- PM, Parliament Move To End U.S. Military Presence Following U.S. Airstrikes; Coalition Suspends Anti-ISIS Operations; Mass Protests Planned For Friday – On January 5, Iraq’s Parliament held an emergency session to discuss the fallout from the U.S. airstrike that killed Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi condemned the strike, requested the session, and recommended a resolution for the immediate expulsion of U.S. troops. President Trump threatened Iraq with severe sanctions if U.S. forces were forced to withdraw under hostile conditions. On January 5, Moqtada al-Sadr called Iraqi Parliament’s resolution a “meager” response to the U.S. violation of Iraqi sovereignty, urging harsher measures, and promising to “activate” dormant wings of his militias. On January 5, the U.S.-led International Coalition against ISIS announced a temporary suspension of its efforts in training and supporting Iraqi forces citing rocket attacks by Iraqi militias supported by Iran. Several coalition members began moving part of the forces out of Iraq. On January 6, however, the U.S. Defense Secretary denied reports of U.S. forces being evacuated from Iraq. On January 9, local press said that activists were planning renewed mass protests in Baghdad on January 10 to pressure the political class to make progress on selecting a new prime minister and government. more…
- U.S. Strike In Baghdad Kills Top Iran General, Militia Commander; Militias And Iran Retaliate With Rocket And Missile Strikes; New Attacks Target Iraqi Activists And Protesters – On January 3, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike near Baghdad’s airport that killed Iranian General Qassim Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. On January 4, militias warned Iraqi forces to stay away from Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. personnel. On January 4, suspected militia rockets struck near Balad air base and near the Green Zone, which includes the U.S. embassy. On January 5, three more rockets struck near the Green Zone. On January 7, Iran launched 15 ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases in Anbar and Erbil that also host coalition forces. The missiles did not cause casualties, leading President Trump to announce that Iran “appeared to be standing down.” On January 8, there were reports of a small rocket attack on the Green Zone. The incident did not cause casualties. On January 4, unidentified gunmen assassinated an activist in east Baghdad. On January 5, militiamen opened fire on protesters in Nasiriyah, injuring three people. On January 6, an IED injured activist Uday al-Jabiri in Nasiriyah. Medical sources reported on January 8 that at least eight protesters were injured in another attack on protesters in Nasiriyah. more…
- Two Hundred IDP Families Return To Old Mosul; At Least Ninety Protesters Remain In Detention; Security Concerns Disrupt Humanitarian Aid Operations – On January 7, the governor of Ninewa said that 200 displaced families have recently returned to their newly repaired homes in the old district of Mosul City. On January 7, an adviser to the governor of Anbar said that all IDP camps in the province would be shut down during this year. On January 9, Iraqi judicial authorities said that 91 protesters remained in custody facing criminal charges in connection with the ongoing protests in Iraq. On January 8th, Oxfam reported that their humanitarian work in Iraq is being restricted following the ballistic missile strikes on two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. forces. more…
- Foreign Oil Workers Leave Iraq; Iraqi Dinar, Bonds Drop On Regional Tensions; Airlines Suspends Flights To/Over Iraq – On January 3, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that American citizens working on the country’s southern oil fields have begun leaving Iraq on orders from their government. Two days later, a Chinese company also pulled its staff from Iraq. On January 3, Iraqi sovereign bonds dropped 1 cent and the Iraqi dinar’s value against the dollar dropped by up to 3% on geopolitical fears and rising security concerns. On January 8, sources at Baghdad airport said that all airline companies servicing the facility, except for the Iraqi national carrier and Qatar airways, have suspended their flights to and from Iraq’s main airport. Security risks also impacted 500 daily overflights of Iraqi airspace. 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 January 3, the U.S. government instructed all of its citizens who are in Iraq to leave the country immediately. The warning followed a U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian general Qassim Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (details in security section below). The next day, the UK government issued a notice to its citizens to avoid all travel to Iraq, with the exception of the Kurdistan region of Iraq (KRI) which is often deemed safer than Iraq’s center and south.
On January 4, protesters told reporters that followers of Moqtada al-Sadr (aka “blue hats”) have forcefully taken over the Turkish Restaurant building, the building that overlooks Tahrir Square and serves as a main stronghold for protesters since October. The previous day, local press reported on clashes between groups of protesters in Tahrir Square. The reports did not explain the reasons behind the violence, which reportedly injured 13 people and involved sticks and bladed weapons, or the identity of those involved.It is unclear whether the two dynamics were related. Other reports added that Sadr’s supporters used the building as a platform to announce two candidates for the premiership who are endorsed by Sadr: judge Rahim al-Ugaily, and retired general Abdul-Ghani al-Asadi. Protest organizers in Baghdad and the south condemned these nominations, demanding an “independent” prime minister and accusing the political parties of attempting to recreate the deal between the Sadr-led Saeroun coalition and the militia-led Bina coalition that produced the government of Adil Abdul-Mahdi in October 2018. On January 7, a brief statement attributed to the Fatah alliance (the core of the Bina coalition) said the political parties expect to agree on a new prime minister next week.
On January 5, Iraq’s Parliament held an emergency session to discuss the fallout from the U.S. airstrike that killed Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who condemned the strike, requested the session, urging Parliament to “take legislative steps and necessary provisions to safeguard Iraq’s dignity, security and sovereignty.” Lawmakers issued a resolution that required the Iraqi government to “safeguard Iraq’s sovereignty” by canceling the 2014 request for assistance from the U.S.-led International Coalition in fighting ISIS, ending the presence of “any foreign forces” on Iraqi territory and preventing them from using Iraqi soil or airspace for any purposes. The document also said the government must commit to restricting the use of military force to the official state forces. Caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi attended the session and submitted a letter to lawmakers laying out his government’s position, which pointed to a “divergence between Iraqi and United States priorities.” Prior to the vote, Abdul-Mahdi presented Parliament with two options: either vote for the immediate expulsion of foreign, i.e., American troops, or restrict the mission and size of these forces to training Iraqi forces, with the ultimate goal of ending their presence. The prime minister recommended Parliament approves the former. Sunni and Kurdish representatives largely boycotted the session, while analysts who inspected photos from the meeting argued that that there were fewer lawmakers than are needed to establish quorum. Leaked footage showed Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi diplomatically pointing out the near-exclusive “Shia presence” and calling for caution in taking critical decisions that impact the whole of Iraq. Militia leaders Qais al-Khazali and Abu Alaa al-Walaie, who lead the Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kataib Sayid al-Shuhada, praised the parliament’s decision, calling it a victory while condemning lawmakers who didn’t attend the meeting “dishonorable.” A day earlier, Hadi al-Amiri, leader of the Badr organization had pledged to pursue the expulsion of U.S. forces from Iraq until that objective is accomplished. Amiri made his remarks while attending a funeral for Qassim Soleimani in Iraq. Adnan Zurfi, a leading member of the Nasr bloc opposed Parliament’s decision, saying it meant that Iraq “lost a useful ally and gained a feared foes.” The next day, Abdul-Mahdi met with U.S. ambassador Matthew Tueller and “stressed the need for joint work to end the presence of foreign troops in line with Parliament’s decision.” U.S. President Donald Trump responded by threatening Iraq with severe economic sanctions if the U.S. forces in the country were to be forced to withdraw under hostile conditions. Trump also argued that Iraq would have to compensate the U.S. for the cost of military installations built by the U.S. military.
On January 5, President Barham Salih had phone calls with the Emir of Qatar, the prime minister of Italy and King of Jordan to discuss rising tension in the region and efforts to contain the threat of widening conflict following the killing of Qassim Soleimani. The following day, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi had similar phone calls with German chancellor Angela Merkel, and the special representative of the UN secretary general, Jeanine Antoinette Plasschaert. The Iraqi leaders also discussed the future of foreign security assistance to Iraq with the European leaders following the Iraqi Parliament’s resolution demanding the expulsion of all foriegn forces. On January 9, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, visited Iraq for meetings with President Salih and other Iraqi leaders. The Turkish diplomat is expected to discuss the ongoing, if winding down, tensions between the U.S. and Iran, as well as matters of bilateral interest to Baghdad and Ankara.
On January 5, Moqtada al-Sadr, who leads the Saeroun coalition, criticized the Iraqi Parliament’s resolution regarding the status of U.S. and other foreign troops in Iraq. Sadr said the resolution was a “meager” response to the U.S. violation of Iraqi sovereignty. Sadr called for harsher measures, including the immediate closure of the U.S. embassy and “American bases”, the expulsion of U.S forces “in a humiliating manner,” and criminalizing cooperation with them. Sadr also called on anti-American factions in Iraq and abroad to meet immediately and form “international resistance brigades.” Sadr had earlier on January 3 said he would “activate” dormant wings of his militias, namely the so called Mahdi Army and Promised Day Brigade. Sadr, through an associated social media account, walked back some of the incendiary language on January 6, notably saying that military action must be a last resort and that his Peace Brigades militia would not be part of the anti-American factions meeting he proposed.
On January 5, Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, sent letters to the UN Security Council and UN Secretary General condemning the U.S. airstrike that killed Qassim Soelimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The letter said the airstrike was “a serious violation of Iraqi sovereignty and in violation of the conditions for the presence of US forces in Iraq,” and urged the Security Council to issue its own condemnation of the U.S. military escalation in Iraq.
On January 5, the U.S.-led International Coalition against ISIS announced a temporary suspension of its efforts in training and supporting the Iraqi security forces (ISF). The coalition explained that rocket attacks by Iraqi militias supported by Iran, and the threat of further attacks following the killing of Qassim Soleimani, necessitated devoting more coalition resources to providing security and protection for the Iraqi bases hosting coalition personnel. The Canadian ambassador, whose country is part of the coalition, warned the Iraqi government that the coalition’s ability to support the ISF was contingent on Baghdad’s ability and willingness to protect coalition personnel from threats. Following Iran’s January 7 ballistic missile attacks on two Iraqi bases hosting coalition personnel (details in security section below), several coalition members began moving some of the forces out of Iraq, including Germany, the UK, and Canada. However, On January 9, the governments of Hungary and Australia said they intend to keep their forces in Iraq.
On January 6, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper denied reports of American forces being evacuated from Iraq. Esper said the U.S. was relocating some of its personnel within the country, and a Pentagon spokesperson asserted that there was “no change in US policy with regard to our force presence in Iraq.” Speculations about a decision to pull U.S. forces out of Iraq mounted after media sources circulated a letter addressed from the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq to the Iraqi chief of the joint operations command describing upcoming troops movement out of the Green Zone in Baghdad. The U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said the letter accidentally created confusion about U.S. intentions because it was “poorly worded.”
On January 9, local press reports said that activists were planning renewed mass protests in Baghdad on Friday January 10. The goal of the next round of protests is said to be to pressure the political class to make progress on selecting a new prime minister and government, and end the political stasis that accompanied the tensions and threat of war between Iran and the U.S. Posters shared on social media told people to bring helmets and soda water, a reminder to be prepared to deal with tear gas usage by the ISF. At least one protester was killed on January 8 when he was struck in the neck by a tear gas canister during a protest in Baghdad’s Wathba Square.
On January 2, ISIS militants attacked a security checkpoint in the Imam Safir area in the Muqdadiya district of Diyala province. One member of the Diyala emergency police force was killed in the attack. Another ISIS attack in the nearby Agha Jan area killed another policeman and wounded three more.
On January 2, gunfire and a grenade explosion killed a man and a woman in the Abu Saida subdistrict in Diyala province.
On January 3, a U.S. drone airstrike near Baghdad’s airport killed Iranian General Qassim Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Muhandis was the commander of the Kataib Hezbollah (KH) militia and the chief of staff of the popular mobilization forces (PMF). The Pentagon said in a statement that President Donald Trump had ordered the strike because Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” The airstrike followed a series of escalatory actions between the U.S. and Iraqi militias close to Iran, including the December 27 rocket attack that killed a U.S. citizen and the December 31 U.S. airstrike that killed at least 25 KH members. The killing of Soleimani and Muhandis has brought about a serious deterioration in Iraq’s relations with the U.S. (see the political section for more details).
On January 3, Iraqi security forces (ISF) found two rocket launchers and rockets under a highway overpass near a cemetery in central Baghdad.
On January 3, Iraqi air force F-16 planes bombed tunnels believed to be occupied by ISIS militants in the Zab district of Kirkuk province. The airstrike destroyed three tunnels and killed an unspecified number of militants who were inside them.
On January 4, Kataib Hezbollah issued a warning to the ISF to maintain a distance of at least 1,000 meters from Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. personnel as of January 5. The message referred to U.S. personnel as “invading crusaders”, which implied imminent KH attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq in retaliation for the Jan 3 U.S. airstrike that killed KH commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
On January 4, the Iraqi military said that multiple rockets struck near Balad air base north of Baghdad and in the Jadiriyah neighborhood and nearby Green Zone, which includes the U.S. embassy and other diplomatic missions in central Baghdad. The attacks, which are thought to be militia retaliation for the U.S. killing of Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, injured three civilians and damaged private property. No Iraqi or foreign troops were injured in the attacks. On January 5, three more rockets struck in Baghdad. Two rockets landed near the Green Zone while the third landed in the Arasat neighborhood across the river.
On January 4, unidentified gunmen used silenced weapons to kill a civilian in the Jisr Diyala region east of Baghdad.
On January 4, unidentified gunmen riding on a motorcycle assassinated an activist while he was returning home from Tahrir square to Sadr city in east Baghdad. On January 5, protesters in Nasiriyah burned down an office belonging to the popular mobilization forces (PMF). The incident happened following an altercation between protesters in the city’s Haboubi square, and PMF supporters who reportedly showed up armed and attempted to set up a symbolic funeral procession for Qassim Soleimani and PMF commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis through the protest site. When protesters tried to block the procession, the armed militia supporters opened fire, injuring three protesters. One of the injured protesters died in the hospital the following day. On January 6, security sources said an IED exploded next to the residence of activist Uday al-Jabiri in central Nasiriyah. The attack caused material damages to the house but there were no reports of casualties. On January 7, footage on social media recorded what appears to be a deliberate attack by militiamen using live bullets against protesters in the same area of Nasiriyah. The attacker also set the tents used by protesters on fire. Medical sources reported on January 8 that at least eight protesters were injured in the attack, six of whom sustained gunshot wounds.
On January 5, unidentified gunmen riding a motorcycle used silenced weapons to kill a school principal in the Hay al-Aamil neighborhood southwest of Baghdad. In the western Baghdad neighborhood of Hay al-Jamia, unidentified assailants armed with knives and firearms killed an army captain in his home. To the east, in the Sabi Qusoor neighborhood, police found a third person who was killed by stab wounds.
On January 5, ISIS militants attacked a checkpoint manned by the Iraqi army in the Tel Thyab village in Daquq district south of Kirkuk. Two soldiers died in the attack and three more were wounded.
On January 6, security sources in Diyala said that a bomb exploded next to an under-construction mosque in the easerten subdistrict of Mandali. The explosion caused material damages to the structure but there were no reports of casualties.
On January 7, an IED exploded next to a house in Soq al-Shoyokh district south of Nasiriyah. The explosion caused damage to property but there were no reports of human casualties.
On January 7, Iran launched 15 ballistic missiles into Iraqi territory, targeting two Iraqi bases in Anbar and Erbil provinces that also host U.S.-led coalition forces. The strike was seen as part of Iran’s promise of retaliation for the U.S. killing of General Soleimani on January 3. Iraq and the U.S. have confirmed that the Iranian missile caused no casualties. Satellite imaging shows multiple buildings in Ain al-Assad air base were destroyed in the attack. U.S. officials said eleven of the missiles hit the bases while four malfunctioned. Analysts identified the missiles as short range ballistic missiles, equipped with advanced precision-guidance allowing them to be redirected in flight, as well as anti-missile defense and powerful warheads. The use of these missiles, fired from Iran, demonstrates a divergence from the short range, small rockets fired within Iraqi territory against U.S. targets. On January 8th, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi confirmed that the Iranians sent prior notification to Iraq that they would only target locations with U.S. forces, but without specifying the locations. After the missile strikes, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that the strikes and any further military operations would not be adequate retaliation. Rather, he stressed the importance for ending U.S. presence in the region. President Barham Salih condemned the missile strikes on Iraqi soil, calling them a “violation of Iraqi national sovereignty”. Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi echoed Salih’s position, stating that “Iraq rejects any violation of its sovereignty and attack on its land.” The U.S. took the precision, pre-announced strike, which ostensibly avoided killing Americans, as a sign that Iran wished to de-escalate the situation. In President Trump’s address on January 8, he claimed that Iran “appeared to be standing down” and that the U.S. was willing to “embrace peace with all who seek it.” However, the top U.S. military commander, Gen. Mark Milley, argued that evidence indicates the Iranians actually wanted to inflict casualties among U.S. personnel. Milley added that it was too soon to predict whether further attacks would follow. Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurdish leaders remain worried about further escalation between the U.S. and Iran on Iraqi soil, noting that the KRI (home to one of the struck bases) “cannot be involved in any proxy wars”. KRI leaders also warned that escalation increases the potential for renewed threats from ISIS.
On January 8, there were reports of a new rocket attack on the Green Zone in Baghdad, where the U.S. embassy and other diplomatic missions are located. The incident involved a few small rockets and did not result in casualties or serious material damages, according to a American officer. Iraqi sources also said there were no casualties. Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader, Qais al-Khazali, was quick to deny any role for his militia or any “Iraqi resistance” factions in the incident. The militia leader, however, warned that as far as he’s concerned, the “zero hour” for avenging the death of Qassim Soleimani has not struck yet, adding that the Iraqi militias’ retaliation against the U.S. would be “no less than Iran’s,” in reference to the January 7 missile strikes.
On January 8, an IED exploded next to a vehicle transporting the commander of an Iraqi army brigade near Daquq south of Kirkuk. The explosion wounded the officer along with four members of his security team.
On January 9, an IED exploded next to a house in Tahrir neighborhood in central Baqubah. The explosion injured two civilians.
On January 9, ISIS militants attacked Iraqi border police patrols near the Syrian border. The attack killed two members of the border police and wounded two more.
On January 7, the governor of Ninewa said that 200 internally displaced families have recently returned to their newly repaired homes, which had been damaged during fighting with ISIS, in the old district of Mosul City. The governor, Najim al-Jubouri, said the return of these families marked the closure of the Salamiyah camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs), south of Mosul. Jubouri added that the ISF provided security for the IDPs journey home.
On January 7, an adviser to the governor of Anbar for rescue affairs said that all IDP camps in the province would be shut down during this year. The official asserted that there were no plans to repair or upgrade any of the IDP camps, noting that population at the Amiriya camps south of Fallujah has shrunk considerably with the recent return of 5,000 IDPs to their home district.
On January 9, Iraqi judicial authorities said that 91 protesters remained in custody facing criminal charges in connection with the ongoing protests in Iraq. The figures suggest that a total of 16 protesters were released from custody since December 18, when the judiciary published their previous figures on detentions.
On January 8th, Oxfam reported that their humanitarian work in Iraq is being restricted following the ballistic missile strikes on two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. forces. Oxfam suspended their work in three locations, and closed their offices due to heightened security concerns, increased road checkpoints, and greater travel restrictions. Oxfam has 26 humanitarian and developmental programs in Iraq. These programs provide clean water, emergency food distribution, as well as protection work and cash aid.
On January 2, the Trade Bank of Iraq released its profit and revenue figures for 2019. The report said the bank generated ID837 billion in revenues, ID673 billion of which were net profit, translating to $697 million in revenue with $561 million dollars being net profit. These numbers reflect a 5% dip in profits from 2018, which had previously seen a 20% increase from 2017 to 2018.
On January 3, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that American citizens working on the country’s southern oil fields have begun leaving Iraq on orders from their government. The Ministry did not specify the number of workers who have departed, but claimed that oil operations and output were not affected by the development. International oil companies operating Iraq’s main southern oil fields, including ExxonMobil, BP and Shell initially declined to comment on the ministry’s statement. On January 6, Chevron, which operated fields in the Kurdistan region announced it had instructed its personnel to leave the KRI “As a precautionary measure.” Two days later, China’s National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) also pulled its staff from southern Iraq. These staff evacuations were prompted by rising tensions and exchanged military strikes between Iran and the U.S. on Iraqi territory following the killing of Qassim Soleimani.
On January 3, Iraqi sovereign bonds dropped 1 cent on geopolitical fears following the killing of Qassim Soleimani. On January 6, local press reported that the Iraqi dinar’s value against the dollar dropped by up to 3%, due to rising economic anxiety because of the military escalation between Iran and the United States. The exchange rate, which has for long held steady at around ID1,200 to $1, changed to ID1,240 to $1.
On January 8, sources at Baghdad airport said that all airline companies servicing the facility, except for the Iraqi national carrier and Qatar airways, have suspended their flights to and from Iraq’s main airport. The suspension of flights was a response to rising security risks following the January 7 Iranian ballistic missile strike on Ain al-Assad base in western Iraq. The security risks have also forced other airlines that usually overfly Iraqi and Iranian air spaces to seek alternative routes. These disruptions are said to be affecting 500 daily flights.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
Casualties Due To IEDs from January 2 - January 9, 2020The 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.
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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.