ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: MARCH 10 – 17, 2022

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Key Takeaways:

  • Baghdad And Erbil Condemn Iranian Missile Attack While Militias Applaud It; Parliament To Meet On March 26 To Elect A New President – On March 13, the Iraqi government called the Sunday Iranian missile attack on Erbil an “aggression…and a violation of international laws and norms,” and demanded “clear and frank explanations” from Iran. Iraq’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador to protest the attack, while the KRG called the attack “cowardly,” insisting that Iran’s missiles struck civilian sites. President Barham Salih called the attack a “terrorist crime,” adding that the timing was “suspicious,” and appears aimed at obstructing the process of government formation. Meanwhile, three Iraqi militia groups backed by Iran (Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl anl-Haw, and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba) commended the Iranian missile strike, calling it a justified response to the KRG’s alleged decision to host Israeli intelligence agents. On March 14, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq claimed that the missile attack was targeting “Zionists and their spying centers,” and was not meant to violate Iraqi sovereignty, arguing that its purpose was to avenge attacks on Iranians originating from Iraqi territory. On March 16, Speaker Halbousi announced that the legislature would convene on March 26 to elect a new president for the country from among 40 candidates who met the eligibility criteria. more…
  • Iran Attacks Erbil With Ballistic Missiles; IEDs And Remnants Of War Claim Six Lives – On March 13, a dozen Fateh-110 ballistic missiles struck Erbil after 1 AM local time. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran claimed responsibility for the attack, which it said targeted an alleged Israeli intelligence facility to avenge the killing of Iranians by an Israeli airstrike that allegedly originated from Iraqi territory. The missiles struck a residential villa owned an influential Kurdish businessman and the offices of a media network affiliated with the KRG prime minister without causing casualties. Between March 10 – 15, the explosions of eight IEDs and four remnants of war killed six Iraqis and wounded at least six more. Remnants of war in Ninewa, Dhi-Qar, and Basra caused five of the fatalities. Half of the IEDs during this reporting period targeted military supply convoys in southern Iraq. In other developments, on March 10, Reuters reported that ISIS has selected a man named Abu al-Hassan al-Hashemi al-Quraishi as its new leader after its former chief was killed in Syria last month. Between March 10 – 13, attacks by ISIS militants in Ninewa and Diyala killed two Iraqi soldiers and wounded a third, while Iraqi security forces killed five ISIS militants in Kirkuk. On March 16, the police in Sinjar declared a nighttime curfew in the district. more…
  • COVID-19 Spread Continues To Slow Down – On March 17, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 2,315,134, an increase of 3,896 from the 2,311,238 reported on March 10. Hospitalizations decreased from 24,026 to 19,206, and the daily average for new cases during the last 7-day period dropped to 557/day from 735/day during the 7-day period ending March 10. Total vaccinations reached 10,201,271 including 38,986 who received their shots on March 17. In other developments, on March 15, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) inaugurated a new facility with the capacity to physical rehabilitation care to 6,000 people with disabilities each year, making it the largest of its kind in Iraq. The facility will benefit residents of the Kurdistan region, Ninewa, Kirkuk, Diyala, as well as refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). more…
  • Major Oil Field Resumes Production; New Deal To Import Electricity From Iran; Local Products Protections Suspended; Fuel Shortages Hit Several Provinces – On March 11, Russian oil company Lukoil said that production resumed at the West Qurna-2 oil field in Basra, after a pause for maintenance and upgrades. On March 15, the Iraqi government approved a new deal to import electricity from Iran. The 5-year agreement is based on a supply rate of at least 1,000 megawatts at a price of $0.034 per kilowatt hour. On March 15, the Iraqi government suspended all prior decisions made to protect domestic products for a period of three months to allow more imports and address food shortages. On March 17, news reports said that several provinces were seeing gasoline shortages, as rising prices in the Kurdistan region spilled over into adjacent provinces, with Ninew and Kirkuk being the most affected. In other developments, on March 15, the federal government decided to send a new payment of IQD200 billion to aid the KRG in paying its civil servants. 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.


Baghdad And Erbil Condemn Iranian Missile Attack While Militias Applaud It; Parliament To Meet On March 26 To Elect A New President

On March 13, the Ministerial Council for National Security issued a statement regarding the missile attack that targeted Erbil from Iranian territory earlier that day, calling it an “aggression…and a violation of international laws and norms.” The Council added that Baghdad has demanded “clear and frank explanations from the Iranian side.” A subsequent government statement said that Prime Minister Kadhimi received a phone call from the U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, who expressed Washington’s solidarity with Baghdad. According to the statement, Kadhimi emphasized that Iraq must not become a “battlefield for settling foreign scores.” On the following day, Kadhimi traveled to Erbil, where he visited the site of the attack and had talks with senior political leaders in the Kurdistan region, including the regional president and prime minister, and the leader of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Meanwhile, Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had summoned Iran’s ambassador to Iraq to protest the “flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty and territory.”

On March 13, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) issued a statement condemning the “cowardly” missile attack on Erbil, insisting that the missiles struck civilian sites. The KRG warned that “Iran has repeatedly carried out these attacks,” and that the absence of a strong response from the international community “paves the road for [the attacks] to continue.”

On March 13, Iraqi President Barham Salih condemned the missile attack on Erbil, describing at as a “terrorist crime.” Salih said the timing of the missile strike was “suspicious,” adding that it appears aimed at obstructing the constitutional process of government formation. Meanwhile, Muqtada al-Sadr condemned the attack and urged the Iraqi government to send letters to the UN and Iran’s ambassador to register Iraq’s protest and demand guarantees against future attacks. Sadr also called for an investigation of alleged Israeli intelligence presence in Erbil “so this cannot be used to justify destabilizing Iraq’s security.”

On March 13, three Iraqi militia groups backed by Iran issued statements commending and justifying the Iranian ballistic missile attack on Erbil. Kataib Hezbollah said the attack killed several Mossad officers and was a retaliation for “Zionist drone strikes against Iran from Iraqi territory.” Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba asserted that the Iranian missiles targeted “Zionists hideouts,” and called for an investigation of “Mossad presence in Kurdistan.” The group added in its lengthy statement that the “Barzani family’s hosting of Zionist Mossad…gives any party the right to target them and end their illegal presence.” The group threatened that these alleged Israeli intelligence sites “and American and Turkish occupation positions remain legitimate targets of the resistance.” Meanwhile, a spokesman for Asaib Ahl al-Haq tweeted that “anyone who doesn’t like strikes on Zionists centers anywhere in the world can bang their head against the nearest wall.”

On March 14, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjidi, claimed that the March 13 missile attack on Erbil was targeting “Zionists and their spying centers,” and was not meant to violate Iraqi sovereignty. Masjidi compared the latest attack to the January 7, 2020 ballistic missile attack on the Assad air base in Anbar, arguing that both were meant to avenge attacks on Iranians originating from Iraqi territory. 

On March 14, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court (SFC) decided to postpone hearings in a case concerning the 2020 government decision to devalue the dinar until April 4. The case filed before the SFC seeks to compel the government to revert to the exchange rate that existed prior to the devaluation (approximately IQD1,120: $1). News reports did not clarify who filed the case, but the exchange rate has been a point of contention between the Finance Minister and lawmakers affiliated with Muqtada al-Sadr. On the following day, the SFC declined an appeal of its March 2 decision to revoke the Council of Ministers order number 29 of 2020, which established a permanent committee charged with investigating corruption and other major crimes. According to Shafaq News, the SFC declined the appeal because the plaintiffs who filed the appeal failed to appear before the Court. 

On March 16, Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi announced that the legislature would convene again on March 26 to elect a new president for the country from among 40 candidates who met the eligibility criteria. After the announcement, the head of the Fatah bloc in Parliament said that the coordination framework for Shia parties would not attend the March 26 session without first reaching an agreement on government formation with the trilateral alliance of Muqtada al-Sadr, Mohammed al-Halbousi, and the KDP.

On March 16, the United States mission to the UN called for a meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss and condemn the March 13 Iranian missile strikes in Erbil. The mission called the attack “reckless and unprovoked,” and urged the members of the Security Council to “hold Iran accountable and support Iraq’s democracy and sovereignty.” 

On March 17, KRG Interior Minister and presidential candidate, Reber Ahmed Barzani, attended a meeting of the federal Parliament about the March 13 Iranian missile strike on Erbil. After the meeting, Barzani told a press conference that he called for a multilateral investigation of the attack and of the allegations of Israeli presence at the site, adding that Iran was welcome to participate in that investigation.  


Iran Attacks Erbil With Ballistic Missiles; IEDs And Remnants Of War Claim Six Lives

On March 10, Reuters reported that ISIS has selected a man named Abu al-Hassan al-Hashemi al-Quraishi as its new leader after its former chief was killed during a U.S. operation in Syria last month.

On March 10, the Security Media Cell reported that a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) exploded against a vehicle that was transporting the head of the Salah ad-Din operations command in the al-Eith region. The explosion damaged the vehicle but did not result in casualties.

On March 10, security sources in Diyala province said that ISIS militants attacked an Iraqi army checkpoint in the Buhruz subdistrict using sniper fire. The attack injured one Iraqi soldier. 

On March 11, the Security Media Cell said that Iraqi F-16 and Cessna Caravan aircraft conducted two airstrikes against ISIS positions in the Dibis district of Kirkuk province. The airstrikes killed four ISIS militants, including one described as a senior figure in the ISIS “Wilayat Kirkuk.” Concurrent ground operations by Iraqi security forces reportedly killed another ISIS militant in the same region.

On March 11, security sources said that an IED explosion struck a civilian vehicle that was transporting two army personnel in the Jurf al-Sakhr subdistrict of Babylon province. The explosion lightly wounded one of the soldiers. 

On March 12, security sources in Basra said that unidentified individuals placed an IED in a residential area in central Basra. The IED exploded causing material damages to one house without resulting in casualties.

On March 12, security sources in Ninewa reported that an unexploded remnant of war (ERW) detonated in the Muhalabiyah subdistrict southwest of Mosul. The explosion killed a local sheep herder and wounded his nephew, a child who was accompanying him. To the east, the explosion of a legacy IED killed another child in the village of Nasr in the Makhmour district. In another incident on March 15, another ERW detonated in the Sharqat district of Salah ad-Din province, killing two children, according to local security sources. On the following day, security sources in Dhi-Qar province said an ERW detonated in the Umm Inayj region, killing a sheep herder and seriously wounding two. 

On March 13, authorities in the Kurdistan region said that 12 ballistic missiles struck an area in Erbil after 1am local time. In a statement, the region’s counter-terrorism service said the rockets were launched from outside Iraq “particularly from the east,” without elaborating further. The governor of Erbil said the missiles, which struck buildings in an area near the U.S. consulate in Erbil, injured two persons. Footage of the attack’s aftermath revealed that the missiles struck a residential villa owned by Baz Karim, an influential Kurdish businessman, and the offices of Kurdistan 24, a media network affiliated with the regional prime minister. The White House Press Secretary confirmed that the missiles didn’t target U.S. interests and that there were no U.S. casualties. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran soon said it was responsible for the attack, which it said targeted an alleged Israeli intelligence facility. The Iranians said the barrage, which reportedly involved Fateh 110 missiles, was meant to avenge the recent killing of Iranian officers by an Israeli airstrike in Syria that allegedly originated from Iraqi territory. 

On March 13, Ninwea police said that ISIS militants opened fire on an army checkpoint in the Qaraj subdistrict, southeast of Mosul. The attack killed two Iraqi soldiers.  

On March 13, security sources said that two IED explosions targeted convoys transporting supplies for the International Coalition forces in the Diwaniyah and Dhi-Qar provinces. On March 15, another IED exploded targeting a second supply convoy in the Jreishan area in Basra province. This was followed hours later by a fourth IED attack that targeted a supply convoy in the Muthanna province. There were no reports of casualties associated with any of the attacks. 

On March 15, security sources in Kirkuk said that an IED explosion struck a federal police vehicle in the Rashad subdistrict, west of Kirkuk. The explosion killed one member of the federal police patrol and wounded two.

On March 16, the police in the Sinjar district of Ninewa province declared a nighttime curfew in the district from midnight to 6am local time until further notice. The announcement did not explain the reasons for the curfew, but local sources attributed the decision to recent incidents involving members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) throwing stun grenades at army checkpoints. 


COVID-19 Spread Continue To Slow Down

On March 15, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) inaugurated a new facility that provides physical rehabilitation care in Erbil. According to a statement by ICRC, the new center can help “up to 6,000 people with disabilities” each year, making it the largest of its kind in Iraq. The facility will benefit residents of the Kurdistan region, Ninewa, Kirkuk, Diyala, as well as refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) residing in these provinces by providing “prosthetic and orthotic devices, wheelchairs, walking aids and other necessary tools to support them in daily activities.”

On March 17, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 2,315,134, an increase of 3,896 in cases from the 2,311,238 reported on March 10. Of these cases, 19,206 are currently under treatment, including 72 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent a decrease of 4,820 in hospitalizations and 17 in ICU admissions since March 10. Ministry data indicated that there were 29 new COVID-19 deaths since March 10, bringing the total from 25,090 to 25,119. Total recoveries increased from 2,250,904 to 2,262,122. The average number of new cases during the last 7-day period dropped to 557 per day from 735 per day during the 7-day period ending March 10. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 133 cases, Basra with 67, Sulaymaniyah with 61, and Duhok with 44 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 18,204,435 samples for COVID-19. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 10,201,271 including 38,986 who received their shots on March 17. 


Major Oil Field Resumes Production; New Deal To Import Electricity From Iran; Local Products Protections Suspended; Fuel Shortages Hit Several Provinces

On March 11, Russian oil company Lukoil said it had resumed production operations at the West Qurna-2 oil field in Basra. Production at the major field was suspended in late February while the company performed maintenance and upgrades. 

On March 15, Iraqi government sources said that the federal government had decided to send a new payment of IQD200 billion to aid the KRG in paying its civil servants. The KRG had received the last of these payments, which are based on an ad-hoc agreement between Erbil and Baghdad, in December of 2021.  

On March 15, the Iraqi government approved a new deal between the Ministry of Electricity and an Iranian company to import electricity from Iran. The new, 5-year agreement is based on a reduced price of $0.034 per kilowatt hour (down from $0.046 per kilowatt hour). The deal requires Iran to supply a minimum of 1,000 megawatts “during peak demand months.”

On March 15, the Iraqi government decided to suspend all prior decisions that had been made to protect domestic products for a period of three months, subject to review. Last week, the Iraqi government decided to reduce customs duties on several key food items to zero for a period of two months, among other measures meant to address food security amid a steep increase in the prices of food and other consumer goods.

On March 17, news reports indicated that several provinces were seeing gasoline shortages. Ninewa, Kirkuk, and other provinces close to the Kurdistan region appear to be the most affected by the shortages, with footage on social media showing long lines outside gas stations. Officials are attributing to large differences between fuel prices in the Kurdistan region, where rising gasoline prices are causing protests, and the rest of Iraq. Authorities are responding to the shortage with fuel rationing and instructing gas stations to remain open 24 hours in Ninewa and Kirkuk.  


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from March 10, 2022 - March 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
3/10/22 AL-Eith, Salah ad-Din province00
3/11/22 Jurf al-Sakhr, Babylon province01
3/12/22 Central Basra00
3/13/22 Diwaniyah province 00
3/13/22 Dhi-Qar province00
3/15/22 Jreishan, Basra province00
3/15/22 Muthanna province00
3/15/22 Rashad, Kirkuk province12

 

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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