ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: JANUARY 14 – JANUARY 21, 2021

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Key Takeaways:

  • U.S. Troops Down To 2,500; Lawmakers Propose 164 Changes To 2021 Budget; Iraq Pushes Elections Date To October – On January 14, PM Kadhimi visited the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Commission to meet with PMF chief Falih al-Fayyadh after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Fayyadh and his acting deputy. On January 15, prominent Dhi-Qar activist Dr. Alaa al-Rikabi announced the formation of “Imtidad”, a new political group set to run in the next parliamentary election. On January 15, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said the number of U.S. troops in Iraq has dropped to 2,500. On January 18, Turkey’s Defense Minister visited Baghdad and Erbil for meetings with PM Kadhimi and KRG leaders. On January 18, al-Mada reported that lawmakers summitted 164 proposed amendments to the 2021 draft budget, including calls to reduce spending by more than IQD40 trillion and shrink the deficit by half. On January 19, Iraq’s Cabinet confirmed October 10 as the new date for early elections. The Electoral Commission (IHEC) proposed the delay to extend the deadlines for voter and party registrations. On January 21, Qais al-Khazali condemned Kadhimi’s government for failing to prevent the January 21 twin suicide bombings, accusing the intelligence services of prioritizing the protection of foreign interests. more…
  • Twin Suicide Bombings Kill More Than 30 In Baghdad; Militias Continue Attacks On Coalition Contractors And Businesses; ISIS Targets The Electric Grid – Between January 14 – 21, 21 explosions killed at least 37 Iraqis and wounded more than 120 others. Most of the significant attacks occurred in Baghdad, Ninewa, Anbar, and along a main highway in southern Iraq. Twin suicide bombings in central Baghdad on January 21, the first such attacks since 2019, caused the vast majority of these casualties. There were also six bombings that targeted liquor stores, mostly in Baghdad, and four attacks on trucks carrying supplies for the International Coalition. This week also saw two bombing attacks by suspected ISIS militants that damaged high voltage power lines and transformers, resulting in significant outages. more…

  • Iraq Closes Salamiyya IDP Camp, Considers More Closures; KRG Says Population Reached 6.17 Million; Health Officials Warn Of New COVID-19 Wave – On January 15, Iraq’s Migration Minister announced the closure of the Salamiyya camp for IDPs after all of its inhabitants “voluntarily” returned to their home districts. A ministry spokesperson said the next camps to close will be Amiriyat al-Fallujah in Anbar and al-Jadah in Ninewa province. On January 18, the statistics department in the KRG Planning Ministry estimated the population of the Kurdistan region to be 6.171 million people. On January 19, The Ministry of Health warned of a high risk of a second wave of COVID-19 that could be more severe than the first. The ministry cited the unknown duration of immunity after recovery, cold winter temperatures, the new and more infectious strain, weak compliance with prevention measure, and the reopening of public spaces without adherence to social distancing, as the main risk factors. On January 21, Iraq’s Health Ministry reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 611,407. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 12,977 while the number of patients currently in hospitals decreased to 21,705. To date, 576,725 patients have recovered from the virus, and Iraq has tested 5,267,174 samples for COVID-19. The daily average for new cases increased slightly to 809/day over the last 7-day period. more…

  • U.S. Pushes Baghdad-Erbil Gas Cooperation; KRG Releases Oil Sales And Revenue Report; Avian Flu Strikes Poultry Farms – On January 14, the Iraq-U.S. Joint Coordination Committee on Energy met to discuss cooperation in support of Iraq’s energy sectors. The meeting included Iraqi federal and KRG officials, and focused on projects to capture flared gas and reduce imports. On January 15, the KRG Oil and Gas Affairs Council released a report prepared by Deloitte about oil production and sales between January 1, 2020 and September 30, 2020. The report said the KRG sold 118,720,827 barrels through its pipelines to Turkey at an average price of $31.66/barrel, generating net revenue of $1.83 billion, after deducting production costs owed to operating companies from a gross revenue of $3.176 billion. On January 17, Iraq’s Ministry of Industry said it has secured new permits for the Economic City, a joint Iraqi-Jordanian project to construct an industrial center on the border between Iraq and Jordan. On January 18, local officials and businesses reported that poultry fields suffered an outbreak of avian flu in Salah ad-Din province that affected 52 farms and killed 110,000 birds. 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.


U.S. Troops Down To 2,500; Lawmakers Propose 164 Changes To 2021 Budget; Iraq Pushes Elections Date To October

On January 14, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi visited the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) headquarters to meet with PMF chief Falih al-Fayyadh. The visit came amidst several weeks of heightened tensions between Prime Minister Kadhimi and several militia leaders, as well as U.S. sanctions targeting Fayyadh and his acting deputy, Abdulaziz al-Mohammedawi. Unnamed political sources said Kadhimi’s meeting focused on addressing rumors among PMF leadership implicating the prime minister in a plot to use U.S. sanctions as leverage to dissolve the PMF commission.  

On January 15, prominent Dhi-Qar activist Dr. Alaa al-Rikabi announced the formation of the “Imtidad” movement, a new political group set to run in the next parliamentary elections. The new party seeks to represent the voices of the “October Revolution” protest movement formed in 2019. Rikabi, joined by activists from several provinces, said that the new bloc would seek to “confront the corruption of the current regime.” Earlier in 2020, Rikabi’s activism led to his informal nomination for the prime minister position by protesters.

On January 15, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said that the number of American troops in Iraq has dropped to 2,500. The troop reduction reflects outgoing President Donald Trump’s accelerated withdrawal plan from Iraq, which aimed to remove 500 service members by January. On January 18, members of the Fatah Coalition pressured Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to reaffirm the government’s support for a resolution that Iraq’s Parliament adopted in January 2019 to remove all foreign troops from Iraq.

On January 18, Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar visited Baghdad and met with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to discuss security cooperation. Kadhimi condemned terrorist attacks originating from Iraqi territory against Turkey and reiterated the importance of robust military collaboration between Turkey and Iraq, but he stressed that Turkish operations must respect the sovereignty of Iraq’s borders. Minister Akar also visited Erbil to discuss security cooperation with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). President Nechirvan Barzani stressed the need to implement the Sinjar Agreement to remove militia groups like the PKK from the disputed district.

On January 18, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) called on Baghdad and Erbil to fulfill their financial and oil obligations, respectively, and ensure the KRG gets its share of the federal budget. Representatives from the PUK demanded action from both the federal government and the KRG to provide assistance and aid for the people of the Kurdistan region.

On January 18, college graduates in Dhi-Qar demonstrated in front of the Dhi-Qar Oil Company building. The demonstrators blockaded the main gates to demand employment from the company.

On January 18, al-Mada reported that the Parliamentary Finance Committee received 164 proposed amendments from lawmakers following discussions on the 2021 draft federal budget. Yonadim Kenna, a member of Parliament said the changes largely seek to reduce the budget from IQD164 trillion to IQD120 trillion, and shrink the deficit by half, to IQD35 trillion. The report says the Finance Committee will consider changing the sale price of oil, which determines the bulk of government revenue, and will review income taxes on government employees, with the goal of reducing the federal deficit.

On January 19, the Council of Ministers voted to confirm October 10 as the new date for early elections. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said that the decision came after a report from the High Electoral Commission (IHEC) recommending a delay to ensure free and fair elections for all Iraqis. The commission’s report proposed the delay to allow more Iraqis to register to vote and to extend the deadline for political parties to register with IHEC. Kadhimi confirmed the extension in a directive, which gives political blocs an extra two months to register their alliances. Iraqi High Electoral Commission spokesman Jumana al-Ghalai stated that only two out of 25 political coalitions had officially registered and that only 14 million out of 25 million eligible voters had received their new biometric voter cards. The announced delay elicited criticism from most of the major political parties, with Haider al-Abadi’s Nasr Coalition, Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, and Hadi al-Amiri’s Fatah Coalition expressing fears of further delays to 2022. Saeroun Alliance leader Moqtada al-Sadr did not object to the postponement, saying that if it was “for professional reasons, we will obey,” but warning that his party would not accept another delay to the elections. 

On January 21, Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader, Qais al-Khazali condemned Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s government for failing to prevent the January 21 twin suicide bomb attack that killed at least 32 people in Baghdad’s Tayaran Square. According to Shafaq News, Khazali blamed a string of recent ISIS attacks on the government’s preoccupation with political matters and lax security conditions. Khazali also criticized the intelligence services, implying that they have only been successful in apprehending suspects when the attacks threatened American interests.


Twin Suicide Bombings Kill More Than 30 In Baghdad; Militias Continue Attacks On Coalition Contractors And Businesses; ISIS Targets The Electric Grid

On January 15, a security source reported that a sniper attack on a checkpoint in the al-Ghzailiyaa area of Tarmiya, north of Baghdad, injured an Iraqi soldier. The source said another attack in the Jalawla subdistrict of Diyala wounded three others, including a policeman. 

On January 15, a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) exploded against a patrol for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) on the road between al-Qaim and Akashat road, in western of Anbar province. The explosion injured two PMF fighters of the 19th PMF Brigade.   

On January 15, a security source reported that a roadside IED explosion slightly injured two people and damaged their vehicle while they were driving in the Shoura subdistrict, south of Mosul. 

On January 17, a security source said an explosion killed a non-commissioned officer inside  the headquarters of an ISF base in Albu-Eitha, near Dora, south of Baghdad. The explosion occurred during the transport of unexploded IEDs planted by ISIS.

On January 17, a security source reported that an IED explosion killed three Iraqi army soldiers in the Sinjar district, west of Mosul. A subsequent report indicated the explosion killed the commander of 2nd regiment, 73rd brigade of the Iraqi Army’s 15th division, and that the incident occured in the Sharaya area north of Tal Afar. 

On January 14, a security source reported that an IED exploded and damaged a liquor store in the Camp Sara area of central Baghdad. On the same day, security forces discovered and safely detonated an IED near another liquor store in Tikrit. On January 17, another IED targeted a liquor store in the Bataween area in central Baghdad, injuring a civilian and damaging the shop. The next day, three similar explosions occurred in the Baghdad area. The first occurred near a liquor store near Nafaq al-Shorta, in southwestern Baghdad, without causing casualties. The second, according to a security source, happened near a liquor store in Andalus Square in central Baghdad. The explosion damaged the store but there were no injuries. A third bombing occurred in al-Saydiyah, in southern Baghdad, resulting in one civilian injury and property damages. Militia groups have escalated their attacks on liquor stores in recent weeks, particularly in Baghdad. Last week ISHM counted at least four bombings of this type. 

On January 18, a security source reported that two successive IED explosions targeted trucks transporting supplies for the International Coalition forces along a main highway in Dhi-Qar province. The attack burned one of the trucks but did not cause casualties. On January 21, another IED explosion damaged a vehicle that was carrying logistical support supplies for the International Coalition on a highway near Samawa in southern Iraq. The explosion did not cause  casualties. Hours later, another IED detonated near a similar convoy on the highway near Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad. The attack injured one security guard traveling with the convoy.    

On January 19, a Ministry of Electricity spokesperson stated that explosions damaged electric transmission lines near Jalawla in Diyala province. The damage to the transmission lines caused a total outage in Ninewa and Kirkuk provinces, and widespread power disruptions in Diyala and Salah al-Din. Later, the Security Media Cell reported that new explosions damaged other power lines near Jurf al-Sakhr in northern Babylon.  

On January 19, civil society activist Hisham al-Shammari said two assailants on motorbikes placed and detonated an explosive device near home in the Al-Fida neighborhood of Nasiriyah. The explosion caused material damage to the house but al-Shammari wasn’t injured. Gunmen have recently escalated their attacks on demonstrators and activists. Last week, gunmen killed Dhi-Qar lawyer and activist Ali al-Hamami, and attempted to assassinate another lawyer and a college professor. 

On January 19, an IED exploded in a local market area in the village of Hajj Ali, south of Mosul. The explosion wounded three civilians. 

On January 19, a security source said sniper fire injured a PMF  fighter in the al-Bahbaran area, near Jurf al-Sakhr in northern Babylon province. 

On January 21, two suicide bombers successively attacked a crowded market in the Bab al-Sharji area of central Baghdad. Iraq’s Minister of Health said the bombings killed 32 people and injured at least 110 others, of whom 36 remain in hospital. An Iraqi military spokesperson  said the first attacker pretended to be sick, attracting nearby civilians, before detonating his bomb. The other bomber then exploded his device among people who gathered to provide aid to those hurt in the first explosion.  Suicide attacks are a common tactic of ISIS, and Iraqi commanders think ISIS cells were behind the bombings. As of reporting, no group has claimed responsibility for Thursday’s bombings, which are the first major suicide bombing in Baghdad since June 2019. Prime Minister Kadhimi convened an emergency meeting for his security commanders while authorities intensified security measures in the capital and closed entrances to the Green Zone.

On January 21, a security source in the Anbar Operations Command said that an IED explosion killed two Iraqi soldiers and destroyed their vehicle while on patrol, near Rutba in Anbar province. The soldiers were part of a unit of the Iraqi Army’s 1st division performing a routine sweep of the main highway through Anbar.


Iraq Closes Salamiyya Camp, Considers More Closures; KRG Says Population Reached 6.17 Million; Health Officials Warn Of New COVID-19 Wave

On January 15, Iraq’s Minister of Migration, Ivan Faeq announced the closure of the Salamiyya camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) after  all of its inhabitants “voluntarily” returned to their home districts. Faeq said in a statement that “ending the displacement is a priority for the government,” citing the harsh conditions of the camp as the  reason for the push to close the camps. The announcement came after the ministry said another group of 3,311 IDPs left Salamiyya to return to their homes in various districts of Ninewa. Last week, more than 5,000 IDPs moved out of Salamiyya as authorities accelerated plans for camp closures. A ministry spokesperson said the next camp to close will be Amiriyat al-Fallujah in Anbar, which hosts about 900 families, adding that the ministry is waiting for orders  from the prime minister to close al-Jadah in Ninewa province, which hosts 2,290 families. The spokesperson said the minister was expected to meet with KRG officials to discuss plans to shut down IDP camps in the Kurdistan region, which host 38,000 households. 

On January 18, the statistics department in the KRG Planning Ministry estimated the population of the Kurdistan region to be 6.171 million people. The ministry said this figure was more accurate than the 5.5 million that Iraq’s federal Planning Ministry recently announced. According to the KRG figures, the most populous province  of the region is Erbil with 2,254,422 people, followed by Sulaymaniyah with 2,152,717 inhabitants, Dohuk with 1,648,611 people, and Halabja with 115,333 inhabitants. Last week, Iraq’s Planning Ministry said the total population of Iraq is estimated to be 40 million and 150 thousand people.  

On January 19, The Ministry of Health and the Environment issued a statement warning of a high risk of a second wave of COVID-19 that could be more severe than the first. The ministry  cited several factors in its warning: the unknown duration of immunity after recovery, cold temperatures in the winter months, the discovery of a new and more infectious strain that has now spread to over 50 countries, weak compliance with prevention measure, and the reopening of places of worship and other public spaces without adherence to social distancing. The Ministry’s statement warns that hospitals and other health facilities will face the risk of being overwhelmed if the public does not adhere to preventative measures to curb the spread of the virus.

On January 21, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 611,407. This is an increase of 5,221 cases from last week’s number of 606,186, reported on January 14. Of these cases, 21,705 are currently in Iraqi hospitals. This includes 139 currently being treated in the intensive care unit (ICU). This represents a decrease of 7,200 hospitalizations and an increase of 14 people currently in the ICU since January 14. Ministry data indicated that there were 55 new COVID-19 deaths since January 14, bringing the total from 12,922 to 12,977. The total number of recoveries increased from 564,359 to 576,725. The average number of new cases increased to 809 per day, compared to an average of 773 per day during the seven day period ending January 14. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 260 cases, Ninewa with 90, Karbala with 88, Kirkuk with 55, and Diyala with 51. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 5,267,174 samples for COVID-19. 


U.S. Pushes Baghdad-Erbil Gas Cooperation; KRG Releases Oil Sales And Revenue Report; Avian Flu Strikes Poultry Farms

On January 14, the Iraq-U.S. Joint Coordination Committee on Energy met for the third time to discuss cooperation in support of Iraq’s energy sectors. The committee, attended by representatives from the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) as well as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy Matthew Zais, reaffirmed U.S. support for achieving energy independence in Iraq. The delegation highlighted the importance of Iraq’s natural gas resources, focusing on projects to capture flared gas, reduce imports and limit the impact on the environment. The U.S. representatives encouraged collaboration with the International Energy Agency and promised future meetings and support to continue to develop Iraq’s energy potential. 

On January 15, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Oil and Gas Affairs Council released a report on KRG oil production and sales between January 1, 2020 and September 30, 2020. The report, prepared by Deloitte, said the KRG sold 118,720,827 barrels through the pipelines to Turkey at an average price of $31.66/barrel. Net revenue to the KRG was $1.83 billion after deducting production costs owed to operating companies from a gross revenue of $3.176 billion. The report appears to be part of a KRG effort to show transparency in its oil sector as the regional government negotiates with the government in Baghdad for its share of federal funds.The draft 2021 budget requires the federal government and the KRG to reconcile KRG entitlements and actual expenditures since 2004. 

On January 17, the Ministry of Industry and Minerals said it has secured new permits for the Economic City, a joint Iraqi-Jordanian project to construct an industrial center on the border between Iraq and Jordan. The ministry expects the project, which was announced in 2019, to cover 4,800 dunams (1,186 acres) and create up to 100,000 jobs. According to the ministry, Iraq and Jordan conducted a feasibility study for the project and will move forward to develop it under joint management. The ministry added that a similar, yet smaller, industrial city project is underway in Basra, where approximately 70% of construction has been completed.

On January 18, local officials and businesses reported that poultry farms suffered an outbreak of avian flu in the Samarra district of Salah ad-Din province. The mayor of Samarra, Mahmoud Khalaf, said that the outbreak affected 52 farms and killed 110,000 chickens. Health officials have imposed a quarantine on the infected poultry fields and begun testing to determine the possibility of transmission to humans.

On January 18, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said he instructed the Ministry of Industry and Minerals to launch the National Project for Youth Employment initiative. Kadhimi, who made the announcement at an exhibit for “made in Iraq” goods, said the project aims to help new graduates start small businesses and projects to develop local industry. The premier said his government will work to create the infrastructure and environment needed to stimulate local industry and production, including new taxes on imported goods.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from January 14, 2021- January 21, 2021

The following table includes both civilian and security forces who were either injured or killed due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), or suicide attacks.
DateLocationDeathsInjuries
01/14/21Tikrit00
01/14/21Camp Sara area of central Baghdad00
01/15/21Western Anbar province02
01/15/21Shoura subdistrict, south of Mosul.
02
01/17/21near Dora, south of Baghdad10
01//17/21Sharaya area north of Tal Afar
30
01/17/21Bataween area in central Baghdad01
01/17/21Nafaq al-Shorta, in southwestern Baghdad00
01/17/21Andalus Square in central Baghdad00
01/17/20al-Saydiyah, in southern Baghdad01
01/18/21along a main highway in Dhi-Qar province00
01/19/21 near Jalawla in Diyala province00
01/19/21village of Hajj Ali, south of Mosul03
01/19/21Jurf al-Sakhr, northern Babylon00
01/21/21Bab al-Sharji area of central Baghdad32110
01/21/21near Rutba in Anbar province20
01/21/21near Samawa in southern Iraq00
01/21/21on the highway near Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad01

 

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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