- Halbousi Urges Kadhimi To Control Militias; Special Committee To Investigate Major Corruption Cases; Sadrists Want To Sack Three Ministers; Macron Visits Baghdad; Judiciary Summons Former Security Ministers Over Protesters’ Deaths – On August 29, the bloc led by Speaker Halbousi urged PM Kadhimi to control “undisciplined” militias, saying “the time has arrived” to establish state monopoly on arms. On August 30, PM Kadhimi gave a speech in which he said Iraqis “must choose between the state and non-state,” vowing to end “years-long assault on Iraq and Iraqi identity.” Kadhimi said he will establish a special investigative committee to tackle major corruption cases. On August 30, a representative of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Saeroun Alliance said the bloc will summon three of Kadhimi’s ministers for questioning with the goal of sacking them. On August 31, an angry mob broke into the Baghdad offices of Dijla TV, destroying equipment and setting the building on fire, accusing the channel of broadcasting music programs during a major religious observance. On September 2, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Baghdad and met with President Salih and PM Kadhimi. Macron said his goal was to work with the UN “to support a process of sovereignty” to shield Iraq from foreign interference. On September 2, KRG President Nechirvan Barzani visited Baghdad and met with PM Kadhimi to discuss national efforts to contain COVID-19 and coordination between KRG and federal security forces in fighting ISIS. Barzani also met with Speaker Halbousi to discuss the Election Law and the law of the Supreme Federal Court. On September 3, Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council summoned the former ministers of defense and interior for questioning concerning violence against protesters under the government of Adil Abdul-Mahdi. more…
- More Rockets Target Green Zone, Baghdad Airport; ISIS Escalates Bombings And Direct Attacks; U.S. To Pull 30% Of Its Forces By November; Tribal Clashes Rock Baghdad Suburbs – Between August 27 – September 3, eight rockets targeted the Green Zone, Baghdad Airport and a Western Security Firm in five separate attacks. During the same period, two IEDs targeted civilian contractors transporting supplies for the International Coalition, injuring one civilian in Babylon. Between August 29 – September 3, nine other IEDS, two car bombs and one unexploded remnant of war killed one Iraqi and injured at least 23 in Ninewa, Diyala, Anbar, Babylon and Salah ad-Din. Between August 27 – August 30, four other ISIS attacks killed at least seven Iraqis and wounded two more in Diyala and Salah ad-Din. On August 28, American officials said the U.S. military will cut its presence in Iraq by more than 30% before the end of the year. On August 30, after violent tribal clashes involving machine guns and anti-tank weapons killed at least two people and injured 17 near Baghdad, Iraq’s Interior Ministry said PM Kadhimi issued orders to confiscate weapons in areas witnessing violent tribal clashes. more…
- UN Urges Iraq To Investigate 2015-2016 Forced Disappearances; COVID-19 Cases Approach 250,000 As Many Iraqis Continue to Ignore Social Distancing Guidelines – On August 30, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) issued a report urging Iraqi authorities to investigate the forced disappearance of nearly a thousand men and boys who vanished during military operations against ISIS in Anbar province in 2015-2016. On August 30, UNHCR provided a new update on the escalating COVID-19 situation in Iraq, warning that movement restrictions and curfews ordered by the government are largely ineffective because “only a small percentage of the population is actually respecting them.” On September 3, the Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 247,039. More than 4,750 cases were reported on September 3 alone, representing a new daily record. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 7,275 while a total of 187,757 patients have recovered. To date, Iraq has tested 1,670,483 samples for COVID-19. more…
- Iraq Eyes $8 Billion Petrochemicals Project In Basra; Oil Exports Drop In August; Tax Authority Reports “Unprecedented” Revenue – On August 31, Iraq’s Oil Minister said Iraq is pursuing the development of a major petrochemical project in Basra through a partnership with Shell at a cost of $8 billion. The project would create 30,000 jobs and generate 1.8 million tons of products annually. On September 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said August oil exports averaged 2.597 million bpd, 166,000 bpd lower than July’s average, generating $3.517 billion in revenue. On September 1, the director of Iraq’s General Tax Commission announced that tax revenue in August reached ID 465 billion (approximately $387 million), calling the figure “unprecedented” in the history of tax collection in Iraq. On September 3, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity said that establishing a connection between the Iraqi and Jordanian power grids would require 18-24 months. As a first stage, the grid connection will have a capacity of 150 megawatts, expanding ultimately to 960 megawatts. 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.
Halbousi Urges Kadhimi To Control Militias; Special Committee To Investigate Major Corruption Cases; Sadrists Want To Sack Three Ministers; Macron Visits Baghdad; Judiciary Summons Former Security Ministers Over Protesters’ Deaths
On August 29, the Iraqi Forces Alliance, the parliamentary group led by Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi urged Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to control “undisciplined armed groups” saying “the time has arrived” to push for establishing state monopoly on arms “without hesitation.” In a clear reference to militia groups affiliated with Shia political parties, the Alliance added in its statement that “weapons are being used to achieve personal gain, settle local rivalries or violate state property and dignity.” In a televised interview on August 28, Halbousi had criticized Shia political parties for allowing armed affiliates to challenge state authority and weaken the prime minister, comparing the militias’ behavior to “someone picking up a sledge hammer to destroy their own house.” Halbousi argued that these militia groups were dragging Iraq into regional conflicts on behalf of outside powers, and urged Kadhimi to initiate candid dialogue with Shia political leaders to reconsider their position.
On August 30, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi made a speech marking Ashura, one of the holiest occasions on the Shia Muslim calendar, in which he addressed several key political issues facing Iraq. Kadhimi defended the right to peaceful protest and pledged to continue the investigations into violence against protesters while also stressing that his government won’t tolerate attacks on members of the security forces, civil servants, or destruction of property. Kadhimi also urged tribal leaders to stop the rise in tribal violence, stressing that “only the state” has the right to punish offenders. One of the key messages of Kadhimi’s speech was that Iraqis “must choose between the state and non-state,” vowing to end what he described as “years-long assault on Iraq and Iraqi identity.” Addressing plans for holding elections in 2021, Kadhimi encouraged Iraqis to register and obtain the biometric voter card to reduce the chances for fraud. Finally, Kadhimi said he decided to establish a special investigative committee attached to his office and charged with tackling “major corruption cases and extraordinary crimes,” adding that he will grant the committee “all the needed powers to restore rule of law.”
On August 30, a representative of the Saeroun Alliance of Moqtada al-Sadr said the bloc intends to summon three ministers in Prime Minister Kadhimi’s government for questioning when Parliament resumes meetings. The representative, Ali al-Lami, said the three ministers, whom he didn’t name, have “failed” to do their job and therefore “should be questioned and dismissed” from office. On September 3, the secretariat of the Parliament said the legislature will resume its meetings on Saturday, September 5.
On August 31, an angry mob broke into the Baghdad offices of Iraqi broadcaster Dijla TV, destroying equipment and setting the building on fire. The attack coincided with angry messages on social media attacking the channel for broadcasting music programs on Ashura, a holy religious occasion for Shia Muslims. Footage on social media showed members of Iraq’s security forces standing by without apparent action while the mob attacked the building. The same day, an Iraqi court issued an arrest warrant for Dijla’s owner, Iraqi politician Jamal al-Karbouli. The warrant was reportedly based on a complaint filed by a number of lawyers accusing Karbouli of intentionally insulting the faith of Iraqi Shia Muslims by broadcasting music on a solemn day of remembrance. In his response to the events, Karbouli accused the “militias of darkness” of leading the attack on Dijla’s offices, while indicating that he will “respect the judiciary” and aeppar before the court. Although he didn’t name specific entities, Karbouli said the militias that attacked his channel were the same ones that frequently attack diplomatic missions with rockets.
On September 2, the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, visited Baghdad for the first time and met with President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. Ahead of his visit, Macron said his goal was to “launch an initiative alongside the United Nations to support a process of sovereignty” to shield Iraq from the damaging effects of foreign interference. During his meeting with Salih, Macron told his Iraqi counterpart that Iraqi leaders have “a transition to lead. France will be by your side so the international community can help.” At a joint press conference, Salih said that he and Macron also discussed “economic relations and the need to implement a lot of contracts,” adding that several of projects will be announced in the coming days. At another joint press conference, Prime Minister Kadhimi thanked Macron for his interest in protecting Iraq’s sovereignty, adding that his government will “work hard to support regional stability.” Addressing economic cooperation, Kadhimi pledged to resolve obstacles facing French companies trying to do business in Iraq, adding that he and Macron discussed a potential project for peaceful nuclear energy under the supervision of the International Energy Agency and France to generate electricity in Iraq.
On September 2, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Nechirvan Barzani visited Baghdad and met with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. According to Kadhimi’s office, the talks focused on national efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and coordination between KRG and federal security forces in fighting ISIS. The two leaders also discussed “strengthening integration and cooperation” between the institutions of the KRG and federal government “within the framework of the constitution.” Barzani also met with Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi and discussed key items on the legislature’s agenda: finalizing the annexes of the Election Law concerning the boundaries of electoral districts and amending the law of the Supreme Federal Court. Barzani also met with French President Emanuel Macron who was visiting Baghdad at the same time.
On September 2, disagreements and verbal altercations between governing and opposition parties in the KRG Parliament forced the speaker to adjourn the first meeting of the new legislative season. According to Shafaaq, representatives of opposition parties rejected the planned meeting agenda and insisted on summoning KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and his Finance Minister to question them over the KRG decision in June to enforce a 21% deduction from civil servants salaries. Two days before the regional parliament’s meeting, the Kurdistan Islamic Group, one of the opposition parties, warned that conditions in Iraq’s Kurdistan region was “on the verge of collapse” due to the difficult economic conditions facing its people, which the group blamed on “mismanagement” by the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
On September 3, Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council summoned the former ministers of defense and interior for questioning concerning violence against protesters under the government of former Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. According to a statement by the Council, its president, Faeq Zaidan, also met with National Security Adviser Qasim al-Araji, Counter-Terrorism Service commander Abdul-Wahab al-Saidi, and National Security Service chief Abdul-Gahni al-Asadi as part to discuss legal procedures concerning investigations into the deaths and injureis among protesters and security forces since October 2019.
On August 27, Iraqi security sources said a rocket struck in the vicinity of the Green Zone in Baghdad. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) said the rocket attack originated from an area near the main highway in Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood. The following day, three more rockets fired from the Baijiyah area west of Baghdad struck an empty lot inside the Green Zone. During subsequent search operations, the ISF found and defused several rocket launchers in Baijiyah. On August 29, another rocket struck and damaged an uninhabited house inside the Green Zone. This time the rocket originated from the Army Canal area in eastern Baghdad. Finally, on August 30, two more rockets targeted Baghdad’s International Airport, west of the capital. None of the attacks resulted in casualties and no groups claimed responsibility for the attacks.
On August 27, Iraqi security sources said ISIS militants attacked an Iraqi Army position in the Sheeha area near Muqdadiyah in Diyala province. The attack killed one Iraqi soldier and injured another. Other reports indicated the attack killed one soldier and injured three.
On August 28, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Commission reported that a senior PMF figure died during an attack by ISIS militants in the Khanaqin district of Diyala province. The slain PMF officer, Aamir Ahmed Salih was the chief of PMF artillery in the Diyala sector. According to other security sources, the clashes with ISIS militants in the area also injured three other ISF members.
On August 29, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded targeting an Iraqi Army patrol on the road between the villages of Zulhufa and Surooj in the Shora subdistrict in Ninewa province. The explosion wounded two Iraqi soldiers. An earlier IED detonation in the same area missed a civilian vehicle and did not cause casualties. Police sources also say that two mortar rounds struck the Zulhufa village on August 28 while unidentified militants opened small arms fire on the village. There were no reports of casualties.
On August 28, unnamed American officials said the U.S. military will cut its presence in Iraq by more than 30% before the end of the year. The planned reduction would remove about 1,700 U.S. military personnel from the 5,200 currently deployed in Iraq. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and President Trump met in Washington on August 20 and agreed to develop plans for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
On August 29, an IED exploded targeting trucks belonging to civilian contractors transporting supplies for the forces of the U.S.-led International Coalition against ISIS. The explosion occurred on the main highway between Diwaniyah and Babylon provinces and did not cause casualties. On September 2, a similar attack on the highway passing through Babylon province injured a civilian who was driving his vehicle behind a convoy of trucks transporting supplies for the Coalition.
On August 30, a spokesman for Iraq’s Interior Ministry said the prime minister issued orders to search for and confiscate weapons in areas witnessing violent tribal clashes. According to the spokesman, the government will confiscate “light and medium” weapons to quell tribal clashes that “represent a dangerous problem threatening Iraq’s society.” The decision is in response to violent clashes that erupted between tribes in the Hussainiyah area northeast of Baghdad. The fighting, in which tribal gunmen used machine guns and anti-tank weapons killed at least two people, injured 17 others, and damaged buildings and vehicles. Security sources said the Iraqi military deployed a force of 70 army vehicles to the area to restore order.
On August 30, an IED exploded in the Eonat village near Sinjar in Ninewa province. The explosion wounded two civilians.
On August 30, two IEDs exploded targeting a police patrol on the highway passing through the Neel subdistrict in northern Babylon province. The explosions wounded two policemen. Further south, another Babylon policeman was injured by the detonation of an IED he was defusing. The incident occurred in the Shomali subdistrict south of Hilla.
On August 30, ISIS militants attacked the Hitaween village in the Udheim subdistrict of Diyala province, killing four civilians. The following day, an IED exploded targeting an ISF patrol on a farm road in the same area, wounding two Iraqi soldiers.
On August 31, unidentified gunmen attacked the local office of the Badr Organization in Kirkuk City in a drive-by shooting. The attack injured one of the building’s guards.
On August 31, an IED exploded targeting an ISF patrol on the main road through the Tuzkhormatu district in Salah ad-Din province. The explosion wounded three Iraqi soldiers. A direct assault by ISIS militants on an ISF checkpoint in the same area killed an Iraqi soldier and wounded another. It is unclear which incident happened first.
On September 1, a vehicle borne IED (VBIED) exploded near an ISF checkpoint on the main road between Kirkuk and Tikrit. The explosion killed a civilian woman and injured three members of the ISF.
On September 1, Iraqi military sources reported that a VBIED exploded in the industrial district in central Ramadi, Anbar province. The explosion wounded two civilians and one member of the ISF and damaged several nearby buildings and vehicles.
On September 3, an IED exploded in the Mu’alimeen area in Tal Afar district west of Mosul. The explosion wounded two civilians. A day earlier, four children were injured nearby after playing with an unexploded remnant of war that detonated, sending three of them to the hospital.
On September 3, a rocket struck the offices of G4S, a British security firm that provides security services for Baghdad’s International Airport. The attack, which occurred in the Qadisiyah area of Baghdad, caused material damages but there were no casualties.
On August 30, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) issued a report urging Iraqi authorities to investigate the forced disappearance of nearly a thousand men and boys who vanished during military operations against ISIS in Anbar province in 2015-2016. The report includes detailed recommendations that encourage the Iraqi government to recognize the victims and compensate them and their families for their ordeals. It also recommends creating strong local legal frameworks to protect civilians from future incidents of forced displacement and conduct thorough investigations leading to criminal prosecution of the perpetrators. Marking the International Day for Victims of Forced Disappearance, Prime Minister Kadhimi met with the families of several victims from Anbar, Salah ad-Din and Sadr City and told them that he will personally follow up on the investigations into the disappearances.
On August 30, UNHCR provided a new update on the escalating COVID-19 situation in Iraq, noting that the number of positive cases has nearly doubled since UNHCR issued its previous status update. The organization warned that movement restrictions and curfews ordered by the government are largely ineffective because “only a small percentage of the population is actually respecting them.” It pointed out that many thousands of Iraqis have ignored government calls to avoid crowds and flocked to Karbala for the annual Ashura pilgrimage (footage from Karbala suggests maintaining proper social distancing was very unlikely). UNHCR also pointed out that authorities in the Kurdistan region were prematurely relaxing travel restrictions between the region and other Iraqi provinces, as well as with neighboring Iran.
On September 1, UNICEF said it was helping Iraq fight the COVID-19 pandemic by enabling training for 30,000 Iraqi health care workers to educate the public and fellow health care workers about the virus and how to prevent infection. Iraq and UNICEF are employing a train-the-trainer model for the project. In July more than 600 Ministry of Health officials and staff from provincial primary health care departments received four days of training which they will in turn use to train thousands of primary health care workers in the near future.
On September 3, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 247,039, representing a weekly increase of 27,604 cases from the 219,435 reported a week earlier. Of these cases, 52,007 are in the hospital, including 496 in the intensive care unit (ICU). According to the ministry’s data, there were 535 new COVID-related deaths during the same period, bringing total fatalities from 6,740 to 7,275. Meanwhile, the total number of recoveries has increased from 161,009 to 187,757. This week saw continued growth in new cases in Iraq, with a new peak of 4,755 new cases reported on August 18 alone. The areas reporting the most new cases during the last 24 hours were Baghdad with 663 cases, followed by Wasit with 333, Basra with 322 cases, Muthanna, which reported 309 cases, and Erbil, with 267 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 1,670,483 samples for COVID-19.
On August 31, Iraq’s Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar said Iraq is pursuing the development of a major petrochemical project in Basra at a cost of $8 billion. Abdul-Jabbar said the project, called “Nibras” would create 30,000 jobs and generate 1.8 million tons of products annually. The minister explained that his ministry plans to pursue the project as a partnership with the Ministry of Industry and Royal Dutch Shell, with Iraqi government entities controlling 51% of the project and Shell controlling the remaining 49%. Abdul-Jabbar added that recently “the ministry has intensified meetings with the relevant authorities … and agreed to speed up the required procedures” in a bid to “finalise the contractual and legal procedures with the concerned parties before the end of this year.”
On August 31, the Iranian Secretary General of the Iran-Iraq Joint Chamber of Commerce, Hamid Husseini said Iran has exported $2.4 billion in goods to Iraq between March and August of this year, for a monthly average of just under $500 million. Husseini said that nearly 3,000 trucks carry Iranian goods into Iraq each day, divided equally between the Kurdistan region and the rest of the country, pointing out that all border crossings shuttered due to the pandemic have reopened. The KRG representative in Tehran said on September 3 that the current volume of trade represented a 20% increase compared with previous months.
On September 1, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil announced that crude oil exports during August dropped to 80.494 million barrels, for an average of 2.597 million barrels per day (bpd), which is 166,000 bpd lower than July’s average of 2.763 million bpd. Last month, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said the country will reduce its oil production by an additional 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) in August and September to compensate for exceeding the production limits Iraq had agreed to as part of the OPEC+ deal signed in April. The August exports generated $3.517 billion in revenue, slightly higher than July’s $3.487 billion and considerably more than June’s $2.861 billion. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of $43.69 per barrel, compared to July’s average of $40.7 per barrel. Exports from the southern ports of Basra decreased slightly from 2.668 million bpd in July to 2.5 million bpd in August, while northern fields in Kirkuk averaged 97,000 bpd exported through the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Iraq’s oil exports in July are more than 841,000 bpd lower than they were in April, indicating that it has met 80% of its pledge to reduce exports by 1.06 million bpd under the OPEC+ deal. On September 2, there were reports that Iraq’s Oil Ministry has approached OPEC members during recent meetings of the oil producers organization with a request for exemption from output caps during the first quarter of 2021, though a ministry spokesman later said Iraq did not make any such request. Meanwhile, the Oil Ministry said it began receiving bids for the construction of the Iraqi section of a long-planned 1 million bpd oil export pipeline that would connect Iraq’s southern oil fields with the Aqaba port in Jordan.
On September 1, the director of Iraq’s General Tax Commission announced that tax revenue in August reached ID 465 billion (approximately $387 million). The director, Shakir al-Zubeidi, called the revenue figures “unprecedented” in the history of tax collection in Iraq. Meanwhile, Iraq’s Border Ports Authority said it has generated ID 107 billion ( approximately $89 million) in customs revenue from the operations at ten of Iraq’s 21 ports of entry, citing the continued closure of many ports of entry due to the pandemic. The Border Ports Authority added that the August revenue was ID 10 billion higher than it was in July, attributing that to recent orders by Prime minister Kadhimi to deploy additional security to ports and border crossings. The revenue figures in this latest statement appear to contradict an earlier statement which indicated that customs revenue in July reached ID 500 billion (about $400 million).
On September 3, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity said that establishing a connection between the Iraqi and Jordanian power grids would require 18-24 months. A ministry spokesman explained that General Electric, which recently signed two agreements with Iraq, will support the construction of the 300 kilometer-long grid connection. Most of the new power lines (288 kilometers) will be in Iraq while the remaining 12 kilometers will be in Jordan. As a first stage, the grid connection will have a capacity of 150 megawatts, expanding ultimately to 960 megawatts, according to the spokesman Ahmed al-Abadi.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
|08/29/20||Highway between Diwaniyah and Babylon||0||0|
|08/31/20||Tuzkhormatu, Salah ad-Din||0||3|
|09/01/20||Road between Kirkuk and Tikrit||1||3|
|09/02/20||Highway through Babylon||0||1|
|09/03/20||Tal Afar, Ninewa||0||2|
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.