- PM Urges Lawmakers To Fund Election; Group Drops Effort To Unseat Halbousi; Sadr’s Followers Kill Seven Protesters In Nasiriyah Clashes As He Announces Ambitious Election Bid – On November 21, the Cabinet asked for IQD60 billion to finance the Iraqi High Elections Commission and PM Kadhimi later stressed that Parliament must pass an election financing bill to allow the Commission to prepare for the June 6 polls. On November 22, Parliament discussed a controversial Law on Information Technology Crimes that was condemned by rights organizations fearing that it will damage free speech and silence dissent. On November 26, representative Ahmed al-Jubouri (aka Abu Mazin) said the recently formed Iraqi Front has halted its efforts to remove Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi. On November 27, followers of Moqtada al-Sadr rallied for mass demonstrations in several provinces and clashed with protesters in Nasiriyah’s Haboubi Square. Gunmen believed to be Sadr followers killed seven people, wounded 90 and burned protester tents in Haboubi Square. A Sadr aide blamed protesters acting on “foreign agendas” for the deadly clashes and threatened more violence. PM Kadhimi fired the police chief and formed a crisis cell led by his National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji. Thousands of Sadrists also gathered in Baghdad’s Tahrir square after Sadr said he will participate in the next elections to achieve a Sadrist majority and choose the next PM. On November 28, three more protesters died as Iraqi riot police stormed the protest square at Kut City. more…
- Militias, Iran Disagree Over Truce With The U.S.; Washington Targets Militias Websites, Pulls More Personnel Out Of Its Baghdad Mission – On November 19, Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader Qais al-Khazali said the unilateral truce that pro-Iran militias announced in October with regard to pausing their attacks on U.S. interests has ended because “its conditions” were not met. The remarks coincided with a visit by IRGC-QF commander Ismael Qaani to Baghdad in which he told allied Iraqi militias to “stand down and cease attacks” on U.S. interests. Khazali appeared to pushback against Qaani, saying that “the U.S. occupies [Iraq], not [Iran], we will not listen to [Qaani] anymore.” On December 2, the U.S. Department of Justice seized the website of al-Ghadeer TV, a Badr Organization-owned media outlet. On December 2, Washington decided to pull an unspecified number of personnel from the U.S. embassy in the Iraqi capital amid rising concerns of increased possibility for military escalation with Iran. Recently, the Washington Post reported that senior American officials claimed President Trump was prepared to “order a devastating response” against Iran-backed militias should they kill any more Americans. more…
- Rockets Damage Refinery; Attacks On Activists Increase; Vigilante Groups Wage Attacks On Businesses In Baghdad; Parties Begin Implementing Sinjar Security Deal – Between November 21 – December 3, ten IEDs killed at least five Iraqis and wounded 20 more in Ninewa, Salah ad-Din, Diyala, and Kirkuk. One bombing near Baiji was part of a complex attack that left more than ten casualties. Between November 21 – December 3, 13 other militant attacks killed at least four Iraqis and wounded 27 in Ninewa, Kirkuk, Anbar, Diyala and Salah ad-Din. A rocket attack on November 29 struck the Siniya oil refinery in Salah ad-Din, temporarily shutting down production. Between November 22 – December 2, gunmen carried out four assassination attempts against activists known for criticizing armed groups in Diwaniyah, Baghdad and Maysan. One of the activists was killed and another sustained serious injuries. Between November 20 – 30, Counter Terrorism forces and Caolition airstrikes killed at least 20 ISIS militants in Makhmour and south of Kirkuk. Between November 26 – December 3, three IEDs targeted liquor stores and a night club in Baghdad while Rab’a Allah, a vigilante group affiliated with Kataib Hezbollah attacked a spa in the capital, beating employees and torching the building. On December 1, federal security forces began redeploying to Sinjar under the normalization agreement signed in October, while Sinjar Protection Units (YBS), a Yazidi militia affiliated with the PKK said that its forces and the PMF began withdrawing from the area. more…
- Aid Organizations Warn Of The Impact Of Rushed Camp Closures On IDPs, Especially Children; COVID-19 Deaths Pass 12,000 But New Cases Slow Down – On November 20, UN Human Rights Council experts urged Baghdad to halt plans to execute fifty prisoners convicted under an anti-terrorism law that the includes “vague and overly broad definition of terrorism.” On November 20, UNICEF warned that the portion of Iraqi children at risk of experiencing poverty doubled during the pandemic. On November 24, Amnesty International warned of increased risk to IDPs with perceived links to ISIS due to rush the closure of remaining IDP camps. On November 27, Save the Children reported that children and their families that have been forced to leave IDP camps often return to dangerous communities without adequate accommodation or infrastructure, where explosives remnants, destroyed structures, and kidnappers immediately endanger children. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Migration said it had closed 15 IDP camps and returned 5,180 families to their home communities in the last month. On December 3, Iraq’s Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 558,767. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 12,361 while the number of patients currently in hospitals decreased to 58,543. To date, 439,228 patients have recovered from the virus and Iraq has tested 3,576,592 samples for COVID-19. The daily average for new cases decreased from 2,488/day during the week ending Nov 19 to 2,110/day this week. more…
- U.S. Issues New 45-Day Sanctions Waiver; Iraq Offers Forward Oil Sales, Plans Bond Issue To Generate Revenue; Oil Exports Lower In November – On November 19, the U.S. granted a 45-day sanctions waiver for Iraq to purchase energy from Iran. On November 22, Iraq signed an agreement with the German Development Bank for two grants to build hospitals and support the IDP return. On November 24, Iraq’s Finance Minister said Iraq is becoming increasingly frustrated with OPEC’s indiscriminate production cuts requirements, and suggested that Iraq could leave OPEC. On November 23, Iraq’s oil marketing company sent a letter to global oil companies “seeking an upfront payment of $2 billion… for a long-term crude supply contract.” On November 27, Iraq’s Finance Ministry said it will offer bonds worth $3-5 billion to the public. On December 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports during November averaged 2.709 million bpd, which is 167,000 bpd lower than October’s average of 2.876 bpd million bpd. The November exports generated $3.394 billion in revenue, slightly lower than October’s $3.43 billion. 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 November 21, the Council of Ministers requested IQD60 billion be added to the borrowing law to finance the Iraqi High Elections Commission (IHEC). The head of the Parliamentary Finance Committee responded by writing that the borrowing bill approved on November 12 provided for all necessary expenses including elections and that any further requests for funds should be included in the 2021 budget. IHEC reportedly originally requested IQD350 billion for election preparations. On November 30, during a visit by Prime Minister Kadhimi to IHEC, Commission officials asked Kadhimi to postpone parliamentary elections until September 2021 to allow more time for preparations. Meanwhile, Kadhimi insisted on making the June 6 date successful. Kadhimi stressed that Parliament must pass an election financing bill so that the IHEC can complete its preparations.
On November 22, Parliament read and discussed the controversial Law on Information Technology Crimes. Parliament’s press office said that some representatives expressed concern over the balance between maintaining freedom of expression and protecting public order and societal security. Some representatives criticized parts of the bill as “unrelated” to information crimes and that the bill seeks to control network access to prevent or limit negative coverage of events in Iraq. Parliament Speaker Halbousi said that the law should “distinguish from those who insult and those who constructively criticize.” Ali al-Ghanimi, a State of Law MP and member of Parliament’s Security Committee, said “amendments” were added to the law, including a national center for digital evidence which will prepare reports for the courts to prosecute violators of the law. Ghanimi claimed that the law is “more compatible with democratic” ideas and does not conflict with freedoms of expression. Meanwhile, a legal expert told al-Mada that 21 of the law’s 31 articles deprive citizens of basic freedoms. Within those articles, there are 10 cases punishable by life imprisonment and fines of between IQD25 to 50 million, 25 cases punishable by “temporary imprisonment” and fines between IQD10 and 30 million and 28 cases of prison time less than five years and fines between IQD2 and 30 million. IQD 1 million equals approximately $800. The Iraqi Observatory for Press Freedoms said that the law “puts media outlets, journalists, writers, and normal people at risk” and suggested the law should focus solely on “cyber crimes such as blackmail and theft.” Meanwhile, Nasr Coalition MP and member of Parliament’s Legal Committee Hussein al-Aqabi said a “right to information and freedom of expression law” should be included in the Information Crimes Law, adding that there must be a clear delineation between restrictions and freedoms. On November 25, Human Rights Watch condemned the law, saying it will damage free speech and debate in Iraq, adding that the bill could be used to intimidate Iraqis into keeping silent because the bill’s articles are broad and unclear about what constitutes specific violations of the law.
On November 23, a group of 109 Members of Parliament (MPs) submitted a request to summon the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister, the KRG Oil Minister (a post that has been vacant in the current KRG Cabinet), the federal Oil Minister, and the head of Iraq’s national oil marketing company (SOMO) for questioning. The request expresses “suspicion” about the quantity of Kurdistan’s oil exports and the amount of oil the region is extracting. The request also stated that Parliament would inquire about a “50-year agreement” concerning oil exports between Erbil and Turkey.
On November 24, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein arrived in Moscow and met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The two sides discussed ways to strengthen bilateral ties between Baghdad and Moscow, including the “activation” of 14 memoranda of understanding in 2021 in the fields of education, health, oil, and transportation. Lavrov said that Russia will meet Iraq’s requests for military arms and that Iraqi students will also be allowed to study in Russia. Hussein said that Iraqi Minister of Defense will visit Moscow soon to discuss the issue of military purchases.
On November 24, Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi created a new, temporary committee of eight MPs to “run dialogue” between the federal government and the KRG. The committee would use the dialogue to “find appropriate solutions” for budget disputes between the two sides “in accordance with the Constitution” and incorporate these solutions into the future draft of the 2021 budget. The eight person committee consists of three representatives each from the Nasr and State of Law blocs, and one representative each from Fatah and the Wataniya Alliance. Diyar Barwari, a member of Parliament from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), said his party welcomes the initiative.
On November 24, UNAMI chief Jeanine-Hennis Plasscheart addressed the UNSC on the state of UNAMI’s work in Iraq and the Iraqi political situation. Plasschaert said Iraq is at a “critical juncture,” with the economy expected to “contract 10% this year” while the political elite fail to advance economic reforms. Plasschaert warned that without “broad political consensus,” the government’s White Paper on economic reforms won’t be translated into action. Plasschaert emphasized that “serious, resolute measures cannot wait.” Plasschaert said these reforms must be accompanied by improvements in governance and transparency throughout Iraq. Plasschaert called for “justice and accountability” for protesters to end the impunity for those guilty of killing protesters last fall. Plasschaert emphasized the need for foreign powers to give “Iraqis… the room to focus on their strength at home,” and avoid power struggles on Iraqi soil. She also emphasized that Baghdad and Erbil must cooperate together as Iraqis, and find solutions to enhance the federal system. The UN official also noted that, UNAMI is “ramping up technical support” for Iraq’s plan to hold election on June 6, 2021. Plasschaert said the preparations “must be free of political interference.”
On November 24, the Iraqi Government said it barred anyone accused of corruption from assuming positions higher than Director-General even if they have received amnesty.
On November 25, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) sent an official letter to Baghdad requesting “part” of its share of the federal budget for the months of May, June, July, and October, adding that the budget share is a “right” of the KRG. The KRG’s Cabinet also called for the UN and international community to support efforts to reach an agreement between the KRG and federal government to guarantee the receipt of the KRG’s share of the budget from Baghdad. In August, Baghdad and Erbil reached an ad-hoc agreement involving Baghdad making three payments of IQD320 billion each to cover KRG expenses for three months. Erbil received the last payment on October 11.
On November 26, representative Ahmed al-Jubouri (aka Abu Mazin) said the recently formed Iraqi Front has halted its efforts to remove Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi. Jubouri previously cited “lack of interest” from other political blocs regarding the group’s project to remove Halbousi, forcing the Front to consider a “different decision.” Jubouri did not elaborate on what that new direction would be, but said it would “protect the rights” of the Sunni community and “reject the complacency” of some political parties “regarding this constitutional choice.” Four Sunni groups, led by Jabouri and former Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, formed the Iraqi Front last month with the expressed intention of removing Halbousi. On November 25, a statement attributed to the Front contradicted Jubouri, insisting that the “procedures for Halbousi’s removal” will proceed, despite statements from other party members pointing to a compromise with Halbousi. On November 23, Nujaifi, speaking during a meeting with Turkish Ambassador Fatih Yildiz said the Front was coherent “despite great pressure on its members.”
On November 26, the Integrity Commission said an Iraqi court sentenced the former head of the Martyr’s Foundation to one year in prison. The former official bribed the foundation’s Investment Committee to give a company a contract to develop the site of the martyr’s monument despite the presence of a more competitive offer from a different company.
On November 26, Prime Minister Kadhimi’s spokesperson, Ahmad Mulla Talal, announced his resignation. Talal called Kadhimi a “patriotic and well-intentioned” man but said he had to resign because his “understanding of reality” was different from that of the prime minister, without elaborating.
On November 27, former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Nasr Coalition suggested that they are considering a boycott of the June 6, 2021 elections. The Coalition said if the elections are not free and fair or if “fraud and interference” occurs, “then [a] popular and political boycott is an option.” On December 1, a representative from the Wataniya Alliance expressed similar concerns, warning against holding “immature” elections that could not be protected against interference. The representative called for putting an end to “uncontrolled weapons” and “political sectarianism and quotas.” He called into question the ability of the UN to supervise the election in “areas under the control of militias.”
On November 27, thousands of Moqtada al-Sadr followers gathered in Baghdad’s Tahrir square for Friday prayers after Salih M. al-Iraqi, who is believed to be al-Sadr’s spokesman, called for a mass demonstration and unified prayer in Baghdad and central and southern provinces. Demonstrators in Tahrir came from Najaf, Karbala, and Baghdad, while Sadrists from other provinces were instructed to demonstrate in their cities’ own main squares, which have been the site of popular anti-government protests since October 2019. Sadr issued a sermon on Friday calling on his followers to “defend our religion, creed, and nation against” what he called immortality and dependency on outside powers. Sadr said the Sadrists are “obligated to defend Iraq in Parliament with a Sadrist majority which believes in reform, religion, and the homeland.” Earlier, Sadr declared that he will lead the Sadrist Trend in the next elections to achieve a Sadrist majority that allows his followers to choose the next prime minister and implement their “reform project” from within the government. He also said his decision to lead the Sadrists is only to “save Iraq from corruption, dependency, and deviation” and because “religion, sect, and nation are in danger.”
On November 27, followers of Moqtada al-Sadr clashed with protesters camped in Nasiriyah’s Haboubi Square as they rallied for mass demonstrations across the country [see above]. Footage showed Sadrists apparently setting protesters’ tents on fire and shooting at them using live bullets. Demonstrators in Haboubi square said Iraqi Security Forces were standing idle as the attack unfolded on Friday. During overnight clashes, gunmen believed to be Sadr followers killed seven people and wounded 90 using live ammunition and burned protester tents in Haboubi Square. On November 28, demonstrators marched back to Haboubi Square, chanting anti-Sadrists slogans and carrying caskets symbolizing the previous night’s slain protesters. Prime Minister Kadhimi fired the local police chief, ordered an investigation into the events and canceled weapons permits in Nasiriyah. Kadhimi also organized an emergency crisis cell consisting of National Security Advisor Qassim al-Araji, National Security Service head Abdul-Ghani al-Asadi, a Joint Operations Command general, the Sumer Operations Commander, and the new chief of Dhi-Qar Police to investigate the killings. On November 29, protesters in Nasiriyah erected new tents, but an unknown armed group arrived in several SUVs at dawn and attacked protesters at the square with live bullets. The protesters pleaded for the UN and Ayatollah Sistani to intervene to protect them from further attacks. Meanwhile, in Tahrir Square, students marched in support of protesters in Haboubi square following Friday’s killings. On November 30, the protesters in Nasiriyah released a list of demands, including protection for Haboubi square, the sacking of the local government, freeing disappeared protesters, preventing the interference of political parties in the ISF, holding the perpetrators of November 27’s attacks accountable, and reducing the number of foreign workers at foreign oil companies to create more job opportunities.
On November 28, Salih M. al-Iraqi, who is believed to be a spokesman for Moqtada al-Sadr, blamed protesters acting on “foreign agendas” for the clashes between Sadr’s followers and protesters in Nasiriyah, which killed seven protesters. Salih warned the government that “Iraq has its soldiers” — a reference to the followers and militia loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr– if the government failed in “protecting” Dhi-Qar province. The Sadr aideaccused protesters of committing “arson, blocking roads, and lynching,” without elaborating. In a separate post, Iraqi attacked the protesters, arguing that they spread vice and discord, “aid the occupier” and employ protest tactics that hurt the people more than the corrupt political elite. Meanwhile, Ibrahim al-Jabiri, a Sadrist official in Baghdad blamed rival political parties and the U.S. embassy for instigating the clashes in Nasiriyah, claiming the storming of Haboubi square was “a peaceful rally in support of Moqtada al-Sadr.”
On November 28, three protesters died as Iraqi riot police stormed the protest square at Kut, Wasit’s provincial capital, at dawn. One protester died of self-immolation, another died after he was run over by a riot police vehicle, and a third died after being hit with a tear gas grenade.
On November 29, former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for the government to “assume its responsibility to preserve life, property, and maintenance of security” after clashes in Nasiriyah between demonstrators and followers of Moqtada al-Sadr left seven protesters dead and 90 injured. The deadly events in Nasiriyah also drew international attention. UNAMI condemned the violence and called on the government to protect demonstrators and hold those responsible accountable. The U.S. Embassy and British Ambassador Stephen Hickey echoed this sentiment, calling on the government to protect peaceful protesters and “others engaged in the legitimate exercise of free speech.”
On November 29, the Ministry of Finance completed the draft budget law for 2021 and planned to present it to the Cabinet on December 1. However, the Cabinet is waiting for a delegation from the KRG to negotiate the KRG share of the budget and the amount of oil revenues the KRG will be required to send to Baghdad. The delegation is expected to arrive this week or next week. On November 25, member of Parliament’s Finance Committee Naji al-Saeedi said that if a draft budget bill is not sent to Parliament by the end of December, it may not be possible to send January 2021 salaries to government employees.
On November 19, Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader Qais al-Khazali said the unilateral truce that “resistance” factions announced in October with regard to pausing their attacks on U.S. interests has ended because “its conditions” were not met. However, Khazali. added that he does not support targeting the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Khazali called Washington’s threat to shut down its embassy in Baghdad (which was accompanied by a threat to strike pro-Iran militias) part of Washington’s “psychological warfare.” Khazali said threats from Turkish and Saudi infiltration will become greater than the American threat, pointing out that the “resistance” has “political and economic” objections to plans for Saudi investment in Iraq. Khazali said Prime Minister Kadhimi lacked a popular mandate, and asked Iraqis to distinguish between efforts aimed at “ weakening the state” and those that “weaken the government.” Khazali also appeared to pushback against IRGC-QF commander Ismael Qaani, who is reportedly in Iraq to convince allied militias to refrain from attacking U.S. interests, saying that “the US occupies [Iraq], not [Iran], we will not listen to [Qaani] anymore because our motives are 100% nationalist.”
On November 20, AP reported that IRGC-QF commander Ismael Qaani traveled to Baghdad on November 18 for what Hadi al-Amiri’s Fatah Coalition called an “official visit” for talks with Iraqi political and militia leaders. Qaani reportedly told allied Iraqi militias to “stand down and cease attacks” on U.S. interests in Iraq for the time being. Qaani met with various militia, military, and security leaders, including Hadi al-Amiri, Kataib Hezbollah leader Abu Fadak al-Mohammedawi, and unspecified leaders in Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba. One source also claimed Kadhimi was present at this meeting. While Qaani said all activities against the U.S. in Iraq should stop, he warned a war between the U.S. and Iran would be fought in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran, according to a senior commander present at the meeting. However, Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader Qais al-Khazali reportedly sent a letter to Qaani pushing back against his instruction [see above]. Meanwhile, A “prominent militia leader involved in attacks” against the U.S. told Middle East Eye that “no faction violated the declared armistice. We previously said that the truce will last for only two months, and the deadline has expired.” The militias, however, announced the ceasefire only thirty seven days before Qaani’s visit. On the morning of November 19, Qaani met with Kadhimi over breakfast at Kadhimi’s residence. Both Iraqis and Iranians are fearful of what Trump may do in his remaining time in office. Iraq expert Sajad Jiyad said the Iraqi government may want to “just close its eyes and have these two months fly by.” A key Kadhimi advisor also told Middle East Eye that fear of U.S. military action was pushing the Iranians to control their proxies. The advisor added “Kadhimi may be a bridge” between Tehran and Washington “if they allow him.”
On December 2, the U.S. Department of Justice seized the website of al-Ghadeer TV, a Badr Organization-owned media outlet. The U.S. Department of Justice has previously seized other websites owned by Iran-backed militias, such as Kataib Hezbollah’s al-Etejah TV and the militia’s website (kataibhezbollah.com) on October 21.
On December 2, Washington decided to pull an unspecified number of personnel from the U.S. Embassy in the Iraqi capital amid rising concerns of increased possibility for military escalation with Iran. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller will remain in Baghdad despite the drawdown. The withdrawal is reportedly meant as a risk mitigation strategy designed to protect embassy personnel should hostilities increase. Recently, senior officials claimed President Trump was prepared to “order a devastating response” against Iran-backed militias should militia attacks kill American personnel. A State Department spokesperson did not confirm the withdrawal, but reiterated that protecting America’s diplomatic mission was the department’s “highest priority.” In May 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad withdrew all non-emergency personnel due to the increased threat of rocket attacks.
On November 20, Prime Minister Kadhimi’s military spokesperson, Yahya Rasool reported that the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) clashed with ISIS militants in the Zghaytoun and Khanajur valleys in Kirkuk province. CTS troops and Coalition airstrikes killed sixteen ISIS fighters and seized weapons caches during the operation.
On November 21, ISIS militants conducted a complex attack in the Msahag area near Baiji in Salah ad-Din province, involving an improvised explosive device (IED) and a subsequent ambush that targeted security personnel who responded to the explosion. The casualty figures varied widely and remain hard to ascertain. The Security Media Cell put the total at three killed and five wounded from the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), without mentioning civilian casualties. Another security source said the attack killed three ISF members and wounded two civilians, but a third source said total casualties were as high as ten killed (eight ISF and two civilians) and eight wounded. On December 2, Security Media Cell reported that a Coalition airstrike in the Makhoul mountains killed the individuals responsible for the Baiji attack.
On November 21, unidentified gunmen attacked a house west of Mosul with small arms fire, killing a young man.
On November 21, the Dutch Ministry of Defense said it will send between 100 – 150 of its soldiers to the Kurdistan region beginning early January to train Peshmerga forces and assist in protecting Erbil International Airport. The Ministry noted that the Netherlands’ and the Coalition’s mission in Iraq will switch from a training to a consulting role in the near future, with the goal of developing ISF capabilities to combat ISIS without external support.
On November 22, a security source reported that an IED exploded against an Iraqi Army vehicle that was travelling through the Hammam al-Alil subdistrict south of Mosul. The source said the explosion killed one soldier and wounded four others.
On November 22, ISIS militants attacked an army outpost in the village of Sarqalan, northwest of Kirkuk. The attackers wounded a soldier.
On November 22, ISIS militants killed three civilians, including an employee of the Nationality Directorate, at a fake checkpoint on the highway near Rutbah, in western Anbar province. The next day, ISIS militants attacked a unit of the Anbar provincial police in the Karma subdistrict in eastern Anbar, wounding two policemen. On November 28, ISIS militants attacked a police convoy in al-Nukhayb, in southern Anbar, killing one police officer and wounding three others.
On November 22, a security source reported that unidentified assailants attacked the home of Ammar Khazali, an activist from Diwaniyah province who participated in recent anti-government protests in the province. The assailants used an IED and small arms fire, damaging Khazali’s house without causing any casualties.
On November 23, the Turkish Ministry of Defense announced it conducted airstrikes on suspected PKK positions in the mountainous Metina and Afashin regions of Duhok province. Turkey said the strike “neutralized” four suspected PKK fighters.
On November 23, an ISIS sniper wounded four Iraqi Army soldiers in the Tuzkhormatu district in eastern Salah ad-Din province. On November 26, an ISIS sniper wounded another Iraqi soldier in an unspecified area of Salah ad-Din province.
On November 23, a security source reported that a legacy IED detonated in the Shoura subdistrict, south of Mosul. The explosion wounded a woman and her child. On November 28, an IED exploded against a civilian vehicle in the same area, killing one of the vehicle’s passengers and wounding its driver. To the south on November 29, a legacy IED detonated in the Hatra district in Ninewa province, wounding three children.
On November 24, ISIS militants destroyed an unspecified number of high-voltage electricity transmission towers using explosives near the village of al-Durban, west of Kirkuk.
On November 24, ISIS militants attacked an Iraqi Army outpost on the border between Salah ad-Din and Diyala provinces near al-Udheim. The militants wounded two soldiers. To the south later that day, ISIS militants attacked the home of a local police colonel south of Dhuluiya, Salah ad-Din province. The attackers wounded four people, including the target colonel. On November 29, ISIS militants attacked an Iraqi Army outpost in the village of al-Mayta in eastern Salah ad-Din, wounding four soldiers and the commanding officer of a “commando regiment.”
On November 24, ISIS militants launched a Katyusha rocket from the village of Zawiya, Kirkuk province. The rocket landed in the nearby al-Zab district without causing any casualties.
On November 25, an unidentified gunman wounded activist Akram Adhab in the Talbiyah area of northeastern Baghdad. Akram recently criticized armed groups on his Facebook page, stating that Baghdad is “a prison run by Rab’a Allah,” a group of Kataib Hezbollah (KH) -affiliated vigilantes that were involved in the burning of the KDP headquarters in Baghdad in October. To the south on November 28, unidentified gunmen attempted to assassinate activist Hussam al-Abidi outside of his home in Diwaniyah. Al-Abidi escaped uninjured. On December 2, unidentified gunmen assassinated activist Mustafa al-Jabri in Maysan province.
On November 26, an IED exploded against a liquor store in Baghdad’s Karrada district. The explosion damaged several nearby storefronts but did not cause any human casualties. Later that day, a group of people allegedly from Rab’a Allah attacked a spa in the Karrada district. The group reportedly beat two of the spa’s female employees before ransacking the spa and setting the building on fire. On November 30, an IED exploded against a liquor store in the Baghdad al-Jadeeda district. The explosion damaged the store but did not cause any human casualties. On December 3, an IED exploded against a nightclub in central Baghdad. The explosion damaged the building’s façade, but did not cause any casualties.
On November 26, an IED exploded in the Daquq district, in Kirkuk province. The explosion wounded four Iraqi Army soldiers.
On November 26, Reuters reported that Prime Minister Kadhimi promoted Hussein Falih Aziz (alias Abu Zaynab al-Lami), the leader of the internal security directorate for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and a former member of Kataib Hezbollah, to the rank of Major General in the ISF and sent him to Egypt alongside several other military officers for training. In December 2019, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned al-Lami for his alleged role in ordering the violent suppression of protesters in Baghdad, including the use of snipers to kill protesters.
On November 27, unidentified gunmen attacked a vehicle travelling near Kanaan, east of Baquba. The attackers wounded a man and his son who were riding in the vehicle.
On November 27, an IED exploded against a vehicle that was transporting fighters of the 88th PMF Brigade as it passed through the Gilam ad-Dur district in Salah ad-Din province. The explosion wounded two fighters.
On November 29, a spokesman for Northern Refineries Company said two Katyusha rockets struck the Siniya oil refinery in Salah ad-Din province. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack. The rockets caused a fire, which prompted the refinery’s engineers to temporarily shut down production at the facility. The refinery, which has a productive capacity of 30,000 barrels per day (bdp), resumed production several hours later after the fire was extinguished.
On November 29, a Ninewa police source said a mortar shell struck a populated area in al-Baaj district southwest of Mosul, severely wounding two civilians.
On November 30, an IED exploded against a Federal Police vehicle on patrol in the Hawija district of Kirkuk province. The explosion killed a police officer.
On November 30, security officials reported that an airstrike of unknown origin killed a commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and three other people travelling in a vehicle at the Iraq-Syria border near al-Qaim. Local military officials reported that the vehicle, which was carrying weapons across the Iraqi border, was struck shortly after crossing into Syria, but could not confirm the identity of the commander.
On November 30, CTS reported it killed three ISIS militants during a search operation in the Makhmour mountains in Erbil province, while another three militants were killed by Coalition airstrikes after attempting to flee the area. One CTS soldier was wounded during the operation.
On December 1, a local security source said a homemade IED containing 250 grams of explosives exploded against the residence of an ISF officer’s house in central Basra. The explosion caused property damages but no casualties.
On December 1, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command reported that federal security forces began redeploying to the Sinjar district. Per the terms of the Sinjar normalization agreement signed between Baghdad and Erbil in October, federal forces are to assume full security responsibility in Sinjar, while all non-state armed groups must vacate the district. The same day, the Sinjar Protection Units (YBS), a Yazidi militia affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) said that its forces and the PMF had begun withdrawing from the Sinjar district and had begun handing over the district’s headquarters to federal security forces. These developments follow a visit by UNAMI chief Jeanine-Hennis Plasschaert on November 20 to Sinjar, where she met with Yazidis and local Sinjari tribes and called for Iraqi authorities to accelerate the implementation of the Sinjar agreement. She said she was “optimistic” about stability in the district, and that the UN hoped to see the Iraqi Army arrive in Sinjar “in the coming days.”
On December 1, a security source announced the appointment of new commanders for two federal police divisions. The Ministry of Interior appointed Brigadier General Mohammed Qasim al-Fahad to command the force’s mechanized division and Major General Mohammed Jawad as-Saadi to command its 1st division.
On December 3, a sniper wounded three ISF soldiers in the Tarmiyah district, north of Baghdad.
On December 3, an IED exploded against a police vehicle on patrol in the al-Abbara district, northeast of Baquba. The explosion wounded four police officers. Shortly thereafter, another IED exploded nearby but did not cause any casualties.
On November 20, several human rights experts serving with the UN Human Rights Council expressed concern over reports that the Iraqi government was planning to execute roughly fifty prisoners convicted for terrorism-related charges. The experts urged the government to immediately halt all executions under Iraq’s Anti-Terrorism Law of 2005 on the grounds that the law “raises serious human rights concerns” over ambiguity in its proscriptions, including its “vague and overly broad definition of terrorism.” The experts also stated that trials under the law have been marked by “alarming irregularities” and refusals to investigate prisoners’ allegations of torture to extract confessions. The experts argue that “any death sentence carried out following an unfair trial or on the basis of an ambiguous law, amounts to an arbitrary deprivation of life,” that “arbitrary executions may well amount to crimes against humanity.”
On November 20, the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) expressed its concern that the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to undo much of the progress made in Iraq toward improving childrens’ lives and livelihoods. Iraq is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Right of Children, which guarantees childrens’ rights to safety, health, education, and freedom. However, per UNICEF’s latest estimates, the number of Iraqi children at risk of falling into poverty has doubled to 40% since the start of the pandemic, due primarily to lack of schooling and widespread unemployment affecting their parents. UNICEF revealed it is working with the Iraqi Ministry of Planning to design an emergency cash transfer program to allow the poorest families in Iraq to meet their basic needs.
On November 24, Amnesty International warned of increased risk to internally displaced persons (IDPs) with perceived links to ISIS due to the government’s efforts to close remaining IDP camps, which Amnesty states are the only safe option for shelter for thousands of these people. Amnesty warned that the camp closures are proceeding while displaced people with ISIS ties face serious social stigma and governmental obstacles to reintegration and a safe return to their home communities. Amnesty urged the Iraqi government to end “the continuing collective punishment” these people face before the camps are closed, lest the cycle of abuse in Iraq continue.
On November 24, the Ministry of Migration and Displaced said it had closed 15 IDP camps and returned 5,180 families (constituting roughly 25,000 total displaced persons) to their home communities in the past month. The ministry said only six IDP camps remain open outside the Kurdistan region, housing roughly 7,696 families in Ninewa, Kirkuk, Diyala, and Anbar provinces. “Voluntary returns” from these camps will continue daily, the ministry said, reporting that roughly 75-100 families leave the camps each day. The coming weeks will also see the closure of the al-Karama camp in Salah ad-Din, the Laylan camp in Kirkuk, and the al-Wand camp in Diyala, while all remaining camps in Ninewa and Anbar provinces will close at some point in December. The ministry also reported that the federal government is working with the KRG to close all camps in the Kurdistan region by early 2021. On November 27, the ministry reported the return of 650 displaced people from Laylan camp to Hawija and Salah ad-Din province, 875 displaced persons from the al-Wand camp to Muqdadiyah, Sadia and Jalawla in Diyala province, 484 displaced persons from the al-Salamiyah camp in to Mosul, Sinjar, and al-Baaj , and 118 displaced persons from al-Karamah al-Sharqat in Salah ad-Din and to Anbar province.
On November 25, the 2020 Global Terrorism Index prepared by Vision of Humanity indicated that Iraq was the second-most impacted country by terrorism in the world in 2019. The report recorded a total of 564 people killed and 1,029 wounded in 495 total incidents of terrorism in Iraq in 2019. Deaths from terrorism in Iraq decreased by 46% and total terrorism incidents fell nearly 56% between 2018 and 2019. The report states ISIS remnants continue to pose the greatest threat to Iraqi stability and security, accounting for nearly 66% of deaths due to terrorism. Though the majority of the group’s attacks worldwide in 2019 occurred in Iraq, the overall number, complexity, and deadliness of ISIS attacks in Iraq decreased in 2019, with total casualties inflicted by ISIS down 53% from the previous year.
On November 27, Save the Children reported that children and their families that have been forced to leave IDP camps in Iraq often return to dangerous and damaged communities without adequate accommodation or infrastructure. The organization said that nearly half of the people affected by camp closures “are children who have lived in difficult camp conditions for over three years, and are now forced to live in places no child should live in.” Save the Children said that explosives remnants, bombed-out structures, and kidnappers in returnees’ communities immediately endanger children and their families, while food scarcity, the unmitigated spread of COVID-19, and the onset of winter jeopardize their long-term health and safety. Save the Children urged Iraqi authorities to prepare alternative accommodations to households that are afraid to go back to dangerous and damaged communities and asked the international community to work with the Iraqi government to provide adequate, long-term shelter for vulnerable children and their families.
On November 29, the Iraqi Ministry of Education restarted partial in-person classes for ten million students countrywide. Each grade will attend one day of in-person classes each week while attending online classes during the remaining days of the week.
On December 3, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Iraq rose to 558,767, representing a biweekly increase of 29,541 cases from the 529,226 cases reported on November 19. Of these cases, 58,543 patients are currently in Iraqi hospitals, including 270 in the intensive care unit (ICU). This represents a decrease of 1,359 patients in Iraqi hospitals from November 19, and a 91 patient decrease in ICU patients. Ministry data indicated that there were a total of 527 new COVID-related deaths since November 19, bringing the total from 11,834 to 12,361. The total number of recoveries increased from 487,863 to 439,228. The daily average for new cases decreased slightly, with an average of 2,110 new cases per day this week, down from 2,488 average new cases per day reported on November 19. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 571 cases, Ninewa with 287 cases, Kirkuk with 261 cases, Diyala with 120 cases, and Babylon with 101 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 3,576,592 samples for COVID-19. On December 3, Reuters reported that Iraq ranks second in the Middle East and Asia in total COVID-19 cases behind Iran and fourth in total COVID-19-related deaths behind Iran, Indonesia, and Turkey.
On November 19, the U.S. granted a 45-day sanctions waiver for Iraq to purchase energy from Iran. The waiver is set to expire on January 3, 2021, the one year anniversary of the killing of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. airstrike. The waiver is fifteen days shorter than the previous waiver issued on September 23. A State Department spokesperson said that the waiver “ensures that Iraq is able to meet short term needs.”
On November 22, Finance Minister Ali Allawi and Liberated Areas Reconstruction Fund head Mohammed al-Ani signed a grant agreement with the German Development Bank during a meeting with German Ambassador to Baghdad Ole Diehl. The agreement contains two grants: one to build hospitals to support the Iraqi health system amid the COVID-19 crisis, and another to support the return ofIraq’s IDPs to their home districts. In July, the Iraqi government authorized the Ministry of Finance to sign an agreement with the German Development Bank to obtain a €15 million grant to finance the construction of five temporary hospitals to help combat the COVID-19 crisis.
On November 23, Iraq’s national oil marketing company SOMO sent a letter to global oil companies “seeking an upfront payment of $2 billion… for a long-term crude supply contract.” The proposal is for a five-year supply of 130,000 barrels per day (bpd). The potential buyer would “purchase 48 million barrels… shipped between July 2021 and June 2022.” Unlike other similar agreements, Iraq would allow the oil to be shipped anywhere in the world. The letter asked for responses by November 27, which “may be too soon for some companies to get internal approvals,” according to Bloomberg. SOMO subsequently changed the deadline to December 4 to allow companies more flexibility.
On November 24, Finance Minister Ali Allawi said Iraq is becoming increasingly frustrated with OPEC’s indiscriminate production cuts requirements, and suggested that Iraq could leave OPEC. Iraq regularly exceeds its OPEC-mandated quota as it struggles to make ends meet during a financial crisis. Allawi added that if oil prices remain low, Iraq could go the “Venezuela route” and have its economy go “belly up” or people will have to accept austerity measures. Speaking to The Guardian, Allawi said Iraq only gets some 10% of its estimated $8 billion in annual border crossings revenues due to corruption. According to Allawi, even minor clerk jobs at the border crossings are bought for at least $50,000 to $100,000.
On November 25, the Council of Ministers ordered the Ministry of Transportation to finalize plans to build the road linking al-Faw and Umm Qasr ports. The order said the Ministries of Finance, Construction, and Housing should take the “necessary measures” to transfer ownership of the lands on which the road will be built to the Ministry of Transportation.
On November 26, Genel Energy, an Iraq-focused independent oil company, said it started production at Sarta oil field in the Kurdistan Region. The first well is now producing, and the second is due to begin production in January 2021. Genel said a “stable level of production will be reached in the first quarter of 2021.” Genel had purchased a 30 percent interest in the field from Chevron in early 2019, but the pandemic forced Genel to slow down its operations at Sarta.
On November 27, Finance Minister Ali Allawi said the Ministry of Finance will offer bonds worth $3-5 billion to the public in dollars and dinars. Allawi, who made the announcement during a meeting with the Iraqi Private Banking Association, said the government will fix the exchange rate of the dinar against the dollar when the bonds are issued to avoid losses. He added that the Finance Ministry is working to strengthen infrastructure for the banking sector to better support investment projects.
On December 1, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil announced that crude oil exports during November totaled 81.262 million barrels, for an average of 2.709 million barrels per day (bpd), which is 167,000 bpd lower than October’s average of 2.876 bpd million bpd. The November exports generated $3.394 billion in revenue, slightly lower than October’s $3.43 billion. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of $41.77 per barrel, up from October’s average of $38.48. Shipped exports from fields in southern and central Iraq averaged 2.6 million bpd in November, while average exports from the northern fields in Kirkuk exported through the Turkish port of Ceyhan were 94,000 bpd and trucked exports to Jordan averaged 8,400 bpd. Iraq’s oil exports in November are more than 729,000 bpd lower than they were in April (3.438 million bpd) as Iraq works to meet its obligation to reduce exports by 1.06 million bpd under April’s OPEC+ supply cut deal.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
Date Location Deaths Injuries 11/21/20 Baiji, Salah ad-Din 2 0 11/22/20 Hamam al-Alil, Ninewa 1 4 11/22/20 al-Seniya, Diwaniyah 0 0 11/23/20 Shoura, Ninewa 0 2 11/26/20 Daquq, Kirkuk 0 4 11/26/20 Karrada, Baghdad 0 0 11/27/20 Gilam ad-Dur, Salah ad-Din 0 2 11/28/20 Shoura, Ninewa 1 1 11/29/20 Hatra, Ninewa 0 3 11/30/20 Baghdad al-Jadeeda, Baghdad 0 0 11/30/20 Hawija, Kirkuk 1 0 12/1/20 Algeria, Basra 0 0 12/3/20 Central Baghdad 0 0 12/3/20 al-Abara, Diyala 0 4 12/3/20 al-Abara, Diyala 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.