Iraq is very heavily contaminated with anti-personnel mines and cluster munition remnants

Cluster Munition Remnants

Anti-Personnel Mines
  • Article 4 deadline

    1 November 2023

  • Performance


Performance Indicator Score
Problem understood 6
Target date for completion of clearance 3
Targeted clearance 4
Efficient clearance 7
National funding of programme 6
Timely clearance 3
Land release system in place 6
National mine action standards 5
Reporting on progress 5
Improving performance 5
Performance score 4.9

Recommendations for Action

  • Iraq should draw up a strategic plan for the clearance of cluster munition remnants (CMR), setting out operational priorities, clarifying institutional responsibilities, identifying and allocating available resources, and setting timelines for implementation. 
  • Iraq should introduce national standards for CMR survey and clearance, and develop the capacity of national operators to meet them.
  • The Directorate for Mine Action (DMA) should draw on international assistance to enable it to discharge its management responsibilities effectively and transparently.


Despite the armed conflict in Iraq, substantive progress in clearing CMR was recorded in 2015, with clearance by Civil Defence units of more than three times the amount reported in 2014.


Cluster munition remnants (CMR) contaminate significant areas of central and southern Iraq, a legacy of the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Iraq reports that CMR in confirmed hazardous areas (CHAs) cover a total of 200km2 across nine central and southern governorates: 95% is in just the three governorates of Basra, Muthanna, and Thi-Qar.Email from Ahmed Al-Jasim, Head of Information Management Department, DMA, 30 May 2016.A small amount of CMR contamination also remains in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region, the result of air strikes conducted under former President Saddam Hussein.​

Table 1: CMR contamination in central and southern Iraq as at May 2016Email from Ahmed al-Jasim, DMA, 30 May 2016.
Governorate Confirmed Areas Area (m2) Suspected Areas Area (m2)
Babylon 89,500 
Al-Qadisiyah 3,740,034  226,303 
Basrah 104  16,614,715  0.12 
Kerbala 1,595,474  218,708 
Missan 668,090 
Muthanna 30  128,646,307 
Najaf 4,012,033  1,309,596 
Thi-Qar 14  45,157,988 
Wassit 299,143 
 Totals 168  200,823,284  3  1,754,607 

The highway between Kuwait and Basra was heavily targeted by cluster bomb strikes in the 1991 Gulf War and cluster munitions were also used extensively during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, particularly around Basra, Nasiriyah, and the approaches to Baghdad.UNICEF/UNDP, “Overview of Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War in Iraq”, June 2009, p. 10. CMR are a feature of many of the clearance tasks being undertaken to open up access to oilfields and develop infrastructure, as well as for humanitarian clearance.Telephone interview with Kent Paulusson, Senior Mine Action Advisor for Iraq, UNDP, 28 July 2011.

The Kurdistan Regional Government reported confirmed CMR contamination totalling 1.18km2 in two areas: the northern district of Dohuk close to the border with Turkey and the Garmiyan area south of Sulimaniya.Email from Khatab Omer Ahmed, Planning Manager, Directorate General of Technical Affairs, Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Agency (IKMAA), 20 May 2016.

Table 2: CMR contamination in the KRG as at May 2016
Governorate  CHAs  Area (m²)  SHAs Area (m²)
Dohuk   486,628  11  672,158 
Garmiyan 689,500 
Totals 10  1,176,128  11  672,158 


Programme Management

The mine action programme in Iraq is managed along regional lines. Clearance of explosive remnants of war (ERW), including CMR, was conducted in 2015 by a small number of international humanitarian operators and a larger group of national and international commercial operators.

Iraqi Kurdistan Region

Mine action in Iraq’s northern governorates under the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is managed by the Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Agency (IKMAA). It coordinates four directorates in Dohuk, Erbil, Garmian, and Slemani.

Central and Southern Iraq

In central and southern Iraq, responsibility for mine action was transferred in 2008 to the Ministry of Environment, which set up a Directorate of Mine Action (DMA) to coordinate and manage the sector. The DMA, however, implements policy set by a Higher Council for Mine Action (HCMA) created by, and reporting to the prime minister, in which the ministries of defence, interior, and oil are major actors. The HCMA is supported by a Technical Committee, functioning as its secretariat.DMA presentation to 2015 Mine Action Country Planning Workshop for Iraq, Istanbul, 13 May 2015; “Capacity Development Support to National Mine Action Authorities in Iraq, Phase 1: Initial Assessment Mission,” Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, February 2012.

The DMA oversees four regional mine action centres (RMACs) for the north (covering the governorates of Anbar, Kirkuk, Mosul, and Saladin), the centre (Baghdad, Diyala, and Wassit), an area identified as “ME” (Babylon, Karbala, Najaf, and Qadsiya) and the south (Basrah, Missan, Muthanna, and Thi-Qar),DMA presentation to 2015 Mine Action Country Planning Workshop for Iraq, Istanbul, 13 May 2015. but the extent to which the RMACs were active in 2015 is unclear.

Strategic Planning

Iraq does not have a strategic plan for clearance of CMR.


DMA data for 2015 shows two international humanitarian operators, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) and Iraq Mine Clearance Organization (IMCO), engaged in survey and/or clearance of CMR in central and southern Iraq; other operators included civil defence and the army. IMCO ceased operating in the middle of 2015. The activities, if any, of commercial companies were not reported.Emails from Ahmed al-Jasim, DMA, 30 May 2016; and Per Breivik, Chief Operating Officer, IMCO, 5 May and 4 June 2015.

In the KRG, IKMAA reported only Mines Advisory Group (MAG) as conducting CMR clearance.Email from Khatab Omer Ahmed, IKMAA, 20 May 2016.


Land Release

Mine action sector operations were overshadowed by conflict, prevalent insecurity, and the urgent need to address extensive, dense contamination by improvised explosive devices which has emerged as a humanitarian priority. As a result, CMR contamination was not a priority, and survey and clearance slowed in 2015 compared to the previous year, although data deficiencies hinder an accurate determination of progress. Release of cleared land was also held back by lack of capacity to conduct quality control in the DMA and RMAC South.

Survey in 2015

Non-technical survey (NTS) and technical survey in parts of central and southern Iraq continued to define CMR contamination, but national survey standards have yet to be introduced and the quality of survey results is variable. Most of the survey and clearance was attributed to army and civil defence teams whose methodology and standards are unknown.

In central and southern Iraq, the DMA reported that NTS had identified 34 suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) totalling 4.5km2 in three governorates: Basra (3.37km2), Kerbala (0.22km2), and Missan (0.87km2).Email from Ahmed al-Jasim, DMA, 21 May 2016. The DMA also reported that operators confirmed 101 hazardous areas affecting 42km2, nearly three-quarters of which was accounted for by Iraq’s Civil Defence. Other data provided by the DMA indicated NTS had identified suspected or confirmed hazardous areas covering 9.5km2, close to 90% of it in Basra and al-Qadisiyah governorates, but with small SHAs in Missan and Karbala.Email from Ahmed al-Jasim, DMA, 30 May 2016. 

The DMA’s record of activities undertaken by international operators, as in the past, was significantly at variance from the operators’ own records, pointing to weaknesses in understanding or record-keeping systems. NPA said it confirmed 10 CMR hazards covering almost 7.4km2, mostly in Missan governorate.Email from Bjørn Skodvin Hannisdal, Country Programme Director, NPA, 3 June 2016.

Table 3: Survey of CMR-contaminated areas in 2015
Operator  Areas confirmed  Area confirmed (m²)
Civil Defence  43   30,882,887 
IMCO  10  7,818,484 
Iraqi Army  54,967 
NPA  46   3,245,511 
RMAC South 169,141 
Totals  101  42,170,990 


NPA also reported cancelling 301km2 of battle area by NTS in Missan governorate (see Table 4).Email from Bjørn Skodvin Hannisdal, Country Programme Director, NPA, 3 June 2016.

Table 4: NTS and Cluster Munition Remnant Survey in 2015
Operator SHAs cancelled Area cancelled (m²) Areas confirmed Area confirmed (m²) Area reduced by TS (m²)
NPA  301,442,478  10  7,388,122 

IKMAA did not record any survey of CMR-affected areas in the KRG in 2015.Email from Khatab Omer Ahmed, IKMAA, 20 May 2016.

Clearance in 2015

IKMAA reported that CMR clearance in the KRG was conducted only by MAG, which cleared 0.5km2.18 DDG relocated its Basra operation to the KRG in December 2014 and was able to mobilise funding to work in the north but as at April 2016 had still not received accreditation to conduct explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) or area clearance.Email from Bazz Jolly, Programme/Operations Manager, DDG (KRG), 26 April 2016.

In central and southern Iraq, humanitarian clearance slowed in 2015 because of funding problems for national operators who on occasion reportedly had difficulty in meeting payroll commitments. Additionally IMCO, the biggest humanitarian NGO, closed operations at the end of June 2015 after failing to resolve long-running issues with the DMA over registration and accreditation requirements.Emails from Per Breivik, IMCO, 5 May, 4 June, and 22 October 2015.

Most clearance in central and southern Iraq was undertaken by Civil Defence units which the DMA said cleared more 6.3km2 of CMR-affected area in 2015, more than three times the amount reported in 2014 although mine action sources said Civil Defence struggled with financial constraints and equipment shortages.

Following DDG’s relocation to KRG, NPA was the only international humanitarian operator outside the KRG, accelerating the pace of clearance with the arrival of long-awaited large-loop detectors and the addition of two battle area clearance (BAC) and two survey teams in October 2015, bringing its operations staff to 52. NPA planned to complete work in Missan in 2016 and focus resources on Basra.Email from Bjørn Skodvin Hannisdal, NPA, 3 June 2016.

Table 5: Clearance of CMR-contaminated areas in 2015
Operator      Areas cleared Area cleared (m²) Submunitions destroyed AVM destroyed UXO destroyed
Centre & South          
Civil Defence  11  6,387,984  2,017  1,514 
NPA  1,847,110  616  162 
Subtotals 17  8,235,094   2,633  1,676 
MAG 12  546,371  234 
TOTALS 29  8,781,465  2,867  1,680 


Article 4 Compliance

Under Article 4 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), Iraq is required to destroy all CMR in areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 1 November 2023.

The likelihood of Iraq meeting its deadline looks remote in view of military conflict, political instability, financial constraints, and competing security and humanitarian priorities. In this already challenging environment, operators also reported obstacles ranging from slow and complex bureaucracy to an overall lack of transparency and corruption on a scale that damages efficiency, raises costs, and calls into question the extent of authorities’ commitment to meeting their treaty obligations.

Download the full 2016 report for Iraq

Click here to download the "Clearing Cluster Munition Remnants 2016" report for Iraq.