ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: APRIL 9 – APRIL 16, 2020

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Key Takeaways:

    • Militia Castigates Political Parties Over Kadhimi’s Appointment; U.S. And Iran Welcome The Consensus On Kadhimi; Political Parties Claim To Offer Kadhimi Freedom To Select His Ministers – On April 10, Kataib Hezbollah condemned the appointment of Mustaf al-Kadhimi as the new PM-designate, calling it a “declaration of war on the Iraqi people,” indicating a rift between the militia and political allies in the Fatah coalition. On April 12, a representative of the Iraqi Forces Alliance and an adviser to KDP leader Masoud Barzani said that the new PM-designate enjoys strong support from Sunni and Kurdish parties, predicting this will persuade Shia parties to sustain support for his cabinet formation effort. On April 13, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington welcomed the agreements among Iraqi parties that led to Kadhimi’s selection as the new PM-designate. Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Tehran too welcomed Kadhimi’s appointment. On April 14, al-Mada reported that senior Shia political leaders decided to grant Kadhimi freedom to select his members without interference. The Saeroun alliance urged Sunni and Kurdish parties to do the same. But there were soon reports that several Shia political parties have dispatched negotiators to demand specific ministries be given to specific individuals, and that Sunni and Kurdish parties were also demanding their share of ministries. On April 15, PM-designate Mustafa al-Kadhimi told reporters that the names of his cabinet members were now ready, adding that he was about to begin negotiations to secure support for a vote of confidence in Parliament “as soon as possible.” Kadhimi said his priorities were to protect Iraq from becoming a battleground for regional conflicts, to rescue Iraq’s struggling economy, contain the COVID-19 pandemic, and prepare for early elections. more…
    • New Wave Of Attacks Target Security Forces In Kirkuk Amid Warnings Of ISIS Resurgence; Turkish Airstrikes Kill Two At Refugee Camp Near Erbil – On April 9, ISIS militants wounded two members of the Iraqi security forces (ISF) in an attack south of Kirkuk. On April 9, popular mobilization forces (PMF) clashed with ISIS militants south of Kirkuk. Two PMF fighters and two ISIS militants died in the fighting. On April 10, an IED wounded two PMF fighters in Babylon. On April 11, an under-vehicle IED wounded two members of the ISF in Kirkuk. On April 12, U.S. military officials said that the Patriot anti-missile defense units the U.S. recently deployed at the Ain al-Assad and Harir bases have become operational. On April 12, an IED killed one civilian and wounded three more in Diyala. On April 12, ISIS snipers killed one member of the ISF in Kirkuk. On April 12, the KRG Minister of Peshmerga warned that ISIS has regrouped in the disputed territories by exploiting gaps between areas controlled by the ISF and those controlled by the Peshmerga. The minister said ISIS has started collecting illegal taxes from locals, attributing the deteriorating security to lack of coordination between the ISF and Peshmerga. On April 13, the ISF clashed with ISIS militants in the Wadi Shie region in Kirkuk, killing twenty three ISIS militants. One member of the ISF was also killed and four more were wounded. On April 13, an IED injured two civilians in Ninewa while an explosion in a booby-trapped building killed two members of the Sinjar protection units and wounded three others. On April 16, ISIS militants wounded a policeman in an attack on a checkpoint for the North Oil Company’s police force in Kirkuk. On April 15, a UVIED injured the chief of civil defense in Rutba in Anbar province. On April 15, Turkish military airplanes fired rockets at a security post used by the guards of a refugee camp near Makhmour, killing two women. Iraq condemned the attack, calling it “a flagrant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.”
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    • COVID-19 Impacts Aid Delivery; WHO Recommends Continuing Preventative Measures; KRG Extends Public Office Closures; Growth In New COVID-19 Cases Slowing – On April 13, aid workers operating in Iraq reported experiencing difficulties in delivering food and cash assistance to beneficiaries in IDP camps due to COVID-19 movement restrictions and the departure of many foreign NGO staff. On April 14, Iraq’s deputy Health Minister said the country has “defeated the coronavirus.” But although the increase in COVID-19 cases in Iraq appears to be slowing down, the WHO warned against relaxing preventative measures yet. On April 15, the KRG decided to extend the closure of government and public institutions until May 2 as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19. The KRG PM said curfew in the region will remain “until we have full control over the spread.” On April 15, Iraq’s Ministry of Justice asked the Council of Ministers to approve the release of 1,007 inmates, including 57 juveniles, eligible to benefit from a new amnesty designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in crowded prisons. On April 15, Iraq said it began producing prototype respirators needed for treating COVID-19 patients. On April 16, Iraq’s Health Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country increased only by 202 over the last week from 1,232 to 1,434. Meanwhile deaths from the virus reached 80 and a total of 856 patients have recovered. more…

  • Iraq To Cut Oil Output By 1 Million Barrels; Iraq Anticipates Good Grain Harvest; Baghdad Seeks Foreign Debt Payment Relief – On April 12, major oil producing countries (OPEC+) agreed to cut oil output by 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) starting in May to support collapsing oil prices. Oil Minister Thamir al-Ghadban said that Iraq, including the KRG, must reduce production by 1.06 million bpd. On April 13, Iraq’s Planning Ministry said it signed a contract with a development company to create industrial, agricultural and trade centers in Dhi-Qar province to provide jobs for 2,300 young Iraqis within a year. On April 15, Iraq’s Ministry of Agriculture said it has mobilized its resources and departments to begin the grain harvest season that will include 13 million dunams (~32,000 acres) growing wheat and barley. On April 16, an economic adviser to care-taker PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi said that due to collapsing oil exports revenue, Baghdad was negotiating with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to secure its support for allowing Iraq to temporarily stop making payments to foreign creditors. 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.


Militia Castigates Political Parties Over Kadhimi’s Appointment; U.S. And Iran Welcome The Consensus On Kadhimi; Political Parties Claim To Offer Kadhimi Freedom To Select His Ministers

On April 10, the Kataib Hezbollah militia (KH) condemned the appointment of Mustaf al-Kadhimi as the new prime minister-designate, calling it a “declaration of war on the Iraqi people.” In a statement, KH accused the Shia parties of “surrendering to the enemies’ choices” by nominating “a suspect and unqualified character,” saying that celebrating the consensus on Kadhimi was tantamount to “squandering the rights and sacrifices of the people and betrayal of Iraq’s history.” KH once again accused Kadhimi of facilitating the assassination of Iranian general Qassim Soleimani and its former commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis by a U.S. airstrike in January, threatening to “not rest until those responsibel are behind bars.” According to a report by al-Mada, the KH attack on Kadhimi highlights a rift between newer, more radical pro-Iran Iraqi militias, namely KH, and larger more mainstream groups that have supported Kadhimi, like the Badr organization. The latter publicly sought to appease the anti-Kadhimi militias with a letter justifying his appointment. The letter urged the “resistance factions” to give politics time and avoid more escalation with the U.S. forces. The latter also attempted to reassure the militias that Kadhimi will prioritize holding negotiations with “the American occupier” to end the U.S. military presence in Iraq. The letter may have been effective. On April 15, Fatah representative Amir al-Fayiz said that most of the groups who opposed Kadhimi “have begun to reconsider their position,” dismissing the claims that Kadhimi facilitated Soleimani’s assassication as “unreliable.” Fayiz also predicted that Parliament will approve Kadhimi’s cabinet before the end of April.

On April 12, Arafat Karam, an adviser to Masoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) said that the new prime minister-designate enjoys strong support from Sunni and Kurdish parties, which will persuade Shia parties to support his cabinet formation effort, unlike his predecessors Mohammed Allawi and Adnan al-Zurfi. A representative of the Iraqi Forces Allaince, a major Sunni group led by Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, affirmed that his group and Mustafa al-Kadhimi were largely in agreement with regard to the government program and cabinet formation. The representative, Haider al-Mulla, predicted Kadhimi will be able to present his cabinet “within days.” Meanwhile, a Kurdish member of Parliament said that five Kurdish parties (the KDP, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Islamic Group, Islamic Union, and Change Movement) were developing a negotiations paper for upcoming discussions with the prime minister-designate. The representative, Jamal Kojar, said talks have been limited to one meeting between Mustafa al-Kadhimi and Finance Minister Fouad Hussein, and that official negotiations between Kurdish parties and Kadhimi would begin via teleconference by the end of this week. Kojar said the talks would focus on the Kurdistan region’s rights under the constitution, including paying its civil servants and Peshmerga forces similar to those in other parts of Iraq, and implementing article 140 of the constitution to decide the endstate of disputed territories. 

On April 13, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington welcomed the agreements among major Iraqi political parties that led to the appointment of Mustafa al-Kadhimi as Iraq’s new prime minister-designate. In his statement, Pompeo said the U.S. “looks forward to the formation of a new Iraqi government capable of confronting the COVID-19 pandemic, ameliorating the country’s current economic distress, and bringing arms under state control.” Iran too welcomed Kadhimi’s selection to form a new government in Baghdad. A spokesman for Tehran’s Foreign Ministry on April 9 expressed his country’s “complete readiness” to work with the Iraqi government to find solutions for the country’s problems. 

On April 14, al-Mada reported that Shia political leaders decided to grant Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the new prime minister-designate, freedom to select his cabinet members without interference from their parties. The decision  was reached after a meeting between Fatah’s Hadi al-Amiri, State of Law’s Nouri al-Maliki, Nasr’s Haider al-Abadi, Hikma’s Ammar al-Hakim, Saeroun’s Nassar al-Rubaie, and representatives of other Shia groups. The leaders reportedly conditioned this authorization on Kadhimi’s respect for “balance” in the allocation of cabinet positions to Iraq’s various communities. The Saeroun alliance urged Sunni and Kurdish political parties to grant Kadhimi the same freedom in choosing his cabinet members, noting that this “could help Kadhimi succeed in his mission, but the authorization can’t come from the Shia parties alone.” It is unclear whether Kadhimi will indeed be able to freely pick his ministers. On April 16, a representative of the Fatah coalition said that Sunni and Kurdish political parties are demanding six and three ministries, respectively, in the new cabinet. The representative, Hanin Qadou, said the Shia political parties are demanding the remaining ministries, although they are in favor of letting Kadhimi select the individual ministers. However, Sadrist politician Bahaa al-Araji claimed that several Shia political parties have already reneged on their recent pledge to let Kadhimi select his own ministers and have dispatched negotiators to demand specific ministries be given to specific individuals. Moreover, unnamed parliamentary sources claimed that current ministers in the care-taker government were negotiating with political leaders in an attempt to extend their tenure into the Kadhimi’s cabinet. 

On April 15, Prime Minister-designate Mustafa al-Kadhimi told reporters that the names of his cabinet members were now ready, adding that he was about to begin negotiations with the political parties to secure their support for a vote of confidence in Parliament “as soon as possible.” Kadhimi said his main mission was to protect Iraq from becoming a battleground for conflicts, in reference to the U.S.-Iran tensions. Kadhimi added that his other priorities, once his cabinet is approved, would be to deal with the financial crisis due to low oil prices, contain the COVID-19 pandemic, and prepare for early elections. Kadhimi also emphasized that he will promote serious national dialogue with the goal of “establishing a national vision through which we can build the institutions of the state in a proper manner,” stressing that Iraq has “no choice other than an inclusive Iraqi national project that transcends sub-identities, whether ethnic or sectarian.” Meanwhile, a representative of the Fatah coalition said that Parliament will meet to vote on Kadhimi and his cabinet “before Ramadan,” which begins on April 23 or 24. The representative, Fadhil al-Fatlawi, said the vote will be done in person, in a large meeting hall that is being prepared to safely host all Parliament members.


New Wave Of Attacks Target Security Forces In Kirkuk Amid Warnings Of ISIS Resurgence; Turkish Airstrikes Kill Two At Refugee Camp Near Erbil

On April 9, ISIS militants attacked an Iraqi federal police checkpoint near the subdistrict of Riyadh, south of Kirkuk, wounding two members of the federal police.

On April 9, sources in the popular mobilization forces (PMF) said that its fighters clashed with ISIS militants who tried to attack the Siddiq military air base south of Kirkuk. The PMF said the clashes resulted in the death of two PMF fighters and two ISIS militants. 

On April 10, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded on a road near the subdistrict of Jurf al-Sakhr in northern Babylon province. The attack wounded two members of the PMF.

On April 11, the U.S. State Department announced a $10 million reward for information on Mohammed Kawtharani, a senior Hezbollah operative active in Iraq. Washington believes Kawtharawni, who was supposedly close to Iranian general Qassim Soleimani, is involved in political coordination between Iran-backed militias in Iraq and facilitating the work of armed groups that “violently crushed protests, attacked foreign diplomatic missions and engaged in large-scale criminal activities.”

On April 11, an attack with an under-vehicle IED (UVIED) wounded two members of the Iraqi security forces (ISF), including a colonel, in the Askari neighborhood of Kirkuk. 

On April 12, U.S. military officials said that the Patriot anti-missile defense units the U.S. recently deployed at the Ain al-Assad and Harir bases in Iraq have become operational. The U.S. reportedly also installed Avenger and C-Ram short range air defense systems at Camp Taji, another major Iraqi base hosting U.S. military forces. These new systems are meant to protect U.S. and other international coalition forces in Iraq from new rocket or ballistic missile attacks by Iran or its allied militias operating in Iraq. 

On April 12, an IED exploded at a playground in the village of Qara Tappa, near Khanaqin in northeastern Diyala province. The attack killed one civilian and wounded three more. 

On April 12, ISIS militants attacked an ISF checkpoint in the Hawija district of Kirkuk province using sniper fire. The attack killed one member of the Iraqi federal police. 

On April 12, the Minister of Peshmerga in the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) warned that ISIS has regrouped in the disputed territories by exploiting gaps between the areas controlled by the security forces of the federal and regional governments. Minister Shorish Ismael explained that ISIS has started collecting illegal taxes from locals and established “Sharia courts” to punish those who don’t comply with its orders. The minister attributed the deteriorating security in these areas to lack of coordination between the ISF and the KRG Peshmerga. 

On April 13, the ISF clashed with ISIS militants during a search operation in the Wadi Shie region in Kirkuk province. The ISF said the operation, which was supported by Iraqi and coalition airstrikes, resulted in the death of twenty three ISIS militants and the destruction of their positions. One member of the ISF was also killed in the fighting while four more were wounded. 

On April 13, an IED exploded targeting a police vehicle at the entrance to the Qayyara district south of Mosul. The attack injured two civilians who were present during the attack. 

On April 13, an explosion killed two members of the Sinjar protection units, a local Yazidi militia in Sinjar, and wounded three others. The explosion occurred while the victims were attempting to enter a building in the village of Tel Ezeir south of Sinjar, west of Mosul. 

On April 14, unidentified militants attacked a convoy transporting the chief of North Oil Company’s police force in Kirkuk. The attack wounded three of the officer’s security detail. On April 16, ISIS militants attacked a checkpoint manned by North Oil Company’s police force near the Khabbaz oil field west of Kirkuk. One policeman was injured in the attack.

On April 15, unmanned Turkish military airplanes fired rockets at a security post used by the guards of a refugee camp near Makhmour, southwest of Erbil, killing two women. Local officials reported at least two other air attacks without casualties elsewhere in the Kurdistan region where members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) are said to operate. Iraq’s joint operations command issued a statement condemning the attack, calling it “a provocative and flagrant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.” Also on April 15, an IED, thought to be emplaced by PKK militants, killed a Turkish soldier in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

On April 15, an attack  with a UVIED seriously injured the chief of civil defense in the Rutba district in western Anbar province. 

On April 16, a small IED exploded in the Hayyaniyah neighborhood in central Basra. The explosion caused minor damages to a civilian residence but did not cause casualties.  


COVID-19 Impacts Aid Delivery; WHO Recommends Continuing Preventative Measures; KRG Extends Public Office Closures; Growth In New COVID-19 Cases Slowing

On April 13, aid workers operating in Iraq reported experiencing difficulties in delivering food and cash assistance to beneficiaries in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) due to COVID-19 movement restrictions and the departure of many foreign NGO staff from Iraq. Meanwhile, the UNHCR reported putting new policies in place to continue delivering aid and services to the smaller foreign refugee community in Iraq, switching to “door-to-door and tent-to-tent distribution to avoid mass gatherings.” 

On April 14, Iraq’s deputy Health Minister said the country has “defeated the coronavirus” through enforcing early preventative measures and the public’s cooperation with government actions. Although the increase in COVID-19 cases in Iraq appears to be slowing down, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Iraq warned against relaxing movement restrictions aimed at reducing COVID-19 spread in Iraq. Adham Ismael, the WHO representative, argued that a decline in the number of new confirmed cases does not necessarily mean that the situation is under control, calling for keeping the ban on gatherings until the virus was completely eradicated. Some Iraqi authorities agree. A member of the parliamentary health committee said it was too early to discuss even a partial lifting of the curfew that has been in place since March 17. The representative, Hassan Khalati, said the four-day decline in new COVID-19 cases was a positive sign but that further analysis of the situation is needed before making a decision to relax the curfew. 

On April 15, the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) decided to extend the closure of government and public institutions until May 2 as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19. The KRG prime minister, Masrour Barzani said earlier that the risk from COVID-19 precluded lifting the curfew that was imposed more than a month ago. “The curfew remains in place until we have full control over the spread of the coronavirus,”  said Barzani. Earlier this week, authorities in Sulaymaniyah announced a partial relaxation of restrictions on certain private businesses (mainly restaurants, dry cleaners, barbers, and mechanics). The new rules allow these shops to reopen during reduced business hours and while requiring them to adhere to strict health and sanitation measures, such as admitting few customers at a time and disinfecting the premises three times a day. The governor of Sulaymaniyah said a second stage of restrictions relaxation would see certain needed government offices partially reopen, while schools and borders would stay closed until a later stage. 

On April 15, Iraq’s Ministry of Justice asked the Council of Ministers to approve the release of 1,007 inmates, including 57 juveniles, eligible to benefit from a new amnesty. On April 5, outgoing Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi presented the amnesty proposal to President Barham Salih as part of government measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in crowded prisons. The amnesty applies to inmates who have completed half of their sentence or were sentenced to fewer than 12 months. In March, Iraqi courts began releasing hundreds of defendants on bail in order to reduce crowding at jails and police stations. In total, courts have released more than 16,000 detainees by April 15.  

On April 15, Iraq said it began producing prototype respirators needed for treating COVID-19 patients. The state-owned company that manufactured the prototypes in consultation with Iraqi doctors said the devices have been tested by Iraq’s Central Organization for Standards and Quality Control and will be produced in the quantities required by the Health Ministry. Iraq currently possesses very few respirators for its population; estimated at 500 for 40 million people.

On April 16, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 1,434 representing an increase of 202 cases from the 1,232 reported a week earlier. According to the ministry’s data the number of deaths from the disease across the country has increased by 11 from 69 to 80 over the same period. Meanwhile the total number of recoveries has increased significantly 496 to 856 this week. Nineteen of the new infections, 44 of the recoveries and one death were reported within the previous 24 hours.


Iraq To Cut Oil Output By 1 Million Barrels; Iraq Anticipates Good Grain Harvest; Baghadad Seeks Foreign Debt Payment Relief

On April 12, major oil producing countries (OPEC+) agreed to cut their collective oil output by 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) starting in May in an effort to support oil prices, which have collapsed to below $30 per barrel in recent weeks. Thamir al-Ghadban, Iraq’s Oil Minister explained that the agreement requires producers to cut their production by 23%, which for Iraq means a reduction of 1.06 million bpd. Ghadban added that this production cut applies to all of Iraq, including oil operations in the KRG, which will be sending a delegation to Baghdad on April 16 to discuss the details of the production cuts. A member of the parliamentary energy committee in the Kurdistan region said the KRG Ministry of Natural Resources should accordingly cut its production by 23% in line with Iraq’s commitments under the OPEC+ deal.

On April 13, Iraq’s Planning Ministry said it signed a contract with a development company to create industrial, agricultural and trade centers to provide jobs for 2,300 young Iraqis within a year in Dhi-Qar province. The ministry said the contract is part of a national plan to generate up to 100,000 jobs through similar partnerships with the private sector. Planning Minister Nouri al-Dulaimi added that Baghdad, Ninewa, Najaf and Basra would be the next targets for this initiative.

On April 15, Iraq’s Ministry of Agriculture said it has mobilized its resources and departments to begin the grain harvesting season. A ministry spokesman said the harvest will cover 13 million dunams (~320,000 acres), making it the largest in decades. This area includes nine million dunams growing wheat and four million dunams growing barley. 

On April 16, an economic adviser to care-taker Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi said that Baghdad was negotiating with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to secure the IMF’s support for allowing Iraq to temporarily stop making payments to foreign creditors. The adviser, Mudhir Salih said the discussions, which Iraq initiated under pressure of collapsing oil exports revenue, were promising “but required effective diplomacy.”


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from April 9 - April 16, 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
04/10/20Jurf al-Sakhr, Babylon02
04/11/20Kirkuk02
04/12/20Qara Tappa, Diyala13
04/13/20Qayyara, Ninewa02
04/13/20Sinjar, Ninewa23
04/15/20Rutba, Anbar01
04/15/20Near the Turkish border10
04/16/20Hayyaniyah, Basra00

 

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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