Video: Iraq marks One Year since ‘Victory’ against IS

From AFP. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraqis forces parade and celebrate in the streets of Mosul as they mark a year since Iraq declared victory against the Islamic State group, the conclusion of a three-year battle to oust the jihadists.

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Sectarianism, Governance, and Iraq’s Future

By Ranj Alaaldin.

The June 2014 takeover of Mosul by the Islamic State group (ISIS) was described as an existential threat to the Iraqi state and the post-2003 political order.

Yet, its emergence was only a symptom of a broader series of crises that had engulfed Iraq over the past decade. While militant groups dominate headlines, it is Iraq’s structural problems that have enabled their emergence.

This includes weakened or partly collapsed institutions; the absence of the rule of law; dysfunctional and corrupt governance; the ascendancy of sectarian divisions; and the disastrous post-conflict reconstruction process that followed the aftermath of the 2003 U.S. invasion.

State fragility in the Levant and the regional proxy war in Syria have exacerbated these challenges and have stifled Iraq’s efforts to stabilize and rehabilitate its institutions.

The full report can be read here.

(Source: Brookings Institution)

7m Sq Meters cleared of IS Explosives

Over seven million square meters in areas liberated from ISIS cleared of explosives

The Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Agency (IKMAA) has cleared 7,414,199 square meters in areas liberated from ISIS of explosive devices and difused 43,057 IEDs and UXO pieces, said Siraj Barzani, Head of IKMAA, in an interview with the Kurdistan Regional Government website.

From the 2014 ISIS onslaught until October 2017, three IKMAA units in Duhok, Erbil, and Germiyan, in cooperation with Peshmerga forces, started their plan to clear contaminated areas and raise public awareness of explosive devices.

Mr. Barzani said that poisonous chlorine gas bottles stockpiled by ISIS were also deactivated by an IKMMA team with the assistance and supervision of a special chemical weapons team from the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs and Ministry of Interior.

According to Mr. Barzani:

“IKMMA teams in liberated areas faced a variety of impediments, including fragile security, logistical issues, unsatisfactory information about areas and risks, pressure to hastily clear contaminated areas.”

With financial assistance from foreign governments, international NGOs – MAG, FSD, Handicap International, NPA, DDG, Sterling – participated in these clearing operations.

According to IKMMA, in 1991, 776 square kilometers of the Kurdistan Region were contaminated with landmines and unexploded ordnance, UXO, laid by former Iraqi regime forces, which has since decreased to 270 square kilometers, a reduction of 65 percent.

According to Mr. Barzani:

“From 1991 until October 2018, there have been 13,233 victims of landmines and other explosive devices. Today, there are fewer victims due to clearance operations and increased public awareness.’’

(Source: KRG)

ISIL’s Legacy of Terror: at least 200 Mass Graves

ISIL’s legacy of terror: at least 200 mass graves in Iraq

More than 200 mass graves containing the remains of thousands of victims have been discovered in areas formerly controlled by ISIL in Iraq, according to a UN report released Tuesday. The report highlights the legacy of ISIL’s relentless campaign of terror and violence and victims’ calls for truth and justice.

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN Human Rights Office have documented the existence of 202 mass grave sites in the governorates of Ninewa, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din and Anbar in the northern and western parts of the country – but there may be many more.

While it is difficult to determine the total number of people in these graves, the smallest site, in west Mosul, contained eight bodies while the biggest is believed to be the Khasfa sinkhole south of Mosul which may contain thousands.

The report stresses that these sites could potentially contain critical forensic material to assist in the identification of victims and to build an understanding of the scale of crimes that occurred.

“Evidence gathered from these sites will be central to ensuring credible investigations, prosecutions and convictions in accordance with international due process standards,” the report states. “Meaningful truth and justice requires the appropriate preservation, excavation and exhumation of mass grave sites and the identification of the remains of the many victims and their return to the families.”

Between June 2014 and December 2017, ISIL seized large areas of Iraq and led “a campaign of widespread violence and systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law – acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possible genocide,” the report states.

“The mass grave sites documented in our report are a testament to harrowing human loss, profound suffering and shocking cruelty,” said Special Representative for Iraq of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ján Kubiš. “Determining the circumstances surrounding the significant loss of life will be an important step in the mourning process for families and their journey to secure their rights to truth and justice.”

The report also documents how families of the missing face significant challenges in establishing the fate of their loved ones. At present, they must report to more than five separate State entities, a process that is both time-consuming and frustrating for families who remain traumatised by their loss, the report states, calling for the establishment of a public, centralised registry of missing persons as well as a federal Office of Missing Persons.

“ISIL’s horrific crimes in Iraq have left the headlines but the trauma of the victims’ families endures, with thousands of women, men and children still unaccounted for,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.

“These graves contain the remains of those mercilessly killed for not conforming to ISIL’s twisted ideology and rule, including ethnic and religious minorities. Their families have the right to know what happened to their loved ones. Truth, justice and reparations are critical to ensuring a full reckoning for the atrocities committed by ISIL.”

Kubiš said the report was aimed at supporting the Government of Iraq in protecting and excavating these mass graves, through the work of Iraq’s Mass Graves Directorate and its international partners. Bachelet and Kubiš reiterated their support to the Government of Iraq in carrying out this significant task.

Among its recommendations, the report calls for a multidisciplinary approach to the recovery operations with the participation of experienced specialists, such as weapons contamination and explosives experts and crime scene investigators. It calls for a victim-centred approach and a transitional justice process that is established in consultation with, and accepted by, Iraqis, particularly those from affected communities.

The report also calls on the international community to provide resources and technical support to efforts related to the exhumation, collection, transportation, storage and return of human remains to families, as well as their identification, particularly by helping strengthen the Mass Graves Directorate.

More here, here and here.

Iraqi Border City eyes IS Advance amid Dust Storms

By Shelly Kittleson for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Severe dust storms have facilitated advances by the Islamic State (IS) in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border in recent days, putting the largest Iraqi city alongside it at risk.

Otherworldly shades of red, orange and sandy yellow were an intermittent backdrop for days across most of western Anbar, with very low visibility rendering airstrikes and other coalition activities against the terrorist group still in control of Hejin across the border in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province difficult.

IS has retaken the entire Syrian side of the Baghouz area and the town of Soussa in recent days, Al-Monitor was told by security sources working near the border on Oct. 29.

Click here to read the full story.

US Treasury Sanctions Iraq-based Money Services Business

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions today on Afaq Dubai, an Iraq-based money services business (MSB) that has been moving money for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Today’s designation follows action taken by the Department of Defense—announced on October 11—against a key ISIS financial facilitation group.  This MSB is a part of ISIS’s financial network that includes an array of other MSBs, hawalas, and financial facilitators in the Middle East.

OFAC named Afaq Dubai as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 13224, for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, ISIS.  Contrary to what the name may imply, this MSB is located in Iraq and does not have any branches in the United Arab Emirates.

“This Iraq-based MSB is a part of ISIS’s complex network of money services businesses, hawalas, and financial facilitators funding terrorism across the Middle East.  We are targeting this network in concert with the Department of Defense as part of this Administration’s ongoing campaign to cut off ISIS’s ability to launder money and move illicit funds,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.  “Even as ISIS’s hold on territory is eliminated, we will continue to search for and shut down the illicit financial networks ISIS utilizes to fund terror attacks and sustain operations.”

Today’s action is a continuation of Treasury’s ongoing efforts to shut down financial facilitators and MSBs worldwide that move money on behalf of ISIS.  It follows the designation of two ISIS financial facilitators in September with ties to the Caribbean and the Middle East.  In December 2016, OFAC designated Selselat al Thahab Money Exchange in Iraq, ISIS financier Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr al-Rawi, and his company, the Hanifa Currency Exchange in Albu Kamal, Syria.  Prior to his death, al-Rawi used the Hanifa Currency Exchange in Albu Kamal, Syria and a global network of financiers to move millions of dollars on behalf of the terrorist group.

OFAC closely coordinated today’s designation with the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), which released details on October 11 regarding its joint action against members of a key ISIS financial facilitation group, who leveraged this MSB as part of its operation.   Coordinated actions such as those conducted by DoD and Treasury this week disrupt and curtail ISIS’s logistical infrastructure, recruiting, and revenue generation.

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of Afaq Dubai subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.


Afaq Dubai

Afaq Dubai was designated for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of ISIS.

Afaq Dubai — which is located in Iraq — is part of a network of ISIS-associated money services businesses and financial facilitators in the Middle East.  It is run by two ISIS financiers, and, as of early 2018, laundered money for ISIS and provided money to ISIS families.

In May 2018, a Jordan-based ISIS financial facilitator deposited $3 million from Iraqi dinar into three exchanges, including Afaq Dubai.

Identifying information on the entity designated today.

(Source: OFAC)

Coalition Effort Aims at Stability in Iraq, Syria

The coalition continues to help forces in both Iraq and Syria establish security and stability in areas that have known nothing but oppression since the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria reared its head five years ago, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve said on Tuesday.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters from Baghdad, Army Col. Sean Ryan noted that Iraqi forces are working together across the country to rid the nation of the last remnants of the terrorist group.

“The various security elements — to include the [Iraqi forces], the peshmerga, counterterrorism services and the federal police — are all working together to continue securing their country,” he said.

In Ninevah province, Iraqi forces continue to find and disarm improvised explosive devices and continue to root out ISIS holdouts. In the mountains of Kirkuk, the Iraqi federal police and the Kurdish peshmerga work together to secure remote villages.

Out west, in Anbar province, border security forces continue to prevent ISIS fighters from streaming into the country, the colonel said.

“For its part, the coalition is … enabling the [Iraqi] efforts to secure Iraq by advising strategic leaders, training thousands of Iraqi service members and divesting equipment they need to effectively secure their country,” he said.

Coalition members also continue to train Iraqi forces. Since the effort started in 2015, coalition forces have trained more than 175,000 Iraqis in basic soldier skills and specialized fields such as intelligence, law enforcement, medical support and aviation.


In Syria, the picture is more complex and dangerous. Ground operations for Phase 3 of Operation Roundup have begun, and Syrian partner forces continue clearance of the Middle Euphrates River Valley, Ryan said. “Hajin and the surrounding villages are the last remaining territory acquired by ISIS in the coalition’s area of responsibility, and the victory by the Syrian Democratic Forces there will mean that ISIS no longer holds territory,” he added.

ISIS fighters are trying desperately to hang onto the territory, and hard fighting lies ahead, the colonel told reporters. “Despite this, we are confident that the SDF will prevail,” he said.

In Tanf earlier this month, Marines conducted training to reinforce partner forces, he said. “The coalition has supported the SDF through air support, as well as training and equipment,” Ryan said. “Additionally, in liberated areas, the coalition trained internal security forces to maintain the peace and security in liberated cities, provide basic law enforcement support, as well as specialized services such as counter-[improvised explosive devices] and engineering.”

Ryan noted changes in Iraq as Army Lt. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera assumed command of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve from Army Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II.

Ryan said the military stabilization efforts are going well, but are not enough. “Security creates the space for rebuilding,” he explained. “Residents only gain hope for the future when their children can go to school free from harm, women go buy basic necessities in local shops, and when they can go to their jobs that allow them to support their families. Ultimately, the military cannot fight its way to stability.”

The cost of reconstruction is high, with estimates of rebuilding Mosul — Iraq’s second-largest city — pegged at $100 billion. “We call on all nations to help those who have sacrificed tremendously fighting this global threat,” Ryan said.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

Coalition Strikes Continue Against ISIS Targets

Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve and its partners continue to pursue the lasting defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in designated parts of Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported on Monday.

Operation Roundup, which began May 1 to accelerate the defeat of ISIS in the middle Euphrates River valley and Iraq-Syria border region, has continued to gain ground and remove terrorists from the battlefield through offensive operations coupled with precision coalition strike support.

Between Sept. 10-16, coalition military forces conducted 66 strikes, consisting of 102 engagements, in Iraq and Syria

Strikes in Syria

On Sept. 16, coalition military forces conducted six strikes consisting of 13 engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged four ISIS tactical units and destroyed an ISIS command-and-control center, an ISIS vehicle bomb facility, a fighting position and an ISIS trench system and suppressed an ISIS mortar.

On Sept. 15, coalition military forces conducted seven strikes consisting of 10 engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged four ISIS tactical units and destroyed an ISIS explosive hazard, an ISIS fighting position, an ISIS mortar tube, an ISIS weapons cache and an ISIS heavy machine gun and damaged five ISIS improvised explosive device belts.

On Sept. 14, coalition military forces conducted 14 strikes consisting of 23 engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged six ISIS tactical units and destroyed an ISIS vehicle, three ISIS supply routes, an ISIS mortar tube, two ISIS defensive fighting structures, three ISIS fighting positions and an ISIS staging area and suppressed one mortar team.

On Sept. 13, coalition military forces conducted 12 strikes consisting of 15 engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged three ISIS tactical units and destroyed nine ISIS supply routes, four ISIS fighting positions, an ISIS compound, an ISIS sentry location, an ISIS staging area and an ISIS counter battery fire, damaged an ISIS compound and suppressed two ISIS mortar firing points.

On Sept. 12, coalition military forces conducted 14 strikes consisting of 26 engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged 11 ISIS tactical units and destroyed seven ISIS supply routes and an ISIS command-and-control center.

On Sept. 11, coalition military forces conducted 10 strikes consisting of 11 engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged seven ISIS tactical units and destroyed an ISIS heavy weapon, an ISIS technical vehicle and an ISIS engineering equipment and suppressed an ISIS mortar team.

On Sept. 10, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of one engagement against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an ISIS crew-served weapon.

Strikes in Iraq

On Sept. 16, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of two engagements against ISIS targets near Asad. The strike destroyed an ISIS bunker and an ISIS vehicle shelter.

On Sept. 15, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of one engagement against ISIS targets near Kisik. The strike destroyed two ISIS tunnels.

There were no reported strikes conducted in Iraq on Sept. 10-14.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group’s ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said.

The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and ground-based tactical artillery, officials noted.

A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.

For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.

The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

Video: Iraq post-ISIL: Anger over ‘Unfair’ compensation

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Iraqi city of Fallujah in Anbar province is struggling to recover, two years after the Iraqi army defeated ISIL fighters.

Their battle left the city in ruins. As well as reconstructing destroyed buildings and creating jobs, the local government is also handing out compensation.

But some complain the process is unfair.

Al Jazeera’s Rob Matheson reports from Baghdad, Iraq.

New Commander for Operation Inherent Resolve

Army Lt. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, commanding general of the XVIII Airborne Corps, assumed command of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve from Army Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, the III Armored Corps commanding general, today during a ceremony in Baghdad.

Iraqi security forces partners and distinguished guests joined an audience including U.S. and coalition soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and law enforcement officials for the transfer of authority ceremony at the coalition headquarters.

Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel, commanding general for U.S. Central Command, presided over the ceremony. Votel said that he is confident the XVIII Airborne Corps team from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is ready to continue the fight for the lasting defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and set conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability.

“Lt. Gen. Funk’s team has made tremendous progress,” Votel said. “[From] increasing the capabilities of the ISF, collapsing pockets of ISIS fighters throughout the region, [and] helping to clear Hawijah, Anbar and the Euphrates River valley throughout the past year.”

Votel further remarked on Funk’s leadership with the largest military coalition in history.

Coalition’s Commitment to Defeat ISIS

“CJTF-OIR’s success is a testament to your leadership,” Votel said. “Working by, with, and through brave Iraqi and Syrian partners, the coalition has remained committed to pursuing the lasting defeat of ISIS.”

The XVIII Airborne Corps previously led the CJTF-OIR coalition from Aug. 2016 to Sept. 2017.

Outgoing commanding general Funk took the opportunity to reflect on his command of CJTF-OIR.

“There are two words to describe what has changed in the last four years since the formation of this coalition — honor and hope. Working by, with, and through our Iraqi partners, our efforts helped the Iraqi security forces transform into a confident, professional organization and restore honor to their nation,” Funk said. “In northeast Syria, hope has replaced fear and oppression. While there is still a tough fight ahead, we are confident that XVIII Corps will lead the coalition to secure the lasting defeat of ISIS.”

LaCamera shared his vision for the CJTF-OIR mission ahead.

“As we look to the future,” he said, “we must and will be aggressive and resolute in everything we do to ensure ISIS and its ideology are completely eradicated.”

Since its establishment in June 2014, CJTF-OIR a global coalition consisting of 73 nations and five international organizations, has built and enhanced the capacities of partner forces and significantly degraded the ability of ISIS to recruit, train, plan, resource, inspire and execute attacks worldwide. The coalition’s collective accomplishments include training and equipping more than 170,000 Iraqi security forces and thousands of internal security forces in northeastern Syria; recapturing 99% of the territory previously held by ISIS in Iraq and Syria; and liberating nearly eight million Iraqis and Syrians from ISIS’s brutal rule.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)