Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Kurds And The Birth Of Iraq


In 1918 the British were marching north against the Ottomans in Mesopotamia as World War I was coming to a conclusion. An armistice was signed on October 30, 1918, but the British were not satisfied and continued fighting until they took the Mosul vilyaet in the middle of November. This last conquest would raise an important question, what to do with the Kurds of the area? Much has been written since then that not giving the Kurds their own nation was a huge mistake and ignored their right to self-determination. Historian Peter Sluglett and Professor Michael Gunter however have argued that there was no strong Kurdish nationalist movement at that time as the community was divided by tribalism, and was more concerned with autonomy of each clan rather than their own state.

The British were hoping to co-opt the Kurds to help them rule their new conquests in Mosul, but that proved very difficult. The city of Mosul was taken on November 3, 1918, giving the British control of most of the province. The British then sought out local leaders to help them administer the territory. The civil commissioner in Baghdad ordered a council of chiefs to be created, and two colonial officers were dispatched to begin talks. What the English quickly realized was that the Kurds were divided amongst an array of tribes that were only loosely connected to each other. For example, the British appointed Sheikh Mahmoud Barzani to be the head of Sulaymainiya, but other clans in Halabja, Dohuk, Irbil, Zakho, and other areas did not accept him. In fact, by May 1919 London had to remove Barzani because so many were angry with him inside Sulaymaniya itself. According to historian Peter Slugglet the British were only welcomed because that meant the Ottomans would leave, and the Kurdish tribes could be left alone to their own devices. While a few were talking of Kurdish nationalism, it was a new concept foreign to most in the area. While there are some that claim nationalism is a natural desire that for the Kurds dates back to ancient history such as Medes who overthrew the Assyrian Empire in 612 B.C. or the poem Mem u Zin written by Ahmad Khan in 1692 the idea did not exist in the world back then. Historians date the emergence of nationalism to 18th Century France, and it didn’t spread to the Middle East until after World War I.

Those calling for a Kurdish state were actually mostly Europeans, but that quickly changed. One of the British colonial officers in Mosul E.W.C. Noel recommended a Kurdish nation from Eastern Anatolia in Turkey to Mosul in Iraq. Then the British decided to include the Mosul vilyat in the Iraq Mandate in March 1920. Later, the August 1920 Treaty of Sevres that divided up the Ottoman Empire called for a Kurdistan, but that was cancelled by Turkey. The newly anointed King Faisal was also afraid of a Kurdistan fearing that it would lead to instability in the region. The Kurds themselves continued to be divided as Sulaymaniya rejected being part of the new Iraq, but Dohuk, Amadiya, and Zakho were not opposed to the idea.

Today many talk about this period as a lost chance for the Kurds. Things were not as simple as hindsight might make it out to be however. There were no nationalist leaders back then to rally the tribes together. Instead those groups appeared more interested in their own autonomy than coming together into a nation.

SOURCES

Gunter, Michael, “The Contemporary Roots of Kurdish Nationalism In Iraq,” Kufa Review, Winter 2013

Sluglett, Peter, Britain in Iraq: Contriving King and Country, New York: Columbia University Press, 2007
- “The Kurdish Problem and the Mosul Boundary: 1918-1925,” Global Policy Forum, 1976

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Musings On Iraq In The News


I was interviewed by Paul Iddon for “Dealing with ISIS after the demise of the Caliphate” published in Rudaw.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Political Re-Alignment In Iraq


Iraq is currently facing deep ceded political divisions. Old alliances are being torn apart, while long-time rivalries are coming to the fore again. This is happening within all three major alliances amongst the Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites. This will lead to increased instability and political stalemate until the parties re-align themselves into new coalitions.

The Kurdish parties used to have a rough consensus and acted as a unified bloc in Baghdad, but that is now breaking down. For years the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) divided up the administration of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and positions in Baghdad between them. Then in 2009 the emergence of Gorran (Change), which broke away from the PUK promoting a reformist agenda, disrupted that power sharing. That year Gorran would come in second in Kurdish elections behind the KDP. This obviously caused huge problems for the PUK, but it and the KDP eventually attempted to co-opt Gorran into the Kurdish administration. That in turn broke down in 2015 when President Massoud Barzani’s term as Kurdish president expired. He had already been extended in office once before, but this time Gorran wanted changes in the KRG political system in return for Barzani to stay in power. That set off a huge political dispute topped off by the KDP removing Gorran’s ministers from the KRG and refusing the speaker of parliament, a Gorran member from entering Irbil in October 2015. The KDP took over all of Gorran’s positions and the Kurdish parliament has not met since then. Eventually that brought the PUK and Gorran back together in a recently agreed upon alliance to oppose Barzani who they accuse of acting unilaterally on major decisions such as independence, and portraying himself as the only Kurdish leader. Barzani has also written off cooperation with the central government because he does not believe it ever follows through with any of its agreements with the KRG. The PUK and Gorran however are more open to accommodation with Baghdad marking the possible end of the Kurds united front in the capital. This crisis has left Kurdistan with no parliament, and an illegal presidency.

Iraq’s Sunnis have always been divided, but they are even more so now. In 2010 they coalesced around Iraqiya and Iyad Allawi and came in first in national elections that year. They were quickly torn apart by the maneuverings of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Today all of those coalition members are acting independently of each other. The Nujafi brothers’ Mutahidun are pushing Sunni federalism and victimization at the hands of the government’s forces. Allawi’s new Wataniya is part of the reform bloc in parliament that includes some Kurdish parliamentarians and ironically Maliki’s followers who together are trying to undermine Prime Minister Haidar Abadi. The Iraqi Islamic Party on the other hand has thrown in its lot with the premier thinking that aligning with the central government is the only way to gain concessions. Other leaders like Salah al-Mutlaq are still around, but with much less influence than they once had. This means Sunnis remain leaderless and still carry out contradictory policies towards Baghdad.

Finally, the Shiite parties are coming apart and facing future challenges as well. The election of Abadi split the Dawa Party in two between his faction and that of Nouri al-Maliki. The latter is constantly attempting to undermine the prime minister and has aligned himself with Iran and pro-Iranian Hashd groups such as Badr, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and others to plot his comeback. Moqtada al-Sadr attempted to strong arm Abadi and the entire political class to follow his lead by threatening them with mob rule if they didn’t listen when his movement co-opted the anti-corruption, pro-services protest movement and took over the Green Zone twice. Not only was no one willing to listen to Sadr, but it blew up parliament as a result, which did not meet for several months afterward. Sadr also stands opposed to Maliki’s return and his allies, many of which broke away from the Sadr movement. They all have a long history of not only competing for votes amongst the same constituency but armed confrontations as well. That’s only likely to increase as many of those Hashd groups want to turn their prowess on the battlefield against the Islamic State and the high esteem they have amongst the Shiite community into political power in the next round of elections. Ammar Hakim and his Supreme Council at one time threw their lot behind Abadi, but then became frustrated by his announcing major decisions like merging ministries and appointing technocrats without consulting with them. They along with Sadr are also worried about their potential loss at the ballot box to the Hashd. The Shiite parties were never a monolithic force, and these differences existed for years. However, they often came together on major issues. Now they are all competing with each other. Not only that, but there is growing fear that these arguments could lead to political violence as happened before between Sadr and Badr and the Sadrists and Asaib Ahl Al-Haq.

This period of political upheaval came be traced back to two events, the concentration of power amongst Iraq’s leaders and the return of the Islamic State. First, when Maliki was premier he played divide and conquer and split the Sunni alliance behind Iraqiya, and they have never recovered since then. That’s actually not new as they were not that unified beforehand. Second, Maliki went after so many of his rivals amongst all the political factions that he ended up splitting his own Dawa party. His removal from power opened the door for the other leaders such as Sadr to make a play for leadership. Third, the war with IS has led to political aspirations amongst factions of the Hashd that threaten the established Shiite parties. Finally, Barzani’s unwillingness to make any concessions over his maintenance of the Kurdish presidency has brought the rival PUK and Gorran together to oppose him. All of these struggles along with the threat of future violence puts Iraqi politics in a dangerous place. There will likely be a long period of instability in both Baghdad and Irbil until the elite work out new alliances. That will make Iraqi politics even more fractious and dysfunctional than it already was.

SOURCES

Hassan, Hayman, “To Baghdad, Or Not To Baghdad? Bad Relationship With Central Govt. Threatens To Split Iraqi Kurdistan,” Niqash, 7/7/16

Al Mada, “Secret meetings to form new alliances to isolate the Sadrists and end the paralysis in parliament and the government,” 5/7/16

Rudaw, “Calls for resignation of parliament speaker still strong, Iraqi MP says,” 7/13/16

Salih, Mohammed, “How new alliance among Iraq’s Kurds might actually deepen divisions,” Al Monitor, 7/5/16

Sowell, Kirk, “Iraq’s Fake Populism and Anti-sectarianism,” Sada, 6/9/16

Monday, July 18, 2016

Security In Iraq, Jul 8-14, 2016


The Iraqi Security Forces made a significant victory in the second week of July 2016. They seized the air base in Qayara, which will be used as a launching pad for further operations into northern Ninewa province with the ultimate goal of taking Mosul. The Islamic State’s spring/Ramadan offensive finally came to an end as well.

There were just 125 security incidents reported in Iraq from July 8-14, 2016. That makes two weeks with very low numbers pointing to the Islamic State’s annual spring offensive having come to an end.

As usual, Baghdad had the most violence with 58 incidents. There were also 18 in Kirkuk, 16 in Diyala, 12 in Anbar, 9 in Salahaddin, 8 in Ninewa, 2 in Babil, 1 in Dhi Qar, and 1 in Wasit.

Those incidents led to 214 dead and 316 wounded. 1 Sahwa, 4 Hashd, 9 Peshmerga, 18 Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and 182 civilians were killed, and 2 Sahwa, 2 Peshmerga, 12 Hashd, 21 ISF and 279 Civilians were injured.

Baghdad had 94 deaths followed by 57 in Ninewa, 29 in Kirkuk, 17 in Diyala, 9 in Salahaddin, 4 in Babil, 3 in Anbar, and 1 in Wasit.

For the second week there were very few incidents in Anbar with just 12 total. Since Fallujah has been freed the number of attacks launched by the Islamic State have gone way down. Most of the those were in the Hit and Haditha districts in the west where the government’s forces are building up for a push towards the Syrian border where IS holds its past portions of the province. 3 police ended up dead, and one was wounded along with 3 Hashd. The government claimed it killed 5 suicide bombers and destroyed 14 car bombs during the week, but those numbers are regularly inflated. The government’s forces were still trying to clear the rural areas of central Anbar. During the week Albu Risha was freed for the second time this year. IS is constantly re-infiltrating the towns around the major urban areas leading to a back and forth fight for them. Also in Fallujah a member of the Anbar council accused elements of the Hashd of destroying mosques. Six were recently burned and destroyed according to the head of the Anbar council. Since the Islamic State routinely uses mosques it’s unclear whether these incidents were to destroy IEDs or acts of revenge.

Babil province had been very quiet for weeks, but from July 8-14 IS fired mortars at Musayib and killed a mukhtar in Iskandiriya leaving a total of 4 dead.

The Islamic State remained focused upon terrorist and insurgent attacks upon Baghdad. There were 58 incidents leading to 94 deaths and 280 injured. That was actually a decrease in violence compared to previous weeks. During the spring campaign Baghdad was averaging over 10 incidents a day compared to 8 this week. 2 car bombs hit the city, both in Rashidiya, one of the rural towns in the north leaving 20 dead and 60 wounded. IS also launched four suicide bombers against a checkpoint in Taji. Three of the bombers were killed, but one was able to detonate his device.

The center of attacks shifted from the southern section of the province with 19 incidents to the north, 22 incidents. Those were evenly split between the outer towns and the city itself. There were another 9 in the east, 7 in the west, and 1 in the center.

Violence In Baghdad, July 8-14, 2016
Center: 1 – 1 Shooting
East: 8 – 2 Robberies, 2 Shootings, 4 IEDs
Outer East: 1 – 1 IED
North: 11 – 1 Sticky Bomb, 2 Kidnappings, 3 IEDs, 5 Shootings
Outer North: 11 – 1 Suicide Bomber, 1 Sticky Bomb, 1 Shooting, 2 Suicide Car Bombs, 3 Suicide Bombers Killed, 6 IEDs
South: 10 – 3 Shootings, 7 IEDs
Outer South: 9 – 1 Sticky Bomb 8 IEDs
West: 4 – 1 Shooting, 3 IEDs
Outer West: 3 – 3 IEDs

In southern Iraq there are occasional acts of political violence. This week that took place in Dhi Qar where the offices of Asaib Ahl Al-Haq were hit by an IED.

Diyala continued to have increased insurgent activity. There were 16 incidents leading to 17 dead and 7 wounded. A car bomb was found and dismantled in Muqtadiya showing that IS was still attempting mass casualty attacks in the province. The other attacks were the usual mix of shootings and IEDs. IS is mostly using Diyala as a base for its attacks upon Baghdad. The last few car bombs including the Karrada one all originated from the governorate.

There was a large amount of violence in Kirkuk during the week. Usually there are just single digit number of incidents. From July 8-14 there were 18. There was a large number of shootings, 8, and two sticky bombs as well. In total 29 people died and 8 were injured.

The Iraqi forces made major gains in Ninewa. They seized the Qayara air base and freed five towns in the district. This was important for a number of reasons. First, the base is going to be used by the Iraqis and Americans to launch further operations heading towards Mosul. The U.S. is hoping to clean up the airfields and used them for not only attack aircraft but supply planes as well. Second, the move cut off the Hawija district in Kirkuk from IS’s major supply lines to its territory in Ninewa. Third it allowed the Iraqi forces pushing from southern and eastern Ninewa to link up. Fourth, IS hardly put up a fight for the area and seemed in general disarray as they retreated. This is a marked change from previous battles where IS tended to fight very hard before either dying or withdrawing. The militants also executed 65 people during the week, 34 in in the Qayara district.

After a burst of violence over the last two weeks, Salahaddin seemed to calm down during the second week of July. IS attempted to launch some attacks upon the Iraqi forces in Shirqat, which is the last bastion the group still holds in the governorate. It also launched a car bomb and 2 suicide bombers outside of Tikrit, which showed that it was active again in that district once again after it was freed.

For the second week there was an incident in Wasit. This time a policeman was shot and killed. It’s unclear if that was an insurgent attack or something else.

The Baghdad car bombs were the only successful ones during the week. The government said it destroyed another 19.

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
Apr 22-28
160
413
524
Apr 29-30
30
61
121
APR
599
1,420
1,722
May 1-7
160
325
420
May 8-14
141
311
674
May 15-21
121
349
604
May 22-28
142
200
397
May 29-31
83
119
313
MAY
647
1,304
2,408
Jun 1-7
162
389
1,738
Jun 8-14
132
234
461
Jun 15-21
148
352
497
Jun 22-28
119
277
362
Jun 29-30
36
409
125
JUN
598
1,666
6,315
Jul 1-7
114
463
633
Jul 8-14
125
214
316

Security By Province July 8-14, 2016
Province
Incidents
Anbar
12 Incidents
3 Killed: 3 ISF
4 Wounded: 1 ISF, 3 Hashd
5 Shootings
1 IED
5 Suicide Bombers Killed
14 Car Bombs Destroyed
Babil
2 Incidents
4 Killed: 4 Civilians
1 Shooting
1 Mortar
Baghdad
58 Incidents
94 Killed: 1 Sahwa, 1 Hashd, 11 ISF
280 Wounded: 2 Sahwa, 12 ISF, 266 Civilians
13 Shootings
35 IEDs
3 Sticky Bombs
1 Suicide Bomber
2 Suicide Car Bombs
3 Suicide Bombers Killed
Dhi Qar
1 Incident
1 IED
Diyala
16 Incidents
17 Killed: 2 ISF, 15 Civilians
7 Wounded: 3 ISF, 4 Civilians
9 Shootings
4 IEDs
1 Mortar
1 Car Bombs Dismantled
Kirkuk
18 Incidents
29 Killed: 1 ISF, 2 Peshmerga, 26 Civilians
8 Wounded: 1 Peshmerga, 7 Civilians
8 Shootings
1 IED
2 Sticky Bombs
1 Mortar
Ninewa
8 Incidents
57 Killed: 5 Peshmerga, 52 Civilians
7 Wounded: 2 Civilians, 5 ISF
5 Shootings
1 IED
1 Rocket
1 Mortar
1 Suicide Bomber Killed
2 Car Bombs Destroyed
Salahaddin
9 Incidents
9 Killed: 2 Peshmerga, 3 Hashd, 4 Civilians
10 Wounded: 1 Peshmerga, 9 Hashd
2 Shootings
2 IEDs
1 Rockets
1 Mortar
6 Suicide Bombers Killed
1 Suicide Car Bomb Destroyed
1 Car Bomb Destroyed
Wasit
1 Incident
1 Killed: 1 ISF
1 Shooting

Car Bombs In Iraq July 2016
Date
Car Bombs
Dead
Wounded
Jul 1
Sheikh Ali, Taloul al-Baj, Salahaddin – 9 destroyed


Jul 2
Khalidiya Island, Anbar – 4 destroyed
Tal Skurf, Ninewa – 5 destroyed
Makhoul, Salahaddin – 1 destroyed


Jul 3
Karrada, Baghdad
Jawaanh, Anbar – 3 destroyed
292
200
Jul 4
Khan Bani Saad & north of Baquba, Diyala – 2 destroyed
Makhoul, Salahaddin – 1 destroyed


Jul 5
Haditha Dist, Anbar – 2 destroyed


Jul 6
Jazeera, Anbar – 3 destroyed
Shirqat, Salahaddin - 2 destroyed


Jul 7



Totals
1 – 32 Destroyed
292
200
Jul 8
Hit, Anbar – 4 destroyed
Alam & Shirqat, Salahaddin – 2 Destroyed


Jul 9



Jul 10



Jul 11
Muqtadiya, Diyala – 1 Destroyed


Jul 12
Rashidiya, Baghdad
12
37
Jul 13
Rashidiya, Baghdad
Albu Alwan & Hit, Anbar – 5 Destroyed
8
23
Jul 14
Hit, Anbar – 5 Destroyed
Qayara, Ninewa – 2 Destroyed


Totals
2 – 18 Destroyed
20
60

SOURCES

AIN, “Urgent parliamentary defense committee: Karrada bomb not discovered by sniffer dogs at checkpoint,” 7/12/16

Alsumaria, "Anbar operations announces freeing region of Albu Risha north of Ramadi," 7/8/16

Buratha News, "A car bomb driven by a terrorist targeting the joint forces in the area Tlul Alpag, northern Salahuddin," 7/8/16
- "The martyrdom of three women in the fall of mortar shells in the residential area in Musayyib," 7/13/16

Iraq Oil Report, "IS in disarray in Qayarah after Iraqis push north of key air base," 7/11/16
- “As wellheads burn, Iraqi forces retake Qayarah air base,” 7/11/16

Al Jazeera, "Iraq: ISIL claims deadly checkpoint attack near Baghdad," 7/13/16

Lamothe, Dan and Morris, Loveday, “Pentagon will send hundreds more troops to Iraq following seizure of key airfield,” Washington Post, 7/11/16

Al Maalomah, "15 Daash members killed and four car bombs destroyed western Anbar," 7/8/16
- "29 Daash killed and the destruction of five car bombs in aerial attacks west of Ramadi," 7/14/16
- "Anbar security: the destruction of two car bombs and the dismantling of hundreds of improvised explosive devices in homes west of Fallujah," 7/13/16
- "The dismantling of a car bomb amid Muqdadiyah," 7/11/16
- "Foiled Daash attack in Alam district southern Salahaddin," 7/8/16

Al Masalah, "Aircraft destroyed vehicles and car bombs western Anbar," 7/13/16

NINA, "/4/ suicide bomber killed in one of the checkpoints in Taji area north of Baghdad," 7/13/16
- "A bomb explosion in front of Asaib Ahl Al-Haq office in Shatra north of Nasiriyah without losses," 7/10/16
- "Gunmen Kills A Policeman North Of Kut," 7/10/16
- "The injury of a Mukhtar in Alexandria area north of Babylon by gunmen," 7/10/16
- "Urgent…/18/ terrorists killed, two car bombs destroyed in the houses of the air base near Qayyarah," 7/14/16

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, "At Least 12 Killed By Bombings In, Around Baghdad," 7/13/16

Reuters, “Iraqi forces link up south of Mosul, tightening noose around Islamic State,” 7/13/16

Rudaw, “Shiite militia accused of destroying mosques in Fallujah,” 7/9/16

Salaheddin, Sinan, "Iraq PM Says Key Base taken Back From Islamic State," Associated Press, 7/9/16
- "Iraq: Suicide Bombing in Baghdad Shiite District Kills 12," Associated Press, 7/12/16

Sotaliraq, “Popular crowd: accusations of demolishing mosques in Fallujah untrue,” 7/10/16