- Sunni, Kurdish Parties Object To Allawi’s Handling Of Government Formation; Allawi Presents Program; Sadr Attacks Political Rivals, Threatens To Mobilize Militia; PMF Selects New Chief; Parliament Fails To Vote On Allawi’s Government – On February 21, a senior member of the Sunni coalition led by Speaker Halbousi said the group would not vote in favor on PM-designate Mohammed Allawi’s cabinet. On February 23, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo encouraged Allawi to cooperate with Sunni and Kurdish leaders on government formation. On February 24, Allawi presented his government program to Parliament, promising early elections within a year, restoring rule of law and economic reforms. On February 24, Kurdish leaders said Allawi’s handling of government formation was “not reassuring and did not inspire confidence.” On February 24, Moqtada al-Sadr urged Sunni and Kurdish parties to stop insisting on the appointment of ministers based on sectarian or ethnic quotas. Sadr also said he could mobilize his Mahdi Army militia and use it against ISIS, U.S. forces, and domestic rivals. On February 24, the Popular Mobilizations Force (PMF) selected Abdul Aziz al-Mohammadawi, alias “Abu Fadak”, as its new chief of staff, and the U.S. responded by designating him a global terrorist. On February 25, demonstrators turned out in large numbers in Baghdad to renew their opposition to foreign interference and Allawi’s nomination. Security forces, in attempts to disperse the protesters, used excessive force again, killing at least two and injuring dozens. On February 27, Parliament failed to achieve the quorum required to hold a meeting to vote on Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi’s cabinet, and Speaker Halbousi proposed to reschedule the meeting to February 29. more…
- A Series of Bombings Strike Baghdad; Federal And KRG Forces To Close Security “Gaps” In Disputed Territories; Iraqi Forces Kill 39 Militants In A Major Operation – On February 22, a series of seven IEDs exploded throughout Baghdad injuring 15 people. On February 23, an IED wounded two farmers in Diyala. On February 24, suspected ISIS militants killed three civilians and injured a fourth in Salah ad-Din. On February 24, the Iraqi Minister of Defense and the KRG Minister of Peshmerga met in Baghdad to coordinate the respective lines of control of their forces and discuss cooperation to fill “security gaps” that ISIS exploits in Kirkuk, Diyala and Ninewa. On February 25, the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service forces killed 39 ISIS militants, including high-ranking figures, in a ten hour long clash in Salah ad-Din. On February 27, an IED explosion killed two civilians and wounded three others in Mahmoudiyah, south of Baghdad. more…
- New Kidnappings Target Activists; Government Says 327,000 Families Remain Displaced; Iraq Responds To The Coronavirus After Confirmation Of Several Cases – On February 22, unknown individuals kidnapped activists Alaa Sheikh Ali and Tariq Hammoud after leaving Tahrir Square, the main protests hub in Baghdad. A third activist says government forces tortured him and extracted false confessions. On February 23, the Ministry of Migration and Displacement said that 63% of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have returned to their home districts since December 2017, indicating that 327,055 families remain in displacement. On February 24, health official in Najaf reported the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in Iraq, contracted by an Iranian student at Najaf University. On February 26, a crisis committee led by the minister of health banned travel to and from nine countries with high infection rates and instructed authorities to close all schools and public shops and ban public gatherings nationwide until March 7. 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.
Sunni, Kurdish Parties Object To Allawi’s Handling Of Government Formation; Allawi Presents Program; Sadr Attacks Political Rivals, Threatens To Mobilize Militia; PMF Selects New Chief; Parliament Fails To Vote On Allawi’s Government
On February 21, Raad al-Dahlaki, a senior member of the Iraqi Forces Alliance, the Sunni coalition led by Speaker Halbousi, said the group would not vote in favor of approving Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi’s cabinet when he presents it to Parliament. Dahlaki argued that Allawi was not a good choice because he was a dual citizen, held senior positions in the past, and was not politically independent. Last week, Speaker Halbousi expressed opposition to Allawi’s method selecting his ministers, which ostensibly diverged from Iraq’s traditional ethno-sectarian quota system, by not consulting with Sunni and Kurdish parties. On February 25, Speaker of Parliament Mohammad al-Halbousi criticized Allawi’s proposed government program (described below), arguing that “Allawi’s intentions are not clear.” He said that Allawi was not a truly independent candidate. Halbousi also said elections should be held on a specified date within nine months instead of Allawi’s one year time-frame, which lacks a set date. On February 26, Dahlaki again asserted that if Allawi’s government were to be confirmed, the Iraqi Forces Alliance would stay out of government and become an opposition group.
On February 23, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo encouraged Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi during a phone call to cooperate with Sunni and Kurdish political leaders to finalize the formation and facilitate the mission of his anticipated government. Pompeo also underscored that Allawi’s government should work to stop the violence against protesters, hold the culprits accountable and initiate reforms as soon as possible.
On February 24, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Nechirvan Barzani convened a meeting in Erbil of the region’s prime minister, parliament speaker and other leaders of the major Kurdish parties. A statement released after the meeting said that Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi’s handling of government formation was “not reassuring and did not inspire confidence among Iraq’s communities.” The five-point statement called on Allawi to reconsider his approach in selecting his ministers so that the new government could address the rights and entitlements of the various Iraqi factions. The statement also stressed that the “official institutions” of the Kurdistan region were the only parties that could decide who represents the region in the federal government. A KRG delegation traveled to Baghdad on February 25 to continue negotiating with Iraqi political parties ahead of the Parliamentary vote scheduled for Thursday. On February 27, reports indicated the parties did not reach an agreement. Kurdistan24 noted that of the five ministries for which there no agreed candidates included three the Kurdish parties desire to gain, including Finance and Justice, leading the Kurdish political blocs to act on their earlier threat to boycott the session.
On February 24, Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi presented his proposed government program to Iraq’s Parliament. The document focused on two areas: preparing for fair early elections and restoring rule of law, and services and economic reforms. The plan proposed creating a “Committee of Experts” to consult with various stakeholders, including protesters, to identify legal and executive steps to combat corruption and achieve desired reforms. To prepare for early elections “within a year,” Allawi pledged to support the preparations by the country’s election commission, push for finalizing the election law annexes concerning the distribution of electoral circles, and work toward finalizing the law of the Supreme Federal Court. The purpose of the latter is to increase the credibility of the court responsible for ratifying election results. With regard to restoring rule of law, the program says the government would put those who killed or harmed peaceful demonstrators to trial, release detainees, take strict measures to fight corruption and create a fair public service system, establish state monopoly over use of force, and facilitate the return of people displaced by violence. This section also included a pledge to protect human rights and ensure Iraq’s adherence to international human rights treaties. Allawi’s program also aims to rebalance Iraqi foreign policy with regional and great powers on the basis of mutual respect, non-interference in internal affairs, and preventing anyone from using Iraqi soil to attack other states. With regard to other reforms, the plan briefly outlined steps to liberalize and diversify the economy and address shortcomings with public services. The latter area gave priority to water, education, health, ports and civil aviation, gas capture and electricity, among others.
On February 24, Hassan Salim, a senior member of Sadiqoun bloc in Parliament, part of the Fatah coalition, stated that giving Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi their vote of confidence was conditional on Allawi’s expulsion of U.S. forces from Iraq. In another statement, Mohammad al-Ghabban, the head of the Fatah coalition’s bloc in Parliament, said the Fatah coalition would not give Allawi their vote if he could not secure national consensus, in reference to awarding various political blocs specific ministries to secure their cooperation.
On February 24, Saeroun coalition leader Moqtada al-Sadr, during an hour long televised interview with al-Sharqiya channel, criticized what he regarded as obstructive demands by various political blocs concerning government formation. Sadr called on Kurdish and Sunni leaders to cooperate with Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi and demanded they stop insisting on the appointment of ministers based on sectarian or ethnic quotas. Sadr claimed that he did not select Allawi himself, but rather acquiesced to the nomination when the name surfaced. Sadr went on to say that his support for Allawi was conditional on the latter’s ability to hold early elections within the year. He also addressed the anti-government protesters, telling them to accept the Allawi government. Sadr invited criticism from activists when he downplayed the crackdown by his “blue hats” followers on protesters last month–which killed about a dozen protesters–saying it was a justified and mild disciplinary action. Addressing the issue of foreign interference in Iraq’s affairs, Sadr stressed that Iran was no longer interested in intervening in Iraqi affairs, while the U.S. was actively interfering. Sadr also made controversial remarks about reactivating his Mahdi Army militia and made thinly veiled threats to use it against domestic rivals. In response to questions about combating ISIS in the absence of U.S. support, Sadr said his militia was able to single-handedly deal with the problem. He then warned that “if some extreme Sunni political leaders want to bring back car bombs, we’ll bring back something else,” hinting to a return of his Mahdi armed militia, which along with al-Qaeda, was responsible for much of the sectarian violence in Iraq during 2005-2007.
On February 24, the Popular Mobilizations Force (PMF) in Iraq selected Abdul Aziz al-Mohammadawi, alias “Abu Fadak”, as the new PMF chief of staff after a U.S. drone strike on January 3 assassinated the previous chief of staff, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and Iranian general Qassim Soleimani. Abu Fadak was a long time member of the Badr Corps (now the Badr Organization led by Hadi al-Amiri) and moved later to become a senior figure in and leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH). On February 26, the U.S. classified Abu Fadak as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist.” This designation aims to hinder Abu Fadak’s access to resources he could use to undertake terrorist attacks, and it alerted the U.S. and international committee that “Ahmad al-Hamidawi has committed, or poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism.” The U.S. accuses KH of conducting many attacks against U.S. personnel. Within the PMF, Abu Fadak’s assignment was not unanimous. Falih al-Fayyadh, the chairman of the PMF committee, was reportedly in favor of a more moderate figure but his objections were overruled by Iran, after the Iranians threatened to remove Fayyadh from his position. The appointment runs against the 2016 PMF law, which stipulates that the appointment of senior PMF commanders must be confirmed by Parliament.
On February 25, Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi claimed that he had heard of a plot to thwart his attempt at government formation. Allawi said that parties benefiting from existing corruption planned to bribe members of Parliament to dissuade them from approving Allawi’s anticipated cabinet. Allawi said the plot also involved making the vote secret, presumably to make it difficult to trace the votes to individual representatives. Following Allawi’s allegation, the Iraqi Parliament asked the public prosecutor’s office to investigate whether the claims were true and take action accordingly.
On February 25, demonstrators turned out in large numbers in Baghdad to renew their opposition to foreign interference and the nomination of Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi. Security forces, in attempts to disperse the protesters, used excessive force again. In Baghdad, video footage shows security forces shooting live bullets at protesters. Security forces also fired tear gas canisters at protesters. The renewed clashes, concentrated near Khilani Square, resulted in two deaths and 54 other injuries, including 19 among security forces according to security sources, while medical sources said three people were killed and as many as 95 were injured. During earlier, smaller anti-Allawi protests in Baghdad on February 23, security forces used live bullets, tear gas canisters, and burned tents to disperse protesters, killing one and injuring five. On February 21 and 20, clashes between security forces and protesters led to the suffocation and injury of 13 protesters.
On February 27, Parliament failed to achieve the quorum required to hold a meeting to vote on Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi’s cabinet. Unsuccessful negotiations between Allawi and a number of major blocs, primarily Kurdish and Sunni parties, prevented Parliament from meeting as originally planned and Speaker Halbousi proposed to reschedule the meeting to February 29. The Ataa bloc, led by national security adviser Falih al-Fayyadh, also joined the Kurdish parties, some Sunni groups and the bloc led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in boycotting the meeting. Hours ahead of the vote, Khamis al-Khanjar, leader of the Arab Project bloc, said his faction would not attend the voting session. Khanjar has condemned Allawi’s lack of cooperation with Kurdish political leaders, and declared that a vote of confidence without an agreement with Kurdish leaders would be “a threat to the national partnership.” His stance contradicted prior statements, which had called on political parties to let Allawi select his cabinet members without interference. The boycott decision was not unanimous amongst Sunni groups. The night before the vote, Osama al-Nujaifi, leader of al-Qarar party, confirmed that al-Qarar would support a vote of confidence for Allawi’s government. The Saeroun alliance reprimanded the boycotting political blocs, saying it did solve the representation problem.
On February 20, ISIS militants attacked an Iraqi security forces (ISF) checkpoint between Abbara and Abu Saida in Diyala province, killing one police officer and wounding two. On February 23, ISIS militants attacked another ISF checkpoint northeast of Baquba, Diyala province, wounding three police officers.
On February 22, a series of seven improvised explosive devices (IEDs) throughout Baghdad injured 15 people. One device injured three people in al-Maalif, south Baghdad. One IED injured three people in Abu Dsheer, south Baghdad. Another IED injured one person in Mashtal, east Baghdad. One more IED injured two people in al-Zafaraniya, southeast Baghdad. Two additional IEDs injured four people in the Shaab and al-Habibiya neighborhoods, east Baghdad. One more IED injured two women in the Shula, north Baghdad.
On February 22, unidentified gunmen armed with silenced weapons assassinated a business owner in Tarmiyah district, north of Baghdad. On February 26, unidentified gunmen killed a civilian in Sadr City, Baghdad.
On February 23, unidentified gunmen assassinated a civilian in al-Wajihiya neighborhood of northeast Baquba, Diyala province. On February 24, sniper fire injured a tribal PMF fighter in northeast Diyala. On February 25, unidentified gunmen wounded a civilian in the Khalis district, north of of Baquba, Diyala province.
On February 23, an IED exploded against a tractor on a farm road in the Islah village, in northeast Diyala province. The explosion wounded two farmers.
On February 24, the security media cell said that an operation by the ISF backed by aviation assets from the with U.S.-led international coalition resulted in killing three ISIS militants and arresting seven others in the Zghaiton valley, in Kirkuk province.
On February 23, ISF units clashed with two ISIS militants during a raid on a hideout in the Khawalis village in Diyala province. During the clash, a suicide vest that one of the militants was wearing detonated, killing him without causing injuries among Iraqi forces, who subsequently managed to kill the second militant.
On February 24, suspected ISIS militants killed three civilians and injured a fourth in an attack on a soccer field and a coffee shop in the town of Balad, in Salah ad-Din province.
On February 24, unidentified assailants kidnapped two members of the same family in the subdistrict of al-Mansouriyah northeast of Baquba in Diyala province.
On February 24, the Iraqi Minister of Defense and the Minister of Peshmerga Affairs met in Baghdad to discuss the financial needs of the Peshmerga and cooperation on joint operations in disputed territories. The ministers discussed coordinating their respective lines of control and cooperation to fill “security gaps” that are being exploited by ISIS in Kirkuk, Diyala and Ninewa provinces. Peshmerga Affairs Minister Shorish Ismael said the two ministers agreed on a mechanism for paying Peshmerga salaries from 2019 onward. In March of 2019, the Iraqi federal government began paying the salaries of civil servants in the KRI for the first time since 2014, when a KRG decision to unilaterally export crude oil prompted the Baghdad government to cut off the region from the federal budget. In 2017, the Iraqi budget included a provision for paying Peshmerga salaries, but it was never implemented. In the past, the KRG has paid the Peshmerga using its own oil revenue augmented by contributions from the United States.
On February 24, an under-vehicle IED attached to a military vehicle injured Lt. Col. Suhail al-Dulaimi, a local PMF commander in the town of Karmah, near Fallujah in al-Anbar province.
On February 25, the security media cell announced that Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service forces (CTS) killed 39 ISIS militants in a ten hour long clash in the Khanukh mountains of Salah ad-Din province. The report claimed the killed militants included high ranking figures, including a mufti and a local commander of ISIS. The CTS also seized and destroyed an unspecified quantity of weapons, documents and computers containing information on the group’s finances. The exchange wounded four CTS operatives.
On February 26, ISIS militants attacked the house of a village mukhtar in al-Muhalabiyah subdistrict west of Mosul, killing him and wounding his son.
On February 26,ISF units killed an ISIS militant who was part of a larger group attempting to cross from Diyala province to Salah ad-Din province near the Udheim subdistrict.
On February 26, a Turkish airstrike on a suspected Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) target killed a farmer from Sidan village near Amedi, Dohuk province.
On February 27, an IED explosion killed two civilians and wounded three others in a market area in the Mahmoudiyah subdistrict south of Baghdad.
On February 22, unknown individuals kidnapped activists Alaa Sheikh Ali and Tariq Hammoud after leaving Tahrir Square, the main protests hub in Baghdad. The disappearance of the two activists is the latest in a series of abductions, arrests and forced disappearances targeting pro-democracy protesters, in which government forces and militia groups are implicated. Amnesty International has condemned what it described in a report as an “ongoing wave of intimidation, arrests and torture,” pointing to evidence of torture and mistreatment of detainess including minors. In a recent example reported in the local press, Sameh Bassem, an activist who disappeared on February 23, was later found to have been detained and tortured by a government intelligence service before being released two days later. Bassem shared his experience in detention, alleging he was beaten, verbally abused, and forced to sign an unknown document, likely a confession, while blindfolded. As of January 31, the Iraqi High Commissioner for Human Rights (IHCHR) has recorded 2,633 arrests of protesters by security forces. According to the IHCHR, 72 people have been kidnapped or forcibly disappeared between October 1 and January 29. Of that number, 56 remain missing.
On February 23, the Ministry of Migration and Displacement said that 63% of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have returned to their home districts since December 2017 when the government marked the liberation of all Iraqi territories that were once under ISIS control. According to the ministry, 565,256 families of the 892,311 registered IDP families have returned to their original areas of residence. Anbar had the highest rate of return (84%), followed by Salah ad-Din (56%), Ninewa (55%), Kirkuk (53%), the Baghdad suburbs (53%) and Diyala (49%). The ministry statistics indicate that 327,055 families remain in displacement. In January UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, put the total number of IDPs in Iraq at 1.414 million.
On February 24, the Director General of the health department in Najaf reported the first case of coronavirus in Iraq, contracted by an Iranian student at Najaf University. On February 25, health officials said an Iraqi family of four in Kirkuk province contracted the virus during a trip to Iran. On February 27, health officials diagnosed another Iraqi man who had recently traveled to Iran with the virus. The spread of the virus occurred despite a Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) call three days earlier for the government of Iraq to declare a high alert health status in response to the outbreak of coronavirus in Iran. After the first case was confirmed, protesters demanded border and airport closures, and the representative for the World Health Organization in Iraq warned that “preparations to confront the coronavirus were not proceeding optimally.” In response to the domestic pressure, the Iraqi border authorities claimed they have equipped ports of entry with the technology to detect the disease and brought in health professionals to examine everyone crossing into Iraq. On February 24, the KRG closed all border crossings with Iran. Iraq and the KRG have instructed their embassies to suspend all new visas to applicants from seven countries with high rates of coronavirus infections, including Italy, Iran, South Korea, and China. Iraqi airlines claims it has suspended all flights to and from Iran, except to evacuate stranded Iraqis and transport diplomats. The Civil Defense department said it was sending decontamination teams to disinfect public places, such as schools, markets, religious shrines and protest sites. On February 25, the IHCHR called for shutting down all schools until further notice, and the KRG issued orders to close all schools until March 24, while the provinces of Ninewa, Salah ad-Din, Diyala, Kirkuk, Wasit, and Najaf closed schools for the remainder of the week and some of them suspended work at non-essential government departments. Baghdad and Basra extended the mid-year break for schools by one week. On February 26, the crisis committee on the coronavirus situation, led by the minister of health, issued a decision to formalize the travel ban on countries with high infection rates, expanding the list to nine countries by adding Kuwait and Bahrain. The committee also instructed authorities to close all schools and public shops and ban public gatherings nationwide until March 7.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
Casualties Due To IEDs from February 20 - February 27, 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.
|02/22/20||Al-Maalif, south Baghdad||0||3|
|02/22/20||Abu Dsheer, south Baghdad||0||3|
|02/22/20||Mashtal, east Baghdad||0||1|
|02/22/20||al-Zafaraniya, southeast Baghdad||0||2|
|02/22/20||Shaab and al-Habibiya, east Baghdad||0||4|
|02/22/20||Shula, north Baghdad||0||2|
|02/23/20||Islah, northeast Diyala||0||2|
|02/27/20||Mahmoudiyah, south of Baghdad||2||3|
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.