ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: June 6 – June 13, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • New KRG President Sworn In, New KRG Prime Minister Elected; Abdul-Mahdi Denies Calls For Resignation; Pope Francis To Visit Iraq In 2020 – On June 10, Pope Francis announced his intent to visit Iraq in 2020, which would be the first papal visit to the country. On June 10, Nechirvan Barzani was sworn in as president of the KRG. PUK Leaders attended the ceremony but tensions continue over PUK demands for the Kirkuk governor post. On June 11, the KRG Parliament elected Masrour Barzani to be the region’s new prime minister. On June 11, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi rejected reports about calls for his resignation over his inability to complete his Cabinet. On June 11, a source leaked that Abdul-Mahdi intended to appoint Army Chief of Staff Othman al-Ghanmi as acting Minister of Defense, and Deputy Minister of Interior Mowaffaq al-Janabi as acting Minister of Interior. On June 12, President Barham Salih met with the visiting Omani Foreign Minister in Baghdad and welcomed Oman’s decision to reopen its embassy. On June 13, President Salih announced that UNESCO has accepted Iraq’s invitation to transfer the organization’s regional office to Baghdad. On June 12, the U.S. imposed financial sanctions on one Iraqi company and two Iraqi men due to alleged ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). more…
  • Militant Attacks Continue In Baghdad And Northern Provinces; Diyala Wants Security Reinforcements; 70% Of UXO Yet To Be Cleared; Turkish Operations Continue Targeting PKK – On June 6, ISIS gunmen attacked a village in southern Salahuddin province killing two locals and wounding two others. On June 6, an IED exploded northeast of Mosul, injuring four fire fighters. On June 8, three IED attacks struck in Kirkuk province, killing and wounding eight people. On June 8, an IED exploded in the Baghdadi district in Abar province and wounded a police officer. On June 8, Turkey’s Defense Ministry claimed that 43 PKK members of the PKK had been killed, wounded, or captured in operations since May 27. Turkish airstrikes also struck a fuel station and a village in Duhok province. On June 8, an IED detonated in northeastern Diyala province, wounding one citizen. On June 11, another IED exploded in Diyala, killing one farmer. The next day, another bomb exploded in Khanaqin, injuring one civilian. On June 9, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) announced that 70 percent of unexploded munitions remain uncleared in Iraq. On June 10, New Zealand’s Prime Minister said his country will withdraw all its forces fromIraq by June 2020. On June 11, Diyala MPs called on Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi to send military reinforcements to the province. On June 11, a grenade attack northeast of Baghdad killed one member of the security forces and injured four. On June 13, a suicide bomber attacked a liquor store in central Baghdad, wounding two civilians. more…
  • EU Ministers Discuss International Court In Iraq For European ISIS Fighters; Protesters Demand Better Electricity Provision; Refugees Trickle Back Into Iraq – On June 6, France’s Justice Minister revealed that European justice ministers were discussing establishing an international court in Iraq to oversee cases for European ISIS fighters. On June 7, 13 Yazidi refugees returned to Sinjar from the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria. Thousands of Yazidis remain in makeshift camps on Mount Sinjar, despite water and food shortages due to fear of returning to their villages. On June 8, 12 Iraqi refugees returned from the al-Rukban IDP camp in Syria. On June 9, the mayor of Sinjar announced that plans for the return and settlement of IDPs to northwest Iraq had been delivered to both the federal and local Ninewa governments. On June 10, protestors gathered in the town of al-Hamza in Diwaniyah province to protest frequent electricity shortages. On June 12, the Minister of Electricity said current output allows for 20 hours of power a day, but that the infrastructure is not developed enough to deliver the electricity. On June 12, the WHO gifted ten ambulances to Iraq. On June 12, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society distributed financial grants to the families of victims of the ferry sinking accident and to families impacted by recent flooding near Mosul. On June 12, the Iraqi Minister of Immigration met with German officials to discuss the return of Iraqi refugees living in Germany. more…
  • Fires Destroyed 12,800 Acres Last Month; Iraq Pays Down Energy Debt Owed To Iran; Integrity Commission Investigates Power Plant Deal For Signs Of Corruption – On June 9, the Iraqi Civil Defense directorate reported that 236 fires have destroyed over 12,800 acres of farmland during the past month, mostly in Kirkuk, Ninewa, Salahuddin, and Diyala. Despite the losses, more than 2.5 million tons of wheat had been harvested around the country as of June 7. On June 9, the Iranian Energy Ministry announced that Iraq has paid 50 percent of its total debt to Iran from importing Iranian electricity. In July 2018, Iran halted the sale of electricity to Iraq due to these unpaid bills, which led to violent protests in Basra. On June 12, the Iraqi Integrity Commission said it was looking into possible corruption and waste of public funds in a $22 million contract to supply generation turbines to a power station in Maysan province. On June 13, the first deputy governor of Najaf announced that Najaf will soon receive mobile power stations supplied by the federal government. 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 KRG President Sworn In, New KRG Prime Minister Elected; Abdul-Mahdi Denies Calls For Resignation; Pope Francis To Visit Iraq In 2020

On June 9, the new deputy governor of Ninewa stated that the province has asked the federal government to create a joint force of Peshmerga and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to provide  security for the province. The deputy governor, who is affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), argued that security conditions in Ninewa have worsened, presenting an obstacle to reconstruction projects. The plan submitted by Ninewa authorities proposed that local police would secure the center of the city while Peshmerga and ISF would coordinate to protect the perimeter. On June 9, a KDP official in Mosul announced that his party was in talks with the federal government to reclaim administrative positions in Ninewa province that the party held before ISIS invaded, including the directorate of education, health, police and intelligence.

On June 10, Pope Francis announced his intent to visit Iraq in 2020, which would be the first papal visit to the country. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin visited Iraq in December 2018, where he met with Christian communities and Iraqi federal and Kurdish leaders. On June 13, President Salih welcomed the news of the Pope’s planned visit during a meeting with Cardinal Sako, the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans.  

On June 10, Nechirvan Barzani was sworn in as president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Iraqi President Barham Salih, former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, leader of the Hikmah movement Ammar al-Hakim, attended the ceremony, along with  other political figures. In an apparent thaw in relations between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the PUK attended the swearing-in ceremony with a delegation that included PUK secretary general Kosrat Rasul Ali. PUK officials had previously announced they would only attend if the KDP was ready to abide by the deal the two parties reached in March. The PUK’s main demand concerns  the appointment of a governor for Kirkuk province. This apparent thaw was short-lived, though. On June 12, a PUK member asserted that the KDP had rejected all the PUK candidates presented as an option for Kirkuk governor. A member of the PUK leadership council, Ferid Assasard, stated that his party has sent a warning to the KDP threatening to not join the new government if the Kirkuk issue is not solved.

On June 10, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu met with KDP President Masoud Barzani in Erbil and discussed relations between Turkey and the Kurdistan Region. Çavuşoğlu expressed Turkey’s desire to participate in the reconstruction of war-damaged areas like Mosul and emphasized Turkey’s commitment to improving ties between Erbil and Ankara.

On June 11, the Kurdistan Region’s Parliament elected Masrour Barzani to be the region’s new prime minister. Masrour is the cousin of new KRG President Nechirvan Barzani and son of former KRG President Masoud Barzani, who stepped down from office in 2017. The new prime minister had been a member of the Peshmerga and a graduate of American University in Washington, DC. He also served as the chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council. He received 87 votes from the 97 MPs who attended the session. The representatives of the Kurdistan Islamic Union and Islamic Group abstained while representatives of the New Generation movement boycotted the session.  

On June 11, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi rejected reports about calls for his resignation over his inability to complete his Cabinet formation. Abdul-Mahdi pointed to rivalries between political groups as partially to blame for the inability to appoint ministers for defense, interior, and justice. On June 11, the Fatih Alliance announced that they had begun to collect signatures toward proposing an amendment of the Iraqi constitution that would transfer the election of the prime minister from the parliament to the people with a direct election. Although constitutional amendments are extremely difficult to pass in Iraq, the proposal is indicative of a desire in some political circles to replace Abdul-Mahdi and impatience with the consensus-based rules for government formation. In a potential attempt to break the deadlock, a source leaked the news on June 11 that Abdul-Mahdi intended to appoint current Army Chief of Staff Othman al-Ghanmi as acting Minister of Defense, and current Deputy Minister of the Interior Mowaffaq al-Janabi as acting Minister of Interior. A member of the Committee on Security and Defense, Faleh Issawi, said that the agenda for the remaining eight sessions of parliament for the second term did not include a vote on appointees to the vacant positions.

On June 12, President Barham Salih met with visiting Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi in Baghdad and welcomed Oman’s decision to reopen its embassy in Iraq, which has been closed since Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. In a press release, Salih also welcomed further cooperation between the two countries. The same day, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi spoke with bin Alawi regarding the opening of air traffic routes between Oman and Iraq and the granting of visas. Bin Alawi also met with the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Mohammed Ali al-Hakim, and discussed the signing of memoranda between the two countries in the spirit of advancing cooperation and easing tensions in the region, in a clear reference to growing tensions and threats between the U.S. and Iran. On June 13, Moqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Saeroun coalition, met with bin Alawi and praised Oman’s contribution to peace and security in the Middle East.

On June 13, President Barham Salih announced that the Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has accepted Iraq’s invitation to  transfer the organization’s regional office to Baghdad. There is no timeline for the transfer of the office, which is currently located in Amman.

On June 12, the United States imposed financial sanctions on one Iraqi company and two Iraqi men due to alleged ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the U.S. designated as a terrorist organization in April. The men, Makki Kazim ‘Abd Al Hamid al-Asadi and Muhammed Hussein Salih al-Hasani, allegedly received “commission payments” for contracts involving the deputy chairman of the Popular Mobilization Units Committee, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and the Baghdad-based South Wealth Resources Company (SWRC). The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) claimed that the SWRC and the two individuals have “trafficked hundreds of millions of dollar’s worth of weapons to IRGC-QF [Quds Force]-backed Iraqi militias,” a unit of the IRGC responsible for extraterritorial operations.

On June 13, parliament voted to appoint a new secretary of the cabinet and a new director for the Prime Minister’s office, electing Hamid al-Ghazi and Mohammed Abdul Rida, respectively. A parliamentary source said the appointments underline the legislature’s determination to fill all key positions currently managed by acting administrators with permanent appointments.


Militant Attacks Continue In Baghdad And Northern Provinces; Diyala Wants Security Reinforcements; 70% Of UXO Yet To Be Cleared; Turkish Operations Continue Targeting PKK

On June 6, ISIS gunmen attacked a village in al-Niba’i district in southern Salahuddin province. Two local men were killed in the attack and two others were injured.

On June 6, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded in the village of Sinuni, northeast of Mosul. The bomb detonated as fire brigades were fighting a fire in wheat field, injuring four members of the brigade. Approximately 24 acres of crops were destroyed in the fire.

On June 8, an IED exploded in the Baghdadi district in Abar province. The explosion appeared to target the home of a police officer who was wounded in the attack.

On June 8, Turkey’s Defense Ministry claimed that 43 members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had been killed, wounded, or captured since “Operation Claw” began on May 27. It added that 53 explosive devices and 74 hideouts used by PKK members were damaged over a period of 13 days. The airstrikes have reportedly affected civilian targets as well. On June 12, Turkish aircrafts bombed an area between the Amedi and Deraluk districts in the Duhok province. One bomb allegedly struck a fuel station 100 meters from the local office of the KDP, and a second bomb hit the Christian village of Dere in the Amedi district.

On June 8, an IED detonated on the outskirts of Khanaqin in northeastern Diyala province, wounding one citizen. On June 11, a roadside bomb exploded in the same province near the village of al-Mkhaysa, killing one farmer. The next day, another bomb exploded in Khanaqin, seriously injuring one civilian. On June 12, a plastic container filled with explosives, operated by a remote control, detonated in the al-Goba district in Diyala province without causing injuries.

On June 8, the Diyala Police Command said a suicide bomber was killed and three alleged terrorists were arrested in the al-Hamed area, east of Baquba. The suicide bomber was reportedly wearing an explosive belt, intending to detonate it in the city of Baquba.

On June 8, three IED attacks struck in Kirkuk province, killing and wounding eight people. The first bomb exploded next to a road near the village of al-Gharab in al-Dibis district, killing one member of the federal police and one civilian and injuring one more. Another bomb targeted the federal police in the village of Saadouniyah, killing one officer and injuring two. A third bomb exploded in the village of al-Asriya, killing one citizen and injuring one federal police officer.

On June 9, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) announced that 70 percent of mines and other unexploded munitions remain uncleared in Iraq. The statement from UNMAS notes the presence of these explosive devices as one of the main inhibitors for the safe return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) back to their homes.

On June 10, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced that the country will withdraw all its forces in Iraq by June 2020. Troops from New Zealand and Australia have trained Iraqi soldiers in Iraq’s Camp Taji, north of Baghdad, since 2015 and so far the combined forces have trained around 44,000 Iraqi forces to fight against ISIS.

On June 10, the head of the Iraqi Interpol, Major General Sadiq Faraj Abdul Rahman, announced that 653 “red notices” have been issued against Iraqis wanted by Baghdad. The officer added that his organizations awaits the completion of the legal extradition mechanisms required to prosecute fugitives. Abdul Rahman said Iraqi authorities are working with their Syrian counterparts to prepare for the extradition of wanted former Baghdad Mayor Na’eem Aboub.

On June 11, members of parliament from Diyala called on Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi to send counterterrorism forces and military reinforcements to the province. Representative Ahmed al-Jubouri stressed the need to “confine arms to the state.” The statement followed the June 2 killing of three locals by militias, which caused 50 families to flee the area.

On June 11, a militant lobbed a grenade at security forces in the al-Ma’amil area, northeast of Baghdad. The bomb killed one member of the security forces and injured four others. The next day, another grenade exploded near a house in the al-Madain district, southeast of Baghdad without causing injuries. On June 13, a suicide bomber attacked a liquor store in central Baghdad, wounding two civilians.


EU Ministers Discuss International Court In Iraq For European ISIS Fighters; Protestors Demand Better Electricity Provision; Refugees Trickle Back Into Iraq

On June 6, France’s Justice Minister, Nicole Belloubet revealed that European justice ministers were discussing the idea of establishing an international court in Iraq. This proposed court would oversee cases for European citizens who fought for ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Belloubet stressed that the concept would require Iraqi participation. On June 7, European leaders met to discuss the possibility of forming such a court. The Swedish and German governments expressed support for the proposal, so long as the court is held to international standards. Germany, like many other European countries, has been unwilling to take back their foreign nationals, fearing that they would struggle to convict the suspected fighters and keep them incarcerated for long durations.

On June 7, 13 Yazidi refugees returned to Sinjar from the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria. They had been kidnapped by ISIS and forced to fight for the organisation in Syria before being rescued by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). A Yezidi organization estimates that about 300 refugees still remain in al-Hol believing that ISIS has completely eliminated their communities. On June 9th, Rudaw reported that thousands of Yazidis remain on Mount Sinjar, despite water and food shortages, because that are afraid to return to their villages.

On June 8, 12 Iraqi refugees landed in Baghdad International Airport from the al-Rukban IDP camp in Syria. Ahmed Rahim Hassan, the director of the External Migration Department in the Ministry of Displacement and Migration, announced that the repatriation was coordinated with the Syrian government. The families are to be resettled back to the town of Husaybah in Anbar province.

On June 9, the mayor of Sinjar, Mahma Khalil, announced that plans for the return and settlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to northwest Iraq had been delivered to both the federal and local Ninewa governments. Khalil argued that the completion of resettlement programs for Yezidis, who the mayor said make up 30 percent of all IDPs, would help secure peace and stability in their regions. Khalil also iterated the importance of providing financial aid to these returning families to facilitate their return and enable them to support security forces.

On June 9, The National reported that Iraq has offered to remove the death sentence for 11 French citizens in exchange for € 2 million. An Iraqi security official told The National that French and Iraqi officials have been in negotiations and that in addition to the monetary payoff, Iraq is asking for French military equipment. Both the French President’s office and the Iraqi Embassy in Paris denied this report. On June 11, a spokesman for Iraq’s Judiciary, Judge Abdul Sattar al-Birqdar, also refuted any such deal, saying any such change in these sentences will come from the Iraqi courts and not “on dealings between governments”.

On June 10, protestors gathered in the town of al-Hamza in Diwaniyah province to protest frequent electricity shortages and called upon the government to address the issue. On June 12, the Minister of Electricity, Luay al-Khatib, announced that the problem is due more to poor distribution networks than actual power generation deficits. The minister added that current electrical output allows for a minimum of 20 hours a day across most of the country, but that the infrastructure is not developed enough to deliver the electricity. Al-Khatib stated that total system repair and overhaul would cost about $20 billion.

On June 12, the Iraqi Minister of Immigration, Nofal Baha Moussa, met with the undersecretary of the German Economic Cooperation and Development Ministry to discuss the return of Iraqi refugees living in Germany. The Iraqi minister said Iraq seeks to encourage the voluntary return of refugees and stressed that Iraq will need international assistance in rebuilding the country and creating favorable conditions for returnees.

On June 12, the World Health Organisation (WHO) gifted ten ambulances to Iraq for use in the provinces of Salahuddin, Duhok, Erbil and Ninewa. Iraq had lost many of its ambulances during years of war with ISIS, causing a serious disruption to medical services. The WHO has so far donated 151 ambulances with 20 more expected in the coming months.

On June 12, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) distributed financial grants to the families in Mosul that have been affected by recent disasters. Cash grants were distributed to 40 families of victims of the ferry sinking accident and to 60 families impacted by recent flooding near the city. The IRCS had participated in search and rescue efforts following the ferry incident and also distributed food aid to families affected by the floods.


Fires Destroyed 12,800 Acres Last Month; Iraq Pays Down Energy Debt Owed To Iran; Integrity Commission Investigates Power Plant Deal For Signs Of Corruption

On June 6, the Saudi paper Arab News reported that Iranian and U.S. officials possibly reached an agreement regarding U.S. sanctions on Iran, allowing Iran to continue selling small amounts of oil in exchange for certain goods. The alleged agreement has been confirmed by several Iraqi officials, but U.S. government sources denied it exists. If implemented, exchanges of Iranian oil and imported goods would take place on Iraqi soil, allowing the U.S. to monitor the exchanges and prevent Iran from receiving any funds.

On June 9, the Iraqi Civil Defense directorate reported that 236 fires have destroyed 5,183 hectares (over 12,800 acres) of farmland during the past month. The fires were concentrated in the provinces of Kirkuk, Ninewa, Salahuddin, and Diyala, all of which continue to see higher levels of violence than the rest of Iraq. Despite the damages incurred by many farmers in these areas, the overall harvest is better than last year’s. On June 8, the Iraqi Minister of commerce, Mohammad Hashim Al-Ani, announced that around 2.5 million tons of wheat had been harvested around the country as of June 7. On June 9, the Civil Defense directorate revealed the causes of the fires, citing 74 cases of faulty electrical connections, 35 deliberate acts, 25 fires by sparks from crop harvesters, 22 cases from cigarette butts, 32 cases involving external fire sources, and 84 cases in which the causes are yet to be determined.

On June 9, the Iranian Energy Ministry announced that Iraq has paid 50 percent of its total debt to Iran from importing Iranian electricity, explaining that Iran receives the fees from Iraq in dinars and euros. In July 2018, Iran halted the trade of electricity to Iraq due to these unpaid bills, which led to violent protests in Basra. Due to U.S. sanctions on Iran, it is unclear if Iranian electricity supplies will continue for much longer. The U.S. issued a waiver in March allows Iraq to important natural gas and electricity through June 18. Gas imports from Iraq were expected to increase from 28 million cubic meters to 35 million cubic meters in June, but it is unclear if the U.S. will issue another waiver after the June 18 deadline. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly assured Iraqi officials that Washington will renew the waivers, but this has not happened yet. Iranian imports provide about 40 percent of Iraq’s power supply and a disruption would further worsen Iraq’s chronic power shortages.

On June 12, the Iraqi Integrity Commission said it was looking into possible corruption and waste of public funds in a contract to supply generation turbines to a power station. The contract under investigation concerns a power plant In the town of al-Khala in Maysan province, and is valued at $22 million. The Commission noted that the cost of the turbines appears excessive and that that Maysan officials awarded the contract without competition. A judge overseeing the case has contacted the Ministry of Electricity to initiate an administrative investigation.

On June 13, the first deputy governor of Najaf, Hashim al-Gar’awi, announced that Najaf will soon receive mobile power stations supplied by the federal government. The announcement comes after his meeting with the Prime Minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, to discuss debottlenecking the province’s electric grid and plans to transform the Sea of Najaf into a tourist site.


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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