ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: MAY 28 – JUNE 4, 2020

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Key Takeaways:

  • Parliament Resumes Election Law Discussions; Fatah To Push For U.S. Forces Expulsion During Strategic Dialogue; Kadhimi Presents Candidates To Fill Vacant Cabinet Positions – On May 31, the Saeroun alliance of Moqtada al-Sadr renewed its attacks on Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, holding him responsible for the “clinical death” of the legislature and calling for early elections. On June 1, political sources said two senior members of the Badr organization and an ally for Nouri al-Maliki were competing to become the director of the prime minister’s office. On June 2, protesters in Sulaymaniyah called for the resignation of the KRG. On June 2, an MP said that a group of nearly 50 representatives were considering forming a new cross-sectarian bloc to provide parliamentary support for PM Kadhimi. On June 3, an Iranian delegation led by Iran’s energy minister and General Ismael Qaani visited Baghdad for meetings with top Iraqi officials. On June 3, Speaker Halbousi asked the heads of parliamentary blocs to meet with the legal committee on June 6 to review a new version of the election law. On June 3, the Fatah coalition said that it intends to participate in the U.S.-Iraq strategic dialogue later this month to push for the departure of U.S. troops, threatening to withdraw confidence from PM Kadhimi if he did not cooperate. On June 4, Speaker Halbousi received the names of candidates for the seven vacant portfolios in Kadhimi’s government. more…
  • Iraqi Forces, Coalition Airstrikes Kill Dozens Of ISIS Militants In New Operations Amid Sporadic ISIS Attacks – Between May 28-June 4, three IEDs killed two members of the Iraqi security forces (ISF) and injured 15 people (three civilians and 12 ISF members) in Baghdad, Ninewa and Kirkuk. Two other ISIS attacks killed one ISF member, at least three civilians, and wounded five other ISF members in Salah ad-Din and Diyala. On May 30, security sources said that Turkish airstrikes killed two civilians near Amadiyah in Duhok province. On May 29-30, the ISF killed four ISIS militants in Diyala and Kirkuk. On June 2, the ISF launched a new operation targeting ISIS militants in southwestern Kirkuk. The ISF killed at least two ISIS militants, destroyed a large number of tunnels and hideouts used by ISIS, and uncovered explosives and munitions, including three vehicle borne IEDs. Between June 2-June 4, airstrikes by the International Coalition in support of ISF operations killed at least 13 ISIS militants south of Kirkuk and 19 other militants in southeastern Ninewa. more…

  • Iraq Extends Curfew Orders; KRG Cancels Curfew After Angry Protests; New COVID-19 Cases And Deaths Accelerate Further – On May 30, the Iraqi government decided to impose a total curfew from May 31 through June 6 in an effort to contain an escalating COVID-19 outbreak as the country reported hundreds of new cases each day. On May 31, the KRG too said it decided to impose a total curfew across the region through June 6 to contain the spread of COVID-19, but news of the curfew sparked angry protests, forcing authorities to reconsider the policy and allow businesses to reopen. On June 4, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased this week to 8,840 representing a new record weekly increase in confirmed infections. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 271 while a total of 4,338 patients have recovered. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 272,259 samples for COVID-19. Iraq’s health minister urged the public to comply with government instructions and stay at home due to the “critical situation” Iraq is facing while the director of health in Baghdad expressed concern that poor compliance with preventive measures threatens to overwhelm the system and exceed the available hospital bed capacity. more…

  • Baghdad And Erbil Pursue Cost-Cutting Measures; Oil Revenue Sees Marginal Boost In May; Iraq And Iran Sign 2-Year Electricity Sale Agreement – On May 30, the Iraqi government said it will pursue several steps to reduce pay inequality, including eliminating double pay, canceling pensions for former residents of the Gulf War-era Rafha refugee camp, and pay cuts for senior officials. Meanwhile, the government has asked Parliament to authorize borrowing from domestic and foreign lenders to compensate for the severe loss of revenue due to low oil prices. The KRG too announced a decision to reduce the salaries of its top-paid officials and said it was is preparing an audit of its revenue ahead of anticipated meetings with the federal government to settle their budgetary disputes. On June 1, the Ministry of Oil said that May oil exports averaged 3.212 million bpd, generating $2.091 billion in revenue, higher than April’s low of $1.432 billion, but dramatically lower than February’s $5.5 billion. On June 3, Iranian energy minister Reza Ardakanian visited Iraq and said he signed an agreement with Iraqi officials to sell Iranian electricity to Iraq for two years and obtained $400 million in funds owed to Iran for past energy sales. 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.


Parliament Resumes Election Law Discussions; Fatah To Push For U.S. Expulsion During Strategic Dialogue; Kadhimi Presents Candidates To Fill Vacant Cabinet Positions

On May 28, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A statement from Kadhimi’s office said Merkel offered to enhance economic cooperation with Iraq and help the country fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The statement added that the German leader invited Kadhimi to visit Berlin and said that Germany would continue to train Iraqi forces within the framework of the International Coalition. 

On May 30, a group of parliamentarians urged the public prosecutor to prosecute the Finance Minister “and all involved parties” over the recent government decision to send ID 400 billion to the Kurdistan regional government (KRG). A statement by the lawmakers argued that the payment was illegal because the KRG violated its obligations under the budget law to remit oil and customs revenue to the federal treasury. The parliamentarians, whose number and affiliation could not be ascertained, urged the Iraqi Central Bank to place the ID 400 billion on hold. 

On May 31, the Saeroun alliance of Moqtada al-Sadr renewed its attacks on Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, holding him responsible for the “clinical death” of the legislature. Saeroun representative Jamal Fakhir said the multiple crises Iraq is facing require constant work, urging the president and prime minister to “expedite early elections.” A report by al-Mada says that analysts suspect that Saeroun, which recently started calling for replacing Halbousi, is using the threat of early elections to pressure other parties to accept the less disruptive option of sacking the speaker. 

On May 31, the representatives of several Kurdish parties in the Iraqi Parliament urged the government and UN to halt the appointment of new directors for the local offices of Iraq’s High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in the provinces of the Kurdistan region. The groups (Change Movement, Islamic Group, Islamic Union, New Generation and the “independent group”) said there was political interference in these appointments aimed at securing partisan interests, in an implicit reference to the ruling parties in the Kurdistan region. The group warned that allowing these practices to continue would undermine the credibility of future elections. Last week, Arab politicians in the disputed province of Kirkuk made similar complaints about politicized appointments of local IHEC officials. 

On June 1, political sources said to be close to the Iraqi prime minister said there were three candidates competing to become the director of the prime minister’s office–a prized and powerful position in Iraq’s system. The three candidates reportedly include Mohammed al-Ghabban and Abu Maryam al-Ansari, two senior members of the Badr organization. The third candidate is Raed Johi, whom the source described as close to Nouri al-Maliki, a former prime minister and head of the State of Law coalition.  

On June 2, protesters took to the streets in the town of Kifri in Sulaymaniyah province, demanding better living conditions and calling for the resignation of the Kurdistan regional government. NRT reported that the Kurdistan region has seen several protests recently after the local government decided to extend the curfew meant to contain the OCVID-19 outbreak until June 6.  

On June 2, a member of Parliament from the Irada bloc said that a group of nearly 50 representatives were considering forming a new cross-sectarian bloc to provide parliamentary support for the prime minister. Representative Hussein Arab said the lawmakers behind this initiative come from different existing blocs, and their main objective is to provide support for the government as it tackles the current health and financial crises. Iraq’s new prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi does not have his own political party–an issue that presented great challenges in implementing reforms and curbing corruption for the previous government under former prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.  

On June 2, al-Sumaria reported citing political sources that the Iraqi government has created a new special investigations unit to look into violence against protesters and report its findings to the judiciary within three months. The source said the new investigators would revisit the reports produced by previous investigation committees and initiate fresh investigations into other serious abuses, like the attacks that killed dozens of protesters in Nasiriyah and Najaf, and other mass-casualty incidents in Baghdad and Karbala. According to the report, the new investigators have not started their work yet due to the delay in filling the vacant portfolios in the government.

On June 3, a delegation of senior Iranian officials visited Baghdad for meetings with top Iraqi officials. The delegation is led by Iran’s energy minister and also includes Ismael Qaani, the new commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, who succeeded Qassim Soleimani after the latter was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad in January. Iraqi officials pointed out that Prime Minister Kadhimi insisted that Qaani obtains a visa and enters Iraq through formal channels, in contrast with his predecessor who reportedly used to visit Baghdad through unofficial channels.  

On June 3, Iraq’s Parliament voted on a resolution that requires the Council of Ministers to present the draft budget for 2020 no later than June 30. This was the first time the legislature has met for a regular session since it convened to approve the government of Prime Minister Kadhimi on May 6. Parliamentary sources said the speaker also asked the heads of parliamentary blocs to meet with the legal committee on June 6 to review a new version of the election law. That law, which Parliament approved in December, lacks specific provisions for deciding the size and boundaries of electoral districts. 

On June 3, the Fatah coalition said that it intends to participate in the U.S.-Iraq strategic dialogue the two countries plan to begin later this month. Fatah representative Saad al-Sadi said Fatah’s main “unnegotiable” demand is to implement the resolution Parliament voted on in January calling for the departure of foreign troops from Iraq. Sadi warned that Kadhimi’s government could face a vote of no confidence if it failed to implement that resolution, adding that “all options are on the table for us as political powers and resistance factions.” 

On June 4, the office of Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi said the speaker has received the list of candidates for the vacant portfolios in the government of Prime Minister Kadhimi. Al-Sumaria reported citing political sources that the list includes Fouad Hussein for he Foreign Affairs Ministry, Hassan Nadhum for the Culture Ministry, Ivan Faeq for the Migration Ministry, and Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar (the head of the Basra Oil Co.) for the Oil Ministry. The list also includes Salar Abdul-Sattar for the Justice Ministry, Mohammed Karim for the Agriculture Ministry, and Ala Ahmed for the Trade Ministry. These seven portfolios have remained vacant since Parliament approved Kadhimi’s government on May 7.

On June 4, hundreds of protesters gathered on the streets of Nasiriyah to demand the resignation of the directors of service directorates in Dhi-Qar province. Earlier this week, protesters complaining about poor health services during the COVID-19 pandemic broke into the health directorate in Nasiriyah and forced the director to write his resignation. On Thursday, the pressure from renewed protests forced the head of Nasiriyah’s municipal affairs, the head of the roads directorate and the director of a hospital to submit their resignations as well.


Iraqi Forces, Coalition Airstrikes Kill Dozens Of ISIS Militants In New Operations Amid Sporadic ISIS Attacks

On May 29, a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) exploded against a civilian vehicle near the Madain district, southeast of Baghdad. The explosion injured three civilians. 

On May 29, Iraqi security forces (ISF) killed two ISIS militants and destroyed three hideouts used by ISIS during operations near the Buhruz subdistrict in Diyala province. Further east, the ISF reported killing a third ISIS militant in the Kenaan subdistrict in eastern Diyala. 

On May 30, the ISF killed one ISIS militant and injured another after the militants attempted to attack Iraqi army positions in Kirkuk. 

On May 30, security sources said that Turkish airstrikes killed two civilians from the same family and wounded others in the Diraluk area, near Amadiyah in Duhok province. The Turkish military claimed that its forces targeted and killed two members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.   

On May 30, ISIS militants attacked a security checkpoint for the Iraqi federal police in the Mutasim subdistrict in Salah ad-Din province. The attack killed one member of the federal police and injured five others. 

On June 1, a roadside IED exploded against an Iraqi army vehicle in the Kraw mountain area near Makhmour in southeastern Ninewa. The explosion killed two Iraqi soldiers and injured two others.

On June 2, the Iraqi security forces (ISF) launched a new operation targeting ISIS militants in the southwestern regions of Kirkuk. Prime Minister Kadhimi was in Kirkuk to oversee the operation, which aims to cover nearly 800 square kilometers of territory between Kirkuk and Salah ad-Din provinces that have seen a spike in ISIS attacks. Two airstrikes by the International Coalition in support of the ISF killed at least 13 ISIS militants in Wadi Shai south of Kirkuk. Initial reports from the new operation indicated that the ISF killed two more ISIS militants, destroyed at least eight tunnels or hideouts uncovered various explosives and munitions, including two vehicle borne IEDs. On the second day of operations, the ISF seized seven vehicles used by ISIS, including one vehicle borne IED and destroyed an unspecified number of ISIS positions in Wadi Shai and north of the Udheim dam. 

On June 2, Iraq’s counter terrorism service (CTS) conducted security operations near al-Hadhar in southwestern Ninewa and Jurf al-Sakhr southwest of Baghdad. The International Coalition supported the CTS operations with airstrikes that killed an unspecified number of ISIS militants and destroyed tunnels and hideouts used by the militants.

On June 3, a roadside IED explosion wounded at least ten members of the ISF while they were conducting a search operation in Wadi Shai southwest of Kirkuk.

On June 4, a spokesman for the Iraqi commander in chief said that the International Coalition killed 19 ISIS militants and destroyed 46 caves used by ISIS in a series of 26 airstrikes in the Qarachogh mountains. The spokesman said the CTS provided precise intelligence and targeting data to the Coalition during security operations in the Makhmour sector in southeastern Ninewa.

On June 4, ISIS militants killed at least three civilians near Jalawla in Diyala province. According to the local police, the militants kidnapped a local farmer and his three sons. The police said the militants later executed the three sons but there was conflicting information about the fate of their father.


Iraq Extends Curfew Orders; KRG Cancels Curfew After Angry Protests; New COVID-19 Cases And Deaths Accelerate Further

On May 30, the Iraqi government decided to impose a total curfew from May 31 through June 6 in an effort to contain an escalating COVID-19 outbreak as the country reported hundreds of new cases each day. The new measures also require everyone to wear face masks outdoors, instruct security forces to prevent gatherings in densely populated areas and order state media to educate the public about prevention and social distancing. All government offices, except essential health, security and basic services are also required to shut down during the curfew. The World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Iraq said the curfew was a necessary measure to contain the spread, and urged Iraqis to comply with government instructions. 

On May 31, the KRG Interior Ministry said it decided after consulting with the region’s prime ministry and health minister to impose a total curfew across the region and prevent travel between its province through June 6 to contain the spread of COVID-19. The orders also shut down all government offices, except the offices of cabinet ministers, as well as all shops, except pharmacies and bakeries. News of the curfew sparked angry protests in Sulaymaniyah province, forcing authorities to reconsider the policy. By June 2, the governors of Sulaymaniyah and Erbil had both said that stores would be allowed to reopen, and apologized for the damaging effects that strict health measures have had on social and economic life in the region. On June 4, the governor of Duhok followed suit and canceled the curfew in the province as well. 

On June 4, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 8,840, representing a sharp increase of 3,383 cases from the 5,457 reported a week earlier. Of these cases, 4,231 are in the hospital and 50 are in the intensive care unit (ICU). According to the ministry’s data there were 92 new deaths during the same period, bringing total fatalities from 179 to 271. Meanwhile the total number of recoveries has increased from 2,971 to 4,338. This week saw further acceleration in new cases in Iraq, with 672 new cases reported on June 4 alone. The last 24 hours also saw fifteen new fatalities. The areas reporting the most new cases are Baghdad’s Rusafa district, where more than a third of the new cases for June 4 were reported, followed by Baghdad’s Karkh district and Naghdad’s medical center, then Sulaymaniyah, Karbala, and Maysan. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 272,259 samples for COVID-19. Earlier this week, Iraq’s Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi urged the public to comply with government instructions and stay at home due to the “critical situation” Iraq is facing. Meanwhile, Baghdad’s health director expressed concern that poor compliance with preventive measures threatens to overwhelm the system and exceed the available hospital bed capacity. 


Baghdad And Erbil Pursue Cost-Cutting Measures; Oil Revenue Sees Marginal Boost In May; Iraq And Iran Sign 2-Year Electricity Sale Agreement

On May 29, a Ninewa representative said security forces were not in complete control of the province’s borders with neighboring countries or with adjacent provinces. Representative Qusay Abbas claimed that recently, smugglers brought in wheat and barley from across the borders and sold them illegally to grain silos in Ninewa. Abbas added that some of the checkpoints on the roads between Ninewa and Salah ad-Din and Kirkuk impose illegal customs fees, urging security forces to investigate the matter. 

On May 30, Iraq’s prime minister convened a meeting of the government financial reforms committee to discuss measures to mitigate the country’s financial crisis. A government statement said the government will pursue several steps to reduce pay inequality, including eliminating double pay, canceling pensions for former residents of the Gulf War-era Rafha refugee camp (which amount to $1,000 per person a month), and rationalizing the salaries the government pays to Iraqis residing abroad. In a post on Twitter, the prime minister said that his government will not pursue solutions for the financial crisis at the expense of low-income groups, promising instead to reduce the benefits enjoyed by senior officials. A draft of the proposed reforms is available in Arabic here

On May 31, a member of Parliament said that the government has asked the legislature to authorize borrowing from domestic and foreign lenders to compensate for the severe loss of revenue due to low oil pieces. A leaked copy of the authorization the government is seeking mentions the authority to issue sovereign debt and borrow from domestic and foreign financial institutions to fund government operations through the end of the year. 

On June 1, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil announced that crude oil exports during May exceeded 99.585 million barrels, for an average of 3.212 million barrels per day (bpd), which is about 226,000 bpd lower than April’s 3.438 million bpd. These exports generated slightly over $2.091 billion in revenue, significantly higher than April’s low of $1.432 billion, but nonetheless dramatically lower than February’s $5.5 billion as global oil prices remained low amid shrinking demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Iraq sold its oil at an average price of $21 per barrel, compared to April’s average of just $13.8 per barrel. Exports from the southern ports in Basra increased to 3.098 million bpd, while northern fields in Kirkuk exported 114,000 bpd through the Turkish port of Ceyhan. The ministry did not mention exports via trucks to Jordan, which usually average 10,000 bpd. These export figures suggest Iraq is exceeding its output quota. In mid May, Iraq announced approximately 700,000 bpd in production cuts in a bid to comply with its obligation to cut output by 1.06 million bpd under the OPEC+ supply cut deal.

On June 3, Iranian energy minister Reza Ardakanian met with the Iraqi president, prime minister, and minister of electricity to discuss energy cooperation between the two countries. The Iranian minister said he signed an agreement with Iraqi officials to sell Iranian electricity to Iraq for two years and obtained $400 million in funds owed to Iran for past energy sales, representing half of the outstanding balance. Iraq relies on gas and electricity imports from Iran to meet its rising energy needs and compensate for its inadequate power generation and transmission infrastructure. Imports on average amount to 28 million cubic meters of natural gas and 1,200 megawatts of electricity, and depend on periodic extensions of U.S. sanctions waivers. 

On June 3, the KRG announced a decision to reduce the salaries of its top-paid officials in a bid to achieve “equality” in pay. KRG spokesman Adil Jotyar said the government, which has paid its employees only once this year, is preparing an audit of the region’s revenue ahead of anticipated meetings with the federal government to settle their budgetary disputes which have put severe strains on the region’s ability to meet its financial obligations. Jotyar did not provide details regarding the amount of intended reductions that will impact senior officials.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from May 28 - June 4, 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
05/29/20Madain, southeast of Baghdad03
06/01/20Makhmour, southeastern Ninewa22
06/03/20Wadi Shai, Kirkuk010

 

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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