Monday, May 2, 2016

Iraq and Syria’s Kurds’ Divergent Histories But Similar Futures? Interview With Journalist Wladimir van Wilgenburg


Wars in Iraq and Syria offered the opportunity for Kurds in both countries to create a level of autonomy for their areas. In the 1990s it was the Gulf War and the subsequent no fly zone that allowed for the creation of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). In 2011 the Syrian war started, and Syrian forces started creating their own Rojava region. Ironically, the Syrian conflict has caused competition between Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish parties. To help explain these different histories and rivalries is journalist and analyst at the Jamestown Foundation Wladimir van Wilgenburg. Currently, he is doing field research in Rojava, northern Syria for a project for the Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies called "Governing Diversity, Problems of Representation of Kurds", funded by the IDRC. His updates from the ground can be followed on Twitter at @vvanwilgenburg.

1. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have been long time rivals. How has that dynamic played out in the Syrian civil war?

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)’s affiliate, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) has dominated the Kurdish areas in northern Syria since July 19, 2012 by its armed forces, also known as the popular People’s Protection Units (YPG). This while the KDP backed the Kurdish National Council (KNC), an umbrella for pro-Barzani parties, which is part of the Syrian opposition delegation in Geneva close to Turkey. While the KNC initially did not want to set up an armed militia, the PYD and PKK quickly set up the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and a local police force called Asayis on the ground. The KDP did
train Syrian Kurdish Peshmerga forces, but they did not enter Syria due to the KDP’s reluctance to enter the Syrian quagmire without an agreement with the PYD. Since 2012, the KDP has tried to implement several agreements with the PYD, but this failed. The KDP’s main focus was to maintain dominance in the Kurdish areas of Iraq, while the PKK did not rule any specific population or territory, and had nothing to loose, only to gain. The KDP did not want to clash with the Syrian government in northern Syria or rival Syrian rebel groups, nor fight a civil war with the PYD. The PKK used the gains of the PYD in northern Syria, to pressure the Turkish state in the peace negotiations. The KNC was initially also hesitant to adopt them as their official armed forces until their last congress in late June 2015, which resulted in one of the KNC parties leaving the council. As a result, the KNC is very weak on the ground, and the only pressure measure the KDP has to force the PYD to work with the KNC is closing the borders, and sanctioning the Kurdish region of Syria. The PYD is also reluctant to share the power with the KDP, since they see the KDP as a threat to their ideological project, and they do not want to divide the region on a 50-50 basis, as what happened between the KDP and PUK in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The KDP wants to give Efrin and Kobani to the PYD, this while the KNC wants to control Hasakah which has the most natural resources that are the economical lifeline of the Syrian Kurdish federal project in Northern Syria. Therefore, the PYD prefers to push the KNC to accept their project, instead of divide northern Syria.

2. Those two parties are also having issues within Iraq in places like Ninewa province. What has happened between the two in Sinjar and other areas?

The PKK and the YPG entered Sinjar from Syria after the Peshmerga withdrew from Sinjar in August 2014, leading to a massacre among the Ezidis by the Islamic State and the enslavement of their women. The PKK set up a similar organization as the YPG for the Ezidi Kurds, as they did for the Syrian Kurds called the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), The Peshmergas returned to Sinjar after an offensive with US-coalition support in December 2014, and in November 2015 recaptured Sinjar city. Now, the PKK wants to establish a self-administration for Ezidis with Iraq’s support, while the KDP wants to set up Sinjar as an independent province as part of the Kurdistan region. YBS fighters are now also receiving a salary from Baghdad, this while only KDP forces receive support by coalition airstrikes. As a result, there is fierce competition between the PKK and the KDP, which could lead to a potential conflict in the future. So far, both have managed to keep any conflict contained.

For the KDP, recapturing Sinjar was important to make up for their mistakes in August 2014 that led to a massacre of Ezidis. For the PKK, playing a role in Sinjar would give them more influence in Iraq, and could also possibly end the KDP embargo on Rojava and northern Syria in the future. Before, the Islamic state captured Mosul, the YPG and PKK were using the Rabia border crossing in cooperation with Baghdad, but now they are forced to depend on the KDP that controls both the Rabia and the Saemalka border crossings. If Baghdad ever takes back control of the Sunni areas near Sinjar, this would open the way for the YPG, YBS and PKK to use Iraqi territory to import goods into their federal region. That’s why the PKK opposes Sinjar becoming part of the Kurdistan region. Therefore, Sinjar is increasingly connected to the competition between the KDP-linked and PKK-linked Kurdish parties over northern Syria.

3. Iraq’s Kurds were able to carve out an autonomous region during the 1990s after the Gulf War thanks the western no fly zones. After 2003 they have been talking about independence more and more. Have Syria’s Kurds laid out their future plans or are they still in the making?

The PYD set up local canton administrations in cooperation with local Arabs and Christians in 2014, instead of working with the KNC. With the Syrian revolution becoming increasingly being dominated by armed groups, the PYD managed to become the most powerful group on the ground, and the most influential actor to beat Jihadist groups. Since September 2014, the US-led coalition against the Islamic state started to back the YPG with airstrikes and ammunition. As a result, the YPG quickly expanded its foothold in the region at the expense of the Syrian regime and the Islamic state. In June 2015, they captured Tal Abyad with US-air support linking up the enclave of Kobani with the one in the Hasakah province. They have also beaten the Islamic state in other towns like in Hasakah, al-Hawl, al-Shaddadi. The YPG in October 20, 2015, established the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and the PYD said it would now work to unite their local three canton administrations in the enclaves of Efrin, Kobani, and Cizere, into a federal region this year.

While the KNC is part of the Syrian opposition, it envisions a federal Kurdistan region similar to the one in Iraq. This while the PYD wants to have a federal region not based on ethnicity, but in cooperation with Arabs, Christians and other minorities. As a result, they announced a federal region for both Arabs and Kurds, for both Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan), and northern Syria. Therefore, there are no specific boundaries for this region, and the PYD and YPG are also recruiting increasingly more Arabs. The PYD says explicitly it’s against a Kurdish nationalist federal region, while the KNC blames the PYD for having a too Syrian federal project, although they are part of the Syrian opposition that rejects any form of self-rule. The KNC refused to join the local administrations created by the PYD. The Syrian opposition and Turkey also back rebel groups that have been massacring Kurdish civilians in Aleppo, which has put the KNC in a more difficult position. The KNC also worked with the Syrian opposition to prevent the PYD from participating in Geneva. As a result, the situation in Aleppo and the Geneva negotiations only worsened the relations between the KNC and PYD, instead of them working together for having one independent Kurdish delegation in Geneva. So far, both the Syrian government and opposition have rejected any form of Kurdish autonomy or federalism. Despite all this, the Kurdish parties from Syria cannot work together.

4. Kurds are spread out across several countries in the Middle East, and each has grown up with a different history. For example, Iraq was built upon an exclusionist vision of being an Arab state despite it being a multi-ethnic nation. The Kurds never quite felt apart of the new country leading them to constantly fluctuate between armed rebellions and negotiations with the central government for greater rights and autonomy. In more recent times, Saddam’s Arabization program, the Anfal campaign, the Halabja bombing, and the putting down of the 1991 uprising led to a feeling of victimization amongst Iraqi Kurds. What factors shaped Syrian Kurdish identity and how has that influenced their political project?

The Syrian Kurds faced a similar Arab nationalist regime as the Iraqi Kurds. The Baath-regime Arabized Kurdish areas on the Syrian border, took away the citizenship of many Syrian Kurds, prohibited Kurdish political parties, and banned their language. Although the Syrian Kurds did not face a genocide or chemical gassing, they also have events that symbolize their victimization by the Baath-regime, such as the killing of hundreds of Kurdish children in a cinema fire in Amude blamed on the government in the 1960s, and the failed Kurdish uprising in 2004. Following the Syrian civil war, the PYD mostly shaped the political project and also history. Now, the resistance by the YPG against the Islamic state in Kobani in 2014, and the battle against rival rebel groups in Serêkanî‎ play an important role in the shaping of Syrian Kurdish history, but also the killing of Kurdish civilians by rival rebel groups in the Kurdish neighborhoods of Aleppo. The battles of the YPG mostly play a new important factor in the shaping of the Kurdish identity in Syria. Moreover, the PYD decided to follow a multi-ethnic model based on the ideology of PKK-leader Abdullah Ocalan, trying to include Arabs, Christians, Turkmen, and others in their new administrations, appointing both a Kurd and an Arab as co-heads for institutions. Therefore, their focus is not a ‘Kurdistani’ region, but a ‘Syrian Democratic Federal Region’. The PYD also emphasizes it does not want to separate from Syria, while the KDP increasingly is moving towards a Kurdish independent state in Iraq.
 
Gender also plays an important role for the PYD, and they implement gender quotas, and both the military and political leadership required two co-chairs: one man and one woman. Furthermore, women also play a huge role in the security forces and have their own Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) that battle the Islamic state. This resulted in a lot of positive media coverage for Kurdish female fighters in Syria.
  

Friday, April 29, 2016

Hawija The Moment Iraq’s Insurgency Was Reborn


Three years ago the Iraqi insurgency re-emerged. In April 2013 the Baathist Naqshibandi group was able to provoke Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to send the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to attack the Hawija protest site in southern Kirkuk governorate. Immediately afterward other demonstration areas talked about taking up arms against the government, and there was a wave of violence by all the major militant groups. Security steadily deteriorated over the next year culminating in the fall of Mosul in 2014. The Hawija raid then was the moment the Iraqi militants began operating out in the open once again after their nadir following the U.S. Surge.

When the Sunni protest movement started at the end of 2012, the Baathists attempted to take advantage of it. The demonstrations began when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved against Finance Minister Rafi Issawi in December 2012 by claiming he was behind terrorist attacks. Protests started in Anbar, Issawi’s home, and then spread to other provinces. The one in Hawija began in January 2013, and was led by the Intifada Ahrar al-Iraq, the political wing of the Baathist Naqshibandi insurgent group. It wanted to provoke a conflict with the security forces that could be used to turn the public against the government and towards violence. The Baathists attempted to do so in Mosul, Ramadi, and Fallujah, but failed. It finally found its moment in Hawija.

In April 2013, the Naqshibandi was able to create a confrontation with the ISF in Kirkuk. On April 19, a checkpoint outside the Hawija protest area was attacked leading to several casualties. The Army then raided the demonstration site, which caused some fighting. Intifada Ahrar al-Iraq claimed that 114 people were arrested as well. The ISF then demanded that the perpetrators of the checkpoint assault be turned over. Negotiations were going on when the ISF attacked the site on April 23. The Defense Ministry claimed 20 protesters and 3 soldiers were killed in the process, while a parliamentary committee later said 44 total died. It was widely believed at the time that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had grown tired of the protests and wanted to stamp them out with force. That was the reason why he didn’t wait for talks to come to any fruition, and sent in the ISF instead so quickly. That played directly into the hands of the militants.

The raid upon Hawija had the desired affect of turning many protesters towards armed struggle. First, Intifada Ahrar al-Iraq announced that it was officially joining the Naqshibandi army, and called on others to take up what it called a defensive jihad against Baghdad. At the Ramadi demonstrations a speech was given calling to take up arms. Sheikh Ali Hatem Sulaiman claimed he was forming a Pride and Dignity Army to protect the protesters, and Sheikh Abdul Malik al-Saadi, the religious leader of the Anbar protests called for a tribal army. By June the demonstrations across the country were shrinking. Many had either given up believing that they could achieve anything peacefully, or they had joined the new insurgency. The Baathist plan had worked perfectly. It provoked Maliki to crackdown on Hawija, and given people a reason to take up arms. In the process the demonstrations eventually gave way to a new wave of violence.

All of the old insurgent groups came out of the woodwork after Hawija. There were attacks upon the ISF in Tuz Kharmato, Baiji, Ramadi, and Fallujah, along with open fighting in Mosul, and the Naqshibandi temporarily seized the town of Suleiman Beq. In a foreshadowing of what would happen a year later in Mosul and Tikrit, soldiers were reported to have abandoned their posts, some senior commanders resigned, and others refused orders. Besides the Baathists, the Islamic Army (1), Ansar al-Islam, and the Islamic State of Iraq all claimed responsibility for attacks. Many tribes joined in as well. A sheikh in Hawija for example named Abu Abdullah told the Global Post after the raid upon the protest site he decided to take up arms against the government. He didn’t think his tribe was strong enough to take on the ISF alone, so it made a deal with ISI. The Naqshibandi also tried to co-opt the tribes by forming Military Councils to organize them under its leadership. By 2008 these groups had all hit a nadir. The United States Surge had killed much of the militants’ leadership or turned their membership towards the Sahwa to fight ISI. Maliki then neglected the Sahwa, which had too many ghost fighters to be integrated anyway, while the Islamic State stared a campaign to kill and intimidate them to turn them backed to militancy. The prime minister had also undermined the integrity of the security forces by appointing men loyal to him as commanders down to the brigade level, few of which were competent as leaders. All together this provided a perfect environment for the insurgency to make a comeback.

Ironically, what the Naqshibandi started the Islamic State would usurp. ISI made alliances with all the major militant groups and tribes to launch the summer offensive in 2014. It was able to take Mosul, Tikrit, and the Hawija district in June. It then demanded baya, allegiance from all the other armed groups. Those that refused were attacked and killed. That actually started by the end of 2013, but the other organizations chose to ignore that and the history of ISI, which had done the same thing before the Surge. They believed that they could carve out their own areas of control and co-exist with the Islamic State, but that was impossible. ISI wanted to create a caliphate under its sole leadership, which it eventually did. By 2015 all the other insurgent groups including the Baathists that helped it seize territory were dormant. Hawija then became a pyrrhic victory for the Naqshibandi.

FOOTNOTES

1. Al-Aalem, “Islamic Army: Year not ready for power and are looking for a partnership and decision by Naqshibandi the wrong move to fight Baghdad,” 4/30/13

SOURCES

Al-Aalem, “Islamic Army: Year not ready for power and are looking for a partnership and decision by Naqshibandi the wrong move to fight Baghdad,” 4/30/13

Agence France Presse, “Sunni militant infighting kills 17 in Iraq’s Kirkuk,” 6/21/14

Ali, Ahmed, “The Struggle of the Iraqi Security Forces: 2013 Iraq Update #33,” Institute for the Study of War, 8/21/13

Arango, Tim, “Dozens Killed in Battles Across Iraq as Sunnis Escalate Protests Against Government,” New York Times, 4/23/13
- “Iraqi Premier Urges Talks but Vows to Battle Insurgents,” New York Times, 4/25/13
- “Rising Violence in Iraq Spurs Fears of New Sectarian War,” New York Times, 4/24/13

Aswat al-Iraq, “1 officer killed, 4 soldiers wounded+ south Kirkuk,” 4/23/13
- “114 demonstrators arrested in Haweeja area,” 4/21/13
- “Army prevents civilians participating in Kirkuk demonstrations,” 1/11/13
- “Mediation attempt between Haweeja demonstrators and army failed,” 4/21/13

Dagher, Sam, “Saddam’s Brethren Get Organized,” Wall Street Journal, 4/11/13

Dunlop, W.G., “Gunmen seize Iraq town as violence kills 128,” Agence France Presse, 4/24/13

Freeman, Colin, “Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri: the King of Clubs is back, and he may yet prove to be Saddam Hussein’s trump card,” Telegraph, 5/18/13

Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Investigate Deadly Raid on Protest,” 4/24/13
- “Iraq: Parliament Report Alleges Officials Ordered Raid,” 5/4/13

Al Jazeera, “Deadly clashes break out in northern Iraq,” 4/23/13

Ibrahim, Marwan, “Protest-related violence kills 53 in Iraq,” Agence France Presse, 4/24/13

Institute for the Study of War, “2013 Iraq Update $17: Iraq’s Sunni Mobilize,” 4/27/13

Kirkuk Now, “ISIS Ask Residents to Nominate New Head,” 6/11/14

Lewis, Jessica, “Further Indications of al-Qaeda’s Advance in Iraq: Iraq Update #39,” Institute for the Study of War, 11/15/13
- “Al-Qaeda in Iraq Resurgent, The Breaking The Walls Campaign, Part I,” Institute for the Study of War, September 2013

Al-Mada, “Anbar is turning their sit-in to the “wars” and calling for armed factions to unite against the Safavid government,” 4/23/13
- “Dozens of dead and wounded in clashes between gunmen and police and army in an attack on a police headquarters for Saladin,” 4/23/13
- “Intifada Free Iraq officially announces its accession to the Naqshibandi Army,” 4/24/13
- “Al Qaeda announces the launch of the “New Battle” for western Anbar and police decide on comprehensive curfew,” 6/24/13

Markey, Patrick and al-Salhy, Suadad, “Iraq on edge after raid fuels deadly Sunni unrest,” Reuters, 4/24/13

Mohammed, Shalaw, “for power and money: Kirkuk extremist groups’ play dirty tricks on one another,” Niqash, 11/28/13
- “visiting hawija, a town controlled by isis’ extremists,” Niqash, 6/27/14

Namaa, Kamal, “Iran rejects U.S. action in Iraq, ISIL tightens Syria border grip,” Reuters, 6/22/14

National Iraqi News Agency, “BREAKING NEWS Hawija protestors: We will not leave the sit-in square alive,” 4/21/13
- “BREAKING NEWS. Tikrit mosques calling the protesters to go to Hawija “ to support of the oppressed people,” 4/23/13
- “Clashes erupt between ISIS and other armed groups in Kirkuk,” 6/23/14
- “Gunmen seize control the district of Al-Hawija, al- Zab, Riyadh and al-Abbasi, west of Kirkuk,” 6/10/14
- “Hawija protestors set condition t end the crisis,” 4/22/13
- “Interior Minister: Storming Hawija Square is to arrest killers of the Army,” 4/23/13
- “Kirkuk’s Arabs MPs: Hawija crisis is about to end,” 4/22/13

Parker, Ned, “Iraqi inquiries find excessive force in Sunni protest camp raid,” Los Angeles Times, 5/2/13

Powell, Bill, “Sunni Tribes Will Bet on the Strong Horse, and That’s ISIS,” Newsweek, 12/11/14

Al Rayy, “League of the Naqshibandi integrate with “Daash” in Hawija,” 5/2/15

Reza, Laith Mohammed, “Hawija: 300 Hummer Swat We dropped 4 ways and secret army plane and delivered .. Kubler: a tragedy and a sad day,” Al-Aalem, 4/23/13

Schreck Adam, “Group tied to old guard could gain in Iraq unrest,” Associated Press, 4/27/13
- “Iraq on edge after deadly raid on protest camp,” Associated Press, 4/23/13

Shafaq News, “ISIL kidnap Nashbandi leader in Kirkuk due to influence conflict,” 6/21/14
- “Kirkuk – Baghdad road closed after clashes,” 4/23/13

Shelton, Tracey, “You’ve heard about ISIS. You haven’t heard about these guys,” Global Post, 7/21/14

Sowell, Kirk, “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 60,” 5/3/13
- “Iraq’s Second Sunni Insurgency,” Hudson Institute, 8/4/14

Al-Tamimi, Aymenn Jawad, “Enemy of my enemy: Re-evaluating the Islamic State’s Relationship with the Ba’athist JRTN,” HIS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Monitor, June 2015
- “Musings of an Iraqi Brasenostril on Jihad: Comprehensive Reference Guide to Sunni Militant Groups in Iraq,” Jihadology, 1/23/14

Visser, Reidar, “Maliki’s Northern Headache, and How General Odierno Is Compounding It,” Iraq And Gulf Analysis, 9/9/09

Wicken, Stephen, and Lewis, Jessica, “From Protest Movements to Armed Resistance: 2013 Iraq Update #24,” Institute for the Study of War, 6/14/13

Yacoub, Sameer, “Iraqi soldiers retake control of Sunni town,” Associated Press, 4/26/13

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Iraq’s Parliament Confirms Some Of Abadi’s New Cabinet


The deadlock in parliament between opponents and supporters of Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar Abadi was temporarily overcome when lawmakers were able to create a quorum and vote on a partial list of the premier’s new cabinet. On April 26, 170-180 members of parliament met, confirmed that Salim Jabouri was still the speaker, and approved five new ministers submitted by Abadi. Those were Ali Ghani al-Mubarak for Health, Hassan al-Janabi for Water, Wafa Jaffar al-Mahadawi for Labor, Abdul Razaq Al-Aysa for Higher Education, and Ali Dishar for Electricity. Over one hundred MPs had been conducting a sit in, and voted out Jabouri earlier, but the Speaker has claimed that was illegal. They tried to disrupt the session shouting and throwing water bottles, which was led by members of former Premier Nouri al-Maliki’s wing of State of Law. They were successful in driving the other lawmakers out of the main parliament room into an alternate location, but they could not stop the proceedings. There was talk about the opposition lawmakers trying to form a permanent block, and they were also going to court over legality of the session. The fact that they were not able to stop the vote however was a major defeat for them after they had been able to disrupt the government for several days. As for the rest of the new cabinet there are still talks going on amongst the ruling parties, and disagreements. On the other hand, Moqtada al-Sadr called off his demonstrations outside the Green Zone with a spokesman saying that the vote on the ministers was a positive first step, but more was needed.

Abadi’s changes have threatened the entire political system in Iraq. As Mustafa Habib pointed out in Niqash, Abadi’s proposal for new ministers has caused all kinds of splits within the government, especially amongst the Shiite parties. State of Law was divided between pro-Badi and pro-Maliki factions, and Sadr’s Ahrar bloc and the Supreme Council’s Mutawin came down on different sides of the vote against Speaker Jabouri even though they were in an alliance beforehand. More importantly, the premier’s suggestion of a technocratic set of ministers threatens not only the quotas that determine who gets what public offices, but the elites’ control over the government. The ministries are the main way the parties rule by doling out patronage and stealing from the public coffers to enrich themselves. The new cabinet would be loyal to Abadi instead of the lists, which would dramatically change the power dynamic in Baghdad. It was quite an accomplishment then to get five ministers approved, although the way talks are progressing other cabinet members maybe partisan in order to get approved.

SOURCES

AIN, “Deputy of the session: Maliki wing stirred chaos to prevent the passing of ministerial cabinet,” 4/26/16
- “Fatlawi Sayadi squatting and throwing bottles of water to disrupt the cabinet reshuffle,” 4/26/16
- “Urgent Jabouri threatening legal action against the deputies that violated the majority rules of procedure,” 4/26/16

Habib, Mustafa, “Chaos in Baghdad: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Reasons Why Real political Reform Is Impossible In Iraq,” Niqash, 4/21/16

Iraq News Network, “Parliament sit-ins offer an appeal to the Federal Court for Parliament’s session yesterday,” 4/27/16

Iraq Oil Report, “UPDATE: Chaotic Parliament confirms five new ministers,” 4/26/16

Al Mada, “Abadi flirts with coalition with Allawi to pass his plans for list of ministries,” 4/22/16
- “House sit-ins resort to reference after the withdrawal of some of their colleagues following threats by the blocs,” 4/17/16
- “Parliament ends session and votes on closed envelope ministers .. And Abadi promises more changes in two days,” 4/26/16

Morris, Loveday and Salim, Mustafa, “Thousands of protesters threaten to storm Iraq’s parliament,” Washington Post, 4/26/16

National Iraqi News Agency, “A Parliamentary Source: Some MPs Tried To Attack Abadi When Attending To Parliament,” 4/26/16

New Sabah, “Opposition front forming in parliament with about 120 deputies to change the performance of the legislature,” 4/27/16


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Iraq’s Ramadi Blows Up On Returnees And Anbar Leaders


Ramadi was finally cleared at the start of February 2016. Afterward local officials warned that it would take anywhere from two to six months for the city to be cleared of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) left behind by the defeated Islamic State. The problem was politicians and religious leaders were already encouraging people to go back to the city, which ended with dozens being killed and wounded by the bombs. The military stepped in and halted returns, while the local leaders began blaming each other for who was responsible for the casualties.

Rising fatalities in Ramadi led to a halt in returns to the city in April. On April 24 the Iraqi forces stopped people going back to Ramadi. Up to that point at least 49 people had died and 79 were wounded from explosions according to the United Nations. The process to remove the IEDs was slowed due to a lack of experts and contractors to do the job. That didn’t stop religious and political leaders telling people to go back to the city despite the dangers. This was despite the fact that the head of the security committee on the Anbar council said it would take two months or more to remove all of the explosives, while the Khalidiya council estimated it might take as long as six months. Those comments were made in March, while residents had already begun returning in February almost immediately after the city had been freed. That was obviously premature.

Anbar officials were originally touting returns. The International Organization for Migration said that around 71,000 people had arrived in the Ramadi area since the start of March. In April Ramadi politicians were noting that generators had been set up to provide electricity, water was being pumped in from the Euphrates, ten schools had been repaired, and 600 tents had been set up for those without homes. When it became public that dozens of people were dying and being injured by bombs, the tone quickly changed to an accusatory one amongst the province’s leaders.

Who told people to go back to Ramadi became a political dispute between the ruling Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) and the Sunni Endowment. The Anbar Governor Suhabi al-Rawi held the Endowment responsible for the deaths of returnees since it was given responsibility for the process by Prime Minister Haidar Abadi. The head of the Endowment countered by saying the authorities were stopping people from going back to their homes, and accused the IIP of purposefully mining houses in the city. In turn the governor created a committee to investigate the Endowment. This blame game highlighted the struggle for power within the province. The two groups worked closely together during he Sunni protests that started in Ramadi in 2012, but then went their separate ways. They are now competing for control of Anbar, which the IIP has considered its base since it took power there in 2005. As the head of the security committee on the Khalidiya council aptly pointed out, these parties are vying for influence at the expense of the citizenry.

Anbar leaders were well aware of the dangers the recently freed city of Ramadi still posed. The Islamic State had planted hundreds of IEDs throughout the area as part of its defenses, and then left booby traps as it withdrew. It was going to take months to secure the city, but the Islamic Party and Sunni Endowment wanted to score political points by having people back as soon as possible to build upon the success of defeating the militants. The displaced were the ones that paid the price for this escapade. Even though the security forces have barred further returns, there are now tens of thousands already in Ramadi who will continue to suffer the consequences of the political rivalry going on between the IIP and Endowment.

SOURCES

Associated Press, “Thousands Return to Iraq’s Ramadi, Where IS Was Driven Out,” 4/10/16

Chmaytelli, Maher, “Iraqis displaced from western city of Ramadi begin to return home,” Reuters, 4/3/16

International Organization for Migration, “Displacement in Iraq Exceeds 3.4 Million: IOM,” 4/19/16

Kalin, Stephen, “Islamic State mines kill dozens of civilians returning to Ramadi,” Reuters, 4/22/16

Al Mada, “Anbar governor announces the formation of a committee to investigate the accusations against Al-Hmam and invites him to present evidence,” 4/23/16
- “Clearing mines in Ramadi needs two months .. And politics hinder freeing Garma,” 3/17/16
- “Mutual accusations between the Islamic Party and Sunni Endowment regarding booby-trapped homes in Ramadi,” 4/23/16

Reuters, “Iraqi military freezes civilians’ return to Ramadi over mine deaths,” 4/24/16

Sotaliraq, “Ramadi needs six months to remove improvised explosives devices and war waste in city,” 3/20/16



Monday, April 25, 2016

Security In Iraq Apr 15-21, 2016


Fears of an Islamic State spring offensive subsided the third week of April. The number of incidents and casualties both went down after a two-month spike. On the other hand, the government was still marching through Anbar.

After a two month rise in violence, it decreased the third week of April. The number of incidents went from 144 the first week of the month, to 141 the second, to 124 the third. The number of incidents had been going up since February, but it looks like April will have a lower total given the dip from April 15-21. That seems to have forestalled fears that IS was building up for a spring offensive.

There were 59 attacks in Baghdad, 16 each in Anbar and Ninewa, 14 in Kirkuk, 12 in Diyala, 5 in Salahaddin, and 2 in Babil.

436 people died and 242 were wounded during the week. That included 7 Hashd, 19 Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), 27 Peshmerga, and 383 civilian deaths, along with 19 Peshmerga, 19 ISF, 29 Hashd, and 175 civilians injured.

The deadliest province was Ninewa with 289 fatalities. That was due to a report of IS executions. After that there were 68 killed in Baghdad, 63 in Anbar, 7 each in Diyala and Kirkuk, and 1 each in Babil and Salahaddin.

The Iraqi Forces are still churning through Anbar. After Hit was liberated last week, the surrounding areas were attacked with several towns freed. Anbar officials were also happy to find Hit not damaged much, which could hasten the return of the population. Outside Ramadi the road from Albu Aetha and Albu Faraj was cleared. The new Garma operation finally got started a week after it was announced. The joint forces have been trying to take the town for more than two years. Finally, the security forces and Hashd are still split on the next move. Reinforcements were sent to both the Ain Assad base and Fallujah. The ISF would like to push west from Hit to the Syrian border, while the Hashd have tried to take Fallujah since July of last year. These dual priorities will continue as there is no unity of command in Anbar.

Two mass graves were discovered in Ramadi. Some 40 bodies were found inside them, a mix of civilians and members of the ISF killed by IS.

After seeing a sharp rise in violence, the number of incidents in Baghdad finally went down. From April 15-21 there were 59 attacks in the capital province compared to over 60 the previous weeks. The most dangerous sector of the governorate remained the south with 24 attacks including 1 grenade, 1 mortar, 1 sticky bomb, 5 shootings, and 16 IEDs. After that there were 14 incidents in the east, 10 in the north, 8 in the west and 3 in the center. Attacks in the East appear to be more based upon crime, vigilantes and militias than insurgents, while in the south, north and west it is almost all IS activity, especially in the outer towns.

Violence in Baghdad Apr 15-21, 2016
Center: 3 – 1 Robbery, 2 IEDs
East: 10 – 1 Kidnapping, 1 Robbery/Shooting, 1 Sticky Bomb, 1 IED, 6 Shootings
Outer East: 4 – 1 Kidnapping, 1 Shooting, 2 IEDs
North: 5 – 1 Kidnapping, 1 Shooting, 2 IEDs
Outer North: 5 – 1 Shooting, 4 IEDs
South: 12 – 1 Kidnapping, 1 Sticky Bomb, 2 Shootings, 8 IEDs
Outer South: 12 – 1 Sticky Bomb, 1 Shooting, 10 IEDs
West: 5 – 1 Kidnapping/Shooting, 4 IEDs
Outer West: 3 – 3 IEDs

At the start of April the Hashd began an effort to take Bashir in southern Kirkuk. That was eventually put on hold, but IS was still attacking the joint forces in the area including several intense clashes that left 1 Hashd dead and 20 wounded along with six car bombs destroyed.

In Ninewa there was a report that the Islamic State had executed 250 women that had refused temporary marriages to members of the group. Another twelve people were executed from April 15-21 in the Mosul area including one reporter and seven former policemen.

Also during the week there were reports that IS fired chemical rockets and mortar shells three times at Peshmerga positions in Ninewa leading to 27 Peshmerga deaths and 21 wounded.

The operation to clear the Makhmour district completely ground to a halt during the week. The town of Nasir, which was supposed to be taken on the first day was still in IS hands, and the militants were launching counter attacks during the week. 300 more soldiers were being sent to the area to try to help move things forward. At the same time, the U.S. used B-52 bombers for the first time to bomb a suspected weapons depot in the area.

The goal of the effort in Makhmour was to stop Islamic State shelling of the several bases in the area. In a related incident, volunteers organized by former Ninewa Governor Atheel Nujafi carried out an attack upon the insurgents to protect their camp in Zilkan supported by Turkish forces. This is the first time this group has seen combat.

Violence remained very low in Salahaddin, but the locations of the few attacks that did occur were important. There were two attacks on the Ajeel and Alas oil fields in the northeast, which are rather routine. There were also four car bombs destroyed in Siniya in the Baiji district, and sniper fire in Tikrit. Every week now there are attacks in those two areas. The attacks in Tikrit have been small, but there have been very large clashes in Baiji. After that district was freed the Hashd led forces moved northeast to the Makhoul mountains. That has allowed IS to move back into the areas previously freed to set up shop again.

On the other hand, the new governor of the province Ahmed Abdullah al-Jabouri complained that there were undisciplined Hashd causing problems. He went on to say that there was a wave of lawlessness in Tikrit with robberies, some of which were due to the Hashd.

There was not a single successful car bombing during the week. In turn, the Iraqi forces claimed they destroyed 19 of the devices. There were 6 in Kirkuk, 5 in Anbar, and 4 each in Ninewa and Salahaddin.

Violence In Iraq 2015-16
Date
Incidents
Dead
Wounded
JAN
911
2,656
3,032 + 150
FEB
730
2,345
2,366
MAR
820
2,665
2,529
APR
751
2,753
2,621
MAY
674
2,565 + 1,499
1,952 + 646
JUN
708
2,153 + 405
2,174
JUL
688
2,716
3,198 + 4,024
AUG
684
2,440 + 760
1,777
SEP
649
1,731
1,668 + 3,003
OCT
589
1,144
1,555
NOV
530
1,174
1,455 + 124 + 1,322
DEC
553
1,155
1,252 + 5,920
Jan 1-7
150
808
421
Jan 8-14
140
436
417
Jan 15-21
135
275
227
Jan 22-28
132
392
322
Jan 29-31
41
81
334
JAN
598
2,052
1,721
Feb 1-7
146
575
313
Feb 8-14
119
146
323
Feb 15-21
130
225
239
Feb 22-29
153
371
690
FEB
549
1,281
1,566
Mar 1-7
183
321
478
Mar 8-14
168
408
415
Mar 15-21
130
349
409
Mar 22-28
135
213
420
Mar 29-31
49
172
121
MAR
665
1,463
1,843
Apr 1-7
144
239
444
Apr 8-14
141
271
391
Apr 15-21
124
436
242


Security By Province Apr 15-21, 2016
Province
Incidents
Anbar
16 Incidents
63 Killed: 5 ISF, 58 Civilians
6 Wounded: 2 Civilians, 4 ISF
6 Shootings
8 IEDs
3 Mortars
5 Suicide Bombers Killed
5 Car Bombs Destroyed
Babil
2 Incidents
1 Killed: 1 Civilian
2 Wounded: 2 Civilians
1 IED
1 Sticky Bomb
Baghdad
59 Incidents
68 Killed: 4 Hashd, 4 ISF, 59 Civilians
176 Wounded: 3 Hashd, 13 ISF, 160 Civilians
15 Shootings
35 IEDs
4 Stickby Bombs
Diyala
12 Incidents
7 Killed: 2 ISF, 2 Hashd, 3 Civilians
13 Wounded: 2 ISF, 11 Civilians
7 Shootings
1 IED
2 Mortars
Kirkuk
14 Incidents
7 Killed: 1 Hashd, 6 Civilians
20 Wounded: 20 Hashd
6 Shootings
1 IED
1 Suicide Bomber Killed
3 Suicide Car Bombs Destroyed
3 Car Bmobs Destroyed
Ninewa
16 Incidents
289 Killed: 7 ISF, 27 Peshmerga, 255 Civilians
19 Wounded: 19 Peshmerga
5 Shootings
23 IEDs
1 Rocket
3 Mortars
8 Suicide Bombers Killed
4 Car Bombs Destroyed
Salahaddin
5 Incidents
1 Killed: 1 Civilian
6 Wounded: 6 Hashd
4 Shootings
4 Car Bombs Destroyed

Car Bombs In Iraq Apr, 2016
Date
Car Bombs
Dead
Wounded
Apr 1
Hit, Anbar


Apr 2
Hit, Anbar – 3 destroyed


Apr 3



Apr 4
Baghdadi x2, Anbar
Meshada & Taji, Baghdad
Basra, Basra
Baghdadi, Rashad, Shihabi, Subhait, Anbar – 21 destroyed
Abu Ghraib, Baghdad – 2 destroyed
Nasir, Ninewa – 6 destroyed
Siniya, Salahaddin – 2 destroyed
16
35
Apr 5
New Baghdad, Baghdad
Baghdadi & Subhait, Anbar – 9 destroyed
Tal Ahmed, Kirkuk – 1 destroyed Makhmou, Nasir, Ninewa – 13 destroyed
3
14
Apr 6
Kubaisa, Anbar – 3 destroyed
Nasir, Ninewa – 7 destroyed


Apr 7
160 Kilo, Garma, Hit, Anbar – 7 destroyed
Tal Ahmed, Kirkuk – 3 Destroyed
Hardan, Ninewa – 2 destroyed
Shirqat-Baiji Road, Salahaddin – 2 destroyed


Totals
7 – 81 Destroyed
19
49
Apr 8
Hit, Anbar – 10 destroyed
Makhmour, Ninewa – 7 destroyed


Apr 9
Albu Bali, Anbar
Hit & Subhait, Anbar – 6 destroyed
12
2
Apr 10
Bashir, Kirkuk – 3 destroyed
Nasir, Ninewa – 1 destroyed
Baiji, Salahaddin – 2 destroyed


Apr 11



Apr 12
Hit, Anbar – 1 destroyed
Nasir, Ninewa – 2 destroyed


Apr 13
Makhmour & Nasir, Ninewa – 3 destroyed


Apr 14
Makhoul, Salahaddin – 1 destroyed


Totals
1 – 36 Destroyed
12
2
Apr 15



Apr 16
Haj Ali, Ninewa – 4 destroyed


Apr 17
Khasfa, Anbar – 1 destroyed


Apr 18
Bashir & Tel Ahmed, Kirkuk – 5 destroyed


Apr 19
Baghdadi, Anbar – 3 destroyed


Apr 20



Apr 21
Saqlawiya, Anbar – 1 destroyed
Bashir, Kirkuk – 1 destroyed
Siniya, Salahaddin – 4 destroyed


Totals
0 – 19 Destroyed
-
-

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, "Coalition aircraft destroy 3 booby-trapped vehicle in Baghdadi," Iraqi News, 4/19/16
- "Jazeera Operations announces killing 4 ISIS militants in Anbar," Iraqi News, 4/17/16

AIN, "14th Brigade: the deaths of 11 Daash in foiled attempt on Saqlawiyah," 4/21/16
- “B-52 giant US aircraft enter the war in Iraq against Daash,” 4/20/16

Alsumaria, "Liberation of the road between al-Bahgdadi-Hit and a local official demanding lifting the siege on Haditha," 4/19/16

Al Forat, "Clearing all the village between Heet and Mohammadi western Anbar," 4/16/16
- "Three car bombs detonated in repelling Daash attack near Bashir," 4/18/16

Al Maalomah, "The arrival of two regiments of the Federal Police to Ain al-Assad base to complete the liberation of western Anbar," 4/17/16

Al Mada, “Free Nineveh Operation without protection and the Americans plan to establish a second base near Sinjar,” 4/20/16
- “Freeing Heet…and people are optimistic because it is less destroyed than Ramadi,” 4/16/16
- “The new governor of Salahuddin talks about the Popular Crowd on his first day after taking office,” 4/16/16
- “Nineveh opeartions opens up new hub for the Liberation of Mosul with new reinforcements to Makhmour,” 4/17/16

Mamoun, Abdelhak, "36 members of ISIS and al-hashed al-Shaabi killed, wounded in southern Kirkuk," Iraqi News, 4/18/16
-"Military reinforcements arrived in Fallujah axes to liberate it from ISIS control," Iraqi News, 4/16/16
- "Security forces cleanse 2 villages south of Heet, 10 ISIS militants killed," Iraqi News, 4/16/16
- "Security forces to liberate and cleanse al-Karma District in 72 hours," Iraqi News, 4/11/16

NINA, "Anbar Operations Forces Foil An Attack To Daash In Anbar," 4/18/16
- "Daash Blow Up Three Police Stations, Executes Seven Policemen In Mosul," 4/20/16
- "Daash executed a photojournalist and his brother west of Mosul," 4/16/16
- "Iraqi Warplane To Target Booby-Trapped Car In Bashir Area," 4/21/16

Sarhan, Amre, "Security forces liberate 3 villages in northern Karma in Anbar Province," Iraqi News, 4/20/16
-"Volunteer forces repel ISIS attack on Bashir area south of Kirkuk," 4/18/16

Shafaq News, "Iraqi police finds 2 mass graves in Islamic State-free Ramadi," 4/20/16
- "Killed 18 Daash terrorists and destroyed four car bombs in Mosul," 4/16/16

Sonawane, Vishakha, "ISIS Executes At Least 250 Women For Refusing 'Temporary Marriage' In Iraq's Mosul," International Business Times, 4/21/16

Sotaliraq, "Foiled Daash attack and destroyed four car bombs west of Baiji," 4/21/16