U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Tuesday and met Iraq’s prime minister and other top officials to discuss the safety of Americans in Iraq and explain U.S. security concerns amid rising Iranian activity. The visit came two days after U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said the United States was deploying the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and a bomber task force to the region because of a “credible threat by Iranian regime forces”. Washington has ramped up sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program in recent months and designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group.
A ferry overloaded with people celebrating the Kurdish new year and Mother’s Day capsized in the Tigris River near the Iraqi city of Mosul on Thursday, killing nearly 100 people, including families, officials said. An Interior Ministry official said 94 people were killed in the accident, which residents said was the worst in recent memory. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Barham Salih was elected as the new president of Iraq on Tuesday by the parliament ending months of deadlock following the inconclusive national election in May. British-educated Kurdish politician Salih named Shi’ite Adel Abdul Mahdi as the prime minister-delegate. Salih is a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
A storage site holding half of Baghdad’s ballot boxes from Iraq’s parliamentary elections in May caught on fire on Sunday days after parliament called for a nationwide recount. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the fire was a plot to harm Iraq’s democratic process. It is unclear whether voting papers were destroyed.
The Iraqi firebrand militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr has emerged as the surprise frontrunner in Iraq’s national elections after winning more seats than US-backed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Sadr is known for his anti-American campaigns and populist appeal to Iraq’s young and poor. Sadr’s win could change Iraq’s relations with powers like the US and Iran.
A report by the United Nations says that at least 6,000 bodies were found buried in 202 mass graves across Iraq by the Islamic State. Authorities believe there could be more than 12,000 people buried in the mass graves. The graves were discovered in areas of Iraq once controlled by the Islamic State.
Iraq asked a US-led coalition for $88 billion to rebuild its cities, destroyed in the war. The US announced, Tuesday, plans to extend a $3 billion credit line, urging coalition members to help. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said lack of help could prompt return of ‘conditions that allowed ISIS to take and control vast territory.’
Responding to the Kurdish region’s vote for independence last month, Iraqi forces occupied the city of Kirkuk, lowering Kurdistan’s flag and raising Iraq’s. Military bases, an oil field, and other buildings were reclaimed by Iraqi forces. President Donald Trump stated ‘We’re not taking sides,’ as the United States has trained both Kurdish and Iraqi forces.
ISIS’s grip on Iraqi territory has apparently ended according to Iraq’s Prime Minister after government forces recaptured the site of historic Al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has ever made a public appearance. The Islamic State considered the site the symbolic center of their self-declared caliphate. Iraqi militants are now dealing with the rubble that has been left since last week.
Hawija, an ISIS stronghold in northern Iraq, was captured by US-backed Iraqi government troops and Iranian-trained and armed Shia paramilitary groups. The last area in Iraq under Islamic State control is a stretch on the western border with Syria where Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, says the fight will now focus.