ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM 222: September 12 – September 19, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • Iraqi Minister Resigns Under Pressure; Parliament Moves to Abolish Public Inspector Offices; New Calls for Removing U.S. Forces From Iraq – On September 15, Iraqi Health Minister Alaa al-Alwan announced his resignation, citing extortion by external political forces seeking illegal profit from corrupt deals. The prime minister rejected the resignation. On September 16, Parliament announced that it will abolish the offices of the Inspector General that monitor performance at Iraqi ministries and independent commissions. Some of the inspectors were appointed by the prime minister as recently as August. On September 16, 53 members of Iraq’s Parliament, representing the Badr, Sadiqoun, Saeroun and State of Law groups, led a push to put the topic of removing foreign troops from Iraq on the legislature’s agenda. On September 14, the Change (Gorran) Movement reelected Omar Sayed Ali as its leader for another two-year term. On September 16, Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court indefinitely delayed the Iraqi government case brought against unilateral oil exports by the KRG. The move coincides with renewed diplomacy between Baghdad and Erbil to find political solutions to their budgetary and oil disputes.
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  • IEDs, Gun Attacks Strike Several Provinces; Turkey Initiates New Incursion Into Northern Iraq; ISF Launch New Phase Of Desert Security Sweeps – On September 13, an IED south of Mosul killed a civilian and injured another. On September 13, ISIS militants attacked a military outpost between Diyala and Salah ad-Din, killing one soldier and wounding two. On September 15, an IED south of Kirkuk killed two police officers and injured two more. Between September 15 and September 19, unknown militants shot and killed six civilians in Baghdad, Wasit and Diyala. On September 16, four IEDs exploded in different parts of Baghdad, wounding twelve civilians. On September 18, an IED south of Mosul wounded two tribal fighters. On September 14, Turkish airstrikes killed two PKK members in the Qandil Mountains. On September 16, a Turkish airstrike killed three more PKK members. On September 18, the Turkish Defense Ministry sent new commando forces into the KRI to boost its anti-PKK efforts. On September 16, ISF launched the fifth phase of operation “Will of Victory,” a joint mission to find and destroy remaining ISIS militants and hideouts in the Anbar desert up to the Saudi border. more…
  • Iraq Continues The Accelerated Closure of IDP Camps; Baghdad Considers Greater Financial Aid To Incentivize IDP Return To Ninewa – On September 15, the Ministry of Migration and Displacement announced the closing of the Jadah #6 IDP camp in Ninewa province, amid concerns for the safety of returning IDPs. The Haj-Ali camp is set to close next, while authorities plan to consolidate Hamam al-Alil camps #1 and #2. On September 17, the parliamentary Committee on Migration, Displacement, Labor, and Social Affairs asked the Ministry of Migration to increase stipends given to IDPs returning to their home districts to ID 2.5 million to further incentivize IDPs to return and rebuild destroyed homes and businesses, specifically in Mosul and Sinjar. On September 16, Basra farmers blocked roads into Majnoon oil field to pressure the government to pay the amounts it had previously promised them as compensation for flood damage to their land. more…
  • Iraq Signs New Power Plant Deals With Siemens, GE; GCC To Supply Iraq With 500 MW Via Basra; Iraq To Build Artificial Island To Boost Oil Export Capacity – On September 14, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity signed an agreement with Siemens and Orascom Construction to rebuild two power plants in Baiji to add 1,690 megawatts to Iraq’s grid. On September 15, Iraq and the Gulf Cooperation Council agreed to extend two 300 kilometer transmission lines from Kuwait to Faw in Basra to supply Iraq with 500 megawatts of electricity. On September 16, the Chairman of General Electric (GE) and the Iraqi Minister of Electricity signed a new agreement to add 1,500 megawatts of generation capacity by 2021 by adding four gas turbines and four generators to the Besmaya power plant in Wasit province. On September 16, Basra Oil Company signed a Memorandum of Principles with a Dutch Company to establish an artificial island in the Gulf to expand Iraq’s export capabilities. 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.


Iraqi Minister Resigns Under Pressure; Parliament Moves to Abolish Public Inspector Offices; New Calls for Removing U.S. Forces From Iraq

On September 14, the Change (Gorran) Movement reelected Omar Sayed Ali as its leader for another two-year term. Gorran, which is part of the ruling coalition in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), also elected a new general council and executive board. Earlier in September, seven senior members of the party announced their resignations citing pervasive patronage and undemocratic practices within the former opposition party.   

On September 15, Iraqi Health Minister Alaa al-Alwan announced his resignation, alleging that he was victim to “blackmail and misinformation.” More specifically, Alwan has attributed his resignation to extortion by external political forces and their attempts to profit illegally from corrupt deals exploiting strategic projects within the ministry, impeding his ability to manage the ministry. Alwan, who previously served in senior positions at the World Health Organization, is considered one of the few independent and technocratic members of Abdul-Mahdi’s cabinet. The Sadrist leader of the Islah parliamentary bloc demanded that Alwan produce evidence of the blackmail, adding that without evidence, Alwan is abandoning his responsibility as a cabinet member. The head of Hikma parliamentary bloc urged Parliament to form a committee of inquiry and invite Alwan to explain his reasons for leaving. In response, the Speaker of the Parliament ordered an investigation into Alwan’s allegations. Alwan previously attempted to resign in March citing “excessive pressure,” but Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi rejected the request. The prime minister did not accept Alwan’s resignation this time either, but instead granted him a leave of absence so he could “think and return to work under circumstances that protect you from abuses and unconstitutional violations.”

On September 16, the Iraqi government denied that the attacks on September 14 on Saudi oil facilities had originated from Iraqi territory. Although Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack, U.S. intelligence asserted that the rebels did not possess weapons that matched the far-reaching and sophisticated capabilities of those that bombed the oil facilities. Suspicion briefly turned to Iraq because U.S. officials had previously claimed that earlier drone attacks on Saudi Arabia in May came from Iraqi territory. Later in the day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the Iraqi prime minister to relay U.S. confirmation that the attacks did not come from Iraqi territory. 

On September 16, Iraq’s Parliament announced that it will abolish the offices of the Inspector General that monitor performance at Iraqi ministries and independent commissions. Some members of Parliament argued that abolishing the offices would streamline and improve anti-corruption government measures. Bahaa al-Araji, a former deputy prime minister stated that Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi’s ability to create positions and appoint inspectors reveals poor planning and conflict between the legislative and executive branches of the Iraqi government. Others, like the Inspector General of the Ministry of Culture, defended the role the offices play, arguing that their survival is necessary and that they have performed well. This issue is a point of contestation between Parliament and the prime minister, who last August instructed the establishment of public inspector offices in a variety of significant institutions. 

On September 16, dozens of members of Iraq’s Parliament collected signatures to put the topic of the removal of foreign troops from Iraq on the legislature’s agenda. So far, 53 members, representing the Badr, Sadiqoun, Saeroun and State of Law groups, have signed this request. Last month, amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iraqi militias, who accused the U.S. of facilitating Israeli airstrikes against them, pro-militia politicians renewed the call for a discussion to end U.S. military presence in Iraq. On September 17, Parliament introduced a new draft resolution that would remove U.S. troops in three stages. 

On September 18, the German government announced that Germany would prolong its anti-ISIS military mission in Iraq through October 2020. Although Germany will slightly reduce the number of its troops throughout the greater Middle East, the country will maintain up to 700 personnel in Iraq and Syria to “ensure stabilization and prevent the resurgence of ISIS,” as well as focus on providing capacity building and training for Iraqi and Peshmerga forces. Currently, Germany has roughly 160 soldiers stationed throughout Iraq. 

On September 16, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court again delayed, this time indefinitely, the Iraqi case brought against unilateral oil exports by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The move coincides with renewed diplomacy between Baghdad and Erbil to find political solutions to their budgetary and oil disputes. On September 18, Iraqi President Barham Salih and KRG President Masrour Barzani met in Erbil to discuss their outstanding issues. The meeting, attended by the Finance Minister, Fuad Hussein, reportedly stressed finding fundamental solutions to disputes between Baghdad and Erbil. The same day, Barzani appointed a new negotiator to represent the KRG in discussions with the Federal Government of Iraq, which may suggest that Baghdad and Erbil are gearing up for a new round of negotiations. In addition, on September 19, Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi visited Erbil and met with Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masoud Barzani and KRI President Nechirvan Barzani. Their meeting echoed the sentiment expressed during Salih’s meetings the previous day.

On September 17, the Arab Front, a group of Arab political entities in the disputed Kirkuk province, launched an effort to unify Arab parties into one electoral list in preparation for the Kirkuk Provincial Council elections next April. The initiative followed a similar announcement made by Kurdish parties on September 9, in which they declared plans to compete as one unified party list in the upcoming election. 

On September 17, Ahmed al-Magsousi, a senior member of Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, a faction of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), accused Jordanian intelligence of coordinating with Israel to bomb PMF weapon stores and personnel by drone. Magsousi claimed that an investigation showed that the drones Israel used in attacking the PMF originated in the Golan Heights and reached their targets with help from Jordanian intelligence. 

On September 17, the Iraqi Parliament voted by a simple majority to strip outspoken MP Faiq al-Sheikh Ali of his immunity. The vote was prompted by three complaints against Ali, one of which alleged that he glorified the Ba’ath party. The other complaints derive from libel charges Ali has made against other government officials, notably Hanan al-Fatlawi, State Minister for Women Affairs and an ally of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, through Twitter. Ali, a long time activist in the Iraqi resistance against Saddam Hussein and a frequent critic of the current ruling class, denied these allegations. Opponents of the decision are expected to appeal it to the Federal Court on the grounds that the vote did not have the required absolute majority. 

On September 17, Facebook revealed that a pro-Saddam/Ba’ath Party campaign engaged in “domestic-focused coordinated inauthentic behavior” in Iraq. Facebook took down 120 pages, 76 accounts, two events, one group, and seven Instagram accounts related to the campaign.  On September 18, Iraq’s High Election Commission rejected the name chosen by the joint list of Kurdish parties in Kirkuk. The election body argued that the name (Kirkuk is Kurdistani) could incite ethnic and political tensions in Kirkuk, and therefore asked the Kurdish parties to submit a different name.


IEDs, Gun Attacks Strike Several Provinces; Turkey Initiaties New Incursion Into Northern Iraq; ISF Launch New Phase Of Desert Security Sweeps

On September 13, an improvised explosive device (IED) struck a vehicle in the al-Shoura subdistrict, south of Mosul. The explosion killed a civilian selling vegetables and injured another person. 

On September 13, ISIS militants attacked a military outpost in the Albu Issa village between Diyala and Salah ad-Din provinces. The clash left one soldier dead and two more injured.

On September 14, Turkish forces killed two members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in an airstrike in the Qandil Mountains in the KRI. Then, on September 16, a Turkish airstrike killed three more PKK members, also in the KRI. Both strikes were part of “Operation Claw,” an ongoing Turkish mission that has killed 111 PKK members since it began in May. On September 18, the Turkish Defense Ministry sent new commando forces into the KRI to boost its anti-PKK efforts.

On September 15, PMF fighters intercepted an attack by ISIS terrorists on the highway between Baghdad and Tuz Khurmatu near Amerli in Salah ad-Din province. The confrontation resulted in an unknown number of casualties among the terrorists.

On September 15, an IED targeting a Federal Police vehicle killed two officers and injured two more near Rashad subdistrict south of Kirkuk.

On September 15, unknown militants shot and killed a civilian in the Kamaliyah neighborhood in southern Baghdad. On September 16, a lone gunman shot and killed two civilians in Kut city, in Wasit province. Also on September 16, an unknown gunman shot and killed a shop owner in the Tarmiyah district, north of Baghdad. On September 18, a young man was killed in what a security source called “mysterious circumstances” in Mandali sub-district east of Baqubah in Diyala province. On September 19, an unknown gunman shot and killed a civilian in Abu Saida subdistrict, northeast of Baqubah. 

On September 16, Iraqi security forces (ISF) launched the fifth phase of operation “Will of Victory,” a joint mission to find and destroy remaining ISIS militants and hideouts in the Anbar desert up to the Saudi border. On September 17, a unit from the al-Jazeera Operations Command killed one ISIS militant during search operations in Wadi Hauran. By September 19, as a part of the operation, ISF with army aviation support destroyed nine ISIS tunnels near Wadi al-Qazf, demolished multiple ISIS caches, neutralized a number of unexploded ordnances, and seized a sizable amount of ISIS weapons. On the same day, the Commander of Anbar Operations announced a plan to establish fixed and mobile military outposts throughout the Anbar desert to boost ISF presence in the area.

On September 16, four IEDs exploded across the city of Baghdad wounding twelve civilians. Two explosions in Hai al-Ilam and al-Shurta al-Rabi’a neighborhoods in the southern part of the city wounded five civilians. A roadside bomb in Bab al-Sheikh in central Baghdad injured five as well. Finally, an IED wounded two civilians in al-Shaab neighborhood, northeast of Baghdad.

On September 18, an IED struck a civilian vehicle in al-Hadhar, south of Mosul. The explosion wounded two fighters of the tribal mobilization forces who were traveling in the car. 


Iraq Continues The Accelerated Closure of IDP Camps; Baghdad Considers Greater Financial Aid To Incentivise IDP Return To Ninewa

On September 15, the Ministry of Migration and Displacement announced the closing of the Jadah #6 camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Qayyara subdistrict, Ninewa province. The Ministry said that the IDPs who had lived at these camps for almost four years have returned to their homes in the Salah ad-Din and Anbar provinces. The camp closed following a directive in July by Iraq’s National Security Council to accelerate the return of all non-Ninewa natives to their home provinces. Human rights groups remain wary of the conditions IDPs, who fled ISIS attacks in 2014 or subsequent fighting, face upon returning to their war-damaged home districts. On September 2, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq and Human Rights Watch warned that forcible relocation under this policy potentially exposed thousands of IDPs to dangerous conditions. Of the remaining 13 IDP camps in Ninewa, Haj-Ali is set to close next, while authorities plan to consolidate Hamam al-Alil camps #1 and #2. On September 17, the governor of Ninewa announced the return of another 300 IDP families to their homes in Muhalabiya, west of Mosul. 

On September 16, Basra farmers blocked roads into Majnoon oil field. The framers sought to pressure the government to pay the amounts it had previously promised them as compensation for flood damage to their land. During the spring, heavy rains caused floods that threatened to damage the important Majnoon oil field, and the government decided to divert some of the water to nearby farmlands to protect the oil facilities. According to local officials in Basra, the federal budget included allocations to compensate farmers for 65,000 acres of agricultural land that were affected by the floods.

On September 17, the parliamentary Committee on Migration, Displacement, Labor, and Social Affairs asked the Ministry of Migration to increase stipends given to IDPs returning to their home districts. The proposed measure would increase the stipend from ID 1.5 million to ID 2.5 million, the equivalent of $2,100, to further incentivize IDPs to return and rebuild destroyed homes and businesses, specifically in Mosul and Sinjar. 

On September 18, residents whose houses were demolished by the local government for being constructed on public land protested at the headquarters of the Provincial Council in Karbala. The protests continued for two days, in spite of security forces using live fire to intimidate and disperse the protesters. Responding to the pressure, the governor of Karbala ordered a halt to the demolition of these homes until their occupants can locate decent substitute housing.


Iraq Signs New Power Plant Deals With Siemens, GE; GCC To Supply Iraq With 500 MW Via Basra; Iraq To Build Artificial Island To Boost Oil Export Capacity

On September 14, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity signed an agreement with Siemens and Orascom Construction to rebuild two power plants in Baiji. The parties finalized the $1.3 billion deal, which would add 1,690 megawatts from the two plants, at the 2019 Energy Forum which Iraq hosted this week. Fighting against ISIS in the Baiji area significantly damaged the two plants, and restoring them would help power one of Iraq’s largest oil refineries as well as many homes. Iraqi Speaker of Parliament, Mohammed al-Halbousi, met with the CEO of Siemens to discuss expanding the partnership between Iraq and the German company, and offered the legislature’s support in providing funding for more energy projects. The CEO pledged to invest the profits from his company’s work in Iraq in service projects that benefit local Iraqis. The Baiji project is expected to take 28 months, and is part of a 5-year “road map” agreement Iraq and Siemens signed last October that envisioned $14 billion worth of power projects. 

On September 15, Iraq and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) agreed to extend two 300 kilometer transmission lines from Kuwait to Faw in Basra to supply Iraq with electricity. This deal, finalized during this week’s Energy Forum, aims to improve and diversify its power sources amid U.S. pressure on Iraq to curtail its reliance on Iranian energy. Under the deal with the GCC, Iraq would ultimately import 500 megawatts of electricity by 2020, and the GCC will finance the project.  

On September 16, the Chairman of General Electric (GE) and the Iraqi Minister of Electricity signed a new agreement to add 1,500 megawatts of generation capacity by 2021. The project adds four gas turbines and four generators to the Besmaya power plant in Wasit province to bring the plant’s total capacity to 4,500 megawatts, making it Iraq’s largest power plant. The agreement is structured as a public-private partnership under which the plant operator, Mass Energy, sells power to the Iraqi government under a 20-year power purchase agreement. 

On September 16, Basra Oil Company signed a Memorandum of Principles with Dutch Company Royal Boskalis Westminster to establish an artificial island in the Gulf to expand Iraq’s export capabilities. Iraqi Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhban added that the project would allow Iraq to increase its crude export capacity by an additional 3 million barrels per day (bpd). 

On September 17, a KRG delegation visited Moscow and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Russia that aims to expand trade and economic ties between the two sides. According to Shivan Abdulrahman, the General Secretary of the KRG Federation of the Chambers of Trade and Industry, the MoU paves the way for greater investment in KRI industries and generate more jobs in the region.  

On September 18, the Iraqi Fund for Foreign Development rejoined the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development after a 30-year break. This week, a delegation representing the Iraqi fund, which is the external investment arm of the Finance Ministry, attended a meeting of the Kuwait-based institution for the first time since 1989.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs: September 12 - September 19, 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
09/18/19al-Hadhar, south of Mosul02
09/16/19Sha'ab, Baghdad02
09/16/19al-Shurta al Rabi'a, Baghdad0
09/16/19Hal al-Alam, Baghdad0
09/16/19Bab al-Sheikh,
Baghdad
05
09/15/19Rashad,
South of Kirkuk
22
09/13/19al-Shoura,
South of Mosul
11

 

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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