ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: MARCH 24 – 31, 2022

ISHM LOGO

Key Takeaways:

  • Deadlock Prevents Parliament From Electing A President; Parliament Discusses Controversial Spending Bill; Rioters Attack KDP Office In Baghdad – On March 26 and 30, Parliament failed twice to elect a new president as political deadlock between the trilateral alliance led by Muqtada al-Sadr and his rivals in the coordination framework for Shia parties (CF) prevented lawmakers from establishing a quorum. Senior CF leader Hadi al-Amiri warned that attempts to exclude CF from government “would not lead to stability.” Amiri’s ally, Qais al-Khazali, insisted that CF “must be part of the largest bloc” that forms the government. Muqtada al-Sadr reiterated his opposition to a deal with CF, writing that “deadlock is better than consensus and splitting the pie with you.” On March 26, Parliament discussed a proposed bill called the “Emergency Support for Food Security and Development.” The bill was reportedly sent by the Cabinet and aims to “achieve food security, reduce poverty, and create financial stability amid global emergencies.” The bill, which some saw as an attempt to bypass the formal budget process, was met with strong opposition from lawmakers affiliated with the CF. On March 28, angry rioters attacked the KDP office in Baghdad, destroying equipment and furniture. The attack was a response to a message posted on twitter by a Kurdish commentator that reportedly contained an insult to senior Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. KDP leader Masoud Barzani condemned condemned the attack, which he described as the “second time a group of losers and provocateurs” committed acts of sabotage. In other developments, on March 24, PM Kadhimi visited Jordan for multilateral talks with the king of Jordan, president of Egypt, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, and a Saudi minister, focusing on expanding trade, mitigating food shortages, and addressing other current regional problems. more…
  • Gunmen Attack A Chinese Oil Company In Dhi-Qar For The Second Time; Rockets Strike Near Turkish Camp, Oil Fields In Ninewa – On March 26, unidentified gunmen fired rocket propelled grenades and machine guns at facilities belonging to ZPEC, a Chinese company operating on the Gharraf oil field in the Rifai district of Dhi-Qar province. The same company was attacked in a similar fashion in December. On March 30, an attack with multiple rockets targeted a base for the Turkish military at Zelikan, north of Mosul. According to local sources, some of the rockets landed near the positions of a Peshmerga brigade, and near the work sites of Norwegian oil company, DNO. In other developments, between March 25 – 30, the explosions of seven IEDs in Dhi-Qar, Diyala, and Ninewa injured at least seven civilians and members of Iraq’s security forces. more…
  • New Humanitarian Response Plan Seeks $400 To Help 2.5 Million In Need; Lakes, Marshes Vanish As Water Scarcity Intensifies – On March 27, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) presented the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan for Iraq, which identifies 2.5 million people who need assistance, of whom 961,000 are in acute need reaching “extreme or catastrophic levels.” The plan seeks $400 million to support 996,000 IDPs and returnees “with life-saving and life-sustaining assistance to meet their most critical humanitarian needs.” On March 27, footage posted on social media showed that Lake Sawa, a desert lake in Iraq’s Muthanna province, has completely dried. Meanwhile, reports from the adjacent Dhi-Qar province showed that one of the province’s marshes, Abu Zarag, was on the verge of disappearing too. Local activists said that most communities that lived near the marsh have abandoned it, as water scarcity undermined their livelihoods. In Maysan province, there were reports of protests amid an increase in water-borne illnesses due to water scarcity and high pollution from dumping heavy water into local rivers. In other developments, on March 31, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 2,319,550, an increase of 2,422 in cases from the 2,317,128 reported on March 24. Hospitalizations decreased from 14,865 to 12,119, and the daily average for new cases during the last 7-day period increased to 346/day from 285/day during the 7-day period ending March 24. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 10,352,610, including 30,553 who received their shots on March 31. more…
  • Iraq To Upgrade Subsea Oil Export Pipelines; KRG Eyes Gas Exports To Europe; Baghdad Explores Ways To Take Over KRG Oil Contracts – On March 27, officials at the Basra Oil Company said they were preparing requests for proposals for a major infrastructure project involving two new subsea pipelines and improvements to existing oil terminals to nearly double the export capacity of Iraq’s southern ports. On March 28, KRG PM Masrour Barzani said his region could begin exporting natural gas “to the rest of Iraq, Turkey, and Europe in the near future.” Recently, the KRG began building a new natural gas pipeline to bring gas from the KRG-operated fields to the Turkish border. On March 29, Iraq’s Oil Ministry and National Oil Company hosted a meeting with international consultants to discuss “mechanisms for managing the Kurdistan region’s oil industry in accordance with constitutional principles.” The consultations are part of the federal government’s preparations to implement the Supreme Federal Court’s decision that declared the KRG’s oil and gas legislation to be unconstitutional and required the federal government to take over oil production in the region. In other developments, on March 29, the U.S. approved a new sanctions waiver that permits Baghdad to continue purchasing natural gas and electricity from Iran for another 120 days. 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.


Deadlock Prevents Parliament From Electing A President; Parliament Discusses Controversial Spending Bill; Rioters Attack KDP Office In Baghdad

On March 24, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi visited Jordan where he participated in a multilateral meeting with a group of regional Arab leaders. According to a statement by Kadhimi’s office, the meeting in Aqaba included King Abdullah of Jordan, Egyptian President Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi, Abu Dhabi’s Crown prince Mohammed Bin Zayid, and Saudi minister Turki Bin Mohammed Bin Fahd. The talks focused on expanding trade, mitigating food shortages and economic conditions, and addressing current regional and international crises, according to the statement. 

On March 25, the For the People coalition, which comprises the Emtidad and New Generation parties, issued a list of 17 demands, saying that their endorsement by the trilateral alliance led by Muqtada al-Sadr is the group’s condition for participating in the March 26 Parliament meeting to elect a president. The demands, many of which beyond the powers of the legislature, ranged from reversing the dinar revaluation, to building the Faw port, and passing a freedom of information act. Meanwhile, a report by Shafaq News citing unnamed political sources said that Iran was applying pressure on New Generation leader Shaswar Abdul-Wahid to dissuade him from participating in Parliament meetings and prevent Sadr’s alliance from establishing a quorum to elect a president.

On March 26, an anticipated Iraqi Parliament session planned for the election of a new president ended quickly without achieving its objective as the legislature failed to reach quorum. Only 202 lawmakers attended the Saturday session, just 18 short of the minimum required to reach the two thirds quorum (220 lawmakers). The failed meeting reflected the continuing political deadlock over the presidency between the two main camps in Parliament; the trilateral alliance led by Muqtada al-Sadr and his allies in the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Siyada coalition, and the Iran-backed coordination framework for Shia parties (CF) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), who boycotted the session. In addition, news reports indicated that several independent lawmakers faked being ill ahead of the meeting in order to avoid the appearance of taking sides in this political fight. On March 30, another attempt to hold a vote on a new president failed to reach quorum as the CF and PUK continued their boycott of Parliament meetings. A lawmaker from Speaker Halbousi’s Siyada coalition estimated that approximately 180 lawmakers attended the Wednesday meeting, but another lawmaker insisted the official count was identical to March 26, totaling 202. Lawmakers have until April 6 to elect a new president, according to a ruling by the country’s Supreme Federal Court. Speaking after the session, Fatah Coalition leader and senior CF figure Hadi al-Amiri warned that attempts to “exclude other parties [from government formation] would not lead to Iraq’s stability.” Amiri added that CF would soon present an initiative to reach an agreement with the trilateral alliance. Meanwhile, Amiri’s ally, Qais al-Khazali, insisted in remarks to reporters that CF “must be part of the largest bloc,” and that CF’s opinion “must be important in electing the prime minister.” For his part, Muqtada al-Sadr reiterated his opposition to a deal with CF, writing that “deadlock is better than consensus and splitting the pie with you.” Sadr questioned CF’s ability to have accords with other parties “when you assault the communities and partners you’re trying to win to your side.” 

On March 26, Iraq’s Parliament conducted the first reading of a proposed bill called the “Emergency Support for Food Security and Development.” A statement by the Parliament’s press office said the bill was sent by the Cabinet and aims to “achieve food security, reduce poverty, and create financial stability amid global emergencies.” The bill, which observers see as an attempt to bypass the delayed formal budget process, was met with strong opposition from lawmakers affiliated with the coordination framework for Shia parties, who had boycotted the March 26 session. State of Law representative Alya Nseif said the bill was an attempt to “legalize corruption, steal public funds, and exploit them for political purposes.” Parliament resumed its discussions of the bill on March 28, and a member of Parliament’s finance committee said on March 31 that the committee was determined to get the bill ready for a vote within 15 days.

On March 28, angry rioters attacked an office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Baghdad, destroying equipment and furniture, and setting parts of the building on fire. The attack was a response to a message posted on twitter by a Kurdish commentator allegedly affiliated with the KDP that reportedly contained an insult to senior Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. After the attack, KDP leader Masoud Barzani issued a statement in which he condemned the insulting message against Sistani, saying that the person who posted it, Nayef Kurdistani, had been arrested and will face trial. Barzani also condemned the attack on the KDP office, which he described as the “second time a group of losers and provocateurs” committed acts of sabotage. In October 2020, supporters of Iran-backed militias had attacked the same KDP office in Baghdad after a senior KDP member made anti-militia remarks. In a recorded statement, Nayef apologized for posting the controversial tweet, saying he did not intend to offend the clergy. He also claimed that pro-militia figures and PUK officials pressured him to write the tweet to undermine relations between the KDP and Muqtada al-Sadr. 

On March 28, a report by Reuters made the case that the March 13 Iranian ballistic missile strike on Erbil was in part punishment for the KRG over an alleged Israeli-mediated scheme to export KRG gas to Europe. The report cites an unnamed Iraqi security official as saying that “two recent meetings between Israeli and U.S. energy officials and specialists” had taken place at the villa of oil businessman Baz Karim, which was the target of Iran’s missile “to discuss shipping Kurdistan gas to Turkey via a new pipeline.”  Speaking at an energy conference in the UAE, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzan denied such a meeting took place, and attributed the attack to Iran’s desire to influence government formation negotiations in Baghdad. 

On March 29, the Foreign Minister of Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn, met with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in Baghdad. According to a statement by Kadhimi’s office, the talks focused on the European Union’s support for Iraq, especially in economic development and job creation. The visiting minister also offered to help Iraq address European concerns about Iraqi Airways access to Europe’s airports. 

On March 30, Salah ad-Din governor Ammar Jabr dropped charges filed against local activist Yazid Hassoun over allegedly using defamatory remarks against him. Last week, On March 23, a court in Salah ad-Din sentenced Hassoun to three months in prison, causing widespread condemnations and expressions of solidarity with Hassoun. The governor said he dropped charges in response to appeals from lawmakers in the Emtidad party and Hassoun’s tribes. 

On March 30, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Iranian companies and individuals in response to recent ballistic missile attacks by Iran and allied groups in the middle east, including the March 13 attack on Erbil. The sanctioned companies and agent were targeted for their role in facilitating the procurement of “ballistic missile propellant-related materials” for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Iranian Defense Industries Organization. 


Gunmen Attack A Chinese Oil Company In Dhi-Qar For The Second Time; Rockets Strike Near Turkish Camp, Oil Fields In Ninewa

On March 25, security sources in Dhi-Qar province said that a homemade improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in front of a civilian residence in central Nasiriyah. The explosion caused material damage to the building without leaving casualties. On March 30, another IED exploded in front of the residence of a member of the security forces in central Nasiriyah, injuring the targeted individual. 

On March 26, security sources in Dhi-Qar province said that unidentified gunmen fired rocket propelled grenades and machine guns at facilities belonging to ZPEC, a Chinese company operating on the Gharraf oil field in the Rifai district. The attack, which is the second to target the same company since December, did not result in casualties. 

On March 26, security sources in Diyala province said that an IED exploded in the Sadiyah subdistrict, targeting the residence of an officer in Iraq’s Interior Ministry. The explosion slightly wounded the officer’s daughter. A few days later, on March 30, another IED explosion wounded two farmers and killed a number of their animals in the Jalawla subdistrict, northeast of Baquba.  

On March 27, security sources in Ninewa province said that a legacy IED exploded in the Hassan Koi area in the Tal Afar district, west of Mosul. The explosion wounded one civilian.

On March 26, security sources in Kirkuk province said that ISIS militants clashed with an Iraqi army unit that was patrolling the Wadi al-Shay region, in southern Kirkuk. The clashes killed two Iraqi soldiers and wounded a third soldier. 

On March 27, security sources said that an IED explosion targeted a convoy transporting supplies for the International Coalition forces as it was passing through Nasiriyah in Dhi-Qar provinces. There were no reports of casualties.

On March 29, security sources in Ninewa province said that an IED explosion struck an Iraqi army vehicle in an unspecified location within the province. The explosion wounded two soldiers from the army’s 16th division.

On March 29, the Security Media Cell reported that Iraqi F-16 jets struck a squad of ISIS militants in the Wadi al-Shay region of Kirkuk province. The statement said the airstrike “obliterated” the squad, without providing further information. 

On March 30, security sources in Ninewa province said that an attack with three rockets targeted a base for the Turkish military at Zelikan, north of Mosul, without causing casualties. Other sources said the attack involved a total of seven rockets, some of which struck near the positions of a Peshmerga brigade, and near the work sites of Norwegian oil company, DNO, which operates a nearby oil field. Later on the same day, local sources said Turkish warplanes struck suspected Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in the Shalidze subdistrict of Duhok province, without providing further details.  


New Humanitarian Response Plan Seeks $400 To Help 2.5 Million In Need; Lakes, Marshes Vanish As Water Scarcity Intensifies

On March 27, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan for Iraq. The document shows that the aid community has identified a population of 2.5 million who need assistance, of whom 961,000 are considered to be in acute need reaching “extreme or catastrophic levels.” The document notes that while both numbers declined from last year (by 41% and 61%, respectively), the decrease is “largely attributable to the narrower definition of humanitarian needs” rather than actual improvement in the lives of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returnees. The HRP aims to help 996,000 people from this population. These include 180,000 IDPs living in camps, 234,000 IDPs staying in places other than camps, and 577,000 returnees “with life-saving and life-sustaining assistance to meet their most critical humanitarian needs.” The 2022 HRP prioritizes improving “unsafe living environments for people living in camps, informal sites or other critical shelter…while also providing specialized protection services to the people most at risk of right violations, violence, abuse and other serious protection risks.” In addition, aid providers will seek to provide the population in need with access to “essential services that they are otherwise unable to access.” The HRP also aims to support “the most acutely vulnerable IDPs and returnees” with “emergency food assistance, emergency livelihoods support and temporary cash to meet their most basic needs and avoid reliance on harmful negative coping mechanisms for their survival.” The total cost of the response is $400 million.

On March 27, footage posted by Iraqi environmentalists on social media showed that Lake Sawa, a desert lake in Iraq’s southern Muthanna province, has completely dried. Meanwhile, reports from the adjacent Dhi-Qar province showed that one of the province’s marshes, Abu Zarag, was on the verge of disappearing. A local environmental activist said water levels in the marsh were so low that even small boats could not navigate it, adding that most communities that lived near the marsh have abandoned it, as water scarcity rendered it unable to support fish, birds, and livestock. In Maysan province, there were reports of protests in the town of al-Salam, on the border with Dhi-Qar, amid an increase in water-borne illnesses due to water scarcity and high pollution from continued dumping of heavy water into local rivers. Recent data by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) indicate that Dhi-Qar is the most affected province by climate-induced migration in Iraq.

On March 31, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 2,319,550, an increase of 2,422 in cases from the 2,317,128 reported on March 24. Of these cases, 12,119 are currently under treatment, including 49 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent a decrease of 2,746 in hospitalizations and 19 in ICU admissions since March 24. Ministry data indicated that there were 26 new COVID-19 deaths since March 24, bringing the total from 25,138 to 25,164. Total recoveries increased from 2,277,125 to 2,282,267. The average number of new cases during the last 7-day period increased slightly to 346 per day from 285 per day during the 7-day period ending March 24. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 80 cases, Basra with 49, and Sulaymaniyah with 38 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 18,336,480 samples for COVID-19. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 10,352,610, including 30,553 who received their shots on March 31. 


Iraq To Upgrade Subsea Oil Export Pipelines; KRG Eyes Gas Exports To Europe; Baghdad Explores Ways To Take Over KRG Oil Contracts

On March 27, officials at Iraq’s state-owned Basra Oil Company said the company was preparing requests for proposals for a major oil export infrastructure project. Deputy director of planning and budget at the company, Ahmed Fadhil, said the project involves extending two 48 inch subsea pipelines, improvements to the al-Basra and Khor al-Amaya oil terminals, and the construction of a new offshore terminal. The $1 billion project could nearly double the export capacity of Iraq’s southern ports, increasing it from 3.5 million barrels per day (bpd) to 6 million bpd, according to the official.

On March 28, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani said his region could begin exporting natural gas “to the rest of Iraq, Turkey, and Europe in the near future.” Speaking at an international energy event in the United Arab Emirates, Barzani said the region’s energy sector would continue to “prosper” despite the recent decision by Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court that declared the KRG’s oil and gas legislation to be unconstitutional. Barzani did not provide details about the specifics of gas exports, but in February, news reports said his government had begun building a new 52 inch natural gas pipeline that would bring gas from the KRG-operated fields to the Turkish border. 

On March 29, officials in Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said that the United States has approved a new sanctions waiver that permits Baghdad to continue purchasing natural gas and electricity from Iran.  According to the officials, the new waiver lasts for a period of 120 days. 

On March 29, Iraq’s Oil Ministry and National Oil Company (INOC) hosted a meeting with international industry consultants to discuss “mechanisms for managing the Kurdistan region’s oil industry in accordance with constitutional principles.” A statement by the Ministry said the meeting discussed the structures and provisions of Kurdistan’s existing oil contracts. The consultations appear to be part of the federal government’s preparations to implement the Supreme Federal Court’s decision that declared the KRG’s oil and gas legislation to be unconstitutional and required the federal government to take over oil production in the region.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from March 24, 2022 - March 31, 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
3/25/22 Nasiriyah, Dhi-Qar province00
3/26/22 Sadiyah, Diyala province01
3/27/22 Tal Afar, Ninewa province01
3/27/22 Nasiriyah, Dhi-Qar province00
3/29/22 Unspecified location, Ninewa province02
3/30/22 Jalawla, Diyala province02
3/30/22 Nasiriyah, Dhi-Qar province01

 

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