ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: NOVEMBER 12 – NOVEMBER 19, 2020

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Key Takeaways:

  • KRG Condemns Borrowing Bill Vote; PM Affirms Commitment To Early Elections; Sinjar Locals Seek Changes To Normalization Agreement; U.S. To Pull 500 Personnel By January – On November 13, KRG PM Masrour Barzani condemned the Iraqi Parliament’s vote on a borrowing bill despite Kurdish objections and warned that “the dangerous precedent” the vote established “must be quickly reconsidered,” but PUK co-president Lahur Talabani blamed the KRG negotiators for failing to protect the region’s rights. On November 14, PM Kadhimi reaffirmed the government’s commitment to holding elections next June and later directed the Ministry of Finance to allocate resources to the election commission to fund necessary technical preparations. On November 15, PM Kadhimi reportedly promised a delegation of Sinjar residents to revise two key elements of an agreement made last month regarding the normalization of conditions in the contested district. On November 16, the White House instructed the Pentagon to prepare to withdraw 500 of the 3,000 remaining U.S. troops in Iraq by January 15. On November 18, Iraq’s Foreign Minister condemned the November 17 rocket attack on the Green Zone as “a blatant attack on the government and the people,” while the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad called on Iraq “to arrest and hold accountable those who continue to perpetrate acts of violence against the Iraqi state.” more…
  • Iraq Sends Reinforcements To Diyala Amid Increase In Violence; Militia Claims Rocket Barrage Targeting The Green Zone That Killed And Wounded Eight Iraqis – Between November 13 – 19, nine explosions in Diyala, Ninewa, Baghdad, Salah ad-Din and Babylon killed three Iraqis and injured at least seven more. On November 13, the Iraqi military said it killed the ISIS militants behind a deadly attack last week that left 11 dead near Baghdad. Between November 13 – 14, four ISIS attacks with small arms fire and mortars in Kirkuk, Diyala, and Ninewa killed three Iraqis and wounded at least 11 others. On November 14, PM Kadhimi ordered reinforcements to Diyala and dispatched his Interior Minister and National Security Advisor to address security conditions in the volatile province. On November 15, a government spokesman said investigators identified two people involved in the killing of journalist and researcher Husham al-Hashimi in July but stated that “unknown parties” had smuggled the two out of Iraq to an unknown country. On November 17, seven 122mm Grad rockets targeted the Green Zone in Baghdad, killing a civilian and injuring seven people, including five civilians. A Shia extremist telegram channel announced that “Islamic resistance” faction Ashab al-Kahf claimed responsibility for the attack. more…

  • U.S.-Affiliated Iraqis Face Growing Threats; UNHCR Seeks More Aid To IDPs To Mitigate Camp Closures; WFP Data Says 1.77 Million Are In “Acute Need”; Increase In COVID-19 Cases Plateaus – On November 12, The Washington Post reported that Iraqi translators are increasingly concerned that Iranian-backed militias have acquired their personal information from compromised individuals in the Iraqi Security Forces. On November 13, UNHCR said it will accelerate its support to Iraqi IDPs to mitigate the effects of recent large scale camp closures across the country. On November 13, the WFP released a new humanitarian dashboard update for Iraq, which pointed out that 1.3 million people remain internally displaced across the country and that 1.77 million people are in a state of acute need of assistance. On November 13, Dutch humanitarian organization PAX for Peace said that between May and September 2020, fires caused by military action burned 300,000 acres across Iraqi Kurdistan. On November 19, Iraq’s Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 529,226. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 11,834 while the number of patients currently in hospitals decreased to 59,902. To date, 457,490 patients have recovered from the virus and Iraq has tested 3,076,646 samples for COVID-19. The daily average for new cases decreased from 3,176 new cases/day last week to 2,488/day this week. more…

  • Baghdad Says Deal With Egypt Won’t Replace Agreements With China; Flights To Europe To Resume In December; Iraq Reopens Border Crossing With Saudi Arabia – On November 15, Iraqi officials urged Siemens to complete its work on a 1,300 megawatt gas-fired power plant in Wasit “before next summer” and invited Siemens to study of technical problems affecting Iraq’s transmission and distribution infrastructure. On November 15, PM Kadhimi’s spokesman stressed the fifteen MoUs Iraq recently signed with Egypt won’t be a substitute for MoUs signed by the previous government with China, adding that Iraq had begun to select projects to present to Chinese companies, including one to construct 1,000 schools. On November 17, the general manager of Iraqi Airways said the company will resume direct flights to several European airports beginning December 15. On November 18, the Iraqi Border Ports Authority announced the reopening of the Arar border crossing to commercial traffic from Saudi Arabia, ending nearly 30 years of closure. more…

Attention readers! ISHM will take a break for Thanksgiving, but it will be back the week after, with comprehensive coverage of the week we missed!

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.


KRG Condemns Borrowing Bill Vote; PM Affirms Commitment To Early Elections; Sinjar Locals Seek Changes To Normalization Agreement; U.S. To Pull 500 Personnel By January

On November 13, President Barham Salih stated that Parliament’s approval of the borrowing bill last week was “necessary” to secure employees’ salaries, but warned that borrowing “is not a sustainable solution.” Salih saidt it is regrettable that the law “was approved without national consensus,” as the bill passed despite the absence of Kurdish representatives. Kurdish parties objected to an amendment to the bill that required the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) send all of its oil and all non-oil revenues to the federal government before the latter could send the KRG funds to pay its public sector employees. After the vote, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani denounced the motion, arguing that the KRG share of federal spending “is not a gift, but a right,” and warned that “the dangerous precedent” the vote established “must be quickly reconsidered.” KRG President Nechirvan Barzani decried the borrowing bill in its final form as “punishing for the people and employees of the Kurdistan Region.” Barzani added that by ignoring Kurdish concerns, “the Iraqi parties…have shown the greatest failure in administering this country yet.” However, PUK co-president Lahur Talabani blamed the KRG negotiators for failing to include KRG employees’ salaries in the draft borrowing bill “although many good options were available [to do so]” during negotiations. Talabani called on the KRG to “act responsibly” and dispatch a delegation “of decision makers” to Baghdad to resume negotiations, adding that Kadhimi, “although dissatisfied with the region’s negotiating team” has promised to work hard to send the KRG employees salaries within two weeks. 

On November 14, the leader of the Yazidi community, Mir Hazim announced he had selected Sheikh Ali Elias as the new Yazidi spiritual leader, to succeed the Khartu Hajji Ismail who died in October. A group of Sinjar Yazidis close to the Sinjar Protection Units (YBS) rejected Sheikh Elias’ appointment, and announced plans to select their own spiritual leader. The YBS claim Mir Hazim is not from the Mir bloodline and was installed for political purposes by “a certain political party of Kurdistan” (likely referring to the KDP), and thus lacks the legitimacy necessary to appoint a new spiritual leader. An advisor on Yazidi affairs to KRG President Masrour Barzani, Sheikh Shamo defended Mir Hazim’s decision, stating “the subject should not be politicized” and asked the Yazidi community to respect Mir Hazim’s decision.

On November 14, Parliament’s legal department issued thirteen complaints against representative Ali al-Sajri on the grounds of defamation and insults directed against Parliament Speaker Mohammad al-Halbousi. Sajri is a member of the Iraqi Front, a new parliamentary group that is seeking to unseat Halbousi, and has previously accused Halbousi of corruption. The same day, Iraqi Front announced it had collected the number of signatures from lawmakers necessary to request a vote of no confidence against Halbousi and will submit its request next week. On November 15, a Saeroun representative said that while Halbousi’s dismissal is ultimately a matter for Sunni lawmakers to decide, Saeroun believes it is not an appropriate time to dismiss him as “any change in one of the presidencies [prime minister, speaker and president] must be reflected in the rest.”

On November 14, Iraqi Defense Minister Jouma Anad arrived in Tehran and met with Iranian military officials to discuss border crossings and military cooperation. In a meeting with Anad, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Hussein Salami stated that Iran continues to seek to preserve Iraqi unity and territorial integrity and ensure continued cooperation on border security. The following day, the commander of the Iran Air Defense Force, Alireza Sabahifard told his Iraqi counterpart, Major General Maan Zaid Alwan, that Iran could form a joint air defense network with Iraq and offered to help equip and strengthen Iraqi radar capabilities. Sabahifar also offered to train Iraqi university students in air defense strategy and technology at Iran’s Khatam al-Anbiya Air Defense Academy.

On November 14, Prime Minister Kadhimi reaffirmed the government’s commitment to holding elections next June and called on members of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to take all measures necessary to ensure the elections are held on time. On November 15, the Prime Minister’s advisor on election affairs, Abdul Hussein al-Hindawi reported that 63% of all biometric voter registration cards were ready for distribution, and that IHEC had distributed 13 million cards to date. IHEC, Hindawi said, will complete registration of all eligible voters in weeks. On November 16, Kadhimi directed the Ministry of Finance to allocate any necessary funding to IHEC to ensure distribution of biometric registration cards and fund all other necessary technical preparations. The previous day, Kadhimi met with the director of the United Nations Mission Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert to discuss UNAMI-sponsored international election monitoring efforts. 

On November 15, Prime Minister Kadhimi reportedly promised a delegation of Sinjar residents to revise two sections of an agreement made last month between Baghdad and Erbil to normalize conditions in the contested district. Members of the delegation wanted to revise the point that bars all armed groups except police from entering Sinjar. “We requested that the forces that currently protect Shingal, to remain, because during the ISIS war and to this day, they have offered great service to the people of the region,” the delegation said, implying they want local armed groups such as the YBS (an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, whom KDP negotiators sought to bar from the area) to remain in Sinjar. The delegation requested changes in the agreement to ensure the next mayor is “independent…a current resident…to be appointed with the will of the people of the region, not according to party politics and external meddling.” Kadhimi agreed to consider both requests, according to the delegation. On November 17, Iraqi National Security Advisor, Qassem al-Araji arrived in Erbil to discuss implementation of the Sinjar deal with the KRG Interior Minister, Rieber Ahmed. Araji later said that “any non-Iraqi”  forces must leave Sinjar, while his counterpart said a new mayor will be “jointly appointed,” potentially contradicting Kadhimi’s alleged promises to the Sinjar delegation.

On November 16, Prime Minister Kadhimi presided over the first monthly meeting of a new body comprising independent commissions and government departments not attached to a ministry. The Prime Minister stated that the new “Council” will facilitate and coordinate the member commissions’ activities to improve government services and accomplish the government’s main goal of holding early elections next June. During the meeting, the Council ordered provincial governments with border crossings to defer to the decisions made by the Border Crossings Authority (itself a member of the Council) and mandated that the provincial governments allocate 50% of border crossing revenues to infrastructure redevelopment projects. Additionally, the Council decided to activate the new automated tax collection system at border crossings and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to close unofficial crossings. 

On November 16, the White House instructed the Pentagon to begin planning to withdraw 500 of the 3,000 remaining U.S. troops in Iraq. The following day, acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said the planned withdrawal will be complete by January 15, and that the remaining U.S. forces’ mission in Iraq would remain “roughly the same.” U.S. forces in Iraq focus primarily on intelligence, combat support, and training Iraqi Security Forces. During a press conference the following day, Prime Minister Kadhimi stated that the government is “committed to what Iraqis want in rescheduling the withdrawal of American forces” and will continue to develop its security capabilities in order to “not require American combat forces,” while continuing cooperation with the U.S. in other areas. On November 18, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said that Iraqi officials had discussed the withdrawal plan with the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo days prior to the plan’s official announcement. 

On November 17, Prime Minister Kadhimi defended the government’s anti-corruption efforts, asserting every person targeted has been arrested “according to legal warrants” and treated as equals before the law. During remarks at a press conference, Kadhimi said he was facing significant pressure from parties he did not name that are lobbying for the release of the “whales of corruption.” Kadhimi also denied allegations that some of the arrested suspects were being tortured while in government custody. Prime Minister Kadimi’s anti-corruption drive started with the arrests of two government officials and a prominent businessman in September and saw the arrest of the long-time Deputy Minister of Electricity in October.

On November 18, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein described the November 17 rocket attack on the Green Zone in central Baghdad [further details below] as “a blatant attack on the government and the people.” The same day, Operation Inherent Resolve Spokesperson, Col. Wayne Marotto condemned the attack as “yet another instance of outlaw groups killing fellow Iraqis” and extended his condolences to those affected. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad also condemned the attack, for which “Iran-backed militias again took credit.” The Embassy called on Baghdad “to arrest and hold accountable those who continue to perpetrate acts of violence against the Iraqi state.” Days before the attack, the U.S. Special Representative for Syria, James Jeffrey said that Washington “is very serious” about shutting its embassy in Baghdad — a  threat Washington made in September — if Baghdad does not make satisfactory progress in curtailing militia activity against U.S. interests.

On November 18, the Governor of Erbil, Firsat Sofi died from COVID-19. Sofi contracted the virus in October and died in Turkey, where he was transferred for treatment shortly after his diagnosis.


Iraq Sends Reinforcements To Diyala Amid Rise In Violence; Militia Claims Rocket Barrage Targeting The Green Zone That Killed And Wounded Eight Iraqis

On November 13, ISIS militants attacked an Iraqi Army position in the Radwaniyah area west of Baghdad. The Iraqi Army repulsed and pursued the assault, killing an unspecified number of attackers. The next day, Iraqi military spokesman Yahya Rasoul said forces from the 17th Iraqi Army Division recovered the bodies of three ISIS militants responsible for killing 11 Iraqis a week earlier in the same area. It is unclear whether the same militants were responsible for the November 13 attack.

On November 13, an ISIS attack on a Federal Police position killed two Federal Police officers and wounded four more in Wadi al-Khanazir between al-Rashad and al-Riyadh subdistricts south of Kirkuk. On November 15, Federal Police intelligence officers killed one ISIS fighter and wounded another fighter in an ambush while the fighters planted an IED on the Kirkuk-Tikrit road. 

On November 13, an IED exploded killing one member of the Iraqi security forces (ISF) and wounding two more during a foot patrol in the Abu Saida subdistrict of Diyala province. Unknown gunmen also assassinated a teacher in central Muqdadiyah, Diyala. The same day, an ISIS attack on a “joint security post” near Jalawla killed an Iraqi soldier and wounded a police officer. Two separate IEDs also exploded in the villages of al-Harouniyah and Zuhairat on the outskirts of al-Muqdadiyah district, causing no casualties. On November 15, ISIS militants wounded three fighters from the 23rd Brigade of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in an attack in Al-Udheim subdistrict, north of Baquba. The ISIS militants damaged water pumps and electrical transformers during their attack. 

On November 14, Prime Minister Kadhimi ordered the Ministries of Defense and Interior to reinforce the Iraqi Army and police forces in Diyala. National Security Advisor Qassim al-Araji, recently tasked with overseeing security in Diyala, arrived in the province on November 14, accompanied by the Deputy Joint Operations Commander, the Interior Ministry’s deputy for intelligence affairs, and the chief of military intelligence, and other security officials to evaluate security conditions in Diyala.” On November 15, the Interior Ministry’s Emergency Response Division, began conducting security operations in coordination with Diyala Operations Command to “prevent tribal conflict,” according to the mayor of Abu Saida district. Interior Minister Ghanimi also arrived in Diyala on November 15 and met with Diyala security officials to discuss the security situation, particularly in Abu Saida, where there have been several ISIS attacks in recent days [see above]. 

On November 14, two mortar shells impacted near a popular restaurant in the Hamam al-Alil subdistrict south of Mosul. The attack wounded three civilians. 

On November 14, a “homemade explosive device” targeted an alcohol store in central Baghdad’s Bab al-Muadham district. The explosion caused a fire but no injuries. This is the sixth attack targeting liquor stores in Baghdad this report has tracked in the last 30 days. 

On November 15, Prime Minister Kadhimi’s spokesman, Ahmed Mulla Talal announced that government investigators had identified two people involved in the killing of journalist and researcher Husham al-Hashimi in July. Talal did not provide any details about their identities but stated that “unknown parties” had smuggled the two out of Iraq to an unknown country. He reported that the Prime Minister will seek their extradition.

On November 15, the Turkish Ministry of Defense announced that Turkish airstrikes killed two PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) fighters in the Zab region of northern Iraq. Turkish airstrikes also killed an additional three PKK fighters in Afshin district. 

On November 15, a legacy IED wounded a PMF fighter near a checkpoint in the al-Bahbahan area of Jurf al-Sakhr, in northern Babylon province. An attack by ISIS militants the next day killed a member of Kataib Hezbollah (45th PMF Brigade) and wounded another in Jurf al-Sakhr. 

On November 15, a UVIED killed the driver of a civilian vehicle in al-Madaen district southeast of Baghdad. A “sound bomb” also exploded in the garden of a private home in the nearby Jisr Diyala area, also southeast of Baghdad, causing “material damage” but no casualties.

On November 17, unknown militants launched seven 122mm Grad rockets from the al-Alif Dar district of eastern Baghdad, targeting the Green Zone. Of these seven rockets, four landed in the Green Zone, injuring two members of the Iraqi Security Forces. Another rocket hit al-Zawra Park, a popular park outside the Green Zone, killing an eighteen-year-old woman and wounding five civilians. One rocket landed in Medical City and caused no casualties, while the seventh rocket exploded in the air. The attackers burned the launcher following the attack. A Shia extremist telegram channel announced that “Islamic resistance” faction Ashab al-Kahf claimed responsibility for the attack, calling it a retaliation for the arrest of three “mujahideen” in Fallujah on November 16. The U.S. embassy used its Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (CRAM) system against the attack, but it is unclear if it successfully intercepted any of the rockets.

On November 18, an IED targeted an Iraqi Army patrol in Yathrib district, Salah ad-Din, wounding 4 Iraqi soldiers. 

On November 19, a legacy IED hit a pickup truck belonging to the Oil Exploration Company, killing the driver in the village of Bijumana, near the Shoura subdistrict south of Mosul.


U.S.-Affiliated Iraqis Face Growing Threats; UNHCR Seeks More Aid To IDPs To Mitigate Camp Closures; WFP Data Says 1.77 Million Are In “Acute Need”; Increase In COVID-19 Cases Plateaus

On November 12, The Washington Post reported that Iraqi translators are increasingly concerned that Iranian-backed militias have acquired their personal information from compromised individuals in the Iraqi Security Forces. The U.S. military gave these lists to the Iraqi authorities  to “secure permission for translators to move around Iraq.” One of the lists has phone numbers, ID numbers, and real names. An unnamed official in Prime Minister Kadhimi’s office said that “It’s not a surprise that militias have these documents” because the militias see their fight against the U.S. as a long struggle and seek “as much leverage over U.S. interests as possible.” Meanwhile, reductions in U.S. military presence exacerbate the vulnerabilities of the U.S.-employed Iraqi translators to threats and attacks by anti-U.S. armed groups. On October 27, “Islamic resistance” faction Ashab al-Kahf offered significant amounts of money to translators or other contractors to serve as informants. This year, only 161 Iraqis were allowed into the U.S. as refugees. A separate program for the resettlement of translators is capped at 50 slots between Iraq and Afghanistan. 

On November 13, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that it will accelerate its support to internally displaced Iraqis to mitigate the effects of recent large scale camp closures across the country. UNHCR said it plans to release seasonal cash assistance for immediate needs of returning IDPs in the winter months, and extend legal assistance to returning families so that they can obtain civil and property documentation to reclaim their homes. UNHCR said it had raised its objections to the closure plan with the Iraqi government, pointing out that Baghdad was closing camps without adequate notice to aid agencies and other stakeholders working in the camps, raising concerns about the safe return of IDPs to their original communities. Recently, the Norwegian Refugee Council warned that the “hasty closure” of Iraqi IDP camps would “render more than 100,000 people homeless” and that many IDPs are unwilling or unable to return to their homes due to “tensions or insecurity.” Prime Minister Kadhimi rejected the accusations, arguing that the government is not forcibly returning refugees. 

On November 13, the World Food Program (WFP) released a new humanitarian dashboard update for Iraq, which pointed out that 1.3 million people remain internally displaced across Iraq, that 1.77 million people are in a state of acute need of assistance, and that 4.74 million former IDPs have returned to their home districts. The document also showed that 242,704 Syrian refugees were residing in Iraq. The highest concentration of IDPs in Iraq is in Iraqi Kurdistan and Ninewa. The WFP also assisted 382,000 of 388,000 people identified in its strategic plan for Iraq. Despite COVID-19, WFP added 4,000 IDPs and 34,000 returnees to its general food assistance program, which helps IDPs get food through cash transfers or food distribution. However, the document notes that the food security cluster was only 36% funded, with only $22.4 million secured against $61.9 million required. With regard to COVID-19, the document highlighted the fact that only a limited number of hospitals designated for COVID-19 exists outside of Baghdad: one each in Mosul, Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Mayan, and Dhi-Qar, two in Dohuk, three in Muthanna, and four in Basra. This leaves the majority of the Iraqi rural population as well as several entire provinces without easy access to dedicated COVID-19 hospitals. Videos circulating on social media showed a COVID-19 hospital in Basra flooding with water after rainfall, demonstrating the poor condition of some Iraqi COVID-19 hospitals. 

On November 13, Dutch humanitarian organization PAX for Peace said that between May and September 2020, fires caused by military action burned 300,000 acres across Iraqi Kurdistan. The fires displaced “thousands” of people, destroying “agricultural lands and livelihood.” PAX found that since 2014, the Kurdistan Region has lost an estimated 20% of its vegetation. The PAX study used satellite imagery to observe burned areas and found that 32 of 81 locations of military operations matched areas that suffered burns. The study that showed 50,000 acres of burned land were directly related to military incidents. The organization added that 23,000 acres burned were part of “special protected areas with a rich biodiversity.”

On November 16, Human Rights Watch (HRW) pressed the Iraqi government to commit to their promises of freeing kidnapped persons. HRW said that they asked the Iraqi government for information on eight disappearances tied to various PMF factions, but received no response, pointing out that the eight cases are likely only a fraction of PMF-linked kidnappings since 2019.  HRW accused the Kadhimi administration of “doing little to follow through” on promises of finding kidnapping victims. Likewise, Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) member Fadhel al-Gharrawi blamed the government for a lack of progress in investigating excessive use of force during the October 2019 protests, saying that the government has provided no findings despite the creation of investigative committees. Gharawi called on the families of protesters and security forces martyred or wounded to submit reports and complaints to IHCHR for documentation and submission to courts. 

On November 16, al-Monitor reported that the Peshmerga have established a number of checkpoints in the Nahla valley, a predominantly Assyrian region in Dohuk province, to “cut off resources” to the PKK. Local Assyrians told al-Monitor that at the end of October, two checkpoints in Bakrman and Sharman began to restrict the movement of food supplies and visitors.The checkpoints are reportedly requiring trucks carrying food and other agricultural goods to obtain  permission slips from a security station 45 minutes away before entering the area Fariq Yaqoub, a representative of the Assyrianal-Rafidain bloc in the KRG Parliament called the checkpoints “a siege of the people” and asked officials to lift them. 

On November 19, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Iraq rose to 529,226, representing a weekly increase of 17,420 cases from the 511,806 cases reported on November 12. Of these cases, 59,902 patients are currently in Iraqi hospitals, including 361 in the intensive care unit (ICU). This represents a decrease of 1,144 patients in Iraqi hospitals from last week, and a 26 patient decrease in ICU patients. Ministry data indicated that there were a total of 303 new COVID-related deaths this week, bringing the total from 11,531 to 11,834. The total number of recoveries increased from 439,228 to 457,490. The daily average for new cases decreased slightly, with an average of 2,488 new cases per day this week, down from 3,176 new cases per day last week. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 745 cases, Kirkuk with 235 cases, Sulaymaniyah with 193 cases, Dohuk with 183 cases, and Babylon with177 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 3,202,083 samples for COVID-19.


Baghdad Says Deal With Egypt Won’t Replace Agreements With China; Flights To Europe To Resume In December; Iraq Reopens Border Crossing With Saudi Arabia

On November 15, Secretary General of the Council of Ministers, Hamid Naeem al-Ghazi met with a delegation from Siemens to discuss the status of the German company’s projects for Iraq’s electric grid. Specifically, Ghazi urged Siemens to complete its work on a 1,300 megawatt gas-fired power plant in Wasit “before next summer.” Siemens provides turbines for many of Iraq’s power plants, and in June, the Iraqi government signed contracts worth over €1 billion with Siemens to improve the country’s electricity generation and distribution infrastructure. Al-Ghazi also invited Siemens to conduct a study of technical shortcomings in Iraq’s electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure, which is “the main problem facing the electricity sector.” The official also asked Siemens to equip the Electricity Ministry with smart meters to enable better monitoring of electricity consumption and loss.

On November 15, Prime Minister Kadhimi’s spokesman, Ahmed Mulla Talal stressed that the current government will not renege on the memoranda of understanding (MoU) signed with China last year. Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s government signed eight development-focused MoUs with China in September 2019 involving the use of direct oil sales to China to finance infrastructure development projects. Talal said Iraq had begun to select projects to present to Chinese companies, including one to construct 1,000 schools. He added that the fifteen MoUs the government signed with Egypt earlier this month should not be construed as a substitute for MoUs with China. On November 17, Prime Minister Kadhimi denied that the government had cancelled the “agreements” it had made with China, as it had not yet signed any formal project agreements with Beijing. Kadhimi confirmed that the government is still committed to implementing the MoUs. 

On November 17, the general manager of Iraqi Airways, Kifah Hassan announced that the company will resume direct international flights to several European airports beginning December 15. The first stage of flight resumptions will reportedly include flights to Berlin, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, London, and Copenhagen. Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority initially suspended flights between Iraq and European airports in March due to concerns over unmanaged spread of the coronavirus.

On November 18, the Iraqi Border Ports Authority announced the reopening of the Arar border crossing in southern Anbar province to commercial traffic from Saudi Arabia. The border port remained closed for nearly 30 years after Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iraq following the latter’s invasion of Kuwait. Prime Minister Kadhimi and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman agreed to open the border port last week as part of an effort to deepen commercial and diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Baghdad. The reopening of the border port drew ire from pro-Iran militias. A militia group named Ashab al-Kahf stated that the “Islamic resistance factions are closely following every movement of the Saudi enemy on the Iraqi border.”


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
11/13/20Abu Saida, Diyala12
11/13/20al-Harouniyah, al-Muqdadiyah, Diyala00
11/13/20Zuhairat, al-Muqdadiyah, Diyala00
11/14/20Bab al-Muadham, Baghdad00
11/15/20Jurf al-Sakhr, Babylon01
11/15/20al-Madaen, Baghdad10
11/15/20Jisr Diyala, Baghdad00
11/18/20Yathrib, Salah ad-Din04
11/19/20Bijumana, Shoura, Mosul10

 

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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