ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: March 29- April 4 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • Iraqi Politicians Meet Foreign Counterparts; President Salih Weighs in On Presence of U.S. Force in Iraq; Agreement Reached on KRG Formation; Iran and Iraq Waive Visa Fees – Iraqi President Barham Salih stated in an interview on March 29 that there is a general consensus among major political parties that the country must continue collaborating with the foreign forces stationed in Iraq in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). On March 30, Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih Berri arrived in Baghdad. Berri met several religious leaders and government officials and visited Shi’ite holy shrines. On March 30-31, Iraqi President Barham Salih and numerous other Arab political leaders arrived in Tunis for the 30th Arab League Summit. Starting April 1, Iraqi nationals visiting Iran and Iranians visiting Iraq no longer need to pay a fee for their visas. On April 3, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) came to an agreement on the formation of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). On April 3, a delegation from Saudi Arabia arrived in Baghdad led by the Saudi Minister of Trade and Investment Majid al-Qasabi. On April 4, Saudi Arabia pledged to fund the construction of a sports city in Baghdad with the price-tag of $1 billion. more…
  • ISIS Militants Continue to Strike Across Iraq Despite Counter-Terrorism Operations; Peshmerga Salaries in Jeopardy; Iraq May Try More Foreign ISIS Fighters – On March 30, members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attacked Tal al-Zahab village in Salah al-Din province, killing two members of the security forces. On March 30, ISIS militants stormed the Kurdish Sheikh Mahmoud village in Daquq district, south of Kirkuk and opened gunfire on a group of civilians. The incident resulted in the death of one resident of the village and the injury of another. On March 30, the German television channel ZDF reported that the Iraqi government is prepared to try ISIS foreign fighters in exchange for compensation from European countries and the United States for trial costs. On April 1, Rudaw reported that Baghdad will begin paying the salaries of the Peshmerga forces in Iraqi Kurdistan. On April 2, al-Monitor reported that the Trump Administration wants to cut the funds it allocates to paying the salaries of the Peshmerga from $290 million USD to $126 million USD. On April 2, airstrikes targeting ISIS hideouts in the Hamrin Mountains in Diyala province reportedly killed four militants. On April 3, Iraqi military planes dropped leaflets over Ramadi offering a financial reward for individuals who provide information about the whereabouts of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. more…
  • Flooding Harms Communities Across Iraq; New report on Displacement due to Water Scarcity; UNDP Rebuilds Home in Old Mosul – On April 3, Rudaw reported that the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) project to restore and rebuild houses has begun in Old City in West Mosul. On April 3, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a report regarding the severe floods throughout Iraq. The report describes the effects of the rain storms on several governorates in Iraq. The most impacted governorates were in central and northern Iraq, namely Kirkuk, Salah al-Din and Sulaymaniyah governorates. On April 4, the United Nations office, International Organization for Migration, published a report that assessed displacement caused by water shortages in central Iraq. 45 different regions in central governorates suffer from drought or water scarcity; only one of those locations is urban. Since August 2018, the number of affected locations decreased by 26% due to winter flooding, but those areas are expected to suffer a drought in upcoming summer months. 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 Politicians Meet Foreign Counterparts; President Salih Weighs in On Presence of U.S. Force in Iraq; Agreement Reached on KRG Formation; Iran and Iraq Waive Visa Fees

On March 29, in an interview with Associated Press (AP), Iraqi President Barham Salih stated that there is a general consensus among major political parties that the country must continue collaborating with the foreign forces stationed in Iraq in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Salih claimed that there is no serious opposition to the presence of American forces in Iraq as long as they continue to advise, assist, and support Iraqi forces in the fight against ISIS. Last month, comments made by United States President Trump aroused debate about U.S. motives in Iraq and the presence of U.S. forces in the country. Members of the Iraqi parliament that are close to Iran are opposed to the presence of U.S. troops and have drafted legislation that calls for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops. In the interview, Salih also said that the Iraqi government is advocating for Syria’s readmittance into the Arab League.

On March 30, Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih Berri arrived in Baghdad. Berri met several religious leaders and government officials while visiting Shi’ite  holy shrines. In meetings with Iraqi President Barham Salih and Iraqi Prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the Lebanese and Iraqi officials addressed cooperation between their respective nations and the expansion this cooperation into new areas. On April 1, Berri and his delegation met with Ayatollah al-Sistani in Najaf where he congratulated Sistani on Iraq’s victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). On April 2, Berri met with the Iraqi Speaker of the House of Representatives Mohammed Halbusi in Baghdad. The two leaders discussed waiving visas between Iraq and Lebanon as well as banking and trade. On April 3, Berri met with former Iraqi Speaker of the House of Representatives Salim al-Jabouri. The two leaders discussed how to bring  security and stability to the Arab world and the relationship between the two nations. On April 4, Berri met with the head of the State of Law Coalition Nouri al-Maliki and discussed similar topics.

On March 30, Iraqi President Barham Salih met with Jordanian King Abdullah II in Tunis. The two leaders agreed on the need to cooperate to overcome the challenges afflicting the Middle East and repeated their support for the rights of the Palestinians including an independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital. Salih and Abdullah wish to build upon the decisions to expand cooperation between the two countries made during the tripartite summit with Egypt last week.

On March 31, Iraqi President Barham Salih and numerous other Arab political leaders arrived in Tunis for the 30th Arab League Summit. Turkey’s incursions and air strikes inside Iraqi territory were one of the topics discussed. The final statement on the first day of proceedings commended Iraq for its efforts against terrorism. During the summit, Salih met with several leaders from other nations attending and stressed the need to adopt a forceful approach in combating terrorism and extremism in the Arab world. He also mentioned reconstruction efforts in Iraqi and the need to return those displaced by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) to their areas or origin.

Starting April 1, Iraqi nationals visiting Iran and Iranians visiting Iraq will no longer need to pay a fee for their visas. This follows a series of agreements reached between Tehran and Baghdad during President Rouhani’s visit to Baghdad on March 11. The visa waiver was approved by the Iraqi parliament on March 27. About 100,000 Iraqis visit Iran each year and about nine million Iranians to visit Iraq annually, meaning that the deal is financially incredibly disadvantageous to Iraq.

On April 3, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) came to an agreement on the formation of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Masrour Barzani of the KDP will be appointed the next Prime Minister of the KRG. In the division of power, the PUK will appoint its members to the positions of  deputy prime minister, five ministers, three deputy ministers, and three members of the Security Council, among other positions.

On April 3, a delegation from Saudi Arabia arrived in Baghdad led by the Saudi Minister of Trade and Investment Majid al-Qasabi. The delegation includes nine ministers including the Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, the Minister of Environment, Water, and Agriculture Abdulrahman al-Fadhli, and the Minister of Energy, Industry, and Mineral Resources Khalid al-Falih as well as the Ministers of Education and Information. On April 4, Saudi re-opened its embassy in Baghdad, after it had been closed  for almost 30 years. Al-Qasabi also stated that three more consultes will be opened in other cities throughout Iraq soon. On April 4, Saudi Arabia pledged to fund the construction of a sports city in Baghdad with the price-tag of $1 billion. Delegations from both nations are discussing possibilities for Saudi investors in Iraq and a free trade zone along the Iraq-Saudi border.


ISIS Militants Continue to Strike Across Iraq Despite Counter-Terrorism Operations; Peshmerga Salaries in Jeopardy; Iraq May Try More Foreign ISIS Fighters

On March 30, members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attacked Tal al-Zahab village in Salah al-Din province when security forces were inspecting the area. ISIS militants killed two members of the security forces, including a police officer.

On March 30, militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham stormed the Kurdish Sheikh Mahmoud village in Daquq district, south of Kirkuk and opened gunfire on a group of civilians. The incident resulted in the death of one resident of the village and the injury of another.

On March 30,  the German television channel ZDF reported that the Iraqi government is prepared to try foreign fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in exchange for compensation from European countries and the United States for trial costs. About 800 ISIS militants, including 56 German fighters, surrendered in Syria and are currently detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). SDF forces are overwhelmed with ISIS prisoners and urge Iraq to carry out the trials of foreign fighters; while the home countries of the foreign fighters largely prefer to keep their nationals in the region and have them tried there. Hussein al-Honanien, a government advisor in Baghdad, told ZDF that negotiations between the Iraqi government and representative from the United States and the European Union are already underway regarding compensation Iraq would receive in exchange for trying foreign fighters on its soil and jailing them.

On April 1, a political source claimed in an interview with al-Sumaria TV that the the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) reopened three headquarters in Sulaymaniyah province. In a statement, the source added that the PKK coordinated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the ruling party of the region, to return unarmed forces to the province and agreed to not raise party flags on the buildings.

On April 1, Rudaw reported that Baghdad will begin paying the salaries of the Peshmerga forces in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) reached an agreement with Iraq’s Prime Minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, which allocates 68 billion dinars per month ($57 million) for Peshmerga salaries, a stipulation included in the 2019 budget. This is the first time the annual budget includes Peshmerga salaries. The Ministry of Peshmerga sent a required write-up that laid out Peshmerga salaries to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense in preparation for the transfer of the funds.

On April 2, al-Monitor reported that the Trump Administration wants to cut the funds it allocates to paying the salaries of the Peshmerga from $290 million USD to $126 million USD, a reduction the Pentagon included in its proposed budget for the next fiscal year. The U.S. finances salaries, food, fuel, and equipment for  Peshmerga units. The Defense Department justified the cutback as an incentive for the Iraqi government to add Peshmerga forces to the federal payroll.

On April 2, airstrikes targeting hideouts for members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the Hamrin Mountains in Diyala province reportedly killed four militants, according to a provincial security source. Iraqi forces carried out the strikes after receiving intelligence reports about the location of the hideouts.

On April 3, an unidentified gunman opened fire near Wadi al-Awsaj in Diyala province, killing one police officer and wounding three others. In an interview with al-Sumaria TV, a source said that security forces cordoned the scene and transferred the wounded to a hospital for treatment.

On April 3, Iraqi military planes dropped leaflets over Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, offering a financial reward for individuals who provide information about the whereabouts of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The flyers listed the monetary reward at $25 million. A local source said the leaflets included two hotlines on WhatsApp to reach security officials.


Flooding Harms Communities Across Iraq; New report on Displacement due to Water Scarcity; UNDP Rebuilds Home in Old Mosul

On March 29, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched a funding appeal for emergency assistance in the amount of $41.4 million. The funding appeal is based on the 2019 United Nations’ Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for Iraq. The response plan estimated that 6.7 million people are in critical need of support; nearly 65 percent of these people live in Ninewa, Anbar, and Salah al-Din. The IOM support is set to provide assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps by providing them with shelter, health services, resources for protection and psychosocial needs, and supporting water sanitation projects of informal and formal IDP camps.

On March 31, the Iraqi government’s crisis office warned citizens of potential flooding in seven provinces along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The heavy rainfall in several parts of Iraq continues to cause water levels to rise in the rivers. The floodgates of the Mosul Dam are set to be opened because the dam has reached its storage capacity, further increasing the risk of flooding. Jamal al-Adili, the Iraqi Minister of Water Resources stated that Basra and Wasit were most at risk for severe floods and that bodies of water that had been dry for years are now full of water, which could cause congestion on roads in these areas.

On April 2, Kurdistan 24 reported that major flooding in Iraq has displaced 60 families in the province of Kirkuk. Heavy rainfall has caused severe flooding and damage to bridges, roads, and properties throughout the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. The Government of Iraq announced a state of emergency in many provinces because of the flooding. The Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MOMD) in partnership with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society has provided relief aid to 60 families displaced from the town of Altun Kupri in Kirkuk Governorate.

On April 3, Rudaw reported that the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) project to restore and rebuild houses has begun in Old City in West Mosul. This area in Mosul has seen major conflict and most of the houses and neighborhoods have been damaged or destroyed. The project aims to restore 12,000 to 15,000 homes across 29 neighborhoods in Old City. The project is expected to be completed by September or October of 2019.

On April 3, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a report regarding the severe floods throughout Iraq. The report describes the effects of the rain storms on several governorates in Iraq. The most impacted governorates were in central and northern Iraq, namely Kirkuk, Salah al-Din and Sulaymaniyah governorates; the report highlights the needs of each. Flooding in Mosul has resulted in the closure of five bridges and several dams in Iraq are at or near their storage capacity, but authorities have stated that the dams’ discharge and overflow functions would regulate any overabundance of water. There have been no fatalities reported due to the recent weather in Iraq.

On April 4, the United Nations office, International Organization for Migration, published a report that assessed displacement caused by water shortages in central Iraq. 45 different regions in central governorates suffer from drought or water scarcity; only one of those locations is urban. Since August 2018, the number of affected locations decreased by 26% due to winter flooding, but those areas are expected to suffer a drought in upcoming summer months. By February 2019, 1,727 families in Babylon, Karbala, Najar, Qadissiya, and Wassit governorates were displaced because of water shortages and droughts displaced. The Iraqi government recently banned the production of rice in the al-Shamiya district in Qadissiya governorate to conserve water; the population in the affected areas relies on crops such as rice, wheat, and barley for income.  As a result, many families were forced to move to urban areas. Families that remain in affected areas now rely on water-tankers.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs March 29, 2019 - April 4, 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
04/01/19Baqubah, Diyala Province02
04/02/19al-Mansouriya, Diyala Province02

 

Please note: some geographic locations represented are approximations and this map may not represent all incidents.


Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor is a free publication of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center.


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