- Parliament Approves Seven New Ministers; Protesters Demand Resignations Of Several Governors; Parliament Blocks Government Pay Cut Plans; U.S. And Iraq Launch Strategic Dialogue – On June 6, Iraq’s Parliament voted to approve seven new members of PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s cabinet, thereby filling all 22 cabinet positions. On June 6, Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the Fatah coalition submitted his resignation from Parliament, raising expectations that he wants to assume the leadership of the popular mobilization forces (PMF) committee. On June 7, protesters took to the streets in several Iraqi provinces, including Najaf, Muthanna, Diwaniyah, Dhi-Qar and Babylon in what appears to be a unified push to demand the resignation of governors “from Basra to Babylon.” On June 7, PM Kadhimi appointed Raed Jouhi as his new office director. On June 9, Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia said his group will shut down its offices in “all central and southern provinces until further notice.” On June 10, Parliament voted on a resolution that “rejects any cuts” to public sector salaries and pensions “directly or indirectly.” The resolution also opposes government plans to raise taxes on salaries and pensions. On June 11, the U.S. and Iraq launched the “strategic dialogue” talks that were announced in April as an effort to reset security, political, economic and cultural relations between Baghdad and Washington. more…
- Iraq’s PM Appoints New Military Chief Of Staff; New Rocket Attacks Target Vital Areas In Baghdad – On June 5, a roadside bomb wounded two tribal mobilization fighters in Anbar province. Between June 7-9, gunmen killed four civilians in Ninewa and Baghdad, while an attack injured three policemen in Diyala. On June 10, a mortar attack killed an Iraqi soldier and wounded three others south of Kirkuk. On June 7, Iraqi PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi appointed Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Yarallah as the new chief of staff of the Iraqi military and appointed Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir al-Shammari as Deputy Commander of Joint Operations. On June 9-10, two rockets stuck close to the Baghdad international airport and the American embassy in Baghdad without causing casualties. Between June 5-10, Iraqi security forces killed a suicide bomber in Salah ad-Din province and three other ISIS militants in airstrikes between Diyala and Salah ad-Din. On June 10, Turkish airstrikes killed eight members of the PKK in northern Iraq. On June 11, Denmark said it will send 285 additional military personnel to Iraq to replace Canadian troops whose mission in Iraq is set to expire by the end of 2020. more…
- Iraq Extends Total Curfew; WHO Warns Against Reopening Borders; Hundreds Of Doctors Infected With COVID-19 As Cases Rise Above 16,000 – On June 6, Iraq extended the total nationwide curfew through June 13 while PM Kadhimi acknowledged that increased testing has revealed the severity of the outbreak. The new orders include a lock-down on provinces that are host to pilgrimage sites (such as Najaf and Karbala) and called for stricter measures in provinces with international border crossings. The recent rapid increase in new cases prompted Iraq’s top cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to urge Iraqis to observe social distancing and comply with the instructions of health authorities. On June 7, the WHO representative in Iraq warned that Iraq could experience a second wave of COVID-19 after having seen a rise in cases in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Turkey, and recommended that Iraq delays reopening borders with these countries. On June 7, the KRG Minister of Health warned that conditions in the Kurdistan region were critical and that the region was going through a dangerous new spike in COVID-19 cases. On June 9, Iraq’s Ministry of Migration reported the first cases of COVID-19 infections in camps for internally displaced persons. On June 10, the Iraqi medical association reported that 324 Iraqi doctors had COVID-19, two of whom have died. Most of the cases were in Baghdad, where 170 doctors were infected. On June 11, Iraq’s Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 16,675 representing a new record weekly increase. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 457 while a total of 6,568 patients have recovered. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 339,868 samples for COVID-19. more…
- Thousands Of Iraqi Oil Workers Lost Their Jobs; Iraq Affirms Commitment To Oil Output Cuts; Iraq Reopens Borders To Trade; Fires Destroyed Nearly 3,000 Acres Of Crops – On June 5, Reuters reported citing Iraqi officials in Basra that up to 18% of Iraqi oil workers have lost their jobs or income due to the collapse in oil prices caused by COVID-19. On June 7, Iraq’s electricity minister met with Germany’s ambassador to discuss Iraq’s energy needs and plans developed by Germany’s Siemens for improving the electricity infrastructure. On June 8, Iraq’s Oil Minister stressed that Iraq was committed to meeting its obligations to reduce its crude output under the OPEC+ deal. Meanwhile, Baghdad has approached some of its oil customers and asked them to skip an unspecified number of oil cargoes meant for this month and July. On June 9, Iraqi Border Ports Authority said it has asked the government to approve requests by Basra and Diyala provinces to partially reopen trade routes with Iran at the Shalamcheh and Mendili border crossings. Earlier, Turkish officials said that the Khabur gate between Turkey and Iraq at Duhok province reopened after months of closure due to the pandemic. On June 9, the Iraqi Civil Defense Directorate said that a total of 256 fires destroyed 11,630 dunams (2,873 acres) of farmlands during the harvest season between April 1 and June 8. 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.
On June 6, Iraq’s Parliament voted to approve seven new members of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s cabinet. The new ministers who received the vote of confidence are Fouad Hussein for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Hassan Nadhum for the Culture Ministry, Ivan Faeq for the Migration Ministry, Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar (the head of the Basra Oil Co.) for the Oil Ministry, Salar Abdul-Sattar for the Justice Ministry, Mohammed Karim for the Agriculture Ministry, and Alaa Ahmed for the Trade Ministry. The voting, in which 247 members of Parliament participated, completes the formation of Kadhimi’s cabinet, of which Parliament had approved 15 ministers on May 7. Parliament also authorized the prime minister to create a new “minister of state” portfolio to award to representatives of the Turkman community, who have been demanding a share of cabinet appointments.
On June 6, a member of the parliamentary legal committee said the committee has asked the heads of political blocs to provide input regarding new amendments to the election law. Representative Hussein al-Oqabi said the committee spoke with various blocs and asked the leaders to “reach a consensus formula concerning the system of multiple electoral districts.” Initial submissions reflect divergent views on the subject. On June 9, the Saeroun alliance of Moqtada al-Sadr said it prefers a system comprising 240 electoral districts, each electing one representative, in addition to nine reserved seats for minorities and 80 reserved seats for women-preserving the current size of Parliament. Meanwhile, the Badr organization’s bloc in Parliament presented a proposal involving one district for each 400,000 Iraqis, for a possible total of 100 districts representing Iraq’s estimated 40 million inhabitants. Sunni and Kurdish blocs have not submitted their proposals yet. That election law in question, which Parliament approved in December, lacks specific provisions for deciding the size and boundaries of electoral districts.
On June 6, the head of the Fatah coalition and Badr organization, Hadi al-Amiri submitted his resignation from the Iraqi Parliament. Amiri’s resignation letter, dated June 1, designated Abdul-Karim Younis Aylan as his replacement in the legislature. Parliament approved the resignation and replacement during its June 6 session, while observers speculated that Amiri resigned from Parliament to prepare himself to assume the leadership of the popular mobilization forces (PMF) committee. In a statement, the Fatah coalition said these rumors were “baseless,” stressing that Amiri “has not and will not” seek any executive positions in government and that he resigned so he can focus on his political role as Fatah’s leader.
On June 7, protesters took to the streets in several Iraqi provinces, including Najaf, Muthanna, Diwaniyah, Dhi-Qar and Babylon. In Diwaniya, protesters called for sacking the governor, Zuheir al-Shalan, whom they accused of squandering public resources, and replacing him with a judge chosen by the prime minister. Similarly, protesters in Najaf too demanded the resignation of the current governor, Luay al-Yasiri. Clashes between protesters and security forces caused a number of fires, including one that hit the governor’s residence. One protester was killed on June 9 when a group of men armed with knives attacked protesters gathered at Najaf’s Haboubi square. In al-Muthanna, protesters demanded the resignation of governor Ahmed Manfi Jawda and shut down the local government building. According to a report by al-Mada based on interviews with activists, protest organizers from several provinces have agreed to intensify protests demanding the resignation of governors “from Basra to Babylon.” In Babylon and Baghdad, there were reports of protests by hundreds of government employees demanding payment of delayed salaries. In Dhi-Qar, protesters demanded the prosecution of former police chief Jamil al-Shemmari whom they held responsible for deadly attacks on protesters. The public pressure achieved some tangible results in Dhi-Qar’s case, where the local government said on June 9 that courts in the province issued arrest warrants for 17 officers and officials involved in the crackdown on protests, including Shemmari.
On June 7, al-Sumaria reported citing political sources that Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi appointed Raed Jouhi as the director of his office. Jouhi, a judge, is said to be close to Nouri al-Maliki, a former prime minister and head of the State of Law coalition. Jouhi, along with two senior members of the Badr organization competed for the powerful position, which was held by Hamid al-Ghazi, a follower of Moqtada al-Sadr during the previous government of Adil Abdul-Mahdi. The replacement of Ghazi angered the Saeroun alliance of Moqtada al-Sadr, prompting the group’s representatives to boycott the Parliament’s June 8 meeting.
On June 9, Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia said his group will shut down its offices in “all central and southern provinces until further notice.” In the statement announcing the closures, Khazali cited a wide range of reasons behind the decision, from worsening COVID-19 outbreak, to foreign and Iraqi actors conspiring to attack militia positions to spark “infighting.” Khazali’s statement did not mention any alleged local conspirators by name.
On June 9, Planning Minister Khalid al-Battal convened a meeting of the 2020 census “operations room” to discuss plans to conduct the country’s first census in decades. Battal said the combined challenges of funding and COVID-19 greatly limit the ability to deploy the 150,000 surveyors who are to conduct the census, explaining that Iraq will conduct the census “completely electronically.” Participating officials described progress in developing the plans, electronic forms and information technology infrastructure for the census, citing good coordination with the government of the Kurdistan region, UNDP and other UN organizations.
On June 10, Iraq’s Parliament voted on a resolution that “rejects any cuts” to public sector salaries and pensions “directly or indirectly.” The resolution also “rejects the imposition of any taxes” on salaries and pensions, with the exception of the “presidencies,” ministers, members of Parliament “and special grade” employees. The resolution is the culmination of attempts to block paygrade reform plans that Prime Minister Kadhimi outlined on May 30. On June 8, Hassan al-Kabi, Iraq’s deputy speaker of Parliament attacked Kadhimi’s plans, calling them “illegal and inappropriate.” Kabi argued that the government should instead pursue other sources of revenue: recovering funds stolen through corruption, pensions paid to members of the security institutions under Saddam’s regime, and collecting customs fees. The State of Law coalition on Nouri al-Maliki echoed Kabi’s criticism of the government plans, and the Parliament’s finance committee also said that the plans to cut salaries lacked legal support. Hisham Dawood, an adviser to the prime minister defended the intended pay cutting plans, stressing during a June 9 press conference that they will only target the highest-paid government employees. Another government adviser, Mudhar Salih, explained on June 10 that the government was considering plans to impose 10-15% income tax on the total compensation (instead of basic pay) of employees and pensioners starting this month. Salih added that those receiving less than ID 500,000 a month (~ $415) would be exempt from these tax changes.
On June 11, the United States and Iraq launched the “strategic dialogue” talks that were announced in April as an effort to reset bilateral security, political, economic and cultural relations between Baghdad and Washington. A meeting agenda distributed by the U.S. State Department outlined the discussion topics for the two hour opening session held via video conference. The agenda allocated 30 minutes each for introductions, security discussions focusing on the presence of U.S. forces, and economic talks focusing on Iraq’s plans to achieve energy independence. Additionally, there were 20 minutes set to discuss political issues, especially early elections and violence against protesters, as well as ten minutes to discuss cultural exchanges and returning archeological artifacts taken from Iraq.
On June 5, a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) detonated against a vehicle transporting tribal mobilization fighters in the “Kilo 45” area west of Ramadi in the Anbar province. The explosion wounded two of the tribal fighters.
On June 5, Iraqi security forces (ISF) killed a suicide bomber who reportedly attempted to detonate his explosive vest in a group of farmers. The incident occurred west of Tulul al-Baj in the Salah ad-Din province.
On June 7, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, appointed Lieutenant General Abdul-Amir Rashid Yarallah as the new chief of staff of the Iraqi military. Yarallah will replace retired General Othman al-Ghanmi who recently became the Minister of Interior in Kadhimi’s government. Additionally, Iraqi Defense Minister Juma Inad said that the prime minister also agreed to appoint Lieutenant General Abdul-Amir al-Shemmari as Deputy Commander of Joint Operations.
On June 7, security sources said an armed attack on a police patrol injured three Diyala policemen. The attack occurred in the village of Sheikh Saeed between Baquba and Muqdadiyah. The sources did not specify who was behind the attack or what type of weapon the attackers used.
On June 7, security forces in Mosul found an unidentified body south of the Qayyara district with signs of gunshot wounds to the head. Further south in the Iraqi capital, unidentified gunmen shot and killed a civilian in Sadr City in east of Baghdad. On June 9, a similar attack killed a woman and her daughter in the al-Bunouk area in northeast Baghdad.
On June 9, Iraqi security sources said a rocket hit close to the Baghdad international airport in southwest Baghdad. Security forces think the rocket was launched from the Arab Khudair region southwest of Baghdad. There were no reports of casualties or significant material damages. On June 10, another rocket was launched from an area close to the Shaab Stadium in east Baghdad and struck in the Green Zone, near the American embassy. There were no reports of casualties.
On June 9, a stun bomb exploded inside the vehicle belonging to a member of the dissolved Ninewa provincial council. Further south, a similar explosive detonated near the residence of a university professor in the Rifai district of Dhi-Qar province. There were no reports of casualties in either attack.
On June 10, Iraqi security sources said an airstrike killed two suspected ISIS militants. The airstrike targeted a hideout used by the militants near an abandoned village between Diyala and Salah ad-Din provinces. On June 11, security sources reported the death of an ISIS commander in an airstrike on his vehicle also in the area between Diyala and Salah ad-Din.
On June 10, the Turkish military said that it conducted airstrikes that killed eight members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. The airstrikes targeted the “Zap and Haftanin” regions near the Turkish border in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
On June 10, suspected ISIS members attacked members of the Iraqi army (11th division) in the village of al-Atshanah, near Daquq south of Kirkuk city. The attack, in which a mortar shell struck an army vehicle, killed one soldier and wounded three others.
On June 10, the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS announced a plan to withdraw Spanish troops from the Besmaya Iraqi military base southeast of Baghdad. The troops have been in Iraq as part of the International Coalition’s effort to train and advise Iraqi security forces. After the departure from Basmaya, Spain will maintain a small group of 80 service members who will continue to assist the Iraqi military. Meanwhile, Denmark announced its plans to send 285 additional military personnel to Iraq. The new Danish contingent will take over the training of Iraqi security forces from Canadian troops whose mission in Iraq is set to expire by the end of 2020.
On June 11, security sources said that suspected ISIS militants fired mortar rounds at the village of al-Zahra near the Abbarah subdistrict in Diyala province. The attack did not cause any casualties.
On June 6, Iraq’s Higher Committee for Health and National Safety issued new regulations to deal with a worsening COVID-19 outbreak in Iraq. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who chaired the meeting, acknowledged that increased testing has revealed the severity of the problem in Iraq. The committee issued orders to extend the total nationwide curfew through June 13. Starting June 14, the curfew will become partial, extending from 6pm to 5am Sunday through Wednesday, while maintaining total curfew conditions Thursday through Saturday. The new orders emphasize the ban on large gatherings and reiterated that civilians must wear masks in public. The new orders include a lockdown on provinces that are host to pilgrimage sites (such as Najaf and Karbala) and called for stricter measures in provinces with international border crossings. Vehicle traffic will be limited to security agencies and health workers. The committee also recommended bigger fines for essential businesses violating social distancing rules or any other pre-established prevention and sanitation guidelines. The rapid increase in new cases in recent weeks prompted Iraq’s top cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to urge Iraqis to observe social distancing and comply with the instructions of health authorities. In his message, Sistani reminded Iraqis that the country’s “weak” health system can’t provide enough care for the “increasing numbers of patients who have overwhelmed the hospitals.”
On June 7, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Iraq warned that Iraq could experience a second wave of COVID-19 after having seen a rise in cases in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Turkey. Adham Ismail, the WHO representative, pointed out that the lack of a vaccine for COVID-19, means the pandemic will continue until one is created. Ismail criticized the move to reopen borders and resume trade with neighboring countries, recommending the “postponement of commercial activity with countries witnessing the second wave.”
On June 7, the Minister of Health in the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) warned that the health conditions in the Kurdistan region were critical. Minister Saman Barzanji said the region, which saw 142 cases reported on June 9, and another 172 cases reported on June 11, was going through a dangerous new spike in COVID-19 cases. However, the governor of Erbil sought to reassure the public that the situation was under control. Governor Farsat Sofi stated that authorities have designated 27 hotels for the use as isolation sites for COVID-19 patients and that authorities were working to ensure compliance with health regulations. Sofi urged the region’s citizens to follow all prevention guidelines, emphasizing that while the situation remains under control, failure to comply with preventive measures could lead to “dire consequences.”
On June 9, Iraq’s Ministry of Migration reported the first cases of COVID-19 infections in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). According to the ministry, the first confirmed case is an IDP from Salah ad-Din province residing at Ashti camp in Sulaymaniyah province. A ministry official said authorities have taken measures to stop movement to and from the camp, and will be distributing additional face masks to the camp’s 9,328 residents. Iraqi Foreign Minister, Fuad Hussein urged the international community during a conference on the effect of the pandemic on IDP and refugee populations to help find reliable financial resources to be able to take care of the vulnerable IDP and refugee community in Iraq (combined exceed 1.6 million people) during the pandemic. Recent statistics from REACH show the difficulties that IDP camp residents face when attempting to get health services. For example, in Sulaymaniyah and parts of Diyala, 97% and 90% of households, respectively, cited high costs as a barrier to accessing healthcare. Between a third and a half of households in camps in Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk and Diyala mentioned the lack of medicine as a main obstacle to getting quality healthcare.
On June 10, the Iraqi Medical Association reported that 324 Iraqi doctors have been infected with COVID-19, two of whom have died. The numbers reflect the impact on medical workers in Iraqi provinces except the Kurdistan region. Most of the cases were in Baghdad, where 170 doctors were infected, followed by Basra (37) and Karbala (27). The association warned that the number of affected doctors is expected to rise further in the near future. The increase in cases affecting medical workers in Iraq raises alarms about the ability of the health system to handle a worsening COVID-19 outbreak, particularly because Iraq already faces a shortage of doctors and has only 0.8 doctors/10,000 people.
On June 11, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 16,675, representing a sharp increase of 7,835 cases from the 8,840 reported a week earlier. Of these cases, 9,650 are in the hospital and 98 are in the intensive care unit (ICU). According to the ministry’s data there were 186 new deaths during the same period, bringing total fatalities from 271 to 457. Meanwhile the total number of recoveries has increased from 4,338 to 6,568. This week saw further acceleration in new cases in Iraq, with 1,261 new cases reported on June 11 alone. The last 24 hours also saw 31 new fatalities. The areas reporting the most new cases were Baghdad’s Karkh and Rusafa districts, where about 44% of the new cases for June 11 were reported. There is also a significant spike in new cases in Wasit province, which reported 233 cases in the last 24 hours. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 339,868 samples for COVID-19.
On June 5, Reuters reported citing Iraqi officials in Basra that up to 18% of Iraqi oil workers have lost their jobs or income due to the collapse in oil prices caused by COVID-19. The decline in oil prices and revenue prompted the Iraqi government in March to ask international oil companies operating or supporting operations in the country’s major fields to reduce spending by 30%, leading to the thousands of workers being laid off. According to the Iraqi official, “10,000 to 15,000 are now out of work” because their foreign employers either fired them or placed them on “unpaid leave.” This disproportionately impacts southern cities like Basra, where a large number of jobs is linked to the oil industry. As oil revenue makes up more than 90% of the nation’s budget, this COVID-19 crisis has had a serious economic impact on Iraq’s economy.
On June 7, Iraq’s electricity minister met with Germany’s ambassador to discuss Iraq’s energy needs. The minister and ambassador discussed plans developed by Germany’s Siemens for improving the electricity infrastructure in Iraq, as well as the issues of gas capture, renewables, and expanding related investments in Iraq.
On June 8, Iraq’s Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar spoke with his Saudi counterpart and discussed measures to stabilize the oil markets. Abdul-Jabbar stressed that Iraq was committed to meeting its obligations to reduce its crude output under the OPEC+ deal. The OPEC+ agreement, signed in April, requires Iraq to cut output by 1.06 million barrels per day (bpd). Oil exports data released by Iraq’s Oil Ministry showed a reduction of just over 226,000 bpd in May compared to April. There are, however, new indications that Iraq intends to slash its exports further. On June 9, Bloomberg reported that Baghdad has approached some of its oil customers and asked them to skip an unspecified number of oil cargoes meant for this month and July. Earlier this week, OPEC and other major producers decided to continue the oil output cuts until the end of next month in a bid to shore up prices that have suffered greatly from shrinking demand during the global pandemic.
On June 9, Iraqi Border Ports Authority said it has asked the government to approve requests by Basra and Diyala provinces to partially reopen trade routes with Iran at the Shalamcheh and Mendili border crossings. Iraq started rolling back border closures meant to contain COVID-19 in early May when it had partially reopened the Zurbatyah border crossing with Iran at Wasit province. The Chairman of the Border Ports Authority, Omar al-Waeli, added that the National Health and Safety Committee directed his department to work with health departments in the concerned provinces to take necessary health precautions with regard to COVID-19. Al-Waeli emphasized the economic necessity of reopening borders to resume the flow of goods into the market. Meanwhile, trade between Iraq and Turkey is returning to normal. On June 4, Turkish Trade Minister Rohsar Pakjan said that the Khabur gate between Turkey and Iraq at Duhok province reopened after months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On June 9, the Iraqi Civil Defense Directorate said in a statement that a total of 256 fires destroyed 11,630 dunams (2,873 acres) of farmlands during the harvest season between April 1 and June 8. The statement attributed 78 of the fires to electrical accidents and another 55 fires to causes ranging from “external fire source” to “terrorist acts”. The statement also said that sparks from harvesters and cigarette butts caused another 61 fires, while 62 incidents remained under investigation.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
Casualties Due To IEDs from June 4 - June 11, 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.
|06/05/20||West of Ramadi, Anbar province||0||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.