ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: JULY 2 – JULY 9, 2020

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Key Takeaways:

    • Kadhimi Appoints New Security Adviser, Chief of National Security Service; Poor Economic Conditions Spark Protests In Kurdistan; Public Anger Over Assassination Of Prominent Researcher – On July 4, PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi appointed retired General Abdul-Ghani al-Asadi, a former commander in the Counter-Terrorism Service as head of the National Security Service and appointed former Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji as his National Security Advisor. On July 6, protesters in Sulaymaniyah broke into the local office of the KRG Parliament, demanding payment of their salaries, which have been delayed since February. Meanwhile in Erbil, farmers protested the loss of crop earnings by tossing their crops on the street as cheap imports from neighboring countries caused prices to fall and lock-down left them unable to market their produce. On July 7, demonstrators in Tahrir Square in Baghdad mourned Husham al-Hashimi, a prominent Iraqi security analyst who was assassinated by gunmen on Monday. The protesters accused Iranian-backed militias of killing al-Hashimi, who was a vocal advocate for establishing state control over arms and a supporter of peaceful protesters. On July 8, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the assassination and accused Iranian-backed militias of the attack. UN Special Representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert called it an “act of cowardice,” calling on the government to act quickly to identify the perpetrators. more…
    • Coalition Reduces Iraq Task Force Size, Adjusts Mission; Rocket Targets U.S. Embassy; Gunmen Assassinate Prominent Researcher; Federal Forces And Peshmerga Establish Coordination Centers – On July 2, an IED killed two Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) fighters in Salah ad-Din, and on July 4, another IED wounded two civilians in Ninewa. On July 5, the U.S.-led Coalition said a portion of its Task Force-Iraq will be withdrawn from Iraq, and the remainder will transition into a Military Advisor Group that will support Iraqi forces with “anti-ISIS planning, intelligence sharing, and airstrike coordination at a centralized operations center in Baghdad.” On July 5, a rocket struck a house in Baghdad’s Green Zone, injuring a child. The rocket was apparently targeting the U.S. embassy, but was deflected by its C-Ram anti-missile defense systems. Between July 5-8, two mortar attacks and two other ISIS attacks wounded six civilians and killed a tribal fighter in Diyala, while Iraqi forces killed a senior ISIS figure north of Baghdad. On July 6, gunmen assassinated prominent Iraqi security analyst Husham al-Hashimi in Baghdad. Sources close to Hashimi recently received threats from both ISIS and militia groups like Kataib Hezbollah. PM Kadhimi condemned the assassination and vowed to “spare no effort in pursuing the criminals.” Kadhimi also dismissed the commander of the 1st Federal Police Division, which is responsible for security in the area where the attack happened. On July 7, Iraqi commanders said federal forces and the Peshmerga discussed establishing three coordination centers in Diyala, Kirkuk and Ninewa to enable coordination and information sharing regarding ISIS activity in areas where the Peshmerga and federal forces currently don’t have presence. more…

    • Studies Reveal Pandemic’s Massive Economic Damage; Iraq Scrambles To Build Field Hospitals For COVID-19; Curfews Extended As Iraq Sees 15,900 New Cases This Week – On July 2, a survey of the pandemic’s economic impact in Iraq by the International Rescue Committee found that 87% of respondents have lost their jobs, and 73% were forced to eat less food to save money while a new study by Iraq’s Planning Ministry indicates that 4.5 million Iraqis are at risk of experiencing poverty as a result of the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic. On July 3, WHO delivered 200 ventilators to Iraq’s Ministry of Health and expects to provide an additional 100 ventilators soon. On July 4, Iraq’s Planning Minister said his ministry will present a plan to resume construction of several hospitals where work stalled at 90% complete. Meanwhile, Iraq opened a new 300-bed field hospital to absorb new COVID-19 cases and authorized the Ministry of Finance to obtain a €15 million grant from Germany to finance the construction of five temporary hospitals to help combat the COVID-19 crisis. On July 6, Iraq’s Higher Committee for Health and National Safety extended the nighttime nationwide partial curfew during weekdays, and will enforce a full curfew during the weekends. The government also ordered all private medical facilities to shut down until July 20. On July 9, the Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 69,612 representing a new record weekly increase. More than 2,741 cases were reported on July 8, representing a new peak. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 2,882 while a total of 39,502 patients have recovered. To date, Iraq has tested 649,036 samples for COVID-19. more…

    • Iraq Partially Reopens Borders With Iran; Pandemic, Rising Temperatures Lead To More Outages; Iraq To Resume Oil Trucking To Jordan, Seeks Oil Deal With Lebanon – On July 6, the Iraqi Border Ports Authority said the prime minister approved a request submitted in June to resume partial trade at the Shalamcheh and Mandili border crossings, which connect Iraq with Iran. Two days a week, 250 shipments will be allowed through the border while the movement of people will continue to be prohibited. On July 7, the Parliamentary energy committee said that the COVID-19 pandemic was contributing to the reduction in the hours of electricity supplied through the grid by reducing the ability to repair hundreds of broken transformers amid high demand during the summer heat wave. On July 8, Jordan’s Energy Minister said that Iraq will resume the export of 10,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil to Jordan in the next two days. The exports were halted for two months as low prices rendered the trucked exports inefficient due to high transport costs. Meanwhile, an Iraqi delegation arrived in Beirut seeking an agreement that would trade Iraqi oil for agricultural and industrial products. 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.


    Kadhimi Appoints New Security Adviser, Chief of National Security Service; Poor Economic Conditions Spark Protests In Kurdistan; Public Anger Over Assassination Of Prominent Researcher

    On July 4, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi appointed retired General Abdul-Ghani al-Asadi, a former special forces commander in the Counter-Terrorism Service as head of the National Security Service. The prime minister also appointed former Interior Minister and senior member of the Badr Organization, Qasim Mohammed Jalal al-Araji as his National Security Advisor. Both of these positions were previously held by Faleh al-Fayyad, who also serves as the chairman of the Popular Mobilization Forces Committee. 

    On July 4, the spokesman for Prime Minister al-Kadhimi called on Turkey to “immediately end its aggression” on northern Iraq, condemning Ankara’s recent military operations on Iraqi soil as “violations of Iraqi sovereignty” and “destabilizing to regional peace.” Since June 15, Turkey has been conducting airstrikes and ground incursion into Iraqi territory targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The operations have also killed and displaced Iraqi civilians in the region. The spokesman called on the international community to support Iraq’s “sovereign right to protect its land and people.” On July 5, a spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry said his country will defend itself against any act of aggression originating from Iraq and will continue to target the PKK, which the Turkish official claimed also “endangers Iraq’s security and violates its sovereignty.” 

    On July 6, protesters in Sulaymaniyah broke into the local office of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Parliament, demanding payment of their salaries, which have been delayed since February. Meanwhile in Erbil, farmers protested the loss of crop earnings by tossing their crops on the street after cheap imports from neighboring countries caused prices to fall and road closures between provinces left them unable to market their produce. The KRG continues to face a financial crisis caused by low oil prices and a decision by the federal government to suspend monthly budget payments in April. Recent negotiations with Baghdad to establish a new arrangement under which the federal government would resume payments in exchange for part of the oil produced in the KRG proved inconclusive. On July 7, UN Special Representative for Iraq Jeanine Plasschaert met with KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and offered to mediate between Baghdad and Erbil to help them reach a comprehensive agreement on their disputes. 

    On July 7, demonstrators in Tahrir Square in Baghdad mourned Husham al-Hashimi, a prominent Iraqi security analyst who was assassinated by gunmen on Monday. The protesters organized a symbolic funeral, chanting anti-militia slogans and demanding the government hold the murderers responsible. The demonstrators accused Iranian-backed militias of killing al-Hashimi, who was a vocal advocate for establishing state control over arms and a supporter of peaceful protesters. On July 8, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned al-Hashimi’s killing and accused Iranian-backed militias of the attack. Al-Hashimi, who was critical of militant Sunni and Shia groups, had recently received threats from ISIS and praised the recent raid ordered by the prime minister on Kataib Hezbollah. Prime Minister al-Kadhimi expressed his condolences and asserted that those responsible for al-Hashimi’s death will not go unpunished. UN Special Representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert condemned the assassination as an “act of cowardice,” calling on the government to act quickly to identify the perpetrators.


    Coalition Reduces Iraq Task Force Size, Adjusts Mission; Rocket Targets U.S. Embassy; Gunmen Assassinate Prominent Researcher; Federal Forces And Peshmerga Establish Coordination Centers

    On July 2, Iraqi security sources said an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded targeting a Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) patrol west of Baiji in Salah ad-Din province. The attack killed two intelligence officers from PMF brigade 35. 

    On July 2, local officials said a Turkish airstrike targeted villages in Duhok province, causing damages to farms but no casualties. On July 6, an officer with the Iraqi border guards said the border guards have established at least three new bases near Zakho on the Iraqi-Turkish border and were in the process of establishing coordination with Turkish forces to secure the border against smuggling, in an apparent reference to movement by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the target of new Turkish operations that killed and displaced Iraqi civilians since June 15. On July 7, Turkey published a map showing 37 outposts and bases that Ankara’s military has established in the Kurdistan region along the Iraq-Turkey and Iraq-Iran border areas, and in deeper parts of three provinces: Erbil, Duhok, and Ninewa. 

    On July 4, an IED exploded in the neighborhood of  al-Qadisiyah in the Tal-Afar district, west of Mosul. The explosion wounded two civilians. 

    On July 5, the U.S.-led International Coalition against ISIS announced changes to the size and mission of its Task Force-Iraq. A portion of the task force will be withdrawn from Iraq, and the remainder will transition into a Military Advisor Group (MAG). The MAG will provide military advisors from 13 countries who will support Iraqi forces with “anti-ISIS planning, intelligence sharing, and airstrike coordination at a centralized operations center in Baghdad.” General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command met with Iraq’s prime minister on July 7 after the announcement, and indicated after the meeting that U.S. military presence in Iraq was unlikely to end anytime soon. “I don’t sense there’s a mood right now for us to depart precipitously. And I’m pretty confident of that,” the general told reporters. Earlier this year, the coalition handed over control of several Iraqi bases to the Iraqi security forces as part of an ongoing consolidation plan. The bases included Abu Ghraib near Baghdad, K-1 in Kirkuk, al-Qaim and al-Habbaniyah in Anbar, Qayyarah in Ninewa, and al-Sqoor in Mosul. 

    On July 5, a Katyusha rocket struck a house in Baghdad’s Green Zone, injuring one child and damaging the building. Iraqi security forces (ISF) said the attack originated from the Ali al-Saleh area of Baghdad. The rocket was apparently targeting the U.S. embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone, but was deflected by the embassy’s C-Ram anti-missile defense systems. ISF members later found and seized a second rocket in the Umm al-Azam area, which they believe was intended to target Camp Taji, a major Iraqi base that also hosts U.S. military personnel. No suspects have been identified in this attack, but the U.S. often accuses militias such as Kataib Hezbollah of attacking U.S. interests with rockets, and last week the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service arrested 14 members of the militia for planning similar attacks on the Iraqi capital. Prior to the attack, the American Embassy test-fired the recently installed defense system, drawing criticism from some Iraqi politicians such as Deputy Parliament Speaker, Hassan al-Kaabi, who called the test a provocation and a violation of international law. 

    On July 5, Iraqi security sources said three mortar shells struck the village of al-Maadan near the Sadiyah subdistrict in Diyala province. The attack caused material damages, but there were no reports of casualties. Further west, an ISIS sniper shot and wounded a farmer in the village of al-Haitawi, between Diyala and Salah ad-Din.

    On July 6, three unknown gunmen on motorcycles assassinated Iraqi security analyst and government advisor, Husham al-Hashimi in front of his house in Baghdad. Hashimi was a former advisor to the United States’ coalition against ISIS, a member of the Iraq Advisory Council and a fellow of the Center for Global Policy (CGP). Hashimi supported recent protests against Shia militias in Iraq and often discussed the threat of terrorism and the effects of militia groups on the country. A spokesman for Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said that those behind killing Hashimi were the same groups responsible for the killing of protesters. Sources close to Hashimi say he recently received threats from both ISIS and militia groups like Kataib Hezbollah for his criticism of recent militia actions that challenged state authority. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi condemned the assassination and vowed to “spare no effort in pursuing the criminals.” Kadhimi also dismissed the commander of the 1st Division of the Federal Police, which is responsible for security in the area where the assassination happened.  

    On July 6, ISIS militants attacked tribal forces northeast of Baquba in Diyala province. The attack killed one tribal force member. 

    On July 7, General Abdul-Amir Yarallah, the Iraqi army’s Chief of Staff said from Kirkuk that establishing new coordination centers between federal security forces and the Peshmerga will bring security and stability to the province. According to a spokesman for the Commander in Chief, the federal forces and Peshmerga have discussed establishing three coordination centers in Diyala, Kirkuk and Ninewa with representatives from the federal ministries of defense and interior, the KRG Ministry of Peshmerga, and relevant military units. According to the spokesman, these centers will enable coordination and information sharing regarding ISIS activity to enhance security in areas where the Peshmerga and federal forces currently don’t have presence. The spokesman stressed that the agreement does not provide for the redeployment of Peshmerga forces into Kirkuk or other disputed territories. 

    On July 7, Iraqi security sources said ten mortar shells struck a village in the Buhriz district in Diyala. The attack injured five civilians.

    On July 8, the Ministry of Defense stated Iraqi special forces and intelligence officers killed a senior ISIS military leader, named Abu Anas al-Ubaidi during a joint operation north of  Baghdad.

    On July 8, the Security Media Cell said that the International Coalition carried out airstrikes on three tunnels used by ISIS militants in the Tuzkhormatu area in eastern Salah ad-Din province. The airstrikes destroyed the tunnels, including one that contained explosive devices, weapons and other supplies.


    Studies Reveal Pandemic’s Massive Economic Damage; Iraq Scrambles To Build Field Hospitals For COVID-19; Curfews Extended As Iraq Sees 15,900 New Cases This Week

    On July 2, a survey of the pandemic’s economic impact in Iraq by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) found that 87% of the 1,491 respondents have lost their jobs, 73% were forced to eat less food to save money, and 61% had to borrow to meet basic needs. A new study by the Iraqi Ministry of Planning indicates that 4.5 million Iraqis are at risk of experiencing poverty as a result of the economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The study projects the poverty rate to reach 31.7% of the population, or 11.4 million Iraqis, a steep increase from the 20% rate recorded in 2018. The study also assesses that half of Iraq’s children will face the threat of “deprivation in more than one dimension,” with access to schooling and clean water being the top vulnerability factors. Last week, the Iraqi Ministry of Labor produced even more grim figures, estimating that as much as 34% of the population would be below the poverty line. The economic impact of the pandemic and lockdown are particularly felt by displaced persons and returnees. On July 6, local officials in Sinjar said that 1,200 Yazidi families that have returned to the area from IDP camps in June are facing terrible conditions. According to the mayor, many of these returnees abandoned temporary homes and livelihoods at the camps to find their home district with no electricity, water or opportunities to make a living amid lock-down.  

    On July 3, the World Health Organization (WHO) delivered 200 ventilators to Iraq’s Ministry of Health and expects to provide an additional 100 ventilators soon. This shipment is critical, given that Iraq has only 500 ventilators, which hospitals need to treat intense cases of respiratory disease, such as COVID-19, representing a rate of about 13 ventilators per 1 million people. Iraq also recently received a commitment for additional aid against COVID-19 from Finland, which pledged €2 million in partnership with the UN Development Program. This funding will be used to enable Iraq to perform more testing, supply its health workers with masks and other protective gear, establish more isolation facilities, and build recovery strategies. The effort will have a special focus on under-served areas in nine Iraqi provinces Iraq, including Anbar, Basra, Karbala, and Ninewa. Iraq is also expecting Egypt to send urgent medical assistance to Iraq and reduce treatment fees for Iraqis living in Egypt. 

    On July 3, the Ministry of Industry said it will open four oxygen production facilities, reopening previously stalled plants in Baghdad, Basra, Diyala, and Anbar, to help meet the need for oxygen. This follows the prime minister’s instruction to the ministry in late June to open all oxygen production lines, following the acute oxygen shortage in the country, which was particularly felt in Dhi-Qar, where that led to the death of several patients. Iraq is also importing more oxygen from neighboring countries to supplement local production. On July 3, the ministry also announced four lines of mask production have been opened to help meet the demand for face masks from Iraq’s healthcare workers and citizens. On July 5, officials in Basra reported receiving a new shipment of 600 bottles from Iran as part of a 4,000 bottle deal.  

    On July 3, the Minister of Health spokesman Saif al-Badr said the ministry has officially approved the use of Russian drug “Avavavir” for experimental use on COVID-19 patients in Iraq. 

    On July 4, Iraqi Planning Minister Khalid Battal said his ministry will present a plan to the prime minister to resume construction of several hospitals where work stalled at 90% complete. According to the minister, the plan will prioritize hospitals in Dhi-Qar, Maysan, Karbala, and Babylon, each with a capacity of 400 hospital beds. Concerns about a shortage of hospital beds amid an escalating COVID-19 outbreak prompted the Ministry of Health to set up four field hospitals in Baghdad to accommodate growing numbers of patients. On July 5, the prime minister opened one of those facilities, al-Ataa hospital in Sadr City, which the ministry  established in conjunction with Saraya al-Salam, a militia led by Muqtada al-Sadr. On July 7, the Iraqi government authorized the Ministry of Finance to sign an agreement with the German Development Bank to obtain a €15 million grant to finance the construction of five temporary hospitals to help combat the COVID-19 crisis. 

    On July 5, officials from Iraq’s Ministry of Justice expressed concerns about an outbreak of COVID-19 in prisons after 31 cases were reported at al-Karkh Juvenile Prison. This crowded prison holds more than 600 inmates between the ages of 18 to 22, despite having a maximum capacity of 250 persons only. On July 1, the director of al-Karkh health department in Baghdad Jasb al-Hajjami called on authorities to release prisoners who do not pose a threat to society on bail following reports of a COVID-19 outbreak in prisons. 

    On July 6, Iraq’s Higher Committee for Health and National Safety extended the nighttime nationwide partial curfew during weekdays, and will enforce a full curfew during the weekends. The government also ordered all private medical facilities to shut down until July 20. The Committee called for the enforcement of preventative measures of masking and social distancing for all public spaces. It also permitted the opening of the border crossings of Shalamcheh and Mendali for two days a week. On July 5, Director of Public Health Riyadh Abdul-Amir maintained the ministry’s position on the need for a comprehensive curfew to confront COVID-19. Various provinces are pursuing their own curfew policies, some of which diverged from the federal government’s policy and were guided by local conditions. On July 3, Sulaymaniyah officials extended the total curfew until July 10, with few exceptions. On July 4, officials in Erbil province announced more relaxed curfew measures, allowing shops and restaurants to open during the day, but travel between provinces is still restricted. Anbar, Diyala, Najaf, Wasit, and Ninewa followed suit the same day with a return to a partial curfew. Karbala officials extended curfew hours until 10 p.m. each day. Officials in Dhi-Qar opted to enforce a total curfew for as long as case numbers remained high. 

    On July 7, Germany committed $1.13 million in partnership with the UN Development Program in Iraq to “strengthen criminal investigations and crime scene management capacities in Iraq.” This project aims to improve the effectiveness of local police forces through providing training to police forces and judicial authorities on how to conduct proactive criminal investigations and handle crime scenes. 

    On July 9, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 69,612, representing a sharp increase of 15,904 cases from the 53,708 reported a week earlier. Of these cases, 27,228 are in the hospital and 415 are in the intensive care unit (ICU). According to the ministry’s data, there were 722 new deaths during the same period, bringing total fatalities from 2,160 to 2,882. Meanwhile the total number of recoveries has increased from 27,912 to 39,502. This week saw continued growth in new cases in Iraq, with a new peak of 2,741 new cases reported on July 8. The areas reporting the most new cases during the last 24 hours were Baghdad with 638 cases, followed by Sulaymaniyah with 208 cases, and Diwaniyah, which reported 145 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 649,036 samples for COVID-19.


    Iraq Partially Reopens Borders With Iran; Pandemic, Rising Temperatures Lead To More Outages; Iraq To Resume Oil Trucking To Jordan, Seeks Oil Deal With Lebanon

    On July 6, the Iraqi Border Ports Authority said the Iraqi prime minister approved a request submitted in June to resume partial trade at the Shalamcheh and Mandili border crossings, which connect Iraq with Iran. Two days a week, 250 shipments will be allowed per day at the Shalamcheh border crossing in Basra province and the Mandili border crossing in Diyala province. A statement by the Authority explained that staff at the two border crossings will follow strict health measures to ensure the safety of workers and goods, and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The measures include the sanitation of goods and preventing the movement of personnel through the border crossings. 

    On July 7, the Parliamentary energy committee said that the COVID-19 pandemic was contributing to the reduction in the hours of electricity supplied through the grid in Baghdad. Committee member Amjad al-Oqabi said the financial crisis has negatively impacted maintenance works, adding that Baghdad alone has up to damaged 450 transformers that the Ministry of Electricity could not afford to repair or replace. Oqabi said multiple maintenance facilities have been closed and the damaged transformer repair plant has been shut down after workers tested positive for COVID-19. Oqabi added that many employees have not received their monthly salaries because the Ministry of Finance did not distribute funds to the Ministry of Electricity. Temperatures in many parts of Iraq have reached 120 degrees fahrenheit in July, leading to greater demand and more breakdowns and long outages. 

    On July 8, Jordanian Energy Minister, Hala Zawati said that Iraq will resume the export of 10,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil from the Kirkuk fields to Jordan in the next two days. The Iraqi oil shipments account for seven percent of Jordan’s daily oil consumption. Iraq stopped exporting Kirkuk’s oil to Jordan in May after global prices plummeted due to COVID-19. At prices around $20 dollars a barrel, oil exports to Jordan, which are trucked and require more than 200 tankers to transport, became too costly. The partial recovery of oil prices from May’s average of $21 per barrel to $33.86 per barrel in June has encouraged Iraq to consider resuming the exports. Iraq is also trying to open a new market for its oil in Lebanon. On July 2, an Iraqi delegation arrived in Beirut seeking an agreement that would trade Iraqi oil for agricultural and industrial products. According to a Ministry of Industry source, “the Iraqi ministerial delegation seeks to support the Lebanese government” in their time of need. Lebanon has been struggling with a severe financial crisis that has caused massive inflation and fuel shortages leading to regular blackouts.


    IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

    DateLocationDeathsInjuries
    07/02/20West of Baiji, Salah ad-Din20
    07/04/20Tal-Afar, Ninewa district02

     

    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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