ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM 211: JUNE 27 – JULY 4, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • Abdul-Mahdi Issues New Regulations To Control Militias; U.S. Accuses Iraqi Factions of Attacking Saudi Pipelines; UNSC Delegation Visits Iraq – On June 28, U.S. officials claimed that attacks on Saudi pipelines in May were undertaken by certain Iraqi groups backed by Iran. Iraqi officials dismissed the accusations and demanded evidence. On June 29, The UN Security Council visited Baghdad for the first time since Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The council representatives discussed humanitarian efforts and implementation of the 2018-2022 National Government program. On July 1, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi issued a decree for all Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) paramilitaries to integrate into the Iraqi Security Forces by July 31. The paramilitaries must choose between integrating into the military or pursuing political activities. Most political leaders publicly supported the decree. On July 3, NRT reported that the KDP and the PUK have reached an initial agreement on a candidate to be the next governor of Kirkuk province. On June 28, Karbala’s provincial council elected Nassif Jassem al-Khattabi as the provinces’ new governor. more…
  • Protesters Arrested As They Demand Services in Basra and Dhi-Qar, Others Storm Bahrain’s Embassy; Multiple Militant Attacks Strike Kirkuk, Diyala And Baghdad; Group Threatens To Target Turkish Forces In KRI – On June 27, protesters broke into the Bahraini embassy to condemn a U.S. workshop in Bahrain to promote Arab-Israeli peace. On June 27, four grenades exploded in eastern Baghdad, injuring three people. On June 27, an IED exploded in Kirkuk, injuring eight civilians. A second explosion in Kirkuk wounded at least six more. On June 27, one “sticky bomb” detonated on a bus in central Kirkuk, killing one person and wounding 18 others. On June 27, Turkish warplanes bombed the Qandil Mountains, killing four civilians and wounded four others. Baghdad condemned the strikes as “unilateral acts of war”. On June 28, five mortar shells fell on a village west of Kirkuk, killing two and injuring one. On June 29, two explosive devices targeted power lines and security forces west of Kirkuk, wounding one officer. On June 29, three members of the PMF were injured by clashes in Khanaqin district. On June 30, an IED exploded north of Baghdad, wounding two civilians. On June 30, Basrawi protesters clashed with Iraqi riot police during a demonstration against the lack of public services. On June 30, protesters set the municipal administration building in Dhi-Qar province on fire. On July 1, a roadside bomb exploded in Diyala province, injuring two soldiers. On July 2, Peshmerga reinforcements were sent to Duhok after a group threatened Turkish troops in the KRI. On July 3, a grenade detonated inside a marketplace in northeastern Diyala, killing one person. more…
  • Committee Says Torture Widely Practiced In Iraqi Prisons; Coalition Says Airstrikes Killed 1,319 Civilians; Government Wants Anbar IDP Camps Closed Next Year – On June 27, the Iraqi Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights said that torture was and is currently used by various government institutions, including the Ministries of Justice, Defense, and Interior, alongside counter-terrorism and intelligence organizations. On June 27, Rudaw reported an outbreak of hepatitis among Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Ashti camp outside of Sulaymaniyah amid lack of proper medical care at the camp. On June 28, the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS said its airstrikes have inadvertently killed 1,319 civilians from August 2014 to May 2019. On June 30, the Iraqi Directorate of Civil Defense said that 329 fires had destroyed 54,000 acres between May 8 and June 29. On July 2, the Iraqi Minister of Immigration, Nawaf Baha Mousa, said he expects that Anbar would be the first province without IDP camps by next year.
    more…
  • Iraq And Russia Discuss Investment In Oil Sector; Iraq Finds “Loophole” To Continue Importing Energy From Iran; Central Bank Sets Up Deposit Insurance Co. – On June 29, the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity announced the completion of the Baiji power transoformer station. On June 29, the KRG’s Minister of Electricity said supply was sufficient tp provide 14 to 20 hours of electricity/day. On July 1, the Iraqi and Russian Eoil ministers met to discuss expanding Russia’s role in Iraqi’s oil industry. On July 1, Iraq reached separate agreements with South Korea and the Netherlands to prevent double taxation and encourage more foreign businesses to invest in Iraq. On July 1, OPEC extended oil supply cuts until March 2020. On July 2, Agence France-Presse reported that Iraq has found a “loophole” in U.S. sanctions to continue buying Iranian power and repay around $2 billion of arrears for previous energy purchases. On July 3, the Central Bank of Iraq announced the establishment of the Iraqi Deposit Insurance Company, which will allow companies to secure deposits. On July 3, the Iranian Rail Company announced that it was pursuing a project to link Iranian ports on the Gulf with Syrian ports on the Mediterranean with rail lines that would cross through Iraq. 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.


Abdul-Mahdi Issues New Regulations To Control Militias; U.S. Accuses Iraqi Factions of Attacking Saudi Pipelines; UNSC Delegation Visits Iraq

On June 28, Karbala’s provincial council elected Nassif Jassem al-Khattabi as the provinces’ new governor. Al-Khattabi replaces Aqil al-Turaihi, whose dismissal was ratified by the administrative court the day before on corruption charges.

On June 28, U.S. officials concluded that attacks on Saudi pipelines in May were undertaken by certain Iraqi groups, according to The Wall Street Journal. The U.S. officials asserted that the findings suggested that Iran-backed militia groups in southern Iraq were responsible. On July 1, Iraqi officials demanded evidence, claiming that Iraqi intelligence could not verify the accusations. Iraq officials further insisted that hostile actions against neighbors originating from Iraqi soil were neither condoned nor tolerated. On July 2, following Iraq’s demands for proof, Saudi Arabia deployed air surveillance and monitoring systems on the Iraq border. In a phone call with Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi, Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz stressed the need for Iraq to maintain control over the various armed groups that operate on its soil.

On June 29, The UN Security Council visited Baghdad for the first time since Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The delegation came to discuss regional and local issues with officials in the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). In a press release, the UNSC commended the government of Iraq’s continued efforts to promote good relations between Iraq and neighboring countries, and encouraged the continued cooperation and dialogue between Baghdad and Erbil. According to the statement, the council representatives discussed humanitarian efforts (including UNITAD, the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL) and implementation of the 2018-2022 National Government program.

On July 1, a delegation from South Korea visited Baghdad, headed by the Korean President’s Special Advisor on Iraq, Han Byung-do. Iraq’s President Barham Saleh met with the Special Advisor and discussed the two countries’ past and future relations, especially in the areas of reconstruction and economy. On July 2, the Korean delegation visited Erbil to hold similar meetings with authorities in the KRI.

On July 1, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi issued a decree for all Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) paramilitaries to integrate into the Iraqi Security Forces by July 31. The predominantly Shia groups must “work as an inseparable part of the armed forces.” Under this decree, the paramilitaries must choose between integrating into the military or pursuing political activities. The groups who choose the military must “sever ties to political groups,” and the groups who choose politics must stop carrying weapons. Checkpoints guarded by paramilitary forces must also be shut down. The militias were supposed to be integrated into the armed forces in 2016 following a parliament bill, but this fell to the wayside until rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran–which supports many PMF factions–brought this issue to the fore again. Many political parties and PMF groups were supportive in public. Ammar al-Hakim of the Hikmah Movement commended the decision, stating that it would “ensure that the military and security establishments are not politicized.” Badr organization and former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Nasr coalition voiced their support too, as did the Sunni Axis coalition. Qais al-Khazali of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia said the decision was a “step in the right direction” and would allow PMF groups to be a stable and legitimate part of the security forces. In a tweet, Moqtada al-Sadr conditionally endorsed Abdul-Mahdi’s decree, saying that all ties between himself and his Peace Brigades militia would be severed, if they were to be attached to official security forces.

On July 2, A group of 76 members of Parliament, in a sign of growing uneasiness with the slow pace of service improvements, asked Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi to create an investigative committee to look into the contracts signed by the electricity ministry. The investigation, according to Integrity Committee chairman Sabah al-Sa’idi, would review contracts signed since 2006 for inconsistencies and waste. Al-Halbousi approved the proposal, for which the next step would be a vote to select the members of the investigative committee.

On July 3, NRT reported that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have reached an initial agreement on a candidate to be the next governor of Kirkuk province. If finalized, the appointment of the candidate, Tayib Jabar Amin Tapalu, would resolve a long dispute between the two leading Kurdish parties that had complicated and delayed cabinet formation since the KRI’s election in September 2018.


Protesters Arrested As They Demand Services in Basra and Dhi-Qar, Others Storm Bahrain’s Embassy; Multiple Militant Attacks Strike Kirkuk, Diyala And Baghdad; Group Threatens To Target Turkish Forces In KRI

On June 27, protesters entered the Bahraini embassy in Baghdad in response to a U.S. workshop in Bahrain to promote Arab-Israeli peace in accordance with the Trump administration’s economic support plan. Some Arab governments, including Lebanon and Iraq, have boycotted the workshop. Security forces opened fire in the air to disperse the 200 protesters who had gathered at the embassy and subsequently detained 54 people for breaking into the building. The Iraqi government condemned the actions, which it believes to have been carried out by Iraqi militias supported by Iran. In response to the attack, Bahrain recalled its ambassador and envoy to Iraq for “consultations” and held Iraq responsible for the failed security at the embassy.

On June 27, four grenades exploded in the neighborhood of Ur in eastern Baghdad, injuring three people. The grenades were thrown by gunmen riding motorcycles through the area.

On June 27, a roadside bomb in Kirkuk detonated, injuring eight civilians. The bomb was reportedly placed in the wheel of a vehicle. Shortly after the attack, a second explosion in Kirkuk wounded at least six more civilians. This bomb was planted inside a garage in Ras al-Jisr neighborhood.

On June 27, one “sticky bomb” detonated on a bus in central Kirkuk, killing one person and wounding 18 others. Numerous people were reportedly burned by the explosion inside, one of whom was in critical condition.

On June 27, Turkish warplanes bombed the Qandil Mountains in the KRI. This is the most recent attack in Turkey’s “Operation Claw”, a large-scale military operation against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The bombing killed four civilians and wounded four others. The day before, an attack by Turkish jets in the district of Soran killed one civilian and injured another. On June 29, the Iraqi government released a statement condemning the “unilateral acts of war”. In response, Turkey brushed aside the criticism on June 30, and reiterated its commitment to “resolutely continue” Operation Claw airstrikes.

On June 28, five mortar shells fell on the village of Umm Qasr, west of Kirkuk. The attack resulted in two deaths and the injury of one child.

On June 29, two explosive devices targeted power lines and security forces west of Kirkuk, wounding one officer. The first bomb was placed next to a high voltage tower in the village of al-Murra in the Riyadh sub district in the Hawijah district. When federal police forces rushed to the explosion site, another IED exploded near an armored vehicle carrying troops inside, wounding the unit’s commanding officer.

On June 29, three members of the PMF were injured by clashes in Khanaqin district. The attack reportedly took place in the village of Shafiq in a fight against terrorists in the region.

On June 30, an IED exploded in the residential area of Jkouk, north of Baghdad. The attack critically wounded two civilians.

On June 30, the Anbar Operations Command launched a large-scale military operation targeting terrorist groups in western Anbar. The operation, supported by the army aviation, will target several regions in the Western Ramadi desert where “movements of terrorist groups,” have been detected, according to the commander of Anbar Operations Command.

On June 30, Basrawi protesters clashed with Iraqi riot police during a demonstration against the lack of public services and government corruption. The incident occurred along the Shatt al-Arab river as the group marched to the al-Ashar neighborhood market from Abdul-Karim Qassim Square. Riot police reportedly sprayed protesters with tear gas and arrested unspecified numbers of them.

On June 30, protesters set the municipal administration building in Dhi-Qar province on fire during a demonstration. The citizens were demanding improved public services, an end to corruption, and more employment opportunities. The protests came amid rising summer temperatures and frequent power outages due to a chronic gap between electricity supply and demand.

On July 1, a roadside bomb exploded in Balad Ruz in Diyala province, injuring two Iraqi soldiers. The bomb exploded during the passage of an army patrol in the area.

On July 2, Peshmerga forces were called into Amedi, in Duhok province, to maintain peace after a group calling themselves the Southern Kurdistan Defense Forces threatened Turkish troops in the Kurdistan Region. The statement released by the group warned that troops in “Southern Kurdistan” will be their first targets, stating “the Neo-Ottomans have been threatening to invade all of Kurdistan.” Turkish military forces have been operating against the PKK in the KRI for decades but have recently intensified their operations, which have occasionally caused civilian casualties.

On July 3, a tribal conflict in the al-Fdhailiyah area east of Baghdad resulted in five deaths and seven injuries. Among the casualties were the son and brother of the Director of Civil Defense, Kazem Buhan.

On July 3, a grenade detonated inside a marketplace in al-Wajihiya district in northeastern Diyala. The explosion killed one day laborer.


Committee Says Torture Widely Practiced In Iraqi Prisons; Coalition Says Airstrikes Killed 1,319; Government Wants Anbar IDP Camps Closed Next Year

On June 27, the Iraqi Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights confirmed that torture was and is currently used by various government institutions. Prisons operating under the Ministries of Justice, Defense, and Interior, alongside counter-terrorism and intelligence organizations, all engage in the use of torture to extract confessions, according to Committee member Wahda al-Jumaili. These confessions would often lead to life in prison sentences or the death penalty. The Committee claims that around 80 percent of those charged were actually innocent. On Human Rights Watch reported recently that a man detained by Iraqi Police for suspected car theft had his arm amputated as a result of untreated injuries caused by torture during interrogation. The man claimed he had been hung by his arms and tortured for three days without receiving medical attention for months following his injuries.

On June 27, Rudaw reported an outbreak of hepatitis among Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Ashti camp outside of Sulaymaniyah. Those infected, 60 so far, are reportedly kept in isolation in order to limit the spread. The report adds that the ill are left to seek help and purchase medicine on their own due to lack of proper medical care at the camp.

On June 28, the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS said its airstrikes against the group have inadvertently killed 1,319 civilians. These casualties occurred during the period of August 2014 to May 2019 when the coalition launched 34,514 strikes. These casualty figures are much smaller than the numbers calculated  by the NGO Airwars, which estimates between 8,000 and 12,000 civilian casualties.

On June 28, Karim Aliawi, a member on the parliamentary Security and Defense Committee, claimed that a member of the PMF died while in Federal custody. Jawad Kazem Shibel Zaidan had been taken into a Ministry of the Interior office in Bayaa, where Alaiwi said he was tortured and murdered. The lawmaker demanded that the Interior Ministry open an investigation into the incident.

On June 30, the Iraqi Directorate of Civil Defense released new statistics on recent crop fires. The government agency revealed that between the period of May 8 and June 29, 329 fires had destroyed 54,000 acres of land. These fires had affected the provinces of Nineveh, Salah ad-Din, Kirkuk, Diyala, Baghdad, Babylon, Maysan, Wasit, Diwaniyah, Muthanna, Anbar, and Najaf but excluded statistics within the KRI. The Directorate did not include what caused the fires, but hinted at most being caused by cigarettes or harvest machines. Previous statistics released in June indicated that approximately 48,400 had been affected up to June 15, 2019.

On July 2, the Iraqi Minister of Immigration, Nawaf Baha Mousa, said he expects that Anbar would be the first province without IDP camps by next year. In a statement, the Minister said that the resettlement of families remaining in the camps would require oversight and participation by all levels of government. Mousa called on Anbar governor to utilize the funds allocated by his ministry to the province to support stabilization efforts and rebuild damaged infrastructure to encourage the return of IDPs.


Iraq And Russia Discuss Investment In Oil Sector; Iraq Finds “Loophole” To Continue Importing Energy From Iran; Central Bank Sets Up Deposit Insurance Co.

On June 29, the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity announced the completion of the Baiji power station. The station is described as one of the first major infrastructure projects completed relying on the ministry’s own capabilities. The power station is set to handle high voltage (400 KV) for distribution in Salah ad-Din province.

On June 29, the KRG’s Minister of Electricity denied reports that the Ministry was unfairly supplying power between regions, saying that the Ministry was doing its best to fairly distribute power across Kurdistan. In a statement, he revealed that demand in Erbil was1800 MW while supply was 1129 MW. In Sulaimaniya, demand was 1200 MW while supply was 753 MW. In Dohuk, demand was 900 MW, while supply was 559 MW. Finally, in Garmian, supply was meeting 138 MW out of 160 MW needed. This distribution has allowed power to flow for around 14 to 20 hours, according to the minister.

On June 30, Erbil hosted an economic forum between companies in the Kurdistan Region and Turkey. More than 150 companies were in attendance, as well as Turkish officials and diplomats. Trade between the two sides is currently at annual volumes of 10 to $12 billion, but officials hope to increase that to $20 billion, according to a spokesman for the KRG.

On July 1, Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Ghadban and Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak met to discuss Russia’s support for Iraqi’s oil industry. Novak stated that many Russian energy companies are considering entering the market, citing the success of Russian companies Lukoil and Gazprom Oil, which already operate southern and northern oil fields in Iraq, respectively.

On July 1, Iraq reached separate agreements with South Korea and the Netherlands to prevent double taxation and  encourage more foreign businesses to invest in Iraq. Iraq’s Minister of Finance, Fouad Hussein, stated that the deals would “contribute to improving the business environment” in Iraq.

On July 1, OPEC extended oil supply cuts until March 2020. This announcement comes just days before the previous agreement was set to expire, which had stipulated a 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) reduction in output. The extension aims to protect OPEC members from an already slowing economy and increased U.S. supplies. On July 2, OPEC signed a pact with allies and major oil producers such as Russia to establish “permanent cooperation” throughout the industry. The agreement, signed by the 14 OPEC members and 10 other oil-producers aims to maintain OPEC’s status and support prices in the market amidst increasing U.S. oil production.

On July 2, Agence France-Presse reported that Iraq has found a “loophole” in U.S. sanctions to continue buying Iranian power and repay around $2 billion of arrears for previous energy purchases. Through this “special purpose vehicle” (SPV), Iraq plans to pay for Iranian energy in Iraqi dinars, which could only be used by Iran to buy humanitarian goods. The funds would  be deposited in an Iraqi bank to ensure that the money does not enter Iran for other purposes, allowing Iraq to abide by U.S. sanctions without losing a primary energy source.

On July 3, the Central Bank of Iraq announced the establishment of the Iraqi Deposit Insurance Company, which will allow companies to secure deposits. The Company’s starting capital is set at 100 billion dinars (approximately $84 million) and was established with contributions from 42 state-owned and private banks, in additional to the National Insurance Company and the General Retirement Authority.

On July 3, the Iranian Rail Company announced that it was pursuing a project to link the Iranian port of Imam Khomeini on the Gulf with the Syrian port of Latakia on the Mediterranean with rail lines that would cross through Iraq. The ambitious project would begin with a 32km link between Shalamjah in Iran and Basra in Iraq, on which construction is set to begin in three months, according to Iranian officials.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs June 27, 2019 - July 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
07/03/19al-Wajihiya, northeastern Diyala10
07/01/19Balad Ruz district, Diyala02
06/30/19Jkouk, north of Baghdad02
06/29/19Riyadh, west of Kirkuk01
06/27/19Green neighborhood, Kirkuk08
06/27/19Ras al-Jisr, Kirkuk06
06/27/19Khadra neighborhood, Kirkuk118

 

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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