ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM 217: AUGUST 8 – AUGUST 15, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • Abdul-Mahdi Defends Pace Of PMF Reforms; Unidentified Bodies Spark Sectarian Recriminations; Election Law May Harm IDPs – On August 10, PM Abdul-Mahdi defended his stumbling measures to replace the PMF brigade 30 with regular troops in Ninewa. He affirmed that there was “no confusion from our end” about regulating the PMF and that implementing his “fixed, clear policy” must be gradual. On August 12, Sunni political groups called on the PM to open an investigation into the discovery of 31 unidentified bodies in Babyoln, arguing that that the bodies belonged to Sunni victims of sectarian violence. On August 13, IHEC’s deputy director warned that the new election law might prevent many IDPs from voting in the next provincial councils because it requires voters to go to the ballots in their original city of residence using biometrically updated voter cards. On August 14, the PMF distanced itself from derogatory remarks against the Iraqi army made by a senior leader of PMF faction Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, who said the PMF should replace the “mercenary” Iraqi Army. On August 12, KDP leader Masoud Barzani said that the KRG was working to stop Turkish and Iranian shelling and airstrikes in the KRI in a manner that avoids Kurdish infighting. more…
  • PMF Weapons Depot Explodes In Baghdad; Iraq Reopens BIAB Road To Civilian Traffic; Militant Attacks Focus on Kirkuk And Diyala – On August 12, a munitions depot used by the PMF and Interior Ministry exploded in southern Baghdad, killing one person and injuring 29 others. On August 15, PM Abdul-Mahdi ordered a full investigation and issued instructions to prepare plans to transfer all camps and weapons depots to areas outside cities. On August 11, the Iraqi government decided to reopen the road to Baghdad’s Airport to civilian traffic for the first time since 2003. On August 11 and 14, 3 IEDs exploded in Kirkuk and Diyala. On August 12, Iraq’s CTS killed ten ISIS militants in Anbar. On August 8, unknown militants attacked two villages in Diyala with mortars, killing two civilians and wounding two more. On August 10, the Pentagon said that a U.S. Marine died in Ninewa. more…
  • 31 Yezidis Arrive In France; Three Yezidi Survivors Found; Sinjar Mayor Says Syria Safe Zone Proposal Endangers Yezidis – On August 8, 31 Yazidi women and their children arrived in France as part of a program to resettle 100 Yazidi families. On August 13, the head of the Yazidi Rescue Office announced the rescue of three Yazidi survivors. On August 13, the Mayor of Sinjar said that proposals to establish a “safe zone” along the Syrian-Turkish border would push ISIS sleeper cells into Ninewa and endanger Yazidis living in northwest Iraq. more…
  • Iraq Considers Solar Panel Production Venture; BP/ENI To Build New Subsea Oil Pipelines; New Steel Plant Planned In Najaf – On August 8, the Ministry of Industry and Minerals said it discussed with Hyundai the development of solar power technology in Iraq. On August 8, the Iraqi Government signaled that it was close to finalizing a $400 million oil infrastructure deal with BP and Italy’s ENI that involves constructing two seabed oil pipelines to carry Iraqi oil to export platforms on the Gulf. On August 15, the authorities in charge of the Najaf shrines signed a deal with a local company to establish a new steel plant in the city with an annual capacity of 300,000 tons. 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 Defends Pace Of PMF Reforms; Unidentified Bodies Spark Sectarian Recriminations; Election Law May Harm IDPs

On August 10, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi defended his stumbling measures to replace the problematic brigade 30 of the popular mobilization forces (PMF) with regular troops in the Ninewa Plains. Last week, a standoff ensued in the Ninewa Plains after brigade 30, whose commander is accused of corruption and human rights violations, refused to comply with the prime minister’s orders to withdraw from checkpoints. In an interview with reporters, the prime minister said that the majority of PMF leaders supported his policies, citing a recent letter from the PMF committee chairman summarized the reorganization steps underway in compliance with the Abdul-Mahdi’s instructions. The prime minister acknowledged that some actors within the PMF have “questions and concerns” that would take time to resolve. He affirmed, however, that there was “no confusion from our end” about regulating the PMF and that implementing his “fixed, clear policy” must be gradual until those policies accomplish their objectives. 

On August 11, the commission in charge of Iraq’s ports of entry announced the closure of the Mendili border crossing between Iraq and Iran on orders by Prime Minister Abdil Abdul-Mahdi. In a statement, the commission said the closure was temporary, adding that the border crossing would be reopened when certain upgrades are in place. These upgrades include establishing offices for concerned government agencies and installing the appropriate equipment and systems to manage traffic and to prevent “violations.” A member of Diyala’s provincial council admitted there were violations at Mendili, which he said was controlled by an armed faction, but criticized the prime minister for acting without coordination with the local government. In March, the prime minister placed corruption at ports of entry 3rd on the list of 40 sectors comprising the “corruption map” in Iraq. 

On August 12, Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader, Qais al-Khazali, called for constitutional amendments to change the governance system in Iraq. Khazali did not identify the alternative system which would be best suited for Iraq, but argued that “the best solution for Iraq is replacing the parliamentary system with another system.” Khazali oddly blamed the mechanism for designating the largest parliamentary bloc after elections for the unrest that engulfed Basra in 2018.

On August 12, reports of the burial of 31 unidentified bodies sparked questions and recriminations in political and public circles. The Hilla morgue reportedly handed over the bodies to a local NGO for burial after they spent too much time without being identified or claimed by relatives. Multiple Sunni political groups, including a former defense minister and a former parliament speaker, called on Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi to open an investigation. They argued that that the 31 bodies-and others before them for a total of 120-may have belonged to Sunni victims of sectarian violence who had been forcibly disappeared by Shia militias in the northern districts of Babylon province. On August 13, members of parliament representing Babylon downplayed the whole affair, condemning in a statement what they described as attempts to use the news to stir up sectarian feelings to score political points. On August 15, Interior Minister Yaseen al-Yasiri echoed that, saying news of the bodies was exaggerated for “sectarian and political purposes.” Forced disappearances are a problem in Iraq. According to Amnesty International, 643 Iraqi males were abducted by PMF militiamen in Anbar province in the summer of 2016 alone. 

On August 12, Masoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), said that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was working to stop Turkish and Iranian shelling and airstrikes in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Barzani was referring to a recent increase in the frequency and intensity of military operations by Turkey and Iran against Kurdish oppositionists, especially the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Iran. He did not elaborate on the nature of the KRG’s diplomatic efforts. Barzani stressed that any solution must not result in Kurdish infighting, implying that the KRG would not use force to expel fellow Kurds as a means to persuade Iran and Turkey to cease fire.

On August 13, the deputy director of Iraq’s election commission warned that the new election law might prevent many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from voting in the next provincial councils. Rezgar Haji Hama pointed out that the amended law, which parliament ratified on July 22, requires voters to go to the ballots in their original city of residence using biometrically updated voter cards. According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 1.6 million Iraqis were displaced as of July 2019.

On August 14, the PMF distanced itself from the derogatory remarks against the Iraqi army made by one of the senior leaders of PMF faction Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba. Speaking at an interview on August 13, Yousif al-Nasiri, the faction’s deputy secretary general, dismiss the Iraqi Army as “a mercenary army.”  Shemmari went on to call for “disbanding the Iraqi Army, and considering the Popular Mobilization as Iraq’s first army.” On August 14, the deputy chief of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, Lt. General Abdul-Amir Yarallah, issued a statement condemning Nasiri’s remarks and demanding a public apology. The same day, the Ministry of Defense issued another statement vowing to sue Nasiri and urged the political leadership to stand against those who insult the military institution.


PMF Weapons Depot Explodes In Baghdad; Iraq Reopens BIAB Road To Civilian Traffic; Militant Attacks Focus on Kirkuk And Diyala

On August 8, unknown militants fired four mortar rounds at the Abu Nazar village in Diyala province. The attack killed two civilians. Also on August 8, six mortar rounds struck the village of Mayyah in Diyala, wounding two civilians. On august 13, a local official said locals were evacuating the village fearing more attacks, without providing details about the scope of the movement. Diyala’s police chief said the situation was under control and that there were no incidents of forced displacement. 

On August 9, the Military Intelligence Directorate said Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) killed four Inghimasi (infiltration assault) ISIS militants in a hideout in the Nida region of Diyala province.  

On August 9, a landmine believed to be a remnant of the Iraq-Iran war exploded in the Zurbatya district of Wassit province near the Iranian border. The incident severely injured four civilians. 

On August 10, the Pentagon said that a U.S. Marine died in Iraq’s Ninewa province. The Marine died as a result of gunfire incident while on a joint mission with the ISF. 

On August 10, the Security Media Cell said International Coalition airstrikes killed an unspecified number of ISIS militants in the Kanous region in Ninewa province. The report said ISF killed two more ISIS members during a subsequent search operation in the same area.  

On August 10, sniper fire wounded two policemen at a checkpoint near Jalawla, northeast of Baquba in Diyala province.  

On August 11, the office of Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi announced a decision to reopen the road to Baghdad International Airport to civilian traffic. The road will initially be open from 6pm to 1am every day, allowing ordinary citizens to directly reach the airport’s terminals for the first time in more than 16 years. 

On August 11, an IED explosion hit a passing Iraqi Army convoy outside Jalawla, northeast of Baquba in Diyala province. The explosion killed one soldier.

On August 11, an IED exploded on a civilian vehicle on a village road in the Tuz district south of Kirkuk. The explosion injured three civilians from the same family. 

On August 12, a unit of Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Servince (CTS) killed ten ISIS militants, two of whom wearing SVIEDs, and arrested five more during an air assault operation in the Rutba district in Anbar province. The CTS carried out the operation in conjunction with airstrikes by the International Coalition, which destroyed an unspecified number of ISIS position in the area.  

On August 12, Iraqi Army Aviation destroyed four vehicles carrying ISIS members en route to attack security forces southwest of Rutba in Anbar province. A security source said all of the vehicles’ occupants were killed in the airstrikes.  

On August 12, ISIS militants attacked a security checkpoint south of Kirkuk. Security sources said the attack near the Ali Sarai village left two members of the Iraqi federal police dead and wounded two more. 

On August 12, a munitions depot exploded in southern Baghdad’s Dora district. Iraq’s Interior Ministry said the powerful explosion occurred at Camp Saqr (Falcon), which is used by the PMF and Interior Ministry forces. The Health Ministry said the explosion, and projectiles from the ensuing munitions cookoff, killed one person and injured 29 others in the area surrounding the explosion site. On August 13, security officials warned nearby residents of the possible presence of unexploded munitions that may have been scattered by the explosion. On August 15, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi ordered a full investigation into the incident. He also issued instructions to prepare plans and timetables to transfer all camps and weapons depots belonging to the Defense or Interior ministries, PMF, Tribal Mobilization Forces, or any other military organization to areas outside cities. 

On August 12, the Security Media Cell said a coalition airstrike destroyed a truck in the desert of Salah ad-Din province. The airstrike killed two suspected ISIS militants, one of whom was wearing a suicide vest. 

On August 12, PMF sources said a unit of the PMF’s 21st brigade killed three suspected ISIS militants and arrested another in the ‘Mteibijah region between Diyala and Salah ad-Din provinces.

On August 13, Turkish airstrikes and ground operations in the KRI killed two members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). According to the Turkish Defense Ministry, the operations took place in the border area of Metina, as part of the months-old “Operation Claw.” 

On August 14, an IED exploded targeting a federal police vehicle near the Sayyid Ni’ma village west of Daquq district in Kirkuk province. The explosion injured two policemen. 

On August 14, ISIS militants attacked a security checkpoint between the districts of Hawijah and Dibis west of Kirkuk. The assailants killed one member of the pro-government Tribal Mobilization Force and wounded another. 

On August 14, Iraqi airplanes bombed ISIS targets in the Himrin region in Diyala province. According to security sources, the operation killed four ISIS members, including one explosives expert. 


31 Yezidis Arrive In France; Three Yezidi Survivors Found; Sinjar Mayor Says Syria Safe Zone Proposal Endangers Yezidis

On August 8, the French Foreign Ministry announced that 31 Yazidi women and their children have arrived in France. The ministry said the resettlement of these women and children reflected France’s determination to provide aid to victims of ethnic and religious violence in the Middle East. French authorities had previously resettled 44 Yezidi families between December and May. French President Emmanuel Macron had pledged to give refuge to 100 Yazidi families and provide them with protection, education and health and social services.

On August 12, a UN inspector accused France of moving 13 French members of ISIS from Syria into Iraq, exposing them to the death penalty. In a letter to the French government, extrajudicial executions investigator Agnes Callamard,said that while the French officially oppose the death penalty, they secretly transferred the prisoners into Iraq knowing that they would most likely be sentenced to death. She argued that the French Government violated international law, and that Paris had 60 days to respond. On August 13, the French Government denied the accusations, saying that Kalamar’s accusation was “based on speculation”  and defended the trial of their citizens in Iraq, saying that they should be tried within the nearest place of the crimes committed. 

On August 12, the Metro Center for Defending Journalists’ Rights, a KRI based monitoring group, condemned an attack on a Kurdish Journalist. On August 9, an unknown gunman fired 12 rounds into the reporter’s house. The group called on law enforcement to increase their efforts to protect journalists and prosecute those who try to silence them. The police have reportedly opened an investigation into the incident. 

On August 13, the head of the Yazidi Rescue Office announced the rescue of three new Yazidi survivors. The three survivors, all women between 16 and 19 years old, were originally from the town of Kojo and had been abducted by ISIS in 2014. The office affirmed that its teams continue to search for the remaining 2,900 missing Yazidis taken by ISIS since June 2014. 

On August 13, the Mayor of Sinjar, Mahma Khalil, said that proposals to establish a “safe zone” along the northern Syrian-Turkish border would endanger the Yazidis living in northwest Iraq. Khalil argued that creating such a safe zone, which Turkish President Receb Tayyib Erdogan is pushing for, would force remaining ISIS sleeper cells to the Syrian-Iraqi border region, and expose Sinjar to greater security threats, which in turn would discourage Yezidis and other IDPs from returning to their homes in the region. Despite the military defeat of ISIS, many of these IDPs have not returned home due to lingering security concerns and a lack of services. 


Iraq Considers Solar Panel Production Venture; BP/ENI To Build New Subsea Oil Pipelines; New Steel Plant Planned In Najaf

On August 8, the Ministry of Industry and Minerals said it was discussing the development of solar power technology in Iraq with Hyundai. The ministry-owned Al-Zawraa General Company met with a delegation from the Korean company and discussed technology transfers and the potential for joint production operations inside Iraq.

On August 8, the Iraqi Government signaled that it was close to finalizing a $400 million oil infrastructure deal with BP and Italy’s ENI. The contract involves constructing two seabed oil pipelines to carry Iraqi oil to export platforms on the Gulf. Under the arrangement, BP would finance the project while ENI manages the engineering and construction. The pipelines project was originally part of a much larger $53 billion deal with ExxonMobil, on which negotiations have slowed down due to security concerns and disagreements over contract terms. An Iraqi oil official stated that the country urgently needed the offshore pipelines and could not afford to wait for a comprehensive deal with ExxonMobil. On August 11, the Iraqi government said that despite the BP/ENI deal, the Oil Ministry was still discussing the original $53 billion contract with Exxon.

On August 14, a gas pipeline exploded outside al-Haritha power plant in southern Iraq, cutting fuel supply to the facility. Police said that the blast was caused by the intense summer heat and strain put on the system. According to the Civil Defense Directorate, damage was limited to the 24” pipeline itself and didn’t cause any casualties or damages to other systems. 

On August 15, the authorities in charge of the Najaf shrines signed a deal with a local company to establish a new steel plant in the city. The project is expected to take two years to complete and would have an annual capacity of 300,000 tons of steel. The plant is expected to create between 400 and 450 jobs. 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs August 8, 2019 - August 15, 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
08/11/19Outside Jalawla, Diyala province10
08/11/19Tuz Khurmato, Kirkuk province03
08/14/19West of Daquq, Kirkuk province02

 

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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