Iraq

ISHM: February 3 - 9, 2017

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Key Takeaways:

Abadi Hints He Knows where ISIS Leader is Hiding; Iraqi-U.S. Troop Relations May be Suffering from President Trump’s EO – On February 8, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi acknowledged that Iraqi Security Forces know the location of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and are “closely monitoring his movements and communications.” This is the first time that Abadi has disclosed having this information. As U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes continue to provide air support for impending operations to clear western Mosul of ISIS militants, relations between Iraqi soldiers and their American counterparts have been noticeably marred by President Trump’s January 27 executive order barring Iraqis from entering the United States, as reported by the The New York Times. Brigadier General Mizhir Khalid al-Mashhadani, a counterterrorism force commander in Mosul, told a Times reporter that “This decision by Trump blows up our liberation efforts of cooperation and coordination with American forces.” Many other Iraqi soldiers on the front lines in Mosul have voiced similar concerns. more…

IDPs Continue to Come and Go From Eastern Mosul; Qayyarah Oil Fires Still Rage – According to the International Organization for Migration, over 46,000 IDPs have returned to their homes in eastern Mosul while 150,000 remain displaced. Returns to the city may be premature, as the east is increasingly pummeled by mortar fire from across the Tigris in western Mosul. Families in cleared portions of the city are also fleeing their homes due to food and water scarcity and a lack of basic services, according to the UNHCR. Space in IDP camps near Mosul is limited despite the anticipation of over 250,000 additional IDPs when operations to clear western Mosul begin within the next few weeks. Separately, Iraq’s Oil Ministry announced that teams were able to extinguish another oil well fire in the Qayyarah oil field, 65 kilometers south of Mosul. Six wells remain ablaze – fires that were set by ISIS militants as they retreated from the area in August 2016. The environmental and public health impacts of the fires are of grave concern. (Read more about the impacts of the fires in our report.) more…

Security Force Shortages Slow Operations in Anbar as Diyala and Salah ad-Din Rely on PMUs – Eid Amash al-Karoubli, spokesman for the Anbar Provincial Council, attributed the temporary halt in military operations to clear Anbar Province of ISIS militants to a lack of troop availability and a lack of funding. The same day, the Joint Special Operations Command stressed that Anbar operations have not stopped, though they have slowed. Separately, Chairman of the Diyala Provincial Council, Sadiq al-Husseini, suggested that the relatively “little infiltration” of ISIS militants into Salah-ad Din is the result of Popular Mobilization Units providing security and tightly restricting movement between Salah ad-Din and Diyala Provinces. Raad al-Maash, Member of Parliament for Diyala Province, has called for greater border controls between the two provinces, claiming that the “porous nature” of the border is a result of ISIS transiting through Salah ad-Din. Despite the conflicting statements, both Diyala and Salah ad-Din have seen an uptick in violence since ISIS militants began fleeing parts of Ninewa Province in 2016. The limited availability of security forces and overreliance on popular militias for holding cleared territories is becoming the status quo throughout Iraq, as the ISF maintain their focus on Mosul. more…

Aid Agencies See Funding Shortfalls Amid Reports of Fraud, Misuse – On February 3, Iraqi Parliament’s Committee on Human Rights revealed that “huge” sums of money and humanitarian aid donated to assist IDPs in Iraq fail to reach them. Joseph Saliwa, attorney for the Committee, said that promises of food and monetary assistance are made to gain votes, but that the promises are not fulfilled. Saliwa claimed that “millions of dollars” from the European Union and United States have been donated, but inappropriately spent or mismanaged. The finding comes the same day that UNICEF reported on the alarming number of displaced children who forego school in order to help financially support their families, and just one week after the World Food Programme halved its monthly food rations for IDPs in Iraq due to funding shortages. more…

Iraq Looks to Diversify Economy with World Bank Support – Farid Bellhaj, director for the Middle East department at the World Bank, announced that the organization will fund Iraqi efforts to rebuild after ISIS is defeated. Bellhaj specifically mentioned rebuilding the Mosul Dam, which is in serious need of attention, and suggested that investment by the World Bank will incentivize cooperation among Iraq’s sectarian communities. Iraq is seeking to diversify its economy to include sectors other than oil. more…

Protests in Baghdad Amid Efforts at Post-ISIS Reconciliation – On February 8, thousands of protesters led by influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr assembled at Tahrir Square in Baghdad to protest alleged corruption in Parliament and sluggish responses to security threats in the capital. Earlier in the week, former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met with the president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq to discuss strengthening ties between Iraq’s Shia and Kurdish communities. Iraqi Vice President Iyad Allawi met with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to discuss reconstruction efforts post-ISIS and the development of a national identity that will “supersede sectarianism.” The meetings could be seen as a positive sign for reconciliation, but will need to translate into action in the weeks and months ahead. 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.