Iraq

ISHM: February 24 - 2 March, 2017

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Key Takeaways:

Iraqi Security Forces Progress into Western Mosul, PMUs Near Tal Afar – Over the past week, Iraqi Security Forces and Federal Police have made measured progress into western Mosul, clearing ISIS militants from several neighborhoods north of the Mosul Airport and taking control of the Fourth Bridge, the southernmost bridge connecting Mosul’s east and west. On March 1, the Iraqi Army’s 9th Armored Brigade effectively cut off the last major road out of western Mosul, interdicting supply lines and escape routes that connect Mosul and Tal Afar, 60 kilometers to the west. Meanwhile, Popular Mobilization Units claim to have killed a member of ISIS’s leadership in Tal Afar, and PMUs, including the Badr and Hezbollah Brigades, remain poised to enter the predominantly Iraqi Turkmen city. more…

4,000 IDPs Per Day Are Fleeing Western Mosul – Displacement from western Mosul has risen dramatically over the past week. From February 25 to March 2, at least 30,000 individuals have been displaced from the western half of the city, according to a new report from UNHCR. Approximately 4,000 IDPs per day are arriving at transit and reception centers where they are screened to ensure no ties to ISIS and given emergency assistance before being transported to camps at Hamam al-Alil, Qayyarah, and al-Haj Ali. Despite being advised to shelter-in-place, IDP families are risking their lives to flee the city due to an absolute lack of food and water, and for fear of being caught in the crossfire between Iraqi Security Forces and ISIS militants. Roadside IEDs have been and are being laid by militants to prevent families from fleeing, and to hinder the approaching ISF. On February 25, one such IED killed 30-year-old renowned Kurdish journalist Shifa Gardi while she was reporting for Kurdish news agency Rudaw. When security is stabilized in newly-cleared neighborhoods of western Mosul, UNOCHA and UN demining teams are prepared to conduct humanitarian access missions to rapidly distribute emergency kits, food, and water to those who remain. more…

U.S. Commitment to Iraq Post-ISIS All But Certain – On February 28, Commander of U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, said in an interview that he does not want “a repeat of where we left [Iraq] in 2011,” suggesting that the U.S. will remain engaged in the country after the defeat of ISIS. He continued to suggest that “the Iraqis understand they will require U.S. and coalition support.” In testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee that same day, Dr. Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy suggested that in post-ISIS Iraq, 5,000 U.S. troops and an equal number of coalition forces will be required to maintain stability. To date, the Trump administration has made no formal commitment to a continued presence of U.S. resources. (Dr. Knights’s testimony before the Senate is available here.) more…

Security Concerns Linger in Diyala, Salah ad-Din Provinces; PUK Sends Troops to Oil Facilities in Kirkuk – An ISIS explosives expert and three of his associates were killed in an explosion at their IED factory in the Mutibija area of eastern Salah ad-Din Province. Uday Khaddran, Mayor of Khalis, located 10 kilometers northwest of Baquba, stated that ISIS infiltration of the area on the border of Diyala and Salah ad-Din has “reached unprecedented levels,” and called for urgent action. Officials in Diyala Province met with Defense Minister Irfan Hayali, demanding that the Iraqi Army’s Fifth Brigade return to the province as soon as possible to help stabilize the precarious security situation. Last month, the brigade was deployed to Mosul. On March 2, an official from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) announced that Iraqi Kurdish troops have been deployed to protect North Oil Company facilities in Kirkuk Province. more…

Saudi Foreign Minister Makes Surprise Visit to Baghdad – On February 26, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad, the first official visit of a Saudi foreign minister to Iraq since 1990. Jubeir congratulated Iraq on “the victories achieved against [ISIS],” adding, “the whole region is heading toward compromise and Saudi Arabia sees Iraq as an important player to have on its side.” Jubeir and Abadi discussed strengthening bilateral ties, resuming direct flights between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and the appointment of a new Saudi ambassador to Baghdad. more…

Minority Communities Receive Rebuilding Assistance; Iraqi Christians Relocate – On February 24, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) announced their intention to rehabilitate 600 damaged homes across Iraq to allow displaced families to return from IDP camps or critical shelter arrangements. In other news, Voice of America reported that Iraqi Christian towns in northern Iraq are struggling to rebuild both in population and in infrastructure, given that nearly 80% of Iraq’s Christian population has fled the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. 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.