ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: MAY 12 – 19, 2022

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Key Takeaways:

  • Sadr Lashes Out At Rivals, Judiciary; UNAMI Says Political Will To End Deadlock Is “Painfully Absent”; Parliament Bypasses Court Ruling On Spending Bill; Salah Ad-Din Governor Sacked – On May 16, Muqtada al-Sadr attacked his rivals in the Coordination Framework (CF) and the Federal Supreme Court after the latter blocked a Sadr-backed IQD25 trillion spending bill. Sadr issued a veiled threat to his rivals, warning of “the anger of the patient and the oppressed.” On May 17, the head of UNAMI told the Security Council that despite repeated talk of dialogue, the political will to reach a solution to the post-election deadlock was “painfully absent.” The problem, according to UANMI, was that “the national interest is…taking a backseat to short-sighted considerations of control over resources.” On May 18, the Iraqi Parliament’s Financial Committee presented a new draft of the “Emergency Support for Food Security and Development” bill to the Speaker of Parliament, and on the following day, the legislature conducted a first reading of the IQD25 trillion bill. An earlier draft with the same title was first presented by PM Kadhimi’s Cabinet in late March, but the Federal Supreme Court ruled on May 15 that a caretaker government lacks the power to present bills. On May 19, Parliament voted to sack the governor of Salah ad-Din province, Ammar Jabr al-Jubouri, who was investigated in April for allegedly soliciting bribes from contractors. In other developments, on May 19, a document circulating on local news sites appeared to show that five lawmakers from the Emtidad movement had decided to withdraw from the party in objection to unilateral decisions made by the party’s secretary general, Ala’ al-Rikabi. more…
  • Iraqi Forces Kill 20 ISIS Militants In New Operations; Militias Ramp Up Attacks On Supply Convoys – Between May 12 – 15, Iraqi ground troops and airstrikes in Ninewa, Kirkuk, and Anbar killed at least 20 ISIS militants. Between May 14 – 19, the explosions of eight IEDs in Diyala, Muthanna, Babylon, Dhi-Qar, Diwaniyah, and Ninewa, killed at least one Iraqi and injured eight. Six of those IEDs were targeting convoys transporting supplies for the International Coalition forces. In other developments, on May 14, security sources in Duhok said that the Iraqi border guards established a new outpost in the Kani Masi subdistrict, an area of frequent fighting between Turkish forces and the PKK. On May 15, the Turkish Defense Ministry said that its forces have killed a total of 95 PKK members since the beginning of operation “Claw Lock” on April 18. more…
  • New Severe Sandstorm Sends Thousands To The Hospitals; IDP Numbers Relatively Unchanged Since February – On May 16, Iraq’s Health Ministry said that more than 4,000 people received medical help for breathing problems amidst a new severe sandstorm that engulfed large parts of Iraq. The storm shut down government offices, grounded flights, and closed Iraq’s seaports in Basra. On May 17, new UNHCR data on the refugee and IDP population in Iraq showed that a total of 1,184,818 people continue to experience displacement in Iraq. This is a decrease of just 1,700 since the last set of data, released in February. These IDPs are part of the total “population of concern” that also includes more than 4.95 million returnees, nearly 300,000 refugees (mostly Syrians), and 46,500 people experiencing statelessness. In other developments, on May 19, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 2,326,965, an increase of just 803 from the 2,326,162 reported on May 12. Hospitalizations decreased from 1,278 to 1,238, but the daily average for new cases during the last 7-day period increased to 115/day from 109/day during the 7-day period ending May 12. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 10,613,626 including 16,708 who received their shots on May 19. more…
  • KRG Accused Of Annexing Oil Wells In Kirkuk; Iraq Raises Wheat Buying Price Again; Central Bank Boosts Capital By IQD2 Trillion – On May 14, Iraq’s state-owned North Oil Company accused the KRG of dispatching oil workers and an armed force to take control of an unspecified number of oil wells in the “Bai Hassan and Dawood” fields in Kirkuk. A KRG spokesman said the accusations were untrue, denouncing them as part of a “politically motivated campaign” against the Kurdistan region. On May 17, Iraq’s Agriculture Ministry said the government decided to raise the price at which it buys wheat from farmers by IQD100,000 per ton to become IQD850,000 per ton. This is the second increase this season as Baghdad seeks to ensure sufficient grain supply amid global shortages caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. On May 19, the Central Bank of Iraq said it has increased its capital from IQD3 trillion to IQD5 trillion (approximately $3.45 billion) using part of the bank’s profits generated in 2021. 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 Lashes Out At Rivals, Judiciary; UNAMI Says Political Will For Solutions Is “Painfully Absent”; Parliament Bypasses Court Ruling On Spending Bill; Salah Ad-Din Governor Sacked

On May 16, Muqtada al-Sadr made a strongly-worded televised speech in which he attacked his rivals in the  Coordination Framework (CF). Sadr accused CF of being behind the previous day’s ruling by the Federal Supreme Court that blocked a Sadr-backed spending bill presented by the government (details below). Sadr insisted that CF’s actions were “targeting the people…wanting to make the people submit to them,” and accused the judiciary of being complicit “knowingly or unknowingly” in the “shameful deeds of the blocking third,” a reference to CF’s ability to hinder parliamentary action by virtue of its control of a third of seats. Sadr issued a veiled threat to CF, warning his rivals to beware “the anger of the patient and the oppressed.” Sadr insisted that the actions of the CF “will not force us to be your allies,” adding that there was no going back “to square one of muhasasa and corruption” in reference to Iraq’s power-sharing consensus-based governments. After Sadr made his speech, the senior commander of his Saraya la-Salam militia, Abu Mustafa al-Hmedawi, posted an ominous message on social media that read: “We are ready. Wait for us.”

On May 16, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court issued a ruling that stripped Salah ad-Din lawmaker Mishan al-Jubouri of his seat in Parliament. The decision was reportedly related to a case filed against the controversial Sunni Arab representative by former lawmaker Qutaiba al-Jubouri accusing him of forging his high school diploma. The federal court of cassation later issued a ruling assigning Jubouri’s seat to the former runner up in the election from the same district, Miqdam Mohammed al-Jumaili.

On May 17, the head of the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) presented an update to the Security Council on the “incessant loop of zero-sum politics” in Iraq. The UNAMI chief, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, said the combination of political deadlock, violence by non-state actors, and public discontent created a “completely untenable” situation. The official said that despite repeated talk of dialogue, the political will to reach a solution to the post-election deadlock was “painfully absent.” Hennis-Plasschaert said the problem was that “the national interest is…taking a backseat to short-sighted considerations of control over resources and power play.” Addressing the disputes between the federal government and the Kurdistan region, the UN official noted that a “sorry pattern of ad-hoc negotiations continues to prevail,” pointing that solutions require “an institutionalized, predictable mechanism for the comprehensive, holistic and durable resolutions” of the disputes. In her presentation, Hennis-Plasschaert strongly condemned the use of “messaging by rockets,” referring to attacks by Iran and allied militias on the Kurdistan region. She warned that these “reckless acts” can have “potentially devastating consequences,” and pressed the Iraqi government to expose the perpetrators and hold them accountable. The full presentation, which also covered the situation in Snijar, internal politics in Kurdistan, and the effects of climate change on Iraq, can be found here

On May 17, Nas News reported, citing sources from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), that the party leadership has recently instructed its members and media outlets to halt verbal attacks and harsh criticism against the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). According to these sources, the instruction followed a meeting between Masoud and Nechirvan Barzani, and is meant to “prepare the atmosphere for a new phase in the political process in Kurdistan.” It’s unclear whether the adjustment concerns the KDP-PUK dispute over naming the next president of Iraq, disputes over plans for the next election in Kurdistan, or both,  

On May 17, Rudaw reported that Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has appointed Ammar al-Asadi, the technical deputy to the mayor of Baghdad, as acting mayor, until a permanent appointment can be made. Asadi will temporarily fill the vacant post following the resignation of the former mayor, Ala’ Maan al-Mimar. On the following day, the prime minister had a meeting with the senior municipal officials of the capital, in which he strongly criticized the performance of the city’s service departments and accused the outgoing mayor of filing false reports about their work. 

On May 17, a report by Ultra Iraq suggested that the main suspect in the July 2020 assassination of analyst Husham al-Hashimi may have been spirited out of the country with the help of Kataib Hezbollah. The report cites three successive decisions by the court in charge of the case to postpone hearings. According to an unnamed witness who was reportedly present at the courtroom, the security force tasked with bringing in the suspect, Ahmed al-Kinani, informed the court that the suspect “could not be found” at the location where he had been held since his arrest last year. The report quotes an unnamed senior officer as saying that Kataib Hezbollah took Kinan out of the country “with an official passport and visa.”  

On May 18, the Iraqi Parliament’s Financial Committee said it presented a new draft of the “Emergency Support for Food Security and Development” bill to the Speaker of Parliament, and on the following day, the legislature conducted a first reading of the IQD25 trillion bill, which can be accessed here. An earlier draft bill with the same title was first presented to Parliament by Prime minister Kadhimi’s Cabinet in late March. That bill, backed by Muqtada al-Sadr and his allies, was seen as an attempt to bypass the delayed formal budget process, and was met with strong opposition from lawmakers affiliated with the Coordination Framework (CF). The new draft appears to be a workaround for passing the controversial bill, after the Federal Supreme Court ruled on May 15 that Kadhimi’s government is a caretaker one with limited authorization and lacks the power to present draft bills or take decisions that “have great impact on Iraq’s political, economic and social future.” The ruling was applauded by Nour al-Maliki, a senior CF figure, who said it protected public funds from “manipulation and corruption” and blocked “illegal contracting and appointment practices.” Meanwhile, Hassan al-Kabi, a senior Sadrist lawmaker and chairman of the Financial Committee, criticized the Court decision, arguing that derailing the bill would deprive low-income Iraqis of essential food rations and slash electricity supplies in the summer by 8,000 megawatts. 

On May 19, a document circulating on local news sites, and dated May 15, appeared to show that five lawmakers from the Emtidad movement had decided to withdraw from the party, which has nine seats in Parliament. In the letter, whose authenticity could not be verified, the five lawmakers attribute their resignations to unilateral decisions made by the party’s secretary general, Ala’ al-Rikabi. On the same day, Shafaq News reported, citing unnamed sources within Emtidad, that the general secretariat of the party decided to relieve Rikabi from his duties as Emtidad’s secretary general. 

On May 19, Iraq’s Parliament voted to sack the governor of Salah ad-Din province, Ammar Jabr al-Jubouri. Jabr has also been reportedly banned from leaving the country. In April, a magistrate court in Baghdad summoned Jabr for questioning over allegations of extortion. According to the Integrity Commission, Jabr was accused of soliciting bribes from a contractor in exchange for approving funds for a project the contractor was implementing in Salah ad-Din. 


Iraqi Forces Kill 20 ISIS Militants In New Operations; Militias Ramp Up Attacks On Supply Convoys

On May 12, the Security Media Cell reported that Iraqi security forces killed nine ISIS militants during an operation that targeted a tunnel used by the militants as a hideout in a mountainous area near the Muhalabiyah subdistrict of Ninewa province. To the southeast, the Cell said on May 15 that federal police forces in Kirkuk killed two ISIS militants during an operation in the Wadi Zghaytoun region of the province. 

On May 13, the Security Media Cell said that Iraqi F-16 jets conducted an airstrike against a tunnel used by ISIS militants as a hideout near the town of Kubeisa in Anbar province, killing three militants. Two days later, the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) said in a statement that it supplied targeting intelligence to the Iraqi air force and International Coalition that led to an airstrike against an ISIS position in the Makhmour mountains that killed six of the militants.    

On May 14, security sources in Diyala said that an improvised explosive device (IED) struck a Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) patrol in the Wadi Thlab region in the Mandili subdistrict. The explosion killed one CTS member and injured six. 

On May 14, a security source in Duhok province told Shafaq News that the Iraqi border guards have established a new outpost near the village of Harour in the Kani Masi subdistrict. According to the source, this represents the seventh such outpost established by the border guards in the past year. 

On May 15, the Turkish Defense Ministry said that its forces killed ten members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) during military operations in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The ministry added that in total, its forces have killed 95 PKK members since the beginning of operation “Claw Lock” on April 18.  

On May 15, security sources said that an IED explosion targeted a convoy transporting supplies for the International Coalition forces on a main highway in Muthanna province. Hours later, a second IED struck another convoy in Diwaniyah province. On May 19, four more IEDs targeted supply convoys in multiple provinces. One IED struck a convoy near Nasiriyah, another exploded on a highway in Muthanna province, and a double IED explosion targeted a convoy in northern Babylon. There were no reports of casualties in either incident. 

On May 16, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) said that ISIS militants attacked a PMF checkpoint in the al-Eith region in eastern Salah ad-Din province. The attack, which involved sniper fire, killed two PMF fighters and injured a third. 

On May 17, a security source in Salah ad-Din province said that locals recovered the body of a sheep herder from the village of Chardighli in the Ameri district, two days after he was kidnapped by ISIS militants. 

On May 19, security sources in Ninewa province said that a legacy IED explosion seriously injured two civilians in the Shoura subdistrict south of Mosul. 


New Severe Sandstorm Sends Thousands To The Hospitals; IDP Numbers Relatively Unchanged Since February

On May 16, Iraq’s Ministry of Health said that more than 4,000 people received medical help for breathing problems amidst a new severe sandstorm that engulfed large parts of Iraq. The storm created low visibility conditions, shutting down operations at multiple airports, as well as Iraq’s seaports in Basra. Seven of Iraq’s provinces also closed the offices of government departments, with the exception of essential services. An earlier sandstorm on May 5 had also sent several thousand people across several provinces to hospitals seeking medical help for breathing problems. At least one fatality was reported at the time. 

On May 16, officials from the local government in Mosul and UN-Habitat Iraq inaugurated a new housing complex at the Bab Sinjar area in Mosul. The Japan-funded project offers “a safe and dignified residence for 2,300 returnees” who had lost their homes. At a cost of $10 million, the project involved the construction of 324 apartments and refurbished 578 houses. The project also provided vocational training for 153 returnees. 

On May 17, the UNHCR released updated data on the refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) population in Iraq. The information shows that, despite significant returns, a total of 1,184,818 people continue to experience displacement in Iraq. This is a decrease of just 1,700 since the last set of data, released in February. These IDPs are part of the total “population of concern” that also includes more than 4.95 million returnees, nearly 300,000 refugees (mostly Syrians), and 46,500 people experiencing statelessness. The UNHCR warns that the IDP population is “often more vulnerable to protection risks” that include “arbitrary arrest and detention, trauma and psychological stress, threat of eviction from their homes, and lack of access to essential services.” Nearly 20% of IDPs living outside of camps suffer psycho-social distress, and only 50% say they can get safe and adequate housing. Meanwhile, almost 20% of the Syrian refugees in Iraq rely on aid for food (with that aid being at risk without urgent funding), and more than 50% struggle to get health services. Of the more than 1.18 million remaining IDPs, almost 90% have been experiencing displacement for three years or more, says UNHCR. Many of the remaining IDPs, the update notes, cannot go back to their home districts due to their homes being destroyed, lack of jobs, poor security, fear, trauma, and perceived links to ISIS. 

On May 19, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 2,326,965, an increase of just 803 in cases from the 2,326,162 reported on May 12. Of these cases, 1,238 are currently under treatment, including 11 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent a decrease of 40 in hospitalizations and a decrease of three in ICU admissions since May 12. Ministry data indicated that there were no new COVID-19 deaths since May 12, keeping the total at 25,216. The average number of new cases during the last 7-day period slightly increased to 115 per day from 109 per day during the 7-day period ending May 12. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 39 cases and Sulaymaniyah with 14 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 18,546,470 samples for COVID-19. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 10,613,626 including 16,708 who received their shots on May 19.


KRG Accused Of Annexing Oil Wells In Kirkuk; Iraq Raises Wheat Buying Price Again; Central Bank Boosts Capital By IQD2 Trillion

On May 14, Iraq’s state-owned North Oil Company accused the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) of dispatching oil workers and an armed force to take control of an unspecified number of oil wells in the “Bai Hassan and Dawood” fields in Kirkuk. In a statement, the company said these acts were meant to divert the oil produced at these wells to benefit the KRG, and represented a violation of the constitution and Iraqi laws. A KRG spokesman said the accusations were untrue, denouncing them as part of a “politically motivated campaign” against the Kurdistan region. The spokesman, Jotyar Adil, further argued that North Oil Company has been violating the constitution by operating without the legal cover of a law for oil and gas. Meanwhile, the second deputy speaker of Parliament, Shakhwan Abdullah, accused the federal Oil Ministry and Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar of “fabricating problems” between the region and federal government, and of “spreading false accusations against the Peshmerga.”  Abdullah, a senior member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), said Abdul-Jabbar was trying to create a distraction from an upcoming questioning of the minister by Parliament. The deputy speaker also affirmed that there were no military movements in the area of the oil fields in question. 

On May 15, protesters demanding jobs in Dhi-Qar province blocked roads leading to the Nasiriyah oil refinery with burning tyres, preventing access to the facility. It is unclear whether the access denial has resulted in a disruption to operations at the facility, which had been shut down by protesters multiple times in recent years. 

On May 16, Iraq’s state-owned petrochemical industries company said that it has resumed the production of polyethylene pellets after a halt lasting 12 years. Officials of the Basra-based company said production will proceed at a rate of 3,000 tons per month meant for the domestic market to replace imports. 

On May 17, Iraq’s Agriculture Ministry said that the ministerial council for economy voted to raise the price at which the government buys wheat from farmers by IQD100,000 per ton to become IQD850,000 per ton. This is the second increase in the official wheat buying prices this season as Baghdad seeks to ensure sufficient grain supply amid global shortages caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In March, the government decided to raise the price to IQD725,000 ($500) per ton, leaving the door open for further increase, depending on global prices. Farmers have delivered more than 924,000 tons of wheat to government silos since the beginning of this harvest season, according to Agriculture Ministry data released on May 19.

On May 19, the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) said that it has increased its capital from IQD3 trillion to IQD5 trillion (approximately $3.45 billion). A statement by the CBI said the increase has relied on part of the bank’s profits generated in 2021.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from May 12, 2022 - May 19, 2022

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
5/14/22 Mandili, Diyala province16
5/15/22 Muthanna province00
5/15/22 Diwaniyah province00
5/19/22 Nasiriyah, Dhi-Qar province00
5/19/22 Muthanna province00
5/19/22 Northern Babylon province00
5/19/22 Shoura subdistrict, Ninewa province02

 

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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