ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: NOVEMBER 7 – NOVEMBER 14, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • Death Toll Among Protesters Reaches 327 Amid Intensified Crackdown; Iran Continues Pressure To Preserve Abdul-Mahdi’s Government; UN Issues Roadmap For Reforms, U.S. Supports Early Elections; Proposed Election Law Reforms Released – On November 8, the Iraqi government intensified its crackdown on anti-government protesters and security forces continued to use tear gas, stun grenades, and live fire to disperse protesters, resulting in many casualties in several provinces. On November 9, AFP reported that Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds force within Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, met with Mohammed Ridha al-Sistani, the son of Iraq’s most senior Shia cleric, and Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Saeroun coalition, to persuade them to keep Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in office. On November 10, the United Nations Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) issued a roadmap to address the political crisis in Iraq. The initiative demanded the release of protesters detained since October 1, and investigations into forced disappearances and the use of excessive force against protesters. On November 11, al-Sumaria reported that the new election law proposed by President Barham Salih includes five major changes from the existing law. A key provision would decrease the size of parliament from 329 members to 213. more…
  • Rocket Attack Targets Major Base; IED Injures Five Italian Soldiers; Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) Kill Dozens Of ISIS Members In Diayla, Ninewa And Kirkuk – On November 8, unknown militants launched 17 Katyusha rockets at an Iraqi army base in Qayyara, south of Mosul, that also houses U.S. troops. The incident did not cause casualties among the Iraqi or Coalition personnel. On November 10, an IED severely injured five Italian soldiers outside Kirkuk city. The soldiers were participating in the international mission to train and advise the ISF. On November 11, ISIS elements attacked ISF patrols in Diyala province, killing four soldiers, and wounding seven. On November 11, the ISF and International Coalition forces killed two ISIS militants in Kirkuk province. On November 11, Iraq’s counterterrorism service (CTS) killed fourteen ISIS militants in an air assault operation in the Makhmour mountains, southeast of Mosul. On the same day, Iraqi airstrikes killed four militants in Diyala province. On November 12, another Iraqi airstrike killed ten ISIS members in a region between Jalawla and Khanaqin in Diyala province. A ground force followed up at the scene and killed four additional ISIS members. Another airstrike on November 12 killed seven ISIS militants in Tabaj Basin, northeast of Baqubah. On November 12, the ISF killed three ISIS militants west of Kirkuk city. more…
  • UNAMI Asks Iraqis To Help Document Human Rights Abuses; Kidnapped Activist Al-Mahdawi Released; Nearly 16,000 Syrian Refugees Arrived In Iraq – On November 9, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) announced that it established an email address that civilians can use to confidentially report human rights violations, especially those connected to the ongoing protests. On November 13, security forces announced the release of activists Saba al-Mahdawi and Ali Hashim, who were kidnapped by assailants in Baghdad on November 2 and November 7, respectively. On November 14, the Joint Crisis Coordination Center (JCC) of the KRG reported that 15,721 Syrian refugees arrived in the KRI since the start of the Turkish incursion in Syria last month. On November 12, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said that foreign nations should take back their citizens who are currently detained in Iraq and Syria due to suspected ISIS affiliation. more…
  • Umm Qasr Port Resumes Operations; Oil Ministry Says Protests Not Affecting Oil Exports; Government Seeks To Create 240,000 Public Sector Jobs – On November 9, the Umm Qasr port in Basra reopened and resumed operations at normal capacity after being forced to shut down for several days by protesters blocking its entrance. On November 9, the Minister of Oil announced that oil production and export operations were continuing uninterrupted despite anti-government protests. On November 11, the parliament’s labor and social affairs committee announced that it expects to create 239,000 new jobs in the 2020 federal budget, to be funded by savings anticipated by the passage of a new pension law that reduces the retirement age. On November 13, Iraq’s Ministry of Oil established a new mechanism for marketing surplus fuel oil produced by Iraq’s refineries, saying it could generate $700 million of additional revenue per year. 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.


Death Toll Among Protesters Reaches 327 Amid Intensified Crackdown; Iran Continues Pressure To Preserve Abdul-Mahdi’s Government; UN Issues Roadmap For Reforms, U.S. Supports Early Elections; Proposed Election Law Reforms Released

On November 8, the Iraqi government intensified its crackdown on anti-government protesters that started on October 1 and resumed on October 25 after a brief pause in Baghdad and southern provinces. Iraqi security forces (ISF) continued to use tear gas, stun grenades, and live fire to disperse protesters. In Basra, anonymous shooters, thought to be affiliated with Iran-backed militias, opened fire on demonstrators, killing five. Amid the violence, a spokesperson for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged security forces to cease its use of excessive force while calling on the government to address protesters’ demands. On November 9, the ISF killed six protesters, five by live fire and one by a tear gas canister, and injured over 100 in an attempt to push protesters from the al-Sinak, Ahrar, and Shuhada bridges back into central Baghdad to contain demonstrations. Later that night, three protesters were killed in Basra. On November 10, the ISF opened fire on protesters in Nassiriya, killing three and injuring hundreds. The same day, in Baghdad, the ISF injured over 20 people by firing tear gas canisters into crowds. In Dhi-Qar province, 25 members of the ISF were injured during clashes near the Directorate of Education, while the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) reported that the ISF killed four protesters, injured roughly 130, and arbitrarily detained approximately 34 protesters. Also in the early hours of November 11, NetBlocks, an internet watchdog organization,  reported that internet access was cut off across most of the country. By November 13, internet service was restored, but the government continued to block social media sites. On November 12, dozens of police officers joined demonstrations in Karbala. On the same day, protesters shut down the office of the state-run channel al-Iraqiya in Maysan province. Protesters also attempted to close the channel’s office in Dhi-Qar, but security forces stopped them. On November 13, Iraq’s Ministry of Interior claimed that an unknown group injured 55 security officers in Baghdad near al-Khellani square. On the same day, protesters blocked al-Nasr and al-Hadarat bridges in Nasiriyah city. Also on November 13, the ISF continued use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition resulted in the deaths of at least four protesters and injuring 52. Medical sources told Reuters that nearly half of those wounded suffered injuries from live fire. On November 14, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report that the ISF has directly targeted volunteer medics along with their tents and ambulances with tear gas canisters and live ammunition. As of writing, at least 327 protesters have been killed since October 1. 

By November 9, members of parliament collected 90 signatures in support of questioning Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi on his involvement in corruption as well as in the use of excessive force against protesters. On November 11, the Saeroun and Nasr blocs renewed the call to summon Abdul-Mahdi to parliament for questioning in line with legal frameworks. The Nasr and Saeroun blocs, led by former prime minister Haider al-Abadi and Moqtada al-Sadr have been calling to question the prime minister and for his government’s resignation since late October. 

On November 9, AFP reported that Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds force within Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, met with Mohammed Ridha al-Sistani, the son of Iraq’s most senior Shia cleric, and Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Saeroun coalition, to persuade them to keep Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in office. Unconfirmed reports say that Sadr and Sistani agreed to a deal that would preserve Abdul-Mahdi’s premiership and end the anti-government protests by “any means possible.” News of the alleged deal coincided with which the  escalation of violence by the ISF against protesters, as detailed above. However, the office of Ayatollah Sistani and sources close to Sadr denied they were party to such agreement. Iran’s initiative reportedly called for early elections next year and for keeping Abdul-Mahdi in power until then. The reports follow earlier news that Soleimani interfered in an October 30 meeting between Moqatada al-Sadr and Bina coalition leader Hadi al-Amiri to persuade them to abandon proposals for government resignation. . 

On November 10, the United Nations Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) issued a roadmap that outlined short and long-term proposals aimed at ameliorating the political crisis in Iraq. The initiative demanded the release of protesters detained since October 1, and investigations into forced disappearances and the use of excessive force against protesters. It also calls for electoral and constitutional reforms within three months, and anti-corruption measures, including declaration of assets by political leaders and the commencement of corruption trials. The United States expressed its support for the UNAMI proposal and early elections proposed earlier by President Salih. On November 12, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced the Iraqi government’s violent response to protests in a phone call with Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi. This marks a shift to more assertive pressure on Baghdad compared to earlier statements from the U.S., which carefully condemned violence on both sides and refrained from endorsing the calls for unseating Abdul-Mahdi. Moqtada al-Sadr condemned the U.S. statement, warning that he would not tolerate U.S. interference in Iraqi elections. President Barham Salih was also skeptical of the U.S. statement, saying in a statement that change in Iraq would come by and for Iraq, and that any foreign influence in Iraq’s affairs was unacceptable. On the same day, senior cleric Ali al-Sistani met with UNAMI’s mission chief, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, to discuss the proposed measures. Sistani’s office confirmed that the Ayatollah supported the UNAMI proposals, but cautioned that Sistani was concerned that political leaders were not committed to achieving genuine reforms. In addition, on November 12, former prime minister and head of the Nasr coalition Haider al-Abadi welcomed the UN roadmap and stressed the need for early, fair elections under an independent commission. On November 13, Hennis-Plasschaert paid a visit to the parliament where she told members of parliament that the United Nations was ready to help the government amend its constitution, reform its electoral laws, and facilitate discussions between competing political parties. She also urged the government to deliver improved basic services and restore full access to the internet, while condemning the violence, forced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests over the past six weeks of protests. 

On November 11, al-Sumaria reported that the new election law proposed by President Barham Salih includes five major changes from the existing law. The new law includes a provision to create an independent election commission comprising of professional specialists and excluding political appointees. Another key provision would decrease the size of parliament from 329 members to 213. It is unclear how this number, which could in theory cut public spending, was chosen. A third provision would reduce the size and increase the number of electoral districts, which would be at the qadaa (district) level instead of whole provinces. Another amendment would have candidates run as individuals rather than members of party lists. Lastly, the proposed bill would decrease the legal age to run for office from 30 to 25 years to give young people a better opportunity to lead their districts. The new draft law must be presented to the parliament for a vote before taking effect. 

On November 11, Iraq’s parliament agreed to increase the number of Kurdish members on the constitutional amendments committee from three to six out of eighteen total members. Parliament had voted on October 28 to establish a committee to propose constitutional reform, which prompted a warning from the President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) Nechirvan Barzani against instituting any constitutional changes that would impact Kurdish autonomy. The expansion of Kurdish representation on the committee softened Barzani’s position, who on November 13 told speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi in Baghdad that he supports constitutional amendments that contribute to Iraq’s stability and meet the demands of the people. On November 11, the committee elected Faleh al-Sari, a senior member of parliament from al-Hikma movement, as its chairman. United Nations constitutional experts are expected to arrive in Iraq by the end of this week to participate in the amendments committee meetings. 

On November 12, the Iraqi government postponed provincial elections, originally scheduled for April 20 of next year, without providing a new date. The government cited “security and logistical” reasons for the decision to postpone the elections, which were rescheduled several times so far. Under the pressure of popular protests demanding political reforms, the Iraqi parliament voted on October 26 to suspend the work of all provincial, district, and subdistrict councils. 


Rocket Attack Targets Major Base; IED Injures Five Italian Soldiers; Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) Kill Dozens Of ISIS Members In Diayla, Ninewa And Kirkuk

On November 8, unknown militants launched 17 Katyusha rockets at an Iraqi army base in Qayyara, south of Mosul, that also houses U.S. troops. The commander of Ninewa operations said that Iraqi troops responded to the rocket attack with operations that killed three terrorists and destroyed or seized two vehicles, one of which was carrying a rocket launcher. The incident did not cause casualties among the ISF or Coalition personnel. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

On November 9, an improvised explosive device (IED) targeted an ISF patrol in the Tal Afar district, in Ninewa province. Two civilians were injured in the attack. 

On November 10, a roadside IED severely injured five Italian Special Forces soldiers outside Kirkuk city. The soldiers were participating in the international mission to train and advise the ISF. One victim lost a leg in the attack, another sustained internal injuries, and a third suffered a major foot injury that later led to amputation. All five soldiers are now in stable condition. 

On November 10, unidentified gunmen shot and killed a civilian in the Mashtal neighborhood in Baghdad’s east. The next day, unidentified gunmen used silenced weapons to kill another civilian in the Hurriya neighborhood in northern Baghdad. On November 13, gunmen killed a local government official in Karbala. The unknown assailants shot from motorcycles. 

On November 10, an IED blast wounded three civilians in the village of Qaraj, southeast of Mosul. 

On November 11, ISIS elements attacked ISF patrols inspecting the site of recent airstrikes on ISIS positions in the Khanaqin district of Diyala province. The clash reportedly killed four soldiers, wounded seven, and left four other soldiers “missing”. 

On November 11, the Iraqi federal police, army aviation, and International Coalition forces killed two ISIS militants and destroyed seven ISIS caches in the villages of al-Awashra and Shabija in Kirkuk province. 

On November 11, Iraq’s counterterrorism service (CTS) killed fourteen ISIS militants in an air assault operation backed by airstrikes in the Makhmour mountains, southeast of Mosul. On the same day, an army aviation airstrike killed four ISIS militants south of the Kenaan subdistrict in Diyala province. On November 12, another Iraqi airstrike killed ten ISIS members in a region between Jalawla and Khanaqin in Diyala province. A ground force followed up at the scene and killed four additional ISIS members. Another airstrike on November 12 killed seven ISIS militants in Tabaj Basin, northeast of Baqubah. 

On November 11, a katyusha rocket landed inside a market in the al-Iskan neighborhood in western Baghdad. On the same night, a similar rocket hit a boys school in the Shaab neighborhood in Baghdad’s north. There were no reports of casualties from either incident. 

On November 12, a joint mission between the federal police and PMF killed three ISIS militants in the Riyadh area of Hawija, west of Kirkuk city. A senior ISF commander  announced that a prominent leader of the “Kirkuk State”, Ali Hashim Mulan, was one of the dead militants. The next day, security forces killed an ISIS militant in central Shirqat, Salah ad-Din province.

On November 12, an IED blast killed a member of the federal police force in Rashad subdistrict, Kirkuk province. 

On November 12, the ISF killed two ISIS elements in the Badush mountains, northwest of Mosul in Ninewa province. The forces also destroyed a tunnel that contained IEDs and other supplies. 

On November 12, Turkish airstrikes in the Qandil and Metina regions in northern Iraq killed six members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Turkey frequently conducts strikes against PKK targets, which Turkey considers a terrorist group, inside the KRI.


UNAMI Asks Iraqis To Help Document Human Rights Abuses; Kidnapped Activist Al-Mahdawi Released; Nearly 16,000 Syrian Refugees Arrived In Iraq

On November 9, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) announced that it established an email address that civilians can use to report human rights violations, especially those connected to the ongoing protests. UNAMI hopes the account (humanrightsiraq@un.org) will allow it to better monitor instances of excessive force, kidnappings, threats, or other abuses and address them with the Iraqi authorities. UNAMI is looking for testimonies, photos, and videos, and assures users that all reports will remain confidential. 

On November 13, security forces announced the release of activists Saba al-Mahdawi and Ali Hashim, who were kidnapped by assailants in Baghdad on November 2 and November 7, respectively. Recent reports by Iraqi human rights groups listed eleven civilians, ten in Baghdad and one in Maysan, who were abducted between October 1 and November 4 because of their involvement in protests, including Saba al-Mahdawi. Besides al-Mahdawi, only one other activist on the list, Ahmed Mwaffak, has been released. More abductions continue to happen, on November 9, medic Rania al-Saidi was reported missing on social media. On November 13, a cohort of student activists said that Mohammed Hassan al-Tarifi was kidnapped from al-Sadrin Square in Najaf after participating in a sit-in. Tarifi was found a day later, and was taken to the hospital because of injuries he reportedly sustained during his abduction. At least six activists were also assassinated, or survived assassination attempts, as of November 6, according to the Iraqi watchdog groups’ report.

On November 14, the Joint Crisis Coordination Center (JCC) of the KRG reported that 15,721 Syrian refugees arrived in the KRI since the start of the Turkish incursion in Syria last month. On November 7, the JCC called for support from Baghdad and the international community as refugee numbers increase and temperatures drop. The KRI already hosts 794,061 Iraqi IDPs and 225,690 Syrian refugees. To meet the winterization needs of the 258,314 IDP families in the region, the JCC said the KRI needs 85,322 tents or alternate shelters, 101,306 heaters, 603,782 coats, 376,555 pairs of shoes, and tens of thousands of blankets, cooking supplies, and small appliances. 

On November 12, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said that foreign nations should take back their citizens who are currently detained in Iraq and Syria due to suspected ISIS affiliation. He said “there must be real international solidarity” in order to successfully try the cases of these individuals and keep them from feeling stateless. 

On November 13, the Vice President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Gilles Carbonnier, announced plans to construct a new medical center in Erbil. The new hospital would provide services specifically for people with special needs.


Umm Qasr Port Resumes Operations; Oil Ministry Says Protests Not Affecting Oil Exports; Government Seeks To Create 240,000 Public Sector Jobs

On November 9, the Umm Qasr port in Basra reopened and resumed operations at normal capacity. With its entrances blocked by angry protesters, the port was largely inaccessible from October 30 to November 7. On November 7, at least 30 protests were injured after the ISF used tear gas and live fire at the port in an attempt to quell the demonstrations. The Ministry of Transportation also announced on November 12 that it would waive storage fees due on shipping containers that accumulated during the shutdown. The Iraqi government claimed that the disruption to port operations cost the country $6 billion.   

On November 9, the Minister of Oil, Thamer al-Ghadhban, announced that oil production and export operations were continuing uninterrupted despite anti-government protests. Ghadhban also said that the Ministry of Oil was working closely with the Ministry of Electricity to ensure the steady transport of oil to power plants and generators that provide electricity throughout Iraq. On November 12, however, protesters in Maysan province shut down the buildings of the state-run Maysan Oil Company and its technical institute. Last week, protesters in southern Iraq blocked roads leading to the West Quran oil fields in Basra and two oil refineries in Dhi-Qar and Diwaniyah.

On November 11, the parliament’s labor and social affairs committee announced that it expects to create 239,000 new jobs in the 2020 federal budget. The government expects to afford for these new jobs from savings anticipated by the passage of a new pension law that reduces the retirement age. These measures come in response to anti-government protests that have spread throughout Iraq since October 1, largely motivated by the high unemployment. Increasing the size of Iraq’s bloated and inefficient public sector is unlikely to result in sustainable economic progress or generate enough jobs for Iraq’s young population, which is growing by nearly 1 million a year. 

On November 11, the KRG’s Ministry of Electricity opened a new power plant in Erbil. At the opening ceremony, the Minister of Electricity, Kamal Mohammed Saleh, explained that fuel shortages have limited power generation in the KRI currently to 3,500 megawatts (MW) despite having  7,000 MW of installed capacity. Saleh noted that he will work with the Ministry of Natural Resources to increase gas supplies to power plants to maximize electrical output. The ministry also plans to restructure its distribution grid and relocate some of its mobile power plants to improve efficiency and avoid blackouts during the winter. 

On November 13, Iraq’s Ministry of Oil established a new mechanism for marketing surplus fuel oil produced by Iraq’s refineries. The new arrangement will authorize the State Organization for Marketing Oil (SOMO) to directly market the surplus fuel and assign all loading, storage, and transport operations to  the Iraqi Oil Tankers Company. The ministry expects the new arrangement to bring in $700 million of additional revenue per year from the sale of fuel oil, of which production has risen to 20,000 tons per day, according to the ministry.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from November 7-November 14, 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
11/12/19Rashad subdistrict, Kirkuk10
11/10/19southeast of Mosul, Ninewa 03
11/10/19Kirkuk City, Kirkuk05
11/9/19Tal Afar, Ninewa02

 

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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