- Iraq’s Parliament Approves Partial Cabinet Led By Mustafa Al-Kadhimi; U.S. Offers Kadhimi Support And Extended Sanctions Waivers; Sulaymaniyah Pushes For Decentralization As Divisions Hit KRI Parliament – On May 4, the provincial council in Sulaymaniyah began preparing proposals for decentralization within the KRI with support from the the Gorran (Change) movement and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). On May 5, the KRG dispatched a new delegation to Baghdad to resume budget negotiations with the federal government after the latter suspended its monthly transfers. On May 7, Iraq’s Parliament approved the government program and a partial new cabinet led by the new Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi after a long evening of bargaining between Kadhimi and various political blocs. Parliament approved 15 members of the new cabinet, rejected five ministerial candidates (Trade, Education, Migration, Justice and Agriculture) and postponed voting on the Oil and Foreign Affairs portfolios, pending further negotiations. Kadhimi stressed that his government’s priorities will be to prepare for early elections, establish state monopoly over arms, and prevent Iraq from becoming a battleground for proxy wars. On May 7, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the formation of the new government and offered to extend the waivers that allow Iraq to import gas and electricity from Iran by 120 days. On May 7, the KRI Parliament removed the parliamentary immunity of one of its members after he accused the region’s prime minister of corruption. The vote divided the legislature, as the speaker and representatives of most parties walked out in protest of the KDP-led vote. more…
- ISIS Escalates Complex Attacks On Iraqi Forces In Multiple Provinces; Iraqi Forces Respond With Large Scale Operations; New ISIS Attack Target The Electric Grid – On May 1, ISIS militants killed one member of the Iraqi security forces (ISF) and wounded two in Diyala. On May 2, ISIS militants killed ten members of the popular mobilization forces (PMF) in multiple attacks in Salah ad-Din. On May 2, an IED killed one ISF member and injured three in Diyala. On May 2, ISIS militants injured two PMF fighters in Salah ad-Din. On May 2, ISIS militants killed five members of the ISF and a civilian and injured six others. On May 3, the ISF launched military operations in Salah ad-Din, Diyala, Ninewa and Anbar in response to the recent ISIS attacks. On May 3, the ISF killed six ISIS members in Salah ad-Din and Anbar, while ISIS militants killed three tribal mobilization fighters in Diyala. On May 4, an IED wounded three ISF members in Diyala. On May 4, the ISF killed two ISIS militants between Salah ad-Din and Ninewa. On May 4, ISIS militants killed one Iraqi soldier and injured three more in Diyala. On May 5, the ISF killed three ISIS militants in Kirkuk while an ISIS attack killed three tribal mobilization fighters and wounded a policeman. On May 5, two IEDs placed under vehicles wounded two ISF members near Baghdad. On May 5, ISIS militants killed two policemen south of Mosul. On May 6, three Katyusha rockets struck near Baghdad international airport without causing casualties. On May 7, ISIS militants sabotaged a high voltage power line that feeds the Kirkuk water project. Another attack sabotaged three high voltage towers in Ninewa, while an IED wounded two employees of the Ninewa electricity directorate. On May 6, PMF fighters foiled an attempt to blow up high voltage towers in Salah ad-Din. On May 7 an IED killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded two others in Ninewa. On May 7, Turkish airstrikes killed four members of the PKK in the KRI. On May 7, the ISF unit killed two suicide bombers and destroyed two vehicle-borne IEDs in Anbar. more…
- Tribes In Salah Ad-Din Threaten To Evict Families With Alleged Links To ISIS; COVID-19 Cases Rise Above 2,500 – On May 2, the World Health Organization representative in Iraq attributed the increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country to poor compliance with preventative measures and more proactive testing. On May 5, a tribal leader in Salah ad-Din province said that dozens of tribal leaders in the Shirqat area have agreed to evict 250 families allegedly related to ISIS members because the tribes perceive their presence to pose a security risk following a spike in ISIS attacks in the province. On May 7, Iraq’s Health Ministry reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased this week to 2,543 while deaths from the virus reached 102 and a total of 1,626 patients have recovered. more…
- Iraq’s Oil Revenue Collapses; World Bank Expects GDP To Shrink More Than 9%; Federal Government, KRG Consider Wage Cuts; Fires Pose A Threat To Grain Harvest – On May 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that oil exports averaged 3.438 million bpd in April and generated $1.432 billion in revenue, roughly half of last month’s $2.988 billion and dramatically lower than February’s $5.5 billion. Iraq sold its oil at an average price of $13.8 per barrel. On May 4, a World Bank report predicted that Iraq’s economy will experience its worst year in 18 years. The report expects massive decline in oil revenue and the disruptive effects of COVID-19 to cause Iraq’s GDP to retract by almost 10% in 2020. On May 4, a government official said the government was considering proposals to significantly slash wages and pensions to address Iraq’s financial crisis. On May 5, Iraq’s Planning Ministry said it signed two contracts with a development company to create industrial, agricultural and trade centers to provide jobs for 4,600 young Iraqis in Ninewa and Babylon provinces. On May 6, the farmers cooperatives union in Iraq urged farmers to speed up the wheat and barley harvest to protect their crops from sabotage after reports of unexplained fires that recently destroyed grain fields in several provinces. On May 6, the KRG Finance Ministry said it has begun the process of distributing delayed public sector salaries for January. PUKMedia reported on May 6 that the KRG has made several decisions to slash salaries, suspend investment spending and cancel tax and customs waivers. 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.
Iraq’s Parliament Approves Partial Cabinet Led By Mustafa Al-Kadhimi; U.S. Offers Kadhimi Support And Extended Sanctions Waivers; Sulaymaniyah Pushes For Decentralization As Divisions Hit KRI Parliament
On April 30, outgoing Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi issued an order to appoint a new governor and deputy governor for Dhi-Qar province, which has been without a governor since former governor Adil al-Dakhili resigned in November of last year. On May 3, the new governor, Nadhum al-Waili, a judge, assumed his position and pledged during a press conference to protect protesters, empower the courts and fight corruption in the province. In March a conflict had erupted between then acting governor Aba-Dhar al-Omar and the resigned governor when the latter tried to forcefully retake his position.
On May 4, the provincial council in Sulaymaniyah convened the first meeting of a new committee set up to prepare proposals for administrative decentralization within the Kurdistan region of Iraq (KRI). The provincial council’s chairman said the committee, which comprises 11 members representing all parties that have members on the council, would first present its proposals to the provincial council for approval and referral to the council of ministers in the Kurdistan regional government (KRG). The following day, the two main parties in the province, the Gorran (Change) movement and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) issued a joint statement expressing their support for decentralization in the region.
On May 5, the KRG dispatched a new delegation, led by its deputy prime minister Qubad Talabani, to Baghdad to resume budget and oil negotiations with the federal government. The KRG has been trying to rescue its share of the federal budget amid a financial crisis precipitated by low oil prices that prompted the federal government in April to suspend monthly budget payments the KRG relies on to pay its bills, especially civil servants salaries and pensions. The federal government argues that the KRG has failed to meet its obligation under the 2019 budget law and subsequent agreements to deliver 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil produced in the KRI to the state oil marketing organization. The new round of talks began on May 6 but there were no immediate reports of what emerged from these talks.
On May 7, the Iraqi Parliament voted to approve the government program and a partially-formed new cabinet led by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi after a long evening of eleventh hour bargaining between Kadhimi and various political blocs seeking to secure their interests in the new government. Parliament approved 15 members of Kadhimi’s new cabinet, while rejecting five other ministerial candidates (Trade, Education, Migration, Justice and Agriculture). Parliament also postponed voting on two other ministries, Oil and Foreign Affairs, pending further negotiations. The session, originally scheduled for 9:00pm local time on May 6, was delayed for hours by walkouts, demands for changes in the proposed cabinet, and threats of boycott from various parties. Intense negotiations, which had forced Kadhimi to replace his choices for cabinet members multiple times throughout the week, continued until just before the session officially began around midnight, finally allowing the vote to begin with 266 representatives in attendance. Throughout the evening, Kadhimi made several changes to the list of proposed ministers to placate unsupportive blocs. The opposition was diverse. State of Law, the bloc led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki threatened to vote against approving Kadhimi’s cabinet and Basra representatives threatened to oppose Kadhimi unless he offered the Oil Ministry to a Basrawi. Meanwhile the Wataniya bloc of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi threatened to boycott the session, and the Iraqi Forces Alliance, led by Speaker Halbousi threatened to walkout unless Kadhimi appointed one of them as his deputy. Additionally a group of seven Kurdish representatives declared their boycott, claiming that Kadhmi sidelined their parties in favor of the PUK and KDP and denouncing the political horse trading as a continuation of the ethno-sectarian quota system that has haunted Iraq since 2003. A meeting between Kadhimi and bloc leaders just before midnight appeared to have given Kadhimi enough support for his cabinet to see the light. Addressing Parliament just before the vote, Kadhimi said he kept his government program brief to avoid creating the impression that he intends to stretch his government’s term beyond this transitional period. Kadhimi stressed that his government’s priorities will be to prepare for early elections, establish state monopoly over arms, and prevent Iraq from becoming a battleground for proxy wars. The prime minister pledged to protect freedom of expression and prosecute those involved in violence against protesters. Pointing to other crises facing Iraq, Kadhimi said his government would work with the World Health Organization to contain COVID-19, normalize relations between Baghdad and the KRG, and secure the resources needed to alleviate economic hardship and the chronic shortage of basic services. Kadhimi reportedly met with Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the outgoing prime minister, and discussed the transition process.
On May 7, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talked to Iraq’s newly confirmed prime minister on the phone, congratulating him on winning the vote of confidence in Parliament. In a gesture of support, Pompeo informed Prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi that Washington would extend the Iran sanctions waivers that allow Iraq to import much-needed gas and electricity from Iran by 120 days. Washington had in recent months reduced these sanctions waivers to as little as 30 days in an apparent show of discontent with political deadlock and Iranian interference in Baghdad. According to the State Department statement, Pompeo and Kadhimi also discussed their countries’ plans, announced in April, to hold “strategic dialogue” about the future of bilateral relations, including the presence of U.S. forces in the country. Kadhimi also received messages of congratulations from NATO, the UN, and Iran.
On May 7, the Kurdistan region’s Parliament voted to remove the parliamentary immunity of one of its members. Representative Soran Omar is one of four representatives who were targeted by the motion but while 57 representatives voted in favor of removing Omar’s immunity, only a handful voted to remove the immunity of the other three. Omar is facing charges filed by KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani whom Omar recently accused of corruption. The vote to remove Omar’s immunity was divisive. The representatives of the PUK, Gorran, New Generation, Islamic Group and Islamic Union all walked out of the session in protest of the KDP orchestrated vote, as did Rewaz faeq, the speaker of the regional legislature.
On April 30, militants attacked the residence of an officer serving in the border guards in the Yathrib subdistrict in Salah ad-Din province. The attack killed the officer and wounded several members of his family.
On May 1, ISIS snipers attacked an Iraqi security forces (ISF) checkpoint in the Jalawla subdistrict in Diyala province, injuring two members of the ISF. To the southwest, unidentified gunmen assassinated an ISF member on leave in Diyala’s Abu Saida subdistrict.
On May 2, the Security Media Cell reported that ISIS militants killed ten members of the popular mobilization forces (PMF) in multiple attacks overnight in Salah ad-Din province. ISIS militants initially killed six PMF fighters in a direct assault on their checkpoint in Mkeeshifa, south of ad-Dour. Later, an IED exploded targeting PMF reinforcements sent in response to the initial attack, killing three more PMF fighters and wounding four others. Further south near the Yathrib subdistrict, another ISIS attack on a security checkpoint killed one more PMF fighter. The ISF sent mechanized reinforcements backed by the army aviation to pursue ISIS cells in the area.
On May 2, an IED exploded against an ISF patrol near the Udheim subdistrict in Diyala province. The attack killed one member of the ISF and injured three more.
On May 2, ISIS militants attacked a PMF checkpoint in the Eith region, northeast of ad-Dour in eastern Salah ad-Din province. The attack injured two PMF fighters.
On May 2, ISIS militants launched a direct assault on an ISF checkpoint in the village of Zaghnia in the Abbara subdistrcit in Diyala province. The attack, and subsequent sniper fire killed four members of the ISF and one civilian and injured six other people. Another sniper attack killed one member of the ISF in the same area hours earlier.
On May 3, ISIS militants fired several mortar rounds at the village of Hawi al-Udheim in northern Diyala province. There were no reports of casualties. On the previous day, PMF fighters found and defused two Katyusha rockets that were pointed in the direction of Jalawla in northeast Diyala.
On May 3, ISIS militants attacked the Jurf al-Sakhr subdistrict in northern Babylon province but were repulsed by PMF units in the area. One PMF fighter was wounded in clashes with the attackers. On the same day, ISIS militants also clashed with PMF fighters near Dujail in southern Salah ad-Din district. The PMF later reported killing four ISIS militants with artillery fire in the area. Further south, PMF fighters repulsed yet another attack by ISIS militants in Nukhaib, southwest of Karbala.
On May 3, care-taker Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi ordered the ISF to launch military operations in Salah ad-Din, Diyala and Anbar in response to a wave of ISIS attacks that killed at least ten members of the PMF. In Anbar, the ISF ground troops launched operations backed by the air force and army aviation in nine directions towards the international borders. There were reports that the ISF launched other large-scale operations south of Mosul in Ninewa province. Meanwhile, the Iraqi army’s chief of staff, general Othman al-Ghanimi met with the military commanders in Salah ad-Din in the aftermath to discuss plans to respond to the heightened ISIS threat through reinforcing security outposts, intensifying intelligence efforts, redeploying units and checkpoints and increasing search operations.
On May 3, security sources said PMF units killed three ISIS members while conducting an operation in the islands in the Tigris river in Salah ad-Din province. The PMF fighters also uncovered hideouts, weapons and supplies used by the militants. Meanwhile, tribal mobilization fighters killed three ISIS militants and destroyed a vehicle loaded with IEDs near Haditha in Anbar province.
On May 3, ISIS militants attacked the Umm al-Karami village near Udheim in Diyala province. At least three tribal mobilization fighters were killed and three more were injured in clashes with the attackers. On the same day, ISIS snipers killed an Iraqi soldier near Qara Tappa in northeast Diyala. To the south, ISIS militants attacked an ISF (5th Iraqi army division) checkpoint near Delli Abbas injuring another member of the ISF.
On May 4, an IED exploded against an ISF patrol in the Jalawla subdistrict in northeast Diyala province. The explosion wounded three members of the ISF.
On May 4, security sources said that the ISF killed two ISIS militants who were part of a group that attempted to assault the village of Lazzagah north of Shirqat between Salah ad-Din and Ninewa provinces.
On May 4, ISIS militants attacked an ISF checkpoint near Buhruz in southern Diyala province, wounding one soldier. The attackers later detonated an IED against ISF reinforcements sent in response to the initial attack killing one Iraqi soldier and injuring two more.
On May 5, the ISF killed three ISIS militants who attacked the Ghayda region southwest of Kirkuk. Meanwhile, a complex ISIS attack with an IED and small arms fire killed three tribal mobilization fighters and wounded a policeman in the nearby Rashad subdistrict, also southwest of Kirkuk.
On May 5, an IED placed under a civilian vehicle exploded near Kadhimiyah in northern Baghdad. The explosion wounded one member of the ISF. The following day, a similar under-vehicle IED explosion wounded another member of the ISF in Yusufiyah south of Baghdad.
On May 5, police sources in Ninewa said that ISIS militants opened fire at a police checkpoint in al-Hadhar, south of Mosul. The attack killed two policemen.
On May 6, security sources said that three katyusha rockets struck near Baghdad international airport, not far from facilities hosting U.S. military personnel and advisers, without causing casualties. The ISF were able to discover the launcher used in the attack, for which no group claimed responsibility, in the Bakriya area west of Baghdad.
On May 7, a source in the Kirkuk electricity directorate said that ISIS militants sabotaged a high voltage power line that feeds the Kirkuk water project. Repair crews headed to the site accompanied security forces to repair the damage. Security sources in Ninewa said that ISIS militants sabotaged three high voltage towers near Qayyara, taking them out of service. In another grid-related attack, an IED explosion wounded two employees of the Ninewa electricity directorate on their way to work near the village of Ghzeil north of Mosul. On May 6, PMF fighters said they intercepted and chased away ISIS militants while trying to plant explosive charges around high voltage towers near Amerli in Salah ad-Din province.
On May 7 an IED explosion killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded two others near Ain al-Jahsh south of Mosul.
On May 7, the Turkish military said that its air force conducted airstrikes against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq, killing four members of the group. The airstrikes took place in the Zab, Hakurk and Haftanin regions in the KRI.
On May 7, the Security Media Cell reported that an airborne ISF unit killed two suicide bombers and dstroyed two vehicle-borne IEDs in the Husseiniyat region in the Anbar desert.
On May 2, the World Health Organization representative in Iraq offered two reasons that explain the increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country. The representative, Adham Ismael attributed part of the increase to the public’s poor compliance with preventative measures, such as social distancing, after the curfew was relaxed. Ismael said the other reason was the Health Ministry’s switch to active sweeps in search of infected patients instead of passively waiting for them to reach hospitals. The WHO official said the recent increase in confirmed cases was not worrisome but the WHO and authorities would consider stricter preventative measures, including restoring the curfew, if the numbers remained high.
On May 5, a tribal leader in Salah ad-Din province said that dozens of tribal leaders in the Shirqat area have agreed to evict 250 families allegedly related to ISIS members because their presence is perceived to pose a security risk. The tribal leaders reportedly asked the authorities to set up a camp to host these families under tight security. The increased anxiety about the presence of families with alleged links to ISIS members coincides with the recent spike in ISIS attacks in parts of Iraq, especially Salah ad-Din, Diyala and Kirkuk.
On May 6, the KRG Education Minister said that reopening the region’s school is contingent on the complete eradication of COVID-19. The minister, Alan Hama Saeed, said his ministry will make the decision to reopen schools 15 days after the last COVID-19 case in the region had been cured. According to the minister, schools had delivered nearly three quarters of the year’s coursework before schools had to close and are continuing with remote learning efforts. He added that the ministry will make a decision regarding this year’s final exams next week.
On May 7, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 2,543, representing an increase of 458 cases from the 2,085 reported a week earlier. According to the ministry’s data there were nine new deaths during the same period, bringing total fatalities to 102. Meanwhile the total number of recoveries has increased from 1,375 to 1,626. Sixty three of the new infections, 24 of the recoveries and zero deaths were reported within the previous 24 hours. The provinces with the most active cases are Baghdad, followed by Basra, Najaf and Erbil.
On May 1, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil announced that crude oil exports during April exceeded 103.144 million barrels (an average of 3.438 million bpd), about 62,000 bpd higher than March’s 3.376 million bpd. These exports generated slightly over $1.432 billion in revenue, roughly half of last month’s revenue of $2.988 billion and dramatically lower than February’s $5.5 billion as global oil prices crashed amid low demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Iraq sold its oil at an average price of just $13.8 per barrel, less than half March’s average price of $28.43. Exports from the southern ports in Basra increased to 3.51 million bpd, while northern fields in Kirkuk dropped to 76,000 bpd exported through the Turkish port of Ceyhan, compared with March’s 106,000 bpd. Trucks delivering oil to Jordan exported approximately 11,000 bpd. The ministry did not publish figures on exports from the Qayyarah field in Ninewa (trucked to the Basra ports) which were at 4,000 bpd in March and 17,000 bpd in February.
On May 4, a World Bank report predicted that Iraq’s economy will experience its worst year in 18 years. The report calculates that massive decline in oil revenue and the disruptive effects of COVID-19 will cause Iraq’s GDP, which saw 4.4% growth last year, to retract by almost 10% in 2020. The report urges Iraq to undertake far-reaching reforms to allow for “private sector led growth, diversification and job creation.” These reforms, the report says, could be founded on “tackling cross-cutting impediments to private-sector led diversification” as well as “improving governance and promoting private sector participation in selected productive sectors like agriculture and agri-food Industries, electricity and gas.”
On May 4, a government official told the local press that the care-taker prime minister and the committee in charge of drafting this year’s budget met to discuss a number of cost-cutting proposals to address Iraq’s financial crisis. The proposals include a new salary schedule that caps the highest salaries at ID 5 million per month and highest pensions at ID 4 million per month (~ $4,000 and $3,300, respectively). The unnamed official said the proposals also include a plan to slash other compensations beyond base salary by up to 75%, with top earners facing the highest cuts.
On May 5, Iraq’s Planning Ministry said it signed two contracts with a development company to create industrial, agricultural and trade centers to provide jobs for 4,600 young Iraqis within a year in Ninewa and Babylon provinces. According to Planning Minister Nouri al-Dulaimi, the projects are to be supported by subsidised loans from the Central Bank as part of a trillion dinar job creation initiative. Beneficiaries in Ninewa and Babylon would get 2,000 and 2,600 jobs, respectively. The ministry said the contracts are part of a national plan to generate up to 100,000 jobs through similar partnerships with the private sector. Last month, the Planning Ministry signed the first of such development contracts, which targeted 2,300 jobs in Dhi-Qar province.
On May 6, the head of the farmers cooperatives union in Iraq urged farmers across Iraq to speed up the wheat and barley harvest to protect their crops from sabotage. The warning comes after reports of unexplained fires that recently destroyed grain fields in several provinces. In April, the Ministry of Agriculture said Iraq was preparing for its best grain harvest in decades, involving nine million dunams growing wheat and four million dunams growing barley. A statement by the Trade Ministry indicated this week that the wheat harvest was only 5% complete, with farmers delivering 311,000 tons out of an anticipated total of six million tons.
On May 6, the KRG Finance Ministry said it has begun the process of distributing delayed public sector salaries for the month of January. The ministry explained in a statement that it has already processed the payments for the Health and Peshmerga ministries, and that the employees of the Interior and Finance Ministries would be the next to receive pay. Faced with acute financial difficulties, the KRG is looking at ways to reduce expenses. PUKMedia reported on May 6 that the KRG has made several decisions to slash salaries and stipends and reduce fraud by making payments exclusively to employees with barometric registration. The measures also include suspending investment spending and canceling tax and customs waivers.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
Casualties Due To IEDs from April 30 - May 7, 2020The 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.
|05/02/20||Mkeeshifa, Salah ad-Din||3||4|
|05/05/20||Yusufiyah, south of Baghdad||0||1|
|05/07/20||Ghzeil, north of Mosul, Ninewa||0||2|
|05/07/20||Ain al-Jahsh, Ninewa||1||2|
Please note: some geographic locations represented are approximations and this map may not represent all incidents.
Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor is a free publication of the Enabling Peace in Iraq Center.