ISHM 63: May 13 – 19, 2016


Key Takeaways:

  • Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) and the Federal Police cleared Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants from the district of Rutbah in western Anbar Province. Since ISIS captured the district in June 2014, al-Rutbah has been used by ISIS as a training and staging grounds for recruits. Pro-government forces cleared numerous other areas of ISIS militants in preparation for an advance on the city of Mosul.
  • On Tuesday May 17, ISIS carried out more attacks in al-Sadr city and the al-Shaab neighborhood in southern Baghdad. At least 23 were killed in al-Sadr city and 39 people were killed in al-Shaab. These bombings follow last Wednesday’s attacks by ISIS militants bringing the death toll in Baghdad over the last two weeks to over 200.
  • Dozens of Iraqis continued to demonstrate in al-Tahrir Square in central Baghdad due to the Government’s inability to implement reform plans and confirm a new cabinet of ministers. There have been no new developments on the Iraqi Parliament’s progress over the past week.
  • For years of fierce rivalry, the Political Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Movement of Change (Gorran) Party, which split off of the PUK in 2009, have agreed to form a political alliance in Iraq’s national parliament in Baghdad and in the Kurdistan Regional Government’s parliament in Erbil. This alliance is a major political development to watch and will likely escalate political tensions between the Kurdistan Democratic Party of KRG President Masoud Barzani and the KDP’s two leading rivals, the PUK and Gorran.
  • The Republic of Finland will provide US $1.13 million to the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) efforts to support the stabilization of areas recently cleared from ISIS.

Iraqi Forces Make Measured Progress Against ISIS

On May 16, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), tribal fighters, and the U.S.-led International Coalition cleared Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants from the Euphrates basin between Haditha and al-Baghdadi, 90 km west of Ramadi. The operation killed 25 militants and destroyed seven secret underground tunnels.

On May 16, the ISF and tribal fighters cleared ISIS militants from the village of Suynakh,70 km west of Ramadi. The operation killed seven militants.

On May 16, the ISF and coalition forces cleared ISIS militants from the highway linking Rutbah to the westernmost reaches of Anbar Province. The pro-government forces have started to evacuate civilians from more dangerous areas in order to provide humanitarian assistance.

On May 16, the ISF and coalition forces cleared ISIS militants from the village of al-Birazia, northeast of al-Baghdadi (70 Kilometers west of Anbar). The operation killed five militants and pro-government forces are now working to remove all improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from the area.

On May 17, PMU soldiers cleared ISIS militants from the districts of al-Askari and al-Antisar, 440 west of Anbar. The operation killed 13 militants and an Iraqi flag was raised over the areas.

On May 17, PMU soldiers cleared ISIS militants from the towns of Rumailai and al-Skar, east of al-Rutbah, 440 West of Anbar Province. The operation killed 14 militants and destroyed three vehicle-based IEDs and three rocket launchers.

On May 19, the ISF, PMUs and the Federal Police completely cleared ISIS militants from al-Rutbah District in western Anbar Province. Col. Steve Warren, a U.S. military spokesman, said that al-Rutbah holds an “outsized strategic value” because of it is located on transit routes to Jordan and Syria. The recapturing of al-Rutbah should benefit the economies of both Iraq and Jordan, as well as denying ISIS access to supplies and support.

Rise in Terrorist Attacks in Baghdad as ISIS Loses Ground on the Battlefield

On Tuesday May 17, ISIS carried out more attacks in al-Sadr city and al-Shaab neighborhood in southern Baghdad. At least 23 were killed in al-Sadr city and 39 people were killed in al-Shaab. This comes after last Wednesday’s bloody attacks across Baghdad by ISIS militants which killed over 90 people. According to Yousef al-Abadi, a Spokesman for Baghdad operations command, ISIS is trying to distract the ISF and other security forces that are now fighting the terrorist group in Fallujah and drag them towards Baghdad in order to reduce the pressure. ISIS might also be carrying out these terrorist attacks as a sign of desperation as they have lost about 45% of territory in Iraq.

Political Demonstrations Continue to Press for Reforms

On May 13, dozens of demonstrators in Tahrir Square in central Baghdad threatened to again break into Baghdad’s Green Zone (aka International Zone) in response to the government’s delay in implementing reforms and confirming party-neutral cabinet officials.

PUK and Gorran Form Political Alliance

On May 17, PUKmedia reported that a leading member of the Kurdish Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) announced an agreement between the PUK and the Movement of Change (Gorran) Party.

Gorran’s leader Nawshirwan Mustafa and the First Deputy Secretary-General of the PUK Kosrat Rasul Ali met at the home of Iraq’s former President Jalal Talabani and signed an agreement to form a political alliance at both the national level in Iraq’s parliament in Baghdad and at the regional level in Erbil. It remains to be seen how far the cooperation between these former rivals may extend, including whether they will run on a joint ticket in the next elections. Currently, Gorran holds 9 seats in Iraq’s parliament and among the political parties of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), Gorran holds the second largest bloc of seats in Erbil’s parliament. The PUK holds 21 seats in Baghdad and the third largest bloc of seats in Erbil.

The Gorran Party was formed in 2009 as an anti-corruption political movement under the leadership of Nawshirwan Mustafa, who had previously been a senior member of the PUK. He also served as a leading commander of Peshmerga Forces from 1976 to 1992. Mustafa is among the most vocal critics of KRG President Masoud Barzani, questioning the legitimacy of his continued rule, and Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Mustafa has also been a champion of forming a cabinet of technocrats for the KRG.

In the past, the KDP and PUK have joined forces to compete as the KRI’s ruling parties against a field of rivals that has included Gorran. However, it is important to remember the historic rivalry between the KDP and PUK, which included armed clashes in the mid-1990s, and the fact that the KRI’s Peshmerga Forces remain under separate command structures tied to the KDP and the PUK.

The PUK-Gorran alliance is a major political development that suggests a growing divide between Sorani Kurdish-speaking province of Sulaimani and the Kurmanji Kurdish-speaking province of Dohuk and predominantly pro-KDP province of Erbil.

Capacity Building and Returnees Receive Humanitarian Focus

On May 16, the Diyala Provincial Council announced the return of 500 displaced families to the al-Adheem sub district , a neighborhood northeast of the provincial capital Baquba. The Council also confirmed the return of another round of displaced families within the upcoming days.

On May 16, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), with funding from the Government of Japan and in coordination with the United Iraqi Medical Society for Relief and Development, opened two new reproductive health clinics in the Kilo 18 and Kilo 50 camps in the Al Wafaa sub-district, Western Ramadi. The new clinics will provide services for more than 1,100 families, increasing the total reproductive health services reach to more than 90,000 families.

On May 16, the Republic of Finland provided US $1.13 million towards the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization (FFIS) to support stabilization in areas recently liberated from ISIS. UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande said “tens of thousands of displaced people have already returned to Ramadi and tens of thousands more want to come home in safety and dignity so they can start to rebuild their lives.”

On May 16, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) announced the distribution of more than 400 food parcels and relief materials for families that were formerly trapped in Hit, Anbar Province. The city was recently cleared of ISIS militants by Iraqi Security Forces.

05/13/16Arab Jibor,
Southern Baghdad
South of Baghdad
South of Tikrit
05/13/16Jisr Diyala,
Southeastern Baghdad
Southern Baghdad
05/14/16Amiriyah Fallujah,
South of Fallujah
North of Baghdad
South of Baghdad
05/14/16Um al-Kuber Wa al-Gazlan,
Eastern Baghdad
North of Baghdad
Western Baghdad
South of Baghdad
North of Baghdad
South of Baghdad
North of Baghdad
North of Tikrit
Southeastern Baghdad
05/16/16Jisr Diyala,
Southeastern Baghdad
Southwestern Baghdad
Northeastern Baghdad

Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor (ISHM) was developed by EPIC Senior Visiting Fellow Ahmed Ali (@IraqShamel). This week’s report (ISHM No. 63) was compiled and authored by EPIC Program Manager Taif Jany (@TaifJany).

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