Islamic State escalates violence in Baghdad belt
The process of forming the Iraqi government briefly suspended…
The Iraqi Federal Supreme Court will decide on January 25 whether the election of the Mohammad al-Halbousi January 9 to return as President of the Council of Representatives (or parliament) is valid. The presidency is held by a representative of the Sunni parties. Halbousi’s “Progress” party won 37 seats, just behind Iraqi populist Shiite Clerc Muqtada Sadrthe party won 73 seats. Hassan Ali Ahmed got the background on voting here.
It is expected that Halbousi’s selection will stand and the government formation process will resume. The parliament will then have about 20 days to choose a president from among the Kurdish parties. Fifteen days later, the president will appoint a prime minister (a Shiite), from the largest bloc, to form a government.
The current president, Barham Saleh, was nominated by the Patriotic Union of the Kurdistan Party; the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP) has appointed the former Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs Hoshyar Zebari. The KDP has 31 seats in the new Iraqi parliament; the PUK has 18. It is customary for the PUK to hold the Iraqi presidency and the KDP the presidency of the Kurdistan Region; the current president of the Kurdistan region is Nechirvan Barzani of the PDK.
So far, the process of forming the Iraqi government has taken three months since the October 21, 2021 elections. The previous delay between government elections was five months in 2018 and eight months in 2010.
Pro-Iranian militias step up attacks in the capital…
In an escalation of violence that many see as linked to the government formation process, Shia armed groups close to Iran and linked to parties that lost support in Iraq’s October elections have launched attacks in Baghdad last week.
Like Shelly Kittleson reports from the Iraqi capital, “two Kurdish banks in Baghdad were the target of bomb attacks on January 16 in which a woman and a child were injured. Armed groups linked to Iran have recently increased threats and attacks against the Kurdistan region of Iraq and those associated with it. The latest in a long line of attacks by these groups on Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone occurred on January 13 and also injured an Iraqi woman and child.
Ali Hashem got the inside story here at Amwaj during the visit to Iraq last week Ismail Ghaani, commander of the Al-Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, seeking to quell divisions between the disparate forces of Iraq’s “Shia house”.
…as Islamic State escalates violence in ‘Baghdad belt’
As government formation continues, the Islamic State intensifies its attacks in Iraq and Syria:
– Islamic State militants killed 11 Iraqi soldiers in a Jan. 21 attack on a military base in Diyala, north of Baghdad, Kittleson reports from Iraq.
– In Syria, the Kurdish-led, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) killed 23 IS militants, including Iraqis, in clashes after IS attacked a prison in Syria. town of Hasaka, in northeast Syria, on January 20. Seven SDF members were killed in the attack on the prison, as reported by Kittleson.
– On January 19, in Tarmiya, 80 km north of Baghdad, Iraqi military forces and local Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) killed three IS militants in retaliation for the killing of two PMU fighters, reports Kittleson . In previous weeks, Iraqi security forces had clashed with IS fighters and killed IS suicide bombers before they completed their mission.
– On January 13, the Iraqi Air Force bombed IS camps in the Tarmiya region.
Kittleson provides the context:
“Administratively in the southern part of Salahuddin Province but part of what is known as the Baghdad Belt, Tarmiya has been called the Salafist recruiting center for the region and has often been key to insurgent access to the Iraqi capital for those arriving from north of it, located between the road running north from the capital to Kirkuk in the east and the road west running north to Tikrit. calls to “clean up” Tarmiya which some say are actually part of an attempted sectarian displacement of Sunni residents of the area.
Islamic State displays ‘higher level of operational maturity’
Pentagon Inspector General’s most recent report on Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led diplomatic and military operation against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, says ISIS has weakened but remains a priority and a threat to US interests and partners in the region, as reported here.
The quarterly report, which reviewed the period up to September 30, noted that while IS carried out a decreasing number of attacks, in some cases it demonstrated unusual complexity and “higher level of operational maturity” in its operations.
And now the number of attacks can increase.
The US mission in Iraq shifted to “training, advising and intelligence gathering” on Dec. 31, and no reduction in the number of US troops in Iraq, currently around 2,500, is expected.
A difficult northern border reopens…
The Pentagon report highlighted the Iraqi-Syrian border as a location of IS activity.
A key border crossing between the Kurdistan region of Iraq and northeastern Syria, which had been closed since December 15, has been partially reopened, thanks to American diplomacy.
Amberin Zaman got the inside scoop here on the US-led diplomacy that led to the limited reopening of the border for lifesaving humanitarian aid. The reason for the blockade was an escalation in border clashes between groups affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is linked to the Kurdish SDF parties, and the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq (KRG).
…as Iraqi forces seek to regain control of Sinjar province
The Iraqi army on January 18 arrested several fighters from a Yazidi armed group operating in Sinjar in northern Iraq, an area of the country known for the 2014 massacres of Yazidis by the Islamic State, and now the scene fighting between armed groups and Iraqi security. forces.
Those arrested belonged to the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) affiliated with the PKK, which provides the YBS with training and weapons, Shelly Kittleson reports from Iraq. The YBS says it does not take orders from the PKK, which is designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU
…and a new opening of the border shows better Iraqi-Saudi relations
During his visit to Najaf on January 6, the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered the completion of the overland pilgrim route linking Najaf with Mecca and Medina, the Muslim holy cities of Saudi Arabia. His announcement coincided with the official opening of Iraq’s Arar border crossing with Saudi Arabia.
The opening of the border testifies to the dramatic improvement in relations between Riyadh and Baghdad under the current Iraqi government.
“The importance of the land pilgrimage route goes beyond the religious dimension towards political rapprochement and economic and security cooperation between Iraq and Saudi Arabia in a region that has experienced many political and sectarian differences and pushed the trust between the two peoples to an all-time low,” wrote Adnan Abu Zeed from Baghdad.
In Najaf, the largest Islamic cemetery in the world
Nicole Di Ilio here reports the largest cemetery in the world, known as the “Valley of Peace”, in Najaf.
“The growing cemetery holds the remains of 5 million people, including hundreds of Islamic religious figures, such as Prophet Hud and Prophet Saleh, clerics, and political and social leaders. The cycle of life and death adds an inevitable burden each year. The spiritual aura is tangible,” writes Di Ilio.
let it snow
Residents of the Kurdistan Region’s capital, Erbil, woke up to a rare snowfall, bringing both excitement and challenges. Find out with the video.