ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM 220: AUGUST 29 – SEPTEMBER 5, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • Maliki Renews Push For VP Post; Fayyadh In Moscow Seeking Weapons; New Border Dispute With Kuwait; Hikma To Form “Shadow Cabinet” – On August 31, Nouri al-Maliki said he was awaiting a decision from President Barham Salih to nominate him for the vice presidency. On September 2, PMF chairman Falih al-Fayyadh visited Moscow and met with the Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation amid statements by allied politicians about plans to buy advanced Russian air defense systems. On September 3, Iraqi media reported that Iraq sent a letter to the UN accusing Kuwait of making unilateral changes to maritime borders between the two nations. On September 4, al-Hikma Movement said it planed to assemble an opposition coalition of 100 MPs and form a “shadow cabinet” of 22 ministers. Hikma’s leader had earlier criticized government weakness amid the escalation between Israel and the PMF. more…
  • Federal Police To Take Over Security In Four Provinces; Spike In Abductions, Assassinations; PM Seeks New Security Perimeter For Baghdad – On August 30, the commander of Iraq’s Federal Police said the force would soon take on security responsibilities from the Army in Basra, Maysan, Dhi-Qar, and Muthanna. Between August 30 and September 3, militants assassinated four civilians in Baghdad, one civilian in Diyala, and one civilian in Ninewa. On September 4, militants kidnapped two civilians in Kirkuk. On August 31, PM Abdul-Mahdi sent a letter to the Baghdad Operations Command requesting alternatives to the concrete security wall around Baghdad. On September 2, ISIS militants attacked PMF fighters in Samarra, killing two PMF fighters and injuring one. On September 1, an IED killed one civilian in Diyala. On September 4, three IEDs exploded in Diyala, injuring one civilian and three soldiers. On September 3, a mine killed a U.S. citizen working with a de-mining group south of Mosul. On September 1, militants attacked an IDP camp in Salah ad-Din province with hand grenades but caused no casualties. Between September 1 and September 5, Turkish airstrikes in Dohuk killed eight PKK members. more…
  • 25,000 Remain Missing From Three Provinces; Forced IDP Relocation Raises Concerns; New Graduates Protest, Demand Jobs – On September 2, the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights said that 25,000 Iraqis from Ninewa, Anbar and Salah ad-Din were missing or victims of enforced disappearances, but fear and distrust stopped thousands of families from reporting missing relatives. On September 2, the Humanitarian Coordinator of the UN in Iraq expressed concern over the reportedly forced transfer of IDPs from camps in Ninewa, citing a lack of organization and disregard for security risks in the districts to which IDPs are relocated. On September 5, university graduates demonstrated outside of various Iraqi government ministries in Baghdad to demand jobs. On August 30, local police discovered a new mass grave in Sinjar that contained the bodies of at least six Yazidis murdered by ISIS. On September 4, local police found another mass grave in southern Mosul that contained the bodies of thirteen women killed by ISIS. more…
  • Iraq Seeks Partner For Gas Project; Russian Firm To Develop New Oil Block; Oil Trucking To Jordan Resumes; Iraq Losing Billions At Border Crossings – On August 31, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said it was looking for international oil companies to take a minority stake in its development of the Mansouriya gas field. On September 4, the Oil Ministry signed an initial contract with Russian oil company Kaz Trans Oil to explore and develop Block-17 in Anbar province. On September 1, a spokesperson for the Oil Ministry announced that Iraq has sent its first shipment of crude oil by trucks from the Kirkuk oil fields to Jordan. On September 2, the chairman of Iraq’s border crossings commission said the country was losing more than $7.5 billion a year due to corruption and weak government controls at border crossings. On September 3, the North Gas Company and Al-Bahram Company signed a contract to add a 12,000 bpd high-octane gasoline unit at the Kirkuk refinery. 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.


Maliki Renews Push For VP Post; Fayyadh In Moscow Seeking Weapons; New Border Dispute With Kuwait; Hikma To Form “Shadow Cabinet”

On August 31, Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the 19-seat Hikma Movement, criticized government weakness in enforcing a monopoly on arms. Hakim’s remarks were a response to recent Israeli airstrikes on weapons stores controlled by the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and subsequent threats of retaliation by militia commanders. Hakim lashed out at Israel, Iran and the PMF for dragging Iraq into their conflict. He condemned Israel’s violation of Iraq’s airspace and also cautioned against turning Iraq into a weapons store for any foreign power, in a clear reference to Iran. Israel has reportedly been behind several airstrikes on PMF bases that it suspects hold advanced Iranian missiles that pose a threat to Israel. 

On August 31, Nouri al-Maliki said he was awaiting a decision from President Barham Salih to nominate him for the vice presidency. Maliki, a former vice president and prime minister, said the president had repeatedly expressed interest in appointing him as First Vice President. Maliki criticized the delay, warning that failing to appoint a vice president would violate the constitution. The Saeroun coalition, led by Maliki’s longtime rival Moqtada al-Sadr, voiced strong opposition for awarding the largely-symbolic position to Maliki but said it was generally in favor of filling the posts, vacant since the May 2018 election, to avoid a constitutional violation. In 2015, former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi pushed to abolish the positions as part of government reforms, but Iraq’s highest court in 2016 ruled the move to be unconstitutional. 

On September 2, Iraq’s Media and Communications Commission suspended the license of the U.S.-funded al-Hurra channel for three months. The suspension, along with demands for a formal apology, came after the channel broadcast an investigative report about corruption in Iraq’s clerical institutions. The Commission said the program diverged from journalistic professionalism and violated many of the guidelines the channel had agreed to when it began working in Iraq. On September 1, the PMF issued a statement condemning al-Hurra’s “hostile messaging” and its “repeated targeting of symbols, individuals, the society and Islam.” The Sunni Endowment attacked the report as “misleading” and “unfair,” and threatened to sue al-Hurra in court.

On September 2, Falih al-Fayyadh visited Moscow for security cooperation talks with Russian officials. Fayyadh, who is Iraq’s National Security Adviser and Chairman of the PMF commission, reportedly met with the Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, Nikolai Patrushev. A member of the parliamentary defense committee from the Badr organization, which leads the Binaa coalition to which Fayyadh belongs, described the trip as an attempt to pivot to Russia. The MP, Mahmoud al-Mhimadawi, claimed that the government plans to have Russia replace the U.S. as the main supplier of weapons to the Iraqi Army. Specifically, Mhimadawi said Baghdad would seek Russia’s S-400 air defense system. Following Isreali airstrikes on PMF bases, politicians close to the PMF have been calling for augmenting Iraq’s air defense capabilities with the advanced Russian missile system. 

On September 3, a spokesman for Iraq’s Election Commission said political entities that want to participate in the next provincial elections had one month, starting September 5, to register their electoral coalitions. Iraq plans to hold the next provincial elections on April 1, 2020. 

On September 3, Al-Sumaria reported that Iraq sent a letter to the UN accusing Kuwait of making unilateral changes to maritime borders between the two nations. The letter, which Iraq submitted on August 7, said Kuwait constructed a mooring near its waters without Iraq’s consent, in violation of existing agreements. Maritime borders and sea access are chronic sources of tension and wars between Iraq, whose coastline is the shortest among others overlooking the Gulf, and its neighbors, particularly Kuwait and Iran. On September 5, KUNA published parts of Kuwait’s response to Iraq’s claims, submitted to the UN August 20. In it, Kuwait argued that construction took place in territorial waters outside the UN-demarcated boundaries, and as such, is a sovereign right and a bilateral issue unrelated to UN mechanisms. 

On September 4, al-Mada reported that al-Hikma Movement plans to form a “shadow cabinet” of 22 ministers to monitor government performance and provide alternative policies for dealing with Iraq’s problems. According to a senior member of Hikma, the group, which declared its opposition to Abdul-Mahdi’s cabinet in June, hopes to assemble an opposition coalition of 100 MPs and formulate its own government program within a few weeks. 


Federal Police To Take Over Security In Four Provinces; Spike In Abductions, Assassinations; PM Seeks New Security Perimeter For Baghdad

On August 30, Federal Police Commander, Major General Jaafar Al-Battat said the Federal Police would soon take on security responsibilities in Basra, Maysan, Dhi-Qar, and Muthanna. The announcement follows an earlier meeting between Battat’s predecessor and the Minister of Defense on August 19, in which they discussed implementing Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi’s plan to transfer security responsibilities from the Army to the Federal Police. Battat, Interior Minister Yaseen al-Yasiri, and Army Chief General Othman al-Ghanimi all met on September 4 to further discuss the security transition, which indicates a focused government effort to complete the process. 

On August 30, unknown gunmen shot and killed a civilian in Qara-Teppeh, northeast of Baqubah in Diyala province. 

On August 30, unknown militants killed one civilian using silenced weapons on the streets of Shula, north of Baghdad. On August 31, another civilian was killed in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad. The following day, September 1, unknown shooters killed another civilian in Shula. On September 3, unknown gunmen used silenced weapons to kill one civilian in Nahrawan, southeast of Baghdad. 

On August 31, a letter sent from Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi to the Baghdad Operations Command requesting alternatives to the concrete security wall around Baghdad was leaked to the media. While there is no official plan to replace the wall, some officials speculate that an “electronic barrier” alternative relying on camera surveillance would cost $1 billion. Proponents of removing the wall cite the decline in militant threat to Baghdad, the wall’s  disruption of agriculture, and the sense of social divide it creates between residents of Baghdad and those directly outside the city. 

On August 31, ISIS militants reportedly attempted an attack using explosive belts strapped to two cows in al-Islah village, near Jalawla sub-district in Diyala province. There were no human casualties. 

On August 31, ISIS militants clashed with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and locals near the village of Sibahi in Khanaqin district in Diyala province. The fighting wounded one soldier and two villagers. A security source said ISF and locals killed and wounded a number of the attackers, without providing details. 

On September 1, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) killed one civilian driving on an agricultural road northeast of Baqubah in Diyala province.

On September 1, unidentified militants attacked a camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Shirqat sub-district in Salah ad-Din province using hand grenades. There were no casualties and no recorded injuries. 

On September 1, an airstrike from a Turkish warplane resulted in five PKK casualties in northern Duhok province in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). An unnamed witness claimed the warplane had circled the area for a short period of time before destroying a “white vehicle.” The attack was part of the third phase of Turkey’s “Operation Claw,” an intensified effort to uproot PKK fighters that started on May 27. On September 2, the KRG called for the evacuation of over a dozen villages in Duhok province in anticipation of future Turkish airstrikes. On September 5, renewed Turkish airstrikes killed three more PKK members in the Sinat-Haftanin area in Dohuk.

On September 2, ISIS militants attacked PMF fighters at a checkpoint near al-Zoor in the city of Samarra. The PMF group Saraya al-Salam said the attack resulted in the deaths of two members and left at least one more injured. 

On September 2, militants shot and killed one civilian in Tal-Afar in Ninewa province. The gunmen opened fire from an unmarked vehicle and fled. 

On September 2, ISIS militants killed one soldier and injured another in a clash at a military post outside the village of al-Bu Issa, situated between Diyala and Salah ad-Din provinces. 

On September 3, the Falcons Intelligence Cell said it tracked and killed nine ISIS militants in a tunnel in the Sihaji region, southwest of Mosul. A spokesman for Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said aviation assets of the U.S.-led International Coalition supported the operation. 

On September 3, an ordnance exploded and killed a United States citizen working to diffuse it outside of al-Quyyara sub-district south of Mosul. The American worked for the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action, a de-mining group that clears mines left behind from the war with ISIS. 

On September 4, an IED injured one farmer on agricultural land near al-Abbara, northeast of Baqubah. The same day, another IED exploded along an agricultural road in the sub-district of al-Muqdadiya, northeast of Baqubah in Diyala province. The explosion caused losses among livestock but no human casualties. Also on September 4, an IED struck a military vehicle and wounded three soldiers near Kashkuk village, northeast of Baqubah in Diyala province. 

On September 4, ISIS militants kidnapped the head of Abdullah Al-Yassin village in Kirkuk province. Militants also abducted another individual from the outskirts of Hawija in Kirkuk province. The militants ostensibly targeted both men for their ties to security forces.

On September 5, PMF fighters killed three ISIS members in a security mission in the district al-Dur, southeast of Tikrit. Iraqi Army Aviation supported the PMF mission and killed two more ISIS members in the same area. 


25,000 Remain Missing From Three Provinces; Forced IDP Relocation Raises Concerns; New Graduates Protest, Demand Jobs

On August 30, the Yazidi Organization for Documentation stated that local police discovered a new mass grave in the Sinjar district in Ninewa province. According to local police, the mass grave contains the bodies of at least six Yazidis murdered byISIS. Approximately 3,000 Yazidis remain missing out of 6,000 whom ISIS kidnapped during the 2014 invasion. On September 4, local police found another mass grave in southern Mosul. The grave included the bodies of thirteen women killed during the ISIS occupation of Ninewa in the al-Shoura sub-district, south of Mosul. 

On September 2, the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights said that approximately 25,000 Iraqis from three provinces were missing or forced into disappearance. According to the organization, 12-15 thousand of those missing were from Ninewa province, six thousand were from Anbar, and the remaining four thousand were from Salah ad-Din province. The statement added that only 6,500 families had reported missing relatives, while thousands more were reluctant to speak to authorities, either fearing retribution or doubting the government’s ability to help. Families of the missing criticize the government’s inadequate attention to the issue. The International Committee of the Red Cross describes Iraq as having one of the largest numbers of missing persons worldwide.

On September 2, nearly 100 contract teachers protested in front of the KRG Council of Ministers building in Erbil to demand permanent employment. Contract teachers are paid a flat fee and do not enjoy retirement benefits. One of the organizers of the demonstration stated that they will continue protesting until the KRG answers their requests. Following in the teachers’ footsteps, on September 4, municipal workers in Chwarqurna went on strike to protest delayed salary payments. One protester claimed they had not received pay in two months and that previous paychecks in 2019 were cut by 25%. On September 5, university graduates demonstrated outside of various Iraqi government ministries in Baghdad. The graduates protested the government’s failure to respond to the growing unemployment rate for young adults, which currently stands at 22%. The Iraqi government has been unable to promote the expansion of a private sector capable of creating new jobs. Meanwhile, the bloated public sector, with about three million Iraqis on government payroll, cannot accommodate the thousands joining the workforce each year. 

On September 2, an Iraqi migrants rights activist based in Turkey said Turkish security forces arrested 667 migrants, most of whom are Iraqi nationals, in various raids over a period of three days. The migrants were attempting to reach Greece from Turkey by sea. The activist, Rozh Aziz, stated that Turkish authorities would deport the migrants back to Iraq. 

On September 2, Marta Ruedas, Humanitarian Coordinator of the United Nations in Iraq, expressed concern over the system of transferring IDPs from Ninewa. Ruedas cites a lack of organization and coordination among authorities and affected individuals as responsible for the potentially dangerous system of returning IDPs to their homes. The same day, Human Rights Watch reported that local Iraqi authorities have forcibly removed over 2,000 Iraqis with alleged ties to ISIS from IDP camps in Ninewa since August 23. Authorities ordered some IDPs back to their home districts, undeterred by their fears for safety. Certain individuals were returned to districts, such as Hawija in Kirkuk province, where ISIS attacks remain common. These expulsions have come as a result of Resolution 16, a directive that Iraq’s National Security Council issued in early July requiring non-Ninewa natives to leave the Ninewa camps. It also mandated the development of databases to monitor alleged ISIS affiliates and has increased security forces throughout camps to strictly control the movement of people. Because the Iraqi parliament is still in its 2 month-long summer recess, the Human Rights Committee has yet to discuss or investigate this issue. 


Iraq Seeks Partner For Gas Project; Russian Firm To Develop New Oil Block; Oil Trucking To Jordan Resumes; Iraq Losing Billions At Border Crossings

On August 28, a fire broke out at the North Oil Company’s facilities in Kirkuk. Firefighters managed to put out the fire, but a source from the civil defense unit said the fire caused significant damage to the company’s pipelines and storage tanks. 

On August 31, Iraq’s Oil Ministry announced that it sought international oil companies to take a minority stake in its development of the Mansouriya gas field project. The move followed the ministry’s termination of an earlier agreement with the Turkish Petroleum Corporation to build on the field, a project that became untenable after ISIS surged Diyala in 2014. Subsequently, the ministry ordered the state-run Midland Oil Company to begin planning. According to the Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate, the project aims to produce approximately 300 million standard cubic feet of natural gas per day. 

On September 4, the Ministry of Oil signed an initial contract with Russian oil company Kaz Trans Oil to begin exploration and development at the 12,000 square kilometer area, referred to as Block-17, in Anbar province. Oil Minister Thamir Al-Ghadhban said research suggested that Block-17 contained oil reserves ranging from 2-4 billion barrels of oil equivalent, with natural gas comprising 60-70% of the volume. The Ministry’s contracting department director said the agreement requires Kaz Trans Oil to spend $100 million to build a residential complex and develop infrastructure in the province. Final approval for the project has been sent to and is required from the Council of Ministers.  

On September 1, a spokesperson for Iraq’s Oil Ministry, Assim Jihad, announced that Iraq has sent its first shipment of crude oil by trucks from the Kirkuk oil fields to Jordan. This shipment is the first under an agreement signed in February of 2019, under which Iraq will export 10,000 barrels per day (bpd) to Jordan in exchange for reducing tariffs on goods imported into Iraq via Jordanian ports. For several years, Iraq and Jordan have been discussing an ambitious oil pipeline project that would connect Iraq’s Basra to Jordan’s Aqaba as way to supply Jordan’s refineries and transport 1 million bpd for export.  

On September 3, the North Gas Company and al-Bahram Company signed a contract to add a high-octane gasoline unit at the Kirkuk refinery. The project has a processing capacity of 12,000 bpd and would utilize naphtha from the Kirkuk refinery. The $400 million development is expected to take 28 months. 

On September 2, the Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources imposed a ban, effective starting September 10, on importing pomegranates to protect local produce. A similar ban on tomato imports was launched on September 1 to support local farmers who have repeatedly called for the government to restrain the flow of foreign products into the KRI markets. 

On September 2, the chairman of Iraq’s border crossings commission said the country was losing more than $7.5 billion a year due to corruption and weak government controls at border crossings. The chairman, Kadhum al-Oqabi, explained that the border crossings are expected to generate approximately $10 billion in annual revenue, while actual revenue stood at $2.4 billion. In March, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi placed ports of entry 3rd on the list of 40 sectors comprising the “corruption map” in Iraq, and in August, he ordered a temporary closure of the Mendili crossing with Iran. 

On September 2, Hamid Zaboum, the new acting head of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization, announced that Iran has appointed a second commercial attache to Basra. Iran is increasingly looking to expand commercial ties with Iraq to cope with the pressure of U.S. economic sanctions. Zaboum added that Iran plans to send a third attache to Sulaymaniyah as well. On September 3, Mehdi Shoushtari, Iran’s consul to the KRI, met with Governor Azad Tawfiq in Halabja, and announced that Iran had agreed to open the border crossings at Shoshme and Beshta and establish a free trade zone. Governor Tawfiq noted that establishing a border crossing will require approval from the Iraqi government. 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs August 29, 2019 - September 5, 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
09/04/19Muqdadiya sub-district, Diyala province00
09/04/19Al-Abbara sub-district, Diyala province01
09/04/19Qara Taba sub-district, Diyala province03
09/03/19Quyyarah sub-district, Mosul province10
09/01/19Baqubah, Diyala province10
08/31/19Jalawla sub-district, 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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