ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: SEPTEMBER 16 – SEPTEMBER 23, 2021

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Key Takeaways:

  • President Salih Attends UNGA, Meets Joe Biden; Iraq, Jordan, And France Plan New Regional Conference – On September 16, Iraq’s Foreign Minister attended the ministerial meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh, where he said that Iraq wants a strategic treaty for cooperation with the GCC. On September 17, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said that Iraq and the U.S. have agreed to downsize the U.S. military presence at two bases in Iraq by the end of September. On September 19, President Barham Salih traveled to New York to participate in the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting. Salih met with U.S. President Joseph Biden, who assured Salih of Washington’s “commitment to Iraq’s long-term stability,” and reiterated his support for recent Iraqi diplomatic initiatives. Salih also met with the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. On September 22, PM Kadhimi said Iraq’s High Electoral Commission conducted another successful election day simulation. On September 22, a UNAMI official said that the UN will have a large contingent of at least 800 staff members on the ground before the end of the month to help monitor the upcoming Iraqi election. On September 23, Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said that Iraq, Jordan, and France have created a trilateral ministerial committee to prepare for a new regional conference that will be held in Amman. more…
  • Iran Threatens More Operations Against Kurdish Dissidents Inside Iraq; ISIS Deploys Larger Patrols Around Mosul – Between September 16 – 22, Iraqi forces killed at least seven ISIS militants during operations backed by airstrikes in the Wadi Zghaytoun, Wadi Shay, and the Himrin Mountains. Between September 17 – 20, the Turkish military said it killed nine PKK members while one of its soldiers died from an IED attack inside the KRI. On September 17, the PKK accused Turkish intelligence agents of assassinating one of its activists in Sulaymaniyah. On September 19, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said that the joint coordination centers between federal and Peshmerga forces conducted joint activities in the buffer zones separating their respective lines. On September 19, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces threatened to expand military operations inside the KRI against the presence of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups. On September 19, al-Mada, citing security sources in Ninewa, reported that ISIS has intensified its presence and activity in areas south of Mosul, deploying large patrols involving up to 30 fighters each. On September 21, an IED struck a dismounted police patrol in Diyala, injuring three policemen. On September 22, three IEDs exploded targeting convoys transporting supplies for the International Coalition without causing casualties. more…
  • UN Agencies To Help Iraq Revamp Social Protection Programs; Sulaymaniyah Overtakes Baghdad In New COVID-19 Cases – On September 21, Iraq’s ministries of planning, labor, and trade and three United Nations agencies (UNICEF, WFP, and ILO) launched a new multi-year program designed to achieve “comprehensive, efficient, and effective social protection coverage” of women, children, elderly citizens and those with disabilities, and to offer “pathways…for human development, economic inclusion, and enhanced resilience” within four years. On September 23, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 1,987,352. Deaths from confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 21,993 while hospitalizations decreased to 82,763. The daily average for new cases during the last 7-day period dropped to 2,880/day from 3,968/day during the previous reporting period. Sulaymaniyah reported the most cases during the last 24 hours, surpassing Baghdad for the first time. The total number of vaccinated people reached 4,585,095 including 73,074 who received their shots on September 23. more…
  • Baghdad Restricts Foreign Ownership In Companies; Oil Ministry Launches Delayed Gas Project; Abu Dhabi Ports To Develop Transport Infrastructure – On September 17, Iraq Oil Report wrote that Iraqi authorities have started enforcing a regulation that caps foreign stakes in Iraqi businesses at 49%. On September 20, Iraq signed an initial agreement with Abu Dhabi Ports to develop plans for the administration and operation of Iraqi ports and related facilities. On September 17, al-Sumaria reported that a first shipment of 31,000 tons of Iraqi fuel oil sold under a deal between Baghdad and Beirut has arrived in Lebanon. On September 19, Iraq’s Oil Ministry and Baker Hughes inaugurated a project to capture 200 million cubic feet/day of natural gas at the Gharraf and Nasiriyah oil fields. On September 23, Shell executives in Iraq said the energy company, which leads the Basra Gas Company (BGC) operations, is engaged in talks with Iraqi officials to double BGC’s production in the near future. more…

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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.


President Salih Attends UNGA, Meets Joe Biden; Iraq, Jordan, And France Plan New Regional Conference

On September 16, Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Fuad Hussein, attended the ministerial meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh. Hussein thanked the GCC secretary general for supporting “strategic dialogue between Iraq and the GCC states,” adding that Iraq wants the dialogue to produce a strategic treaty for cooperation on various levels. In particular, Hussein said Iraq was keen to complete the power grid connection project, expand cultural and scientific exchanges, and work together to achieve sustainable economic and social development. Hussein also held bilateral talks with his Saudi counterpart, Faisal Bin Farhan, which focused on economic and investment opportunities, and the meetings of the Iraq-Saudi joint coordination committee.

On September 17, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command (JOC) said that Iraq and the United States have agreed to downsize the U.S. military presence at two bases in Iraq by the end of September. According to the JOC statement, the agreement, which Iraqi commanders and Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve officials arrived at on September 16, concerns the Ain al-Asad base in Anbar and the military base at Erbil airport. The agreement also involves downgrading the command of the International Coalition in Iraq from the lieutenant general level to that of major general. 

On September 18, Iraq’s Interior Minister, Othman al-Ghanimi, traveled to Jordan for meetings with Jordianian security officials, including his counterpart, Mazin al-Frayah. Ghanimi also met with Jordan’s prime minister, Bishr al-Khasawnah, and discussed security cooperation and several joint projects, including the power grid connection project, the joint industrial zone on the borders, and the planned oil pipeline between Basra and Aqaba. 

On September 19, President Barham Salih traveled to New York to participate in the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting. Salih met with U.S. President Joseph Biden on the sidelines of the UNGA meetings. A White House statement said the two presidents discussed “deepening cooperation on regional diplomatic initiatives.” According to the statement, Biden also assured Salih of Washington’s “commitment to Iraq’s long-term stability,” and reiterated his support for recent Iraqi diplomatic initiatives such as the Baghdad Conference for Partnership and Cooperation, which Iraq hosted last month. While in New York, Salih also met with the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, and discussed preparations for the upcoming elections and the UN monitoring mission. The Iraqi president later met with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and discussed bilateral relations. Salih, according to a statement by his office, stressed the need to respect the sovereignty of nations and to work together to reduce regional tensions. Salih is scheduled to address the UNGA in the afternoon of September 23.

On September 22, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said after attending an election day simulation organized by Iraq’s High Electoral Commission (IHEC) that the simulation was successful. Kadhimi said that these electoral exercises are meant to ensure fair elections, adding that the government has provided the necessary requirements for conducting successful elections. IHEC has conducted other election day simulations to test its systems and procedures starting in July of this year. 

On September 22, a senior political official with the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) said that the UN will have a large contingent of at least 800 staff members on the ground in Iraq to help monitor the elections before the end of the month. UNAMI’s political affairs representative, Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, said the election monitoring mission will involve “the biggest election team worldwide.” The elections are scheduled to take place on October 10, and IHEC announced on September 22 that all campaigning activities shall cease by 6am on October 9. 

On September 23, Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said that Iraq, Jordan, and France have created a trilateral ministerial committee to prepare for a new regional conference. Ministry spokesman Ahmed al-Sahaf said that Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein met in New York with his counterparts from the countries that participated in the Baghdad Conference for Partnership and Cooperation, which Iraq hosted in August, and agreed to create the committee to set the goals and agenda of the next conference, which will be held in Amman. 


Iran Threatens More Operations Against Kurdish Dissidents Inside Iraq; ISIS Deploys Larger Patrols Around Mosul

On September 16, security sources in Diyala said that two mortar rounds struk an area near a major dairy factory in the western part of the Muqdadiyah district. The incident did not cause casualties.  

On September 16, security sources said that Iraqi security forces (ISF) killed three suspected ISIS militants during operations in the Wadi Zghaytoun area in Kirkuk province. 

On September 16, security sources in Baghdad said that an under-vehicle improvised explosive device (UVIED) exploded in the Shaab district in the eastern part of the capital. The explosion did not result in casualties. 

On September 17, the Turkish military said it killed six members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in an airstrike targeting Mount Qara in the Kurdistan region of Iraq (KRI). On September 18, Turkey said one of its soldiers died from wounds he sustained when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded the night before in the Afashin area inside the KRI. On September 20, Turkey said its military helicopters killed three more PKK fighters inside the KRI. 

On September 17, the PKK accused Turkish intelligence agents of assassinating one of its activists in an attack involving small arms fire in the Chwarchra region of Sulaymaniyah province. 

On September 19, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a statement that the joint coordination centers between federal and Peshmerga forces conducted joint activities in the buffer zones separating the lines of federal and Peshmerga forces. In August, the ISF and Peshmerga announced an agreement to form joint security forces to operate in the buffer zones separating their respective security forces in Diyala, Kirkuk, and Ninewa provinces.

On September 19, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Mohammed Hussein Baqeri, said Iran will expand its military operations inside the KRI against the presence of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups. Baqeri said Iran will work to “eliminate all the institutions” of these dissident groups, which he described as “terrorists” supported by U.S., Israel, and Arab states. Baqeri emphasized that Iranian Kurdish opposition parties must have no training camps, meetings, or media institutions in the KRI. On September 21, the Iraqi army’s general staff called Baqeri’s remarks “unjustified,” stressing that Iraq refuses to have its soil used in attacks against neighbors, adding that all parties should “adhere to the language of fraternity and cooperation” in managing their relations.  

On September 19, al-Mada, citing security sources in Ninewa, reported that ISIS has intensified its presence and activity in areas south of Mosul. In particular, the source noted that ISIS has started deploying relatively large patrols involving up to 30 fighters each, whereas the militants used to typically move in smaller groups of 3-5 fighters each. Locals pointed out that ISIS is taking advantage of a number of villages that remain uninhabited and are located in uncontrolled zone, miles from the lines of the Peshmerga or ISF.

On September 21, security sources in Diyala said that an IED exploded against a dismounted police patrol on the outskirts of the Abu Saida subdistrict. The explosion injured three members of the police force. 

On September 22, security sources said that two IEDs exploded targeting convoys transporting supplies for the International Coalition along a major highway in Babylon province, and in Yusufiyah, south of Baghdad. The explosions caused material damages without casualties. On the same day, a third IED targeted a similar convoy in Dhi-Qar province without causing casualties.  

On September 22, the Security Media Cell said that Iraqi air force F-16 and Su-25 jets conducted several airstrikes targeting ISIS hideouts in the Wadi Shay region of Kirkuk province. The report did not provide details about the airstrikes’ outcome. 

On September 23, the Security Media Cell said that the Interior Ministry’s intelligence agency’s forces conducted a joint operation with the Iraqi air force against ISIS hideouts in the Himrin Mountains. The Iraqi forces killed a total of four ISIS militants in an airstrike that was followed by direct engagement with the militants. 


UN Agencies To Help Iraq Revamp Social Protection Programs; Sulaymaniyah Overtakes Baghdad In New COVID-19 Cases

On September 21, Iraq’s ministries of planning, labor, and trade and three United Nations agencies (UNICEF, WFP, and ILO) launched a new multi-year program to improve Iraq’s social protection plans and ability to respond to social-economic crises. Over the next four years, the UN agencies will support the Iraqi ministries’ efforts to develop a “strategy for social protection and implement a reform roadmap, roll-out and scale up child-focused and employment-related social protection schemes, and build up a unified national registry” using the Public Distribution System for food rations (PDS). The program aims to give more Iraqis in need coverage under social security benefits, including those in Iraq’s informal economy, while mitigating the economic impact of the pandemic. The goal is to achieve “comprehensive, efficient, and effective social protection coverage” of women, children, elderly citizens and those with disabilities, and to offer “pathways…for human development, economic inclusion, and enhanced resilience by 2025.” The program will receive €30 million from the European Union (EU). 

On September 23, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 1,987,352. This is an increase of 20,165 in cases from the 1,967,187 reported on September 16. Of these cases, 82,763 are currently in hospitals, including 580 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent a decrease of 16,583 in hospitalizations and 46 in ICU admissions since September 16. Ministry data indicated that there were 310 new COVID-19 deaths since September 16, bringing the total from 21,683 to 21,993. The total number of recoveries increased from 1,846,158 to 1,882,596. The average number of new cases during the last 7-day period was 2,880 per day, significantly lower than the 3,968 per day average reported during the 7-day period ending September 16. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Sulaymaniyah with 672 cases, Baghdad with 447, Erbil with 286, Duhok with 278 cases, and Ninewa with 223 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 15,075,045 samples for COVID-19. The total number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 4,585,095 including 73,074 who received their shots on September 23.


Baghdad Restricts Foreign Ownership In Companies; Oil Ministry Launches Delayed Gas Project; Abu Dhabi Ports To Develop Transport Infrastructure

On September 17, Iraq Oil Report wrote that Iraqi authorities have started enforcing a new regulation that limits foreign stakes in Iraqi businesses to a maximum of 49%. According to the report, the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) started enforcing the rule against all companies listed on the ISX, except for banks.

On September 20, Iraq signed an initial agreement with Abu Dhabi Ports to pursue investment opportunities and cooperate on developing Iraq’s transportation sector. The agreement will reportedly see the UAE company help Iraq develop plans for the administration and operation of Iraqi ports and related facilities. Abu Dhabi Ports may also help Iraq develop railroad links and roads to connect Iraqi ports with neighboring countries. 

On September 17, al-Sumaria reported that the first shipment of Iraqi fuel oil sold under a deal signed between Baghdad and Beirut has arrived in Lebanon. The first cargo involves 31,000 tons. In July, Iraq and Lebanon finalized a deal under which Iraq would supply 1 million tons of fuel oil to energy-starved Lebanon in exchange for Lebanese goods and services. 

On September 19, Iraq’s Oil Ministry inaugurated a project to capture natural gas and reduce flaring at the Gharraf and Nasiriyah oil fields in Dhi-Qar province. According to Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul-Jabar Ismael, the project will be executed by Baker Hughes in cooperation with Iraq’s South Gas Company, and will produce up to 200 million cubic feet per day. The project has been under consideration for several years, and was originally scheduled to launch in 2018. Iraqi oil officials expect the project to take 30 months to be completed.

On September 20, the Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation said it decided to postpone its 25th championship, which was originally scheduled to take place in Basra in December 2021, to January of 2023. The Federation cited “shortcomings in Basra City’s readiness to host the championship” which an inspection committee identified during a tour of Basra’s sports facilities and hotels. 

On September 20, Argus Media reported that Iran’s Oil Ministry has designated a special envoy to Iraq who will be in charge of energy relations between the two countries. Oil Minister Javad Owij will task the new envoy, Seyyed Abbas Beheshti, with finding “opportunities for cooperation…across the energy spectrum,” and develop a framework under which Tehran can trade its energy exports to Iraq for other goods to bypass financial sanctions imposed on Iran.  

On September 23, the regional executive of Shell in Iraq said the energy company, which leads the Basra Gas Company (BGC) operations, is engaged in talks with Iraqi officials to double BGC’s production in the near future, without providing a specific timeline. According to the company official, the goal is to increase BGC production from 1 billion cubic feet per day now to 2 billion cubic feet per day. BGC processes natural gas from three major southern fields and is a joint venture between Shell, the Iraqi government, and Mitsubishi. 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from September 16, 2021 - September 23, 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
09/16/21Shaab, eastern Baghdad00
09/18/21 Afashin region, Kurdistan10
09/21/21Abu Saida, Diyala province03
09/22/21Babylon province00
09/22/21Yusufiyah, south of Baghdad00
09/12/21Dhi-Qar province00

 

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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