ISHM 24: July 25 – 31, 2015

ISHM_Logo_2016Updates for July 31, 2015

  • The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) continue to slowly progress with clearing operations in Anbar Governorate. Despite the progress, clashes remain violent and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is preventing civilians in Fallujah from fleeing the turmoil. Further west, aid agencies reported success in delivering assistance to the besieged city of Haditha where residents and tribal forces continue to hold out against ISIS. Meanwhile in Salah ad-Din Governorate, security operations are also underway.
  • The United Nations (UN) is cutting 80% of its public health programs in Iraq because of underfunding. Iraq will also suffer in the near future from cuts made by Iraq’s Ministry of Finance that were earmarked to support displaced populations.
  • Thousands of displaced families returned to Diyala and Salah ad-Din this week.
  • Accommodations are being made in Kirkuk and Kurdistan to allow displaced students to continue their higher education. Additionally, a new university will open in Erbil to serve marginalized populations including Christians and Yazidis, as well as Muslims.
  • Turkey is targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) by launching multiple cross-border airstrikes in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Turkey’s operations against the PKK have been more aggressive than its strikes against ISIS, creating suspicions that its priority is to maintain control over Kurdish political and territorial ambitions.

Security Forces Progress in Anbar and Salah ad-Din

On July 25, the Spokesman of the Ministry of the Interior, Brigadier Saad Maan, stated that forces cleared the area around Anbar University in southern Ramadi and the outskirts of the Strait area.

On July 27, a military official announced that the ISF cleared five areas in the Tameem neighborhood in southern Ramadi, including Qadisiyah, al-Maareth, and al-Huriya. The source added that ISIS transferred its headquarters from Haouz to eastern al-Thela in Ramadi.

On July 29, a military official said that the ISF supported by military aviation, the anti-ISIS coalition Air Force, and the Iraqi Army cleared Albu Thiyab to the north of Ramadi.

On July 30, Ghassan Ithawi, a leader of the PMUs in Anbar, stated that the ISF and PMUs launched an operation to the north of Ramadi and cleared the areas of Albu Shaaban, Al Tahoona, and Al Jam’ia.

On July 24, a source from the Anbar Provincial Council announced that ISIS prevented more than 4,000 families from leaving Fallujah amidst these violent clashes and clearing operations. A spokesman for the PMUs confirmed that ISIS only allows families to exit the city if they have a sponsor and can pay a large sum of money in exchange for their release.

The siege on Haditha continues. In the past six months, the city has been attacked over 300 times by ISIS. The besieged residents are suffering from shortages of basic goods, including food, driving prices out of the reach of most families. However, with some assistance from Baghdad, more aid is beginning to reach the city. A source with an aid agency close to EPIC confirmed success in transporting 14.5 tons of food, providing the city with much needed humanitarian relief.

The ISF are progressing in Salah ad-Din as well. On July 26, a source from the military media cell stated that the ISF cleared Samarra and dismantled seventy-five explosive devices during the operation.

On July 29, Hamed Saheb of the Badr Organization stated that most of the Baiji area has been cleared in preparation for operations near the Baiji refinery, which is still controlled by ISIS. The ISF plan to clear Hawija and Sharqat afterwards. The source noted that on July 27, ISIS forces attempted to cut off supplies near Samarra, but the ISF foiled the operation.

UN and the Ministry of Finance Decrease Funding

On July 24, the UN announced the suspension of 184 of its Iraq-based health programs due to massive under-funding. The UN reported, “more than 80 percent of general health programs supported by humanitarian partners are now shut, directly impacting one million people.” The lack of funding indicates that half a million Iraqi children will not be able to be immunized and presents the potential for a consequential measles outbreak and the re-emergence of polio. The UN will stop other public health programs by the end of July, including water, sanitation, and hygiene programs.

On July 27, an anonymous source at the Parliamentary Migration and Displacement Committee said that the Ministry of Finance deducted 138 billion dinars that were earmarked to support displaced people, in addition to 1.4 trillion dinars deducted after the issuance of the Federal Court’s decision to parliament amendments to the budget. This reduction in funding can be attributed to the Federal Supreme Court decision at the beginning of this month over the unconstitutionality of a number of materials for the federal budget in 2015, stressing that the legislation was contrary to the contexts stipulated in the Constitution.

IDPs Return to Diyala and Salah ad-Din

On July 25, the Governor of Diyala, Muthana al-Tamimi, declared that 240 displaced families returned to their homes in Saadia, northeast of Baquba, after fleeing over a year ago when ISIS took control over large areas of Diyala. On July 27, Hakki al-Jubouri, a member of the Diyala provincial council, announced the return of more than 200 displaced families who lived in areas north of Muqdadiyah.

On July 29, the Chairman of Salah ad-Din’s Provincial Council Board, Ahmed Karim, announced the return of 10,500 displaced families to Tikrit following the city’s clearance from ISIS. 560 displaced families have returned to Al-door district, 25 km east of Tikrit, and 123 displaced families have returned to the Mkeshifah area, north of Samarra.

Authorities Address Higher Education Issues

On July 24, Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Church stated that the Diocese of Erbil announced plans to open a Catholic University in the city next October. The Diocese confirmed that the university will accept Christians and Yazidis displaced from Ninewa, as well as Muslims. The Australian Catholic University has pledged to provide any necessary support to the new Catholic University in Erbil.

On July 26, The Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Hussain al-Shahristani, announced the finalization of an agreement with the Iraqi Council of Representatives to allow the students to the University of Mosul to begin the new school year at the University of Kirkuk. Students from the University of Mosul fled after ISIS captured the city in June 2014.

On July 28, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research announced that students who attended schools in areas controlled by ISIS and displaced persons who fled to the Kurdistan region will not be required to repeat the past school year. The Ministry explained that the education provided for areas controlled by ISIS during the past year was “acceptable,” and that the Kurdistan region was able to accommodate displaced students in its universities, allowing for adequate schooling.

Turkey Targets the PKK

On July 25, an anonymous source stated that the Turkish Air Force launched airstrikes targeting the headquarters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Mount Korzar in the Derlok district and in the Amadiyah district in Dohuk and in Soran in the district of Khoa Cork in northeast Erbil. A source from the PKK responded saying that a truce with Turkey is no longer significant due to the shellings in northern Iraq.

On July 27, the Turkish Energy Minister, Taner Yildiz, announced that the oil pipeline carrying natural gas from Iran to Turkey was attacked on the Iraqi-Turkish border, halting any oil being pumped.

On July 28, Ahmed Davutoglu, a source from the Office of the Turkish Prime Minister, stated that Turkish warplanes launched airstrikes on the headquarters of the PKK in the Kandil Mountains late at night.

On July 30, Turkish warplanes continued attacks in the Mtina and Wezab areas in the Amadiyah district.

Ahmed Ali is a Visiting Senior Fellow and Director of ISHM at EPIC and Sarah Walker is a Research Intern at EPIC. They would like to thank Tarai Zemba and John Chisholm for their research support.

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