Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Iraq Situation Report: June 29 - July 6, 2016

By Emily Anagnostos and the ISW Iraq Team

Key Takeaway: ISIS detonated a suicide vehicle-borne IED (SVBIED) in the majority Shi’a neighborhood of Karrada in central Baghdad on July 3, resulting in the deadliest attack in Iraq since 2003 with upwards of 250 people killed. The attack comes at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, during which ISW assessed that ISIS would attack Baghdad at a time of political unease in order to break Iraq as a state. The Karrada attack has advanced that objective as it prompted Minister of Interior (MOI) Muhammad al-Ghabban to submit his resignation to Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi on July 5. Ghabban, a Badr Organization member, charged PM Abadi to either reform the security apparatus in Baghdad, by placing the security file fully under the control of the MOI, or to accept his resignation. Baghdad’s security file is currently split between the Ministries of Defense and Interior. The Ministry of Interior is ostensibly controlled by Iranian proxy, the Badr Organization, which has allowed pro-Iranian elements to compromise units in the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Full MOI control of the Baghdad security file would allow pro-Iranian forces, particularly the Federal Police, more control in the capital, which may constrain U.S. and Coalition movement in and around Baghdad. It will also increase the likelihood of sectarian violence by pro-Iranian elements in the ISF against Sunni and minority residents. Even if PM Abadi accepts Ghabban’s resignation, the position will likely transfer to either Ghabban’s deputy, who is also a Badr Organization member, or Badr Organization leader Hadi al-Amiri, who has shown interest in the position in the past. Ghabban has successfully moved the conditions of the Karrada bombing in Iran’s favor. He has forced PM Abadi to either submit security in Baghdad under control of pro-Iranian forces or accept Ghabban’s resignation with the chance that his replacement will further empower the Badr Organization and its control of the security in Baghdad. Neither of these options aligns with U.S. interests in Iraq, and both will serve to weaken PM Abadi’s tenuous control over the Iraqi Government.