ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: AUGUST 12 – AUGUST 19, 2021

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Key Takeaways:

  • Preparations For Regional Conference Continue; Tension Rises Between Sistani’s Followers And Iran-Backed Militias; Saeroun, Fatah Exchange Jabs Over Election Boycott; Former Air Force Commander Faces Prison – On August 14-15, Iraqi officials invited Qatar and the UAE to attend a regional conference that Baghdad intends to host by the end of the August, but made it clear that Syria was not invited. On August 15, the commander of a Popular Mobilization Forces unit affiliated with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani accused the leaders of Iran-backed militias of being “traitors” that serve “masters from beyond the borders.” On August 16, a representative of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Saeroun Alliance stated that “elections will not happen without our participation,” adding that Saeroun’s decision to boycott elections was “a message to political blocs that were preparing to set up an incorrect mechanism for selecting the [next] prime minister.” Earlier, the rival Fatah Coalition dismissed boycotting parties as “insignificant…they realize they’re losing.” On August 16, security forces arrested the former commander of Iraq’s air force, who attempted to escape after a Baghdad court sentenced him to two years in prison over misuse of public assets. On August 17, President Barham Salih presented a new proposed penal code to Iraq’s Parliament to replace existing laws that have been in place since 1969. more…
  • ISF, Peshmerga To Form Joint Brigades; Turkish Airstrikes Kill Six People In Sinjar; New IEDs Target Contractors And The Electric Grid – On August 12, the Federal Government and the KRG announced an agreement to form joint security forces to operate in the buffer zones separating their respective security forces in Diyala, Kirkuk, and Ninewa provinces. On August 12, four rockets targeted a Turkish military base in Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul. On August 16 – 17, two Turkish airstrikes in Sinjar killed at least six people, including the commander of a local Yazidi militia, and injured four others. Between August 13 – 19, attacks with explosives damaged pylons on three high voltage transmission lines near Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Karbala. Between August 13 – 19, nine IED explosions killed at least two Iraqis and wounded 12 others. Three of the IEDs targeted contractors transporting supplies for the International Coalition. An additional IED killed three Turkish soldiers and wounded two in an unspecified location in northern Iraq. more…

  • Community Outreach Seeks Acceptance For IDPs With Perceived Ties To ISIS; COVID-19 Cases Slightly Down, Vaccinations Accelerate – On August 16, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released new statistics indicating that the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq stood at 1,191,470 as of July 31. On August 17, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that its operations in Iraq face a 68% funding gap. On August 18, the UNDP and Iraq’s Ministry of Migration invited more than 70 tribal chiefs and community leaders to a workshop designed to promote acceptance for, and facilitate the return of Iraqi IDPs and refugees, especially those with perceived ties to ISIS. On August 19, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 1,809,376. Deaths from confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 19,958 while hospitalizations decreased slightly to 156,772. To date, Iraq has tested 13,912,862 samples for COVID-19. The daily average for new cases decreased from 9,460/day over the 7-day period ending August 12 to 8,314/day during the last 7-day period. The rate of vaccination continued to increase this week, with the total number of vaccinated people reaching 2,835,415, including 126,820 who received their shots on August 12. more…

  • KRG Receives New Installment From Baghdad; Kadhimi Announces New Projects In Ninewa; Baghdad Warns Ankara About Illicit Trade – On August 15, the head of the KRG representation office in Baghdad said that the federal government has decided to send the KRG another monthly payment of IQD200 billion as part of its share of the national budget. On August 16, Iraq’s Council of Ministers held a meeting in Mosul, where it approved plans to unfreeze funds meant for reconstruction and took other decisions regarding the rehabilitation of Mosul’s International Airport, train station, and several bridges. On August 18, Iraqi Trade Minister met with his visiting Turkish counterpart in Baghdad to discuss trade dispute, and stressed that Turkish goods must enter Iraq through official ports of entry “to protect them from legal action targeting contraband goods.” 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.


Preparations For Regional Conference Continue; Tension Rises Between Sistani’s Followers And Iran-Backed Militias; Saeroun, Fatah Exchange Jabs Over Election Boycott; Former Air Force Commander Faces Prison

On August 12, the commander of Anbar Operations, Major General Nasir al-Ghannam, said that a group of protesters that intended to enter the province to demonstrate withdrew from the checkpoint leading into Anbar from Baghdad without an incident. In an earlier statement, Ghannam reportedly said that the people of Anbar “should rest assured that my men and I won’t allow Anbar’s stability to be violated.” According to an unnamed local government official, Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, who is from Anbar, met with local officials and tribal leaders and issued instructions to prevent any protests from taking place in the province. 

On August 14, Iraq’s National Security Adviser, Qasim al-Araji, visited Doha to deliver an invitation to the Emir of Qatar, Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, to attend a regional conference that Baghdad intends to host by the end of August. A statement by Araji’s office said the Qatari ruler accepted the invitation and offered Qatar’s support for the conference. This week, Iraq also dispatched Finance Minister Ali Allawi to deliver a similar invitation to attend the conference to Mohammed Bin Zayid, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Iraq’s Foreign Ministry, however, made it clear that Baghdad was not going to invite Syrian officials to the conference. The statement came after news reports suggested that Syria received an invitation to attend the conference through unofficial channels.  

On August 15, the commander of Ansar al-Marjiyah, a Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) unit affiliated with the Najaf clergy of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, directed strong criticism against Iran-backed militias, calling their leaders “traitors,” that serve “masters from beyond the borders.” The commander, Hameed al-Yasiri, also accused the self-described “resistance” factions of killing peaceful protesters. Yasiri made his remarks, which represent an unprecedented escalation in rhetoric between PMF factions affiliated with Sistani and those backed by Iran, during a sermon he delivered as part of Ashura ceremonies in Muthanna province. Yasiri’s remarks reportedly provoked a response from Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia leader, Qais al-Khazali, who dismissed Yasiri as “a [pan-Arab] nationalist disguising himself as a patriot.

On August 16, a representative of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Saeroun Alliance stated that “elections will not happen without our participation.” The representative, Parliament Member Rami al-Sukaini, said Saeroun’s decision to boycott elections was meant to “apply pressure…a message to political blocs that were preparing to set up an incorrect mechanism for selecting the [next] prime minister.” Earlier, the rival Fatah Coalition accused unnamed political parties of “working to postpone the early parliamentary elections to April 2022.” Senior Fatah representative Moien al-Kadhimi dismissed boycotting parties as “insignificant…they realize they’re losing so they acknowledged defeat early by withdrawing and refusing to compete.” Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) urged “our brothers in the Sadrist trend and the 26 other entities that announced that won’t participate in elections to reconsider their decision.” On August 7, Prime Minister Kadhimi suggested creating a committee to negotiate with boycotting parties to convince them to rejoin the electoral process. 

On August 16, Iraq’s Integrity Commission disclosed some details about a guilty verdict that a Baghdad court issued against the former commander of Iraq’s air force, retired General Anwar Hamad Amin. According to the Commission, the court sentenced Amin to two years in prison after finding him guilty of “violations” in a contract involving assigning land owned by the air force’s sports club to an investment project. The convicted former general staged a dramatic escape after leaving the courthouse, pulling a gun at his security escort and driving away with the help of his nephew, who is an active duty officer. Security sources said later that security forces arrested Amin again and held him at the Salhiyah police station. The unnamed sources, however, claimed that Amin turned himself in after receiving assurance from “Erbil” that the case would be politically settled and that he and his nephew would be transferred to Erbil (where Amin resides).

On August 16, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi met with tribal chiefs and community leaders in Sinjar during a visit to Ninewa province. Kadhimi stressed that his government was determined to implement the Sinjar Normalization Agreement, which the federal and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) made last year. Kadhimi also pledged that his government will do “anything in its power” to help displaced Yazidis and missing persons kidnapped by ISIS. Earlier this week, Kadhimi sent a similar message to Iraqi Christians during a meeting with Christian community leaders, including Patriarch Louis Sako. Kadhimi urged Iraqi Christian who had left Iraq due to conflict to return, and offered his “full support to facilitate this return and resettlement.”

On August 17, President Barham Salih presented a new proposed penal code to Iraq’s Parliament to replace existing laws. Salih said the new code will be up to date and “take into consideration all international treaties and conventions,” adding that it will be “the most comprehensive amendment since 1969.” Salih said the Supreme Judicial Council has endorsed the new draft law, which he said will feature new penalties to deter and combat corruption.

On August 18, Iraqi President Barham Salih spoke on the phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping and discussed bilateral relations. According to a statement by Salih’s office, the two presidents discussed expanding commercial and industrial cooperation, and giving Chinese companies a greater role in Iraq’s energy and infrastructure sectors. They also discussed increasing the number of scholarships available to Iraqi students at China’s universities.

On August 18, the Ministerial Council for National Security condemned the recent “unilateral military operations” in Sinjar, and rejected the use of “Iraqi soil to settle accounts.” The statement, which did not name the aggressor, was a clear reference to Turkish airstrikes that killed several people in Sinjar on August 16-17 (details below).


ISF, Peshmerga To Form Joint Brigades; Turkish Airstrikes Kill Six People In Sinjar; New IEDs Target Contractors And The Electric Grid

On August 12, the Supreme Committee for Military Coordination between the Federal Government and the KRG announced an agreement to form joint security forces to operate in the buffer zones separating their respective security forces in Diyala, Kirkuk, and Ninewa provinces. According to the Peshmerga Secretary-General, Lieutenant-General Jabbar Yawar, the two sides have agreed on the structure of the proposed brigades, which will be deployed in the gaps between Peshmerga and federal forces lines. Yawar added that these brigades will report directly to the Ministry of Defense and Joint Operations Command. Yawar noted that the two sides have formed six joint coordination centers in Baghdad, Erbil, Khanaqin, Kirkuk, Makhmour, and Kisk (in Ninewa). According to Yawar, the federal government will fund the new brigades. 

On August 12, ISIS militants released two hostages they had kidnapped at a fake checkpoint in Makhmour on August 6. According to security sources, ISIS released the hostages in exchange  for $100,000 in ransom money, which the hostages’ families denied. ISIS is still holding four other hostages taken hostage during the same August 6 incident.

On August 12, four rockets targeted the Turkish military’s Zelikan base in the Bashiqa district, northeast of Mosul. According to a local official, only two of the rockets detonated, without  causing damage or casualties. 

On August 13, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) struck the Nasr-Karkh Water and Tarmiyah-Karkh Water power lines in Baghdad. The explosion caused “significant” damage to the 132kV power lines that supply electricity to the Karkh water project. On August 16, another attack with IEDs damaged two towers on the 400kV power line running between Kirkuk and Erbil, taking the line out of service. On August 19, a third IED attack targeted the Musayyib-North Karbala and Musayyib-East Karbala lines in Karbala province, damaging the legs of another high voltage tower. 

On August 13, a legacy IED detonated near al-Qaim in western Anbar province, killing one child and injuring two others. 

On August 13, ISIS militants claimed responsibility for killing the Mukhtar of al-Nahiya village in Salah ad-Din province. Gunmen on motorcycles had earlier assassinated the village Mukhtar, who was also a member of the tribal mobilization forces. 

On August 13, a mortar attack killed a Turkish soldier in the Metina region in the Kurdistan region. Turkey blamed the Kurdistan’s Workers’ Party (PKK) for the attack. The Turkish military also said its forces killed three PKK fighters. On August 16, an IED explosion killed three more Turkish soldiers and wounded two others. Turkey also confirmed that a clash with PKK fighters near a Turkish military base in northern Iraq killed one more soldier and injured another. Fighting between the Turkish military and the PKK in Duhok also killed a civilian who got caught in the crossfire.

On August 15, Iraqi security forces raided the home of Mustafa Hassan Ismail, an ISIS militant, in the al-Khazna area of  Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad. The security forces killed Ismail during the raid. 

On August 15, ISIS militants attacked a security checkpoint southeast of Tikrit in Salah ad-Din province. During the attack, the militants injured one policeman and destroyed a thermal surveillance camera belonging to the police force. To the southeast, ISIS militants targeted a military post on the outskirts of Khanaqin district in northeastern Diyala province. The attack injured one Iraqi soldier. 

On August 15, an IED exploded near oil well No. 87 of the Bai Hassan field in the Dibs district of Kirkuk province. The explosion damaged the area surrounding the well but did not cause any casualties.  

On August 16, a Turkish airstrike targeted a vehicle in the Sinjar district of Ninewa province, killing Shingal Resistance Units (YBS) commander Saeed Hassan. The attack also killed another YBS fighter, injured four others, and caused significant material damage around the strike site. On August 17, another suspected Turkish airstrike hit a temporary hospital that PKK members reportedly established at an old school building south of Mount Sinjar. Initial reports said four people died in the bombing. 

On August 16, an IED explosion targeted an International Coalition supply convoy while it was driving south of Baghdad. On August 17, another IED detonated near a similar convoy passing north of Baghdad. A third IED targeted a similar convoy along a main highway through Anbar province. None of the explosions caused casualties. Earlier, on August 15, security forces disposed of two IEDs meant to target Coalition supply convoys along a main highway in Diwaniyah province. Security forces later defused more similar IEDs along highways in Babylon and Diwaniyah on August 19.

On August 17, an IED explosion struck a vehicle transporting PMF fighters near lake Himrin in northeast Diyala. The IED explosion killed one PMF fighter and injured four others. 

On August 18, a senior Peshmerga official said that the explosion of a roadside IED in Duhok injured a Peshmerga fighter. The official accused the PKK of placing the IED. 

On August 18, unidentified militants set fire to a brick factory in Abu Khamis village in Diyala province. The militants also attacked neighboring villages, causing civilians to flee. The attacker later detonated an IED that targeted security forces responding to the attack, injuring three Iraqi soldiers. 

On August 19, a legacy IED left behind by ISIS injured two municipal employees in the al-Arabi neighborhood of Mosul.


Community Outreach Seeks Acceptance For IDPs With Perceived Ties To ISIS; COVID-19 Cases Slightly Down, Vaccinations Accelerate3

On August 16, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released an updated Iraq Humanitarian Bulletin. The update noted that the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq was approximately 1,191,470 as of July 31. These IDPs are distributed across Iraq’s 18 provinces. More than three quarters of them live outside official IDP camps. The remainder live either in camps concentrated in the KRG (15%) or in makeshift housing arrangements, such as abandoned buildings or shacks (9%). The document, based on International Organization of Migration (IOM) data, points out that the rates of IDP return have slowed down significantly last year, when only 140,562 returns were recorded across Iraq. The report highlights that there’s continued need for humanitarian response in Iraq because of the stumbling recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation efforts in Iraq’s northern and central provinces.

On August 17, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), released an update on the state of funding for its operations in response to the humanitarian situation in Iraq. The update showed that UNHCR operations in Iraq face a 68% funding gap. As of August 17, donor nations have contributed only $125.9 million towards more than $390 million UNHCR needs for its 2021 Iraq operations. 

On August 18, the UNDP and Iraq’s Ministry of Migration invited more than 70 tribal chiefs and community leaders to a workshop designed to promote acceptance for, and facilitate the return of Iraqi IDPs and refugees, especially those with perceived ties to ISIS. The return of these refugees and IDPs, such as the repatriation of 94 families from al-Hol camp in Syria to Ninewa, often face push-back from communities concerned about the security implications of accepting these families back into their midst. The participants represent tribes and towns from the provinces of Ninewa, Anbar, Diyala and Salah ad-Din.

On August 19, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 1,809,376. This is an increase of 58,200 in cases from the 1,751,176 reported on August 12. Of these cases, 156,772 are currently in hospitals, including 934 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent a decrease of 8,235 in hospitalizations and 55 in ICU admissions since August 12. Ministry data indicated that there were 492 new COVID-19 deaths since August 12, bringing the total from 19,466 to 19,958. The total number of recoveries increased from 1,566,703 to 1,632,646. The average number of new cases decreased to 8,314 per day during the last 7-day period, from an average of 9,460 per day during the 7-day period ending August 12. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 1,861 cases, Basra with 975 cases, Sulaymaniyah with 864, Duhok with 528 cases, and Karbala with 457 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 13,912,862 samples for COVID-19. The total number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 2,835,415, including 126,820 who received their shots on August 19.


KRG Receives New Installment From Baghdad; Kadhimi Announces New Projects In Ninewa; Baghdad Warns Ankara About Illicit Trade

On August 15, the head of the KRG representation office in Baghdad, Fairs Issa, said that the federal government has decided to send the KRG another monthly payment of IQD200 billion as part of its share of the annual budget. According to Issa, the KRG will receive the funds by August 25, After weeks of disagreements over the budget, the federal government and the KRG reached an agreement on June 15 to release IQD200 billion in monthly installments to the KRG. The KRG received its first payment on July 11. 

On August 16, Iraq’s Council of Ministers held a meeting in Mosul, where it voted on 22 decisions regarding the Ninewa province. The Council approved a decision to unfreeze funds meant for the reconstruction of infrastructure damaged during ISIS occupation. The government also took other decisions regarding the rehabilitation of Mosul’s International Airport, train station, and several bridges. Following the meeting, the Ministry of Finance approved the release of IQD106 billion to Ninewa to pay as compensation for war damages to its residents. Prime Minister Kadhimi also announced that he plans to form a special committee to oversee the reconstruction process to avoid the “corruption and mismanagement” that “caused the fall of the province into the hands of ISIS.” Before leaving Mosul, Kadhimi laid the foundation stone for Mosul’s train station. In his remarks, he said that restoring means of transportation in the province will help “Mosul to regain its economic and historical role.” 

On August 16, the Rafidain Bank announced that it will offer IQD25 million in microfinancing loans to shop owners and similar professions. The bank also said it would offer IQD50 million in mortgage loans to government employees, security forces members and the general population.

On August 18, Iraqi Trade Minister Ala al-Jubouri met with his visiting Turkish counterpart in Baghdad. During the meeting, the two ministers agreed to form joint committees to resolve trade disputes between Iraq and Turkey. According to a statement by Iraq’s Trade Ministry, Jubouri noted that “Iraq hopes to increase the volume of trade between the two countries,” and stressed that Turkish goods must enter Iraq through official ports of entry “to protect them from legal action targeting contraband goods.”


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from August 12, 2021 - August 19, 2021

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
08/19/21 Mosul, Ninewa province02
08/18/21Abu Khamis, Diyala province03
08/18/21Duhok province01
08/17/21Diyala province14
08/17/21Anbar province00
08/17/21Baghdad province00
08/16/21Baghdad province00
08/16/21Duhok province32
08/15/21Dibs district, Kirkuk province00
08/13/21al-Qaim, Anbar province12
08/19/21Karbala province00
08/16/21Kirkuk province00
08/13/21Baghdad province00

 

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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