ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: FEBRUARY 3 – 10, 2022

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Key Takeaways:

  • Parliament Fails To Elect New President After Top Court Blocks Key Candidate – On February 7, Iraq’s Parliament failed to elect a new president for the country after the awaited session did not meet quorum requirements, with only 58 out of 329 lawmakers attending. Key parliamentary blocs, the Sadrists, KDP, Siyada coalition of Speaker Halbousi, and the coordination framework for Shia parties (CF) had declared their intention to boycott the meeting in advance. Precipitating the deadlock was the February 6 decision by the Supreme Federal Court to temporarily bar Hoshyar Zebari, the KDP candidate, from running for president, while the Court looks into a case filed by four members of Parliament who argue that Zebari doesn’t meet the constitutional criteria for the position. Specifically, the case cites a 2016 vote in Parliament to withdraw confidence from Zebari on charges of corruption. On February 8, Parliament decided to accept new candidacy statements from presidential hopefuls for a period of three days. CF lawmakers threatened to challenge the decision in court. In other developments, on February 7, Parliament approved a request to form a fact finding committee to investigate violence, forced disappearances, and other forms of repressions against protesters. more…
  • Maysan Assassinations Raise Fear Of More Violence; Iraqi Forces Bomb ISIS “Command Post” – On February 5, unidentified gunmen assassinated judge Ahmed Faysal al-Saidi, who deals with drugs-related crimes at the Masyan appellate court. The attack, and recurring deadly tribal clashes in Maysan, prompted the government to establish a new operations command for Maysan and sack the province’s National Security Service chief. A few days later, unidentified gunmen assassinated a fighter in Muqtada al-Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam militia in central Amara. The assassination is the latest in a series of killings that targeted members of Sadr’s militia and their rivals, Qais al-Khazali’s Asaib Ahl al-Haq. The incident raised fears of escalation in inter-militia violence, prompting Sadr and Khazali to send delegations to Maysan to contain the violence. On February 8, Iraqi F-16 jets bombed an “important ISIS command position” in Iraq’s western desert. The airstrike killed seven ISIS militants, including an individual believed to be in charge of transporting militants from Syria. In other developments, between February 6 – 10, the explosions of six IEDs and one grenade in Diwaniyah, Muthanna, Baghdad, Anbar, and Ninewa, killed at least four Iraqis, including a child. more…
  • The Omicron Wave Begins To Slow Down In Iraq – On February 10, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 2,267,754, an increase of 34,020 from the 2,233,725 reported on February 3. Hospitalizations decreased from 79,382 to 70,253 and the daily average for new cases during the last 7-day period dropped to 4,860/day from 7,189/day during the 7-day period ending February 3. Total vaccinations reached 9,516,754 including 53,030 who received their shots on February 10. In other developments, on February 7, the EU, UNICEF, and oil company Eni launched of a new water project in Basra, involving two facilities that would pump 400 cubic meters of clean water an hour, serving approximately 350,000 Basrawis. more…
  • Baghdad Looks To Import Natural Gas From Qatar; 5 Million Passengers Moved Through Iraqi Airports In 2021 – On February 7, Iraq’s Electricity Minister met with the Qatari Minister of Petroleum and Energy in Doha to discuss the possibility of importing natural gas from Qatar to meet Iraq’s fuel needs for power generation. The Iraqi official said gas imports could potentially begin in 18 months. On February 10, Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) reported that air travel operations in Iraq’s four international airports showed significant growth in 2021. According to ICAA statistics, 63,232 departing and arriving flights carried a total of 4,908,797 passengers in 2021, up 130% and 145% from 2020, respectively. In other developments, on February 3, Iraq Oil Report wrote that the Kurdistan Regional Government had begun building a new 52″ pipeline that would bring gas from the KRG-operated fields to the Turkish border. On February 9, Iraq’s Border Crossings Commission said it had inaugurated a new system for electronic verification of customs and tax receipts to be used at Iraq’s ports of entry. 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.


Parliament Fails To Elect New President After Top Court Blocks Key Candidate

On February 5, Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his followers in Parliament to boycott the session scheduled for the election of a new president on February 7 and to suspend negotiations with other political blocs over government formation. The order came a day after Sadr made a statement on social media in which he said that Sadrist lawmakers should not vote for the “candidate of the allied Kurdistan Democratic Party” if the candidate did not meet all criteria required in a presidential candidate. Sadr was referring to Hoshyar Zebar, whose nomination for president raised objections on the grounds that Zebari had been dismissed from previous cabinet positions over allegations of corruption. 

On February 6, Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court decided to temporarily bar Hoshyar Zebari, the candidate of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), from running in the election for the next president of Iraq. The Court’s ruling was in response to a case filed by four members of Parliament who argue that Zebari doesn’t meet the position requirements stipulated in the constitution. Specifically, the case cites that Parliament in 2016 had voted to withdraw confidence from Zebari on charges of corruption. Court documents show that the suspension of Zebari’s candidacy will continue until the Court reaches a final verdict in the case filed by the four lawmakers. In comments made on the same day, Zebari said he “respected” the Court’s order, adding that he was “confident” that the judiciary will eventually confirm that he is a qualified candidate. The KDP veteran dismissed the case filed against him as an “attempt to cling to power,” an implicit jab at his rival and incumbent Barham Salih.

On February 7, Iraq’s Parliament failed to elect a new president for the country after the awaited session did not meet quorum requirements. The legislature’s leadership committee decided to turn the session into a “discussion” after only 58 out of 329 lawmakers managed to attend. Key parliamentary blocs had declared their intention to boycott the meeting in advance. Muqtada al-Sadr had ordered his representatives to boycott the meeting on February 5. On February 6, Sadr’s allies in the Siyada coalition of Speaker Halbousi and Khamis al-Khanjar said it too wouldn’t attend the meeting “in agreement with our partners.” The KDP, Sadr’s other ally, followed suit, saying it would sit out the meeting in order to “continue the deliberations among political blocs.” By the evening of February 6, Sadr’s rivals in the coordination framework for Shia parties (CF) acknowledged that Parliament “must not convene to elect a president…before understandings are finalized.”

On February 7, a statement by Speaker Halbousi’s office said the Speaker approved a request submitted by lawmaker Sajjad Salim to form a fact finding committee to investigate violence, forced disappearances, and other forms of repressions against protesters. Salim is the spokesman for an independent parliamentary bloc called “The Popular Independent Bloc,” which was formed in November. 

On February 8, the leadership committee of Iraq’s Parliament decided to accept new candidacy statements from presidential hopefuls for a period of three days, starting February 9. A document with the order, signed by Speaker Halbousi, said the decision was made in accordance with Law no. 8 of 2012 regarding candidacy for the office of President of the Republic. A representative of the State of Law bloc, a major part of the CF, said the decision to accept new candidates was “neither legal nor constitutional…and could be appealed through the [Supreme] Federal Court.”   

On February 8, President Barham Salih sent a query to the Supreme Federal Court requesting an interpretation of Article 72. Second of the constitution. The article says that “In case the position of the President of the Republic becomes vacant for any reason, a new President shall be elected to complete the remaining period of the President’s term.” In his query, Salih pointed out that the text does not address a situation in which Parliament fails to meet its obligation to elect a new president in accordance with Article 70.

On February 8, Iraq’s Integrity Commission reported that the Central Anti-Corruption Court had issued an arrest warrant against a former minister of transportation over violations in a contract for leasing public land at the port of al-Maqal to a private company. The court also issued an arrest warrant against the former head of one of the religious endowment offices over legal violations in terminating the services of several director generals. 

On February 8, Mishan al-Jubouri, a senior member of the Siyada coalition, led by Speaker Halbousi and Khamis al-Khanjar, said that the bloc would support Mustafa al-Kadhimi win a second term in office, if the Sadrists were to nominate him for the job. 

On February 8, Iranian general Esmail Qaani met with Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf, according to Iraq’s official news agency. Political sources speaking on condition of anonymity told Shafaq News that Qaani delivered a message from Iran’s leader Ali Khamenei urging Sadr to keep the “Shia house” united and “forbidding its disintegration under any circumstances.” According to the sources, Sadr responded by affirming that he’s determined to form a majority government that excludes parts of CF, namely Nouri al-Maliki. According to a report by al-Mada, citing other informed political sources, Sadr told Qaani that Maliki had his share of power when he was prime minister for eight years, and that it was time for him to be in the opposition. 


Maysan Assassinations Raise Fear Of More Violence; Iraqi Forces Bomb ISIS “Command Post”

On February 4, the Interior Ministry said that a grenade explosion killed a child in the Nahrawan district, southeast of Baghdad. The ministry said that security tapes led to the arrest of two individuals who had placed the grenade outside the victim’s home. One of the individuals is said to be a fighter in the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). To the north, another grenade attack targeted the home of an employee in Iraq’s Integrity Commission. The attack, which occurred in Baghdad’s Karrada district, caused extensive material damage but there were no reports of casualties.  

On February 5, security sources in Maysan province said that unidentified gunmen shot and killed judge Ahmed Faysal al-Saidi, who deals with drugs-related crimes at the Masyan appellate court. According to the sources, the gunmen opened small arms fire on judge Saidi outside his home in central Amara. The attack, and recurring deadly tribal clashes in Maysan, prompted the government to reconsider security structures in the southern province. On February 7, the prime minister ordered the creation of a new operations command for Maysan, and appointed major general Mohammed al-Zubaidi as its chief. On the following day, the National Security Service dismissed the Service’s provincial chief in Maysan. Speaking from Maysan on February 9, Prime Minister Kadhimi promised to increase government support for security forces in the province as they launched a new law enforcement campaign, pledged to personally oversee the security situation, and promised that Saidi’s killers would be captured and prosecuted.    

On February 5, Ninewa police said that an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near a vehicle belonging to North Oil Company seismic surveyors. The explosion, which occurred near the Aqrab checkpoint south of Mosul, damaged the vehicle without causing casualties.  

On February 6, security sources in Diyala said that ISIS militants attacked a police checkpoint near the Abbara subdistrict, northeast of Baquba. The militants then ambushed police reinforcements that were on their way to assist the checkpoint. The initial attack and ambush left one policeman killed and four injured, including the Abbara police chief. 

On February 6, security sources in Diwaniyah said that an IED exploded targeting a convoy transporting equipment for the International Coalition that was traveling along a main highway through the province. On February 10, a second IED targeted another logistics convoy in Muthanna province, and security forces found and removed two additional bombs planted to attack military convoys in Diwaniyah. There were no reports of casualties in either attack. 

On February 7, security sources in Basra said that a small IED exploded near a private business (a communications company) in the Abu al-Khasib district, south of Basra City. The explosion left material damage but there were no reports of casualties. 

On February 7, security sources in Najaf said that unidentified gunmen fired a rocket propelled grenade at a popular event space in the town of Kufa. The late night attack caused extensive damage to the venue, which reportedly often hosts gatherings for “Tishreen” protesters. There were no reports of casualties. 

On February 7, local sources in Ninewa said that a legacy IED exploded in the Qandila region near Sinjar, injuring a 16 year old boy who was herding sheep in the area. 

On February 8, security sources in Anbar said that an IED explosion struck an Iraqi army vehicle that was escorting Kuwaiti hunters in the desert outside the Rawa district. The explosion killed at least three soldiers, according to the mayor of Rawa. The area where the incident happened contains unexploded remnants of war, according to the unnamed security source. 

On February 8, the Security Media Cell reported that Iraqi F-16 jets conducted an airstrike against an “important ISIS command position” in an unspecified location between the Salah ad-Din, Jazira, and West Ninewa operation commands areas of responsibility. The airstrike destroyed the tunnel-housed position and killed seven ISIS militants, including an individual described to be in charge of transporting and housing militants from Syria.  

On February 9, security Sources in Maysan said that unidentified gunmen assassinated a fighter in Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia, Saraya al-Salam, in central Amara. The assassination is the latest in a series of killings that targeted members of Sadr’s militia and their rivals, Asaib Ahl al-Haq. The incident raised fears of the possibility of uncontrolled escalation in inter-militia violence in Maysan, prompting Sadr and Asaib leader Qais al-Khazali to send delegations to Maysan to contain the violence, and Hadi al-Amiri to call on both sides to show restraint.  

On February 10, security sources in Diyala said that Iraqi army troops supported by army helicopters killed four ISIS militants that were part of a group that was approaching army positions near the Udheim dam. 


The Omicron Wave Begins To Slow Down In Iraq

On February 7, the EU, UNICEF, and oil company Eni, announced the launch of a new water quality improvement project in Basra. The project is expected to serve approximately 350,000 Basrawis. The project involves installing new water treatment infrastructure at the watersheds of al-Baradiya and al-Jiha, each capable of producing 400 cubic meters of clean water an hour. The works are estimated to cost more than $7 million and take three years to complete.

On February 10, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 2,267,754, an increase of 34,020 in cases from the 2,233,725 reported on February 3. Of these cases, 70,253 are currently under treatment, including 230 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent a decrease of 9,129 in hospitalizations but an increase of 54 in ICU admissions since February 3. Ministry data indicated that there were 171 new COVID-19 deaths since February 3, bringing the total from 24,455 to 24,626. Total recoveries increased from 2,129,888 to 2,172,866. The average number of new cases during the last 7-day period dropped to 4,860 per day from 7,189 per day during the 7-day period ending February 3. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 994 cases, Basra with 451, Erbil with 429, Duhok with 413, and Wasit with 412 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 17,670,573 samples for COVID-19. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 9,516,754 including 53,030 who received their shots on February 10. 


Baghdad Looks To Import Natural Gas From Qatar; 5 Million Passengers Moved Through Iraqi Airports In 2021

On February 3, Iraq Oil Report wrote that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had begun building a new natural gas pipeline that would bring gas from the KRG-operated fields to the Turkish border. The local KAR Group is reportedly building the new 52” pipeline. 

On February 3, a spokesman for Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said that Kuwaiti Airways has resumed flights to Iraq after a weeklong suspension due to rising security concerns following the January 28 rocket attack on Baghdad International Airport. 

On February 7, Iraq’s Electricity Minister met with the Qatari Minister of Petroleum and Energy in Doha to discuss the possibility of importing natural gas from Qatar to meet Iraq’s fuel needs for power generation. A statement by Iraq’s Electricity Ministry said the two officials discussed the logistical requirements for transporting the gas to Iraq from Qatari ports, adding that providing these requirements necessitates the combined efforts of the Oil, Transportation, and Finance ministries, without providing further details. In later remarks on February 9, the Electricity Minister said gas imports from Qatar could begin in as soon as 18 months. 

On February 9, Iraq’s Border Crossings Commission said it had inaugurated a new system for electronic verification of customs and tax receipts to be used at Iraq’s ports of entry. The new system will first enter service at the Munthiriyah border crossing, between Iraq and Iran in Diyala province. The new system will contribute to “preventing fraud and manipulation” of receipts and descriptions of goods moving through Iraq’s borders, according to a statement by the Commission. 

On February 10, Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) reported that air travel operations in Iraq’s four international airports showed significant recovery in 2021 compared to the previous year. According to ICAA statistics, 63,232 departing and arriving flights carried a total of 4,908,797 passengers in 2021, up 130% and 145% from 2020, respectively. Baghdad International Airport had the most activity, with 26,106 flights and 2,069,723 passengers, followed by Erbil International Airport with 17,160 flights and 1,324,754 passengers. Basra International Airport came third, with 5,420 flights and 351,130 passengers, followed by Sulaymaniyah International Airport with 5,352 flights and 277,916 passengers. 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from February 3, 2022 - February 10, 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
2/5/22 South of Mosul00
2/6/22 Diwaniyah province00
2/7/22 Abu al-Khasib, Basra province00
2/7/22 Near Sinjar, Ninewa province01
2/8/22 Near Rawa, Anbar province30
2/10/22 Muthanna 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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