Weekly Security Update, 02 – 08 September 2014

Security IncidentsOn 08 September, the Iraqi Parliament voted to form a new government around Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The vote did not include the key positions of Defense and Interior Ministers however, which were previously occupied by Nouri al-Maliki and are considered crucial to the Sunni participation in the new cabinet and political process. While the formation of a new government before the constitutional deadline set on 11 September is undoubtedly an important step towards a more legitimate leadership, reversing the sense of mistrust entertained by Maliki’s policies and mitigating the violence in the North will remain challenges for the next months.  Unsurprisingly, the Kurds tied their participation in the government to agreements pertaining to oil exports, a reappraisal of their national budget’s share and the redefinition of disputed internal boundaries. The ambitious deadline of three months set to the resolution of these issues will be difficult to achieve especially with regards to trade and territories, which have always been met with the staunch opposition of Baghdad. The pressure put on Abadi’s new government will certainly lead to major concessions however, and the degree to which Kurdish and Sunni demands are satisfied will be dependent on the political agility demonstrated by Iraq’s various constituencies. Meanwhile, continued operations, airstrikes and militant attacks in the northern and central governorates were responsible for an uptick in the number of reported fatalities, estimated at 476. While the situation remains fluid in rural areas of the most unstable governorates, the fiercest fighting was once again located in villages surrounding Mosul and in Salahuddin’s Tuz district. As IS elements adapt to ISF and US targeted airstrikes by hiding in urban centres, attempts at dislodging militants militarily will at best have a limited effect on IS’s presence across the North, and stagnation will continue for as long as an inclusive political solution has not been found.

On 08 September, the Iraqi Parliament voted to form a new government around Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The vote did not include the key positions of Defense and Interior Ministers however, which were previously occupied by Nouri al-Maliki and are considered crucial to the Sunni participation in the new cabinet and political process. While the formation of a new government before the constitutional deadline set on 11 September is undoubtedly an important step towards a more legitimate leadership, reversing the sense of mistrust entertained by Maliki’s policies and mitigating the violence in the North will remain challenges for the next months.  Unsurprisingly, the Kurds tied their participation in the government to agreements pertaining to oil exports, a reappraisal of their national budget’s share and the redefinition of disputed internal boundaries. The ambitious deadline of three months set to the resolution of these issues will be difficult to achieve especially with regards to trade and territories, which have always been met with the staunch opposition of Baghdad. The pressure put on Abadi’s new government will certainly lead to major concessions however, and the degree to which Kurdish and Sunni demands are satisfied will be dependent on the political agility demonstrated by Iraq’s various constituencies. Meanwhile, continued operations, airstrikes and militant attacks in the northern and central governorates were responsible for an uptick in the number of reported fatalities, estimated at 476. While the situation remains fluid in rural areas of the most unstable governorates, the fiercest fighting was once again located in villages surrounding Mosul and in Salahuddin’s Tuz district. As IS elements adapt to ISF and US targeted airstrikes by hiding in urban centres, attempts at dislodging militants militarily will at best have a limited effect on IS’s presence across the North, and stagnation will continue for as long as an inclusive political solution has not been found.

 North

Coordinated units of Peshmerga, ISF and Shia militias, assisted by US air support, continued to focus their actions on territories to the east of Mosul, in an attempt to build and consolidate a buffer zone between IS and Kurdish-controlled areas. Operations were reported in Hamdaniya district and Bashiqa further north. Most of the violence witnessed in Nineveh was essentially contained in the corridor from Tal Afar to Mosul and Hamdaniya. In Kirkuk, clashes between IS insurgents and local residents were recorded in Hawija, while Iraqi airstrikes struck the western edge of the province. Following the re-capture of Amerli in Salahuddin, Iraqi and Kurdish forces intensified their efforts on the governorate’s north-eastern area, with the aim to clear Tuz district of IS elements. Further airstrikes were reported against militant positions in the vicinity of Tikrit to weaken their grip on the area, following unsuccessful ground assaults launched against the town. In Diyala, clashes between IS and a complex nexus of tribes were reported in Jalawla, which remains fully under insurgent control. The main frontlines and levels of violence should not witness any notable change over the next weeks, as the mobilisation of local tribes against IS, many of which disenfranchised, is unlikely to occur in the short term. Their rejection of IS and inclusion to the political process will be key to re-capturing territories in the North.

Central

As political bargaining continues in Baghdad, levels of violence in the central governorates remained aligned with previous averages, with three VBIED attacks reported in the capital. On 04 September, a twin blast in the Kadhimiyah and Karrada districts killed at least 20 civilians and injured dozens. The following day, a car bomb exploded outside a restaurant and injured at least 19 people. Meanwhile, violence in Anbar continued to be concentrated along the corridor from Ramadi to Fallujah, with ISF operations reported in the vicinity of Haditha, where the possible capture of the dam by IS militants remains a concern. On 07 September, US airstrikes were recorded around the Haditha complex to prevent insurgents from reaching the vital infrastructure. Levels of violence are expected to remain stagnant over the next weeks, despite the formation of a new government on 08 September. The legitimacy of the new cabinet and its capacity to reach out to disenfranchised populations will be tested in the next days, with key security positions expected by the Sunnis.

South

The South continued to follow established patterns of violence, with the majority of violent incidents reported in Babil’s Jurf al-Sakhar district, south of Baghdad. The continued absence of car bombs confirmed the ongoing focus of IS on northern Iraq. General levels of violence in the South-East remained low and the nature of incidents confined to personal or tribal disputes. The recent nomination of a new central government retains the potential to raise tensions however, especially as key positions remain to be filled. The fact that most Shia militias have been deployed to the areas of fighting in the North nonetheless limits the impact that local divisions could have on regional stability. Demonstrations and low-level political violence should be witnessed predominantly in Basra governorate, where Shia populations are traditionally more mobilised. Ongoing military operations in the northern and central governorates ensure that patterns of violence will be perpetuated in the next weeks, and major militant incursions should be avoided.

 

 

 

 

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