ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: DECEMBER 19, 2019 – JANUARY 2, 2020

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Key Takeaways:

  • New Election Law Faces Objections; President Offers To Resign As Deadline To Name New PM Expires; U.S.-Iraq Relations Shaken By Militia Rocket Strikes And U.S. Retaliation; Militias Attack U.S. Embassy Compound – On December 20, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said early elections were the “nearest and safest way out of the current crisis.” On December 24, Parliament approved a new election law that will set up smaller electoral districts and enable candidates to run for office as individuals rather than on party lists. Analysts and activists argue that the law contains ambiguities that existing parties can manipulate to stay in power. On December 26, President Salih offered to resign after negotiations to name a new PM reached an impasse and the Dec 23 deadline expired. Salih said he preferred to resign rather than support candidates rejected by the people. On December 30, Iraq’s national security council threatened to reconsider relations with the U.S.-led Coalition, saying the U.S. violated Iraq’s sovereignty by conducting unauthorized airstrikes (responding to a rocket attack that killed an American citizen) against Kataib Hezbollah. PM Abdul-Mahdi, President Salih, Moqtada al-Sadr, and Ayatollah Sistani condemned the U.S. unilateral action. On December 31, Kataib Hezbollah supporters attacked the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, causing cosmetic damage before withdrawing. Senior militia commanders Hadi al-Amiri, Qais al-Khazali and Falih al-Fayadh participated. Iraq’s president, PM and speaker of parliament condemned the embassy attack, saying that transgression against diplomatic missions damaged Iraq’s interests and reputation. more…
  • Assassins Target Several Activists; Militiamen Killed in U.S. Response To Rocket Attacks; Iraqi Forces Conduct Major Operation Across Four Provinces As Militant Attacks Continue – On December 20, two activists were injured and a two others were killed in three separate attacks near Nasiriyah. In Baghdad, a political satirist survived a drive-by shooting in Baghdad. On December 25, a group of young men attacked protesters in Karbala with bladed weapons and gunfire, injuring at least two. On December 30, gunmen used silenced weapons to assassinate activist Ali al-Khafaji in Nasiriyah. On December 27, at least 30 rockets hit the K-1 military base in Kirkuk, killing one U.S. contractor. The U.S. accused Kataib Hezbollah of launching the attack and killed at least 25 militiamen in retaliatory airstrikes near al-Qaim. On December 23, a car bomb killed two Iraqi soldiers and wounded an officer in Anbar. On December 24, two IEDs in Ninewa killed two members of the Iraqi security forces and injured five. On December 24, ISIS militants attacked the Khabbaz oil field west of Kirkuk, killing one policeman and wounding two. On December 24, an IED killed two Iraqi soldiers and wounded three in Salah ad-Din. On December 29, Iraqi forces launched a major operation across Kirkuk, Diyala, Ninewa, Salah ad-Din and the Jazira desert. Operations resulted in the discovery and/or destruction dozens of ISIS tunnels and hideouts and large amounts of weapons. Iraqi forces also killed nine ISIS militants. On December 30, an IED exploded south of Fallujah killing five children. On December 30, an IED explosion injured a brigade commander in the Iraqi army in Kirkuk. On December 31, Iraqi forces and International Coalition airstrikes killed 11 ISIS militants in Ninewa. more…
  • UN Rights Commissioner Criticizes Baghdad’s Failure To Respond To Attacks On Activists; Iraqi Rights Group Counts 68 Kidnappings And 33 Assassinations Since Oct 1 – On December 20, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement condemning the ongoing assassinations and forced disappearances targeting Iraqi activists and criticized the Iraqi government’s failure to bring the perpetrators before the law. On December 24, Reliefweb reported that the UAE government decided to provide $2.5 to support water and sanitation projects in Sinjar. On December 26, UNHCR said that the Netherlands has provided $5.6 million to support IDPs and refugees in Iraq with legal and psychological support services. On December 28, Iraq’s High Commission For Human Rights (IHCHR) said that at least 68 people have been kidnapped or forcibly disappeared since Iraq’s popular anti-government protests began on October 1. The IHCHR also reported that at least 33 assassination attempts on activists have killed 14 and wounded 19 during the same period. more…
  • Protesters Force Temporary Oil Field Shutdown; Iraq Invites Bids For Pipeline To Jordan; Oil Exports Slightly Down, But Revenue Rises – Protesters forced the Oil Ministry on December 29 to suspend production at the 80,000 bpd Nasiriyah oil field in Dhi-Qar province for 1 day. On December 22, protesters near Basra blocked the roads leading to the Rumaila oilfield and on the 24th tried to break into the West Qurna-1 oil field, while others shut down the Maqal port on the Shatt al-Arab waterway. On December 25, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said it has invited prequalified engineering firms to submit their bids for the building a long-planned, 2.25 million bpd oil pipeline from Basra to the Jordanian port of Aqaba. Iraq hopes to select the winning bids before the end of 2020. On January 2, Iraq’s Ministry of Oil announced that crude oil exports for December averaged 3.428 million bpd, about 72,000 bpd lower than November’s 3.5 million bpd. These exports generated over $6.7 billion in revenue, $400 million above November’s figures. 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.


New Election Law Faces Objections; President Offers To Resign As Deadline To Name New PM Expires; U.S.-Iraq Relations Shaken By Militia Rocket Strikes And U.S. Retaliation; Militias Attack U.S. Embassy Compound

On December 20, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most senior cleric, voiced his strong support for holding early elections, calling it the “nearest and safest way out of the current crisis.” In his Friday remarks, Sistani called for speedy appointment of a new interim government to replace that of Adil Abdul-Mahdi who resigned on December 1 and would work to restore calm and allow the country to hold new elections. Sistani praised the ongoing pro-reform protests in Iraq while criticizing the “unnecessary” shutting down of schools and government offices. 

On December 20, the Sadiqoun parliamentary bloc (affiliated with the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia) said it was collecting signatures to support a motion in Parliament to oust President Barham Salih and try him for “high treason” and violating the constitution. A member of the group said the president failed in his duties by abandoning his responsibility to name a new prime minister within the constitutional deadline (more details on selecting a new prime minister below). On December 28, unnamed political sources said that several political parties are working to oust President Salih and potentially replace him with Finance Minister Fouad Hussein, a senior Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) member and former contender for the presidency in 2018.

On December 23, Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council selected five judges and two “State Counselors” by a draw to become the commissioners of Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC). Two more judges representing the Kurdistan region were selected on December 29, completing the nine-member commissioners council. The draws were supervised by the deputy representative of the UN Secretary General for Iraq. 

On december 24, Iraq’s Parliament voted to approve a new election law that will govern the next parliamentary election. Key provisions in the new law set up smaller electoral districts (several in each province, with each representing 100,000 people) and also enable candidates to run for office as individuals rather than party lists. Despite these ostensible improvements on previous laws, the new document faced considerable criticism from analysts and activists, who argue that the new law, which includes a number of ambiguous clauses, could be manipulated by existing parties to maintain the status quo. There were also objections to an article concerning how winners are determined, which allows candidates to win by mere plurality of votes. Activists prefer a system that requires winners to secure majority of votes–directly or after a runoff vote–which they see as more democratic. The main Kurdish parties appeared to resent the way in which parliament voted on the law, claiming it ignored their input, and also agreed with activists that plurality point may enable entrenched parties to maintain their foothold in parliament. 

On December 26, President Barham Salih offered to resign after negotiations to name a successor for outgoing Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi remained at an impasse, three days after the constitutional deadline had passed. Salih explained that he preferred to resign rather than approve the nomination of a candidate who was vehemently rejected by the Iraqi people to be the next prime minister. Salih was referring to Asad al-Idani, the governor of Basra, who was the latest in a string of candidates presented by the militia-backed Bina coalition. Salih added in his statement that parliament had sent him “contradictory” replies to his repeated inquiries as to which party had the right to nominate a prime minister as the largest bloc in Parliament. Prior to Idani’s nomination by Bina, former education minister Qusay al-Suheil appeared briefly to be the frontrunner for the premiership. Protesters in several provinces promptly expressed their rejection for Suheil, or any figures associated with the existing political class. Moqtada al-Sadr, who leads the Saeroun alliance, appeared ambivalent about Idani’s nomination. Sadr initially joined protesters in rejecting Idani’s nomination, but later deleted that statement from his social media accounts. On December 26, following the president’s resignation offer, a social media account believed to speak for Sadr floated three new names for the premiership, without explicitly endorsing any of them. The three are independent lawmaker Faeq al-Sheikh Ali, who won some popularity for his outspoken attacks on corrupt politicians, former intelligence chief Mustafa al-Kadhimi, and judge Rahim al-Ugaili. Local press said that political parties resumed their negotiations to select a new prime minister on December 29 after a brief pause while president Salih traveled to Sulaymaniyah. The Bina coalition presented new candidates instead of the rejected Idani. Political sources said on December 30 that Bina’s new candidates included former counter-terrorism commander General Abdul-Ghani al-Asadi, Baghdad university president Imad al-Husseini and former health minister Salih al-Hasnawi.

On December 30, Iraq’s national security council threatened to reconsider Iraq’s relations with the U.S.-led International Coalition, which has provided substantial support for Iraq’s effort in combating ISIS since 2014. The statement came in response to the U.S. airstrikes against the Kataib Hezbollah militia, which the council said were done without Iraq’s consent and as such constituted a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty. The militia called for expelling the U.S. from Iraq. The national security council is chaired by Falih al-Fayyadh, who also chairs the popular mobilization forces (PMF) committee. The American retaliatory attack was also condemned by several Iraqi leaders, who saw it as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty, including the outgoing prime minister, President Salih, and Moqtada al-Sadr, who said he’d work with his political rivals in the PMF to expel the U.S. from Iraq. Members of Parliament associated with Sadr and the PMF said on January 1 that they’d work together to make abolishing the 2008 U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement Parliament’s priority for 2020. Ayatollah Sistani also condemned the U.S. strikes, which he warned risked dragging Iraq into a proxy war, and stressed that addressing any wrongdoings by the militias must be the responsibility of Iraq and Iraq alone. 

On December 31, supporters of the Kataib Hezbollah militia (KH) attacked the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The militiamen and plain-clothed supporters broke through the main gate, set fire to structures in the parking area, vandalized the walls and chanted anti-American slogans but did not attempt to enter the main embassy building. Iraq’s Interior Minister said he was working to provide protection for the embassy compound, which the militia supporters later vacated but continued to surround for a day. No deaths were reported on either side. Several senior militia commanders participated in the attack, including Hadi al-Amiri, Qais al-Khazali and PMF committee chairman Falih al-Fayadh. The incident followed a military escalation between the U.S. military and the militia, which has close ties to Iran and is part of the popular mobilization forces (PMF). The U.S. government blamed KH for the December 27 rocket attack on an Iraqi base that killed one American and retaliated by bombing KH positions in Anbar province (more details in the security section). A spokesman for KH said the militia’s goal was to maintain pressure on the U.S. until it withdraws its ambassador and there was no plan to sack it. Abu Ala al-Walaie, a leader of another Iran-backed militia, said that other U.S. bases would soon be besieged as well. President Donald Trump spoke with the Iraqi premier on the 31st to inquire about the situation and responded to the incident via Twitter, saying that “Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!”. The Pentagon immediately responded to the embassy attack by deploying 750 troops from the 82nd airborne division to Kuwait boost security for U.S. facilities in the Middle East. By January 1, after camping out outside the embassy and a standoff with its guards, who used tear gas to ward off intruders, the KH supporters withdrew from the area around the embassy. American Apache attack helicopters were seen circling over the embassy and adjacent areas well into Thursday. Iraq’s president, prime minister and speaker of parliament condemned the embassy attack, saying that transgression against diplomatic missions damaged, first of foremost, Iraq’s interests and reputation. Outgoing prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi pledged to take “strict measures” to prevent attacks on diplomatic missions. Three days before the embassy attack, there were unconfirmed reports that Abdul-Mahdi had appointed a PMF figure, Abu Montadhar al-Husseini, as chief of security for the Green Zone, where the embassy and many diplomatic missions are located.


Assassins Target Several Activists; Militiamen Killed in U.S. Response To Rocket Attacks; Iraqi Forces Conduct Major Operation Across Four Provinces As Militant Attacks Continue

On December 20, Iraqi security forces (ISF) sent reinforcements, including armored forces, to restore calm in the Abu Saida subdistrict in Diyala province, where several people were killed in tribal clashes and other attacks during the previous week. Despite the reinforcements violence continued, and on December 23, two people were killed in renewed tribal clashes in the area. The following day, the ISF intensified their efforts to bring the situation under control. The reinforcements reportedly succeeded in clearing streets blocked by warring groups, reopening government buildings, restoring electricity and water services and helping fifty families that had been displaced by the violence return to their homes.  

On December 20, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded in the village of Mukheisa, northeast of Baqubah. The attack wounded an Iraqi army officer and two soldiers. 

On December 22, unidentified gunmen killed a night guard in the Gatoun area west of Baqubah. 

On December 22, the popular mobilization forces (PMF) said that eight ISIS militants were killed in a PMF security operation near Khanaqin in Diyala province. The PMF said the Iraqi army aviation provided fire support during the operation. On that day, the International Coalition conducted an airstrike near Khanaqin that killed an unspecified number of ISIS militants hiding in a tunnel. It was not clear whether these two incidents were related. The following day, the Iraqi counter-terrorism service (CTS) reported killing six more ISIS militants in an undisclosed location in northern Diyala. 

On December 22, ISIS militants attacked an ISF checkpoint near al-Udheim subdistrict in Diyala province. The ISF reportedly repulsed the attack, but one Iraqi soldier was killed in the fighting. 

On December 23, a vehicle borne IED (VBIED) explosion killed two Iraqi soldiers and wounded an officer in Anbar province. The vehicle, which was parked along the highway southeast of al-Qaim, exploded when the ISF members approached to inspect it.  

On December 24, two IEDs exploded targeting Iraqi army and PMF patrols in Ninewa province. The explosions, which took place in the Gwer subdistrict southeast of Mosul, killed two members of the ISF and injured five more. 

On December 24, ISIS militants attacked the Khabbaz oil field west of Kirkuk city. One member of the Iraqi energy police force was killed and two were injured in the attack. 

On December 24, an IED explosion killed two Iraqi soldiers and wounded three more. The explosion was targeting an ISF patrol in the Salahiyah village in Salah ad-Din province. Another IED explosion wounded three tribal mobilization fighters in the Zab subdistrict southwest of Kirkuk, on the border with Salah ad-Din.

On December 25, an unspecified number of people were injured in at least four separate IED attacks across Baghdad. The IED attacks reportedly occurred in the neighborhood of Shaab (north), Amin and Sadr city (east), and Maalif (south).

On December 25, ISIS militants attacked a checkpoint manned by tribal mobilization fighters near the Dibis subdistrict northwest of Kirkuk using grenades and small arms fire. Two tribal fighters were killed in the incident.

On December 26, ISIS militants opened fire on a civilian car on the road to al-Alam subdistrict in Salah ad-Din province. One civilian was killed and two more were wounded in the attack.

On December 26, Lt. Gen. Karim Aboud al-Temimi was appointed as the new commander of the Iraqi counter-terrosim service (CTS). Temimi replaces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saidi, who was sacked by Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in late September. On December 31, the Defense Ministry also appointed Maj. Gen. Shihab Jahid Hama Khan as the new commander of the Iraqi air force, replacing the recently retired Anwar Hamad Amin. 

On December 26, an IED severely injured one civilian when it exploded near the Al Bdeir village in northwest Kirkuk. 

On December 27, unidentified militants assassinated a number of civilians in Baghdad. The first attack occurred in the northern neighborhood of Shaab while the second was in the Washash area, in western Baghdad. A third civilian was killed in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad. Two other people were assassinated in Diyala that day. One, a member of the ISF, was killed when an IED attached to his vehicle exploded north of Baqubah, while the other was killed by small arms fire near Muqdadiyah. Two gunmen riding on a motorcycle killed a civilian in Basra’s Zubeir district on the same day. 

On December 28, unidentified gunmen opened fire on two civilians in al-Hadhar district south of Mosul, killing both of them. Two gunmen riding on a motorcycle killed a policeman in Karbala’s Hay al-Amil area on the same day. 

On December 28, PMF sources said that Iraqi army aviation killed six ISIS militants in Ninewa province. The airstrikes were in response to an attack that ISIS militants had launched against a PMF position in al-Hadhar district, south of Mosul. The local PMF commander later claimed that a total of 21 ISIS fighters were killed in the airstrikes and by his troops during the fighting to repulse what he described as a large ISIS assault. 

On December 27, a rocket attack hit the K-1 Iraqi military base in Kirkuk province, which also hosts U.S. military personnel. The attack, which included more than 30 rockets, killed one U.S. contractor and wounded a number of Iraqis and Americans who are at the base during the attack. The United States accused Kataib Hezbollah, a PMF faction close to Iran and led by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, of launching the attack and took retaliatory measures on December 29. U.S. aircraft struck multiple sites belonging to Kataib Hezbollah in al-Qaim in Anbar province, and across the border in Syria. The bombing killed 19 PMF fighters, including a battalion commander, and injured another 35, PMF sources admitted. Other sources reported at least 25 killed, and 55 wounded. A Pentagon statement said the U.S. acted in self-defense to destroy “weapon storage facilities and command and control locations” the militia supposedly used in attacks on U.S.-led International Coalition forces in Iraq. The statement said Iran and militias must “cease their attacks on U.S. and coalition forces, and respect Iraq’s sovereignty, to prevent additional defensive actions by U.S. forces”. The K-1 attack came two weeks after Washington issued a stern warning to Iran and allied militias, threatening serious consequences if they were to attack U.S. interests or allies. The cycle of tit for tat is likely to continue and possibly escalate in the coming days. Kataib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis threatened that the militia will prepare a “very tough response” for U.S. forces in Iraq.

On December 29, three Iraqi soldiers and one officer were injured when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest to avoid capture by the ISF. The incident occurred while the ISF members was attempting to clear a tunnel occupied by ISIS militants west of Wadi Thar-Thar in Salah ad-Din province. The ISF killed five ISIS militants and destroyed the tunnel. 

On December 29, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a civilian vehicle carrying four members of the same family in central Kirkuk. Two civilians were killed and two more were wounded in the attack. 

On December 29, the Iraqi military launched the eighth phase of operation “Will of Victory”, a major security operation across four province: Kirkuk, Diyala, Ninewa, Salah ad-Din and the Jazira desert region in northwestern Iraq. Iraqi army divisions provided the bulk of troops for the five regions of operations, and were supported by Interior Ministry forces, Iraqi air force and army aviation, International Coalition aviation, as well as tribal mobilization fighters. There was no mention of the PMF among the participating forces. Operations lasted through December 30 and resulted in the discovery and/or destruction of 21 tunnels 25 hideouts, 198 IEDs/VBIEDs, 140 mortar rounds, 250 kilos of explosives, 23 grenades, five vehicles, two bulldozers, 11 anti-tanks missiles, two 57mm cannons and various other munitions and weapons. The ISF also killed nine ISIS militants during the operations, which covered an area of approximately 32,000 square kilometers. 

On December 30, unidentified gunmen used silenced weapons to assassinate activist Ali al-Khafaji in Nasiriyah. Ali’s assasination is the latest in a series of attacks on protesters and prominent activists, mostly in Dhi-Qar and other southern provinces.  On December 20, two activists were injured when they were attacked by gunmen in Gharraf, north of Nasiriyah. On the same day, gunmen killed activist Ali al-Asmi, also in Nasiriyah. Angry protesters responded by torching several offices of militias and political parties in the city. In Baghdad, popular comedian and political satirist Aws Fadhil survived a drive-by shooting in the Arasat district in Baghdad. In Diwaniyah, angry protesters torched the office of Kataib al-Imam Ali, a PMF militia faction, on December 25 after activist Thaer al-Tayeb died of injuries from an earlier attack with an IED attached to his car.  On December 25, a group of young men attacked protesters in central Karbala with bladed weapons. The protesters responded by throwing rocks at the attackers, who in turn opened fire at the protesters, injuring at least two.

On December 30, an IED, thought to be a remnant of war, exploded in the Nuaymiayah area south of Fallujah in Anbar province. Five school kids were killed in the explosion. The Education Ministry issued a statement of condolences to the families of the victims, and urged the relevant government agencies to double their efforts to remove unexploded remnants of war. 

On December 30, an IED explosion injured a brigade commander in the Iraqi army during security operation near the village of Zerga in Kirkuk province. 

On December 30, two members of the ISF were killed in attacks in Diyala. In the eastern subdistrict of Mandili, ISIS militants killed a soldier in an attack on a checkpoint, while unidentified gunmen killed a policeman in Khalis, north of Baqubah.  

On December 31, the ISF and International Coalition killed 11 ISIS militants in Ninewa. Three militants were killed in by the ISF Badush northwest of Mosul, four were killed by Coalition airstrikes in Baaj south of Mosul, and four more were killed by local ISF in Rabia, northwest of Mosul.  

On December 31, an IED exploded in front of the home of a tribal leader in the Palestine street area in east Baghdad. The explosion caused material damages but there were reports of casualties.


UN Rights Commissioner Criticizes Baghdad’s Failure To Respond To Attacks On Activists; Iraqi Rights Group Counts 68 Kidnappings And 33 Assassinations Since Oct 1

On December 20, the apokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement condemning the “continued pattern of deadly attacks in Iraq against human rights defenders, civil society activists and protesters.” The statement noted that there were at least six attempts to kill prominent activists in Baghdad and southern provinces during the preceding 10-day period. As a result, three activists were killed and six more were wounded. The statement also pointed out to the continuation of forced disappearances and harsh detentions of activists by militias and state security forces and criticized the Iraqi government’s failure to bring the perpetrators before the law. 

On December 24, Reliefweb reported that the government of the United Arab Emirates decided to provide $2.5 to support water and sanitation projects in the Sinjar district in Ninewa. The funds will be distributed through the Nadia Murad Initiative, and the project, designed to benefit more than 61,000 members of the Yazidi community in Sinjar’s outlying villages, will be executed by Dorcas, a Dutch organization.

On December 26, UNHCR said that the government of the Netherlands has provided $5.6 million to support internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in Iraq. The funds will support programs designed to “provide legal assistance and civil documentation” for IDPs and also “provide psychological support for child survivors of violence, exploitation and abuse,” and provide better education services for Syrian refugees in Iraq’s Kurdish region. 

On December 28, Iraq’s High Commission For Human Rights (IHCHR) said that at least 68 people have been kidnapped or forcibly disappeared since Iraq’s popular anti-government protests began on October 1. The IHCHR said that of the 68 who went missing, the whereabouts of 56 people remain unknown, adding that the commission remains in contact with the Interior Ministry’s anti-kidnapping office in an effort to locate the missing individuals. In a subsequent statement on December 30, the IHCHR reported that at least 33 attacks on activists have killed 14 and wounded 19 since October 1. The statement noted that most activists were attacked while leaving the protest sites and that attackers often used silenced guns, IEDs and grenades.


Protesters Force Temporary Oil Field Shutdown; Iraq Invites Bids For Pipeline To Jordan; Oil Exports Slightly Down, But Revenue Rises

On December 22, protesters near Basra blocked the roads leading to the Rumaila oilfield west of the city with burning tires. The following day, protesters in Dhi-Qar and Samawa blocked entrances to the Nasiriyah and Samawa refineries. On the 24th, Basra protesters also tried to break into the West Qurna-1 oil field, while others shut down the Maqal port on the Shatt al-Arab waterway. Security forces deployed to disperse them. On the 28th, reports indicated that protesters continued to gather at the entrance to West Qurna, forcing field workers to take alternate routes to enter the facility. In Dhi-Qar province, protesters forced the Oil Ministry on December 29 to suspend production at the 80,000 bpd Nasiriyah oil field. Operations resumed at the field and nearby refinery the next day, though. The country’s overall crude oil production and export figures were unaffected as the ministry was able to compensate for the temporary suspension of Nasiriyah by raising output at other southern fields. 

On December 23, Iraq’s state-owned Car Manufacturing Co. said it would soon begin to assemble and produce Chinese “Great Wall” pickup trucks. A company official added that the assembly line was 95% ready and could begin operations in 2020. 

On December 23, Iraqi Planning Ministry said the country has signed contracts with four foreign companies to provide pre-import inspection services. Planning Minister Nouri al-Duleimi said the program, to be launched in 2020, would protect Iraqi consumers and public health and environment by providing inspection services covering 961 imported goods and evaluating them against Iraqi and international standards. 

On December 25, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said it has invited prequalified engineering firms to submit their bids for the building a long-planned oil pipeline from Basra to the Jordanian port of Aqaba. Oil Minister Thamir al-Ghadban said the pipeline includes two sections. The first section would be a 700km pipeline from the Rumaila fields in Basra to Haditha in Anbar, with a capacity of 2.25 million bpd. The second, 900km section, would extend from Haditha to Aqaba, with a capacity of 1 million bpd. The larger capacity of the Rumaili-Haditha section implies that Iraq plans to use this section to potentially revive the north-south strategic oil pipeline between Kirkuk and Basra via Haditha, in addition to exporting 1 million bpd through Jordan. The minister added that Iraq hopes to select the winning bids before the end of 2020.

On December 25, the KRG water resources ministry said it has allocated ID33 billion (approx. $26 million) to resume construction at 11 small dams across the region, with a total storage capacity of 72.5 million cubic meters of water. A ministry official explained that the partially constructed dams were at various levels of completion before work was suspended, largely for lack of funding.  

On January 2, Iraq’s Ministry of Oil announced that crude oil exports for December reached over 106.26 million barrels for an average of 3.428 million bpd, about 72,000 bpd lower than November’s 3.5 million bpd. These exports generated over $6.7 billion in revenue, $400 million above November’s figures. Exports from the southern ports in Basra exceeded 3.235 million bpd, while northern fields in Kirkuk averaged 91,000 bpd exported through the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Trucks delivering oil to Jordan exported approximately 11,200 bpd. There was no mention of exports from the Qayyarah field in Ninewa province in this statement. Qayyara’s exports, typically averaging 30,000 bpd trucked to southern ports, had suffered in recent months due to road blocks by protesters near the ports. which had dropped to roughly 10,000 bpd in November from their previous average of 30,000 bpd. The ministry’s statement noted that the price of Iraqi oil averaged at $63.05, an increase from November’s $59.82.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from December 19, 2019 - January 2, 2020

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
12/20/19Mukheisa, Diyala03
12/23/19Near al-Qaim, Anbar21
12/24/19Gwer, Ninewa25
12/24/19Salahiya, Salah ad-Din23
12/24/19Zab, Kirkuk03
12/25/19Shaab, Amin, Sadr City and Maalif, Baghdad0Multiple, unspecified
12/26/19Al Bdeir, Kirkuk01
12/27/19North of Baqubah, Diyala10
12/29/19Wadi Thar-Thar, Salah ad-Din04
12/30/19Fallujah, Anbar50
12/30/19Zerga, Kirkuk01
12/31/19Palestine Street, Baghdad00

 

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


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


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