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Daily Summary 12 September

September 12, 2017  

  1. Additional details of heavy fighting in suburb of Tal Afar
  2. Additional intimidation-style shootings in Chamchamal and Altun Kupri
  3. Multiple attacks repelled near Baiji and Balad
  4. Explosive remnants of war cleared outside Fallujah
  5. Air traffic controllers conduct strike in Baghdad and Basra
  6. Tribal fighting in northern Wasit

On 11 September, Iraqi air traffic controllers announced plans to conduct a work strike affecting the Baghdad and Basra international airports beginning on 12 September, stating that only emergency landings would be permitted. These events stem from previously seen demands issued by air traffic controllers calling for the disbursement of technical allocations, and other demands related to the appointment of eight colleagues. The statement added that the air traffic controllers would not accept any verbal statements acknowledging their demands as was seen in the past.

Strikes were reported as threatened at both airports, but were fairly effectively mitigated by the implementation of contingency plans at these sites. International organizations are advised to be aware of an ongoing potential for travel disruptions at these hubs. However, it is also important to emphasize Iraqi government mediation efforts are expected to be decisive concerning this issue, with temporary mitigation efforts proving effective, and long-term disruptions not anticipated.

On 12 September, a major trilateral meeting was conducted between representatives of the Gorran, KDP, and PUK in Erbil. The upcoming independence referendum and ambitions to reactivate the KRG parliament by 14 September were discussed in accordance with a seven-point plan promoted by the PUK. It was stated that the Gorran “agreed in principle” to supporting the reactivation according to PUK official Mala Bakhtiyar. It will be important to confirm an agreement has been made with Gorran sources following this announcement, with reports of agreements being made regularly embellished in the past.

In an even more significant opposing development on 12 September, the Iraqi parliament voted to reject the Kurdish independence referendum vote as unconstitutional, and authorizes the prime minister to take “all measures” against this act in the Kurdish Region and disputed territories. Kurdish MPs predictably boycotted the vote, which is primarily intended to degrade the perceived legitimacy of the referendum if it goes forward. Although strongly worded, it is not anticipated the 12 September parliamentary vote will be utilized as justification to use military force to prevent the vote. At most, it is assessed to officially endorse Iraqi government efforts to counter the vote in disputed territories that are already under its administration and security control.

Additional details surfaced pertaining to initial discussion of heavy fighting in a suburb of Tal Afar. On 11 September, Iraqi Army units supported by Iraqi airstrikes breached an isolated IS stronghold in Qasabat al-Ra’i Village, located northwest of Ayadhiya. Joint Operations Command Spokesman Brigadier General Yehia Rasul later stated that security forces killed 65 insurgents and 15 suicide bombers during the initial heavy fighting. He also noted that dozens of insurgents fled towards Peshmerga lines, forming a reference to associated Peshmerga claims that 17 IS militants were killed by their forces attempting to escape the area.

Late on the night of 11 September, an Iraqi Army officer claimed around 40 insurgents travelling in vehicles launched an attack against Iraqi Army elements in a possible breakout attempt. Nine Iraqi Army soldiers were reportedly killed including two officers during heavy clashes. As of the morning of 12 September, sporadic clashes were ongoing in and around Qasabat al-Rai Village, with full control not assessed at this time. As initially noted, these events highlight a very significant presence of insurgents holding out in an isolated stronghold of the Ayadhiya sub-district well after the 31 August victory announcement.

On the afternoon of 11 September, unidentified armed men in a vehicle conducted a drive-by shooting against the Altun Kubri Mayor’s Office. No casualties were reported in this intimidation-style attack. This incident occurred roughly 30 minutes after another intimidation-style shooting against a KDP building in Chamchamal. Additional reporting concerning the former event cited the involvement of armed men travelling in three vehicles, who wounded three guards over the course of the shooting. The identity of the armed groups for either event could not be verified. Some reports indicate that the perpetrators in Altun Kubri may have been local civilians involved in a land dispute with the mayor.

Multiple attacks were repelled in different areas of Salah ad Din during this period. On 12 September, according to an unnamed security source, an unspecified number of IS militants armed with light and medium weapons attacked Hashd al-Shaabi forces in an agricultural area south of the Sayid Mohammed bin Ali al-Hadi Shrine, located east of Balad. The attack was repelled, with an unspecified number of casualties reported on both sides. This incident follows multiple recent attacks in outskirts of Balad, including a largely thwarted 4 September complex suicide attack affecting an area north of the Sayid Mohammed bin Ali al-Hadi Shrine.

On 10 September, security forces arrested an individual accused of being involved in terrorism activities at the Suqur Checkpoint between Fallujah and Baghdad. On 12 September, a source reported that 14th Iraqi Army Division engineers detonated a number of explosive remnants of war IEDs and mines in al-Nu’aimia, south of Fallujah. No casualties reported in these events, with this area hosting one of the highest concentrations of UXO / ERW left over from the liberation of Fallujah.

On the night of 11 September, Baghdad Municipality teams removed a number of stalls in Karada area. That night, a number of individuals closed a road in Karada in protests against this event, with few further details noted. Such reactions, as well as low-level attacks against municipal employees, form a very common response to efforts to remove illegally built stalls. In other unrest on 11 September, a number of Jisr Diyala residents staged a demonstration in protest against the lack of services.

Developments in Basra were highlighted by the above mentioned disruptions at the Basra International Airport. On 11 September, Muthanna Police Command announced that based on a report received, that a military vehicle of the 5th Border Region had been stolen while parked in front of the home of a security member. The Counter-Crime Service, Warka and Rumaitha Police, and a SWAT Company were dispatched to the desert area in the al-Karama sub-district, and arrested the gang of seven members responsible for the theft. The vehicle was also recovered at the location.

Vehicle theft has become a regular occurrence in Basra Province but is far less reported in other provinces in the region. The fact that the vehicle in question in this instance was a military vehicle, is even more unusual, with civilian pick-ups the most common targets. The rapid identification of the perpetrators and recovery of the vehicle is suggestive of more extenuating circumstances in this instance.

On the evening of 11 September in Wasit, several civilians were reportedly wounded when an exchange of small arms fire broke out between members of two tribes in central Badra. This is the second incident in the area in the last 48 hours, and if confirmed as connected to previous clashes, is likely to suggest a more deep-seated issue which could lead to further conflict. Operations in the area should remain aware of these events and the potential for collateral damage or associated arrest operations in the area.

Syria war: ‘Russian air strikes’ kill dozens in Deir al-Zour – BBC
Dozens of civilians have been killed since Sunday in suspected Russian air strikes along the River Euphrates in eastern Syria, activists say. Jets are reported to have hit camps for displaced people on the western bank of the river and passenger ferries outside the city of Deir al-Zour. It was not possible to verify the reports, and Russia has not commented.

Turkey set to buy Russian missile defence system – Al Jazeera
Turkey is set to buy Russian-owned missile defence systems, marking the NATO member’s first major weapons purchase from Russia. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, announced on Tuesday that “signatures have been made” for the acquisition of the S-400 surface-to-air missile defence equipment. Anticipating potential concern among Turkey’s fellow NATO members over the deal, Erdogan said Turkey would continue to “make the decisions about our own independence ourselves”.

Germany has put most arms exports to Turkey on hold: minister – Reuters
Germany has put all major arms exports to Turkey on hold due to the deteriorating human rights situation in the country and increasingly strained ties to its NATO ally, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Monday. The comments came after a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Berlin said another German couple was believed to have been detained in Turkey on political charges.

Iraqi Kurds’ referendum fever spills over to Turkish cousins – Al Monitor
Iraqi Kurdistan is gripped by excitement ahead of the Sept. 25 independence referendum. The sense of hopeful anticipation, however, is not limited to Iraqi Kurds. Their cousins in neighboring Turkey — reeling from Ankara’s heaviest crackdown in years — are watching the process with an equal excitement, hoping that a vote for independence will boost the standing of Kurds across the region.

Turkish spy chief headed for Erbil, whisper KRG officials – Al Monitor
Turkey’s spy chief, Hakan Fidan, is planning to travel to the Iraqi Kurdish capital Erbil this week, part of a mission to push for the release of Turkish operatives who are being held by Kurdish militants and presumably also to seek to delay a referendum on Iraqi Kurdish independence, local officials speaking on strict condition of anonymity told Al-Monitor.

Report: Trump To Weigh More Aggressive U.S. Strategy On Iran – Reuters
President Donald Trump is weighing a strategy that could allow more aggressive U.S. responses to Iran’s forces, its Shi‘ite Muslim proxies in Iraq and Syria, and its support for militant groups, according to six current and former U.S. officials. The proposal was prepared by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other top officials, and presented to Trump at a National Security Council meeting on Friday, the sources said.

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