- Militias Attack PM Kadhimi Over Raid On Kataib Hezbollah; PM Sacks Media Commissioner, Eyes Changes In 6,000 Posts; Judiciary Drops Charges Against Former Finance Minister – On June 26, Qais al-Khazali and a Kataib Hezbollah spokesman attacked PM Kadhimi after Iraqi counter-terrorism forces arrested 14 Kataib Hezbollah members plotting rocket attacks in Baghdad. Khazali warned Kadhimi against trying to prevent attacks on U.S. forces, arguing that no PM before him attempted to do so. Kataib Hezbollah accused Kadhimi of ordering the raid to cover up his alleged involvement in the assassinations of its leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. On June 26, President Barham Salih urged Turkey to end its military operations in northern Iraq amid an escalation of Turkish operations against the PKK that has also killed and displaced Iraqi civilians. On June 28, PM Kadhimi sacked the chief commissioner of the Communications and Media Commission as part of wider changes that will encompass 6,000 high-ranking officials. On June 30, the Iraqi judiciary released former Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi and dropped all charges against him after he turned himself in. Speaker Halbousi said Issawi’s return after years of exile was the fruit of “social and political reconciliation” efforts by the UN and President Salih. more…
- Counter-Terrorism Forces Arrest Kataib Hezbollah Members Planning Rocket Attacks, Take Over Important Border Crossing; Turkish Operations Inside Iraq Cause More Civilian Casualties – On June 25, Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) arrested 14 members of the Kataib Hezbollah militia for planning rocket attacks on government buildings. The rare operation raised tension between the CTS and the militia, which attempted to break into a CTS base to free the prisoners. A government spokesman stated that 13 of the detainees were later released but the primary suspect remains in custody. On June 25, local officials said that a CTS force arrived at the al-Qaim border crossing between Iraq and Syria to take over security at the facility, hours after PM Kadhimi said he’d launch a campaign to “retake control” of the country’s borders. On June 25, local officials said a Turkish airstrike in Sulaymaniyah killed two PKK members and wounded six civilians. On June 28, at least 25 mortar shells fired by Turkish forces struck villages in Duhok province. Between June 26-30, multiple operations by Iraqi security forces, some of which backed by Coalition airstrikes killed at least 21 ISIS militants in Salah ad-Din, Ninewa, Kirkuk and Diyala. On June 27, gunmen killed a senior police officer in Wasit, while ISIS militants killed one policeman and wounded three others in Diyala. Between June 27-July 1, two IEDs exploded in Basra without casualties, a third IED wounded a civilian in Diyala, while a fourth IED killed four popular mobilization Forces (PMF) fighters and injured the leader of a tribal force in Salah ad-Din. more…
- Several Provinces Extend Total Curfews; Government Directs More Funds To The Health Ministry Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases And Deadly Oxygen Shortage; Deaths From COVID-19 Pass 2,160 – This week, officials in at least nine provinces announced a total week-long curfew in response to the worsening COVID-19 outbreak, and the country extended its flight ban until July 15. On June 27, Iraq’s PM instructed the Ministry of Industry to open all oxygen production lines to supply hospitals treating COVID-19 patients after a shortage caused deaths among COVID-19 patients in Nasiriyah. On June 28, the High Health and Safety Committee approved new funding for the Ministry of Health, authorized the ministry to recruit additional medical staff, allowed some private laboratories to perform COVID-19 testing, and allowed the Ministry of Health to buy oxygen on credit until its financial conditions have improved. The government set new curfew hours extending from 7:00pm until 6:00am, dismissing a proposal submitted by the Ministry of Health to revert to total curfew for four weeks. On July 2, the Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 53,708 representing a new record weekly increase. More than 2,180 cases were reported in the last 24 hours alone. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 2,160 while a total of 27,912 patients have recovered. To date, Iraq has tested 567,685 samples for COVID-19. more…
- Iraq Reports Progress In Building Grid Links With Gulf States; GDP Per Capita Drops, Poverty Rises Sharply; Oil Exports Dropped In June But Revenue Rises – On June 25, Iraq’s Ministry of Education said it recovered funds from 5,051 employees who were receiving double salaries from the ministry. On June 27, the Ministry of Electricity said it has completed 80% of the works required to connect Iraq’s electrical grid with those of the neighboring Gulf states, bringing Iraq closer to diversifying its energy imports. On June 28, the state-owned Iraqi Drilling Company signed a contract with Weatherford International to support drilling works concerning 20 wells in the Nasiriyah oil field. On June 29, Iraq’s Central Statistical Organization said the average per capita income decreased by 12.3% during the first quarter of this year compared with the same period of 2019, while the Ministry of Labor said the poverty rate has risen from 22% to 34% due to the pandemic and decline in oil prices. On July 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said crude oil exports averaged 2.816 million bpd in June, about 396,000 bpd lower than May’s average. These exports generated $2.861 billion in revenue, considerably more than May’s $2.091 billion. On June 30, the Central Bank of Iraq said instructed lenders to reduce interest rates on loans to support economic activity. 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 26, Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, attacked Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi after Iraqi counter-terrorism forces raided a base belonging to the Kataib Hezbollah milita and arretsed 14 of its members (operation details below). Khazali condemned the raid as a “dangerous development” and a sign of “complete chaos.” Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kataib Hezbollah are two powerful Iran-backed militias that also have strong presence and influence in the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). Addressing the prime minister in a video message, Khazali told Mustafa al-Kadhimi that he was not elected and should know the limits of his mandate; to prepare for elections and manage the financial crisis. Khazali went on to warn Kadhimi against trying to prevent attacks on U.S. forces by “resistance factions,” arguing that no prime minister before him attempted to do so. On June 29, a Kataib Hezbollah spokesman attacked Prime Minister al-Kadhimi on social media, accusing the prime minister of ordering the raid in collaboration with the U.S. to cover up his alleged involvement with the U.S. in the assassinations of Iranian general Qasim Soleimani and Kataib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in January–an allegation the militia had repeatedly used to oppose Kadhimi’s confirmation. In a subsequent statement following the release of the detained militiamen, Kataib Hezbollah stressed that it would never surrender its weapons to the government. The militia released images showing the released men stepping on pictures of the prime minister and burning the American and Israeli flags. In contrast with the political backlash, the prime minister’s move was popular with demonstrators who gathered on June 26 in Tahrir Square in Baghdad in support of his action against Kataib Hezbollah-a militia often accused of killing and intimidating peaceful protesters.
On June 26, President Barham Salih called for an end to Turkey’s military operations in northern Iraq and the repeated violations of Iraqi sovereignty and airspace. Salih’s remarks followed an escalation of Turkish military actions against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq that have also killed and displaced Iraqi civilians since June 15. The president said Turkey’s actions were a “violation of international norms and agreements.” He stressed the need for cooperation between the two nations and Turkey’s obligation to respect Iraqi sovereignty.
On June 28, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi sacked the chief commissioner of the Communications and Media Commision (CMC), Ashraf al-Dahan, and two other commissioners, Khalil al-Tayyar, and Safa al-Din Hussein. Kadhimi also appointed Bassam Salem as the new chief commissioner, and Mohammed Abdul-Sadah and Adil Salman as commission members. Rights organizations have accused the CMC of violating freedom of speech rights after it issued decisions in November to shut down at least a dozen news channels over their coverage of violence against protesters. Al-Mada reported citing political sources that these changes are part of wider changes that will encompass 6,000 high-ranking government officials. Rahim al-Aboudi, a member of Parliament from the Hikma movement, said the prime minister intends to complete the new appointments by the end of September, with new changes rolled out on a weekly basis. On June 18, Prime Minister Kadhimi had instructed government ministries to submit details on their organizational structure, with lists of all senior appointments (also known as “special grade” employees) within 72 hours 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. Some members of Parliament said the prime minister’s actions have sparked arguments between the executive and legislative branches over which entity has the right under the constitution to confirm senior appointments.
On June 30, the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council issued a decision to release former Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi and to close all cases against him. Al-Issawi turned himself in to Iraqi authorities on June 16 after spending years outside Iraq. Al-Issawi resigned in March 2013 from the government of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki after a fallout with the latter. The former minister fled Iraq to avoid capture after authorities issued an arrest warrant and accused him of financial corruption and involvement in terrorism. Iraqi courts later sentenced al-Issawi in absentia to seven years in prison, twice, after the courts found him guilty of financial crimes. In December 2015, the Criminal Court issued a seven year prison sentence against Issawi. The Supreme Judicial Council has now dropped all charges against al-Issawi, citing insufficient evidence. The Council added that the cases were based on the testimony of one witness, who later changed his statement. On June 19, the State of Law coalition, led by al-Maliki, reacted angrily to the news of al-Issawi’s release, threatening to “take up arms if the Baath returned to political life.” On June 21, Speaker of Parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi dismissed the terrorism charges against Issawi, calling them “malicious,” and said Issawi’s return was the fruit of “ social and political reconciliation” efforts by the UN and President Barham Salih.
On June 30, Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Hikma Movement, announced a new parliamentary coalition called “Iraqiyoon” (meaning Iraqis), which includes about 40 members, half of whom are affiliated with the Hikma Movement. Hakim said the new coalition will support Prime Minister Kadhimi’s goal of setting up early and fair elections.
On July 1, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), said it has offered to provide oil revenues to the federal government contingent on reaching an agreement on addressing the entitlements of foreign oil companies operating the region’s oil fields and the expenses associated with exporting the region’s oil. KRG Spokesperson Jotyar Adil added that a KRG delegation will soon return to Baghdad to resume discussions, implying that the previous mission, which arrived in Baghdad last week failed to reach an agreement on the region’s share of the federal budget and its corresponding oil obligations to the federal government.
On June 25, Iraqi security forces arrested 14 members of the Kataib Hezbollah militia during a raid targeting one of the powerful militia’s bases in Baghdad. In a statement, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said it received intelligence about an armed group that has conducted rocket attacks on the Green Zone and Baghdad’s airport in the past and was planning a new attack on government buildings in the capital. The authorities then issued arrest warrants for the individuals in question and tasked the Counter-Terrorism Servce (CTS) with carrying out the arrests. The statement, which did not mention Kataib Hezbollah by name, explains that CTS arrested 14 individuals and seized two rocket launchers from the militia base. After the arrest, the Iraqi military said an armed group “that seeks to remain outside the authority of the Commander in Chief” used government vehicles to “approach” CTS base inside the Green Zone and created “friction.” The arrest caused intense political pressure on the prime minister (details above). The detainees were soon handed over to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) to deal with them as the military service in charge of them. On June 29, a judge ordered the release of 13 of the detained militiamen reportedly because their possession of rocket launchers could not be confirmed. A spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister stated that the primary suspect in the rocket attacks remains in custody and is under investigation by the judiciary.
On June 25, the mayor of the Iraqi border town of al-Qaim said that a force from the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) special forces arrived at the al-Qaim border crossing betwen Iraq and Syria to take over security at the facility. The CTS arrived at al-Qaim hours after Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said his government would launch a campaign to “retake control” of the country’s border crossings. Kadhimi argued that the exploitation of border crossings by militias was costing Iraq “billions” in lost revenue. According to an unnamed Iraqi official speaking to The New Arab, al-Qaim is one of six land border crossings that have been under the control of armed groups exploiting the facilities through illegal taxation and embezzling customs revenue. The official added that similar deployments of special forces will follow soon to establish state control over other ports of entry, including the ports of Basra and border crossings with Iran.
On June 25, local officials said a Turkish airstrike targeted the Kuna Masi village in Sulaymaniyah, killing two members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and wounding six civilians. Ongoing Turkish operations against the PKK inside the Kurdistan region have killed at least seven civilians and displaced many villagers since June 15. On June 26, Turkish air forces attacked the Khatmir Mountain area near Zakho, and Turkish troops launched a ground offensive and clashed with PKK fighters in the area. On June 28, security sources in Duhok said that at least 25 mortar shells fired by Turkish forces struck villages across the province. Later, new Turkish airstrikes struck the Gara mountain range in Duhok. There were no reports of casualties from either bombardment. On July 1, local officials said Iraqi Border Guards were deployed to the Dere and Shahbanie mountains and raised an Iraqi flag in an effort to deter further fighting between Turkish forces and the PKK in the border area.
On June 26, the Security Media Cell said that the International Coalition against ISIS conducted airstrikes that killed eight ISIS militants and destroyed 14 hideouts in the Khanuka Mountains near Salah ad-Din province. The Iraqi Ccounter-Tterroism Sservice (CTS) searched the targeted hideouts after the airstrikes, confirming the ISIS casualties and seizing the hideouts contents. The Coalition launched new airstrikes on June 29 targeting ISIS militants in the Makhoul mountains, also in Salah ad-Din. A statement by the Iraqi military said the airstrikes killed an unspecified number of ISIS militants who were inside the hideouts at the time.
On June 27, unidentified gunmen shot and killed police brigadier general Kadhim Radhi, the chief of the police station at al-Hay district in Wasit province.
On June 27, ISIS militants attacked Iraqi security forces positions near the village of al-Mukhaisah, northeast of Baquba in Diyala province. The attack killed one policeman and wounded three others.
On June 27, Iraqi security sources said an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded in the Algeria neighborhood in central Basra. The attack, which appeared to have targeted a civilian, destroyed that person’s vehicle without causing casualties.
On June 28, Iraqi security forces said two militants were killed in the Hawija district of Kirkuk province by the 3rd brigade of the federal police. The two militants attempted to attack the brigade near the Al-Majid village. On the same day, the ISF killed another ISIS militant during an intelligence-driven security operation near Khanaqin in northeast Diyala province.
On June 30, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) said that an IED explosion struck a patrol of the PMF brigade 51 west of Baiji, in Salah ad-Din province. The explosion killed four PMF fighters, and injured Sheikh Shaalan al-Awaid, the leader of a tribal fighters force known as the “Sheikh Shaalan force”.
On June 30, the Ministry of Defense announced that an airstrike by the International Coalition targeted an ISIS hideout near the Ain al-Jahsh quarries, in the Shoura subdistrict in Ninewa province. The airstrike killed ten ISIS militants.
On July 1, an IED attached to a vehicle belonging to an intelligence officer exploded in the Zubair district in Basra province. The explosion damaged the car but the targeted officer, who works at the Umm Qasr port was unharmed in the incident.
On July 1, an IED exploded near the village of Zaghniyah in the Abbara subdistrict in Diyala province. The explosion wounded one local farmer.
On June 25, the UAE delivered six tons of medical supplies to the Kurdistan region of Iraq Kurdistan to support local efforts to fight the accelerating COVID-19 outbreak. UAE officials say the shipment will support nearly 6,000 Iraqi healthcare workers in responding to the virus and “cope with the challenges of sheltering internally displaced persons in some areas of the region.” This new aid shipment follows an earlier seven-ton cargo of similar supplies which the UAE delivered to the Kurdistan region in late May.
On June 26, officials in Salah ad-Din province announced a total week-long curfew in response to the continuing increase in COVID-19 infections. Basra, Wasit, Maysan, Najaf and Karbala quickly followed suit and extended their own curfew orders for another week, providing exceptions for those who provide basic services and allowing delivery service, bakeries and markets to stay open. Officials in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah have also reverted to establishing total curfews, with similar exemptions, extending through July 4. These total curfew policies reflect a divergence from the federal government’s policy of imposing only partial curfews. On July 1, Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority decided to extend Iraq’s flight ban until July 15 due to the increase in COVID-19 infections. Exemptions to this ban include: cargo, military and medical flights, as well as special flights organized to repatriate Iraqis stranded abroad.
On June 27, Iraq’s prime minister instructed the Ministry of Industry to open all oxygen production lines to address an acute oxygen shortage at hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. The prime minister said the government will pursue “corrupt” officials whom he accused of obstructing the production of oxygen and its delivery to hospitals. The order comes in the wake of an oxygen shortage that affected several hospitals in Iraq, especially in Nasiriyah, leading to deaths among COVID-19 patients and producing panic among patients’ relatives who rushed to compete for dwindling supplies. The Ministry of Health and Environment said it was taking emergency steps to provide oxygen with negotiations underway to import oxygen from Iran, Kuwait, Turkey and Jordan. A ministry spokesman said Iraq needs 268,000 liters of oxygen each day, with each province needing 2,500 bottles a day, explaining that the Ministry lacked the sufficient funds to meet this level of demand.
On June 28, the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council promised to employ “intensified” legal measures against anyone who assaults medical crews. The announcement followed an incident in which two individuals attacked health workers at al-Hussein teaching hospital in Dhi-Qar province. The attack prompted the Iraqi Medical Association to respond with a partial strike for doctors in the province to protest the increase in violence against doctors at the workplace. The Iraqi prime minister also intervened, directing security forces in Dhi-Qar to arrest the offenders and “deal strictly” with those who assault medical crews.
On June 28, the Ministry of Migration and Displacement said that 200 internally displaced persons (IDPs) returned to their places of origin in the Dijail and Yathrib districts in Salah ad-Din province from the Ashti camp in Sulaymaniyah province. A ministry spokesman said authorities provided 14 trucks to transport the returnees and their belongings safely to their home districts. The official said the ministry will be working with security forces to arrange for the safe return of additional groups of IDPs to Kirkuk and Salah ad-Din provinces.
On June 28, the High Health and Safety Committee issued new orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The commission approved new funding for the Ministry of Health, authorized the ministry to recruit additional medical staff, promised benefits for the families of medical staff killed by COVID-19, allowed some private laboratories to perform COVID-19 testing, and allowed the Ministry of Health to buy oxygen on credit until its financial conditions have improved. The new funding will amount to ID 50 billion from government reserves. The Committee also tasked the Health and Foreign Affairs ministries with coordination with countries developing potential COVID-19 cures, treatments and vaccines, and directed profitable publicly owned corporations to support the Ministry of Health financially. The government set new curfew hours extending from 7:00pm until 6:00am, dismissing a proposal submitted by the Ministry of Health to revert to total curfew for four weeks as officials warned that cases could increase by 5,000 a day within days. The curfew includes exemptions for essential workers and employees of the Arab Company for Antibiotic Industries and Supplies (AKAI) workers to ensure continuity in the production of essential medicines. The new orders also allow the import of oxygen from all border ports, and directis the Baghdad Municipality and Civil Defense Directorate to disinfect areas in Baghdad that have high reports of COVID-19 cases.
On July 2, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 53,708, representing a sharp increase of 14,569 cases from the 39,139 reported a week earlier. Of these cases, 23,636 are in the hospital and 326 are in the intensive care unit (ICU). According to the ministry’s data, there were 723 new deaths during the same period, bringing total fatalities from 1,437 to 2,160. Meanwhile the total number of recoveries has increased from 18,051 to 27,912. This week saw continued growth in new cases in Iraq, with 2,184 new cases reported on July 2 alone. The areas reporting the most new cases were Baghdad with 708 cases, followed by Salah ad-Din with 190 cases, and Sulaimani, which reported 179 cases in the last 24 hours. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 567,685 samples for COVID-19.
On June 25, Iraq’s Ministry of Education said it recovered funds from 5,051 employees who were receiving double salaries from the ministry. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has been pursuing financial reforms to address Iraq’s economic crisis, including reducing the benefits of senior government officials and exposing government employees who receive more than one salary from the state. Last week, a spokesman for the prime minister said that there were more than 18,000 employees receiving more than one salary at the Ministry of Education alone.
On June 27, the Ministry of Electricity said it has completed 80% of the works required to connect Iraq’s electrical grid with those of the neighboring Gulf states. In 2019, Iraq signed an agreement with The Gulf Linkage Authority to build high voltage lines that would allow Iraq to import 500 megawatts of electricity through Basra as a first stage. The project involves extending two, 300 kilometer transmission lines from Kuwait to Faw in Basra, with 220 km being inside Kuwait and the remaining 80km in Iraqi territory.
On June 28, the state-owned Iraqi Drilling Company (IDC) signed a contract with Weatherford International to support drilling works concerning 20 wells in the Nasiriyah oil field in Dhi-Qar province. Nasiriyah is one of the fields Iraq is developing by relying on its national oil companies instead of foreign operators. According to IDC director, Basim Mohammed, his company will mobilize four drilling rigs to implement the project.
On June 29, Iraq’s Central Statistical Organization said the average per capita income decreased by 12.3% during the first quarter of this year compared with the same period of 2019. The per capita income also dropped more than 21% when compared with the fourth quarter of last year. The agency, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Planning, said average per capita income during the first quarter of 2020 year was approximately $1,100, down from $1,300 in the first quarter of 2019, and $1,400 in the fourth quarter of 2019. On July 2, the Ministry of Labor said the poverty rate in Iraq has risen from 22% to 34% percent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and decline in oil prices.
On July 1, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil announced that crude oil exports reached 84.490 million barrels, for an average of 2.816 million barrels per day (bpd), which is about 396,000 bpd lower than May’s average of 3.212 million bpd. These exports generated slightly more than $2.861 billion in revenue, considerably more than May’s $2.091 billion and almost twice April’s low of $1.432 billion. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of $33.86 per barrel, compared to May’s average of $21 per barrel. Exports from the southern port of Basra decreased from 3.098 in May to 2.7 billion bpd in June, while northern fields in Kirkuk averaged 116,000 bpd exported through the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Iraq’s oil exports in June are more than 600,000 bpd lower than they were in April, indicating that it has met about three-fifths of its pledge to reduce exports by 1.06 million under the OPEC+ deal. On June 28, Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar affirmed Iraq’s commitment to the OPEC+ deal, adding that the federal government was engaged in ongoing talks with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to agree on a unified oil production policy. The minister also said that Iraq was seeking to reduce oil production costs, adding that the ministry will review some oil contracts with oil companies operating high-cost fields.
On June 30, the Central Bank of Iraq said it will reduce loan interest to support the economy. The Bank instructed lenders to reduce interest on loans between ID 1 and 20 million from 4.8% to 3.5%, and from 6.3% to 4% on loans between ID 21 million and 1 billion. The Bank also asked lenders to consider offering extended grace periods to borrowers involved in tourism, hotels, and restaurant projects to allow them more time to recover from the impact of the pandemic. The Bank is also offering beneficiaries of the “One Trillion Initiative”, a financing initiative launched in 2015 to support small and medium sized businesses, to receive ID 5 million in interest-free funding using the projects as collateral.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
|06/27/20||Algeria neighborhood, central Basra||0||0|
|06/30/20||West of Baji, Salah ad-Din||4||1|
|07/01/20||Zaghniyah village, Abbara subdistrict in Diyala||0||1|
|07/01/20||Zubair district, Basra||0||0|
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.