ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: February 15 – 21, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • Iraqi and Kurdish Officials Meet Foreign Counterparts; Political Developments between Iraq-KRG – On February 15, the Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council Masrour Barzani met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. On February 16, Iraq eliminated all of the customs checkpoints between Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan that had been installed after the failed Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum in 2017. On February 17, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi met with the U.S. Army General of the U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, to discuss continued Iraqi-U.S. cooperation in combating the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). On February 18, Vala Fareed, nominated by the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) was temporarily elected as the speaker of the Kurdistan parliament. She is the first woman to hold this position. On February 19, Joey Hood, the Chargé d’affaires at the United States Embassy in Baghdad denied the recent reports regarding the movements by United States troops in Iraq and the deployment of additional troops. On February 20, the head of the KDP Masoud Barzani met with several United States officials. more…
  • Militants Continue to Mount Attacks Across Iraq; Iraqi Security Forces Conduct Raids against ISIS – On February 19, an attack of a security checkpoint by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) killed two security officials in the al-Qayyarah district in Ninewa province. On February 19, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command Brigade, stated that Iraqi security forces have bolstered their presence along the Iraq-Syria border. On February 19, the Iraqi Air Force conducted an air strike directed at an ISIS hideout north of Baqubah in Diyala province. On February 20, unidentified gunmen shot and killed a security officer of the Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) during an attack against the force and Iraqi intelligence in the al-Wasti neighborhood in southern Kirkuk city. On February 20, Kurdistan24 reported two kidnapping incidents by ISIS members within the last week, totaling four since the beginning of February. On February 21, as part of an agreement between the Iraqi army and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), 150 foreign and Iraqi ISIS fighters and their families were transferred to military bases in Anbar province. more…
  • New Displacement in Northern Iraq; Some IDPs Return to their Homes while Others Languish in Camps; Donors Pledge Additional Support for Iraq – On February 15, Rudaw reported that residents from twelve villages have left their homes due to Turkish airstrikes. On February 18, the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration announced that 1,087 Internally displaced persons (IDPs) from camps south of Mosul have returned to their place of origin in the past two days. On February 18, the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights issued a statement that said thousands of families are still unable to return to their homes in the district of Baiji. On February 19, the EU signed a financial agreement with the Iraqi Ministry of Planning for Job Creation and entrepreneurship support. On February 19, Alexander De Croo, the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Cooperation visited the city of Mosul and announced that Belgium will provide 7.6 million euros of aid to Iraq. On February 20, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Mr. Christos Stylianides visited the city of Mosul and announced that the EU will provide 30 million euros to the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for Iraq. He also announced that they will provide another 20 million euros that will go toward the reconstruction of Iraq’s cultural heritage and the creation of jobs for youth. On February 21, Kurdistan 24 reported that over 1.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq currently reside in the Kurdistan Region. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) released a report that said they would need about $2 billion annually to aid these IDPs. 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 and Kurdish Officials Meet Foreign Counterparts; Political Developments between Iraq-KRG

On February 15, the Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council Masrour Barzani met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference to discuss the relationship between Russia and Kurdistan. The two leaders also discussed how to increase trade between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iraq and the return to Syrian regime forces to areas currently held by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces.

On February 16, Iraq eliminated all of the customs checkpoints between Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan that had been installed after the failed Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum in 2017. The two regions have agreed to unite customs law and regulations on Iraqi borders and have Arabic and Kurdish interpreters at border gates.

On February 17, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi met with the U.S. Army General of the U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, to discuss continued Iraqi-U.S. cooperation in combating the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). General Votel asserted that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria would not impact the U.S. military’s mission in Iraq of advising and assisting Iraq’s security forces in their campaign against ISIS remnants.

On February 18, Vala Fareed, nominated by the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) was temporarily elected as the speaker of the Kurdistan parliament. She is the first woman to hold this position. However, work within the parliament is at a standstill due to a boycott by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The boycott illustrates continued tensions between the PUK and the KDP, the two biggest parties in the parliament.

On February 19, Joey Hood, the Chargé d’affaires at the United States Embassy in Baghdad denied the recent reports regarding the movements by United States troops in Iraq and the deployment of additional troops. He insisted that the photos and videos accompanying these reports, which display the movement of American troops, are old and that some date back to 2006.

On February 20, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Masoud Barzani met with several United States officials. U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey and Barzani examined the fight against terrorist forces in Kurdistan, developments in  Syria, and recent bolstered relations between the Kurds and the central government in Baghdad.


Militants Continue to Mount Attacks Across Iraq; Iraqi Security Forces Conduct Raids against ISIS

On February 15, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held a meeting dedicated to Iraq and discussed the security and humanitarian needs of the country. During the session, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, stressed the enduring security threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham to Iraq (ISIS) and its neighbors continue to pose, noting that ISIS has a growing network. Hennis-Plasschaert also mentioned the UN’s intention to aid nearly two million Iraqis in 2019.

On February 19, an attack of a security checkpoint by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) killed two security officials in the al-Qayyarah district in Ninewa province. Four of the attackers were killed during the incursion, while the others managed to escape.

On February 19, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command Brigade, stated that Iraqi security forces have bolstered their presence along the Iraq-Syria border with the use of “trenches, barbed wire, barrack fences”, thermal cameras, and military patrols. Iraq’s security forces want to prevent militants of the ISlamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) from infiltrating Iraq from Syria, as ISIS ceases to exist as a territorial entity. On February 20, the Iraqi army sent reinforcements to the border as part of this increased presence. The Prime Minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, assured the press that the government closely monitoring the security situation along the border.

On February 19, the Iraqi Air Force conducted an air strike directed at an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) hideout north of Baqubah in Diyala province. The hit allegedly killed four ISIS militants. This is the fourth operation of its kind in the region since the beginning of 2019.

On February 20, unidentified gunmen shot and killed a security officer of the Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) during an attack against the force and Iraqi intelligence  in the al-Wasti neighborhood in southern Kirkuk city. Another PMU fighter was injured in the attack.

On February 20, Kurdistan24 reported two kidnapping incidents by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) within the last week, totaling four since the beginning of February. Some of those taken include six citizens from Nukhaybe and Karbala in Anbar province, whose bodies were later discovered by Iraqi officials 150 kilometers from Nukhayb, and five citizens from Rawa. On February 19, Iraqi security officials liberated them during a search in the al-Madham district of the region.

On February 21, as part of an agreement between the Iraqi army and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), 150 foreign and Iraqi fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and their families were transferred to military bases in Anbar province. This transfer of prisoners is part of a larger deal entailing the deportation of 502 ISIS fighters to be jailed in Iraq.


New Displacement in Northern Iraq; Some IDPs Return to their Homes while Others Languish in Camps; Donors Pledge Additional Support for Iraq

On February 15, Rudaw reported that residents from twelve villages have left their homes due to Turkish airstrikes. Turkey has been conducting airstrikes against positions of the Kurdish PKK militia in the Kurdistan Region’s Mountains. Iraq filed a complaint against Turkey before the United Nations Security Council regarding this ongoing issue.

On February 18, the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration announced that 1,087 Internally displaced persons (IDPs) from camps south of Mosul have returned to their place of origin in the past two days. The IDPs are originally from the Khanaqin and Saadiya district in Diyala Province. The Ministry claimed that the IDPs returned home voluntarily, following recent reports of IDPs being forced out of camps. Many IDPs in Iraq remain reluctant to return to their homes because of security issues and the lack of basic services. 

On February 18, the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights issued a statement that said thousands of families are still unable to return to their homes in the district of Baiji, three years after the area was liberated from the control of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The report stated that over 12,000 homes were demolished in the area, which has prevented IDPs from returning.

On February 19, the EU signed a financial agreement with the Iraqi Ministry of Planning for Job Creation and entrepreneurship support. The EU Ambassador to Iraq, Ramon Blecua met with the Minister of Planning in Baghdad to finalize this agreement. These funds, totaling 41.5 million euros, will be used to launch a number of projects that will bolster employment in Mosul and Basra, as well as support  agriculture in Ninewa.

On February 19, Alexander De Croo, the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Cooperation visited the city of Mosul with the European Commissioner for Human Aid Stylianides. Minister De Croo announced that Belgium will provide 7.6 million euros of aid to Iraq. During his visit, the Minister also met with the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Masoud Barzani to discuss peace and stability in Iraq.

On February 20, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Mr. Christos Stylianides visited the city of Mosul. Mr. Stylianides announced that the EU will provide 30 million euros to the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for Iraq. He also announced that they will provide another 20 million euros that will go toward the reconstruction of Iraq’s cultural heritage and the creation of jobs for youth.  

On February 21, Kurdistan 24 reported that over 1.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq currently reside in the Kurdistan Region. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) released a report that said they would need about $2 billion annually to aid these IDPs. The KRG argues that the new influx of refugees and IDPs has hindered the region’s economy and reduced the amount of funding to fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs February 15- February 21, 2019

The following table includes both civilian and security forces who were either injured or killed due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), or suicide attacks.
DateLocationDeathsInjuries
02/19/19al-Fallujah, Anbar Province 20
02/18/19Western Anbar Province 12

 

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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