ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: DECEMBER 2 – 9, 2021

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Key Takeaways:

  • Fatah Asks Top Court To Annul Elections; Kadhimi And Barzani Seek Closer Security Cooperation; Senior Official Declares End Of Coalition’s Combat Role – On December 4, Fatah Coalition leader Hadi al-Amiri said he would continue to appeal the election results through the Supreme Federal Court. Amiri said IHEC was unqualified to manage the October election and listed a number of alleged violations that Fatah presented to the Court as part of its case. The Court is sent to begin looking into the case on December 13. On December 8, PM Kadhimi visited Erbil and met with KRG PM Masrour Barzani for talks that focused on responding to the latest ISIS attacks in disputed territories and expanding the cooperation between the Iraqi army and Peshmerga. On December 9, Iraq’s National Security Adviser announced the end of the International Coalition’s combat mission in Iraq, adding that the Coalition will continue to provide training, advice, and other enabling capabilities after the withdrawal of combat forces. In Other developments, on December 9, the Azm coalition of Khamis al-Khanjar said it has joined several other groups to form a new bloc that it claimed includes 34 lawmakers. more…
  • Army And Peshmerga Accelerate Plan To Form 2 Joint Brigades After Deadly ISIS Attacks; Rare Bombing In Basra Kills 4 – On December 4, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command (JOC) said it agreed with the Peshmerga Ministry to close security gaps between their respective areas of responsibility and improve intelligence and operational cooperation. A senior JOC officer said that “there will be two joint brigades to boost security” in the disputed areas, adding that the exchange of intelligence has begun “as of today.” A senior Peshmerga officer said the two brigades would include more than 7,500 soldiers and officers. The agreement came after an ISIS attack near the Qara-Chogh mountains killed ten people, including seven Peshmerga fighters. On December 6, another ISIS attack north of Kirkuk killed four Peshmerga fighters and wounded five. Between December 2 – 9, the explosions of seven IEDs in Babylon, Diwaniyah, Basra, Diyala, and Kirkuk killed five Iraqis and wounded nine. The deadliest attack struck in central Basra on December 7, causing four of the five fatalities. In other developments, on December 4, unidentified assassins killed a senior intelligence officer in the province. On December 7, a Turkish airstrike killed a local commander in the YBS militia in Sinjar. The Iraqi military condemned the strike, which it said targeted a a PMF fighter from the Yazidi community. more…
  • Lack of Security, Jobs, And Reconstruction Keeps 1.2 Million In Displacement; COVID-19 Infections Continue Their Decline – On December 2, UNHCR data designated 6.4 million people as “population of concern” in Iraq, including nearly 1.2 million IDPs. About 70% of these IDPs have been displaced for five years or more, and remain so because their homes are destroyed or they don’t expect to find jobs in their districts. Other factors delaying returns include “insecurity, fear and trauma, and perceived affiliation to extremist groups.” On December 9, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 2,086,702. Deaths from confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 23,943 while hospitalizations decreased to 9,341. The daily average for new cases during the last 7-day period was 561/day, compared to 735/day during the 14-day period ending December 2. The total number of vaccinated people reached 7,880,958 including 91,430 who received their shots on December 9. In other developments, on December 4, Iraq’s Foreign Ministry organized a new flight from Minsk to repatriate 419 Iraqi migrants who had been stranded on the border between Belarus and Poland. On December 7, Iraq’s Ministry of Culture received the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, a 3,500 year-old ancient artifact that was returned from the United States after it had been looted from the country in 1991 and sold to collectors. 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.


Fatah Asks Top Court To Annul Elections; Kadhimi And Barzani Seek Closer Security Cooperation; Official Declares End Of Coalition’s Combat Role

On December 3, new reports said that the supporters of parties and militias that had rejected the election results escalated their protests outside two gates of the Green Zone in Baghdad. Footage showed some of the demonstrators climbing on top of the concrete barriers that surround the fortified area that houses key government offices.   

On December 4, Fatah Coalition leader Hadi al-Amiri said that Fatah would continue to appeal the election results through the country’s Supreme Federal Court. Amiri claimed in a press conference that the October election and its results showed that “the [election] commission was unqualified to manage [the electoral process].” Amiri pointed to a number of alleged “violations” that he said Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) committed. First, he argued that IHEC made a legal violation by releasing preliminary results that supposedly represented 94% of ballots, while they represented “only 79%.” Amiri also said Fatah “has doubts” about the electronic systems used in the election and that IHEC failed to submit a report about the systems to Parliament. Amiri then argued that IHEC failed to follow the law by neglecting to deliver the results to all candidates before releasing them. 

On December 5, Shafaq reported that the Supreme Federal Court will begin looking into a case demanding the annulment of election results that was submitted by the Fatah Coalition on December 13. A spokesperson for Fatah, Ahmed al-Asadi, said that Fatah built its case on the findings of a report by the German company that tested the electronic systems used in the October election. A spokesperson for IHEC said the Commission has responded to the Supreme Federal Court’s queries about the report, affirming the report found no security threats that could have jeopardized the electronic election systems and that the latter were secure.  

On December 6, a member of the Nasr Coalition, led by former prime minister Haider al-Abadi, said that the case filed by the Fatah Coalition before the Supreme Federal Court to annul the election results does not represent the coordination framework for Shia parties that had objected to the election results. The Nasr member, Saad al-Lami, added that the case reflects the position of Fatah alone.

On December 6, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi received a phone call from the UK Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss. A statement by Kadhimi’s office said he and Truss discussed the fight against ISIS and security cooperation after the approaching transition of the Coalition forces’ role from combat to advisory and assistance. The discussion also addressed economic relations, investments, and Iraq’s role in regional diplomacy.  

On December 8, Prime Minister Kadhimi visited Erbil where he met with Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The meeting focused on responding to the latest ISIS attacks in disputed territories and expanding the cooperation between the Iraqi army and Peshmerga forces. Kadhimi also visited Makhmour, the site of one of the recent deadly ISIS attacks, and met jointly with the local commanders of army, police, and Peshmerga forces to discuss measures to respond to the escalating ISIS threat. Kadhimi later flew to Basra, which was struck by a deadly bombing the day before, for meetings with security commanders. Kadhimi said that “Daesh…and those who seek to terrorize the state” represent “the same enemy,” vowing to bring the killers of journalists and security personnel to justice. He called the targeted murders of activists and officers “one series of crimes that is known to everyone.” The premier said his government would continue to pursue “the Daesh terrorists and the death squad terrorists” whom he said have “no local, regional, or religious cover.” 

On December 8, Rayyan al-Kildani, leader of the Babylioun brigades, said that an allied militia leader “agreed to postpone military operations” against U.S. forces in Iraq “until further notice.” In November, the leader of the Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada militia, Abu Ala’ al-Walaie, threatened to commence a “decisive and historic confrontation with the American occupation” after midnight on December 31, 2021. Kildani said the decision to postpone the escalation was made in response to “concerns among our people about turning the holidays into a new episode of tensions.”

On December 9, the Wataniyah coalition of former prime minister Ayad Allawi said it filed a case before the Supreme Federal Court demanding the “complete annulment” of the October 10 election. In a press conference, the group said it presented the Court with “14 technical and administrative violations” that IHEC allegedly committed.   

On December 9, Iraq’s National Security Adviser, Qasim al-Araji, announced the end of the International Coalition’s combat mission in Iraq. Araji, who made the announcement after meeting with the Coalition commanders in Iraq, said the Coalition will continue to provide training, advice, and other enabling capabilities after the withdrawal of combat forces.  

On December 9, the Azm coalition of Sunni politician Khamis al-Khanjar said it has joined several other groups to form a new bloc that includes 34 members of Parliament. A statement by Azm said the new bloc’s priorities are focused on the “unconditional return of the displaced,” compensating them for damages, and addressing the issue of missing persons. The statement said the new bloc includes (in addition to Azm) the Arab Coalition of Kirkuk, the Hasm movement, the Jamaheer party, and members of the Aqd bloc. But a review of election results shows that the total number of winning candidates from all these parties is 23.


Army And Peshmerga Accelerate Plan To Form 2 Joint Brigades After Deadly ISIS Attacks; Rare Bombing In Basra Kills 4

On December 3, the Peshmerga Ministry said that an attack by ISIS militants on the village of Khidhirchicha, near the Qara-Chogh mountains, killed ten people. According to the ministry, the ISIS militants first attacked the village, killing three civilians and wounding several others. The militants later ambushed a Peshmerga force that was on its way to respond to the initial attack, killing seven Peshmerga fighters. The Peshmerga Ministry statement called for joint operations with the Iraqi federal forces and International Coalition to begin “without delay” to deny ISIS a safe haven in the gaps between Peshmerga and federal lines of control. 

On December 4, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command (JOC) said it reached agreements with the Peshmerga Ministry to close security gaps between their respective areas of responsibility and improve intelligence and operational cooperation on the battlefield. The agreements, which came amidst an escalation in ISIS attacks on the Peshmerga, were reached during a meeting between JOC and Peshmerga officials on December 4, according to JOC’s lieutenant general Abdul-Ameer al-Shamari. Shammari said that “there will be two joint brigades to boost security” in the disputed areas, adding that field commanders have been instructed to increase the level of cooperation, affirming that the exchange of intelligence has begun “as of today.” A senior Peshmerga officer said on December 7 that the two brigades, which federal and regional authorities first discussed forming in August, would include more than 7,500 soldiers and officers. The officer said these fighters will receive training at Iraqi training centers before being deployed along a front stretching from Khanaqin to the Syrian border. 

On December 4, security sources in Karbala said that unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire from silenced guns on the director of intelligence in the al-Hurr district while he was driving his vehicle, killing him instantly. 

On December 4, security sources in Ninewa said that a mortar round struck a house in the al-Hadhar district south of Mosul. The attack injured one civilian. 

On December 4, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded next to shops in a market area in the Jazaer neighborhood of Basra. The explosion caused material damage but there were no reports of casualties. 

On December 5, security sources in southern Iraq said that an IED struck a convoy transporting supplies for the International Coalition forces while it was driving along a main highway in Diwaniyah. The explosion damaged one of the convoy’s trucks without reports of casualties. Later, on December 9, another IED struck a similar supply convoy that was traveling through Babylon province, without reports of damage or casualties. 

On December 5, the Turkish military said that its forces killed three members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in an unspecified location in northern Iraq. The statement said that the PKK fighters were tracked while they were preparing to assault the positions of Turkish forces deployed in the area. Later, on December 9, the Turkish military said that three of its soldiers died in an attack by PKK fighters on Turkish forces in an unspecified location in northern Iraq.  

On December 6, Iraqi security sources said that ISIS militants attacked Peshmerga forces overnight near the village of Qara-Salim, north of Kirkuk. The attack killed four Peshmerga fighters, including an officer, and wounded five others. Kurdish sources reported later that ISIS militants took over the nearby village of Lheiban and set some of the villagers’ homes on fire, forcing them to abandon the area. The Security Media Cell reported later that a joint force of the Iraqi army and Peshmerga had secured the village, which is located the Sargaran subdistrict, and were helping the displaced villagers return to their homes. The statement added that the village was not set on fire by ISIS militants, as some sources had claimed.  

On December 6, security sources in Diyala said that a legacy IED exploded near the Sadiyah subdistrict, northeast of Baquba. The explosion killed a local sheep herder. 

On December 6, unidentified gunmen attacked a police patrol with a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) and machine gun fire in the Rifai district of Dhi-Qar province. There were no reports of casualties in the attack. 

On December 7, the Security Media Cell said that Iraqi security forces killed ten ISIS militants during two operations over the previous 24 hours. First, Iraqi F-16s struck a group of ISIS militants, based on intelligence supplied by International Coalition aircraft, in the Kilometer 160 area, west of Ramadi. The airstrike killed six of the ISIS members. Subsequently, a special forces unit encountered and killed four other ISIS militants while surveying the site of the initial airstrike. On the following day, the Iraqi military said that army helicopters killed two more ISIS militants during operations in the Kassar region of Anbar province. 

On December 7, the governor of Basra said that four civilians died and four others were injured when a motorcycle exploded near a bridge in central Basra. The Security Media Cell said that the victims were in two vehicles that were near the motorcycle, when the explosive device detonated. The commander of operations in Basra, major general Ali al-Majidi, said that initial findings indicate that the bomb was shaped charge IED, and that the explosion’s force directly hit a minibus that had IQD250 million on board at the time. 

On December 7, security sources in Kirkuk said that an IED struck a federal police convoy between the villages of Rbeidh and Suheil, in Wadi al-Shay, 45 kilometers south of Kirkuk City. The explosion injured three members of the federal police’s 20th brigade, 5th division. Two days later, a second IED struck another patrol vehicle belonging to the same federal police unit near the village of Suheil. The explosion injured two federal police personnel.

On December 7, security sources in Sinjar said that a Turkish airstrike targeted a vehicle that was transporting a local commander in the PKK-affiliated YBS militia in the Khanasor subdistrict. The militia commander died later as a result of injuries sustained during the attack. The Security Media Cell condemned the strike, which it said targeted a vehicle belonging to a member of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) from the Yazidi community. 

On December 7, security sources in Kirkuk said that Iraqi army forces clashed with a group of ISIS militants that were observed moving into the Dibis district, northwest of Kirkuk City. Two Iraqi soldiers were injured in the fighting. 


Lack of Security, Jobs, And Reconstruction Keeps 1.2 Million In Displacement; COVID-19 Infections Continue Their Decline

On December 2, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released a factsheet with updated data on internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in Iraq. UNHCR said that 6,463,404 people represent the “population of concern” in Iraq. This number includes 1,189,581 IDPs, 4,939,074 returnees, 249,733 Syrian refugees, 38,016 refugees from other nationalities, and 47,000 stateless individuals. The UNHCR warned that those living in displacement are “often more vulnerable to protection violations—such as arbitrary arrest and detention, trauma and psychological stress, threat of eviction from their homes, and lack of access to essential services” than the rest of the population. For example, only half of the IDPs living outside of formal camps out-of- camp IDPs have access to safe and adequate housing, and about a fifth of Syrian refugees depend on charity and cash assistance for food. The organization noted that the numbers of returnees regularly exceed those of the new displaced. But, many remain in displacement because their homes are destroyed or they don’t expect to find jobs in their original districts. Other factors delaying the return of many IDPs include “insecurity, fear and trauma, and perceived affiliation to extremist groups.” Nearly 70% of these IDPs have been displaced for five years or more. As of November 23, 2021, UNHCR had secured only 43% of nearly $421 million needed to sustain its operations in Iraq through the end of this year.

On December 4, a spokesperson for Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said that Baghdad had organized a new flight from Minsk to repatriate Iraqi migrants who had been stranded on the border between Belarus and Poland. The official said that this latest flight was the seventh of its kind and brought home 419 Iraqis.

On December 7, Iraq’s Ministry of Culture received a 3,500 year-old ancient artifact at an official ceremony at Iraq’s Foreign Ministry in Baghdad. The returned artifact, known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet and contains parts of the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh, was returned to Iraq from the United States after it had been looted from the country in 1991 and sold to collectors. Law enforcement officials in the U.S. seized the tablet from a museum in Washington DC in 2019 before approving its return to the Iraqi government.

On December 7, the UN Development Program (UNDP) said that the government of Germany will be providing $21.78 in new funding to support job creation and economy recovery programs to benefit Iraq’s vulnerable communities. The new funding will support the Building Resilience through Employment Promotion (BREP) project. The project will primarily focus on districts with vulnerable communities in five of Iraq’s provinces: Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salah ad-Din.

On December 8, UNICEF outlined its plans for responding to ongoing humanitarian needs in Iraq in 2022. The UN organization noted that 2.5 million people continue to need humanitarian assistance in Iraq due to the lingering effects of conflict, displacement, and the COVID-19 pandemic. This population includes 1.1 million children, more than a third of whom, 422,000, are considered to have “acute humanitarian needs.” UNICEF plans to include nearly 780,000 children in its aid programming in 2022. The targets include helping nearly 450,000 people have access to enough clean water, facilitating health care provision to more than 735,000, and helping another 447,000 kids receive education. UNICEF expects the execution of these aid programs to require over $52 million in funding. 

On December 9, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 2,086,702, an increase of 3,928 in cases from the 2,082,774 reported on December 2. Of these cases, 9,341 are currently under treatment, including 94 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent a decrease of 2,308 in hospitalizations and 13 in ICU admissions since December 2. Ministry data indicated that there were 84 new COVID-19 deaths since December 2, bringing the total from 23,859 to 23,943. The total number of recoveries increased from 2,047,266 to 2,053,418. The average number of new cases during the last 7-day period was 561 per day, compared to 735 per day during the 14-day period ending December 2. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 87 cases, Sulaymaniyah with 77, Erbil with 74, Kirkuk with 68, and Duhok with 61 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 16,507,647 samples for COVID-19. The total number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 7,880,958 including 91,430 who received their shots on December 9.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from December 2, 2021 - December 9, 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
12/04/21 Hay al-Jazaer, Basra00
12/05/21 Diwaniyah province0 0
12/06/21 Sadiyah, Diyala province1 0
12/07/21 Wadi al-Shay, Kirkuk 0 3
12/07/21 Central Basra44
12/09/21 Babylon province00
12/09/21 Wadi al-Shay, Kirkuk 02

 

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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