ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: January 12 – 19, 2023

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Key Takeaways:

  • PM Affirms Need For U.S. Forces Presence; U.S. Diplomats Encourage Deal On Energy And Revenue Between Baghdad And KRG; Parliament Reshuffles Committee Assignments – On January 15, PM Sudani told the Wall Street Journal that he was in favor of continued U.S. military presence, arguing that the “elimination of ISIS needs more time.” Sudani added that his country seeks good relations with the U.S., emphasizing that those would not necessarily undermine his government’s relations with Iran. On January 16, Sudani met with a U.S. delegation involving Brett McGurk, Amos Hochstein, and ambassador Romanowski. The U.S. embassy said the delegation, which later had talks in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, confirmed the White House’s “commitment to the Strategic Framework Agreement” especially with regard to “coordination and programs to support…Iraq’s reforms in the areas of energy, infrastructure, and climate.” The delegation also welcomed “recent progress in resolving differences” between Baghdad and the KRG regarding oil exports and the budget. On January 18, Iraq’s parliament assigned new groups of members to the legislature’s 25 permanent committees, repealing previous assignments made in 2022, prior to the resignations of Sadrists lawmakers. In other developments, news reports on January 18 wrote about escalating conflicts and divisions within the political bloc led by Speaker Halbousi after the Speaker forced the resignation of a lawmaker from his party who had challenged his authority. more…
  • New Bomb Attack Targets Military Supply Convoys – Between January 14 – 19, the explosions of three IEDs in Salah ad-Din, Ninewa, and south of Baghdad injured one Iraqi. The latest of those IEDs exploded targeting a convoy transporting supplies for the anti-ISIS International Coalition on a major highway in Yusufiyah, south of the capital. The attack is the second to target military supply convoys in 2023 after a long pause since August of last year. Between January 14 – 18, militant attacks and clashes between militants and Iraqi security forces in Ninewa, Kirkuk, Salah ad-Din, and Anbar killed two members of Iraqi security forces, one civilian, and four ISIS militants. Two civilians were also kidnapped by militants during that period. more…
  • Repatriation Of Al-Hol Residents Resumes; Germany Recognizes ISIS Crimes Against Iraq’s Yazidis As Genocide – On January 17, Iraq’s National Security Adviser said that a new group comprising 142 households of Iraqis with perceived ties to ISIS has been transferred from al-Hol camp in Syria to the Jedaa IDP camp in Ninewa. This is the first transfer under the government of Mohammed al-Sudani since it took office in October. On January 19, the lower house of the German parliament voted to recognize the killing of thousands of Iraqi Yazidis by ISIS militants in 2014 as an act of genocide. The resolution asked Germany’s justice system to prosecute suspects who are in Germany and urged Berlin to provide more funding to help with investigations in Iraq and extend more aid to the Yazidi community. In other developments, on January 13, UNICEF said its 2023 Iraq Humanitarian Action for Children aims to address the needs of 1.3 million people, including nearly 800,000 children, who continue to be affected by the legacy of the ISIS conflict. UNICEF is seeking $77.6 million to address needs related primarily to child protection, followed by WASH and education. more…
  • Iraq Revives Major Electricity Deal With Siemens; Government Encourages Expansion Of Electronic POS Access – On January 13, Iraq’s Minister of Electricity signed a memorandum of understanding with Germany’s Siemens to provide a comprehensive plan for utilizing associated gas in power generation, establishing renewable energy projects, and long-term maintenance of existing power plants, among other things. ISHM understands that the new memorandum is meant to revive a $14 billion deal that Iraq and Siemens had made in 2019. On January 17, the Iraqi government approved a set of the recommendations to promote the expansion of point of sale (POS) availability and allow electronic payments capability for various transactions. To that end, the government will require all government agencies, private businesses, and any establishments that collect fees to open bank accounts and have POS systems available for use by their customers effective June 1, 2023. In other developments, on January 17, the Iraqi dinar’s value against the dollar, which has been declining throughout January, reached a new low as the exchange rate dropped to IQD1,620 to $1 compared to the official rate of IQD1,470 to $1. Officials attribute the shortage of foreign currency to U.S. Treasury sanctions against a number of Iraqi banks meant to curb money laundering. 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.


PM Affirms Need For U.S. Forces Presence; U.S. Diplomats Encourage Deal On Energy And Revenue Between Baghdad And KRG; Parliament Reshuffles Committee Assignments

On January 15, the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) said that it had reached “preliminary agreements” with the federal Iraqi government for resolving disputes between the two sides. Masrour Barzani, the KRG prime minister, said that a KRG delegation he led in meetings with the federal government in Baghdad found “a positive attitude and a good opportunity” for a solution to disputes over the budget, oil and gas, and disputed territories.

On January 15, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that he was in favor of continued presence of U.S. military personnel in Iraq, arguing that the “elimination of ISIS needs more time.” Sudani, who plans to dispatch his foreign minister to Washington next month for talks with U.S. officials, added that his country seeks good relations with the U.S., emphasizing that those would not necessarily undermine his government’s relations with Iran. “I don’t see this as an impossible matter, to see Iraq have a good relationship with Iran and the U.S.,” the prime minister explained. Commenting on Sudani’s remarks, a senior member of the Coordination Framework said the prime minister’s position reflected that of the State Administration Coalition, not his personal views, referring to the ruling coalition comprising the Framework and its Sunni and Kurdish partners. The Framework official, Ayed al-Hilali, pointed out that the U.S. military presence was useful for Iraq, arguing that the “resistance factions” within the Framework should reconsider their strategy towards them. Meanwhile, a senior member of the Huqoq party, the political wing of Kataib Hezbollah, insisted that Sudani’s government was obligated to carry out the January 2020 resolution by parliament calling for the eviction of foreign forces from the country.   

On January 16, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani met with a U.S. delegation involving Brett McGurk (White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa), Amos Hochstein (Special Presidential Coordinator for Global Infrastructure and Energy Security ), and Washington’s ambassador to Iraq, Alina Romanowski. A statement by the U.S. embassy said the delegation confirmed the White House’s “commitment to the Strategic Framework Agreement” especially with regard to “coordination and programs to support…Iraq’s reforms in the areas of energy, infrastructure, and climate.” The delegation also “affirmed the ongoing U.S. commitment to advise, enable, and assist Iraqi forces in their fight against ISIS,”  and welcomed “recent progress in resolving differences” between Baghdad and the KRG regarding oil exports and the budget. According to the statement, the U.S. officials and Sudani “discussed opportunities to deepen Iraq’s broader integration in the region through joint infrastructure projects and strategic investments.” The meeting also discussed an upcoming visit by Iraqi foreign affairs minister, Fuad Hussein, to Washington next month to “co-chair the SFA’s Higher Coordinating Committee with Secretary Blinken.” The delegations also held meetings with Iraqi Kurdish leaders in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, after which Ambassador Romanowski said there was “high-level coordination” between the delegation and Iraqi leaders and officials, namely Mohammed al-Halbousi, Qubad and Bafel Talabani, Qasim al-Araji, Oil Minister Hayan Abdul-Ghani, and Nechirvan and Masrour Barzani.

On January 18, Ahmed al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab politician, became the latest representative to become a member of parliament after he was sworn in by Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi. Mashhadani replaced former lawmaker Laith al-Dulaimi, whose tenure in the legislature was terminated on January 15 by a controversial decree issued by Halbousi. News reports indicate that Halbousi and Dulaimi had recently clashed during a meeting of the Siyada coalition, in which Halbousi is a leading figure. The speaker then reportedly relied on an undated letter of resignation that Dulaimi had provided to his party leadership during the previous parliamentary cycle (a common practice used in Iraqi parties to ensure allegiance) in his maneuver to remove the lawmaker. Commenting on the situation, influential Sunni Arab politician Ahmed al-Jubouri (Abu Mazin) said that Halbousi was using parliament to settle personal scores. In another sign of internal conflicts within the speaker’s bloc, Diyala lawmaker Raad al-Dahlaki announced his withdrawal from Halbousi’s Taqaddum party. Dahlaki accused his party leadership of acting like dictators and of trading Diyala’s political entitlements to secure their own interests. 

On January 18, Iraq’s parliament voted to repeal previous decisions approved in 2022, prior to the resignations of Sadrists lawmakers, regarding the assignment of its members to the permanent parliamentary committees. In Wednesday’s session, lawmakers then voted to assign new groups of members to the legislature’s 25 permanent committees. The full list of the new committee assignments can be found here

Sources cited in this section include: INA, ISHM archives, Rudaw, Iraqi PM’s office, U.S. embassy, PUKMedia, al-Sumaria, Nas News, Reuters, Shafaq. 


New Bomb Attack Targets Military Supply Convoys

On January 14, security sources in Salah ad-Din province said that a small improvised explosive device (IED) detonated targeting a private construction company in the town of Dijail. The attack damaged some of the company’s equipment but did not cause casualties. 

On January 14, Ninewa police said that unidentified gunmen used silenced weapons to assassinate the operator of a private neighborhood electricity generator in the Baaj district, southwest of Mosul.  

On January 15, Iraqi Peshmerga sources said that ISIS militants kidnapped two sheep herders from an area that represents a security gap between federal and Peshmerga forces near the Tuzkhormatu district in Salah ad-Din province. 

On January 16, Ninewa police said that a legacy IED exploded in the Zumar subdistrict, north of Mosul. The explosion seriously injured a six year old child. 

On January 17, an Iraqi army officer said that ISIS militants attacked a unit from the army’s 75th brigade, 16th division, in western Ninewa, near the highway connecting the province with Baghdad. Iraqi forces killed two of the militants, according to the officer, while the others retreated to nearby mountains. 

On January 17, ISIS militants attacked a police checkpoint in the Mount Bor region of Kirkuk province. The late night attack killed two members of the Kirkuk police, one of whom was a lieutenant colonel in the force. 

On January 18, Iraq’s counterterrorism service said its troops conducted an ambush targeting ISIS militants in the Wadi Horan region in Anbar province. The operation led to the killing of two ISIS militants. 

On January 19, 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 Yusufiyah subdistrict, south of Baghdad. There were no reports of casualties or serious damage as a result of Thursday’s attack, which was the second to target military supply convoys in 2023 after a long pause since August of last year. 

Sources cited in this section include: Shafaq, NINA, Rudaw, INA.


Repatriation Of Al-Hol Residents Resumes; Germany Recognizes ISIS Crimes Against Iraq’s Yazidis As Genocide

On January 13, UNICEF outlined its 2023 Iraq Humanitarian Action for Children plan. The plan aims to address the humanitarian needs of 1.3 million people, including nearly 800,000 children, out of three million people who continue to be affected by the legacy of the ISIS conflict and require humanitarian assistance. The UN organization notes that an estimated 680,000 displaced and returnee children “face obstacles to accessing education.” An even larger number, almost 700,000 need child protection services, while almost a million individuals are at risk of gender-based-violence. UNICEF also predicts that climate change and water scarcity will threaten more than one in six children in Iraq’s central and southern provinces. UNICEF is seeking $77.6 million to help address the needs of these vulnerable children and families who are affected by conflict and water scarcity. The main assistance areas targeted by the organization are child protection (accounting for 41% of the funding sought), followed by WASH and education. The amount requested is 40% higher than in 2022, which UNICEF attributes to the need “to provide multisectoral assistance and reintegration support for returnees from Al-Hol camp and to respond to the impact of water scarcity on the most vulnerable populations.”

On January 17, Iraq’s National Security Adviser, Qasim al-Araji, said that a new group comprising 142 households of Iraqis with perceived ties to ISIS has been successfully transferred from the al-Hol camp in Syria to the Jedaa camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ninewa. This is the first transfer of its kind to take place under the government of Mohammed al-Sudani. Days after taking office, Iraq’s new minister of migration and the displaced, Ivan Faeq, had issued instructions to suspend the repatriation of Iraqis who are at the al-Hol camp in Syria until the ministry prepares a “new mechanism” for their return and reintegration. There are nearly 27,000 Iraqis at al-Hol, making up half of al-Hol’s occupants. Many of these are women and children with perceived ties to ISIS. 

On January 19, DW reported that the lower house of the German parliament, the Bundestag, had voted to recognize the killing of thousands of Iraqi Yazidis by ISIS militants in 2014 as an act of genocide. The Bundstag’s resolution was made “following the legal evaluations of investigators from the United Nations.” The resolution condemned the violence by ISIS militants against the Yazidi community as “indescribable atrocities” and “tyrannical injustice” that were undertaken “with the intention of completely wiping out the Yazidi community.” The resolution also asked Germany’s justice system to prosecute suspects linked to those atrocities who are in Germany and urged the German government to provide more funding to help with investigations in Iraq and extend much needed aid to the Yazidi community.  The motion called for more pressure on Iraqi authorities to protect the rights of the Yazidi community. 

Sources cited in this section include: al-Sumaria, ISHM archives, Reliefweb, DW.


Iraq Revives Major Electricity Deal With Siemens; Government Encourages Expansion Of Electronic POS Access

On January 13, Iraq’s Minister of Electricity, Ziyad Ali Fadhil, signed a memorandum of understanding with Germany’s Siemens concerning a comprehensive plan to develop Iraq’s power grid. An Iraqi government statement said that, under this memorandum, Siemens would provide a comprehensive study covering several areas, including utilizing associated gas that is currently being flared in power generation, establishing renewable energy projects, long-term maintenance of existing power plants, adding new transformer stations, and providing training and capacity building. ISHM understands that the purpose of the new memorandum, signed during Prime Minister Sudani’s visit to Berlin, is to revive a $14 billion deal Iraq had made with Siemens back in the spring of 2019. 

On January 17, the Iraqi government said it approved a set of the recommendations made by the ministerial economic council to promote the expansion of point of sale (POS) availability to allow electronic payments capability for various transactions. To that end, the government will require all government agencies, private businesses, and any other places that collect fees to open bank accounts and have POS systems available for use by their customers effective June 1, 2023. The government instructed the Central Bank of Iraq to facilitate the process of issuing the licenses required to charge payment cards through POS terminals. Government and private banks will be tasked with making POS systems available to the government agencies and private businesses that will use them to collect payments from their customers. The government will also exempt POS and ATM imports from taxes and customs and will exempt all POS transactions from taxes.

On January 17, the Iraqi dinar’s value measured against the dollar, which has been declining throughout January, reached a new low as the exchange rate dropped to IQD1,620 to $1 compared to the official rate of  IQD1,470 to $1. Last week, Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) officials had 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. The fluctuation in the dinar’s value, according to a CBI adviser, is related to the CBI’s implementation of new mechanisms to regulate the provision of foreign currency to finance imports through. The mechanisms involve a new platform that offers improved scrutiny of the goods being imported into the country and the businesses involved. Meanwhile, members of the parliamentary finance committee attributed the shortage of foreign currency to the U.S. Treasury sanctions against a number of Iraqi banks, which were meant to curb money laundering operations that exploit the CBI foreign currency sales. Committee members called on the government to negotiate with Washington to relax the restrictions to restore balance to the market.

On January 18, a senior gas official in Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that the country’s production of liquified petroleum gas (LPG) had increased to 6,800 tons per day, allowing Iraq to export “large quantities” of surplus LPG to the international markets. According to the director of Iraq’s gas packaging company, Iraq produced 158 million gas canisters for domestic use in 2022, nine million canisters more than in 2021. The official did not provide details about the volume of exports, or the revenue generated as a result of the sales.

Sources cited in this section include: INA, ISHM archives, DW, al-Mada, al-Sumaria, Ultra Iraq.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from January 12, 2022 - January 19, 2023

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
1/14/23 Dijail, Salah ad-Din province00
1/16/23 Zumar, Ninewa province01
1/19/23 Yusufiyah, south 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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