ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: May 30 – June 6, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • KDP and PUK Exchange Recriminations; Ammar al-Hakim Threats to Oppose the Government; Iraq Continues Mediating Between Iran and Gulf States – On June 2, Iraqi President Barham Salih met with the German, French and UK ambassadors in Baghdad. On June 2, the KDP published the full text of the deal it signed with the PUK in March regarding government formation, in an implicit jab at the PUK for boycotting the May 28 vote to elect Nechirvan Barzani as KRG President. On June 2, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi claimed in a speech that the Kurdistan Region had not turned over to Baghdad any of the 250,000 barrels of oil per day required by the 2019 budget law. On June 2, President Salih conveyed a proposal from Iran to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates regarding a non-aggression treaty between the countries. On June 3, The National reported that Iraq had opposed the concluding statement of the Mecca Summit, authored by Saudi Arabia, which condemned Iran’s activities in the region. On June 5, the head of the Hikmah Movement, Ammar al-Hakim, criticized the incomplete cabinet formation and threatened to withdraw support from the government. more…
  • String of Bombings in Kirkuk Reignites Political Contestation; Militant Attacks Continue Throughout Iraq Despite Counter-Terrorism Operations; Intense Turkish Campaign against the PKK in Northern Iraq and Militant Attack in Diyala Displaces Dozens of Families – On May 30, a series of six explosions struck Kirkuk city, killing three people and injuring 37. Local Arab and Turkmen representatives called on the prime minister to dismiss Kurdish officers in the province. The KDP, for its part, urged for the return of Peshmerga forces to Kirkuk. On May 30, Turkish warplanes and attack helicopters struck targets in the northern Iraqi region of Hawkurk. According a Kurdish official, at least 120 villages in the Kurdistan Region’s district of Sidakan have been evacuated due to Turkish airstrikes on the area. On May 30, two members of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) were shot by armed attackers north of Babylon. On June 2, three people were shot in an armed attack in the village in Diyala. The gunmen were members of an unidentified militia, raising alarms about potential sectarian motivations and prompting the exodus of more than 50 families. On June 3, gunmen attacked the offices of the Islamic Dawa Party and the Communist Party in Basra. On June 4, ISIS militants carried out a complex two-stage attack south of Salahuddin Province, near Baghdad, killing four members of the Iraqi security forces and injuring 17 others. more…
  • Iraqi Courts Will Begin Offering Documentation to Children Born under ISIS Control; Yazidi Refugees Return from Syria as New Mass Graves Investigated in Sinjar; New HRW Brief Documents Torture of French Prisoners Accused of ISIS Ties – The Iraqi Army launched an investigation into a footage of Iraqi soldiers sexually assaulting a mother and her child in Mosul. On May 31, Human Rights Watch published a brief detailing torture employed against French suspected ISIS militants detained in Iraq. On June 1, an Iraqi member of parliament confirmed that courts are being established to issue birth certificates and identification cards to Iraqi children who were born in ISIS controlled areas. On June 3, the Iraqi government revealed new statics for Yazidi displacement and casualties since August 2014. According to the data, 6,417 Yazidis were captured and enslaved by ISIS, only 3,476 of whom survived. On June 6, teams exhuming Yazidi mass graves sent 138 bodies from Kocho to be identified through DNA testing. On June 6, UNICEF reported that 2,000 schools have been re-opened across Mosul and northern Iraq since 2017, allowing half a million children to resume their education. 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.


KDP and PUK Exchange Recriminations; Ammar al-Hakim Threats to Oppose the Government; Iraq Continues Mediating Between Iran and Gulf States

On June 2, Iraqi President Barham Salih met with the German, French and UK ambassadors in Baghdad. The dignitaries discussed the current situation in the Gulf region and Salih reportedly thanked the European Union for the aid it has provided, particularly in helping return displaced Iraqis to their homes.

On June 2, ExxonMobil began to return 83 employees to Iraq in the West Qurna-1 oilfield in Basra after removing them to Dubai two weeks ago due to apparent growing risk of attack on the company’s installations by Iranian-backed militias. The employees’ evacuation in May upset members of the Oil Ministry and executives at the South Oil Company, with which ExxonMobil has a contract to help improve production at the oil fields. Iraq’s Oil Minister Thamer Gadhban wrote to ExxonMobil after the evacuation, demanding that the employees return to work. ExxonMobil’s decision to return reportedly followed reassurances from the Iraqi Oil Ministry and Basra Oil Company that security in ExxonMobil facilities would be increased.

On June 2, the KDP published the full text of the deal it signed with the PUK in March regarding joint support for the formation of the next KRG cabinet, the normalization of relations between the two parties, and addressing the disputes between the KRG and the central Iraqi government.  The deal stipulated that the two parties would work toward consensus in the KRI parliament. The release of the agreement is an implicit jab at the PUK for boycotting the May 28 vote to elect Nechirvan Barzani as President of the Kurdistan Region. The PUK  justified the boycotted by accusing the KDP of reneging on parts of the deal regarding the appointment of a new governor in Kirkuk province. The KDP decided to publish the full text of the deal to undercut the accusations of the PUK, arguing that the appointment of a new governor for Kirkuk is to coincide with the completion of cabinet formation, not the election of the president. One June 6, he PUK threw the ball back into the KDP court by proposing to attend Barzani’s swearing in ceremony, scheduled for June 10,  if the KDP would uphold its end of the deal and support the PUK’s claim to the top executive posting in Kirkuk.

On June 2, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi claimed in a speech that the Kurdistan Region had not turned over to Baghdad any of the 250,000 barrels per day of oil required by the 2019 budget law, which was ratified by the Iraqi Council of Representatives (CoR) following lengthy negotiations between Abdul-Mahdi and the KRG. Abdul-Mahdi referred to political tensions between the two administrations, saying that their differences should not influence “public peace.”

On June 2, President Salih conveyed a proposal from Iran to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates regarding a non-aggression treaty between the countries. Iraq delivered the message on behalf of Iran because Iran lacks diplomatic relations with the other three countries. Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, called for such a treaty during his May 26 visit to Baghdad.

On June 3, The National reported that Iraq had opposed the concluding statement of the Mecca Summit, authored by Saudi Arabia, which condemned Iran’s activities in the region. The National quoted analysts who asserted that Iraq relies too heavily on Iran to side with Saudi Arabia and other countries eager to blame Iran for its influence in the region. The paper reported that Iraq continues to offer to be a mediator in the conflict between the US and Iran. Qatar, too, expressed reservations about the statement.

On June 5, the head of the Hikmah Movement, Ammar al-Hakim, criticized the government’s delay in completing the  cabinet formation, stating that “other ministries require a cabinet reshuffle, while important and sensitive positions are still being administered by acting officials.” Citing shortcomings in the speed of improvement of provision of electric services, al-Hakim further warned that “the option of national political opposition is still in place.” On the same day, al-Hakim also expressed doubts about the usefulness of the new Supreme Anti-Corruption Council, saying that the council’s practical use was unclear although fighting corruption was important. Calling corruption “the root of all sin in our work and on the political scene,” al-Hakim argued that the eradication of terrorism requires tackling corruption.

On June 6, the Washington Post reported that Sheikh Nahro al-Kasnazan, an Iraqi Kurdish Sufi, and a minor political player in Iraq who is currently living in Jordan, spent 26 nights at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. last year. The report characterized Kasnazan as hawkish against Iran and allegedly lobbying US National Security Adviser John Bolton and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to carry out regime change in Iran. The report also mentions allegations of corruption levied against Kasnazan and his brother, who were both informants of the CIA prior to the Iraq invasion in 2003. The article suggested that Kasnazan’s stay at the Trump Hotel may have been an attempt to gain favor with the US President or advisers close to him.


String of Bombings in Kirkuk Reignites Political Contestation; Militant Attacks Continue Throughout Iraq Despite Counter-Terrorism Operations; Intense Turkish Campaign against the PKK in Northern Iraq and Militant Attack in Diyala Displaces Dozens of Families

On May 30, The Security Media Cell announced that security forces freed a Yazidi women held captive by ISIS in Anbar Province. Security forces killed seven ISIS fighters during the operation.

On May 30, a series of explosions struck the Kirkuk city center, killing three people and injuring 37. Six improvised explosive devices (IED) exploded in the city and two more were defused by Iraqi security forces. The bombings occurred as people were out in the streets, preparing for the holiday of Eid al-Fitr. No group has claimed responsibility for the bombings, but the attacks are similar to those previously carried out by ISIS militants in the region. On June 1, representatives of the Arab and Turkmen communities in Kirkuk called on Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi to dismiss Kurdish officers in the province who had participated in the referendum for the independence of the Kurdistan Region in September 2017. The representatives also complained about the negligence of the police chief, called for his dismissal, and requested even representation of Arabs, Turkmen, and Kurds in the local police forces. They asserted that the police chief had received intelligence concerning attacks that occurred in Kirkuk city on May 30 and failed to take sufficient precautions to prevent them. On June 2, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) advocated for partnership and cooperation between the factions in Kirkuk province and indicated support for equal participation of all communities in the governance of the province. On June 3, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) member Sobhi al-Mandalawi urged for the return of Peshmerga forces to Kirkuk, arguing that the attacks are “an expected result following the events of October 16, 2017 and the removal of Peshmerga forces” from the city.

On May 30, Turkish warplanes and attack helicopters struck targets in the northern Iraqi region of Hawkurk as part of what Turkish armed forces refer to as “Operation Claw.” The strikes killed four PKK militants, according to the Turkish Defense Ministry. On June 4, the Turkish Defense Ministry reported that at least six more PKK militants were killed in further strikes. The ministry claimed that the total number of militants killed by Turkey has risen to 34. On June 5, a Kurdish official announced that at least 120 villages in the Kurdistan Region’s district of Sidakan have been evacuated due to Turkish airstrikes on the area targeting the PKK. The Director of Sidakan, Ihsan Chalabi, estimated that more than 20 additional villages may soon be evacuated for the same reason. Strikes on Mira Rash, a town in the district, wounded three members of the Peshmerga forces on May 29.

On May 30, two members of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) were shot by armed attackers north of Babylon. The shooting took place in the region of Jurf al-Sakhr, north of Hilla. The gunmen fled to an unknown location.

On June 1, fields belonging to Kurdish farmers were set on fire again in the village of Alawa Mahmoud in Kirkuk. More than 15 dunams (3.7 acres) of fields belonging to Kurdish owners were also burned earlier in the day in Shakh Saiwan in the Tuz Khurmatu district. Authorities in Kirkuk blame ISIS militants for the fires. On June 4, agricultural fields were set on fire in a village in Sinjar. The acting Mayor of Sinjar, Saad Hamid, reported that the fire near Warde village destroyed an estimated 1,200 dunams (296.5 acres) of farmland. This is the fourth case of field burning to occur in Sinjar.

On June 2, a court in Baghdad sentenced two French men to death for joining ISIS. The sentences are subject to appeal, but the lengthy process could take years to overturn. This brought the total of French men sentenced to death in Iraq to nine. The same day, Shafaaq reported that one of the French Nationals had been released by the Court of Inquiry Karkh for lack of evidence. On June 3, the remaining two French nationals transferred to Iraq from Syria were sentenced to death for belonging to ISIS. The total number of French nationals is reported to be between 11 and 14, although the official number is disputed. The men have 30 days to appeal the sentences.

On June 2, three people were shot in an armed attack in the village of Abu Khanizir, part of Abu Saida district, northeast of Baquba, the provincial capital of Diyala. The gunmen were members of an unidentified militia, raising alarms about potential sectarian motivations. The shooting led to the arrest of members of security forces who were manning two checkpoints around the area when the gunmen entered the village. The next day, the governor of Diyala, Muthanna al-Tamimi, opened an investigation into the incident. The shooting prompted the displacement of more than 50 families that fled the village in search of safety in other areas.

On June 3, gunmen attacked the Islamic Dawa Party headquarters in Basra,one day after an attack on the Iraqi Communist Party office in the city. Five grandes were lobbed at the office, but two failed to explode. There were no human casualties, but the attack caused notable material damages. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

On June 4, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi’s personal secretary announced that the opening of the Green Zone had been finalized. The Green Zone area in central Baghdad houses embassies and national government offices and has been all but off-limits to the public since 2003. As of Eid al-Fitr, however, the area will be open 24 hours a day. According to the secretary, ten streets have been opened and around 12,000 blocks of concrete have been removed from those streets.

On June 4, ISIS militants carried out a complex two-stage attack south of Salahuddin Province, near Baghdad, killing four members of the Iraqi security forces and injuring 17 others. The militants first detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting a military vehicle, and subsequently used sniper fire against security forces who deployed to the scene of the first attack. In response, the security forces returned fire and killed three of the assailants.

On June 5, a landmine west of Haditha exploded, killing two farmers and injuring another. The farmers were harvesting wheat crops when the mine detonated.

On June 5, Iraqi Military Intelligence claimed that airstrikes carried out by the International Coalition killed seven ISIS suicide bombers hiding in a cave in Anbar province. The Directorate of Military Intelligence also stated that belts and abandoned weapons were seized from the cave in which the bombers were hiding.


Iraqi Courts Will Begin Offering Documentation to Children Born under ISIS Control; Yazidi Refugees Return from Syria as New Mass Graves Investigated in Sinjar; New HRW Brief Documents Torture of French Prisoners Accused of ISIS Ties

On May 31, a video posted to social media showed Iraqi soldiers sexually assaulting a mother and her child in Mosul, Ninewa Province, sparking outrage across Iraqi social media. In response, the chief of staff of the Iraqi Army, Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanmi, ordered the arrest of the soldiers and an immediate investigation of the incident.

On May 31, Human Rights Watch published a brief detailing torture employed against French suspected ISIS militants detained in Iraq. About a dozen French men have been sentenced to death to date. Two of the prisoners claimed that they were beaten and forced to sign confessions. In one instance, a judge asked one of the prisoners to lift his shirt in court, revealing scars and other signs of abuse, but the trial proceeded. Human Rights Watch reports that torture, including beatings and waterboarding are all common practices in Iraqi detention centers. France’s foreign minister, however, expressed confidence on May 29 that the recent trials in Iraqi courts were “fair”.

On June 1, Wehda al-Jumaili, a member of the Human Rights Committee in the Iraqi Council of Representatives, confirmed that courts are being established to issue birth certificates and identification cards to Iraqi children who were born in ISIS controlled areas. Jumaili revealed that certificates will be issued based on witness statements and other evidence, stating that, “the process will be easier for children whose parents are still alive”. Current Iraqi law requires that children have proper identification in order to receive welfare, schooling, citizenship, and other benefits. Many children and families born in formerly ISIS-controlled areas were given documentation that is not recognized by the Iraqi government.

On June 2, a judge within the Iraqi Central Criminal Court reported that the judiciary is handling the cases of about 1,000 children of suspected foreign ISIS fighters. So far 252 children have been repatriated to their home countries, a majority of whom hail from Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Germany. Some countries are asking for the swift return of these children, while others are seeking their mothers’ consent before repatriating them. Many of these women are either sentenced to death or serving life in prison for their connections to ISIS. However, according to the judge, not every country is seeking the return of their nationals, preferring for them to stay in Iraq instead.

On June 3, the Iraqi Office for Yazidi Abductee Affairs revealed new statics for Yazidi displacement and casualties since August 2014 to June 2019. According to the report the total number of Yazidis in Iraq prior to the 2014 genocide was around 550,000; 360,000 of them were displaced following the invasion of ISIS. As a result of ISIS atrocities, 6,417 Yazidis were captured and enslaved, only 3,476 of whom survived. Thus far, 80 mass graves have been discovered in Sinjar district. Approximately 2,745 children have been orphaned. In the first days of the invasion, 1,293 Yazidis were killed while 68 religious shrines were destroyed.

On June 4, the Security Media Cell revealed that 13 Yazidi families, around 70 individuals, have been returned from the Nowruz refugee camp in Syria back to Sinjar district. They fled across the border into Syria in 2014 when ISIS entered the area.

On June 6, teams exhuming Yazidi mass graves sent 138 bodies from Kocho in Sinjar District to Baghdad. There they will undergo DNA testing and be handed over to their families for burial. The bodies had been exhumed from ten mass graves around the town of Kocho, the site of major massacres ISIS perpetrated against the Yazidi community during the 2014 genocide. The Iraqi and Kurdish teams working to recover the bodies reported that there are still six more graves around Kocho that need to be exhumed.

On June 6, UNICEF reported that 2,000 schools have been re-opened across Mosul and northern Iraq since 2017, allowing half a million children to resume their education. Many schools were shut down when ISIS controlled the region. However, UNICEF warns that around 2.6 million Iraqi children are still denied the right to education. Existing schools also face a multitude of issues, including lack of counselors to help students who suffer from post-traumatic stress, poor quality of education, an insufficient number of teachers, as well as an insufficient number of school buildings. In an attempt to address these challenges, UNICEF is supporting local authorities in Mosul in their efforts to rebuild damaged school buildings and train teachers.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs May 30, 2019 - June 6, 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
06/05/19Baquba, Diyala region00
06/05/19Dibis, northwest of Kirkuk23
06/05/19al-Jinazi, northeast of Baquba01
06/05/19Sinjar, south of Nineveh02
06/05/19al-Madham, west of Haditha21
06/04/19Nahrawan, southeast of Baghdad00
06/03/19Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad00
06/03/19Kokli, Mosul00
05/30/19Kirkuk337

 

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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