ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM 216: AUGUST 1 – AUGUST 8, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • Iraq, Egypt And Jordan Discuss Trilateral Cooperation; Ninewa Standoff Tests PM’s Resolve to Control Militias; PM Appoints Inspectors In Key Institutions – On August 3, the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan visited Baghdad and discussed reducing tensions in the Gulf region between Iran and the U.S./Arab states, strengthening trilateral economic cooperation and counter-terrorism cooperation. On August 5, protesters in the Ninewa plains expressed opposition to orders by PM Abdul-Mahdi to withdraw the PMF from checkpoints in the area. The developments tested the prime minister’s ability to bring PMF factions under government control. A negotiated compromise will reportedly involve the PMF manning checkpoints jointly with the Iraqi army and police. On August 5, the provincial council of Diwaniyah elected Zuheir Ali Sha’lan as the new governor. On August 5, the Integrity Commission released a report detailing its activities for the first half of 2019, saying it retrieved ~$1.1 billion in stolen state funds. On August 8, PM Abdul-Mahdi issued instructions to establish public inspector offices in a number of key institutions, including the Central Bank and PMF Committee. more…
  • UN Expects ISIS To Ramp Up Attacks; 3rd Phase Of Major Security Op. Yields Little Results; Police Chiefs Sacked Over Prisoner Escape – On August 5, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reported to the UN Security Council that ISIS continues to retain significant financial capabilities estimated at $300 million, adding that the current decline in the frequency of ISIS attacks “may be temporary.” On August 5, ISF launched the third phase of Operation “Will of Victory” targeting parts of Diyala and Ninewa provinces. There were no reports of significant numbers of ISIS militants killed or captured in the operation. On August 4, the Interior Ministry fired Baghdad’s police chief and two other senior officers after 15 drug trafficking suspects escaped from prison on August 3. On August 6, an IED exploded targeting a security company vehicle near the BP-operated Rumaila oilfield in Basra. Nine other IEDs targeted civilians and ISF in Diyala, Anbar and Baghdad. more…
  • Murad, UN Urge Baghdad And Erbil To Restore Stability In Sinjar; 706 IDPs Return Home In Anbar And Ninewa; Kuwait Receives Remains of Prisoners Found In Iraq – On August 4, the representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq visited Sinjar and urged Baghdad and Erbil to work toward restoring security and stability in the district. On August 4, Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad called on Baghdad and Erbil to end their dispute over the Sinjar. On August 7, the Ministry of Migration announced that 421 IDPs had returned to their homes in Ninewa and that another 285 IDPs back to their homes in Anbar’s al-Qaim district. On August 2, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi ordered an urgent study into the country’s dysfunctional water treatment plants. On August 7, the Collection and Documentation of Sinjar Case Board said it had received 4,608 Yazidi testimonies on crimes committed by ISIS. The organization said it transferred the findings to Baghdad, but that authorities in Baghdad have yet to take action. more…
  • Siemens To Build Sub-Stations To Improve Electricity In Basra; Wheat Production Tops 5 Million Tons; Iraq And Jordan To Link Grids – On August 1, the Iraqi Government and Siemens finalized contracts to build 13 electrical substations and supply 35 transformers to provide more electricity to Basra. On August 2, the Ministry of Agriculture announced that Iraqi farmers were able to deliver 5 million tons of wheat this harvest season, allowing Iraq to become self sufficient in wheat. On August 7, Iraq and Jordan signed a deal to build links connectin their electrical grids. On August 4, Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization announced that the country’s crude oil production in July reached 4.62 million barrels per day, its highest output since January 2017. On August 4, the IMF urged Iraq to reduce subsidies on electricity to “keep debt within sustainable limits”. 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 Updated ISHM Reference Guide.


Iraq, Egypt And Jordan Discuss Trilateral Cooperation; Ninewa Standoff Tests PM’s Resolve to Control Militias; PM Appoints Inspectors In Key Institutions

On August 3, the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan visited Baghdad and met with Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hakim and other Iraqi leaders. Egypt’s Samih Shukri and Jordan’s Ayman Safadi held a press conference with al-Hakim and highlighted the key issues they discussed during their meetings. These included reducing tensions in the Gulf region between Iran on one hand and the U.S. and Arab states on the other, emphasizing dialogue and non-interference in internal affairs as path to stability. The three ministers also discussed strengthening trilateral economic cooperation, including joint energy projects, such as the proposed Basra-Aqaba oil pipeline. According to a statement by Iraq’s Foreign Ministry, the discussions, which followed up on the March 2019 summit of President Sisi, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi and King Abdullah, also addressed cooperation in counter-terrorism and bolstering Iraq’s efforts in battling a resurgent ISIS. 

On August 4, Iraq’s Oil Ministry denied connections to a small fuel tanker held by Iranian authorities in the Persian Gulf. Ministry spokesman Asim Jihad said the tanker in question, reportedly carrying 700,000 liters of smuggled fuel “for some Arab countries”, was not Iraqi, explaining that Iraq primarily exports crude oil using large tankers and does not engage in small scale exports of fuels. 

On August 4, a local official in Anbar said the Iraqi Ministry of Interior plans to reopen the al-Qaim border crossing with Syria on September 1. According to al-Sumaria, the Iraqi and Syrian border guard commanders recently met and discussed final preparations for reopening the border crossing and the coordination of subsequent security measures. The local government in Anbar has allocated ID1.5 billion (~$1.2 million) to support reconstruction works at the border crossing, which has been shut for several years due to the war with ISIS. 

On August 5, protesters marched in parts of the Ninewa plains region in opposition to recent orders by Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi for certain elements of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) to withdraw from checkpoints in the area. According to footage on social media and Rudaw, groups of protesters cut the main road between Mosul and Erbil and hurled rocks at a passing Iraqi Army convoy. The protesters are reportedly affiliated with “brigade 30” of the PMF, a unit comprising members of the Shabak community and led by Waad Kadow, who was recently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury over alleged corruption and human rights violations. The developments tested the prime minister’s ability to bring PMF factions under government control. Powerful PMF leaders, such as Qais al-Khazali, have criticized the prime minister’s orders, arguing that PMF withdrawal would cause a security vacuum. The outcome at this point appears to be a partial setback for Abdul-Mahdi. On August 6, National Security Adviser and PMF chairman Falih al-Fayyadh traveled to Ninewa along with General Othamn al-Ghanimi, the ISF Chief of Staff to resolve the tension. Fayyadh announced afterwards that going forward, the PMF brigade 30 would handle security in the Ninewa plains jointly with the Iraqi army and police. 

On August 5, the provincial council of Diwaniyah elected Zuheir Ali Sha’lan as the new governor. Sha’lan, who represents the State of Law coalition led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was elected by 17 votes out of 28-member council. He replaces Sami al-Hasnawi, whom the council had sacked on June 27. Several council members plan to file a complaint about the election with the Administrative Court. 

On August 5, the Iraqi Integrity Commission released a report detailing its activities for the first six months of 2019. Most notably, the commission said it had succeeded in retrieving ID1.31 trillion (~$1.1 billion) in stolen state funds during the first half of the year. The Commission also said it had looked into 9,571 “reports, alerts, and criminal cases” during the same period and referred 1,939 suspects to the appropriate courts, including five Cabinet-level officials. 

On August 8, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi issued instructions to establish public inspector offices in a number of important institutions. The list included the Central Bank, Trade Bank of Iraq, National Investment Commission, the High Election Commission, the Human Rights Commission and, notably, the PMF Committee and the National Security Service.


UN Expects ISIS To Ramp Up Attacks; 3rd Phase Of Wide Security Op. Yields Little Results; Police Chiefs Sacked Over Prisoner Escape

On August 2, a roadside IED exploded in Islah village near Jalawla district in Diyala province. The explosion killed one farmer.

On August 2, the Turkish military killed seven members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Iraq as part of “Operation Claw”. The raids targeted the areas of Zab and Matina in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). On August 6, Turkish forces killed seven additional members of the PKK in the Gara region, also in the KRI.

On August 3, an IED wounded two civilians in western Anbar. The bomb was planted on the side of a road in al-Qaim district on the border with Syria. 

On August 4, an IED exploded in the Ghazaliya neighborhood of western Baghdad. The bomb was hidden in a box inside a hair salon and detonated when an employee opened the box, killing two employees.

On August 4, a roadside IED exploded on a military vehicle in southern Diyala. The explosion killed one Iraqi soldier and injured two others. 

On August 4, the Ninewa Operations Command and the U.S.-led international coalition against ISIS carried out an airstrike against a group of ISIS militants. The security forces spotted the militants moving from Mount Qara-Chokh to the deserted village of al-Samar in Makhmour district. Six militants were killed in the airstrike. 

On August 4, Iraqi counter-terrorism forces launched a new air assault operation called “New Dawn” against ISIS sleeper cells in southwestern Kirkuk. The forces targeted areas west of Hawija, al-Rashad, and al-Abassi. Ground action by the CTS and supporting airstrikes by the international coalition destroyed a number of tunnels and hideouts used by ISIS, killing an unspecified number of militants.

On August 4, the Interior Ministry fired Baghdad’s police chief, Major General Ali Jasim al-Ghariry, after 15 drug trafficking suspects escaped from prison on August 3. The ministry also fired the heads of al-Russafa police department and the Bab al-Sheikh police station. Security forces have since recaptured eight of the suspects, according to Interior Ministry representative Saad Maan. The ministry has formed a committee to investigate the escapes. 

On August 5, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reported to the UN Security Council that ISIS continues to retain significant financial capabilities estimated at $300 million. In the report, Guterres pointed out that the reduced financial responsibilities of ISIS–a result of its loss of territory–meant that the terrorist group may have more freedom of action in using these funds for operations in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. Guterres pointed to signs that ISIS is switching to insurgency mode in Syria in a pattern similar to that which the group adopted in Iraq following its loss of territory in 2017. The report concludes that the current decline in the frequency of ISIS attacks “may be temporary.”  

On August 5, ISF launched the third phase of Operation “Will of Victory” targeting parts of Diyala and Ninewa provinces. The Iraqi Army, Diyala police, PMF and Sunni tribal fighters participated in the operation supported by Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition aircraft. In the two days of the operation, the forces destroyed 17 ISIS hideouts, cleared 143 villages, and seized four tankers used to smuggle oil. On August 6, the PMF announced the end of the third phase and declared the “full achievement of its objectives”. The first phase of the multi-stage operation began on July 7 in the provinces of Ninewa, Salah ad-Din, and Anbar, and the second phase started on July 20 in the northern areas of Baghdad. On August 7, al-Mada pointed to the fact that the 48-hour operation ended in Ninewa and was due to end in Diyala as well without concrete reports of ISF killing or capturing ISIS members, leading to speculations about improper operational security. 

On August 6, an IED exploded near an army patrol in the Albu Amer area of Radiwaniyah district, south of Baghdad. The explosion killed one officer and wounded four others. 

On August 6, an IED hit a PMF vehicle traveling north of Khanaqin. Two PMF members were killed by the attack. 

On August 6, an IED exploded near a neighborhood soccer field in the New Baghdad area in eastern Baghdad. The explosion wounded two people. 

On August 6, an IED exploded on the side of a road in the Shaab area, north of Baghdad. The explosion wounded two civilians. 

On August 6, an IED exploded near the BP-operated Rumaila oilfield in Basra. The bomb was detonated using a cellphone against a vehicle belonging to a security company charged with protecting the facility, according to a local official. 

On August 7, security forces in Diyala raided a cell of militants in the Nada basin, east of Baquba. According to security forces, the militants had been planning to carry out suicide bombings during the upcoming Eid holiday. Four militants were killed in the raid.

On August 7, an IED exploded in al-Baladiyat district in Baghdad, wounding two people. 

On August 8, a mortar shell struck the village of Mansoura, south of Kirkuk. The attack did not result in any injuries. 


Murad, UN Urge Baghdad And Erbil To Restore Stability In Sinjar; 706 IDPs Return Home In Anbar And Ninewa; Kuwait Receives Remains of Prisoners Found In Iraq

On August 2, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi ordered an urgent study into the country’s dysfunctional water treatment plants. The prime minister urged government officials to prioritize the protection of water sources from pollution. He also ordered a public information campaign to educate the public about preventing pollution and reducing waste. Iraq faces a difficult water crisis due to climate change, mismanagement, poor infrastructure and damming of the Tigris and Euphrates and tributaries in Turkey and Iran. 

On August 2, the Iraqi Government announced that it had so far exhumed 17 Yazidi mass graves, out of 73 sites discovered in Sinjar district. Iraqi authorities are conducting the process with assistance from the International Committee for Missing Persons and UNITAD. Of the 6,417 Yazidis kidnapped by ISIS since 2014, 2,908 persons, mostly women and children, remain unaccounted for.

On August 3, authorities completed excavation on the first of three mass graves discovered recently at al-Sheikiya in Muthanna province. Work teams had removed the remains of 171 victims from the grave site and prepared to send them to Baghdad for DNA testing. The victims are believed to be Iraqi Kurds executed by Saddam Hussein’s regime in the 1980s. 

On August 4, the representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, visited Sinjar on the 5th anniversary of the Yazidi Genocide. Hennis-Plasschaert urged the Iraqi government and the KRG to work toward restoring “stable governance and security structures in Sinjar” under a unified administration. During the visit, the UN team handed out occupancy certificates of homes rebuilt by UN-Habitat to Yezidi returnees in the town of Solagh. One of the biggest problems facing many IDPs is the loss of legal documents during the war with ISIS or the inability to obtain new documents. The UN-Habitat program has delivered more than 2,800 occupancy certificates and repaired more than 1,200 houses. 

On August 4, Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad called upon the Iraqi government and the KRG to end their dispute over the Sinjar district. Both the governments in Baghdad and Erbil have claimed control over the disputed district, which Murad argues makes it difficult for Yazidis to return. Murad contrasted parts of Iraq where IDPs have returned in large numbers with Sinjar, which has seen very little resettlement. The district is plagued by poor security and harsh living conditions, issues that Murad believes can be fixed if both governments worked together. During a ceremony to mark the fifth anniversary of the genocide, the President of the KRG, Nechirvan Barzani, called on his government to work with Baghdad and the United Nations to raise new funds to rebuild Sinjar. Barzani said his government would continue to push for making Sinjar a new Iraqi province. 

On August 7, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration announced that 421 IDPs had returned to their homes in Ninewa. The IDPs were previously residing in camps in southern and eastern Ninewa and Salah ad-Din. The Ministry facilitated the return by providing buses and security escorts. The Ministry also said that it had returned 285 IDPs back to their homes in Anbar’s al-Qaim district. The IDPs had been residing in camps elsewhere in Anbar province. 

On August 7, the Collection and Documentation of Sinjar Case Board said it had received 4,608 Yazidi testimonies on the crimes committed by ISIS. The organization, founded by the KRG and centered in Dohuk, was designed to collect evidence of war crimes. The organization said it transferred the findings to Baghdad, but that authorities there have yet to take action. Yezidi and Kurdish groups, as well as some European countries, like Sweden, have called for an international tribunal to prosecute ISIS members responsible for severe human rights violations against civilians.

On August 8, Kuwaiti and Iraqi officials met at the Abdali border crossing, where the Iraqi government handed over the remains of 48 Kuwaiti prisoners. The prisoners were captured by Saddam Hussein’s forces during the 1990 Iraqi invasion and were discovered in a mass grave in Muthanna province.


Siemens To Build Sub-Stations To Improve Electricity In Basra; Wheat Production Tops 5 Million Tons; Iraq And Jordan To Link Grids

On August 1, the Iraqi Government and Siemens finalized contracts to build 13 electrical substations and supply 35 transformers. The new infrastructure will provide more electricity to Basra and its two million inhabitants. This contract is part of the first phase of a broader plan led by Siemens to upgrade Iraq’s damaged power infrastructure. 

On August 2, the Turkish Ambassador to Baghdad, Fatih Yildiz, urged Turkish companies to look for opportunities to rebuild Iraqi airports, especially in Kirkuk, Dhi-Qar and Mosul. He stated that Turkish construction companies have “extensive experience” that qualifies them to rebuild airport infrastructure in Iraq. The ambassador also cited the strength of Turkish Airlines and its ability to “connect Iraqi airports with the world”. He also called on Turks to “seriously” evaluate investment projects in Iraq. 

On August 2, the Ministry of Agriculture announced that Iraqi farmers were able to deliver 5 million tons of wheat this harvest season. A ministry spokesman said that this has allowed Iraq, which requires 4.5 million tons annually, to become self sufficient in wheat. The official explained that the abundance of water this year allowed farmers to expand cultivation to 3 million acres of irrigated land. 

On August 4, Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization announced that the country’s crude oil production in July reached 4.62 million barrels per day (bpd), its highest output since January 2017. However, the most recent Platts OPEC survey reported that Iraq produced 4.78 million bpd in July. Both statistics confirm that the country was not compliant with the current OPEC cuts, under which Iraq committed to keep its output below 4.512 million bpd. Iraq also increased its exports of oil to 4.002 million bpd from 3.955 million bpd the previous month, due to higher exports from Basra.

On August 4, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged Iraq to reduce subsidies on electricity to “keep debt within sustainable limits”. The statement cited improved security conditions and higher oil prices as indicators that the economy could handle the reduction. It also called for “comprehensive reform” in the banking sector to maintain financial stability and protect vulnerable groups from the recommended subsidy reduction. 

On August 7, the Ministry of Electricity announced that it had signed a deal with its Jordanian counterpart to build links connecting their electrical grids. The deal was designed to help provide power during peak hours in both countries. On August 8, the Ministry of Electricity said they would begin the project next month and aim to complete the process within the next year and a half. The ministry also stated that it was still in negotiations with Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey for similar grid connection agreements.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs August 1, 2019 - August 8, 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
08/06/19al-Baladiyat district, Baghdad02
08/06/19near Rumaila oilfield, Basra00
08/06/19Shaab, north of Baghdad02
08/06/19New Baghdad, eastern Baghdad02
08/06/19north of Khanaqin20
08/06/19Albu Amer, Radiwaniyah district, south of Baghdad14
08/04/19south of Diyala12
08/04/19Ghazaliya, western Baghdad20
08/03/19al-Qa'im district, western Anbar02
08/02/19Islah village near Jalawla10

 

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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