- Death Toll Reaches 460 After Deadly Attacks On Protesters In Dhi-Qar And Najaf; Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi Resigns; Political Blocs Discuss Potential Candidates For The Premiership Amid Iranian Interference – Ongoing anti-government protests saw the worst episode of violence on November 28th, when security forces shot and killed at least 45 demonstrators, mostly in Najaf and Nasiriyah. On December 4, the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights reported that the recent violence has pushed the death toll since October 1 to at least 460 people, while some 17,400 have been injured. The UN Secretary-General, Pope Francis and Washington called on the Iraqi government to end violence against protesters. On December 1, Iraq’s Parliament officially accepted Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation, which he announced on November 29, without holding a formal vote of no confidence. Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation followed an appeal by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to Parliament to “reconsider its options” with regard to government formation. Iraq’s constitution states that Parliament’s largest bloc must nominate a candidate within fifteen days, but the process is complicated by disagreements over which party qualifies as the largest. On December 1, President Barham Salih began discussions with major political blocs to identify a potential replacement for Abdul-Mahdi. Reuters reported that Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and a Lebanese Hezbollah operative have visited Iraq and met with senior officials to influence the succession process. No clear candidates have emerged to date. more…
- Rockets Target Green Zone, Major Air Base; ISIS Launches Series Of Deadly Attacks In Diyala; New Reports Of Iran Arming Iraqi Militias With Advanced Rockets – On November 22, a rocket fired at the Green Zone landed in the Tigris river. Another rocket struck near the Green Zone on November 29. Neither attack caused casualties. On December 3, five rockets landed inside Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province without causing any casualties. On November 26, three IED explosions killed eight people and injured fifteen more in Baghdad. On December 5, the KRG Ministry of Peshmerga called for increased support from the U.S.-led coalition after a week long series of deadly ISIS attacks in Diyala province. The attacks, which included bombings, assaults on security forces positions, and sniper fire killed at least 21 Iraqis and wounded more than 44, including members of the Peshmerga, Popular Mobilization Forces, Iraqi Army and police, as well as civilians. On December 3, the Hawija police arrested a deputy of deceased ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The detained militant, Abu Khaldun, is described as the ISIS military chief of the Salah ad-Din area. On December 4, The New York Times reported that Iran is using allied Iraqi militias to move advanced short-range missiles into Iraq while the country is preoccupied with the mass anti-government protests. more…
- UN Investigators Identify ISIS Members For Trials Over Crimes Against Yazidis; Iraq’s Government Accused Of 45 “Flagrant Violations” against Journalists; Abductions, Arrests Continue To Target Activists – On November 26, the head of the UN investigation team working to uncover ISIS crimes in Iraq (UNITAD) told the Security Council that the team has identified 160 ISIS members accused of mass murders and other atrocities against Yazidis in 2014. These suspects could face future trials inside Iraq. On December 2, The Society for Defending Press Freedom in Iraq accused the Iraqi government of fifty-four “flagrant violations” against journalists and media outlets during November. This report follows the decision by the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission on November 21, to close the offices of a dozen TV stations and radio stations. On December 2, HRW reported that seven protesters have gone missing from the demonstrations in Tahrir Square since October 7, four of whom remain unfound. The families of nine other protesters currently being detained were afraid to speak out and share details about their missing relatives. On December 5, the Joint Crisis Coordination Center (JCC) in the KRG announced that the KRI has received 17,862 Syrian refugees since the start of the Turkish incursion in northern Syria in October. more…
- Protests Threaten Operations At Dhi-Qar Oil Co.; GE To Install 23 High-Voltage Transformer Stations; Oil Exports Rebound In November – On November 23, anti-government protesters stormed the headquarters of the Dhi-Qar oil company, shutting down its office operations and marched on the Gharraf field in northeastern Dhi-Qar. A company official said that the protests would certainly interrupt oil production, although no actual decrease in production has been reported to date. On November 25, General Electrics CEO Jerome Pecresse met with Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in Baghdad to discuss GE’s implementation of a project involving the installation of 23 high-voltage transformer stations expected to create over 3,000 jobs and improve electricity provision for over four million homes across Iraq. On December 1, Iraq’s Ministry of Oil announced that crude oil exports for November reached over 105.14 million barrels for an average of 3.5 million barrels per day (bpd). These exports generated over $6.28 billion in revenue. November’s exports are slightly higher than those from October, which were reported at 3.447 million bpd. 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 Reaches 460 After Deadly Attacks On Protesters In Dhi-Qar And Najaf; Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi Resigns; Political Blocs Discuss Potential Candidates For The Premiership Amid Iranian Interference
On November 23, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise visit to Iraq, where he met with the president and prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil, as well as U.S. troops stationed in western Iraq. Pence reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to the Kurds, especially as it relates to the fight against ISIS. The visit comes nearly a month after the Trump administration withdrew U.S. troops from northeast Syria, leaving Syrian Kurdish allies vulnerable, and was followed by the resumption of U.S. forces counter-ISIS operations in Syria. Although he did not visit Baghdad, Pence spoke with Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi by phone about the violence accompanying ongoing anti-government protests. In a statement, Pence said that Abdul-Mahdi assured him that his government would “work to protect and respect peaceful protesters as part of the democratic process.” Other senior U.S. officials, including Deputy Defense Secretary for Policy, John Rudd, and the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley, also visited Iraq that week to meet with Iraqi officials. Rudd spoke with the Iraqi prime minister and defense minister about U.S.-Iraqi defense cooperation and Baghdad’s handling of the anti-government protests.
On November 23, The Wall Street Journal reported that Swedish authorities have opened investigations into Iraq’s Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari for alleged crimes against humanity and fraud. A spokesperson for the Swedish prosecutor did not provide details into the supposed human rights violations, and whether they were committed during his time working under Saddam Hussein or during his current role as defense minister. Swedish police are also looking into whether Shammari, who previously lived in Sweden, committed fraud by continuing to register as a Swedish resident under a different name to receive welfare benefits while abroad.
On November 24, ongoing anti-government protests escalated again in Iraq’s southern provinces. Iraqi security forces (ISF) killed seven protesters and injured hundreds using live fire and tear gas in Basra while demonstrations blocked the Umm Qasr port. On the same day, the ISF killed four protesters in Nasiriyah. On November 26, one protester was killed and 21 were injured in Baghdad. Two more protesters were killed and 25 were injured in Baghdad on the following day. The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) reported that between November 21 and 24, roughly 165 protesters had been arrested, of whom only 36 were subsequently released. The worst episode of violence came on the 28th, when the ISF shot and killed at least 45 demonstrators. The ISF killed at least 29 demonstrators and injured dozens more in Nasiriyah, the capital of Dhi-Qar province. Thousands in Nasiriyah disregarded a government curfew to mourn the protesters who had fallen in these deadly clashes. The ISF killed twelve more protesters in Najaf, where demonstrators stormed and set fire to the Iranian consulate. Iran’s Foreign Ministry called on the Iraqi government to hold the perpetrators accountable, while the Iraqi government condemned the attack, emphasizing that it did not represent Iraq’s view of Iran. In addition, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) issued a statement saying it would use force to protect Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, implying that Najaf protesters were a threat to the cleric’s life. The ISF also killed four protesters in Baghdad. Amid these escalations, the government formed “crisis cells” in several provinces in an effort to regain stability. In addition to the Iranian consulate, which was torched three times, the shrine of late Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, the founder of the Badr organization, became a battleground between protesters and security forces and unknown armed men. On November 30, protesters burned the entrance to the Hakim shrine in Najaf. On December 3, protesters again encircled the shrine, calling on Moqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Saeroun bloc, to help them enter the site — a development that suggests Sadr-Hakim political rivalries may be complicating the situation. After several hours, a few sheikhs and protesters were allowed inside the shrine. The Hakim shrine has become a new symbol of foreign interference for protesters, some of whom believe an Iranian intelligence cell operates inside. On December 4, IHCHR reported that the recent violence has pushed the death toll since October 1 to at least 460 people, while some 17,400 have been injured. On December 5, there were reports of alleged supporters of the PMF and Hezbollah arriving at protest sites in various parts of Baghdad, including Tahrir Square, and attacking anti-government demonstrators. Protesters said the men, dressed in civilian clothing, used sectarian phrases and chanted anti-Saudi and anti-Israeli slogans.
On November 29, the Secretary-General of the UN Antonio Guterres again called on the Iraqi government to end violence against protesters. On December 1, Pope Francis condemned the excessive force used against protesters. On December 2, in response to the escalation of violence in Nasiriyah, the United States urged the Iraqi government to hold those using excessive force against protesters accountable. On December 3, in a speech to the UN Security Council, special representative of UNAMI Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert denounced the recent violence against and violations of human rights of anti-government protesters.
On November 25, speaker of the parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi said that a new draft of the election law will allow 50% of individuals running for parliament to do so independently, while the other 50% could run on electoral party lists. The Saeroun bloc has rejected this proposal as well as the reduction of the number of members of parliament from 329 to 251, arguing that doing so will lead to under-representation in provinces like Dhi-Qar, Basra, Muthanna, and Maysan. The Turkmen Front stated that the proposed election law will not lead to fair elections. On November 26, special representative of the UN Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert told Parliament that the UN was ready to assist Iraq in reforming its electoral laws and forming an independent electoral commission. On December 2, Speaker Halbousi and the leaders of political blocs decided that further discussions on new electoral laws should take place between the parliamentary legal committee and the UN before a final version is presented for a vote. However, on December 3, anti-government protesters began circulating their own versions of the election law. The proposed law allows a parliamentary candidate to be 25 years of age or older (as opposed to the current minimum age of 30) and have a bachelor’s degree. It states that a candidate cannot run if he or she has a criminal record or has held a position with any judicial, security, or military institutions, among other eligibility requirements.
On November 24, the Ninewa Provincial Council elected retired Lt. Gen. Najim al-Jubouri as the new governor of Ninewa after voting a week earlier to dismiss the incumbent governor Mansour al-Muried. Twenty three council members out of 39 reportedly voted for al-Jubouri, who had served as a senior commander during the campaign to liberate the province from ISIS in 2016-2017. Muried rejected the votes and denied claims by the council that he had submitted his resignation. A spokesperson for Muried argued the council’s actions were illegitimate given the federal government’s decision in October to dissolve the provincial councils. The controversy continued as Ninewa’s provincial council later asserted that Muried provided a letter of resignation, which he in turn described as inauthentic. The reasons for Muried’s sudden dismissal only six months after his appointment remain unclear. Both President Saleh and Speaker of the Parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi received al-Jubouri on November 28, marking the official beginning of his duties as governor.
On November 24, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command announced that its official Counterterrorism Services (CTS) social media pages had been hacked. Earlier that day, the CTS Facebook and Twitter accounts posted that CTS was waging a coup d’etat against the current government. The Chief of CTS Talib Shaghati al-Kanani denied the existence of a military coup.
On November 26, the Danish Foreign Ministry announced that Denmark would propose leading NATO’s non-combat mission in Iraq from the end of 2020 until mid-2022. Denmark would replace Canada in this leadership role, and the country planned to present its official offer to allied governments at this week’s NATO summit in London. Denmark’s Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said that with Denmark leading the mission, the coalition would continue to train Iraqi forces fight against ISIS.
On November 29, the Governor of Dhi-Qar Adel al-Dakhili resigned in the aftermath of excessive violence in the province, in which the ISF killed dozens of protesters (details above). In a statement, Dakhili said the atrocities were committed by forces from outside of the province, and called for an investigation into the violence while affirming his support for the peaceful protesters. On December 1, Iraq’s Higher Judicial Council issued an arrest warrant for General Jamil al-Shammari, who was recently removed from his role as head of the Dhi-Qar crisis cell, for ordering the usage of excessive force that led to the deaths in Nasiriyah. Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi had sent Shammari to Nasiriyah on November 28 to “restore order,” but reversed the decision almost immediately after Shammari prompted the lethal crackdown upon his arrival. By December 4, families of victims of protest violence had filed roughly 200 lawsuits against Shammari. On the same day, former director of Diwaniyah police Maj. Gen. Farqad al-Issawi also faced an arrest warrant after he failed to cooperate with the parliamentary committee tasked with investigating violence against protesters. More than forty other members of the ISF are reportedly facing prosecution over their involvement in excessive force during demonstrations.
On December 1, Iraq’s Parliament officially accepted Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation, which he announced on November 29, without holding a formal vote of no confidence. Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation followed Sistani’s appeal on November 29 to Parliament to “reconsider its options” with regard to government formation. The beleaguered premier’s resignation also comes after a petition signed by at least 166 members of parliament as of November 23 urged the prime minister to resign, as well as after renewed bloodshed during recent anti-government protests in Dhi-Qar and Najaf (details above). Although celebrations among protesters emerged in Baghdad after Abdul-Mahdi’s announcement on Friday, many demonstrators in southern provinces like Basra recognized that Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation was just the first step to answering their demands. Speaker of Parliament, Mohammed al-Halbousi, tasked President Barham Salih with presenting a replacement for the premiership. While Iraq’s constitution states that Parliament’s largest bloc must nominate a prime ministerial candidate within fifteen days, this rule may not be easily followed given that there is no agreement over which bloc is the largest in parliament. It was this same lack of clarity over the largest bloc in Parliament that led to the formation of Abdul-Mahdi’s cabinet by a compromise between Moqtada al-Sadr’s Saeroun and Hadi al-Amiri’s Fateh blocs in October 2018. On December 3, while addressing the UN Security Council, the special representative for UNAMI called on Iraq’s political leaders to form a stable, representative government free from corruption.
On December 1, Iraqi President Barham Salih began discussions with major political blocs and outside influences to identify a potential replacement for resigning Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Sources told Reuters that Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, has visited Iraq and met with senior officials, most likely to influence decisions over who will replace Abdul-Mahdi, whom Soleimani helped put into power in 2018. In addition, sources say that Mohammed Kawtharani, a Lebanese political broker affiliated with Hezbollah, has also been involved in discussing a new candidate. On November 29, some parliamentary political blocs revealed their tentative candidates for the premiership. The Nasr coalition of former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi nominated one of its senior members, Adnan al-Zurfi, while the State of law bloc of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki chose Mohammed Shya al-Sudani, a former minister of labor, as its candidate. The Fateh Alliance publicly said it has not yet chosen a candidate, but leaked information suggests that they have chosen Ali al-Shukri, who is senior advisor to President Salih. The names of former minister of youth and sports Abdul-Hussein Abtan, Minister of Education Qusay al-Suhail, and former MP Ezzat al-Shabandar are also being floated as potential nominees. On December 1, Haider al-Abadi announced that he would not participate in nomating the new prime minister nor seek the position for himself. The Saeroun bloc also claimed that it would not nominate a candidate, while hinting that it represents the largest bloc in parliament. The bloc argued that the protesters should choose the next prime minister, while a source close to Moqtada al-Sadr said that Sadr would not support Mohammed al-Sudani nor Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, a former oil minister and another tentative contender, as candidates for the premiership. On December 2, the Sunni bloc, Iraqi Forces Alliance, urged parliament to elect a non-Shia prime minister in an effort to “overcome sectarianism.” Later, the alliance also said that its members would not pursue the candidacy for prime minister. On December 3, Dawa Party leader Nouri al-Maliki said that his party will not nominate a candidate, but will support any that meet the qualifications listed by the “highest religious authority.” The Iraqi constitution gives 45 days for the formation of a new government should the prime minister position becomes vacant for any reason.
On December 3, the KRG and the Iraqi government reached an initial agreement over their ongoing dispute over the KRG’s oil exports and share of the federal budget. The KRG’s finance minister announced that, starting next year, his government will deliver 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) of the oil it produces to federal oil marketing authorities for export via Turkish ports in exchange for a full share in Iraq’s 2020 federal budget. This initial agreement comes after several rounds of discussions between federal Iraqi and KRG officials to resolve the two governments’ differences revolving around authority over developing and exporting oil. The two sides had reached a similar agreement during the 2019 budget negotiations, and several ad-hoc agreements in past years, but implementation remains incomplete due to the KRG’s inability to meet its oil delivery commitments.
Rockets Target Green Zone, Major Air Base; ISIS Launches Series Of Deadly Attacks In Diyala; New Reports Of Iran Arming Iraqi Militias With Advanced Rockets
On November 22, a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) explosion struck a passing civilian vehicle in Hamam al-Alil, south of Mosul. The explosion severely injured two civilians.
On November 22, an airstrike by the U.S.-led International Coalition killed several ISIS militants and destroyed a tunnel containing explosives and other supplies in the Badush Mountains in Ninewa province.
On November 22, a rocket, supposedly fired from eastern Baghdad, targeting the city’s Green Zone landed in the Tigris river without causing casualties. Another rocket struck near the Green Zone on November 29, also without causing casualties.
On November 23, an IED explosion wounded an Iraqi officer and three soldiers who were on patrol in the Buhruz subdistrict south of Baqubah in Diyala province.
On November 24, an Iraqi F-16 airstrike destroyed an ISIS hideout in Salah ad-Din province. The airstrike killed an unspecified number of ISIS militants.
On November 23, the Turkish military killed five members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), four in the area of al-Zab and one in the Sinat-Haftanin region in Duhok province. On November 26, another Turkish strike killed seven PKK members in the Hakurk area, also in Duhok.
On November 25, Iraqi intelligence forces, supported by the International Coalition, killed five ISIS members in the Hawija district of Kirkuk province. The joint force also destroyed three ISIS hideouts in the area.
On November 25, Iraqi federal police forces killed six ISIS members in the Wadi al-Karha region in Kirkuk province. The troops also uncovered a tunnel containing explosives and other supplies used by militants.
On November 26, three IED explosions killed eight people and injured fifteen more in Baghdad. A bomb attached to a motorcycle killed three and injured five in al-Shaab in northeast Baghdad. In al-Bayaa to the west, another bomb mounted on a motorcycle killed two people and wounded six. The third explosion killed one and injured four near a market in the Baladiyat neighborhood in east Baghdad.
On November 27, an IED exploded near a liquor store in the Waziriya neighborhood in northeast Baghdad. There were no casualties in the incident.
On November 27, an IED explosion killed one soldier and injured another in Qara Sur village in Makhmour district, Ninewa province. A police source said the bomb, a remnant of the war with ISIS, struck an army vehicle on patrol.
On November 27, ISIS militants shot and killed a married couple while traveling in their vehicle in Daquq district, south of Kirkuk.
On November 28, ISIS militants killed two Iraqi soldiers and wounded four more during an attack in the Tarmiyah district, north of Baghdad.
On November 29, unidentified assailants killed two people, including one member of the PMF, in their car in Sinjar district, Ninewa province.
On November 29, the explosion of a roadside IED injured three soldiers and one military officer near al-Mukhisah village, northeast of Baqubah in Diyala province.
On November 30, two bombs placed in trash cans wounded sixteen people civilians in Kirkuk city. One of the explosions took place in the downtown area while the other occurred in the city’s south.
On November 30, ISIS militants killed one federal police officer during an attack on a federal police checkpoint in the Riyadh district west of Kirkuk.
On December 3, unidentified gunmen shot and killed a civilian riding his bicycle in Fallujah.
On December 5, the KRG Ministry of Peshmerga called for increased support from the U.S.-led coalition after a week long series of deadly ISIS attacks in Diyala province. On December 4, ISIS snipers killed one PMF fighter, three Peshmerga fighters, and injured two more members of the Kurdish security force during a clash in the town of Kolajo, northwest of Khanaqin in Diyala’s Kifri district. On December 3, an ISIS sniper killed one PMF officer in an attack on a military outpost in Diyala’s Khanaqin district. On December 2, the PMF announced that their forces sustained six fatalities and seventeen injuries during clashes with ISIS militants in the Naft Khana area in Diyala province the previous day. Also on December 1, ISIS militants killed one Peshmerga fighter and injured two more in al-Sadiyah, just south of Jalawla in Diyala. On November 30, ISIS militants attacked Kolajo killing three members of the Asayish, the intelligence branch of the Peshmerga, one civilian, and injuring eight others, including two children. A senior KRG security official in the area was identified as one of the casualties. Previously, on November 25, ISIS militants attacked a military outpost near Jalawla. The attack resulted in the deaths of an Iraqi army officer, two soldiers, and one civilian. Seven other people, including civilians were also injured. Several villages evacuated amid this uptick in violence. On November 22, the Mukhtar of Abu Karma village in the Waqf basin region of Diyala province said the entire village, from which scores of families were displaced in October and November, had evacuated due to increased violence and failing security. On November 28, more than fifteen families fled from al-Islah village in Jalwala. Despite these concerning security risks, the Diyala Operations Command said on December 3 that 1,000 of the previously internally displaced families would begin returning to the nearby subdistrict of al-Sadiyah.
On December 3, the Security Media Cell reported that five rockets landed inside Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province without causing any casualties. Security forces located the vehicle responsible for the attack on the same day.
On December 3, the Hawija police arrested a deputy of deceased ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The detained militant, Abu Khaldun, is described as the ISIS military chief of the Salah ad-Din area.
On December 4, an IED killed one civilian and injured two more on a bridge in the district of Dibis, in Kirkuk province.
On December 4, a grenade attack wounded nine members of the ISF at a checkpoint outside the Central Bank in Baghdad. Four victims are in critical condition.
On December 4, unidentified assailants assassinated the mukhtar of a village in Mendili district, Diyala province.
On December 4, The New York Times reported that Iran is using allied Iraqi militias to move short-range missiles into Iraq while the country is preoccupied with the mass anti-government protests. The United States officials cited in the report expressed concern that rising tensions in the region could lead to armed conflict between Iran and its proxies, like the Shia militias in Iraq, and U.S. troops and allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. Earlier this year, Israel repeatedly targeted camps used by PMF factions closely aligned with Iran with airstrikes to eliminate the threat of alleged advanced Iranian weapons smuggled into Iraq.
UN Investigators Identify ISIS Members For Trials Over Crimes Against Yazidis; Iraq’s Government Accused Of 45 “Flagrant Violations” against Journalists; Abductions, Arrests Continue To Target Activists
On November 21, the KRG Minister of Interior, Rebar Ahmed, announced that South Korea would give $10 million in humanitarian aid to the federal and regional governments in Baghdad and Erbil. This is the second $10 million pledge from South Korea this year.
On November 22, the Ministry of Migration and Displacement announced it would repatriate 78 Iraqi refugees living in Turkey. The Iraqi government continues to encourage voluntary returns. In October, 154 refugees returned from Turkey to Iraq under the government-sponsored Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration program.
On November 26, the head of the UN investigation team working to uncover ISIS crimes in Iraq (UNITAD) told the UN Security Council that the team has identified 160 ISIS members accused of mass murders and other atrocities against Yazidis in 2014. These suspects could face future trials inside Iraq. Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, the UNITAD team leader, said the Iraqi and KRG authorities were cooperating with and supporting UNITAD’s mission. The Security Council extended in September UNITAD’s mandate by one year on Baghdad’s request. The 107 investigators of UNITAD have so far conducted 230 investigations, including surveying crime scenes, collecting evidence and listening to testimonies by victims and their families.
On November 27, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report on the KRG’s restriction of refugee movement, specifically in Makhmour camp which is home to at least 12,000 Turkish Kurds. International law prohibits restriction of movement and stipulates that governments cannot make freedom of movement contingent on the purpose of travel. The lockdown started in mid-July after members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) killed a Turkish diplomat in Erbil. KRG security forces restricted movement from the camp, which they assumed housed PKK sympathizers. When HRW asked about the restrictions the KRG coordinator for international advocacy said that movement was “slightly restricted temporarily” and did not include any refugees in school, with jobs, or seeking medical treatment. HRW collected multiple reports that contradict this statement, specifically in reference to medical treatment. Security forces turned back refugees, even those with proper paperwork and a doctor referral, before they reached Erbil or larger medical centers.
On December 2, The Society for Defending Press Freedom in Iraq accused the Iraqi government of fifty-four “flagrant violations” against journalists and media outlets during the month of November. According to a report by the watchdog group, seven journalists were abducted or received death threats, two were wrongfully detained, twenty-one were beaten, and twenty-four outlets had their broadcasts obstructed or were shut down. The report noted that although the number of violations in November was lower than in October, it remains unacceptably high. This report follows the decision by the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission (CMC) on November 21 to close the offices of a dozen TV stations and radio stations including al-Hurra, Dijlah TV, Anb TV, al-Sharqiya al-Hadath, Radio Sawa, NRT News, Radio Nawa, al-Rasheed TV, al-Fallujah, Hona Baghdad, Radio al-Nas, and Radio al-Youm. Four additional outlets received warnings for “violating the regularities of media licensing rules.” The CMC suggested that the federal government should dispatch security forces to the named media outlets to enforce their closure. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the Committee to Protect Journalists called for a reversal of this decision.
On December 2, HRW reported that seven protesters have gone missing from the demonstrations in Tahrir Square since October 7, four of whom remain unfound. The families of nine other protesters currently being detained were fearful of speaking out and giving details about their experience. This does not account for arrests by Iraqi security forces, of which the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights said there were at least 93 in the span of just four days. Most of those arrested remained in custody at the time of reporting. The families of these victims repeatedly visited authorities to learn about the whereabouts and conditions of their loved ones. On November 27, the families of protesters detained by security forces during the demonstrations in Basra protested outside the security operations’ headquarters demanding information about their sons’ condition and location.
On December 3, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Iraq rolled out a new plan for disability inclusion to be implemented over the next two years. Persons with disabilities were disproportionately impacted by the fight against ISIS and, if in line with other countries’ experiences after conflict, the rate of disability is Iraq will increase as the physical consequences of violence persist. The strategy for inclusion aims to embed protections for the disabled in national policy and garner increased funding for humanitarian programming centered around disabled IDPs and refugees.
On December 5, the Joint Crisis Coordination Center (JCC) in the KRG announced that the KRI has received 17,862 Syrian refugees since the start of the Turkish incursion in northern Syria. The previous day the IOM released a report putting the count at 17,504. While some early estimates suggested the KRI could see up to 250,000 refugees, the movement seems to be consistently slowing with fewer than twenty Syrians entering camps in northern Iraq between December 1 and 3.
Protests Threaten Operations At Dhi-Qar Oil Co.; GE To Install 23 High-Voltage Transformer Stations; Oil Exports Rebound In November
On November 23, anti-government protesters stormed the headquarters of the Dhi-Qar oil company, shutting down its office operations, and marched on one of its important fields in northeastern Dhi-Qar, Several hundred protesters blocked the road leading to the Gharraf oil field, impeding the field’s workers from reaching their work sites. The demonstrators demanded more jobs for recent graduates. A company official said that the protests would certainly interrupt oil production, although no actual decrease in production has been reported to date. On December 2, protests again blocked the entrance to the Dhi-Qar oil company headquarters. Protesters in Dhi-Qar had previously shut down the province’s oil refinery.
On November 23, Iraq reopened the Shalamcheh border crossing in Basra with Iran after closing it to travelers on November 16 due to anti-government protests in both countries. On November 27, Iraq also reopened the Mendili border crossing in Diyala with Iran, which had been closed since October 8. On November 28, however, Iran closed the Mehran border crossing with Iraq’s Wasit province, citing security reasons. This last closure coincided with the recent spike in violence in Najaf and Dhi-Qar provinces (details above).
On November 23, the KRG’s Ministry of Electricity said that it has resolved technical problems with a main gas pipeline carrying natural gas from the Khor Mor field that had caused delayed shipments to essential electrical plants in Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Bazian. Due to the delays, electrical plants had temporarily decreased production by 500 MW (in other reports by 50%). The Ministry added that it had worked with Khor Mor operator Dana Gas to fix the issue, and that power generation has recovered to near-full capacity at 2,928 MW.
On November 25, General Electrics (GE) CEO Jerome Pecresse met with Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in Baghdad to discuss GE’s implementation of a project involving the installation of 23 high-voltage transformer stations expected to create over 3,000 jobs and improve electricity provision for over four million homes across Iraq. The agreements between Baghdad and GE also provide for a GE Network Academy, an educational initiative in coordination with the Ministries of Electricity and Higher Education, that would train engineering students and prepare them for joining the workforce.
On November 25, the Ministry of Agriculture asked protesters to allow local farmers to market and transport their crops, primarily corn and barley in Babylon and Wasit provinces, to avoid spoiling harvested crops. Street blockages and disruptions to operations at government facilities, including ports and other state-owned enterprises have been common amid ongoing anti-government protests since October 1.
On December 1, Iraq’s Ministry of Oil announced that crude oil exports for November reached over 105.14 million barrels for an average of 3.5 million barrels per day (bpd). These exports generated over $6.28 billion in revenue. Exports from the southern ports in Basra exceeded 3.4 million bpd, while northern fields in Kirkuk averaged 79,000 bpd through the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Trucked oil exports originating from the Qayyarah field in Ninewa province dropped to roughly 10,000 bpd from their previous average of 30,000 bpd. Trucks delivering oil to Jordan exported approximately 11,000 bpd. The ministry’s statement noted that the price of Iraqi oil averaged at $59.82, an increase from October’s $57.15. November’s exports are slightly higher than those from October, which were reported at 3.447 million bpd. On December 4, Iraq’s Minister of Oil Thamer Ghadhban announced that Baghdad supports further combined supply cuts of 400,000 bpd in crude oil production by OPEC members on top of the 1.2 million bpd cuts already observed by the exporters group. Ghadhban said that he expects to extend cuts in production throughout the end of 2020.
On December 2, the chairman of the Halabja Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the KRI announced that the Kurdistan region and Iran have discussed forming a joint commercial bank to facilitate cross-border trade and investment. The statement did not include a timeline for the creation of this bank.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
Casualties Due To IEDs from November 21-December 5, 2019The 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.
|11/30/19||Kirkuk City, Kirkuk||0||16|
|11/29/19||Abu Sayda, Diyala||0||4|
|11/23/19||southern Buhruz, Diyala||0||4|
|11/22/19||Hamam Al-Alil, Ninewa||0||2|
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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