ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: DECEMBER 15 – 22, 2022

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Key Takeaways:

  • Regional, European Leaders Voice Support For Iraq’s Stability; Investigation Points To Serious Abuses In Anti-Corruption Campaign – On December 20, PM Sudani attended a summit of regional and European leaders in Jordan that was organized by Iraq and France as a follow-up to the Baghdad Conference, which Baghdad hosted in August 2021. In addition to France, Iraq, and Jordan, the meeting brought together leaders and senior officials from Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Turkey, Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain, and the EU, with the stated goal of showing “support for Iraq, its sovereignty, security, and stability, as well as its political process, its economic and development progress, and its efforts to rebuild.” In the final statement, participants emphasized their support for greater cooperation with Baghdad on energy, water, electrical grid connections, transportation, and climate change, and underscored Iraq’s “central” role in building bridges for regional understanding. On December 21, an investigation by The Washington Post pointed to evidence of torture and sexual abuse in an ani-corruption campaign under the government of former PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi. The report says severe human rights violations were used to extract confessions from suspects linked to major corruption cases under investigation by the Committee to Investigate Corruption and Significant Crimes (aka Committee 29). In other developments, on December 22, Rudaw reported that Iraq’s Finance Minister was refusing to sign off on the disbursement of IQD400 billion to the KRG that was approved by the Council of Ministers last week, calling the payment “illegal.” more…
  • ISIS Militants Launch New Deadly Attacks In Diyala And Kirkuk – Between December 16 – 22, the explosions of four IEDs and one remnant of war in the provinces of Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa, and Basra killed 13 Iraqis and wounded 11 more, including children. Nine of the fatalities occurred when an IED struck a federal police patrol west of Kirkuk. On December 19, a group of suspected ISIS militants attacked the village of Albu Bali in Diyala province with sniper fire and other small arms, killing eight civilians and wounding at least another three. In other developments, between December 15 – 20, a protester was found tortured and dead in Diyala, while the home of a prominent activist in Babylon was attacked with a grenade, and a coffee shop frequented by activists in Najaf was struck by an RPG. more…
  • ISX Launches Online Trading Platform; Iraq Expects “Tangible” Reduction In Gas Flaring Within A Year – On December 19, the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) announced the launch of its first online trading platform that will allow investors to buy and sell shares in the ISX listed companies through the internet by the end of next January. On December 19, Iraq’s Minister of Oil said that Iraq had developed plans to utilize all the associated natural gas that accompanies oil production with the goal of ending all flaring of natural within four years. The Minister added that the plan will yield “tangible results within the first year” of the current government term “especially in some of the southern [oil] fields.” In other developments, on December 15, Iraqi railroad officials said that they have reopened the line connecting the town of Haditha in Anbar province with the oil hub town of Baiji in Salah ad-Din province. The officials said the restored railroad connection, which parallels an important section of Iraq’s Strategic Pipeline, will primarily serve to transport oil products and other cargo. On December 21, Fitch Ratings said that it affirmed Iraq’s “B-” Long Term Foreign Currency Issuer Default Rating, describing Iraq’s outlook as “stable.” more…

Attention readers! ISHM will take a break next week for the holidays, but it will be back the week after, with comprehensive coverage of the week we missed!

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.


Regional, European Leaders Voice Support For Iraq’s Stability; Investigation Points To Serious Abuses In Anti-Corruption Campaign

On December 19, the Popular Mobilization Committee (PMC) said it decided to drop defamation charges against activist Haider al-Zaidi. An Iraqi court had sentenced Zaidi to three years in prison after it found him guilty of insulting the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in a post he had made on social media. The court verdict against the young activist sparked widespread protests in Nasiriyah and Baghdad, in which at least three protesters were killed by government forces. On the same day, however, news reports showed that the PMC was pushing similar defamation charges against lawmaker Sajjad Salim. A court document dated December 8 demanded that Salim appear in court for questioning. The document states that the PMC had filed charges against Salim, accusing him of “insulting” PMC chairman Falih al-Fayyadh and PMF commander Abu Fadak al-Mohammadawi. The independent lawmaker had reportedly accused Fayyadh and Mohammadawi on social media of being responsible for the death and disappearance of protesters. 

On December 20, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani arrived in the Jordanian capital, Amman, to attend a summit of regional and European leaders. The meeting was organized by Iraq and France as a follow-up to the Baghdad Conference for Partnership and Cooperation, which Baghdad hosted in August 2021. In addition to France, Iraq, and Jordan, the meeting in Amman brought together leaders and senior officials from Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Turkey, Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain, and the European Union, with the stated goal of showing “support for Iraq, its sovereignty, security, and stability, as well as its political process, its economic and development progress, and its efforts to rebuild.” Speaking at the meeting, Sudani said that Baghdad rejects “interfering in its internal affairs, undermining its sovereignty, or attacking its lands,” adding that, at the same time, Iraq does not accept “any threat to be launched from Iraq against any of the neighboring countries or the region.” In the final statement of the two-day event, the participants expressed their support for Iraq’s democracy and sovereignty, and its efforts to rebuild its institutions and infrastructure and develop its economy. The participants emphasized their support for greater cooperation with Baghdad on energy, water, electrical grid connections, transportation, and climate change. The statement also said the meeting underscores Iraq’s “central” role in building bridges for regional understanding and reducing tension, stressing that successful regional cooperation requires respect for international law and non-interference in the internal affairs of each other. The participants also agreed to hold a third similar conference next year.  

On December 21, The Washington Post wrote that an investigation conducted by the newspaper over several months pointed to evidence of torture and sexual abuse in an ani-corruption campaign under the government of former Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. The investigation, which lasted nine months, involved interviews with former detainees, their relatives, and Iraqi and foreign officials. The reports describes severe human rights violations, including various forms of severe torture, humiliation, and sexual abuse of detainees, that were used to extract confessions from suspects linked to major corruption cases. The abuses described in detail in the Post’s report allegedly unfolded at two locations in the Green Zone and the Baghdad airport complex, and took place under the authority of the Committee to Investigate Corruption and Significant Crimes, (aka Committee 29) which was headed by lieutenant general Ahmed Taha Hashim, or Abu Ragheef.

On December 22, Iraqi President Abdul-Latif Rashid met with the Turkish ambassador to Baghdad, Ali Riza Guney, who delivered a written letter from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The letter expressed Turkey’s desire to improve bilateral relations, and included an invitation for Rashid to visit Turkey. 

On December 22, Rudaw reported that Iraq’s Finance Minister, Taif Sami, was refusing to sign off on the disbursement of IQD400 billion to the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) that was approved by the federal Council of Ministers last week. According to the report, the minister considers the payment illegal, and had opposed the decision to issue it during last week’s Council of Ministers meeting. Commenting on the report, a former deputy finance minister said that Sami’s signature was necessary to release the payment and a step that could not be bypassed by the prime minister, adding that the KRG has no other option but to ask the prime minister to apply pressure on his finance minister. 

The sources cited in this section include: INA, Iraqi PM’s office, AP, ISHM archives, Rudaw, al-Sumaria, the Washington Post, Ultra Iraq.


ISIS Militants Launch New Deadly Attacks In Diyala And Kirkuk

On December 15, security sources in Diyala said that security forces recovered the body of a teacher bearing signs of torture in an irrigation canal near the town of Khalis. The victim had disappeared a day earlier after participating in a protest organized by part time teachers demanding permanent jobs. 

On December 16, security sources in Ninewa province said that two children were killed and three were injured when a legacy improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in the cemetery of a village within the Bashiqa subdistrict, north of Mosul.

On December 16, Babylon police said that an attack with a hand grenade targeted the residence of Dhurgham Majid, a prominent political activist in the town of al-Hamza al-Gharbi, south of Hilla. The attack caused damage but did not result in casualties. 

On December 18, Iraqi security sources said that an IED explosion struck two vehicles of the Iraqi federal police forces while on patrol in the Riyadh subdistrict of Kirkuk province. The explosion killed nine federal police personnel, including a brigadier general, and three others were wounded in subsequent clashes with ISIS militants. One of the militants was reportedly killed during the clashes too. 

On December 19, security sources in Maysan province said that unidentified militants fired a mortar round at a civilian residence in the Nahr al-Izz region, south of Amara. The attack wounded five people.  

On December 19, a group of suspected ISIS militants attacked the village of Albu Bali near the town of Khalis in Diyala province, local sources said. The attack, in which the militants used sniper fire and other small arms to target civilian vehicles, killed eight civilians and wounded at least another three.  

On December 20, NRT reported that unidentified militants attacked a coffee shop in Najaf with a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) in the early morning hours. The attack caused material damage to the venue, which is reportedly frequented by protesters and civil society activists, but there were no reports of casualties.  

On December 21, an Iraqi military spokesman said that an Iraqi airstrike targeted ISIS militants in the Tal Afar area, west of Mosul. The airstrike killed five of the militants. 

On December 22, Iraqi security officials said that an IED explosion struck an Iraqi army patrol vehicle in the Makhmour district, northwest of Kirkuk. The explosion killed two soldiers from the army’s 14th division and wounded three others. To the northwest, Ninewa police said on the same day that a legacy IED exploded in the town of Badush, northwest of Mosul, wounding a five year old child.

On December 22, security sources in southern Iraq said that an Iraqi border guard member lost his foot when a remnant of war exploded near him. The incident occurred near the Jreishan border crossing on the border with Kuwait. 

The sources cited in this section include: Shafaq, NINA, al-Sumaria, Nas News, al-Hurra, AP, INA, NRT.


ISX Launches Online Trading Platform; Iraq Expects “Tangible” Reduction In Gas Flaring Within A Year

On December 15, Iraqi railroad officials said that they have reopened the line connecting the town of Haditha in Anbar province with the oil hub town of Baiji in Salah ad-Din province. The officials said the restored railroad connection, which parallels an important section of Iraq’s Strategic Pipeline, will primarily serve to transport oil products and other cargo. The officials added that work to reestablish railroad lines from Baghdad to the western border towns of al-Qaim and Akashat will soon be completed.

On December 19, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that there were 519 new infections with COVID-19, four new fatalities, and 10,617 people who received their vaccines during the period between December 12 – 18. Cumulatively, the ministry reported 2,465,107 infections, 25,373 deaths, and 11,335,599 vaccinations. The average number of new cases during the last 7-day reporting period increased to 74 per day, up from 59 per day in the previous reporting period. 

On December 19, Iraq’s Minister of Agriculture, Abbas al-Ilayawi, said the government hap approved a plan to allocated IQD136 billion in the draft 2023 budget to pay compensations for rice farmers in three province: Diwaniyah, Najaf, and Muthanna. Due to water shortages, Iraqi authorities had decided to reduce rice farming for the next season by 90%, allowing farmers to plant just 10,500 dunams (1 dunam = 0.247 acres). 

On December 19, the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) announced the launch of its first online trading platform that will allow investors to buy and sell shares in the ISX listed companies through the internet. Users will be able to utilize the new platform starting with the ISX trading session on January 29, 2023. 

On December 19, Iraq’s Minister of Oil, Hayan Abdul-Ghani, said that Iraq had developed plans to utilize all the associated natural gas that accompanies oil production with the goal of completely stop flaring that gas within four years. The Minister added that the plan will yield “tangible results within the first year” of the current government term “especially in some of the southern [oil] fields.” Currently, Iraq flares roughly half of the natural gas that rises to the surface as a byproduct of oil production, resulting in significant pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, economic loss, and damage to public health. 

On December 21, Fitch Ratings said that it affirmed Iraq’s “B-” Long Term Foreign Currency Issuer Default Rating, describing Iraq’s outlook as “stable.” In its update, Fitch said the rating reflected the country’s “high commodity dependence, weak governance, political risk, and an undeveloped banking sector, balanced by high FX reserves and low interest costs on government debt.” The credit rating agency added that high oil prices ”have improved many of Iraq’s credit metrics in 2022, but the absence of structural, economic or fiscal reforms and persistence of political risk constrain the rating.” The update predicts that the budget surplus that Iraq currently enjoys will decrease from 10% of GDP in 2022 to just over 2% in 2023 as spending rises and oil prices retreat from the peaks reached earlier this year. 

The sources cited in this section include: INA, Rudaw, al-Sumaria, Fitch Rating.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from December 15, 2022 - December 22, 2022

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
12/16/22 Near Bashiqa, Ninewa province23
12/18/22 Riyadh, Kirkuk province93
12/22/22 Near Makhmour, Ninewa province23
12/22/22 Badush, Ninewa 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.


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