ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: FEBRUARY 25 – MARCH 4, 2021

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Key Takeaways:

  • Several Killed In New Dhi-Qar Protests; Militias Lash Out After U.S. Strikes Target Them In Syria; Iraq’s Foreign Minister In Tehran To Control Fallout – On February 25, protesters calling for the dismissal of Dhi-Qar’s governor clashed with security forces in Nasiriyah. Iraq’s Human Rights Commission said that five days of clashes left five protesters deas and injured 247 people, but activists said as many as ten died. On February 26, PM Kadhimi appointed National Security chief Abdul Ghani al-Asadi as interim Dhi-Qar governor. On February 27, Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader Qais al-Khazali condemned the February 26 U.S. airstrikes on Iraqi militias in Syria, calling for the removal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Kataeb Hezbollah accused Saudi Arabia and the UAE of assisting the U.S. operation. Other militia affiliates accused PM Kadhimi of giving the U.S. targeting information. On February 27, Iraq’s Foreign Minister visited Tehran, where he emphasized the need for joint efforts to reduce tensions, and stressed that actions that undermine Iraq’s security distract from the mission of fighting ISIS. Between March 2 – 4, demonstrators in Hilla and Samawah demanded the resignations of the Babylon and Muthanna governors. On March 3, PM Kadhimi threatened retaliation for a March 3 rocket attack on Ain al-Asad air base, stressing that Iraqi forces “have clear directions to take decisive action.” On March 3, KRG security officials revealed information that implicate the Kataeb Sayyid al-Shuhada militia in conducting the February 15 rocket attack on Erbil. more…
  • U.S. And Militias Exchange New Strikes; Deadly Car Bomb Kills Seven In Anbar – On February 25, U.S. fighter jets launched airstrikes against Iran-backed militias on the Syrian border, in retaliation for the February 15 rocket attack on Erbil airport. The strike killed at least one militiaman and destroyed nine buildings. Between February 25 – March 3, nine attacks in different parts of Iraq killed at least six Iraqis and injured two others, including a member of Parliament. Between February 25 – March 4, 14 explosion killed at least 12 Iraqis and wounded 13 others. Five of the IEDs targeted convoys supplying International Coalition forces. Most of the casualties resulted from one explosion (a car bomb) in Anbar province. On March 3, ten Iranian-made 122mm rockets struck Ain al-Asad air base in western Anbar province. One contractor died of a heart attack. The attack marks the fourth rocket attack on U.S. targets in Iraq since February 15. Between February 25 – March 3, Iraqi and Coalition airstrikes killed at least 20 ISIS militants in Diyala, Kirkuk and Salah ad-Din provinces. more…

  • New Law Benefits Survivors Of ISIS Genocide; KRG Restricts Travel As COVID-19 Infections Rise; Iraq Begins Vaccine Distribution – On March 1, Iraq’s Parliament voted to approve the Yazidi Survivors Law to recognize ISIS crimes against Yazidis and other minority communities as genocide and crimes against humanity. The new law aims to “grant female survivors the rights to which they are entitled…reintegrate them into society.” On March 2, KRG health authorities issued orders restricting travel with other Iraqi provinces as COVID-19 positivity rates increased more than fourfold during last week. On March 2, Iraqi health authorities began COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Baghdad after the country received its first shipment of the Sinopharm vaccine. Iraq also launch of an electronic registration platform where Iraqis can register to receive the vaccine. On March 4, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 713,994. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 13,507 while the number of patients currently in hospitals jumped to 50,472. To date, 650,015 patients have recovered from the virus, and Iraq has tested 7,008,505 samples for COVID-19. The daily average for new cases continued to rise, from 3,389/day over the last 14-day period to 4,233/day during the last 7-day period. more…

  • Iraq To Halt Gas Flaring At Three Major Oil Fields By 2024; Oil Export Revenue Exceeds $5 Billion For The First Time In A Year – On February 25, Iraq’s National Investment Commission signed a memorandum of understanding with an Egyptian company to develop a 5 square kilometer integrated industrial zone in Baghdad. On February 25, Iraq’s Oil Minister announced a project to increase the capacity of the Qayyarah oil refinery from 20,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 70,000 bpd. On February 28, the Ministry of Oil opened a new gas compressor station in the North Rumaila oil field to add 60 million cubic feet of gas per day. Iraq’s Oil Minister said the investment plans for natural gas resources will allow the country to halt gas flaring at Rumaila, Zubair, and West Qurna 2 by 2024. On March 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said crude oil exports during February averaged 2.96 million bpd, and generated $5 billion in revenue, more than $250 million higher than January. 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.


Several Killed In New Dhi-Qar Protests; Militias Lash Out After U.S. Strikes Target Them In Syria; Iraq’s Foreign Minister In Tehran To Control Fallout

On February 25, hundreds of protesters clashed with security forces in Nasiriyah, in a continuation of last week’s demonstrations calling for the dismissal of Dhi-Qar governor Nazim al-Waeli, and condemning the targeting of activists in Dhi-Qar province. Protesters blocked off the Nasr and Zaitoun bridges in central Nasiriyah and burned a government building amid increasing violence from Iraqi security forces. Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights said that security forces killed five protesters, and that five days of clashes between the two sides injured 247 people, but activists said as many as ten protesters died. Solidarity protests took place in Baghdad, Wasit, and Diwaniyah in support of the Nasiriyah activists, with minor clashes erupting between protesters and security forces in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. 

On February 26, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi appointed National Security Agency chief Abdul Ghani al-Asadi as interim governor of Dhi-Qar province, removing former governor Nazim al-Waeli amid increasing violence against protesters in Nasiriyah. Dhi-Qar’s representatives in Parliament said they had authorized the prime minister to select a new governor. Kadhimi said in a statement that he also opened up an investigation into the violence against demonstrators in Nasiriyah. After his appointment, Interim Governor al-Asadi ordered the removal of Iraqi riot police from the streets of Nasiriyah on February 28, replacing them with Iraqi army soldiers in an effort to prevent further clashes with protesters. The same day, activists in Nasiriyah suspended protests for 72 hours and released a list of demands, calling for the removal of Dhi-Qar’s police chief, investigations into the deaths of protesters, and a new impartial governor, rejecting the appointment of al-Asadi due to his alleged ties to the Fatah Coalition.

On February 27, Fatah Coalition leader Hadi al-Amiri denounced the February 26 American airstrikes on Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militias in Syria that killed one militia fighter and wounded two others. Al-Amiri called the Pentagon’s claim of utilizing Iraqi intelligence during the strike as a “dangerous statement to disturb the unity” of Iraq and demanded that Prime Minister Kadhimi conduct an investigation. Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader Qais al-Khazali condemned the strikes as a “despicable act,” calling for the removal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Kataeb Hezbollah confirmed the death of one of its fighters from the 46th PMF Brigade and accused Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of assisting the U.S. operation. On March 1, Fatah Coalition member Mohammad al-Baldawi accused the government of Prime Minister Kadhimi of directly supplying the U.S. with classified information on the locations of PMF fighters, claiming that the targeted PMF units were actually stationed inside Iraqi territory along the Syrian border. Amid the political fallout from the strikes, Harakat al-Nujaba threatened Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein after he questioned the validity of a “resistance” in Iraq and denounced those responsible for the string of rocket attacks as “terrorists”, saying that they would “teach him” a lesson to “stand in reverence when speaking about the resistance.” Harakat Nujaba also released a statement repudiating the U.S. strikes in Syria, warning that the attack would not go “unpunished” and threatening a “harsh response by the resistance.” 

On February 27, Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein led a delegation of Iraqi officials to Tehran, where he met with Iran’s National Security Advisor Ali Shamkhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. A ministry statement said Hussein emphasized the need for joint efforts to reduce tensions, improve regional stability, and “operationalize the concept of collective security.” Hussein stressed that any actions that undermine Iraq’s security would distract from the mission of fighting ISIS. During the meeting, Iranian officials reportedly condemned recent rocket attacks by “suspicious groups” on Erbil, Baghdad, and Balad air base, reiterating Iranian support for Iraqi sovereignty and security. The two sides also discussed Iraq’s upcoming elections and strategic dialogue with the United States. The Director of the Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) Salem al-Chalabi accompanied Hussein on the visit, and the talks addressed measures to facilitate banking operations between both countries.  

On March 1, Shafaq News reported that a fight broke out during a Parliament session after members of Parliament (MPs) called for an investigation into alleged corruption in Salah ad-Din province. MP Mishaan al-Jubouri said the session was interrupted when MP Muthanna al-Samarrai requested that Parliament investigate corruption accusations raised by current Salah ad-Din governor Ammar al-Jabr against his predecessor,  MP Ahmed al-Jubouri (Abu Mazin), accusing the latter of stealing hundreds of billions of dinars from the province.

On March 2, demonstrators in Hilla, the provincial capital of On March 2, demonstrators in Hilla in Babylon province, on March 2 burned tires and blocked off roads, demanding the provision of basic services and the dismissal of the Babylon governor. Two days later, hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside of governmental buildings in Samawah in Muthanna province. The protests called for the removal of Muthanna’s governor Ahmed Manfi and the implementation of Nasiriyah activists’ demands.

On March 3, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi threatened retaliation for a March 3 rocket attack on Ain al-Asad air base, promising to hold the culprits accountable. Addressing the Ministerial Council of National Security, Kadhimi said such attacks by groups that he said have “no real affiliation with Iraq” could not be justified “under any pretexts.” Kadhimi stressed  that Iraqi security forces “have clear directions to take  decisive action regarding these groups.” 

On March 3, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Counterterrorism Service revealed information it said it gathered while interrogating an individual allegedly responsible for the February 15 rocket attack on Erbil that killed a foreign contractor and injured 12 others, including civilians and U.S. service members. The security officials stated that the suspect, Haider Hamza al-Bayati, assisted the Kataeb Sayyid al-Shuhada militia in conducting the rocket attack, after a militiaman asked him to help them to buy a car for the operation. According to the interrogators, al-Bayati confessed to purchasing a Kia, leaving the vehicle in Mosul for the militiamen, and following instructions to meet the group in Erbil to transport them out of the city. Kataeb Sayyid al-Shuhada said it had no connection to the attack or the detained individual. On February 15, Kurdish security forces discovered a damaged Kia at the Erbil rocket attack launch site with Iranian-made rockets still loaded into an improvised launcher.  


U.S. And Militias Exchange New Strikes; Deadly Car Bomb Kills Seven In Anbar

On February 25, U.S. fighter jets launched airstrikes against Iraqi militias in Syria, in retaliation for the February 15 rocket attack on Erbil airport that killed a civilian contractor and injured five Americans, including a soldier. Two F-15E aircraft dropped seven 500-pound bombs, destroying nine buildings at a Syria-Iraq border crossing used by the Iran-backed Iraqi militias Kataeb Hezbollah and Kataeb Sayyid al-Shuhada to smuggle weapons. A spokesperson for the Pentagon, John Kirby said that the airstrikes killed one militia member and wounded two others. Kirby also clarified a previous Pentagon statement that Iraq provided the U.S. with intelligence that led to the strikes, stating that Iraqi officials conducted an investigation into the Erbil attack but the U.S. “did not use Iraqi information to determine targets for the attacks.”

On February 25, Iraqi warplanes conducted airstrikes against ISIS positions in the Zour al-Islah area of Jalawla subdistrict in northeastern Diyala province. A security source said that the strikes, supported by the 20th Brigade of the Iraqi Army, killed one ISIS militant and destroyed a weapons cache. On March 3, the Iraqi Air Force continued its bombardment of ISIS targets in Zour al-Islah, killing four ISIS members in an airstrike on a compound in the Jalawla subdistrict.

On February 25, a security source said that gunmen using a silenced weapon killed a civilian in the Binook area of northern Baghdad.

On February 25, an improvised explosive device (IED) targeted a convoy transporting supplies for the International Coalition on the main highway through Babylon province. The explosion damaged a truck but did not cause casualties. Two days later, a second IED struck another Coalition supply convoy along the main highway in Diwaniyah, injuring one Iraqi security contractor and severely damaging a truck. On March 2, an IED hit a third supply convoy for the International Coalition along the same highway in Babylon highway without causing injuries. On March 3, a fourth IED exploded on a supply convoy travelling along the highway in Diwaniyah, damaging one of the vehicles. A fifth IED targeted a Coalition supply convoy on the Abu Ghraib road west of Baghdad, causing damage to a transport vehicle. 

On February 26, an IED detonated along al-Adwaniyah road in Yusufiya, south of Baghdad. The explosion did not cause injuries.

On February 26, Iraqi Parliament member Ghalib Mohammed suffered injuries during a knife attack outside of his home in Sulaymaniyah. Mohammed, a member of the recently formed Kurdistan Hope Alliance, claimed after his release from the hospital that he was targeted for trying to uncover corruption in the Kurdistan region’s oil industry and at its border crossings.

On February 26, Turkish fighter jets bombed villages in the Gara mountain range in Dohuk province. The director of Dinarta subdistrict, Shaban Barwari, said that the bombardment targeted the villages of Siani, Arkini, and Jem Rabti but caused no casualties.

On February 26, gunmen attacked the home of the Zuhairat village mukhtar near the Abu Saida subdistrict in Diyala province. The attack injured a civilian unrelated to the targeted village official. 

On February 26, an IED targeted the vehicle of a civilian in al-Rifai district in northern Dhi-Qar province. The blast destroyed the vehicle and a motorcycle parked nearby and damaged several houses. 

On February 28, an IED explosion killed three civilians in the village of Sakurat in the Hatra district, south of Mosul.

On February 28, ISIS militants killed two shepherds and kidnapped a third during an attack on al-Ruwaished village in the Kanaan subdistrict of Diyala province.

On February 28, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) detonated while Iraqi security forces (ISF) attempted to defuse it in the Wadi Houran area of Haditha district in western Anbar province. The Security Media Cell said the ISF discovered the VBIED during an anti-ISIS operation by the Iraqi Army’s 8th Brigade and the Anbar tribal mobilization units 3rd Brigade. The explosion killed six tribal fighters and one army soldier, and wounded five soldiers and two tribal fighters.

On February 28, unidentified attackers threw a grenade at the home of a civilian in al-Rifai district in northern Dhi-Qar province. The same day, a grenade attack targeted the home of another civilian in the center of Nasiriyah. Neither attack caused any casualties.

On March 1, ISIS militants fired eight mortar shells into the village of Khalil al-Hasnawi on the outskirts of Buhruz subdistrict in Diyala province. A local official said the bombardment did not cause injuries. 

On March 1, an IED targeted the home of a security officer in the Dujail district, north of Baghdad. A security source said the attack caused material damage only.

On March 2, International Coalition airstrikes killed seven ISIS members in the Wadi al-Shay area of Kirkuk province. Joint Operation Command spokesman, Major General Tahsin al-Khafaji, said the Iraqi Army 8th Division recovered two suicide vests and two VBIEDs while searching the target site.

On March 2, a grenade attack damaged a residential building on Palestine street in eastern Baghdad, without causing casualties. 

On March 3, a rocket attack struck Ain al-Asad air base in western Anbar province. Coalition spokesman Colonel Wayne Marotto said that ten Iranian-made 122mm Grad rockets landed in the air base, which houses Iraqi fighter jets and International Coalition drones used in the campaign against ISIS. Iraqi security forces discovered the launch vehicle in al-Bayader area, on the road between the towns of Hit and al-Baghdadi and said the perpetrators attempted to hide the evidence by burning the vehicle. A security source said one contractor died of a heart attack during the rocket strikes. The attack marks the fourth rocket attack on U.S. targets in Iraq since February 15.

On March 3, an IED detonated amongst fighters from the 52nd PMF Brigade in the Yengija district of Tuzkhormatu, south of Kirkuk, killing one PMF fighter and wounding another. The next day, an IED targeted the home of a PMF fighter from the 52nd Brigade in Kirkuk. The blast damaged the building but did not cause injury.

On March 3, Iraqi airstrikes killed eight ISIS militants along the border of Salah ad-Din and Kirkuk provinces. The airstrikes preceded a joint operation, involving army units from Salah ad-Din Command and Joint Operations Command in Kirkuk, Federal police forces, two special forces brigades and a Rapid Response Division unit, that destroyed ISIS weapons caches and 62 hideouts. During the operation, an IED explosion killed one Rapid Response Divisions member and wounded two others in the Zarga area of Salah ad-Din province, according to a security source.

On March 3, an ISIS sniper killed three police officers in the Third Federal Police Brigade in al-Mutasim area of al-Dhuluiya subdistrict in Salah ad-Din province. 

On March 4, a roadside IED explosion wounded an officer and a soldier in the Iraqi Army’s 5th Division in the Zour Sheikh Baba area on the outskirts of Jalawla subdistrict in Diyala province. A security source said the bomb targeted a vehicle transporting 5th Division commander Major General Adnan Enad, who was unharmed. 


New Law Benefits Survivors Of ISIS Genocide; KRG Restricts Travel As COVID-19 Infections Rise; Iraq Begins Vaccine Distribution

On March 1, Iraq’s Parliament voted to approve the Yazidi Survivors Law to recognize ISIS crimes against Yazidis and other minority communities as genocide and crimes against humanity. The new law recognizes the “physical, psychological, social and material damage” affecting all victims “especially women and children.” The law also aims to mitigate “these damages and negative impacts” and “grant female survivors the rights to which they are entitled…and rehabilitate and reintegrate them into society.” President Barham Salih, who sponsored the bill, hailed its passage in Parliament as a “victory for the victims, our daughters who suffered the most gruesome violations.”

On March 2, health authorities in the Kurdistan region issued an order banning travel between the region and other Iraqi provinces for three days a week: Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The committee in charge of managing the COVID-19 response also issued stricter instructions for wearing face masks in public and ordered public spaces closed between midnight and 6am each day, but stopped short of imposing a curfew. The new measures came amidst a new spike in COVID-19 cases in the region. The region’s Health Minister, Saman Barzanji, reported on March 1 that positivity rates increased more than fourfold during last week compared to the previous month, from 0.8% to 3.9%. Most of the new cases involve the “new strain” of the coronavirus, according to Barzanji.The minister warned that this increase points to exponential growth in infections, and called for stricter movement restrictions during the spring season, when a lot of people head to the markets, hotels and restaurants.

On March 2, Iraqi health authorities began COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Baghdad. The first Iraqis to be vaccinated received their shots at the Medical City complex and the Mustansiriyah Health Center in Baghdad’s eastern half. The vaccinations began after the country received its first shipment of vaccines, 50,000 vials of the version manufactured by China’s Siopharm. Iraq’s Health Minister said while overseeing the arrival of the first vaccine shipment that Iraq has an agreement with China to buy two million doses of their Sinopharm vaccine, to supplement previous agreements with other vaccine manufacturers. This week, Iraq also reached a deal with Russia to get one million doses of its vaccine within two weeks. Ahead of the first shipment’s arrival, Iraq’s Health Ministry had announced on February 28 the launch of an electronic registration platform where Iraqis can register to receive their doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

On March 4, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 713,994. This is an increase of 29,632 from the 684,362 reported on February 25. Of these cases, 50,472 are currently in Iraqi hospitals, including 387 currently being treated in the intensive care unit (ICU). These numbers represent an increase of 7,179 in hospitalizations and an increase of 8 in ICU admissions since February 25. Ministry data indicated that there were 156  new COVID-19 deaths since February 25, bringing the total from 13,351 to 13,507. The total number of recoveries increased from 627,718 to 650,015. The average number of new cases increased to 4,233 per day during the last 7-day period, compared to an average of 3,389  per day during the 14 day period ending February 25. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 1,728 cases, Basra with 972 cases, Najaf with 465 cases, Diwaniyah with 275, and Karbala with 269 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 7,008,505 samples for COVID 19. 


Iraq To Halt Gas Flaring At Three Major Oil Fields By 2024; Oil Export Revenue Exceeds $5 Billion For The First Time In A Year

On February 25, Iraq’s National Investment Commission (NIC) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Egyptian El Sewedy Electrical Company to develop an integrated industrial zone in Baghdad. NIC chief, Suha Dawoud Najjar, said the Commission signed the deal during a visit by Egypt’s General Authority for Investment and Free Zones. According to Najjar, the intended zone will occupy an area of 5 million square meters in Baghdad and will service a range of industrial activities.

On February 25, Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar announced a project to increase the capacity of the Qayyarah oil refinery in Ninewa province from 20,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 70,000. Speaking at a press conference, Abdul-Jabbar said the Ministry was conducting a study to determine the best path for the project, adding that several entities expressed interest in investing in expanding the refinery. At the same press conference, Electricity Minister Majid Mahdi Hantoush said his ministry was close to finalizing a new 200 megawatt grid connector with Turkey. Hantoush also confirmed plans to establish a new 300 kilometer power line from al-Qaim to Jordan, which in turn is connected to Egypt. 

On February 28, the Ministry of Oil opened a fifth gas compressor station in the North Rumaila oil field, as part of a plan to reduce flaring and increase natural gas capture for electricity generation. Minister Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar said during the inauguration ceremony that the new compressor adds 60 million standard cubic feet of gas per day, representing the first phase of a project to capture double that volume from the field. Abdul-Jabbar also stated that the investment plans for Iraq’s natural gas resources will allow Iraq to halt gas flaring at three major fields (Rumaila, Zubair, and West Qurna 2) by 2024. The minister noted that the Basra Gas Company was investing “more than $3 billion into projects to process associated gas” at the three fields.

On March 1, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil announced that crude oil exports during February totaled 82.877 million barrels, for an average of 2.960 million bpd, which is 92,000 bpd higher than January’s average of 2.868 million bpd. The February exports generated $5 billion in revenue, more than $250 million higher than January’s $4.739 billion. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of $60.33, over $7 up from January’s average of $53.29 per barrel. Shipped exports from fields in southern and central Iraq averaged 2.83 million bpd in February, while average exports from the northern fields in Kirkuk, which were exported through the Turkish port of Ceyhan, stood at 63,301 bpd. 

 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from February 25, 2021 - March 4, 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
02/25/21Babylon highway00
02/26/21Al-Adwaniyah, Yusufiya00
02/26/21Al-Rifai, Dhi-Qar00
02/27/21Diwaniyah highway00
02/28/21Wadi Houran, south of Haditha77
02/28/21Hatra, south of Mosul30
03/01/21Dujail, northern Baghdad00
03/02/21Babylon highway00
03/03/21Diwaniyah highway00
03/03/21Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad00
03/03/21Yengija, Tuzkhormatu11
03/03/21Zarga, Salah ad-Din province12
03/04/21Kirkuk00
03/04/21Jalawla, Diyala province02

 

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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