ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: JULY 16 – JULY 23, 2020

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Key Takeaways:

  • Minister Says Iraq Urgently Needs Water Agreement With Turkey; Finance Minister Leads Delegation To Riyadh; PM Kadhimi Postpones Trip to Saudi Arabia, Visits Iran – On July 16, Iraq’s Minister of Water Resources said Iraq needs to reach an agreement with Turkey about its water projects or the country will face severe water shortages, warning that inflows of water at the Turkish border were 50% below average this year. On July 20, PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi postponed a plan announced last week to visit to Saudi Arabia after King Salman was hospitalized. Despite the cancellation, an Iraqi delegation headed by Finance Minister Ali Allawi visited Riyadh for discussions with Saudi officials led by the Saudi Energy Minister within the framework of the Iraqi-Saudi Council. On July 19, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited Baghdad and met with President Salih, PM Kadhimi and Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein. Two days later Kadhimi visited Tehran in his first foreign trip as prime minister. Speaking alongside the Iranian president, he expressed Iraq’s desire for good relations “based on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of both countries,” adding that he will “not allow any aggression or challenge to Iran” from Iraq, while stressing that he did not want Iraq to become a battlefield for the U.S. and Iran. Kadhimi also met with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who said Iran will avenge the killing of Qasim Soleimani but claimed that Iran would not interfere in U.S.-Iraq affairs. more…
  • Attack Kills Senior Officer; German Activist Kidnapped In Baghdad; New Attacks On Green Zone And Convoys Supplying U.S. Forces – Between July 16 – 22, six attacks with IEDs killed a child and a member of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and injured two civilians and six PMF members in Kirkuk, Basra and Diyala. One attack in southern Iraq targeted a convoy in transporting supplies for U.S. forces. On July 17, a militant attack killed the commander of the Iraqi Army’s brigade 59 in the Ibn Sena area of the al-Tarmiyah district, north of Baghdad. On July 19, three mortar shells struck Baghdad’s Green Zone. On July 20, two mortar attacks targeted security forces in Ninewa and Diyala, while other ISIS attacks on July 21 killed a civilian and a PMF member and injured three other security personnel. Between July 19 – 22, Turkish airstrikes killed at least five PKK members and damaged civilian homes in new operations in the Kurdistan region. On July 21, unknown attackers kidnapped German arts educator and activist Hella Mewis outside the arts center she runs in central Baghdad. Witnesses say police observed the kidnapping but failed to intervene. On July 22, security forces seized a drone of unknown origin carrying a projectile weighing two kilograms (2.2 lbs) over a building near al-Jadiriya in central Baghdad. more…

  • More IDPs Return To Sinjar; HRW Report Says Authorities Prevent Return Of 1,200 West Ninewa Families; COVID-19 Cases Exceed 100,000 – On July 15, the Ministry of Interior said there were more than 5,311 complaints of domestic violence during the last six months, attributing an increase in domestic violence to the pandemic, curfews, the economic crisis, and drug use. On July 17, the Ministry of Migration said that 332 IDPs returned to the villages of Sinjar from camps in Duhok. In Anbar, the International Organization for Migration and Iraqi government organized the facilitated return of another 50 families of IDPs from the Amriyat al-Fallujah camp to their places of origin. On July 19, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that the KRG continues to prevent 1,200 Arab families from returning to their villages in Ninewa province nearly six years after the villages were retaken from ISIS. On July 20, Qatar offered to provide two mobile hospitals to Iraq to help the country manage the COVID-19 outbreak. On July 23, Iraqi airports in Baghdad, Najaf and Basra resumed international flights after being shut down in March, even though the country continues to report large numbers of COVID-19 cases. On July 23, the Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 102,226. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 4,122 while a total of 69,405 patients have recovered. To date, Iraq has tested 861,165 samples for COVID-19. more…

  • France Offers €1.1 Billion For Infrastructure Projects; Iranian Exports To Iraq Declined 47% Last Quarter; Gharraf Oil Field Resumes Production – On July 16, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said from Baghdad that France will support Iraq with up to €1.1 billion in financing for “essential infrastructure and services” projects, including “transportation, energy, and water.” On July 16, the U.S. State Department pledged to support the implementation of a project between Iraq and the Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority to link the Iraqi electrical grid with that of its Gulf neighbors. On July 19, the Iranian Secretary General of the Iran-Iraq Joint Chamber of Commerce said Iran exported $1.45 billion in goods to Iraq during the March 2020-June 2020 quarter compared to $2.35 billion during the same period of last year. On July 20, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani announced the launch of a large food industrial zone in Duhok province that he said will provide thousands of jobs by developing the industrial and agricultural sectors of the economy. On July 21, production resumed in Iraq’s Gharraf oil field, where operations were suspended in mid-March, at a rate of 50,000 bpd. 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.


Minister Says Iraq Urgently Needs Water Agreement With Turkey; Finance Minister Leads Delegation To Riyadh; PM Kadhimi Postpones Trip to Saudi Arabia, Visits Iran

On July 16, Iraq’s Minister of Water Resources Mahdi Rashid al-Hamdani said Iraq needs to reach an agreement with Turkey about its water projects or the country will face severe water shortages. The minister said inflows of water at the Turkish border were 50% below average this year. According to an internal ministry study, Iraq will face a 10.5 billion cubic meter shortage of water by 2035. The minister urged the foreign ministry to put pressure on Turkey to respect Iraq’s share of water. The minister held talks late last month with Turkish officials over the Ilisu Dam and its impact on the Tigris river but was unable to reach an agreement. The Ilisu Dam project, Turkey’s fourth largest, has triggered concern among Iraqis due to its impact on Tigris water supplies. 

On July 19, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited Baghdad and met with President Barham Salih, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein. Zarif’s talks focused on bilateral relations and Prime Minister Kadhimi’s planned visit to Tehran. In his talks, Zarif stressed that the emergence of a “stable and powerful” Iraq was a mutual goal for both countries, while his Iraqi counterpart said that Baghdad will aim for “balanced relations” with all its neighbors “without any interfering in our domestic affairs.” President Salih echoed that message. He stressed the importance of protecting Iraqi sovereignty while cooperating with allies and friends on the basis of “mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs.” The president also maintained Iraq’s willingness to expand bilateral relations with Iran and expressed appreciation for Iran’s efforts in the fight against ISIS. 

On July 19, officials from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) threatened to boycott future meetings of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Parliament. The KRG Parliament has not met since May following a divisive vote to remove immunity from Representative Soran Omar, after he accused KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani of corruption. That KDP-led vote provoked a walkout by representatives of other parties, including the PUK. Financial difficulties facing the KRG have compounded the tensions between the leading parties. In June, PUK co-leader Lahur Talabany said the party would suspend its participation in parliament if KRG negotiators sent last month to Baghdad to secure the region’s portion of the national budget, which has been suspended since April, failed to resolve the dispute with the federal government. 

On July 20, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi postponed a plan announced last week to visit to Saudi Arabia after King Salman was hospitalized. Despite the cancelation, an Iraqi delegation headed by Finance Minister Ali Allawi visited Riyadh for discussions with Saudi officials led by Energy Minister Abdul-Aziz Bin Salman within the framework of the Iraqi-Saudi Council, formed  last week to enhance coordination between the two countries. The Iraqi delegation reportedly signed several agreements dealing with investments, education, sports, and energy. 

On July 21, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi visited Tehran in his first foreign trip as prime minister. In a joint press conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, he expressed Iraq’s desire for good relations “based on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of both countries,” and added that he will “not allow any aggression or challenge to Iran” from Iraq. Kadhimi also said he did not want Iraq to become a battlefield for Iran and the United States. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said during a meeting with Kadhimi that Iran will avenge the killing of Qasim Soleimani with an equal blow to the Americans but claimed that Iran would not interfere in U.S.-Iraq affairs. Kadhimi also met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, and the speaker of Iran’s parliament. Rouhani said Kadhimi’s visits represented a “turning point” for relations between Baghdad and Tehran. The Iraqi delegation led by Kadhimi held an extended meeting with the Iranian side led by Jahangiri that focused on the economic and COVID-19 crises, according to a statement by Kadhimi’s office.

On July 19, hundreds of protestors in Dhi-Qar demonstrated to demand the resignation of corrupt government department directors in the province. In response, Dhi-Qar governor Nazim al-Waeli dismissed eight department heads and the mayor of Nasriyah, the provincial capital. In spite of the news, demonstrators took to the streets again on July 22, burning tires and cutting off roads. On July 20, demonstrators in Diwaniya protested poor electricity conditions and called for the dismissal of the local electricity director. In Baghdad, Iraqi security forces attacked educators near the Green Zone who were demanding their previous government jobs, injuring at least three of them. 


Attack Kills Senior Officer; German Activist Kidnapped In Baghdad; New Attacks On Green Zone And Convoys Supplying U.S. Forces

On July 16, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded in central Kirkuk, near the city’s third bridge. The explosion damaged a vehicle and nearby store, but did not cause casualties. On July 20, a roadside IED exploded near the Mussalla area in central Kirkuk. The explosion wounded one civilian and damaged several vehicles. 

On July 17, Iraqi security sources said a militant attack targeted a military vehicle in the Ibn Sena area of the al-Tarmiyah district, north of Baghdad. The attack killed the commander of the Iraqi Army’s brigade 59, Brigadier General Ali Hameed Ghaydan. Two Iraqi soldiers died later from injuries they sustained during the attack, for which ISIS claimed responsibility. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi visited Tarmiyah and met with security commanders and tribal leaders in the area. Kadhimi also ordered security forces to work immediately to find and arrest the perpetrators of the attack. 

On July 17, gunmen on motorcycles shot and injured activist Khaled al-Samer in central Basra. The same day, an explosive device exploded on a bicycle in the Abu al-Khaseeb district, south of Basra. The explosion killed a two year old child and injured her father. 

On July 19, Turkish security forces killed or captured three members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in military operations backed by airstrikes near the Zab area in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. New Turkish airstrikes on July 22 killed two more PKK militants in the Hakurk area. The same day, Turkish airstrikes targeted the Bole Mountain in northern Erbil, damaging civilian houses, but leaving no casualties. At least four earlier Turkish airstrikes on July 16 struck Mount Halgurd in Erbil province without reports of casualties. 

On July 19, Iraqi security forces (ISF) said that three mortar shells struck Baghdad’s Green Zone. According to the ISF statement, two of the 82mm rounds exploded while a third failed to detonate. CCTV footage allegedly of the attackers showed mortars being fired from the bed of a pickup truck. The attack did not cause any casualties, and no group claimed responsibility for the attack.  

On July 20, Iraqi security sources said a mortar shell struck near the Aqrab checkpoint, south of Mosul. The attack injured one civilian.

On July 20, an IED exploded in the al-Hadd al-Akhdar village, in the Abbara sub district in  Diyala province. The explosion did not cause human casualties but killed several cows and caused material damages. 

On July 20, a bomb exploded in the Bablan village, near Muqdadiyah, in Diyala province. The bomb exploded while military engineers with the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) were conducting an operation to clear out roads in the village. The explosion killed one PMF fighter and wounded six others.

On July 20, four mortar shells struck close to aPMF headquarters in al-Safra, in the Udhaim subdistrict in Diyala province. The attack did not cause any casualties. 

On July 21, security sources said unknown attackers kidnapped German arts educator and activist Hella Mewis outside of the Beit Tarkib Arts Institute in central Baghdad. Witnesses say “police officers at the local station witnessed the kidnapping but did not intervene.” In Iraq, Mewis organizes opportunities for Iraqi artists to develop their artistic skills and was involved in recent protests against the government. Those close to Mewis indicated that she was “nervous” following the assassination of Iraqi security expert Husham al-Hashimi. A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said investigations have begun and that “the minister has formed a joint investigative committee” in order to find Mewis. 

On July 21, ISIS militants attacked a PMF position in the village of Tawakul, near the Muqdadiyah district in Diyala province. The attack killed one PMF fighter and wounded another. Further north in Diyala, an ISIS sniper wounded  two Iraq soldiers in an attack near the village of Sherik in the Khanaqin district. Meanwhile, unidentified gunmen assassinated a civilian near his house in the Abu Saida subdistrict. 

On July 22, two roadside explosive devices exploded against  an Iraqi convoy carrying support for American forces on the al-Batha road in Dhi-Qar province. The explosions  damaged one vehicle in the convoy but did not cause any casualties. This is the second attack on convoys for U.S. forces in southern Iraq in July. A group named Saraya Thawrat al-Ishreen al-Thania claimed responsibility for a July 11 attack on the highway between Diwaniyah and Samawah. 

On July 22, the Security Media Cell said that security forces seized a drone carrying a projectile weighing two kilograms (4.4 lbs) over a building near al-Jadiriya in central Baghdad. The ISF dismantled the projectile and began an investigation into the origin of the drone.


More IDPs Return To Sinjar; HRW Report Says Authorities Prevent Return Of 1,200 West Ninewa Families; COVID-19 Cases Break 100,000

On July 15, the Ministry of Interior released statistics on domestic violence incidents in Iraq during the last six months. Major General Saad Maan, the Director of Relations and Information of the ministry, said the ministry received more than 5,311 complaints of domestic violence during this period. A total of 1,333 individuals were accused of domestic violence in association with these complaints, 43 of whom have been convicted, 345 of whom have been released, 374 remain under investigation, and 367 individuals have outstanding arrest warrants against them. Maan attributed the increase in domestic violence at least in part to the pandemic, curfews, the economic crisis, drug use, violence in the media, and ignorance of anti-domestic violence laws. 

On July 17, the Ministry of Migration and Displacement announced that 332 internally displaced person’s (IDPs) returned to the villages of Sinjar in Ninewa province from camps in Duhok province. Previous reports indicate that at least 1,200 Yazidi families have returned to Sinjar since June, and last week, the Ninewa governor said that additional IDPs will return home after receiving security clearance. However, returnees face difficult conditions in their war-damaged home districts. Further south, the International Organization for Migration and the Iraqi government organized the facilitated return of over 50 households of IDPs from the Amriyat al-Fallujah camp to their places of origin in Anbar province. This ongoing project is expected to aid in the voluntary return of 2,400 IDP households in Anbar and Ninewa out of nearly 1.3 million IDPs that remain displaced three years after the end of ISIS conflict. The project provides support in terms of clearing debris, rebuilding damaged houses, restoration of basic services and financial assistance. Last month, the ministry announced plans to close 20 of the 22 IDP camps in Anbar and consolidate the remaining IDPs, estimated at 1,706 households in two camps. 

On July 19, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that the KRG has prevented 1,200 Arab families from returning to their villages in Ninewa province nearly six years after the villages were retaken from ISIS. HRW interviewed five citizens from the Jidria, Mahmoudia, Qahira, Saudia and Sufiya villages that have not been allowed to return to their villages. All five residents said their home areas were controlled by ISIS in 2014, but were retaken by Peshmerga and KRG forces soon after. Most of the testimonies follow a similar pattern. Villagers had to leave their villages when ISIS militants took over the area in 2014, then they were allowed to return for a brief period of time to either farm the land or gather belongings, and eventually lost access to their homes again in 2017 when Iraqi and Peshmerga forces clashed nearby and set up respective checkpoints and security barriers, creating new borders. On July 20, the KRG’s Coordinator for International Advocacy Dindar Zebari denied that security measures target a certain ethnicity or religion and claimed that the residents have not been allowed to return due to security concerns such as militant groups, recent Turkish airstrikes, PKK presence and COVID-19 travel restrictions.         

On July 20, Qatar offered to provide two mobile hospitals to Iraq to help the country manage the COVID-19 outbreak. Qatar’s Prime Minister Khalid bin Khalifa Al Thani made the offer during a phone call with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. The two hospitals would be installed in Dhi-Qar and Anbar provinces.

On July 21, the Interior Minister in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said that the travel ban between provinces in the Kurdistan region and the rest of Iraq remains in effect to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The minister said that the region’s airports may resume international flights on or after August 1 when preventative measures to deal with COVID-19 will have been established. Travelers will be tested when they return, and quarantined for two weeks if they test positive for the virus. The minister said local administrations have been empowered to “ease coronavirus-related travel restrictions within their jurisdictions,” but that large gathering places such as mosques, meeting halls and stadiums will be closed during Eid al-Adha holiday. 

On July 21, a member of the Independent Human Rights Commission in the Kurdistan region said one prisoner died after having a seizure while on hunger strike at the Erbil Adult Reform Prison. Prisoners have reportedly started a hunger strike on July 12 to protest poor conditions at this facility.

On July 23, Iraqi airports in Baghdad, Najaf and Basra resumed operations after being shut down in March, even though the country continues to report large numbers of COVID-19 cases. Passengers must show proof of recent negative COVID-19 test results before boarding their flights. International destinations to which flights have resumed include Beirut and Cairo.

On July 23, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 102,226, representing a weekly increase of 16,078 cases from the 86,148 reported a week earlier. Of these cases, 28,699 are in the hospital and 375 are in the intensive care unit (ICU). According to the ministry’s data, there were 600 new deaths during the same period, bringing total fatalities from 3,522 to 4,122. Meanwhile the total number of recoveries has increased from 54,316 to 69,405. The areas reporting the most new cases during the last 24 hours were Baghdad with 902 cases, followed by Basra with 192 cases, and Karbala, which reported 176 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 861,165 samples for COVID-19. 


France Offers €1.1 Billion For Infrastructure Projects; Iranian Exports To Iraq Declined 47% Last Quarter; Gharraf Oil Field Resumes Production

On July 16, in a joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad, visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France will support Iraq with up to €1.1 billion in financing for “essential infrastructure and services” projects, including “transportation, energy, and water.” An official with the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said some of the funds will help Iraqis displaced during the war with ISIS return home. 

On July 16, the U.S. State Department pledged to support the implementation of a project between Iraq and the Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority to link the Iraqi electrical grid with that of its Gulf neighbors. Last month, the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity said that it has completed 80% of the work required to connect Iraq’s electrical grid to those of the Gulf states. The U.S. has encouraged this project as an alternative source of energy to end Iraq’s reliance on gas and electricity imports from Iran. Since late 2018, Washington has provided Iraq sanction waivers (most recently in May) that allow it to purchase Iranian natural gas, among other imports, due to Iraq’s inability to capture its own natural gas. Iraqis have frequently protested poor electricity supplies this month amid rising temperatures that have worsened the chronic electricity shortages. 

On July 19, the Iranian Secretary General of the Iran-Iraq Joint Chamber of Commerce, Hamid Hosseini said Iran has exported $1.45 billion in goods to Iraq during the March 2020-June 2020 quarter compared to $2.35 billion during the same period of last year. This decrease of about 47% in Iranian exports to Iraq is primarily a result of border closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 21, an Iranian official claimed that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Prime Minister al-Kadhimi agreed during the latter’s visit to Tehran to increase trade between the two countries to $20 billion annually. 

On July 20, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani announced the launch of a large food industrial zone in Duhok province that he said will provide thousands of jobs by developing the industrial and agricultural sectors of the economy. The project is to include the development of 270 food factories, 230 food storage facilities, and a number of hotels and restaurants. The announcement of this project follows recent developments that highlighted the lack of food processing industries in the region. Two weeks ago, farmers in Erbil destroyed their crops to protest the loss of crop earnings triggered by cheap imports and lack of marketing outlets.

On July 21, production resumed in Iraq’s Gharraf oil field where operations had been suspended since mid-March following the withdrawal of foreign staff by the field’s developer, Petronas due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The field, which produced 75,000 barrels per day (bpd) on average between January and March is now pumping 50,000 bpd. 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
07/16/20Central Kirkuk00
07/17/20Abu al-Khaseeb district, Basra11
07/20/20Central Kirkuk01
07/20/20Abbara subdistrict, Diyala00
07/20/20Muqdadiyah district, Diyala16
07/22/20al-Batha, Dhi-Qar00

 

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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