- Sistani Backs Reforms And Early Elections; Kadhimi Replaces 16 Senior Officials; Security Forces Make Anti-Corruption Arrests – On September 10 – 11, PM Kadhimi met with KRG President Nechirvan Barzani in Erbil for talks, visited Halabja, met with IDPs in Duhok, and inspected Border crossings in Sulaymaniyah. On September 13, Nouri al-Maliki arrived in Iran then met with Ali Shamkhani of Iran’s National Security Council. On September 13, Ayatollah Sistani met with the UNAMI chief and articulated his position on several key issues. Sistani called for credible early elections free of political pressures, urged Kadhimi’s government to bring the perpetrators of violence against protesters to justice, and encouraged the government to combat corruption, establish state monopoly on arms, and preserve Iraq’s sovereignty. On September 14, Iraq’s Foreign Minister met his German counterpart in Berlin. The minister will go to Paris next to set a date for a visit by Kadhimi. On September 14, PM Kadhimi made changes in 16 senior government positions, including eight deputy ministers. Kadhimi notably placed former Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi as Chief of Operations at the National Intelligence Service and replaced the heads of the Central Bank and Trade Bank of Iraq. On September 16 – 17, security forces arrested the former head of the National Board of Pensions and the head of Baghdad’s Investment Commission, amid unconfirmed reports of additional arrests ordered by an anti-corruption committee Kadhimi established on August 27. more…
- ISIS Escalates Bombing Attacks; More Rockets Fired At U.S. Embassy While IEDs Target UK Diplomats And Coalition Contractors – Between September 10 – 14, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Coalition airstrikes killed at least 14 ISIS militants in Ninewa, Salah ad-Din, Kirkuk, Anbar and Diyala. Between September 12 – 16, ISIS attacks in Diyala and Kirkuk killed an Iraqi soldier, a civilian and wounded five others. Between September 12 – 17, nine IEDs in Ninewa, Diyala and Kirkuk killed at least five Iraqis and wounded eight others. Between September 12 – 15, four other IEDs targeted civilian contractors transporting supplies for the U.S.-led Coalition in Salah ad-Din, Diwaniyah and Babylon, injuring at least one Iraqi. On September 15, two IEDs exploded near the Green Zone, one of which targeted British diplomats, without causing casualties. Between September 15 – 16, three rockets were fired at the Green Zone, two of which were intercepted by the U.S. Embassy’s defense systems. more…
- Security Forces Developing Plan for Return Of Kirkuk IDPs; UN Supports Iraq Climate Change Assessment; COVID-19 Cases Surpass 300,000 – On September 13, Kirkuk Operations Command formed a civil-military committee to facilitate the return of thousands of IDPs currently in Kirkuk City, starting with those displaced from the volatile Hawija and Daquq districts. On September 16, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) announced a $25 million partnership with the Iraqi government to develop a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) to assess the country’s preparedness for climate change and outline its process for combating its effects. On September 17, the Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 307,385. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 8,332 while a total of 241,100 patients have recovered. To date, Iraq has tested 1,998,295 samples for COVID-19. more…
- Iraq Eyes Additional Borrowing To Plug Deficit; Oil Minister To Head National Oil Co.; Iraq Seeks Hydroelectric Power From 20 Dams – On September 12, a member of the Parliament’s Finance Committee said Finance Minister Ali Allawi will submit a new borrowing law to the legislature to mitigate Iraq’s financial crisis and pay public sector salaries and other benefits. Iraq’s 2020 budget is expected to have a $64 billion deficit. On September 14, Oil Ministry documents circulating on social media indicated that Iraqi Minister of Oil Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar issued orders based on recent Cabinet instructions that appoint the minister as chairman of the Iraqi National Oil Company (INOC). On September 15, the Ministry of Water Resources said it has identified 20 dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and their tributaries for potential use to generate clean hydroelectric energy. 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.
Sistani Backs Reforms And Early Elections; Kadhimi Replaces 16 Senior Officials; Security Forces Make Anti-Corruption Arrests
On September 11, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi met with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Nechirvan Barzani in Erbil to discuss disputes between Baghdad and Erbil, security, the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and elections. The two leaders called for continued joint cooperation between the Peshmerga and Iraqi security forces to improve security and safely return displaced persons to their home districts. On September 12, Kadhimi met with Iraqi President Barham Salih at Salih’s residence in Sulaymaniyah. Salih said that he hoped to resolve the outstanding financial issues between the KRG and Baghdad through the constitution. On September 10, Kadhimi visited IDPs at Qadia IDP camp in Dohuk province and spoke to families and camp administrators, stating that the government would endeavor to return IDPs to their homes in the disputed territories while avoiding intercommunal unrest. On September 11, Kadhimi met with local officials and residents in Halabja and said that he hoped to address their grievances. Kadhimi also paid tribute to late Iraqi President Jalal Talabani at his tomb and laid a wreath at a monument for the victims of chemical attacks by Saddam Hussein’s regime on Halabja. During his trip, Kadhimi also inspected the Bashmakh border crossing in Sulaymaniyah on the Iranian border. Kadhimi met with the crossing’s administration and listened to proposals to develop the crossing to increase revenues.
On September 13, State of Law Coalition head Nouri al-Maliki arrived in Iran for an unannounced visit. Maliki’s media office added that he planned to meet with unspecified Iranian officials while undergoing “routine” medical exams. On September 15, Maliki met with Secretary for the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Shamkhani. The pair allegedly discussed bilateral and regional issues and the plans by “enemies” for the Iraqi election, a possible allusion to U.S. and UN efforts to support early elections in Iraq.
On September 13, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani met with the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and articulated his position on a number of key Iraqi political issues. Sistani called for highly credible elections that are free and not influenced by political actors. Sistani cautioned against delaying elections, currently scheduled for June 2021. Sistani also said that Kadhimi’s government must bring the perpetrators of violence against protesters and the state to justice and improve the performance of security forces, urging the government to combat corruption, establish state monopoly on arms, and preserve national sovereignty. On September 13, Kadhimi publicly thanked Sistani for his messages and stressed that his government is determined to hold free and fair elections on time, fight corruption, hold the killers of protesters accountable, and assert state authority. On September 13, Parliament Speaker Mohammad al-Halbousi welcomed Sistani’s message, which he said reflected the “aspirations of the Iraqi people,” calling for taking serious action to fight corruption, and not merely words.
On September 13, UNAMI head Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert met with Iraqi President Barham Salih in Sulaymaniyah, where they discussed the political and security issues in Iraq, as well as elections. Two days later, Hennis-Plasschaert also met with KRG President Nechirvan Barzani, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, and Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani in three separate meetings to discuss elections, political, and security issues.
On September 14, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein met with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Berlin. Maas said Germany has provided €2 billion to Iraq in aid, pledging to continue to support Iraqi security capabilities and economic reform. Hussein said he will go to Paris next to set a date for a visit by Prime Minister Kadhimi to meet with French officials. On September 15, Hussein met with Jan Hecker, the political and security advisor for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Hecker commended Iraq on their success against ISIS, but the pair agreed that ISIS is an ideology that requires continued cooperation and concerted effort to fully defeat. Hussein reiterated that his government would continue dialogue with all neighboring countries while “preventing any compromising of the national sovereignty of Iraq.” French President Emmanuel Macron previously met with Kadhimi in Baghdad on September 2, where he expressed his support for Iraqi sovereignty in the face of foreign incursion and interference. On August 29, Macron argued for a pluralistic and inclusive sovereignty in the Middle East ahead of his visits to Beirut and Baghdad in a speech to the Middle Eastern Mediterranean Forum.
On September 14, the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) welcomed Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s statement (detailed above) in support of early elections and reiterated five prerequisites that must be met for early elections to be held in June 2021. These prerequisites include finalizing the Elections Law and the Supreme Federal Court Law, sufficient budget and support from government ministries, supervision and technical assistance by the UN and other international organizations, and Cabinet approvals of the appointments of IHEC’s director generals. On September 13, Sairoon representative Riad al-Masoudi claimed that only Saeroun and “part” of Halbousi’s Sunni Iraqi Forces Alliance support early elections. Masoudi added that the remainder of Iraq’s political parties are against holding early elections, citing ongoing parliamentary fighting over the Election Law and Federal Court Law.
On September 14, Prime Minister Kadhimi made changes in at least 16 senior government positions, including eight deputy ministers. Kadhimi notably placed former Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi as Chief of Operations at the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, former Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) Legal Department head Mustafa Ghalib as Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, judge Ala Jawad Kadhum as the new chairman of the Integrity Commission, and Manhal Rahouf al-Haboubi, an architect, as Mayor of Baghdad. Kadhimi also tapped former Adil Abd al-Mahdi ally Sami al-Masoudi as head of the Hajj and Umrah Authority. The Fatah Coalition distanced themselves from the appointments, while arguing that Masoudi’s appointment was an effort by Kadhimi to appease them. On September 14, the State of Law Coalition and Iyad Allawi’s al-Wafaq al-Watani called the appointments a return to the sectarian quota system and a show of disregard for protesters and the public’s desire for reform. The Saeroun Alliance and Fatah also called the appointments a return to the sectarian quota system, saying they were not involved in any of them. On September 15, Kadhimi defended the new appointments as apolitical, saying the appointees were selected from within the institutions themselves or were specialists in their fields. Kadhimi challenged critics to show “specific information” about how his appointments were sectarian,offering to investigate specific accusations if they were provided. On September 14, protesters in al-Haboubi Square in Nasiriyah claimed Kadhimi’s new appointments were “muhasasa,” in reference to Iraq’s system of ethno-sectarian quota system, saying that “our position… as revolutionaries of al-Haboubi square [is the] overthrow of the government.” On September 15, protesters in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square also denounced the appointments as a continuation of muhasasa.
On September 14, Kadhimi spokesperson Ahmed Mulla Talal said that the Government of Iraq identified some of those involved in the July 6 assassination of prominent security analyst Husham al-Hashimi. Talal noted that there is “great complexity” and that the disclosure of additional information could impede the investigation, possibly implying that the Iraqi government is concerned about political interference in the investigation. Talal said that Iraq’s most important security services will be tasked with supporting the investigation.
On September 16, Kadhimi visited Maysan province to meet with demonstrators and local officials. A security source claimed that Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) disrupted a protest outside the Maysan Oil Company building prior to Kadhimi’s visit. During his meeting with local officials, Kadhimi expressed his disapproval of the state of public service in Maysan, calling it a “crime against the citizen and his entitlement to services.” Kadhimi also met with demonstrators and told them that he will establish a “service council” to organize the appointment of officials and create equal opportunity for applicants. Kadhimi also visited al-Sheeb border crossing in Maysan, accompanied by the head of the Iraqi Border Crossings Authority Omar al-Waeli. Kadhimi emphasized combating corruption while maximizing revenues and encouraging trade with neighboring countries. Kadhimi also met with top local security officials, including Maj. Gen. Imad al-Silawi, the commander of the newly established Sumer Operations Command. Kadhimi ordered the officials to protect demonstrators, though clarified that they should not tolerate any attack on state institutions.
On September 16, Rudaw reported citing anonymous Iraqi security sources that security forces arrested the former head of the National Board of Pensions at his home in central Baghdad. The following day, al-Sumaria reported citing an unspecified Iraqi security source that security forces arrested the head of the Baghdad Investment Commission, Shaker al-Zamili.
Additional reports suggested that a “special force” also arrested other officials on orders from an anti-corruption committee Prime Minister Kadhimi established on August 27. Kadhimi also tasked the elite, nonpartisan Counter-Terrorism Service with enforcing the anti-corruption committee’s orders and carry out anti-corruption arrests.
On September 16, Parliament Speaker Mohammad al-Halbousi visited Kuwait and met with the Speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly, Marzouq al-Ghanim. Halbousi’s media office reported that Halbousi will meet with a number of Kuwaiti officials, without elaborating on the scope or duration of the visit.
ISIS Escalates Bombing Attacks; More Rockets Fired At U.S. Embassy While IEDs Target UK Diplomats And Coalition Contractors
On September 10, Ninewa Operations Command said Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) killed six ISIS militants and captured 13 in search and clearance operations in villages south of Mosul. The Command’s Major General Ismail al-Mahlawi said the ISF also confiscated weapons, ammunition, explosive devices, and rockets. On September 11, the Security Media Cell said the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) (Saraya al-Salaam) killed four ISIS cell leaders – including two suicide bombers – in a search operation near Samarra, Salah ad-Din province.
On September 12, an ISIS sniper killed an Iraqi soldier participating in an ISF security operation near al-Udheim, north of Baqubah, Diyala province. A security source reported later that a PMF unit in the area killed the ISIS sniper, after locating the hideout in which the sniper was stationed. On September 16, another ISIS attack in al-Udheim wounded two PMF fighters. ISIS militants also destroyed a number of water pumps and electrical transformers during the attack.
On September 12, two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) exploded targeting a civilian vehicle between the villages of al-Shurtaniyah and al-Tasa in al-Shoura district, south of Mosul. One civilian died of wounds sustained during the explosion. On September 13, another IED wounded four civilians from one family on the Qayyara road southeast of Mosul. The same day, a roadside IED exploded in the village of Ain al-Jahsh, south of Mosul, wounding two civilians. On September 15, in light of the recent bombings in areas south of Mosul over the week, a mixed Iraqi Army and PMF force conducted search operation in the area. On September 17, an IED exploded wounding two civilians in the nearby al-Mahlabiah subdistrict west of Mosul.
On September 12, an IED struck a convoy of vehicles providing logistical support to International Coalition forces in Iraq while it was passing through the village of al-Rayyesh, in Salah ad-Din province. The explosion damaged one of the convoy’s vehicles and wounded one driver. On September 14, security sources reported two explosions targeting similar convoys – one occurring on a highway in Diwaniyah and another on a highway in Babylon province. Neither explosion caused casualties or damage to the convoy. On September 15, another IED targeting a contractor’s convoy exploded in the Neel region of Babylon province. The bombing resulted in no casualties and caused minor damage to a vehicle.
On September 13, the Security Media Cell reported that an airstrike by the International Coalition killed two ISIS militants and destroyed equipment and a hideout they were using near Wadi al-Shay in Kirkuk province. On September 14, the Security Media Cell announced a joint Coalition – Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) airborne operation had killed a leading financier of ISIS camps in and around Rutbah, Anbar province.
On September 13, an under-vehicle IED (UVIED) exploded targeting the assistant dean of Grand Imam College in Kirkuk Dr. Sami Zayer Ibrahim. Ibrahim survived the assassination attempt. On September 14, unidentified gunmen attacked a fuel refinery north of Kirkuk City, killing one of the facility’s security guards and wounding three. Following the attack, an IED targeted vehicles transporting the wounded to hospital causing an unspecified number of additional casualties.
On September 15, two 107 mm rockets launched toward the Green Zone in central Baghdad were intercepted and destroyed by the U.S.-installed Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar (C-RAM) defense system. The unclaimed Katyusha rockets were fired from the Ali Saleh neighborhood in northern Baghdad at around 1am local time, causing no casualties or damage to property. Later that day, an IED exploded targeting British diplomatic vehicles on the road between the Green Zone and Baghdad’s airport, causing no injuries. Security forces cordoned off the entrance to the Green Zone after the explosion, which remains unclaimed. In a separate event occurring later that day, an IED exploded near a fortified entrance to the Green Zone along the Airport Road in Baghdad. Security personnel cordoned off the area following the explosion, which caused no injuries and damaged a security fence. On September 16, a Katyusha rocket landed in the Green Zone in Baghdad. The rocket, which was launched from al-Amel neighborhood west of the Green Zone, caused minimal property damage but no casualties.
On September 16, an IED exploded in a marketplace in Kanaan, west of Baquba, in Diyala province. A local official said the explosion damaged several storefronts but did not cause casualties.
On September 17, ISIS militants targeted a PMF (Brigade 16) convoy near the Sami al-Asi village in Taza, south of Kirkuk with an IED and small arms fire. The attack killed four of the PMF fighters.
Security Forces Developing Plan for Return Of Kirkuk IDPs; UN Supports Iraq Climate Change Assessment; COVID-19 Cases Surpass 300,000
On September 12, an Emirati aircraft carrying 20 tons of medical supplies and testing equipment arrived in Iraq. The supplies will be distributed to hospitals and medical professionals across Iraq to assist in controlling the coronavirus outbreak.
On September 13, Saad Harbiya, head of Kirkuk Operations Command, announced the formation of a civil-military committee to facilitate the return of displaced households settled in Kirkuk City. According to data compiled by the International Organization of Migration (IOM), there are more than 1,690 households residing at IDP camps in Kirkuk, in addition to 13,139 households residing in rented accommodation or with host families. The first phase of the resettlement effort will focus on the return of IDPs to their home districts in Hawijah and Daquq, south of Kirkuk City in Kirkuk province, and to towns in the adjacent Salah ad-Din province.
On September 14, the German Foreign Ministry announced that it would continue to provide nearly €40 million in direct aid to Iraq as well as €10 million in funding for the UN Development Program’s (UNDP) efforts to stabilize Iraq through 2020. A statement by Germany’s Federal Foreign Office said Berlin intends to continue to support ongoing efforts to strengthen inter-communal relations in areas liberated from ISIS, and build the capacity of local police and other Iraqi government agencies to clear unexploded ordnance, prosecute ISIS crimes against humanity, de-radicalize former jihadists, and assist in the return of displaced peoples.
On September 16, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) announced that it will partner with the Iraqi government to develop a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) to assess the country’s preparedness for climate change and outline its process for combating its effects The three-year project, funded with $25 million from the UN Green Climate Fund, will produce a strategic overview of existing shortcomings in government planning and will address Iraq’s current barriers to long-term climate planning. In announcing the project, UNEP noted that “climate change is expected to reduce annual rainfall in Iraq, which will lead to a surge in dust storms, a reduction in agricultural productivity, and increased water scarcity,” warranting the intensive planning the program is expected to outline.
On September 17, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 307,385, representing a weekly increase of 29,096 cases from the 278,418 reported a week earlier. Of these cases, 57,953 are in the hospital, including 586 in the intensive care unit (ICU). According to the ministry’s data, there were 518 new COVID-related deaths during the same period, bringing total fatalities from 7,814 to 8,332. Meanwhile, the total number of recoveries has increased from 213,817 to 241,100. This week saw a slower growth in new cases in Iraq than last week, with a daily average of 4,138 new cases, down from last week’s daily average of 4,505 new cases. The areas reporting the most new cases during the last 24 hours were Baghdad with 1,083 cases, followed by Basra with 382, Duhok with 305 cases, Dhi-Qar, which reported 268 cases, and Wasit, with 264 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 1,998,295 samples for COVID-19.
Iraq Eyes Additional Borrowing To Plug Deficit; Oil Minister To Head National Oil Co.; Iraq Seeks Hydroelectric Power From 20 Dams
On September 12, Jamal Koujar, a member of Parliament’s Finance Committee said Finance Minister Ali Allawi will submit a new borrowing law to mitigate Iraq’s financial crisis and pay public sector salaries and other benefits. Koujar added that Allawi said he would submit the first draft of a financial reform paper, which will include austerity measures, before the end of September, and a final draft along with the 2021 budget bill in November. Parliament has already approved one borrowing bill in June that authorizes the government to borrow up to $17 billion from foreign and domestic lenders to mitigate Iraq’s financial crisis. On September 14, the Iraqi Cabinet sent the delayed 2020 Budget Law to Parliament for ratification. Kadhimi spokesperson Ahmed Mulla Talal said that this budget law would cover the last three months of 2020 adding that the 2020 budget deficit was “large.” Member of Parliament Mohammad al-Darraji previously revealed on September 9 that the budget will include about 148 trillion ID ($123 billion) in spending, against revenues of 67 trillion ID ($59 billion), implying a deficit of 81 trillion ID ($64 billion).
On September 14, Oil Ministry documents circulating on social media indicated that Iraqi Minister of Oil Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar issued orders based on recent Cabinet instructions that appoint the minister as chairman of the Iraqi National Oil Company (INOC). Last month, the Iraqi Cabinet pushed for steps to build up INOC, which Parliament had authorized in March 2018. These steps included authorizing INOC to hire consultants to design the company’s structure and prepare for its separation from the Ministry of Oil.
On September 15, Ministry of Water Resources spokesperson Awni Dhiab said that the ministry has identified 20 dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and their tributaries that could be used to generate clean hydroelectric energy throughout Iraq, including the Kurdistan region. The spokesman added that the ministry is currently developing a “strategic study” to guide water and land use in Iraq.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
|09/12/20||Al-Rayyesh, Salah ad-Din||0||1|
|09/13/20||Qayyara road, Ninewa||0||4|
|09/13/20||Ain al-Jahash, Ninewa||0||2|
|09/14/20||On the highway, Babylon||0||0|
|09/15/20||Neel region, Babylon||0||0|
|09/15/20||Green Zone, Baghdad||0||0|
|09/15/20||Green Zone, Baghdad||0||0|
Please note: some geographic locations represented are approximations and this map may not represent all incidents.
Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor is a free publication of the Enabling Peace in Iraq Center.
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