- Deadly Hospital Fire Creates Outrage; Sadr Says He Withdraws From Politics; PUK Infighting Exposes Intense Division – On July 8, IHEC said candidates can begin campaigning for the October elections. On July 11, UNAMI chief condemned the abduction of Iraqi journalist Ali al-Mikdam as part of “cowardly aggressions that threaten a pillar of democracy: freedom of expression.” On July 12, the trial of four Duhok journalists accused of creating a political party to “undermine the stability of the Kurdistan region” began in Erbil. On July 12, Muqtada al-Sadr criticized militia attacks on U.S. targets and questioned whether this “resistance to occupation” was true. On July 13, protestors gathered in Nasiriyah after a deadly fire killed more than 90 people at al-Hussein Teaching Hospital. President Barham Salih attributed the fire to “persistent corruption and mismanagement.” On July 13, Reuters reported that the intelligence chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps visited Iraq last week and instructed Iraqi militias to continue targeting U.S. personnel and facilities. On July 15, Muqtada al-Sadr said he will not support any political party in the upcoming election and withdrew his support “from anyone who claims to belong” to the Sadrist movement “in this government or the next.” On July 15, PUKMedia said the PUK arrested a “spy” who was working for the “former co-president” of the PUK “to strike the strategic interests” of the party. Another statement said that PUK “president” Bafel Talabani has ordered “radical changes in the leaderships of all security and party institutions.” more…
- Iraq Sees Fewer Attacks On Its Grid; Gunmen Abduct, Torture Journalist Over Writings Criticizing Militias – Between July 10 – 15, the explosions of 11 IEDs in several provinces wounded 11 Iraqis and damaged high voltage transmission towers. Four of the bombs targeted convoys transporting supplies for the International Coalition. Between July 8 – 13, seven other attacks killed five Iraqis, wounded three others, and left one civilian missing. One of the attacks targeted a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary election. On July 9, masked gunmen kidnapped Ali al-Mikdam, an Iraqi activist and journalist, in the Karrada area of Baghdad. After his release, Mikdam said his captors tortured him and questioned him about an article he authored in which he criticized Iran-backed militias. more…
- Iraq Launches New Food Distribution System; Hospital Fire Kills Dozens In Nasiriyah; Iraq Reports New Daily Record In COVID-19 Cases – On July 10, Iraq’s Trade Minister announced the launch of the nationwide “food basket” project, an ambitious effort to reform the national ration card system that started in 1991. On July 12, the Iraqi government, EU, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) launched Iraq’s STRIVE Juvenile project, an EU-funded initiative to improve Iraq’s capacity to stop terrorist exploitation of children. On June 12, a massive fire broke out in the COVID-19 isolation ward of Imam al-Hussein Teaching Hospital in Nasiriyah, killing at least 92 people and injuring over 100 others. Staff and eyewitnesses blamed flammable construction materials, lack of fire alarms and extinguishers, and low first responder preparedness for the high casualties and speed at which the fire spread. On July 15, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 1,466,529. Deaths from confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 17,707 while hospitalizations increased to 116,244. To date, 1,332,578 patients have recovered from the virus, and Iraq has tested 12,387,180 samples for COVID-19. The daily average for new cases increased from 7,547/day over the 7-day period ending July 8 to 8,606/day during the last 7-day period. The total number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 1,104,878, including 16,519 who received their shots on July 15. The 9,635 new infections Iraq reported on July 14 represent a new daily high. more…
- Iraq May Seek UN Help With Water Disputes; Baghdad Sends First Cash Payment To KRG; Iraq Had 1.25 Million Births In 2020; Chinese Company To Build Al-Faw Refinery – On July 10, Iraq’s Water Resources Minister threatened to file a complaint against Iran at the UN for cutting water flow into Iraq’s rivers, calling the cut a violation of international conventions. On July 11, the KRG’s Finance Ministry announced that the federal government sent IQD200 billion ($137 million) to Erbil’s branch of the Central Bank of Iraq. This is the first budget payment towards the KRG’s share of the 2021 federal budget. On June 12, Iraq’s Planning Ministry announced that Iraq recorded 1.258 million births and 224,729 deaths in 2020, placing the country’s estimated population at 40,150,200. On July 13, Iraq’s Oil Ministry announced that it signed a contract with the Chinese state-owned China National Chemical Engineering Co. Ltd. (CNCEC) to build a 300,000 bpd oil refinery and an associated petrochemical complex in al-Faw. 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 July 8, the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) announced that candidates can immediately begin campaigning for the October elections. IHEC created committees to ensure that candidates do not violate certain rules, such as attacking other candidates, campaigning within 100 meters of a polling station, and inciting sectarian strife. Authorities can penalize violators with a fine up to IQD 5 million dinars or imprisonment. IHEC also created a committee to monitor campaign financing. On July 9, IHEC also announced its plan to conduct three election simulations during July. IHEC’s spokesperson, Jumana al-Ghalai, said the simulation will “test the accuracy and effectiveness of electoral electronic devices, and the possibility of sending results…from various electoral centers to the national office.” She added that testing would help identify and correct any “pitfalls and deficiencies” in the electoral process. The first simulation involved 8,601 voters and one station in each of the 1,079 registration centers throughout Iraq. IHEC reported that 100% of votes counted electronically in the test matched votes counted manually. The next two simulations will involve two and three stations per center, respectively.
On July 10, Prime Minister al-Kadhimi visited the Ministry of Electricity to meet senior staff to discuss a nationwide electricity shortage, complicated by dozens of attacks on Iraq’s power grid, that sparked angry protests over the last few weeks. In his remarks, Kadhimi noted that Iraq has spent $80 billion on the electricity sector since 2003, but widespread corruption has prevented dependable energy for Iraqi citizens. Kadhimi said his administration should not be blamed for the cumulative failure since 2003, emphasizing that there were no simple solutions for the electricity crisis. In the meantime, Kadhimi said he instructed the Ministries of Oil and Finance to support the Ministry of Electricity’s efforts to provide energy for Iraqis citizens, and the government Crisis Cell will respond quickly to prevent additional attacks on power lines. Kadhimi also said that the government is conducting investigations into energy sector employees suspected of corruption.
On July 11, recent university graduates gathered outside of a Dhi-Qar government building to demand jobs from the Ministry of Oil. Security forces clashed with the protestors in order to disperse the gathering, injuring at least seven people.
On July 10, Prime Minister al-Kadhimi visited Iraqi journalist and activist Ali al-Mikdam at a hospital in Baghdad, where Mikdam was recovering from injuries he sustained while he was held captive by unidentified gunmen for a day (more details below). On July 11, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the Special Representative of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), also visited al-Mikdam. The UNAMI chief condemned the “cowardly aggressions that threaten a pillar of democracy: freedom of expression.”
On July 11, a member of the Iraqi Parliament’s anti-corruption committee, Jamal Mohammed Shkour, released a 16-page letter accusing the governor of Kirkuk province, Rakan Saeed al-Jabouri, of 62 cases of corruption and abuse of public funds. Shkour called on President Barham Salih to investigate the governor, as well as several other Kirkuk government officials who work in his “close circle.”
On July 12, the trial of four Duhok journalists accused of creating a political party to “undermine the stability of the Kurdistan region” began in Erbil. Last month, a Kurdish court rejected the appeal of five other journalists who were sentenced to six years on alleged espionage charges, sparking international condemnation. The new U.S. Consul General to Erbil, Robert Palladino, called for protection for freedom of press in his first public appearance at the Minority Journalist Training Program commencement, a U.S. State Department-funded program, saying, “The United States believes that journalists should be able to report without restrictions or fear or retaliation.” Earlier this week, Palladino met with Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG),and stressed that the U.S. will continue to support the region’s security forces.
On July 12, Muqtada al-Sadr criticized recent militia attacks on U.S. personnel and facilities, telling his political aides that these attacks achieved nothing “but add 4,000 occupation soldiers instead of making them withdraw.” It was unclear what troops increase Sadr was referring to. Sadr accused the militias behind the attacks of “benefiting from the presence of the occupation.” Sadr added that these militias “will lose their livelihood if these [foreign] troops left because they are nothing without [behaving like] resistance,” and questioned whether this “resistance” was true.
On July 13, hundreds of protestors blocked al-Haboubi Square in Nasiriyah in the aftermath of the al-Hussein Hospital fire that killed more than 90 people (incident details below). Other protestors held a candle vigil near the al-Hussein Hospital. Police tried to disperse the demonstration, resulting in clashes with the protestors, who set two police vehicles on fire. Iraqi President Barham Salih expressed his condolences to the victims’ families and attributed the fire to “persistent corruption and mismanagement.” Prime Minister Kadhimi told a meeting with the Council of Ministers that there must be “comprehensive administrative reforms” to prevent incidents like the al-Hussein hospital fire, and the Ibn al-Khatib hospital fire before that. Kadhimi promised to hold those responsible for the fire accountable. Meanwhile, Parliamentary leaders accused Kadhimi’s administration and the Ministry of Health of being responsible for the fire. A member of the Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights described the fire as “evidence for the failure of the current and previous governments.” The local government of Dhi-Qar is reportedly considering collective resignation. However, the provincial governor, Ahmed al-Khafaji said that he would only leave his position if federal authorities made that decision. The federal government is currently investigating several top officials, including the provincial health and civil defense directors. On July 13, the government suspended the director of the hospital and ordered him to be arrested.
On July 13, Reuters reported that Hossein Taeb, the intelligence chief of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, visited Iraq last week and instructed Iraqi militias to continue targeting U.S. personnel and facilities. According to the report, a senior Iraqi official said that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had sent Taeb to deliver his “message to them about keeping up pressure on U.S. forces in Iraq until they leave the region.”
On July 15, Muqtada al-Sadr announced that he would not participate in the upcoming elections scheduled for October 10. Sadr said that he would not support any political party and would withdraw his support “from anyone who claims to belong” to the Sadrist movement “in this government or the next” because “everyone is tainted with corruption and no one is being held accountable.” Hassan al-Kaabi, the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, announced his withdrawal from the elections following Sadr’s speech. Several other members of parliament loyal to Sadr followed suit. IHEC, however, said that it has not received any withdrawal requests, for which the deadline was June 20.
On July 15, the White House Coordinator for Middle East and North African Affairs, Brett McGurk, arrived in Baghdad and met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to discuss the next stage of the bilateral strategic dialogue and plans for the withdrawal of American troops. McGurk also met with President Salih to discuss strengthening bilateral relations and joint U.S.-Iraq efforts to combat terrorism.
On July 15, PUKMedia said the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) arrested a “spy” who was involved in a “plot to strike the strategic interests” of the party. The brief statement said the alleged spy was working for the “former co-president” of the PUK, implying that the joint presidency structure involving senior PUK figures Bafel Talabani and Lahur Sheikh Jenki, has collapsed. Another PUKMedia report on Thursday said that PUK “president” Bafel Talabani has ordered “radical changes in the leaderships of all security and party institutions” saying these positions had been used to serve the interests of “some individuals…for political liquidation, and against the strategic interests of our people.”
On July 8, ISIS militants attacked federal police checkpoints with firearms in the al-Rashad and al-Riyadh districts in Kirkuk province. The attacks killed an officer and injured two others. On June 12, ISIS militants attacked another federal police checkpoint on the outskirts of al-Rashad district in Kirkuk, killing an officer. On July 14, armed gunmen fired at federal police at the entrance of al-Riyadh district in Kirkuk, killing an officer and injuring another.
On July 10, an IED targeted a convoy transporting supplies for the International Coalition as it was passing on the international highway near al-Saqlawiyah district in Anbar province. On July 11, a roadside IED exploded in southern Basra province as another supply convoy rode past. Meanwhile, another IED struck a similar convoy while it was travelling on the Diwaniyah highway in Qadisiyah province. On July 15, a roadside IED exploded as another similar convoy passed on the Nasiriyah highway in Dhi-Qar. None of the explosions caused any material damage or casualties.
On July 9, ISIS militants took a civilian hostage, holding him for a ransom of $100,000 in Dibis district in Kirkuk province. On July 10, ISIS militants released another hostage who had been kidnapped several days prior in Makhmour district in Kirkuk province, after the victim’s family paid his ransom.
On July 9, Ali al-Mikdam, a journalist and critic of Iran and Iran-backed militia in Iraq, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Fellow activists last spotted him by a cafe in the Karrada area of Baghdad. They said that all of his social media and online platforms had been deleted an hour after he was last seen. Security forces found al-Mikdam on the highway near the al-Waleed bridge in Baghdad the following day. A security source said that Al-Mikdam’s captors had initially dropped him off at a gas station near the al-Salam college, and he then walked to the where he was found by security forces. On June 11, in an interview with al-Hurra, al-Mikdam shared the details of his ordeal. Al-Mikdam stated that masked men kidnapped him and took him in their vehicle to a nondescript building where they tortured him with tasers and batons. He added that his captors continually questioned him about an article he authored and was published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, berating him for the article’s critique of Iran-backed militias.
On July 11, a security source said that an IED explosion toppled a high voltage tower in the Nahrawan district southeast of Baghdad. On July 12, ISIS militants targeted two high voltage towers on the Mirsad-Diyala import line from Iran using IEDs. The attack, which occurred near Lake Himrin in Diyala province, damaged the towers and caused electricity shortages throughout the province for several hours.
On July 11, Turkish warplanes bombed the uninhabited Mount Korzar area in the Shiladze subdistrict near Amadiyah in Duhok province. There were no reports of casualties. Meanwhile, Turkish airstrikes killed two members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Afshayn region of northern Iraq. The attacks are part of Turkey’s continuing large-scale operation against the PKK in Iraq, which first began in April.
On July 12, a security source said that a legacy IED explosion severely injured a civilian in the village of al-Safinah in the al-Qayyarah subdistrict in Ninewa Province.
On July 12, unidentified gunmen opened fire at the home of a candidate in Iraq’s upcoming parliamentary election in the Arada area of Amara in Maysan province. The attack damaged the candidate’s home without causing casualties.
On July 13, an IED planted on Baquba mayor Abdullah al-Hayali’s parked car exploded while the vehicle was near his home in the Nahr al-Hajiya area of Baquba in Diyala province. The blast damaged the car but resulted in no casualties.
On July 13, Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) fighters clashed with ISIS militants at a checkpoint near the Safra Basin, northeast of Baquba in Diyala province, killing two ISIS members.
On July 13, unidentified gunmen killed two federal police officers at an army checkpoint in the Tel-Tasa area of Tarmiyah district in Baghdad. The two victims were siblings who were off-duty when the attack occurred.
On July 14, a security source said that a roadside IED exploded near Mount Nuwikayt southwest of Ninewa province as a PMF patrol unit was passing by. The explosion wounded eight PMF members. The targeted PMF unit had been patrolling the Sheikh Yunis area in Ninewa to protect power towers from sabotage before the explosion.
On July 14, unidentified gunmen targeted the home of two Dhi-Qar activists with a homemade explosive device. The attack, which occurred in central Nasiriyah, caused material damage but no casualties.
On July 15, a security source said an IED blast wounded two PMF fighters near a checkpoint in Jurf al-Sakhr subdistrict in Babylon province.
On July 8, the International Organization for Migration delivered 9,100 tents, worth around $2.5 million, for the use of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees residing in the Kurdistan region. The KRG’s Joint Crisis Coordination Center will distribute the tents.
On July 10, Iraq’s Trade Minister, Alaa Ahmed al-Jubouri, announced the launch of the nationwide “food basket” project, an effort to reform the national ration card system that started in 1991. Al-Jubouri said that Iraqi citizens who utilize the ration system will receive seven staple, “better quality” food items in each basket, including basmati rice, cooking oil, sugar, and the newly-added items of chickpeas, beans, and tomato paste for a subsidized price of no more than IQD500 ($0.34). Jubouri noted that contracted stores will soon distribute the food baskets to Iraqi citizens below the poverty line across all provinces, including in the Kurdistan region.
On July 12, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Karbala province launched three projects focused on youth employment, public sector digitization, and environmental sustainability. The first project will foster job matching for Karbala’s youth, by introducing training and access to internship and employment opportunities in the private sector. The second project will establish geographic information system mapping in Karbala, subsequently providing provincial officials with a data dashboard and residents with a mobile app to respectively manage and access public services. In partnership with the UN Environmental Program, the third project concerned waste management and will encourage the private sector to produce and use compost while adding value.
On July 12, the Iraqi government, European Union (EU), and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) launched Iraq’s STRIVE Juvenile project, an EU-funded initiative to improve Iraq’s capacity to stop terrorist exploitation of children by working with the government to develop strategies that increase children’s resilience to terrorist recruitment methods and rhetoric. The project also aims to improve Iraq’s protection of vulnerable children by providing alternative approaches to prosecution and rehabilitating radicalized or exploited children back into society.
On June 12, a massive fire broke out in the COVID-19 isolation ward of Imam al-Hussein Teaching Hospital in Nasiriyah, killing 92 people and injuring over 100 others. Police, health, and civil defense authorities said the fire started when a ventilator’s faulty wiring caused an electrical short, spreading to oxygen tanks that in turn exploded. Flames quickly consumed the hospital wing, which was holding around 70 patients and many of their relatives. According to Dhi-Qar health official Dr. Aws Adel, most hospital staff managed to leave the building but most patients were attached to ventilators, immobilizing them. While the fire killed two health care workers, most deaths included patients, their relatives, and volunteer rescuers. Iraq’s Health Ministry disputed the number of deaths in media reports, alleging the incident caused 60 deaths, and that authorities recovered 39 identified bodies and 21 unidentified victims. Civil defense chief, Major General Kadhim Bohan, said that constructors built the three-month-old ward from flammable materials, prompting the fire to quickly melt the roof and walls. Dhi-Qar’s Director of Civil defense said that authorities recorded observations of a gas leak in June, suggesting a faulty gas system caused the fire. A hospital medic said that the hospital lacked a fire alarm and sprinkler system. He added that since the ward’s opening, hospital staff would frequently complain that “a tragedy could happen any moment from a cigarette stub,” with health officials responding that they didn’t have enough funds to address these issues. A local eyewitness said that the ceiling collapsed, trapping people inside and making rescue difficult. A custodian at the hospital said that the ward only had four fire extinguishers, and that firefighting vehicles had “run out of water” soon after they began tackling the fire. This is the second tragic accident of this kind to strike Iraqi hospitals this year. In April, exploding oxygen tanks caused a similar fire to break out at a Baghdad hospital treating COVID-19 patients, killing at least 82 people and injuring 110 others.
On July 15, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 1,466,529. This is an increase of 60,240 in cases from the 1,406,289 reported on July 8. Of these cases, 116,244 are currently in hospitals, including 661 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent an increase of 15,302 in hospitalizations and an increase of 86 in ICU admissions since July 8. Ministry data indicated that there were 263 new COVID-19 deaths since July 8, bringing the total from 17,444 to 17,707. The total number of recoveries increased from 1,287,903 to 1,332,578. The average number of new cases was 8,606 per day during the last 7-day period, compared to an average of 7,547 per day during the 7-day period ending July 8. On July 14, Iraq recorded a new peak in daily cases when it reported 9,635 new infections. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 1,950 cases, Basra with 1,351 cases, Dhi-Qar with 983 cases, Wasit with 700 cases, and Duhok with 569 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 12,387,180 samples for COVID-19. The total number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 1,104,878, including 16,519 who received their shots on July 15.
On July 9, UNAMI announced that the International Trade Center (ITC), a UN and World Trade Organization (WTO) joint agency, organized a workshop on “WTO Accession and Agriculture” last week in Baghdad. The workshop is part of an EU-funded project that aims to support Iraq’s “agriculture competitiveness” and trade development to prepare for negotiations for Iraq’s accession into the WTO. Officials from Iraq’s Trade, Agriculture, and Industry Ministries participated in the workshop, along with the EU Ambassador to Iraq, UN Resident Coordinator to Iraq, and experts from the WTO, ITC, and UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
On July 10, Iraq’s Water Resources Minister, Mahdi Rashid al-Hamdani, threatened to file a complaint against Iran at the UN for cutting water flow into Iraq’s Serwan, Karon, and Karkha rivers, calling the cut a violation of international conventions. Hamdani’s statement came amid Iraq’s worsening water shortages, especially in Diyala province, which reportedly lost more than 70% of its water resources due to reduced rainfall and water flow from neighboring countries . Hamdani added that Iraq is seeking a water-sharing protocol agreement from both Iran and Turkey, but was still waiting for responses from the two countries.
On July 11, the KRG’s Finance Ministry announced that the federal government sent IQD200 billion ($137 million) to Erbil’s branch of the Central Bank of Iraq. This was the first budget payment by the federal government towards the KRG’s $7.84 billion share of the 2021 federal budget, in accordance with the agreement Erbil and Baghdad negotiated in June for releasing the payments. The June agreement raised objections from political parties who complained that the KRG had yet to meet its obligations under the budget law Parliament passed in March: to deliver the oil revenue of at least 250,000 barrels per day, 50% of its non-oil revenue, provide employment data, and allow an audit of the region’s accounts since 2003.
On June 12, Iraq’s Planning Ministry announced that Iraq recorded 1.258 million births in 2020. According to ministry spokesman Abdul-Zahra al-Hindawi, the Central Bureau of Statistics also recorded 224,729 deaths out of the country’s estimated population of 40,150,200. According to the data, the population includes 20,336,180 males and 19,784,000 females, and individuals aged 15-24 years constituted 20% of the total population, or 8.1 million people. More particularly, 15-19 year-olds constituted 11% of Iraq’s population. Last month, the Planning Ministry delayed its plans to hold a formal census due to a lack of financial resources.
On July 13, Iraq’s Oil Ministry announced that it signed a contract with the Chinese state-owned China National Chemical Engineering Co. Ltd. (CNCEC) to build the 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) al-Faw oil refinery in Basra province. The Ministry said that CNEC will also build an associated petrochemical complex.
On July 15, Jordan’s Energy Minister, Hala al-Zawati, arrived in Baghdad to discuss bilateral relations and the outcomes of the trilateral summit held in late June with Iraq’s Oil Minister, Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar Ismail. The Ministers discussed the Basra-Aqaba crude oil pipeline project and stressed the need to further advance the discussion through their respective technical and commercial committees. Ismail also announced that Iraq’s Cabinet agreed to renew an annual contract to export 10,000 bpd of crude oil to Jordan.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
Casualties Due To IEDs from July 08, 2021 - July 15, 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.
Date Location Deaths Injuries 07/10/21 al-Saqlawiyah district, Anbar province 0 0 07/11/21 Basra province 0 0 07/11/21 Diwaniyah district, Qadisiyah province 0 0 07/11/21 Nahrawan district, Baghdad province 0 0 07/12/21 Diyala province 0 0 07/12/21 Diyala province 0 0 07/12/21 al-Qayyarah subdistrict, Ninewa Province 0 1 07/13/21 Baqubah district, Diyala province 0 0 07/14/21 Ninewa province 0 8 07/15/21 Nasiriyah district, Dhi-Qar province 0 0 07/15/21 Jurf al-Sakhr district, Babylon province 0 2
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.