ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM 218: AUGUST 15 – AUGUST 22, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • PMF Accuse U.S., Israel Of Targeting Their Bases; President Salih Tries To Contain U.S.-Iran Tensions; Parliament Removes Immunity Of Several Lawmakers – On August 21, senior PMF leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis said the PMF hold the U.S. and Israel responsible for recent attacks on PMF sites and threatened to fire at foreign aircraft that fly over PMF bases without Baghdad’s knowledge. On August 18, Iraqi President Barham Salih met separately with the U.S. and Iranian ambassadors to Iraq and discussed defusing U.S.-Iran tensions that are affecting Iraq. On August 16, Moqtada al-Sadr criticized PM Abdul-Mahdi over weak government performance in providing services and fighting corruption. On August 20, Germany’s Defense Minister visited Baghdad and expressed Berlin’s interest in training and supporting the ISF. On August 20, Parliament removed the legal immunity of several MPs per judicial requests. The move raised questions about selective enforcement of the law. more…
  • New Explosion Hits PMF Depots; Interior Ministry Rehires 25,000 Policemen; Militant Attacks Continue In Diyala – On August 20, a fire broke out at a PMF weapons depot in Salah ad-Din, the fourth such incident since July. On August 21, the Interior Ministry announced a decision to rehire 25,938 policemen who had been dismissed from service in four provinces in 2014. On August 17, three mortar rounds struck near a school in Khanaqin in Diyala province without causing casualties. On August 18, Iraqi Army Aviation destroyed a car bomb in Wadi Hauran in Anbar, killing its occupants. On August 20, two IEDs wounded four ISF members northeast of Baqubah in Diyala. On August 22, two mortar rounds struck outside Jalawla in Diyala. On August 22, ISF killed six militants, including four suicide bombers near the Qara-Teppeh in Diyala. On August 19, the Minister of Defense met with the commander of the Federal Police to discuss the transfer of security responsibilities in cities from the Army to the Interior Ministry. On August 20, an airstrike by the International Coalition killed six militants in Ninewa. more…
  • Iraq Executed 100 Inmates So Far This Year; Representatives Demand Investigation Into Disappearances; Thousands of IDPs Leave Ninewa, Salah Ad-Din Camps – On August 18, a member of the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights said the country has executed more than 100 inmates so far this year. On August 20, representatives of Sunni-majority provinces called on the Iraqi government to take action to address the problem of enforced disappearances. On August 18, a Ninewa official said more than 23,000 orphans and 7,000 widows in the province survive on aid provided by NGOs and the charitable donations of locals because the local government lacked the financial resources to support them. On August 20, the governor of Ninewa said that authorities have begun the process of moving 4,500 IDP families from camps in Ninewa to their original districts in Kirkuk, Salah ad-Din and Anbar. On August 21, the Ministry of Migration said that 4,325 IDPs have left the Qadisiyah IDP camp in Salah ad-Din and returned to their original districts in Baiji, Shirqat, Sayniyah and Hatra in Salah ad-Din and Ninewa. more…
  • Iraq’s Gasoline Production Rises; Power Generation Slightly Up in August – On August 17, Iraq’s Oil Ministry reported 24 and 43 percent increases in gasoline and gasoil production in 2019, respectively. On August 20, the Ministry of Electricity said power generation increased to 18,145 MW in August compared with 17,967 MW in July. On August 21, Taqa, an energy firm operating in the KRI said it achieved a monthly production of 1 million barrels for the first time. On August 22, Istanbul’s Chamber of Commerce said Iraq has expanded the list of banned Turkish products from 78 to 85 while increasing its reliance on imports from Iran and China. 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 Accuse U.S., Israel Of Targeting Their Bases; President Salih Tries To Contain U.S.-Iran Tensions; Parliament Removes Immunity Of Several Lawmakers

On August 16, the U.S.-led international coalition against ISIS said it would fully cooperate with new Iraqi regulations concerning the use of Iraq’s airspace. The day before, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi issued orders banning all military flights, including manned and unmanned strike and surveillance missions of all kinds and nationalities, without prior authorization from the Commander in Chief or his authorized representatives. The orders followed an explosion at a weapons depot used by the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Baghdad amid speculation and unconfirmed reports attributing a recent spate of similar incidents to Israeli airstrikes. The incidents prompted some PMF leaders to push for Iraq to boost its air defense capabilities, including calls to negotiate for acquiring the S-400 advanced air defense system from Russia. 

On August 16, Moqtada al-Sadr criticized Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi over what he described as weak government performance in four key areas. In a message on Twitter, Sadr urged the prime minister to remain independent to avoid “recreating the deep state.”  He also lashed out at the government over slow improvement in providing “nearly nonexistent” services. Sadr, who leads the Islah coalition in Parliament, accused the prime minister of not showing any progress in fighting corruption. Finally, Sadr encouraged Abdul-Mahdi to crack down on actors “who want to weaken the military institution”–a possible reference to calls for disbanding the Iraqi Army by a senior member of the pro-Iran Hezbollah Nujaba militia. 

On August 18, Iraqi President Barham Salih met separately with the U.S. and Iranian ambassadors to Iraq. A statement by Salih’s office said the president’s talks with the ambassadors emphasized stability and defusing tensions in the region. The meetings come amid continuing escalation between Iran and the United States, amid fears that their competition could engulf Iraq in a new conflict. On August 18, Salih paid a visit to the Ministry of Defence and met with Defense Minister Najah al-Shemmari. Salih stressed that Iraq must avoid becoming a battleground for the conflicts of other states. The visit, and similar ones by the Speaker of Parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi and Badr leader Hadi al-Amiri, was likely an attempt to express solidarity with the military establishment after last week’s verbal attacks by a senior leader a pro-Iran faction of the PMF.

On August 18, Iraqi Interior Minister, Yassin al-Yasiri, visited Tehran and met with Iran’s Defense Minister, Amir Hatemi. Hatemi told the Iraqi minister that strengthening Iraq’s defense infrastructure was a “fundamental strategy” for Iran. Hatemi added that Iraq and Iran have many defense and security matters of mutual interest that require constant communications. 

On August 19, the Ministry of Defense said it appointed Major General Nasir al-Ghannam as the new chief of the Anbar Operations Command. Ghannam replaces Major General Mahmoud al-Falahi, whom PMF factions have recently accused of conspiring with the CIA and Israel to target PMF positions in Anbar.

On August 20, Germany’s Defense Minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, visited Baghdad and met with Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Abdul-Mahdi expressed Iraq’s interest in a lasting partnership with Germany that goes beyond military cooperation to support development and achieve sustainable security. The prime minister also told the German minister that Baghdad is determined to achieve state monopoly on violence. The German minister expressed Berlin’s interest in training and supporting the developing capabilities of the Iraqi security forces (ISF) as well as “improving [Iraq’s] infrastructure and economic cooperation.” 

On August 20, Iraqi media outlets published inconsistent reports about Parliament removing the legal immunity of a number of its members. The scope differed widely. Initially, al-Sabah wrote that Parliament would lift the immunity of 21 of its members. There were, however, individual lawmakers, such as Sunni representative Talal al-Zoba’ie, who accused the Speaker of parliament, Mohammed al-Halbousi of selectively targeting them with the measure for political reasons. Meanwhile, local newspaper al-Mada said Parliament indeed proceeded to lift the immunity of 12 members, while requests regarding another nine remain under consideration. The Hikma movement, which considers itself an opposition party, warned against selective application of the measure, urging parliament to remove immunity from all MPs whom the judiciary wants to investigate. It’s worth mentioning that earlier reports in July stated that the judiciary asked parliament to lift the immunity of 60 members of Parliament.

On August 21, senior PMF leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis said the PMF holds the U.S. and Israel responsible for attacks on PMF sites. In a strongly worded letter, Muhandis, a U.S.-designated terrorist who is the de-facto commander of the PMF, threatened to fire at any foriegn aircraft that fly over PMF bases without the knowledge of the Iraqi government “using existing and weapons and more advanced ones.” Specifically, Muhandis accused the U.S. of allowing four Israeli drones to be brought in from Azerbaijan to spy on the paramilitaries and said the U.S. used anti-ISIS reconnaissance flights to to help Israel target the PMF. This sharp escalation follows a series of mysterious explosions (four since July) that occurred at PMF weapons depots, most recently on August 20 in Balad. Media sources have speculated that Israel may have been behind these attacks in a bid to block Iran’s perceived efforts to deploy long range missiles in Iraq. An Iraqi government report said an earlier explosion in Baghdad was caused by a drone, but didn’t give its origin. Abdul Mahdi reportedly held an emergency meeting on August 21 to discuss the evolving situation with PMF leaders. 

On August 22, Iraq’s Defense Minister, Najah al-Shemmari, visited the UK and met with the UK Defense Minister, Ben Wallace. The two ministers signed a memorandum of understanding concerning security and defense cooperation.


New Explosion Hits PMF Depots; Interior Ministry Rehires 25,000 Policemen; Militant Attacks Continue In Diyala

On August 17, three mortar rounds struck near a school in the Khanaqin district of Diyala province. The shelling resulted in material damage but did not cause human casualties. 

On August 18, a local PMF commander in Anbar province said Iraqi Army Aviation targeted a vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in Wadi Hauran, west of Anbar’s Hit district. The source said the airstrike killed all the militants who were inside the vehicle at the time.  

On August 19, Turkish jets targeted Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) positions near the Sangasar village in northern Sulaymaniyah and wounded two civilians in the area. On August 20, another Turkish airstrike hit a PKK vehicle in the village of Baperi in Dohuk.  

On August 19, the Minister of Defense met with the commander of the Federal Police to discuss the transfer of security responsibilities inside Iraqi cities from the Army to the Interior Ministry. The two officials discussed the prime minister’s decision to withdraw Army units from cities and transfer security responsibilities to the Interior Ministry.  

On August 20, two successive IED explosions wounded one officer and three soldiers northeast of Baqubah in Diyala province. The two IEDs exploded within a short interval targeting an Army patrol while it was passing through the Waqf area. 

On August 20, an airstrike by the International Coalition killed six militants in the Atshana mountains in Ninewa province. According to the Security Media Cell, ground units from the Iraqi Army’s 20th division chased the militants into a tunnel in the mountainous area, then called in a Coalition airstrike on the militants location, killing them and destroying the tunnel.  

On August 20, a fire broke out at a PMF weapons depot at an Iraqi airbase in the Balad district of Salah ad-Din province. Iraqi media did not report any deaths but other news agencies said it killed two and wounded five, and also reportedly sent rockets flying into surrounding farms and residential areas. The explosion, which is the fourth such incident since July, caused an uproar among PMF affiliates who demanded an investigation into possible deliberate action and went as far as to accuse the U.S. of facilitating anti-PMF airstrikes by Israeli drones. On August 22, the president, prime minister and speaker of parliament met to discuss the incident and ordered an investigation into the explosion.

On August 21, the Interior Ministry announced a decision to rehire 25,938 policemen who had been dismissed from service during the conflict with ISIS. According to Minister Yaseen al-Yasiri, the decision involves 13,252 policemen in Ninewa, 7,636 others in Anbar, 3,462 in Salah ad-Din, 1,072 in Diyala and 516 in Kirkuk.

On August 22, a group of militants attacked ISF positions near the Qara-Tappeh sub-district in Diyala province. Security forces killed six of the attackers in a firefight, four of whom were wearing suicide vests. 

On August 22, two mortar rounds struck in the Hilwan area, outside Jalawla in Diyala province. On the same day, sniper fire wounded an Iraqi soldier at a checkpoint in another area of the Jalawla sub-district.


Iraq Executed 100 Inmates So Far This Year; Representatives Demand Investigation Into Disappearances; Thousands of IDPs Leave Ninewa, Salah Ad-Din Camps

On August 18, dozens of people in the Suweir sub-district of Muthanna province demonstrated demanding basic services. The protesters said their sub-district, where reportedly 50,000 people reside, has been suffering from inadequate basic services for 15 years. They called for sacking officials in charge of electricity and vowed to keep protesting until their demands are met. 

On August 18, a member of the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights said the country has executed more than 100 inmates so far this year. The Commission’s Hemin Bajalan said that according to Justice Ministry data shared with the commission, there were more than 8,000 inmates on death row. In 2018, Iraq was among the top four countries in the world that still implement capital punishment, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

On August 18, a member of the Ninewa provincial council said there were more than 23,000 orphans and 7,000 widows in the province. Council member Husam al-Abbar said these orphans and widows survive on aid provided by NGOs and the charitable donations of locals. He explained that the local government lacked the financial resources to provide them with social security services.  

On August 20, FIFA announced that it will allow Iraq to host its national soccer team’s matches in the next World Cup qualifiers at its own stadiums in Basra. Iraqi officials and soccer fans applauded the decision, which ends a FIFA ban on hosting international matches that was imposed since Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

On August 20, the governor of Ninewa said that authorities have begun the process of moving 4,500 families of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from camps in Ninewa to their original districts in Kirkuk, Salah ad-Din and Anbar provinces. Governor Mureid told the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) during a meeting that Ninewa was serious about setting the conditions for the return of IDPs, including families with perceived ties to ISIS members, in order to empty and close out the camps within three years. 

On August 20, former Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi convened a meeting of representatives of Sunni-majority provinces to discuss recent reports of unidentified bodies, and the issues of enforced disappearances and inability of IDPs to return to their districts. The meeting issued a statement that called on the Iraqi government to take action to address the problem of enforced disappearances and called for letting the judiciary investigate and prosecute kidnappings free of political pressure. The statement urged the government to bring militias under state control, especially those blocking the return of IDPs to districts liberated from ISIS, such as Jurf al-Sakhar, southwest of Baghdad. 

On August 21, Rudaw reported that UNHCR is offering 60 university scholarships to refugees of all nationalities who are in Iraq. The German government will finance the scholarships as part of the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI).

On August 21, Germany’s Defense Minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, visited Erbil and met with Yezidi survivors there. The German minister said that Germany needs to remain engaged in the country, emphsizing that those who suffered severe human rights violations “need more targeted help so that they are not victims of this terrorism a second time.”

On August 21, the Ministry of Migration said that 4,325 IDPs have left the Qadisiyah IDP camp in Salah ad-Din province and returned to their original districts in Baiji, Shirqat, Sayniyah and Hatra in Salah ad-Din and Ninewa provinces. A ministry official said the return was “voluntary” but did not provide a timeline for when the return took place. 


Gasoline Production Rises; Power Generation Slightly Up in August

On August 17, Iraq’s Oil Ministry reported a significant increase in gasoline and gasoil production in 2019. Gasoline production went up 24 percent from 2018 levels, from 11.48 million litres per day in 2018 to 14.29 million litres per day this year. Gasoil production increased by 43 percent during the same period, from 7.84 million litres per day to 11.23 million litres per day.

On August 20, the Ministry of Electricity reported an increase in power supplied to its customers. In a statement, the ministry said it provided 18,145 megawatts to Iraqi provinces, excluding the KRI, while peak demand was at 22,292 megawatts, implying a 4,100 megawatt deficit. These supply figures are slightly higher than those the ministry reported a month earlier, when supply stood at 17,967 megawatts.

On August 21, Taqa, an energy firm operating in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) reported an increase in oil production from its Atrush field. The company said it managed for the first time to bring total monthly production to 1 million barrels of oil, implying a daily average of just over 33,000 barrels per day. 

On August 22, Turkey’s envoy to Iraq, Fatih Yeldiz, asked the Iraqi Government to reconsider a recent ban on Turkish egg imports. The ban, placed in June, caused major losses among Turkish producers. Meanwhile, Istanbul’s Chamber of Commerce noted that Iraq has expanded the list of banned Turkish products from 78 to 85 while increasing its reliance on imports from Iran and China.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs August 15, 2019 - August 22, 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
08/18/19Wadi Hauran, Anbar province00
08/20/19Northeast of Baqubah, Diyala province04
08/22/19Qara-Teppeh, Diyala province00

 

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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