ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: FEBRUARY 17 – 24, 2022

ISHM LOGO

Key Takeaways:

  • Finance Minister Resists Sadr’s Power Play; Maliki Assembles New Bloc; Halbousi’s Party Pleads For Help Amid “Siege”; Top Court Says Minority Representation Is Unfair – On February 17, Deputy Speaker Hakim al-Zamili summoned Finance Minister Ali Allawi and Central Bank of Iraq governor, Mustafa Ghalib, citing “instruction” from Muqtada al-Sadr. Zamili also asked the judiciary to place a travel ban on Allawi until he complied. Allawi initially refused to attend Parliament’s meeting on February 19, saying the demand was illegal. On February 23, Parliament said Allawi agreed to attend a meeting on February 28 based on a formal request endorsed by 100 lawmakers. On February 21, members of the State of Law coalition of Nouri al-Maliki said that the coordination framework for Shia parties was forming a new parliamentary bloc, called al-Thabat al-Watani, with an “official count” of 88 lawmakers. On February 22, the Siyada coalition of Speaker Halbousi urged other political parties to help prevent further attacks on its offices and members. Siyada said it was “deeply worried…about the siege of towns by armed columns of factions that don’t answer to the commander in chief.” On February 22, Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court ruled that the election law clause concerning minorities representation is unconstitutional. The Court said the legislature must write a new law that grants the Yazidi, Shabak, and Fayli Kurdish communities equal representation to that of Christian and Mandaean Iraqis. In other developments, on February 22, a court in Nasiriyah issued an arrest warrant for lieutenant colonel Omar Nizar on charges related to the killing of protesters in Nasiriyah the November 2019. On February 22, the UN Security Council unanimously approved resolution 2621, which ends the mandate of the UN Compensation Commission in charge of collecting reparations in connection with the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. On February 24, KRG President Nechirvan Barzani signed a decree setting October 1, 2022 as the date for the region’s next parliamentary election. more…
  • New Attacks Target Politicians And Activists; Dhi-Qar Attack Kills Oil Worker, Disrupts Pipeline Work – Between February 18 – 22, the explosions of six IEDs and three remnants of war in Basra, Dhi-Qar, Anbar, Ninewa, and Babylon killed at least five Iraqis and wounded four. Two of the IEDs targeted the residence of a lawmaker from Emtidad and an office of the Taqaddum party in Dhi-Qar and Anbar, respectively. On February 19 gunmen attempted to assassinate a local activist in Nasiriyah. On the following day, unidentified assailants set the home of a local activist on fire after stealing its contents. On February 19, a gunmen reportedly affiliated with an armed militia killed an engineer working on a gas pipeline northwest of Nasiriyah, prompting the implementing company, Weatherford, to suspend its operations at the site. In other developments, on February 19, Turkey said that its forces killed 13 PKK fighters in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. On February 20, the Interior Ministry has appointed major general Khammas al-Dilfi as the new chief of intelligence and counter-terrorism in the ministry, in charge of the “Falcons Intelligence Cell.” Between February 23 – 24, Iraqi forces killed at least six ISIS militants during operations in Kirkuk and Diyala. more…
  • IDP Returns Slowed Down In 2021; Prison Time Reduced For Kurdistan Journalists; 2.5 Million People Need Help This Year – On February 20, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that a total of 120,666 individuals returned to their districts between December 2020 and December 2021. This represents a 50% drop in returns compared to the previous 12-month period. More than 600,00 returnees continue to live in what qualifies as “severe conditions.” On February 22, the defense lawyers for five journalists imprisoned on questionable charges of espionage said that KRG president Nechirvan Brazani ordered their sentences reduced by 60%. According to the lawyers, the five journalists, known as the “Badinan Five,” will be released within six months. On February 23, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that 2.5 million people will need assistance in 2022, including more than 960,000 with “acute” humanitarian needs. OCHA added that the Humanitarian Response Plan for 2022 needs $400 million to provide “life-saving and life-sustaining” assistance to nearly 1 million people. In other developments, on February 19, the chief of Salah ad-Din operations command said that 95 families that evacuated their villages in the Makhoul Mountains were to return home the following day after security forces decided to postpone planned operations in the area. On February 24, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 2,298,164, an increase of 11,713 from the 2,286,451 reported on February 17. Hospitalizations decreased from 52,964 to 39,667, and the daily average for new cases during the last 7-day period dropped to 1,673/day from 2,671/day during the 7-day period ending February 17. Total vaccinations reached 9,829,679 including 47,711 who received their shots on February 24. more…
  • KRG To Open New Border Crossing With Iran; Iraq Seeks Qatari Gas; Overflights Crossing Iraqi Airspace Nearly Double – On February 22, KRG officials met with Iranian officials to discuss opening a new border crossing that would connect Iran’s Sarbel Zahab with the Garmyan district in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. On February 23, Iraq’s Oil Minister said that he had “preliminary discussions” with his Qatari counterpart about infrastructure requirements for importing 1.5 million tons of Qatari gas (frequency unspecified). On February 23, Iraq’s state-owned Aeronautical Services Company said that international overflights crossing Iraq’s airspace had increased to 450 per day, up from 250 per day a year ago, as more airlines relaxed previous safety restrictions. In other developments, on February 24, Iraqi Airways pilots staged a strike at Baghdad International Airport, temporarily disrupting all domestic and most international flights. The striking pilots demanded better pay, separation from the Transportation Ministry, and the replacement of managers suspected of corruption. 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.


Finance Minister Resists Sadr’s Power Play; Maliki Assembles New Bloc; Halbousi’s Party Pleads For Help Amid “Siege”; Top Court Says Minority Representation Unfair

On February 17, the parliamentary leadership committee decided to summon Finance Minister Ali Allawi and Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) governor Mustafa Ghalib, according to a statement by the office of deputy speaker Hakim al-Zamili. The statement said the decision was in response to “instruction from the leader of the Sadrist Trend, Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr.” In an unusual move, Zamili, who argues that the dinar devaluation hurt low income Iraqis without benefiting the state, wrote to the Supreme Judicial Council asking for a travel ban on the Finance Minister until the latter agreed to appear before Parliament. Allawi, who refused to attend Parliament’s meeting on February 19, told Prime Minister Kadhimi that Zamili’s letter violated the law. In a letter addressed to Zamili, Allawi said he couldn’t attend on such short notice, but that he was ready to cooperate with the legislature “within the framework of the constitution and effective laws and regulation.” Meanwhile, the CBI governor attended the February 19 meeting. After the discussion, the CBI said that it had “no intention of changing the exchange rate.” Earlier, on February 17, Sadr had issued a statement in which he called on Parliament to summon Allawi and Ghalib “immediately” to address the exchange rate and rising inflation. Sadr also called for action against three particular banks that he claimed were involved in smuggling hard currency. Sadr said these three banks (al-Qabidh, al-Ansar, and al-Sharq al-Awsat) belonged to powerful parties he did not name. On February 23, Parliament said that the Finance Minister is now scheduled to attend the legislature’s meeting on February 28 “in accordance with the Parliament bylaws” and based on a “request submitted by representative Burhan al-Mamouri, endorsed by 100 representatives.”

On February 21, a member of the State of Law coalition (SoL) of Nouri al-Maliki said that the coordination framework for Shia parties (CF) would soon announce the formation of a new parliamentary bloc that would constitute the largest bloc in Parliament. Political sources claimed the new bloc would include up to 133 lawmakers from CF, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), members of the Azm coalition who broke ranks with Khamis al-Khanjar, and some independents. Another SoL member, however, said on February 23 that the new bloc, to be called al-Thabat al-Watani (national resolve) would be announced on February 28 with an “official count” of 88 lawmakers.  

On February 22, Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court ruled that the clause of the parliamentary election law concerning the representation of minority communities is unconstitutional. The Court decision obligates the legislature to write a new law that grants the Yazidi, Shabak, and Fayli Kurdish communities equal representation to that of Christian and Mandaean Iraqis. The decision argued that the legal text, which gives five of the nine minority quota seats to the Christian community, violates the principle of equal opportunity.

On February 22, the Siyada coalition of Speaker Halbousi and Khamis al-Khanjar issued a statement in which it urged other political parties to support security forces in preventing further attacks on its offices and members. Siyada said it was “deeply worried about the repeated terrorist attacks” on its offices, and about the “siege of towns by armed columns of factions that don’t answer to the commander in chief.” The statement said that recent attacks have followed “a series of threats issued by certain individuals from armed factions known to everyone.” Several bomb and rocket attacks had targeted Halbousi and his affiliates in recent weeks, including a January 25 rocket attack in Garma, two bombings on January 13 in Baghdad, and most recently, the February 18 bomb attack against a party office in Hit (see below). Earlier , on February 18, Muqtada al-Sadr had indicated that he too had received threats from “those who want us to sell the country to foreigners,” without specifying the nature or source of the alleged threats. 

On February 22, Kirkuk governor and elected lawmaker Rakan al-Jubouri announced that he would relinquish his seat in Parliament, preferring to remain in his gubernatorial position. According to the 2021 election law, the runner up in Jubouri’s electoral district will replace the Kirkuk governor in Parliament. 

On February 22, a court in Nasiriyah issued an arrest warrant for lieutenant colonel Omar Nizar al-Zubeidi on charges of using violence against protesters in the November 2019 deadly events known as the Zaytoun bridge massacre, in which dozens of unarmed protesters were killed and injured. An Interior Ministry statement said the officer was now in custody awaiting questioning by a legal committee formed to investigate the charges. The officer, who at the time commanded a battalion in the Interior Ministry’s Emergency Response Division, has been at the center of recent efforts by the campaign to end impunity in Iraq to hold individuals involved in atrocities accountable for their actions. 

On February 22, Parliament’s press office released the final list of eligible candidates who are competing to be the next president of Iraq. The list includes 33 names of individuals whose candidacy statements had been approved. A total of 26 individuals were excluded (out of 59 who submitted statements) for failing to meet various qualification requirements (22) or because they decided to withdraw from the race (4). 

On February 22, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to approve resolution 2621, which ends the mandate of the UN Compensation Commission (UNCC) in charge of collecting reparations from Iraq in connection with the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. In total, Iraq had fulfilled reparation payments worth $52.4 billion paid to 1.5 million claims approved by the UNCC. Resolution 2621 Tuesday affirms that Iraq “Iraq is no longer required to deposit a percentage of proceeds from export sales of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas into the fund,” adding that the UNCC claims process “is now complete and final and that no further claims shall be made to the commission.”

On February 24, the office of the president of the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) said that KRG President Nechirvan Barzani had signed a decree setting October 1, 2022 as the date for the region’s next parliamentary election. 


New Attacks Target Politicians And Activists; Dhi-Qar Attack Kills Oil Worker, Disrupts Pipeline Work

On February 18, security sources in Basra said that an incident involving an unexploded remnant of war (ERW) killed four people near the town of Zubeir, including a child. Two days later, another ERW detonation injured a 13 year old girl, also near Zubeir, west of Basra. Meanwhile, on February 19, a third ERW incident in Dhi-Qar province killed a 10 year old boy in the desert outside Nasiriyah. 

On February 18, security sources in Anbar said that an office of the Taqaddum party of Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi was attacked with a small improvised explosive device (IED). The attack, which occurred in the Anbar town of Hit, caused only material damage to the building. 

On February 19, security sources in Ninewa said that a legacy improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in the Ayadhiyah subdistrict, northwest of Mosul. The explosion injured three civilians. 

On February 19, security sources in Dhi-Qar province reported that an armed attack killed an engineer working on a gas pipeline project in an area northwest of Nasiriyah. After the murder, local oil officials said that the company implementing the project, American oil services comapny Weatherford, suspended its operations at the Gateeah oil field. Security forces arrested a suspect in the murder, who is reportedly a member of a militia loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr. News reports indicate the suspect had grievances concerning financial compensation for pipeline construction through farmland he owns.

On February 19, NINA reported that unidentified militants attacked the residence of a member of Parliament from Dhi-Qar province with an IED. The attack, which targeted the home of Emtidad party lawmaker Neesan al-Zayer in the town of Souk al-Shoyokh, caused material damage to the building and civilian vehicles, without reports of casualties. 

On February 19, security sources in Dhi-Qar said that Munther al-Badri, a local activist who had represented protesters demanding jobs survived an assassination attempt in Nasiriyah. On the following day, police sources in Babylon province said that unidentified assailants set the home of local Hilla activist Ali al-Marzougi on fire after stealing its contents. 

On February 19, the Turkish Defense Ministry said that its forces killed 13 members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) during operations in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Eight of the PKK fighters reportedly died in artillery shelling on the Bazian region, while another five had died in earlier operations in the Haftanin region.  

On February 20, security sources said that the Interior Ministry has appointed major general Khammas al-Dilfi as the new chief of intelligence and counter-terrorism in the ministry, in charge of the “Falcons Intelligence Cell.” Dilfi replaces the outgoing major general Haider Ghali. 

On February 22, security sources in Dhi-Qar province said that an IED explosion targeted a convoy transporting supplies for the International Coalition forces on a main highway near Nasiriyah. The explosion damaged one of the covoy’s trucks. A few hours later, a second IED exploded targeting another supply convoy on a main highway in Anbar province. Security sources in Babylon later reported that another IED targeted another supply convoy in the province. There were no reports of casualties associated with either one of the attacks. Meanwhile, security forces discovered and disposed of two further IEDs that were planted along a highway in Muthanna province to attack military supply convoys.  

On February 22, Ninewa police sources said that two mortar rounds struck the village of Haj Ali, near the Qayyara district, south of Mosul. There were no reports of casualties associated with the impacts. 

On February 23, Iraq’s Defense Ministry said that security forces in the Mandili district of Diyala clashed with two militants who were attempting to attack an army checkpoint in the area. The clashes killed one of the militants while the other escaped. 

ON February 24, an Iraqi military spokesman said that an Iraqi airstrike targeted two hideouts used by ISIS militants in the Qoshqaya area, near the district of Dibis in Kirkuk province. The airstrike killed five ISIS militants, including the so-called Emir of the Dibis sector. 


IDP Returns Slowed Down In 2021; Prison Time Reduced For Kurdistan Journalists; 2.5 Million People Need Help This Year

On February 19, the chief of Salah ad-Din operations command said that 95 families that evacuated their villages in the Makhoul Mountains were scheduled to return home the following day. The commander, major general Abdul-Mohsin Hatem, said the villagers had been allowed to return after security forces made a decision to postpone planned military operations against ISIS cells in the area. On February 15, the mayor of Makhol had said that more than 300 families had evacuated their villages on orders from security forces as the latter prepared to launch military operations in the area. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Migration confirmed that the displaced families numbered more than 300. Iraqi officials have not clarified whether the February 20 returns included all of the displaced families. 

On February 20, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) provided new data on the patterns of return among internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their home districts in 2021. The update shows that a total of 120,666 individuals (20,111 households) returned to their districts between December 2020 and December 2021. This represents a 50% drop in returns compared to the previous 12-month period. In terms of locations of most returns, the IOM data shows that Ninewa and Anbar accounted for more than two thirds of returns, while Salah ad-Din province accounted for almost a quarter of the total. The update adds that more than 600,00 returnees (12%) are living in what qualifies as “severe conditions,” while 2.43 million (just under half the total) live in “low severity” conditions and the remaining 1.9 million (39%) experiencing “medium severity” conditions. The data points to a negative trend in this regard, with the Between the percentage of returnees living in high severity areas growing by approximately 117,000 between December 2020 and December 2021.

On February 22, Rudaw reported that the defense lawyers for five journalists imprisoned on charges of undermining national security said that KRG president Nechirvan Brazani ordered their sentences reduced by 60%. According to the lawyer, the five journalists will all be released within six months. In February of 2021, a court in the Kurdistan region sentenced the journalists, Sherwan Sherwani, Ayaz Akram, Kohdar Amin, Harewan Issa, and Shevan Saed, to six years in prison on charges of “spying and organizing armed groups.” The trial of the so-called “Badinan Five,” and subsequent rejection of appeals, were met with strong condemnation from the international community.

On February 23, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published an update on the plans for the 2022 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) for Iraq. The update said the HNO estimates that 2.5 million people will need assistance in 2022. The number includes more than 960,000 who are considered to have “acute” humanitarian needs. This population includes 180,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) residing in camps, another 234,000 IDPs living outside of camps, and 577,000 former IDPs who had returned to their home districts. OCHA said that the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for 2022 needs $400 million in funding to provide “life-saving and life-sustaining humanitarian assistance” to nearly 1 million people. The OCHA update warned that serious funding gaps exist in several aid programs, and raised the alarm that “without additional resources, the food pipeline in all remaining 26 IDP camps could break as soon as March 2022.”

On February 24, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 2,298,164, an increase of 11,713 in cases from the 2,286,451 reported on February 17. Of these cases, 39,667are currently under treatment, including 174 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent a decrease of 13,297 in hospitalizations and 44 in ICU admissions since February 17. Ministry data indicated that there were 107 new COVID-19 deaths since February 17, bringing the total from 24,824 to 24,931. Total recoveries increased from 2,208,663 to 2,233,566. The average number of new cases during the last 7-day period dropped by almost half to 1,673 per day from 2,671 per day during the 7-day period ending February 17. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 291 cases, Duhok with 245, Erbil with 167, Basra with 163, and Sulaymaniyah with 140 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 17,921,881 samples for COVID-19. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 9,829,679 including 47,711 who received their shots on February 24. 


KRG To Open New Border Crossing With Iran; Iraq Seeks Qatari Gas; Overflights Crossing Iraqi Airspace Nearly Double

On February 22, officials in the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) met with Iranian officials to discuss opening a new border crossing intended primarily for commercial traffic. The planned border crossing, named Telako, would connect Iran’s Sarbel Zahab with the Garmyan district in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. KRG officials did not say when the new border crossing would officially open. 

On February 23, Iraq’s Oil Minister, Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar Ismael, said that Iraq and Qatar have had “preliminary discussions” about importing 1.5 million tons of Qatari gas (frequency unspecified). Ismael said the discussions, which involved him and his Qatari counterpart, covered setting up the required facilities to receive the imported gas, which is intended to supply Iraq’s power generation plants. Iraqi officials had first approached Qatar about possible gas imports earlier this month during a visit by Iraq’s Electricity Minister to Doha. 

On February 23, Iraq’s state-owned Aeronautical Services Company said that the number of international overflights crossing Iraq’s airspace had increased significantly in recent months as more airlines removed previous safety restrictions.  According to the company director, overflights are averaging 450 per day compared with just 250 per day a year ago. The director attributed the increase to a recent decision by the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to consider Iraq’s airspace safe for passage at altitudes of 32,000 feet and higher.  

On February 24, Iraqi Airways pilots staged a strike at Baghdad International Airport, temporarily disrupting all domestic and most international flights. The striking pilots presented a list of ten demands, which they said authorities must meet before they would end their strike. The demands focused on several issues that included separating Iraqi Airways from the Transportation Ministry and restoring its status as an independent company; replacing several heads of departments suspected of corruption; restoring the company’s exclusive rights to certain ground operations as the national carrier; revisiting sustainment and logistics contracts with companies suspected of corruption; and issuing staff overtime and lodging payments delayed since 2018. By the afternoon, company executives said the strike ended after management discussed the demands with the Transportation Minister, who agreed to some of them that concern delayed payments and replacing departmental heads. 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from February 17, 2022 - February 24, 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
2/18/22 Hit, Anbar province00
2/19/22 Ayadhiyah, Ninewa province03
2/19/22 Souk al-Shoyokh, Dhi-Qar province00
2/22/22 Dhi-Qar province00
2/22/22 Anbar province00
2/22/22 Babylon 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.


Subscribe to our weekly ISHM and have the latest developments in Iraq sent straight to your inbox every Thursday and follow EPIC on Twitter to receive updates throughout the week.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email