Saturday, February 28, 2015

Musings On Iraq In The News


My article on IS mass graves in Iraq was republished in Iraq's AIN, Shiite News, Iraqi News, and Al Alam, and my piece on a Mosul offensive was printed in Business Insider. I was also mentioned in Michael Weiss' article "The costs of rapprochement" in NOW, and by Zach Bauchamp in "The US plan to kick ISIS out of its most important city in Iraq, explained" in Vox. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Iraq’s Sadr Withdraws His Men From The Front


After the fall of Mosul Moqtada al-Sadr mobilized his followers into a new militia called the Peace Brigades. They along with other Shiite armed groups provided the manpower to confront the insurgency that was lost by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) during the summer. In February 2015 Sadr withdrew his men from the front however after Sheikh Qasim al-Janabi was killed in Baghdad. By doing so he was attempting to maintain his nationalist credentials, while also taking shots at his rivals.

In the middle of February 2015 Moqtada al-Sadr froze his two militias the Promised Day Brigades and the Peace Brigades. On February 17, he answered a question by one of his followers to try to explain his decision. Sadr called for parties to end their boycott of the government. This was a reference to the Union of Iraq Forces, the main Sunni block, and Iyad Allawi’s National Coalition pulling out of parliament to protest the murder of Babil Sheikh Qasim Janabi. Janabi and his entourage were picked up at a checkpoint on February 13. All but one of that group was later found dead in eastern Baghdad’s Shaab neighborhood. Militias were immediately suspected of the murders due to where the bodies were found. That was the subject of the rest of Sadr’s statement. He attacked what he called “brazen militias” who were out to undermine the government and did not follow the chain of command laid out by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Sadr’s comments had two main goals. First, Sadr likes to portray himself as a nationalist statesman. In recent years he has often taken steps to show national unity such as when he backed the no confidence vote against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki with Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement and the Kurdish Alliance in 2012. This was another one of those occasions. Two lists were walking out of the government to protest the murder of a prominent sheikh. Sadr wanted to show solidarity with them, while also advising them not to abandon their positions, as it would achieve little. Second, Sadr was taking the time to attack his rivals, namely Asaib Ahl Al-Haq (AAH). AAH was originally created as part of a covert alliance between Sadr and Iran to carry out attacks upon the Americans. Later, Iran grew tired of working with Sadr who they believed was too difficult, and encouraged his top lieutenant and AAH leader Qais Khazali to break away. Since then Khazali has claimed to be the true heir of Sadr’s father Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr’s legacy, and the two groups have fought each other before. Sadr has often attacked AAH, especially for its ties to Iran. For example, when AAH went to fight in Syria at the behest of Tehran, Sadr called them “foreign entities”. The death of Janabi provided the opportunity for Sadr to take another jab at AAH even if they weren’t involved in the killing. It was also connected to his nationalist position, as he believes that AAH serves Tehran rather than Baghdad.

Moqtada al-Sadr’s freeze is only a temporary one. The threat from the Islamic State is too great, and not staying in that fight would threaten Sadr’s credentials. At the same time, the death of Sheikh Janabi threatened the national unity government, and Sadr felt he needed to respond to that. His attacks upon other militias also showed that the Shiite armed factions are not a monolithic group. Rather there are several different groups, each with its own agenda some of which do not like each other such as the Sadrists and Asaib Ahl Al-Haq. That rivalry extends to the battlefield as well as the two refuse to work with each other. That begs the question of what will happen between these organizations once the insurgency is beaten back, because their animosity still runs deep and they could very well go back to fighting each other. Before the government did nothing about that as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was using AAH to cut into the Sadr movement. Premier Haider Abadi on the other hand does not have a dog in that fight. It will be a major test to assert the primacy of the state over the use of force in the country with so many militias emboldened by the war. While many men who were volunteers will be demobilized the groups will want to keep their core fighters and there is still the conflict in Syria, which could quickly become a focus of the pro-Iran factions once again as it was before the Iraqi insurgency was reborn. This is just one of the long term issues that Iraq will face after specific incidents such as the murder of Sheikh Janabi pass from the headlines.

SOURCES

Fahim, Kareem, “Sunni Lawmakers to Boycott Iraqi Parliament Over Shiite Militias,” New York Times, 2/15/15

Habib, Mustafa, “Better Pay, Better Weapons: Are Shiite Militias Growing More Powerful Than Iraqi Army?” Niqash, 1/29/15

Martin, Patrick and al-Dulimi, Omar with Kagan, Kimberly and Adnan, Sinan, “Iranian-Backed Militias Cause a Political Crisis for Iraq,” Institute for the Study of War, 2/18/15

Shafaq News, “Al-Sadr decides to freeze al-Salam brigades: Iraq suffers from brazen militias,” 2/17/15

Xinhua, “Iraq’s Sunni MPs boycott parliament sessions for killing of tribal leader,” 2/14/15

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lebanon’s Hezbollah Acknowledges Its Presence In Iraq


Lebanese Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah recently acknowledged that his group was involved in the war in Iraq. This came as no surprise as Hezbollah advisers were said to be in Iraq soon after Mosul fell, and in July one of its commanders died in the country. Just like Hezbollah’s previous time in Iraq during the U.S. occupation it is working as an adjunct for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

In a speech on February 16, 2015 Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah admitted that his organization was active in Iraq. He said that it only had a “limited presence” in the country, and called on others to join the fight not only in Iraq, but in Syria as well. Nasrallah was stating the obvious since Hezbollah’s presence in Iraq had been noted months beforehand.

After Mosul fell in June 2014, Nasrallah offered to protect the shrines in Iraq. By the next month there were reports that around 250 Hezbollah members were advising militias in Iraq in coordination with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). That might have increased to 500 since then. That was confirmed at the end of July when a Hezbollah commander Ibrahim Mohammed al-Haj was killed near Mosul. Haj was a veteran Hezbollah member who helped set off the July 2006 war with Israel. Since then there have been more reports of Hezbollah advisers active along the frontlines. In October for example, they were said to have helped in the operation to clear Babil’s Jurf al-Sakhr. When Iran came to aid Iraq in June it was inevitable that Hezbollah would enter the fray as well. Hezbollah is involved in most major Iranian operations such as Syria currently and Iraq in the past.

In 2003 the IRGC Quds Force asked for Hezbollah’s assistance in Iraq to oppose the U.S. occupation. Hezbollah deployed Unit 3800 to work with Iraqi militias. It provided advisers, brought Iraqis to Lebanon for training, and provided funding and weapons as well. It also worked hand in hand with the Quds Force on major operations such as the January 2007 Asaib Ahl Al-Haq raid upon the Joint Coordination Center in Karbala that killed five American soldiers. Afterward Unit 3800 commander Ali Musa Daqduq was arrested for his role in the attack. From 2003-2011 Hezbollah was brought in by Tehran to not only facilitate its anti-American operations, but to help with its Iraqi allies. The Iranians have a history of talking down to and mistreating Iraqis dating back to the Iran-Iraq War when it put together the Badr Brigade to oppose Saddam Hussein. Many Iraqi militiamen made similar complaints about Iranians when they went to Iran for training post-03. Hezbollah being Arabs were able to forge much better relations.

Hezbollah has consistently provided support for Iran in the Middle East and internationally so it was no surprise when it re-entered Iraq after the 2014 insurgent surge. It is currently playing the same role in Iraq that it is doing in Syria providing support for the IRGC and irregular forces. In fact, Hezbollah has worked with many of the same groups in both countries such as Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, Kataib Hezbollah, the Badr Organization, the Khorasani Brigade, and Abu Fadhl Al-Abbas Brigade. Its relationship with the first couple groups goes back to the U.S. occupation as well. As long as Tehran is militarily involved in Iraq so will Hezbollah.

SOURCES

ABC/AP, “Hezbollah Commander who triggered the 2006 war Killed in Iraq,” 8/1/14

Abdul-Zahra, Qassim and Salama, Vivian, “Iran general said to mastermind Iraq ground war,” Associated Press, 11/5/14

Agence France Presse, “Hezbollah says it is fighting IS in Iraq,” 2/16/15

Associated Press, “Iranian commanders on front line of Iraq’s fight,” 7/17/14

Blanford, Nicholas, “Why Hezbollah is playing a smaller role in this Iraqi conflict,” Christian Science Monitor, 7/16/14

Dehghanpisheh, Babak, “Iran’s elite Guards fighting in Iraq to push back Islamic State,” Reuters, 8/3/14

Detmer, Jamie, “Hezbollah’s Widening War Spreads to Iraq,” Daily Beast, 8/1/14

Levitt, Matthew and Pollak, Nadav, “Hezbollah in Iraq: A Little Help Can Go a Long Way,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 6/25/14

Orleans, Alexander, “Echoes of Syria: Hezbollah reemerges in Iraq,” Institute for the Study of War, 8/1/14

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Deaths Increase In Iraq During 3rd Week of February Due To IS Executions


The third week of February 2015 had roughly the same number of attacks as the previous week, but there was a decided increase in deaths. This was due to a large number of people being executed by the Islamic State (IS) especially in Anbar after it took large sections of the city of Baghdadi. Otherwise overall casualties have been slowly declining during the month.

There were 165 reported security incidents in Iraq from February 15-21. That was roughly the same as the 170 seen the week before. Baghdad led the way again with 45 incidents followed by 36 in Anbar, 33 in Salahaddin, 30 in Ninewa, 15 in Diyala, two in Babil, and then one each in Basra, Kirkuk, Wasit, and Sulaymaniya. For the month there have been an average of 23.3 attacks per day. That’s slightly down from the 26.2 seen during January.

The big change in the third week of February was a large increase in the number of deaths. They went from 406 the previous week to 573. 355 of those, 61% were in Anbar where the Islamic State executed 233 people in Baghdadi after the city was taken, and another 50 in Hit and 45 in Rawa. That was the most deaths since 730 were reported from January 8-14. The dead were made up of 43 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), 27 peshmerga, and 503 civilians. The number of wounded actually went down from 559 to 364, which was the lowest since 340 reported from December 15-21. The injured included 27 ISF, 8 peshmerga, and 329 civilians. Despite the big leap in the number killed overall casualties have actually been going down throughout the month. The first week there were 1,068 dead and wounded, dropping to 965 the next week, and 937 the third.

Violence In Iraq By Week Jun. 2014-2015
Date
Incidents
Dead
Wounded
Jun 1-7
228
612
1,020
Jun 8-14
234
1,889
890
Jun 15-21
179
803
759
Jun 22-28
203
733
777
Jun 29-30
59
127
236
JUN
901
4,172
3,701
Jul 1-7
203
526
651
Jul 8-14
214
577
628
Jul 15-21
230
444
1,009
Jul 22-28
224
589
801
Jul 29-31
66
163
230
JUL
937
2,299
3,319
Aug 1-8
270
1,122
885
Aug 9-14
180
710
1,152
Aug 15-21
150
731
499
Aug 22-28
156
523
798
Aug 29-31
59
125
289
AUG
815
3,211
3,623
Sep 1-7
169
616
751
Sep 8-14
168
467
731
Sep 15-21
170
625
794
Sep 22-28
157
396
576
Sep 29-30
49
118
252
SEP
713
2,222
3,104
Oct 1-7
175
456
687
Oct 8-14
189
560
880
Oct 15-21
159
499
780
Oct 22-28
160
346
596 + 1,230
Oct 29-31
72
574
227
OCT
754
2,434
3,170 + 1,230
Nov 1-7
154
611
828
Nov 8-14
134
470
607
Nov 15-21
139
323
479
Nov 22-28
139
321
640
Nov 29-30
40
206
535
NOV
606
1,931
3,089
Dec 1-7
148
581
482
Dec 8-14
156
233 + 166
444 + 1,113
Dec 15-21
133
377
340
Dec 22-28
161
558
432
Dec 29-31
91
117
233
DEC
689
2,032
3,044
Jan 1-7
184
434
464
Jan 8-14
170
730
493
Jan 15-21
182
390
515
Jan 22-28
189
466
894
Jan 29-31
90
288
529
JAN
815
2,308
2,895
Feb 1-7
155
380
688
Feb 8-14
170
406
559
Feb 15-21
165
573
364

Violence In Iraq By Province, Feb. 2015
Province
Feb 1-7
Feb 8-14
Anbar
35 Incidents
60 Killed: 9 ISF, 5 Sahwa, 46 Civilians
128 Wounded: 4 ISF, 8 Sahwa, 116 Civilians
14 Shootings
2 IEDs
1 Suicide Motorcycle Bomb
2 Suicide Car Bombs
5 Mortars
1 Mine
28 Incidents
99 Killed: 26 ISF, 73 Civilians
19 Wounded: 19 Civilians
19 Shootings
1 IED
5 Suicide Bombers
4 Mortars
1 Rocket
Babil
10 Incidents
7 Killed: 2 ISF, 5 Civilians
27 Wounded: 7 ISF, 20 Civilians
5 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
1 Grenade
10 Incidents
16 Killed: 3 ISF, 13 Civilians
49 Wounded: 10 ISF, 39 Civilians
3 IEDs
3 Sticky Bombs
1 Suicide Car Bomb
1 Car Bomb
1 Mine
Baghdad
57 Incidents
117 Killed: 2 ISF, 115 Civilians
355 Wounded: 10 ISF, 345 Civilians
19 Shootings
35 IEDs
3 Sticky Bombs
2 Suicide Bombers
3 Car Bombs
49 Incidents
107 Killed: 2 ISF, 105 Civilians
276: 11 ISF, 265 Civilians
14 Shootings
25 IEDs
3 Sticky Bombs
2 Suicide Bombers
6 Mortars
Diyala
5 Incidents
10 Killed: 1 Sahwa, 8 Peshmerga, 1 Civilian
2 Wounded: 2 Peshmerga
4 Shootings
1 IED
13 Incidents
9 Killed: 2 ISF, 7 Civilians
1 Wounded: 1 Civilian
7 Shootings
1 IED
2 Sticky Bombs
Kirkuk
4 Incidents
2 Killed: 1 Peshmerga, 1 Civilian
4 Wounded: 4 Peshmerga
1 Shooting
2 IEDs
4 Car Bombs
5 Incidents
5 Killed: 5 Civilians
7 Wounded: 7 Civilians
3 Shootings
20 IEDs
1 Mortar
Ninewa
18 Incidents
107 Killed: 3 ISF, 104 Civilians
6 Wounded: 6 Civilians
11 Shootings
28 IEDs
1 Suicide Car Bomb
6 Car Bombs
1 Mortar
28 Incidents
71 Killed: 10 ISF, 2Peshmerga, 59 Civilians
23 Wounded: 4 Peshmerga, 19 Civilians
21 Shootings
9 IEDs
1 Suicide Bomber
Salahaddin
25 Incidents
75 Killed: 34 ISF, 41 Civilians
165 Wounded: 38 ISF, 127 Civilians
14 Shootings
38 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
2 Suicide Car Bombs
33 Incidents
98 Killed: 70 ISF, 28 Civilians
178 Wounded: 93 ISF, 85 Civilians
19 Shootings
5 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
11 Suicide Car Bombs
1 Car Bomb
1 Mortar
Wasit
1 Incident
2 Killed: 2 Civilians
1 Wounded: 1 Civilian
1 Shooting
-

Province
Feb 15-21
Anbar
36 Incidents
355 Killed: 31 ISF, 324 Civilians
37 Wounded: 37 Civilians
26 Shootings
41 IEDs
1 Mortar
1 Rocket
Babil
2 Incidents
5 Wounded: 5 Civilians
2 IEDs
Baghdad
45 Incidents
69 Killed: 3 ISF, 66 Civilians
160 Wounded: 3 ISF, 157 Civilians
17 Shootings
23 IEDs
5 Sticky Bombs
3 Mortars
Basra
1 Incident
1 Killed: 1 Civilian
Diyala
15 Incidents
36 Killed: 7 ISF, 12 Peshmerga, 17 Civilians
30 Wounded: 23 ISF, 7 Civilians
6 Shootings
3 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
2 Suicide Car Bombs
Kirkuk
1 Incident
15 Killed: 15 Peshmerga
1 Shooting
Ninewa
30 Incidents
17 Killed: 17 Civilians
13 Wounded: 8 Peshmerga 5 Civilians
17 Shootings
22 IEDs
Salahaddin
33 Incidents
80 Killed: 2 ISF, 78 Civilians
118 Wounded: 1 ISF, 117 Civilians
20 Shootings
30 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
1 Suicide Bomber
3 Suicide Car Bombs
3 Mortars
1 Rocket
Sulaymaniya
1 Incident
2 Grenades
Wasit
1 Incident
1 Wounded: 1 Civilian
1 Shooting

Car Bombs In Iraq Feb. 2015
Date
Location
Dead
Wounded
Feb 1



Feb 2
Khabaz x4, Kirkuk
Samarra, Salahaddin
21
26
Feb 3
Karrada x3, Baghdad
5
17
Feb 4
Haditha, Anbar

3
Feb 5
Ramadi, Anbar
Jazeera, Salahaddin
13
13
Feb 6



Feb 7
Tigris Axis x7, Ninewa


Totals
18
39
59
Feb 8



Feb 9
Jabber x3 & Siniya, Salahaddin
20
35
Feb 10
Mahmudiya, Babil
4
11
Feb 11
Mahmudiya, Babil
Camp Speicher x2, Dijla, Mikishifa, Muthanna Facility, Salahaddin
23
71
Feb 12
Mikishifa, Tikrit x2, Salahaddin
22
27
Feb 13



Feb 14



Totals
14
69
144
Feb 15
Edheim, Diyala
6
21
Feb 16
Abbasid & Camp Speicher, Salahaddin
4
30
Feb 17



Feb 18
Outside Samarra, Salahaddin
7
18
Feb 19



Feb 20



Feb 21
Qazzanah, Diyala

4
Totals
5
17
73


After a high number of car bombs (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices) in the first 14 days of the month, they went down to just 5 from February 15-21. Those resulted in 17 deaths and 73 wounded. There were two VBIEDs in Diyala and three in Salahaddin. All of those attacks were aimed at either pro-government forces or government offices showing their continued use in tactical operations by IS rather than the normal terrorist attacks aimed at civilians. 

During the third week of February the Iraqi Security Forces and tribes continued to fight to reclaim Baghdadi in Anbar. Most of the city was cleared by the end of the week, but confrontations with the insurgents continued. While IS was in control of Baghdadi it terrorized the population by carrying out a number of executions. On February 15 it kidnapped a number of police and shot three of them. The next day it killed the remaining 27 officers. Then they went after civilians executing 100 on February 17, 50 on February 19, and another 26 on February 20. Not to be outdone in the brutality department IS burned 45 people in Rawa, and 50 in Hit. For six out of the seven days of the week insurgents also assaulted the southern and downtown sections of Ramadi in their continued attempt to take the provincial capital. The IS attack upon Baghdadi was another example of how the group still has large offensive capabilities in the province. It also threatened the U.S. training effort in the governorate as the Assad Air Base where American forces are training Iraqis is right next door. The fact that IS was not able to seize the city on the fist day of the assault however and the importance of its location also meant that it would eventually be pushed out and suffer heavy casualties in the process from both the ISF, tribes, and Coalition air strikes.

Baghdad continued to suffer from a steady stream of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). 23 went off during the week killing 32 people, 46% of all deaths, and injured another 129, 80% of the total. The Islamic State’s VBIED bases around the capital have largely been disrupted and the group is using most of them for tactical attacks upon the government forces in places like Salahaddin. That has left IEDs as the main form of attack in the capital. While not as deadly as car bombs, most IEDs are set off in public places like shops and markets to harm as many civilians as possible and are the main driver of casualties for the last several months.

After militants were disrupted by a large security operation in Muqtadiya in January they have now regrouped and violence is back up to what it was before. There were 15 incidents during the week with attacks in the north in Edhaim where IS assaulted the dam there twice, in Muqtadiya, which was just cleared, and in Baquba the provincial capital. Seven mass graves with 24 people, including 12 peshmerga were discovered in Jalawla on February 19 as well. In total, there were 36 deaths and 30 Wounded during the week.

In Ninewa IS continued harassing attacks upon the peshmerga mostly in the Makhmour, Sinjar, and Badush areas to the north and west of Mosul. There were 15 attacks in those regions during the week. IS began these attacks in January and they have been going on every week since then. This was in response to the Kurds recent gains in the province, which have threatened the Islamic State’s supply lines to western Ninewa and into Syria.

IS also attacked up and down Salahaddin in its continued attempt to stretch the ISF and militia forces there. Some of these confrontations were quite large such as on February 15 when 23 militiamen were killed and another 40 wounded outside of Samarra. That city was also hit with two suicide car bombs. A third struck Camp Speicher. All together the three VBIEDs killed 2 soldiers, 9 militiamen and injured another 48 members of the popular brigades. IS also carried out more of its intimidation tactics against the local population. On February 16 it kidnapped 120 people from Rabadh and blew up 13 houses and council buildings in Dour. February 20 it blew up 12 houses in Shirqat. Finally, on February 21 in kidnapped 23 people north of Tikrit and burned three families alive inside their houses in Dour. A big confrontation is coming up in Salahaddin as militia and army forces are preparing for a major assault to try to take Tikrit, which fell to insurgents in June.

SOURCES

AIN, "ISIL executes more than 150 civilians in Anbar," 2/19/15
- "Urgent…..Car bomb explosion targets volunteers in Samarra," 2/18/15

BBC, "Islamic State militants 'burn to death 45 in Iraq,'" 2/17/15

Al Forat, "23 Persons kidnapped by ISIL northern Tikrit," 2/21/15

Iraq Times, "Daash terrorists executed 26 civilians in Baghdadi western Anbar," 2/20/15

Kurd Press, "7 mass graves found in Diyala province," 2/19/15

Al Mada, "Daash executed 100 people including police officers and burn their bodies in al-Baghdadi," 2/17/15
- "Killing and wounding 15 elements of the popular crowd south of Tikrit in suicide bombing," 2/18/15
- "The killing and injuring of 28 of the popular crowd in suicide bombing and clashes with Daash south of Tikrit," 2/16/15

Al Masalah, "The bombing of the Customs headquarters in Baquba," 2/21/15
- "Daash burn 50 citizens in Hit," 2/21/15

NINA, "Car Bomb Hits A Gathering Of Popular Defense Forces Near Speicher In Tikrit, Kills 4, Wounds 18," 2/16/15
- "Daash Burn Members Of Three Families Inside Their Houses In Tikrit," 2/21/15
- "Daash arrest five police officers and blow up 17 houses in Salahuddin province," 2/17/15
- "Daash execute /3/ women and a man north of Tikrit," 2/20/15

Reuters, "Iraqi army, militia repel Islamic State attack on dam north of Baghdad: sources," 2/15/15

Shafaq News, "Iraqi official: Daash executed 27 policemen and threw their bodies in the river," 2/16/15
- "Killing 23 of the popular brigades in battles for "Tigris" Samarra," 2/15/15

Shafiq, Mohammed, "Tribal Salahuddin Council reveals kidnap "Daash" 120 civilians northeast of Tikrit," Alsumaria, 2/16/15

Xinhua, "Iraqi security forces repel IS attack, 18 killed," 2/15/15

Yacoub, Sameer, "Suicide car bomber kills 6 Iraqi solders, Shiite militiamen," Associated Press, 2/18/15

Security In Iraq April 15-21, 2017

The number of reported security incidents in Iraq took another drop for the third straight week. There were 106 incidents mentioned in th...