’s provincial administration building. Images circulated in Iraq news and social media depicted a series of damaged or destroyed vehicles in central Basra city, as well as several roads that had been barricaded by protesters using burning tires. Security forces announced that officers had arrested “several” protesters on January 18 and “over the preceding few days” for fomenting the current demonstrations. Basra — and other areas across southern Iraq — have witnessed continuing protest activity since summer 2018, when widespread demonstrations threatened to upset regional stability.  

On January 21, Prime Minister Adel Abd al-Mahdi made a surprise visit to the southern port city of Basra as protesters across the province stepped up demands for the formation of a local emergency government. Iraqi media reported that Mahdi’s delegation met with Basra Province Deputy Governor Mohammed al-Taher regarding ongoing lack of basic services and simmering political unrest. The Prime Minister also reportedly promised to construct two new power-plants in the southern province to generate 600MW and 1000MW, respectively. Representatives from the ongoing protest movement — which emerged during summer 2018 to demonstrate against insufficient services and a faltering economy — said that Mahdi’s visit did little to alleviate concerns regarding the Baghdad government’s inability to address provincial challenges. Calls among protest figures to dissolve the current Basra provincial government have compounded the obstacles to regional stability facing the new Mahdi government, which has not yet fully-formed. In response to the Prime Minister’s infrastructure pledges, protesters noted that approximately 370 development projects in the south have “fallen behind schedule” since 2014, with provincial authorities achieving “various degrees of achievement” over the subsequent five years.


Militant activity continues to plague Iraq amid lifting of road closures in Baghdad; Details emerge on ISIS’ now-destroyed chemical weapons program

On January 11, “at least two civilians” were killed and ten wounded when a car bomb exploded inside a market in Iraq’s western Anbar Province. Iraqi media did not explain which group had been responsible for the attack, but Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants remain active within Anbar Province.

Between January 12 and 20, security officials in Baghdad dismantled a series of concrete barriers across the Iraqi capital, part of an initiative to facilitate travel and circulation within the city. On January 12, the DIrectorate of Traffic announced that a road near Baghdad’s central police station at Beirut Square had been opened to facilitate traffic through the square and adjacent Palestine Street. The same day, concrete barriers along the road leading to Central Bank of Baghdad were lifted, easing congestion within the Khan Murjan area. One day later, the Baghdad Municipal Office announced that it had ordered concrete barriers near Baghdad International Airport and Abbas bin Firnas Square to be lifted, in cooperation with the Iraqi Army’s Baghdad Operations Command. Seven days later on January 20, Prime Minister Adel Abd al-Mahdi ordered that Rasheed Street in Central Baghdad be fully-opened, allowing cross-circulation of traffic through the downtown area. These measures form part of a large-scale initiative in the Iraqi capital to remove the concrete blast walls and omnipresent checkpoints that have divided the city since 2003, as security conditions continue to improve.

On January 13, a member of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) was killed in an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attack in Kirkuk city’s northwest quadrant. Security sources noted that gunmen attacked PMF units belonging to the 16th Brigade, which had been manning a checkpoint near Kirkuk’s court building.  

On January 13, Iraq’s Directorate for Military Intelligence announced that the Iraqi Air Force had launched a series of successful strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants in Diyala Province, along the Iran-Iraq border. The airstrikes occurred near Lake Hamrin, approximately 75 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, and destroyed eight “ISIS-owned vehicles” and killed nine militants. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) continue to conduct clearing operations against remaining ISIS insurgent cells in Diyala Province, despite the region having been declared fully liberated in December 2017.

On January 16, unidentified gunmen assassinated Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) representative Abd al-Jabbar Rashid Aref outside Kirkuk city’s central mosque. Iraqi media reported that Aref was declared dead upon arrival at a hospital in Kirkuk. The areas south and west of Kirkuk, approximately 255 kilometers north of Baghdad, have witnessed ongoing insecurity since mid-2018.

On January 16, a tribal dispute erupted into gunfire near Qurna, approximately 77 kilometers north of Basra city. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) under Basra Operations Command (BOC) were deployed to halt the fighting. No further details were reported regarding the tribal dispute’s cause or resultant casualties. Such violent exchanges are common across southern Iraq’s Basra Province. In early 2018, then-Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered a large-scale security deployment in Basra to quell rising tribal unrest.

On January 16, clashes erupted between Iraqi Army Counter-Terror Service (CTS) units and militants belonging to Turkmen elements within the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in downtown Kirkuk city. No casualties were reported during the hour-long exchange of gunfire adjacent to Kirkuk’s provincial administrative building.

On January 17, villagers in several villages across Jalawla and Khanaqin in Diyala Province abandoned their homes following an increase in the number of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attacks in the area. Since January 1, 2019, village leaders in the affected areas noted that ISIS had conducted approximately 10 attacks against Iraqi Federal Police forces stationed in Diyala, as well as against unarmed villagers. Jawad Dera, the head of Sherk village in Khanaqin, noted that he had requested additional security force provision from the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga. Diyala remains a disputed territory, with parts claimed both by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi government in Baghdad. Until October 16, 2018, parts of Khanaqin were controlled by Peshmerga forces. Local Iraqi media reported that approximately 20 villages had been evacuated during the second week of January — the largest such operation since former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared ISIS defeated in 2018.  

On January 18, Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) based in Anbar Province conducted artillery strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) positions 35 kilometers inside Syria. A PMF spokesperson noted that the strikes killed 35 ISIS militants, including two insurgent commanders named Abu Wadah and Abu Hamza. Both PMF and Iraqi Army units have conducted a series of cross-border artillery and aircraft-based strikes against suspected ISIS positions inside Syria since early 2018, often coordinating with the Syrian government in Damascus.

On January 19, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) launched operations to disarm tribal militias in Anbar Province’s Amiriyah Fallujah, approximately 100 kilometers west of Baghdad. The clearing operation targeted members of the Albu Issa tribe, prompting condemnation from local leaders that Baghdad sought to punish groups that had fought against Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. Iraqi military sources noted that ISF units had seized “numerous” heavy weapons from tribal elements within hours of launching operations. Although much of Anbar Province was captured by ISIS in 2013-2014, Amiriyah Fallujah was never occupied by the militants.

On January 20, unidentified gunmen attacked an Iraqi Federal Police checkpoint on the outskirts of Khanaqin in Diyala Province, approximately 173 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. No casualties were reported in Iraqi media, and security forces subsequently launched search operations for the attackers in the province.  

On January 21, the Washington Post published a story detailing the experience of an Iraqi scientist who admitted to manufacturing chemical weapons for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) inside Mosul. The scientist, named Suleiman al-Afari, who previously worked as a geologist within Iraq’s Ministry of Industry and Minerals, explained that ISIS militants offered him a position researching chemical weapons in summer 2014. Al-Afari, who was captured by U.S. and Iraqi Kurdish forces in 2016, is currently a prisoner in Erbil and faces a death sentence. According to al-Afari’s testimony, ISIS operated a series of chemical weapons laboratories inside Mosul during its three-year occupation of the city, but that research halted after 2016 when U.S.-led coalition aircraft launched an aggressive air campaign against ISIS governance infrastructure.  

On January 23, a suicide car bomb exploded in the town of Hawija, approximately 93 kilometers north of Baghdad in Kirkuk Province. Sources in the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) noted that one soldier had been killed in the attack.

On January 23, Iraq’s Directorate for Military Intelligence announced that security forces operating in Salah al-Din Province had killed Saad Dallah, a commander within the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) also known as the “Prince of Terror.” An official statement issued by the Directorate noted that a “special commandos brigade” had launched a kill-or-capture operation in Kush District, immediately east of Samarra, in the early morning of January 23. The operation ultimately resulted in Dallah’s death. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) continue to clear parts of Salah al-Din of ISIS militants as Baghdad looks to secure Iraqi territory from a continuing ISIS-led insurgency in northern and western parts of the country.

On January 23, four civilians were killed after Turkish aircraft bombed positions allegedly occupied by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in Iraqi Kurdistan’s Dohuk Province. According to Iraq media, the civilians were killed near the town of Diraluk, approximately 200 kilometers north of Erbil. The Turkish military has launched an intensified series of strikes against suspected PKK units since at least early 2017.


Locals in Kirkuk demand new anti-ISIS force as counter-terrorism forces redeploy in the province; UK to withdraw more than half of its combat aircrafts from Iraq and Syria

On January 22, representatives from Arab and Turkmen communities in Kirkuk Province demanded the formation of a new regional security force to boost counter-Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) operations in the province. Arab and Turkmen tribes requested that the proposed force comprise elements of “all relevant communities” in Kirkuk, and that it be tasked solely with defending the province from ISIS incursions. Iraqi media  reported that discussions regarding the formation of a new military base for the proposed security force in the town of Kiwan, immediately northeast of Kirkuk city, were ongoing.

On January 23, the British newspaper Daily Mail reported that the United Kingdom had decided to “withdraw more than half” of its combat aircraft from Iraq and Syria. The UK currently operates 14 aircraft as part of the U.S.-led coalition to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The withdrawal decision would reduce this number to six operating Typhoon fighter-bomber aircraft, as well as 10 armed unmanned drones. The newspaper noted that remaining Typhoon aircraft will be upgraded to deploy specific ground-attack munitions, while withdrawn aircraft had been scheduled for retirement in March 2019. The UK’s decision follows U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that he will fully withdraw U.S. soldiers from Syria.

On January 23, Iraqi media outlets reported that elite units belonging to the Iraqi Army’s Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) would be leaving Kirkuk Province. Iraqi military commanders quickly issued a correction to these media stories, noting that only the CTS’ 61st Brigade would be re-deploying from Kirkuk, but that the majority of currently-deployed CTS units would remain in position to conduct counter-insurgency sweeping operations. The responsibility for securing Kirkuk Province remains disputed between Iraqi federal and Iraqi Kurdish policymakers, but the Iraqi Army, alongside units of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), have operated exclusively in the province since October 2017.


Ramifications of heavy rainfall and flooding; UN agencies and NGOs distribute winterization and other aid

On January 12, the head of the Iraqi Fishermen’s Association in the Hammar Marshes, southern Iraq, reported that 3,000 fishermen in the region remain unemployed due to high level of water pollution and salinity. However, due to the heavy rains, now 50% of the marshes are covered in water, whereas previously only 10% were covered. Fishermen, however, are unable to capitalize on the rainfall as many fish died during the previous drought periods.

According to a January 16 report in al-Mada, the Iraqi Ministry of Water announced that salinity levels in the Shatt al-Arab returned to normal following heavy rains and snow. The ministry also reported that following the heavy precipitation, lakes and water reservoirs across Iraq now hold over 18.5 billion cubic meters of water. Iraq has suffered from severe droughts in recent which. Which increased salinity levels of rivers and water reservoirs, affected livelihoods and reduced access to clean water across the country and particularly its south.

On January 14, the UN’s World Health Organization delivered four large trucks filled with kits and medical supplies to previously displaced Iraqis who have returned to Diyala province. The supplies will be distributed to hospital, medical points and mobile clinics providing medical care to residents of Diyala. “The support by WHO and partner agencies came as a lifeline for the governorate.” said Mr. Wisam Mohammed Ahmed, Head of Pharmacy Department at the Directorate of Health in Diyala. “It will help the medical staff in hospitals and medical centers to work more efficiently and offer better care to patients.” he added.

On January 15, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that it completed the three-month distribution of 25,000 winter item kits such as heaters and blankets, to address the needs of 150,000 vulnerable Iraqis across the country. The winterization assistance reached 13,000 displaced Iraqis in camps and informal settlements and those who were displaced and returned to their homes. IOM prioritized the provision of aid to individuals in hard-to-reach areas such as communities bordering Iraq in Ninewa province. “Despite the success of this winter response operation, we are extremely concerned for the many Iraqis who remain in displacement who will have to endure another harsh winter in camps and in sub-standard shelters,” said Alberto Preato, Head of IOM Iraq’s Preparedness and Response Unit.

On January 20, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) reported that its teams distributed food parcels, household items and blankets to 26 families in need affected by flooding in Dohuk, northern Iraq. The IRCS also provide psychosocial support to 50 children across several Dohuk schools.

On January 22, The National reported on a campaign launched by Iraqi public figures, including Iraq’s President Barham Salih, pledging to donate to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) winterization efforts, which include provision of cash assistance and goods essential in winter, as well as improving shelter conditions. “The annual plan, which is usually underfunded due to budgetary restrictions, targets the most vulnerable displaced and refugees… including those who live in informal settlements and urban areas, in addition to refugee camps,” a UNHCR spokesperson told The National.


MSF warns about drug-resistance infections in Mosul; Basra Provincial Council approves demining project; New official statistics show rise in dropout rate among primary school students

On January 17, international medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) issued a statement warning that over 40 percent of patients in Mosul have exhibited “multi-drug resistant infections.” The statement blamed a high prevalence of over-the-counter antibiotics in northern Ninewah Province and across Iraq for the growth of antibiotic resistance in Mosul. It further noted that many doctors inside Mosul prescribe antibiotics to patients without first conducting a comprehensive exam to ensure that such medication is appropriate. In recent months. MSF has attempted to spread awareness of antibiotic resistance among local residents inside Mosul, many of whom continue to suffer from injuries sustained during the months-long battle to liberate the city from Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants.

On January 18, al-Sumaria reported that the Basra Provincial Council announced a new project to clear the area of the marshes in the province of mines. The project will be financed through public resources and oil companies as compensation for environmental damages caused by them.

On January 19, al-Mada reported that the Central Bureau of Statistics in Iraq released a new report regarding dropout rates from primary schools across Iraq, showing a rise in the number of students failing to complete even primary education. According to the report, in the previous academic year, the number of dropouts in government-run school rose by 2.7%. The rise of the dropout rate from the 2013-2014 academic year to the 2017-2018 academic year is even more start, with a total 28.8% increase in dropout rates.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
1/23/2019Riyadh District, Hawija, Kirkuk province10
1/11/2019al-Qaim, near the Syria-Iraq border225

 

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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