- Kadhimi Visits France Next Month; Constitutional Amendments Committee Reports Progress; Halbousi Targets Sep 26 Election Law Vote; Sadr, PMF Committee Denounce Attacks – On September 18, Iraq’s Foreign Minister said from Paris that PM Kadhimi will visit France next month. On September 18, a presidential adviser said an academic committee formed to suggest constitutional amendments completed its proposals and that President Salih will seek Cabinet input before submitting the proposals jointly to Parliament. The committee worked to clarify articles concerning the “Federation Council,” proposed changes to presidential powers, suggested shrinking Parliament to 175 lawmakers, and proposed allowing the party with the most seats based on election results to form the government. On September 20, a KRG delegation arrived in Baghdad to continue negotiations regarding the region’s share of the federal budget for the next three years. On September 21, PM Kadhimi banned Lt. Gen. Jamil al-Shammari from travel over his suspected role in the killing of protestors in Nasiriyah last year. On September 22, Speaker Halbousi said he intends to pass a complete Election Law by September 26, and called on all representatives to attend the session. On September 24, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Committee condemned attacks on foreign and Iraqi interests, saying they are not in line with national policy. Moqtada al-Sadr also condemned unnamed elements of the PMF for conducting “ongoing bombings and assassinations,” saying PMF factions must avoid violence to protect Iraq from proxy conflicts and external influence. more…
- New IEDs Hit Coalition Contractors, American School; Kidnapping Of Activist Precipitates Standoff In Dhi-Qar; Explosion Raises Tensions In Sinjar – On September 17, a bomb targeted the American Institute for English Learning in Najaf. Between September 19 – 23, five IEDs targeted civilian contractors transporting supplies for the U.S.-led Coalition in Salah ad-Din, Abu Ghraib and Babylon, injuring at least one Iraqi. Between September 20 – 23, a rocket targeted Baghdad International Airport and three mortar rounds landed in the Green Zone. Between september 19 – 20, two other IEDs and an ISIS attack killed two Iraqis and wounded four more in Diyala. On September 19, unknown gunmen kidnapped activist Sajjad al-Iraqi and injured another activist after targeting their vehicle near Nasiriyah. PM Kadhimi dispatched CTS units to Nasiriyah to rescue the kidnapped activist. Tensions and potential for confrontation between the CTS on hand side and local tribes and militias on the other side forced a pause in operations. On September 20, Iraqi military sources said a Turkish drone strike destroyed a car in Sinjar, killing three members of the PKK. But eyewitnesses claimed the explosion was the result of a car bomb, and accused the PKK of plotting the bombing “to prevent the return of displaced people and have freedom of action in the area.” The next day, a PMF unit affiliated with the Najaf clergy said it received a request from Yazidi leaders to help form a Yazidi force to help secure Sinjar. more…
- PM To Form New Council To Defend Women Rights; Iraq Bans Visitors Ahead Of Arbaeen; Iraq Joins Global Vaccine Alliance As COVID-19 Cases Continue To Rise – On September 19, PM Kadhimi announced the creation of the Supreme Council for Women in Iraq, which will seek equitable treatment and protection for women from “persecution, violence, and discrimination.” On September 19, the National Health and Safety Committee issued new COVID-19 guidelines that prohibit the entry of visitors from any country, including pilgrims trying to visit Karbala for the annual Arbaeen pilgrimage. On September 21, a survey conducted by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) revealed that 78% of displaced Iraqis have lost their source of income, that 66% of displaced families cut the number of their meals, and 83% of displaced families were “less likely” to send their children to school since the start of the pandemic. On September 21, the Ministry of Health announced that Iraq joined the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations and expects to obtain enough doses for 20% of the population, prioritizing senior citizens, medical crews and security forces. On September 24, the Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 337,106. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 8,799 while a total of 268,761 patients have recovered. To date, Iraq has tested 2,141,885 samples for COVID-19. more…
- EU To Support Energy Sector Reform; Iraq, Turkey To Build Railroad Link; Iraq To Sign Port Construction Contracts; U.S. Extends Iran Sanctions Waiver – On September 20, Iraq’s Minister for Planning, signed a new agreement with the EU for enhanced financial support to help fight COVID-19, resettle IDPs, as well as technical and financial support for electricity and gas sectors reforms. On September 20, the Ninewa Governor announced that Iraqi engineering and construction crews working with Turkish firms will begin construction on a new railway line between Mosul and Turkey in the coming days. On September 20, the Oil Ministry announced leadership changes in several of its departments and constitutive companies, including the Basra Oil Company and Iraqi Drilling Company. On September 22, the director of Iraq’s state-owned ports company said the company will award $2 billion in contracts for infrastructure and berth construction as part of the “Grand Faw Port” project. On September 23, an Iraqi official said the U.S. had extended Iraq’s exemption from sanctions on electricity and gas imports from Iran for 60 days. 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.
On September 18, Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein arrived in Paris at the head of a high-level delegation visiting several European capitals over the following days. While in Paris, Hussein praised the French government’s role in fighting ISIS in Iraq and received affirmations of French support for Iraqi stability and sovereignty from French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. The following day, Hussein said he used meetings in Paris, Berlin, and Brussels to request European support for election monitoring ahead of next year’s election and greater cooperation between Iraqi and European militaries. On September 21, Foreign Minister Hussein announced that Prime Minister Kadhimi will be visiting Paris next month. Kadhimi’s visit agenda is expected to include obtaining advanced weapons systems from France, and commitments from the European Parliament to monitor next June’s elections and to remove Iraq from the European Union’s list of countries whose financial systems allow for money laundering.
On September 18, two unnamed government officials confirmed that a security force arrested the head of the electronic payment company Qi Card, Bahaa Abdul-Hussein, at Baghdad International Airport the previous day. The sources added that the High Committee for Combating Corruption the prime minister established in August had issued the warrant for Abdulhussein’s arrest, and that more arrests are likely in the near future. The arrest appears to be part of Prime Minister Kadimi’s recent anti-corruption drive that started with the arrests of two government officials last week. It is unclear what exact charges Abdul-Hussein faces, where he was being held, and who exactly had arrested him. The Qi Card, created in 2007 as part of a joint venture between the independent Iraqi Electronic Payment System and Iraq’s state-owned Rasheed and Rafidain Banks, is Iraq’s largest biometric national debit card system. The card is the primary method in Iraq for paying pensions and salaries.
On September 18, Ali al-Shukri, the head President Salih’s Council of Advisors stated that a committee established to suggest constitutional amendments has completed its proposals and that President Salih instructed to submit them to the Cabinet for review. Shukri said the president and prime minister will later present their proposed amendments jointly to Parliament for a vote ahead of final ratification by popular referendum. According to Shukri, the committee developed language to clarify articles concerning the formation of a Federation Council, proposed changes to the powers of the president, and proposed reducing the size of Parliament from 329 to 175 representatives. Another key proposal includes allowing the party with the most seats based on election results (as opposed to a post-election coalition) to form the government. Shukri explained that the committee did not discuss articles concerning disputes between the KRG and federal government, saying those were based on “consensus” in 2003 – 2005 and “should be discussed by a political, not academic committee.” The committee, Shukri added, is supported by the Canadian Governance Institute and consists of 23 non-partisan academics, three representatives of protesters, and UN and EU representatives
On September 19, Prime Minister Kadhimi met with the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert to continue discussions over the UN’s role in monitoring and facilitating Iraq’s elections next June. On September 22, Speaker of Parliament Mohammad al-Halbousi announced his intention to pass a complete Election Law by Saturday, September 26, and called on all representatives to attend the session. The law, passed in December, remains incomplete due to disagreement between parliamentary blocs over annexes concerning the number and borders of electoral districts. On the same day, Iraq’s executive and legislative leadership met with the heads of most major parliamentary blocs to discuss preparations for next year’s election. The meeting’s attendees agreed to adopt biometric voter identification cards exclusively to ensure the elections’ validity, and called on the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to make the cards easily obtainable to Iraqis.
On September 20, a KRG delegation arrived in Baghdad to continue negotiations regarding the region’s share of the federal budget for the next three years, 2021 – 2023. The delegation is technical in nature, comprising representatives of the KRG planning and finance ministries. Ahead of the delegation’s arrival, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani expressed his belief that Baghdad and Erbil can eventually reach a final, comprehensive settlement. “We want to bring certainty to [the] strategic partnership” between Baghdad and Erbil, Barzani said.
On September 21, Parliament’s press office said the legislature received the long-delayed 2020 draft budget from the Cabinet and conducted a first reading of the bill on the same day. The Cabinet approved the budget, which is expected to show more than $60 billion in deficit, in an extraordinary meeting last week. On September 22, Ahmed Hama Rashid, a member of the Parliamentary Finance Committee, stated that Parliament needs three weeks to discuss the budget before voting on it. On September 22, Parliamentary Finance Committee secretary Ahmed al-Saffar announced that the draft budget will be returned to the government for further revision because it does not include adequate funding for next year’s elections. On the same day, the Cabinet sent a letter to Parliament asking to withdraw the draft budget for further revisions to the budget by the Cabinet. Saffar announced that a new budget-focused committee within the Ministry of Finance has begun preparing the 2021 budget in collaboration with the parliamentary committee and representatives of the KRG.
On September 21, Prime Minister Kadhimi banned Lieutenant General Jamil al-Shammari from travelling outside the country over his supected role in the killing of protestors in Nasiriyah late last year. Al-Shammari was one of several military officers dispatched to southern Iraq by then-Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi after protestors burnt down the Iranian consulate in the city of Najaf. Many Iraqis accuse al-Shammari of ordering the killing of dozens of demonstrators on the Zeitoun bridge in Nasiriyah in November of last year.
On September 23, President Barham Salih addressed the multitude of issues Iraq faces in his remotely delivered speech to the 75th session of the UN General Assembly. In his remarks, President Salih denounced corruption and external interference as hindrances to securing national sovereignty and the more immediate challenge of winning the fight against COVID-19. To this end, Salih proposed the formation of an international anti-corruption coalition modelled after the international community’s efforts to combat terrorism. Salih expressed Iraq’s need for continued international support in its ongoing fight against terrorism, noting that complacency will giveterrorism a chance to return to the country and region at-large. Salih Concluded his remarks by reiterating his and the government’s prior calls for technical support from the UN for next year’s elections.
On September 24, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) issued a statement reaffirming its commitment to political neutrality and restating its role within the framework of Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The PMF denounced any “external or internal” group that would misrepresent the PMF in order to “mislead the public about its honorable role in preserving Iraq and its security.” The group additionally condemned attacks on foreign or Iraqi interests, saying they are not in line with national policy. A day earlier, Moqtada al-Sadr condemned unnamed elements of the PMF for conducting “ongoing bombings and assassinations.” Sadr stated that all PMF elements must exercise “peace in all dealings” if Iraq is to avoid further political instability and protect itself from proxy conflicts and external influence.
On September 17, a bomb targeted the American Institute for English Learning in Najaf. The police in Najaf said they were investigating the attack, which occurred outside the building and caused only material damage.
On September 19, Iraq’s Security Media Cell said that an IED targeted an Iraqi-operated convoy transporting equipment for the International Coalition in al-Ishaqi, near Balad in Salah ad-Din province. The explosion injured one member of the Iraqi Security Forces. On September 17, an unknown armed group targeted an Iraqi-operated convoy transporting Coalition equipment on the highway in Babylon in the vicinity of al-Musayyab, causing no casualties. On September 23, a new Shia militia group, Saraya Qasim al-Jabareen claimed two IED attacks against Coalition Contractors on the Hilla highway in Babylon province and near Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad. Shia militia group Ashab al-Kahf claimed a third IED attack targeting a convoy belonging to the Coalition near al-Awja, Salah ad-Din province.
On September 18, an explosion collapsed a military building at Camp Speicher, a key Iraqi Army base in Salah ad-Din. Iraq’s Security Media Cell said that poor ammunition storage caused the explosion. Commander of Salah ad-Din Operations Major General Abdul-Mohsen Hatim added that the explosion occurred near the “headquarters” of the 5th Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Brigade, a Badr Organization unit. Hatim stressed that the explosion was not the result of an attack on the base.
On September 18, Iraqi security forces defused an IED planted by unknown militants in front of the home of Kirkuki civil activist Aseel Abdul-Wahid al-Yasiri, the Director of the Organization of Youth for Human Rights.
On September 19, an IED explosion killed a woman near al-Muqdadiyah in Diyala province. A security source told al-Sumaria that ISIS militants wounded two Tribal Mobilization Forces (TMF) members during engagements in Umm al-Hunta, near Jalawla to the northeast. On September 20, another IED killed one policeman and wounded another policeman in the Sheiki village, 7km to the northeast of Baqubah.
On September 19, unknown gunmen kidnapped activist Sajjad al-Iraqi and injured another activist after targeting their vehicle near Nasiriyah. On September 20, a spokesperson for Dhi-Qar police said the police identified Sajjad’s location. On September 21, Prime Minister Kadhimi ordered the Joint Operations Command to dispatch CTS units to Nasiriyah to rescue the kidnapped activist. The same day, an unnamed local official told Shafaaq that the kidnappers belong to a PMF faction, adding that the kidnappers promised to release Sajjad should security forces refrain from assaulting the area. On September 22, the Security Media Cell announced that CTS forces Dhi-Qar Police, and “commandos” from Sumer Operations Command were searching Umm al-Ghazalan, al-Dawaya, al-Shadid, al-Ubaid, al-Aikkeh, al-Hasasrah, and Sayid Dakheil, where Sajjad was allegedly being held, and that CTS forces had encircled the latter district. On September 23, Kataib Hezbollah (KH) spokesperson Abu Ali al-Askary said that KH was considering sending a “specialized” force to mediate between CTS and tribespeople in Sayid Dakheil. Askary called on the government to apologize “to those offended yesterday” and “distance security forces from immature acts.” On September 23, al-Askarah tribal Sheikh Kadhim al-Haji Shibram said the CTS unlawfully raided his home and that the government apologized later. Signifying the tension, a pro-militia Telegram channel released pictures of young men from the al-Askarah tribe manning a truck-mounted 23mm cannon “on the outskirts of Sayid Dakheil.” On September 23, CTS suspended operations and withdrew to Imam Ali Air Base but a local security source said “the current halt [to operations] does not mean the end of the operation.”
On September 19, the Iraqi Army and the 30th Brigade of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) killed five ISIS members in Zour Kanous, south of Mosul. A security source told Shafaaq that an ISIS IED killed a senior officer in the 30th Brigade near Zour Kanous.
On September 20, unknown militants fired a Katyusha rocket at Baghdad International Airport from Abu Ghraib. On September 22, three mortar rounds landed in the Green Zone at dawn. Neither incident caused casualties or material damage. On September 23, the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) began an operation to locate the perpetrators of the mortar attack, which the Security Media Cell said originated from the al-Irfan school in the Karada area of Baghdad.
On September 20, the Security Media Cell reported that a Turkish drone strike destroyed a car near the Sharif al-Din Shrine in the Sinjar, district of Ninewa province, killing three members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). There were conflicting reports about the incident. Iraqi newspaper al-Alam al-Jadid said eyewitnesses claimed the explosion was the result of a car bomb, not drone strike. The eyewitnesses accused the PKK of plotting the bombing “to prevent the return of displaced people and have freedom of action in the area.” Qasim Shesh, a local Yazidi Peshmerga commander also accused the PKK of detonating the car bomb in response to local Kurdish officials and Peshmerga calling on the PKK to leave the area. Roj News, a news outlet affiliated with the PKK claimed the explosion was not caused by a Turksih drone strike, pointing out that the incident occurred in an area under the control of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Peshmerga forces.
On September 21, al-Abbas Combat Division, a PMF unit affiliated with the Najaf clergy of Ayatollah Sistani (the Hawza), said it received a request from Yazidi leader Prince Naif bin Dawood bin Salman to help form a Yazidi force to help secure Sinjar. In a statement, the Abbas Division said it was “mulling the request” and intends to “secure approvals from official authorities” to prepare the requirements for establishing the force. Al-Abbas Combat Division is one of four Hawza-affiliated militia units that in April approached the Iraqi government for integration under the command of the Ministry of Defense.
On September 19, Prime Minister Kadhimi gave a speech at the International Conference Against Violence Against Women in which he announced the creation of the Supreme Council for Women in Iraq. Kadhimi will chair the council which will also include Iraqi elites and Iraqi women. Kadhimi added the new council will seek to ensure Iraqi women are treated equitably in all matters and to protect them from “persecution, violence, and discrimination.” Kadhimi also denounced Parliament for seeming to stall on the domestic violence law, which the Cabinet had sent to Parliament on August 4. Kadhimi asked rhetorically why anyone would oppose the law and object to “granting [women] what they deserve,” an attack on Islamist political blocs that continue to block the law’s passage.
On September 19, the National Health and Safety Committee issued new COVID-19 guidelines that prohibit the entry of visitors from any country in the world. The Committee said that places of worship and parks would be allowed to open while observing social distancing and other COVID-19 prevention measures. According to Reuters, this entry ban includes pilgrims trying to visit Karbala for the annual Arbaeen pilgrimage.
On September 20, Interior Minister Othman al-Ghanimi ordered the Federal Police to facilitate the return of 100 displaced families to the villages of Atshanah, Aziria, and al-Salihiyah in Daquq district, Kirkuk province. Ghanimi said that the return of these families would take place after a security investigation, but instructed the Federal Police to “resolve obstacles and listen to the needs of the returning families.” On September 13, the head of Kirkuk Operations Command Saad Harbiya announced the formation of a civil-military committee to begin the process of returning thousands of IDPs currently in Kirkuk city to their home districts, starting with Daquq and Hawija.
On September 21, the Ministry of Health announced that Iraq joined the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations. The Ministry added that GAVI will provide Iraq with enough vaccinations to cover 20% of the population, with priority given to senior citizens, medical crews and security forces. The Ministry also said that Iraq will participate in Chinese clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine.
On September 21, a survey conducted by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) revealed that 78% of displaced Iraqis have lost their source of income and 55% of displaced Iraqis experienced a fall in remittances since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also found that 66% of displaced Iraqi families had cut the number of meals eaten per day and 83% of displaced Iraqi families said that they “were less likely” to send their children to school.
On September 24, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Iraq rose to 337,106, a weekly increase of 29,721 cases from the 307,385 cases reported on September 17. Of these cases, 59,546 patients are currently in Iraqi hospitals, including 527 in the intensive care unit (ICU). This represents an increase of 1,593 patients in Iraqi hospitals from last week, but a 59 patient drop in ICU patients. The Ministry of Health’s data indicated that there were a total of 467 new COVID-related deaths this week, bringing the total from 8,332 to 8,799. The total number of recoveries increased from 241,100 to 268,761. The daily average for new cases rose slightly from last week, with a daily average of 4,245 cases, up from 4,138 cases. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 1,463 cases, Wasit with 446 cases, Basra with 398 cases, Diwaniyah with 275 cases, and Dohuk with 271 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 2,141,885 samples for COVID-19. On September 20, the representative of the World Health Organization in Iraq said that the COVID-19 situation in Iraq “has not reached the point of collapse,” but added that “[Iraq has] reached nearly 50% of [its] hospital capacity.”
On September 20, Khaled Battal al-Najm, Iraq’s Minister for Planning, signed a new agreement with the European Union (EU) to deepen joint cooperation between the two sides. The agreement, signed on the EU’s behalf by its ambassador to Iraq, includes enhanced financial support to Iraq to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, further support for efforts to resettle IDPs, and European technical and financial support for reforms to Iraq’s electricity and gas sectors conducted in cooperation with the World Bank. Additional elements of the agreement between the ministry and the EU include continued European support for UNESCO efforts to rebuild the city of Mosul and continued support for economic and infrastructural development in Basra City. On September 21, the acting president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said the bank was studying Iraq’s application for membership, expecting EBRD’s board to decide on the matter “in three weeks.” As a member, Iraq could receive considerable international financial support for private sector development.
On September 20, Ninewa Governor Najm al-Jubouri announced that construction work on a new railway line between Mosul and Turkey would begin in the coming days. Iraqi engineering and construction crews working with Turkish firms are to build the railway, intended to reduce congestion on Iraqi highways. Governor al-Jubouri did not elaborate on the project’s cost and financing. Turkey exports close to $1 billion in goods to Iraq each month, while Iraqi exports to Turkey can exceed $700 million a month. The bulk of trade is carried on trucks through the Ibrahim al-Kahlil border crossing in Duhok.
On September 20, the Oil Ministry announced it had made leadership changes in several of its departments and constitutive companies. Based on a directive from the prime minister’s office, Khaled Hamza Abbas, the current assistant director general of the Basra Oil Company, is to assume interim overall leadership of the company until a permanent appointment is made. Bassem Mohammad Khudair, director general of the Iraqi Drilling Company, will become director general of the Ministry’s Training and Development Department, replacing Ali Ward Hamoud, who will take over the ministry’s technical department. Basim Abdul-Karim Nasser, the current assistant director general of the Basra Oil Company, was appointed as director general of the Iraqi Drilling Company.
On September 22, the director of Iraq’s state-owned ports company Farhan al-Fartousi announced the company will award $2 billion in contracts for infrastructure and berth construction as part of the “Grand Faw Port” project. Al-Fartousi stated that several Chinese companies and South Korea’s Daewoo Group are trying to win the contracts, which are expected to be signed in the coming days. The project, which seeks to build one of the world’s largest container terminals on the southern Faw peninsula, is expected to cost $3.36 billion and is to be funded by the Iraqi government and private investors. When completed, the port is expected to have the capacity to handle 99 million tonnes of cargo annually. The project has faced continuous delays since its launch in 2010 due to cash shortages and political infighting.
On September 23, an unnamed Iraqi official announced the United States had extended Iraq’s exemption from sanctions on electricity and gas imports from Iran for 60 days. The extension is the latest in a series of waivers extended to Iraq by the United States in an effort to help Iraqi government’s cope with chronic electricity shortages. Although Iraq is a major oil producer, aging and inefficient electricity infrastructure force Iraq to rely heavily on energy imports from its neighbors to meet demand. The United States has insisted that Iraq seek to achieve energy self-sufficiency as a precondition for further waivers on electricity and gas imports from Iran.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
|09/19/20||Zour Kanous, Salah ad-Din||1||0|
|09/19/20||al-Ishaqi, Salah ad-Din||0||1|
|09/19/20||Near al-Muqdadiyah, Diyala||1||0|
|09/23/20||On the highway near Hilla, Babylon||0||0|
|09/23/20||Near Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad||0||0|
|09/23/20||Al-Awja, Salah ad-Din||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.