ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM 223: SEPTEMBER 19 – SEPTEMBER 26

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Key Takeaways:

  • Iraq’s Prime Minister Visits China And Saudi Arabia, President Attends UNGA; Abadi Warns of Government Collapse; KRG Links Oil Obligations To Baghdad With Its Debt To Oil Firms – On September 19, PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi traveled to China for five days of diplomatic and economic meetings. Abdul-Mahdi signed eight MoUs with Chinese officials pertaining to financial, commercial, security, reconstruction, communications, culture, education, and foreign affairs. On September 25, Abdul-Mahdi went to Saudi Arabia to discuss regional security and bilateral relations with the Saudi king and crownprince, following recent attacks on Saudi oil installations. On September 23-24, President Salih met with President Trump and the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, UK, Egypt, Jordan, and others, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to discuss regional security, economic development, and threats to Iraq’s Sovereignty. On September 22, former PM Haider al-Abadi convened a joint meeting of his Nasr coalition and Ammar al-Hakim’s Hikma Movement in which he warned that the “continuing deterioration” of the federal government “could lead to its collapse”. On September 22, Kurdish representatives in Iraq’s Parliament said the Federal Government should pay the $3 billion the KRG owes to oil companies operating in the region before Erbil can deliver 250,000 bpd of its oil to Baghdad. more…
  • Rare Karbala Bombing Kills Many; Militant Attacks Haunt Tarmiya, Diyala and Kirkuk; New Rocket Attacks Strike Near U.S. Embassy – On September 20, an IED attached to a minibus exploded at a main entrance into Karbala, killing twelve Iraqis and injuring five. On September 19, an IED killed a policeman and wounded an officer in Hawija, west of Kirkuk. On September 20, an IED njured two farmers near Jalawla, in Diyala. On September 22, unidentified gunmen killed two pro-government tribal fighters, three other civilians and two ISF personnel in Tarmiya, north of Baghdad. On September 23, an IED killed an explosives expert attempting to defuse it near Baqubah, in Diyala. On September 23, an IED injured two civilians in Hawija, south of Kirkuk. On September 22, two roadside bombs exploded within a short period of each other in the Makmour district, southeast of Mosul, and wounded four people. On September 24, ISIS militants killed one PMF fighter and injured three in Diyala’s Khanaqin district. On September 26, an IED killed two civilians and injured a third in Daquq district, south of Kirkuk. On September 23, two rockets impacted a half-mile from the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The attack came amid high tensions between the U.S. and PMF factions close to Iran. U.S.-led coalition forces said this attack “will not be tolerated.” more…
  • Dozens Of Illegal Refineries Spread Toxic Waste In KRI; Outrage Over ISF Mistreatment Of Protesting Graduates; Ninewa IDP Camp Closures Continue – On September 23, a report warned of increased cases of miscarriages and cancer in Kurdish villages situated close to dozens of low-tech refineries that dump untreated oil waste into rivers and surrounding soil. On September 23, the Ministry of Migration reported that 1,326 IDPs have returned to their homes in the Ninewa area, mostly from camps south of Mosul. The return allowed the Ministry to close four IDP camps in Ninewa. On September 25, Iraqi social media circulated footage of government security forces using water cannons to disperse young graduates demanding jobs, which drew widespread criticism. The incident was met with heavy criticism by many ordinary Iraqis and opposition politicians. On September 19, IOM opened a new office in Jalawla, in Diyala province to address the needs of the over 220,000 IDPs who have returned to the district. On September 20, the UN Security Council voted to extend the mandate of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Daesh (UNITAD) through September 2020. 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.


Iraq’s Prime Minister Visits China And Saudi Arabia, President Attends UNGA; Abadi Warns of Government Collapse; KRG Links Oil Agreement To Its Debt To Oil Firms

On September 19, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and a delegation of Iraqi officials traveled to China for five days of diplomatic and economic meetings. Chinese President Xi Jinping encouraged Iraq to exercise restraint amid rising tensions in the Middle East and urged that regional disputes be solved diplomatically. On September 23, Abdul-Mahdi announced that Iraq will join China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, which aims to establish international trade routes connecting eastern Asia to central Europe by land and water. Abdul-Mahdi mentioned the possibility of using the revenue from Iraq’s 1 million barrels per day (bpd) oil exports to China to finance future infrastructure projects awarded to Chinese companies. During the visit, Abdul-Mahdi signed eight memorandums of understanding pertaining to financial, commercial, security, reconstruction, communications, culture, education, and foreign affairs issues. More specifically, the Minister of Industry announced a plan to establish five “industrial cities” to produce Chinese products in five Iraqi provinces. Iraq also contracted the China State Construction Engineering Corporation to convert Imam Ali Military Air Base in Dhi-Qar province to a civilian airport.  

On September 20, 50 members of Parliament signed a motion to create an investigative committee tasked with auditing all Ministry of Electricity contracts signed since 2006. The move was a response to recent remarks by the Minister of Electricity in which he said that Iraq needs $30 billion to repair and upgrade its grid. Iraq spent significant portions of its annual budgets on electricity infrastructure but power supplies remain inadequate in much of the country. The minister’s estimate was met by skepticism in Parliament, where many representatives believe that previously allocated funds were misused by the Electricity Ministry. On September 24, the Ministry announced that energy production exceeded 19,000 megawatts for the first time. The Minister attributed the increase in production to past renovation projects and expects more improvement in the coming months due to ongoing projects. Last week, the Ministry signed contracts with a number of companies, including Siemens and GE, to rebuild and renovate multiple power plants to increase generation capacity. The Minister said he welcomes an investigation by committee. 

On September 22, former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi convened a joint meeting of his Nasr coalition and the National (Hikma) Wisdom Movement coalition, led by Ammar al-Hakim. The two groups were once part of the Islah coalition, one of the two pillars supporting the formation of Abdul-Mahdi’s government in October 2018. Abadi warned that the “continuing deterioration” of the federal government “could lead to its collapse”. The two blocs, according to a statement by Abadi, agreed to increase and coordinate their efforts to scrutinize government ministries. Hikma declared its opposition to the government in June, and this week’s development suggests that Nasr is considering a similar move. A decision by Nasr to join the opposition would mark the end of the Islah coalition. Moqtada al-Sadr, who leads Saeroun, the remaining faction in Islah had said on September 6 that he “disowned” the government because of its weak response to transgressions by Iran-backed groups in the PMF.  

On September 22, Kurdish representatives in Iraq’s Parliament said the Federal Government should pay the debt that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) owes to oil companies operating in the region before Erbil can hand part of its oil over to Baghdad. The politicians argue that the KRG incurred the $3 billion debt because former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki eliminated the KRG’s share of the federal budget in 2014. In 2018, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi reinstated the KRG’s share of the federal budget at 12.67% in exchange for 250,000 bpd of crude oil. To date, the KRG has not met this obligation creating a standoff in which they are also not receiving its full share of funding. This situation relatively benefits the KRG, which is able to augment the revenue of its unilateral oil exports with the partial payments coming from Baghdad. Kurdish MP, Jamal Kuger, suggested that the Iraqi government use their substantial financial reserves to repay a portion of the debts and deduct that amount from federal funding given to the KRG in the future. Another Kurdish MP, Sarkawt Shamsulddin of the New Generation bloc, argued that the ruling parties in the KRI are deliberately placing conditions that Baghdad cannot afford to meet in order to preserve the status quo, urging the main Kurdish parties to accept Baghdad’s demand for oil and normalize relations. 

On September 23 and 24, President Salih met with a number of foreign leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York to discuss regional security, economic development, and threats to Iraq’s Sovereignty. On the 23, Salih attended a trilateral meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan and Egyptian President Abdel Fateh al-Sisi. The leaders focused on the need for peaceful dialogue to avoid conflict and discussed potential solutions for the humanitarian crises in Syria and Yemen. The following day, Salih’s discussion with German Chancellor Angela Merkel focused on Germany’s support for improving Iraq’s infrastructure and training Iraqi troops, a mission which Berlin extended through 2020 just last week. Salih also met with U.S. President Donald Trump to discuss trade, energy, counter-terrosim and reducing regional tensions affecting Iraq’s security. In addition, he met with leaders from France, Italy, Britain, Georgia, and Bulgaria. On September 25, Salih addressed the General Assembly, emphasizing that peace is Iraq’s priority and that conflict in the Middle East creates opportunities for extremist groups to rise.  

On September 23, Iraq’s Parliament passed a bill to create an independent arms manufacturing authority. This “Military Industrial Authority” will focus on increasing Iraq’s domestic weapons manufacturing in order to decrease reliance on the U.S. and other foreign nations. Domestically produced weapons will be supplied to all security forces, including the Army, Peshmerga and PMF, parliamentary sources said after passing the bill. The bill subordinates a number of state enterprises that are currently part of the Ministry of Industry to the new entity. 

On September 25, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi travelled to Saudi Arabia to discuss regional security and bilateral relations with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran are high, and many Iraqi militias have sided with Iran, placing Iraq in an awkward position. Baghdad seeks to maintain good ties with both neighboring governments to avoid becoming the physical battleground in a proxy war.


Rare Karbala Bombing Kills Many; Militant Attacks Haunt Tarmiya, Diyala and Kirkuk; New Rocket Attacks Strike Near U.S. Embassy

On September 19, an improvised explosive device (IED) killed a policeman and wounded an officer in an explosion in the district of Hawija, west of Kirkuk. 

On September 20, an IED exploded in a village near Jalawla, northeast of Baqubah in Diyala province, and injured two farmers. 

On September 20, an IED attached to a minibus exploded at checkpoint 54, a main entrance into Karbala, killing twelve Iraqis and injuring five. On September 21, Iraqi security forces (ISF) arrested the terrorist who placed the IED, and another suspect who allegedly supplied the attacker with materials to make the bomb. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. 

On September 20, an unidentified gunman opened fire at the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s (PUK) office in Erbil. Earlier that day, an unknown gunman also targeted the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s (KDP) headquarters in Sulaimaniya. Neither attack resulted in casualties. 

On September 21, ISIS militants attacked a village in Khanaqin district in Diyala province. The militants set fire to three houses, but there were no reports of casualties. 

On September 21, Iraq’s Counterterrorism Service (CTS) supported by the U.S.-led coalition forces killed three ISIS terrorists and damaged several militant hideouts in the Makhoul and Khanouga mountains in Salah ad-Din province. 

On September 22, an unidentified gunman attacked the home of a tribal mobilization fighter in Tarmiya, north of Baghdad, killing the fighter and three members of his family. Later that morning, a second attacker killed another tribal mobilization fighter in the Tarmiya area. Anonymous sniper fire also killed two security force officials, again in Tarmiya. These attacks persist despite recent ISF operations to eradicate ISIS from the area. 

On September 22, two roadside bombs exploded within a short period of each other in the Qaraj area of the Makmour district, southeast of Mosul. The first explosions targeted civilians while the second one exploded when ISF personnel responded to the incident. The two explosions wounded four people, including one army officer. 

On September 22, Baghdad Operations Command claimed its forces killed a would-be suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt and carrying an AK-47 in a village in Tarmiya, north of Baghdad.

On September 22, an IED exploded and seriously injured one Iraqi civilian in the Bayaa neighborhood in southern Baghdad. 

On September 22, airstrikes by an unidentified aircraft targeted a base belonging to the Tafuf Brigade, a faction of the PMF, in Anbar province. The strikes did not cause casualties but reportedly inflicted significant damage on the base. 

On September 23, an IED killed an explosives expert while he was attempting to defuse it in a village near Baqubah, in Diyala province. 

On September 23, Turkish security forces claimed they killed 14 members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the Haftanin and Sinat regions of the KRI as a part of “Operation Claw,” an ongoing Turkish anti-PKK operation that started in May. 

On September 23, an IED exploded targeting vehicles in a supply convoy for Turkish military forces engaged in operations against the PKK. The explosion occurred in the Hakurk region in the KRI and killed two Turkish soldiers. 

On September 23, an IED exploded and injured two civilians in the Hawija district, south of Kirkuk. 

On September 23, mortar shells hit the police headquarters in Riyadh district in southwestern Kirkuk causing no casualties. 

On September 23, two rockets from an unknown source struck Baghdad’s Green Zone, landing a half-mile from the U.S. embassy. U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq stated that this attack on coalition staff and facilities “will not be tolerated.” A similar attack occurred last May, in which a rocket that was supposedly aimed at the U.S. embassy landed in the Green Zone without causing casualties. The latest attack coincided with rising tensions between the U.S. and a number of PMF factions close to Iran, who threatened to attack U.S. interests over alleged U.S. support of Israeli airstrikes on PMF bases. 

On September 24, ISIS militants killed one PMF fighter and injured three in an attack on a PMF checkpoint in the Bawa Mahmoud area in Khanaqin district in Diyala province. 

On September 25, four mortar shells hit the village of Mulla Hamid near Khanaqin district in Diyala province. The impacts did not cause any casualties. 

On September 25, ISF ground forces and aviation, working with tribal fighters, killed twelve ISIS militants in Umm al-Tus area along the border between Anbar and Salah ad-Din provinces. The ISF also destroyed three vehicles containing weapons and munitions during the clashes. 

On September 26, an IED exploded under a car in central Basra, causing no casualties.

On September 26, an IED exploded near the al-Jadida village in Daquq district south of Kirkuk. The explosion killed two civilians and injured a third.  

On September 26, Turkish forces carried out an airstrike over Amadiyah district in Dohuk province. Reports dispute the number of casualties. One source claimed the attack caused  three injuries among Iraqi civilians, while another source reports that the attack killed one civilian and injured five more.


Dozens Of Illegal Refineries Spread Toxic Waste In KRI; Outrage Over ISF Mistreatment Of Protesting Graduates; Ninewa IDP Camp Closures Continue

On September 19, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) opened a new office in Jalawla in Diyala province to address the issues of the over 220,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have returned to the district. Like its other five offices throughout Iraq, IOM in Jalawla will help vulnerable Iraqis reintegrate into society by providing resources and opportunities such as legal advising, mental health counseling, and informal educational programs.  

On September 20, the United Nations Security Council voted to extend the mandate of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Daesh (UNITAD) for another year. Since 2017, UNITAD has worked alongside Iraqi institutions to investigate ISIS crimes and hold members accountable. The extension of this mandate will expire on September 21, 2020. 

On September 23, Rudaw published a report on the dangerous health and environmental impacts caused by illegal oil refineries in the KRI. The report details increased cases of miscarriages and cancer in villages situated close to oil facilities. These low-tech refineries dump untreated oil waste into rivers or surrounding soil, and oil products can leak during loading and transfer. Heavy rain and floods can spread these toxic substances to local farms, pollute their fields and damage their crops. Since 2018, the KRG has ordered the closure of 164 refineries, and in August it formed a new committee to reevaluate the issue. However, provincial authorities have reported that closures and clean-up have been slow because influential people back these illegal refineries. Locals also point out that in the midst of frequent electrical shortages, many of these illicit facilities help supply fuel for electricity, which deters the KRG from shutting them down. 

On September 23, Iraq’s parliamentary Committee on Human Rights asked the Ministry of Justice to provide it with names of inmates held at the Badush prison in Ninewa during ISIS attacks in 2014. At the time, ISIS militants raided the facility and murdered an estimated 3,000 prisoners. The committee has requested information on the inmates to ensure that their relatives can claim the rights and compensation to which they are entitled as victims of terrorist operations in Iraq’s systems.  

On September 23, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it will award $6.8 million to the Catholic Relief Services (CRS). In addition, USAID, under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Polish government has allocated $528,500 to Solidarity Fund Poland, to support a multi-donor project that provides health care to Iraqi communities that have been impacted by ISIS. Both organizations help displaced Iraqis who are in the process of returning to their home districts.

On September 23, Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displacement announced the closure of four IDP camps in Ninewa province. The Ministry said it will close Jadah camps #2 and #3, the camp in Mudaraj, and Salamiyah camp #3. The Ministry said a day earlier that 1,326 IDPs have returned to their homes in the Ninewa area, mostly from camps south of Mosul, notably Hamam al-Alil and al-Jadaa. According to the Minister of Migration and Displacement, IDPs from Jadah camps #2 and #3 will join those in Jadah camp #1. These closures follow the closure of Jadah camp #6 last week, and are part of  the ministry’s initiative to accelerate the return of non-native Ninewa IDPs to their home districts. Human rights groups remain wary of the conditions IDPs, who fled ISIS attacks in 2014 or subsequent fighting, face upon returning to their war-damaged home districts. On September 2, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq and Human Rights Watch warned that forcible relocation under this policy has potentially exposed thousands of IDPs to dangerous conditions.

On September 24, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration issued the second payment of stipends allocated to IDP families returning to their home districts. Eight thousand families will each receive a stipend of ID 1.5 million (equivalent to $1,250). 

On September 25, Iraqi social media circulated footage of government security forces using water cannons to disperse young graduates demanding better employment opportunities. Many Iraqis on social media and opposition politicians like Ammar Hakim, leader of al-Hikma movement, criticized the harsh treatment. Hakim called on the government to provide more job opportunities and urged the ISF to protect, rather than mistreat, civilians. For weeks, university graduates have set up camp outside the prime minister’s office building to protest the government’s failure to respond to the high youth unemployment rate, which is currently estimated at 22%. In response, the Parliament deputy speaker instructed the legislature’s defense, education and human rights committees to investigate the incident. 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from September 19-September 26, 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
09/23/19Hawija,
Kirkuk
02
09/23/19Hakurk,
northern Erbil
20
09/23/19Re'ia village,
Diyala
10
09/22/19Bayaa Neighborhood,
Southern Baghdad
01
09/22/19Makmour District,
Southeast of Mosul
04
09/20/19Checkpoint 54,
Karbala
125
09/20/19Jalawla,
Diyala
02
09/19/19Hawija,
Kirkuk
11
09/26/19Al-Wafid Street,
Central Basra
00
09/26/19Daquq District,
South of Kirkuk
21

 

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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