ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: APRIL 7 – 14, 2022

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Key Takeaways:

  • Conflict Emerges Over KRI Election Law; No Signs Of Breakthrough In KRG-Baghdad Oil Talks; Fringe Religious Movement Faces Crackdown – On April 11, the New Generation opposition party called on the international community to help ensure the Kurdistan region holds free and fair elections. The appeal comes amid signs of a deadlock between the ruling KDP and PUK parties over the election law, as the KDP insists on holding elections in October, while the PUK wants to amend the law and update the voter registry first. On April 13, after meetings between KRG and federal oil officials, the KRG issued a statement affirming “its legal obligations” towards oil companies operating in the Kurdistan region until there was final agreement with the federal government. The statement emphasized that the solution lies in “approving a federal oil and gas law according to the constitution.” On April 13, Iraq’s Interior Ministry said its forces had shut down offices and mosques belonging to a “heretical movement” and arrested dozens of its members in several provinces for “offending the sentiments and beliefs” of the general public. The actions targeted the followers of Mahmoud al-Sarkhi, a fringe Shia cleric, after his followers criticized the practice of building and venerating shrines. Iraqi courts issued a warrant for the arrest of Sarkhi, while mosques affiliated with his movement suffered attacks. In other developments, on April 11, Iran appointed a new ambassador to Baghdad. On April 14, the Emtidad party announced that it will seek to build a coalition of independent lawmakers “and free representatives from other blocs” to form the largest bloc in Parliament, saying the other alternative is to dissolve the legislature. more…
  • Drones Target Major Air Base; Explosion Reported Near Key Oil Pipeline; ISF Arrest Individuals Plotting Rocket Attack In Baghdad – On April 8, an explosive drone attempted to strike the Ain al-Asad Iraqi air force base in Anbar but was shot down by the base’s defense systems. On April 12, Iraq Oil Report said that the Kurdistan region’s main oil export pipeline to Turkey was the target of an attack on the evening of April 10. The attack caused an explosion “in the vicinity of a key pumping station” serving the pipeline, which carries the bulk of the region’s oil exports, as well as roughly 100,000 bpd of the federal government’s exports from the Kirkuk oil fields. On April 13, the Baghdad Operations Command said that its forces discovered rockets and arrested three individuals who were preparing to use them to attack “vital installations.” In other developments, between April 8 – 14, six attacks by ISIS militants in Anbar, Kirkuk, and Diyala killed at least four Iraqis and wounded eight. The militants reportedly also kidnapped four other civilians during the attacks. Between April 8 – 14, the explosions of five IEDs and one remnant of war in Anbar, Salah ad-Din, Basra, Diwaniyah, and Kirkuk, killed at least one Iraqi and wounded 13. more…
  • New Study Shows Devastating Impact Of Conflict And Displacement On The Education System – On April 11, the Norwegian Refugee Council released a new study about the problems affecting Iraq’s formal education system due to years of conflict and large scale displacements. Among other findings, the study shows that most teachers in six war-affected provinces lacked training, and that most school buildings lacked basic safety and hygiene requirements. The report warns that a “generation of young people now face an increasingly uncertain future…particularly among the most vulnerable that include refugee children, displaced children, and children with disabilities.” In other developments, on April 12, the UNDP and Iraq’s Ministry of Labor signed a memorandum of understanding that covers multiple joint initiatives to support “innovative small businesses and start-ups needed for employment generation in Iraq today.” On April 14, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 2,322,734, an increase of just 1,365 in cases from the 2,321,369 reported on April 7. Hospitalizations decreased from 9,271 to 6,467, and the daily average for new cases during the last 7-day period decreased to 195/day from 260/day during the 7-day period ending April 7. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 10,440,348, including 13,526 who received their shots on April 14. more…
  • Trucked Oil Exports To Jordan Resume; Iraq Relaxes Import License Requirements; Drought Hits Garmyan District – On April 10, Jordanian transportation officials said that trucked oil exports from Iraq resumed on Sunday after being suspended for two months due to unspecified “logistical problems.” On April 12, the Iraqi government decided to stop requiring import licenses at ports of entry for foodstuffs, medicine, and other consumer goods, until June 8 to mitigate supply chain disruptions and shortages. On April 13, officials in the Garmyan district of the Kurdistan region said 2022 will be “a year of drought,” expecting the water scarcity to impact more than 35,000 acres of farmlands. In other developments, on April 9, Iraq’s Trade Ministry reported that wheat marketing operations for the winter wheat harvest of 2022 have commenced, with farmers in the Muthanna province being the first to deliver their grain to ministry silos. On April 12, Iranian customs officials said that Iraq imported $8.9 billion worth of Iranian goods during the Iranian financial year ending March 20, 2022, making Iraq the top importer of Iranian goods during that period. 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.


Conflict Emerges Over KRI Election Law; No Signs Of Breakthrough In KRG-Baghdad Oil Talks; Fringe Religious Movement Faces Crackdown

On April 10, the new commander of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), lieutenant general Michael Kurilla, visited Baghdad and met with Prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. According to a statement by Kadhimi’s office, the two sides discussed security cooperation between the U.S. and Iraq and the transition of the International Coalition’s mission towards advice and support.  

On April 11, the New Generation opposition party in the Kurdistan region called for intervention by the federal government and international community to ensure the region holds free and fair elections. New Generation’s leader, Shaswar Abdul-Wahid, warned that “the political process in the region is over” arguing that the region’s legislature was “defunct, and all institutions are paralyzed. There’s no intention to hold elections.” Abdul-Wahid’s appeal comes amid signs of a deadlock between the ruling parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) over the timing of the election and the election law. While the KDP insists on holding elections in October of 2022, as planned, the PUK has complained that the voter registry “lacks integrity, and must be adjusted and updated,” and has also demanded amending the region’s election law. In particular, the PUK is in favor of dividing the region into multiple electoral districts as opposed to just one.  

On April 11, a spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry said that Tehran has appointed a new ambassador to Baghdad. The new envoy, Hussein Al-Sadiq, will take over from the outgoing Iraj Masjidi “next week,” according to the spokesperson. 

On April 11, a high level delegation of Kurdistan regional government (KRG) officials traveled to Baghdad on a mission to discuss “increased coordination in the oil and energy sectors” with the federal government. The KRG top negotiator with Baghdad, Khalid Shwani, said that the meetings with the Iraqi oil minister and other officials were “characterized by frankness, and it was agreed to put in place mechanisms that can provide a future work plan to address the problematic oil issue in a radical way.” For his part, Iraqi Oil Minister Ihsan Ismael said the guiding principles for the talks [from the federal government’s perspective] included “reviewing and improving” the KRG oil contracts, and reassigning the contracts from the KRG Natural Resources Ministry to a new oil company. This company is “to be formed by the Council of Ministers, based in Erbil, and owned by the federal authorities” to manage “the entirety of oil activities” based on standards and principles determined by the Oil Ministry and Iraqi National Oil Company. According to Ismael, Baghdad also wants to have the revenue of KRG oil exports deposited in a bank account to be “owned  by the Finance Ministry” and used to fund the region’s expenses “in case the Finance Ministry delayed” sending the region’s entitlements. A later statement by the KRG cabinet on April 13 said the regional government “reiterates its legal obligations” towards oil companies operating in Kurdistan until there was final agreement with the federal government. The statement emphasized that the solution lies in “approving a federal oil and gas law according to the constitution.”

On April 13, Iraq’s Interior Ministry said that its forces had shut down buildings belonging to a “heretical movement” and arrested an unspecified number of that movement’s members for “offending the sentiments and beliefs” of the general public. The Ministry’s actions targeted the followers of Mahmoud al-Sarkhi, a fringe Shia cleric whose preachings against mainstream Shia practices had caused a significant backlash among Iraq’s Shia community. In particular, a recent statement by a follower of Sarkhi’s that attacked the practice of building and venerating Shia Muslim shrines was met with widespread anger from the public and crackdown from authorities. On April 13, the Interior Ministry said it arrested 28 members “of this radical movement” across six provinces: Basra, Maysan, Karbala, Diwaniyah, Baghdad, and Babylon. However, there were reports of other arrests in Dhi-Qar and Muthanna too. On the same day, the Supreme Judicial Council said that a court in Amara had issued a warrant for the arrest of Sarkhi himself based on article 372 of the penal code that punishes anyone who “publicly offends the beliefs of a religious sect or insults its practices.” The crackdown also involved the partial demolition by authorities of the mosque where the controversial statement was made in Babylon, as well as attacks with grenades and firebombs by rioters targeting other meeting places of Surkhi’s followers. 

On April 14, an Iraqi delegation led by Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein visited Tehran and met with Iranian president Ibrahim Raisi. The Iranian president told the Iraqi delegation that Tehran expects the federal government and KRG to not allow the presence of any parties who might threaten Iran’s security. The Iraqi minister reportedly reassured Raisi that Iraq would not permit its territory to be used to threaten its neighbors. The talks came a month after Iran used ballistic missiles to attack sites in Erbil, which the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran claimed were being used by Israeli intelligence agents. 

On April 14, the Emtidad party announced that it will seek to build a coalition of independent lawmakers “and free representatives from other blocs” to form the largest bloc in Parliament. The Emtidad statement accused the major competing blocs of taking the political process “into a dark tunnel” by “placing their interests ahead of the public interest.” The party, which has 9 seats in Parliament, said the alternative solution to the current political deadlock is to seek the dissolution of the legislature. 


Drones Target Major Air Base; Explosion Reported Near Key Oil Pipeline; ISF Arrest Individuals Plotting Rocket Attack In Baghdad

On April 8, a drone laden with explosives attempted to strike the Ain al-Asad Iraqi air force base in Anbar province. Defense systems operated by International Coalition troops that share the base succeeded in shooting down the drone before it could hit the base. Local sources said the attack involved two rockets in addition to two drones. There were no reports of casualties or damage. The last similar attack on the base occurred on January 4. 

On April 8, security sources in Anbar province said that suspected ISIS militants kidnapped a civilian who works at a gas station in the remote Rutba district, in western Anbar. 

On April 8, security sources in Anbar province said that an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated against a vehicle transporting Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) fighters in the Akashat region. The explosion killed one PMF fighter (PMF 13th brigade) and injured two others. 

On April 9, security sources in Anbar province said that ISIS militants attacked Iraqi army forces near the main highway in the Hit district. The attack killed an Iraqi soldier and seriously wounded another soldier. 

On April 9, security sources in Kirkuk province said that ISIS militants attacked a PMF checkpoint in the village of Dogshaman in the Rashad subdistrict. Initial reports said the attack killed one PMF fighter and a local civilian. Subsequent reports said the attack also injured four other people, adding that the attackers kidnapped a civilian who works as a teacher in the targeted village. Elsewhere in Kirkuk, ISIS militants reportedly kidnapped two sheep herders from the village of Ber Hindi in the Sargaran subdistrict. 

On April 9, security sources in Diyala said that ISIS militants attacked a police checkpoint in the village of Shamila, near Muqdadiyah, northeast of Baquba. The attacks killed one member of the police force and injured two others. 

On April 10, medical sources in Basra said that two men in the district of Zubeir were injured when a remnant of war detonated in the al-Raji area, near the border with Kuwait. 

On April 10, security sources said that an IED explosion targeted a convoy transporting supplies for the International Coalition forces as it was passing through Diwaniyah province. Later on the same day, a second IED explosion targeted another logistical convoy on a main highway through Salah ad-Din province. There were no reports of casualties in either incident.

On April 11, security sources in Kirkuk province said that a roadside IED explosion struck a federal police vehicle in the Rashad subdistrict southwest of Kirkuk city. The explosion wounded two federal police personnel. 

On April 12, Iraq Oil Report said that the Kurdistan region’s main oil export pipeline to Turkey was the target of an attack on the evening of April 10. According to the publication, the attack caused an explosion “in the vicinity of a key pumping station” serving the pipeline, which carries the bulk of the region’s oil exports, as well as roughly 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) of the federal government’s exports from the Kirkuk oil fields. ISHM could not obtain more details about the circumstance of the attack, or the entity behind it.  

On April 13, the Baghdad Operations Command said that its forces arrested three individuals in the Tarmiyah district, north of Baghdad, who were preparing to attack “vital installations” with rockets. Security forces found two Katyusha-type rockets, fuses, blasting capsules, and a launch timer at the site of the arrest.

On April 14, security sources in Diyala province said that ISIS militants attacked a police checkpoint overnight in the village of Imam Safir near the Muqdadiyah district, northeast of Baquba. The attack injured one policeman with small arms fire.

On April 14, the mayor of Tuzkhormatu in Salah ad-Din province said that an IED explosion injured seven members of the Quick Response Division while they were conducting security operations in areas northwest of the district. Two of the injured were in critical condition.


New Study Shows Devastating Impact Of Conflict And Displacement On The Education System

On April 12, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Iraq’s Ministry of Labor signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a joint program aimed at promoting “sustainable economic growth and boosting employment opportunities in Iraq.” The memorandum covers multiple joint initiatives to support “innovative small businesses and start-ups needed for employment generation in Iraq today.”

On April 11, the Norwegian Refugee Council released a new study about the problems and disruptions affecting Iraq’s formal education system due to years of conflict and large scale population displacement. The study highlights that learning levels in Iraq are “among the lowest in the region” and points out that “lack of education is consistently the top protection risk for Iraqi children.” The quantitative study involved assessments of school infrastructure, dozens of interviews with key informants, and more than 40 “focus group discussions with teachers, parents and children across Anbar, Diyala, Dohuk, Kirkuk, Ninewa, and Salah ad-Din” provinces. The study found that in 6 out of 10 schools, “teacher training has been insufficient as teachers have not had any training in pedagogy or lesson planning.” The study also found that student to teacher ratios were very high, reaching 57 to 1 in Ninewa, which “greatly impacts the quality of learning.” The study also found that more than 50% of the surveyed schools did not meet basic standards for safety and hygiene, and that more than 90% of Kirkuk schools covered in the survey had no drinking water, and 92% of all surveyed schools did not have ramps or elevators to address the needs for children with disabilities. The report warns that a “generation of young people now face an increasingly uncertain future in Iraq, particularly among the most vulnerable that include refugee children, displaced children, and children with disabilities.”

On April 14, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 2,322,734, an increase of just 1,365  in cases from the 2,321,369 reported on April 7. Of these cases, 6,467 are currently under treatment, including 29 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent a decrease of 2,804 in hospitalizations and 10 in ICU admissions since April 7. Ministry data indicated that there were 11 new COVID-19 deaths since April 7, bringing the total from 25,181 to 25,192. The average number of new cases during the last 7-day period decreased to 195 per day from 260 per day during the 7-day period ending April 7. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 35 cases, Basra with 27, and Sulaymaniyah with 19 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 18,413,936 samples for COVID-19. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 10,440,348, including 13,526 who received their shots on April 14. 


Trucked Oil Exports To Jordan Resume; Iraq Relaxes Import License Requirements; Drought Hits Garmyan District

On April 9, Iraq’s Trade Ministry reported that wheat marketing operations for the winter wheat harvest of 2022 have commenced, with farmers in the Muthanna province being the first to deliver their grain to the ministry’s silos. The ministry statement did not provide information on the grain volumes delivered to date, but Iraq is expecting a much reduced harvest this year as water scarcity forced the country to reduce the area on which it grows wheat by half.  

On April 10, Jordanian transportation officials said that trucked oil exports from Iraq resumed on Sunday after being suspended for two months due to unspecified “logistical problems.” According to the officials, 300 tankers were on their way from the Baiji refinery complex in Iraq’s Salah ad-Din province to the Jordanian border. Prior to the recent suspension, Iraq exported an average of 10,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil to Jordan. 

On April 12, Iranian customs officials said that Iraq imported $8.9 billion worth of Iranian goods during the Iranian financial year ending March 20, 2022. The figure makes Iraq the top importer of Iranian goods during that period, according to the officials. The officials added that Iraq also exported goods worth $1.2 billion to Iran during that 12 month period. 

On April 12, the Iraqi government said it decided to stop requiring import licenses at ports of entry for foodstuffs, medicine, and other consumer goods, until June 8, 2022. The decision is meant to facilitate the arrival of necessary goods amid supply chain disruptions and shortages caused by the Russian war in Ukraine. Health inspections and other standard quality control procedures will continue to apply to imports during the suspension, according to the government statement. 

On April 13, officials in the Garmyan district of the Kurdistan region said 2022 will be “a year of drought.” Officials said they reached this conclusion after reviewing water data from all parts of the Garmyan administration, which covers parts of Sulaymaniyah, Diyala, and Kirkuk provinces. Officials expect the drought to impact “more than 145,000 dunams,” or more than 35,000 acres of farmlands, leading to potential displacement from villages that depend on farming and cattle herding. 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from April 7, 2022 - April 14, 2022

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
4/8/22 Akashat, Anbar province12
4/10/22 Diwaniyah province00
4/10/22 Salah ad-Din province00
4/11/22 Rashad subdistrict, Kirkuk province02
4/14/22 Tuzkhormatu, Salah ad-Din province07

 

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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