Thursday, December 31, 2015

Autumn 2015 Iraq Opinion Poll The Security Front

The latest Iraqi public opinion poll covered three major topics, the second of which was the security situation in the country. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research conducted the poll from August to September 2015 querying 2,000 Iraqis from all parts of the country. The war was by far the most important issue according to the Iraqis questioned. Confidence in the security forces was split along ethnosectarian lines, and most believed that the conflict would last at least another year.

When asked what were the most important issues facing the government security was number one. Nearly half of respondents, 48% said that topic was the biggest issue facing Iraq. With the war still raging in central and western Iraq and Mosul and most of Anbar province still under the Islamic State’s control it was no surprise that Iraqis felt that way. Violence has actually been a pressing issue since early 2013 when the insurgency began picking up after its nadir in 2008-2009. However compared to December 2014 security declined 13% in importance due to improvement in the south. When broken down by region every part of Iraq except the south believed that security was deteriorating. In Baghdad 59% said worse compared to 19% better. In the west 78% said worse, 6% better, and even in Kurdistan 63% responded worse, 31% better. The south was the one exception with 43% feeling security had gotten worse, but 53% felt that it was better. After Mosul fell in June 2014 there was widespread belief that Baghdad would be attacked, which would open the way to the rest of the country. That didn’t happen however and most people in places like Basra, Dhi Qar, Maysan, etc. now feel relatively secure that IS is not able to reach their provinces leading to the responses in the survey.

Which 2 issues are the most important for the government to address?
Security 48%
Corruption 43%
Basic Services 37%
Jobs 30%
Displaced 15%
Sectarianism 12%
High Prices 5%
Education 3%
Central Government-Kurdistan dispute 2%

How important is security for the government to deal with?
June 2012 27% Important
April 2013 31% Important
September 2013 50% Important
February 2014 52% Important
December 2014 61% Important
September 2015 48% Important

Is security getting better or worse?
Baghdad 59% Worse, 19% Better
South 43% Worse, 53% Better
West 78% Worse, 6% Better
Kurdistan 63% Worse, 31% Better

Each major group in Iraq felt differently about the security forces. While 54% said that they trusted the Iraqi army compared to 22% for local forces or 21% both/neither that was skewed by the responses by Shiites. For that group 66% believed that the army protected them, while only 22% of Sunnis did and 12% of Kurds. For Sunnis they were almost evenly split between local forces, 37%, and the army, 34%. Only 8% of Kurds were confident in the army against 64% for local forces meaning the Peshmerga. Another factor was that the three groups saw the composition of the army differently. 60% believed that the army represented all Iraqis against 29% who said it only represented Shiites. Again that was due to 90% of Shiites feeling the army was national in character. The Sunnis and Kurds however thought that the armed forces were Shiite at 58% and 60% respectively. For Sunnis their loyalties were almost evenly split between the armed forces and tribal fighters. They might have had an even better opinion of the army, but it was widely believed that former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki purged Sunni officers for loyalists, and then Abadi got rid of Maliki’s men to put in his own. Kurds didn’t look upon the army positively at all given their regions’ history of conflict with the central government. Instead they put their confidence in the Peshmerga.

Who do you trust to keep you safe the Iraqi army or local forces?
Overall 54% Army, 21% Both/neither, 22% Local forces
Shiites 66% Army, 22% Both/neither, 12% Local forces
Sunnis 34% Army, 23% Both/neither, 37% Local forces
Kurds 8% Army, 13% Both/neither, 64% Local forces

Does the army represent all Iraqis or only Shiites?
Overall 60% All Iraqis, 29% Only Shiites
Shiites 90% All Iraqis, 7% Only Shiites
Sunnis 29% All Iraqis, 58% Only Shiites
Kurds 14% All Iraqis, 60% Only Shiites

The Hashd al-Shaabi were seen largely the same way as the army. When asked who did they trust to provide security the army or Hashd the army just inched out the Hashd because of Sunni respondents. Overall, 35% said the army would do the best job, but the Hashd were right there with 31%. Another 25% said both or neither. The army was able to come out ahead because 48% of Sunnis said they would prefer it over the Hashd, 27%. 45% of Shiites on the other hand liked the Hashd more than the army at 30%. Kurds didn’t like either one with 0% saying the army, 1% saying the Hashd and 32% both/neither. Many Sunnis have a negative opinion of the Hashd seeing them as a sectarian Shiite force carrying out mass arrests and destroying property. That opinion is shared by the Kurds as well. The Peshmerga and Hashd have clashed in several areas in Diyala and Salahaddin, and the Kurds believe that the two sides will eventually challenge each other in the future for control of the disputed territories. That leads the Hashd to be seen as a threat. To Shiites the Hashd came to the rescue when Mosul fell and are believed to be protectors of the nation.

Who do you trust more to provide security the army or the Hashd al-Shaabi?
Overall 35% Army, 31% Hashd, 25% Both/neither
Shiites 30% Army, 45% Hashd, 23% Both/neither
Sunnis 48% Army, 4% Hashd, 27% Both/neither
Kurds 0%, 1% Hashd, 32% Both/Neither

Even with those divided opinions a majority of Iraqis believed that the Hashd should be used in the fight against the Islamic State. 81% of Iraqis said that the Hashd be utilized in the war. Unsurprisingly 99% of Shiites supported the idea, as well as 50% of Sunnis versus 42% being opposed. Kurds on the other hand felt the opposite with 80% being against, and 6% for. The next question was how important people felt about the Hashd participating in the fight against IS. 81% said it was very to somewhat important. 100% of Shiites felt that way, 52% of Sunnis and only 5% of Kurds. Again, many Kurds were thinking about Iraq after the war and had strong trepidations about the Hashd, and do not want to see its influence grow fighting the Islamic State. Even though many Sunnis believed the Hashd were a Shiite force around half still wanted them to help in the war effort.

Do you support or oppose the use of the Hashd in the fight against IS?
Overall 81% Support, 16% Oppose
Shiites 99% Support, 1% Oppose
Sunnis 50% Support, 42% Oppose
Kurds 6% Support, 80% Oppose

How important are the Hashd to the fight against IS?
Overall 81% Very/Somewhat Important, 15% Little/Not important
Shiites 100% Very/Somewhat Important, 0% Little/Not important
Sunnis 52% Very/Somewhat Important, 41% Little/Not important
Kurds 5% Very/Somewhat Important, 78% Little/Not important

Most Iraqis believed that the war would last at least a year. People were given five options on how long they believed it would take beat IS. 22% of Shiites, 4% of Sunnis and 3% of Kurds thought it would take 6 months. 31% of Shiites, 15% of Sunnis and 7% of Kurds picked 6-12 months. Most seemed to believe it would take 1-2 years, which 23% of Shiites, 24% of Sunnis, and 17% of Kurds selected. More Sunnis, 30%, and Kurds, 41% however thought it would take 2 or more years versus just 6% of Shiites. There was also a minority who said the war would never end, 1% of Shiites, 5% of Sunnis, and 14% of Kurds. Despite the huge shock of losing Mosul and Tikrit in the summer of 2014 Iraqis seemed to have calmed down and now see the war as something that is finite, meaning that it will eventually end in a few years if not sooner.

How long do you think it will take to defeat IS?
Within 6 months 22% Shiites, 4% Sunnis, 3% Kurds
6-12 months 31% Shiites, 15% Sunnis, 7% Kurds
1-2 years 23% Shiites, 24% Sunnis, 17% Kurds
2 years or more 6% Shiites, 30% Sunnis, 41% Kurds
Never 1% Shiites, 5% Sunnis, 14% Kurds

The Islamic State exacerbated existing fissures within Iraqi society, which were shown in the poll. Respondents for example saw the army and Hashd through an ethnosectarian lense with the Shiites preferring the army and Hashd, against the Sunnis and Kurds who preferred their own forces. There was also a few seeming contradictions. For one, the security situation was seen as getting worse, but most believed that the war would end sooner rather than later. Sunnis and Kurds didn’t like the Hashd but more than half of the former thought they were needed in the fight. What these results show is the complexity of Iraqi society. Things are not as clear cut as they seem. Yes, there are ethnosectarian differences, but they do not always play out as people would think.


Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, “Lack of Responsiveness Impacts Mood, August-September 2015 Survey Findings,” 11/23/15

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Autumn 2015 Iraq Public Opinion Poll: PM Abadi Widely Popular Not So Much Rest Of Government

In December 2015 Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research released a new public opinion poll on Iraq. The company has done several such surveys over the last couple years, and the data is some of the most comprehensive available on how Iraqis are feeling about their country. The survey was done from August 12 to September 3 and included 2,000 people from all major regions of the country. The results showed that Prime Minister Haidar Abadi was still widely popular in Iraq, far above any other national leader. On the other hand, the public had a low opinion of the ruling parties and government in general, and had different thoughts on what needed to be fixed in the country apart from what politicians talk about.

Prime Minister Haidar Abadi was by far the most popular politician in the poll. He had an approval rating of 65%, and 58% of respondents said they wanted to continue in the direction he was leading the country. The only region that disagreed was Kurdistan with only 14% agreeing with the premier. In comparison, in Baghdad and the south 76% wanted to follow Abadi, and 42% in western Iraq. When compared to other national leaders the prime minister also had the highest rating with 54% versus 30% for Muqtada al-Sadr, 17% for Ammar Hakim head of the Supreme Council, 16% for ex-Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, 15% for Kurdish President Massoud Barzani, 11% for Speaker of Parliament Salim Jabouri, 10% for former VP Iyad Allawi, 9% for Iraq’s President Fuad Masum, and 5% for dismissed VP Osama Nujafi. When broken down by sect 75% of Shiites approved of the prime minister and 39% for Sunnis versus 34% unfavorable. Only Kurdish respondents had a bad view of him at 82% unfavorable. Abadi came in with a very positive approval rating when he was first elected in December 2014 at 75%. Even though it dipped after that he was still far above any other politician. August when the survey was done was also when the premier announced his reform program in response to national protests, and that could have maintained his support. The low rating amongst Kurds was likely due to Baghdad’s on going dispute with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over the budget and oil exports.

Do you approve/disapprove of the job PM Abadi is doing?
65% Approve
29% Disapprove

I want to continue in the direction PM Abadi is taking Iraq versus I want to go in a different direction than the PM
Overall 58% Follow PM, 21% Different Direction
Baghdad 76% Follow PM, 8% Different Direction
South 76% Follow PM, 11% Different Direction
West 42% Follow PM, 17% Different Direction
Kurdistan 14% Follow PM, 77% Different Direction

How do you feel about Iraq’s political leaders?
Abadi 54% Favorable, 31% Unfavorable
Sadr 30% Favorable, 45% Unfavorable
Hakim 17% Favorable, 57% Unfavorable
Maliki 16% Favorable, 73% Unfavorable
M. Barzani 15% Favorable, 68% Unfavorable
Jabouri 11% Favorable, 63% Unfavorable
Allawi 10% Favorable, 75% Unfavorable
Masum 9% Favorable, 68% Unfavorable
O. Nujafi 5% Favorable, 79% Unfavorable

Opinion of PM Abadi by sect
Shiites 75% Favorable, 15% Unfavorable
Sunnis 39% Favorable, 34% Unfavorable
Kurds 5% Favorable, 82% Unfavorable

The survey showed the majority of Iraqis had a very low opinion of the country’s ruling parties. The Badr organization had the most favorable responses at 36% with 43% not liking the party. After that Sadr’s Ahrar bloc had 20% favorable 49% unfavorable, Abadi’s Dawa came in with 18% favorable 57% unfavorable, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan had 15% favorable 56% unfavorable, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) 14% favorable 57% unfavorable, the Kurdistan Democratic Party 14% favorable 59% unfavorable, Gorran came in with 11% favorable 62% unfavorable, Nujafi’s Mutahidun had 10% favorable 66% unfavorable, and Allawi’s Iraqi Nationalists finished with 6% favorable 71% unfavorable. After the fall of Mosul in June 2014 the Badr Organization was quick to respond with its militia, which became part of the Hashd al-Shaabi/Popular Mobilization units, while its leader Hadi Ameri took a commanding role in security operations. That probably accounts for why his party had the best rating out of the ruling parties. Still they were all held in low regard.

Favorable/Unfavorable View Of Iraq’s Political Parties
Badr 36% Favorable, 43% Unfavorable
Ahrar 20% Favorable, 49% Unfavorable
Dawa 18% Favorable, 57% Unfavorable
PUK 15% Favorable, 56% Unfavorable
ISCI 14% Favorable, 57% Unfavorable
KDP 14% Favorable, 59% Unfavorable
Gorran 11% Favorable, 62% Unfavorable
Mutahidun 10% Favorable, 66% unfavorable
Iraqi Nationalists 6% Favorable, 71% Unfavorable

Despite Abadi’s high rating the majority of people believed that the country was going in the wrong direction. 65% felt that way compared to 26% who thought Iraq was heading the right way. Since 2012 most Iraqis had a negative opinion of the way the nation was heading. The easiest way to explain the pessimistic responses in 2015 would be to blame the war against the Islamic State. Since the feelings were steady for several years however other issues were probably at play, which led to the next question.

Is Iraq going in the right or wrong direction?
Nov 2010: 45% Right, 44% Wrong
Aug 2011: 37% Right, 50% Wrong
Nov 2012: 40% Right, 54% Wrong
Sep 2013: 31% Right, 65% Wrong
Dec 2014: 34% Right, 55% Wrong
Sep 2015: 26% Right, 65% Wrong

When asked what were the most important topics the government needed to deal with security and corruption were at the top of the list. Security was at 48% followed by corruption at 43%. After that services, 37%, jobs, 30% were the next highest. The displaced, sectarianism, inflation, schools, and the Baghdad-Irbil dispute all received 15% or less showing they were not major concerns. Instead, the war, graft, and the lack of opportunities and services were what Iraqis believed were the most pressing issues. That’s been true for the last decade as the insurgency rose and fell and returned, while the government has never been able to resolve chronic shortages in things like electricity in part due to the widespread theft amongst government officials.

What two issues are the most important for the government to address?
Security 48%
Corruption 43%
Basic services 37%
Jobs/unemployment 30%
Internally displaced 15%
Sectarianism 12%
High prices 5%
Education 3%
Central government-KRG dispute 2%

Few believed that the authorities were dealing with these problems. When asked how had the government responded to people’s needs three out of four regions said worse with the south at 68%, the west 50%, and Kurdistan 85%. Only in Baghdad did 37% say better versus 35% worse. Those were all higher than when people were asked that same questions in December 2014 showing growing frustration. Likewise, provincial governments did no better with 59% saying worse in Baghdad, 72% worse in the south, 66% worse in the west, and 70% worse in Kurdistan. Again, those were all worse then December 2014 with the exception of Kurdistan that was up 6%. This ties in with the low opinion of Iraq’s leaders and parties. Iraqis didn’t believe that their needs were being met, and blamed their representatives.

Is the government responsive to the people’s needs?
Baghdad 35% Worse, 37% Better
South 68% Worse, 24% Better
West 50% Worse, 20% Better
Kurdistan 85% Worse, 9% Better

Is the local government responsive to the people’s needs?
Baghdad 59% Worse, 33% Better
South 72% Worse, 22% Better
West 66% Worse, 21% Better
Kurdistan 70% Worse, 23% Better

Two solutions that have been proposed to help resolve Iraq’s chronic violence and political discord are to pass laws aimed at reconciliation and decentralize power neither of which rated well with respondents. When asked which law was the most important to be passed for political accommodation none of the three major ones before parliament seemed important. The Amnesty Law that would deal with prisoners got the most positive results, but that only stood at 26%. Even amongst Sunnis it only got 36%. The Federal Court law that would reform the judiciary received 16% and the National Guard Law that would create new regional defense units got 12%. Premier Abadi has tried to push the latter as a means to include Sunni forces into the government, but just 10% of Sunni respondents in the poll believed it was necessary. When the topic of giving the provinces more power was brought up it didn’t fare any better. Only 18% thought that would be very effective in solving problems with 54% saying somewhat. When asked what would be the best way to accomplish political reconciliation decentralizing power to the governorates the numbers went down to 14% thinking it would be very effective and 43% somewhat. This has been something that Abadi has pushed as well and the provincial councils have been lobbying for years for.

Which of the following laws before parliament are the most important to achieve political accommodation?

Amnesty Law
Overall 26%
Shiites 27%
Sunnis 35%
Kurs 9%

Federal Court Law
Overall 16%
Shiites 21%
Sunnis 5%
Kurds 15%

National Guard Law
Total 12%
Shiites 13%
Sunnis 10%
Kurds 11%

What are the most important ways to achieve reconciliation in Iraq?
Fair judicial process 49% Very Effective, 78% Somewhat Effective
Improving economy 38% Very Effective, 73% Somewhat Effective
Equitable sharing of resources amongst sects 37% Very Effective, 76% Somewhat
Equitable sharing of political power among sects 34% Very Effective, 80% Somewhat
Giving provinces more power 18% Very Effective, 54% Somewhat Effective
Decentralizing power to provincial governments 14% Very Effective, 43% Somewhat

What are the most important ways to achieve reconciliation in Iraq by sect
Fair judicial process Shiites 51%, Sunnis 59%, Kurds 27%
Improving economy Shiites 37%, Sunnis 40%, Kurds 37%
Equitable sharing of resources amongst sects Shiites 33%, Sunnis 52%, 19% Kurds
Equitable sharing of political power among sects Shiites 36%, Sunnis 40%, Kurds 19%
Giving provinces more power Shiites 20%, Sunnis 14%, Kurds 20%
Decentralizing power to provincial governments Shiites 11%, Sunnis 16%, Kurds 26%

For Sunnis the two most important issues were a fair judiciary, 59%, and equitable sharing of resources amongst the country’s sects, 52%. Mass arrests and prisoners being held indefinitely without warrants or after release orders have been issued have been long time complaints by the community as they feel like they are facing group punishment by the government. That would be partly dealt with by the Amnesty Law, which was why it received the highest importance from Sunni respondents amongst the three bills asked about. The sharing of resources and political power, which was at 40% amongst Sunnis ties in with the sects’ belief that they have gotten the short end of the stick by the Shiite parties since 2003. Even though government offices are all doled out by quotas and Sunni parties have been given a mix of meaningful, speaker of parliament, and symbolic positions, vice president, and a larger percentage of posts within each administration then their percentage in the population that has not changed the widespread belief that they have been marginalized. That applies to sharing the country’s oil wealth and development as well. How or even if these feelings can be overcome is one of the questions Iraq has struggled with for over a decade now and may not be resolvable since some Sunnis will not be happy until they rule the country once more.

For Shiites the two biggest issues were a fair judiciary as well, 51%, and improving the economy, 37%. Many see Iraqi courts as being corrupt and pliant to the ruling parties, and they also turn a blind eye to the institutionalized abuse that takes place for anyone that is arrested in order to obtain a confession. The judiciary for example, was a major point for protests that started across Iraq during the summer. The fact that the Federal Court law was not seen as an effective way to deal with this problem by both Sunnis and Shiites may reflect the fact that they don’t believe it will address the root problems with the judicial system. The economy is also stagnating due to the drop in oil prices. Since Iraq is a petroleum dependent country it has little leverage to pull itself out of this problem as it is dealing with forces outside of its control.

Finally, for Kurds the two top priorities were improving the economy, 37%, and equitable sharing of political power, 36%. Kurdistan’s economy has been hit even harder than the rest of the country because former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stopped sending the region its share of the budget due to the dispute over who should control oil resources in 2014. While budget payments were temporarily revived under Abadi when a new agreement was made, that fell apart as well. In turn, that has meant the regional government has not been able to pay its workers for months nor the oil companies that it depends on to develop its energy sector that is paying the bills. Like the rest of Iraq the KRG is an oil dependent and public sector heavy economy meaning that any changes in the petroleum industry trickles down to all segments of the population. The Kurds also feel that they are not getting their fair share of power in Baghdad due to the Shiite parties. This hit a low point with the Maliki administration who directly challenge the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over a number of issues, and those negative feelings have carried over to Abadi. Like the Sunnis these perceptions are hard to change.

What these results show is that what has been bandied about both within and without Baghdad as some steps to resolve the country’s problems are not seen as important by the public. It also highlights that there are some issues upon which both Sunnis and Shiites agree upon like fixing the judiciary that the ruling parties could work on that would find widespread support. Then again there are more intractable disputes such as power sharing that are likely to go nowhere as both Sunnis and Kurds believe they are not getting enough positions as they are due, while Shiites think they have enough or even too much. The fact that so many Iraqis have a very low opinion of their government and the people elected to run it means they have little faith that these problems will be properly addressed anytime soon. Overall, Iraqis seemed to be very dissatisfied about their nation with few exceptions. That explains why there have been protests almost every year in the country that only gain token responses from the country’s leaders. Sadly the ruling parties are more concerned with preserving their own power and thinking of politics as a zero sum game where no concessions can be given to their rivals that blocks almost all serious work from being done other than what is necessary such as passing a budget so that things can keep running as they are. Until that changes many Iraqis will continue to feel frustrated.


Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, “Lack of Responsiveness Impacts Mood, August-September 2015 Survey Findings,” 11/23/15

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Liberation Of Iraq’s Ramadi And What Comes Next

Both the taking of Ramadi by the Islamic State and its recapture by the Iraqi forces were a long time coming. IS attacked the city for almost a year, while the operation to free it took five months. The aftermath of securing the area, re-establishing governance and services will take even longer. Despite these difficulties the liberation of Ramadi was a huge setback for the militants proving that they lack the resources to hold urban areas in Iraq, and a boost for the Iraqi government that was severely criticized for losing the city in the first place.

Both before and after the summer 2014 offensive, which saw the seizure of Mosul and Tikrit, the Islamic State remained focused upon Anbar and its capital Ramadi. The province was one of its major bases, and was the first place it seized territory when the insurgency was reborn. Its Sunni population and its tribes were also seen as an enticing base for the organization to build within. The final push that took Ramadi came in two waves. First, in mid-April IS started a new series of attacks, which led to the seizure of several neighborhoods. On April 16 a security source told the National Iraqi News Agency that 70% of the city was under IS control. The final assault came in mid-May. IS sent in reinforcements from Mosul and Salahaddin, and began with men dressed in military uniforms and driving Humvees to infiltrate the defenses, and then unleashed thirty suicide car bombs against the government complex in the downtown. The Iraqi Security Forces and allied tribes quickly crumbled, IS took the city, and immediately began executing people. This was a huge victory for IS. It solidified the group’s control over more than half of the governorate topped off by capturing the provincial capital. It also caused dissent amongst local tribes and undermined the government’s attempt to create a new Sahwa in Anbar. Ramadi was the birthplace of the Awakening and its loss was a sign that Baghdad could not protect its allies there. For example, several sheikhs accused the government of betraying them during the battle as they felt abandoned when the ISF pulled out of the city. Anbar’s tribes would only back the side that would stand by them to assure their self-preservation, and after Ramadi the government did not look like it could play that role.

There were also repercussions for Prime Minister Haider Abadi. First, he was talking about freeing all of Anbar after Tikrit was taken in March. Then Ramadi fell and his strategy looked like a failure. Second, even before Ramadi was lost the premier was coming under increasing pressure from Nouri al-Maliki and pro-Iranian Hashd groups such as Badr and Asaib Ahl Al-Haq (AAH). They complained they were being kept out of the Ramadi fight, and being constrained in Anbar overall even though they were already operating in places like Garma. Even though Abadi is commander and chief and the Hashd are supposed to be under his command Badr’s Hadi Ameri said they would fight in Anbar no matter what the premier said. Third, the Anbar provincial council undercut Abadi as well authorizing the Hashd to deploy to the governorate since it was shell shocked after the fall of Ramadi. Finally, members of the prime minister’s own Dawa Party and State of Law (SOL) list came out against him. One SOL parliamentarian said that IS’s victory in Ramadi proved that the United States was helping the insurgents, and that Iraq should turn towards Iran instead. A Dawa official claimed elements of the security forces and the tribes the Abadi was arming were working with IS. Abadi had been riding high just a few months beforehand when Iraqi forces retook Tikrit the first major city to be liberated from IS. Then he lost all of that prestige with Ramadi. Not only that it allowed his rivals like Maliki and Ameri to attack his governance, and his alliance with the Americans as everything was blamed on the two. That split continued as plans were made to retake the city.

The divide between Abadi and the pro-Iranian Hashd continued when the offensive to retake Ramadi began. Immediately after the city was taken the prime minister said there would be a swift response to liberate it. Ameri contradicted him by saying he had his own plan for Anbar, and that did not include going after Ramadi right away. Ameri’s strategy was quickly revealed to not include the city at all, but going for Fallujah instead. That meant the day the Ramadi offensive began the Hashd started their own one in Fallujah. Hashd leaders like Ameri were directly challenging Abadi’s leadership of not only security in Anbar, but the entire country. Ameri and others had already been calling for them to take over command of operations instead of the security forces. Now the fall of Ramadi gave them the opportunity to claim the premier had failed, and now they were going to bring victory to the province. Not only that, it split the forces that could have been arrayed against Ramadi. That hurt because the lack of manpower has been an on going dilemma for the Iraqi forces as they have not been able to hold many of the towns and suburbs that they cleared. In turn, the Hashd did not have the fighters to be successful in Fallujah either causing problems in both cities.

On the other hand, the United States stepped up its support to make sure that Ramadi would be retaken. U.S. advisers in Anbar helped plan the operation. The Americans trained the army units fighting for the city, and a new force of tribal fighters. Washington also wanted to keep the Hashd out of Ramadi to make sure that it was an Iraqi Security Forces’ (ISF) victory. That eventually happened as Hashd units left bases where U.S. advisers were working, and then a mass exodus occurred by October under pressure from Baghdad. An Iraq Oil Report article claimed there was an agreement between the Abadi government, the U.S. and the Hashd to withdraw from the operation. The Americans got their tribal fighters into the Hashd so that they could get paid. Finally, the U.S. fired artillery from bases they were stationed at and carried out air strikes to support the ISF’s advances. The Americans were determined that Ramadi would be liberated. They also wanted to make sure that it would help PM Abadi after all of the criticism he received for losing the city. That meant building up ISF and Sunni Hashd units to capture Ramadi, and pushing the Shiite Hashd out that were trying to undermine the premier. While much of this happened behind the scenes by the end of the battle the Iraqi papers were full of stories of U.S. special forces and helicopters taking part. It’s not clear how much the Americans were involved in end, but their influence was apparent to all especially to the pro-Iran Hashd who were opposed to their presence and assistance.

The final attack on Ramadi started on December 22. The elite Golden Division led the operation crossing a bridge that was construction by the ISF to cross the Warar canal into the center of the city. Iraqi police units came from a different direction. Five days later the Khalidiya Council said that IS was withdrawing to the east taking civilians with them as civilian shields. Then the next day the ISF declared victory and hoisted the Iraqi flag over the government center that was taken by the Islamic State seven months earlier. This was a huge accomplishment for the ISF, which had been humiliated back in May. Not only was it able to liberate the city, the ISF did it largely on their own with Shiite Hashd units mostly on the periphery. This helped PM Abadi as well because he could say his forces and leadership were the right way to take in the fight against IS unlike the pro-Iranian groups who quickly got bogged down in Fallujah, and worked against the Ramadi campaign from the start. Most importantly it exposed the Islamic State. The group can put up a grinding defense, but it lacks the fighters to hold any city against a large and determined government force. At the same time, reaching the middle of a city is only the start of the larger battle to rid Iraq of the insurgency.

The taking of the downtown was not the end of the struggle for Ramadi or against the Islamic State. There are still IS elements in many of the surrounding suburbs and towns and it has re-infiltrated into others. A member of the Anbar council said that there were insurgents in 25% of the city and in the outlaying region that would have to be dealt with. It will take a lot to permanently clear out these fighters, something the ISF has always struggled with. The government is trying to create a new police force to carry out these duties, but the numbers that have appeared in the press are nowhere close to what is required. There are also fears that tribes will want to exact revenge upon those who worked with IS. For example, there was a story that claimed that tribes had lists of collaborators. Carrying out vendettas will not help bring stability to the city or prove that the government is back in control. Last, 80% of the city is reportedly destroyed, and a member of the Anbar Council believed that it would take 10 years worth of budgets to rebuild it. None of these issues are easy to tackle. Fighting will continue in the city and its environs and could quickly deteriorate to what it was like right before the city fell with neighborhoods under IS control. The tribal vengeance can only be deterred if the government is strong, but it may not have the forces or judicial capacity to fully deal with the situation. Finally, real stability can not return to Ramadi until it is reconstructed, services are restored and the authorities have real power over the entire area. These are the challenges that lie ahead and could very well be replayed in future military operations in places like Fallujah and Mosul. If the government can’t get Ramadi right it may not be up to the task of providing real security to other cities after they are freed of IS in the future. The victory in the city therefore, brings both promise and peril that will play out in the coming months.


Arango, Tim, “ISIS Fighters Seize Government Headquarters in Ramadi, Iraq,” 5/15/15

BBC, “Islamic State crisis: Militants seize Ramadi stronghold,” 5/15/15
- “Ramadi battle: Shia militias near IS-held Iraqi city,” 5/18/15

Buratha News, “Anbar tribes put out a black list of Daash collaborators in the province,” 12/24/15

Burns, Robert, “US-trained Iraqi troops to join Ramadi counteroffensive,” Associated Press, 7/23/15

Gordon, Michael and Schmitt, Eric, “Iraqi Forces Plan Offensive to Retake Ramadi From ISIS,” New York Times, 7/6/15

Habib, Mustafa, “Fear And Loathing And Tricky Questions: Why The Offensive in Anbar, To Re-Take Ramadi, Isn’t Going Anywhere Fast,” Niqash, 11/26/15

Al Jazeera, “The withdrawal of hundreds of crowd fighters from Ramadi,” 8/30/15

Al Mada, “5 thousand fighters from Tikrit taking part in the Battle of Baiji along with the popular crowd and army and Hawija is the goal,” 10/14/15
- “Albu Alwan Fighters: Daash besieged government compound after entering the center of Ramadi,” 4/17/15
- “Anbar Council: 75% of Ramadi area cleared and 80% of the city destroyed,” 12/28/15
- “Anbar tribes waiting for “central plan” for freeing of Baiji and Ramadi,” 6/20/15
- “Dawa Party fall of Ramadi: the disappearance of 15,000 troops and Daash captured enough weapons to fight for a whole year,” 5/20/15

Mamoun, Abdelhak, “Anbar Council: ISIS destroys 80% of Ramadi, 10 years budget is needed to re-build the city,” Iraqi News, 12/26/15
- “URGENT: ISIS withdraws from Ramadi center, takes hundreds as hostages,” Iraqi News, 12/27/15

Naji, Jamal, Lando, Ben, “Anbar back in crosshairs of Iraqis and coalition,” Iraq Oil Report, 7/14/15

Naji, Jamal, Van Heuvelen, Ben, “Ramadi battles foreshadow bloody campaign for Anbar,” Iraq Oil Report, 4/10/15
- “Revived security forces advance on Ramadi,” Iraqi Oil Report, 10/10/15

NINA, “49 Citizens Killed, Wounded In Ramadi Battles, Security Source Says,” 4/16/15

Paraszczuk, Joanna, “Iraqi Soldier Says Ramadi Retreat In Face of IS Attack Prevented ‘Massacre,’” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 5/26/15

Prothero, Mitchel, “Islamic State consolidates grip on Ramadi: executions reported,” McClatchy Newspapers, 5/16/15
- “Islamic State routs last elite Iraqi units from Ramadi in huge defeat for Baghdad,” McClatchy Newspapers, 5/17/15

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Shi’ite Fighters Mass For Counterattack On IS-Held Ramadi,” 5/19/15

Radio Free Iraq, “13 July 2015,” Daily Updates from Anbar, 7/13/15
- “Pro-Government Shi’ite Militia Reinforces Ramadi Against IS Assault,’ 4/16/15

Salim, Mustafa and Morris, Loveday, “Iraqi forces storm downtown Ramadi in bid to oust Islamic State occupiers,” Washington Post, 12/22/15

Shafaq News, “Maliki’s coalition calls government to rely on Iranian advisers rather than Americans,” 5/19/15

Sotaliraq, “The popular crowd are busy fighting in Baiji and stationed near Fallujah after its removal from the liberation of Ramadi,” 10/10/15

Sowell, Kirk, “Abadi and the Militias’ Political Offensive,” Sada, 5/14/15

Spencer, Richard, “Americans cannot save Ramadi from Isil, Iraq’s strongman militia leader says,” Telegraph, 5/31/15

U.S. Department of State, “Background Briefing on Iraq,” 5/20/15

Xinhua, “IS militants capture government compound in Iraq’s Ramadi,” 5/15/15
- “IS militants seize new areas in Iraq’s Ramadi,” 4/15/15

Youssef, Nancy, “Iraqis Now Blaming U.S. for Losing Ramadi to ISIS,” Daily Beast, 5/21/15

Monday, December 28, 2015

Security In Iraq, Dec 15-21, 2015

The third week of December 2015 saw continued pushes by the government’s forces in Anbar and Salahaddin, and a new wave of attacks by the Islamic State in northern Iraq. The most successful of the former was in Ramadi where the joint forces were making their way towards downtown. The Fallujah operation led by the Hashd restarted after a 2 month hiatus. IS on the other hand went from probing actions against the Kurds to large scale attacks against them in Ninewa and Kirkuk. Despite that the momentum continued to be against the insurgents.

From December 15-21 there were 140 reported security incidents. There were 62 in Baghdad, 26 in Ninewa, 15 in Anbar and Salahaddin each, 7 in Diyala and 7 in Kirkuk, along with 6 in Babil and 2 in Basra. The 140 was up from 128 the second week of the month, and 118 the week before that, but not different from other weeks in recent months.

Those attacks led to 242 dead and 326 wounded. There were 20 Sahwa, 23 Peshmerga, 25 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), 33 Hashd, and 145 civilians killed, and 2 Sahwa, 11 Peshmerga, 23 Hashd, 34 ISF, and 178 injured. By province there were 74 fatalities in Anbar, 64 in Ninewa, 62 in Baghdad, 20 in Salahaddin, 17 in Kirkuk, 8 in Babil and 1 in Diyala.

Ramadi was where the heaviest fighting in the country was taking place. From December 15-21 the government’s forces were trying to consolidate their control over the perimeter of the city. There were operations in the Palestine Bridge, Albu Faraj, and Albu Diab all north of the city. These areas have changed hands several times and remain contested. IS was fighting back in those areas with over a dozen car bombs.

After two months of being dormant the Fallujah offensive restarted. The joint forces said they cleared Maamer to the south of the city even though fighting continued there afterward, and attacked Niamiya for the third time since July. The pro-Iranian Hashd groups started the Fallujah operation unilaterally despite Prime Minister Haider Abadi saying that Ramadi was going to be the focus after it fell to IS in May. It was attacked in July the same time as Ramadi and after some initial success quickly got bogged down in the surrounding towns before being shut down in October. The operation was supposed to show what the Hashd could do on its own without U.S. support and was an open challenge to Abadi’s leadership. It has not worked out as planned.

In recent weeks the Islamic State has increased its terrorist attacks in Baghdad to make up for its lack of offensive operations in the rest of the country. During the third week of December there were 62 incidents in the capital province, the most since the first week of May. The eastern section of the province had 19 incidents, followed by 17 in the south, 12 in the north, 8 in the west, and 6 in the center. In the east, there is always a mix of culprits. There were two sticky bombs that were probably the work of IS, but several bodies dumped in the district were probably done by vigilantes or Hashd groups. There was also a robbery by men in military uniforms showing the growing lawlessness in the country. That could have been common criminals or rogue elements of the ISF or Hashd. In the previous weeks the south had the most incidents. There IS has been more active with mortar fire on Arab Jabour, and sniper fire on a checkpoint in Dora. There was renewed activity in Abu Ghraib in the west as well with mortars on an army base, an IED on an army convoy, and a motorcycle bomb targeting a market. IS has attacked Baghdad for years hoping to stoke sectarian tensions and undermine the government.

Security Incidents In Baghdad, Dec 15-21, 2015
Center: 6: 1 - Grenade, 1 Shooting, 1 Sticky Bomb, 3 IEDs
East: 16: 1 - Robbery, 2 Sticky Bombs, 5 IEDs, 8 Shootings
Outer East: 3 – 1 Sticky Bomb, 2 IEDs
North: 8 – 2 Shootings, 2 Sticky Bombs, 4 IEDs
Outer North: 4 – 1 Shooting, 3 IEDs
South: 10 – 2 Shootings, 2 Sticky bombs, 6 IEDs
Outer South: 7 – 1 Mortar, 1 Shooting, 5 IEDs
West: 3 – 1 Robbery, 1 Kidnapping, 1 IED
Outer West: 5 – 1 Mortar, 1 Shooting, 1 Motorcycle Bomb, 2 IEDs

Diyala has been relatively quite lately. In September and October IS was setting off car bombs there nearly every week and there was a slew of mortar fire as well. That eventually ended, but the third week there were two days of mortars again.

Kirkuk has been one of the more secure provinces in central Iraq, but that ended recently. Starting on December 17 IS attacked Turkmen Hashd in Bashir. The next day it attacked the Peshmerga in two towns in Dibis and Hawija leaving 12 dead and wounded.

IS also began attacking the Kurds in Ninewa. December 16 seven towns were assaulted with 14 car bombs, 4 suicide bombers and mortars killing 12 Peshmerga including a general and 6 Yazidi fighters. The next day three more towns were attacked. December 18 13 Peshmerga died and 4 were injured in fighting in another town. December 19 two suicide bombers were used in an assault leaving 28 dead and 4 wounded Peshmerga, and then finally on December 20 the 13th town was targeted leaving 11 dead Peshmerga and 9 wounded. During the last winter IS attempted similar operations using the foggy conditions to sneak up to the frontlines and hoping that it would hide their movements from Coalition air strikes. Despite the heavy fighting the Kurds held their positions. During the 2014-15 winter IS launched a similar offensive in the north. It appears they are doing the same thing now.

The Peshmerga were not the only ones in Ninewa targeted during the week, the Bashiqa camp, which housed Turkish soldiers was hit for two days. On December 16 IS launched a huge rocket barrage on the base killing seven volunteers, and wounding four Turkish trainers and eleven volunteers. Two day later it was hit again injuring three more volunteers. The camp had recently caused a huge controversy between Baghdad and Ankara when the latter sent in a large military force without informing the Iraqi government. IS tried to exploit that publicity by firing on the base. Ironically elements of the Hashd claimed they were the ones that attacked the camp since they had led the protests against the Turkish presence there. 

On December 21 a U.S. air strike was blamed for killing 16 civilians and wounding 5 more in Mosul. The Americans were allegedly targeting a building used by IS leaders. The U.S. has been increasing its attacks in Iraq lately, so it was probably inevitable that something like this would happen.

IS executed 38 people in the Mosul area and Tal Afar. That included two Peshmerga, three families, five traders, and one imam. They also pushed 12 people off a tall building on December 19. Some have speculated that these murders are occurring because IS feels threatened by an eventual Mosul operation. It appears that this is actually part of their governance and punishments to enforce their control over the population and how they are following their Salafi beliefs.

Salahaddin had its usual mix of harassing attacks up and down the length of the province. Tarmiya and Taji are constantly hit by IEDs and shootings. IS fired rockets at Samarra on December 19. The militants also made probing attacks upon Alam just to the south of Tikrit, and there was continued clashes to the west of Samarra. The government are still fighting in the Makhoul Mountains to the northeast of Baiji, and clearing operation are on going in that district as well. This is significant as before the ISF and Hashd were only capable of carrying out one major operation at a time due to logistics and transportation problems. They are now fighting in both Ramadi and the greater Baiji area.

Finally, November was the last month of the IS car bomb campaign. Before December there were over 50 vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) per month. In the 1st week of December there were just 36, 37 the next week, and 49 the third. Another sign that the offensive was over was the fact that all the VBIEDs were in Anbar, 29, Ninewa, 15, and Salahaddin, 6, and used in military operations. Previously a number of governorates were hit in both military and terrorist attacks. The shift to the former accounts for the relatively low casualties these bombings caused during the week, 12 dead and 17 wounded. If those had gone off in civilian areas they would have left behind far more carnage. Another change is that despite the fewer VBIEDs being used, far more are hitting their target then before. From December 8-14 11 out of 26 found their targets, and then 12 out of 37 the next week. In previous months only 18% of the car bombs were successful.

Violence In Iraq By Week 2015
Jan 1-7
Jan 8-14
Jan 15-21
Jan 22-28
898 + 150
Jan 29-31
3,032 + 150
Feb 1-7
Feb 8-14
Feb 15-21
Feb 22-28
Mar 1-7
Mar 8-14
Mar 15-21
Mar 22-28
Mar 29-31
2,553 + 4
2,381 + 150
Apr 1-7
Apr 8-14
Apr 15-21
Apr 22-28
Apr 29-30
162 + 7
182 + 299
May 1-7
May 8-14
May 15-21
May 22-28
341 + 1,499
May 29-31
164 + 646
2,417 + 1,499
1,898 + 646
Jun 1-7
Jun 8-14
522 + 405
Jun 15-21
Jun 22-28
Jun 29-30
122 + 58
189 + 106
Jul 1-7
Jul 8-14
Jul 15-21
597 + 4,024
Jul 22-28
Jul 29-31
193 + 260
203 + 400
3,079 + 4,024
Aug 1-7
650 + 760
Aug 8-14
Aug 15-21
Aug 22-28
Aug 29-31
2,205 + 760
Sep 1-7
Sep 8-14
Sep 15-21
Sep 22-28
Sep 29-30
106 + 19
147 + 8
1,291 + 314
1,647 + 3,003
Oct 1-7
Oct 8-14
Oct 15-21
Oct 22-28
Oct 29-31
116 + 1
Nov 1-7
Nov 8-14
Nov 15-21
Nov 22-28
261 + 124 + 1,322
Nov 29-30
52 + 24
103 + 1
1,455 + 124 + 1,322
Dec 1-7
Dec 8-14
Dec 15-21
326 + 5,920

Security By Province Dec 2015
Dec 15-21
15 Incidents
17 Killed: 17 ISF
22 Wounded: 22 ISF
7 Shootings
1 Rockets
1 Mortar
1 Suicide Car Bomb
3 Suicide Bombers Killed
28 Suicide Car Bombs Destroyed
6 Incidents
3 Killed: 1 ISF, 2 Civilians
22 Wounded: 5 ISF, 17 Civilians
5 IEDs
62 Incidents
66 Killed: 3 Hashd, 13 ISF, 50 Civilians
194 Wounded: 5 Hashd, 15 ISF, 174 Civilians
16 Shootings
31 IEDs
8 Sticky Bombs
1 Motorcycle Bomb
1 Grenade
2 Mortars
2 Incidents
1 Killed: 1 Civilian
1 Shooting
7 Incidents
2 Killed: 2 Civilians
1 Wounded: 1 Civilian
2 IEDs
2 Mortars
7 Incidents
8 Killed: 3 Peshmerga, 5 Civilians
10 Wounded: 1 Hashd, 9 Peshmerga
6 Shootings
26 Incidents
131 Killed: 6 Yazidi Fighters, 7 Volunteers, 52 Civilians, 66 Peshmerga
50 Wounded: 4 Turkish Soldiers, 9 Civilians, 14 Volunteers, 23 Peshmerga
14 Shootings
15 IEDs
4 Suicide Bombers
2 Suicide Car Bombs
9 Car Bombs
1 Mortar
2 Rockets
4 Suicide Bombers Killed
1 Suicide Car Bomb Destroyed
3 Car Bombs Destroyed
15 Incidents
14 Killed: 3 Hashd, 5 ISF, 6 Civilians
27 Wounded: 7 Hashd, 9 ISF, 11 Civilians
7 Shootings
4 IEDs
1 Mortar
1 Rockets
1 Suicide Bomber Killed
5 Suicide Car Bomb Destroyed
1 Car Bomb Destroyed

Car Bombs In Iraq, December 2015
Dec 1

Dec 2
Baghdadi & Ramadi, Anbar – 2 destroyed

Dec 3
Albu Aetha & Hamidiya, Anbar – 5 destroyed

Dec 4
110 Kilo, Albu Faraj & Jeraishi, Anbar – 6 destroyed

Dec 5
35 Kilo, Albu Faraj, Baghdadi, Ramadi, Anbar – 19 destroyed

Dec 6

Dec 7
Samarra Island, Salahaddin – 4 destroyed

0 – 36 Destroyed

Dec 8
Ajeel & Alas oil fields, Salahaddin – 1 destroyed

Dec 9
Albu Faraj & Warrar Bridge, Anbar – 4 destroyed
Shirqat, Salahaddin – 3 destroyed

Dec 10
Albu Diab, Albu Faraj, Albu Taiban, Anbar – 7 destroyed

Dec 11
Baghdadi & Kubaisa, Anbar – 2 destroyed

Dec 12
Nukhaib & Ramadi x3, Anbar
Aski, Ninewa
Albu Jassim & East Husaiba, Anbar – 3 destroyed
Dec 13
Kazak, Ninewa – 3 destroyed

Dec 14
Albu Faraj  x5 & Ramadi, Anbar
Central Baghdad, Baghdad – 1 destroyed
Sinjar, Ninewa – 2 destroyed
11 – 26 Destroyed
Dec 15
Tal al-Mushahid & Palestine Bridge, Anbar – 18 destroyed
Dec 16
Kaske x2 & Nawaran x9, Ninewa
Husaiba & Palestine Bridge, Anbar – 7 destroyed
Domuz Military Base & Baira, Ninewa – 4 destroyed
Dec 17
Hiyakil, Anbar
Hiyakil, Anbar – 3 destroyed
West of Samarra, Salahaddin – 4 destroyed
Dec 18

Dec 19

Dec 20
Baiji, Salahaddin – 1 destroyed

Dec 21

12 – 37 Destroyed


Agence France Presse, "15 ISIS suicide car bombs targeting Iraq forces 'repelled,'" 12/15/15

AIN, "Freed Niamiya police station and the village of Ma'ameer southeast of Fallujah," 12/16/15

eKurd, "Iraqi Kurdistan News in brief - December 17, 2015," 12/17/15

Fantz, Ashley, "Kurds suffer losses against ISIS in Iraq," CNN, 12/16/15

Iraq Times, "12 martyrs and wounded by a bicycle bomb west Baghdad," 12/16/15

Al Mada, "14 Daash members killed and four car bombs destroyed repelling an attack east of Ramadi," 12/16/15
- "The joint forces liberated the police center in Niamiya southeast of Fallujah," 12/16/15
- "Killing and wounding six members of Daash and a member of the Turkmen popular crowd south of Kirkuk," 12/17/15
- "Killing seven Daash member north Anbar," 12/15/15
- "Two people injured in a rocket attack in Samarra," 12/19/15

New Sabah, "Security file," 12/15/15

NINA, "20 Elements Of Peshmerga Killed And Wounded In An Attack Carried Out By Daash Northwest of Mosul," 12/20/15
- "/21/ civilians killed and wounded, including women and children, in bombing by the international coalition east of Mosul," 12/21/15
- "32 Of The Peshmerga Killed And Wounded In An Attack Of Daash Southeast of Mosul," 12/19/15
- "Daash blow up ten houses belonging to Christians, and executed an officer in the Peshmerga in Mosul," 12/15/15
- "Peshmerga forces repulsed a terrorist attack on one of the villages of Tal Afar," 12/16/15

Al Rayy, "A Daash car bomb destroyed by rocket attack in Baiji," 12/20/15
- "Daash executed a preacher in front of a mosque in central Mosul," 12/20/15

Rudaw, "Peshmerga foil 9 car bombs on northern Mosul front," 12/16/15

Sarhan, Amre, "8 soldiers killed, wounded In two separate attacks in Baghdad," Iraqi News, 12/17/15
- "Anbar Operations announces liberating 50% of Albu Ziyab north of Ramadi," Iraqi News, 12/21/15
- "Iraqi army begins operation to liberate Albu Ziyab north of Ramadi," Iraqi News, 12/20/15

Shafaq News, "Breaking News..Peshmerga repel suicide attack of ISIS and kill 20," 12/16/15
- "ISIS Suicide attacks by four car bombs western Samarra foiled," 12/17/15
- "Killing and wounding 12 members of the Peshmerga in clashes with Daash northwest of Kirkuk," 12/18/15
- "Killing at least 40 Daash outcome of battles Friday," 12/19/15

Sotaliraq, "Daash executed 12 civilians throwing them from a high building in central Mosul," 12/19/15
- "Killing and injuring 21 Daash members in repelling attack west of Mosul," 12/18/15
- "Killing and wounding seven people in the fall of mortar shells south Baghdad," 12/19/15
- "Killing one soldier and wounding six others including an officer in the fall of mortar shells west Baghdad," 12/18/15
- "Renewed shelling of camp where Turkish troops are stations in Iraq wounding three," 12/18/15
- "Three car bombs destroyed in a second attack by Daash north of Ramadi," 12/16/15
- "Three soldiers killed and wounded by a sniper, south Baghdad," 12/21/15

Xinhua, "30 IS militants killed in clashes, 5 suicide car bomb attacks in Iraq," 12/17/15

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