ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM 50: February 12 – 18, 2016

ISHM LOGOKey Takeaways:

  • U.S. Special Forces arrived at al-Asad military base in the city of al-Baghdadi, west of Ramadi, with heavy weapons and Apache helicopters. Also this week in Anbar, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) began an operation to clear ISIS militants from the city of Garma, 19 kilometers east of Fallujah. Meanwhile up north, an additional 1,000 Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) soldiers arrived in southern Makhmour, the southernmost district of Iraqi Kurdistan’s Erbil governorate, in preparation to liberate Mosul from ISIS, bringing the total number of Iraqi troops in Makhmour to 5,500.
  • The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reports that a new wave of displacement of more than 3,500 individuals has fled fighting in Anbar, relocating to safer areas in the province. Aid agencies are struggling to provide assistance due to this sudden influx of IDPs. For IDPs living in camps, immediate priorities include the provision of special medical assistance, clean water, and sanitation. According to the latest tracking of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the total number of Iraqis displaced since January 2014 now exceeds 3.3 million.
  • The European Union (EU) mission in Iraq provided 104 million euros ($115.9M) to aid IDPs in Iraq in 2015. Additionally, the U.S. Embassy in Iraq indicated that the United States has provided $603 million towards humanitarian aid for IDPs in Iraq within the past few months, noting that the aid will reach more than half a million Iraqi children.
  • This week, Iraq’s deepening fiscal crisis forced the shutdown of more infrastructure and agricultural projects. Also due to the government’s shortage of funds, a spokesman for the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group made up mostly of Shia-led PMUs, told The Associated Press that Baghdad is planning to cut the number of paramilitary forces by 30 percent. Meanwhile, to help drive up oil prices, Iraq’s Ministry of Oil announced that Baghdad will consider a freeze in oil production, provided that other top oil producers cap output. While such a move would further shrink government revenue in the short-term, if efforts to raise prices are successful, it would help Iraq’s economy recover some lost ground over time. Also this week, Baghdad signed a new trade agreement with Tehran.
  • Iraq’s President Fuad Masum and Shia Leader Moqtada al-Sadr affirmed their support for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s plans to reshuffle his political cabinet and replace the ministers who were appointed on the basis of political affiliations with technocrats. Hundreds of Iraqis gathered in Babil to show support for PM Abadi’s cabinet reform and to urge haste with its implementation. The demonstration was the largest of a number of anti-corruption demonstrations which took place across the country including in Najaf, Wasit, Diwaniya and Nasiriya.
  • Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited Munich this week and met with President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) Masoud Barzani to discuss the need for concerted efforts against ISIS. Also in Munich, and during a security conference, Abadi said that he expected the liberation of Mosul to occur within this year, and stressed that Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) are an official part of Iraq’s security forces that are under the control of the government. Additionally, the Prime Minister approved a bill to reinstate military draft conscription.
  • In a televised statement, Prime Minister al-Abadi sarcastically offered to pay all Kurdish employees their salaries in exchange for control of Kurdish oil. In kind, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Nechirvan Barzani accepted Prime Minister al-Abadi’s proposal, adding that that the KRG will “hand over all of its oil production without hesitation” if the central government followed through. Barzani noted that Kurdistan has 400,000 workers and that their salaries amount to 890 billion dinars a month, or more than $747 million.
  • The U.S. Department of State released a statement thanking the government of Iraq, as well as the intelligence and security forces involved, for securing the release of three Americans who were kidnapped on January 17 in Baghdad’s Dora district by an unknown armed group.

U.S. Special Forces Arrive to Ramadi and PMU Forces Launch Operation to Clear Garma

On February 13, United States Special Forces arrived at the al-Asad military base in the city of al-Baghdadi, west of Ramadi. While the exact mission of the soldiers is unknown, they arrived with heavy weapons and Apache helicopters.

On February 14, Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) cleared a number of villages north of Fallujah, the largest being Albu Shajal, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The battles saw the killing of 467 ISIS militants and the cutting off of supply lines into Fallujah.

On February 15, Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) began an operation to clear the city of Garma, 19 kilometers east of Fallujah, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. So far, the killing of 16 ISIS militants and the destruction of four ISIS-owned vehicles have been reported.

On February 15, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), and the International Coalition cleared the Maftool Crossing area of Saqlawiyah, 17 kilometers north of Fallujah, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The operation resulted in the deaths of dozens of ISIS militants and the destruction of six vehicles and a cache of weapons and explosives.

On February 16, Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) cleared the areas of Albu Taah and al-Abadi in the city of Garma, 19 kilometers east of Fallujah, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham militants. The attacks killed 28 ISIS militants, including three snipers, and saw the destruction of three car bombs, an armored car, and a cache of weapons and explosions.

On February 16, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) cleared the Basatin Dhiyabat area, 22 kilometers north of Ramadi, of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The clash killed dozens of ISIS militants and destroyed a number of ISIS-owned vehicles.

On February 16, an additional 1,000 Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) soldiers arrived in the Liberation of Ninewa Operation Headquarters in southern Makhmour. These soldiers will join the 4,500 already stationed there.

On February 16, Peshmerga and Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) forces repelled two Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attacks on the city Makhmour. The ISIS militants were repelled with heavy losses in both lives and equipment and had a number of their car bombs destroyed.

On February 18, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) bombed an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) base in the Basatin Dhiyabat area 70 kilometers west of Ramadi. The strike killed 30 ISIS militants and destroyed eight vehicles.

Internal Displacement Exceeds 3.3 Million Individuals in Iraq

On February 12, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) noted a sharp increase in the number of new waves of displacement coming from Anbar, with more than 3,500 individuals having arrived to safer areas inside the province during the last three days and thousands more are expected in the upcoming week. NRC’s Area Manager in Baghdad said that, “ Aid agencies are struggling to provide assistance due to the sudden increase in newly displaced families” as a result of operations to retake opposition-held areas in Ramadi and Fallujah continue.

On February 12, the Comparative Multi-Cluster Assessment of IDPs Living in Camps Report for January 2016 registered 236,626 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) as living in 40 formally recognized camps across Iraq as of August 2015. This report also provided a comparative analysis of all IDP camps that were assessed as part of the Second Quarterly IDP Camp Profiling Exercise, which was conducted in 34 out of the 40 identified camps between September 1 and October 12 2015. The findings indicated that immediate priority needs for IDPs in camps include the provision of special medical assistance for households hosting vulnerable members, as well as improved water supply and sanitation. IDPs residing in camps in Sulaymaniya and Diyala face the most urgent need for food assistance, while camps in Baghdad and Maysan were generally found to have poorer waste management and limited access to healthcare.

On January 18, the International Organization for Migration’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) revealed that as of February 2016, there are over 3.3 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), dispersed across 3,698 locations, in Iraq. Additionally, temperatures continued to drop across Iraq as winter set it, with displaced families living in tents and unfinished buildings struggling to cope with heavy rains and cold. Despite assistance given by the international community, conditions remain challenging for the displaced, in particularly the mountainous areas of Dahuk and Sulaymaniya in the Kurdistan region.

Emergency Humanitarian Assistance for Iraqi IDPs

On February 12, the Deputy for Kirkuk’s Arabs announced a grant of $8 billion dinars ($7.23M) to be disbursed to provide relief and services for the 650,000 displaced people in Kirkuk.

On February 14, the European Union mission in Iraq announced it had spent 104 million euros ($115.9M) to aid displaced persons during 2015. It affirmed that the EU respects Iraq’s territorial integrity, will not interfere in internal affairs, and will continue to support stability efforts in reclaimed areas.

On February 15, IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation provided winter aid for 70,000 Iraqi refugees through distributing food packs, clothing, blankets, stoves, and fuel in the provinces of Dohuk, Arbil, Kirkuk, Sulaymaniya, and Baghdad. The teams have also been able to monitor and assess the situation of refugees in Iraq, noting that the main critical shortages in several camps are the access to food, clean water, education, and various health issues.

On February 15, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad announced that the United States has provided $603 million towards humanitarian aid for IDPs in Iraq within the past few months, noting that the aid will reach more than half a million Iraqi children. The Embassy said in a statement that the U.S., along with representatives from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and local non-government organizations in Arbil, helped distribute plastic sheeting, blankets, and towels among other relief items to nearly 200 displaced families in Ghazni camp in Arbil. The U.S. in the past few months has provided clothing, heaters, and other vital materials for more than 500,000 Iraqi children.

Iraq’s Economy Suffers and Iran Steps Up its Aid

On February 12, Oil Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi acknowledged reports of “private oil mafias” which specialize in smuggling oil through the southern waterways and take advantage of fluctuating prices.

On February 13, head of the Services Committee in the House of Wasit, Mahdi Younis, said that 228 projects in the province had to be stopped due to the country’s financial situation. The projects were dispersed among “various civilian sectors such as water, municipal sanitation and roads, bridges, schools and educational and health projects,” as well as security initiatives.

On February 14, the Karbala Provincial Directorate announced 1,500 acres of agricultural project land was threatened with death because 124 temporary employees had not been paid in over 8 months due to the financial crisis.

On February 16, a source in the Iraqi Oil Ministry reported that Iraq would be willing to freeze oil production at certain rates to support oil prices. A meeting between Iraqi, Iranian, and Venezuelan oil representatives is scheduled for February 17.

On February 17, the Iraqi Ministry of Trade signed a memorandum of understanding with its Iranian counterpart to improve trade, economic, and industrial relations between the two countries. The Iraqi Minister of Trade Mohamed Shaya al-Sudani said that “this agreement is to open up the prospects of trade cooperation and exchange views in all areas of Iraq and Iran”, noting that, “the contracts concluded between the two countries for the processing of Iran’s food ration oil card”.

On February 17, the Iraqi and Iranian Ministries of Commerce signed an agreement committing 10,000 tons of Iranian oil to the Iraqi ration card program, as well as an Iranian commitment to restore Iraqi supermarkets, factories, and warehouses.

On February 18, Spokesman for the Popular Mobilization Forces, Karim al-Nouri, told the Associated Press that around 30% of paramilitary fighters were expected to be laid off due to the central government’s decision to reduce funding for paramilitary forces. The government’s budget has been severely impacted by falling oil prices, but al-Nouri noted that the shortage of funds will not affect the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

President Fuad Masum and Shia Leader Moqtada al-Sadr Approve PM Abadi’s Reform Plans

On February 12, the Democratic Movement confirmed their support for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s reshuffling of the Cabinet to replace the Ministers that were appointed on the basis of political affiliations with technocrats. The political bloc also stressed the need to overcome sectarian and ethnic quotas during the reshuffling, which is expected to give real substance to the constitution.

On February 12, the Coalition of Iraqi Forces announced it would support any steps PM Abadi wished to take toward a cabinet reorganization and an end to sectarian quotas.

On February 13, Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr announced approval of PM Abadi’s plan to install a cabinet of technocrats. However he warned that if the new cabinet was not instituted within 45 days, he would shift his position to “no confidence” in the Abadi government and withdraw from the political process.

On February 13, MP Ahmed Kanani said the Dawa Bloc supported PM Abadi’s planned cabinet change.

On February 13, the Islamic Supreme Council announced its support for PM Abadi’s cabinet reform, and said that the changes and moves away from quotas must also extend to the position of Prime Minister.

On February 17, President of the Iraqi Republic Fuad Moasum affirmed his support for Prime Minister Abadi’s proposed cabinet reforms.

Hundreds of Iraqis Voice Their Support for PM Abadi’s Cabinet Reform

On February 12, hundreds of protesters gathered in Babylon to show support for PM Abadi’s cabinet reform and to urge haste with its implementation. The demonstration was the largest of a number of anti-corruption demonstrations which took place across the country including in Najaf, Wasit, Diwaniya, and Nasseriya.

On February 13, Babil’s police department announced that the house of Rwan Salim, a 13 year old civil rights activist, was burned down. This incident occurred hours after Rwan criticised Babil’s Governor, Sadiq Madlool al-Sultani, in an interview during which she said “my message to Sadiq al-Sultani is: I challenge you to join me on a live televised debate and see if you can prove that you have contributed to fixing the deteriorating cultural situation in Babil. I will prove to you that you have reinstated the province of Babil 50 years back.” The police reported that the fire was caused by a problem with a space heater that was left on. However, Rwan’s father said that when the incident happen “there was no electricity and the heater was off” suggesting that the incident was caused by arson.

PM Abadi Expects the Liberation of Mosul within 2016

On February 12, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met in Munich, Germany with President of Kurdistan Massoud Barzani to stress the need for concerted efforts against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and liberate the remaining cities under the militant’s control. Al-Abadi added that Mosul and Baghdad need to cooperate in order to overcome the economic crisis.

On February 12, at a security conference in Munich PM Abadi said he expected the liberation of Ninewa in the current year. He also affirmed that Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) are an official unit under the control of the government. However, he acknowledged that the formation of PMUs has also spawned non-state actor militia groups.

On February 12, the Foreign Ministry revealed that House Speaker Salim al-Jubouri did not coordinate with the Foreign Affairs Ministry about his recent visit to the United States, where he met with a number of US officials to discuss efforts against ISIS. Spokesman for the Ministry added that, “the Ministry and the Embassy of Iraq were not aware of the details of the visit and the talks that took place during”.

On February 14, the Parliamentary Security Committee announced that PM Abadi had agreed to a draft of a bill reinstating military draft conscription.

On February 15, PM Abadi said he did not understand the Kurdish interest to secede. He said the effort created a redundant loop of referendums which only led to more tension. Abadi also said that Germany supports Iraqi unity.

PM Abadi Offers to Pay All Kurdish Employees’ Salaries and KRG Accepts 

On February 13, leader of the Islamic Group of Kurdistan, Shwaan Raber, called the reforms proposed by Kurdish President Massoud Barzani a “good step” but warned that a delay would lead to an “explosive” situation in the province. Kurdish PM Beeston Zangana echoed this approval in an interview and called the quotas “abhorrent.”

On February 16, Prime Minister al-Abadi offered to pay “all Kurdish employees (their) salary” in exchange for control of Kurdish oil. The Kurdish presidency accepted the offered.

On February 16, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Qubad Talabani, said that if Baghdad were willing to insure all Kurdish government salaries, including Peshmerga fighters, then Kurdish leaders would be prepared to deal amicably with Baghdad.

On February 18, the Turkish military rolled into Iraq targeting Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) “top figures” and bombing their camps. The intervention is in response to a bombing in the southeastern Turkish province of Diyarbakir in which six soldiers were killed and the PKK was blamed.

On February 18, President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Nechirvan Barzani accepted Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s proposal that the Iraqi federal government is willing to to pay Kurdistan’s employee salaries in exchange for the region’s oil production, adding that that the KRG will “hand over all of its oil production without hesitation” if the federal government followed through. The KRG noted that Kurdistan has 400,000 workers and that their salaries amount to 890 billion dinars a month, or more than $747 million.

Kidnapped Americans are Released

On February 16, the American Department of State released a statement thanking the government of Iraq, as well as the intelligence and security forces involved, for securing the release of three Americans who were kidnapped on January 17 in Baghdad’s Dora district by an unknown armed group.

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
02/12/16al-Dawanim,
Southwest of Baghdad
16
02/12/16al-Tarmia District,
North of Baghdad
14
02/12/16al-Rashidiya District,
North of Baghdad
27
02/12/16al-Dibis,
Northwest of Kirkuk
12
02/12/16al-Amin District,
Southwest of Baghdad
17
02/12/16al-Mashtal,
Eastern Baghdad
25
02/13/16al-Mahmudiya District,
South of Baghdad
27
02/13/16al-Shuhada,
Southwest of Baghdad
15
02/13/16Furat,
Southwest of Baghdad
17
02/13/16al-Bismayah District,
Southeast of Baghdad
25
02/13/16al-Obeidi,
East of Baghdad
26
02/13/16al-Mada'in District,
South of Baghdad
18
02/13/16al-Tarmia,
North of Baghdad
55
02/14/16al-Sha'ab,
Northeast Baghdad
25
02/14/16al-Ray District,
Southwest of Baghdad
17
02/14/16Jisr Diyala,
Southeast Baghdad
15
02/14/16al-Iskan,
Western Baghdad
16
02/15/16al-Tarmia District,
North of Baghdad
38
02/15/16al-Baladiyat,
East of Baghdad
10
02/15/16Nahrawan District,
South of Baghdad
16
02/15/16al-Tobji,
Northern Baghdad
15
02/15/16al-Mada'in District,
South of Baghdad
27
02/15/16al-Zafaraniyah,
Southeastern Baghdad
18
02/16/16al-Adhamiyah,
Northern Baghdad
10
02/16/16al-Saidiya,
Southwestern Baghdad
16
02/16/16al-Yusufiyah,
Southwest of Baghdad
19
02/16/16al-Gazaliyah,
Western Baghdad
15
02/17/16al-Baiyaa,
Southwestern Baghdad
27
02/17/16al-Mada'in,
South of Baghdad
34
02/17/16al-Baiyaa,
Southwestern Baghdad
18
02/17/16al-Amin District,
East of Baghdad
15
02/18/16al-Mahmudiya District,
South of Baghdad
28
02/18/16al-Sawib,
Southwestern Baghdad
17
02/18/16Arab Jibor,
Southern Baghdad
15
02/18/16al-Shula,
Northern Baghdad
18

Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor (ISHM) was developed by EPIC’s Senior Visiting Fellow Ahmed Ali (@IraqShamel). This week’s final report (ISHM No. 50) was compiled and authored by EPIC Program Manager Taif Jany (@TaifJany).


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