By John Lee.

NATO is to take the lead in the ‘train the trainer’ mission to teach Iraqi military instructors to impart key skills.

According to a press release from the Combined Joint Task Force (Operation Inherent Resolve), the project will involve such skills as countering improvised explosive devices, civil-military planning, armored vehicle maintenance, and military medicine to their trainees. NMI will train the ISF in multiple capacities and build upon their professional military academies, amongst other critical military schools.

The Coalition will build on the training which has already been delivered to more than 173,000 Iraqis.

(Source: Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve)

NATO Leads New Mission to Develop Iraq’s Defense Institutions

A new NATO-led mission in Iraq will work to further develop Iraq’s security institutions and structures, British Army Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika told Pentagon reporters here today.

American and Turkish troops conduct a convoy during a joint patrol in Manbij, Syria, Nov. 8, 2018. Army photo by Spc. Zoe Garbarino

The mission is expected to be established by early next year, said Ghika, who declined to specify which NATO nations and the number of personnel would be involved.

Ghika, deputy commander of strategy and information for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, spoke during a video teleconference from Baghdad today.

The nature of the mission will be noncombat, he said. It will consist of advisors working closely with officials of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and the Office of the National Security Advisor “to help Iraq build a more effective, sustainable, inclusive and transparent defense sector.”

The focus of those efforts will be on institutional education in the National Defense University, the Joint Forces Staff College, and some of the schools which are building military capability in areas such as engineering and infantry, he said. The advisors will focus on training the Iraqi instructors.

Ghika also provided an update on coalition efforts to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and provide aid to civilians impacted by the fighting.

Coalition Efforts in Syria

Last week provided for the safe delivery of critical humanitarian aid to the Rukban internally displaced person’s camp near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, on the border with Jordan in the deconfliction zone, Ghika said.

Leading that effort were the Maghaweir al Thowra, a fighting force native to southern Syria and a partner of CJTF – OIR, the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, a humanitarian nonprofit organization. Maghaweir al Thowra was previously called the New Syrian Army.

Supplies delivered included 10,475 food parcels, clothes for 18,000 children, 10,000 hygiene kits, as well as newborn baby kits for about 1,200 children, he said.

Also, the U.N. conducted an emergency vaccination campaign to protect around 10,000 children against measles, polio and other potentially deadly diseases.

Currently, the coalition and Syrian Democratic Forces partners are fighting ISIS in the last physically held terrain in the Middle Euphrates River valley around the town of Hajin in eastern Syria, Ghika said.

“This is a hard fight. Indeed, we have witnessed some of the most intense fighting since ISIS was defeated in Raqqa, [Syria,] and Mosul, [Iraq]. The ultimate outcome is not in doubt. ISIS will be defeated in the Middle Euphrates River valley,” he said.

On Nov. 8, U.S. and Turkish forces conducted their second combined joint patrol in the vicinity of the town of Manbij, Syria, on the west bank of the Euphrates, about 19 miles from Turkey. “This is a critical part of the coalition’s efforts to prevent the resurgence of ISIS there and enable the voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced people,” Ghika said.

Coalition Efforts in Iraq

Iraqi security forces continue to target ISIS fighters who are attempting to regroup and regain a foothold in the small pockets of the Anbar Desert area of Iraq. Those efforts, called Operation Last Warning, are broadening to the entire country, he said.

Additionally, Iraqi forces are shoring up the border with Syria to prevent ISIS fighters from fleeing to Syria, reinforcing efforts of the SDF, he said.

In Saladin province in northern Iraq, the ISF and the Iraqi counterterrorism service, supported by the coalition, conducted multiple strikes on an ISIS senior leader meeting, killing a significant number of ISIS militants and key leaders, Ghika said.

Progress in Battling ISIS

“I’m struck by the immense progress that’s been made by Iraqi security forces and Syrian democratic forces partnering against the evil of ISIS,” said Ghika, noting that this is his second CJTF – OIR tour, the first as deputy commander of the coalition’s land component command in 2014 to 2015.

A recently published U.N. report on atrocities and mass graves in territories formerly controlled by ISIS documents 202 mass grave sites and the U.N. estimates these sites contain 6,000 to 12,000 bodies, he said.

“This is a stark reminder of why the coalition to counter ISIS was established and why nations across the globe have been willing to send their fighting men and women here,” Ghika said.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

NATO works closely with Iraq to strengthen good governance in the Iraqi security structures

Over a hundred representatives from twenty ministries and institutions across the Iraqi government attended a workshop organized by NATO in Baghdad, on 24 to 26 April 2018. The focus was on best practices to strengthen transparency, accountability and good governance within the national security institutions and other government structures.

Brigadier General Francesco Giuliano, NATO Senior Military Officer in Iraq, underlined the impact of corruption on lasting security. “The effects of corruption are devastating for the state, as they cause defence systems to fail, ” he pointed out.  Transparent and accountable defense institutions are key to the stability of states.

In accordance with the NATO Building Integrity Policy endorsed by the Heads of State and Government at the NATO Warsaw Summit in 2016, the Alliance provides support to its members and partner countries to strengthen good governance and integrity in their national defence and security structures.

The seminar provided a forum for the Iraqi representatives to exchange views, including with  international partners, on how to tackle issues of corruption within their respective organizations. Following the military defeat of Daesh, the Government of Iraq has made the fight against corruption its top priority. The process of fighting corruption is complex.

Quoting the Iraqi Prime Minister, “fighting against corruption in our country is more dangerous than the war against terrorism,” Brigadier General Riyadh from the Prime Minister National Operations Centre said.  The participants also discussed about how to identify corruption risks, develop mitigation strategies and mechanisms of accountability and oversight, and strengthen professionalism and the culture of integrity in public institutions through education and training.

The fight against corruption requires a comprehensive approach. Against this background, the mentioned workshop featured the participation by representatives of other international organizations, including – amongst others – the United Nations, the European Union, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

This initiative was part of a series of workshops organized by  NATO to boost cooperation between Iraqi civil and military institutions.  These events contribute to the wider NATO training and capacity building efforts aimed at improving the effectiveness and sustainment of the Iraqi security structures.

(Source: NATO)

NATO Secretary General visits Iraq, praises Allied trainers and Iraqi forces

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg began an official visit to Iraq on Monday (5 March 2018), paying a visit to NATO’s training facilities in Besmaya.

For over a year, NATO has conducted training and capacity building activities for hundreds of Iraqi security forces, helping them to develop their own capabilities in the fight against terrorism.

In Besmaya, the Secretary General met with Spanish, Canadian and Slovakian trainers, as well as Iraqi forces who have benefited from NATO’s training activities.

Accompanied by the Base Commander, Spanish Brigadier General Luis Cepeda Lucas, Mr. Stoltenberg observed training in counter-improvised explosive devices, explosive ordnance disposal and de-mining. He praised the professionalism of the troops, noting that this training helps to save lives.

In Baghdad, the Secretary General met with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to discuss the security situation and strengthening cooperation between NATO and Iraq. He paid tribute to the bravery of the Iraqi forces, saying: “Supported by the Global Coalition, they have broken the grip of Daesh terrorists on this country.” He stressed that it is important to secure these gains.

At the request of the Iraqi government, NATO is planning to scale up its support with a new training mission in Iraq. “We will continue to train the trainers, and help the Iraqi Government to establish specialist military academies and schools,” he said.

During his visit, the Secretary General also met with Commanding General, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, and senior Global Coalition commanders, as well as representatives from the United Nations, European Union, and Allied nations.

(Source: NATO)

By Ali Mamouri for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iranian Interference in Iraqi Election stirs Anger among Iraqis

Ali Akbar Velayati (pictured), Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s top adviser on international affairs, paid an official visit to Iraq from Feb. 15-18. He made statements on issues related to Iraq’s internal affairs, including the upcoming elections, which sparked controversy in the Iraqi political scene.

“We will not allow liberals and communists to govern in Iraq,” Velayati said during a speech Feb. 17 at the Founding Conference of the Iraqi Assembly of Islamic Unity in Baghdad.

It is clear that Velayati was referring to the electoral alliance between the Sadrist movement, the civil movement and the Iraqi Communist Party in the upcoming elections. Since the last elections in 2014, the leader of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, has been adopting a stance independent of Iran.

His followers have repeatedly shouted slogans against Iran and its regional symbols such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force commander, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

Raed Fahmi, the secretary of the Central Committee of the Iraqi Communist Party, running in the elections with the Sairoun coalition allied with the Sadrist movement, saw Velayati’s statement as an intervention in Iraqi affairs and against the Iraqi Constitution.

Velayati’s statement stirred the ire of other civil entities, too. Faeq al-Sheikh Ali, a member of parliament with the civil movement, said in a Facebook post Feb. 17 that it expresses contempt for and disregard of the Iraqis. “The civil movement, liberals, communists, nationalists, democrats and all the honorable people of Iraq will not allow Ali Akbar Velayati and other Iranians to interfere in Iraqi affairs,” he wrote.

In turn, the Sunni currents were also disturbed by the statements of Velayati. Parliamentarian Abdul Karim Abtan, a prominent leader with the Iraqi National Movement, said in a TV interview, “We do not work for Velayati or any other person. … We are Iraqis. Our national project is an Iraqi project. Even if Velayati has power over one or two Iraqis, this power will not last. We will not allow anyone to have influence at the expense of the Iraqis and to intervene in Iraqi affairs.”

In addition to his official meetings with President Fuad Masum and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Velayati met with Shiite leaders close to Iran, such as former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, head of the Wisdom Movement Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Badr Organization Hadi al-Amiri and Sheikh Humam Hamoudi, the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.

The choice of the figures Velayati met with indicates that Iran is apprehensive about the state of political disintegration within Iraq’s Shiite community, which could have serious post-elections repercussions that would result in the formation of an Iraqi government that is more distant and independent from Iran.

An official in the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, Haidar Nuri Sadeq al-Mulla, told Al-Monitor, “Iran’s tools in Iraq can no longer play the Iraqi sectarian card since the Iraqi people have become aware of such maneuvers. Therefore, Iran is trying to mobilize the Iraqi street from abroad so that the elections lead to results in favor of the blocs that still support its agenda.”

Mulla pointed to other similar statements by Rahim Bor Azghadi, a member of the Iranian Supreme Council for the Cultural Revolution. Azghadi had said, “We are intervening in the countries in the region that are close to the United States in order to bring down the ruling regimes in those countries and to be able to control them. There are five countries that are no longer controlled by Washington and currently under the control of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.”

Mulla called upon the Iraqi Foreign Ministry to take a clear stance on Iran’s interference in Iraq’s affairs, saying, “Iraq will not be part of the sectarian axis policy that Iran seeks to create in the region.”

“Iraq is not subject to the domination or control of any foreign country,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Mahjoub said Feb. 22 in response to Azghadi’s statements that Iran controls five countries in the region, including Iraq, and that it was Iran (via its agents) that executed Saddam Hussein.

As usual, Velayati failed to meet with top Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani and other religious authorities during his trip to Najaf, because of the policy of the city’s religious figures not to receive Iranians who make inflammatory statements about Iraqi domestic affairs.

Lebanese Shiite activist Mustafa Fahs said that Velayati, in a statement at the Baghdad conference, called Khamenei “the leader of the Islamic nation,” without any mention of Sistani despite the latter’s major role in the stability of Iraq. Fahs said this is evidence of Iran’s resentment of Sistani.

Velayati also called on the Popular Mobilization Units to stand tall in the face of the American forces in Iraq. “Americans are in the process of creating a NATO base in Iraq with the help of some Islamic countries to prevent unity among Muslims,” Velayati said in his speech. He said Iran will not allow the American plan to see the light; he said the plan aims to block land passage between Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut.

During his encounter with Maliki, Velayati said US troops should not be present east of the Euphrates. He added, “The resistance front should not allow NATO to set up a base in western Asia.”

Recently, NATO agreed to carry on with and expand its mission in Iraq to train Iraqi security forces, upon the request of the United States.

Pro-Iran Shiite militias promptly responded. The secretary-general of Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, Sheikh Akram al-Kaabi, said Feb. 21 that his movement is making tremendous efforts “to clean up Iraqi soil of any US presence and terrorist sleeper cells; we have warned against their being under US protection under different names and descriptions.”

Parliamentarian Abdul Bari Zebari, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, criticized Velayati’s remarks, saying, “Any remarks that do not come following coordination with the Iraqi government could influence Iraqi public opinion and have negative repercussions — particularly as the election approaches.”

Iran will continue to pressure its proxies in Iraq to set up a strong political alliance against their rivals in order to make sure they win a political majority that would enable them to form a government following the election.

(Picture Credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

In November and December this year, a mobile training team led by Slovakia conducted a training course in manual demining for Iraqi Security Forces.

This was held in Iraq in the framework of NATO‘s training and capacity building activities in support of Iraqi security forces and institutions. It was developed and implemented in coordination with the NATO Core Team in Baghdad.

Twenty-one students from the Ministry of Defence attended the course. Upon completion seventeen of them were certified as instructors; four were awarded with certificates of basic demining.”Most of the students were experienced explosive ordnance disposal personel and were really eager to learn new techniques,” the Commander of the Slovak Training Team, 2ndLieutenant Lukáš Cabovsky, said.

Following the liberation of Iraq from Da’esh/ISIS, more clearance of explosives is required. ‎Civilians are often the victims, as Da’esh/ISIS are reported to have planted bombs and other explosive devices in heavily populated areas, as well as in schools and parks.

To deal with this, NATO is helping to build a sustainable Iraqi demining capacity by conducting a series of training activities for future Iraqi instructors. “Our contribution is focused exclusively on carrying out training tasks and on providing advice and assistance in support of the Iraqi forces,” 2nd Lieutenant Cabovsky highlighted.

Other training courses and seminars already conducted in the framework of NATO’s training and capacity building activities in support of Iraqi security forces and institutions have focused on countering improvised explosive devices, maintenance of Soviet-era armoured vehicles, military medicine, civil-military cooperation, reform of security institutions, and civil emergency planning to deal with natural emergencies.

(Source: NATO)

NATO has recently delivered and demonstrated 160 sets of counter-IED equipment to Iraq’s Ministry of Interior.

Financed by NATO’s Defence Capacity Building Trust Fund, the equipment is an important contribution to Iraq’s efforts to fight terrorism and protect civilians.

Speaking at a meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the delivery, saying “one of our best tools in the fight against terrorism is training local forces… this equipment will help save lives.

At Iraq’s request, NATO agreed in July 2015 to provide defence capacity building support in a number of areas, including countering improvised explosive devices, explosive ordnance disposal and demining, security sector reform, military medicine and civil military planning.

In 2016, NATO trained over 350 Iraqi officers in Jordan, and at the Warsaw Summit in July 2016, Allies agreed to expand this training into Iraq itself. Since January 2017, NATO advisers have been working in the country, overseeing training activities and working with the Iraqi authorities to reform their security institutions. NATO’s presence in Iraq includes a core team and mobile training teams.

(Source: NATO)

NATO launched a new training programme in Iraq on Sunday (5 February 2017), teaching Iraqi security forces to counter Improvised Explosive Devices (IED). Around 30 enlisted soldiers are participating in the first five-week course.

NATO’s training and capacity building in Iraq is strengthening the country’s ability to fight ISIL and provide for its own security,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

NATO Allies are supplying protective equipment to Iraqi security forces as part of their training. The new counter-IED training scheme will run alongside NATO-run courses in Iraq on civil-military cooperation.

Since January 2017, NATO advisers have been working in the country, overseeing training activities and working with the Iraqi authorities to reform their security institutions.

NATO has been training Iraqi security forces in several areas, including counter-IED, explosive ordnance disposal and de-mining in neighbouring Jordan.  At the Warsaw Summit in July of last year, Allies agreed to expand this training into Iraq itself.

The Secretary General stressed that training Iraqi forces is an important part of NATO’s contribution to the fight against terrorism, which includes AWACS surveillance support to the Coalition against ISIL.

“The best weapon we have in the fight against terrorism is to train local forces,” said Mr. Stoltenberg, adding that “a more effective Iraqi military means a safer Iraq, and a more stable Middle East.”

(Source: NATO)

Iraqi experts were trained on cyber defence at the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey to improve their expertise and technical knowledge and to contribute to the strengthening of Iraqi national cyber defence capabilities. This course was supported by the Science for Peace and security (SPS) Programme.

Addressing Iraq’s needs

This training course aimed at Iraqi system/network administrators was tailored specifically to Iraq’s needs by focusing on its cyber security and defence requirements presented to NATO. Overall, 16 civil servants from the new Iraqi Computer Incident Response Team (CIRT) were trained during the course.

The hands-on training programme included both theoretical sessions as well as practical laboratory exercises of core aspects of cyber defence, including cryptanalysis, prevention of data exfiltration, advanced digital forensics, and conducting vulnerability assessment.

Mr Aldulsamad, Director of the CIRT, remarked “we appreciate the broad approach that covered cyber security as a whole because it enabled each expert to be exposed to areas that are very different from the one they specialise in, together with the security implications that they have to be aware of in order to be better equipped at tackling their everyday challenges.”

The course focused on raising cyber security awareness and provided the trainees with the expertise and technical knowledge to help increase resilience of their national networks. Upon their return, the trainees will be able to apply the gained knowledge in the daily operation of their institutions thereby significantly contributing to the strengthening of Iraqi national cyber defence capabilities.