ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: APRIL 6 – 13, 2023

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Key Takeaways:

  • Barzani Invites Sadr To Return To Politics; Anbar Corruption Case Increases Pressure On Halbousi – On April 8, KRG President Nechirvan Barzani called on Muqtada al-Sadr to “initiate new, multilateral talks” with Iraq’s political powers, saying such dialogue was necessary “to consolidate the political system…and find a political solution within Iraq.” On April 10, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said that the Central Anti-Corruption Criminal Court ordered Anbar governor Ali Farhan to appear in court. The governor faces corruption charges in the distribution of public land “in collusion with…influential individuals in the province.” News reports suggest the case may be a reflection of rising tensions between Speaker Halbousi, the most influential politician in Anbar, and PM Sudani and factions within the Coordination Framework. Representative Hussein Monis, who’s affiliated with Kataib Hezbollah, appears to be spearheading the push to prosecute Halbousi’s political allies. Halbousi attempted to distance himself from the case, blaming the land scheme in his home province on “bad people who took advantage of my preoccupation with state affairs.” In other developments, on April 12, the Iraqi government and UNDP signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in fighting corruption and improving transparency and accountability in the public and private sectors. On April 13, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement said that a delegation headed by its secretary general arrived in Baghdad on an official invitation to meet with Iraqi officials and discuss “ways to support the resistance in Palestine.” more…
  • Airport Attack Raises Tensions In Kurdistan, And Turkey Threatens More Operations – On April 7, an explosion believed to be a Turkish drone attack struck next to the Sulaymaniyah international airport without causing casualties. The explosion appears to have targeted Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who was at the airport accompanied by three U.S. personnel. Last week, Ankara closed its airspace to flights using the airport citing security threats arising from an alleged increase in PKK activities and the group’s infiltration of airport security. Turkey’s Foreign Minister said that his country would continue its operations in Sulaymaniyah, arguing that the PKK had “complete control” over the province and the PUK. The Turkish minister accused the PUK of placing helicopters bought from European countries under the PKK’s control, adding that the U.S. was aware of that. PUK leader Bafel Talabani accused the rival KDP of providing Turkey with intelligence leading to the attack. KRG President and senior KDP leader Nechirvan Barzani condemned the attack, and called for an investigation, urging “restraint…instead of accusations.” Iraqi PM Mohammed al-Sudani did not comment on the incident. In other developments, between April 7 – 11, the explosions of four IEDs and remnants of war in Ninewa, Sulaymaniyah, Salah ad-Din, and Basra killed one person and injured at least four. On April 13, a spokesman for Iraq’s Interior Ministry revealed that random drug testing of 2,000 ministry personnel showed that up 5% had likely been using illegal drugs. more…
  • Iraq Asks U.S. Courts To Help Enforce Arbitration Ruling Against Turkey – On April 11, Reuters reported that Iraq asked an American federal court to enforce the recent ruling by the International Chamber of Commerce against Turkey that awarded Baghdad $1.5 billion in damages. The ruling is related to a case filed by Iraq against Turkey for violating the Iraq-Turkey export pipeline treaty by allowing the Kurdistan region to export oil between 2014-2018 without Baghdad’s consent. Oil exports from fields in the Kurdistan region and Kirkuk through the pipeline, which were halted after the ruling, have not resumed even though the Iraqi government and the KRG signed a temporary agreement on April 4 to resume the exports. In other developments, on April 10, news reports said that an oil spill in Salah ad-Din province had damaged up to 5,000 dunams of wheat and barley crops. on April 11, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity said that power output will reach 24,000 megawatts by early May, enough to meet 80% of actual demand. A ministry spokesman added that a grid connection with Jordan will become active by early June, while Iraq’s Electricity Minister, reported progress on a deal with a Saudi company to install a 1,000-megawatt solar farm. 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.


Barzani Invites Sadr To Return To Politics; Anbar Corruption Case Increases Pressure On Halbousi

On April 8, Nechirvan Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) called on Muqtada al-Sadr to “initiate new, multilateral talks with all political powers.” Barzani, who was speaking at an event commemorating the execution of late Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr by Saddam Hussein’s regime, said such dialogue was necessary “to consolidate the political system in Iraq, strengthen the reform movement, and find a political solution within Iraq.”

On April 10, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said that the Central Anti-Corruption Criminal Court in Baghdad ordered the current governor of Anbar province, Ali Farhan, to appear in court in connection with an investigation into alleged violations involving public land in Anbar. According to the Commission, the governor is accused of “intentionally damaging the interests and funds of Anbar province through the distribution of residential land adjacent to the planned Anbar airport, in collusion with a number of influential individuals in the province.” A few days earlier, the Commission said authorities had arrested the head of the Anbar workers syndicate over his role in the alleged corruption, and confiscated $1.4 million and hundreds of forged documents from his residence. Some news reports suggested the case may be a reflection of rising tensions between Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, the most influential politician in Anbar, and Prime minister Mohammed al-Sudani and factions within the Coordination Framework. Representative Hussein Monis, who’s affiliated with Kataib Hezbollah, appears to be spearheading the push to prosecute Halbousi’s allies. In a statement on April 8, Monis said he had been working on preparing the case for three months, adding that he had more evidence to share with the courts, claiming that the value of assets affected by the alleged scheme amounted to “10% of the deficit in the 2023 budget.” Halbousi attempted to distance himself from the case, blaming the land scheme in his home province on “bad people who took advantage of my preoccupation with state affairs.” 

On April 11, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said that the Central Anti-Corruption Criminal Court in Baghdad had sentenced the former chairman of the Sunni Endowment office, Saad Kambash, to four years in prison. Kambash was found guilty of causing intentional damage to public funds by using the endowment’s funds to purchase a hotel in the Kurdistan region without justification; one of multiple charges he faces. Kambash was arrested in Baquba on March 21 by a special security unit. 

On April 12, the Iraqi government and UN Development Program (UNDP) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation in fighting corruption and improving transparency and accountability in the public and private sectors, a statement by Prime Minister Sudani’s office said. The MoU, which covers a two-year period, provides for continued UNDP support in building the capacity of Iraq’s anti-corruption agencies, as well as “support to strategic and legal frameworks in line with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption,” a UNDP statement said. The MoU also deals with efforts to enhance engagement “with civil society, the private sector, academia, and media” on reporting corruption.

On April 13, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement said that a delegation headed by its secretary general, Ziyad al-Nakhala, had arrived in Baghdad on an official invitation to meet with Iraqi officials and political figures. The movement, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and several other countries, said its delegation will discuss “ways to support the resistance in Palestine…against Zionist aggression and assault on the Aqsa Mosque.”

The sources cited in this section include: Rudaw, al-Mada, al-Sumaria, INA, Nas News, ISHM archives, Reliefweb. 


Airport Attack Raises Tensions In Kurdistan, And Turkey Threatens More Operations

On April 7, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command (JOC) said that two airstrikes by the Iraqi air force targeted caves used by ISIS militants in the Nareen sector in Diyala province. The airstrikes led to the killing of five ISIS militants, JOC added.

On April 7, security sources in Salah ad-Din province said that a legacy improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near sheep herders in the Jazeerat al-Ishaqi region of the province, seriously injuring two people. To the northwest, Ninewa police said on April 10 that a legacy IED detonated in the al-Hadhar district, south of Mosul, injuring one civilian. 

On April 7, local officials in Sulaymaniyah said that an explosion struck near the province’s international airport on Friday afternoon, causing a fire that was soon brought under control. There were no reports of casualties from the attack, which is believed to be a Turkish drone strike. After initially denying it, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said that its commander, Mazloum Abdi, was present at the airport at the time of the attack. Abdi, who was reportedly accompanied by three U.S. personnel, was not injured in the attack. Flight operations continued at the airport despite the attack. Last week, Ankara closed its airspace to flights departing from or arriving at Sulaymaniyah’s airport citing security threats arising from an alleged increase in PKK activities in Sulaymaniyah and the group’s infiltration of airport security. Bafel Talabani, leader of the Sulaymaniyah-based Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) accused the rival Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of providing Turkey with intelligence leading to the attack. Without mentioning the KDP by name, Talabani said the attack was aided by “the eyes and information of a domestic security and intelligence agency.” Another PUK figure, Iraqi President Abdul-Latif Rashid condemned the airstrike in a statement that demanded an official apology from Ankara. The presidential statement called for “ending these aggressions” and urged Turkish leaders to “solve their internal problems through dialogue with the concerned parties.” For his part, KRG President Nechirvan Barzani also condemned the attack, and called for an investigation into its causes and circumstances, urging “restraint…instead of accusations.” Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani did not comment on the incident. Meanwhile, National Security Adviser, Qasim al-Araji, had a meeting on April 10 with the deputy chief of Turkey’s intelligence service that discussed “issues related to the security of both countries…and a roadmap for resolving” according to a statement by Araji’s office, without explicitly mentioning the airport attack. On April 11, in a televised interview after the attack, Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusolgu, said that his country would continue its operations in Sulaymaniyah, arguing that the PKK had “complete control over Sulaymaniyah and Talabani’s party,” referring to the PUK. The Turkish minister accused the PUK of placing helicopters bought from European countries under the PKK’s control, adding that the U.S. was aware of that.

On April 8, security sources in Kirkuk province said that unidentified gunmen opened fire from a moving motorcycle on the residence of the local commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Altun-Kupri, northwest of Kirkuk. There were no reports of casualties.

On April 8, a PMF commander in Anbar said that PMF fighters (17th brigade) killed an ISIS militant wearing a suicide explosive vest who was attempting to attack a group of sheep herders in the al-Lamsi region of western Anbar. The PMF fighter wounded one other ISIS militant during the operation. 

On April 8, security sources in Baghdad said that two people were injured when unidentified individuals attacked their home in the al-Obeidi neighborhood, east of Baghdad, with a hand grenade. On the following day, two people were injured when unidentified assailants attacked their home in the al-Maamil area, east of Baghdad, with a hand grenade. Two more people were injured on April 11 in another grenade attack that targeted their home in the al-Ameen neighborhood, east Baghdad.

On April 9, Shafaq reported that a large force of Saraya al-Salam (Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia) was seen parading the streets of the Dora district of south Baghdad, armed with medium and heavy weapons. The deployment reportedly was in response to rising tension between the Sadrist militia and Kataib Hezbollah over a disputed property in the district. According to news reports, Kataib Hezbollah fighters had occupied a land the Sadrists had purchased to build housing for the families of its fallen fighters, sparking the standoff. The situation was resolved after the Kataib made a commitment to vacate the land in two weeks.

On April 10, security sources in Basra said that unidentified individuals used an IED to attack the residence of Mohammed Musbih al-Waili, a former governor of Basra, in the al-Tuwaisa neighborhood of central Basra. The explosion caused minor damage and there were no reports of casualties. 

On April 11, security sources in Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad, said that unidentified gunmen, believed to be ISIS militants, attacked a PMF patrol in the al-Zour area of the district with small arms fire. The attack damaged the patrol vehicles but there were no reports of casualties. 

On April 11, the Interior Ministers of Iraq and Sudan signed a memorandum of understanding for security cooperation between the two countries during a visit by the Sudanese ministry to Baghdad. Iraq’s Interior Ministry said the memorandum deals with cooperation in counter-terrorism, combating organized and trans-national crime, and knowledge sharing.  

On April 11, security sources in Sulaymaniyah province said that a land mine exploded in the village of Balkha near the town of Hawraman. The explosion reportedly killed one person and injured another.  

On April 12, the human rights committee in Iraq’s parliament warned of overcrowding and inhumane conditions at a major correctional facility for female inmates in the capital Baghdad. A statement issued by the committee after its members inspected the facility said the women’s prison had four times more inmates than it was designed to hold, with 2,500 women being held in four buildings built to hold 190 people each. The statement also pointed to staff shortages delaying the processing and repatriation of the facility’s foreign inmates, many of whom have perceived links to ISIS fighters. 

On April 13, a spokesman for Iraq’s Interior Ministry revealed that random drug testing of some 2,000 ministry personnel conducted this month showed that up to 100 individuals had likely been using illegal drugs. These preliminary test results indicate that up to 5% of the ministry’s personnel could be using drugs.

The sources cited in this section include: INA, al-Sumaria, NINA, al-Hurra, ISHM archives, AP, NRT, Rudaw, PUKMedia, Shafaq, Mawazin, Nas News, Ultra Iraq. 


Iraq Asks U.S. Courts To Help Enforce Arbitration Ruling Against Turkey

On April 8, the director of the trucking company that transports Iraqi crude oil to Jordan said that oil cargoes, which typically average 10,000 barrels per day (bpd), had ceased since the first of April. The official attributed the pause to delays in signing a memorandum for the annual renewal of the oil sales agreement between Iraq and Jordan.

On April 10, news reports indicated that an oil spill in the eastern part of Salah ad-Din province had damaged crops in as many as 5,000 dunams around the al-Alam district in which farmers were growing wheat and barley. Last week, farmers in the province said that recent rain has caused oil spills from the nearby Allas and Ajeel oil fields to flow towards their farms, warning that the spill threatened thousands of dunams of crops. 

On April 11, a spokesman for the Ministry of Electricity said that power output would reach 24,000 megawatts by early May as the ministry continues its preparations for the summer season. According to the official, that output would meet 80% of actual demand for electricity, so long as oil and gas supplies to power plants remained steady. The spokesman added that the ministry also expects the first phase of the grid connection with Jordan to become active by early June, adding 150 megawatts, and contributing better stability to the grid in western Anbar. In related news, Iraq’s Electricity Minister, Ziyad Fadhil discussed another planned grid connection with his Saudi counterpart in Riyadh this week. According to the Iraqi minister, the two sides worked to finalize a partnership with Aqua Power of Saudi Arabia to install a 1,000 megawatt solar farm in Iraq. According to Fadhil, Baghdad and Riyadh also agreed to expand the grid junction between the two countries at Arar, without providing more details about the expansion. 

On April 11, Reuters reported that Iraq has asked an American federal court in the District of Columbia to enforce the recent ruling by the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce against Turkey that awarded Baghdad $1.5 billion in damages. The ruling is related to a case filed by Iraq against Turkey for violating the Iraq-Turkey export pipeline treaty by allowing the Kurdistan region to export oil between 2014-2018 without Baghdad’s consent. Iraq’s petition called for “Recognizing, Confirming, and Enforcing the Final Award issued by the Arbitral Tribunal.” Oil exports from fields in the Kurdistan region and Kirkuk through the pipeline were halted after the ruling, and have not resumed even though Iraq’s Ministry of Oil and the KRG Ministry of Natural Resources signed a temporary agreement on April 4 to resume the exports.

The sources cited in this section include: Shafaq, al-Sumaria, ISHM archives, al-Mada, Nas News, Reuters. 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from April 6, 2023 - April 13, 2023

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
4/7/23 Jazeerat al-Ishaqi, Salah ad-Din province02
4/10/23 Al-Hadhar district, Ninewa province01
4/10/23 Al-Tuwaisa, central Basra00
4/11/23 Hawraman, Sulaymaniyah province11

 

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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