ISHM 214: JULY 18 – JULY 25, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • Baghdad And Erbil Appear Closer To Oil Agreement; CoR Amends Provincial Election Law; Abdul-Mahdi Mediates Between The UK and Iran – On July 20, 80 MPs asked Speaker Halbousi to reject U.S. sanctions on four Iraqi politicians. On July 22, the Iraqi parliament approved 20 clauses of an amendment to the provincial elections law. Elections are planned for April 2020, and will include Kirkuk. On July 22, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi met with Iranian President Rouhani in Tehran, where they discussed easing Gulf tensions and attempted negotiations over the release of the British tanker seized by Iran. On July 22, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi said investigation into allegations of communications between the Anbar Operations Commander and a CIA agent did not prove the accusations. On July 22, Baghdad and Erbil formed a joint committee to resolve the dispute over the KRI oil obligations under the 2019 budget. On July 23, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi announced that the government had issued arrest warrants for 11 former ministers suspected of corruption, while the CoR said the judiciary had sent requests to lift the immunity of 60 MPs suspected of corruption. more…
  • ISF Launch New Security Operation In Central Iraq; Turkey Intensifies Anti-PKK Raids; Militant Attacks Continue In Diyala, Ninewa, Salah Ad-Din And Kirkuk – On July 20, ISF launched the second phase of Operation “Will of Victory”, targeting the northern areas of Baghdad, as well as Diyala, Salah ad-Din, and Anbar provinces. On July 21, ISF killed seven ISIS militants in Ninewa. On July 19, a Turkish airstrikes hit suspected PKK targets near an IDP camp east of Mosul, injuring five civilians. On July 21, more Turkish airstrikes struck PKK targets in the KRI. On July 19, an unknown aircraft bombed a PMF camp in Salah ad-Din, injuring two Iranian advisers. On July 19, coalition airstrikes hit an ISIS camp in Ninewa, killing ten militants. On July 21, KRG security forces arrested two men accused of killing a Turkish diplomat in Erbil on July 17. On July 25, Turkish airstrikes killed the two “planners” of the diplomat’s shooting. On July 21, seven mortar shells struck a village in Diyala. The same day, an IED exploded in the village, killing one civilian and injuring two. On July 23, three ISIS militants stormed a village south of Mosul and killed two locals. On July 24, ISF killed five ISIS militants near Sinjar. On July 25, ISIS militants shelled a village in Kirkuk’s Daquq district, killing one civilian and injuring three. Several civilians and a policeman were killed nearby in a potential friendly fire incident. On July 25, ISIS militants executed two Yazidi men in Sinjar, and ISF killed three of the militants in a subsequent pursuit. more…
  • U.S. Helps Rebuild Yezidi Temple; HRW Issues New Report On Basra Water Crisis; New Mass Graves Discovered In Southern Iraq – On July 18, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq announced that the U.S. government would be providing $500,000 for the restoration of the Yezidi temple in Lalish. On July 21, the Ministry of Planning said its proposal for the Regional Development Program allocates 45 percent of development funds to the public school system. On July 22, HRW released a thorough report on Basra’s water crisis and mainly lays the blame on poor government services, corruption, and mismanagement. On July 23, a Kurdish charity said 301 families have returned to IDP camps in the KRI due to poor security conditions in their home districts. On July 24, authorities discovered three mass graves in Samawa province in southern Iraq containing the remains of hundreds of victims, mostly Kurdish women and children killed in the 1980’s by Saddam’s regime. On July 24, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society and German Red Cross delivered aid and relief to hundreds of families in Maysan, Basra, Diyala, and Ninewa Provinces. more…
  • Nasdaq Supports ISX With Technology; Iraq Boosts Output From Major Refinery; Oil Services Contractor Pleads Guilty to Bribery Charges – On July 19, Nasdaq and the Iraqi Stock Exchange signed a deal that will allow the ISX to upgrade its systems to match international standards. On July 19, Reuters reported that a former partner to an oil services firm pleaded guilty to five counts of corruption, including conspiring to pay bribes to win a contract to supply and install new offshore oil export terminals and pipelines. On July 22, Iraq’s Oil Minister announced the completion of a second phase of repairs on the Baiji Refinery, boosting processing capacity to 70 thousand bpd. On July 23, the Iraqi and Saudi governments agreed to automate and streamline customs procedures and increase international flights between the two countries. On July 23, Iraq’s Finance Minister warned that a closure of the Strait of Hormuz would prevent Iraq from exporting the bulk of its oil and send the country into a financial disaster. 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 newly updated ISHM Reference Guide.


Baghdad And Erbil Appear Closer To Oil Agreement; CoR Amends Provincial Election Law; Abdul-Mahdi Mediates Between UK and Iran

On July 20, 80 members of parliament signed a document urging the Speaker of the Parliament, Mohammed Halbousi, to issue a resolution against the U.S. sanctions on Iraqi citizens. Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it was imposing sanctions against four Iraqis–two former governors and two militia commanders–for human rights abuses and corruption. The MPs urged Halbousi and top Iraqi government officials to condemn the sanctions and not to comply with the U.S. in imposing them.

On July 21, an official in the Iraqi Embassy in Damascus confirmed that the Iraqi and Syrian governments were in talks to reopen the Albu-Kamal border crossing. The source denied recent reports about discussions between the Iraqi Government and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to reopen another border crossing near Sinjar to the north. The source said that negotiations to open the Albu-Kamal crossing were now in “advanced stages”.

On July 22, the Iraqi parliament approved 20 clauses of an amendment to the provincial elections law, and approved plans to hold the elections in April 2020. Importantly, the amendment includes the disputed province of Kirkuk, where elections were last held in 2005. According to analysts, the amendments reduced the number of total provincial council seats from 456 to 255 and applied a new version of Sainte-Lague formula that favors larger parties. However, the parliament postponed voting on two clauses of the amendment. One dealt with the armed forces and included language on the Peshmerga, raising concerns since the law only covers provinces outside of the KRI, where the Peshmerga holds no jurisdiction. The second deals with the return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) and their participation in the vote. The major Kurdish parties opposed the decision to include Kirkuk in the elections. The KDP boycotted the parliamentary session and several PUK members walked out. Kirkuk remains disputed and the Kurdish parties feared that including it in the election bill while it remains under federal control would disenfranchise its Kurdish residents.

On July 22, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, where they discussed easing Gulf tensions and recent developments in the Strait of Hormuz and attempted negotiations over the release of the British tanker seized by Iran on July 4. British Defense Minister Penny Mordaunt spoke with Abdul-Mahdi on the phone before his visit, emphasizing the importance of freedom of navigation in the Strait. According to Reuters, Rouhani promised Abdul-Mahdi that freedom of navigation would be respected. The release of the British tanker is still under negotiation, but Rudaw quoted Abdul-Mahdi as saying on July 25 that “there is positive responsiveness” on Iran’s end.

On July 22, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi announced the completion of the investigation into allegations of communications between the Anbar Operations Commander, Major General Mahmoud al-Falahi, and a CIA agent.The prime minister said the investigation did not prove the accusations of treason, but did not disclose any details. The investigation has been conducted with secrecy, allowing speculations to continue, especially by politicians close to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) who accused Falahi of conspiring with the U.S. and Israel to target PMF positions.

On July 22, the Committee on Oil, Energy, and Natural Resources in the Iraqi parliament announced that it had formed a joint committee with the KRI to resolve oil disputes between the two sides. On July 23, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi told the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that Baghdad would only send funds to cover public sector salaries in the KRI–and withhold all other payments–until the oil dispute is resolved. The newly-formed committee will consist of members from Iraq’s Oil Ministry and the KRG Ministry of Natural Resources and is designed to oversee the transfer of 250,000 barrels of oil per day from the KRI to federal authorities. While no final deal has been made, there is optimism that a solution is imminent following a successful visit on June 16 by new KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani to Baghdad. On July 25, a high-level delegation from Baghdad visited Erbil to continue negotiations.

On July 22, over 60 demonstrators gathered outside the district council in Midhatiya in Babylon province to demand better services. A security source said the protest was “unlicensed”. Security forces arrested all 60 demonstrators after they reportedly threw stones and attempted to storm the council building. This was the fifth protest over poor services in the same district this summer. 

On July 23, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi announced that the government had issued arrest warrants for 11 former ministers suspected of corruption. In a press conference, the prime minister stated that around 1,200 corruption cases have been referred to the courts, and over 4,117 investigations were under review across government institutions, as of June 15. The Iraqi parliament announced that the Supreme Judicial Council had sent requests to lift the immunity of 60 members of parliament for potential prosecution on corruption charges.

On July 20, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Mohamed Ali al-Hakim, met with Canadian MP Rob Oliphant to discuss economic and bilateral relations between Iraq and Canada. In their meeting al-Hakim encouraged Canadain businesses to invest in Iraq, especially in the fields of infrastructure. They also discussed streamlining the visa process between the two countries and improving the situation of Iraqis living in Canada.


ISF Launch New Large Security Operation In Central Iraq; Turkey Intensifies Anti-PKK Raids; Militant Attacks Hit Diayla, Ninewa, Salah Ad-Din And Kirkuk

On July 18, a joint force of the Diyala Operations Command and the PMF killed two ISIS militants and injured four others in a security operation they conducted in the area of Tal Ali between Khanaqin and Jalawla in Diyala province. 

On July 19, a Turkish airplane carried out two airstrikes near the Makhmur mountains, east of Mosul. The strikes occurred near the Martyr Rüstem Cudi IDP Camp and resulted in five injuries among its inhabitants. On July 21, the Turkish Air Force struck other Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq, according to a statement from the Turkish Defense Ministry. The operation targeted weapons and hideouts in the Mitina area.

On July 19, an unknown aircraft bombed a PMF-affiliated military camp in the town of Amerli in Salah ad-Din province, twice. The first airstrike hit a building, wounding two visiting Iranian advisers, while the second bomb hit a weapons depot. The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq denied any involvement in the attack. 

On July 19, the U.S.-led international coalition against ISIS in Iraq carried out an airstrike against an ISIS camp north of Lake Senisla in al-Baaj district in Ninewa, killing ten militants. The next day, the coalition killed three more ISIS militants in an airstrike targeting an ISIS hideout in the Karha valley in Kirkuk province. Security forces found Kalashnikov rifles, hand grenades, and other weapons materials in a subsequent search of the area. 

On July 20, the Turkish Defense Ministry reported that one of its soldiers was killed and six more were wounded in clashes with members of the PKK in northern Iraq.

On July 20, the Security Media Cell said Iraqi security forces launched the second phase of Operation “Will of Victory” after the first phase “achieved its objectives accurately and successfully”. The operation targets the northern areas of Baghdad, as well as Diyala, Salah ad-Din, and Anbar provinces. By July 22, the third day of the operation, the PMF and security forces reported the clearance of 28 villages and 20 orchards, during which time they found seven IEDs and three ISIS hideouts. On July 24, security forces raided a hideout containing explosive devices and arrested four ISIS militants in the Abayaji sub-district of the Tarmiyah district. 

On July 21, KRG security forces arrested two men accused of killing the Turkish Deputy Consul in Erbil on July 17. According to Turkish sources, the KRG worked with Turkish intelligence to locate nine areas where PKK members reside, and raided the sites simultaneously. This mapping allowed the security forces to find and arrest the main shooter while attempting to escape Erbil to Makhmur. On July 25, Reuters reported that Turkish airstrikes killed the two “planners” of the shooting. The article reported that Turkish military carried out the strikes on July 18 and 24, destroying vehicles carrying two individuals responsible for planning the attack along with their guards. 

On July 21, seven mortar shells struck al-Islah village inJalawla, northeast of Baquba. No one was hurt in the attack. The same day, an IED detonated in the village near the Diyala River, killing one civilian and injuring two others.

On July 21, the Ninewa Operations Command and Tribal Mobilization Forces killed seven ISIS militants in Ninewa province. The joint force also dismantled 23 ISIS hideouts and four IEDs in the operation. 

On July 23, an IED killed a suspected militant northeast of Baquba. The bomb exploded while the militant was trying to place it in the Imam Weiss hills of the Hamrin Basin.

On July 23, three ISIS militants stormed a village near the town of Hamman al-Alil, south of Mosul. The attackers shot and killed a local tribe leader who serves as the mayor of the town and his nephew. 

On July 23, an ISIS militant shot and seriously injured an Iraqi soldier manning a security point in the village of al-Houm, east of Baquba. 

On July 23, ISIS militants attempted to storm a military checkpoint near the city of Baiji in Salah ad-Din province. PMF fighters at the checkpoint succeeded in repelling the militant attack and destroyed their vehicle. 

On July 24, ISIS militants clashed with the PMF and Tribal Mobilization Forces in the village of Bab al-Khan in Sinjar. Iraqi security forces killed five ISIS militants in the surrounding area in subsequent operations led by units form the Iraqi army’s 15th division.

On July 25, ISIS militants dropped three shells on the village of Dara in the Daquq district, killing one civilian and injuring three others. At the same time, a vehicle carrying a family entering the village was fired upon by unknown gunmen. There are conflicting reports of whether the gunmen were ISIS militants or Iraqi federal police who mistook the family for militants, although a federal police officer in the area said the shooting ensued after a “misunderstanding”. Several members of the family (tallies range from six to nine) were killed and one was seriously injured. The confusion that followed the shelling also reportedly sparked a clash between federal officers and a local policeman that resulted in the death of the policeman. 

On July 25, the Security Media Cell announced that a joint security force found an ISIS hideout east of Akashat in Anbar province based on a confession from an arrested militant. Security forces raided the hideout and confiscated six anti-tank missiles and other weapons. 

On July 25, ISIS militants attacked members of the PMF in the village of Shafiq near Khanaqin in Diyala province. The attack resulted in the death of one PMF fighter. 

On July 25, a group of seven ISIS militants executed two Yezidi men in Sinjar who were reported missing from their village of Sinuni three days prior after they left to hunt birds and never returned. Iraqi police and security forces pursued the militants, who attempted to escape towards the village of Naay Naha. Three militants were killed during the police pursuit, including one who detonated an explosive belt. 


U.S. Helps Rebuild Yezidi Temple; HRW Issues New Report On Basra Water Crisis; New Mass Graves Discovered In Southern Iraq

On July 18, the head of the Yazidi Rescue Office in Dohuk, Hussein al-Qaidi, announced the safe return of a Yazidi child who had been kidnapped by ISIS. The child was taken from the town of Tal-Qasab by ISIS on August 3, 2014 along with the rest of his family. They were then brought into Syria where the child was given military training by ISIS. The child was eventually found in Aleppo and brought back into northern Iraq via Turkey.

On July 18, the American Ambassador to Iraq, Matthew Tueller, announced that the U.S. government would be providing $500,000 for the restoration of the Yezidi temple in Lalish. The funds, to be overseen by the University of Pennsylvania, would go toward repairing sections of the temple that are in poor condition due to age and lack of maintenance. Tueller said that the grant is a part of an effort by the U.S. to help preserve the Yezidi community. 

On July 21, the Ministry of Planning released their budget proposal for the Regional Development Program, in which 45 percent of funds would be allocated to the public school system. In total, over one trillion dinars are earmarked for public education in order to improve services and reduce dropout rates. In addition to the funding, the Ministry of Planning will begin to shut down private schools that do not meet a certain success rate. An MP on the Parliamentary Committee for Education, Tuma al-Lahibi, said that dropout rates were much higher in private schools than in public ones. 

On July 22, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a thorough report on Basra’s water crisis. The over 100 page report goes into great detail discussing the current situation facing Basra and Iraq at large, discussing Basra’s high unemployment, damaged infrastructure, and shrinking agricultural land. The report, while discussing outside factors damaging Basra’s water supply, such as damming in Turkey and climate change, mainly lays the blame on poor government services, corruption, and mismanagement. HRW also detailed the various sources of pollution, including human, industrial, and agricultural waste. To address the problems, the organisation recommended forming a joint local-federal independent environmental task force for Basra. This commission should have the authority to monitor the ongoing situation, create long term infrastructure plans, crack down on illegal dumping to reduce contamination, and inform the public about risks and developments.

On July 23, the Barzani Charity released new statistics regarding migration in and out of IDP camps in Kurdistan. The foundation reported that IDP camps in the KRI received six thousand people, or around 1,586 families, from other parts of Iraq in the first half of 2019. Of those, 301 families (1,263 individuals) have returned to the camps due to poor security conditions in their home districts. Statistics also indicated that there were 5,764 orphaned children residing in these camps. 

On July 24, the KRI Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs said that mass graves have been discovered in Samawa province in southern Iraq. A ministry spokesperson said each of the graves contained the remains of about 100 victims, mostly Kurdish women and children. These graves date back to the 1980s when Saddam Hussein’s regime committed various crimes against Iraqi Kurds. Following excavations, the remains will be transferred to forensic facilities Baghdad for identification. 

On July 24, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) delivered aid and relief to families in Maysan, Basra, Diyala, and Ninewa Provinces. In cooperation with the German Red Cross, the IRCS delivered 87 food parcels and 50 food parcels to families in Maysan and Basra, respectively. In Diyala, shelter kits were distributed among a hundred families affected by recent floods, and 300 items of clothing were distributed to families in need in Tel Afar district in Ninewa province.


Nasdaq Supports ISX With Technology; Iraq Boosts Output From Major Refinery; Oil Services Firm Staff Plead Guilty to Bribery Charges

On July 19, Nasdaq and the Iraqi Stock Exchange (ISX) signed a deal to extend a 2007 agreement that allowed the Iraqi stock exchange to Nasdaq’s “matching engine and central securities depository technology”. This will allow the ISX to upgrade its current systems to match international standards. ISX CEO, Taha A. Abdulsalam, praised the deal, arguing that it would allow Iraq to become a regional center for global business and finance.

On July 19, Reuters reported that one of oil and gas consulting firm Unaoil’s former partners in Iraq pleaded guilty to five counts of corruption, including conspiring to pay bribes to win oil contracts in Iraq. It is the first conviction in a long investigation by the British Serious Fraud Office, which has cited three other Unaoil partners and employees who served in Iraq as possible conspirators to criminal fraud and corrupt activities.The bribes in question were connected to a project involving the supply and installation of new offshore oil export terminals and related pipelines. The three other suspects under investigation have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. 

On July 22, Iraq’s Oil Minister, Thamer al-Ghadhban, announced the completion of the second phase of repairs on the Al-Sumoud Oil Refinery in Baiji. The second phase involved refurbishing the hydrogenation and gasoline enhancement units, boosting processing capacity to 70 thousand barrels per day (bpd). The refinery complex is the largest in Iraq, but its facilities were badly damaged and looted during the conflict with ISIS. The ministry aspires to further increase output to 140 thousand bpd with a third phase of repairs.

On July 23, the Iraqi and Saudi governments agreed to automate and streamline customs procedures between the two countries. This agreement came during a meeting of the Iraqi-Saudi committee on transportation and ports of entry in which both sides also agreed to increase international flights and simplify cross border transportation and visa processing. 

On July 23, Iraqi Finance Minister, Fuad Hussein, warned that a closure of the Strait of Hormuz would send Iraq into a financial disaster. Tensions in the Gulf region between Iran and the U.S. have been high and Hussein warned that any armed conflict in the area would see the strait closed, preventing Iraq from exporting its oil. Iraq sells the vast majority of its 3.5 million bpd crude oil exports, which provide most of the government revenue, through the ports of Basra on the Gulf.

On July 23, Khalid al-Roudhan, the Kuwaiti Minister of Trade and Industry, announced that his government will begin to issue visas for 400 Iraqi businessmen. This follows a visit by al-Roudan to Iraq, in which he expressed support for Kuwait to further engage and invest in Iraqi markets.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs July 18, 2019 - July 25, 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
07/25/19Naay Naha, Sinjar10
07/23/19Imam Weiss hills in Hamrin Basin, northeast of Baquba10
07/21/19Jalawla, northeast of Diyala12

 

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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