ISHM 64: May 20 – 26, 2016


Key Takeaways:

  • On Monday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced a coordinated military effort to clear Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants from the city of Fallujah. Since then, 20,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have deployed to the area and an advance on the city is reportedly underway. Strategically, Fallujah (43 miles west of Baghdad) is the closest ISIS-held city to Baghdad. If combat operations are successfully conducted in a way that protects civilians, clearing the city would represent a major blow against ISIS.
  • International organizations and government agencies are concerned about the effect that ongoing efforts to clear ISIS militants from the city of Fallujah may have on the estimated 10,000 families who remain trapped in the city. Iraqi Security Forces are engaged in an effort to create safe passage for the 60-100,000 individuals attempting to flee, but relief agencies may be overwhelmed by the high volume of displaced persons threatened by the situation.
  • The International Monetary Fund has agreed to a US $5.4 billion standby loan to the Iraqi government that is likely to enable more international monetary aid for Iraq’s struggling economy.
  • Last Friday, hundreds of protesters demanding government reform clashed with Iraqi Security Forces inside of Baghdad’s Green Zone. Two people were killed and several dozen injured which prompted security reinforcements of the highly secured area as well as calls for an investigation into the use of force against civilians.
  • Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jubouri scheduled a meeting of Parliament for Sunday, May 29, following several meetings with various party leaders who have been boycotting Parliament sessions and preventing a quorum. Over the past few days, some party blocs have changed their minds on commitments to attend the Sunday session. The inclusion of cabinet member nominations on the session’s agenda remains the most highly contested matter, with al-Jubouri announcing that this decision would be left to Prime Minister al-Abadi.

Iraqi Security Forces Mobilize to Clear ISIS from Fallujah

On May 20, General Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, made an unannounced visit to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi and coalition military leadership. Votel suggested that ISIS may be using terrorism and seemingly random violence to regain momentum.

On May 21, U.S.-led coalition airstrikes killed the ISIS military commander in charge of Fallujah along with several of his subordinates during a leadership meeting in the city, according to President of the District Council in Anbar Province.

On May 21, at least 10 people were killed and another 15 wounded when a suicide bomber attacked a market in Dujail, 30 km south of Tikrit.

On May 22, the Iraqi Army released a statement ordering citizens in Fallujah to evacuate the city through secured routes “that will be announced” and telling families who cannot flee to raise white flags above their homes. Recent reports indicate that ISIS militants began killing residents attempting to flee the city.

On May 22, U.S.-led coalition airstrikes killed 16 ISIS militants near the village of al-Hud in Nineveh Province. The ongoing airstrikes are part of preparations for retaking the city of Mosul.

On May 23, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced a coordinated military effort to clear ISIS militants from the city of Fallujah. As part of the effort, 20,000 ISF troops have been deployed to the area and, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, al-Abadi will “personally oversee and manage the battle of Fallujah from the frontlines.” According to Iraq’s Ministry of Defense, elements of the Iraqi Army’s 1st, 6th, 14th and 17th Divisions are participating in the liberation of Fallujah.

On May 23, Turkish warplanes launched air strikes near the villages of Nerwa, Rekan and Nheli in Iraqi Kurdistan, according to PUK Media. Reports of casualties and damages were not available.

On May 23, Iraqi Security Forces cleared ISIS from al-Diwayah, just outside of al-Karmah in Anbar Province. Several dozen militants were killed in the operation, part of the larger effort to retake Fallujah.

On May 24, two people were killed and five injured when an improvised explosive device went off at a crowded market in Amiriyah, just west of Baghdad. A second explosion killed two and wounded six others just southeast of Baghdad. The bombings follow an intensified series of attacks in and around Baghdad over the past two weeks.

On May 24, Iraqi Security Forces cleared ISIS militants from the villages of Abu Odeh and Abbasi, north of Fallujah.

On May 24, Iraqi Security Forces cleared ISIS militants from 11 “essential areas” in eastern Fallujah. PUKMedia reports that as Iraqi troops gain control of an area, special forces are assigned to defuse bombs and other booby traps left behind.

On May 26, Iraqi Security Forces and Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) cleared ISIS militants from the town of al-Karma, 16 kilometers northeast of Fallujah. The success is considered a considerable step forward in the larger effort to clear Fallujah.

Humanitarian Concern High for those Fleeing Fallujah

On May 22, 400 displaced families returned to their homes in Jalawla, Diyala Province, in eastern Iraq. Jalawla was cleared of ISIS militants in late 2015 and has since welcomed the return of 5000 families.

On May 23, Parliament’s Committee on Migration and Displacement warned of a “major humanitarian disaster” if Iraqi government agencies and NGOs are unprepared for families fleeing ISIS in Fallujah. The Committee’s chairman, Raad al-Dahlaky, said that security forces must “open safe outlets for displaced people…and [international human rights organizations] must act urgently to provide relief to those displaced.” According to the UN, an estimated 10,000 families (60-100,000 individuals) remain trapped in the city.

IMF, World Bank Help Bolster Iraqi Economy

On May 20, Iraq reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and will receive a US $5.4 billion standby loan over the next three years. According to Mohammed Saleh, financial advisor to Prime Minister al-Abadi, the loan will cover budget shortfalls on services for displaced persons and other social welfare programs, including services for the unemployed.

On May 24, the Office of Prime Minister al-Abadi and Ministry of Planning agreed on the allocation of US $5 billion from a World Bank loan for the continuation of public works projects delayed by financial concerns over falling oil prices. In addition to the public works projects, funds will be allocated to citizen services and economic stimulus.

Protests Continued with Casualties in Baghdad’s Green Zone

On May 20, two people were killed and another 57 injured when hundreds of protesters clashed with Iraqi Security Forces inside Baghdad’s Green Zone. Security forces used teargas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition to disperse the protesters who were demanding government reforms and many of whom are loyal to Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

On May 21, Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, Jan Kubis, called for calm and dialogue following the storming of Baghdad’s Green Zone by protesters the day before. Kubis suggested that “only the enemies of Iraq, led by ISIS, are benefiting from the chaos.”

On May 22, Iraqi Security Forces installed additional blast walls and fortifications in and around Baghdad’s Green Zone two days after hundreds of protesters stormed the area for the second time in a month. U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister al-Abadi agreed during a phone call on the importance of protecting the Green Zone.

On May 24, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Amnesty International called on the Iraqi government to investigate “the use of force” against protesters who entered Baghdad’s Green Zone on May 20. The Office of Prime Minister al-Abadi has denied the use of force.

Parliament Schedules Session but Quorum Uncertain

On May 22, a delegation of Members of Parliament, including Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jubouri, visited Erbil in an effort to convince MPs to return to Baghdad for a session of Parliament. Iraq’s Parliament has been unable to meet a quorum for conducting business, which prompted the visit.

On May 23, Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jubouri announced that he would meet with Parliament party leaders on May 24 in an effort to create consensus and identify a date when a quorum of Parliament could return. Dissension on reforms and Parliament leadership has prevented a quorum.

On May 24, Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jubouri announced that Parliament will hold a session on Sunday, May 29 to consider “the security and economic situation.” The announcement followed meetings between al-Jubouri and leaders of various parties who agreed to the session and al-Jubouri’s leadership. The decision to consider cabinet reforms at the session will be left up to the Prime Minister, according to the announcement.

On May 24, Kurdish Member of Parliament Masood Haider announced that the Kurdish Members of Parliament have not yet decided whether to attend the upcoming May 29 session in Baghdad.

On May 25, Member of Parliament and Head of the Turkmen Front Arshad al-Salihi announced that the Turkmen Members of Parliament will not attend the upcoming May 29 session in Baghdad. Al-Salihi said that the boycott of Parliament will continue because Turkmen are not represented among those nominated to the Prime Minister’s cabinet.

On May 25, Liberal Party Member of Parliament Majid al-Gharawi said that his party would continue to boycott upcoming sessions of Parliament if a vote on the proposed new slate of nominees to the Prime Minister’s cabinet is not on the agenda.

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). 

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