ISHM: May 16 – May 23, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • New U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Confirmed as Tensions between Iran and the U.S. Continue to Affect Iraq; Iraqi Officials Meet Foreign Counterparts – On May 16, Matthew Tueller assumed his position as the new United States ambassador to Iraq. On May 18, ExxonMobil evacuated its foreign workers from the West Qurna oil field due to reports about growing threats to Americans in Iraq due to tensions with Iran. On May 18, the Bahrain Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised its citizens to leave Iraq and Iran immediately and cautioned against travel to these two nations. On May 20, Iraqi President Barham Salih met with Turkish Ambassador to Iraq Fatih Yildiz in Baghdad. On May 20, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi met with representatives from the Kurdish parliament to discuss the relationship between the Federal Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). On May 21, United States Charge d’Affaires Joey Hood met with Iraqi National Security Adviser Falih Fayyad in Baghdad. On May 21, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi stated that Iraq will be sending delegations to Washington and Tehran to help “halt tensions” between those two states. On May 22, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi arrived in Kuwait for a two-day visit. On May 23, United States Charge d’Affaires Joey Hood stated that Iraq was granted another 90-day waiver allowing for the purchase of energy from Iran. more…
  • Militant Attacks Continue Throughout Iraq Despite Counter-Terrorism Operations; Rocket Lands in Baghdad’s Green Zone; U.S. Reportedly Arming Sunni Tribes – On May 17, ISIS announced that they were behind the burning of farms in Khanaqin. On May 18, the group torched more farms around Diyala. On May 19, a rocket landed the in Green Zone in Baghdad, less than a mile away from the U.S. Embassy. An Iraqi official within the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Services told the Daily Beast that a Iranian-backed group, Kataib Hezbollah, fired the rocket. On May 19, a roadside IED detonated outside of the town of Balad Ruz in Diyala Province, killing killing and injuring 26 Popular Mobilization Units members. On May 19, a senior official in al-Anbar Province told the pan-Arab daily al-Araby al-Jadid that Anbar tribal leaders met with U.S. military officials at the Ain al-Assad air base. The Americans reportedly promised the tribes that they will provide them with weapons. On May 19, some Iraqi officials warned Iranian-backed militias from antagonising or attacking American troops in Iraq. On May 20, a roadside IED exploded south of Tel ‘Afar in Ninewa Province. The blast killed one civilian and wounded three others. On May 22, ISIS fighters launched an attack on police in Salah ad-Din. This resulted in the death of one policeman and injuring of five others. On May 23, a vehicle-borne IED exploded in the al-Karabilah area of Qa’im, killing between one to two people. more…
  • Kurdish Families Expelled from Kirkuk; Some IDPs Return Home, While Others are Displaced Anew – On May 18, an official source told Shafaaq News that 600 Kurdish families had been expelled from three villages in Kirkuk province. On May 19, more than 120 internally displaced persons (IDPs) returned to their homes in Qaim. On May 22, 132 Yazidis left Erbil for Toulouse, France, where they will resettle as part of a cooperative program between the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the French government. On May 22, the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) reported that it had completed the exhumation of twelve mass graves of Yazidis from a list of 16 sites that were identified in Kojo. 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.


New U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Confirmed as Tensions between Iran and the U.S. Continue to Affect Iraq; Iraqi Officials Meet Foreign Counterparts

On May 16, Matthew Tueller assumed his position as the new United States ambassador to Iraq. Tueller entered the Foreign Service in 1985 and has worked in Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, and Iraq. He has stated that he will work to make Iraq a “pillar of stability” in the region and to better relations between the Iraqi Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

On May 18, ExxonMobil evacuated its foreign workers from the West Qurna oil field due to reports about growing threats to Americans in Iraq due to tensions with Iran. Twenty-eight workers were flown to Dubai, with about 30 others staying in housing for foreign employees in Basra province. On May 19, Iraqi Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhban stated that the major oil deal expected to be signed between Iraq and ExxonMobil has been set back due to this evacuation just as it was about to be signed. Ghadhban claimed that the evacuation was done for political reasons, not security reasons, and called the move “unacceptable and unjustified.” He also stated that oil production has not been hindered by the evacuation.

On May 18, the Bahrain Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised its citizens to leave Iraq and Iran immediately and cautioned against travel to these two nations. “The unstable situation in the region and the recent escalations and threats against security and stability” were stated as the reason for this announcement.

On May 20, Iraqi President Barham Salih met with Turkish Ambassador to Iraq Fatih Yildiz in Baghdad. Salih reiterated Iraq’s goal to become a mediator in the region to facilitate security and political stability. Yildiz confirmed Turkey’s support for Iraq and desire to work with Iraq to better relations between the two nations.

On May 20, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi met with representatives from the Kurdish parliament to discuss the relationship between the Federal Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). According to Kurdistan 24, the leaders discussed abuses against Kurds in Kirkuk and Khanaqin including displacement from their homes.

On May 21, United States Charge d’Affaires Joey Hood met with Iraqi National Security Adviser Falih Fayyad in Baghdad. Hood stated that “the United States is very confident in the determination of the Iraqi security forces to protect the Iraqi people” and that the United States is opposed to actors using Iraqi territory to attack another country. Hood also vowed that the United States will continue to offer advice, training, and equipment for Iraqi security forces. On May 22, Hood denied that the United States is increasing its military presence in Iraq at this time.

On May 21, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi stated that Iraq will be sending delegations to Washington and Tehran to help “halt  tensions” between those two states. Abdul-Mahdi stressed that no actors in Iraq want a war between the United States and Iran.

On May 22, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi arrived in Kuwait for a two-day visit. His delegation includes the Minister of Oil Jabbar Alluaibi, Minister of Finance Fuad Mohammed Hussein, as well as other ministers. Abdul-Mahdi met with Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah and Crown Prince of Kuwait Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah to discuss how to increase cooperation between the two nations, especially in the areas of construction, reconstruction, and services. The leaders also discussed recent international and regional developments.

On May 23, United States Charge d’Affaires Joey Hood stated that Iraq was granted another 90-day waiver allowing for the purchase of energy from Iran. This is the third waiver issued to Iraq, which excludes Iraq from the sanctions the United States has placed on Iran. These exemptions are given mindful of the fact that Iraq could lose about one-third of the country’s power, which comes from Iran’s natural gas, if it were to abide by the sanctions. Iraq is the only country to receive a waiver of this kind after April. Hood also stressed that the United States is helping Iraq to become more energy independent.

On May 23, Iraqi President Barham Salih officially appointed Mansour al-Mareed as the new governor of Ninewa province. Mareed replaced Nawfal Hammadi al-Sultan al-Akoub who was fired after more than 100 people died in the ferry boating sinking in Mosul on March 21.


Militant Attacks Continue Throughout Iraq Despite Counter-Terrorism Operations; Rocket Lands in Baghdad’s Green Zone; U.S. Reportedly Arming Sunni Tribes

On May 17, a unknown gunman fired on a government car in Baghdad, wounding the passenger. The vehicle was carrying the Assistant Deputy Director of the Ministry of Construction and Housing. He was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment and a investigation into the attack was launched.

On May 17, ISIS announced that they were behind the burning of farms in Khanaqin. On May 18, the group torched more farms around Diyala. Locals reported that multiple acres of wheat had been burned. On May 21st, more fires broke out around Hawija resulting in the loss of about 247 acres of wheat. PUKMedia reported that groups of ISIS fighters are entering villages and farms around Makhmur and demanding taxes from the locals. ISIS fighters then burn the fields of those who fail to comply with their demands.

On May 18, a motorcycle-borne IED exploded in central Mosul city, without causing fatalities. Reports conflicted regarding the number of people injured in the attack: a source at the scene said there was three wounded, while the Security Media Cell said there were only two wounded.

On May 19, a rocket landed the in Green Zone in Baghdad, less than a mile away from the U.S. Embassy. Iraqi Military Spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasoul, stated that the projectile was a Katyusha rocket fired from eastern Baghdad, landing near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Iraqi media reported and the U.S. Military confirmed there were no casualties. The Washington Post reported that Iraqi and American politicians believed that a militia belonging to the Popular Mobilization Units was likely responsible. On May 20th, The Daily Beast published a report citing from an unnamed Iraqi official within the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Services (CTS) that a Iranian-backed group, Kataib Hezbollah, fired the rocket. The next day on May 21st, the CTS contested the story published by The Daily Beast, saying that the claims were “baseless” and that any official statements will come directly from the agency itself. Later that day, a previously unknown group by the name of “Operations of Martyr Ali Manour” claimed responsibility for the rocket attack in retaliation for President Trump’s pardoning of Michael Behenna. Behenna had been found guilty of murdering an Iraqi detainee. The group claimed they were also responsible for prior Katyusha rocket attacks and vowed to continue attacks as long as Behenna remains out of prison. The legitimacy of this responsibility claim is in question, however. On May 22, Joe Hood, the Chargé d’affaires for the American Embassy in Iraq, stated that the U.S. government is unsure regarding the identity of the attackers and whether the embassy was the original target.

On May 19, a roadside IED detonated outside of the town of Balad Ruz in Diyala Province, killing seven and injuring 26 Popular Mobilization Units members. According to a statement by the PMU, the 20th Brigade of the PMU was on its way to Basra when their convoy triggered the IED. The wounded were then quickly taken to the hospital in Ba’qubah.

On May 19, a senior official in al-Anbar Province told the pan-Arab daily al-Araby al-Jadid that Anbar tribal leaders met with U.S. military officials at the Ain al-Assad air base. The Americans reportedly promised the tribes that they will provide them with weapons. According to the source, commanders within the Popular Mobilization Units who are close to Iran are aware of the American military assistance. According to the source, the provision of material is “an American card to pressure factions that serve as Iranian proxies.”

On May 19, some Iraqi officials warned Iranian-backed militias from antagonising or attacking American troops in Iraq following intelligence reports about the increased likelihood of such attacks. A member of the Iraqi Security Council, Sayed al-Jayashi declared that any group attacking American Forces would become the enemies of  the Iraqi Government. A spokesperson for Muqtada al-Sadr, who has adopted a nationalistic and anti-Iranian position in recent years, also stated  “unfortunately, we have groups that want to be more Iranian than Iran itself… The government needs to take a stronger position against those groups. He added that “Iraq can not be a place where Americans and Iranians settle their accounts.”

On May 20, a roadside IED exploded south of Tel ‘Afar in Ninewa Province. The blast killed one civilian and wounded three others. According to a security source who spoke to al-Sumaria, the device intended to target civilians as they harvested crops.

On May 22, 13 mortars landed south of Kan’an in Diyala, injuring one women. The Security Media Cell, an Iraqi governmental body, reported that security forces are conducting a search of the area.

On May 22, ISIS fighters launched an attack on police in Salah ad-Din. This resulted in the death of one policeman and injuring of five others.

On May 23, a vehicle-borne IED exploded in the al-Karabilah area of Qa’im. Reports conflicted on the number of deaths and casualties. Shafaaq quoted a security source that stated one person was killed and four were wounded. al-Sumaria reported a statement from Ahmed al-Dulaimi, an Anbar security official, that two people had been killed and three wounded.


Kurdish Families Expelled from Kirkuk; Some IDPs Return Home, While Others are Displaced Anew

On May 18, an official source told Shafaaq News that 600 Kurdish families had been expelled from three villages in Kirkuk province. According to the source, the final decision to remove the families was made by the local oil company on whose land the Kurdish families were allegedly squatting. In another village in Kirkuk, Arabs had seized Kurdish abandoned homes. On May 18, Arab authorities in Kirkuk denied allegations made by Kurds about a systematic “Arabization” program and demographic changes in Kirkuk province following the Kurdistan independence referendum and takeover of the province by the central state in 2017. On May 21, the head of the Arabic Council in Kirkuk rejected claims that the governor of the province had been removing Kurds from official positions and appointing Arabs instead, stating that many of these positions fell under the mandate of the greater Iraqi government and not the governor.

On May 19, more than 120 internally displaced persons (IDPs) returned to their homes in Qaim. According to a statement issued by the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration, the IDPs voluntarily left camps established during the fight against ISIS in Iraq and returned to liberated areas in Anbar Province. However, news organizations and humanitarian NGOs have previously documented that many of those returning do so due to lack of better options and do not feel safe to return. On May 20, Kurdistan 24 reported that over 550 families of IDPs who had returned to their homes in Ninewa province returned once again to displacement camps, owing to the lack of services and a precarious security situation in the Ninewa and Mosul areas.

On May 22, 132 Yazidis left Erbil for Toulouse, France, where they will resettle as part of a cooperative program between the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the French government. IOM worked with French President Emmanuel Macron and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Yazidi human rights advocate Nadia Murad to facilitate the resettlement process. “As this group of Yazidi families touch down in Toulouse and surrounding areas, local nongovernmental organizations are ready to assist them to facilitate their integration in the host communities,” said Ambassador Eric Chevallier, a French official involved in the effort.

On May 22, the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) reported that it had completed the exhumation of twelve mass graves of Yazidis from a list of 16 sites that were identified in Kojo. Kojo, a small town in the Sinjar District, home to about 1,700 people before 2014, was the site of mass executions during the genocide ISIS perpetrated against the Yazidi people as it swept across northwestern Iraq. The team seeks to collect evidence from these graves that can be used in further investigations into the crimes of ISIS.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs June 6, 2019 - June 13, 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
06/13/19central Baghdad12
06/12/19al-Kabba, Diyala00
06/12/19al-Madain district, southeast of Baghdad00
06/11/19Khanaqin, northeastern Diyala01
06/11/19al-Mkhaysa village, northeast of Baquba10
06/11/19Hussainiat al-Ma'amel area, northeast of Baghdad14
06/08/19Baghdadi, west of Ramadi01
06/08/19al-Saaduniya village, Kirkuk12
06/08/19al-Asriya village, Kirkuk11
06/08/19al-Gharab, Dibis district, west of Kirkuk21
06/08/19Khanaqin, northeastern Diyala01
06/06/19Baesheqa, northeast of Mosul04

 

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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