Sinan Adnan and ISW Iraq Team – Key Takeaway: Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi is taking measures to empower the Baghdad-based Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to assert control over the security of the capital. It is unclear at this time how the ISF will implement the demilitarization of the Kadhmiya, Adhamiya, Mansour, and Saydiya neighborhoods as requested. Militias enjoy freedom of movement in all of these neighborhoods, but Kadhmiya in particular has a greater militia presence than the others. This is mainly due to the presence of the Imam al-Kadhim shrine in the area.
Competition between the militias in Kadhmiya came to a head in June of 2013 as Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) and the Sadrists clashed, clearly signaling their overt presence in the area. Such presence has likely increased following the fall of Mosul. Saydiya, in southern Baghdad, would be second after Kadhmiya in presence of militias; it saw a notable increase in militia presence and activities throughout 2013. It is unclear if ISF “demilitarization” will limit the movement of the militias. It will be important to watch for the implementation of this decision and how the militias react to an implementation that limits their movements and ultimately decreases their influence. The overt presence of the militias in mainly Iraqi Shi’a areas of Baghdad like Sadr City, Hurriyah, Shula, and Kadhmiya was the result of increased ISIS attacks in the capital perceived by many Baghdadis to be the result of poor ISF performance. ISIS will likely attempt to increase its attacks on civilians in Baghdad to portray the ISF and the government as unable to protect civilians. Moving west, the contest for Ramadi remains ongoing as ISIS continue to be able to project attacks from within the city toward the Government Complex, a focal point in the city held by the ISF and Iraqi Sunni anti-ISIS tribes.