Saturday, January 24, 2015

Musings On Iraq In The News

My article on the history of the Badr Organization was reprinted in Business Insider. My history of the Badr Organization was listed on Real Clear Defense.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dead Bodies Dumped In Iraq’s Capital Did Not Turn Out As Feared

When the insurgency took off in Iraq in 2014 there were fears that militias would respond like they did during the previous civil war from 2005-2008 with extra judicial killings. During last year there was a huge jump in the number of bodies found in Baghdad in the summer. That trailed off afterward however, but at a slightly higher level than the first half of the year. Some feared that these incidents would mark a new level of rising violence in the country, but they have not played out that way.

In order to analyze this phenomenon something first has to be said about the numbers. Reports of dead bodies being found in Baghdad occur almost every day. There is no way to tell whether these are common crimes or acts of insurgents or militias. When articles say that they found a body handcuffed and shot however that’s likely the work of some armed group. Next, the press only covers a small percentage of these occurrences. Many more bodies are dumped off in the Baghdad morgue for instance, which rarely get into the news. The media then only provides a small sampling then of the total number of bodies dumped in the capital, but it is the only consistent recording of these events. Finally the location of where the dead are found can be an indicator of the perpetrators. For example many bodies are discovered in Sadr City and the neighboring areas, which is a militia stronghold. At the same time, where bodies are dumped are often not where the crimes take place, and could be messages to a certain community. Needless to say some guess work is involved in who the perpetrators are.
Bodies Dumped In Baghdad 2014

During the first half of 2014 there was a steady rate of bodies turning up in Baghdad. Starting in January there were 31, followed by 35 in February, 26 in March, 27 in April, and 38 in May. That averaged out to 31.4 per month. In January, corpses were found in 15 neighborhoods the overwhelming majority of which were Shiite such as Sadr City, Kadhimiya, and New Baghdad pointing to militias. In one case on January 29 three bodies of Sahwa were found in Arab Jabour in the Dora district, which was likely the work of insurgents. February, March and May were much the same. April was the exception as roughly half the areas bodies were dumped in were Sunni, like Abu Ghraib and Arab Jabour, and the other half were Shiite such as Shula. Militants have been active in Abu Ghraib for quite some time so they could have behind that attack. Many of the murders point to militias as they were found in Shiite areas and the bodies were often handcuffed. For instance, on March 3 a man was found handcuffed and shot in the head in Ghazaliya in western Baghdad. May 5, three bodies were discovered buried, handcuffed, blindfolded and shot several times in the head in Shula to the northwest. The first five months of 2014 pointed to militia activity. It was nowhere near the numbers seen during the height of the civil war in Baghdad, but it definitely looked like Shiite armed groups were killing people in retaliation for the insurgency.

From June to August there was a huge increase in these types of incidents. In June 52 bodies showed up in 22 neighborhoods. More than half of those were Shiite neighborhoods especially in east Baghdad like Zafaraniya, Shaab, and New Baghdad. Then the next month things exploded. 104 bodies turned up that month, usually with multiple cases in one day. July 16, 12 bodies were found, and the next day there were another 16. July 26 17 were discovered, followed by 9 July 27, and 13 July 28. So many bodies were dumped the press couldn’t report on all of their locations. By August things calmed down a bit with 53 bodies, but that was still above levels seen at the start of the year. These three months correlated with the insurgent’s summer offensive. June was when Mosul and Tikrit fell, and many believed that Baghdad would be next. By August things had stabilized, and the Iraqi Security Forces and militias were rallying. The fears from June however probably account for the big jump in extrajudicial killings in the capital.

For the remaining four months of 2014 there were fewer bodies dumped, but at a higher level than the start of the year. In September there were 34 bodies, 43 in October, 46 in November, and 42 in December. That averaged out to 41.2 versus 31.4 from January to May. Again, in all those months the majority of these occurrences were in Shiite neighborhoods.

Besides the locations of where these bodies were found there was other evidence that militias were active in Baghdad. At the end of 2013 Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki began using militias such as Asaib Ahl Al-Haq (AAH) as an ad hoc defense force. In September for example, an AAH official was quoted as saying that it was working with the ISF and had access to government badges and weapons. By October there were reports that AAH was carrying out retaliatory attacks in the capital after terrorist bombings. In March 2014, Maliki put together AAH, Badr Organization, and Kataib Hezbollah into a new security forces for Baghdad because he was unhappy with the performance of the ISF. Militias also have a history of extra judicial killings dating back to the previous civil war as they cleansed most of Baghdad of Sunnis after the 2006 bombing of the Askari shrine in Samarra, Salahaddin. All together that is plenty to suggest that Shiite armed groups were responsible for most of these acts.

Baghdad has an unfortunate history of people being killed and their bodies dumped for years. Some argued that these acts would take off as a result of the return of the insurgency. That didn’t appear to happen to the extent feared however. In 2014 there was a decided jump in these incidents, but it was not a steady increase. Instead, the number of bodies discovered peaked during the summer and went back down afterward. While there were a few cases that appeared to be the act of insurgents due to the victims and where they happened, the vast majority looked like the work of militias. The belief that Baghdad would break out in open fighting after the fall of Mosul in June set off a blaze of killings in the capital, but as the fighting across the rest of the country settled into a rough stalemate the militant threat receded and so did the murders. These attacks are still raising sectarian tensions in the country, but they are nowhere as bad as predicted.


Alsumaria, "Found 12 unidentified bodies in different parts of Baghdad," 7/16/14
- "Found 17 unidentified bodies in different parts of Baghdad," 7/26/14

Associated Press, "Iraq: Grim Discoveries in Baghdad," 7/28/14

Buratha News, "Found four unidentified bodies in different parts of Baghdad," 7/17/14

Iraq Times, "Police found 28 unidentified bodies in different parts of Baghdad," 7/28/14
- "With the return of militias in Baghdad..Police found 16 unidentified bodies," 7/17/14

Al Mada, "Finding the bodies of three elements of the awakening dumped and shot south of Baghdad," 1/29/14
- "Found five bodies of unidentified men killed by firing squad in Baghdad," 7/28/14

Al Masalah, "Found 9 unidentified bodies in different parts of Baghdad," 7/27/14

NINA, "Police find three unidentified bodies west of Baghdad," 5/4/14
- "Three bodies found in Baghdad," 3/2/14

Reuters, "15 found dead in Baghdad first day of Eid," 7/28/14

Al-Salhy, Suadad and Westall, Sylvia, “Insight: Iraqis hesitate on the edge of chaos,” Reuters, 9/19/13

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Iraq’s National Guard Plan Moving Forward While Legislation In Jeopardy In Baghdad

When Prime Minister Haider Abadi came into office in September 2014 one of the many reforms he suggested was the creation of a National Guard for Iraq. This new force would be made up of local fighters who would be under the command of the governor of each province, and incorporate existing tribal fighters and militias. This would help with not only security, but decentralize powers away from Baghdad out to the governorates. The creation of a National Guard would require legislation, which is deadlocked in the cabinet. In the meantime a few provinces have moved ahead with raising their own forces whether the law is passed or not.

Shortly after coming into power Premier Haider Abadi suggested a National Guard be formed to help defend the country, but since then the idea has been stuck in the council of ministers. In September the cabinet started drafting a bill on the issue, but it has caused quite a bit of controversy. There are questions about how the guard would be organized, its salaries, powers, etc. For instance, a parliamentarian from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) complained that the Guard could lead to the division of Iraq with 18 separate militaries for each province. A Badr lawmaker said that the guard was not necessary as the militias could defeat the insurgency, while a Kurdish parliamentarian argued that there was no constitutional or legal framework to create such a force, and that it could be used in future conflicts between provinces. Finally, on January 16 Al Mada reported that the draft bill might be pushed back to the 2016 budget because of the austerity measures being implemented due to the collapse in oil prices. With the differences between the Shiite parties who constitute the largest bloc within the legislature, along with reservations by the Kurds there is no way that the National Guard can be passed at present. Bringing up budget cuts could be the excuse its opponents are looking for to kill the bill.

Despite the lack of action in the cabinet some parts of Iraq are moving ahead with forming their own provincial security forces with the acquiescence of Baghdad officials. Anbar was the first governorate to take up the call for the National Guard. By September up to 80% of the province was under insurgent control, and the provincial government had repeatedly asked for help from the central government with little coming. On September 20 it was reported that the Anbar council was planning on raising 10,000 men to be trained for the new guard. Then in October the Interior Ministry approved the creation of a 3,000 man Special Task Force Brigade made up of pro-government tribesmen and trained by the Americans. The first cohort of that force was said to have finished its preparations in November, but there were complaints by some sheikhs that it was not armed or equipped sufficiently. At the same time, the security committee on the Babil council announced that it was going to start recruiting volunteers for a 4,000 man National Guard unit with Premier Abadi’s approval. In December, the Ninewa government said it too had gotten the permission of the prime minister to set up three camps to train forces to retake Mosul. By January 2015 there was said to be 4,000 men in training, but Governor Atheel Nujafi claimed they no longer had the blessing of Abadi. Finally, in that same month Diyala’s governor said that Defense and Interior Ministries had okayed raising 6,000 recruits into local Iraqi Security Force units. Baghdad only has so many forces at its disposal, and not enough to cover all areas of the country sufficiently. That’s the reason why these provinces have embraced the National Guard idea. They want more soldiers and police then are available, so the idea of being able to raise their own appeals to them. Anbar was the first to take the initiative and an initial tribal brigade has already been deployed to the front. The Mosul force on the other hand, may be more fantasy then fact as Governor Nujafi has constantly claimed that locals and even other insurgent factions would rise up against the Islamic State and push it out of Mosul, but there’s been little to back up his rhetoric. It’s yet to be seen whether Babil and Diyala will be more successful. The more important question is whether Baghdad will fully back these moves, because without their funding and weapons none of these units will last.

Faced with the collapse of many ISF units after the fall of Mosul in June, new Prime Minister Abadi proposed raising local National Guard units to help protect each province. That would not only provide new forces, but also move some power to the governorates, something that many have been asking for. Many of the ruling parties however are centralists or are worried about what might come of the Guard and have held up the draft with no passage in sight. That has led a few governorates to take matters into their own hands and start forming their own units. These are some of the provinces with the worst security situations where local councils are desperate for help. All the reports claim that Baghdad has backed these efforts, but only in Anbar has there been any concrete moves so far. It will take more time to see whether this was just a verbal commitment or a real move towards some decentralizing.


Buratha News, “A senior Kurdish official: the risk of the National Guard being formed may outweigh the risk of terrorism,” 12/28/14

Daragahi, Borzou, “Isis fighters seize key military base in Iraq’s Anbar province,” Financial Times, 10/13/14

Al Mada, “Austerity threatens to postpone the National Guard to the next year and the amendments with the central government,” 1/16/15
- “Babylon begins the formation of the National Guard volunteers from the popular crowd and emphasizes “association,”” 9/30/14
- “”Honeymoon” between Abadi and Sunnis ending threats and reservations inhibiting National Guard,” 1/3/15
- “Nineveh volunteers continue training despite reluctance to give them salaries or arm them..and the Peshmerga awaiting coordination with Baghdad,” 1/10/15

Al Masalah, “Badr: Iraqis do not need the National Guard to defeat Daash,” 1/1/15
- “Citizen witnessing the mass split between deputies on the National Guard Law,” 10/27/14

National Iraqi News Agency, “A local force of 10 thousand volunteers will be formed within the National Guard in Anbar,” 9/20/14
- “MoI approves forming a special force in Anbar under the supervision of US,” 10/17/14

Al Rayy, “Anbar declares that the first batch of the Brigade of Martyr Ahmed Dulaimi will complete its training this week,” 11/4/14
- “Diyala announce the approval of the Interior and Defense Ministries to adopt 6 thousands of her sons into the security institution,” 1/7/15

Rudaw, “Iraq to build new army bases, train volunteers for Mosul operation,” 12/26/14

Shafaq News, “Abadi agrees to form a force of 30 thousand fighters from Anbar,” 10/28/14
- “A leader in Albu-Nimr tribe: the government did not arms only 100 of our men without ammunition,” 11/18/14

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Badr Organization A View Into Iraq’s Violent Past And Present

The Badr Organization is the oldest of Iraq’s militias, and is currently taking the lead in the fighting in the country. It was the creation of the Iranian government during the Iran-Iraq War as the armed wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), and has kept up those ties with Tehran since then. After the overthrow of Saddam, Badr attempted to seize power, carried out assassinations of former regime members, and then started sectarian attacks upon Sunnis in retaliation for the insurgency. Eventually it broke from ISCI, and became a major ally of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It then went on to fight in Syria, only to return to Iraq to battle the insurgency there. Badr represents the violent politics of Iraq’s recent history.

Badr members undergoing military training in Iran. Tehran was and is Badr’s main benefactor (Global Security)

The Badr Organization emerged out of the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. In 1983 the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) created Badr as the armed wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). (1) The two forces fought alongside each other during the war. Badr was made up of Iraqi exiles and captured soldiers, some of which were forced to join. Its origins with the Iranian government would lead to criticisms when Badr and ISCI returned to Iraq after 2003 as they were labeled Iranian puppets and were attacked for leaving the country during the Saddam period.

Badr was made up of Iraqi POWs and exiles (Iranian Historical Photograph)

In the 1990s, Badr continued its opposition to the Iraqi regime. It moved into Najaf, Karbala and Basra during the 1991 uprising following the Gulf War as the Supreme Council attempted to appropriate the revolt. When the Iraqi army rallied to put down the rebellion Badr retreated back into Iran, which caused much resentment against the group. Tehran too was disappointed in Badr’s performance and tried to change its emphasis from a conventional armed force into a covert one. A special unit was created under the control of the IRGC Quds Force to carry out secret operations within Iraq. From 1999-2001 it was responsible for several attacks, such as a May 2000 rocket barrage upon the presidential palace in Baghdad. Many of the networks created to move men and material back and forth between Iran and Iraq have been maintained until this day, and were used for example to smuggle explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) to militias aligned with Iran during the U.S. occupation.

When the U.S. invaded in 2003 Badr saw another opportunity to return to Iraq. In February it deployed several thousand fighters to Sulaymaniya where it was hosted by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The United States was concerned about this mobilization, and warned that Badr would be attacked if it entered Iraq. That was ignored and in Mach 2003, Badr moved into Diyala and Wasit with some 10,000 men. The U.S. tried to hold them in place with Special Forces and peshmerga, but Badr went on to clash with Baathists, Sunni tribes, and the Iranian dissident group Mujahadeen e-Khalq in Diyala, while a Badr member declared himself mayor of Kut in Wasit. Washington was concerned that Badr was working with Iran to seize Iraqi territory in the post-war chaos. It therefore moved to try to block the group, but that failed.

The Supreme Council attempted to heal this riff as it decided to work with the United States. In May, Badr said that it was giving up its weapons. In September it changed its name to the Badr Organization, and in October ISCI leader Abdul Aziz Hakim announced that the militia was being turned into a civilian organization. Unlike other Shiite religious parties such as the Dawa and the Sadrists, the Supreme Council cooperated with the Americans as a way to ensure its place in post-invasion Iraq. It made these moves with Badr to try to show that it was committed to a peaceful transition in the country, but it was all for show as Badr remained its armed wing.

In the years following the American invasion Badr was used by ISCI to try to seize power when the opportunity presented itself. For example, in February 2005 Badr attacked the headquarters of the Nasiriyah police, and installed their own man as chief. In August, militiamen deposed the mayor of Baghdad and replaced him with a Badr member. Many political parties and their armed wings were taking similar actions after the overthrow of Saddam. Despite the U.S. presence there was still a vacuum in many areas waiting to be filled.

As Interior Minister in 2005 Bayan Jabr (far right) was responsible for recruiting thousands of Badr fighters into the security forces (Time)

When the Jaafari government took office in 2005 the Supreme Council was given the Interior Ministry. That was a coveted office, because the police it controlled gave it a presence throughout the country to be used by whatever party ran the ministry. In April 2005 Bayan Jabr was made Interior Minister after which he immediately began recruiting members of the Badr Brigade into the security forces. Many of those militiamen went into the commandos such as the Wolf, Volcano and Scorpion Brigades. Those units and others under the militia were accused of a number of abuses. In August, the Volcano Brigade took away 36 Sunnis from Baghdad and tortured and killed them before dumping their bodies. In November, a U.S. military unit found a prison in Jadriya, Baghdad with 173 people in it, many with signs of torture. The Secret Investigative Unit ran the facility under the direct command of Minister Jabr. In February 2006, 18 police commandos were caught running a kidnapping ring. The commander of the unit said that he was acting under orders from senior officials in Badr that gave him names of people to abduct. Jabr was eventually pushed out of office in May 2006 under U.S. pressure, and transferred to the Finance Ministry. It would take years to purge and re-train the Badr elements that Jabr brought into the ministry.

Besides its own agenda, Badr continued to work with the Iranians to carry out a number of targeted killings throughout Iraq. In October 2004, the head of Iraq’s national intelligence agency accused the militia of killing ten of his men on orders from Tehran. The agency raided three safe houses and claimed to have found documents linking Iranian agents to Badr members who were carrying out the assassinations. At the time, the intelligence service was staffed by former regime elements, and directed by the CIA, which were both seen as threats by Iran. After the January 2005 elections, there was a wave of murders of former Baathists. There were reports that hit lists were being circulated of party members to kill. Members of Saddam’s intelligence agency and armed forces were also being targeted. For instance, there was a wave of hits against former air force pilots who were veterans of the Iran-Iraq War. Most of these attacks were pinned on the Badr Brigade. In October 2005, the U.S. military reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was directing its militia allies including Badr to assassinate people in Basra. The militias would have their members in the police carry out the shootings. Finally, in March 2007, another U.S. military memo documented how Iranian intelligence was working with Badr to attack members of the Industry Ministry as part of a media campaign orchestrated by Tehran to undermine the Surge. Iran would often work through militia allies to carry out its wishes in Iraq. One of its main targets was Baathists and other members of the former regime, especially those involved in the Iran-Iraq War. Iran had a long memory, and wanted to exact its revenge against these people. Badr was one of their main partners in this assassination campaign given its origins and continued links with Tehran. In return, August 2004 for instance, the Iraqi National Intelligence Service captured Iranian Revolutionary Guard documents showing that it was paying the salaries of up to 11,740 members of the Badr Brigade. In November 2009, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill in a diplomatic memo noted that ISCI and Badr were receiving roughly $70 million a year from Iran. (5)

The militia was not only involved in violence against Saddam’s men, but its main rival as well the Sadrists. In October 2005, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sent 2,300 soldiers and police commandos to secure Amarah in Maysan after heavy fighting broke out there between Badr and the Mahdi Army. The fighting would spread to several other southern cities with 30 people killed and another 160 wounded in the process. In the summer of 2007 there were renewed clashes between the two groups in Diwaniya. That would come to a head in another major battle in Karbala in August where 50 civilians died and roughly 200 were wounded. Moqtada al-Sadr declared a cease-fire afterward, but the next month Badr and the Mahdi Army were back at it once again this time in Maysan, Dhi Qar, and Muthanna, and then back to Karbala in October. When Maliki launched his Charge of the Knights campaign against the Sadr movement in Basra, the Mahdi Army retaliated against Badr as well who were seen as aligned with the prime minister. That led to fighting in Sadr City, a rocket attack upon Badr’s offices in Amarah in March, (2) and then an attempted assassination of a local Badr Brigade commander and imam in Baghdad’s Abu Dishr in May that escalated into another gunfight. The Sadrists and Supreme Council were deadly competitors for control of the Shiite polity. The Sadrists were one of those groups that accused ISCI of being Iranian stooges and having abandoned the country for the safety of Iran during the Saddam period. After 2003 the two would take their rivalry into the streets and lead to these incidents and many more.

The death of ISCI head Abdul Aziz Hakim and the ascension to power of his son Ammar would eventually lead Badr to split from the Supreme Council in 2012 (PBS)

By 2011 the relationship between ISCI and its militia were wearing thin. After the death of the party’s leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, his young son Ammar Hakim assumed power in August 2009. Hadi Ameri the head of Badr and others of the old guard opposed this move. By November 2011 there were rumors that the two had split ways, and that was made official in March 2012. Badr then became its own political party, and quickly moved into Premier Maliki’s camp.

Badr and Maliki would form not only political, but military ties as well as the militia would act as enforcers for the prime minister. In December 2011 for instance, the premier was attempting to block Diyala’s move to become a federal region. He sent Badr head Ameri, a Diyala native to talk with local officials there, while his militiamen took to the streets in an act of intimidation against the pro-federalists. (3) Ameri then announced that Badr would run as part of Maliki’s State of Law list in the 2013 provincial and 2014 national elections. The party ended up winning 19 seats in parliament, roughly 20% of State of Law’s total. At this time, the organization was trying to move away from just being an armed group to being a political party. Its actions in Diyala however, showed that the group was still willing to use force to make its point, and had not given up the gun. That was quickly shown when the Syrian civil war started.

In 2012, Badr would mobilize its men to go fight in Syria. In January, a party official called for an army made up of the Badr Brigade and Mahdi Army to go defend the Syrian government. (4) He said that they were needed to counter Sunni militants from taking power, which was part of a plot orchestrated by Saudi Arabia to destabilize the Assad regime. By October there were the earliest reports of its militiamen fighting in the country, although it was officially denied at the time. A Shiite politician told Reuters that Iran had appointed Badr to lead the Iraqi militias who were involved there. That included groups such as Kataib Hezbollah who along with Badr formed the Kataib Sayid al-Shuhada militia in early 2013. In May Badr started posting pictures of its fighters supporting the Abu Fadhl al-Abbas Brigade in Syria, and in June a Badr militiaman died in the Damascus area. By July the group was open about its commitment to Syria announcing that it had 1,500 fighters there on Facebook. Later that month, Badr began holding public funerals for its losses suffered in the war, and announced a new militia Quwest Shahid al-Sadr that would be deployed there. Hadi Ameri, who was then Transportation Minister, facilitated the flight of Iranians arms and equipment to Damascus through Iraqi air space. Badr and other like minded parties felt that the Syrian rebels were mostly made up of Islamists who were directly threatening Shiites. That was why it always justified its presence in the country as defending the Sayid Zainab shrine in the Damascus suburbs. At the same time, only those groups close to Iran sent their men there, and that was after Tehran and its Quds Force put out the call to its allies for help propping up the Assad regime. The IRGC-QF would direct these militias, and had Badr coordinate its Iraqi brethren.

Badr head Ameri (foreground) and IRGC-QF Commander Gen Suleimani (background) during recent security operations in Iraq (via Twitter)

When the insurgency began regenerating in Iraq, Badr would return to protect the homeland. In July 2013 for instance, Hadi Ameri offered to have his men take over security after the Islamic State carried out attacks upon the Taji and Abu Ghraib prisons. Two months later, Badr repeated the offer saying that it could help quell sectarian violence in the capital and Diyala. In March 2014, Maliki met with his advisers and called for a new security force made up of three militias including Badr, because he was upset with the performance of the army and police. Then immediately after the fall of Mosul, the premier put Ameri in charge of Diyala. As part of this the militia would receive arms and supplies from the government. Since then, Badr has been deployed to all the major battlefronts in Iraq. In July it was fighting in Anbar, and in August it helped relieve the siege of Amerli, Salahaddin. It would then go on to take part in the clearing of the Tuz Kharmato district in eastern Salahaddin, Jurf al-Sakhr in Babil in October, Jalawla and Sadiya in Diyala in November, and then Dhuluiya in Salahaddin in December. Hadi Ameri led many of these operations in conjunction with IRGC-Quds Force commander General Qasim Suleimani. Along the way, Mohammed Ghaban of Badr was named Interior Minister under the new Haider Abadi government in September. Badr was able to gain such a prominent position in the fighting for a number of reasons. First, its alliance with Maliki made it a natural choice when the premier became upset with the ISF. Second, after Mosul Iran stepped in as the main supporter of Baghdad, and put militias it was friendly with in the lead because it too had no confidence in the army and police. Finally, just as in Syria, Tehran would make Badr the head of the irregular forces as the two had the longest relationship.

This would lead to a new round of sectarian attacks by the militia. In June, Badr shot up four cells in the Counterterrorism prison in Ninewa’s Tal Afar killing 51 prisoners before the city fell. That same month Badr and Asaib Ahl Al-Haw fighters shot 43 prisoners in Jumarkhe, Diyala. On October 14, a Badr Commander in Sulaiman Bek, Salahaddin told Rudaw that it had the right to kill any Sunni who fought alongside the Islamic State and take their property. This extended to civilians as the organization was accused of going after them in Jurf al-Sakhr and Sadiya because they were believed to be IS supporters. That included looting and destroying their homes. These were the same kinds of tactics Badr used when it controlled the Interior Ministry in 2005, and continued to use during the 2005-2008 civil war. Then like now the civilian population were considered legitimate targets along with the insurgents because the latter could not operate without the former.

Badr’s history follows much of Iraq’s recent past. From Iraq’s war against Iran to the 1991 uprising to the 2003 invasion and overthrow of Saddam, the militia has been at the forefront of the conflict in the country. It has always wanted power first as part of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and then as its own Badr Organization. It continues to play a prominent role in the State of Law list and the current government. It also maintains its close links with Iran, which has always been its main benefactor since the group’s inception. That’s why Badr leaders such as Hadi Ameri have recently praised Tehran for saving Iraq. At the same time, it has used force more often then not to achieve its goals. In Iraq, those with power are often those with the guns, and Badr is a perfect example of this period of Iraqi history.


1. Abedin, Mahan, “The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI),” Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, October 2003

2. Aswat al-Iraq, “Unknown gunmen attack major Shiite party office in Missan,” 3/28/08

3. Azzaman, “Tribal militia force Maliki and the Badr party to withdraw from the streets of Baquba,” 12/16/11

4. Al-Mada, “Official in Basra calling for the formation of an army of two million to support Assad,” 1/7/12

5. Hill, Christopher, “Iran’s Efforts In Iraqi Electoral Politics,” U.S. Embassy Baghdad, 11/13/09


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Fadel, Leila and Al Basri, Ali, “Battles wrack Basra, threatening success of U.S. surge,” McClatchy Newspapers, 3/25/08

Felter, Joseph and Fishman, Brian, “Iranian Strategy in Iraq, Politics and ‘Other Means,’” Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 10/13/08

Fuller, Max, “State-Sanctioned Paramilitary Terror in Basra Under British Occupation,” Global Research, 8/8/08

George, Susannah, “Breaking Badr,” Foreign Policy, 11/6/14

Glanz, James, “Baghdad mayor sacked by armed Shiites,” San Francisco Chronicle, 8/10/05

Gordon, Michael, Schmitt, Eric, and Arango, Tim, “Flow of Arms to Syria Through Iraq Persists, to U.S. Dismay,” New York Times, 12/1/12

Habib, Mustafa, “official split: shifting Shiite allegiance change political landscape,” Niqash, 3/15/12

Hawrami, Karzan Sabah, “Badr Militia Group Enter Kurdish Towns,” Bas News, 11/29/14

Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Campaign of Mass Murders of Sunni Prisoners,” 7/11/14
- “Iraq: Pro-Government Militias Trail of Death,” 7/31/14

Hussein, Mohammed, “Q & A: Shia militia commander Ali Jamal Hussein,” Iraq Oil Report, 12/9/14

IraqSlogger, “Iraq Papers Thur: Karbala Blockaded,” 10/24/07
- “Iraq Papers Thur: Splits in Karbala’s Police,” 11/14/07

Jabar, Faleh, The Shi’ite Movement in Iraq, London: SAQI Books, 2003
- “Why the Uprisings Failed,” Middle East Report, May/June 1992

Harnden, Toby, Hussein, Aqeel, and Freeman, Colin, “Iran ‘sponsors assassination’ of Sunni pilots who bombed Teheran,” Telegraph, 10/29/05

Hill, Christopher, “Iran/Iraq: The View From Najaf,” U.S. Embassy, Baghdad, 12/14/09
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Monday, January 19, 2015

1,200 Casualties In Iraq 2nd Week Of January 2015

Violence has been picking up in Iraq after a slight lull during the end of 2014. For the second week of January 2015 there were roughly the same number of attacks as the previous week resulting in just over 1,200 casualties. The Islamic State (IS) continued with its offensive operations in Anbar and Salahaddin, but also carried out attacks upon Diyala, Kirkuk, and Ninewa. The Iraqi Security Forces and militias on the other hand were concentrating upon rural Anbar and southern Salahaddin. Overall, fighting remains at a rough stalemate throughout the country.

Attacks have been going up since the end of December 2014. They were going down after the height of the summer offensive with an average of 31.2 in July, 26.2 per day in August, 23.0 in September, 23.9 in October, and 19.7 in November. This trend continued into the middle of December with an average of 20.2 for the first three weeks, but then they began creeping upwards. From December 22 to January 14 there has been an average of 25.2 incidents per day.

In the second week of January there were a total of 172 incidents. That was down from 184 the week before. Baghdad had the most attacks with 43, followed by 35 in Salahaddin, 33 in Ninewa, 28 in Anbar, 17 in Kirkuk, 9 in Diyala, 5 in Babil, and one in Maysan.

731 people lost their lives along with 493 people being wounded during the week. That was a big jump from the first week of the month, and was due to the discovery of a mass grave outside of Mosul that had 320 bodies in it. Otherwise casualties would have been roughly the same as January 1-7. The dead was made up of 63 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), 14 peshmerga, 27 Asayesh, 8 members of the Syrian YPG, 7 sahwa, and 612 civilians. The wounded were 23 ISF, 11 peshmerga, 9 sahwa, 8 Asayesh, 2 YPG, and 440 civilians. Ninewa obviously had the most fatalities with 392. After that there were 182 in Salahaddin, 60 in Baghdad, 58 in Anbar, 25 in Diyala, 10 in Babil, and four in Kirkuk.

Violence In Iraq By Week Jun. 2014-Jan. 2015
Jun 1-7
Jun 8-14
Jun 15-21
Jun 22-28
Jun 29-30
Jul 1-7
Jul 8-14
Jul 15-21
Jul 22-28
Jul 29-31
Aug 1-8
Aug 9-14
Aug 15-21
Aug 22-28
Aug 29-31
Sep 1-7
Sep 8-14
Sep 15-21
Sep 22-28
Sep 29-30
Oct 1-7
Oct 8-14
Oct 15-21
Oct 22-28
592 + 1,230
Oct 29-31
3,151 + 1,230
Nov 1-7
Nov 8-14
Nov 15-21
Nov 22-28
Nov 29-30
Dec 1-7
Dec 8-14
233 + 166
444 + 1,113
Dec 15-21
Dec 22-28
Dec 29-31
Jan 1-7
Jan 8-14

Violence In Iraq By Province, Jan. 2015
Jan 1-7
Jan 8-14
43 Incidents
129 Killed: 23 ISF, 30 Sahwa, 76 Civilians
146 Wounded: 45 ISF, 101 Civilians
30 Shootings
2 Suicide Bombers
2 Suicide Car Bombs
3 Mortars
3 Rockets
28 Incidents
58 Killed: 8 ISF, 1 Sahwa, 49 Civilians
106 Wounded: 1 Sahwa, 105 Civilians
19 Shootings
1 Mortar
1 Rocket
6 Incidents
13 Killed: 2 ISF, 11 Civilians
44 Wounded: 4 ISF, 40 Civilians
2 Shootings
4 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
5 Incidents
10 Killed: 5 ISF, 1 Sahwa, 4 Civilians
31 Wounded: 31 Civilians
1 Shooting
1 Suicide Car Bomb
40 Incidents
58 Killed: 6 ISF, 52 Civilians
147 Wounded: 1 ISF, 146 Civilians
12 Shootings
31 IEDs
5 Sticky Bombs
1 Car Bomb
43 Incidents
60 Killed: 4 ISF, 4 Sahwa, 52 Civilians
167 Wounded: 8 ISF, 8 Sahwa, 151 Civilians
17 Shootings
19 IEDs
3 Sticky Bombs
1 Suicide Bomber
1 Mortar
3 Incidents
4 Killed: 4 Civilians
1 Wounded: 1 Civilian
1 Shooting
11 Incidents
13 Killed: 2 ISF, 11 Civilians
23 Wounded: 1 ISF, 22 Civilians
8 Shootings
3 Mortars
9 Incidents
25 Killed: 25 Civilians
17 Wounded: 17 Civilians
5 Shootings
3 IEDs
2 Mortars
6 Incidents
1 Mortar
17 Incidents
4 Killed: 2 Peshmerga, 1 Asayesh, 1 Sahwa
15 Wounded: 11 Peshmerga, 3 Asayesh, 1 Civilian
11 Shootings
10 IEDs
1 Incident
1 Killed: 1 Civilian
1 Wounded: 1 Civilian
1 Shooting
30 Incidents
119 Killed: 16 ISF, 4 Peshmerga, 99 Civilians
3 Wounded: 3 Peshmerga
20 Shootings
7 IEDs
2 Suicide Car Bombs
33 Incidents
392 Killed: 2 ISF, 12 Peshmerga, 26 Asayesh,
     8 YPG, 344 Civilians
7 Wounded: 5 Asayesh, 2 YPG
30 Shootings
1 Suicide Car Bomb
1 Incident
1 Sticky Bomb
43 Incidents
97 Killed: 23 ISF, 74 Civilians
99 Wounded: 84 ISF, 15 Civilians
17 Shootings
9 IEDs
3 Sticky Bombs
1 Suicide Car Bomb
1 Mortar
34 Incidents
181 Killed: 44 ISF, 137 Civilians
150 Wounded: 15 ISF, 135 Civilians
12 Shootings
23 IEDs
3 Suicide Bombers
6 Suicide Car Bombs
1 Car Bomb
4 Mortars

Car bombs remained at a low level with 6 the first week of January and 9 the second. The number of casualties jumped however between the two from 8 dead January 1-7 to 48 January 8-14. Most of those came on January 8 when 5 truck bombs were launched on Samarra killing 32 ISF and militiamen and wounding another 22 that was followed by an infantry assault by the Islamic State. That same day a suicide car bomb went off in Yusifiya, Babil resulting in 7 deaths and 21 injured. Despite the bloody increase the overall level of car bombs in Iraq remains extremely low from previous months when there were twice as much such attacks each week. IS’s networks have obviously been disrupted by recent security operations accounting for the recent decrease. 

Car Bombs In Iraq Jan. 2015
Jan 1
Habaniya, Anbar

Jan 2

Jan 3

Jan 4
Sadoun St, Baghdad
Outside Samarra, Salahaddin

Jan 5
Anaz, Anbar
Jan 6

Jan 7
Ayathiya x2, Ninewa
Jan 8
Yusifiya Babil
Berhewa, Ninewa
Samarra x5, Salahaddin
Jan 9

Jan 10

Jan 11
Baiji Refinery & West of Samarra, Salahaddin
Jan 12

Jan 13

Jan 14


Casualties Government Shelling In Anbar Jan. 2015
Jan 2
Jan 3
Jan 5
Jan 6
Jan 9
Jan 10
Jan 11
Jan 12
Jan 13
Jan 14

(Institute for the Study of War)

Violence continued throughout central Anbar. There was fighting in Haditha, Jazeera, parts of Ramadi, the Euphrates district outside of that city, and Amiriya Fallujah. The security forces and tribes concentrated on the Baghdadi area in between Haditha and Hit. This is the location of the Al-Assad Air Base, which is a major training center in the province and houses American advisers. Government forces and insurgents have been going back and forth in that area for weeks now. For example, on January 8, Jubba was cleared, militants moved back in, requiring another clearing operation there, which was completed on January 14. The ISF and tribes also began operations in Garma to the northeast of Fallujah on January 11, and in Rutba in the western desert on January 12. The pattern for months now is that IS dominates most of the major cities and towns, while the ISF and tribes are active around them with neither side making much headway.

Government shelling of Fallujah continued. For the week 46 people were killed and 85 wounded during six days of artillery and mortar fire on the city. That accounted for 79% of the dead and 80% of the injured in Anbar from January 8-14.

(NY Times)

Recently, IS has been threatening Muqtadiya in central Diyala. It was attacked three times during the week with mortar and gunfire. These incidents have caused major displacement in the area. A security operation is said to be in the works, but has not happened yet.

The peshmerga and militias cleared the Jalawla and Sadiya area of northeastern Diyala in November. Since then several mass graves have been discovered with victims of the IS. On January 14 one was found with 16 bodies of people executed by the IS. Each time an area is freed from the militants more of these types of sites are being found across Iraq. When the Islamic State takes over an area it kills people opposed to it including local officials, and members of the security forces and sahwa.

During the week there was increased activity in Kirkuk, which has been relatively quiet since the first half of 2014. On January 8 a shrine was blown up by IS, along with nine houses belonging to the sahwa. Then on January 11 several displaced families were kidnapped from Hawija and Riyad. More importantly on January 10 six villages were assaulted to the southwest of Kirkuk. These are the types of intimidation tactics the Islamic State has carried out to establish its control over areas.

January 10 the Joint Special Operations Command in Kirkuk said that the ground forces commander approved forming three regiments of local volunteers in the province. These new units will be deployed in the southeast and consist of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen to clear areas such as Hawija, Taza, and Daquq. Other governorates have made similar announcements showing that local officials are taking up Premier Haider Abadi’s National Guard idea despite the legislation to form it being deadlocked in parliament.

The Islamic State went on the offensive in Ninewa during the week. It attacked the Gwar area, which is in the eastern section of the province along the Irbil border. On January 9, IS came across the Tigris and Ze Rivers in boats and rafts in a night attack against nine villages held by the Kurds. They blamed an Iraqi Army unit on the Khadhir River, who fled in the face of the insurgents before the attack upon Gwar and did not inform the Kurds of the impending assault. Fighting the area lasted several days until January 12, with some being re-attacked the next day. 30 Asayesh and peshmerga were killed during the fighting. This caught the Kurds by surprise, and was the first major fighting in the governorate for several weeks.

(New York Times)

Southern Salahaddin remained the main focus of the ISF and militias in January. After several major success there however, the government forces are now returning to several districts after insurgents re-infiltrated. For example, Dujail was cleared on October 15, and then again on December 10. It was said to be have been freed a third time on January 5, only for a new operation being announced on January 11. Similarly, Baiji was secured on November 8, and then the ISF and militias had to go back in on January 11. Finally, Nibai was cleared on January 7, and then a new sweep began there five days later. IS continues to be on the offensive in the governorate as well. On January 8 and 11 there were major attacks upon Samarra that included the use of seven car and truck bombs, which were then followed by infantry attacks. This is the way the Islamic State is increasingly deploying its vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) as tactical weapons against the security forces. At the same time, IS’s VBIED networks have been partially broken up in Salahaddin. For example, on January 13 ten workshops for making car bombs were discovered in Dhuluiya, which was recently secured. Nibai is also a major VBIED base as well. These operations in part account for the recent drop in car bombings across Iraq.


AIN, "11 ISIL elements killed in Anbar," 1/8/15

Alsumaria, "The killing of five members of Daash and burn their cars south of Tikrit," 1/11/15
- “Security forces liberated the area south of Tikrit, killing 30 elements of Daash,” 12/10/14

Al Forat, “ISF fully liberate Baiji district form ISIL terrorists,” 11/8/14
- “ISF wage security operation to purge Nebae area of ISIL,” 1/7/15
- "ISIL kidnaps dozens families in Tikrit," 1/11/15
- "Tikrit: ISF, volunteers entirely liberate Nibai area from ISIL," 1/15/15

Iraq Oil Report, "Iraqi forces repel IS attacks on key locations," 1/13/15

Iraq Times, "54 martyrs and injured in Samarra five bombings," 1/8/15
- "A car bomb exploded at a gathering of the army south of Tikrit," 1/11/15

Al Mada, "Daash destroys eight houses of police, army and Awakening south and west of Kirkuk," 1/8/15
- "The killing of the military commander in Garma and seven of his aides east of Fallujah," 1/12/15

NINA, "A broad crackdown start to liberate Rutba district far western Anbar," 1/12/15
- “Ten Workshops For Car Bombs And IEDs Found In Dhluiyah, South of Tikrit,” 1/13/15
- "Wali of the Euphrates region killed near Haditha," 1/9/15

Radio Free Iraq, "10 January 2015," Daily Updates from Anbar, 1/10/15
- "11 January 2015," Daily Updates from Anbar, 1/11/15
- "14 January 2015," Daily Updates from Anbar, 1/14/15
- "15 January 2015," Daily Updates from Anbar, 1/15/15

Al Rayy, “Defense agrees to the formation of three regiments of volunteers from Kirkuk to free southwest of province,” 1/10/15
- "The killing of seven members of Daash in security operation north of Tikrit," 1/11/15
- "Shammari announce the start of a massive operation to liberate the areas of Nibai," 1/12/15
- “Sons of Khazraj tribe liberate Dujail area of Daash control,” 10/15/14
- "Sources: Daash blows up religious shrine and awakening leader's home southwest of Kirkuk," 1/8/15
- " forces kill 69 Daash and its Wali western Anbar," 1/9/15

Rudaw, “24 members of Kurdish security killed in major confrontation with ISIS,” 1/9/15

Sadiq, Hoshmand, "Eight Syrian Kurdish Peshmerga Killed on Zumar Frontline," Bas News, 1/8/15
- “Iraqi Army Hinders Peshmerga in Gwer,” Bas News, 1/10/15

Salaheddin, Sinan, “Official: Islamic State group battle in Iraq kills 30 Kurds,” Associated Press, 1/11/15

Sarhan, Amre, “Joint forces kill 42 ISIS elements, free al-Jabbah western Ramadi,” Iraqi News, 1/8/15

Shafaq News, “Security forces and fighters of popular crowd liberate northern Dujail fully and head towards al-Nibai,” 1/5/15

Yacoub, Sameer, "Iraq Authorities Find 16 Bodies in Mass Grave," Associated Press, 1/14/15
- "Suicide attacks kill 23 in Iraq," Associated Press, 1/8/15