ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: April 27 – May 4, 2023

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Key Takeaways:

  • Kataib Hezbollah Sues Former PM Kadhimi Over Soleimani’s Assassination; Sudani’s Government Replaces Dozens Of Director Generals – On April 30, the general prosecutor in Iraq asked the central investigation court to look into allegations by a lawmaker affiliated with Kataib Hezbollah that implicate former PM Kadhimi in the U.S. drone strike that killed Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in 2020. On May 3, Iraq’s official news agency reported that the Council of Ministers issued orders to demote 57 director generals who failed to receive a positive evaluation from a special committee formed for this purpose.  Coordination Framework sources said that up to 150 directors could be replaced in the process. In other developments, on April 29, Iraqi President Abdul-Latif Rashid visited Tehran where he met with Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Rashid’s talks with Raisi focused on energy, water resources, security and drug trafficking, and tourism. Khamenei reportedly told Rashid that Iraq “should not allow any U.S. forces to be on its soil,” emphasizing that the presence “of even one American in Iraq is too much.” On May 1, Iraq’s Foreign Affairs Minister met in Amman his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria to discuss steps to normalize relations with Damascus and bring about an end to the Syrian conflict. more…
  • Turkey Says Its Forces Killed The Top ISIS Leader In Syria – On May 1, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey’s intelligence service conducted an operation in an unspecified location in northern Syria that led to the killing of the current leader of ISIS, Abu Hussein al-Quraishi. In other developments, between April 27 – May 4, the explosions of three IEDs and remnants of war in Ninewa, Salah ad-Din, and Basra, killed at least two Iraqis and wounded seven. On May 1, three people were killed, including a police colonel, in a tribal conflict that erupted in the Dijail district in southern Salah ad-Din. On May 2, security sources said that the commander in chief issued orders to transfer the chief of the Diyala operations command, major general Ali Fadhil Omran, to take over the west Ninewa operations command. Meanwhile, major general Akram Saddam, the current chief of the west Ninewa operations command, will take Omran’s place at the Diyala operations command. more…
  • UNHCR Makes An Urgent Call For Funds To Support IDPs And Refugees; UNAMI Warns Of Ongoing Violent And Legal Attacks On Free Speech – On April 30, the UNHCR said it was facing a very large funding gap that threatens its ability to provide critical assistance to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi IDPs and Syrian refugees. As of April 2023, the UNHCR in Iraq had received $42.4 million, representing less than a fifth of its total requirements of nearly $240 million. The organization said it urgently needs $48 million to avoid cutting vital assistance programs, including refugee registration, cash assistance, health and education services, and legal assistance to IDPs with missing civil documentation. On May 3, in a statement marking World Press Freedom Day, UNAMI said that it continued to see “ongoing cases of harassment and intimidation, as well as retribution through both legal means and violence” targeting dissent and free speech across Iraq. The statement stressed that it was crucial to guarantee “that the legal framework protects, rather than unduly restricts, speech.” more…
  • Oil Revenue Up In April Despite Continued Suspension Of Northern Exports – On May 2, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports in April averaged 3.288 million bpd, about 30,000 bpd higher than in March. Revenue stood at $7.79 billion, nearly $400 million higher than in March, aided by higher average sale prices. All of the April exports were shipped from fields in southern Iraq through the ports of Basra, while exports from the northern fields in Kirkuk remained suspended, along with exports from fields under KRG control. According to Reuters, overall production fell by 262,000 bpd to 3.938 million bpd, almost 500,000 bpd below Iraq’s quota set by an OPEC+ deal. In other developments, on April 30, news reports said that the Ministry of Justice had lifted an asset freeze that was placed on more than 40 properties belonging to Noor Zuheir, a key suspect in the theft of $2.5 billion from government accounts, and his family members. On April 30, Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission said it won a case in court against Korek Telecom involving $800 million in unpaid licensing fees. On May 3, Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority decided to ground all of five recently received Airbus A220-300 aircraft operated by the Iraqi Airways until further notice, citing technical malfunctions. 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.


Kataib Hezbollah Sues Former PM Kadhimi; Sudani’s Government Replaces Dozens Of Director Generals

On April 29, Iraqi President Abdul-Latif Rashid visited Tehran where he met with Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Rashid’s delegation included the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Water Resources, and Electricity, along with National Security Adviser Qasim al-Araji. A statement by Rashid’s office said the meetings with Iranian leaders focused on energy, water resources and the environment, security, and tourism. During a joint press conference with Raisi, Rashid specifically mentioned that it was “necessary to consider Iraq’s [fair] share of water resources, and to make cooperation in countering [the smuggling of] narcotics the highest priority.” During the meeting with Khamenei, the Iranian leader reportedly told Rashid that Iraq “should not allow any U.S. forces to be on its soil,” emphasizing that the presence “of even one American in Iraq is too much.”

On April 30, the general prosecutor in Iraq asked the central investigation court to look into allegations submitted by a lawmaker affiliated with Kataib Hezbollah (KH) that implicate former Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in the U.S. drone strike that killed Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis near Baghdad airport in 2020. Representative Hussein Monis, who leads the KH-affiliated Huqooq bloc in parliament, argued in his letter to the prosecution that Kadhimi, along with officials in the Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS), failed to share information that could have prevented the attack. Copies of the correspondences between Monis and the prosecutor can be accessed here

On May 1, Fuad Hussein, Iraq’s Foreign Affairs Minister, met in Amman his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria to discuss steps to normalize relations with Damascus and bring about an end to the Syrian conflict that erupted 12 years ago. The final statement issued after the meeting, the first of its kind since Syria’s membership in the Arab League was suspended in 2011, said the ministers discussed cooperation on a number of important issues, including facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid, the return of Syrian refugees, and stabilization and reconstruction efforts. The ministers also discussed steps to improve border security and counter-terrorism, and to support Syria’s “legitimate efforts” to establish control over its territory and stop foreign interference. The statement also said that Syria pledged to help Iraq and Jordan identify the origins of the illicit drug trade and take steps to crack down on drug trafficking.

On May 1, large crowds of government employees demonstrated at Tahrir Square in Baghdad demanding improvements to the public sector’s pay scale. The demonstrations, which coincided with Labor Day in Iraq, demanded pay raises to cope with rising costs of living, and called for better income equality to reduce pay disparities among various government ministries. 

On May 1, Barbara Leaf, the Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for the Near East visited Iraq for meetings with Prime Minister Sudani, President Rashid, Speaker Halbousi, and other senior Iraqi officials and leaders. At the meeting with Sudani, the U.S. diplomat said she “reiterated U.S. support for Sudani’s energy reform agenda” as well as Iraq’s security, stability and sovereignty. Leaf’s talks with President Rashid on May 2 focused on supporting Iraq’s response to climate and water scarcity, a message by the State Department said. In remarks delivered at a policy forum in Baghdad, Leaf said that Washington supports Sudani’s vision for improving public services, adding that the priorities he mentioned were the same that Washington considers important for Iraq. On the following day, the U.S. official visited Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, where she had meetings with Kurdish leaders Masoud Barzani, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, KRG President Nechirvan Barzani, and KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani. The talks in the Kurdistan region focused on “bridging divisions” between the major parties there, relations between Kurdistan and Baghdad, and U.S. security assistance

On May 1, a member of the parliamentary integrity committee said the committee filed a case in court against the Foreign Affairs Ministry for allegedly issuing 10,000 diplomatic passports to individuals who are not eligible for these travel documents. Representative Sarwa Abdul-Wahid, a committee member, said the Foreign Affairs Ministry issued 32,000 diplomatic passports in the past four years, of whom up to 10,000 were neither diplomats nor ministry staffers. Abdul-Wahid added that the committee wants to host the Foreign Affairs Minister in parliament to answer questions about this situation.

On May 3, a government source told Iraq’s official news agency that the Council of Ministers issued orders on Tuesday to demote 57 senior officials of the Director General rank to a lower grade. The demotions will affect directors who failed to receive a positive evaluation from a special committee formed for this purpose, the source added. The 57 officials, all of whom were permanent appointments (i.e., not acting) will go back to the grade they occupied prior to assuming their director positions. The Prime Minister issued instructions to replace the demoted directors with personnel from the respective ministries, the source added, without providing further details. News reports citing unnamed sources from the Coordination Framework said that up to 150 directors could be replaced in the process.

Sources cited in this section include: Iraq PM’s office, social media, Nas News, al-Sumaria, NRT, INA, Rudaw, Shafaq, NINA, Reuters, PUKMedia.


Turkey Says Its Forces Killed The Top ISIS Leader In Syria

On April 27, local officials in the Zubeir district of Basra said that one civilian was killed and another person was seriously injured when an old land mine exploded in the south Rumaila area. To the north, in Ninewa province, security sources said on the same day that six people were injured when a legacy improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near a livestock market in the Tal-Afar district, west of Mosul. To the south, security sources in Salah a-Din province said that a roadside IED exploded on May 4 at the junction between al-Shirqat and Tlul al-Baj, in the western parts of the province, killing a sheep herder who was passing by.

On April 27, security sources in Baghdad said that three civilians from the same family were injured in an attack with a hand grenade that targeted their residence in the Ma’alif neighborhoods in southern Baghdad.

On April 29, local sources in the Gwer subdistrict in southeast Ninewa province said that ISIS militants kidnapped two people from the area on Friday, April 28. The following day, locals discovered the body of one of the victims, identified as a Kurdish soldier in the Iraqi army, near the Zab river. The fate of the second kidnapped person remains unknown. 

On May 1, security sources in Salah ad-Din province said that three people were killed, including a police colonel and a member of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in a tribal conflict that erupted in the Dijail district in southern Salah ad-Din. The police officer was killed as he attempted to intervene to stop the fighting. Two civilians were also injured in the fighting, according to the sources.

On May 1, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey’s intelligence service conducted an operation in an unspecified location in northern Syria that led to the killing of the current leader of ISIS, Abu Hussein al-Quraishi.  

On May 1, security sources in Diyala province said that unidentified gunmen shot and wounded one civilian in an attack that took place near the town of Muqdadiyah, northeast of Baquba.

On May 2, security sources in Diyala province said that the commander in chief had issued orders to transfer the chief of the Diyala operations command, major general Ali Fadhil Omran, to take over the west Ninewa operations command. Meanwhile, major general Akram Saddam, the current chief of the west Ninewa operations command, will take Omran’s place at the Diyala operations command.

On May 3, a PMF commander in Anbar said that a joint force of the Iraqi army and PMF backed by aviation killed two ISIS militants in an operation in the al-Ka’ra region, east of the town of Akashat. Security forces also freed a person who was held captive by the militants. 

Sources cited in this section include: al-Sumaria, Shafaq, NINA, INA.


UNHCR Makes An Urgent Call For Funds To Support IDPs And Refugees; UNAMI Warns Of Ongoing Violent And Legal Attacks On Free Speech

On April 30, the UNHCR said it was facing a very large funding gap that threatens its ability to provide critical assistance to hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who are internally displaced and Syrian refugees in Iraq. As of April 2023, the UNHCR in Iraq had received $42.4 million, representing less than a fifth of its total requirements of nearly $240 million. The organization said it urgently needs $48 million to avoid cutting assistance programs that are vital to refugees and IDPs. These funds would allow UNHCR to continue refugee registration activities in Iraq, sustain cash assistance programs, extend access to health and education services, and continue to provide legal assistance to IDPs with missing civil documentation. 

On May 1, Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it received new calls from 75 Iraqi citizens requesting evacuation from Sudan. Last week, two Iraqi military transport aircraft carrying 218 Iraqis and 16 Syrians arrived in Baghdad coming from Sudan, where intense fighting has been reported between competing military and paramilitary factions. At least one Iraqi citizen has been killed in the fighting so far, according to a spokesman of Iraq’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, who estimated the number of Iraqis stranded in Sudan to be around 300. 

On May 3, in a statement marking World Press Freedom Day, the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) said that it continued to see “ongoing cases of harassment and intimidation, as well as retribution through both legal means and violence” targeting dissent and free speech across Iraq. In the statement, UNAMI chief, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, cautioned that cracking down on freedom of speech “tarnishes the image of the State and erodes public trust.” The UN official stressed that it was crucial to guarantee “that the legal framework protects, rather than unduly restricts, speech.”

Sources cited in this section include: Reliefweb, Rudaw, ISHM archives, Mawazin, INA.


Oil Revenue Up In April Despite Continued Suspension Of Northern Exports

On April 30, official documents circulating on news sites indicated that the Ministry of Justice had ordered to lift an asset freeze that was placed on more than 40 properties belonging to Noor Zuheir, a key suspect in the theft of $2.5 billion from government accounts, and his family members. The documents, dated January 30, were addressed to three real estate registration departments: one in Basra, and two in the Karkh and Rasafa sides of Baghdad. Commenting on the reports, representative Ali Turki al-Jamali, a member of the parliamentary integrity committee who is affiliated with Asaib Ahl al-Haq, dismissed the order to lift the asset freeze as “old and unrelated to deals,” and instead accused the Kurdistan region of being “the primary mover” of the stolen funds, without providing further details. Authorities had arrested Zuheir in November before releasing him on bail in exchange for cooperating with authorities to recover the stolen funds within two weeks. Based on available information, ISHM estimates the amount recovered so far to be under 10% of the stolen funds. 

On April 30, sources within Baghdad’s International Airport said that Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani had appointed a new director for the country’s main transportation hub, hours after he toured the facility. According to the sources, the new director is Mazin Faisal al-Shibli, who was the airport’s operations director. The former airport director, Hussein Qasim Khafi, reportedly submitted his resignation after he was publicly scolded by Sudani over “chaos” at the airport. 

On April 30, Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission said it won a case in court against Korek Telecom over disputed licensing and frequencies fees. Under the ruling, Korek, which is owned by Kurdish businessman Sirwan Barzni, is required to pay the Iraqi state nearly $800 million in compensation for the delayed fees. The head of the Commission said the court case was won with the help of “serious diligent followup” by Prime Minister Sudani.    

On May 2, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports during April totaled 98.63 million barrels, for an average of 3.288 million barrels per day (bpd), which is about 30,000 bpd higher than exports in March. The April exports generated $7.79 billion in revenue, nearly $400 million higher than the $7.4 billion achieved in March. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of approximately $73.37 per barrel, about $5.7 above the previous month’s average of $76.75 per barrel. All of the April exports were shipped from fields in southern and central Iraq through the ports of Basra, while exports from the northern fields in Kirkuk remained suspended, along with oil produced from fields under the control of the Kurdsitan regional government (KRG). According to a report by Reuters, overall production in April fell by 262,000 bpd to 3.938 million bpd, almost 500,000 bpd below the country’s quota under an OPEC+ deal. In related news, Iraq and Jordan agreed this week to renew an agreement that had expired recently under which Iraq exports 10,000 bpd by truck to Jordan.  

On May 3, Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) decided to ground all Airbus A220-300 aircraft operated by the Iraqi Airways until further notice. The order, according to documents circulating online, was in response to unspecified malfunctions reported in two aircrafts of that type with the designations YA-ARI, and YI, ARG. The two aircraft are part of a batch of five that Iraqi Airways received in February of this year.  

On May 3, the state-owned Rafidain Bank said it will start providing point of sale (POS) systems, along with software and technical support, free of charge to both public sector institutions and private sector businesses. The move aims to support the implementation of a government program, first announced in January, that requires 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. 

Sources cited in this section include: Iraq’s Oil Ministry, ISHM archives, NINA, Nas News, Ultra Iraq, Shafaq, Iraqi PM’s office, social media, Reuters, INA.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from April 27, 2023 - May 4, 2023

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
4/27/23 South Rumaila, Basra province11
4/27/23 Tal-Afar, Ninewa province06
5/4/23 Near Shirqat, Salah ad-Din province10

 

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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