ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: March 8 – 14, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • Iraqi Officials Meet Foreign Counterparts; Historic Iranian Visit to Iraq; Progress and Setbacks in KRG Formation – On March 10, a Lebanese delegation arrived in Iraq including the Minister of Communications Mohammad Choucair, the Ambassador to Iraq Ali Habhab, and 25 businessmen. On March 10, leaders of the Kurdistan parliament allotted the seats in the 15 permanent parliamentary committees to the various parties comprising the parliament. On March 11, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Baghdad for a three-day visit. This is his first visit to Iraq since taking office in 2013. On March 11, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) Qubad Talabani met with Estonian Deputy Prime Minister Taimar Peterkop. On March 11, Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan agreed to open the Shoshmi commercial border crossing to boost trade and tourism between the two. On March 12, leaders of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) met in Erbil to work on the formation of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) after several points of contestation emerged between the two parties. On March 14, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi met with the Saudi Minister of Trade and Investment Majid al-Qasabi. more…
  • Militant Attacks Continue Throughout Iraq Despite Security Operations; 20,000 Iraqis including ISIS Militants Set to Be Sent to Iraq from Baghouz, Syria – On March 8, Kurdistan24 reported that Iraqi security forces used tear gas and water cannons to put an end to a protest in Basra, injuring three protestors. On March 8, a car bomb exploded in the al-Muthanna neighborhood in Mosul city in Ninewa province, killing two individuals. On March 8, in an interview with The National, President Barham Salih confirmed that guilty foreign fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) could face the death penalty. On March 11, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) transferred 407 ISIS members captured in Syria, most of them Iraqi citizens, to Iraqi custody. On March 12, a clash between the Albu Hamdan and the al-Batut tribes in northern Basra resulted in three deaths and at least seven injuries. On March 11, Reuters reported that an estimated 20,000 Iraqis in Syria, who left Baghouz, Syria in recent weeks are expected to be sent back to Iraq soon. On March 13, a mortar shell landed on homes in the Qara Tabbah district in Diyala province, killing one civilian and injuring five others. more…
  • Foreign Donors Pledge Additional Support for Iraq; UNDP Renovates Homes in West Mosul; New Report Shows Improvement in Ninewa’s Justice System – On March 10, the World Food Programme (WFP) released an update on their work in Iraq. The report describes WFP’s assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and recovery activities for returnees. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement thanking the Government of Japan for their contribution of $803,571 to enable Iraq to better prepare and respond to issues in public health. On March 12, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced that the Government of the Kingdom of Denmark has contributed an additional 7.7 million dollars to UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS). On March 13, the United Nations released a report stating that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is renovating 15,000 homes in west Mosul. On March 13, Humans Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on improvements that are being made by the Ninewa governorate counterterrorism court to address unjust prosecution of suspected Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) fighters.On March 13, Canadian Ambassador to Iraq, Paul Gibbard announced that Canada will provide 14 million dollars to Iraq for the implementation of three projects for Iraqi women.
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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 Foreign Counterparts; Historic Iranian Visit to Iraq; Progress and Setbacks in KRG Formation

On March 10, a Lebanese delegation arrived in Iraq including the Minister of Communications Mohammad Choucair, the Ambassador to Iraq Ali Habhab, and 25 businessmen. The main goal of this visit is to increase the role of Lebanese firms in Iraq’s economy, in the post-Islamic State reconstruction phase.

On March 10, leaders of the Kurdistan parliament allotted the seats in the 15 permanent parliamentary committees to the various parties comprising the parliament. Some of these committees include Peshmerga affairs, education, health affairs, and energy and natural resources. The largest party in the parliament, the Kurdish Democratic Party (PDK) received 69 of the seats in committees, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) will have 30 seats within the committees, the Gorran Movement was allotted 18, and the Kurdistan Islamic Group will have 11. Additionally, the Kurdistan Islamic Union was given eight seats, the Turkmen Alliance six, the Christian coalition nine, and the Kurdistan Democratic Political Union will have two seats in the KRG’s parliamentary committees. Members of the opposition New Generation Party were excluded from parliamentary committees by the other parties, leading members of the party to cause a riot during a hearing of the KRG parliament on March 12.

On March 11, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Baghdad for a three-day visit. This is his first visit to Iraq since taking office in 2013. Rouhani’s goal with this visit is to increase trade with Iraq to offset the United States sanctions on Iran. During a joint press conference with Iraqi President Barham Salih, Rouhani stated that it is important to have good relations between the two countries, especially in areas such as energy, tourism, and investment. The two leaders discussed joint infrastructure projects, including  railways linking the two nations, creating joint industrial zones, and facilitating pilgrimage of Iranians to Shi’ite holy sites in Iraq. Later, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi revealed that the two countries reached a number of memoranda of understanding  pertaining to oil, trade, and health. Visa fees between the two countries will no longer apply starting in April, mainly to benefit businesspeople and investors. Rouhani also met with the Secretary General of the Islamic Dawa Party Nouri al-Maliki and the Iraqi National Security Advisor Faleh al-Fayadh. On March 13, Ayatollah al-Sistani met with Rouhani and the Iranian delegation accompanying him, including Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif and Chief of Staff Mahmoud Vaezi, in Najaf where al-Sistani was briefed on the decisions made between Rouhani and other Iraqi leaders earlier in this visit. This is the first meeting between Sistani and a sitting Iranian president.

On March 11, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) Qubad Talabani met with Estonian Deputy Prime Minister Taimar Peterkop. The two leaders discussed how the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) could institute the electronic-government system used by Estonia, which simplifies interactions between the citizenry and the bureaucracy.

On March 11, Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan agreed to open the Shoshmi commercial border crossing to boost trade and tourism between the two. An Iranian delegation met with the governors of Erbil, Sulaimania, and Halabja to negotiate various issues including this border crossing.

On March 12, leaders of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) met in Erbil to work on the formation of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Last week, the two parties announced that they had reached an agreement paving the way to government formation, which led the PUK to begin participating in KRG parliamentary proceedings it had been boycotting. Since the agreement was reached, several points of contestation have emerged including the PUK adding demands for more senior leadership appointments for their party and the KDP vetoing the PUK’s pick for the governor of Kirkuk. On March 14, the KDP demanded that the PUK work in order to finish the formation of the government by the end of March.

On March 14, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi met with the Saudi Minister of Trade and Investment Majid al-Qasabi. The Saudi delegation expressed Riyadh’s  “readiness for cooperation in the spheres of economics and oil as well as electricity linkage” between the two countries. The delegation also expressed Saudi Arabia’s willingness to participate in reconstruction efforts in Iraq.” For his part, Mahdi expressed his desire to increase cooperation between the two nations and disclosed his intention to visits Saudi Arabia soon.


Militant Attacks Continue Throughout Iraq Despite Security Operations; 20,000 Iraqis including ISIS Militants Set to Be Sent to Iraq from Baghouz, Syria

On March 8, Kurdistan24 reported that Iraqi security forces used tear gas and water cannons to put an end to a protest in Basra, injuring three protestors. Security forces also arrested five demonstrators. Last year’s protests in Basra started in July over demands for clean water, electricity, more employment opportunities and against governmental corruption.

On March 8, a car bomb exploded in the al-Muthanna neighborhood in Mosul city in Ninewa province, killing two individuals, a security official and a young girl, and injuring 10 other civilians and security officials. No group has claimed responsibility.

On March 8, in an interview with Alsumaria, a security source reported that a soldier serving in the 4th Regiment of the Iraqi Army in the Abu Ghraib region opened fire within his unit, killing five soldiers and injuring another. The source added that the injured soldier is in critical condition. The Baghdad Operations Command launched an investigation into the incident.

On March 8, in an interview with The National, President Barham Salih confirmed that guilty foreign fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) could face the death penalty. Salih added that Iraqi law will be used in cases of foreign ISIS fighters committing terrorist acts “on Iraqi soil or against Iraqi citizens”, but Iraq requires international support in handling other foreign ISIS fighters.

On March 11, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) transferred 407 members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) captured in Syria, most of them Iraqi citizens, to Iraqi custody. Hisham al-Hashemi, a security expert, stated that “it is not in Iraq’s interest to leave these terrorists free on the border with Syria… because they can… [continue to] sabotage security and stability.” The location of the arrested militants in Iraq remains unknown.

On March 12, a clash between the Albu Hamdan and the al-Batut tribes in northern Basra resulted in three deaths and at least seven injuries. Differing security reports dispute whether the individuals killed belonged to one of the tribes or whether they were unaffiliated eyewitnesses. The Head of the Security Committee at the Basra provincial council, Jabbar al-Saddi, reported that security forces arrested only one perpetrator. Under Iraq law, such disputes are considered terrorist attacks and the offenders can be tried under Iraq’s anti-terrorism law.

On March 12, the U.S.-led coalition conducted an airstrike in the al-Rashad district, south of Kirkuk, killing two members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). A security source reported that some ISIS militants fled the scene following the strike.

On March 11, Reuters reported that an estimated 20,000 Iraqis in Syria, who left Baghouz, Deir Ezzor, Syria in recent weeks are expected to be sent back to Iraq soon. Most of these Iraqis, including women and children, are currently residing in the al-Hawl camp in northeast Syria. There are at least 900 unaccompanied children among the displaced and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is making an effort to reunite families.

On March 13, a mortar shell landed on homes in the Qara Tabbah district in Diyala province, killing one civilian and injuring five others. Wasfi al-Tamimi, the head of the Qara Tabbah district in the province, said that security forces opened an investigation into the incident.


Foreign Donors Pledge Additional Support for Iraq; UNDP Renovates Homes in West Mosul; New Report Shows Improvement in Ninewa’s Justice System

On March 7, Rudaw reported that thousands of patients in Mosul are struggling to recover from severe war wounds because of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that causes deadly infections. The World Health Organization classifies this issue as one of the biggest threats to global health since it makes infections and diseases harder to treat. The resistance is prevalent in Mosul because there have been decades of overuse of antibiotic medications as well as general poor health during the rule of the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham’s (ISIS). Water pollution has also contributed to poor health of Mosul residents.

On March 10, the World Food Programme (WFP) released an update on their work in Iraq. The report describes WFP’s assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and recovery activities for returnees. In January 2019, WFP delivered food assistance for 264,295 people, made a total of $1.46 million cash-based transfers and launched a program to modernise Iraq’s Public Distribution System (PDS).

On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement thanking the Government of Japan for their contribution of $803,571 to enable Iraq to better prepare and respond to issues in public health, especially in vulnerable populations. Many internally displaced persons (IDPs) continue to be at risk for infectious diseases. The contribution will implement an enhanced infectious disease surveillance system as well as increase public awareness to ensure early detection and response to disease outbreaks and other public health crises in Iraq.

On March 12, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced that the Government of the Kingdom of Denmark has contributed an additional 7.7 million dollars to UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS). This funding will go towards stabilization of areas liberated from the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS). The Danish Ambassador, Gert Meinecke said, “we congratulate the Government of Iraq and the UNDP for the FFS which has been very instrumental in facilitating the return of millions of internally displaced persons in Iraq.”

On March 13, the United Nations released a report stating that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is renovating 15,000 homes in west Mosul. These homes were severely damaged during the fighting to liberate the city from the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS). This will bring the total number of houses restored to more than 30,000 and enable approximately 90,000 Iraqi people to return to their homes. Vulnerable families are prioritized for housing and the UNDP selects the neighborhoods in which rehabilitation work takes place in consultation with the provincial government and Mayor’s office. The entire project will most likely be completed by November 2019 and the first round of houses should be rehabilitated by the end of March 2019.

On March 13, Humans Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on improvements that are being made by the Ninewa governorate counterterrorism court to address unjust prosecution of suspected Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) fighters. Judges in the Ninewa governorate are now requiring higher standards of evidence to hold and prosecute suspects. With these new rules, all those detained appears before a judge within 48 hours of their arrest and intelligence officers conduct investigations. If the suspect is found innocent, their name will be removed from all wanted lists in Iraq. There is some evidence that other courts in Iraq have started to require more evidence, but HRW expressed concerns about the use of torture and reliance on coerced confessions in courts.

On March 13, Canadian Ambassador to Iraq, Paul Gibbard announced that Canada will provide $14 million to Iraq for the implementation of three projects for Iraqi women. Gibbard stated that, “supporting women and girls is the best way to build a more peaceful, inclusive and prosperous Iraq.”


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs March 8, 2019 - March 14, 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
03/08/19Mosul, Ninewa Province210
03/09/19Baghdad, Baghdad Province 20

 

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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