ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: MARCH 17 – 24, 2022

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Key Takeaways:

  • Sadr Asks Independents To Help Break Deadlock; Sadr-Led Alliance Endorses KDP Presidential Candidate, Picks Jaafar Al-Sadr For PM; Other Shia Parties To Boycott Key Meeting On March 26 – On March 21, Muqtada al-Sadr reached out to independent lawmakers, asking them to help achieve quorum at an upcoming session designated for the election of a new president. Sadr promised to reward the independents with “space for running the country.” On March 21, the Emtidad party, said that the coalition it is part of plans to attend the March 26 session to vote for its own presidential candidate. On March 24, the Sadrist bloc formally announced the formation of “National Rescue,” a trilateral alliance with the KDP and Syiada blocs. The alliance endorsed the KDP’s Reber Ahmed Barzani as its presidential candidate, and nominated Muqtada’s cousin, Jaafar al-Sadr to be the next PM. On March 24, the coordination framework for Shia parties (CF) warned in a statement that the anticipated Parliament meeting March 26 “will not happen due to incomplete quorum.” The CF statement said that insisting on convening the session threatens to “squander the rights” of the Shia community and “creates a schism” among its ranks. Earlier, a senior PUK officials said his party too plans to boycott the March 26 session. In other developments, on March 22, Interior Minister Othman al-Ghanimi became acting Minister of Migration after the former minister became a member of Parliament. On March 23, a court in Salah ad-Din sentenced activist Yazid Hassoun to three months in prison after it found him guilty of “defamation” against the provincial governor. The verdict sparked widespread condemnations and expressions of solidarity with the activist. more…
  • New Rocket Attack Targets Major Iraqi Air Force Base – On March 17, the Iraqi military said that an attack with four rockets targeted the Iraqi air force base at Balad, in Salah ad-Din province. The rockets, which originated from an area near the Khalis district of the adjacent Diyala province, struck an open area without causing damages or casualties. In other developments, between March 19 – 24, the explosions of four IEDs and two remnants of war in Ninewa, Dhi-Qar, Baghdad, and Najaf, killed one person and injured four people. Between March 22 – 24, four militant attacks on civilians and security forces in Kirkuk, Maysan, Diyala, and Baghdad, killed three Iraqis and wounded three more. more…
  • Climate-Induced Displacement Increased 10% In The 1st Quarter Of 2022 – On March 23, new data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on climate-induced displacement in Iraq showed that more than 20,000 individuals (comprising 3,358 families) were experiencing displacement from their areas due to water shortages as of mid-March. The figure represents a 10% increase in displacements since December 2021. Almost half of the displaced families are from Dhi-Qar province. In other developments, on March 20, Iraqi authorities in western Mosul opened a mass grave they believe includes mostly the remains of dozens of ISIS fighters and their relatives who died during the campaign by Iraqi forces to reclaim the city from the terrorist organization. Authorities so far removed the remains of at least 85 individuals, and will conduct DNA analysis to identify the deceased. On March 24, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 2,317,128, an increase of just 1,994 in cases from the 2,315,134 reported on March 17. Hospitalizations decreased from 19,206 to 14,865, and the daily average for new cases during the last 7-day period dropped to 285/day from 557/day during the 7-day period ending March 17. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 10,265,501 including 30,602 who received their shots on March 24. more…
  • Anti-Price Gouging Arrests Continue; Anbar Says Construction On New Airport Will Begin Soon – On March 20, Iraq’s Interior Ministry said it arrested 30 merchants and shop owners in various provinces who are accused of price gouging. The arrests are part of a campaign authorities launched earlier this month to deal with rising food prices and shortages caused in part by the war in Ukraine. On March 24, the local government in Anbar said that Polikon, a Turkish company, would soon begin construction on a new international airport in the province. The airport is designed to have the capacity to handle 500,000 passengers per year, according to the provincial government. In other developments, on March 23, Iraq’s Ministry of Industry said that the country’s state-owned cement production company produced more than 7 million tons of cement in 2021. The Ministry wants to raise production further as Iraq deals with shortages in construction materials as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 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.


Sadr Asks Independents To Help Break Deadlock; Sadr-Led Alliance Endorses KDP Presidential Candidate, Picks Jaafar Al-Sadr For PM; Other Shia Parties To Boycott Key Meeting On March 26

On March 21, Muqtada al-Sadr reached out to independent lawmakers in Iraq’s Parliament, asking them to help him and his allies (the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Siyada Coalition) achieve quorum at an upcoming session designated for the election of a new president. In a long letter posted on Twitter, Sadr asked the independent members of Parliament to support his efforts to end weeks of political deadlock that has blocked government formation since Parliament failed to elect a president in a February 7 session that was boycotted by most parties amid disagreements over presidential candidates. Sadr sought to reassure the independents (who represent about 13% of the legislature, about 45 seats) that their support would help replace the failed consensus politics with a majority government. Sadr also promised to reward the independents with “space for running the country.” Sadr attempted to clarify in a follow up message that he did not mean to offer independents a “share of the pie,” but rather a partnership in advancing reforms and fighting corruption. 

On March 21, a group of independent members of Parliament called the “Independent Iraq Coalition” said that they would answer Muqtada al-Sadr’s call to attend the March 26 Parliament meeting and vote on a new president for Iraq. A spokesperson for the group, which has six seats in Parliament, said that they want to end the deadlock between Sadr and his rivals in the coordination framework for Shia parties so that government formation can move on.

On March 21, Ala’ al-Rikabi, the leader of the Emtidad party, said that the For the People Coalition, which Emtidad is part of, plans to attend the planned March 26 Parliament meeting to vote on the next president of Iraq. Rikabi clarified that the coalition, which also includes the New Generation party, would attend to vote for their own presidential candidate, Rebwar Abdul-Rahman. Rikabi added that if the initial vote proves inconclusive, then the coalition would have to reevaluate its options. Another member of Emtidad had emphasized on the same day that the party would help Parliament achieve quorum on March 26, but would no be “part of a muhasasa government with those who mismanaged the country,” referring to Iraq’s ethno-sectarian power-sharing politics.

On March 22, Interior Minister Othman al-Ghanimi took over the Ministry of Migration and Displacement in addition to his current position. Ghanimi will serve as acting Minister of Migration and Displacement after the position became vacant due to the former minister, Evan Faeq, becoming a member of Parliament. 

On March 23, a court in Salah ad-Din province sentenced activist Yazid Hassoun to three months in prison after it found him guilty of “defamation” against the provincial governor. A court document said Hassoun used “false events” in a televised conversation from August 2019 in which he allegedly defamed the plaintiff, governor Ammar Jabr Khalil. At the time, the activist had accused the governor of corruption in a contract worth IQD10 billion (approximately $8 million) involving the purchase of trailers intended to help resettle internally displaced persons. The court decision sparked widespread condemnations and expressions of solidarity with Hassoun.  

On March 23, the head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) bloc in Parliament said the party would not attend the planned Parliament meeting on March 26 to vote on a new president “unless the Shia parties reach an agreement beforehand.” The head of the PUK bloc, Haryam Kamal Agha, added that the party would “join the coordination framework” in boycotting the meeting in case there was no agreement.  

On March 24, the Sadrist bloc in Parliament formally announced the formation of a trilateral alliance with the KDP and Syiada blocs. Speaking at a press conference, senior Sadrist lawmaker Hassan al-Ithari said the “National Rescue” alliance represents the largest bloc in Parliament. Ithari said the alliance has decided to endorse the KDP’s Reber Ahmed Barzani as its presidential candidate, and to nominate Jaafar al-Sadr to be the next prime minister. Jaafar al-Sadr is a cousin of Muqtada al-Sadr and son of Dawa Party founder and late senior cleric Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr. He currently serves as Iraq’s ambassador to London.

On March 24, the coordination framework for Shia parties (CF) warned in a statement that the anticipated Parliament meeting March 26 to elect a new president “will not happen due to incomplete quorum.” The CF statement said that insisting on convening the session threatens to “squander the rights” of the Shia community and “creates a schism” among its ranks. The statement also accused CF rival Muqtada Sadr and his allies in the Siyada coalition and the KDP of putting “those who don’t believe in Iraq’s unity and independence” in charge of government, an apparent jab at the KDP’s presidential candidate. Earlier this week, Nouri al-Maliki, a senior CF leader said that the CF and allied groups would hold onto their ability to prevent Parliament from achieving quorum, the so-called “obstructing third” or “guarantor third.” Maliki argued that preventing Parliament from convening serves to prevent “political chaos and the creation of a weak government.” Meanwhile, the head of the Badr bloc in Parliament, another key CF member, stressed that Parliament would not be able to vote on a president “without consensus among the political parties.” 


New Rocket Attack Targets Major Iraqi Air Force Base

On March 17, the Security Media Cell reported that an attack with four rockets targeted the Iraqi air force base at Balad, in Salah ad-Din province. The rockets, which originated from an area near the Khalis district of the adjacent Diyala province, struck an open area without causing damages or casualties, according to the base commander. 

On March 19, security sources in Ninewa said that a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) exploded against a civilian vehicle in the village of Ihleilah, south of Mosul. The explosion injured two civilians. 

On March 20, security sources in Diyala said that unidentified gunmen attacked a civilian home with grenades in the Jalawla subdistrict, northeast of Baquba. The attack caused material damage, but didn’t leave casualties. 

On March 20, security sources in Najaf said that an unexploded remnant of war (ERW) detonated at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, injuring two cemetery workers. To the north, another ERW incident on March 22 killed a sheep herder in the Tal Afar district of Ninewa province.  

On March 22, security sources in Kirkuk said that ISIS militants attacked an army checkpoint in the Wadi al-Shay region, in southern Kirkuk. The attack killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded another. To the south, ISIS militants attacked another army checkpoint at the Hitaween junction between Diyala and Salah ad-Din provinces. The attack injured one soldier and destroyed a thermal surveillance camera. 

On March 23, unidentified gunmen attacked two employees of the Iraqi Ministry of Industry in the Hamidiyah region, north of Baghdad. The small arms attack killed one of the targeted individuals and wounded the other. 

On March 24, security sources in Dhi-Qar province said that two attacks with IEDs targeted civilian property in the province. One IED detonated against a house in the Fadhliyah subdistrict south of Nasiriyah, without reports of damage or casualties. The second IED targeted the home of a former provincial council member in the Akika subdistrict, further south. The explosion destroyed the targeted individual’s vehicle without causing casualties. To the north, unidentified individuals attacked a civilian home with a small IED in the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad. The explosion damaged a vehicle without causing casualties. 

On March 24, security sources in Maysan province said that unidentified gunmen attacked a security forces checkpoint in a drive-by shooting in the Mijar al-Kabir district. The attack killed a member of the security forces who was at the checkpoint. The sources attributed the attack to prior tribal conflicts.


Climate-Induced Displacement Increased 10% In The 1st Quarter Of 2022

On March 20, Iraqi authorities in western Mosul opened a mass grave they believe includes the remains of dozens of ISIS fighters and their relatives who died during the campaign by Iraqi forces to reclaim the city from the terrorist organization. The director of the local forensic medicine department in Mosul said authorities removed the remains of 85 individuals during two days of work, expecting to recover more. The official added that authorities will conduct DNA analysis to identify the deceased. 

On March 23, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) published new data on the patterns of climate-induced displacement affecting communities in southern Iraq. The data shows that as of mid-March, more than 20,000 individuals (comprising 3,358 families) were experiencing displacement from their areas due to water shortages impacting ten provinces. Of these families, nearly two thirds were in displacement within their home districts. Most of the displaced (more than 7 in 10) had relocated to urban areas because water scarcity and other climate issues undermined agriculture and overall livelihoods. Almost half the displaced families (1,542) are from Dhi-Qar province, followed by Maysan (733 families), Diwaniyah (326 families) and Basra (with 246 families). The worst affected district is al-Shatra in Dhi-Qar province, which reported 1,374 families displaced. The new data indicate that the number of individuals displaced by water scarcity has increased by approximately 2,000 since IOM released the previous set of data. 

On March 24, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 2,317,128, an increase of just 1,994 in cases from the 2,315,134 reported on March 17. Of these cases, 14,865 are currently under treatment, including 68 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent a decrease of 4,341 in hospitalizations and 4 in ICU admissions since March 17. Ministry data indicated that there were 19 new COVID-19 deaths since March 17, bringing the total from 25,119 to 25,138. Total recoveries increased from 2,262,122 to 2,277,125. The average number of new cases during the last 7-day period dropped to 285 per day from  557 per day during the 7-day period ending March 17. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 107 cases, Basra with 53, and Ninewa with 33. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 18,267,885 samples for COVID-19. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 10,265,501 including 30,602 who received their shots on March 24. 


Anti-Price Gouging Arrests Continue; Anbar Says Construction On New Airport Will Begin Soon

On March 20, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said that its intelligence and investigations agency arrested 30 merchants and shop owners in various provinces who are accused of price gouging. The arrests appear to be part of a campaign the Iraqi government launched earlier this month to deal with rising food prices and shortages caused in part by the war in Ukraine. 

On March 23, Iraq’s Ministry of Industry and Minerals said that the country’s state-owned cement production company produced more than 7 million tons of cement in the year 2021. Speaking during a visit to the company, the minister gave instructions to reduce costs and raise production further as Iraq deals with shortages in construction materials as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

On March 24, the local government in Anbar province said that a Turkish company would soon begin construction on a new international airport in the province. In the first stage of works, Polikon, the implementing company, will establish the outer perimeter and watchtowers of the facility, which is to cover an area of 3,000 dunams (740 acres) located 20 miles west of Ramadi. The airport is designed to have the capacity to handle 500,000 passengers per year, according to a statement by the provincial government.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from March 17, 2022 - March 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
3/19/22 Ihleilah, Ninewa province02
3/24/22 Akika subdistrict, Dhi-Qar province00
3/24/22 Fadhliyah subdistrict, Dhi-Qar province00
3/24/22 Adhamiyah, Baghdad00

 

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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