ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: JANUARY 20 – 27, 2022

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Key Takeaways:

  • PUK/KDP Rift Over Presidency Widens; Shia Parties Accuse Sadr Of Shattering Shia Unity; Lawmakers To Elect New President On February 7 – On January 24, after the PUK insisted on nominating Barham Salih for president, its KDP rival accused the PUK of “breaking” Kurdish unity and said it did not have a monopoly on the position. In response, the PUK said the KDP negotiated in bad faith and made unilateral deals. On January 24, Falih al-Fayyadh, a senior figure in the coordination framework for Shia parties (CF), implicitly accused Muqtada al-Sadr of being part a “conspiracy to tear apart the Shia house,” warning that this would “contribute to Iraq’s breakup.” On January 25, Sadr defended his plans for a majority government, blaming his CF rivals for post-election deadlock, and explicitly expressing his objection to including Nouri al-Maliki in the next government. On the same day, anonymous political sources said that Esmail Qaani made an unannounced visit to convince CF leaders to join Sadr in a majority government. On January 25, Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court ruled that Parliament’s first session on January 9, was “constitutional” and that the speaker election was “proper.” The verdict closed a case filed by two independent lawmakers, in which they argued that the session violated the constitution. On January 27, the parliamentary leadership committee announced that Parliament will meet on February 7 to elect a new president for Iraq. In other developments, on January 25, Khamis al-Khanjar said he was forming a new political coalition called Siyada (Sovereignty) after he was recently ousted from the Azm party leadership. more…
  • Deadly ISIS Attack Kills 11 Iraqi Soldiers; Rockets Target Halbousi’s Residence In Anbar – On January 21, suspected ISIS militants killed 11 Iraqi soldiers in an attack on a small outpost in Diyala. Iraqi officials blamed poor weather and weak command for the attackers’ ability to overrun the outpost. The incident caused public outrage as footage circulating on social media appeared to show that the outpost was unfortified and vulnerable to attack. On January 25, three Katyusha-type rockets targeted the Anbar district of Garma, the hometown of Speaker Halbousi. The rockets struck a residential area close to Halbousi’s residence, injuring three civilians. After the attack, a video circulated on social media showing a group claiming to be Sunni militants, in which they threatened Halbousi over what they called his attempts to normalize relations with Israel. In other developments, on January 21, Turkish warplanes attacked a YBS militia vehicle near Sinjar, killing a militia member and wounding three. Between January 23 – 26, the explosions of five IEDs in Diwaniyah, Babylon, Kirkuk, and Diyala killed at least three members of the Iraqi security forces and wounded eight. Between January 22 – 26, Iraqi security forces killed at least 15 ISIS militants in airstrikes and ground operations in Kirkuk, Salah ad-Din, Diyala, and Tarmiyah. more…
  • KRG Reopens Border With Syria; Environment Ministry Splits From The Health Ministry; Omicron Spreads Through Iraq – On January 23, officials at the Faysh-Khabur border crossing between the Kurdistan region and northeast Syria said the border crossing has reopened to commercial and passenger traffic after being closed for more than a month in an attempt to stem the flow of refugees. On January 23, Iraq’s Council of Ministers issued instructions to complete the procedures required to establish the Ministry of Environment as a separate entity from the Ministry of Health. On January 27, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 2,183,402, an increase of 46,135 from the 2,137,267 reported on January 20. According to the Ministry, infections with the Omicron variant now represent more than a third of all cases. Hospitalizations increased sharply from 40,272 to 68,257, and the daily average for new cases during the last 7-day period reached 6,590/day, up from 4,618/day during the 7-day period ending January 20. Total vaccinations reached 9,195,483, including 48,543 who received their shots on January 27. This week, the Ministry authorized booster doses for everyone 18 years and older. more…
  • Iranian Gas Shortage Exacerbates Iraq Power Outages; Iraq And Halliburton Explore Akkaz Development Deal; Baghdad And Riyadh Sign Grid Connection MoU – On January 22, Iraq’s Electricity Ministry said that the grid lost nearly 7,600 megawatts of power due to a sharp drop in power and gas supplies from Iran. In response, the Iraqi government will increase diesel rations to private generators and use fuel oil as substitute feedstock for affected powerplants. On January 23, the director of licensing in Iraq’s Oil Ministry said the Ministry was negotiating with Halliburton for the development of the Akkaz gas field in Anbar, seeking to produce 400-500 million cubic feet per day of gas. On January 25, Iraq and Saudi Arabia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) regarding establishing a power grid connection and supplying Iraq with electricity. The MoU has five objectives that include supporting grid reliability in both countries and creating a regional market for electricity. In other developments, on January 22, the companies developing the Fayha oil field (Block 9) began construction on a 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) crude oil processing facility. 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.


Kurdish Rift Over Presidency Widens; Shia Parties Accuse Sadr Of Shattering Shia Unity; Lawmakers To Elect New President On February 7

On January 21, the Iraqi prime minister and the prime minister of the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) spoke on the phone in the aftermath of a deadly ISIS attack in Diyala, which killed 11 Iraqi soldiers. The KRG and federal premiers discussed efforts to enhance security cooperation between their respective security forces in the areas where ISIS has been active. 

On January 23, a senior member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said the party’s leadership council “insists on nominating” Barham Salih for President of Iraq, adding that the PUK considers the position to be an “entitlement on which there will be no compromise.” The PUK leadership council member, Abu Zaid Salih, said the party reached this position after its leadership council held a meeting to discuss the state of government formation talks. In response to the statement, the spokesman of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) argued on January 24 that the presidency “is not anyone’s property.” The spokesman called the PUK statement “unfair.” The KDP official added that the PUK acted on its own when it did not vote for the new speaker and his deputies on January 9, calling the decision “a breaking of [Kurdish] unity.” The PUK fired back on the same day with a statement in which it accused the KDP of negotiating in bad faith and “making deals with other parties without our knowledge.” The PUK official said the party’s decision to sit out the legislature’s January 9 session was related to disputes over Kirkuk and “had nothing to do” with the election of the new speaker and deputies. 

On January 24, Falih al-Fayyadh, leader of the Aqd al-Watani party and senior figure in the coordination framework for Shia parties (CF) accused unnamed parties of orchestrating a “conspiracy to tear apart the Shia house.” Fayyadh warned against “unconstructive alignments that intentional or not may lead to tear apart the Shia front,” stressing that anyone who “tries to or thinks about weakening the Shia community would be contributing to Iraq’s breakup.”

On January 24, medical sources in Dhi-Qar province said that a protester was injured with live bullets fired by security forces. The security force clashed with demonstrators in Nasiriyah, the provincial capital, after the latter had blocked roads in support of a fellow protester who had been demanding government support for medical care abroad for injuries sustained during previous protests. 

On January 25, Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court ruled that the Iraqi Parliament’s first session, in which lawmakers elected a new speaker and two deputies on January 9, was “constitutional” and that the election proceedings were “proper.” The verdict was in response to a case filed on January 11 by two independent lawmakers, in which they argued that Parliament’s first session violated the constitution and the legislature’s own bylaws. Meanwhile, two lawmakers from the coordination framework for Shia parties (CF) filed another case with the Court in which they asked the Court to determine which parliamentary coalition represents the largest bloc in Parliament. According to news reports, the Supreme Federal Court will look into this second case, filed by lawmakers Atwan al-Atwani and Alya Nseif, on February 1.  

On January 25, Muqtada al-Sadr made a televised statement in which he sought to defend his plans calling for a majority government and blamed his rivals in the coordination framework for Shia parties (CF) for post-election tensions and political deadlock. Sadr said his rivals were hypocritical for accusing him of weakening the Shia community when they themselves had previously called for a majority government when they had the numbers. Sadr insisted that the purpose of a majority is to address corruption, making the case that this requires excluding parties that are involved in corruption. Sadr explicitly expressed his objection to including Nouri al-Maliki in the next government, saying that he informed CF leaders, namely Hadi and Falh al-Fayyadh, of this condition during a recent meeting. According to Sadr, the CF leaders initially agreed before reversing course, adding that he’s still waiting for a final answer. Sadr went on to defend his plans for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), saying that he’s in favor of reorganizing the PMF and restoring its reputation by removing “corrupt and undisciplined” groups, and was not seeking to dismantle the force. 

On January 25, Shafaq News reported, citing anonymous political sources, that Iranian general Esmail Qaani arrived in Iraq on an unannounced trip to convince the CF leaders to join Sadr in forming a majority government. According to these sources, Qaani urged the CF leaders to accept Sadr’s condition regarding excluding Nouri al-Maliki from negotiations in order to preserve the unity of the “Shia house.” The sources claimed that Qaani hinted at offering Maliki some guarantees against prosecution on corruption charges, and proposed selecting a scapegoat that can be sacrificed to satisfy public demands for accountability.

On January 25, politician Khamis al-Khanjar, who briefly headed the alliance between the Azm and Taqaddum parties, announced that he was forming a new political coalition called Siyada (Sovereignty). Khanjar, who led the Azm party (14 seats) into the October 10 election, was recently ousted from Azm’s leadership by an internal party decision that was approved by the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) on January 9. 

On January 25, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani arrived in the UAE on an official visit whose schedule includes meetings with Mohammed Bin Zayid, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and other sentient Emirati officials. 

On January 27, the parliamentary leadership committee, comprising Speaker Halbousi and his two deputies, announced that the legislature will hold a special session on February 7 to elect a new president for Iraq. The statement added that the list of final candidates will be announced on January 31.


Deadly ISIS Attack Kills 11 Iraqi Soldiers; Rockets Target Halbousi’s Residence In Anbar

On January 21, the Diyala Operations Command reported that suspected ISIS militants killed 11 Iraqi army personnel (ten soldiers and one lieutenant) in an attack in the Udheim subdistrict of Diyala. Security sources indicated that a group of about a dozen ISIS militants carried out the early morning attack, which targeted a small outpost manned by a company from the army’s 1st division, taking advantage of the cold weather and lack of sentries at the outpost. A senior Iraqi military spokesman described the incident as “infiltration, not assault” by only six ISIS militants, and blamed poor preparedness for the attackers’ ability to overrun the outpost and inflict heavy casualties. The spokesman singled out the battalion and brigade commanders as responsible for failing to prevent the attack, adding that these and other officers will face a trial. The spokesman and the governor of Diyala both claimed that the outpost was fortified, but footage widely circulating on social media appeared to show only a rudimentary earthen berm and simple, exposed structures that appear to offer little protection. 

On January 21, security sources in Ninewa said that Turkish warplanes struck a vehicle belonging to the YBS militia, which is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Bab Shalo area, west of Sinjar. Local sources said the airstrike killed a senior commander in the militia and wounded three of his colleagues.  

On January 22, the Security Media Cell reported that an Iraqi airstrike, based on intelligence provided by the Interior Ministry’s intelligence agency, killed three ISIS members in the Jazira region between Baiji and Hawijah. The Cell added that two of the slain militants were senior figures in the ISIS cell operating in the area. Later, on January 24, a senior Iraqi military spokesman said that Iraqi F-16 jets struck a group of four ISIS militants east of the Makhoul Mountains in Salah ad-Din province, killing all of them. On the same day, the Cell said a series of Iraqi airstrikes, based on intelligence from the National Security Service, killed six additional ISIS militants in the Tarmiyah area, north of Baghdad.

On January 23, security sources in Diwaniyah said that an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded targeting a convoy transporting equipment for the International Coalition that was traveling along a main highway through the province. Hours later, a second IED targeted another supply convoy in Babylon province. Neither attack resulted in casualties. 

On January 23, security sources in Ninewa said that unidentified gunmen shot and killed a civilian in the Qahtaniyah subdistrict near Sinjar. To the southeast, in the Wajihiyah subdistrict of Diyala, unidentified gunmen opened fire from a moving vehicle at four civilians, killing two of them. 

On January 24, police sources in Kirkuk reported that an IED explosion struck an Iraqi army reconnaissance unit that was on patrol in the Wadi Shay region, south of Kirkuk City. The explosion killed three soldiers and wounded a fourth. Other sources said the explosion left four fatalities. On the following day, another IED explosion injured three federal police personnel and one Intelligence Service officer when it struck their vehicle in the Wadi Zghaytoun region in southern Kirkuk.

On January 25, the Security Media Cell reported that three Katyusha-type rockets targeted the Anbar district of Garma, the hometown of Speaker Halbousi. The rockets were fired from an area near the Tigris river and struck a residential area in central Garma, 500 meters from the Anbar residence of Halbousi, injuring three civilians. Security forces later recovered five additional rockets near the launch site that were also prepared to target Garma. After the attack, a video circulated on social media showing a group claiming to be Sunni militants, in which they threatened Halbousi over what they called his attempts to normalize relations with Israel. 

On January 26, security sources in Diyala said that Iraqi security forces killed two ISIS militants during clashes in the Hawi al-Udheim region between Diyala and Salah ad-Din. On the same day, an IED explosion in the same area injured an army officer and two soldiers when it struck their dismounted patrol.  


KRG Reopens Border With Syria; Environment Ministry Splits From The Health Ministry; Omicron Spreads Through Iraq

On January 23, officials at the Faysh-Khabur border crossing between the Kurdistan region and northeast Syria said the border crossing has reopened to commercial and passenger traffic after being shut down for more than a month. Authorities in the Kurdistan region of Iraq had decided to close the border crossing in December in an attempt to stem the flow of refugees and PKK supporters into the region. 

On January 23, the general secretariat of Iraq’s council of ministers issued instructions to complete the procedures required to establish the Ministry of Environment as a separate entity from the Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Environment was a separate ministry until 2015, when it was merged into the Ministry of Health on orders from then prime minister Haider al-Abadi. Speaking at a forum on renewable energy, acting Minister of Environment Jasim al-Falahi said the current government has a vision to develop a “green and sustainable economy” to diversify the economy and develop “nature-based solutions,” acknowledging that Iraq is “one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change” and suffers from “lack of food and water security.”

On January 24, Iraq’s Ministry of Health authorized booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to everyone 18 years and older. The Ministry also reported that infections with the Omicron variant were now making up more than a third of all COVID-19 cases in the country. In November, Iraq had approved a third (booster) dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for high-risk individuals only.

On January 27, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 2,183,402, an increase of 46,135 in cases from the 2,137,267 reported on January 20. Of these cases, 68,257 are currently under treatment, including 120 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent a massive increase of 27,985 in hospitalizations and 48 in ICU admissions since January 20. Ministry data indicated that there were 58 new COVID-19 deaths since January 20, bringing the total from 24,272 to 24,330. Total recoveries increased from 2,072,723 to 2,090,815. The average number of new cases during the last 7-day period increased sharply to 6,590 per day from 4,618 per day during the 7-day period ending January 20. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 2,439 cases, Basra with 945, Erbil with 836, and Wasit with 577 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 17,324,974 samples for COVID-19. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 9,195,483 including 48,543 who received their shots on January 27. 


Iranian Gas Shortage Exacerbates Iraq Power Outages; Iraq And Halliburton Explore Akkaz Development Deal; Baghdad And Riyadh Sign Grid Connection MoU

On January 22, Iraq’s Oil Minister and head of the National Oil Company (INOC) said the companies developing the Fayha oil field (also called Block 9) have begun construction on a 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) crude processing facility. The future facility would also support the production of 135 million cubic feet per day of natural gas from the field, which lies east of Basra and on the border with Iran. Iraq had awarded the contract to develop the field to Kuwait Energy back in 2014. The company was later joined by UEG of China, according to the Oil Ministry statement. 

On January 22, Iraq’s Electricity Ministry said that the grid has lost nearly 7,600 megawatts of power due to a sharp drop in power and gas supplies from Iran. According to the ministry, gas supplies dropped from 50 million cubic meters per day to just 8.5 million cubic meters per day, while Iran also cut 1,100 megawatts in power supplies. On the following day, the Iraqi government took a number of measures to mitigate the power shortages that have recently been exacerbated by cold weather. The measures include increasing diesel rations provided to private generators in areas experiencing the worst outages, supplying additional amounts of heating oil, and providing liquid fuel oil as substitute feedstock to power plants that rely on gas from Iran. 

On January 23, the director of licensing in Iraq’s Oil Ministry said the Ministry was negotiating with American oil services giant Halliburton for the development of the Akkaz gas field in Anbar province. The director, Ali Maarij, said the Ministry seeks to produce 400-500 million cubic feet per day of gas from the project. Last November, Iraqi oil officials were reportedly exploring plans to commence development works at the Akkaz gas field relying on domestic efforts. A ministry statement at the time described the plans as “a first step towards boosting gas supplies, and to prepare to attract international investments.” The initial efforts to develop Akkaz, which began in 2011 under a contract with Korea’s Kogas, were halted in 2013 due to the conflict with ISIS.  

On January 23, a spokesman for Iraq’s Oil Ministry clarified that the agreement Iraq signed with Sinopec on January 20 regarding the development of the Mansouriyah gas field in Diyala would come into effect after the next Council of Ministers ratifies the deal. 

On January 25, the Saudi Energy Ministry announced that Iraq and Saudi Arabia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) regarding establishing a power grid connection and supplying Iraq with electricity. According to the Saudi Energy Ministry, the MoU is based on five objectives: to support grid reliability in both countries; to generate revenue from sharing surplus generation; to achieve the ideal mix of fuel sources for power generation; to enhance grids capacity to absorb renewable energy; and finally, to create a regional market for electricity. Iraq’s Minister of Electricity, Adil Kareem, said after signing the MoU that he expects the grid connection to be completed within two years. Neither side explained how the MoU relates to recent bilateral negotiations concerning a grid connection deal between Iraq and the Gulf Cooperation Council that was initially announced in 2019. 

On January 25, Iraq’s Planning Ministry reported that inflation during the month of December 2021 increased by 0.3% compared to November of the same year. The Ministry noted that inflation levels in December were up 5.3% when compared with the same month in 2020. The Ministry says it bases its estimates on changes in the prices of 333 different goods and services representing 88% of average family spending. 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from January 20, 2022 - January 27, 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
1/23/22 Diwaniyah00
1/24/22 Babylon00
1/24/22 Wadi Shay, Kirkuk province31
1/25/22 Wadi Zghaytoun, Kirkuk province04
1/26/22 Hawi al-Udheim, Diyala03

 

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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