ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: March 30 – April 6, 2023

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Key Takeaways:

  • Baghdad And Erbil Reach “Temporary” Deal To Resume Oil Exports Through Turkey – On April 4, Iraq’s Oil Ministry and the KRG Natural Resources Ministry signed a temporary agreement to resume oil exports from fields in Kurdistan and Kirkuk via the Iraq-Turkey pipeline. Exports were suspended after Iraq won an arbitration case against Turkey for violating the pipeline treaty by allowing the KRG to export oil without its consent. An Iraqi government spokesman said the agreement involves exporting 400,000 bpd from Kurdistan through the State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) and depositing the proceeds in an account at the Central Bank that would be under the KRG PM’s control and supervised by federal auditors. The KRG will have a representative in SOMO, while the federal Oil Ministry will assign experts to help the KRG in negotiations with oil companies. Sudani said the relevant technical arms of the two sides were now required to “immediately implement this agreement and find the legal ways to do so.” KRG PM Masrour Barzani said he hopes this breakthrough would lead to agreements on the budget and oil and gas legislation in parliament. As of writing on Thursday, exports through the pipeline were still suspended. In other developments, on March 30, IRGC commander Esmail Qaani reportedly arrived in Iraq on an unannounced visit to discuss rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia and Iraq’s role in the process. On April 3, a group of independent lawmakers said they filed a lawsuit before the Federal Supreme Court demanding the annulment of the March 27 session in which parliament passed a new election law. more…
  • Turkey Closes Air Space To Sulaymaniyah Flights Citing PKK Threats – On April 5, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said that Ankara decided to close its airspace to flights departing from or arriving at Sulaymaniyah’s international airport for three months. Ankara cited security threats arising from an alleged increase in PKK activities in Sulaymaniyah and the group’s infiltration of airport security. In other developments, between April 3 – 6, the explosions of four IEDs and remnants of war in Kirkuk, Ninewa, Erbil, and Diwaniya, injured at least two Iraqis. One of the IEDs targeted a convoy transporting supplies for the anti-ISIS International Coalition on a highway between Babylon and Diwaniyah. On April 5, Iraq’s National Intelligence Service (INIS) said it conducted an operation in the Syrian province of Idlib that led to the killing of “one of the most dangerous Daesh terrorists.” According to INIS, the slain militant, Khalid Ayed Ahmed al-Jubouri (aka Yacoub al-Muhajir) was the ISIS chief in Turkey and had been planning terrorist attacks in Europe. more…
  • Iraq To Cut Oil Output In May; Ownership Agreement Reached In Major Deal With TotalEnergies – On April 2, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said it will cut production by 211,000 bpd starting in May and for the remainder of 2023 as part of ”precautionary measures” in response to “challenges facing the global oil market,” without providing further details. In March, Iraq’s oil exports had averaged 3.255 million bpd and generated $7.4 billion in revenue, more than $300 million higher than the $7.08 billion achieved in February. On April 5, TotalEnergies said it reached an agreement with Iraq that settled prior differences regarding ownership stakes in a set of energy projects worth $27 billion. The final ownership structure grants TotalEnergies a 45% stake, while the Basra Oil Company would control 30%. QatarEnergy, the third member of the consortium in the project, dubbed the Gas Growth Integrated Project (GGIP), would control the remaining 25%. In other developments, on April 1, Iraq’s Oil Minister announced that the 140,000 bpd Karbala refinery had commenced commercial operation. On April 5, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity said it signed a contract with Chinese engineering firm Shanghai to install combined cycle units with a capacity of 362 megawatts at the gas-fired al-Mansouriyah power plant in Diyala. 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.


Baghdad And Erbil Reach “Temporary” Deal To Resume Oil Exports Through Turkey

On March 30, Shafaq reported citing informed sources that Esmail Qaani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had arrived in Iraq on an unannounced visit for meetings with Iraqi politicians and government officials. According to the report, Qaani’s talks were to focus on the rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iraq’s role in the process, and other security and political affairs.

On March 30, Falih al-Fayyadh, the chairman of the Popular Mobilization Commission, said the Commission had finished preparing a draft bill that would formalize and regulate service and retirement within the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). Fayyadh said the bill was “comparable to the service and retirement laws of the army and Interior Ministry.” An attempt to pass this bill was made in past years before the 2020 killing of former senior PMF leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, but did not come to fruition.

On April 3, a group of independent representatives in the Iraqi parliament said they filed a lawsuit before the Federal Supreme Court arguing for the annulment of the March 27 session in which parliament voted in favor of the “infamous Sanite Lague law.” The group is referring to the party list proportional representation system that will replace the single non-transferable vote system in Iraq’s next election. Amir al-Mamouri, an independent lawmaker, said the case is based on the argument that the use of security forces to expel objectors from the meeting rendered the meeting and the vote illegal. 

On April 3, followers of Muqtada al-Sadr held demonstrations against normalization with Israel in several southern provinces. News reports said hundreds of Sadr’s followers rallied to express their opposition to establishing relations with Israel in Karbala, Basra, Najaf, and Diwaniyah. It is unclear what prompted the Sadrists to organize the rallies.  

On April 4, Iraq’s Ministry of Oil and the KRG Ministry of Natural Resources signed a temporary agreement to resume oil exports from producing fields in the Kurdistan region and Kirkuk via the Iraq-Turkey export pipeline. Exports were suspended after Iraq won an arbitration case that Baghdad had filed against Turkey for violating a treaty for the use of the Iraq-Turkey export pipeline by allowing the Kurdistan region to export oil without its consent. A spokesman for Sudani’s government provided more details about the agreement’s terms, saying it calls for exporting 400,000 bpd of oil from Kurdistan through Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) and depositing the revenue in an account at the Central Bank that would be under the KRG prime minister’s control and supervised by federal auditors.  The spokesman added that the KRG will have a representative in SOMO, while the federal Oil Ministry will assign experts to help the KRG in negotiations with oil companies for the implementation of this agreement. Speaking at a joint press conference with KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani said suspension of exports caused “significant harm to Iraq’s overall oil revenue,” adding that the agreement is proof of “the serious and honest intent” by Baghdad and Erbil to resolve the problems and obstacles they had inherited. Sudani explained that the agreement was “temporary, [effective] until the budget is passed, which would become an effective legislation covering all obligations and problems in this file.” The federal prime minister said the relevant technical arms of the federal government and the KRG were now required to “immediately implement this agreement and find the legal ways to do so.” Sudani cautioned that any delay in exports would impact the resources available to support the 2023 budget, stressing that “everyone has to adhere to this agreement and implement it.” For his part, Barzani said he hopes this agreement would form a “foundation for solving all disputes between Baghdad and Erbil,” and lead to agreements on the budget and oil and gas legislation in parliament. In remarks delivered on Sunday, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Bafel Talabani, had called for a deal with Baghdad, saying that “the time has come to make the right decision and let SOMO sell the Kurdistan region’s oil so that all revenues from all parts of Iraq flow into one treasury.” As of writing on Thursday, exports through the pipeline were still suspended

On April 6, Iraq’s parliament conducted a first reading of the 3-year federal budget presented by Suuani’s government last month. The session was chaired by deputy speaker Muhsin al-Mandalawi and attended by 235 lawmakers. Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi was absent from the meeting as he had given himself a 15-day vacation, amid unconfirmed reports of rising disputes between his party and Prime Minister Sudani. Earlier this week, the head of the Fatah bloc in parliament said his bloc had reservations about key elements of the federal budget. The Fatah representative, Abbas al-Zamili, argued that the size of the deficit, at nearly 30% of the budget, violated the Law of Financial Management. Zamili added that parliament would further look into the legal aspects of the budget and then decide whether to send it back to the Council of Ministers for revisions. 

On April 6, Faeq Zaidan, the president of Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council, visited the Syrian capital, Damascus, and met with President Bashar al-Assad. A statement by the Council said Zaidan’s talks with Assad focused on judicial cooperation between Iraq and Syria, noting that Assad is the head of the Syrian judiciary according to Syria’s constitution.  A Syrian government statement said the meeting discussed “the challenges facing the two countries in various fields, especially security and cooperation in fighting terrorism.”

The sources cited in this section include: NINA, Shafaq, INA, al-Sumaria, ISHM archives, Ultra Iraq, Iraqi PM’s office, Kurdistan24, Reuters, al-Mada, PUKMedia.


Turkey Closes Air Space To Sulaymaniyah Flights Citing PKK Threats

On March 31, security sources in Baghdad said that unidentified individuals attacked a closed store in the Hussainiyah district, north of Baghdad, with a hand grenade, without causing casualties. Then on April 3, security sources said an individual was injured when unidentified assailants on a motorcycle attacked his home in the al-Hamidiyah area, east of Baghdad, with a hand grenade. A day later, on April 4, two people were injured in another grenade attack that targeted their home in the Sadr City district of east Baghdad.

On April 1, the Security Media Cell said that earlier reports about the escape of the main suspect in the assassination of prominent journalist and security analyst Hisham al-Hashimi were “entirely not true.” According to the Cell’s statement, the suspect remains “in custody in one of the detention centers,” without providing any specifics, adding that he was not handed to the Justice Ministry pending completion of investigations. The Justice Ministry issued an equally vague statement asserting that the suspect, Ahmed Maarij al-Kinani, remains in the custody of “the specialized security services for interrogation.” 

On April 3, security sources said that an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated targeting a police patrol in the Almas neighborhood of central Kirkuk. The explosion, which images indicate involved a small device, did not result in casualties. 

Pm April 2, security sources in Baghdad said the unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle shot and wounded an individual who works for the Interior Ministry in the al-Ameen district of east Baghdad. To the south, security sources in Maysan said that unidentified gunmen shot and wounded the deputy chief of the Amara municipality in the al-Khaleej neighborhood of central Amara. 

On April 4, Ninewa police said that a legacy IED exploded in the district of al-Hadhar, south of Mosul, causing injuries among two civilians. 

On April 5, Iraqi security sources said that an IED exploded targeting a convoy transporting supplies for the anti-ISIS International Coalition on a major highway in an area between the province of Babylon and Diwaniyah. There were no reports of casualties or serious damage as a result of the attack.

On April 5, the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced that Ankara had decided to close its airspace to flights departing from or arriving at Sulaymaniyah’s international airport from April 3 through July 3, 2023. The Turkish authorities cited security threats to civilian aviation arising from an alleged increase in activities by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Sulaymaniyah and the PKK’s infiltration of airport security. Turkey will review the closure decision in July based on conditions during the next three months, the statement added.

On April 5, the Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS) said that it conducted an operation in the Syrian province of Idlib that led to the killing of “one of the most dangerous Daesh terrorists.” According to a statement by INIS, the slain militant, Khalid Ayed Ahmed al-Jubouri (aka Yacoub al-Muhajir) was “lured into” Idlib and targeted there. The statement said the militant was most recently the ISIS Wali (governor) of Turkey and had been planning terrorist attacks in Europe. 

On April 5, security sources in Kirkuk said that ISIS militants launched an attack on Iraqi security forces in the Albu-Hamdan area, near the Dibis district, northwest of Kirkuk. The attack, which targeted a checkpoint manned by pro-government tribal mobilization fighters (PMF brigade 61), killed one of the fighters and injured another. 

On April 6, local officials in the Sedikan district of Erbil province said that a civilian vehicle struck a mine thought to have been planted by PKK militants who had been active in the area until 2017 . The vehicle’s occupants were taken to the hospital but they reportedly only experienced shock and were not injured.  

The sources cited in this section include: NINA, Shafaq, INA, Rudaw, Kurdistan24, al-Sumaria, ISHM archives, NAS News, al-Hurra.


Iraq To Cut Oil Output In May; Ownership Agreement Reached In Major Deal With TotalEnergies

On April 1, Iraq’s Oil Minister, Hayan Abdul-Ghani, announced that the Karbala refinery had commenced commercial operation with a capacity of 140,000 bpd. The new facility, which began receiving crude oil for test operations last fall, is expected to produce 9 million liters per day of high octane gasoline, along with 3 million liters of kerosene, and various other fuels and petroleum byproducts. The Hyundai-built refinery also includes a 200 megawatt power plant that will provide electricity for refining operations and contribute 60 megawatts to the national grid.

On April 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports during March totaled 100.91 million barrels, for an average of 3.255 million barrels per day (bpd), which is about 40,000 bpd below exports in February. The March exports generated $7.4 billion in revenue, more than $300 million higher than the $7.08 billion achieved in February. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of approximately $73.37 per barrel, about $3.4 below the previous month’s average of $76.75 per barrel. Shipped exports from fields in southern and central Iraq averaged 3.189 million bpd, while exports from the northern fields in Kirkuk, which were exported through the Turkish port of Ceyhan, averaged slightly more than 55,725 bpd. On April 2, the Ministry of Oil said Iraq had decided to cut production by 211,000 bpd for the remainder of 2023 as part of ”precautionary measures” in response to “challenges facing the global oil market.” The Ministry said these cuts will be made in coordination “with some oil-producing countries and without conflict with the previous reduction policy,” without providing further details. Russia, Saudi Arabia, and several other oil producers announced similar cuts in their production this week, totalling more than 1.1 million bpd.

On April 1, farmers in Salah ad-Din province said that recent rain has caused oil spills from the nearby Allas and Ajeel oil fields to flow towards their farms, threatening thousands of dunams of crops. A Water Resources Ministry official in Salah ad-Din said his department did not receive reports about a recent oil leak, but acknowledged that “oil spills tend to surface from oil wells at Allas and Ajeel fields and it’s normal that they spread downhill due to rain.”

On April 2, the Jordanian Ministry of Industry and Trade said that Iraq and Jordan have issued a request for proposals to develop a joint economic zone between the two countries. The request for proposals covers the surveys, designs, engineering, financing, development, operation, management, and maintenance of the future facility, which is to occupy an area of 22,000 dunams. 

On April 5, French energy major, TotalEnergies, announced that it reached an agreement with Iraqi authorities that settles their prior differences regarding ownership stakes in a set of energy projects worth $27 billion. According to the company’s statement, the final ownership structure will grant TotalEnergies a 45% stake, while the Basra Oil Company would control 30%. QatarEnergy, the third member of the consortium in the project, dubbed the Gas Growth Integrated Project (GGIP), would control the remaining 25%. Earlier this year, news reports indicated that Baghdad’s insistence on retaining a 40% percent stake in the project, instead of 25-30% suggested by TotalEnergies, was threatening to derail the entire arrangement. The TotalEnergies statement confirms that the company will make an initial investment of approximately $10 billion to collect and process gas from three oil fields, develop a facility that will treat seawater for injection into oil wells, and build a solar power plant to generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity. There was no mention of the Ratawi oil field development, which earlier reports indicated was part of the deal.

On April 5, the director of Iraqi Airways revealed that 16 of the national carrier’s 38 aircraft were out of service due to engine problems. According to the director, Karim Kadhum Hussein, the company has signed a contract with engine manufacturer GE to send the broken engines for repairs, expecting the process to begin next week and take “two to three months.”

On April 5, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity said it signed a contract with Chinese engineering firm, Shanghai, to install combined cycle units at the gas-fired al-Mansouriyah power plant in Diyala. According to a Ministry spokesman, the Chinese company would install two generation units with a combined capacity of 362 megawatts. The project is signed under the umbrella of the “Iraq-China framework agreement,” the spokesman added.

On April 6, Iraq’s Transportation Minister said that Iraq and Iran have signed an agreement for the transportation of passengers via a new railroad connection to be built between Basra and Shalamcheh. A Ministry statement said the agreement includes building a bridge over the Shatt al-Arab waterway within 18 months. The statement added that demining works along the path would commence next month. 

The sources cited in this section include: INA, Rudaw, ISHM archives, AP, Iraq’s Oil Ministry, Shafaq, NRT, TotalEnergies.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from March 30, 2023 - April 6, 2023

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
4/3/23 Central Kirkuk00
4/4/23 Al-Hadhar district, Ninewa province02
4/5/23 On the highway between Babylon and Diwaniyah00
4/6/23 Sedikan district, Erbil province00

 

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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