ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM 215: JULY 25 – AUGUST 1, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • PMF Chairman Says Reorganization Needs Two Months; Parliament Scrutinizes KRI Payments; Iraq Militia Threatens Bahrain Over Executions – On July 29, the head of the Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada militia threatened the king of Bahrain with retaliation over Manama’s recent execution of Shia opposition activists. On July 30, PMF committee chairman, Falih al-Fayyadh, informed Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi that the PMF is “fully committed” to complying with the prime minister’s instructions on reorganizing the force but said the process requires two months to complete. On July 31, the parliamentary finance committee said it seeks to summon the finance minister for questioning over federal payments to the KRG amid continued failure by the latter to meet its obligations to deliver oil to federal authorities. more…
  • ISF Disrupts Major Terror Plot; Israel Possibly Conducted Airstrikes In Iraq; Turkey/PKK Conflict Displaces KRI Villagers – On July 29, the Interior Ministry said it foiled the “largest terrorist plot” of the year, involving attacks in Baghdad and several other provinces. Authorities arrested some 200 suspects in Ninewa and Baghdad in connection to the foiled plot. On July 28, ISF said they repelled an attack on the Allas oilfield in Salah ad-Din. On July 29, the KRI border guards claimed that residents of 400 villages have evacuated due to PKK presence. On July 30, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat claimed Israel conducted airstrikes against Iranian targets in Iraq. On July 29, Iraq’s Defense Minister announced plans to build a new naval base. On July 29, an IED exploded on a vehicle in Diyala injuring two civilians. On July 27, a “sticky bomb” attached to a bus exploded on the road from Baghdad to Karbala, killing one civilian and wounding two. On July 31, ISIS gunmen attacked a security forces checkpoint in Salah ad-Din, killing three PMF members and two policemen. On July 31, ISIS militants clashed with Kurdish security forces in Kifri district of Diyala, resulting in the death of five to eight people and eight other injuries. more…
  • Sinjar To Get A University; Relocation Of Displaced Persons From Syria To Iraq Stirs Controversy; Report Exposes Human Trafficking Networks In Iraq – On August 1, the Iraqi government said it plans to establish a university in Sinjar. On July 26, a Ninewa MP said he opposed plans to transfer families with alleged links to ISIS from Syria into IDP camps in Ninewa province. The MP claimed that 2,000 of the group were children of ISIS fighters and would threaten peace in the province. On July 28, the The Iraqi Observatory for Victims of Human Trafficking issued a new report in which it revealed that there were 27 human trafficking networks engaged in sex trafficking and organ trade in Iraq. On July 29, Doctors Without Borders reported that 20 Yazidi women and girls between the ages of 13 and 30 have committed suicide due to trauma in Sinjar since April. more…
  • Kuwait To Build Residential Cities In Salah Ad-Din; KRI Plans New Railways; Iraq And Kuwait Commission Shared Oilfields Study – On July 29, the KRG Ministry of Housing and Reconstruction said it was prioritizing plans to build an inter-province railway network. On July 29, the Emir of Kuwait offered to build “several” residential cities in the districts of Baiji, Yethrib and Balad in Salah ad-Din province, where many homes were destroyed by ISIS. On July 29, the heads of the Iranian Stock Exchange and the Iraqi Securities Commission signed a memorandum of cooperation to establish joint investment funds. On July 30, Jordan’s Minister of Energy announced that Iraq will likely start exporting 10,000 bpd of oil from Kirkuk to Jordan within two weeks. On July 31, the Ministry of Oil announced that Iraq and Kuwait have agreed to appoint British oil and gas reservoir evaluation firm ERC Equipoise to develop a study on joint oilfields straddling their borders. 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.


PMF Chairman Says Reorganization Needs Two Months; Parliament Scrutinizes KRI Payments; Iraq Militia Threatens Bahrain Over Executions

On July 26, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Integrity Commission announced that it had prepared forms for cabinet ministers to disclose their sources of wealth in an effort to increase transparency and combat corruption. On July 29, the KRG called on former government officials to return all government property in their possession, such as houses and cars. The moves appear in line with the declared policy of new KRG Prime Minister, Masrour Barzani. On July 10, Barzani stated in an interview that he was keen to fight the deep-rooted culture of corruption in Kurdistan, saying “I’d like to see reform, to make sure that people have more trust in the government.” 

On July 29, the head of the pro-Iran Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada militia, Abu Alaa al-Walai, threatened the king of Bahrain with retaliation over Manama’s recent execution of Shia opposition activists. The militia leader claimed in a statement that his militia had been able to reach “those who were stronger and more steadfast than the Bahrain regime.” The execution in Bahrain on July 27 was met with international expressions of concern due to lapses in due process and alleged torture during the investigations and trial. This is not the first time an execution of Shia activists by a Gulf state invites threats by militias in Iraq. In 2015, the same militia threatened to retaliate against Saudi Arabia after Riyadh executed Shia opposition figure Nimr al-Nimr. 

On July 30, the chairman of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) committee, Falih al-Fayyadh, informed Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in a letter that the PMF is “fully committed” to complying with the prime minister’s instructions on reorganizing the force but said the process requires two months to complete. On June 30, Abdul-Mahdi ordered the depoliticization and integration of all elements of the PMF into state security forces and place the militias firmly under government control. Fayyadh’s letter explained that work has commenced to shut down all PMF recruitment offices, as well as any offices engaged in economic activities under PMF title across Iraq in accordance with the prime minister’s instructions. Originally, Abdul-Mahdi ordered the integration to be completed by the end of July. 

On July 29, the investigative court of Sulaimaniya ordered the arrest of Shaswar Abdul Wahid, the leader of the New Generation Movement. The court declared that Adbul Wahid violated Article 456 of the Iraqi Penal Code, which relates to crimes of deception and property rights. This verdict was prompted by complaints from shareholders of Abdul Wahid’s amusement park, Chavi Land Entertainment, over unpaid dividends in recent years. New Generation, which holds four seats in Iraq’s parliament and eight in the KRI’s, is an opposition party that did not join the new KRG cabinet of Prime Minister Masrour Barzani. 

On July 30, the Iraq federal court ruled that Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution remains valid, despite the lack of enforcement. Article 140 gives disputed territories such as Kirkuk the right to self-determination regarding whether they will fall under the federal government or the Kurdistan regional government. The court stated that Article 140 will remain in effect until the provisions are fulfilled. 

On July 30, the Iraqi Commission of Integrity announced that the former governor of Ninewa, Nawfel Akoub, had embezzled around ten million dollars in aid money intended for the reconstruction of hospitals in Mosul. Akoub fled Ninewa province after he was sacked by parliament over mismanagement and corruption following a deadly ferry incident in March that killed more than a hundred civilians, and authorities believe he is hiding in Kurdistan. Akoub is one of four Iraqi individuals sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury in July for involvement in corruption and human rights violations.   

On July 31, the parliamentary finance committee announced that it had collected over sixty signatures on a movement to summon the Finance Minister, Fouad Hussein, for questioning over Kurdistan oil production as part of the ongoing oil dispute between Erbil and Baghdad. A member of the committee accused the minister of defending making continuous payments to the KRI “in an illegal manner that goes against the federal budget law.” The member, Sadiq al-Sultani, claimed the KRG is exporting 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil without handing over 250,000 bpd to federal authorities, as required in the budget law.

On July 31, a Turkish government delegation met with members of the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources in Baghdad to discuss sharing the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The two sides discussed drafting a joint agreement to increase Iraqi management of the rivers as well as increasing Turkish investment in Iraq’s water sector. The Turkish delegation also put forward ideas for a variety of land reclamation and sanitation infrastructure projects. Iraq and Turkey exchanged technical information about the rivers and associated dams and reservoirs.


ISF Disrupts Major Terror Plot; Israel Possibly Conducted Airstrikes In Iraq; Turkey/PKK Conflict Displaces KRI Villagers

On July 25, an unknown number of mortar shells hit the village of Tobzawa in Kirkuk, causing material damage to surrounding buildings without reports of casualties. 

On July 25, the Najaf police department arrested an ISIS militant believed to be behind six bombings throughout the southern provinces of Karbala, Babil, and Dhi-Qar, including a bombing that killed over 80 people in Dhi-Qar in 2017. 

On July 26, security forces dismantled an improvised explosive device (IED) north of Baghdad. The bomb was placed on a road near a restaurant in the Binoog district. 

On July 26, Turkey’s military and intelligence agency killed the “instigator” behind the killing of a Turkish diplomat in Erbil two weeks ago. The suspect was killed in the Qandil Mountain region in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). On July 28, Turkish police identified a new suspect and last week, two men were arrested for their connection to the attack and two Turkish airstrikes killed the planners of the attack. The week before, the brother of a Turkish lawmaker was arrested on suspicion of planning the attack.

On July 27, a “sticky bomb” attached to a bus exploded near a checkpoint on the road from Baghdad to Karbala, killing one civilian and wounding two more. 

On July 28, the Iraqi Air Force bombed an ISIS militant hideout in Wadi al-Qathf, south of the district of al-Rutba in western Anbar. The airstrike destroyed the hideout and killed four militants. 

On July 28, security forces announced that they repelled a militant attack on the Allas oilfield in Salah ad-Din. The security forces identified militants approaching the oilfield and responded to them, according to the General Directorate of the Energy Police. This marks the third attempted attack on the oilfield in as many months, with two separate attempts on the site in May. 

On July 29, the Interior Ministry reported that it had foiled the “largest terrorist plot” of the year in Iraq, planned for the months of May and early June, during Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr. According to the head of the ministry’s intelligence directorate, the plot aimed to attack Baghdad and other Iraqi provinces, including the KRI “in a desperate attempt to prove their [ISIS’] existence”. Security forces have arrested around 160 ISIS militants in Ninewa and more than 40 militants in Baghdad in connection to the foiled plot. The arrests included four militants “mobilized” to carry out attacks with explosive vests and car bombs.

On July 29, the commander of the KRI border guards, Shirku Zankana, claimed that residents of around 400 villages in the KRI have recently evacuated their homes due to safety concerns caused by “the activities and movements of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in those areas”. The commander did not specify the timeline of the evacuations.

On July 29, an IED exploded in al-Uboor district, west of Mosul, without causing casualties. The IED was placed next to a vehicle belonging to the district’s Mukhtar

On July 29, Iraqi Defense Minister Najah al-Shimari announced plans to build a naval base in Basra to “develop the security and economy of Iraq and Basra city locally”. Construction of the base will take “several years”. 

On July 29, a roadside bomb exploded on a vehicle on the road connecting between Abu Sayda and al-Abbara subdistricts in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad. Two civilians were injured in the attack. 

On July 30, Turkish fighter jets killed four members of the PKK in the KRI. The airstrikes added to Turkey’s “Operation Claw” against the PKK, according to an update from Turkey’s National Defense Ministry on Twitter.

On July 30, the Directorate of Military Intelligence announced that security forces in Mosul destroyed a tunnel used by ISIS militants. The tunnel was located in the village of al-Zawya in al-Qayyara district and was designed to allow militants to move undetected between the Qara-Chogh mountain and the Jazira desert. 

On July 30, security forces destroyed four ISIS hideouts in a search operation in the village of Bir Ahmed in Kirkuk. The forces seized religious books, nine IEDs, and other weapons from the hideouts. 

On July 30, sources revealed that Russia delivered a “second batch” of BMP-3 Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) to the Iraqi military. The Iraqi military received the first round of BMP-3 IFVs last August. Russia has also delivered two batches of T-90S main battle tanks to Iraq since 2018.

On July 30, the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported based on statements made by unnamed western diplomats that Israel recently “expanded the circle of targeting Iran” beyond Syria with airstrikes on Iranian targets in Iraq. On July 29, the paper claimed an Israeli airstrike attacked Camp Ashraf, northeast of Baghdad. The attack hit “Iranian advisors and targeted a shipment of ballistic missile launchers.” On July 19, an unknown aircraft bombed Camp Amerli in Salah ad-Din, injuring two Iranian advisers working with the PMF. At the time, no entity claimed responsibility for the attack, which Asharq Al-Awsat now says was carried out by an Israeli F-35 fighter jet. 

On July 30, Turkish warplanes bombed Piruzana village in Amedi district, north of Duhok province. At least seven munitions landed in the region, which targeted a “a vehicle belonging to PKK guerillas [in the area],” one villager said in an interview with Kurdistan 24. The attack did not cause any casualties but resulted in significant damage to farms. The next day, Turkish airstrikes targeted a village in the Diraluk sub-district of Amedi.

On July 31, ISIS militants clashed with Kurdish security forces in Kulajo village, in the disputed Kifri district of Diyala province. Varying reports cite that five to eight people were killed in the attack, including two members of the Kurdish security forces and a Kurdish member of the counter-terrorism unit. Eight more people were wounded. Social media posts also show mortar shells that landed in Kulajo, wounding multiple civilians.

On July 31, ISIS gunmen attacked a security forces checkpoint in the Dujail district of Salah ad-Din. The attack killed three members of the PMF and two local policemen.


Sinjar To Get A University; Relocation Of Displaced Persons From Syria To Iraq Stirs Controversy; Report Exposes Human Trafficking Networks In Iraq

On July 26, a Ninewa MP, Shirwan Dobrani expressed opposition to unconfirmed Iraqi government plans to transfer families with alleged links to ISIS fighters from Syria into IDP camps in Ninewa province. The MP argued that of the people in question, 2,000 were the children of ISIS fighters and would threaten peace in the province. On July 27, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration denied these claims, arguing that no ISIS families or fighters were being transferred into Iraq. This came after the statement by Dobrani and a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) which mentioned that the 30,000 Iraqis held at al-Hol camp in Syria were being prepared for transfer to Iraq. The deputy minister stated that the Ministry would be able to screen camp occupants and discover those with ISIS connections, ensuring safety for civilians and IDPs. On July 28, the Mayor of Sinjar, Mahma Khalil warned against any plans to al-Hol occupants into camps in Ninewa, saying that without adequate screening, ISIS sympathisers could enter Iraq and create what he called a “time bomb”.

On July 28, in a letter congratulating the new head of the Yazidi faith on his election, the KRI parliament said it was drafting legislation to recognize ISIS violence against the minority group as genocide. The letter said the bill would also push Iraq into joining the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court, in order for ISIS members to be tried by an international body.  On July 30, a spokesperson for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), confirmed that the KRI parliament plans to vote on the bill on August 3, the anniversary of the ISIS attack on the Yezidis.

On July 28, the The Iraqi Observatory for Victims of Human Trafficking (IOVH) issued its third report in which it revealed that there were 27 human trafficking networks operating in Iraq, including the KRI. IOVH stated that the two largest facets of Human trafficking are sex trafficking and the organ trade. Many men and women are offered large sums of money in return for giving away their organs. Oftentimes victims are given a small fraction of the money and then abandoned. Women and girls are often victims to sex trafficking, lured by promises of a better life and a chance to earn large sums of money. The organisation called on Iraqi authorities to do more in order to clamp down on these crimes. On July 30, the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission called for updating and better enforcing the existing anti-human trafficking law of 2012. 

On July 29, the head of the UN Investigative Team for the Accountability of Islamic State crimes (UNITAD), Karim Khan, expressed support for a “Nuremberg” style trial in order to prosecute ISIS fighters for their crimes in Iraq. Khan stated that these trials would create a “educative effect, not only in the region, but in other parts of the world where communities may be vulnerable to the lies and propaganda of ISIS”. The 80-strong UN team started working in Iraq in 2018, investigating various crimes against humanity against the Yazidis. 

On July 29, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported that 20 Yazidi women and girls between the ages of 13 and 30 have committed suicide in Sinjar since April. The suicides are attributed to the pressure and trauma facing thousands among the Yezidi community.ISIS terrorists captured, killed and enslaved thousands of in 2014 and many survivors require psychological and mental help services. Alice Louens, the head of a small medical team for MSF, said that suicide attempts are rising and that women are burning themselves. Elham Kizelhan, the head of the Institute of Psychiatry in Duhok, stated that around 50% of Yezidis face psychological trauma and 30% will likely need treatment. 

On August 1, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced that Iran and Iraq exchanged the remains  of dozens of victims from the 1980 Iran-Iraq war. At the Sumar border crossing, Iran handed over the remains of 54 Iraqi soldiers while Iraq handed over the remains of 26 Iranian soldiers. 

On August 1, a representative of Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi announced during a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the Yazidi Genocide that the Iraqi government plans to  establish a university in Sinjar.


Kuwait To Build Residential Cities In Salah Ad-Din; KRI Plans New Railways; Iraq And Kuwait Commission Shared Oilfields Study

On July 29, the KRG said it plans to build an inter-province railway network in the KRI to alleviate pressure on the region’s “notoriously precarious” roads. Dana Abdulkarim, the Minister for Housing and Reconstruction, said the “railway is topping the plans” for the ministry’s agenda for the next four years.

On July 29, President Barham Saleh met with the visiting Lebanese Minister of State for Foreign Trade, Hassan Murad, to discuss trade relations. President Saleh emphasized the need to increase the volume of trade between the two countries, while Murad said Lebanon has a “serious desire” to contribute to the reconstruction of liberated cities in Iraq.

On July 29, the heads of the Iranian Stock Exchange and the Iraqi Securities Commission signed a memorandum of cooperation with the goal of establishing joint investment funds. The memorandum discusses creating platforms for the import and export of goods through the stock exchange, as well as establishing a branch of the Iranian Commodity Exchange in Iraq. A joint committee would be subsequently created to unify the legal systems of the Iranian and Iraqi capital markets. 

On July 29, the Emir of Kuwait offered to build “several” residential cities in the districts of Baiji, Yethrib and Balad in Salah ad-DIn province, where many homes were destroyed by ISIS. The cities will be built using grants pledged during the Kuwait Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq in February of 2018. During the conference, Kuwait pledged $1 billion in loans and another $1 billion in investments. The Emir added that Kuwait would do its “utmost to fulfill its commitments” outlined at the 2018 conference and would encourage other countries to do the same. The announcement was made during a visit by the Speaker of Iraq’s parliament, Mohammed al-Halbousi, to Kuwait, in which the two sides also discussed establishing a free trade zone. 

On July 30, Hala Zawati, Jordan’s Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, announced that Iraq will likely start exporting 10,000 bpd of oil to Jordan within two weeks. Tanker trucks from both countries will transport the oil from Kirkuk to Jordan’s Zarqa refinery. Zawati said that rebuilding the road network between Iraq and Jordan was “important to developing economic ties”. Iraq and Jordan have been in talks for years over the construction of the planned Basra-Aqaba pipeline intended to deliver around one million bpd Iraqi oil to international markets via Jordan.

On July 31, the Ministry of Oil announced that Iraq and Kuwait have agreed to appoint British oil and gas reservoir evaluation firm ERC Equipoise to develop a study on joint oilfields straddling their borders. The study would provide technical and legal guidelines for the two countries to invest in the oilfields, specifically at the Safwan and Ratka fields. Border oilfields have created tension between the two countries for years, notably in the build-up to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 when Baghdad accused Kuwait of pumping oil from Iraqi land. 

On July 31, the Central Bank of Iraq granted ID800 million to the tourist city of Habbaniyah to revitalize business in the landmark facility. The Bank made the grant through the Tamkeen (Enabling) Fund, an initiative to finance industrial, service, environmental, and social projects throughout Iraq.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs July 25, 2019 - August 1, 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
07/30/19between Abu Sayda and al-Abbara districts in Baquba02
07/29/19al-Uboor district, west of Mosul00
07/27/19road from Baghdad to Karbala12

 

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 Enabling Peace in Iraq Center.


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