ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: MAY 26 – JUNE 2, 2022

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Key Takeaways:

  • KRG Oil Chief Resigns; U.S. Criticizes Anti-Israel Law; Sacked Governor Fights To Stay In Power; UNAMI Says Accountability For Abuses Remains “Limited” – On May 26, KRG PM Masrour Barzani said his Minister of Natural Resources, Kamal al-Atrushi, had “voluntarily” resigned. On May 26, the U.S. Department of State said Washington was “deeply concerned” by a bill passed by Iraq’s Parliament that criminalizes establishing any kind of ties with Israel, saying it undermines freedom of speech and encourages antisemitism. On May 29, the sacked governor of Salah ad-Din province, Ammar Jabr al-Jubouri, sent a letter to the Cabinet contesting Parliament’s vote to remove him from office, and insisting that he must continue to undertake his duties. Meanwhile, news reports described a chaotic administrative situation in Salah ad-Din, with Jubouri and his replacement both issuing orders and memoranda as the rightful governor. On June 2, the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq released an update on efforts by Iraqi authorities to establish accountability for human rights violations committed by “unidentified armed elements” against protesters since the country’s mass protests in the fall of 2019. The report found that “results regarding accountability remain limited.” Critically, it underscores that a fact-finding body the Iraqi government established in October 2020 “has not produced any investigative outcomes or provided public information about its work.” more…
  • PKK Shelling Kills Civilians Near Duhok; New Rocket Attack Targets Ain Al-Asad Base – On May 26, the counter-terrorism agency of the Kurdistan region said that PKK militants fired two rockets that struck a village near Amadiyah, in Duhok province, killing two civilians and injuring two. On May 31, five Katyusha-type rockets targeted the Ain al-Asad Iraqi air force base in Anbar province, which also hosts personnel from the International Coalition to defeat ISIS. The rockets impacted around the perimeter of the base without causing casualties or material damage. In other developments, between May 26 – 29, fighting between Iraqi security forces and ISIS militants in Kirkuk, Anbar, Diyala, and Ninewa killed ten ISIS militants and injured two civilians. Between May 27 – 29, the Turkish Ministry of Defense said that its forces killed 43 PKK militants in airstrikes targeting the group’s presence in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. On June 2, sources in Ninewa province said that multiple drones of unknown origin targeted the Turkish military base at Zelikan, north of Mosul. more…
  • Major Irrigation Project Repaired; Child-Protection Programs Severely Underfunded – On May 30, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced the completion of the North Al-Jazeera irrigation project following extensive rehabilitation of pumps and other key infrastructure. The project will enable more than 200,000 people in western Ninewa to resume agricultural activity halted by the lack of water after the ISIS occupation damaged the project. On May 31, UNICEF said that its response to ongoing humanitarian needs of some 700,000 children in Iraq was facing serious funding gaps, having secured only $8 million against a requirement of $52.2 million. The three most impacted sectors are child protection, gender-based violence prevention and response, and water, sanitation and hygiene, being 85%, 90%, and 93% underfunded, respectively. In other developments, On June 2, Iraq’s Ministry of Migration said that 579 IDPs have returned to their home districts in Anbar province from irregular camps in Amiriyat al-Fallujah. On June 2, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 2,328,369, an increase of just 704 from the 2,327,665 reported on May 26. Hospitalizations decreased from 1,025 to 1,010, and the daily average for new cases remained at 100/day during the last 7-day period. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 10,703,496 including 11,521 who received their shots on June 2. more…
  • Oil Revenue Hits New Record High In May; Iran Cuts Natural Gas Deliveries – On June 1, the Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports during May averaged of 3.3 million bpd and generated $11.43 billion in revenue, nearly $900 million higher than April, and surpassing the previous record of $11.07 billion that Iraq reported in March. On June 1, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity said that power generation and hours supplied through the national grid will drop due to the loss of five million cubic meters of daily natural gas imports from Iran. The ministry blamed Iraq’s inability to pay about $1.7 billion in arrears owed to Iran. In other developments, on June 1, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said the country’s treasury incurred losses of nearly IQD4 trillion as a result of “obvious corruption” in the Central Bank’s sale of hard currency to private banks. According to the Commission, investigations have shown that many of the related documents filed by private banks were fake. 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.


KRG Oil Chief Resigns; U.S. Criticizes Anti-Israel Law; Sacked Governor Fights To Stay In Power; UNAMI Says Accountability For Abuses Remains “Limited”

On May 26, the U.S. Department of State said Washington was “deeply concerned” by a bill passed by Iraq’s Parliament earlier that day that criminalizes establishing any kind of ties with the state of Israel. The State Department said the new law undermines freedom of speech, encourages antisemitism, and “stands in stark contrast to progress Iraq’s neighbors have made by building bridges and normalizing relations with Israel, creating new opportunities for people throughout the region. The final language of the bill, which passed unanimously during a session attended by 275 lawmakers, can be found here.

On May 26, a statement by the office of Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said the region’s Minister of Natural Resources, Kamal al-Atrushi, had resigned. The statement attributed Atrushi’s resignation to unspecified health reasons and the need for longer treatment time, adding that it was submitted “voluntarily.” The KRG Minister for Electricity, Kamal Mohammed Salih, will serve as acting Minister of Natural Resources, according to the KRG statement. 

On May 28, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) announced that it has renewed its confidence in Bafel Talabani as the sole president of the party. According to a statement issued by PUKMedia, the move officially ended the dual presidency arrangement under which Bafel Talabani and Lahur Talabani served as co-residents. That arrangement crumbled in July 2021, when Lahur Talabani stepped down as PUK co-President after the party claimed it uncovered an alleged spy working for Lahur on a “plot to strike [the PUK’s] strategic interests.” At the time, Lahur said that he had only “temporarily” surrendered his executive powers. Bafel Talabani had also accused Lahur of using his party position for “personal gain, including smuggling, extortion, threats, and spying.” In related developments this week, court documents show that Lahur had filed a lawsuit against Bafel in a Baghdad court, in which he accused the latter of violating the party bylaws and demanded the court revoke actions taken by Bafel against him. 

On May 29, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi met with the visiting head of Iraq’s environmental protection organization, Ali Salajqa. According to a statement by Kadhimi’s office, Salajqa expressed Iran’s interest in finding solutions to environmental problems between the two countries, noting that responding to drought and sandstorms has become a “mutual regional demand that requires everyone’s participation.” Later, at a joint press conference with Salajqa, Iraq’s foreign minister Fuad Hussein said the two countries have discussed the “water, drought and desertification dossier,” adding that they agreed to have future meetings to discuss water issues and shared rivers. For his part, Salajqa said that Iraq and Iran would soon cooperate on stabilizing sand dunes to defend against desertification. 

On May 29, the sacked former governor of Salah ad-Din province, Ammar Jabr al-Jubouri, sent a letter to the Council of Ministers in which he contested Parliament’s vote to remove him from office. In the letter, Jubouri argues that he must continue to undertake his duties as governor until the judiciary had reviewed his appeals of Parliament’s vote to remove him from office and the appointment of his deputy as acting governor. Jubouri based his argument on provision from law 21 of 2008 concerning provinces that are not part of a federal region. Meanwhile, a report by al-Mada described a chaotic administrative situation in Salah ad-Din, with Jubouri and his replacement, Esmail al-Haloub, both issuing orders and memoranda as the rightful governor. On June 2, the Court of Administrative Law rejected Jubouri’s appeals. 

On June 2, the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) released a new update on the efforts by Iraqi authorities to establish accountability for human rights violations committed by “unidentified armed elements” against protesters and activists since the country’s mass protests in the fall of 2019. The report notes that Iraqi authorities have achieved some progress with regard to compensating victims of abuses, but that “results regarding accountability remain limited.” Critically, the report underscores that a fact-finding body the Iraqi government established in October 2020 “has not produced any investigative outcomes or provided public information about its work.” Moreover, the report points out that “many of those individuals seeking accountability have been subjected to threats, including violence.” The report points out that from May 2021 to April 2022 UNAMI had documented 26 incidents “aimed at suppressing dissent and criticism” perpetrated by unknown armed factions. Those incidents included “one targeted killing, three attempted targeted killings, five violent assaults, one house raid, 14 attacks using improvised explosive devices, one abduction, one property destruction and numerous non-violent threats.” The full UNAMI report can be found here.

On June 2, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi told China’s ambassador to Baghdad during a meeting in his office that his government wants to expand the scope of the “framework agreement” between Iraq and China to “include more projects.” Kadhimi added that Iraq wants to develop “real long-term partnerships” in various sectors, “mainly energy, reconstruction…and school building.”

On June 2, the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Alina Romanowski, presented her credentials to President Barham Salih in Baghdad. Romanowski replaces ambassador Matthew Tueller, who had served as head of the Baghdad embassy since June 2019. 


PKK Shelling Kills Civilians Near Duhok; New Rocket Attack Targets Ain Al-Asad Base

On May 26, the counter-terrorsm agency of the Kurdistan region said that Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants fired two rockets that struck the village of Ardana, near the Amadiyah district of Duhok province. According to the agency, the rocket impacts killed two civilians and injured two more. 

On May 26, Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) said in a statement that its troops ambushed three ISIS militants in the Rashad area south of Kirkuk, killing all of them. To the northeast, in Ninewa province, Iraqi army troops clashed with a group of ISIS militants in the Wana subdistrict, north of Mosul, killing one of the militants.  

On May 27, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) said their fighters clashed with ISIS militants in the Wadi Horan region of Anbar province, killing three militants and destroying their vehicle. 

Between May 27 – 29, the Turkish Ministry of Defense said that its forces killed 43 PKK militants in airstrikes targeting the group’s presence in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The toll included 16 killed on May 27, 18 killed on May 28, and nine killed on May 29. Meanwhile, the Turkish Defense Ministry said one of its soldiers was killed and another was wounded on May 29 in an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Another soldier died on May 30 as a result of injuries sustained during earlier clashes with PKK fighters in Iraq.   

On May 29, the Security Media Cell reported that Iraqi F-16 jets conducted two airstrikes against caves occupied by ISIS militants in the Himrin mountains of Diyala province. The airstrikes killed three militants, injured one, and destroyed the cave. 

On May 29, the Ninewa police said that Iraqi security forces clashed with ISIS militants near a checkpoint south of the Makhmour district, southeast of Mosul. The clashes injured two civilians who happened to be near the checkpoint at that time. 

On May 31, five Katyusha-type rockets targeted the Ain al-Asad Iraqi air force base in Anbar province, which also hosts personnel from the International Coalition to defeat ISIS. The rockets impacted around the perimeter of the base without causing casualties or material damage, according to Iraqi security officials. Security forces later shared images of the launchers used in the attack, whose appearance seemed to indicate the attack employed 122mm rockets. According to Iraqi security sources, the base’s anti-rocket defenses intercepted two of the five rockets before impact. 

On June 2, local sources in Ninewa province said that six drones of unknown origin targeted the Turkish military base at Zelikan, north of Mosul. According to the sources, the base’s defense systems shot down one of the drones, adding that the attack did not result in casualties. Other reports indicated the attack involved only two drones instead of six. 


Major Irrigation Project Repaired; Child-Protection Programs Severely Underfunded

On May 30, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) announced the completion of the North Al-Jazeera irrigation project following extensive rehabilitation of pumps and other key infrastructure. The rehabilitated project will enable more than 200,000 people in the Jazeera region of western Ninewa province to resume agricultural activity halted by the lack of water after the ISIS occupation rendered the project inoperable. In addition to fixing the main pumping station, the work involved repairing “11 bridges, 17 power transmission towers, 21 water control gates, cleaning of irrigation canals from silt and debris engaging 1,250 households through the Cash-for-Work activity and providing spare parts to 150 linear-move irrigation systems.” 

On May 31, a spokesman for Iraq’s Ministry of Health said the number of confirmed hemorrhagic fever cases recorded in the country since the beginning of the recent outbreak had increased to 120. According to the official, 20 of those infected died as a result of the disease, while more than half have fully recovered and were released from hospital. 

On May 31, UNICEF said that its plans for responding to ongoing humanitarian needs in Iraq in 2022 were facing serious funding gaps. Specifically, the organization said that as of March, its 2022 response to people impacted by emergencies in Iraq, estimated to require $52.2 million in funding, was 85% underfunded, with a funding gap of $44.11 million. The three most impacted sectors are child protection, gender-based violence prevention and response, and water, sanitation and hygiene, being 85%, 90%, and 93% underfunded, respectively. In December of 2021, the UN organization noted that 2.5 million people continue to need humanitarian assistance in Iraq due to the lingering effects of conflict, displacement, and the COVID-19 pandemic. This population includes 1.1 million children, of whom 422,000 are considered to have “acute humanitarian needs.” UNICEF plans to include nearly 780,000 children in its 2022 response. The targets include helping nearly 450,000 people have access to enough clean water, facilitating health care provision to more than 735,000, and helping another 447,000 kids receive education. 

On June 2, Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and the Displaced said that 579 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have returned to their home districts in Anbar province from irregular camps in the Amiriyat al-Fallujah subdistrict. The Ministry said it supported the returnees with transportation and provided stipends and financial support to rebuild destroyed homes.

On June 2, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 2,328,369, an increase of just 704 in cases from the 2,327,665 reported on May 26. Of these cases, 1,010 are currently under treatment, including eight being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent a decrease of 15 in hospitalizations and no change in ICU admissions since May 26. Ministry data indicated that there was one new COVID-19 death since May 26, bringing the total to 25,219. The average number of new cases during the last 7-day period remained stable at 100 per day. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 41 cases and Karbala with 11 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 18,601,078 samples for COVID-19. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 10,703,496 including 11,521 who received their shots on June 2.


Oil Revenue Hits New Record High In May; Iran Cuts Natural Gas Deliveries

On June 1, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity said that power generation and hours supplied through the national grid will suffer reduction due to the loss of five million cubic meters of daily natural gas imports from Iran. The ministry attributed the drop in gas supplies to delays in passing a budget for 2022 and Iraq’s inability to pay about $1.7 billion in arrears owed to Iran for previous imports. A ministry spokesman explained that Iran had agreed to deliver 45 million cubic meters per day to Iraq, but actual deliveries have remained below 30 million cubic meters. The spokesman added that the ministry is working with the Iranians to avoid sharp drops in gas supplies, while also working with the Oil Ministry to provide alternative fuels to mitigate gas shortages. 

On June 1, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil said that crude oil exports during May totaled 102.3 million barrels, for an average of 3.3 million barrels per day (bpd), about 80,000 bpd higher than in April. The May exports generated $11.43 billion in revenue, nearly $900 million higher than the $10.55 billion generated in April, and surpassing the previous record of $11.07 billion that Iraq reported in March. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of approximately $111.79 per barrel, about $7.79 above the previous month’s average of $104 per barrel. Shipped exports from fields in southern and central Iraq averaged 3.21 million bpd in May, while average exports from the northern fields in Kirkuk, which were exported through the Turkish port of Ceyhan, increased to just over 106,450 bpd. 

On June 1, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said the country’s treasury incurred losses of nearly IQD4 trillion as a result of “obvious corruption” in the Central Bank’s sale of hard currency to private banks. According to the Commission, investigations have shown that many of the tax documents filed by private banks were fake.  

 


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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