ISHM 209: JUNE 13 – JUNE 20, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • Political Opposition To Abdul-Mahdi Escalates; Provincial Elections Postponed Again; Commander in Chief Forbids Military Movements Without His Oversight; Kuwait’s Emir Visits Baghdad – On June 16, Iraqi press reported that six parliamentary blocs were considering a move to oppose the government of Abdul-Mahdi. On June 17, Moqtada al-Sadr a issued an ultimatum for parliament and the prime minister to complete cabinet formation within ten days. On June 16, the former governor of Kirkuk returned to Erbil weeks after he was reported arrested at Lebanon’s Rafic Hariri Airport. On June 17, Iraq’s Electoral Commission postponed the next provincial elections until April 2020. On June 18, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi prohibited foreign militaries from operating on Iraqi soil without Baghdad’s permission and control and also prohibited militias from conducting any operations without the knowledge and oversight of the Commander in Chief. On June 19, the Emir of Kuwait arrived in Baghdad and met President Salih and Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi. Abdul-Mahdi and the Emir reportedly discussed the growing US-Iran conflict, Iraqi debt to Kuwait, and the countries’ mutual desire to enhance bilateral relations. On June 20, the newly elected KRG President visited Baghdad. more…
  • Rockets Hit Basra Oil Sites, Iraqi Bases Housing U.S. Advisers; Farm Fires Continue Across Northern Iraq; Mortar and IED attacks reported in Diyala, Ninewa and Babylon – On June 14, three mortar shells landed at the Balad air base, where U.S. advisers are stationed. On June 17, three Katyusha rockets struck Camp Taji. On June 14, two IEDs detonated in two Baghdad neighborhoods. On June 14, there were reports that 25 families fled from their village to the towns of Kalar and Khanaqin in Diyala due to poor security. On June 14, there were was a report of mortar attacks in Buhraz in Diyala province. On June 15, the Iraqi Civil Defense Directorate reported that approximately 11,465 acres were damaged in 303 fires from May 8 to June 14. On June 19, a fire reportedly destroyed 500 houses south of Mount Sinjar. On June 16, two mortar shells landed in the area of Abu Lokah, north of Babylon. On June 17, 16 alleged terrorists were killed in in Ninewa. On June 17, leaflets containing ISIS propaganda were discovered in Basra. On June 18, a Katyusha rocket struck the presidential palace compound in Mosul. On June 19, an IED exploded in the Shahwani area of Mosul, injuring two civilians. On June 19, a rocket struck near a facility used by ExxonMobil in Basra, injuring three people. On June 19, three Katyusha rockets landed near a PMU checkpoint in the al-Nasr area, north of Hilla. more…
  • EU Donates €19.5 Million For Various Aid Initiatives; 1,071 IDPs Return To Anbar; Protests Reported In Barsa – On June 14, The EU announced that it will donate €2 million to support IOM improve infrastructure in IDP camps. On June 17, the EU said it will donate €2.5 million to UNFPA in Iraq to support emergency reproductive health and increase specialized services to victims of gender-based violence. On June 17, the Iraqi Ministry of Migration announced that over 1,072 IDPs have been able to return to their place of origin in Anbar. On June 19, the EU announced €15 million in grants to vulnerable farmers in Ninewa. On June 20, hundreds of protesters gathered in Basra to demand for better services. more…
  • U.S. Allows Iraq To Continue Importing Iranian Energy; Japan To Provide $1 Billion Loan For Upgrades; Iraq Takes Over Mosul Dam Project From U.S./Italian Teams – On June 15, the U.S. granted Iraq a new 120-day waiver to allow Baghdad to continue importing gas and electricity from Iran. On June 16, Iraq and Japan signed an agreement for a $1 billion to upgrade the Basra oil refinery. On June 16, U.S. Ambassador Matthew Tueller announced that the Mosul Dam Project will be handed over to Iraqi authorities this summer. On June 17, Iraqi oil officials reported that production at Exxon’s West Qurna-1 oilfield in Basra has increased by 25,000 bpd to 465,000 bpd. On June 18, the U.S. Embassy in Iraq announced that Iraq has issued investment facilities for American companies and citizens interested in doing business in Iraq. On June 20, Baghdad hosted the Iraqi-Turkish Business Forum began to discuss trade and investment between the two countries. more…

For more background on most of the institutions, key actors, political parties, and locations mentioned in our takeaways or in the stories that follow, see the ISHM Reference Guide.


Political Opposition To Abdul-Mahdi Escalates; Provincial Elections Postponed Again; Commander in Chief Forbids Military Movements Without His Oversight; Kuwait’s Emir Visits Baghdad

On June 16, the former governor of Kirkuk, Najmiddin Karim, returned to Erbil weeks after he was reported arrested at Lebanon’s Rafic Hariri Airport. Iraq’s Interior Ministry stated that a warrant for Karim’s arrest was issued by the Interpol on October 31, 2018 following an Iraqi court order. The Interior Ministry added that Interpol in Lebanon released Karim on bail, but had confiscated his passport. Karim’s office said the warrant was politically motivated and aimed to distract the public from problems in Kirkuk. The Iraqi parliament ousted Karim from his position as governor in October 2017 including the disputed province in the Kurdistan Region’s referendum on independence. On June 18, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi commented on the charges against Karim and insisted that the legal procedures against him would be diligent and lawful. He added that political opposition to the government is healthy as long as it abides by the law.

On June 16, Al-Mada reported that six parliamentary blocs were discussing a decision to form a political opposition coalition against the government of Abdul-Mahdi. Ammar al-Hakim’s Hikma Movement announced that it was moving to parliamentary opposition. On June 17, Moqtada al-Sadr also ramped up pressure on Abdul-Mahdi, and issued an ultimatum for parliament and the prime minister to complete the formation his cabinet within ten days. Sadr condemned the parliaments inability to fill the vacant Defense, Interior and Justice portfolios offices, calling it “haram” (forbidden) and an injustice to the people. On June 18, in an apparent response al-Hakim and Sadr’s actions, President Salih convened a meeting with Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi and other unnamed political leaders and agreed on seven points for the development of a more cohesive and effective government policy. Among these points was a commitment to completing the formation of the cabinet within two weeks. Other points focused on counterterrorism efforts, fighting corruption, services and infrastructure, maintaining stability in light of escalating U.S.-Iran tensions. Participants in the meeting committed to support Abdul-Mahdi’s cabinet. Sadr’s Saeroun bloc rejected the two-week deadline and insisted on the ten-day deadline Sadr had called for. Saeroun called for demonstrations ton June 21 to protest  “the irresponsible actions of the parliament and cabinet.”

On June 17, Al-Mada reported that there is an agreement between the prime minister and the Saeroun and Fatah coalitions to replace 500 acting administrators with permanent by June 30. The report added that negotiating teams appointed by the prime minister have nominated 150 individuals to become director generals and chairpersons for ten independent commissions. The names to be put to a vote at the next cabinet meeting. Political parties accuse Saeroun and Fatah of dominating the appointments and asked the prime minister to postpone them for 90 days.

On June 17, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi met in Baghdad with the special envoy of the Russian President to Syria, Aleksandr Lavrentiev. They addressed economic and security relations between Iraq and Russia security, the U.S.-Iran tensions, and the conflict in Syria. On June 18, President Salih also met with Lavrentiev to discuss similar issues.

On June 17, Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission postponed Iraq’s next provincial elections until April 2020. This is the second postponement this year. The first postponement was in January when the polls, originally scheduled for December 2018, were pushed to November 2019. The committee attributes the delays to issues involving displaced persons and disputed territories like Kirkuk province. The Fatah alliance announced that there would be no final vote on the amendment to the provincial elections law until the problem of Kirkuk is solved. There are ongoing disputes over the accuracy of the voter registry in Kirkuk, as well as a dispute between the two main Kurdish parties over the right to appoint a new governor for the province. Local elections in Kirkuk were last held in 2005. A potential compromise for Kirkuk involves selecting a temporary council with equal representation for Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen plus one Christian until elections are held.

On June 18, the leader of the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG), Ali Bapir, announced that his party would not be part of the new KRG government. The KIG recently refrained from voting in the election of the new KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, but Bapir stated that the party was not going to oppose the government.

On June 18, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi issued  a statement prohibiting  foreign militaries from operating on Iraqi soil without the permission, oversight, and control of the Iraqi government. The statement, published on the website of the Prime Minister’s office, asserted Iraq’s commitment to protecting its sovereignty. Importantly, it went on to prohibit any military forces, Iraqi or foreign, from operating against third parties outside the control of the Iraqi Armed Forces and the Commander in Chief. The statement also prohibits militias affiliated with the Iraqi Armed Forces from conducting any operations or activities without the full knowledge and oversight of the Commander in Chief. The prohibition clearly targets the militias that have been undertaking actions and attacks that counteract the interests of the government. Furthermore, it openly assumes responsibility upon the Prime Minister and his government to take concrete steps to regain control over Iraqi territory and security apparatus. In a press conference on June 19, Abdul-Mahdi ordered militias to cease rocket attacks targeting US personnel and stated that he had given military leaders firm orders to find the perpetrators behind the recent attack on Camp Taji military base.

On June 19, the Emir of Kuwait arrived in Baghdad and was greeted by President Salih and Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi. On his second visit to Iraq during his rule, Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah came to discuss the increasing tensions in the region, particularly the recent attacks against tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. Abdul-Mahdi and the Emir reportedly discussed the growing US-Iran conflict, Iraqi debt to Kuwait, and the countries’ mutual desire to enhance bilateral relations.

On June 20, the newly elected President of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, arrived in Baghdad and met with Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi and later with Speaker of the Parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi. This is Barzani’s first official visit to Baghdad since his election. In his meetings with the two leaders, Barzani discussed rising U.S.-Iran tensions, Iraq’s next provincial elections, oil exports from the Kurdistan Region, and the dispute over Kirkuk.


Rockets Hit Basra Oil Sites, Iraqi Bases Housing U.S. Advisers; Farm Fires Continue Across Northern Iraq; Mortar and IED attacks reported in Diyala, Ninewa and Babylon

On June 14, two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) detonated in Baghdad. The first bomb exploded in al-Wathba Square in central Baghdad and the second bomb exploded in the Shula area north of the city. There were no injuries in either attack.

On June 14, NRT Digital Media reported that 25 of the 30 families in the Kurdish village of Muhamad Shirbag have fled to the towns of Kalar and Khanaqin in Diyala province due to poor security in the village. A force from the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) has allegedly camped in the village’s school to manage security, but a source from the village claims that the force is instead threatening the community. There have been frequent claims of violations and threats against civilians by militias since the return of the Iraqi army and PMU to disputed territories in Kirkuk, Ninewa and Diyala in 2017.

On June 14, three mortar shells landed at the Balad air base north of Baghdad, where U.S. advisers and F-16 fighter jets of the Iraqi air force are stationed. The shelling did not result in any injuries. The same day, a mortar shell landed on a house in the district of Karrada in central Baghdad. There were no casualties. On June 17, three Katyusha rockets struck Camp Taji, another major military post north of Baghdad housing Iraqi troops and American advisers, resulting in no casualties. On June 20, a Katyusha rocket landed on a house in the neighborhood of Jadriya in Baghdad. A source stated that the rocket was meant to attack a nearby site belong to a U.S. security company, but it fell short of the target.

On June 14, a member of parliament from Diyala province, Raad al-Dahlaki, announced that the area of Buhraz was hit by mortar shells. Dahlaki blamed the attack on “outlaw groups” seeking to change the area’s demography. The attack caused damage to a number of homes but did not result in any injuries.

On June 15, the Baghdad Operations Command announced the removal of 370 sections of concrete barriers from the capital last week. The removal of these barricades, especially in the Green Zone, reflects increased faith in security in the city.

On June 15, the Iraqi Civil Defense Directorate released a statement detailing damages from fires sweeping across farmland in northern Iraq. According to NRT Digital Media, the civil defense reported damages of more than 46,000 dunams (approximately 11,465 acres) from 303 fires from May 8 to June 14. Al-Sumaria News reported slightly higher figures at 48,370 burned dunams of land (11,952.5 acres) caused by 307 fires. The news outlet also reported that the Directorate recorded 77 fires due to electric wires, 39 deliberate attacks, 32 fires started by sparks, 24 fires from cigarette butts, 36 fires started by external fire sources, and 99 fires still under investigation. On June 19, a massive fire reportedly destroyed 500 houses in the Giruzer sub-district, south of Mount Sinjar. This fire also spread to several farmlands in the area.

On June 16, two mortar shells landed in the area of Abu Lokah, north of Babylon. The shelling did not cause any injuries.

On June 17, the Security Information Cell announced that 16 alleged terrorists were killed in the Wadi al-Gisab area in Ninewa province. The suspected terrorists were killed when their tunnel hideout was hit by an International Coalition airstrike.

On June 17, the Basra Operations Command reported the discovery of leaflets containing ISIS propaganda in the province. The Operations Command also issued a statement denying rumors of security forces being placed on high alert in response to the leaflets, emphasizing that “these publications pose no security threat to the province.”

On June 18, the Turkish military continued its military operations in the Kurdistan region of Iraq as part of “Operation Claw”, an effort to combat the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the area. This bombardment occurred in Kesta village in Kani Masi sub-district for two hours. Local media claimed that at least 15 shells hit around the village causing damage to local farms.

On June 18, a Katyusha rocket struck the presidential palace compound in Mosul’s eastern side. It did not cause any injuries or material damage.

On June 19, an IED exploded in a residential neighborhood in the Shahwani area of Mosul. Two civilians were injured in the attack.

On June 19, a rocket struck near a facility used by ExxonMobil in the town of Zubair, west of Basra. This marks the fourth attack near U.S. installations in Iraq in a week against a backdrop of continuing tensions between Iran and U.S.. According to an Iraqi security source, authorities received a tip “several days ago” that the U.S. consulate in Basra might be targeted, and they were surprised by the attack on the oil site. Iraqi police stated that the rocket landed 100 meters from the residential and operations centers used by ExxonMobil, injuring three people. Around 21 Exxon staff were subsequently evacuated by plane to Dubai, just a few weeks after returning from their previous evacuation. The mayor of Zubair, Abbas Maher, speculated that militias linked to Iran were behind the rocket attack, which he thinks was meant as a warning to the U.S.

On June 19, three Katyusha rockets landed in the al-Nasr area, north of Hilla. The attack occurred near a PMU checkpoint and did not result in any injuries.


EU Donates €19.5 Million For Various Aid Initiatives; 1,071 IDPs Return To Anbar; Protests Reported In Basra

On June 14, The European Union (EU) announced that it will donate €2 million to support the efforts of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Iraq. The money will be used to improve infrastructure in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Poorly maintained and damaged roads and drainage networks will be upgraded in order to improve the living conditions of those in the camps.  More than 1.6 million Iraqis are still displaced by the conflict with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), of whom half a million live in camps.

On June 15, the Ministry of Youth and Sports opened the al-Aziziyah Stadium in Wasit Province. The stadium holds up to 5,000 fans.

On June 16, Al Mada reported that temperatures in Maysan Province reached 55.6 degrees Celsius (132F) in the past week. Electricity consumption increased due to the heat wave, putting more pressure on the degraded electricity infrastructure and caused blackouts to increase to 17 per day, according to local officials. Up to 40 percent of the electricity output in Iraq is wasted in transmission, according to the International Energy Agency. In order to deal with the heat, Iraqis are buying less food for fear that it will spoil and businesses are opening and closing later during cooler hours of the day. Last summer, electricity shortages sparked waves of protests across southern Iraq, and resulted in the dismissal of the former minister of electricity. Current Electricity Minister of Luay al-Khateeb is under criticism for failing to deliver 20 hours of state-provided electricity a day as he recently promised.

On June 17, the EU announced that it will donate €2.5 million to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Iraq to support emergency reproductive health services. With these funds, UNFPA will support 23 health centers in Iraq’s center and west, and reach more than 100,000 women and girls with obstetric care and emergency supplies. The money will also be used to increase specialized services to victims of gender-based violence.

On June 17, the Iraqi Ministry of Migration announced that over 1,072 IDPs have been able to return to their place of origin in Anbar Province. These IDPs came from camps in Amiriyat al-Fallujah, Bzebez, and Habbaniyah.

On June 19, a local NGO launched “The insistence on life” project, which will help Yazidi women in IDP camps start small business projects to support themselves, their families, and help their community. The project is sponsored by the Non-Governmental Organizations Department and the Roja Shingal for Human Rights Organization. So far 15 projects have been launched in camps in Duhok and Zakho.

On June 19, the EU announced  €15 million in grants to “vulnerable” farmers in Ninewa to help communities and returning displaced persons find employment and increase their income. The EU Ambassador to Iraq, Ramon Blakeau, stated that the grants would be channeled through the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and are expected to benefit about 10,000 poor farming households (approximately 60,000 people) and benefit local service providers and workers.

On June 20, hundreds of protesters gathered in Basra to voice their demands for better services, including reliable electricity, clean water, and more jobs for citizens in the province. No security incidents or clashes were reported during the demonstration.


U.S Allows Iraq To Continue Importing Iranian Energy; Japan To Provide $1 Billion Loan For Refinery Upgrades; Iraq Takes Over Mosul Dam Project From U.S./Italian Teams

On June 15, the U.S. granted Iraq a new 120-day waiver to allow Baghdad to continue importing energy from Iran. The announcement comes just days before the previous 90-day waiver expired on June 18. The extension was agreed during a phone call between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi. The waiver, Iraq remains under pressure from the U.S. to “diversify energy imports away from Iran,” which currently supplies Iraq with about 1,200 megawatts of electricity and 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

On June 16, the Iraqi Ministry of Finance signed an agreement with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) under which JICA will loan Iraq 110 billion Yen (about $1 billion) to upgrade the Basra oil refinery. According to a JICA statement, the loan is payable over 40 years with a ten-year grace period and 0.2 percent interest rate. The project aims to increase the processing capacity of the Basra refinery by constructing a new fluid catalytic cracking and introducing gas oil hydro desulfurization technology.

On June 16, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller announced that the Mosul Dam Project will be handed over to Iraq’s Ministry of Water Resources upon its completion this summer. The project was carried out over three years by Iraqis, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Italian company Trevi. The project began due to “the persistent political instability of the country… [that] prevented an adequate maintenance of the dam,” according to Trevi’s website. The transfer of responsibility for the dam will include providing Iraqi staff with training, equipment, and supplies to maintain the dam on their own. Ambassador Tueller claimed that the dam is now capable of managing flood waters, storing water for drinking and irrigation, and producing electricity.

On June 17, Iraqi oil officials reported that production at Exxon’s West Qurna-1 oilfield in Basra has increased to 465,000 barrels per day (bpd) following the addition of new processing facilities and storage tanks. According to officials working at the field, West Qurna-1was producing about 440,000 bpd before the upgrade. A unit to separate water and oil, and five oil storage tanks also began testing operations on the same day, which would enable production to rise to 490,000 bpd, according to a senior oilfield manager.

On June 17, a spokesperson for the Iraqi Oil Ministry announced that Iraq was considering alternate routes for its oil exports in the event that U.S.-Iran conflict jeopardizes existing routes through the Persian Gulf. While Iraq exports limited amounts of oil through a pipeline to Turkey’s port of Ceyhan, more than 95 percent of Iraq’s 3.5 million bpd of exports pass through the Gulf, starting at the southern ports of Basra and passing through the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and Oman. An industry analyst described the Gulf waterways as Iraq’s “lifeline,” while a senior advisor to Iraq’s prime minister said the loss of these routes would be disastrous for the country.

On June 18, the U.S. Embassy in Iraq announced that Iraq has issued investment facilities for American companies and citizens interested in doing business in Iraq. The embassy and confirmed support for Iraq to rejoin the World Trade Organization. The statement added that Iraq’s National Investment Authority has facilitated visits from U.S. investors by granting them multiple-entry visas valid for six months.

On June 19, Kuwait’s Oil Minister and Minister of Electricity and Water, Khaled al-Fadil, announced that Kuwait plans to sign a joint oil agreement with Iraq after the completion of a study related to oil production in the joint fields in northern Kuwait. In this announcement, al-Fadil added that “there are serious steps to connect Iraq to the Gulf electricity grid.”

On June 20, the Central Bank of Iraq announced the launch of an electronic platform for financial transactions between banks in Iraq. The bank hopes that this platform will encourage foreign investment in Iraq. The statement also said that the Central Bank sponsored a related workshop involving one of the world’s “leading companies in the area of financial solutions” and various banks operating in Iraq.

On June 20, the Iraqi-Turkish Business Forum began in Baghdad to discuss trade and investment between the two countries. The forum was organized by the Federation of Iraqi Chambers of Commerce, the Exporters Council of Turkey, the Foreign Economic Relations Authority, and the Turkish Embassy. Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan and Iraqi Commerce Minister Mohammad Hashim al-Ani attended the event, along with representatives of 40 Turkish companies and many Iraqi businessmen and officials. The two countries aim to raise the volume of trade exchange from $13.1 billion in 2018 to $20 billion in the future.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs June 13, 2019 - June 20, 2019

The following table includes both civilian and security forces who were either injured or killed due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), or suicide attacks.
DateLocationDeathsInjuries
06/19/19Shahwani area, Mosul02
06/13/19Shula area, north of Baghdad00
06/13/19al-Wathba Square, central Baghdad00

Please note: some geographic locations represented are approximations and this map may not represent all incidents.


Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor is a free publication of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center.


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