ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: AUGUST 6 – AUGUST 13, 2020

ISHM LOGO

Key Takeaways:

  • PM Kadhimi In Washington Next Week; Parties Say Elections In June Will Be Difficult; Former Electricity Minister Under Investigation; Tensions Rise With Turkey After Deadly Raid – On August 8, PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced plans to visit Washington and meet President Trump on August 20, where they will resume the strategic dialogue talks launched in June. On August 8, the Saeroun Alliance said that holding early elections will be difficult, citing the “incomplete quorum” of the Supreme Federal Court, and missing elements of the election law. Iraqiya Alliance leader, Iyad Allawi said Iraq needs a new election commission, new election law, and a biometric system before it can hold credible elections. On August 10, 20 members of the KRG Parliament criticized salary cuts enforced by the KRG as illegal, saying the KRG must reach an agreement with the federal government to secure the financial interests of its people. On August 11, the Iraqi government officially recognized Iraqis killed in protests since October 2019 as “martyrs,” and pledged to provide treatment for the wounded, including facilitating travel for treatment abroad. On August 10, former Electricity Minister Luay al-Khateeb said that a security force acting PM Kadhimi’s orders raided his residence and confiscated computer servers. Iraq’s Integrity Commission said it banned Khateeb from travel pending investigation of alleged violations concerning the hiring of 82,555 daily workers. On August 11, President Barham Salih condemned a Turkish airstrike in the Kurdistan region that killed 15 people, including Iraqi officers as a “serious violation of Iraqi sovereignty.” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry ignored Iraq’s demands to freeze operations, warning that Ankara was “determined to take the measures it deems necessary for its border security no matter where it may be.” more…
  • Bombings Escalate Against Coalition Contractors; Iraqi Officers Killed In Turkish Raids Against The PKK – Between August 9 – 12, at least three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) exploded targeting civilian contractors transporting supplies for the U.S.-led International Coalition against ISIS near Baghdad and Nasiriyah, damaging equipment but leaving no casualties. On August 11, the Iraqi military said a Turkish airstrike in the Kurdistan region struck an Iraqi border guards vehicle, killing five of them, including a brigade commander and other officers. A spokesman for the Iraqi Commander in Chief said the fallen officers were on a reconnaissance mission 4 kilometers from the border. The spokesman condemned the Turkish airstrike, warning that Iraq “will not forgive the shedding of Iraqi blood.” On August 11, a rocket struck near an entrance to the Green Zone in Baghdad without causing casualties. Between August 10 – 13, three IEDs killed a civilin, injured another, and wounded two members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Anbar, Ninewa and Diyala. Between August 6 – 13, other attacks by ISIS militants killed two civilians and three members of Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), while injuring eight civilians and four ISF members in Diyala and Kirkuk. more…

  • Government Extends Partial Curfew As COVID-19 Cases Exceed 164,000; Iraq Seeks Return Of Thousands Of Stolen Artifacts; 1,439 Displaced Families Return To Diyala – On August 8, the Higher Committee for Health and National Safety in Iraq extended the nationwide Sunday-Wednesday partial curfew until August 15, while enforcing a total curfew Thursday- Saturday. On August 9, Iraq’s Minister of Culture said that Iraq has reached a $15 million settlement with Hobby Lobby over the company’s possession of thousands of artifacts that were stolen from Iraq. The minister and Iraq’s archaeology commission are working on the legal and technical arrangements for the return of these artifacts, as well as more than 5000 artifacts thought to be stolen and are currently in the possession of Cornell University. On August 9, UNHCR said it received $41 million in new funding from the U.S. to support its efforts to provide aid for Iraq’s estimated 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and more than 280,000 refugees and asylum seekers. On August 10, Diyala politician Salim al-Jubouri said that security forces have given security approvals to 1,439 IDP families to return to their home districts in Diyala this week. On August 13, the Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 164,277. More than 3,800 cases were reported on August 13, representing a new daily peak. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 5,641 while a total of 117,208 patients have recovered. To date, Iraq has tested 1,224,909 samples for COVID-19. more…

  • Iraq To Cut Oil Output By 400,000 BPD; Politicians Sue To Block Renewal Of Mobile Network Operator Licences; Iraq Concludes Plentiful Wheat Harvest – On August 7, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said it will reduce oil production by an additional 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) to compensate for exceeding the production limits Iraq had agreed to as part of the OPEC+ deal signed in April. On August 7, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity said the national grid generated a record 19,200 megawatts of power, promising improved electrical service and shorter blackouts. On August 11, an influential member of parliament said he has filed a civil lawsuit to suspend the license renewals for the three major mobile network operators in Iraq, Asia Cell, Korek and Zain, citing legal violations. On August 12, Iraq’s Trade Ministry announced the conclusion of the summer wheat harvest and marketing season, during which farmers across Iraq delivered just over five million tons of wheat. 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.


PM Kadhimi In Washington Next Week; Parties Say Elections In June Will Be Difficult; Former Electricity Minister Under Investigation; Tensions Rise With Turkey After Deadly Raid

On August 8, a statement by the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said Kadhimi would be leading an Iraqi delegation in a visit to the United States, where he is scheduled to meet President Donald Trump on August 20. According to the statement, discussions during the visit will cover a range of issues, including security, energy, health, economy, and investment. In June, Iraq and the U.S. concluded the first round of their strategic dialogue talks and talked about a possible visit by Kadhimi to Washington to resume the talks. For its part, the White House issued a statement welcoming Kadhimi’s upcoming visit, saying it comes at “a critical time” for both countries due to the public health crisis and the challenge of ISIS. On August 9, the Fatah Coalition, which is affiliated with militia groups hostile to the U.S. called on al-Kadhimi to meet with the leaders of political blocs prior to his White House visit to ensure a “unified position on the future of relations between Washington and Baghdad,” particularly with regard to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

On August 8, the Saeroun Alliance, led by Moqtada al-Sadr, said holding early parliamentary elections will be difficult, citing a number of reasons, including the “incomplete quorum” of the Supreme Federal Court, which requires Parliament to take legislative action to amend the Court’s law. Saeroun representative Ali al-Lami added that Parliament also needs a lot of time to agree on missing elements of the controversial election law, in reference to the annexes specifying the number and shape of electoral districts. Lami also argued that elections could not be held in June, as Prime Minister Kadhimi announced last week, because rule of law is absent in several provinces, where armed groups hold sway. The last claim is rather odd because the Saeroun Alliance is affiliated with Saraya al-Salam, one of the largest militias in Iraq. The head of the Iraqiya Alliance, Iyad Allawi had his own prerequisites for holding elections in June. Allawi mentioned that Iraq needs a new election commission, new election law, and a biometric system. He added that the last election witnessed “foreign interference, fraud, and interference by some militias,” without naming the sources of interference.

On August 9, the Election Affairs Advisor to the prime minister, Hussein al-Hindawi said that Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) expects the next parliamentary election to cost $250 – $300 million, adding that Prime Minister Kadhimi has asked IHEC to find ways to reduce the costs wherever possible. Hindawi, however, assured that the Iraqi government was ready to “provide the necessary requirements” to organize early elections. 

On August 10, the Integrity Commission said four top public officials have filed their financial declaration forms for 2020. The officials include the ministers of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Electricity, and Education, as well as the director of the prime minister’s office. On August 12, the Commission asked all state institutions to freeze the salaries of public officials who are required to file financial declaration forms in accordance with article 17 of Law no. 30 of 2011 concerning the Commission of Integrity and Illegal Profiteering if they fail to comply with the requirements.

On August 10, 20 members of the Kurdistan region’s Parliament representing various blocs criticized salary cuts enforced by the KRG as illegal, saying the KRG must reach an agreement with the federal government to ensure the region’s share of the budget and secure the financial interests of its people. The KRG implemented salary cuts in late June to cope with the financial crisis facing the region. Employees earning more than ID 300,000 had their salaries reduced by  21% while senior officials had their salaries cut by half. The financial crisis elevated tensions between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), prompting the latter to threaten to boycott parliament if the KDP-dominated KRG did not reach an agreement with Baghdad over securing the region’s budget. It is unclear whether the 20 representatives in question include members of the PUK. 

On August 11, the Iraqi government officially recognized Iraqis killed in protests since October 2019 as “martyrs” entitled to the rights specified by the Martyrs Foundation Law of 2009. The government also ordered the Ministry of Health to form special committees tasked with providing treatment for the wounded, including facilitating travel for treatment abroad if needed. The government also issued decisions specifically addressing the needs of Dhi-Qar province, where angry protesters stormed the local government building on Sunday to complain about a water shortage. The government allocated a ID 50 billion (approximately $42 million) in additional budget for the province, instructed government ministries to implement road, bridge and sewer projects and authorized a contract for the Nasiriyah International Airport project. A day earlier, the prime minister met with a delegation of Dhi-Qar protesters who were injured during past protests. Kadhimi assured them that he supports their demands and that his government gives priority to addressing them. He also pledged to support injured protesters with health care and other social security benefits. Iraqi state media reported on August 13 that the first group of injured protesters were already on their way to the UAE for treatment. 

On August 10, former Electricity Minister Luay al-Khateeb said that a security force acting on orders from Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi raided his residence, confiscating computer servers and sealing the property. Khateeb argued that he had a valid lease for the building, a government property, which he renewed prior to the resignation of the previous government, in which he had served. The former minister added  that he had not received an official notice to vacate prior to this raid, which he decried as “illegal and unethical.” Representative Alia Nassif of the State of Law coalition, who is known for her repeated attacks on Khateeb, praised the raid, considering it a “restoration” of government real estate, although it is unclear whether the raid was connected with property disputes. On August 13, the Integrity Commission said it banned Khateeb from travel pending investigation of alleged violations he committed while in office. Specifically, the Commission is looking into Khateeb’s hiring of 82,555 daily workers in violation of hiring guidelines, costing the state ID 43 billion (approximately $3.6 million) a month in wages.

On August 11, President Barham Salih condemned a Turkish airstrike in the Sidakan area of the Kurdistan region that killed 15 people, including Iraqi officers (details below) as a “serious violation of Iraqi sovereignty.” Salih called for the “immediate cessation of these acts of aggression,” and for peaceful dialogue between the two countries to resolve their border problems. Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to the Turkish airstrike by canceling a visit by Ankara’s Defense Minister that was scheduled for August 13. The ministry condemned the attacks as a violation of international law, adding that it will summon the Turkish ambassador to deliver a strongly worded memorandum rejecting Turkey’s actions. Meanwhile, the KRG responded through a statement by its interior ministry urging the PKK and Turkey to “take their conflict away from the lands of Iraq and the Kurdistan region” so that Iraqis “do not pay the price of this conflict.” On August 13, the Turkish Foreign Ministry ignored Iraq’s demands to freeze its operations, saying it was “ready to cooperate with Iraq on the PKK” issue but warned that “in the event where PKK presence in Iraq may get overlooked, our country is determined to take the measures it deems necessary for its border security no matter where it may be.” The UN Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) urged Iraq and Turkey to show restraint, calling the escalation on the border “a source of grave concern.”

On August 12, Iraqi and Turkish water officials began bilateral meetings regarding shared water resources. The two sides discussed cooperation in investing in shared water resources, including the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and the commencement of operations at Turkey’s Ilisu Dam, which has recently triggered concerns for Iraqi officials due to its impact on Iraq’s water share of the Tigris. According to a statement by Iraq’s Water Resources Ministry, the Iraqi side insisted that the countries must agree on a fixed share of water to be released through the dam. Turkish officials reportedly assured their Iraqi counterparts that the dam operations would “not harm” Iraq’s water supply and expressed interest in continuing the discussions to resolve all water disputes. Iraq’s Water Minister has been making diplomatic efforts to convene a meeting with Turkish officials to address what he had described as an “impending water crisis” in Iraq. 

On August 12, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs said it has discovered between 10,000 – 12,000 government employees who have been receiving double salaries. According to the ministry, these findings were the result of a “major inspection campaign” during which it cross checked employee data with the ministries of Defense, Interior, Education, Higher Education, as well as the National Security Service and the Pensions Commission. In June, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi initiated financial reforms targeting double salaries. At the time, the Ministry of Education alone reported recovering funds from more than 5,000 employees out of 18,000 believed to be receiving more than one salary.


Bombings Escalate Against Coalition Contractors; Iraqi Officers Killed In Turkish Raids Against The PKK

On August 6, ISIS militants attacked a checkpoint for Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in the village of Sherik, near Khanaqin in Diyala province. The attack involved mortar fire followed by a direct assault with firearms, and killed one ISF member and injured two more. 

On August 9, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded targeting trucks belonging to civilian contractors transporting supplies for the forces of the U.S.-led International Coalition against ISIS. The explosion, which slightly damaged a truck occurred on the main highway passing through Dhi-Qar province. On August 11, a similar explosion targeted another Coalition supply convoy in Taji, north of Baghdad. This attack destroyed a container that was onboard one of the trucks. Hours earlier, an obscure militant group called Ashab al-Kahf claimed to have conducted another bombing against contractors working for the Coalition near the border with Kuwait, but the Coalition and Iraq’s and Kuwait’s militaries all said there was no such attack. Another explosion on August 12 targeted trucks transporting supplies for the International Coalition on the main highway near al-Batha in Dhi-Qar province. The attack set one of the trucks on fire. 

On August 10, an IED explosion targeted a patrol for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) near Lake Himrin in Diyala province. The attack wounded two PMF fighters. 

On August 10, ISIS militants attacked the al-Majid village in the Riyadh subdistrict in western Kirkuk, injuring two civilians and two tribal mobilization fighters. The militants later detonated an IED targeting ISF units that responded to the attack, killing an Iraqi federal police officer.  

On August 11, the Security Media Cell reported that an airstrike by Turkish drones struck a vehicle belonging to the Iraqi border guards in the Sidakan region in northern Erbil province. Initial Iraqi military reports said the “flagrant aggression” killed the commanding officers of a border guards brigade and battalion and their driver. Subsequent reports said the airstrike killed five Iraqi border guards, ten members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and injured five civilians. For its part, the Turkish military said its forces killed or captured at least seven PKK members in operations in northern Iraq, without making any reference to Iraqis being among the casualties. A spokesman for the Iraqi Commander in Chief explained that the fallen officers were on a reconnaissance mission 4 kilometres from the border. The spokesman condemned the Turkish airstrike, warning that Iraq “will not forgive the shedding of Iraqi blood.” Iraqi borders in the Kurdistan region are typically controlled by the KRG security forces, but in July federal border guards increased their presence near the Turkish border in a bid to deter further escalation between Turkey and the PKK.

On August 11, a small explosion occurred near the local office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the Karrada district in central Baghdad without causing casualties. Some reports indicated the explosion was caused by an IED while others attributed the explosion to a mortar round. 

On August 11, ISIS militants attacked a minibus carrying civilians on the road near the village of Abu Karma in the Waqf area, northeast of Baquba in Diyala province. The attack involved small arms fire and injured five civilians. 

On August 11, security sources said a rocket struck near the suspension bridge, an entrance to the Green Zone in Baghdad, without causing casualties. The ISF later discovered a second rocket prepared for launch near the Rasheed air base in southern Baghdad.

On August 12, PMF fighters killed two ISIS militants who were observed attempting to transport IEDs into Kirkuk City using motorcycles.

On August 13, security sources said that in the early morning hours, ISIS militants infiltrated the village of Blawa in the Yaychi subdistrict of Kirkuk province. The militants killed a civilian and wounded another using silenced weapons. 

On August 13, ISIS militants killed a farmer in the village of Islah, near Jalawla in Diyala province. To the south, another group of militants attacked a checkpoint manned by tribal mobilization fighters in the village of Shaqraq near Muqdadiyah, killing one tribal fighter.

On August 13, security sources said an IED exploded in the Rayhana subdistrict near Ana in western Anbar province. The IED, thought to be leftover from the war with ISIS in the area, killed one civilian. Further north, another IED explosion wounded one civilian in an unspecified location west of Mosul in Ninewa province.


Government Extends Partial Curfew As COVID-19 Cases Exceed 164,000; Iraq Seeks Return Of Thousands Of Stolen Artifacts; 1,439 Displaced Families Return To Diyala

On August 6, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) organized the repatriation of 134 Iraqi migrants who were in Greece and were trying to return home. The group consisted of 80 men, 16 women, and 38 children, who resided on a number of Greek islands and mainland Greece for months. The COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have delayed the return of many migrants. This return was the first of its size during the pandemic. IOM workers and Greek authorities organized medical evaluations and counselling for the Iraqi migrants to assess their health and confirm their desire to return to Iraq. 

On August 8, the Higher Committee for Health and National Safety in Iraq extended the nationwide Sunday-Wednesday partial curfew until August 15, while enforcing a total curfew Thursday- Saturday. All government institutions will operate with a maximum 25% of staff. In Najaf, home to important religious sites in Shia Islam, the province’s governor said he won’t attempt to prevent people from organizing religious processions during the upcoming occasion of Ashura. Instead, the local government issued precautions, including social distancing, wearing masks, and discouraging the elderly from joining the procession. 

On August 9, Iraq’s Minister of Culture said that Iraq has reached a $15 million settlement with Hobby Lobby over the company’s possession of thousands of artifacts that were stolen from Iraq. Under the settlement terms, Iraq will drop charges against Hobby Lobby, while the $15 million will be used to finance archaeological and cultural projects in Iraq. In late July, the D.C. Museum of the Bible, which is founded by Hobby Lobby’s owners, said it would return around 8,000 stolen artifacts to Iraq. The museum acquired the ancient artifacts from traders in the United States, Israel and the UK, but discovered later that the items were stolen from the Iraqi Museum in 2003. The ministry said the minister and officials in Iraq’s archaeology commission have discussed the legal and technical arrangements for the return of these artifacts, as well as more than 5000 stolen Iraqi artifacts that are currently in the possession of Cornell University. This is at least the second time Cornell has been asked to return Iraqi artifacts. In late 2013, the university returned 10,000 tablets to Iraq, given to the university by the Rosen family, who has been accused of dealing in artifacts looted from Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War. 

On August 9, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said it received $41 million in new funding from the U.S. to support its operations in Iraq. The UNHCR will use the new contribution to provide aid for Iraq’s estimated 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and more than 280,000 refugees and asylum seekers. The funds will also contribute to UNHCR’s COVID-19 response in Iraq. With these new funds, UNHCR operations in Iraq will be funded at 31% for this fiscal year. 

On August 10, Diyala politician Salim al-Jubouri said that security forces have given security approvals to 1,439 internally displaced person (IDP) families for return to their home districts in Diyala this week. Of these households, 451 were scheduled to return to the Muqdadiyah district on August 11. Another 580 families are expected to return to the Saadiya subdistrict on August 13, and on August 16 another 241 families are expected to return to the Jbara subdistrict, while 49 families are expected to return to the Jalawla subdistrict on August 18. Finally, 118 families are expected to return to the village of Bani Zaid on August 20. 

On August 13, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 164,277, representing a new record weekly increase of 23,674 cases from the 140,603 reported a week earlier. Of these cases, 41,428 are in the hospital and 592 are in the intensive care unit (ICU). According to the ministry’s data, there were 480 new deaths during the same period, bringing total fatalities from 5,161 to 5,641. Meanwhile, the total number of recoveries has increased from 101,025 to 117,208. This week saw continued growth in new cases in Iraq, with a new peak of 3,841 new cases reported on August 13 alone. The areas reporting the most new cases during the last 24 hours were Baghdad with 577 cases, followed by Basra with 383 cases, and Erbil, which reported 323 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 1,224,909 samples for COVID-19. Earlier this week, the deputy of Iraq’s Health Ministry warned that Iraq has not yet seen the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Iraq To Cut Oil Output By 400,000 BPD; Politicians Sue To Block Renewal Of Mobile Newtwork Operator Licences; Iraq Concludes Plentiful Wheat Harvest

On August 7, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said the country will reduce its oil production by an additional 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) to compensate for exceeding the production limits Iraq had agreed to as part of the OPEC+ deal signed in April. In mid July, Iraq’s Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar said Iraq was committed to making deep production cuts between July and September to compensate for its overproduction in the previous two months. Iraq’s oil exports last month were more than 675,000 bpd lower than they were in April, indicating the country has met just over 60% of its pledge to reduce exports by 1.06 million bpd. 

On August 7, a spokesman for Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity said that Iraq’s national grid generated 19,200 megawatts of power. The spokesman, Ahmed Mousa, said this was the first time that Iraq reached this production level, assuring Iraqis that they will soon see improved electrical service and shorter blackouts. The spokesman didn’t explain the sources of increased production but electricity officials in Samawa reported the introduction of 125 megawatts through a new combined cycle generation unit, and government officials said in July that Iraq was planning to import an additional 650 megawatts from Turkey and the Kurdistan region. Up to half of the power generated in Iraq is lost in transmission and distribution because of poor grid conditions, suggesting that improvements in higher generation levels might not lead to comparable improvements in electricity available to consumers. A lack of electricity amid temperatures exceeding 50 degrees Celsius triggered a new wave of anti-government protests in July in Baghdad and several provinces, some of which turned deadly as government forces sought to control riots. 

On August 11, an influential member of parliament said he has filed a civil lawsuit to suspend the license renewals for the three major mobile network operators in Iraq, Asia Cell, Korek and Zain. Mohammed al-Soudani, a member of the committee in charge of “monitoring the implementation of the governmental program and strategic planning” and a former prime ministerial hopeful, said in a statement that the contracts involve “legal and constitutional violations, and are damaging to public interest because they deny the public treasury large sums owed by the companies.” Soudai added that the license renewal process “does not allow real competition” and that he filed the lawsuit on August 10 with the Karkh Court in Baghdad to compel the government to “suspend the renewal until the case can be decided.”

On August 12, the Iraqi Trade Ministry announced the conclusion of the summer wheat harvest and marketing season. According to a ministry statement, farmers across Iraq delivered just over five million tons of wheat to the ministry’s silos. Ninewa produced the most wheat, with 920,000 tons delivered, followed by Salah ad-Din (703,000 tons), Wasit (550,000 tons) and Kirkuk (460,000 tons). In July, the Trade Ministry said Iraq was on track to becoming self-sufficient in wheat for the second consecutive year.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
08/09/20Dhi-Qar00
08/10/20Near Lake Himrin, Diyala02
08/10/20Riyadh, west of Kirkuk 10
08/11/20Taji, north of Baghdad00
08/12/20Al-Batha, Dhi-Qar00
08/13/20Ana, Anbar10
08/13/20West of Mosul, Ninewa01

 

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.


Subscribe to our weekly ISHM and have the latest developments in Iraq sent straight to your inbox every Thursday and follow EPIC on Twitter to receive updates throughout the week.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email