ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: January 26 – February 2, 2023

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Key Takeaways:

  • Iraq, France Sign Partnership Agreements; Arab Foreign Ministers Visit Baghdad; Top Court Sues Deputy Speaker Abdullah – On January 26, PM Sudani met with French President Emmanuel Macron to sign a “strategic partnership” agreement for cooperation on security and defense, the environment, democratic development, and economic cooperation, especially concerning renewable energy, oil and gas, and transportation. Iraqi and French officials also signed memoranda of understanding dealing with culture, education, archaeology, fighting corruption, organized crime, and money laundering. On January 28, the Foreign Minister of Morocco visited Baghdad to meet with his Iraqi counterpart and reopen the Moroccan embassy in Baghdad, which had been closed for 18 years. The Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia also visited Baghdad this week and met with PM Sudani, Speaker Halbousi, and other officials. The talks focused on economic relations, Saudi investments, “activating” the bilateral Iraqi-Saudi coordination council, and efforts to combat drug trafficking. On January 29, a court in Baghdad issued a subpoena for the second deputy speaker of parliament, Shakhwan Abdullah, after the Federal Supreme Court filed a complaint accusing the senior KDP lawmaker of “undermining the independence of the judiciary, interfering with the Federal Supreme Court’s work, and violating the sanctity of its rulings.” Specifically, the Court cited Abdullah’s objection to its January 25 ruling that declared government payments to the KRG to be unlawful. more…
  • Iraq Seeks Military And Civilian French Aircraft And Radars – During his visit to Paris, PM Sudani discussed possible deals to buy French-made radars and aircraft for civilian and military uses. Specifically, Sudani expressed interest in high and low altitude radars from Thales, Dassault-made Rafale fighters and Falcon civilian aircraft, and military helicopters made by Airbus. In other developments, On January 26, two rockets struck near the Khor-Mor gas field in Sulaymaniyah with no reports of casualties or damage. On February 1, eight rockets targeted a base for Turkish military forces at Zelikan, north of Mosul. There were no reports of casualties in the attack, which was claimed by a group called Liwa Ahrar al-Iraq. Between January 28 – February 1, the explosions of one IED and two remnants of war in Ninewa, Babylon, and Najaf injured four Iraqis, including thee children. On January 29, armed drones struck and destroyed a convoy of six trucks that entered Syria from Iraq through an unofficial border crossing under the control of the Kataib Hezbollah militia. more…
  • Assessment Reveals Significant Gaps In Math, Science Education – On February 1, UNICEF released results from an assessment looking into math and science knowledge among 12,000 4th grade students in 320 schools across 15 Iraqi provinces, excluding the Kurdistan region. The results indicated that less than 40% of the 5,959 students assessed for math skills scored a passing grade, while in the science test, just over 34% of the 6,007 students assessed achieved a passing grade. UNICEF officials described the assessment as “the first step to ensuring quality education for every child in Iraq, which UNICEF is committed to supporting the Government to achieve.” In other developments, on January 31, Iraq’s Ministry for Migration and the Displaced said that 39 households comprising 231 IDPs from Iraq’s Yazidi community had voluntarily returned to their districts of origin in Sinjar this week. more…
  • Oil Revenue Slightly Rebounds In January; Major Deal With TotalEnergies At Risk; The Dinar Loses More Of Its Value – On February 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports averaged 3.265 million bpd in January, about 65,000 bpd lower than December. The January exports, however, generated $7.69 billion in revenue, slightly higher than December’s $7.6 billion, as average sale price rose by $2.3. On February 1, Iraq Oil Report said that TotalEnergies was beginning to pull some of its personnel from Iraq after recent negotiations with PM Sudani and his oil minister presented obstacles that could derail a set of energy projects worth $27 billion. Specifically, Baghdad insisted on retaining 40% stake in the project instead of the 25-30% stake proposed by the French company. On February 2, the Iraqi dinar’s value measured against the dollar, which has been declining for weeks due to the U.S.-imposed restrictions on the supply of dollars to prevent money laundering and smuggling, reached a new low as the exchange rate dropped to IQD1,712 to $1. An Iraqi government spokesman said that controlling the exchange rate will be a priority during talks between Iraq’s Foreign Minister and U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, during his upcoming visit to Washington. 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.


Iraq, France Sign Partnership Agreements; Arab Foreign Ministers Visit Baghdad; Top Court Sues Deputy Speaker Abdullah

On January 26, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris to sign a “strategic partnership” agreement covering different areas of cooperation between Iraq and France. The overarching agreement deals with cooperation on security and defense, water management, democratic development, and economic cooperation, especially concerning renewable energy, oil and gas, and transportation. Iraqi and French officials also signed memoranda of understanding dealing with culture, education, archaeology, diplomatic capacity building, as well as fighting corruption, organized crime, and money laundering.

On January 28, the Foreign Minister of Morocco, Nasir Bu-Ritah visited Baghdad for meetings with his Iraqi counterpart, Fuad Hussein, and other officials. During his visit, the Moroccan minister reopened his country’s embassy in Baghdad, which had been closed for 18 years. Speaking at a joint press conference with Hussein, Bu-Ritah said the visit reflects Morocco’s vision for improved relations on security, commerce, and counter-extremism between the two countries, stressing that Morocco “supports Iraq’s unity and sovereignty.”

On January 29, the Karkh investigation court in Baghdad issued a subpoena for the second deputy speaker of Iraq’s parliament, Shakhwan Abdullah. The Federal Supreme Court of Iraq (FSC) said in a statement that the subpoena–an unprecedented move targeting a top parliamentary figure–was based on a complaint filed by the FSC against Abdullah, who is a senior member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The FSC statement explained that the complaint concerns Abdullah’s actions “undermining the independence of the judiciary, interfering with the Federal Supreme Court’s work, and violating the sanctity of its rulings in violation of the law and constitution.” Specifically, the FSC cited Abdullah’s objection to its ruling on January 25 in which it declared government payments to the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) to be unlawful. In remarks on January 27, Abdullah argued that the January 25 FSC decision was politically motivated and part of a broader assault on Kurdistan by certain factions within the ruling coalition he did not name.    

On January 29, Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani appointed Hassan Nima al-Yasiri as an advisor to the Council of Ministers for constitutional affairs. A statement by Sudani’s office said Yasiri would be tasked with meeting with representatives from the executive, legislative, and judicial authorities to develop “an outline for required future constitutional amendments.” Yasiri is a former lawmaker who previously presided over the Integrity Commission and before that was an advisor to the constitution writing committee. 

On February 1, court documents showed that three members of parliament were suing Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi for allegedly committing fraud to annul the membership of representative Duraid Jamil Esho in the parliamentary integrity committee despite a vote by other members of parliament on January 18 confirming Esho’s membership in that committee. A review by ISHM of the full list showing the new committee assignments confirms that lawmaker Esho was listed as a member of the Integrity committee. It is unclear whether Esho was only being removed from the committee or also being replaced by a different member.

On February 1, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said that the Central Anti-Corruption Criminal Court issued a prison sentence against the former Minister of Industry, Salih Abdullah al-Jubouri, without providing more details about the sentence. Last August, the Commission said that the Court had summoned the former minister for questioning on charges that he willfully violated his duties by taking orders from a member of parliament for the benefit of certain individuals. The court order came after a video surfaced on social media showing Jubouri taking an oath to follow the orders of his party leader, Ahmed al-Jubouri (aka Abu Mazin) and place the ministry under his control. 

On February 2, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Faisal Bin Farhan, visited Baghdad for meetings with Prime Minister Sudani, Speaker Halbousi, and other Iraqi leaders. In his meeting with Sudani and Halbousi, Bin Farhan discussed economic relations, Saudi investments, and “activating” the bilateral Iraqi-Saudi coordination council and other joint committees between the two countries. At a joint press conference, Iraq’s Foreign Affairs Minister Fuad Hussein said he and his Saudi counterpart also discussed regional tensions and security cooperation to combat drug trafficking across the region. 

Sources cited in this section include: Iraqi PM’s Office, INA, al-Sumaria, Nas News, ISHM archives, Rudaw. 


Iraq Seeks Military And Civilian French Aircraft And Radars

On January 26, security sources in the Kurdistan region said that two rockets struck near the Khor-Mor gas field in Sulaymaniyah province. There were no reports of casualties associated with the attack. Khor-Mor was targeted with rockets on multiple occasions in 2022. 

On January 27, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani discussed possible acquisitions by Iraq of French-made radars and aircraft for civilian and military uses. Specifically, Sudani met with representatives of Thales to talk about purchasing high and low altitude radars to cover both civilian and military traffic through Iraq’s airspace. Sudani also spoke with representatives of aircraft maker Dassault about purchasing Rafale fighters for Iraq’s air force and Falcon civilian aircraft. A statement by Sudani’s office also said the prime minister discussed additional aircraft purchases with representatives of Airbus, including military helicopters for Iraq’s army aviation. 

On January 28, Ninewa police said that a legacy improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in the Zummar subdistrict, north of Mosul. The explosion injured one civilian.

On January 29, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that armed drones struck and destroyed a convoy of six trucks that entered Syria coming from Iraq. The trucks had reportedly entered Syria’s Albu-Kamal region through unofficial “al-Sikak” (railway) border crossing, which is under the control of the Kataib Hezbollah militia.  

On January 30, security sources in Babylon province said that a remnant of war exploded near children while playing at a sports field in the subdistrict of al-Neel, northeast of al-Hilla. The explosion injured two of the children. Then on February 1, another child was injured in Najaf province when another remnant of war, believed to be submunition, exploded in the Shabaka subdistrict.

On February 1, the counter-terrorism service of the Kurdistan region said in a statement that eight rockets targeted a base for Turkish military forces at Zelikan, north of Mosul. The statement added that two of the rockets struck inside the base, while the other six struck outside its perimeter without causing casualties. A group called Liwa Ahrar al-Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack, which it claimed involved “20 grad-type rockets.” Security forces later recovered four rocket launchers loaded with additional rockets prepared for launch in the nearby Fadhliyah area of the Bashiqa subdistrict. In related developments, violent clashes erupted on February 2 between militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and a Turkish military outpost near the Metin mountains. The fighting, which lasted for three hours according to local sources, resulted in cutting power supplies to the Kani Masi subdistrict of Duhok.  

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


Assessment Reveals Significant Gaps In Math, Science Education

On January 31, Iraq’s Ministry for Migration and the Displaced said that 39 households comprising 231 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Iraq’s Yazidi community had voluntarily returned to their districts of origin in Sinjar this week. The ministry said the logistical requirements for the return process were facilitated through coordination with the Joint Crisis Coordination Center and with the support of the International Organization for Migration. 

On February 1, UNICEF released results from an assessment report looking into math and science knowledge among 4th grade students in 15 Iraqi provinces, excluding the Kurdistan region. The assessment evaluated the knowledge and skills of 11,966 students, of whom 6,138 were girls, in 320 schools. The assessment pointed to gaps in the education of these students, despite certain achievements. Among its main findings regarding mathematics, the assessment indicated that less than 40% of the 5,959 students who were assessed had passed. In the science test, just over 34% of the 6,007 students who underwent the assessment achieved a passing score. The assessment results also showed that students who achieved the highest scores were educated by teachers aged 50 years and older. The UNICEF Representative in Iraq described the assessment as “the first step to ensuring quality education for every child in Iraq, which UNICEF is committed to supporting the Government to achieve.”

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


Oil Revenue Slightly Rebounds In January; Major Deal With TotalEnergies At Risk; The Dinar Loses More Of Its Value

On January 26, Iraq’s Minister of Electricity, Ziyad Ali Fadhil, said that the national power grid had lost 7,500 megawatts in recent days due to a drop in natural gas supplies coming from Iran. The minister said the shortage has forced a reduction in the number during which customers receive power through the national grid. He added that gas supplies could recover by 30% within two weeks, and ultimately return to contractual levels set by the agreement with Tehran. 

On January 28, local news sites citing a report by Bloomberg said that commodity trading company Trafigura had terminated its crude oil sale arrangement with the Kurdistan regional government. The termination reportedly happened after the two sides failed to renegotiate the terms of their deal and the payment of $273 million in arrears owed to the company to adjust for changing oil prices. The renegotiations reportedly were scuttled when KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani canceled a meeting that was planned with Trafigura executives at Davos a week earlier. 

On January 29, news reports said that Oil Minister Hayan Abdul-Ghani had appointed four new deputies on acting basis to be in charge of key divisions of the ministry. The new appointments include Basim Mohammed al-Abadi for extraction, Hamid Younis Salih for refining, Laith Abdul-Hussein Shahir for distribution, and Izzat Sabir Esmail for gas. The latter is reportedly a senior member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and a relative of late President Jalal Talabani.  

On January 30, local officials in Anbar province confirmed that cross-border commercial traffic between Iraq and Syria had resumed in both directions. Last week, Syria’s ambassador to Iraq, Sattam al-Dandah, said that the trucking of goods between the two countries would fully resume within days after a three-year long pause that began with the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the Syrian envoy, Iraq had already given Syrian trucks to enter Iraq, while Syria was going to reciprocate by allowing Iraqi trucks to enter Syria “within days.” 

On February 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports during January totaled 101.24 million barrels, for an average of 3.265 million barrels per day (bpd), about 65,000 bpd lower than exports in December. The January exports, however, generated $7.69 billion in revenue, slightly higher than the $7.6 billion achieved in December. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of approximately $75.96 per barrel, about $2.3 above the previous month’s average of $73.64 per barrel. Shipped exports from fields in southern and central Iraq averaged 3.176 million bpd, while exports from the northern fields in Kirkuk, which were exported through the Turkish port of Ceyhan, averaged slightly more than 79,880 bpd. Iraq also sold an average of 10,000 bpd carried by trucks to Jordan. The exports to Jordan were sold at a discount of $9.18 below the official average for January.  

On February 1, Iraq Oil Report wrote that TotalEnergies was beginning to pull some of its personnel from Iraq after negotiations between the company’s chief executive and Prime Minister Sudani in Paris presented new obstacles that could derail a set of energy projects worth $27 billion. Specifically, Sudani and his oil minister presented a previously dropped demand by Baghdad to retain a 40% percent stake in the project instead of 25-30% suggested by TotalEnergies. According to sources familiar with the talks, the meeting ended quickly after the Iraqi side insisted on that demand, prompting CEO Patrick Pouyanné to leave the meeting. The report, citing other sources, said TotalEnergies personnel who had been preparing to begin implementing the project were beginning to leave Iraq on January 31. The director of the state-owned Basra Oil Company confirmed to Reuters that Iraq wants to keep a 40% stake in the project, saying that “The important thing for us is to set our share…Iraq is talking about 40%.” The official, Basim Abdul-Karim, added that another 20-25% could go to QatarEnergy, as opposed to the 30% reported last week. Another Iraqi oil official acknowledged that there were unresolved differences between TotalEnergies and Baghdad over shares in the project, but asserted that Baghdad had “no problems with TotalEnergies and our relations are good and growing.”

On February 1, the office of Prime Minister Sudani said that Iraqi authorities had recovered $80 million “of stolen money” and returned them to the state treasury. The statement did not clarify the circumstances of the theft or culprits behind it. In related news, the prime minister said earlier this week that the Integrity and Communications Commissions had assigned investigators to TV news networks to take statements from guests who have information to share about acts of corruption.  

On February 2, the Iraqi dinar’s value measured against the dollar, which has been declining for weeks due to the U.S.-imposed restrictions on the supply of dollars to Iraq to prevent money laundering and smuggling to Iran and Syria, reached a new low as the exchange rate dropped to IQD1,712 to $1 compared to the official rate of  IQD1,470 to $1. An Iraqi government spokesman said on Thursday that controlling the exchange rate will be a priority on the agenda of Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein during his upcoming visit to Washington for talks with U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken. 

Sources cited in this section include: NINA, al-Sumaria, Nas News, INA, ISHM archives, Iraq’s Oil Ministry, Shafaq News, Iraq Oil Report, Reuters, AP, NRT, Iraqi PM’s office, The National.  


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from January 26, 2023 - February 2, 2023

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
1/28/23 Zummar subdistrict, Ninewa province01
1/30/23 Al-Neel, Babylon province02
2/1/23 Al-Shabaka subdistrict, Najaf 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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