- Sudani Fires More Director Generals; Tensions Rise Among Iraqi Christians; PUK Rejoins The KRG Cabinet; IHEC Elects New Chairman – On May 11, government documents showed that PM Sudani issued new orders to sack another group of 25 director generals in various ministries. The move came two weeks after Sudani removed 57 director generals from office, citing poor performance. On May 12, demonstrators, thought to be supporters of Rayyan al-Kildani’s Babylon Movement, gathered at Tahrir Square to denounce Patriarch Louis Sako after he accused Kildani of “stealing the properties” of Iraqi Christians and hijacking their representation in parliament. Meanwhile, members of the Christian community demonstrated in support of Sako, and the envoys of eleven European countries and EU issued a statement expressing their “solidarity” with the cleric, and support for his “efforts to protect the rights of Christians.” On May 14, the KRG cabinet met with the participation of ministers representing the PUK for the first time in 2023. During its meeting, the reunited KRG cabinet discussed plans to “reorganize the public finances,” an issue that has been a major source of tension between the PUK and KDP. On May 17, the IHEC board of commissioners elected Judge Omar Ahmed Mohammed as its new chairman, replacing Judge Jalil Adnan Khalaf, who stepped down last month. In other developments, on May 14, al-Jazeera reported that Iran’s Foreign Ministry had summoned Iraq’s envoy to Tehran to “strongly protest” the continued presence on Iraqi territory of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups, which Iran labels as “terrorists.” more…
- Militia Fighters Fire On Security Forces In Dispute Over Land In Baghdad – On May 16, the Security Media Cell reported that Baghdad city officials and their security escort came under attack as they attempted to “remove violations on public land” in the Albu-Eitha region, south of Baghdad. The attack injured two people, after which security forces “moved to arrest the attackers,” according to the Cell. Other news reports said that the gunmen in question were members of Kataib Hezbollah who opened fire to prevent the government from reclaiming land under the militia’s effective control. In other developments, between May 11 – 16, Iraqi airstrikes and clashes between security forces and ISIS militants in Ninewa, Kirkuk, and Diyala killed seven ISIS militants and injured three members of Iraq’s security forces. On May 16, an airstrike by a Turkish armed drone killed three members of the YBS militia when it struck a building in the Khanasur subdistrict, near Sinjar. more…
- Iraq Renews Two Energy Deals With Neighbors; Oil Ministry Invites Companies To Bid On 13 Energy Development Projects – On May 13, Iran’s Oil Minister said that contracts to supply Iraqi power plants in Basra and Baghdad with natural gas have been extended for five years. This week, Iraq also renewed a deal with Lebanon to deliver fuel oil in exchange for Lebanese goods and services and increased the volume of deliveries to 1.5 million tons of fuel oil and two million tons of crude oil per year. On May 15, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said it invited international oil companies to participate in the next bidding round for the development of 13 fields and exploration blocks. The blocks for which Iraq is seeking offers include four that were not awarded during the previous, fifth, bidding round in 2018, and eight new sites. Companies have until June 15 to submit their proposals. In other developments, on May 14, PM Sudani announced that his government launched a 10-year strategy to improve the quality of education in Iraq and bring it up to international standards. Sudani also announced an initiative to send 5,000 Iraqi students to study abroad. On May 17, Iraq’s parliament voted to approve a new law that provides enhanced retirement and social security benefits for workers across the public, mixed, and private sector. 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.
On May 11, government documents showed that Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani had issued new orders to sack a new group of 25 senior government officials serving as director generals in various ministries. The move came two weeks after Sudani had issued orders to demote 57 director generals who had failed to receive a positive evaluation from a special committee formed for this purpose. At the time, Coordination Framework sources said that up to 150 directors could be replaced in the process.
On May 12, demonstrators, thought to be supporters of the Babylon Movement of Rayyan al-Kildani, gathered at Tahrir Square in Baghdad to voice opposition to Patriarch Louis Sako, chanting “Sako does not represent us.” On the same day, Tahrir Square saw counter-demonstrations by members of the Christian community expressing solidarity with Sako, the most senior Christian religious leader in Iraq. The demonstrations against Sako, who was named cardinal by Pope Francis in 2018, came after he made remarks in which he accused Rayyan al-Kildani and his group of “stealing the properties” of Christians in Baghdad and Ninewa. Sako added that Kildani and his groups had “hijacked the Christians’s quota” in parliament. In response to these events, the envoys of eleven European countries and the European Union to Iraq issued a statement on May 14 expressing their “solidarity” with Sako, and support for his “efforts to protect the rights of Christians on the soil that they inhabit for two millennia.” The statement by the European ambassadors cautioned that “existing contrasts among Christians do not help their role in the Iraqi society,” and called for greater cooperation “among the Churches.”
On May 12, Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani began a two-day trip to Ninewa and its provincial capital, Mosul. During his visit, Sudani inaugurated projects to rebuild the Mosul International Hotel and the 600-bed Ibn Sina hospital, which had been damaged in the war with ISIS, and inspected the Mosul dam and reconstruction sites at the Mosul International Airport. Sudani also visited the Christian town of Bartella, met with leaders of the province’s Yazidi community, and spoke with tribal figures and civil society representatives. During his meeting, the Iraqi premier expressed solidarity with Ninwea’s minority communities, underscored his government’s commitment to supporting the return of displaced citizens, and promised more government effort to improve services and economic opportunities.
On May 14, the cabinet of the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) met with the participation of ministers representing the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) for the first time in 2023. Last week, the PUK decided to resume participation in government meetings after a reportedly successful meeting between the PUK’s Qubad Talabani, and KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). During its meeting on Sunday, the reunited KRG cabinet discussed plans to “reorganize the public finances of the Kurdistan region,” an area that has been a major source of tension between the parties, which often exchanged accusations of mismanagement and lack of transparency. The meeting reportedly produced a decision to link all sources of government revenue, including from taxes and border crossings, to government accounts through an electronic system “to safeguard public revenue.”
On May 14, al-Jazeera reported that Iran’s Foreign Ministry had summoned Iraq’s envoy to Tehran to “strongly protest” the continued presence on Iraqi territory of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups, which Iran labels as “terrorists.” The Iranians were also angry that representatives of these groups were invited to an “official event,” possibly referring to the inauguration in Erbil of a monument commemorating Mustafa al-Barzani, the late founder of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Iranian officials, according to the report, said the presence of these groups violates a security agreement that the head of Iran’s supreme national security council, Ali Shamkhani, had signed in Baghdad in March. After Iran expressed its dismay, Iraq’s national security adviser, Qasim al-Araji, traveled to Erbil on instructions by Prime Minister Sudani to meet with the regional Minister of Interior, Reber Ahmed. According to a statement by Araji’s office, both Ahmed and the commander of Iraq’s border guards made presentations about measures taken at the regional and federal levels, respectively, to secure the borders with Iran.
On May 17, the board of commissioners of Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) said that its members have elected Judge Omar Ahmed Mohammed as the new chairman of the board. The statement said that Judge Mohammed and his newly elected deputy, Judge Fayyadh Yassin Hussein, won the unanimous vote of the board members who were present at the meeting. Mohammed will replace Judge Jalil Adnan Khalaf, who stepped down last month. The resignation raised concerns among election monitoring organizations about attempts by powerful political parties to undermine IHEC’s independence and restructure the Board of Commissioners ahead of key planning decisions in preparation for provincial councils elections set for November 6.
Sources cited in this section include: INA, ISHM archives, NINA, al-Sumaria, Vatican News, Iraq PM’s office, Bas News, al-Jazeera, Nas News, Rudaw.
On May 11, a senior Iraqi military spokesman said that a joint force of Iraqi army soldiers and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) fighters killed three ISIS militants during search operations near the Zab river in the Shanaf region of Ninewa province. Later, on May 15, the Security Media Cell reported that a joint force of the army, PMF, and intelligence service repelled a group of ISIS militants who attempted to advance into the Namrud district, south of Mosul, killing one of the militants. One Iraqi soldier was also injured in the clashes, according to local sources. On the following day, the Cell reported that an airstrike performed by Iraqi F-16 jets destroyed several ISIS positions and killed three militants in the Wadi al-Shay region of southern Kirkuk.
On May 13, security sources in Kirkuk province said that two women were injured when a bomb exploded near them on a farm they were working at in the Qara-Anjeer subdistrict. To the south, an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated next to a civilian residence in al-Akika subdistrict of Dhi-Qar province. The attack, which local sources said was linked to a dispute over a farm, caused only material damage to the building.
On May 14, security sources in Baghdad said that three people were injured in the Ur neighborhood of northeast Baghdad when unidentified individuals attacked their residence with a hand grenade.
On May 16, the counter-terrorism service in the Kurdistan region reported that an airstrike by a Turkish armed drone targeted a building used by the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) in the Khanasur subdistrict, near Sinjar. The airstrike killed three YBS fighters and injured a fourth member of the militia, which is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
On May 16, the Security Media Cell reported that Baghdad city officials and their security escort came under attack as they attempted to “remove violations on public land” in the Albu-Eitha region, south of Baghdad. The attack injured two people, after which security forces “moved to arrest the attackers,” according to the Cell. News reports had said that the gunmen who attacked the city officials and clashed with security forces were members of Kataib Hezbollah. News reports added that the militia, which is known to have strongholds in the area, fired on the government officials and federal police unit escorting them to prevent them from reclaiming land under its control.
On May 17, security sources in Diyala province said that ISIS militants attacked a checkpoint for Iraqi security forces in the village of Sansal, north of the Muqdadiyah district. The fighting left two Iraqi policemen wounded.
Sources cited in this section include: NINA, Nas News, Mawazin, INA, Shafaq, Kurdistan24, social media, Ultra Iraq.
On May 11, Iraq’s Oil Minister, Hayan Abdul-Ghani, confirmed earlier reports which said that Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) had sent official notice to Turkey asking the latter to resume Iraqi oil exports through the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Specifically, according to Abdul-Ghani, SOMO asked Turkish pipeline operator, BOTAS, to commence “loading and export operations as of Saturday, May 13.” Despite the request, the exports, halted since late March, remained suspended as of writing. News reports citing unnamed Turkish officials indicated this week that Ankara was reluctant to allow exports to resume before it could reach a favorable settlement with Baghdad over the $1.5 billion that arbitration had awarded to the latter as damages.
On May 12, Iraq’s Oil Ministry inaugurated a water injection project at the Majnoon oil field in Basra, with a capacity of 80,000 barrels per day (bpd). The project will utilize four wells to inject water into various reservoirs at the field to help sustain oil production, according to Oil Minister Hayan Abdul-Ghani. The minister also launched a new project to build a second gas separation station at the field, with a capacity to process 120,000 bpd. To the north, at the Himrin oil field in Salah ad-Din province, Iraqi oil officials said that work will soon commence to repair wells, production facilities, and pipelines that had been destroyed when the area was occupied by ISIS militants in 2014. According to the official in charge of Salah ad-Din fields, the target production from Hirmin will be 50,000 bpd of oil and 45 million cubic feet per day of associated natural gas.
On May 13, Iran’s Oil Minister, Javad Owji, said that contracts to supply Iraqi power plants in Basra and Baghdad with natural gas have been extended for five years. Owji had arrived in Baghdad on May 10 and met with Iraq’s Electricity Minister, Ziyad Ali Fadhil to discuss the state of Iranian natural gas sales to Iraq, which Baghdad depends on to feed several power plants that generate a significant portion of Iraq’s power output.
On May 14, Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani announced that his government has launched a 10-year strategy to improve the quality of education in Iraq and bring it up to international standards. The prime minister also announced a new initiative to send 5,000 Iraqi students to study abroad to “address the development needs of the country.” Sudani said the goal is to benefit from successful international experiences in education to develop an education system that nurtures creative thinking, tolerance and coexistence, without compromising the “civilizational values” of Iraq.
On May 15, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said it invited international oil companies to participate in the next bidding round for the development of 13 fields and exploration blocks. The blocks for which Iraq is seeking offers include four that were not awarded during the previous, fifth, bidding round in 2018, and eight new sites. According to a ministry spokesman, interested companies should submit their bids by email before the end of business on June 15. The names and locations of the 13 blocks on offer in this “fifth bid round annex” are as follows:
- Al-Fao, Jabal Sanam, and Abu Khayma (Basra)
- Sasan, and Allan (Ninewa)
- Zurbatya, and al-Dhifriyah (Wasit)
- Al-Deema, and Qalat Salih (Maysan)
- Al-Shihabi (between Wasit and Maysan)
- East Baghdad (northern sections in Baghdad and Salah ad-Din)
- Pulkana (Salah ad-Din)
- Al-Kifl, West Kifl, and Marjan (as one block, mid-Euphrates region)
On May 16, Iraq and Lebanon renewed a trade deal, first signed in 2021, under which Iraq delivered 1,000,000 tons of fuel oil per year in exchange for Lebanese goods and services, including in the health sector. In addition to renewing the deal for a third year, Baghdad has also agreed to increase fuel deliveries to Lebanon by 50%, to reach 1,500,000 tons per year, a statement by the Iraqi prime minister’s office said. Iraq will also sign a second deal with Lebanon to provide 2,000,000 tons of crude oil per year, the statement added.
On May 17, Iraq’s parliament voted to approve a new law that provides retirement and social security benefits for workers across the public, mixed, and private sector. According to a member of the labor and social affairs parliamentary commission, the law provides workers with new benefits compared to the old law passed in 1970, such as maternity leave for women in the private sector, and allowing self-employed individuals to enroll in coverage without a sponsoring company or institution. The law also provides for automatic annual cost-of-living adjustments to pensions, according to another parliamentary source. A statement by parliament’s press office said the new legislation is meant to affirm constitutional principles, address social crises, and answer the calls by the international labor organization to expand social protection networks.
Sources cited in this section include: Iraq’s Oil Ministry, ISHM archives, al-Sumaria, INA, Rudaw, Iraqi PM’s office, Iraqi parliament, al-Forat News.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
Casualties Due To IEDs from May 11, 2023 - May 18, 2023
|Qara-Anjeer, Kirkuk province
|Al-Akika, Dhi-Qar province
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.