ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: JUNE 18 – JUNE 25, 2020

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Key Takeaways:

  • Election Law Deadlock Continues; PM Wants To Eliminate Double Pay In Public Sector; KRG Seeks New Oil And Budget Deal; Parliament Approves $17 Billion Borrowing Bill – On June 18, political sources said that major political blocs continue to have strong disagreements over the election law annex that will decide the size and boundaries of electoral districts. On June 18, PM Kadhimi instructed all ministries to submit details on their organizational structure, including lists of all senior appointments (also known as “special grade” employees) within 72 hours while a government spokesman revealed that there were 18,000 people who received more than one salary in the Ministry of Education alone. On June 20, the KRG president visited Baghdad and met with PM Kadhimi to discuss oil and budget disputes while the KRG PM confirmed the region’s willingness to fulfill its obligations toward Baghdad and sent a delegation to Baghdad to negotiate amendments to the 2019 oil and budget agreements which required the KRG to deliver 250,000 barrels per day of oil to Baghdad in exchange a share of the federal budget. On June 24, the Iraqi Parliament approved a new law authorizing the government to borrow up to $17 billion from domestic and international lenders to cover the financial deficit resulting from the decline in oil revenue. more…
  • New Turkish Operations Kill And Displace Iraqi Civilians; Militia Endorses Bombings In Baghdad; Iraqi Forces Conclude Large Scale Anti-ISIS Operation – On June 19, new Turkish airstrikes killed at least four civilians and injured one more near the town of Shiladze in Duhok. The new wave of anti-PKK operations forced more civilians to leave their villages near the Turkish border this week. Between June 19 – 22, two IEDs killed a member of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), injured three more fighters and two civilians in Salah ad-Din and Ninewa. Two other ISIS attacks killed three PMF members and injured four others in Diyala and Salah ad-Din. On June 22, a rocket struck near the Baghdad International Airport southwest of Baghdad while an IED exploded targeting a liquor store in central Baghdad. A spokesman for the Kataib Hezbollah militia expressed his support of the bombing, commended those responsible and called on followers to “restore honor” to Iraq. On June 23, the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service, supported by 59 airstrikes by the International Coalition killed 12 ISIS militants near Makhmour. On June 24, Iraqi forces concluded a large-scale operation across an area of 4,853 square kilometres. Iraqi forces discovered at least 31 hideouts and munitions stockpiles, six IED-making workshops, 11 tunnels, and confiscated various weapons, explosives and vehicles. more…

  • Iraq Builds Field Hospitals To Treat COVID-19 Patients, And Provinces Tighten Curfews As New Cases And Deaths Soar – On June 19, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said it will set up four field hospitals with a total capacity of 2,425 beds to offer healthcare for the rapidly increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients in Baghdad. Meanwhile, Iraq’s prime minister and health minister asked the Iraqi military to help provide more hospital beds and isolation facilities. Between June 20 – 25 at least six Iraqi provinces ordered stricter curfews to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, and authorities extended the ban on all commercial passenger flights until July 1. On June 25, Iraq’s Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 39,139 representing a new record weekly increase. The spread is accelerating rapidly, with more than 2,400 cases reported in the last 24 hours alone. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 1,437 while a total of 18,051 patients have recovered. To date, Iraq has tested 488,803 samples for COVID-19. more…

  • Iraq To Pay For Iranian Energy Imports With Food And Medicine; KRG Announces Salary Cuts; Baghdad To Assert Control Over Borders To Capture Lost Revenue – On June 20, Iraqi and Iranian officials agreed to settle $2 billion of Iraq’s debt to Iran, which is associated with Iraqi gas and electricity imports, by having Iraq provide food and medicine to Iran. On June 21, KRG said it will implement salary cuts starting this to cope with the financial crisis facing the Kurdistan region. The cuts will range from 21% to 50% for mid and high-earning employees but will not affect employees earning less than ID 300,000 (approximately $250) a month, or the families of veterans and martyrs, political prisoners, and persons with special needs. On June 25, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said his government will soon launch a campaign to “retake control” of the country’s border crossings. Kadhimi added that militias are controlling many crossings, costing the country billions in lost revenue. 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.


Election Law Deadlock Continues; PM Wants To Eliminate Double Pay In Public Sector; KRG Seeks New Oil And Budget Deal; Parliament Approves $17 Billion Borrowing Bill

On June 18, the Hikma Movement said that major Iraqi political blocs continue to have strong disagreements over the annexes of the country’s election law. Earlier this month, the parliamentary legal committee asked the heads of the political blocs for input regarding new amendments to the election law passed in December, especially with regard to an annex that will decide the size and boundaries of electoral districts. According to Hikma representative Jasim al-Bakhati, both Hikma and the Saeroun Alliance of Moqtada al-Sadr support proposals to treat each administrative district (Qadha) as one electoral district. The State of Law Coalition led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and other groups Bakhati didn’t mention by name, prefer a system based on larger electoral circles, which typically favors larger political parties, dividing each one of Iraq’s 18 provinces to no more than three electoral districts. 

On June 18, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi instructed all of his government’s ministries to prepare and submit details on their organizational structure, including lists with the information of all senior appointments (also known as “special grade” employees) within 72 hours. The move appears designed to take stock of waste in government ministries as the new government seeks to cope with a deep financial crisis precipitated by low oil prices.  Kadhimi later emphasized that he was determined to pursue financial and economic reforms, which he had outlined on May 30, which included eliminating double pay salaries and rationalizing the pensions paid to former residents of the Gulf War-era Rafha refugee camp.  On June 22, Kadhimi also ordered the controversial Rafha pensions to be limited to only one person per household physically present in Iraq, capping payments at ID one million ($800) per month, and only to recipients who receive no other salaries from the state. Kadhimi’s government argues that many public sector employees receive more than one salary from the state, resulting in waste and inequality. On June 23, a spokesman for the prime minister said that there were 18,000 people who received more than one salary in the Ministry of Education alone. On June 22, Finance Minister Ali Allawi said reform measures were urgent given the “existential economic crisis” the country is facing. Parliament’s finance committee expects the government to cancel plans to submit a budget bill for the remainder of 2020, and instead focus on preparing the budget for 2021, as Finance Minister Allawi alluded to in earlier remarks.  The minister said he would submit a full reform plan to Parliament in three months, which will include two years of austerity measures. Kadhimi’s plans to cut spending and shrink the public sector payroll have met with opposition from the public, as well political opposition from parties seeking to preserve the benefits of Rafha pensioners, many of whom have ties to these parties from their days of opposition to Saddam Hussein. 

On June 20, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Nechirvan Barzani visited Baghdad and met with Prime Minister al-Kadhimi to discuss the economic crisis caused by the decline in oil revenue amid the COVID-19 pandemic.The two leaders spoke about resolving disputes between Baghdad and Erbil according to the constitution and emphasized the need for cooperation to address challenges facing all Iraqi provinces through “national cooperation.” Barzani met with Iraqi President Barham Salih for similar talks and met later with several political leaders, including Fatah Alliance leader Hadi al-Amiri, Hikma Movement leader Ammar al-Hakim, Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, and State of Law Coalition leader Nouri al-Maliki. Discussions addressed several issues, including Turkish military operations in the Kurdistan region, the state of U.S. military presence in Iraq, and ongoing discussions to finalize the election law. On June 22, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani confirmed the region’s willingness to fulfill its obligations toward the federal government in order to reach a comprehensive agreement with Baghdad. The KRG decided to send a delegation to Baghdad in order to resume negotiations to amend the 2019 oil and budget agreements which required the KRG to deliver 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil to Baghdad in exchange for Baghdad releasing the region’s share of the federal budget. The KRG’s failure to meet its oil obligations has caused recurring tensions and in mid-April prompted the federal government to halt payments to the KRG. Diyar Berwari, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the ruling party in the Kurdistan region, said the proposed amendments in light of the current economic crisis may include sending up to 400,000 bpd of oil to the federal government and certain changes in the management of ports of entry under KRG control to maximize revenue.  A KRG cabinet official said the delegation, led by Qubad Talabani, the KRG deputy prime minister, will focus during its meetings in Baghdad on oil production policy, resolving budgetary disputes, and persuading Baghdad to resume the payments, which the KRG needs in order to pay hundreds of thousands of public sector employees. On June 23, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said it would suspend participation in parliament if the KRG delegation did not reach an agreement with Baghdad. 

On June 24, a Cabinet source said Prime Minister al-Kadhimi appointed Hussein al-Hindawi as a special advisor for election affairs. The appointment came after Kadhimi met with the Special Representative for the UN General-Secretary in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and discussed the government’s election preparation and the work of the UN mission in Iraq. Kadhimi affirmed that his government was “determined to prepare well for elections and overcome the obstacles that afflicted previous elections.” Kadhimi told the UN envoy that the international community’s support for electoral preparations would enhance the credibility of the process. 

On June 24, the Iraqi Parliament approved a new law authorizing the government to borrow from domestic and international lenders to cover the financial deficit resulting from the decline in oil revenue. The legislation authorizes Finance Minister Ali Allawi to borrow up to ID 15 trillion (approximately $12 billion) domestically and $5 billion internationally on the condition that at least 15% of all loans are invested into development projects in Iraq, prioritizing provinces that received lower funding levels in the past. The bill also allows the government to continue to seek loans to finance development projects approved under previous national budgets. The new law also says the Cabinet must provide Parliament with its plan for economic reforms within 60 days. 

On June 24, Prime Minister al-Kadhimi met with Jordanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman al-Safadi. Both parties agreed upon the importance of strengthening relations between the two countries in economic, public health, and strategic matters. Minister al-Safadi also met with Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi to discuss economic relations, including linking the electrical grids of Iraq and Jordan. Safadi also met his Iraqi counterpart, Foreign Minister Fouad Hussain, and they later held trilateral discussions with Egypt’s foreign minister via video conference to discuss furthering cooperation between the three states. The ministers also addressed regional developments in Syria, Libya, and Palestine. 


New Turkish Operations Kill And Displace Iraqi Civilians; Militia Endorses Bombings In Baghdad; Iraqi Forces Conclude Large Scale Anti-ISIS Operation

On June 19, local sources in Duhok province said that Turkish airstrikes killed at least four civilians and injured one more near the town of Shiladze. Starting on June 15, Turkey launched a wave of airstrikes and military incursions inside the Kurdistan region of Iraq targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Ankara considers a terrorist organization. As airstrikes continued, Turkish officials announced plans to establish multiple temporary bases in northern Iraq in addition to the 30 already located in the area. The Iraqi government has summoned Turkey’s ambassador twice to condemn the attacks, demanding that Ankara halts its operations and withdraws its forces. Meanwhile, the KRG asked Turkey to respect Iraq’s sovereignty and withdraw from the Kurdistan region. On June 21, KRG security forces reported that Turkey continued its bombardment of areas near the border in Zakho, but there were no reports of further casualties. Locals in Shiladze took to the streets to protest the deadly June 19 airstrikes, and clashes with police officers injured at least two protesters as the nearly 600 protesters approached a nearby Turkish observation post. Last week there were reports that civilians evacuated at least eight villages to escape the violence, and on June 22, Iraqi officials said that more civilians were leaving their villages near the Turkish border to avoid the airstrikes. According to AP, the recent escalation has killed  at least seven Iraqi civilians and two Turkish soldiers.

On June 19, Iraqi security forces (ISF) said an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated  at the entrance to the Qayyarah subdistrict south of Mosul. The explosion injured two civilians. 

On June 20, Iraqi security forces said that a suspected ISIS sniper killed a member of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in an attack near the village of Nafwal village, near Muqdadiyah in Diyala province.

On June 20, Iraqi security forces said that an IED detonated near a PMF patrol (Brigade 21) in the al-Eith region in southeast Salah ad-Din. The explosion killed one PMF member and injured three others.

On June 21, Iraqi security forces said ISIS militants attacked PMF positions (Brigade 35) in the Zalayah region, near Mkeishifah in southern Salah ad-Din province. The attack killed two PMF members and injured four others. The ISF said that the clashes between the PMF and the attackers left an unspecified number of ISIS militants dead or wounded.

On June 22, Iraqi security forces said a Katyusha rocket struck near the Baghdad International Airport southwest of Baghdad. The ISF said the attack originated from the Dahna region north of Abu Ghraib, where the ISF subsequently seized a rocket launcher during a search operation. There were no reports of casualties.

On June 22, an IED exploded targeting a liquor store in the Karrada district in central Baghdad. No particular group claimed responsibility for the attack, but a spokesman for the Kataib Hezbollah militia expressed his support of the bombing in a post on Twitter, in which he commended those responsible and called on followers to “restore honor” to Iraq. 

On June 23, an Iraqi military spokesman said that the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) killed 12 ISIS militants during security operations in the Qarachogh mountains near Makhmour, between Ninewa and Erbil provinces. The International Coalition against ISIS supported the CTS operation with 59 airstrikes on ISIS hideouts in the area. 

On June 24, Iraqi security sources said five mortar shells struck the villages of Mukhaisa and Abu Karma in Diyala province. The attack caused material damages but there were no reports of casualties.

On June 24, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command presented results from the third phase of a large-scale security operation titled “Iraq’s Heroes.” The statement said Iraqi ground forces, backed by the air force searched an area of 4,853 square kilometers, including 89 villages. The ISF discovered at least 31 hideouts and munitions stockpiles as well as six IED-making workshops. The ISF also destroyed 11 tunnels used by ISIS militants and confiscated various weapons, explosives and vehicles. The statement added that an unspecified number of IEDs struck army and PMF vehicles, killing two PMF members and wounding ten soldiers and PMF fighters. 


Iraq Builds Field Hospitals To Treat COVID-19 Patients, And Provinces Tighten Curfews As New Cases And Deaths Soar

On June 19, the Iraqi Ministry of Health announced that it will set up four field hospitals with a total capacity of 2,425 beds to offer healthcare for the rapidly increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients in Baghdad. The four facilities will be located at the Baghdad fairgrounds (525 beds), the “Saraya al-Salam” building (300 beds), the Baghdad and Mustansiriyah student dorm (1,000 beds) and the Youth Ministry hall (600 beds). The Ministry added that charities affiliated with the shrines of Karbala and Najaf are working to set up 22 additional facilities containing 2,000 hospital beds in Baghdad and other provinces. The Ministry’s aim is for these field hospitals to take the burden off of overburdened hospitals and ensure that every sector has a health center for those affected by COVID-19. On June 25, Iraq’s prime minister and health minister met with the medical departments of the Iraqi military and PMF to discuss options to use the military’s resources to support the Health Ministry in creating more hospital beds and isolation facilities equipped to deal with COVID-19 patients. 

On June 20, officials in Diwaniya and Dhi-Qar provinces announced total week-long curfews in response to the continuing increase in COVID-19 infections. Karbala and Babylon quickly followed with their own total curfew orders. Officials in Babylon also canceled all existing travel exemptions from the curfew and ordered all businesses to shut down, including takeout and delivery services for restaurants. On June 22, Wasit province officials issued a total, open-ended curfew beginning on June 24 and decided to seal checkpoints linking the province with its neighbors, urging residents to stock up on essentials. Authorities in Salah ad-Din too cancelled all previous movement exemptions and banned gatherings in response to high COVID-19 infection rates. On June 22, the Parliamentary Crisis Cell called for a comprehensive curfew for Baghdad and other provinces. On June 23, KRG Minister of Health Saman Barzanji called for reimposing the curfew in the Kurdistan region to contain the spread of the virus. On June 25, Najaf became the latest province to order a total curfew, which will be in effect starting June 27. Earlier this week, the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority extended the nationwide ban on all commercial passenger flights, which started on March 17, until July 1.

On June 21, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration announced that 20 camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Anbar province would soon close due to the return of camp residents to their home districts. In 2014, nearly 70,000 people resided in 70 camps throughout Anbar after ISIS took control over one third of Iraq. Since Iraq reclaimed all territories once controlled by ISIS, all but 22 of the facilities have closed. With the closure of the 20 camps in Anbar, only two camps will remain, and all 1,706 IDP families will be asked to relocate to these facilities. Commenting on efforts to resettle remaining IDPs across Iraq, the Minister of Immigration and Displacement, Evan Faek Jabro said on June 25 that many families are refusing to return to their home district and prefer to resettle elsewhere. The minister added that the financial crisis is also making it difficult for authorities to support IDPs who wish to return home with the cash stipends meant to help them rebuild their lives.  

On June 25, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 39,139, representing a sharp increase of 13,422 cases from the 25,717 reported a week earlier. Of these cases, 19,651 are in the hospital and 234 are in the intensive care unit (ICU). According to the ministry’s data, there were 581 new deaths during the same period, bringing total fatalities from 856 to 1,437. Meanwhile the total number of recoveries has increased from 11,333 to 18,051. This week saw further acceleration in new cases in Iraq, with 2,437 new cases reported on June 25 alone. The areas reporting the most new cases were Baghdad with 604 cases, followed by Basra with 276 cases, and Dhi Qar, which reported 262 cases in the last 24 hours. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 488,803 samples for COVID-19. 


Iraq To Pay For Iranian Energy Imports With Food And Medicine; KRG Announces Salary Cuts; Baghdad To Assert Control Over Borders To Capture Lost Revenue

On June 20, Iraqi and Iranian officials agreed to settle Iraq’s debt to Iran, which is associated with Iraqi gas and electricity imports from its eastern neighbor, by providing food and medicine to Iran. The announcement followed meetings last week between  the head of the Central Bank of Iran Abdolnasser Hemmati and the Iraqi prime minister in Baghdad. Iranian officials said that Iraq owes Tehran $2 billion for previous energy imports and the new payment arrangement is designed to work around U.S. sanctions on Iran which create obstacles for countries trying to trade and conduct large financial transactions with Iran.

On June 21, KRG said it will implement salary cuts starting in June to cope with the financial crisis facing the Kurdistan region. The KRG said the cuts will not affect employees earning less than ID 300,000 (approximately $250) a month, or the families of veterans and martyrs, political prisoners, and those with special needs. The salaries of other employees will be reduced by 21% while senior officials will see their salaries reduced by half. Last month, KRG president Masrour Barzani issued a statement saying his government faced $27 billion in debt, blaming Baghdad’s policy of withholding the KRG share of the national budget, and alluding to plans for austerity measures. The KRG government is hopeful that negotiations with Baghdad will persuade the federal government to restart monthly payments, which averaged $400 million before Baghdad halted payments in April, and allow the KRG to resume paying salaries in full. On June 21, civilians protested in Sulaimaniyah against the KRG decision. Some protestors burned tires and blocked traffic, which led to security forces firing tear gas to disperse them. Protests continued into June 23 with public sector employees denouncing the pay cuts as “injustice.” On June 22, the PUK, which is the second largest party in the KRG said it strongly disagrees with the regional government’s decision to cut salaries. 

On June 25, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said his government will soon launch a campaign to “retake control” of the country’s border crossings. Kadhimi added that militias are controlling many crossings, leading to a loss of “3 to 4 billion” at each port of entry. The prime minister was unclear about whether the “3 to 4 billion” is in reference to Iraqi dinars or US dollars. 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
06/19/20Qayyara, Ninew 02
06/20/20al-Eith region, southeast Salah ad-Din13
06/24/20Karrada, central Baghdad00

 

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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