- UNAMI Presents New Update On Iraq; Sudani Attends Arab League Summit; KDP-PUK Disputes Over Regional Elections Intensify – On May 18, UNAMI’s Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert delivered a new briefing to the Security Council that reaffirmed that Sudani’s government has “shown its resolve to tackle…pressing issues” facing Iraq, and commended its “express stance” against corruption” But the UN envoy cautioned that “the harsh reality is that there is no time to lose,” stressed the need to place the national interest above all else, and urged lawmakers to quickly approve a budget “needed to turn certain Government goals into realities.” Meanwhile, Plasschaert criticized the PUK and KDP for failing to make compromises and allowing their disagreement to drive the Kurdistan region “close to the brink.” Regarding climate and water, Plasschaert cautioned that, if current trends continue, Iraq will only be able to meet 15% of its water demands by 2035. On May 19, PM Sudani attended the 32nd Arab League summit meeting in Jeddah. In his address, Sudani welcomed the return of Syria to the League meetings, urged joint Arab action on drug trafficking, climate change, and water shortage, and called for developing the League into an integrated economic bloc. On May 22, the Kurdistan parliament held a chaotic session during which members of rival parties hurled furniture and water bottles at each other as disputes over the election system boiled over. PUK members accused the KDP of violating the bylaws by introducing a motion to empower the region’s existing election commission, which the PUK insists on replacing, to manage the next election. Speaker Rewaz Faeq, a PUK member, attempted to adjourn the meeting to block the motion, but the vote proceeded, and 58 lawmakers out of 111 voted in favor of extending the commission’s mandate. In response, Faeq declared the outcome to be null and void, and the PUK insisted that it “will not be bound by an illegal decision.” In other developments, on May 21, sources close to Muqtada al-Sadr said that followers of the influential cleric will not be competing in the provincial elections scheduled for November. more…
- Lawmaker Accuses The PMF Of Intimidation; Property Dispute Sparks Fighting Between PMF Factions In Kirkuk; Iraq Looks To Purchase Rafale Jets – On May 18, independent lawmaker Sajjad Salim said that an armed force from the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) surrounded his office in Wasit province and shut it down. Salim claimed the incident was retaliation for his call to investigate the alleged involvement of a certain PMF faction in an attempted assassination in the city of al-Kut. On May 21, three people were injured during armed clashes between two PMF factions (East Dijlah and the 16th brigade) over a disputed property near the Kirkuk Airport. On May 23, PM Sudani and the commander of France’s air forces attended a joint aerial exercise at the Balad air base involving French Rafale jets. A military spokesman for Sudani told reporters that Baghdad wants to purchase the advanced French jets as part of its efforts to build up the he Iraqi air force. In other developments, on May 23, a new Turkish airstrike targeted a building in the Khanasur subdistrict near Sinjar, killing three militiamen from the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS). more…
- Saudi Arabia And Iraq Boost Bilateral Trade And Energy Investments – On May 25, Iraq’s Oil Minister announced an agreement with Saudi Aramco for the development of the Akkaz gas field in Anbar. Iraq and Aramco will aim to produce 400 million cubic feet per day of gas from the field, which currently produces 60 million cubic feet per day relying on domestic efforts. In related news, the final statement of the Iraqi-Saudi coordination council meeting in Jeddah said that bilateral trade between Iraq and Saudi Arabia reached $1.5 billion in 2022, representing a 50% increase from the previous year. The statement added that the two countries agreed to expedite the opening of a new border crossing at Jamima. In other developments, on May 21, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity said that Iran reduced the volume of natural gas exports to Iraq by 20 million cubic meters per day, causing the power grid to lose 1,000 megawatts from southern power plants. On May 23, Iraq’s Ministry of Environment and the local government and university of Basra, with support from the WFP, launched a nursery for mangrove trees capable of producing up to one million seedlings a year. The project aims to create a mangrove ecosystem that “enhances the region’s biodiversity, sequesters carbon, and mitigates the risks of climatic shocks.” 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.
UNAMI Presents New Update On Iraq; Sudani Attends Arab League Summit; KDP-PUK Disputes Over Regional Elections Intensify
On May 18, the head of the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI), Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, delivered a new briefing to the Security Council. In her update, the UNAMI chief reaffirmed that the Iraqi government of Mohammed al-Sudani has “shown its resolve to tackle a number of the pressing issues” facing Iraq, commending its “express stance” against corruption, and efforts in “in pushing Iraq closer to a state of energy independence.” But the UN envoy cautioned that “the harsh reality is that there is no time to lose,” and stressed the need to place “the national interest over that of any individual or party.” The UN official urged Iraq’s lawmakers to quickly approve a national budget that provides the resources “needed to turn certain Government goals into realities.” In remarks about conditions in the Kurdiustan region, Plasschaert criticized the ruling PUK and KDP parties for failing to make compromises and allowing their disagreement to drive the region “close to the brink.” Turning to the disputed Sinjar district, the UNAMI chief said online disinformation against Yazidis was fueling new tensions and said she could “only express disappointment that little to no progress has been made” in implementing the normalization agreement signed almost three years ago. Addressing the issue of climate change and water shortage, Plasschaert said that 90% of Iraq’s rivers were polluted and seven million Iraqis struggled with reduced access to water, calling for “bold domestic actions and close regional cooperation” in addressing these challenges. She cautioned that, if current trends continue, Iraq will only be able to meet 15% of its water demands by 2035. Finally, the UN envoy called on Iraq’s leaders to “embrace civic engagement, and the freedom of expression…to avoid fomenting a renewed sense of isolation and disillusion among Iraqi people.”
On May 19, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani attended the 32nd Arab League summit meeting in the Saudi city of Jeddah. In his address to the conference, Sudani welcomed the return of Syria “to her natural place” as Bashar al-Assad attended the meeting for the first time in more than a decade. Sudani urged joint Arab action in dealing with climate change and water shortage, and in confronting drug trafficking. The Iraqi premier also called for developing the Arab League into an integrated economic bloc, noting that Baghdad will soon host a meeting to launch the “development road” project, which aims to create a new transportation network with Iraq at its center. Finally, Sudani invited the Arab leaders to convene the next summit meeting in Baghdad in 2025. While in Jeddah, Sudani met with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenski, who was there to address the summit meeting. Zelensky invited Sudani to visit Ukraine, according to a statement by the Iraqi prime minister’s office.
On May 21, a report by Shafaq citing a source close to Muqtada al-Sadr said that followers of the influential cleric, who has distanced himself from politics since last fall, will not be competing in the provincial elections scheduled for November. The source added that Sadr had not made up his mind regarding possible participation in the next parliamentary elections, for which no date has been set yet. Members of Sadr’s close circle are trying to convince Sadr to reconsider his decision to boycott the provincial election, the source added.
On May 21, hundreds of unemployed graduates demanding jobs demonstrated outside oil installations in Dhi-Qar and blocked the entrance to the provincial government building. Some of the demonstrators threw rocks at the government building and clashed with security forces who used batons, resulting in at least 32 injuries on both sides, most were said to be light. Protest organizers pledged to continue their activities until the government meets their demands for jobs. Meanwhile, there were new protests in the town of Suq al-Shuyukh demanding public services and the replacement of the district mayor.
On May 22, the parliament of the Kurdsitan region held a chaotic session during which members of the rival major parties hurled furniture and water bottles at each other as disputes over the region’s election system boiled over. Representatives of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) accused the rival Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of violating the legislature’s bylaws by introducing a motion to vote on empowering the region’s existing election commission, which the PUK insists on replacing. Rewaz Faeq, the speaker of the regional parliament and a PUK member, immediately attempted to adjourn the meeting to block the motion. But the vote proceeded nonetheless, and according to a spokesman of the KDP bloc, 58 lawmakers out of 111 voted in favor of extending the commission’s mandate. In response, the speaker, Rewaz Faeq, issued a statement in which she declared the outcome of the session to be null and void, considering that the vote took place after she had adjourned the meeting. Furthermore, on May 24, the PUK condemned the region’s Justice Minister, a KDP member, for publishing the decision to extend the election commission’s mandate in the region’s official gazette, insisting that the PUK “will not be bound by an illegal decision.”
On May 24, the Islamic Dawa Party issued a statement condemning an alleged decision by authorities in neighboring Jordan to allow the Baath Party to conduct political activities in the kingdom. Dawa called on Jordan to repeal the license issued to the Baath Party and demanded that Iraq’s Foreign Affairs Ministry summon Jordan’s ambassador to deliver an objection to this “hostile, provocative step.”
On May 25, lawmaker Hayder al-Salami of the Emtidad party said that Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court had rejected a case filed by the party and a group of independent members of parliament in which they argued that the legislature’s March 27 vote to pass an amended election law was unconstitutional. During that session, Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi used security forces to evict lawmakers who were vocal in opposing the amendments. At the time, Emtidad called Halbousi’s actions a “dangerous precedent that goes against democratic values” and vowed to challenge the vote with the Federal Supreme Court.
Sources cited in this section include: Iraqi PM’s office, Reuters, the UN, Shafaq, al-Mada, PUKMedia, Kurdistan24, al-Sumaria, NRT, ISHM archive, Iraq’s parliament.
Lawmaker Accuses The PMF Of Intimidation; Property Dispute Sparks Fighting Between PMF Factions In Kirkuk; Iraq Looks To Purchase Rafale Jets
On May 18, independent lawmaker Sajjad Salim said that an armed force from the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) surrounded his office in Wasit province and put a note on its wall saying “closed by orders of the Hashed,” using the Arabic term for the PMF. In a message on social media, Salim claimed the “real reason” behind the “targeting” of his office was that he had asked security forces to investigate the alleged involvement of a certain militia in an attempted assassination in the city of al-Kut. The incident also occurred after Salim made televised remarks in which he called for more scrutiny over the PMF budget and criticized the involvement of PMF commanders in politics. In subsequent comments, Salim called for integrating all armed forces into a “disciplined, identifiable military framework,” adding that the incident is proof that having “two [armed] forces, one of which acts outside state control, does not help us build the nation and move forward.”
On May 20, security sources in Kirkuk said that Iraqi forces raided a hideout used by ISIS militants in the Wadi Zghaytoun region of the province. During the operation, security forces freed a sheep herder who had been kidnapped by the militants several days earlier.
On May 20, security sources in Dhi-Qar province said that a fierce armed conflict erupted between two tribes in the Shatra district, north of Nasiriyah. In response, security forces deployed to the area to stop the fighting, in which “light and medium” automatic weapons were used, and arrested six individuals from the two sides, according to the sources.
On May 20, news reports said that Iraqi army troops and vehicles were deployed around a camp for Turkish Kurdish refugees near Makhmour and worked to set up barbed wire barriers around the camp, which houses some 12,000 residents. Footage from the camp showed a tense standoff between the troops and camp residents, who reportedly pelted the soldiers with rocks, injuring four of them. The Security Media Cell said the measures by security forces were not an attack on the camp, and were meant to “ensure the safety of everyone inside the camp from the illegal actions carried out by some of them,” describing these actions as “harmful to Iraq’s relations” with its neighbors.
On May 21, security sources in Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad, said that suspected ISIS militants killed two pro-government tribal mobilization fighters and injured two more in an assault on a house in the Ibn Sina neighborhood of the district.
On May 21, local sources in Kirkuk said that three people were injured during armed clashes between two PMF factions over a disputed property in the province. The fighting, which lasted for half an hour, reportedly erupted between the East Dijlah faction and the PMF 16th brigade over the ownership of a certain building located near the Kirkuk International Airport.
On May 22, a report by Rudaw citing a member of parliament from Sinjar said that the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) received approval from Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani to create a new brigade-size unit in the disputed district. The representative, Majid Shingali, warned that creating this unit, which will presumably include 2,000 fighters, would further destabilize the situation in Sinjar.
On May 23, Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani and the visiting commander of France’s air forces attended a joint aerial exercise at the Balad air base involving Iraqi and French military aircraft, including French Rafale and Iraqi F-16 fighters. A military spokesman for Sudani told reporters that the Iraqi government wants to purchase the advanced French jets as part of its efforts to build up the capability of the Iraqi air force.
On May 23, local sources in the Sinjar district said that Turkish airstrikes targeted a building occupied by fighters affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in the Khanasur subdistrict. The airstrike, performed by an armed drone, killed three militiamen from the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), according to a statement by the counter-terrorism service in the Kurdistan region. This is the second deadly Turkish airstrike reported in the same area during the last 10-day period.
Sources cited in this section include: Nas News, social media, al-Mada, Shafaq, INA, al-Sumaria, Rudaw, Iraqi PM’s office, INA, ISHM archives.
Saudi Arabia And Iraq Boost Bilateral Trade And Energy Investments
On May 21, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity said that Iran had reduced the volume of its natural gas exports to Iraq, causing Iraq’s power grid to lose 1,000 megawatts from southern power plants. A spokesman for the ministry said the loss in gas imports amounted to 20 million cubic meters per day, adding that the ministry will dispatch a delegation to Iran next week to address the situation, noting that Iraq has been paying Iraq for the gas on time. The drop in gas flows came just a week after Iraq and Iran agreed to renew the contracts to supply Iraqi power plants with Iranian natural gas for five years.
On May 21, Iraq’s Ministry of Planning announced that the number of halted public services projects, such as hospitals, schools, and water and sanitation, had dropped from 1,452 to 1,063 since the creation of a government committee tasked with resolving problems hindering public works. The committee, first convened in March, includes the Planning Minister, and the chairmen of the Integrity Commission and the Federal Board of Supreme Audit.
On May 23, Iraq’s Ministry of Environment and the local government and university of Basra, with support from the World Food Program (WFP), launched a nursery for mangrove trees capable of producing up to one million seedlings a year. The goal of the project is to create a mangrove ecosystem that “enhances the region’s biodiversity, sequesters carbon, and mitigates the risks of climatic shocks.” The initiative is also expected to reduce poverty in the area by alleviating creating sustainable economic opportunities for the coastal communities. During the Iraq Climate Conference earlier this year, the Iraqi government had made a commitment to plant five million trees as part of its climate response. The WFP Representative and Country Director in Iraq described the plan to introduce mangrove trees to southern Iraq as “ a significant step towards combating the effects of the climate crisis and enhancing food security.”
On May 25, Iraq’s Oil Minister, Hayan Abdul-Ghani, announced an agreement with Saudi Aramco for the development of the Akkaz gas field in Anbar province. Abdul-Ghani, who’s attending a meeting of the Iraqi-Saudi coordination council in Jeddah, added that Iraq and Aramco will aim to produce 400 million cubic feet per day of gas from the field, which is currently operated relying on domestic efforts. In March, the field, whose development was long-delayed by the ISIS conflict, commenced limited production at a rate of 60 million cubic feet per day of natural gas from four wells. In related news, the final statement of the council’s meeting underscored recent growth in bilateral trade between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. According to the statement, the value of trade reached $1.5 billion in 2022, representing a 50% increase from the previous year. The statement added that the two countries agreed to expedite the opening of a new border crossing at Jamima.
Sources cited in this section include: NINA, INA, ISHM archives, Reliefweb.
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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