ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: APRIL 8 – APRIL 15, 2021

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Key Takeaways:

  • KRG President Holds “Transparent” Talks With Leaders In Baghdad; National Security Advisor Dispatched To Iran; Supreme Court Judges Sowrn In – On April 10, Nechirvan Barzani began a three-day visit to Baghdad, and met with PM Kadhimi and other key decision makers to discuss political, economic and security challenges. Kadhimi stressed the need to enhance security cooperation, while Barzani and called on political factions to learn from the “mistakes of the past.” On April 10, the State of Law Coalition submitted an appeal to amend articles of the 2021 budget. SoL claimed that some articles were “modified or removed” post negotiations. Parliament’s legal committee said amendments were no longer a possibility. On April 11, new members of the Federal Supreme Court took the oath of office. President Salih described the court as the “faithful guardian of Iraq’s democratic system.” On April 12, National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji held meetings in Tehran with his Iranian counterpart. A senior Iraqi official said al-Kadhimi dispatched al-Araji to discuss the results of the Strategic Dialogue Baghdad and Washington held on April 7. On April 12, President Salih signed a decree to hold early general elections on October 10. On April 12, Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Hassan al-Kaabi called on lawmakers to expel Dhafer al-Ani after the latter accused militias of holding thousands of people at secret prisons. more…
  • Armed Drone Hits Coalition Command Center In Erbil; Car Bomb Kills Several Iraqis In Baghdad; Launcher Loaded With 24 Rockets Discovered Near Ain al-Assad Base – On April 14, a drone loaded with TNT explosives targeted a command center for the International Coalition at Erbil International Airport. The attack briefly halted flights from Erbil Airport. Elsewhere in Iraq, security forces discovered a vehicle outfitted with a missile launcher pad loaded with 24 rockets near Ain al-Assad air base in Anbar. On April 15, a vehicle-borne IED detonated in a busy market in the Sadr City area of eastern Baghdad. The attack killed at least four civilians and wounded another 16, and caused significant damage. Between April 11 -14, six roadside IED exploded near convoys transporting supplies for the International Coalition in Salah ad-Din, Muthanna, Dhi-Qar, Diwaniyah, Babylon, and near Baghdad. more…

  • Lawsuit Accuses Former PM Abdul-Mahdi Of Crimes Against Humanity; Authorities Impose New Restrictions To Curb Infections –On April 8, five Iraqi families filed a lawsuit against former Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi over the killing of protesters in October 2019. The lawsuit accuses Abdul-Mahdi of “crimes against humanity, torture and forced disappearances.” On April 11, Iraq received its first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, totaling 50,000 doses, along with an additional 200,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China. On April 12, Iraq’s Health Ministry announced new COVID-19 restrictions during the entire month of Ramadan. The new measures include curfews and reduction of official business hours. On April 15, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 956,860. The average number of new cases increased to 7,631 per day during the last 7-day period, compared to an average of 6,642 per day during the 7-day period ending April 8. more…

  • Iraq Increases Foreign Reserve By $8 Billion; New Commercial Transit System Deployed At Border Crossings – On April 10, college graduates blocked three major bridges in Nasiriyah and burned tires to prevent access to Dhi-Qar Oil Company facilities and the Petroleum Products Distribution department, demanding jobs. The protests created a fuel shortage in the province. On April 11, PM Kadhimi said that the Central Bank’s foreign currency reserves increased by more than $8 billion since his government began reform measures almost a year ago. On April 13, authorities decided to adopt a new commercial transit system at six border crossings with Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. The measure, which went into effect on April 14, aims to increase government revenue, and to allow the transit of goods between other countries via Iraq. 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.


KRG President Holds “Transparent” Talks With Leaders In Baghdad; National Security Advisor Dispatched To Iran; Supreme Court Judges Sowrn In

On April 10, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Nechircan Barzani began a three-day visit to Baghdad, and met with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, President Barham Salih, Speaker of the Parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi, and other political leaders. The talks focused on the current political, economic and security challenges, including the upcoming general elections, joint counterterrorism operations, the federal budget, steps to curb the spread of COVID-19, and efforts to foster the cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil. Al-Kadhimi praised the visit, and said it sends the right message and helps build trust. He stressed the need to enhance security cooperation between Baghdad and the KRG to prevent “any gap that could be exploited by terrorist groups or organized crime.” Al-Kadhimi also expressed hopes in precise implementation of the budget articles based on fair distribution of resources, and “avoiding interpretations” that could stand in the way of serving the interest of Iraqis. Barzani described the talks as “expansive and transparent,” and called on Iraqi political factions to “open a new page with a new joint vision for the future.” He also asked political leaders to learn from the “mistakes of the past” and settle differences by dialogue, adding “we all in Iraq made mistakes.”

On April 10, the State of Law Coalition (SoL) submitted an appeal to the Federal Supreme Court (FSC) to amend six articles of the recently approved 2021 federal budget. SoL claimed that some articles were “modified or removed” post political negotiations, such as the article addressing “freelance lecturers’” pay. On April 12, Saeroun bloc described the move as “political and electoral maneuvers,” asking SoL to withdraw its appeal. Saeroun parliament member Jamal Fakher, told Shafaq News that appeals against the budget resolution were “against the interests of the Iraqi people.” On April 13, the Legal Affairs committee in the Parliament said amendments or changes to the budget resolution are no longer possible since the President signed it into law.

On April 11, new members of the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court (FSC) took the oath of office before President Barham Salih in a ceremony held in Baghdad. Salih described the court as the “faithful guardian of Iraq’s democratic system,” and said that its formation was an important milestone for holding early elections. The court, which now includes nine sitting members and three reserve members, is tasked with determining the constitutionality of laws and resolving disputes between the three branches of government, as well as certifying election results. 

On April 12, Iraq’s National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji held meetings in Tehran with his Iranian counterpart Ali Shamkhani and Defense Minister Amir Hatami. The talks centered around border security and joint counterterrorism efforts. A senior Iraqi official told al-Arabi al-Jadeed that Prime Minister al-Kadhimi dispatched al-Araji to Iran to discuss the results of the Strategic Dialogue Baghdad and Washington held on April 7. Al-Araji said in a joint press conference that the Iraqi Government is actively working to schedule a withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq.  Iranian State News Agency (IRNA) claimed al-Araji told Shamkhani that “ISIS is linked to the United States.” Al-Araji quickly dismissed the claim as “inaccurate.”

On April 12, President Barham Salih signed a decree to hold early general elections on October 10, 2021. In a televised statement, Salih asked Iraqis to participate in the elections and express their free will. The measure enables government institutions to allocate resources and accelerate preparations to hold elections on time. Salih called on the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) and the United Nations to work together to “ensure the integrity of the electoral process in a way that contributes to its success.” 

On April 12, IHEC said that biometric voter registration signups have now surpassed 15 million voters, and asked eligible adults to update their records by April 15. According to the Commission, the October 10 date for holding the general elections is now legally binding. On April 9, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) said in its periodic election report that as of March 28, 63.24% (15,897,612) of voters have completed biometrical registration. A total of 13,529,798 Iraqis have also received voter cards.According to the report, candidate registration remained low, with only 227 submitting their documents (193 independent and 34 affiliated with a party) as of April 1. Only 34 of those candidates are women. The report says these figures are not very different from previous election cycles, in which candidates waited closer to the deadline to submit nominations. 

On April 12, the European Union (EU) signed an agreement to provide €5.51 million ($6.6 million) for the UN-led election assistance program in Iraq. The funds will be used for capacity-building within IHEC, as well as for deployment of electoral advisors as the country prepares for October elections.  agreement brings total funding for election assistance by the EU, Germany, the Netherlands, and France, to $18.6 million.

On April 12, Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Hassan al-Kaabi called on lawmakers to expel Dhafer al-Ani from the legislature for “violating the oath office and inflaming sectarian strife,” among other accusations. Several members of Parliament (MPs) joined al-Kaabi’s demand after al-Ani accused Iraqi militias of holding thousands of Iraqis at secret prisons without due process or government oversight. Al-Ani, who was speaking at a session of the Arab Parliament in Cairo last week, said that Iranian-backed militias were responsible for the disappearance of more than 10,000 Iraqis, and preventing 100,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from returning to their homes in Jurf al-Sakhr and other towns. Militias, and political parties that back them, reject the accusations and often dismiss them as “Baathist” or “ISIS friendly” talking points. Verbal skirmishes erupted among political parties after al-Kaabi’s statement, as Saeroun and al-Fatih blocs issued statements denouncing al-Ani’s claims, while the Iraqi National Forces Alliance, to which al-Ani belongs, defended the MP and stood by his statements.

On April 13, a security official said a special force dispatched from Baghdad detained the governor of Babylon province, Hassan al-Siryawi. The arrest came after a judge issued a warrant to arrest the governor, his son, and son-in-law on bribery charges.


Armed Drone Hits Coalition Command Center In Erbil; Car Bomb Kills Several Iraqis In Baghdad; Launcher Loaded With 24 Rockets Discovered Near Ain al-Assad Base

On April 8, an improvised explosive device (IED) injured five farmers in Amerli subdistrict, east of Tikrit. A Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) source said the IED was a legacy device left behind by ISIS. 

On April 9, unidentified gunmen attacked a military checkpoint with gunfire in al-Tarmiyah district, north of Baghdad. The attack injured a lieutenant colonel and another soldier from the Army’s 59th Brigade. 

On April 9, Hazem al-Araji, a senior representative of Moqtada al-Sadr in Basra, survived an assassination attempt in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Shula. A security source said the attack injured one of al-Araji’s guards. 

On April 10, three children suffered injuries when an IED exploded in al-Hood village south of Mosul. A police source said the bomb was a legacy IED left behind by ISIS. 

On April 10, a roadside IED explosion killed one civilian and injured another outside the Bismayah residential compound in southeastern Baghdad. 

On April 11, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) launched a joint operation targeting ISIS positions in Lake Himrin and the surrounding areas in Diyala province. The operation, supported by Iraqi Air Force airstrikes, involved the Iraqi Army, federal police, Rapid Response units, and PMF fighters. The Security Media Cell said the operation killed five ISIS militants and destroyed a large stockpile of weapons and explosives and seven tunnels. During the operation, an IED killed three soldiers and wounded another two. On April 13, Iraqi F-16 warplanes carried out four airstrikes against ISIS targets in Himrin mountains range. Defense Ministry spokesman Yahya Rasoul said the bombing destroyed several caves and killed a number of militants, without providing further details. 

On April 11, two laborers died when a bomb exploded inside a house in Fallujah, in eastern Anbar province. Fallujah Police Chief Jamal al-Jumaili said the bomb was a legacy IED left behind by ISIS.

On April 11, a roadside IED exploded near a convoy transporting supplies for the International Coalition in Salah ad-Din province. Two days later, a second IED struck a Coalition supply convoy on the main highway in Muthanna province. On April 14, a third IED targeted another contractor convoy on the highway near Nasiriyah in Dhi-Qar province. Another IED detonated on a Coalition supply convoy on the highway near the Sumer bridge in al-Diwaniyah province. The same day, a fifth IED went off near another contractor convoy traveling in Babylon province. A sixth IED targeted a Coalition supply convoy passing through Yusufiyah district, south of Baghdad. Security sources said that none of the IED explosions caused casualties. Iranian backed militia Ashab al-Kahf claimed responsibility for the IED attacks in Babylon and al-Diwaniyah provinces. Earlier in the week, bomb disposal units began conducting IED scans on the international highway in al-Diwaniyah province to prevent attacks targeting Coalition supply convoys.

On April 12, an IED explosion injured six members of the Diyala tactical police regiment during an operation in the Abu Saida subdistrict of Diyala province.

On April 13, a security source said a “sticky bomb” attached to a civilian vehicle detonated in the Palestine street area in east  Baghdad. The explosion caused damage but no casualties. 

On April 14, a rocket attack targeted a Turkish military installation  near the village of Zelikan in the Bashiqa subdistrict of Ninewa province. An iraqi security source said two rockets struck the area, one inside the camp, and another in the village, injuring a civilian. The Turkish Ministry of Defense said the rocket attack also killed a Turkish soldier. 

On April 14, an armed drone targeted a command center for the International Coalition within the Erbil International Airport compound. The Ministry of Interior in the Kurdistan Region said the drone was loaded with TNT explosives, which it dropped onto the airport and struck within its perimeter. The blast did not result in casualties, but caused damage to a building. The attack briefly halted flights from Erbil Airport until 3am the following day. Elsewhere in Iraq, security forces discovered a vehicle outfitted with a missile launcher pad loaded with 24 rockets. The ISF found the vehicle on April 8, on al-Baghdadi road near Ain al-Assad air base in Anbar province.

On April 15, a vehicle-borne IED (VBIED) detonated in al-Orfali market in the Sadr City area of eastern Baghdad. The attack killed at least four civilians and wounded another 16 in the crowded market area. A security source said the explosion also caused a large fire that burned at least eight vehicles and 15 shops.

On April 15, a rocket struck positions belonging to the 30th PMF Brigade in the village of Basakhrah, near Bartella in Ninewa province. Ninewa Deputy Governor Raafat Sumuo said the rocket attack injured two PMF fighters. A second rocket  attack targeted a PMF security checkpoint in the village of Barima, north of Mosul.

On April 15, gunmen attacked an army checkpoint in the village of Helweh on the outskirts of Tuzkhormatu in Salah ad-Din province. A PMF spokesperson said the ambush killed a soldier and injured another.


Lawsuit Accuses Former PM Abdul-Mahdi Of Crimes Against Humanity; Authorities Impose New Restrictions To Curb Infections

 On April 8, five Iraqi families filed a lawsuit against former Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi over the killing of protesters in October 2019. The lawsuit, filed in Paris, accuses Abdul-Mahdi of human rights abuses, and held him responsible for “crimes against humanity, torture and forced disappearances” committed by Iraqi security forces. The 80-page complaint said Abdul-Mahdi encouraged a security policy of actively targeting demonstrators by surrounding them with snipers, and using military-grade tear gas at close range. The lawyer representing the families, Jessica Finelle, said the lawsuit aims to send a message to Iraqi authorities that “international treaties guaranteeing fundamental rights must be universally accepted.” Abdul Mahdi resigned as prime minister in November 2019 after security forces killed at least 460 anti-government protesters.

On April 11, Iraq received its first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, totaling 50,000 doses, along with an additional 200,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China. The Iraqi government distributed the vaccines across several provinces, with Basra, Diwaniyah, and Muthanna each receiving 2,340 Pfizer doses, and Maysan and Wasit receiving 1,170 Pfizer shots. The Kurdistan Region also received 20,000 Sinopharm and 2,070 Pfizer doses to distribute evenly among Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Dohuk provinces. 

On April 11, the Ministry of Migration and Displaced (MoMD) launched the first conference to expedite the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq. During the conference, MoMD Minister Evan Faiek Jabruo stated that 892,000 families had at one point lived in IDP camps throughout Iraq and that the “time has come” to return all IDPs to their home communities. Jabru also highlighted the urgency to help women and children among IDPs and the need to prepare housing, employment opportunities, and educational facilities in areas of return. 

On April 8, sources told the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that the Iraqi government has struck an agreement with Kurdish Autonomous Administration in northern and eastern Syria to transfer 500 Iraqi families from al-Hol IDP camp to the Iraqi territories. The transfer of families, which will be in batches, is to take place in the coming days in Syria to take place in the coming weeks.

On April 12, the Central Emergency Response Fund contributed $1.6 million to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Iraq to facilitate women’s health services and provide support to victims of gender-based violence. The contribution aims to empower women’s organizations in Iraq, administer mental health services to domestic abuse survivors, and increase mobile teams to provide reproductive health care and support to IDPs and returnees. On April 14, the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also announced a contribution of AUD 2 million ($1.54 million) to the UNFPA in Iraq. UNFPA representative Dr. Rita Columbia said the donations would allow the organization to provide urgent health care services related to gender-based violence to women and girls particularly vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 12, Iraq’s Health Ministry announced new COVID-19 restrictions during the entire month of Ramadan. Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi said that a partial curfew would take effect Sunday to Thursday, from 7pm to 5am, in addition to a total curfew on Friday and Saturday. The new measures also include cut work hours at  government agencies by one hour. The Supreme Committee for National Health and Safety exempted pharmacies, grocery stores, bakeries, and clinics from the Ramadan curfew. The Supreme Health Committee in the Kurdistan Region also tightened COVID-19 restrictions for the month of Ramadan, prohibiting all gatherings, keeping mosques closed, and extending the cancellation of in-person schooling.

On April 15, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 956,860. This is an increase of 53,421 from the 903,439 reported on April 8. Of these cases, 104,639 are currently in Iraqi hospitals, including 501 currently being treated in the intensive care unit (ICU). These numbers represent an increase of 15,133 in hospitalizations and an increase of 47 in ICU admissions since April 8. Ministry data indicated that there were 279 new COVID-19 deaths since April 8, bringing the total from 14,606 to 14,885. The total number of recoveries increased from 799,327 to 837,336. The average number of new cases increased to 7,631 per day during the last 7-day period, compared to an average of 6,642 per day during the 7-day period ending April 8. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 2,632 cases, Basra with 1,101 cases, Diyala with 647, Wasit with 539 cases, Sulaymaniyah with 403 cases, and Maysan with 359 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 8,690,527 samples for COVID 19. The total number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 197,914, including the 14,339 who received their shots on April 15.


Iraq Increases Foreign Reserve By $8 Billion, New Commercial Transit System Deployed At Border Crossings

On April 10, college graduates blocked three major bridges in Nasiriyah and burned tires to prevent access to Dhi-Qar Oil Company facilities and the Petroleum Products Distribution department, as part of a continued protest that escalated last week demanding jobs in the oil and gas industry in Dhi-Qar province. Dhi-Qar officials stated that the protesters’ blockade has created a fuel shortage in the province.

On April 11, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said that the Central Bank’s foreign currency reserves increased by more than $8 billion since his government began reform measures almost a year ago. Al-Kadhimi stated that the foreign cash reserves rose from $51.9 billion to $60 billion due to financial reform efforts, including combating corrupt practices in Central Bank transactions, namely the  currency auctions.

On April 11, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi laid a foundation stone marking the launch of al-Faw port project. Daewoo, the Korean company contracted for the project, began survey work for the construction of 1,750 meters of docking berths for incoming ships. The large project will also include the digging of a navigation channel in the port basin, constructing a highway between the port and the town of Umm Qasr, and building a tunnel under Khor al-Zubayr channel. The Ministry of Transportation said al-Faw port project would cost $2.625 billion and take three and a half years to complete. 

On April 11, the Ministry of Finance announced the conclusion of financing negotiations for the Power Up Plan 4 (PUP4), an electricity project involving General Electric (GE) and the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Etihad Credit Insurance. The project plans to increase electricity output in Iraq by 2.7 gigawatts through repairing damaged Iraqi electrical parts at GE centers in Jebel Ali Free Zone in the UAE and restarting gas turbines at the Qudus, Khairat, Baghdad South, Hilla, Mussayab, Haidariya, and Karbala power plants. The deal, insured by the UAE’s Etihad Credit Insurance company, comes after Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s visit to the UAE on April 4 secured a commitment to invest $3 billion in Iraq.

On April 13, Iraqi authorities decided to adopt a new commercial transit system at six border crossings with Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. The measure, which went into effect on April 14, aims to increase government revenue, and to allow the transit of goods between other countries via Iraq. The Border Ports Authority said the decision includes the Safwa, Arar, Zurbatya, Qaim, Trebeil, and Munthiriyah border crossings.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from April 8, 2021 - April 15, 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
04/08/21Amerli, Salah ed-Din province05
04/10/21al-Hood village, Ninewa province03
04/10/21Bismayah, Baghdad11
04/11/21Lake Himrin, Diyala province 32
04/11/21Fallujah, Anbar province 20
04/11/21Salah ad-Din province00
04/13/21Diyala province06
04/13/21Muthanna province00
04/13/21Palestine street, Baghdad00
04/14/21Nasiriyah, Dhi-Qar province00
04/14/21Diwaniyah province00
04/14/21Babylon province00
04/14/21Erbil province00
04/15/21Sadr City, Baghdad416

 

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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