- Parliament Amends Supreme Federal Court law; Tension In Kirkuk Over Contested Building; Militia Leader Lashes Out At Intelligence Service; State Of Law Threatens KRG Over Budget – On March 11, dozens of protesters gathered in Amara to condemn the March 10 killing of Ahmed al-Hiliji, the father of kidnapped activist Ali Jaseb Hattab. On March 13, new, popular protests erupted in Najaf calling for the dismissal of Governor Louay al-Yasiri. On March 14, the Dhi-Qar police chief resigned under increasing pressure from protests. On March 15, Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) supporters gathered near the former office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Kirkuk, protesting a planned handover of the building back to the KDP. On March 15, Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader Qais al-Khazali accused the government of being complicit in a “conspiracy” to purge the leadership of the Iraqi National Intelligence Service. On March 15, Iranian-backed militia Ashab al-Kahf threatened further attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. On March 17, a State of Law Coalition member accused the KRG of stalling on budget negotiations, threatening to approve the budget with a majority vote. On March 17, Iraq’s Electoral Commission said it selected British auditing company PWC to examine, test, and approve voting equipment to be used in Iraq’s upcoming election. On March 18, Iraq’s Parliament voted to approve the First Amendment of Order No. 30 of 2005 (the existing Federal Supreme Court Law). more…
- New Bombings Target The Electric Grid; Deadly ISIS Attack Hits Salah ad-Din; Rocket Attack Targets Balad Air Base; PM Orders Command Changes – Between March 11 – 17, seven IEDs killed one Iraqi and wounded at least five others. Four of the bombs targeted trucks carrying supplies for the International Coalition, and fifth targeted Peshmerga forces in Erbil. Four additional bombs targeted electrical power lines and civilian homes in Diyala. Between March 12 – 16, six other militant attacks killed at least 12 Iraqis and wounded two more. In the deadliest incident, ISIS militants killed six people from the same family in a village in Salah ad-Din province. On March 15, seven rockets targeted the Balad air base north of Baghdad. Five rockets struck within the base’s parameter and two landed in residential areas nearby. On March 18, PM Kadhimi issued several transfers of high-ranking officers, replacing the Samarra Operations Commander with the 10th Division Commander, and appointing a new commander for the Forward Headquarters in Kirkuk. more…
- Iraq Seeks Millions Of Vaccine Doses As Daily Infections Reach New Records; Four Million People Need Humanitarian Assistance – On March 12, the Ministry of Health said it expected 568,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to arrive soon through the COVAX initiative. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry approached China to purchase two million doses and the government authorized the Ministry of Health to purchase an unspecified amount of the Pfizer vaccine. On March 15, a study to assess IDPs ability to acquire important personal documents, such as marriage and birth certificates, found that almost half of respondents said they or a person they know encountered obstacles in the process. On March 17, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs published the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan for Iraq, which shows that the aid community is targeting 1.5 million individuals for aid provision, out of 4.1 million considered to be in need. On March 18, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 779,458. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 13,896 while the number of patients currently in hospitals increased to 62,895. To date, 702,667 patients have recovered from the virus, and Iraq has tested 7,540,606 samples for COVID-19. The daily average for new cases continued to rise, from 4,521/day over the 7-day period ending March 11 to 4,830/day during the last 7-day period. On March 17, Iraq reported a new record in daily infections when it counted 5,663 cases. more…
- Investment Chief Says Hundreds Of Projects Are Fake; Iraq Relaxes Visa Rules; Poverty Rate Drops But 1 in 4 Iraqis Remains Below Poverty Line – On March 14, Iraq’s National Investment Commission said that out of the 2,400 projects licensed since 2007, only 500 have been completed, while 800 projects remain unfinished, and another 970 were fictitious projects that have not even started. On March 15, the Iraqi government changed its visa policy for citizens of 30 countries, allowing them for the first time to obtain a visa for a fee upon arrival. On March 16, the Ministry of Planning announced that a recent study supported by the World Bank showed that the poverty rate in Iraq dropped to 24.8% during the second half of 2020, after peaking at 31.7% in the first half of the year due to the pandemic’s effect on the economy. 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 March 11, dozens of protesters gathered in the city of Amara in Maysan province to condemn the March 10 killing of Ahmed al-Hiliji, the father of kidnapped activist Ali Jaseb Hattab. Protesters demanded the resignation of Maysan governor Ali Dawai Lazim and police chief Brigadier General Abdul-Khidir al-Saadi. Maysan Police claimed they had arrested the perpetrator who allegedly confessed to the Amara Investigation Court that he killed Hiliji after the latter repeatedly accused him of kidnapping his son. But this arrest did not convince protest organizers who gave the government 72 hours to apprehend those actually responsible for the assassination. Hundreds of demonstrators organized in Nasiriyah in solidarity with Maysan’s protests, demanding more information on the killing.
On March 13, new, popular protests erupted in the city of Najaf, calling for the dismissal of Governor Louay al-Yasiri. Activist Ali al-Dabhawi said nearly 3,000 demonstrators closed off six major roads in the city with burning tires. Clashes between protesters and security forces wounded 20 demonstrators, as they moved closer to local government buildings. Witnesses told Shafaq News that security forces shot five protesters with live ammunition.
On March 14, Dhi-Qar police chief, Major General Odeh Salem, resigned after increasing pressure from Nasiriyah activists and the removal of Dhi-Qar governor Nazim al-Waeli on February 26. Interim Governor Abdul-Ghani al-Asadi said the Interior Ministry and Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi would nominate a successor. The same day, Dhi-Qar Member of Parliament Sattar al-Jabri said that Kadhimi met with seven candidates for the Dhi-Qar governorship and would choose a new governor within a week. Nasiriyah activist Muhannad al-Mansouri told al-Mirbad that the government had rejected five candidates nominated by the protesters. Mansouri dismissed the candidates Kadhimi interviewed as favorites of corrupt political parties.
On March 15, Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) supporters gathered in front of the former headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Kirkuk, protesting a potential handover of the building back to the KDP. PMF supporters said the building, which has served as offices for the Joint Operations Command since federal forces took control of Kirkuk in 2017, “belongs to the state.” Protesters blocked off the road linking Kirkuk province with Erbil, and two demonstrators were injured by a stun grenade as tensions escalated. The same day, a security source said Prime Minister Kadhimi rescinded the order to vacate the building.
On March 15, Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader Qais al-Khazali accused the government of being complicit in a “conspiracy” to replace the leadership of the Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS) with a team of security specialists from the United Arab Emirates. Khazali speculated that the alleged arrangement with the Emirates was connected to a recent transfer of 300 INIS personnel, apparently affiliated with the PMF, to the Border Ports Authority. In a statement, the INIS rejected Khazali’s claims, and said it transferred the 300 officers to help the Border Ports Authority fill critical staffing needs.
On March 15, Iranian-backed militia Ashab al-Kahf threatened further attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, saying in a statement that “the fight of the American and his followers will be stronger than before.” The Iraqi “resistance” faction also denounced Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, promising to humiliate the government for its close ties with the United States, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The renewed threats on Kadhimi and American targets came days after rumors of discussions between the Kadhimi government and Iraqi militias to end attacks on U.S. forces if the prime minister demanded their withdrawal in twelve months. On March 12, several Fatah Coalition members denied the existence of such an agreement.
On March 17, State of Law Coalition member Mansour al-Baiji accused the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of delaying the approval of the federal budget by refusing to agree to deliver its oil to the federal government. Baiji said the KRG appeared to have no intention of sending its oil revenues to the federal government, adding that the only solution to approve the budget would be to pass it with a majority vote and bypass the KRG stalemate. The representative added that the KRG “must understand that we won’t give our province’s revenue to the region while our provinces are in ruins.”
On March 17, the Iraqi High Electoral Commission (IHEC) announced that it has selected British auditing company PWC to examine, test, and approve the voting equipment to be used in Iraq’s upcoming election in October. IHEC’s Board of Commissioners chose PWC out of several companies recommended by the United Nations Office of Electoral Assistance in Iraq (UNAMI) to conduct preliminary testing of all voting devices, software, and online servers that will be used in the election. Election Law No. 9 of 2020 stipulates that IHEC must choose an international company specialized in electoral auditing to complete a thorough technical testing of election systems. After selecting PWC, IHEC created a supervisory committee of technical experts from the United Nations and Commission officials to monitor the work of PWC throughout the testing process.
On March 18, Iraq’s Parliament voted to approve the First Amendment of Order No. 30 of 2005 (the existing Federal Supreme Court Law) with 205 members of Parliament in attendance. Earlier this week, Parliament voted to approve changes to specific articles of the law after a contentious week of attempting to vote on a new law to replace it. According to al-Mada, President Barham Salih proposed the voting switch after disputes over articles 2, 3, and 12 in the new replacement law persisted throughout the week. The amendment to Order No. 30 of 2005, focused on the process of nominating and confirming the Court’s members. The replacement law faced two main objections. Minority Parliament members rejected the inclusion of Sharia law experts in the court and boycotted a voting session on March 15. Kurdish representatives also pushed back against article 12, concerning how the Court reaches verdicts, insisting that the Supreme Court’s decisions must be unanimous rather than based on a two-thirds majority. Earlier in the week, voting on the Supreme Court law sparked protests in Karbala, where demonstrators rejected the inclusion of “sectarian” quotas and the further entrenchment of corrupt political parties.
On March 11, the Iraqi Counterterrorism Service (CTS) launched an anti-ISIS operation in the Qara Chogh mountain range in Ninewa province. The Security Media Cell said the CTS Second Special Operations Command, in coordination with the Peshmerga, destroyed several ISIS hideouts and killed a number of militants, without specifying the number of ISIS casualties. The International Coalition conducted 30 airstrikes ahead of the CTS operation, which also received close air support from Iraqi Army helicopters.
On March 11, an improvised explosive device (IED) targeted a local supply convoy for the International Coalition passing through a checkpoint near Fallujah in Anbar province. The explosion injured a civilian passerby. According to Rudaw, Iranian-backed militia and Iraqi “resistance” faction Ashab al-Kahf claimed responsibility for the IED attack in Fallujah, as well as two similar attacks in al-Muthanna and Babylon provinces not mentioned in the news. On March 13, another IED exploded on a Coalition supply convoy along the international highway in Diwaniyah province, without causing injuries. On March 15, an IED struck another contractor convoy on the highway near the city of Hilla in Babylon province. The explosion did not cause any damage. On March 18, one more IED targeted another contractor convoy working for the Coalition on the main highway in Diwaniyah province. The explosion did not cause damage or injury.
On March 12, ISIS gunmen disguised as Iraqi soldiers carried out a string of shootings in the village of Albu Dur in Salah ad-Din province. The militants, wearing military uniforms to gain access to the victims homes, killed six members of one family during the attack. The gunmen also shot and killed a police officer and a lawyer as they moved through the village. A security source said one of the perpetrators previously lived in the village and was forced out for his affiliation with ISIS. ISIS claimed responsibility for the killings and said the victims were targeted for being “spies” for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
On March 12, an IED exploded on a Peshmerga vehicle in the Sedkan subdistrict of Erbil province. A Peshmerga commander said the IED, which killed one Peshmerga fighter and seriously wounded another, was planted by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). On December 14, clashes between the Peshmerga and the PKK near Duhok killed two PKK militants and a Peshmerga fighter.
On March 12, unidentified gunmen opened small arms fire on lawyer Nabil al-Karkhi, head of the Diyala Mandate Authority, while he was driving near the Bani Saad subdistrict of Diyala province. A security source said the lawyer was not injured during the attack.
On March 12, an ISIS sniper killed an Iraqi Army soldier while on duty at a military outpost in the suburbs of al-Muqdadiya in Diyala province.
On March 13, an IED exploded in the village of Muhanna in the Qayyarah subdistrict in Ninewa province. A security source said the explosion wounded two civilians.
On March 14, ISIS militants raided the home of a Tribal Mobilization fighter in the Tarmiyah suburbs north of Baghdad and executed the fighter and his mother.
On March 14, Iraqi Border Guards clashed with ISIS fighters who opened fire on them near Mount Sinjar in Ninewa province. The skirmish, which ended when the attackers retreated into Syrian territory, killed one Iraqi officer from the 3rd Regiment, 6th Brigade, 6th Border District. The same unit repulsed another group of ISIS fighters from crossing into Iraq in the Dokji area west of Mount Sinjar.
On March 15, ISIS militants used explosives to destroy the homes of two families in the village of al-Mukheisa in the Abu Saida subdistrict in Diyala province. A security source said the homes belonged to a family that resisted ISIS and lost three of its members to ISIS retaliation before relocating to Baquba.
On March 15, unidentified attackers threw two hand grenades at the Joint Operations Command headquarters in Kirkuk. The attack occurred after protests erupted in the disputed city over a deal between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to return the headquarters to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which had occupied the building before federal troops took control of the city in October 2017.
On March 15, seven rockets targeted Balad air base, north of Baghdad. Five rockets struck within the parameter of the base but did not cause any injuries. Two rockets landed in residential areas nearby, damaging the home of a civilian. The Security Media Cell said the rocket launch site was discovered in the Saadiyat al-Shat area in neighboring Diyala province.
On March 16, ISIS militants attacked a security checkpoint in the village of al-Zalaya near Albu Dur in Salah ad-Din province. A security source said the attack injured two members of the Salah ad-Din Police tactical regiment.
On March 17, PMF fighters from the Tarmiyah Regiment ambushed ISIS militants in the Boustan al-Toubi area of Tarmiyah, killing two ISIS members.
On March 17, unidentified attackers destroyed two electrical towers with explosives in the al-Udheim subdistrict north of Baquba. The attack reportedly cut power to the al-Salam and al-Udheim subdistricts in Diyala province and caused a loss of 400 megawatts of power.
On March 17, an IED explosion wounded an officer in the Iraqi security forces in the village of Karha Qazan in al-Rashad subdistrict south of Kirkuk.
On March 18, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi issued several transfers of high-ranking Defense Ministry officials, replacing Samarra Operations Commander Major General Jabbar Hajim Thabet with 10th Division Commander Major General Ali Mashjal Khalaf Badr. The prime minister also ordered the transfer of Lieutenant General Ali Jassim to command of the forward headquarters in Kirkuk, replacing Lieutenant General Saad Ali Aati (Saad Harbiyah).
On March 12, the director of the Public Health Department in the Ministry of Health said that Iraq expected 568,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in mid-March based on an agreement with global vaccine initiative, COVAX. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry reported that China has pledged to donate another 200,000 doses, in addition to the 50,000 it sent Iraq two weeks earlier. The Ministry added that Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein approached his Chinese counterpart to purchase two million doses from China. It was unclear whether this proposed purchase is connected with a similar transaction the Health Ministry reported on March 2. This week, Iraq’s Cabinet also authorized the Ministry of Health to purchase the Pfizer vaccine. An official statement said the government has approved funds for the contracti, without specifying the size or cost of the purchase.
On March 15, the aid organizations comprising the National Protection Cluster published findings from a recent study conducted to assess the ease of acquiring or renewing important personal documents, such as marriage and birth certificates. Getting or renewing such documents is considered an important step that affects eligibility for education, healthcare and other government assistance and compensation programs. The study included 2,700 respondents in 75 districts across nine provinces, representing IDP, returnee and host communities. Almost half of respondents (49%) said they or a person they know encountered obstacles in applying for civil documents. The study showed that most problems affected communities in Anbar, Ninewa, and Salah ad-Din provinces, and that in-camp populations faced the most problems. The study attributed most obstacles to the combined effects of multiplicity of authorities, convoluted procedures and conditions affecting the capacity of courts and other relevant offices.
On March 17, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan for Iraq. The document shows that the aid community is targeting a population of 1.5 million individuals for aid provision, out of 4.1 million individuals considered to be in need of assistance. The majority of the beneficiaries (87%) are children (44%), women (28%) and people with disability (15%), mostly concentrated in Ninewa, Anbar, Duhok, Kirkuk and Salah ad-Din provinces. Of the 1.5 million targeted population, 221,000 are internally displaced persons (IDP) residing in camps, 295,000 are IDPs in other housing arrangements, and the remaining 966,000 are returnees. The response plan’s total financial requirements are $607.2 million spread across 12 sectors, including protection, food security, health, shelter, hygiene, education, gender-based violence, and emergency livelihoods.
On March 18, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 779,458. This is an increase of 33,816 from the 745,642 reported on March 11. Of these cases, 62,895 are currently in Iraqi hospitals, including 457 currently being treated in the intensive care unit (ICU). These numbers represent an increase of 5,269 in hospitalizations and an increase of 31 in ICU admissions since March 11. Ministry data indicated that there were 225 new COVID-19 deaths since March 4, bringing the total from 13,671 to 13,896. The total number of recoveries increased from 674,345 to 702,667. The average number of new cases increased to 4,830 per day during the last 7-day period, compared to an average of 4,521 per day during the 7 day period ending March 11. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 1,778 cases, Basra with 797 cases, Wasit with 454, Najaf with 352 cases, Maysan with 244 cases, and Babylon with 240 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 7,540,606 samples for COVID 19. Iraq reported a new record in daily infections when it counted 5,663 cases on March 17 alone.
On March 13, Iraq hosted the first International Water Conference in Baghdad, attended by a number of Water Ministers from neighboring states, United Nations representatives, and diplomatic missions. Ministry of Water Resources spokesman Ali Radi said the conference aimed to strengthen interdependence between Iraq and its neighbors over shared water resources, and increase security measures to confront terrorist attacks on water infrastructure. Turkish Ambassador Fatih Yildiz signed a memorandum of understanding with Iraq to implement water cooperation projects presented in 2019. The Turkish envoy attributed water disagreements to “Baghdad’s interpretation of the problem as being one of water sharing,” arguing that the real problem is that “Iraq is not using its water resources properly.” Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Dr. Qu Dongyu, underscored the importance of using modern technologies and entrepreneurial innovation in water resource management and encouraged cooperation between federal and regional authorities, civil society groups, and the private sector to address Iraq’s water crisis. UN Deputy Special Representative to Iraq Irena Vojackova-Sollorano pointed to the importance of Iraq’s water resources as a potential catalyst for cooperation, both regionally with neighboring countries and locally among Iraqi communities. Vojackova-Sollorano also highlighted UN projects to facilitate proper water sanitation, prepare for water-related crises, and ensure the equitable distribution of water resources to include internally displaced persons (IDPs).
On March 14, the Iraqi National Investment Commission released statistics on the number of delayed and unfinished projects funded since its inception in 2007. Investment Commission President Suha al-Najjar said that out of the 2,400 projects licensed by the Commission, only 500 have been completed. Najjar said that 800 projects remain unfinished, and another 970 were fictitious projects that have not even started. On March 16, the Prime Minister’s Advisor for Financial Affairs, Mudhar Mohammad Salih, blamed the shortcomings on budgeting issues and a lack of funding, saying that the number of stalled projects since 2008 is even higher at 6,000.
On March 15, the Iraqi government changed its visa policy for citizens of 30 countries, allowing them for the first time to obtain a visa for a fee upon arrival in the country. The government said that it hopes to attract foreign investment and support job growth with the more lenient visa policy, which targets citizens from UN Security Council states like the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China. The new policy also eases visa procedures for citizens coming from the European Union states of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, and the Netherlands. The visa change also affects citizens from Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea.
On March 16, the Ministry of Planning announced that a recent study supported by the World Bank showed that the poverty rate in Iraq dropped to 24.8%, representing less than 10 million Iraqis, by the end of 2020. Ministry spokesman Abdul Zahra al-Hindawi explained that this rate represents an improvement from the first half of 2020, when poverty rates had risen to 31.7% due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the economy. The spokesman attributed the relative reduction in poverty rates to better economic activity and the easing of the movement and business restrictions during the latter part of last year.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
Casualties Due To IEDs from March 11, 2021 - March 18, 2021The 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.
|03/12/21||Sedkan, Erbil province||1||1|
|03/13/21||Qayyarah, south of Mosul||0||2|
|03/15/21||Hila, Babylon province||0||0|
|03/15/21||Abu Saida, Diyala province||0||0|
|03/17/21||Al-Udheim, north of Baquba||0||0|
|03/17/21||Al-Rashad, south of Kirkuk||0||1|
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.