Monday, June 29, 2015

Disarray Over How To Retake Iraq’s Ramadi


The effort to retake Ramadi in Anbar province is now on hold. Immediately after the city was taken an operation was announced to retake it, but then things seemed to go awry. The Hashd wanted to clear northern Anbar instead of Ramadi, and then said it would focus upon Fallujah. Local tribes wanted to immediately attack the city, but were told that a plan needed to be formulated first, which contradicted earlier statements. The result is that the effort to take Ramadi appears in disarray.

The problem with the Ramadi operation is that too many parties are involved with no one apparently in command. On May 17, 2015 the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) began retreating from Ramadi, which led to its fall. Local tribes wanted to counter attack right away, but were told to stop because there were no plans. Nine days later, the Hashd said that the effort to free the city had begun. At the end of the month, Badr Organization Hadi Ameri told the press that he had his own plan for fighting the Islamic State in Anbar. First, Ameri stated that retaking Ramadi immediately was out of the question. Instead, Badr was going to secure northern, northeast, and eastern Anbar to cut off IS’s supply lines. That’s the reason why Hashd have been involved in operations to clear places like Thar Thar, which is to the north of Fallujah in between Lake Thar Thar and the Salahaddin border. The spokesman for the Hashd then announced that Fallujah would be the next target rather than Ramadi, because Baghdad needed to be protected. Finally, the Hashd said that the Ramadi operations were on hold so that people could leave the area. The problem with these plans were that they were all done independently of the Iraqi government. The Hashd for example announced the Ramadi offensive not the Defense Ministry. The Hashd decided that eastern Anbar and then Fallujah would be cleared first. A member of the Anbar provincial council complained that this was all the sign of a lack of a united command. He went on to say that the Hashd didn’t listen to the Anbar Operations Command, that there was no cooperation between the Hashd, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and tribes, and that the government was delaying things waiting for tribal fighters to be trained by the Americans. The Anbar councilman was exactly right. The fight in Anbar is being complicated by the plethora of organizations involved that don’t appear to be cooperating. That accounts for the lack of a unified strategy to retake Ramadi, and groups operating at cross purposes.

This is not the first time this has happened. The Tikrit offensive for example, was planned by pro-Iranian Hashd groups and Tehran and presented to the Iraqi government as a fait accompli. The weakness of Baghdad in the face of the insurgency led it to rely upon private groups for its defense. There is still the Iraqi army and police, but they were devastated after the fall of Mosul and are in a slow and long process to rebuild itself. There is the Hashd that is supposed to be under the command of the Prime Minister, but as Ramadi and Tikrit showed his power over them is nominal. The Hashd itself are split between different groups that don’t always work with each other because of different loyalties and long time rivalries. There are the tribes, which are weak and divided and lack the arms to face the militants on their own and have come to rely upon anyone that will provide it with military support. Finally, there is the peshmerga, which are also divided by party, and have not shown much willingness to venture outside of the disputed territories, which they claim as their own, and want to annex. The result is a series of delayed or drawn out offensives. Ramadi could well be re-taken, but it doesn’t appear like that will happen anytime soon. Not only that, but it has already been one month since the city was seized by IS giving it plenty of time to build up its defenses. These have not proven to stand up to a determined and large assault, but they are effective in taking a deadly toll. If Ramadi was moved on immediately the government’s forces could have saved a lot of time and casualties. This is a dilemma that Baghdad will have to face for the foreseeable future as the state remains weak and has to use whatever forces are available to fight the Islamic State.

SOURCES

Coker, Margaret, “How Islamic State’s Win in Ramadi Reveals New Weapons, Tactical Sophistication and Prowess,” Wall Street Journal, 5/25/15

Daragahi, Borzou and Solomon, Eika, “Iraq launches operation to retake Ramadi from Isis,” Financial Times, 5/26/15

Al Mada, “Anbar tribes waiting for “central plan” for freeing of Baiji and Ramadi,” 6/20/15
- “Badr bloc: We oppose the use of the international alliance in Ramadi, but our coordination with the army is high,” 6/2/15
- “Popular Crowd: Plan to free Ramadi and Fallujah will be carried out with minimal losses,” 6/18/15

Al Masalah, “Popular crowd: Fallujah is the next step,” 6/9/15

Morris, Loveday, “Pro-Iran militias take upper hand after U.S.-backed forces crumble in Anbar,” Washington Post, 5/30/15

Rudaw, “Ramadi military operations halted,” 6/16/15

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

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Musings On Iraq In The News


I was interviewed by Joanna Paraszczuk for her article “’He Has Given Up Playing’: The Child Soldiers Fighting IS In Iraq” published in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Tom Ricks also mentioned the recent interview I did with him on his Best Defense blog at Foreign Policy.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Iraq Government Offensives In Anbar And Salahaddin Dragging On For Weeks Or Put On Hold

 
During the third week of June 2015 attacks crept back up in Iraq, but overall casualties were down. One major reason for the latter was there was a dramatic drop in the number of car bombs launched by the Islamic State with just three. Heavy fighting continued in Anbar and Salahaddin where offensives to retake Garma and Baiji have lasted for weeks, while plans to retake Ramadi have been put on hold.

From June 15-21, 2015 there were 141 security incidents reported in the press. The real numbers are always higher. That figure was more than the previous two weeks, which saw 127 attacks the second week and 131 the first week of the month. So far there have been an average of 19.0 attacks per day roughly the same as May’s 18.6.

For the last four weeks Baghdad has led the country in incidents. In the third week of June there were a total of 46. Violence picked up in Anbar where attacks went from 27 the week before to 42. After that there were 22 incidents in Salahaddin, 9 in Ninewa and Diyala each, 8 in Babil, and one each in Basra, Kirkuk, Muthanna, Najaf, and Wasit.

There were 365 deaths and 373 wounded in the media. That was down from 523 killed the second week of June and 431 the week before. The dead consisted of 1 Peshmerga, 6 Sahwa, 16 Hashd al-Shaabi, 173 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and 169 civilians. The wounded were made up of 3 Peshmerga, 10 Sahwa, 16 Hashd, 40 ISF, and 304 civilians. This month there have been an average of 62.8 fatalities per day and 59.1 injured versus 77.9 dead and 61.2 wounded in May.

Anbar was the deadliest province during the week with 153 killed. Another 86 died in Ninewa, 53 in Baghdad, 50 in Salahaddin, 14 in Babil, 8 in Diyala, and 1 in Wasit. In terms of the wounded there were 140 in Anbar, 126 in Baghdad, 52 in Salahaddin, 34 in Babil, 18 in Diyala, and 3 in Kirkuk.

Violence In Iraq By Week 2015
Date
Incidents
Dead
Wounded
Jan 1-7
184
434
464
Jan 8-14
170
730
493
Jan 15-21
182
390
515
Jan 22-28
189
466
894
Jan 29-31
90
288
529
JAN
815
2,308
2,895
Feb 1-7
155
380
688
Feb 8-14
170
406
559
Feb 15-21
165
573
364
Feb 22-28
165
371
687 + 386
FEB
655
1,730
2,683
Mar 1-7
172
372
587
Mar 8-14
133
348
656
Mar 15-21
142
1,299
503
Mar 22-28
170
235
406
Mar 29-31
72
205
219
MAR
689
2,459 + 4
2,371 + 150
Apr 1-7
121
212
422
Apr 8-14
133
626
525
Apr 15-21
169
722
714
Apr 22-28
160
483
483
Apr 29-30
50
162 + 7
182 + 299
APR
633
2,212
2,625
May 1-7
154
626
450
May 8-14
154
420
549
May 15-21
124
963
387
May 22-28
108
341 + 1,499
348
May 29-31
38
66
164 + 646
MAY
578
2,416 + 1,499
1,898 + 646
Jun 1-7
132
431
476
Jun 8-14
127
523 + 405
394
Jun 15-21
141
365
373

Violence In Iraq By Province, June 2015
Province
Jun 1-7
Jun 8-14
Anbar
31 Incidents
181 Killed: 64 ISF, 23 Hashd, 40 Sahwa, 54 Civilians
162 Wounded: 77 ISF, 4 Sahwa, 7 Hashd, 74 Civilians
12 Shootings
3 IEDs
5 Suicide Car Bombs
1 Artillery
4 Mortars
2 Rockets
9 Car Bombs Destroyed
27 Incidents
55 Killed: 15 ISF, 27 Hashd, 13 Civilians
71 Wounded: 15 ISF, 24 Hashd, 32 Civilians
14 Shootings
2 IEDs
4 Suicide Bombers
8 Suicide Car Bombs
1 Missile
1 Rockets
18 Suicide Bombers Killed
5 Suicide Car Bombs Destroyed
Babil
3 Incidents
4 Killed: 4 Civilians
13 Wounded: 13 Civilians
1 Shooting
2 IEDs
5 Incidents
9 Killed: 3 ISF, 2 Sahwa, 4 Civilians
26 Wounded: 3 Sahwa, 23 Civilians
4 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
Baghdad
52 Incidents
73 Killed: 6 ISF, 2 Sahwa, 65 Civilians
185 Wounded: 13 ISF, 2 Sahwa, 170 Civilians
12 Shootings
28 IEDs
5 Sticky Bombs
2 Car Bombs
1 Grenade
49 Incidents
78 Killed: 7 ISF, 4 Sahwa, 68 Civilians
200 Wounded: 16 ISF, 1 Sahwa, 183 Civilians
17 Shootings
23 IEDs
5 Sticky Bombs
1 Sound Bomb
1 Suicide Car Bomb
2 Car Bombs
7 Car Bombs Destroyed
Basra
2 Incidents
1 Killed: 1 Civilian
2 Wounded: 2 Civilians
2 Shootings
1 Incident
1 Killed: 1 Civilian
1 Shooting
Diyala
10 Incidents
23 Killed: 1 ISF, 22 Civilians
41 Wounded: 41 Civilians
1 Shooting
4 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
1 Suicide Car Bomb
1 Mortar
12 Incidents
18 Killed: 1 ISF, 1 Peshmerga, 3 Sahwa, 4 Hashd, 9 Civilians
8 Wounded: 8 Civilians
8 Shootings
2 IEDs
Karbala
-
1 Incident
7 Car Bombs Destroyed
Kirkuk
4 Incidents
3 Killed: 3 Civilians
2 Wounded: 1 Peshmerga, 1 Civilian
2 Shootings
2 IEDs
2 Incidents
127 Killed: 2 Peshmerga, 125 Civilians
13 Wounded: 13 Peshmerga
1 Shooting
Ninewa
13 Incidents
96 Civilians: 1 ISF, 95 Civilians
3 Wounded: 3 Civilians
8 Shootings
8 IEDs
9 Incidents
188 Killed: 33 ISF, 155 Civilians
13 Wounded: 13 Civilians
5 Shootings
3 Suicide Bombers Killed
Salahaddin
17 Incidents
50 Killed: 3 ISF, 36 Hashd, 11 Civilians
68 Wounded: 5 ISF, 44 Hashd, 19 Civilians
9 Shootings
5 IEDs
4 Suicide Bombers
1 Grenades
7 Car Bombs Destroyed
21 Incidents
47 Killed: 30 ISF, 13 Hashd, 4 Civilians
63 Wounded: 12 ISF, 44 Hashd, 7 Civilians
8 Shootings
3 IEDs
5 Suicide Car Bombs
1 Car Bomb
2 Mortars
29 Suicide Car Bombs Destroyed
2 Car Bombs Destroyed

Province
Jun 15-21
Anbar
42 Incidents
153 Killed: 73 ISF, 80 Civilians
140 Wounded: 14 ISF, 126 Civilians
28 Shootings
1 IED
3 Suicide Bombers
1 Rockets
7 Mortars
Babil
8 Incidents
14 Killed: 4 ISF, 1 Sahwa, 9 Civilians
34 Wounded: 2 ISF, 3 Hashd, 29 Civilians
1 Shooting
6 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
Baghdad
46 Incidents
53 Killed: 6 ISF, 2 Hashd, 5 Sahwa, 40 Civilians
126 Wounded: 8 ISF, 2 Sahwa, 10 Hashd, 106 Civilians
12 Shootings
17 IEDs
8 Sticky Bombs
1 Suicide Car Bomb
2 Mortars
Basra
1 Incident
1 IED
Diyala
9 Incidents
8 Killed: 8 Civilians
18 Wounded: 1 ISF, 17 Civilians
1 Shooting
6 IEDs
Kirkuk
1 Incident
3 Wounded: 3 Civilians
1 Rocket
Muthanna
1 Incident
Najaf
1 Incident
1 Suicide Car Bomb Dismantled
Ninewa
9 Incidents
86 Killed: 70 ISF, 16 Civilians
5 Shootings
16 IEDs
1 Mortar
Salahaddin
22 Incidents
50 Killed: 20 ISF, 1 Peshmerga, 14 Hashd, 15 Civilians
52 Wounded: 15 ISF, 3 Peshmerga, 11 Hashd, 23 Civilians
13 Shootings
4 IEDs
1 Rocket
1 Suicide Car Bomb Destroyed
Wasit
1 Incident
1 Killed: 1 Civilian
1 Shooting

Car Bombs In Iraq, June 2015
Date
Location
Dead
Wounded
Jun 1
Fallujah & Thar Thar x3, Anbar
58
57
Jun 2
Palestine St, Baghdad
6
13
Jun 3



Jun 4
Thar Thar, Anbar
Baya, Baghdad
5
14
Jun 5



Jun 6
Baladrooz, Diyala
14
37
Jun 7



Totals
8
83
121
Jun 8



Jun 9
Palestine St, Baghdad
10
24
Jun 10
Shula, Baghdad
6
20
Jun 11



Jun 12
Baiji x2, Salahaddin
8
20
Jun 13
Garma x4 & Haiyakil x2, Anbar
Hijjaj x4, Salahaddin
42
49
Jun 14
Baghdadi x2, Anbar
Shaab, Baghdad
3
10
Totals
17
69
123
Jun 15



Jun 16



Jun 17
Kadhimiya, Baghdad
7
16
Jun 18



Jun 19



Jun 20



Jun 21



Totals
1
7
16


From June 8-14 the Islamic State launched a huge wave of vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) across central Iraq, using up most of its stocks. That resulted in a huge drop in these types of attacks during the third week of June. In the second week, 67 VBIEDs were used with 50 being destroyed or dismantled before reaching their targets, and 17 exploding. During the third week only 1 car bomb went off, while two more were destroyed. The dramatic decline in these types of attacks was one reason why casualties were down for the week.

In Anbar, most of the fighting shifted from the Ramadi area to Garma, which is to the northeast of Fallujah. On June 15 the area around Garma was declared cleared. Three days later the city center was said to be under control, but there were clashes continuing on to the present day. The operation in Garma started on May 20. That was just ten days after the last one was called a success. That offensive began back in the middle of March, taking two months to complete. It appears the on going one will last just as long with no guarantee that IS wont slip back into the area later on as it has done repeatedly throughout Anbar.

Originally, Ramadi was supposed to be the focus in Anbar after the city fell to the Islamic State in mid-May, but things have been put on hold. Unofficially, a member of the Anbar council complained that the Hashd did not listen to the Anbar Operations Command, that there was no cooperation between the tribes, ISF, and Hashd, and that the government was waiting for a new group of tribal fighters to be trained by the Americans before any move was made on the city. More importantly, the Hashd decided unilaterally that their focus would not be on Ramadi, but Fallujah to the east. A Hashd spokesman claimed that Fallujah had to be cleared to protect Baghdad. Tribes on the other hand were ready to move on Ramadi, but were stopped by the ISF and Hashd, and told that they had to wait until a plan was put together. Overall, it appears that the attack upon Ramadi is in disarray with no one actually being in control. The result is constant clashes with the IS, but no real actions have been taken against either Ramadi or Fallujah yet. How long that will last is not known. This plays into the Islamic State’s hands because the longer they are given the more time they have to build up their defenses. That means whenever the government does act it will take far longer to take back Ramadi, and cost more lives than if they hadn’t waited.

For the last several weeks violence has dropped off in Kirkuk. That was shown during the third week of June when there was only one reported attack, which consisted of some rockets fired at a residential complex in Taza. The Islamic State is still entrenched in the Hawija district in the south, but the government has not done anything about it. When the Tikrit offensive started in May the ISF and peshmerga were supposed to attack the area from the north and south, but that never materialized. Since then there have only been occasional security sweeps in places like the Hamrin Mountains. The result is a relatively quite province, but one where the IS’s presence has not really been challenged.

In Ninewa IS continued with its regular executions. On June 21 3 former candidates for Iraqiya were executed along with a former soldier and his son. That same day a mass grave with 70 soldiers executed by IS was discovered in Tal Afar, which is in the west by the Syrian border. IS also made two probing attacks on the Kurdish forces in the north, but to no avail.

Baiji in Salahaddin has been hotly contested between the government and IS since last summer. ISF, tribes and the Hashd have been involved in operations to retake the refinery there and the surrounding area since the start of May. Like in Anbar the government’s forces are split amongst many commands making progress difficult. It appears that fighting will continue there for several more weeks.

On the positive side during the third week of June officials let the first group of families return to Tikrit after it was liberated last month. Almost the entire city was disserted after IS seized it during the summer, with most of the remainders leaving when the government launched its offensive there in May. Before the Hashd were in command of most of the city, but now control has been turned over to a local police force. The city lacks services, and the liberating forces destroyed 400 homes after the city was freed. There are also on going arguments amongst tribes in the surrounding towns over members accused of supporting the Islamic State. That has left some villages empty as a result.

There were also two incidents between the Hashd and Kurds in the Tuz Kharmato district. On June 17, a group of Hashd opened fire on a car killing one Kurdish civilian and wounding four others. That led to clashes with the Peshmerga. Some Kurdish fighers were wounded and Hashd arrested. Three days later, a fight broke out between some Hashd and a civilian in a market that led to the shooting death of the latter. Four Hashd were arrested as a result. There have been intermittent flare ups between the Hashd and Kurds in Tuz Kharmato and other disputed areas in Diyala. In these places there is a rough division of power between the two, which has often boiled over and led to shots being fired. These incidents have been contained, usually after negotiations, but they point to future problems as some Hashd elements have voiced opposition to the Kurds controlling these areas. That will have to be dealt with after the Islamic State is defeated.

SOURCES

Bilal, Imad, “Shi’ite Militias Open Fire on Kurdish Civilians,” Bas News, 6/20/15

Al Mada, “Anbar tribes waiting for “central plan” for freeing of Baiji and Ramadi,” 6/20/15
- “Popular Crowd: Plan to free Ramadi and Fallujah will be carried out with minimal losses,” 6/18/15

Millet Press, "ISIS executes ex-parliament candidates in Mosul," 6/21/15

Morris, Loveday, “Iraq chased Islamic State out of Tikrit. Getting residents back is still a battle,” Washington Post, 6/19/15

NINA, "Breaking News..Military Operations To Liberate Karma Area Kicked Off," 3/15/15
- "ISIS Executes An Officer In The Iraqi Army And His Son In Central Mosul," 6/21/15

Radio Free Iraq, "10 May 2015," Daily Updates from Anbar, 5/10/15
- "15 June 2015," Daily Updates from Anbar, 6/15/15
- "18 June 2015," Daily Updates from Anbar, 6/18/15
- "20 June 2015," Daily Updates from Anbar, 6/20/15

Reuters, “First families return to Tikrit since city retaken from IS,” 6/15/15

Rudaw, "Mass grave found in Tal Afar and several homes detonated in Mosul," 6/22/15
- “Ramadi military operations halted,” 6/16/15

Salama, Vivian, "Iraqi officials: Suicide bomb at police checkpoint kills 7," Associated Press, 6/18/15

Shafaq News, "Security forces and PMU launch a "violent" attack on al-Karma," 5/20/15

Sotaliraq, "Daash bombarding residential neighborhoods of Taza, south of Kirkuk," 6/20/15