- Iran Working To Prevent Government Change; U.S. Increases Pressure On Baghdad To Enact Reforms; KRG Opposes Early Elections, Constitutional Changes; Internet Blocked Again As Protests Continue – On October 31, Reuters reported that the commander of the Quds force in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Qassem Soleimani, intervened in a meeting between Moqtada al-Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri. Soleimani pressured Amiri, who leads the Bina Coalition, to continue his support for Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and abstain from cooperating with Sadr in identifying a replacement. On November 1, U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said that the U.S. supports the proposed government reforms that were recently outlined by President Barham Salih. Pompeo denounced violence on both sides, specifically the targeting of journalists, and criticized Baghdad’s investigation of the violence for lacking “sufficient credibility.” Pompeo’s remarks were followed by a tougher statement by the U.S. Embassy in Iraq warning that “there is no path forward based on suppression of the will of the people.” On November 4, KRG President Nechirvan Barzani warned against making any drastic change to the Iraqi Constitution that could impact the rights and interests of the KRI and rejected the idea of holding early national elections. On November 5, the government of Iraq reimposed sweeping restrictions on internet connectivity as anti-government protests continued in Baghdad and southern provinces. More than 128 civilians have been killed since protests resumed on October 25. The deaths occurred despite assertions a day earlier by a government spokesman that security forces were given strict orders to never open fire on protesters. more…
- ISIS Names New Leader; ISIS Activity Forces Civilians Out Of Diyala Village; Turkish Airstrikes Target PKK-Affiliates Near Sinjar – On October 31, ISIS named “Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi” as its new leader in a recorded audio message. This announcement followed the October 26 killing by U.S. forces of the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and his presumed successor, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir. On October 31, ISIS militants detonated two improvised explosive devices (IED) during an attack on a checkpoint in Tarmiyah north of Baghdad, killing one ISF member and injuring five. On November 3, local sources in Diyala reported that families were leaving the village of Ramadan, near Khanaqin in Diyala province, due to growing ISIS activity. On October 31, ISIS militants killed one civilian and kidnapped another in an attack on a house in Shafiq village, also near Khanaqin. On November 4, Turkish airstrikes targeted a Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) base in the predominantly-Yazidi region of Khana Sor, northwest of Sinjar, in Ninewa province, killing three YBS members and injuring two more. On November 5, Turkish airstrikes targeted YBS bases again in the largely Yazidi village of Bara, north of Mount Sinjar, injuring three people. On the same day, Turkish armed drones killed five members of the PKK in the Avashin region of northern Iraq. more…
- Shortage Of Teachers Severely Impacts Displaced Children; Forced Disappearances, Arrests Continue Against Activists; More Syrian Refugees Cross Into Iraq – On November 2, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said that 2.5 million Iraqi children lack educational support due to inadequate funding and dwindling numbers of teachers. Of those children, 775,000 are internally displaced persons (IDPs). On November 4, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused security authorities in Anbar province of arresting civilians who have used social media to publicly support Iraq’s widespread anti-government demonstrations. On November 4, the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights demanded that security forces investigate the abduction of activist and doctor Saba al-Mahdawi, a volunteer who was providing first aid to protesters in Baghdad and was subsequently kidnapped by unknown men in the Bayaa neighborhood of Baghdad on November 2. On November 6, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported 14,369 Syrian refugees have crossed the Iraqi border since October 14 due to fighting between the Turkish military and the Syrian Democratic Forces. UNHCR workers have called for more supplies and highlighted the lack of bathrooms, cooking facilities, hot water, educational programs, access to food distribution, and psychosocial help for children.
- Oil Exports Declined 3% In October; Ministry Plans to Turn Quarter Million Acres Of Desert Into Arable Land; Protesters Block Entrances To Umm Qasr Port, Oil Fields And Refineries – On November 1, Iraq’s Ministry of Oil announced that crude oil exports in October averaged 3.447 million barrels per day (bpd), more than 3% lower than September’s level of 3.575 million bpd. On November 3, the Ministries of Agriculture and Water Resources, and the National Investment Authority launched a program to convert one million dunams (247,000 acres) of desert into arable land. On November 4, demonstrators blocked access to both parts of the West Qurna oil field in Basra province. On November 6, protesters also massed around the entrance to the Nassiriya oil refinery in Dhi-Qar province, preventing tankers from loading and causing supplies from the facility to drop by half. Protesters also cordoned off al-Shanfiyah refinery in Diwaniya province. On November 6, a spokesperson from the North Oil Company said that 30,000 bpd from Qayyara oil field couldn’t be transported for export due to blockades preventing truck movement toward southern ports. On November 7, protesters once again blocked the entrance to Umm Qasr port after briefly dispersing. A government spokesman claimed that the blockades have cost Iraq $6 billion. 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.
On October 31, Reuters reported that the commander of the Quds force in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Qassem Soleimani, intervened in a meeting between Moqtada al-Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri on October 30. Soleimani pressured Amiri, head of the Badr organization and leader of the Bina Coalition, to continue his support for Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and abstain from cooperating with Sadr in identifying a replacement. Amiri, who had previously expressed vague willingness to work with Sadr, issued a follow up statement in which he avoided addressing the question of replacing the prime minister. Instead, Amiri attacked the overall parliamentary system, calling it “a failure.” Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in a message on November 1, pointedly warned against interference by regional powers and their proxies imposing their will on the Iraqi people, in a clear reference to Iran. On November 2, Iraq’s Foreign Ministry echoed Sistani’s calls for respecting Iraqi sovereignty. Throughout the week, protesters made their opposition to Iran’s interference in Iraqi affairs clear. On November 3, demonstrators in Karbala, where at least 18 protesters were killed last week, targeted Iran’s consulate and attempted to storm the building. On November 4, the Foreign Ministry assured the international community that Iraq adheres to the diplomatic protection stipulated by the Vienna Convention of 1961, emphasizing that an attack on any diplomat “crosses a red line.” On November 5, the Iranian Defense Minister implied that Iran had minimal influence in Iraq. He called the uprising an “internal issue” and said that the government should work to disrupt the “efforts of foreigners to exploit” the instability in their country. Pro-Iran Iraqi politicians and militia leaders continued to blame the U.S., Israel, and Arab Gulf states for fomenting unrest in Iraq. Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq leader Qais al-Khazali went as far as accusing President Salih of colluding with the CIA, Israeli intelligence, Baath Party, and UAE to destabilize Iraq and weaken the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
On November 1, U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said that the United States supports the proposed government reforms in Iraq that were recently outlined by President Barham Salih. Pompeo denounced violence on both sides of the struggle, specifically the targeting of journalists, and criticized Baghdad’s investigation of the violence for lacking “sufficient credibility.” The secretary’s remarks were followed by another statement on November 6 by the U.S. Embassy in Iraq that was more assertive in assigning blame to the Iraqi government. The embassy’s statement warned that “there is no path forward based on suppression of the will of the people,” and called for the government to allow the people of Iraq to choose the future of their country. Throughout the week, a delegation of U.S. representatives led by Adam Smith (D-WA) met with several Iraqi leaders including Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi, President Salih, and KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani. The delegation stressed the importance of tangible legislative reforms, discussed improving bilateral relations, and emphasized the United States’ continued investment in the fight against ISIS.
On November 3, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi made a statement in which he called for an end to protests and what he described as their disruptive impact on public life. The prime minister’s statement made a fleeting mention of the ongoing loss of life “on both sides” of the protest, downplaying the number of deaths among protesters and implying they were comparable to those among security forces. The prime minister dedicated a good portion of the statement to condemning “outlaws” who are using protests as a cover for “arson and pillage and attacks on security forces.” The rest of Abdul-Mahdi’s statement focused on bringing the demonstrations to an end, claiming that the movement had achieved its goals. He said that “it is time for life to return to normal” following a month of economic and social disruption including the suspension of schools and other public works. Abdul-Mahdi emphasized the loss of “billions of dollars” in economic activity due to the protests. This claim was quickly refuted by NetBlocks, an internet watchdog organization. NetBlocks asserted the internet shutdown, ordered by Abdul-Mahdi, was the single greatest economic loss for Iraq in the month of October at over one billion dollars.
On November 4, Nechirvan Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), warned against making any change to the Iraqi Constitution that could impact the rights and interests of the KRI. Barzani made his remarks after Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and parliament, under pressure from anti-government protests to carry out reforms, promised to take steps to amend the constitution. Barzani said the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was open to any amendments that support the basic needs of Iraqi people and create a more equitable society, but vehemently opposes changes to the federal system that currently awards the KRI considerable autonomy and resources. The KRG also rejected the idea of holding early national elections. President Salih, who has spearheaded an initiative to reform Iraq’s election law and endorsed the call for early elections, met with Barzani and KRG parliament speaker Riwaz Faeq to discuss intended reforms. Following the meeting, Barzani publicly stated that he does not support early elections. In a speech to the Kurdish Bar Association, Barzani blamed the current government failings on “neglect” of the constitution, not the constitution itself. On November 5, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani announced that Kurdish members of the Iraqi Parliament will form a single bloc to defend Kurdish interests in any constitutional changes and advance the KRG negotiating position when budget talks resume. On the same day, the newly formed parliamentary committee on constitutional amendments met for the first time in Baghdad.
On November 5, the government of Iraq reimposed sweeping restrictions on internet connectivity as anti-government protests continued in Baghdad and southern provinces. As of reporting, internet access was blocked across most of Iraq despite brief periods of restoration on November 6 and 7. After a relatively calm weekend, violent confrontations picked back up on November 4 when Iraqi security forces (ISF) opened fire on protesters approaching Baghdad’s Green Zone, killing at least five civilians. Security forces also used live fire to suppress protests at the port of Umm Qasr and in several other southern cities. Thirteen protesters were killed on Tuesday alone, primarily in Baghdad. By November 6, demonstrators in Baghdad had focused their energy on holding three bridges: Ahrar, Shuhuda, and Bab al-Muadham. Protesters on the bridges called for a general strike across Iraq. On November 7, the ISF killed four civilians and injured at least 35 at the Shuhuda bridge in Baghdad. More than 128 civilians have been killed since protests resumed on October 25. The deaths occurred despite assertions on November 6 by government spokesman Major General Abdul Karim Khalaf that ISF were given strict orders to never open fire on protesters.
On November 6, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, tweeted that the economic losses caused by demonstrators’ blockades at oil fields and refineries were “of grave concern” and claimed it “undermined” the fulfillment of “protesters’ legitimate demands.” This focus on the economic sector is a shift from the Special Representative’s expressed support for the protesters last week when she visited the crowds in Tahrir Square. The disapproving responses to the envoy’s tweet reflect deep frustration among activists with the UN’s failure to take a stronger position against the government and use of excessive force by security forces and other armed groups.
On October 31, ISF sources said that ISIS militants attacked a security checkpoint in the Tarmiyah district north of Baghdad, killing one ISF member and injuring five others. The attackers detonated two improvised explosive devices (IED) which exploded near the checkpoint during the assault.
On October 31, ISIS named Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi as its new leader in a recorded audio message. This announcement followed the October 26 killing by U.S. forces of the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and his spokesperson and presumed successor, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir. According to the New York Times, ISIS followers have recognized Qurayshi as the “emir of believers” and “caliph.” Counterterrorism experts say there is very little information about Qurayshi and speculate that Qurayshi’s name could be a nom de guerre, given that “al-Hashemi” and “al-Qurayshi” have been used in the past by ISIS senior leaders to claim ties to the Prophet Muhammed’s tribe.
On October 31, members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) killed three supposed ISIS militants in an operation in Tel Gul area in Kirkuk province.
On October 31, a Turkish airstrike injured two people after bombing the border areas of Zakho district, Duhok province in the KRI. Turkey routinely launches attacks in the KRI in an effort to target strongholds of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The report did not specify whether those injured were PKK members or civilians. On November 4, Turkish airstrikes targeted a Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) base in the predominantly Yazidi region of Khana Sor, northwest of Sinjar, in Ninewa province. The airstrike reportedly killed three YBS members and injured two more. The YBS has alleged affiliation with the PKK, which has exposed it to Turkish military operations in the past. On the evening of November 5, Turkish airstrikes targeted YBS bases again, this time in the largely Yazidi village of Bara, north of Mount Sinjar, injuring three people. On the same day, Turkish armed drones killed five members of the PKK in the Avashin region of northern Iraq. On November 6, Turkish aircraft struck supposed PKK targets in the Darkare village of Zakho district and other nearby areas. There were no reports of casualties.
On October 31, French aircraft operating as part of the International Coalition against ISIS destroyed ISIS hideouts in northeastern Iraq. The airstrike intended to disrupt ISIS’ logistical and military capacity in northeast Iraq. The French Defense Ministry did not provide details about the exact location of the airstrike. Iraqi security sources also reported a coalition airstrike against ISIS hideouts in northeastern Iraq near Kirkuk on November 1. Lack of specific information prevents EPIC from verifying whether these airstrikes were the same.
On November 1, unidentified gunmen killed one civilian in an attack in the Nahrawan area, southeast of Baghdad. On November 4, unidentified gunmen killed one civilian and injured a second after opening fire on a crowd of people in al-Yabis area of Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad. On November 7, unidentified gunmen killed one civilian in the district of Husseiniya, also north of Baghdad.
On November 1, forces operating under the Anbar Operations Command killed three ISIS militants and destroyed their hideout in the Karma area, between Fallujah and Baghdad. One of the militants killed in the operation was reportedly involved in facilitating the movement of suicide bombers to locations north of Baghdad.
On November 3, local sources in Diyala reported that families were leaving the village of Ramadan, near Khanaqin in Diyala province, due to growing ISIS activity. On October 31, ISIS militants killed one civilian and kidnapped another in an attack on a house in Shafiq village, also near Khanaqin. In the early hours of that same day, another source said that armed men entered the village and opened fire. On October 19, there were similar reports of civilians fleeing the village of Ramadan due to an uptick in ISIS threats and attacks throughout the month of October.
On November 7, ISF artillery bombarded three ISIS hideouts in the Metaibijah area between Diyala and Salah ad-Din provinces. A military source disclosed that the shelling led to the death of a local ISIS commander, without providing more details. On the same day, security sources said an airstrike targeted ISIS hideout in the Thalab valley in the Himrin area, northeast of Baqubah, killing two militants. The source did not specify whether the airstrike was carried out by an Iraqi aircraft or those of the International Coalition.
On November 7, a roadside IED killed one civilian and injured a second in an explosion near the village of al-Imseihli, southwest of Sharqat, north of Salah ad-Din province.
On November 2, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) told al-Jazeera that 2.5 million Iraqi children lack educational support due to inadequate funding and dwindling numbers of teachers. Of those children, NRC said that 775,000 are internally displaced persons (IDPs). NRC revealed that in the last year, over 240,000 Iraqi children did not have access to any education. The government has not hired new teachers since 2014, according to NRC. The problem is particularly acute in Ninewa province, where the number of teachers dropped from 40,000 to 25,000 over the five-year period. This teacher shortage has led many students to drop out of school, particularly girls and secondary school students. In many cases, schools compensate by adopting two and three shift systems. In IDP camps, insufficient funding means that authorities often assign a handful of teachers to instruct thousands of students. Although volunteer teachers from humanitarian organizations have attempted to fill the void, most are employed for the short-term and not well-trained. In certain provinces, such as Duhok, local and national governments have ended all funding for IDP school facilities.
On November 4, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report that accused security authorities in Anbar province of arresting civilians who have used social media to publicly support Iraq’s widespread anti-government demonstrations. In one case, an Iraqi man named Sameer Rashad Mahmoud suggested that students and government employees should go on strike in solidarity with the protesters. According to Mahmoud’s cousin, security forces arrived less than an hour after Mahmoud published his post to apprehend him. Mahmoud has been in custody since October 26, and has not been allowed to speak with his family. Another individual who used his Facebook profile to express support for the protests was also arrested just hours after posting. In other cases, civilians have fled their homes, faced questioning, and confronted arrest warrants for expressing support for protests on social media. Although protests have not spread to Anbar, HRW reasons that these abuses stem from Anbar security force’s fears of a potential return to the instability the province suffered during the ISIS occupation of the area.
On November 4, the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights demanded that security forces investigate the abduction of activist and doctor Saba al-Mahdawi, a volunteer who was providing first aid to protesters in Baghdad and was subsequently kidnapped by unknown men in the Bayaa area of Karkh district on November 2. Other activists have taken to social media with the hashtag #وين_صبا (#where_is_Saba) to pressure authorities to secure Saba’s release. Disappearances have become a common danger facing activists during the ongoing anti-government protests that started on October 1. On October 18, Amnesty International called on the government to investigate the whereabouts of two activists involved in protests in Baghdad who were subjected to forced disappearances. One of the activists, Dr. Maytham al-Helo, has since been released, while the whereabouts of the other, Ali Jasib al-Hattab, remain unknown.
On November 4, the Dutch Defense Ministry announced that civilian victims were among the 70 people killed in a 2015 Dutch airstrike that targeted an ISIS IED factory in Hawija, in Kirkuk province. The Ministry explained that the high number of casualties resulted from unanticipated secondary explosions, which led to greater damage to civilian areas outside the factory. The Ministry also revealed that it had killed four civilians in their home in an airstrike in Mosul in September of 2015 due to false intelligence that misidentified the home as an ISIS post.
On November 6, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that 14,369 Syrian refugees have crossed the Iraqi border since October 14 due to fighting between the Turkish military and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). According to the report, Syrian refugees enter Iraq primarily through the Sahela entry point, and then are transported to the Gawilan camp. The number of Syrian arrivals in Iraq peaked between October 20-25, when over 1,500 refugees entered Iraq each day. Since then, arrivals have slowed to a daily average of 300 between November 1-3. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted that better coordination is needed between aid workers at the camps and those at the border so that camp workers can prepare in advance for the refugees’ arrivals. UNHCR workers on the ground have also called for more supplies (such as clothes, blankets, and medical equipment) and also highlighted the lack of bathrooms, cooking facilities, hot water, educational programs, access to food distribution, and psychosocial help for children. The latest update by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the state of humanitarian funding for Iraq shows that the country still requires $94.4 million to fill a 13.5% funding gap that primarily affects food security, cash assistance, protection, shelter, and sanitation programs.
On November 7, the Ministry of Displacement announced that 64 Iraqi refugees in Turkey returned to Iraq through the Ibrahim al-Khalil border crossing in Dohuk province. The return of the refugees was facilitated through the free return initiative backed by the International Organization for Migration. The program facilitated the return of more than 450 Iraqi refugees during October.
On November 1, Iraq’s Ministry of Oil announced that crude oil exports for the month of October exceeded 106.859 million barrels, for an average of 3.447 million barrels per day (bpd). These exports generated 6.107 billion dollars in revenue. Exports from the southern ports of Basra stood at 3.34 million bpd, while northern fields around Kirkuk exported an average of 83,220 bpd via the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Exports from the Qayyarah field in Ninewa dropped to an average of 13,919 bpd, while trucks delivered 9,912 bpd to Jordan. The ministry added that Iraq sold its oil at an average price of $57.15, a decrease from September’s $58.92. The October averages are more than 3% lower than September’s, which were reported to be 3.575 million bpd.
On November 3, the Ministries of Agriculture and Water Resources, alongside the National Investment Authority launched a program to convert one million dunams (247,000 acres) of desert into arable land. The Ministry of Agriculture said this was the first phase of a larger project that aims to expand agriculture and improve food security in the country.
On November 4, demonstrators blocked access to both parts of the West Qurna oil field in Basra province. With a total production of over 800,000 bpd, West Qurna is one of the largest oil fields in Iraq. It comprises two sections, West Qurna-1 and West Qurna-2, operated by ExxonMobil and Lukoil, respectively. On November 6, protesters also massed around the entrance to the Nassiriya oil refinery in Dhi-Qar province, preventing tankers from loading and causing supplies from the facility to drop by half. Protesters also cordoned off al-Shanfiyah refinery in southern Diwaniya province. Protests in the south are impacting faraway fields as well. On November 6, a spokesperson for the state-run North Oil Company said that Qayyara oil field’s usual 30,000 bpd couldn’t be transported for export from the Ninewa field due to blockades preventing truck movement at southern ports.
On November 4, a source from the Anbar government said that the Oil Exploration Company has suspended its operations at sites assessed to be rich in oil and gas in the district of Rutba, west of Anbar. The company attributed the suspension to the inability to obtain security approvals and what it described as the lack of cooperation by other entities it did not name.
On November 5, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad announced the completion of the U.S.-funded demining initiative at Mosul international airport. According to the embassy, the United States has contributed over $498 million to demining programs in Iraq since 2003. The Mosul airport project took 18 months and involved the removal of at least 170 pieces of explosive material and significant amounts of debris to allow the Ninewa government to start rebuilding the facility.
On November 7, protesters once again blocked the entrance to Umm Qasr port after briefly dispersing. Security forces on site reportedly convinced demonstrators to leave but a smaller faction returned hours later to obstruct the entrance. The port was mostly inaccessible from October 30 to November 6. On November 2, demonstrators resisted ISF attempts to end their siege of the port, south of Basra, despite the use of live fire and tear gas by the ISF to disperse the crowds. At least 30 people were injured in the clashes. Umm Qasr is the entry point for the majority of Iraq’s imports, including vital food staples. On November 3, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi and Iraq’s Trade Minister said that the inability to use the port was hurting Iraq’s economy and citizens who relied on the food ration program. On November 6, a government spokesman claimed that the blockades have cost Iraq $6 billion.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
Casualties Due To IEDs from October 31-November 7, 2019The 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.
|11/07/19||Southwest of Sharqat,|
North of Salah ad-Din
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.