Monday, August 29, 2016

Iraq Fires Its Defense Minister

In August 2016 Iraq’s Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi was dismissed by parliament. Nouri al-Maliki’s faction of State of Law had been trying to get rid of him for almost a year to undermine Prime Minister Haidar Abadi, but never had the votes to do it. That changed when at the start of the month Obeidi attacked the Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri and several other parliamentarians over corrupt defense deals. Obeidi’s move backfired and created enough opposition to ensure his removal.

The Defense Minister’s problems started when he was called before parliament on August 1, 2016. Obeidi was to answer questions about corrupt deals at his ministry, but instead went on the attack and accused Speaker Salim al-Jabouri, Mohammed Karbuli, the head of the Solution bloc, and others of being involved in crooked deals for military equipment. To back up his accusations Obeidi went to the anti-corruption Integrity Commission on August 4. He was then hit with a lawsuit by Jabouri for slandering his name. In near record time, the Federal Court acquitted Jabouri of any charges on August 9, claiming there was a lack of evidence against him. There was more bad news for Obeidi when on August 24 the Supreme Judicial Council said that it closed the investigation of corruption charges made by the Defense Minister. Obeidi’s accusations made headlines throughout the Iraqi and international press. Many Iraqis’ praised his stance claiming that he was a hero against the corrupt ruling class even though he had been brought in before the legislature to answer questions about illegality going on under him. It didn’t appear he had much to back up his claims though as two courts found he didn’t have any hard facts. His attacks also turned Speaker Jabouri and his Iraqi Islamic Party against the Defense Minister, which would come back on Obeidi.

Events moved quickly and on August 25 parliament held a no confidence vote removing Obeidi from his post. 142 MPs were for removing Obeidi versus 102 against, with the rest abstaining. The move against the Defense Minister was led by Nouri al-Maliki and the anti-Abadi Reform bloc that he is part of. That grouping also includes Iyad Allawi’s Nationalist Coalition, and some Kurdish MPs. Maliki’s faction had been trying to oust Obeidi since 2015 to weaken the prime minister, but was unable to gather enough backing. The Defense Minister accusing Jabouri and Karbuli meant that the Islamic Party and Solution Bloc provided the numbers necessary to remove Obeidi. On the other hand, Osama Nujafi’s Mutahidun, Moqtada al-Sadr’s Ahrar, and Ammar Hakim’s Muwatin were all for retaining the minister. Nujafi and Jabouri have become bitter rivals with the former trying to remove the speaker from office. Sadr and Hakim didn’t want to back any move made by Maliki that might aid his plans to return to power. Those two walked out of parliament on August 23 to block the first attempt to hold the no confidence vote against Obeidi. If the Defense Minister had not gone after Speaker Jabouri he would probably still have his job. Most ministers when appearing before parliament either don’t show up or don’t give any substantive responses, especially when they get accused of corruption. Instead, Obeidi chose to go on the offensive against some of his critics. That backfired. First, Jabouri and company could have very well been involved in all the corrupt deals Obeidi accused them of, but the minister couldn’t get any traction against them in the courts. Second, Maliki had been trying to get rid of Obeidi for almost a year, but got nowhere. Now that the minister had angered the speaker though, he threw his weight behind the no confidence vote and Obeidi was out.


Adnan, Sinan, “Iraq’s Prime Minister comes under Attack by Political Rivals,” Institute for the Study of War, 4/28/15

Agence France Presse, “Iraq judiciary drops corruption case against speaker,” 8/9/16
- “Iraq minister accuses parliament speaker of corruption,” 8/1/16
- “Iraq prosecutor files complaint against graft accused,” 8/3/16

Buratha News, “Judiciary challenged the defense minister and the head of the Integrity Commission on the issue of Jabouri,” 8/24/16

Iraq News Network, “Obeidi: Salim al-Jabouri demanded role in arms deals and Haider Mulla asked me for two million dollars,” 8/1/16

Al Mada, “Deal within the Coalition Forces to speed up dropping charges against al-Jabouri and lifting his immunity,” 8/9/16
- “Jabouri included withdrawal of confidence from al-Obeidi to next
Tuesday’s agenda,” 8/15/16
- “Obeidi turned the table on his interrogation and made embarrassing accusations against the Speaker of Parliament,” 8/3/16
- “Obeidi’s fate hung in parliament session..Jubouri faces a campaign for his dismissal with 100 signatures,” 8/8/16
- “Parliament postpones vote on the withdrawal of confidence from al-Obeidi to Thursday,” 8/23/16

Mamouri, Ali, “Iraq’s political leaders on quicksand as alliances fracture,” Al Monitor, 8/12/16

Martin, Patrick, “Iraq’s Parliament Ousts Defense Minister,” Institute for the Study of War, 8/25/16

Morris, Loveday, “Iraqi parliament ousts defense minister as Mosul operation looms,” Washington Post, 8/25/16

New Sabah, “Abadi: I was against the interrogation of al-Obeidi at the current time because of the security situation,” 8/5/16
- “Mutahidun declares that it will appeal the dismissal of Defense Minister,” 8/26/16

NINA, “Al-Fatlawi clarified her position on the accusations of the Defense Minister in the parliament session today,” 8/1/16

Rudaw, “Iraqi defense minister accuses parliament speaker of corruption,” 8/1/16

Sotaliraq, “Alloizi: the dismissal of al-Obeidi a kind of regulatory recovery of Parliament,” 8/25/16
- “Corruption charges triggered by Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi in the House of Representatives,” 8/1/16

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Musings On Iraq In The News

Was cited in “Contesting Facts On The Ground In Iraq” by Michael Knights for War On The Rocks.

Friday, August 26, 2016

1st Crack In Sec of State Powell’s 2003 UN Presentation On Iraq

(National Security Archive)
On February 5, 2003 Secretary of State Colin Powell made his famous presentation to the United Nations Security Council laying out the U.S. case against Iraq. Powell had been the main advocate within the Bush administration to go to the international body to build up support for the United States’ Iraq strategy.

One section of Powell’s speech focused upon Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his cooperation with the Kurdish Salafi group Ansar al-Islam. Powell claimed that Zarqawi was working with Ansar at a camp in Iraq’s Kurdistan to develop poison. Powell showed a satellite picture of the base in Khurmal. The problem was that Ansar didn’t run that camp. It was under a group called Komaleh Islami, which had ties with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). While it would take months to discredit Powell’s presentation after the invasion of Iraq, this part of his claims was questioned the day he appeared at the U.N. It foreshadowed the faulty intelligence that so much of the American case against Saddam was based upon.


Chivers, C.J. “Kurds Puzzled by Report of Terror Camp,” New York Times, 2/6/03

International Crisis Group, “Radical Islam In Iraqi Kurdistan: The Mouse That Roared,” 2/7/03

McGeary, Johanna, “Dissecting The Case,” Time, 2/10/03

Powell, Colin, “A Policy of Evasion and Deception,” United Nations, 2/5/03

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Will Iraq’s Mosul Go Down Like Fallujah?

For the first two years of the war against the Islamic State the script for liberating Iraq’s major cities seemed set until Fallujah was freed. Tikrit and Ramadi took months to re-take and were marked by fits and spurts by the security forces. The defense in depth that the insurgents built meant slow going for the Iraqi forces, while IS units re-infiltrated into the rear for harassing attacks. That all changed with Fallujah however that fell in just weeks. The real problem turned out to be a humanitarian one. Could the battle for Mosul go down the same way?

Tikrit and Ramadi seemed to set a pattern for how the Islamic State would defend major urban areas. IS laid down multiple IED fields with covering fire from snipers on the perimeter. IS would also re-infiltrate into the towns surrounding the cities delaying the final assault. On the inside of the cities there were booby-trapped houses and tunnel systems so that IS fighters could maneuver without being exposed to Coalition airstrikes or Iraqi artillery and mortar fire. It also allowed the militants to come up behind the Iraqi forces in surprise attacks. Finally, multiple suicide bombers and car bombs would be launched to break up Iraqi units. The Islamic State didn’t have the numbers to hold these areas, but they were able to drag out the fighting for months and cause thousands of casualties. Ramadi for example, took four months to be freed. Half of that was spent just getting into the city and then the other half to clear it. What allowed the Islamic State to build up such defense in depth was the fact that Tikrit and Ramadi had basically been emptied of their populace in the run up to the operations. With no civilians, IS was free to plant bombs and maneuver anywhere it wanted. That was not true of Fallujah.

The battle of Fallujah went down surprisingly quickly given the previous battles. The city was liberated in just five weeks. At first, it seemed like the Iraqi forces were going to have the same hard time as they did in Tikrit and Ramadi with all the IEDs and snipers, but when they were able to penetrate into the interior of the city the insurgents’ defenses quickly fell. The difference was that Fallujah was a major command center for the Islamic State. It not only maintained facilities there, but housed its families and thousands of other civilians. Because of that IS was only able to set up perimeter defenses, and little on the inside. Instead, what turned out to be the major problem in Fallujah was the humanitarian crisis that developed as approximately 80,000 families fled the militants. The government and humanitarian organizations were not prepared for such an exodus lacking facilities, supplies and money. After the battle was over their plight did not improve much either due to those same issues.

Mosul could go down in much the same fashion as Fallujah. Like the latter, IS uses Mosul as one of its two main hubs in Iraq and Syria. There are still over a million people living in the city as well. Unless they move their operations out and depopulate it, the insurgents will not be able to create the intricate defenses that they did in Tikrit and Ramadi. Instead, there will be a tough exterior and weak inside again like Fallujah. Just like that city, the real dilemma will be dealing with all the people that flee, because the government and NGOs are still not prepared for the mass displacement due to their lack of money. The political disputes between all the factions that want to be involved in the operation that are emerging now, will also play a role afterward.

The battle for Mosul is still months away. At the earliest the city could be attacked by the end of the year, but early 2017 is more likely. Liberating it could take less time than it took to get there. The Islamic State made a huge overreach when it seized Mosul in the first place in the summer of 2014. Once the Iraqi government regrouped and the U.S. led Coalition entered the fray IS was going to lose all the territory it seized in Iraq. The group is aware of that inevitability making announcements that it might lose its state, but that it will endure. The real dilemma now is what will happen in the aftermath. Over one million people are likely to be displaced during the battle and Baghdad lacks the resources to take care of them. Just as important the government doesn't have the money to rebuild Mosul either. Finally, there will be political disputes over the administration of Mosul and Ninewa in general, and likely revenge attacks as well. Those issues will all likely be exploited by IS as it tries to regroup after its losses and re-infiltrate back into the city that has been its main base in Iraq for years. Those are the factors that will have a lasting impact past the freeing of the city itself.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Security In Iraq, Aug 15-21, 2016

After over eight weeks of relatively low-level violence in Iraq, the number of security incidents finally took a jump in the middle of August. The main cause was a surge in attacks in Baghdad. On the other hand, the Iraqi forces were busy trying to clear the Fallujah-Ramadi corridor in Anbar, while the Kurds and government were making their slow progress towards Mosul in Ninewa.

There were 155 security incidents reported in Iraq from August 15-21, 2016. Before that there were around 110-120 incidents per week since the last full week of June. The 155 in the third week of August were the most recorded since 177 in the first week of June.

The main reason for the uptick was Baghdad province where incidents went from 53 the week before to 81 the third week of August. Otherwise the other provinces stayed around the same levels as previous week. There were 23 in Ninewa, 20 in Anbar, 11 in Kirkuk, 8 in Diyala, 7 in Salahaddin, 3 in Babil, 1 in Basra, and 1 in Sulaymaniya.

Like incidents, casualties also increased during the week in Iraq. There were 388 dead and 391 wounded reported in the media, which were the highest figures since 589 killed and 635 wounded the first week of July. The dead consisted of 6 Sahwa, 10 Hashd, 24 Peshmerga, 50 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and 298 civilians. The wounded were made up of 3 Asayesh, 8 Sahwa, 9 Peshmerga, 17 Hashd, 42 ISF, and 312 civilians.

Despite the high number of attacks in Baghdad, Ninewa was actually the deadliest province with 173 fatalities. That was followed by 101 in Baghdad, 43 in Anbar, 35 in Kirkuk, 30 in Salahaddin, 4 in Diyala, 1 in Babil, and 1 in Basra.

Almost all the violence in Anbar during the week was in the Fallujah-Ramadi corridor. The government declared Khalidiya Island freed at the end of July but heavy fighting and security operations continue there. Despite the earlier claim the second phase of the Khalidiya campaign was announced for the second time on August 19, and elements of the Hashd said they controlled 80% of the area. That of course provoked several Islamic State counter attacks in the area. There were also several clashes outside Ramadi, and a suicide car bomb in the district. In liberated Fallujah a series of IS prisons were discovered with 13 bodies in them. There were also some incidents in the west and east in Rutba, Hit, Haditha, and Amiriya Fallujah. In total there were 20 incidents leaving 43 dead and 31 injured.

Baghdad had an explosion of violence. There have been around 50-60 incidents in the province for the last several weeks, but in the 3rd week of August that shot up to 81. As usual most of that activity happened in the north, 24 incidents, and south, 26. 32 of those incidents were in the outer towns where IS bases a lot of their operations. The militants were not able to carry out any mass casualty bombings but there were suicide attacks in Yusifiya and Tarmiya, and a car bomb at a checkpoint in Bab al-Sham. By the end of the week there were 101 dead and 253 wounded.

Violence in Baghdad, Aug 15-21, 2016
Center: 2 – 1 Robbery, 1 Sticky Bomb
East: 10 – 1 Grenades, 2 Kidnappings, 3 IEDs, 4 Shootings
Outer East: 3 – 1 Sticky Bomb, 2 IEDs
North: 9 – 1 Car Bomb, 1 Grenades, 1 Shooting, 1 Sticky Bomb, 4 IEDs
Outer North: 15 – 1 Suicide Bomber, 1 Sticky Bomb, 4 Shootings, 4 Suicide Bombers Killed, 9 IEDs
South: 9 – 1 Robbery, 2 Shootings, 2 IEDs, 4 Kidnappings
Outer South: 17 – 1 Suicide Bomber, 1 Grenades, 1 Sticky Bomb, 4 Shootings, 10 IEDs
West: 9 – 1 Kidnapping, 2 Sticky Bombs, 2 Shootings, 4 IEDs
Outer West: 8 – 2 Shootings, 6 IEDs

Things were relatively quiet in Kirkuk with some sporadic attacks upon the Peshmerga and some shootings with two exceptions. First, a group of displaced trying to flee IS controlled Hawija were hit by an IED, and a suicide bomber hit a Shiite shrine in Kirkuk city, while another was arrested before he could set off his device. In total there were 11 incidents leaving 35 dead and 21 injured.

Government, Kurdish and Islamic State forces were all active in Ninewa. First, the Kurds finished their foray that started the week before and claimed to have cleared 12 towns. According to Iraq Oil Report however, the Kurds declared those areas freed when the enemy stopped firing and didn’t sweep through and secure them. Iraqi forces also took three towns in the Qayara district. The insurgents were busy with attacks not only against the latest operations, but also in the Sinjar district in the west. Besides that three Coalition airstrikes in Mosul were blamed for 43 civilians deaths and 35 wounded. IS executed another 77 people for various acts of defiance, and the bodies of 30 policemen were found in a mass grave. All together that led to 23 incidents with 173 fatalities and 40 wounded.

There were growing political disputes over the future Mosul operation. First, Prime Minister Haidar Abadi suggested that the Kurds should not move from their present positions. They responded by saying they would not withdraw from the areas that they had liberated in Ninewa, that they would be involved in the liberation of Mosul, and that they controlled some of the main routes into the city. At the same time, Kurdistan said that it would abide by the agreements it made with Baghdad and the Coalition over Mosul. This series of comments highlighted the growing arguments over Mosul, which will continue after the city is freed as every faction wants a piece of the campaign to free it, and then to control Mosul and the entire Ninewa province afterward.

There were few incidents in Salahaddin, but some deadly ones. The main source of casualties was the Islamic State attacking people attempting to flee their control. A total of 28 displaced were killed and 36 wounded in shootings, mortar fire and IEDs. This has been happening in several provinces not just Salahaddin as government forces approach the last bastions held by the militants.

Kurdish Asayesh intercepted a suicide bomber in the mountains of Sulaymaniya province who set off his device wounding three Kurdish security members.

There were just two successful car bombs in the week. One was in Anbar and the other in Baghdad. They took the lives of two people and wounded another 9. Another four were destroyed in Anbar, Diyala, and Ninewa.

Violence In Iraq 2016
Jan 1-7
Jan 8-14
Jan 15-21
Jan 22-28
Jan 29-31
Feb 1-7
Feb 8-14
Feb 15-21
Feb 22-29
Mar 1-7
Mar 8-14
Mar 15-21
Mar 22-28
Mar 29-31
Apr 1-7
Apr 8-14
Apr 15-21
Apr 22-28
Apr 29-30
May 1-7
May 8-14
May 15-21
May 22-28
May 29-31
Jun 1-7
Jun 8-14
Jun 15-21
Jun 22-28
Jun 29-30
Jul 1-7
Jul 8-14
Jul 15-21
Jul 22-28
Jul 29-31
Aug 1-7
Aug 8-14
Aug 15-21

Security By Province Aug 15-21 2016
20 Incidents
43 Killed: 1 Sahwa, 4 Hashd, 10 ISF, 28 Civilians
31 Wounded: 2 Civilians, 2 Sahwa, 3 Hashd, 24 ISF
7 Shootings
4 IEDs
1 Sound Bomb
1 Suicide Car Bomb
2 Mortars
13 Suicide Bombers Killed
2 Car Bombs Destroyed
3 Incidents
1 Killed: 1 Civilian
1 Wounded: 1 ISF
1 Shooting
2 IEDs
81 Incidents
101 Killed: 5 Sahwa, 6 Hashd, 9 ISF, 81 Civilians
253 Wounded: 6 Sahwa, 14 ISF, 14 Hashd, 219 Civilians
19 Shootings
39 IEDs
8 Sticky Bombs
2 Suicide Bombers
1 Car Bomb
5 Grenades
4 Suicide Bombers Killed
8 Incidents
4 Killed: 4 Civilians
1 Wounded: 1 Civilian
3 Shootings
5 IEDs
1 Car Bomb Dismantled
11 Incidents
35 Killed: 1 Peshmerga, 34 Civilians
21 Wounded: 1 Peshmerga, 2 ISF, 18 Civilians
5 Shootings
2 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
1 Suicide Bomber
1 Mortar
1 Suicide Bomber Captured
23 Incidents
173 Killed: 23 Peshmerga, 30 ISF, 120 Civilians
40 Wounded: 5 Peshmerga, 35 Civilians
16 Shootings
2 Suicide Bombers Killed
1 Suicide Car Bomb Destroyed
7 Incidents
30 Killed: 30 Civilians
39 Wounded: 3 Peshmerga, 36 Civilians
4 Shootings
2 IEDs
1 Mortar
1 Incident
3 Wounded: 3 Asayesh
1 Suicide Bomber

Car Bombs In Iraq Aug 1-7 2016
Car Bombs
Aug 1
Shirqat, Salahaddin – 3 destroyed
Aug 2
Hadhar & Qayara, Ninewa – 15 destroyed
Aug 3
Tarmiya, Baghdad – 1 destroyed
Aug 4
North of Baquba, Diyala
Aug 5
Aug 6
Aug 7
1 – 19 Destroyed
Au 8
Aug 9
Aug 10
Arab Jabour, Baghdad
Qayara Base x3, Ninewa
Aug 11
Samawa, Muthanna
Haj Ali & Hadhar, Ninewa – 6 destroyed
Aug 12
Albu Assaf & Khalidiya Island, Anbar – 2 destroyed
Aug 13
Aug 14
Azwaip, Anbar – 1 destroyed
Khazir, Ninewa – 1 destroyed
5 – 10 Destroyed
Aug 15
Aug 16
Ramadi Dist, Anbar
Hit, Anbar – 2 destroyed
Qaraqoush, Ninewa – 1 destroyed
Aug 17
Bab al-Sham, Baghdad
Baquba, Diyala – 1 destroyed
Aug 18
Aug 19
Aug 20
Aug 21
2 – 4 Destroyed


Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, "Iraqi Forces Push Islamic State out of Western Iraqi Town," Associated Press, 8/19/16

Bas News, "IS Assault Against Peshmerga Strongly Repelled Near Mosul,' 8/16/16

eKurd, "Iraqi Kurdistan News in brief - August 18, 2016," 8/18/16

Iraqi News, "Blast kills six civilians while fleeing form ISIS-controlled areas," 8/15/16
- "Four villages south of Mosul freed from ISIS control," 8/16/16
- "Mass grave containing policemen discovered south of Mosul," 8/21/16
- "Peshmerga ends its offensive in Mosul," 8/15/16
- "Suicide bombing in Ramadi injures 4 Iraqi border guards men," 8/16/16

Al Maalomah, "The death of a citizen and wounding four others in bombing of Sadiq Shiite shrine in terrorist attack in Kirkuk," 8/21/16
- "Popular crowd announces it controls over 80% of Khalidiya Island," 8/21/16

Al Mada, "Found 13 civilian bodies inside 10 Daash prison in Fallujah," 8/17/16
- "Killing and wounding six people in bombing north Baghdad," 8/17/16
- “Presidency of Kurdistan region calls for political agreement that ensures the normalization of the situation after the liberation of Mosul,” 8/21/16
- "The start of the second phase of the liberation of Khalidiya Island," 8/19/16

NINA, "A Car Bomb Defused In Outskirts Of Baquba," 8/17/16

Osgood, Patrick and Tahir, Rawaz, “Kurdish forces make hard progress toward Mosul,” Iraq Oil Report, 8/17/16

Rudaw, “In response to Iraqi army Kurds say: “we hold key routes to Mosul,”” 8/21/16
- “KRG to Abadi: The Peshmerga will not withdraw,” 8/17/16

Xinhua, “Kurdish Peshmerga to abide by agreements with Baghdad over Mosul liberation,” 8/20/16
- “Security forces foil 2 suicide bomb attacks in Iraq's Kirkuk," 8/22/16