ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM 221: September 5 – September 12, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • Sadr Threatens To “Disown” Abdul-Mahdi’s Government; Kurdish Parties Unite To Contest Kirkuk Elections In 2020; KRG President Appoints Two Deputies – On September 6, Moqtada al-Sadr said he would “disown” the Iraqi government if it didn’t take strict measures to assert its authority after the deputy chairman of the PMF commission, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, announced plans to form a separate air force to defend the PMF against Israeli airstrikes. On September 9, Kurdish political parties announced from Kirkuk that they plan to compete in the 2020 provincial elections in the disputed province as one unified party list. On September 10, KRI President, Nechirvan Barzani, appointed Sheikh Jafar Sheikh Mustafa (PUK) and Mustafa Sayid Qadir (Gorran) as the two vice presidents of the region. more…
  • Several IED Attacks Strike Kirkuk, Baghdad During Shi’a Pilgrimage; Coalition Intensifies Anti-ISIS Airstrikes; Militant Attacks Continue in Diyala – On September 7, four IEDs exploded in different parts of Baghdad, wounding at least nine civilians. On September 8, three IEDs killed one civilian and wounded nine others in different parts of Kirkuk. On September 8, coalition airstrikes killed eight ISIS militants on an island in the Tigris in Ninewa. On September 9, coalition airstrikes killed 15 militants in an area between Salah ad-Din and Diyala. On September 9, coalition airstrikes killed ten ISIS militants southwest of Erbil. On September 10, coalition aircraft bombed 37 ISIS targets in the Qanus Island in the Tigris. On September 5, Peshmerga forces stopped an ISIS attack on a village in Khanaquin in Diyala. On September 8, mortar fire injured a villager northeast of Baqubah in Diyala. On September 8, an IED explosion wounded two Iraqi soldiers near Jalawla in Diyala. On September 9, two mortar shells hit a village south of Baqubah in Diyala. On September 10, a mortar shell hit a village near Muqdadiya in Diyala. On September 11, two IEDs targeted ISF patrols east of Baqubah in Diyala, killing one ISF member and wounded three. On September 11, sniper fire killed one Iraqi soldier northeast of Baqubah in Diyala. more…
  • HRW Accuses KRG Of Blocking Arab IDP Return; Salah Ad-Din Governor Urges Reintegration Of IDPs With Perceived ISIS Ties; Judiciary To Investigate Forced Disappearances – On September 6, HRW reported that the KRG has failed to allow the safe return of 4,200 displaced Sunni Arabs to their home villages outside of Mosul. On September 9, the Governor of Salah ad-Din province announced plans to close IDP camps, urging tribal and community leaders to endorse reconciliation with families with perceived ties to ISIS. On September 9, a statement from Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council outlined an initiative to investigate the mass disappearance of Sunni men who had been detained at anti-ISIS checkpoints since 2014. On September 6, Reporters Without Borders warned that cyber threats against Iraqi journalists were reaching a dangerous level and could result in real violence. more…
  • Contracts To Drill 123 And 20 New Wells At Majnoon And Nasiriyah Oil Fields; Iraq Aims To End Gas Flaring In 2022; Iraq Pledges Commitment To OPEC Supply Cuts – On September 6, the Basra Oil Company signed two contracts to drill new wells at the Majnoon oil field. China’s Hilong Oil Service and Engineering Company would drill 80 oil wells while the Iraqi Drilling Company would drill another 43. On September 11, the Dhi-Qar Oil Co. and Iraqi Drilling Co. signed an agreement under which the latter would drill 20 new oil wells in the al-Nasiriyah oil field. On September 10, Iraq’s Electricity Minister that Iraq would not be able to cease importing gas from Iran in the next three or four years without undermining Iraq’s electricity generation. According to a senior energy official, Iraq aims to end gas flaring and increase the utilization of its own gas for power generation by the summer of 2022. On September 12, Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban affirmed Iraq’s compliance with OPEC’s goal to cut a total of 1.2 million bpd by October. According to the Oil Ministry, Iraqi oil production currently stands at 4.6 million bpd. However, OPEC’s figures show that Iraq produced 4.88 million bpd in August, 270,000 over the quota set for the country in 2018. 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.


Sadr Threatens To “Disown” Abdul-Mahdi’s Government; Kurdish Parties Unite To Contest Kirkuk Elections In 2020; KRG President Appoints Two Deputies

On September 6, Iraq’s High Election Commission (IHEC) announced that 218 political parties have received licenses to compete in the next provincial election, scheduled for April 2020. Hazim al-Rudaini, a member of IHEC’s board of commissioners, said that among these parties only 14 were newly registered entities, while another 30 entities were still forming. Rudaini also confirmed that IHEC plans to use new electronic ballot verification devices to replace those used in the May 2018 election. IHEC expects 22 million voters to be eligible to vote next April.

On September 6, Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the powerful Saeroun bloc in Parliament, said he would disown the Iraqi government if it didn’t take strict measures to assert its authority against attempts to create “state of chaos.” Sadr’s warning was in response to news about plans to form a separate air force under the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). In a post on Twitter, Sadr said the development marked “the end of the Iraqi government.” Earlier on Thursday, Iraqi media circulated a letter purported to be issued by the deputy chairman of the PMF commission, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, declaring the intent to form an air force service for the PMF. The PMF media officially denied the report, although members of parliament close to the PMF continued to defend the idea of creating a PMF air force as a means to defend against further Israeli attacks on PMF weapons stores and leaders. 

On September 6, Interior Minister Yassin Taher al-Yassiri announced that after years of closure, Iraq and Iran will reopen the Munthiriya border. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that opening the border will allow more people to visit Imam Hussein’s shrine as well as develop better economic relations. After its official opening, two convoys of Iranian pilgrims transited through Munthiriya. On September 12, Iraq’s border crossing department announced the reopening of another border after almost thirty years of its closure, this time between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, in an effort to boost trade and tourism. Iraqi and Saudi border officials plan to meet again on October 15 to finalize preparations for the reopening. 

On September 7, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi met with ambassadors from the UK, France, and Germany to discuss methods to improve Iraq’s economic relations with the European Union. Mahdi specifically talked about ways that European investments could aid in Iraqi reconstruction and job creation. Furthermore, the meeting focused on Iraq’s continued cooperation with European states in an effort to fight terrorism. On September 12, the envoys met with President Barham Salih. This meeting appears to have focused on reducing regional tensions and distancing Iraq from potential conflicts between Iran and the United States.

On September 9, Kurdish political parties announced from Kirkuk that they plan to compete in the 2020 provincial elections in the contested province, where local elections were last conducted in 2005, as one unified party list. A spokesman for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) affirmed that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is part of the new electoral coalition, named “Kirkuk is Kurdistani,” even though KDP representatives did not attend the meeting that lead to its creation. The KDP has not reestablished its presence in Kirkuk since leaving the province in the aftermath of the failed Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) independence referendum in 2017. A spokesman for the PUK also criticized Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi for delaying negotiations on the selection of a new governor for Kirkuk until after the 2020 election. The federal government had appointed Rakan al-Jubouri, a Sunni Arab politician, as governor of Kirkuk after sacking the former PUK-affiliated governor in October 2017. 

On September 10, the Governor of Erbil, Nawzad Hadi, officially stepped down from his position after fifteen years. Former member of the KRG Parliament from the KDP, Firsat Sofi, will succeed Hadi as the next governor of Erbil.  

On September 10, KRI President, Nechirvan Barzani, appointed Sheikh Jafar Sheikh Mustafa and Mustafa Sayid Qadir as the two vice presidents of the region. Sheikh Jafar Sheikh Mustafa is a former Minister of Peshmerga affairs from the PUK. Mustafa Sayid Qadir is a senior member of the Gorran (Change) party and also a Peshmerga veteran. 

On September 10, Moqtada al-Sadr made a rare high-profile appearance during Ashoura in Iran alongside Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenie and Quds Force commander Qassim Suleimani. Images of Sadr–known for his nationalist, even anti-Iran positions–sitting next to the hardline leaders who symbolize Iran’s intervention in Iraq raised speculations about whether Sadr was forced to make the trip or had made an accommodation with Iran. A senior member of Sadr’s movement downplayed the affair, stressing that Sadr always considered Iraq’s neighbors to be “our friends, not our masters.” Sadr has been in Iran since June, reportedly to resume his theological studies at one of Iran’s seminaries. 

On September 11, seven senior members of the the Gorran (Change) Movement resigned. A member of the KRI-based party stated that the members who left were frustrated with the political corruption they experienced within the movement. More specifically, the resigning members complained about patronage and undemocratic practices, notably that members of the party’s National Council and Executive Body continued to exercise decision-making power despite the expiration of their terms. 


Several IED Attacks Strike Kirkuk, Baghdad During Shia Pilgrimage; Coalition Intensifies Anti-ISIS Airstrikes; Militant Attacks Continue in Diyala

On September 5, Peshmerga forces neutralized an ISIS attack on a village in the Khanaquin district in Diyala province. Peshmerga forces did not suffer any casualties during the incident.

On September 6, Turkish forces killed four members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in an air operation in the Qandil region of northern Iraq. Turkey launched “Operation Claw” on May 27, 2019 to intensify its military pressure on PKK presence in the KRI.

On September 6, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded in the sub-district of Jurf al-Sakhr in northern Babylon, killing one PMF member and injuring two others.  

On September 7, four IEDs exploded in various locations in Baghdad. Sources dispute the number of injuries. Al-Sumaria reported that two separate IEDs wounded four civilians in eastern Baghdad. In southwestern Baghdad, a singular IED wounded two other civilians. In central Baghdad, a fourth IED wounded three more civilians. 

On September 7, fighters from the 6th brigade of the PMF killed four ISIS militants in the mountains of Makhoul, northeast of Salah ad-Din province. 

On September 7, two Iraqi military engineers were killed in an IED explosion while attempting to defuse explosives in a house in the town of al-Baaj, south of Sinjar in Ninewa province. 

On September 8, forces from the Iraqi Army’s 20th division killed a terrorist inside a hideout in al-Malha area of Ninewa province. The forces destroyed a suicide vest and other equipment that were inside the hideout. 

On September 8, the U.S.-led coalition killed eight ISIS militants in an airstrike on an island in the Tigris river near Hamam al-Alil sub-district in Ninewa province. 

On September 8, mortar shells targeting a village northeast of Baqubah in Diyala province seriously injured a civilian.

On September 8, an IED explosion wounded two Iraqi soldiers near the Jalawla sub-district in Diyala province.  

On September 8, three separate bombings killed one civilian and wounded nine others in different locations in Kirkuk province. One exploded in the June First neighborhood, another by the Kirkuk Youth Center, and the last near the Great al-Nur mosque. On the same day, a fourth IED detonated while members of the ISF attempted to defuse it. The explosion did not cause casualties.

On September 9, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) backed by an international coalition bombarded three ISIS hideouts in Mtaibijah on the border between Diyala and Salah ad-Din provinces, ultimately killing 15 terrorists and arresting nine.  

On September 9, an unknown source targeted the house of the Head of the Provincial Council with a stun bomb, causing material damage.

On September 9, two mortar shells, originating from an unknown location, hit a village south of Baqubah in Diyala province. The incident did not cause any casualties.  

On September 9, the U.S.-led coalition working with Peshmerga forces killed ten ISIS militants southwest of Erbil. According to a local Peshmerga commander, coalition airstrikes attacked militant positions over a period of two days in the Mount Qara-Chokh area in the Makmour district.

On September 9, an IED explosion south of Mosul killed a civilian and wounded six others.  

On September 9, an unknown individual threw a grenade into the municipal building in Halabja’s Khurmal district but did not cause any casualties. 

On September 10, two mortar shells coming from an unknown origin caused a fire at a warehouse at a camp used by the Tribal Mobilization Forces in Hit district, west of Anbar.  

On September 10, an IED exploded and killed a shepherd south of Kirkuk.  

On September 10, a mortar shell hit a village near Muqdadiya in Diyala, injuring three civilians. 

On September 10, aircrafts on behalf of the U.S.-led coalition bombed ISIS strongholds in the Qanus Island in the Tigris river. The operation, conducted jointly with Iraq’s counter-terrorism service (CTS), involved dropping 80,000 pounds worth of explosives over 37 targets on the island. Footage of the airstrikes suggests ISIS positions and personnel on the island suffered massive damage. 

On September 11, Iraqi forces killed three ISIS leaders with rocket fire in an area between Diyala and Salah ad-Din provinces. 

On September 11, two separate IEDs targeted two ISF patrols in the Nida basin region, east of Baqubah in Diyala province. The first IED killed one army officer and wounded one. Hours later, the second IED exploded and injured two soldiers.  

On September 11, sniper fire killed one Iraqi soldier at an ISF checkpoint in the Dawaleeb area, northeast of Baqubah in Diyala province. 

On September 12, Anbar Operations officers found 570 explosive belts inside an ISIS hideout in the Anbar desert. The operation also uncovered other explosive devices, grenades, and mines. 


HRW Accuses KRG Of Blocking Arab IDP Return; Salah Ad-Din Governor Urges Reintegration Of IDPs With Perceived ISIS Ties; Judiciary To Investigate Forced Disappearances

On September 6, Human Rights Watch reported that the KRG has failed to allow the safe return of 4,200 displaced Sunni Arabs to their home villages outside of Mosul. After ISIS took control of Hamdaniya district, between Erbil and Mosul, in 2014, most Sunni Arabs fled west to Mosul while Kurdish residents of the area headed east for Kalak. Both groups are now in KRG controlled internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Hassan Sham and Khazir. International human rights law specifies the return of displaced people can be stopped only due to military threat. According to the HRW report, 12 specific villages in Hamdaniya were deemed safe enough for Kurdish IDPs and those with strong connections to the KRG to return, but KRG authorities have been blocking the return of Sunni Arab residents. The KRG’s Coordinator for International Advocacy maintains that any and all IDPs can return to their homes at their will.

On September 6, Reporters Without Borders warned that cyber threats against Iraqi journalists were reaching a dangerous level. “Electronic armies,” suspected to be backed by Iran, published lists of individuals they believe support “normalization with Israel,” a traditional taboo in Iraq. Most of the names belong to journalists who fear this could incite real violence.  

On September 8, an MP in Basra called for the compensation of employees of the General Company for Iron and Steel who live with or died from cancer due to forced work on radioactive iron from remnants of previous wars. According to the MP, 167 of the company’s workers have been diagnosed with cancer to date, 64 of whom died.

On September 9, the Governor of Salah ad-Din province announced plans to close IDP camps, to prevent them from becoming “incubators of extremism.” The governor urged Salah ad-Din’s tribal and community leaders to put more effort into reintegrating IDPs into the province’s social fabric and supporting reconciliation with families with perceived ties to ISIS. He also warned that keeping those families ostracized would undermine stability and create the conditions for more violence. The governor did not provide details on specific measures to move Salah ad-Din’s 105,390 IDPs out of the camps.

On September 9, a statement from Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council outlined an initiative to investigate the mass disappearance of Sunni men who were detained at anti-ISIS checkpoints since 2014. The judiciary received a list of names of missing people from former Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi and instructed investigative courts to ascertain their fate. In late August, Nujaifi assembled a group of politicians from predominantly Sunni provinces to apply pressure on the government to investigate enforced disappearances dating back to 2014.

On September 9, The Summit Foundation for Refugees and Displaced Affairs declared the fate of immigrants from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) in the last eight years. 594 died and 150 are missing. 

On September 10, the Ministry of Health said that at least 31 people were killed and 102 injured in a stampede while participating in the Twaireej rush in Karbala. The Twaireej procession is part of the Shi’a observance of Ashoura, which commemorates the death of the Shi’a Imam Hussein bin Ali. 

On September 11, Iraq and Saudi Arabia’s Ministries of Education signed a memorandum promising cooperation in both science and education. The agreement follows the Middle East Education, Technology, Student Congress fair in Erbil earlier this week that hosted 25 different universities. The goal was to improve the quality of higher education in Iraq. 

On September 11, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration announced the return of 94 refugees from Turkey. These refugees, who fled their ISIS occupied homes in 2014, are the latest to return under a year-old government-sponsored voluntary return program. 

On September 12, riot police arrested 50 protesters in al-Hamza al Gharbi, in Babylon province for blocking the road. Police said the protesters, who were protesting against poor services, did not obtain proper approvals for their demonstration. 


Contracts To Drill 123 And 20 New Wells At Majnoon And Nasiriyah Oil Fields; Iraq Aims To End Gas Flaring In 2022; Iraq Pledges Commitment To OPEC Supply Cuts

On September 6, the Iraq Ministry of Foreign Affairs negotiated and signed a memorandum with the League of Arab States that exempts Iraq from paying 75% of their 21 million dollar debt from support funds provided to the Arab countries. The agreement also includes a payment schedule for the rest of the arrears. The debt forgiveness was voted on at the previous Arab Summit in Tunisia. 

On September 6, Iraq’s state-owned Basra Oil Company (BOC) signed two contracts to drill new wells at the massive Majnoon oil field in Basra province. Under the first contract, China’s Hilong Oil Service and Engineering Company will drill 80 oil wells in Majnoon. BOC also contracted the Iraqi Drilling Company to drill another 43 oil wells in the same field. The agreements are a part of BOC’s mission to increase production at Majnoon to 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) from just over 200,000 bpd now. A contract to develop the field and raise production to 1.8 million bpd was originally awarded to Royal Dutch Shell in 2009, but Shell decided to withdraw from the field in late 2017. 

On September 10, Iraq’s Electricity Minister said that repairing and upgrading the country’s  electricity grid required an estimated $30 billion dollars. The statement comes amid continuing U.S. pressure on Iraq to stop importing gas from Iran. The Minister warned that Iraq would not be able to cease importing gas from Iran in the next three or four years without undermining Iraq’s electricity generation. The imported Iranian gas provides fuel to generate 2,500 megawatts on top of the 1,200 megawatts Iran gives in direct power supply. On September 12, the director general of Iraq’s South Gas Co. said Iraq aims to end gas flaring by the summer of 2022. 

On September 11, the state-owned Dhi-Qar Oil Co. and Iraqi Drilling Co. signed an agreement under which the latter would drill 20 new oil wells in the al-Nasiriyah oil field. The new wells would increase the field’s production by 40,000 bpd of crude oil, raising it to 200,000 bpd. The companies expect the 128 million dollar drilling project to take two years to complete. 

On September 12, Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban joined other OPEC leaders at a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee in Abu Dhabi to discuss previously agreed upon cuts in oil production. Minister Ghadhban guaranteed Iraq’s compliance with OPEC’s goal to cut a total of 1.2 million bpd by October. According to the Oil Ministry, Iraqi oil production currently stands at 4.6 million bpd. However, OPEC’s figures show that Iraq produced 4.88 million bpd in August, 270,000 bpd over the quota set for the country in 2018. Ghadban’s pledge of commitment to curbing production follows the first rise in output by OPEC countries in 2019 which occurred in August. 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from September 6th-September 12, 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
09/11/19Nada,
East of Baquba
11
09/11/19Nada,
East of Baquba
02
09/10/19Al-Humayra,
South of Kirkuk
10
09/09/19Hammam al-Alil,
South of Mosul
16
09/08/19June First Neighborhood,
Kirkuk
00
09/08/19June First Neighborhood,
Kirkuk
15
09/08/19Muallimin Neighborhood, Kirkuk03
09/08/19Kirkuk00
09/08/19Jalawla,
Diyala Province
02
09/07/19Al-Baaj,
Sinjar
23
09/07/19East of Baghdad 02
09/07/19East of Baghdad02
09/07/19Southwest Baghdad02
09/07/19Central Baghdad03
09/06/19Jurf al-Sakhr,
Northern Babylon
12

 

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 Enabling Peace in Iraq Center.


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