ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: APRIL 16 – APRIL 23, 2020

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Key Takeaways:

  • Intense Competition Over Cabinet Positions Obstructs Government Formation; Kadhimi Presents Political Blocs With Partial Cabinet; Finance Minister Under Fire Over KRG Payments – On April 19, the Nasr coalition said that sharp disagreements over the allocation of government positions were obstructing cabinet formation efforts by PM-designate Mustafa al-Kadhimi. On April 20, parliamentary sources said Kadhimi was facing serious obstacles reflecting multiple sources of pressure: Shia demands for a commitment to expel U.S. forces; Sunni demands for reconstruction funds, IDPs return, and expelling militias from their cities; Kurdish demands for upholding financial arrangements between the KRG and the outgoing government; and competing demands for specific cabinet positions. On April 21, political sources spoke of stiff competition between political parties over key security positions, especially the national security advisory and national intelligence. On April 21, several MPs broke away from the Iraqi Forces Alliance, the Sunni bloc led by Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, accusing him of trying to corner the ministries intended for Sunni parties. On April 22, political sources said the new government will include 11 Shia ministers, six Sunnis, three Kurds, one Christian and one Turkman. The Gorran (Change) party said said earlier that Kurdish parties must get six ministries, on par with their Sunni counterparts. On April 22, political sources said the main political blocs reneged on their promises to let Mustafa al-Kadhimi freely pick his cabinet ministers, saying they were “demanding shares based on so called electoral entitlement,” adding that there are disputes within the blocs about the internal allocation of government positions. On April 22, Kadhimi met with the leaders of Shia blocs to discuss his cabinet formation, reportedly presenting them with his picks for a partial cabinet that includes several current and former ministers and several new, ostensibly independent figures, but leaves out several portfolios, including defense and interior. The political parties asked Kadhimi for 48 hours to study the names before resuming negotiations, but initial reactions indicate that few, if any of the stakeholders were satisfied with the picks. On April 23, a group of 25 members of Parliament filed a complaint against Finance Minister Fouad Hussein accusing him of “exploiting his position and deliberately squandering public funds” by making billions in payments to the KRG in violation of the 2019 budget law. more…
  • New String Of Bombings Strikes Diyala; Gunmen Attack Baghdad Protesters; PM Separates Four Brigades From The Popular Mobilization Forces Commission – On April 17, two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) killed one civilian and injured two more in Diyala. On April 17, an IED killed a civilian north of Mosul. On April 18, a booby-trapped building exploded wounding six members of the Iraqi security forces (ISF) in Diyala. On April 18, two rockets struck near oil installations southeast of Baghdad without causing casualties. On April 18, two IEDs wounded three civilians and a small arms attack injured two Iraqi soldiers in Diyala. On April 18, militants fired three mortar rounds at an Iraqi army unit in Anbar. On April 19, Iraqi airstrikes killed 14 ISIS militants in Salah ad-Din. On April 19, ISIS militants killed two Iraqi soldiers southeast of Mosul and another soldier in Kirkuk. On April 20, ISIS militants killed five members of the ISF and wounded five more in multiple IED and small arms attacks in Diyala. On April 21, an IED wounded two Iraqi soldiers in Diyala. On April 21, men armed with rifles dressed in civilian clothes opened fire on protesters at Tahrir square, injuring between six and ten of them. On April 21, three IEDs killed five members of the popular mobilization forces (PMF), two civilians and wounded five more fighters between northern Salah ad-Din and southern Ninewa provinces. On April 22, the ISF killed seven ISIS militants in Diyala while an IED killed one member of the ISF and wounded seven more. On April 22, two PMF fighters were wounded while repelling an ISIS attack in Babylon province. On April 22, an IED wounded two civilians west of Mosul. On April 22, care-taker PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi issued orders to PMF commission chairman Falih al-Fayyadh detaching four PMF brigades from the commission and placing them directly under his authority as the commander in chief. more…

  • Iraq Relaxes Curfew During Ramadan; Iraq Press Freedom Ranking Drops; COVID-19 Cases At 1,677; Access Problems Limit Aid Agencies Work – On April 19, the Iraqi government issued new guidelines for containing the COVID-19 outbreak that will relax the curfew during the upcoming month of Ramadan. The government will keep schools, malls, event halls, stadiums and places of worship closed while allowing most other commercial businesses to reopen while observing no-crowding rules. The government is also keeping the ban on international and domestic travel between provinces and asking all Iraqis to wear face masks outdoors. On April 19, Iraq decided to let Reuters resume its work in the country after it had withheld the news agency’s permit over a controversial report that suggested Iraq was hiding the true volume of COVID-19 cases. However, Iraq dropped six positions in the latest annual press freedom index released by Reporters without Borders. On April 22, Human Rights Watch urged Iraqi lawmakers to enact a legislation against domestic violence after a young woman died in Najaf from severe burns, amid strong suspicions that she was a victim of abuse. Meanwhile, health and aid workers have reported a sharp increase in domestic and gender-based violence as a result of COVID-19 movement restrictions. On April 22, Iraq’s Health Minister said that Iraq had enough resources to manage the COVID-19 crisis “for several months,” thanks to donations from several countries, like the U.S. and Kuwait, as well as from domestic donors. On April 23, Iraq’s Health Ministry reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 1,677 while deaths from the virus reached 83 and a total of 1,171 patients have recovered. On April 23, the KRG extended for a week a partial curfew in the region which has been reporting a decline in new COVID-19 cases. On April 23, the office of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that “administrative difficulties” and anti-COVID-19 measures were presenting access problems for aid organizations operating in Iraq, adversely impacting aid delivery to communities needing assistance. more…

  • KRG Delays Payments To Oil Operators; Baghdad And Erbil Agree On Oil Cuts, Discuss Gas Investments; Baghdad And Erbil Struggle To Pay Salaries As Oil Prices Drop – On April 17, a foreign oil company operating in the KRI said the KRG will delay paying oil companies for several months worth of oil production “interest free, for at least nine months.” On April 19, Iraq’s Oil Minister said he reached an agreement with a KRG delegation on reducing oil production in accordance with Iraq’s obligations to cut 1.06 million bpd under the recent OPEC+ plan to reduce global supply. The two sides also discussed investments in the KRI undeveloped gas fields for the purpose of generating natural gas to fuel power plants across Iraq. On April 20, a spokesman for the Iraqi government said that Iraq’s Finance Ministry was studying proposals to revise the public salary system in response to the financial crisis precipitated by the collapse of oil prices. The proposals include reducing salaries by 25% across the board, slashing other stipends, and a mandatory savings program. On April 22, the KRG said there were ongoing negotiations with the federal government to secure allocations to pay the salaries of its employees. The KRG cited low oil prices, anti-COVID-19 measures, and the federal government’s delay in sending payments as the reasons for its cash shortage. The Iraqi government reportedly decided to withhold future payments to the KRG because the latter has not met its obligation to contribute 250,000 bpd of oil to national exports. 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.


Intense Competition Over Cabinet Positions Obstructs Government Formation; Kadhimi Presents Political Blocs With Partial Cabinet; Finance Minister Under Fire Over KRG Payments

On April 16, a spokesman for Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said that Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hakim decided to summon the Turkish ambassador in Iraq to register Baghdad’s formal protest of recent Turkish airstrikes that killed at least two civilians at a refugee camp in Makhmour. The spokesman added that his ministry condemned “in the strongest terms the aggression by the Turkish side.” 

On April 16, Shafaq reported citing sources close to Prime Minister-designate Mustafa al-Kadhimi that Kadhimi’s anticipated cabinet will include 22 ministers. The source explained that the Shia parties would get 11 ministries, the Sunni parties six, the Kurdish parties four, and one ministry would go to a representative of minority communities. But this allocation is far from final. On April 19, the Nasr coalition said that sharp disagreements between the political parties representing major communities over the allocation of government positions were obstructing cabinet formation. Representative Taha al-Difaie added that Kadhimi was going to allocate three ministries each to the Fatah and Saeroun coalitions, two ministries to Nasr, and one each to the State of Law and Hikma blocs (a total of ten). Hikma, however, insists that it does not seek representation in Kadhimi’s cabinet. The share of other communities is also yet to be confirmed. On April 19, a member of the Gorran (Change) party said the Kurdish political parties must get six ministries, on par with their Sunni counterparts, rejecting what was described as a preliminary offer of only three ministries. A revised distribution formula emerged on April 22. The new formula allocates 11 ministries to Shia parties, six to Sunni parties, three to Kurdish parties, and one each to Christian and Turkman parties. The formula also places the threshold for obtaining a service ministry at six parliamentary seats, and that of a “sovereign ministry” at 12 seats. 

On April 20, al-Sumaria reported citing parliamentary sources that Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s government formation effort was facing serious obstacles reflecting three sources of pressure. The source said the first set of pressures involved demands for critical government positions and that Kadhimi includes in his program a commitment to expel foreign military forces, a reference to demands by Fatah, Saeroun and allied militias for ending U.S. presence in Iraq. The second set of pressures concern Sunni demands for reconstruction of war-damaged cities, allowing people displaced by war to return home, financial compensation for war damage, expelling militias from cities liberated from ISIS, and a share of government ministries commensurate with the results of the 2018 elections. The third set of pressures concern Kurdish demands for upholding all the understandings between the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) and the outgoing government, including a share of the budget. Nechirvan Barzani, the KRG president, renewed his support for Kadhimi on April 20 while stressing that the Baghdad government must address the KRG’s demands. Barzani added that the Kurdish negotiation position “covers the budget, oil, and disputed territories. Our negotiations will be based on this. As far as I know the number of Kurdish ministers in government will not change.” A member of the Saeroun coalition criticized the other political blocs, especially Sunnis and Kurds, for making demands on issues “beyond cabinet formation and involving crises that previous governments couldn’t solve.” The representative, Riyadh al-Masoudi, said Kadhimi won’t be able to meet these demands, especially that his government is meant to be temporary, with a mandate that expires once new elections are held. 

On April 21, a member of Parliament from a Sunni bloc spoke of a rift within the Iraqi Forces Alliance, the large Sunni bloc led by Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi. Representative Ahmed al-Jarba accused Halbousi of trying to corner the ministries intended for Sunni parties, prompting several members of the Iraqi Forces Alliance to break ranks and join a new faction called the “Liberated Cities Alliance.” The leader of the new group, Sunni financier Khamis al-Khanjar, said the entity will seek “two to three” ministries in the new government under Mustafa al-Kadhimi. Halbousi downplayed the impact that the announcement of the “Liberated Cities Alliance” would have on his bloc, arguing that his group sufficiently and rightfully represented cities that were once occupied by ISIS. A representative of the Iraqi Forces Alliance had said that Sunni parties expect to get six ministries, pointing out that four of which were agreed upon while the other two–education and higher education–were under negotiations. 

On April 21, Rudaw reported citing informed political sources that there was stiff competition between the political parties over who gets key security positions, especially those of national security adviser and chief of national intelligence. The sources added that this competition was fiercest between (and within) the Fatah coalition and Iraqi Forces Alliance. Meanwhile, other reports suggest that Prime Minister-designate Mustafa al-Kadhimi wants his own deputies to run the national intelligence agency on an acting basis instead of entrusting it to any political appointees. 

On April 22, al-Sumaria reported citing informed political sources that the main political blocs have walked back on promises made last week that Prime Minister-designate Mustafa al-Kadhimi would be free to pick his cabinet ministers. The sources said that “most of the main political powers are now demanding shares based on so called electoral entitlement,” adding that there are disputes within the blocs themselves about the internal allocation of government positions. Remarks by Alya Nseif, a member of the State of Law coalition, illustrate the serious limitation the political powers are imposing on the prime minister-designate’s choices. Nseif said Kadhimi “would be free to choose…after each bloc presents two or three candidates for each ministry.” Last week, political parties said they expected Parliament to vote on Kadhimi’s cabinet and government program before Ramadan, which begins Friday or Saturday. 

On April 22, Prime Minister-designate Mustafa al-Kadhimi reportedly met with the leaders of Shia political blocs to discuss his cabinet formation. Local news websites circulated a document that supposedly shows the names Kadhimi selected for a partial cabinet. The list includes several current and former ministers and several new, ostensibly independent figures, but leaves out several portfolios, including those of defense and interior. Familiar names on the list include current Finance Minister Fouad Hussein, former Oil Minister Abdul-Jabbar Luaibi, Health Minister Jafar Allawi, former Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloom, and former Human Rights Minister Mohammed al-Sudani. The appearance of former ministers on the list indicates that Kadhimi has succumbed to pressures from political parties seeking to secure their share of ministries. On April 19, al-Mada reported citing political sources that Kadhimi’s cabinet was likely to include several former ministers from the cabinets of two former prime ministers, Nouri al-Maliki and Haider al-Abadi, amid pressures to also rehire three members of Abdul-Mahdi’s cabinet. But until the day before the April 22 meeting, al-Kadhimi was reportedly resisting these demands and informed the parties that he did not intend to hire any ministers from the outgoing government of care-taker Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. During the April 22 meeting, the political parties have reportedly asked Kadhimi for 48 hours to study the names he presented before resuming negotiations. Initial reactions, however, indicate that few, if any, of the involved stakeholders were satisfied with the presumed candidates. 

On April 23, a group of 25 members of Parliament filed a complaint to the integrity commission against Finance Minister Fouad Hussein, accusing him of “exploiting his position and deliberately squandering public funds” by making payments to the KRG that violate the 2019 buget law. The complaint says Hussein (a senior KDP figure) transferred a total of ID 6 billion (approximately $5 billion) despite the KRG’s refusal to allow proper auditing of its accounts. Under the 2019 budget law, and subsequent agreements, the KRG is required to deliver 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil produced in the Kurdistan region to federal authorities while the latter issue monthly payments to pay for KRG employees. To date, the KRG has not bee able to make these oil deliveries. (more on this in the economic section)


New String Of Bombings Strikes Diyala; Gunmen Attack Baghdad Protesters; PM Separates Four Brigades From The Popular Mobilization Forces Commission

On April 16, Iraqi security forces (ISF) killed one ISIS militant and wounded two others in a security operation in the subdistrict of Kenaan, southeast of Baquba in Diyala province. 

On April 17, an improvised explosive device (IED) went off on a farm, killing one civilian in the subdistrict of Abbara, north of Baquba in Diyala province. A second IED in the subdistrict of Buhruz, south of Baquba wounded two more civilians. 

On April 17, an IED thought to be a remnant from the war with ISIS exploded killing a sheep herder near the subdistrict of Wana, north of Mosul in Ninewa province. 

On April 18, Turkish airstrikes killed three members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the Kurdistan region of Iraq (KRI). Rudaw reported additional airstrikes on April 20 in the subdistrict of Werti, near the Qandil mountains in northeast Erbil province. There were no reports of casualties from the latter airstrikes.

On April 18, an explosion in a booby-trapped building wounded six members of the ISF. The incident occurred while an ISF unit was conducting search operations in the Khaylaniya area, near Muqdadiyah in Diyala province. 

On April 18, two rockets struck near installations occupied by a Chinese oil company in the Nahrawan district, southeast of Baghdad. There were no reports of casualties. 

On April 18, two IED explosions wounded three civilians in Diyala. The first IED wounded a civilian in the village of Kharnabat, north of Baquba, while the second bomb, which was attached to a motorcycle, wounded two civilians in the Kenaan subdistrict southeast of Baquba. On the same day, ISIS militants attacked an Iraqi army (5th division) checkpoint near Baquba in Diyala province. The small arms attack wounded two soldiers. 

On April 18, unknown militants fired three mortar rounds at the positions of an Iraqi army unit (1st division) near Rutba in western Anbar province. The attack did inflict casualties or material damage.

On April 19, the Iraqi military said that Iraqi air force F-16 jets bombarded ISIS hideouts on an island in the Tigris river, west of the district of ad-Dour in Salah ad-Din province. The airstrikes reportedly killed 14 ISIS militants and destroyed three hideouts they were using.

On April 19, security sources said that ISIS militants ambushed an ISF patrol In the Qaraj subdistrict near Makhmour, southeast of Mosul. The attack killed two Iraqi soldiers.

On April 19, ISIS militants attacked an Iraqi federal police unit near the subdistrict of Rashad, west of Kirkuk. The attack killed one policeman. 

On April 20, ISIS militants killed four members of the ISF and wounded two more in a complex attack near Khan Bani Saad in Diyala province. Initially, the militants killed one soldier in an assault on ISF positions in the area. When ISF reinforcements arrived at the scene, the militants targeted them with an IED, killing three more members of the ISF and wounding two more. 

On April 20, ISIS militants attacked an ISF patrol with an IED, wounding three members of the ISF. The attack occurred near Jalawla in northeast Diyala province. 

On April 20, ISIS militants killed an Iraqi policeman with small arms fire in Umm al-Idham in southwest Diyala province. Unknown militants killed another policeman in a drive-by shooting west of Mosul in Ninewa province. 

On April 21, an IED explosion wounded two Iraqi Iraqi army soldiers (5th division) in the village of Islah in northeast Diyala province. 

On April 21, men armed with rifles dressed in civilian clothes opened fire on protesters gathered at Tahrir square, injuring at least six of them (other reports pointed to ten casualties). The Baghdad operations command attributed the incident to a quarrel that erupted after protesters assaulted a local shop owner. But activists on social media circulated footage from the scene and tied the attackers to militias affiliated with powerful political parties. Meanwhile a member of the parliamentary human rights committee condemned that attack on protesters, which happened “within an earshot of security forces,” and urged the prime minister to order security forces to protect protesters from further attacks. 

On April 21, three IEDs killed and wounded several members of the popular mobilization forces (PMF) and two civilians between Salah ad-Din and Ninewa provinces. One IED exploded targeting a PMF patrol in the Lazzagh area near Qayyara in southern Ninewa, killing two PMF fighters and wounding two more. Slightly to the south, another IED struck a PMF patrol east of Shirqat in northern Salah ad-Din, killing three PMF members and wounding three more. Later, a third IED, also in Shirqat, killed two civilians.

On April 21, ISIS militants opened fire from small arms on a bus transporting members of the federal police near the subdistrict of Riyadh west of Kirkuk. The attack wounded one policeman.  

On April 22, care-taker Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi issued orders to popular mobilization forces (PMF) commission chairman Falih al-Fayyadh detaching four PMF brigades from the commission and placing them directly under the authority of the commander in chief. The order mentions brigades 2, 11, 26 and 44, all units loyal to the Shia shrine authorities and top cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The development points to widening divisions within the PMF that appear to be the result of tense relations between units loyal to Sistani’s clergy and pro-Iran militias factions within the PMF.

On April 22, an Iraqi security source said that the ISF killed seven ISIS militants in an airstrike targeting their hideouts near Khanaqin in northeast Diyala province. Ground forces subsequently arrested another militant and captured equipment belonging to ISIS. An IED explosion struck an ISF unit during the operation, killing one member of the ISF and wounding seven more.

On April 22, PMF forces reported repelling an attack by ISIS militants trying to get into Jurf al-Sakhr in northern Babylon province. The clashes left two PMF fighters wounded. 

On April 22, an IED explosion wounded two civilians in the Qadisiya neighborhood in the Tal Afar district west of Mosul. 


Iraq Relaxes Curfew During Ramadan; Iraq Press Freedom Ranking Drops; COVID-19 Cases At 1,677; Access Problems Limit Aid Agencies Work

On April 19, the Iraqi government issued new guidelines for dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak covering the period from April 21 to May 22. The new guidelines will relax the curfew imposed since March by limiting it to the hours between 7pm and 6am during the week while maintaining a complete curfew during weekends. The government will keep schools, malls, event halls, stadiums and places of worship closed while allowing most other commercial businesses to reopen with minimal staff during the day so long as they adhere to no-crowding rules. The government is also keeping the ban on international and domestic travel between provinces,  limiting public transportation to vehicles with no more than four passengers and asking all Iraqis to wear face masks outside their homes. The New York Times reported this week that Iran was applying pressure, unsuccessfully, on Iraq to reopen the borders between the two countries, which Iraq closed on March 8. Iraq’s Health Minister urged Iraqis to comply with the preventative measures imposed by authorities. The minister, Jafar Allawi said that he’s seen many streets crowded with people and many hops opened without observing the necessary precautions, warning that these violations could lead to a rapid increase in infections, undoing previous efforts to contain the disease.  

On April 19, Iraq decided to let Reuters resume its work in the country after it had withheld the news agency’s permit over a controversial report that suggested Iraq was hiding the true volume of COVID-19 cases. Iraq’s Media and Communications Commission said the lifting of restrictions on Reuters was emant “to allow transparent and impartial work by the media.” The episode did not go without damage to Iraq’s reputation–Iraq dropped six positions in the latest annual press freedom index released by Reporters without Borders. 

On April 22, Human Rights Watch urged Iraqi lawmakers to enact a legislation against domestic violence. The call followed news of the death of a young woman in Najaf from severe burns, amid strong suspicions that her husband and his family were the culprits. “We see case upon case of women and girls dying at the hands of their families, but Iraq’s lawmakers have not done enough to save those lives,” HRW’s Belkis Wille commented on the issue. Meanwhile, health and aid workers have reported a sharp increase in domestic and gender-based violence in recent weeks as a result of COVID-19 movement restrictions. 

On April 22, Iraq’s Health Minister Jafar Allawi said that Iraq had enough resources to manage the COVID-19 crisis “for several months.” Allawi explained that resources available to his ministry improved significantly after Iraq received donations from several countries, like the U.S. and Kuwait, as well as from domestic sources, including banks and individuals. The minister said Iraq could “beat” COVID-19 during the summer, saying that any further loosening of movement restrictions was conditional on a continued decline in new cases.

On April 23, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 1,677 representing an increase of 243 cases from the 1,434 reported a week earlier. According to the ministry’s data there were only three new deaths during the same period, bringing total fatalities to 83. Meanwhile the total number of recoveries has increased from 856 to 1,171 this week. Forty six of the new infections, 25 of the recoveries and zero deaths were reported within the previous 24 hours.

On April 23, the KRG Interior Ministry issued orders extending a partial curfew in the region until May 1. The curfew will apply from 6pm to midnight every night. The Kurdistan region has been reporting a decline in new COVID-19 cases, reporting no confirmed cases in a week, and declaring Duhok on April 22 to be the first province to be free of the disease.  

On April 23, the office of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that “administrative difficulties” and anti-COVID-19 measures were presenting access problems for aid organizations operating in Iraq. Almost half of the access problems reported recently occurred in Ninewa province, adversely impacting aid delivery to communities needing assistance. OCHA explains that of the 51 organizations that requested national-level access last month, only four obtained the necessary access letters. 


KRG Delays Payments To Oil Operators; Baghdad And Erbil Agree On Oil Cuts, Discuss Gas Investments; Baghdad And Erbil Struggle To Pay Salaries As Oil Prices Drop

On April 17, Genel Energy, a foreign oil company operating in the KRI said the local government will delay paying oil companies for several months worth of oil production “interest free, for at least nine months.” The arrangement was announced in response to financial difficulties arising from the severe decline in oil prices, and will apply to the oil produced by the companies in the four month period starting in November 2019. “Should the oil price recover to about $50 a barrel, a payment programme to recover the deferred invoices will be put in place,” Genel explained in a statement, adding that the KRG pledged to pay the dues for future monthly oil production “by the fifteenth day of the following month.”

On April 19, Iraq’s Oil Minister Thamir al-Ghadban said that he reached an agreement with a visiting KRG delegation on a mechanism for reducing oil production across Iraq, including the Kurdistan region, in accordance with Iraq’s obligations under the recent OPEC+ plan to cut 9.7 million barrels per day. The OPEC+ deal, announced April 12, requires Iraq to reduce its output by 1.06 million bpd starting in May. Ghadban and the KRG delegation also discussed investments in the region’s undeveloped gas fields for the purpose of generating natural gas that would fuel power plants across Iraq. Ghadban explained that his ministry will send a technical team to further discuss the proposal with their KRG counterparts, and after that the commercial and technical aspects would be discussed “with the concerned company.” Baghdad, under U.S. pressure, is searching for alternatives to gas imports from Iran, which are subject to short-term sanctions waivers from Washington. The current waiver was issued on March 26 and set to expire within 30 days.

On April 20, the Basra Oil Company said it has completed building a connector pipeline that will increase crude oil export capacity by up to 300,000 barrels per day. The new pipeline has a 42” diameter and connects the PS-1 depot with the Zubair-2 depot, allowing for greater oil volumes to move to the Fao oil depot and from here to the offshore export terminals. 

On April 20, a spokesman for the council of ministers said that Iraq’s Finance Ministry was studying proposals to revise the public salary system in response to the financial crisis precipitated by the collapse of oil prices. The spokespesman, Alaa al-Fahad, said the proposals include reducing salaries by 25% across the board, slashing add-on stipends attached to base salaries, and setting up a mandatory savings program. Fahad explained that the final decision on how to address the estimated $40 billion budget deficit resulting from the low oil prices will be left to the next government to take. Global oil prices suffered steep losses this week, with a  barrel of Iraq’s Basra Light crude selling at just above $20.50 on April 22, according to OilPrice.The secretariat of the council of ministers issued a denial on the same day, saying that there was no discussion of mandatory savings or salary reduction. Meanwhile, a member of the parliamentary finance committee claimed that more than 250,000 people in Iraq receive more than one government salary, costing the budget up to $18 billion a year. The representative urged Parliament to issue a decision that limits payees to one salary to reduce the mounting budget deficit. 

On April 22, the KRG cabinet said that there were ongoing negotiations with the federal government to secure financial allocations to pay this month’s salaries for KRG employees. The KRG cabinet argued in a statement that the delay in paying salaries was for reasons outside its control, namely the sharp decline in oil prices, anti-COVID-19 measures, and the federal government’s delay in sending payments. The provincial council in Sulaymaniyah seems unconvinced by this explanation. In a statement on April 23, the councils chairman said the delay in paying salaries predated the collapse of oil prices, and pressed the KRG to explain the reasons that many government employees have not been paid in two months. On April 23, Iraq Oil Report wrote that the secretariat of the federal council of ministers had on April 1 instructed the Finance Ministry to withhold future monthly payments to the KRG because the latter has not met its obligation to deliver 250,000 bpd to the federal government.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from April 16 - April 23, 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
04/17/20Abbara, Diyala10
04/17/20Buhruz, Diyala02
04/17/20Wana, Ninewa10
04/18/20Muqdadiyah, Diyala06
04/18/20Kharnabat, Diyala01
04/18/20Kenaan, Diyala02
04/20/20Khan Bani Saad, Diyala32
04/20/20Jalawla, Diyala03
04/21/20Islah, Diyala02
04/21/20Lazzagah, Ninewa22
04/21/20Shirqat, Salah ad-Din33
04/21/20Shirqat, Salah ad-Din20
04/21/20Khanaqin, Diyala17
04/22/20Tal Afar, Ninewa02

 

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


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


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