ISHM: May 23 – May 30, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • Iraqi Politicians Meet Foreign Counterparts; Nechirvan Barzani Elected President of the Kurdistan Region – On May 23, Iraqi President Barham Salih arrived in Jordan for a tripartite meeting including Jordanian King Abdullah II, Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. On May 25, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in Baghdad and met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, President Barham Salih, and Speaker of the House of Representatives Mohammed al-Halbousi. On May 26, Zarif met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hakim. On May 27, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi arrived in Doha to meet with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. On May 28, Nechirvan Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) was elected the President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). On May 28, Iraqi President Barham Salih met with Turkish President Recep ErdoÄŸan in Istanbul. On May 28, Iraqi Speaker of the House of Representatives Mohammed al-Halbousi met with Jordanian King Abdullah II. On May 29, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt ÇavuÅŸoÄŸlu arrived in Baghdad to meet Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali al-Hakim. On May 30, Iraqi President Barham Salih and Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali al-Hakim arrived in Saudi Arabia for meetings. more…
  • Militant Attacks Continue; Multiple Fires Rage in Iraq with ISIS Claiming Some as Arson Attacks; Iran Constructing New Iraq-Syria Border Crossing; Turkey Conducts Ground Offensive against PKK in Northern Iraq; US Renditioned Foreign ISIS Militants to Iraq from NE Syria – On May 24, Fox News reported that Iran is currently constructing a new border crossing on the Iraqi-Syrian border. On May 24, local witnesses and a security source notified Shafaaq News that unknown gunmen had set fire to wheat fields in the town of al-Jafar al-Haram, south of Tikrit. This fire is just one of many that have recently affected farms in Ninewa, Diyala, Kirkuk and Najaf. On May 24, ISIS fighters attacked a group of civilians in Salah ad-Din and set their crop fields on fire. Three were killed and three were wounded. On May 25, an IED killed and wounded locals and firefighters who were trying to extinguish a fire ravaging fields in the town of al-Abbasi in Kirkuk Province. Between four to five people were killed. The same day, in the farmland surrounding the town of Sharqat in Salah ad-Din Province, five farmers were killed and two wounded in twin IED explosions while trying to harvest their crops. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack. On May 28, the Iraqi Civil Defense announced that a total of 139 fires affected the provinces of Salah ad-Din, Kirkuk and Ninewa. ISIS claimed responsibility for 13 of these fires. On May 30 in the Daquq district of Kirkuk, civilians rushed to extinguish a burning field, but were ambushed by ISIS fighters. One person was killed in the attack, and between seven to nine injured. On May 24, the Iraqi army clashed with a popular mobilization unit in the town of al-Ba’aj, west of Mosul. On May 26, a vehicle-borne IED detonated in the town of Oweinat in Ninewa Province killing five people. On May 26, a roadside IED activated in the town of Kubaysah, west of Ramadi. The device killed one member of the Popular Mobilization Units. On May 29, an Iraqi court sentenced a French and Tunisian national to death, raising the total number of French nationals to seven after on May 28, an Iraqi court ordered death penalties for two French nationals who fought for ISIS. On May 28, Turkish commandos entered northern Iraq after an initial artillery and aerial bombardment. On May 28, a vehicle-borne IED exploded between Baiji and Haditha. The blast killed two members of the Popular Mobilization Units and injured one other. On May 29, Reuters reported that U.S. forces secretly moved suspected foreign ISIS fighters from Syria to Iraq for trial in 2017 and 2018. more…
  • Poverty Rates Rises is Diwaniya; Children with ISIS Links Repatriated to Turkey; Overcrowding and Abuse at Dhi Qar Prisons – On May 16, the World Bank published a report titled The Reconstruction of Iraq after 2003. According to the report, reconstruction in Iraq provides “few successes and many failures from which the international community can learn.  On May 27, a member of the Diwaniyah Governorate Council stated that the poverty rate in Diwaniyah had reached 60%, a historic record for the area. On May 27, the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights in Dhi Qar reported on a disturbing level of overcrowding in two prisons in Nasiriyah. On May 29, the Iraqi government repatriated 188 Turkish children born to suspected ISIS members to Turkey. On May 30, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) issued a report stating that the first 10 families are returning to the Assyrian town of Batnaya in Ninewa Province thanks to the efforts of the UNDP to rehabilitate the town. 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; Nechirvan Barzani Elected President of the Kurdistan Region

On May 23, Iraqi President Barham Salih arrived in Jordan for a tripartite meeting including Jordanian King Abdullah II, Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The leaders reiterated their support for the full rights of the Palestinian people, including the establishment of an independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital as well as recent regional developments.

On May 24, thousands of protesters who are supporters of cleric-politician Muqtada al-Sadr gathered in central Baghdad’s Tahrir Square as well as the city of Basra to call for Iraqi non-intervention in the ongoing tensions between Iran and the United States.

On May 25, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in Baghdad and met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, President Barham Salih, and Speaker of the House of Representatives Mohammed al-Halbousi. The leaders discussed recent international and regional developments and relations between Iraq and Iran. Zarif and Abdul-Mahdi also stressed the need to have security and stability in the region to avoid the damaging effects of sanctions and possible war. On May 26, Zarif met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hakim. Hakim stressed that Iraq was opposed to the United States sanctions currently placed on Iran and the need to reach a solution between Iran and the United States that satisfies both nations. Zarif then traveled from Baghdad to Karbala. On May 27, Zarif described his visit to Iraq and the meetings conducted with various Iraqi leaders “constructive.”

On May 27, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi arrived in Doha to meet with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Abdul-Mahdi’s delegation included the deputy prime minister and several ministers such as oil, construction, housing, trade, and others. The two leaders discussed the relationship between Iraq and Qatar and how to increase cooperation between the two. On May 29, Abdul-Mahdi signed two memoranda of understanding with Qatar concerning the cultural, scientific, and educational spheres.

On May 28, Nechirvan Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) was elected the President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Barzani received 68 votes from the 81 legislators participating in the parliamentary session. The four other candidates running did not receive any votes. Both the New Generation and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) boycotted the session. The PUK released a statement explaining that their absence, which blamed recent actions of the KDP, arguing that the KDP is making it difficult to implement recent agreements reached between the KDP and the PUK.

On May 28, Iraqi President Barham Salih met with Turkish President Recep Erdoğan in Istanbul. The meeting also included Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Iraqi National Security Adviser Falih al-Fayyadh, and Turkish Intelligence Chief Hakan Fidan. This meeting is one of many recent meetings about Turkey’s intensifying security operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) along the Iraq-Turkey border. Turkey’s most recent target is Hakurk, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) where, according to Turkish claims, the PKK is storing weapons and maintaining shelters.

On May 28, Iraqi Speaker of the House of Representatives Mohammed al-Halbousi met with Jordanian King Abdullah II. The two leaders discussed the relationship between Iraq and Jordan as well as how to increase cooperation between the two nations in all sectors. Recent regional developments were also discussed, with emphasis on how to maintain security and stability in Iraq.

On May 29, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu arrived in Baghdad to meet Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali al-Hakim. The two leaders discussed the relationship and cooperation between Iraq and Turkey. The two foreign ministers also discussed recent regional and international developments as well as how to advance peace in the region.

On May 30, Iraqi President Barham Salih and Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali al-Hakim arrived in Saudi Arabia to attend the preparatory foreign ministers’ meeting taking place before the 14th Islamic Summit in Mecca on May 31. Member nations of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation will attend this summit, alongside representatives from most Muslim-majority countries.


Militant Attacks Continue; Multiple Fires Rage in Iraq with ISIS Claiming Some as Arson Attacks; Iran Constructing New Iraq-Syria Border Crossing; Turkey Conducts Ground Offensive against PKK in Northern Iraq; US Renditioned Foreign ISIS Militants to Iraq from NE Syria

On May 24, Fox News reported that Iran is currently constructing a new border crossing on the Iraqi-Syrian border near the Albu Kamal Al-Qaim crossing. The former border crossing was destroyed due to fighting and is currently closed, leading the Iranians to begin construction of their own . Western intelligence source speaking to Fox News believe that Iran aims to utilizing the crossing smuggle weapons and oil to Lebanon and the Mediterranean, in an effort to bypass U.S. sanctions and arm its proxies.

On May 24, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s military force, the Peshmerga, released data on the total casualty count of civilians and soldiers killed and injured by ISIS operations in four of Iraq’s provinces: Kirkuk, Diyala, Salah al-Din, and Ninewa. Secretary-General Jabbar Yawra claimed that in 2018, ISIS carried out a total of 456 operations that lead to 1,742 casualties and so far in 2019 they have launched around 100 operations resulting in 407 casualties.

On May 24, the Pentagon announced that they will be sending 900 more soldiers to the Middle East. The Department of Defense stressed that these troops are not being sent to Iraq or Syria, but rather to bolster existing operations. The Pentagon also accused Iranian-backed groups for the attacks on Saudi oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and the recent rocket attack near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. U.S. Admiral Michael Gilday stated that the attack in Baghdad was carried out by an Iranian proxy, saying, “I can not disclose the sources of this information, but I say with high confidence that we are linking the Iranians to these attacks”. On May 26, a senior Iraqi security official told Asharq Al-Awsat that Washington assesses that one of two Shi’ite factions were behind the attack, the Sayyed of Martyrs Battalions and the Imam Ali Battalions. According to the source, the U.S. notified Iraqi authorities that it may arrest individuals involved in the attack, “should evidence prove their involvement.”

On May 24, local witnesses and a security source notified Shafaaq News that unknown gunmen had set fire to wheat fields in the town of al-Jafar al-Haram, south of Tikrit. The sources believed that the gunmen were ISIS fighters. This fire is just one of many that have recently affected farms in Ninewa, Diyala, Kirkuk and Najaf. On May 24, ISIS fighters attacked a group of civilians in Salah ad-Din and set their crop fields on fire. Three were killed and three were wounded. On May 25, an IED killed and wounded locals and firefighters who were trying to extinguish a fire ravaging fields in the town of al-Abbasi in Kirkuk Province. Between four to five people were killed. Sources believed that the device was planted by ISIS. The same day, in the farmland surrounding the town of Sharqat in Salah ad-Din Province, five farmers were killed and two wounded in twin IED explosions while trying to harvest their crops. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack. On May 28, the Iraqi Civil Defense announced that a total of 139 fires affected the provinces of Salah ad-Din, Kirkuk and Ninewa. ISIS claimed responsibility for 13 of these fires. However, on May 29 Iraqi Prime Minister, Abdul-Mahdi, downplayed ISIS’ role in the recent fires. In a press conference, he argued that the fires were mostly caused by the dry climate, electrical faults, and local feuds while also deemphasizing the number of fires. On May 30 in the Daquq district of Kirkuk, civilians rushed to extinguish a burning field, but were ambushed by ISIS fighters. One person was killed in the attack, and between seven to nine injured.

On May 24, the Iraqi army clashed with a popular mobilization unit in the town of al-Ba’aj, west of Mosul. A tribal spokesperson told Shafaaq News that the PMU group, “Nawader Shammar”, got into a conflict with the Iraqi 20th division after the military ordered the PMU trucks to stop and attempted to search them. The PMU fighters, members of the Shammar tribe, failed to comply, fighting broke out. The trucks sped away and the army has initiated a search for the vehicles. The Iraqi army believes that Nawader Shammar, affiliated with MP Abdul Rahim al-Shammari, has been smuggling food and drugs.

On May 26, a vehicle-borne IED detonated in the town of Oweinat in Ninewa Province. It was parked in the local market and lead to the death of five people and wounding of eight. 

On May 26, a roadside IED activated in the town of Kubaysah, west of Ramadi. The device killed one member of the Popular Mobilization Units.

On May 28, Turkish commandos entered northern Iraq after an initial artillery and aerial bombardment. The Turkish defense ministry announced that the operation targeted the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, in Iraq’s Hakurk region. The ministry stated that they had “neutralized” nine militants and destroyed various shelters and ammo deposits in Qandil and Zap. On May 29, the Turkish Defense Ministry stated that two Turkish soldiers were killed after stepping on an IED. The Ministry claimed that the device was planted by PKK militants.

On May 28, a vehicle-borne IED exploded between Baiji and Haditha. The blast killed two members of the Popular Mobilization Units and injured one other.

On May 29, Reuters reported that U.S. forces secretly moved suspected foreign ISIS fighters from Syria to Iraq for trial in 2017 and 2018. The Counter Terrorism Service, an Iraqi governmental organisation, denied these allegations. The suspected militants were captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF,  before allegedly being transferred into Iraq. The suspects also claimed that they were beaten and tortured, which the CTS also denied. Human rights organizations have documented for years the widespread use of torture in Iraq. Both the U.S. Central Command and the SDF refused to comment on the report.

On May 29, an Iraqi court sentenced a French and Tunisian national to death, raising the total number of French nationals to seven after on May 28, an Iraqi court ordered death penalties for two French nationals who fought for ISIS. More French citizens are set to be sentenced this week and 12 more face trial. The French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, re-asserted France’s rejection of the death penalty and urged for the men’s lives to be spared. Human right groups have criticized Iraq’s justice system and questioned the fairness of these trials.


Poverty Rates Rises is Diwaniya; Children with ISIS Links Repatriated to Turkey; Overcrowding and Abuse at Dhi Qar Prisons

On May 16, the World Bank published a report titled The Reconstruction of Iraq after 2003. According to the report, reconstruction in Iraq provides “few successes and many failures from which the international community can learn.” The document examines these successes and failures through several lenses: the context, the international response, and the impact on areas like employment, infrastructure, governance, institutional reform, and private sector development. Through this examination, the report presents categories of lessons to be learned and applied to future reconstruction efforts. Firstly, it suggests that national institutions are important and should not be supplanted by international actors. Secondly, the report asserts that the insecurity and instability of conflict-prone environments has a major impact on the effectiveness of reconstruction efforts and the involvement of international actors. Furthermore, it argues that donor funding must be smart funding, delivered with careful consideration of its potential impact and uses. In addition, it stresses the importance of accountability and monitoring, particularly when foreign funds are involved. The report goes on to advise that the methods for assessing needs in Iraq during and following conflict need to be improved, as do communication and coordination between donors and national institutions. The document makes several important recommendations for future reconstruction efforts in Iraq and other similar situations: reinforce national institutions, balance focus between short- and long-term gains, improve support for private sector development, and enhance coordination between security and development actors.

On May 27, a member of the Diwaniyah Governorate Council stated that the poverty rate in Diwaniyah had reached 60%, a historic record for the area. The councilmember, Basma Kazim, attributed the rise in poverty levels to the challenges experienced by the agricultural sector, on which Diwaniyah is highly dependent, and on the lack of local government support for small businesses.

On May 27, the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights in Dhi Qar reported on a disturbing level of overcrowding in two prisons in Nasiriyah. According to the office, the prison for serious crimes currently holds 10,000 inmates in a facility designed for 4,000, while the smaller prison for lighter sentences now holds almost 800 inmates in space meant for 250. The Office of the High Commission noted that the overcrowding has a negative effect on the psychological condition and physical health of the prisoners, adding that the commission had received multiple reports of inmate death as well as complaints about torture.

On May 29, the Iraqi government repatriated 188 Turkish children born to suspected ISIS members to Turkey. Some of the older children in the group had been tried and convicted for illegal immigration to Iraq. While Turkey accepted these children, Iraq still struggles to return children from other nations who have arrived in Iraq and are linked to ISIS. Earlier this year, Reuters estimated that over 1,000 children connected to ISIS are still entangled in legal proceedings or are imprisoned in Iraq. Some of these children are too young to leave their parents who have been imprisoned, while others over the age of nine are held liable for crimes under Iraq law.

On May 30, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) issued a report stating that the first 10 families are returning to the Assyrian town of Batnaya in Ninewa Province thanks to the efforts of the UNDP to rehabilitate the town. The town’s 6,000 families fled it during ISIS’ onslaught in 2014 and have not returned since. The UNDP said that it hopes to complete the restoration of 400 homes in Batnaya, allowing about 1,600 displaced persons to return. The UNDP also intends to carry out 19 other projects in the town, to include improvement of the water network, building and rebuilding schools and a health center, and reopening local shops.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs June 13, 2019 – June 20, 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
06/19/19Shahwan area, Mosul02
06/14/19al-Obeidi area, east of Baghdad00
06/13/19Shula area, north of Baghdad00
06/13/19al-Wathba Square, central Baghdad00

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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