ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: JANUARY 13 – 20, 2022

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Key Takeaways:

  • Qaani Mediating Between Sadr And Rivals; Mosul’s Mayor Arrested; Court Delays Ruling In Case Concerning Legality Of Parliament’s First Session – On January 16, Iran’s Quds Force commander Esmail Qaani arrived in Iraq to mediate between the coordination framework for Shia parties (CF) and Muqtada al-Sadr, seeking a compromise on government formation. Political sources initially said Qaani failed to convince Sadr to reconsider his demand for “excluding Nouri al-Maliki.” But by January 19, there were signs of possible breakthrough as political sources said the CF agreed to accommodate Sadr’s “veto” on Maliki. On January 19, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said that an anti-corruption court in Ninewa executed an arrest warrant against the mayor of Mosul on charges of soliciting and receiving bribes in exchange for allowing developers to parcel out and sell public land. On January 19, Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court heard from the plaintiffs in the case filed last week by two independent lawmakers, in which they argue that parliament’s first session violated the constitution and the legislature’s bylaws. The Court decided to adjourn and resume deliberations on January 25. In other developments, on January 19, a senior PUK member said that his party and the KDP have not reached consensus on supporting one candidate for the presidency post. more…
  • Bombings Target Political Offices; Drones And Rockets Target The Green Zone And Balad; Army Tackles Sinjar Militia – Between January 13 – 19, the explosions of 12 IEDs and two remnants of war in Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk, Babylon, Ninewa, Muthanna, and Anbar, killed one Iraqi and wounded at least seven. Two of these IEDs targeted two Baghdad offices of the Taqaddum Party, led by Speaker Halbousi. Meanwhile, the Kirkuk office of Halbousi’s deputy, Shakhwan Abdullah, was attacked by a grenade. Of the 12 IEDs, only two targeted military supply convoys this week. On January 13, at least four rockets targeted the Green Zone, one of which struck a school, injuring a child and a woman. On January 15, armed drones attempted to attack the Iraqi air force base at Balad. The drones aborted the attack after the base guards opened fire on them. On January 18, Iraqi army forces in Sinuni arrested fighters from the PKK-affiliated YBS militia and confiscated their weapons in an attempt to impose government control over the area. In other developments, on January 15, five rockets targeted the Zelikan Turkish military base near Bashiqa in two separate attacks. Between January 16 – 18, ISIS militants killed at least six Iraqis and wounded another in two attacks near Taji and Samarra. On January 17, unidentified gunmen attempted to assassinate Hameed al-Yasiri, the commander of Ansar al-Marjiyah, a PMF unit affiliated with the shrines of Najaf and Karbala. more…
  • UNICEF Condemns Attack On School; IDPs Need Aid Amid Heavy Snowfall; COVID-19 Cases Triple – On January 14, UNICEF urged Iraqi factions “to fulfil their obligation, under international law, to protect children at all times,” after a rocket attack in Baghdad struck a school and injured a child. On January 20, officials in Sinuni, near Sinjar, urged authorities to send aid to help IDP camps in the area cope with a sudden cold and snow wave that cut roads and electricity. On January 20, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 2,137,267, an increase of 32,327 from the 2,104,940 reported on January 13. Hospitalizations increased sharply from 11,984 to 40,272. The daily average for new cases during the last 7-day period tripled, from 1,298 per day during the 7-day period ending January 13, to 4,618 per day. Total vaccinations reached 9,004,121 including 58,553 who received their shots on January 20. Earlier this week, health officials said that demand for the vaccines remains low, and that many Iraqis who received their first doses were neglecting to take their second shots, resulting in low levels of protection against infection and hospitalization. more…
  • Accident Briefly Disrupts Oil Exports Through Turkey; Sinopec To Develop Iraq’s Mansouriyah Gas Field – On January 19, the KRG Minister of Natural Resources said that an electrical fault caused an explosion that disrupted crude oil exports to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Oil flow resumed the next day, and officials expect overall export volumes to remain unaffected. On January 20, Iraq’s Oil Minister signed a contract with China’s Sinopec for the development of the Mansouriyah gas field in Diyala province. The project aims to produce 300 million cubic feet/day from Mansouriyah, which holds an estimated 4.5 trillion cubic feet in gas reserves. 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.


Qaani Mediating Between Sadr And Rivals; Mosul’s Mayor Arrested; Court Delays Ruling In Case Concerning Legality Of Parliament’s First Session

On January 13, Muqtada al-Sadr criticized the rocket attack that targeted the Green Zone earlier that day, saying that such attacks harmed civilians and served to “delay the withdrawal of American forces.” Sadr accused the perpetrators of seeking to delay this withdrawal “to justify their use of arms,” arguing that the armed factions behind the attacks “have no [justification for their] presence without the occupier’s presence.” 

On January 16, the Foreign Minister of Lithuania visited Baghdad for discussions with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. According to Kadhimi’s office, the talks focused on economic and cultural cooperation, counter-terrorism, and fighting organized crime. The discussions also addressed the situation of Iraqi migrants stranded on the borders of the European Union, and practical steps to prevent illegal migration and create legal alternatives for Iraqis seeking to visit Lithuania. The visiting minister invited Kadhimi to visit Lithuania for further talks.

On January 16, a spokesperson for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) said that Esmail Qaani, the commander of the Quds force in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, arrived in Najaf on an official visit. News reports indicated that Mohammed Kawtharani, a foreign affairs official with Lebanese Hezbollah, also arrived in Iraq this week. Sources close to Muqtada al-Sadr told Shafaq News on January 17 that Qaani had discussions with the leaders of the coordination framework for Shia parties (CF) and also met twice with Sadr, in an attempt to resolve their disputes over government formation and “reorganize the Shia house based on the political formulas adopted since 2003.” The sources mentioned that the Iranian commander initially failed to convince Sadr to soften his position, especially with regard to “excluding Nouri al-Maliki from the new government.” But by January 19, there were signs of possible breakthrough between Sadr and his CF rivals. Political sources told al-Mada that the CF agreed to accommodate Sadr’s “veto” on Maliki’s participation in the next government. The purported concession, said to be the result of Qaani’s mediation, also involves excluding Qais al-Khazali’s Asaib Ahl al-Haq from the next government, but maintains the CF demands for “preserving the PMF” and immunity for CF leaders from prosecution on corruption or violence charges. According to the report, Sadr was close to agreeing to CF being part of the next government based on these conditions. 

On January 17, Prime Minister Kadhimi convened a meeting of the ministerial council for national security to discuss recent rocket and bomb attacks in Baghdad (details below). The council issued four directives after the meeting. The directives prohibit the movement of official vehicles without special permits after work hours, ban motorcycles from carrying more than one person, and from driving between 6pm and 6am. The government also required all shop owners to install surveillance cameras, and announced financial rewards for people who report suspicious individuals. 

On January 19, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said that an anti-corruption court in Ninewa executed an arrest warrant against the mayor of Mosul, Zuheir al-Araji on charges of soliciting and receiving bribes. According to a statement by the Commission, Araji received cash, cars, and other expensive items from land developers in exchange for allowing them to parcel out and sell lands that belong to the state. Earlier, the Commission also reported that an anti-corruption  court in Baghdad had sentenced Karrar al-Abadi, a former governor of Babylon, to time in prison for violations involving abuse of power to allow developers to illegally take over public land to develop commercial housing. 

On January 19, Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court heard from the plaintiffs in the case filed last week by two independent lawmakers, in which they argue that parliament’s first session violated the constitution and the legislature’s own bylaws. After the hearing, the Court decided to adjourn and resume looking into the case on January 25.

On January 19, a senior member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said that his party and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) have not reached consensus on supporting one candidate for the presidency post. The PUK official, Rizan Sheik Dleir, argued that “most political blocs” were in favor of Barham Salih’s bid for a second term in office. Meanwhile, KDP member Majid Shingali expected that his party’s candidate, Hoshyar Zebari, would “easily” get enough to win the presidency, should the KDP and PUK present separate candidates. 


Bombings Target Political Offices; Drones And Rockets Target The Green Zone And Balad; Army Tackles Sinjar Militia

On January 13, security sources in Baghdad said that an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded targeting a convoy transporting equipment for the Iraqi army in Tarmiyah, north of the Iraqi capital. On January 16, another IED targeted a similar convoy north of Basra. Neither explosion resulted in casualties. 

On January 13, members of the Taqaddum party of Mohammed al-Halbousi said that a homemade IED exploded inside an office belonging to the party in the Adhamiyah district of north Baghdad. The explosion did not cause casualties. Three days later, on January 16, security sources said unidentified attackers threw a bomb into the office of Taqaddum lawmaker, Abdul-Karim Abtan, in the Saydiyah district of south Baghdad. The explosion reportedly injured one person. 

On January 13, the Security Media Cell reported that “several rockets” targeted the Green Zone in Baghdad, one of which struck a school inside the fortified zone, injuring a child and a woman.   According to security officials, the attack involved at least four rockets, and the launch platform used in it was later discovered in the Dora neighborhood of south Baghdad.

On January 14, security sources said that a roadside IED exploded on the main road between Altun-Kupri and Kirkuk. The explosion damaged a civilian vehicle but there were no reports of casualties. 

On January 14, security sources in Babylon province said that an IED exploded near a Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) checkpoint in the Jurf al-Sakhr subdistrict. The explosion injured one PMF fighter. Elsewhere in Babylon, another IED exploded near a mosque in the Jbala subdistrict on January 15. The explosion caused material damage but no casualties. 

On January 15, the Security Media Cell reported that three “hostile” drone attempted to attack the Balad Iraqi air force base in Salah ad-Din province. The drones aborted the attack after the base guards opened fire on them. The base commander said the drones were launched from an area close to the base and were not detected by radar, explaining the interception relied on visual observation from the base’s guard towers. 

On January 15, security sources in northern Iraq reported that five rockets targeted the Zelikan Turkish military base near Bashiqa in two separate attacks within the span of several hours. The sources added that the Turkish military responded to the attacks with artillery fire, without providing additional details about the attacks or Turkish response. 

On January 14, security sources in Ninewa said that an unexploded remnant of war (ERW) detonated outside the town of Badush, northwest of Mosul, injuring a six year old girl. To the south, the explosion of another ERW killed a 15 year old sheep herder near the desert town of Bsayyah in Muthanna province. 

On January 16, a senior Iraqi security commander said that two IEDs exploded near banks in central Baghdad, injuring a security guard and a civilian passerby. According to the official, one of the bombs targeted the Jayhan bank near al-Fateh Square, while the other targeted the Kurdistan Bank near al-Wathiq Square. 

On January 16, security sources in Salah ad-Din province said that ISIS militants kidnapped five fishermen while on the Tigris river in the al-Qadiriyah area, north of Samarra. Within hours, security forces and locals discovered the bodies of four of the fishermen after the militants executed them. The fifth fisherman was able to escape to safety after the militants shot him and he pretended to be dead. 

On January 17, local sources in Muthanna province reported that Hameed al-Yasiri, the commander of Ansar al-Marjiyah, a PMF unit affiliated with the shrines of Najaf and Karbala (the Atabat PMF), escaped an assassination attempt. According to a source close to Yasiri, a group of unidentified gunmen spread across a farm adjacent to Yasiri’s residence in the Rumaitha district, then two of them attempted to storm the building. The assailants reportedly abandoned the attack after they met resistance from Yasiri’s associates. Yasiri, who is close to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is known for his strong criticism of Iran-backed militias, and has described their leaders as “traitors,” who serve “masters from beyond the borders.” 

On January 17, security sources in Diyala said that unidentified gunmen attacked a poultry farm in the Abbara subdistrict, northeast of Baquba, and set it on fire. The farm’s owner reported that two of his workers who were present at the time of the attack had gone missing. 

On January 18, security sources said that suspected ISIS militants attacked a group of tribal mobilization fighters in the Taji area, north of Baghdad. The attack killed two of the tribal fighters. On the following day, a force from the National Security Service conducted sweeping operations in the same area, during which they killed three ISIS militants.   

On January 18, sources in Sinjar said that Iraqi army forces in the Sinuni subdistrict arrested a “large number” of fighters from the YBS militia, which is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and confiscated their weapons. The sources added that the militia was negotiating the release of its members in exchange for agreeing to the army’s demand to withdraw from Sinuni. 

On January 19, security sources in Anbar said that an IED exploded against an Iraqi army patrol outside the Rutba district, injuring two soldiers from the army’s 5th division. Other reports said the explosion slightly injured three soldiers.

On January 19, Iraq’s official news agency reported that the Kirkuk residence of lawmaker Sahkhwan Abdullah, the second deputy speaker of Parliament, was attacked with a grenade. The attack, which occurred in the Rahim-Awa neighborhood, did not cause significant damage. 

On January 19, security sources in Basra reported that two homemade IEDs exploded in the southern city without causing casualties. The first explosion happened near the office of a private security company in the Mannawi Pasha area, while the other struck a house on Istiqlal Street in central Basra. 


UNICEF Condemns Attack On School; IDPs Need Aid Amid Heavy Snowfall; COVID-19 Cases Triple

On January 14, UNICEF issued a statement in response to the previous day’s rocket attack in Baghdad that struck a school and injured a woman and a child. In its statement, UNICEF urged “all parties to fulfil their obligation, under international law, to protect children at all times.” The statement emphasized that schools should be spared from the fallout of conflicts, reminding stakeholders that “attacks on schools and education facilities are one of the six grave violations against children” that deny children the right to learn and undermine the future of their communities. 

On January 19, Iraq’s Health Ministry said that many Iraqis who received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccines were neglecting to take their second shots, resulting in low levels of protection against infection and hospitalization. A ministry spokesman said that demand for the vaccines in general remains low, noting that fewer than 100,000 people are getting vaccinated each day, while the country has the capacity to vaccinate up to 300,000 people a day. The spokesman also pointed out that the majority of infections in Iraq continue to be caused by earlier strains of the virus, rather than the new Omicron variant.

On January 20, local officials in the Sinuni subdistrict near Sinjar urged authorities to send aid to help the residents of camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the area cope with a sudden cold and snow wave. The Sinuni subdistrict manager said IDPs were in a very difficult humanitarian condition after heavy snowfall blocked roads and cut the electricity to the area. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displacement said the ministry sent shipments of heating oil to the IDP camps in Duhok province, and food supplies to IDPs in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. But a lawmaker from Sinjar said federal authorities have failed to send any amounts of heating oil to IDPs in the Sinjar district or the Kurdistan region, accusing the government of prioritizing sending aid to the Jedaa IDP camp in Ninewa. Iraq is seeing rare heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures as a result of a cold front that meteorologists expect to last until Monday.

On January 20, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 2,137,267, an increase of 32,327 in cases from the 2,104,940 reported on January 13. Of these cases, 40,272 are currently under treatment, including 72 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent a massive increase of 28,288 in hospitalizations since January 13, but an increase of only 11 in ICU admissions. Ministry data indicated that there were 43 new COVID-19 deaths since January 13, bringing the total from 24,229 to 24,272. Total recoveries increased from 2,068,727 to 2,072,723. The average number of new cases during the last 7-day period nearly tripled, from 1,298 per day during the 7-day period ending January 13, to 4,618 per day. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 1,258 cases, Kirkuk with 1,020, Erbil with 780, Sulaymaniyah with 397, and Duhok with 387 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 17,144,299 samples for COVID-19. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 9,004,121 including 58,553 who received their shots on January 20. 


Accident Briefly Disrupts Oil Exports Through Turkey; Sinopec To Develop Iraq’s Mansouriyah Gas Field

On January 19, the Minister of Natural Resources in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said that an electrical fault caused an explosion overnight  that disrupted the flow of crude oil from the Kurdistan region to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. The minister added that the explosion affected the 40” strand of the pipeline on Turkish territory. Turkish officials said that repair crews have extinguished the fire and fixed the damage from the explosion, which they attributed to a fallen pylon. On the same day, Iraq’s Oil Ministry confirmed that oil flow through the pipeline had resumed, expecting the brief halt to have no effect on overall export volumes. 

On January 20, Iraq’s Oil Minister, Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar, signed a contract with China’s Sinopec for the development of the Mansouriyah gas field in Diyala province. In a statement, the ministry said that Iraq’s Midland Oil Co. will have a 51% stake in the project, which aims to produce 300 million cubic feet/day from Mansouriyah, Iraq’s “second largest” gas field. The field is estimated to hold 4.5 trillion cubic feet in gas reserves, according to ministry officials.  


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from January 13, 2022 - January 20, 2022

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
1/13/22 Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad00
1/14/22 Near Altun-Kupri, Kirkuk province00
1/14/22 Jurf al-Sakhr, Babylon province01
1/15/22 Jbala, Babylon province00
1/16/22 Adhamiyah, Baghdad00
1/16/22 On the highway north of Basra00
1/16/22 Saydiyah, Baghdad01
1/16/22 Fateh Square, central Baghdad02
1/16/22 Wathiq Square, central Baghdad00
1/19/22 Rutba, Anbar province02
1/19/22 Central Basra00

 

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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