ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: January 1 – 12, 2023

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Key Takeaways:

  • Justice Minister Subpoenaed For Alleged Investigation Obstruction; PM Sacks Diwaniyah’s Governor; Sudani Visits Germany – On January 4, an investigation court in Baghdad issued a subpoena for Iraq’s Justice Minister after he allegedly impeded an investigation into suspected corruption in contracts for the provision of food to inmates. On January 10, PM Sudani issued orders to suspend the governor of Diwaniyah citing investigations into corruption allegations involving the governor, without providing details. On January 12, the Integrity Commission warned that the governor continued to approve contracts worth millions of dollars despite being suspended. On January 12, PM Sudani began an official visit to Germany, where his talks will focus on finalizing a plan to improve Iraq’s electricity sector with Germany’s Siemens, as well as economic development, climate change, gas capture, and humanitarian issues, including the conditions of Iraqi migrants in Europe. In other developments, on January 9, news reports citing a senior aide to Muqtada al-Sadr said the latter called for unified mass prayers on Friday as part of an effort to regroup and reorganize his followers. According to the source, Sadr wants the year 2023 to be “the year of change, total change, and that necessarily includes political [change].” more…
  • Air Force College Receives Its First Class of Cadets After A Five-Year Halt; IED Attacks On Supply Convoys Resume – On January 9, Iraq’s Defense Minister announced that the Iraqi Air Force College received its first class of 91 cadets after five years of closures forced by budget cuts and the Covid-19 pandemic. Between January 3 – 12, the explosions of five IEDs and one remnant of war in Baghdad, Babylon, Dhi-Qar, Najaf, and Wasit killed two Iraqis and one person. One of the IEDs targeted a convoy transporting supplies for the anti-ISIS International Coalition near Taji, north of Baghdad. An obscure group calling itself al-Muqawama al-Dawliya (international resistance) claimed responsibility for the bombing, which was the first of its kind since August. In other developments, on January 8, air defense systems at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar shot down an unidentified drone that flew close to the base. On January 8, Iraqi authorities reopened several key roadways in and around the Green Zone in Baghdad, some of which closed since 2003, to civilian vehicular traffic to ease traffic congestion in the capital city. more…
  • Sinjar Yazidis Regain Property Ownership Rights; Iraq’s Population Exceeded 42 Million In 2022 – On January 4, the UN and Iraqi government announced a decision by the latter, which approved a decree that restored ownership rights concerning homes and residential land to thousands of Iraqi Yazidis from Sinjar. The decree paves the way for ending discriminatory policies, in effect since 1975, that had denied these citizens the right to own their homes. On January 4, Iraq’s Planning Ministry said that its latest estimates put Iraq’s population at the end of 2022 at 42,248,883 of whom people under 15 comprised 40.5%, while people ages 15-64 represented 56.5%, and seniors over 65 made up the remaining 3%. Life expectancy among males and females was 72.5 years and 76.6 years, respectively. On January 8, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that 2022 concluded with a large deficit in funding required for the year’s Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). OCHA said that donors have provided $269 million in funding, just 67% of the $400 million needed to assist nearly a million people with acute humanitarian needs. more…
  • Oil Revenue Lower In December; Recovery Of Stolen Funds Stalls; Spending On Salaries To Rise As Government Adds Nearly 400,000 To Payroll – On January 2, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports in December averaged 3.331 million bpd and generated $7.6 billion in revenue, more than $600 million below the $8.231 billion achieved in November. Iraq sold its oil at an average price of $73.64 per barrel, about $8.8 below November prices. On January 3, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said it recovered IQD4 billion from a suspect involved in the theft of $2.5 billion from tax deposits in government accounts through a major fraud scheme that was uncovered in October. This brought the total amount recovered to about IQD321 ($218 million), representing under 10% of stolen funds. On January 3, PM Sudani said that spending on salaries would increase in the 2023 budget from IQD41 trillion to IQD62 trillion. He linked the increase to “commitments and decisions made by previous governments.” Specifically, the government released plans to put nearly 400,000 temporary and part-time workers on permanent government payroll. 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.


Justice Minister Subpoenaed For Alleged Investigation Obstruction; PM Sacks Diwaniyah’s Governor; Sudani Visits Germany

On January 4, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said that an investigation court in Baghdad issued subpoenas for Iraq’s Justice Minister and a senior security official in the Justice Ministry over alleged obstruction of justice. The two officials had allegedly impeded an investigation into suspected corruption in the ministry’s contracts for the provision of food to inmates by refusing to provide Commission investigators with required documents. The minister, Khalid Shwani, said on January 9 that the situation involved a minor delay that was blown out of proportion, claiming that the ministry had handed over all the requested documents to the Integrity Commission. Shwani said that there was a one-day delay in supplying the documents because the investigators had arrived at the end of the work day, adding that the Commission acted too soon to make the accusations to the media. 

On January 9, a report by al-Mada, citing a senior aide to Muqtada al-Sadr, said that Sadr’s call for unified mass prayers on Friday, January 13, was part of an effort by the movement to regroup and reorganize its followers. According to the source, who preferred to remain anonymous, Sadr wants the year 2023 to be “the year of change, total change, and that necessarily includes political [change].” The Sadrist source added that the upcoming prayer will deliver “social and political messages” and will serve as a “means to re-engage the movemen’s supporters.”

On January 10, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani issued orders to suspend the governor of Diwaniyah province, Zuheir Ali al-Shalan, citing investigations into corruption allegations involving the governor, without providing further details. On the following day, the government tasked the deputy governor, Faris Wannas, with running the provincial administration. Shalan will remain suspended for 60 days, or until the investigations are concluded, a government statement said. On January 12, the Integrity Commission warned that the sacked governor had continued to approve contracts worth IQD17 billion despite the prime minister’s order that suspended his authority.

On January 11, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke on the phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani. During the conversation, Erdogan emphasized the need to end the presence of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq, which he said would serve Iraq’s national security interests as well as Turkey’s, according to a statement by the Turkish presidency. For his part, Sudani talked to Erdogan about securing Iraq’s share of water from the Tigris and Euphrates, according to an Iraqi government statement. The two leaders also discussed trade, projects by Turkish companies in Iraq, and plans to connect Iraq’s Fao port to Turkey by rail. 

On January 11, a senior delegation from the Kurdistan regional government (KRG), led by KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, arrived in Baghdad for another round of negotiations with federal officials, led by Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani. The talk on Wednesday focused on the KRG share of the federal budget, plans to prepare a new draft of the long-delayed oil and gas legislation, and the situation in disputed territories, including the implementation of the 2020 Sinjar Normalization Agreement. Also on Wednesday, news reports said that Baghdad agreed to appoint Masoud Haider, a former Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) lawmaker and advisor to KDP leader Masoud Barzani, as Deputy Finance Minister in the federal government.   

On January 12, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani began an official visit to Germany based on an invitation from the German chancellor Sudani had received last month. Sudani said that his talks in Berlin will focus on finalizing a memorandum of understanding concerning a plan to improve the electricity sector in cooperation with Germany’s Siemens. Sudani will also discuss economic development, climate change, energy and gas capture projects, education initiatives, and humanitarian issues, including the conditions of Iraqi migrants in Germany. The Iraqi delegation will include the ministers of industry, migration, and foreign affairs, in addition to business executives and a group of advisers. 

Sources cited in this section include: INA, al-Sumaria, Rudaw, Anadolu Agency, Kurdistan24, ISHM archives.


Air Force College Receives Its First Class of Cadets After A Five-Year Halt; IED Attacks On Supply Convoys Resume

On January 1, security sources in Diyala said that Iraqi army troops killed an ISIS militant who was wearing a suicide vest during search operations in the hills around lake Himrin, northeast of Baquba. Army troops killed another ISIS militant on January 3 during operations in the Tarmiyah district, north of Baghdad.

On January 3, security sources in Baghdad said that an improvised explosive device (IED) placed on a government bulldozer exploded in the Tarmiyah district, north of the capital. The explosion killed a civilian and a policeman and injured a lieutenant colonel in the Ministry of Interior. The sources added that an Iraqi soldier was also killed during clashes with ISIS militants in the same district. 

On January 7, security sources in Babylon said that a homemade IED exploded outside the residence of Salam al-Shamari, a former lawmaker from the Sadrist bloc. The explosion, which occurred in the Jabala subdistrict, north of Hilla, did not result in casualties. 

On January 8, security sources in Dhi-Qar said that unidentified militants used two IEDs to attack a civilian residence in the Sharqiyah neighborhood of central Nasiriyah. One of the IEDs detonated without reports of casualties, while the second one was later defused by security forces.

On January 8, Iraqi security sources said that air defense systems at the Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province intercepted and shot down a drone that flew close to the base. The sources did not clarify whether the drone was carrying any weapons or explosives.

On January 8, Iraqi authorities reopened several key roadways in and around the Green Zone in Baghdad, some of which closed since 2003, to civilian vehicular traffic in an effort to ease traffic congestion in the capital city. A senior government official said that authorities had also removed 107 checkpoints across Baghdad. Civilians are now allowed to move through the Green Zone between 5am and 7pm.

On January 9,  Iraq’s Defense Minister announced that the Iraqi Air Force College received its first class of cadets after five years of closures, forced by budget cuts and the Covid-19 pandemic. The College, which is currently housed at the Imam Ali air base in Dhi-Qar, is expected to relocate to the Suwaira air base when construction is finished, according to the school’s dean, brigadier general Mustafa Salah ad-Din. The new class includes 90 flight cadets and one air traffic control cadet.  

On January 9, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) said that ISIS militants attacked a force from its 52nd brigade in the al-Eith region in eastern Salah ad-Din province. The fighting killed one PMF fighter and wounded two others. To the east, in Diyala province, ISIS militants attacked a police checkpoint near the Muqdadiyah district with sniper fire, killing one policeman. 

On January 10, security sources in Najaf said that a homemade IED exploded at a restaurant in the city’s center. Images from the scene showed physical damage to the building but there were no reports of casualties.

On January 12, medical sources in Wasit province said that a member of the Iraqi border guard was severely injured when a legacy landmine exploded on the border between Iraq and Iran near the Badra district. 

On January 12, Iraqi security sources said that an IED exploded targeting a convoy transporting supplies for the anti-ISIS International Coalition on a major highway in the Taji district, north of Baghdad. An obscure group calling itself al-Muqawama al-Dawliya (international resistance) claimed responsibility for the bombing. There were no reports of casualties or serious damage as a result of Thursday’s attack, which was the first attack of its kind since August, when an IED had targeted a similar convoy in Salah ad-Din province. 

Sources cited in this section include: NINA, Shafaq, INA, al-Hurra, ISHM archives, Rudaw, Nas News, al-Sumaria, social media. 


Sinjar Yazidis Regain Property Ownership Rights; Iraq’s Population Exceeded 42 Million In 2022

On January 4, the Iraqi government and the UN issued a joint statement announcing a recent decision by the Council of Ministers, which approved a decree that secured ownership rights concerning homes and residential land to thousands of Iraqi Yazidis from the Sinjar district of Ninewa province. The decree paves the way for ending discriminatory policies, in effect since 1975, that had denied these people the right to own their homes. The new government policy will benefit the occupants of residences in 11 towns and areas: Khanasur (al-Tamim), Dogri (Hattin), Burek (Yarmouk), Kohbel (Andalus), Tal-Qasab (al-Baath), Tal-Uzair (al-Qahtaniya), Siba Sheikheder (al-Jazeera complex), Karzarak (al-Adnaniya), Zorava (al-Orouba), Dohola (al-Qadisiya), and Tal-Banat (al-Walid).

On January 4, Iraq’s Planning Ministry said that its latest estimates put Iraq’s population at 42,248,883 at the end of 2022, of which 50.5% were male and 49.5% were female. A ministry spokesman said the country’s population was growing at an estimated annual rate of 2.5%. According to the ministry’s estimates, people under 15 years old comprised 40.5% of the population, while people ages 15-64 represented 56.5% of the total, and seniors over the age of 65 made up the remaining 3%. Life expectancy among males and females was 72.5 years and 76.6 years, respectively. Nearly 70% of the population lived in urban settings while just over 30% lived in rural environments. Baghdad remained Iraq’s most populous province with more than nine million residents, while Muthanna was the least populous with approximately 900,000 residents.

On January 8, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) provided an update on the state of implementation and funding for the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), which points to a large deficit between requirements and funds that were received. OCHA said that donors have provided $269 million in funding through January 3, 2023, which represents just 67% of the $400 million that were needed to fully implement the 2022 HRP. The update also mentioned that donors had provided another $68.2 million outside the framework of the HRP. The 2022 HRP had identified a population of 2.5 million who needed assistance, of whom 961,000 were considered to be in acute need reaching “extreme or catastrophic levels.” The HRP aimed to help 991,000 people from this population. This included 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.” 

Sources cited in this section include: Reliefweb, Nas News, Reliefweb, ISHM archives. 


Oil Revenue Lower In December; Recovery Of Stolen Funds Stalls; Spending On Salaries To Rise As Government Adds Nearly 400,000 To Payroll

On January 2, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports during December totaled 103.28 million barrels, for an average of 3.331 million barrels per day (bpd), relatively unchanged from November. The December exports generated $7.6 billion in revenue, a significant drop of more than $600 million below the $8.231 billion achieved in November. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of approximately $73.64 per barrel, about $8.8 below previous month’s average of $82.41 per barrel. Shipped exports from fields in southern and central Iraq averaged 3.249 million bpd, while exports from the northern fields in Kirkuk, which were exported through the Turkish port of Ceyhan, averaged slightly more than 71,720 bpd. The December exports brought total exports for 2022 to 1.209 billion barrels, and brought total revenue to more than $115 billion, according to remarks by Iraq’s Oil Minister, Hayan Abdul-Ghani. 

On January 2, the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) said it had decided to double the number of outlets through which the CBI sells foreign currency from 10 to 20 banks. The CBI also said it had decided to increase the amounts allocated to these banks in order to meet the demand of customers eligible to buy foreign currencies in accordance with the Bank’s regulations. A list of the 20 banks in question can be found here. Later, on January 9, CBI said it also established a new outlet for currency exchange at Baghdad International Airport, through which travelers can purchase up to $5,000. These moves come amid a sharp drop in the dinar’s value against the dollar. On January 10, the exchange rate was IQD1,600 to $1 compared to the official rate of  IQD1,470 to $1. CBI officials have described the decline in the local currency’s value as temporary, and sought to reassure the public that the exchange rate would return to normal around the official rate before the end of January. 

On January 3, the chief of Iraq’s Integrity Commission, Haider Hanoun, said authorities had recovered IQD4 billion from one of the suspects involved in the theft of $2.5 billion from tax deposits in government accounts through a major fraud scheme that was uncovered in October. The amount recovered this week brings the total amount recovered to about IQD321 (approximately $218 million). The government expects to recover the full amount under a deal made with a key suspect in the case, Noor Zuheir, who was released on bail on November 28. Zuheir had agreed to help authorities recover the rest of the stolen funds, used by the culprits to purchase properties in different parts of Baghdad, within two weeks. In late November, Prime Minister Sudani had revealed that the government made a deal with a key suspect in the case, Noor Zuheir, under which the latter was released on bail in exchange for helping authorities recover the rest of the stolen funds within two weeks. Then on January 11, news reports said that another suspect who had been arrested in connection with the case, former lawmaker and Cabinet adviser Haytham al-Jubouri, was released on bail. The amount recovered so far represents under 10% of the stolen funds.

On January 3, Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani said that spending on salaries would increase in the 2023 budget from IQD41 trillion to IQD62 trillion. Sudani said the increase was the result of “commitments and decisions made by previous governments.” Specifically, he cited plans to place thousands of temporary workers and part-time teachers on permanent government payroll. In a related statement dated January 3, the general secretariat of the Council of Ministers listed the numbers of these personnel and the various departments to which they would be assigned. A quick analysis of the data included in the statement indicates that nearly 360,000 personnel would be added to government payroll, of whom 307,000 are to be assigned to the education departments in various provinces. On January 10, Iraq’s Finance Minister said the government approved plans to put an additional 19,000 contractors on permanent payroll. Previously, in November, Iraq’s government had approved plans to hire more than 66,000 recent graduates with medical and other healthcare related degrees.  

On January 4, Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) said the Prime Minister Sudani had approved the cancellation of a controversial contract with a Canadian firm called Biznis Intel to provide security services for Baghdad International Airport. In a statement, the ICAA said the cancellation came after lawmakers had made “numerous” complaints about the company’s performance, which prompted the prime minister to open an investigation into the matter. According to ICAA, the investigation pointed to “several violations” in the contract with the company, which allegedly had not obtained a proper operating license from the Interior Ministry. 

On January 5, Iraq’s Planning Ministry provided statistics about the numbers of private vehicles in the country, which showed that there were 7.46 million vehicles at the end of 2021. The number represents a 6% increase from the previous year, when there were 7.027 million vehicles. The 2021 numbers mean that there were 181 private vehicles for each 1,000 people in the country.   

On January 8, the governor of Dhi-Qar province, Mohammed Hadi, said that Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani had given his approval for a request submitted by the provincial government to authorize the construction of a major new power plant. According to the governor, the proposal involves a 3,000 megawatt facility at a cost of up to $3 billion. In related news, Iraq’s Minister of Electricity said on January 9 that Iraq has a plan to boost power generation capacity by 4,000 megawatts over two years by installing combined cycle generation units to some of the country’s power plants. The minister, Ziyad Ali Fadhil, noted that the combined cycle projects, which do not require additional fuel, would save the equivalent of $4 billion in operational costs. 

On January 11, Iraq’s Oil Minister, Hayan Abdul-Ghani, said that his ministry will soon announce several opportunities for investors to develop oil refineries across the country. Specifically, the minister mentioned a 150,000 bpd refinery in Maysan, two 100,000 bpd refineries in Muthanna and Kirkuk, and two 70,000 bpd refineries in Qayyara and Dhi-Qar (expansion of existing facility). The official did not provide further details about these planned projects.  

Sources cited in this section include: Iraq’s Oil Ministry, ISHM archives, INA, Nas News, Iraq’s PM office, al-Sumaria, Shafaq, Rudaw.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from January 1, 2022 - January 12, 2023

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
1/3/23 Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad21
1/7/23 Jbala, Babylon province00
1/8/23 Nasiriyah, Dhi-Qar province00
1/10/23 Central Najaf00
1/12/23 Near the Iranian border, Wasit province01
1/12/23 Taji, north of Baghdad00

 

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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