ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: FEBRUARY 10 – 17, 2022

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Key Takeaways:

  • Emtidad Party Faces New Defections; KDP Presents New Presidential Candidate; Judiciary Chief Calls For Constitutional Amendments; Top Court Says KRG Oil Law Unconstitutional – On February 13, a group of 17 members of the Emtidad Movement in Babylon announced their withdrawal from the protest-supported party citing leadership’s failure to address recent resignations of some party founders. On February 14, the KDP announced that KRG Interior Minister Reber Ahmed Barzani will be its new candidate for the presidency after Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court permanently blocked Hoshyar Zebari from running for office. On February 14, the chief of Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council, Faiq Zaidan, published an article in which he urged the new Parliament to amend several articles of the constitution. Zaidan focused on articles that require a two-thirds majority in Parliament, arguing that these created deadlock and prevented the formation of key government bodies, such as the Federation Council. On February 15, Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court ruled that the Oil and Gas Law adopted by the KRG since 2007 was unconstitutional and invalid. The Court said the KRG must therefore deliver all of the oil produced from fields under its control to the federal Oil Ministry and enable the latter to “exercise its constitutional power regarding oil exploration, extraction, and export.” The KRG rejected the Court decision, calling it “unfair…violates the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan region.” In other developments, on February 13, Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court ruled that President Barham Salih shall remain in office until lawmakers elect a new president. more…
  • Military Operations Displace Hundreds From Makhoul Mountain Villages; Iraqi Forces Kill Top ISIS Militant In Anbar – On February 15, the mayor of Makhoul in Salah ad-Din said that security forces ordered evacuations from five mountainside villages while the military clears ISIS cells from the surrounding area. According to the mayor, nearly 350-400 families are now living in temporary camps near the town center. The evacuation may last up to four months. Between February 11 – 17, Iraqi security forces killed at least eight ISIS militants in airstrikes and ground operations in Diyala, Salah ad-Din, Ninewa, and Anbar. The latest of these operations killed the top ISIS militant in Anbar, Muthanna Khidhir Kamil Shatran, and one of his aides, outside the remote Rutba district. In other developments, between February 10 – 16, seven attacks with IEDs and grenades in Babylon, Diyala, Salah ad-Din, Maysan, and Kirkuk injured at least six Iraqis. Security forces also defused four more IEDs intended to target power transmission lines and military supply convoys in Salah ad-Din and Muthanna, respectively. more…
  • Remnants Of War Behind Most “Grave Violations” Affecting Children; COVID-19 Cases Continue To Decline – On February 16, the UN Security Council released a new report on the state of children and armed conflict in Iraq. The report, while points to a decrease in grave violations, says verified violations between August 2019 and June 2021 included 249 incidents in which children were killed or maimed. IEDs and explosive remnants of war were responsible for two thirds of those incidents. According to the report, ISIS was responsible for 65 of the violations, while Iraqi security forces and the PMF caused 68. On February 17, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 2,286,451, an increase of 18,697 from the 2,267,754 reported on February 10. Hospitalizations decreased from 70,253 to 52,964, and the daily average for new cases during the last 7-day period dropped to 2,671/day from 4,860/day during the 7-day period ending February 10. Total vaccinations reached 9,680,959 including 51,038 who received their shots on February 17. In other developments, on February 13, new UNHCR data shows that, despite significant returns, a total of 1,186,556 people continue to experience displacement in Iraq. These IDPs are part of the total “population of concern” that also includes more than 4.95 million returnees and nearly 300,000 refugees (mostly Syrians). Almost 90% of remaining IDPs have been displaced for three years or more and can’t go back to their home districts due to lack of housing, lack of jobs, poor security, fear, and perceived links to ISIS. more…
  • Major Energy Deal With Total Faces Financial Obstacles; Government Intervenes To Control Rising Bread Prices – On February 14, Reuters reported that a multibillion-dollar energy deal between Iraq and TotalEnergies may be at risk of cancellation. The primary obstacle facing the deal, which covers gas, solar, water processing, and an oil field development, is that the Oil Ministry failed to obtain agreements from other government agencies to secure cash flow necessary to jumpstart the projects. On February 16, Iraq’s Trade Ministry said it will begin supplying flour to bakeries at subsidized prices as soon as next week to ensure adequate supply. The government intends to impose price controls to protect consumers as the country deals with a sharp increase in bread prices. In other developments, on February 12, Iraq Oil Report said that the KRG has told oil companies operating in the Kurdistan region that pipeline transit fees for oil exported through Turkey will see a big increase soon. On February 15, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said that Iraq has gained legal access to confidential banking information that will allow it to look at bank accounts hidden in Switzerland, as part of government efforts to track and retrieve stolen funds. 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.


Emtidad Faces New Defections; KDP Presents New Presidential Candidate; Judiciary Chief Calls For Constitutional Amendments; Top Court Says KRG Oil Law Unconstitutional

On February 10, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi spoke on the phone with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. According to a statement by Kadhimi’s office, the two sides discussed Germany’s support for Iraq’s fight against ISIS, the conditions of Iraqi migrants in Europe, and Iraq’s efforts to attract German companies to do business in Iraq. The statement added that Scholz commended the steps Baghdad is taking to advance economic reforms, which create more opportunities for bilateral cooperation.   

On February 13, Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court ruled that Parliament’s decision to accept the nomination of Hoshyar Zebari for the presidency of Iraq was invalid. The ruling document says the Court found that Zebari’s nomination violated article 68 of the constitution. The ruling added that Zebari, a senior member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), was not eligible to run for the same post in the future. Last week, the Court had temporarily suspended Zebari from running for president while it mulled 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. Commenting on the news, Zebari called the Court decision “political” but said he “respected” it. On the following day, the KDP announced that Reber Ahmed Barzani, the current interior minister in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will be the party’s new candidate for the presidency. In total, there are now 60 candidates running for the presidency, and 24 of whom had presented their candidacy statements since the February 7 session, in which Parliament failed to elect a president, according to a parliamentary source. 

On February 13, Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court ruled that President Barham Salih shall remain in office until lawmakers elect a new president. The Court decision was in response to a query by Salih requesting an interpretation of Article 72 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 the vacancy resulted from Parliament failing to elect a new president.

On February 13, Iraq’s Integrity Commission reported that an anti-corruption court in Babylon province had summoned the sitting governor for questioning. According to the Commission, the governor committed deliberate violations in his role as chair of a committee managing the distribution of public land in the province.  

On February 13, a group of 17 members of the Emtidad Movement in Babylon province announced their withdrawal from the protest-supported party that won nine seats in the October 2021 parliamentary election. In a joint statement, the withdrawing members said they were disappointed by the failure of Emtidad leaders to address recent resignations of some of Emtidad’s founding members. On January 29, senior Emtidad member Ghassan Nadhum al-Shibib said that he was resigning from the party in response to Emtidad’s decision to vote in favor of Mohammed al-Halbousi becoming Speaker of Parliament. At the time, Shibib claimed that the bylaws approved by Emtidad’s founding conference were being ignored “by those who want to create a dictatorship inside the party,” without naming anyone specific. A spokesperson for Emtidad dismissed the defections in Babylon as “inconsequential” and “healthy” in a party that has “more than five thousand registered” members. The spokesperson, Manar al-Obeidi, pointed out that the defections have not affected Emtidad’s representatives in Parliament, the political bureau, nor the general secretariat. 

On February 14, the chief of Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council, Faiq Zaidan, published an article in which he urged the new Parliament to amend several articles of the constitution. In his article, Zaidan argued that the constitutional articles in urgent need of amendments are those which have prevented the formation of key government bodies (such as the Federation Council and Supreme Federal Court Law) because they require a two thirds majority in Parliament. Zaidan also called for reinterpreting the controversial article 76 of the constitution, concerning the role of the “largest bloc” in nominating the prime minister. The correct interpretation that is “closer to the logic of electoral competition” is that the largest bloc is the one that won the most seats in an election (not the one formed through post-election coalitions) in Zaidan’s opinion. 

On February 15, Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court ruled that the Oil and Gas Law adopted by the Kurdistan Regional Government since 2007 was unconstitutional and invalid. The Court said it found the law in question to be in violation of articles 110, 111, 112, 115, 121, and 130 of Iraq’s constitution. The Court said the KRG must therefore deliver all the oil produced from fields under its control to the federal Oil Ministry and enable the latter to “exercise its constitutional power regarding oil exploration, extraction, and export.” In addition, the Court ruled that oil contracts signed between the KRG and foreign companies were invalid, and required the KRG to enable the federal government to review the contracts and determine the amounts owed by the KRG to the federal government as a result. The Court decision was made by a majority of seven members, while the two remaining members dissented. The KRG rejected the Court decision in a statement issued the same day. The KRG called the decision “unfair, unconstitutional, violates the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan region, and is unacceptable.” The KRG said it would not relinquish the region’s rights, and would continue to work with the federal government to “seek a constitutional resolution,” adding that it had asked for more time to reach an agreement with the next federal government. FInally, the KRG said it would “take all constitutional and legal” measures to protect its oil and gas contracts. 

On February 16, political parties reacted to the Supreme Federal Court’s ruling against the KRG Oil and Gas Law. The Siyada Alliance of Speaker Halbousi and Khamis al-Khanjar said the timing was problematic and could complicate the country’s political deadlock, calling on the KRG and federal government to enter in direct negotiations to resolve their disputes. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Sadrist bloc said that the Supreme Federal Court’s decisions were final and binding to all parties, without elaborating or directly addressing the case against the KRG oil sector. 

On February 16, the Ministerial Council for National Security discussed the Supreme Federal Court’s ruling concerning the KRG oil sector with the federal Oil Minister. After the meeting, the Council tasked the Oil Minister with contacting the KRG and “concerned companies and countries to prepare the mechanisms and steps needed to manage this issue.” According to a government statement, the Council also authorized the Oil Minister to seek help from experts and advisers to “put together a technical roadmap and timeframe for this purpose.”


Military Operations Displace Hundreds From Makhoul Mountain Villages; Iraqi Forces Kill Top ISIS Militant In Anbar

On February 10, security sources in Babylon province said that an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near a Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) checkpoint in the Jurf al-Sakhr subdistrict. The explosion wounded two PMF fighters. 

On February 10, security sources in Salah ad-Din province said that an IED exploded targeting a convoy transporting equipment for the International Coalition near the city of Samarra. On February 13, a second IED targeted another logistics convoy in southern Salah ad-Din, and security forces found and removed two additional bombs planted to attack military convoys in Muthanna province. There were no reports of casualties in either incident. 

On February 11, security sources in Maysan said that unidentified gunmen attacked the home of a pharmacist in the city of Amara with a small IED. The explosion caused material damage only. 

On February 11, security sources said that Iraqi army helicopters killed three ISIS militants in airstrikes against ISIS positions on the border between Diyala and Salah ad-Din provinces. On the same day, an Iraqi military spokesman said that army snipers tracked and killed a militant wearing a suicide vest during armed reconnaissance operations in the Qara-Chogh mountains area in Ninewa province. Later, on February 15, the Security Media Cell reported that Iraqi F-16 jets killed two ISIS militants in an airstrike that targeted the militants’ position in the Himrin mountains, within the Salah ad-Din sector. 

On February 11, security sources in Kirkuk said that unidentified militants attacked the home of a member of the security forces with a grenade. The attack, which occurred in the Faylaq neighborhood in northern Kirkuk, caused material damage only.

On February 13, Ninewa police said that unidentified gunmen shot and killed a sheep herder near the border town of Rabiya, west of Mosul. 

On February 13, the Turkish defense ministry said that its forces killed four members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) during operations in an unspecified location in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. 

On February 14, security sources in Diyala said that an IED exploded overnight next to a coffeeshop in the Muqdadiyah district, northeast of Baquba. The attack caused material damage and there were no reports of casualties. 

On February 15, security sources in Diyala said that an IED explosion struck an Iraqi army vehicle in the Qara-Tappa subdistrict, near Khanaqin. The explosion wounded an army officer and three soldiers.

On February 15, the mayor of the Makhoul subdistrict of Salah ad-Din province said that security forces told the residents of five villages in the area to evacuate the mountainside while the military clears ISIS cells from the surrounding area. According to the mayor, nearly 350-400 families are now living in temporary camps near the town center. Security forces informed the villagers that the evacuation may last up to four months, according to the mayor. 

On February 16, the Security Media Cell reported that Iraqi security forces prevented an attempted attack on the power grid that targeted the Qayyara-Kirkuk high voltage transmission line. According to the Cell, military engineers safely removed two IEDs that were attached to pylons 51 and 52 on the aforementioned line in the Salah ad-Din sector. 

On February 17, security sources in Diyala said that unidentified gunmen attempted to kill an employee in the irrigation department in the Mansouriyah subdistrict. The targeted individual, who sustained injuries from small arms fire, was working to prevent unauthorized usage of irrigation canals when the attack occurred.   

On February 17, the Security Media Cell reported that an Iraqi airstrike killed the top ISIS militant in Anbar province, Muthanna Khidhir Kamil Shatran, and one of his aides. According to the Cell, the airstrike targeted Shatran’s vehicle in the desert outside the remote Rutba district. 


Remnants Of War Behind Most “Grave Violations” Affecting Children; COVID-19 Cases Continue To Decline

On February 13, the UNHCR released updated data on the refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) population in Iraq. The information shows that, despite significant returns, a total of 1,186,556 people continue to experience displacement in Iraq. These IDPs are part of the total “population of concern” that also includes more than 4.95 million returnees, nearly 300,000 refugees (mostly Syrians), and 47,000 people experiencing statelessness. The UNHCR warns that the IDP population is “often more vulnerable to protection risks” that include “arbitrary arrest and detention, trauma and psychological stress, threat of eviction from their homes, and lack of access to essential services.” Nearly 20% of IDPs living outside of camps suffer psycho-social distress, and only 50% say they can get safe and adequate housing. Meanwhile, almost 20% of the Syrian refugees rely on aid for food, and more than 50% struggle to get health services. Of the more than 1.18 million remaining IDPs, almost 90% have been experiencing displacement for three years or more, says UNHCR. Many cannot go back to their home districts due to their homes being destroyed, lack of jobs, poor security, fear, trauma, and perceived links to ISIS. 

On February 16, the Secretary General of the UN Security Council submitted a new report on the state of children and armed conflict in Iraq, covering the period from August 2019 through June 2021. The report points to a decrease in the number of grave violations (317 violations against 254 children) when compared with the previous reporting period, in which 2,114 grave violations were reported over a period of four years. The 317 violations verified by the country task force include 249 incidents in which children were killed or maimed. IEDs and explosive remnants of war were responsible for two thirds of those deaths and injuries, 46 and 121,  respectively. These were followed by 62 verified incidents in which children were denied humanitarian access. According to the report, ISIS was responsible for 65 of the violations, while the Iraqi formal security forces and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) caused 58 and 10, respectively. Turkish military operations resulted in eight violations, and two obscure pro-Iran militias, Companions of the Cave and the Guardians of Blood, caused one each. The provinces where most confirmed violations occurred included Kirkuk with 96 cases, Salah ad-Din and Ninewa with 52 each, and Diyala with 42 cases. The full report can be accessed here. 

On February 17, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 2,286,451, an increase of 18,697 in cases from the 2,267,754 reported on February 10. Of these cases, 52,964 are currently under treatment, including 218 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent a decrease of 17,289 in hospitalizations and 12 in ICU admissions since February 10. Ministry data indicated that there were 198 new COVID-19 deaths since February 10, bringing the total from 24,626 to 24,824. Total recoveries increased from 2,172,866 to 2,208,663. The average number of new cases during the last 7-day period dropped by almost half to 2,671 per day from 4,860 per day during the 7-day period ending February 10. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 416 cases, Erbil with 331, Duhok with 322, Basra with 233, and Wasit with 170 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 17,806,986 samples for COVID-19. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 9,680,959 including 51,038 who received their shots on February 17. 


Major Energy Deal With Total Faces Financial Obstacles; Government Intervenes To Control Rising Bread Prices

On February 12, Iraq Oil Report said that the KRG has told oil companies operating in the Kurdistan region that pipeline transit fees for crude oil produced in the Kurdistan region of Iraq (KRI) will increase soon. The expected increase will apply to the main export pipeline inside the KRI as well as the Turkish-managed export pipeline ending at the port of Ceyhan. It is unclear what the new tariff structure will be.

On February 14, Reuters reported that a major multi-billion dollar energy deal between Iraq and TotalEnergies was facing serious obstacles and may be at risk of cancellation. The deal, signed in September of 2021, involves a project to harness gas at the Ratawi, West Qurna 2, Majnoon, Tuba, and Luhais oil fields, plans to increase oil production at Ratawi from 85,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) to 210,000 bpd, build a 7.5 million bpd seawater reprocessing plant with distribution pipelines, and develop a 1,000 megawatt solar energy plant. According to Reuters, a major obstacle facing the deal is that the Oil Ministry had yet to obtain approvals from other Iraqi ministries for important financial aspects of the agreement with Total. Total was reportedly expecting to receive 40% of the revenue generated by Ratawi’s current production as an initial investment to fund the rest of the project. This cash flow, however, has not commenced yet. Another issue, according to Reuters, relates to Total’s aversion to partnering with Iraq’s National Oil Company (INOC) in the project, due to INOC lacking full government and political support at home.  

On February 15, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said that Iraq has gained legal access to previously inaccessible confidential banking information that will allow the country to look at bank accounts hidden in Switzerland. The Commission said this “breakthrough” was the result of government efforts to retrieve funds stolen from Iraq. 

On February 15, the Iraqi Pilots Association organized a protest at Baghdad International Airport against what the pilots described as corruption in the management of the national carrier, Iraqi Airways. The pilots urged the prime minister to intervene and “rescue the Airways” from allegedly corrupt procurement contracts they claimed were bankrupting the company.  

On February 16, Iraq’s Minister of Trade said that his ministry will begin supplying flour to bakeries at subsidized prices as soon as next week to ensure adequate supply and control bread prices. The minister, Ala al-Jubouri, said the government will require bakeries to sell bread “in quantities and prices different from current prices.” The price of bread has been rising in Iraq recently due to shortages in flour. The price of a 50 kilogram sack of flour reportedly increased by more than 100%, from IQD22,000 to IQD50,000.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from February 10, 2022 - February 17, 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
2/10/22 Jurf al-Sakhr, Babylon province02
2/10/22 Near Samarra, Salah ad-Din province00
2/11/22 Amara, Maysan province00
2/13/22 Salah ad-Din province00
2/14/22 Muqdadiyah, Diyala province00
2/15/22 Qara-Tappa, Diyala province04

 

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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