ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: May 25 – June 1, 2023

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Key Takeaways:

  • Draft Budget Changes Raise Strong KRG Objections; Iraq’s Top Court Says Extending The Kurdistan Parliament’s Term Was Unconstitutional – On May 25, the parliamentary finance committee made several last minute amendments to the 2023-2025 federal budget bill. The changes, which require the KRG to compensate public servants for withholdings made during the region’s economic crisis that began in 2015, raised strong objections from the KRG. Regional PM Masrour Barzani accused the finance committee of trying to derail existing agreements with PM Sudani Sudani, which he said were “the foundation” of cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil. Barzani argued that the withholdings should be repaid by the federal government since they were the result of Baghdad’s decision to cut the KRG budget. The finance committee’s changes seem to have the support of the PUK. On May 30, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court ruled that a vote by the Kurdistan region’s parliament in October of last year to extend its term by one year was illegal, rendering the regional legislature’s fifth cycle “over” and any decisions it made after the extension “constitutionally invalid.” The case challenging the extension was filed at the time by the New Generation opposition party. In response to the Court’s decision, the ruling KDP issued a statement calling on all Kurdish parties to “cooperate to hold transparent and fair elections.” In other developments, on May 30, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2682, extending UNAMI’s mandate for one year. On May 30, Iraq’s Planning Ministry said that conducting a population census will not be possible this year, citing delays in approving the federal budget as the main reason. more…
  • Independent Lawmaker’s Office Attacked Twice; Iraqi Officials In Tehran To Discuss Border Security And Drug Trafficking – On May 26, unidentified gunmen attacked the office of independent lawmaker Hussein al-Sabari in the town of al-Hamza, south of Hilla, with hand grenades. The same office was attacked with hand grenades again on June 1. The attacks damaged the building but there were no reports of casualties. On May 27, Iraq’s National Security Advisor, Qasim Al-Araji, met in Tehran with Ali Akbar Ahmadian, the new chief of Iran’s National Security Council to discuss measures to implement the border security agreement that Iraq and Iran had signed in March. Before Tehran, Araji made a stop in Sulaymaniyah, where he met with PUK leader Bafel Talabani and the KRG Minister of Interior, Reber Ahmed, who briefed Araji on measures taken by the region to secure the borders with Iran. Later, on May 31, Iraq’s Interior Minister, Abdul-Amir al-Shamari, visited Iran too, accompanied by the commander of the Iraqi border guard and other security officials. Shamari met with his Iranian counterpart, Ahmed Wahidi to discuss border security, cross-border drug trafficking, and facilitating the entry and egress of Iranian pilgrims during religious festivals. In other developments, between May 27 – 31, the explosions of four IEDs in Anbar and Diyala killed one PMF fighter and wounded seven Iraqis, including three children. On June 1, an armed Turkish drone struck a building occupied by members of the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) in central Sinjar, injuring two members of the militia. more…
  • Iraq Announces $17 Billion ‘Devlopment Road’ Project; Oil Revenue Down $500 Million In May- On May 27, Iraq hosted representatives from ten neighboring countries for an event to launch the Development Road, a major regional transportation project that would link Asia to Europe through Iraq. The ambitious, $17 billion project would move up to 7.5 million tons of goods a year from the Gulf to Europe through Iraq’s planned Faw Port, and a new network of railroads and highways. Iraq also wants to build a “smart industrial city” as part of the project, which PM Sudani said will serve as “an economic lifeline and a promising opportunity for the convergence of interests, history, and cultures.” On June 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that oil exports in May averaged of 3.305 million bpd, about 17,000 bpd higher than April. The exports generated $7.3 billion in revenue, nearly $500 million lower than April as average sale price dropped by more than $2 per barrel. The vast majority of exports were shipped through the ports of Basra, while exports from northern fields in Kirkuk and the Kurdistan region remained suspended. In other development, on May 29, the Dhi-Qar Oil Company launched a project to build a new oil depot with a capacity to hold 3.2 million barrels of oil. When completed, the Nasiriyah Oil Depot will be able to pump oil southwards towards the Gulf ports and northwards towards the Strategic Pipeline, providing additional flexibility in storage and exports. 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.


Draft Budget Changes Raise Strong KRG Objections; Iraq’s Top Court Says Extending The Kurdistan Parliament’s Term Was Unconstitutional

On May 25, the parliamentary finance committee voted to make several last minute amendments to the provisions of the 2023-2025 federal budget bill. The changes, which were made to articles 13 and 14 of the draft budget, raised strong objections from the Kurdistan regional government (KRG). The main issue in question is a new provision that requires the KRG to compensate its public servants for all the portions of their salaries that were withheld by the KRG as “mandatory savings” during the region’s economic crisis that began in 2015. KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani said the amendments were an attempt by members of the finance committee to obstruct the implementation of existing understandings and agreements between the KRG and Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani, which he said were “the foundation” of cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil. Barzani argued that the amounts withheld should be considered a debt owed by the federal government since the withholding policy was the result of the federal government’s decision to cut the KRG budget payments. Shakhwan Abdullah, the second deputy speaker of parliament and a member of Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) demanded the work of the finance committee to be suspended, arguing that it had more members than was allowed under the bylaws. Meanwhile, KRG President Nechirvan Barzani warned that actions seeking to “violate [existing] agreements and our constitutional rights…will produce only disappointment…and harm all of Iraq,” urging the partners in the federal government to “act responsibly. The KRG also objected to the committee’s move to replace the word “export” with “deliver” in clauses dealing with the management of the region’s oil, which KRG Finance Minister Awat Janab said undermines the region’s right to own natural resources existing on its territory. According to PUKMedia, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) looks favorably at the finance committee’s amendments, and wants to preserve the withholding repayment clause. As of writing, talks between the KDP and other parties in the ruling State Administration Coalition were making “good progress” towards a compromise, according to a senior KDP official.  

On May 30, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court ruled that a vote by the Kurdistan region’s parliament in October of last year to extend its term by one year was illegal. In announcing the ruling, the Court’s president, Judge Jasim Mohammed Abboud, said that the constitution states that parliament’s term is four years long, and “any other legal text that contradicts the constitution is considered invalid.” The Court, therefore, decided that the extension was unconstitutional, Judge Abboud explained, adding that the regional legislature’s fifth cycle “is over” and any decisions made by the regional parliament after the extension is “constitutionally invalid.” According to a report by Rudaw, six of the Court’s nine members supported the decision, while the other three (two Kurds and a Sunni Arab) dissented. The case challenging the extension was filed before the Court by the leaders of the New Generation opposition party. In response to the Court’s decision, the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party issued a statement saying it had tried hard to hold elections on time, and called on all Kurdish parties to “cooperate to hold transparent and fair elections.” As of writing, there was contradicting information about who could oversee the region’s next parliamentary election, as the ruling nullified last week’s contested vote on empowering the region’s existing election commission. Fuad Hussein, Iraq’s Foreign Affairs Minister and a senior KDP member said the federal election commission (IHEC) would oversee the next election, but a senior IHEC official said this would be a difficult task given IHEC’s obligations to prepare for the country’s provincial elections, scheduled for November. The official noted that it takes “at least 10 months” to prepare for any electoral process.  

On May 30, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted resolution 2682, extending the UN’s Assistance Mission in Iraq’s (UNAMI) mandate for one year. The resolution asked UNAMI and the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Iraq to focus on several priorities during the next 12 months. These priority issues include political inclusion and reconciliation; electoral assistance; resolving internal boundary disputes; security sector reforms; the voluntary return of internally displaced persons and Iraqis displaced in Syria; human rights protections and judicial reforms; and economic reforms. UNAMI is expected to ”provide the Security Council, no later than 31 March 2024, with an independent strategic review…assessing current threats to Iraq’s peace and security, as well as the continued relevance of UNAMI’s tasks and priorities.”

On May 30, Iraq’s Deputy Minister of Planning, Mahir Hammad Johan, said that conducting a population census will not be possible this year, citing delays in approving the federal budget as the main reason. Instead, the ministry has set October 2024 as the new target for conducting the census, the official added. Last year, Iraq’s Planning Ministry had set October 2023 as a tentative time frame for conducting a long-delayed nationwide population census. More recently, in February of this year, Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani had stressed the need to organize a “developmental population census during this year.” A government statement at the time said that Sudani issued instructions to “prepare all the technical, financial, logistical, and human resources” required to complete this census, which was to guide the implementation of the government’s future development plans. Prior plans to conduct a census were put on hold in 2020 due to the pandemic and lack of funding. 

Sources cited in this section include: Iraq’s parliament, Shafaq, ISHM archives, INA, Rudaw, Kurdistan24, PUKMedia, Nas New, the UN.


Independent Lawmaker’s Office Attacked Twice; Iraqi Officials In Tehran To Discuss Border Security And Drug Trafficking

On May 26, the police in Babylon province said that unidentified gunmen attacked the office of independent parliament member Hussein al-Sabari in the Hamza al-Gharbi subdistrict, south of Hilla, with hand grenades. Several days later, on June 1, the same office was attacked with hand grenades again. The attacks caused extensive damage to the building but there were no reports of casualties. 

On May 26, security sources in Anbar province said that one member of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) was killed and a second PMF fighter was wounded in an explosion that occurred inside an old position that was once used by ISIS militants in the Nukheib desert. 

On May 27, security sources in Diyala province said that three children were injured when a legacy improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in a village near the Khan Bani Saad subdistrict, southwest of Baquba. On the same day, one civilian and a police officer were injured when another IED detonated under a civilian vehicle at the Mustafa Jawad intersection in the town of Khalis, northeast of Baquba. A few days later, on May 31, local sources in the Buhruz subdistrict, south of Baquba, said that a farmer was injured when an IED exploded in the farm of al-Khawalis, adding that it was unclear whether the bomb was newly planted or a legacy device.  

On May 27, Iraq’s National Security Advisor, Qasim Al-Araji, met in Tehran with Ali Akbar Ahmadian, the new chief of Iran’s National Security Council. The two officials discussed measures to implement the border security agreement that Ahmadian’s predecessor, Ali Shamkhani, had signed in Baghdad in March. A statement by Aaraji’s office said the visit underscored the importance of implementing the security agreement “which was born of our belief that stability and development in relations is the fruit of enhancing security between the two countries.” Before arriving in Tehran, Araji made a stop in Sulaymaniyah, where he met with PUK leader Bafel Talabani and the Kurdistan region’s Minister of Interior, Reber Ahmed, who traveled from Erbil for the meeting. According to Araji’s office, the National Security Advisor was briefed on measures taken by the region to secure the borders with Iran, and the officials emphasized the need for continued cooperation between federal authorities and Kurdistan in this regard. A few days later, on May 31, Iraq’s Interior Minister, Abdul-Amir al-Shamari, visited Iran too. Shamari, who was accompanied by the commander of the Iraqi border guard and other security officials, met with his Iranian counterpart, Ahmed Wahidi to discuss border security, cross-border drug trafficking, and facilitating the entry and egress of Iranian pilgrims during religious festivals. 

On June 1, a Ninewa police source said that a PMF fighter was killed in a drive-by shooting that targeted a security checkpoint at the entrance to the Qayyarah subdistrict, south of Mosul. 

On June 1, the counter-terrorism service of the Kurdistan region said that an armed Turkish drone struck a building occupied by members of the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) in central Sinjar. The airstrike reportedly injured two members of the militia, which is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

Sources cited in this section include: NINA, Shafaq, Mawazin, ISHM archives, INA, al-Sumaria, Bas News. 


Iraq Announces $17 Billion ‘Devlopment Road’ Project; Oil Revenue Down $500 Million In May

On May 27, Iraq hosted representatives from ten neighboring countries (the Arab Gulf states, Iran, Turkey, Syria and Jordan) for an event to launch the Development Road, a major regional transportation project that would link Asia to Europe through Iraq. The ambitious, $17 billion project would move up to 7.5 million tons of goods a year from the Gulf to Europe through Iraq’s planned Faw Port, which will become operational by the end of 2025, according to Iraq’s Transportation Minister, and a new network of railroads and highways stretching for nearly 750 miles across Iraq. Iraq also wants to build a “smart industrial city” as part of the project, which Prime Minister Sudani said will serve as “an economic lifeline and a promising opportunity for the convergence of interests, history, and cultures.” The one-day conference concluded with an agreement by the participants to create a number of joint technical committees to discuss next steps in moving the project forward.

On May 29, the Dhi-Qar Oil Company said it launched a project to build a new oil depot with a capacity to hold 3.2 million barrels of oil. Company officials said the project, to be performed by Chinese company CPP, involves building seven reservoirs with a capacity of 66,000 cubic meters each, and two reservoirs that can each hold 23,000 cubic meters of crude. When completed, the Nasiriyah Oil Depot will be able to pump oil southwards towards the Tuba and Fao depots, and northwards towards the Strategic Pipeline, providing additional flexibility in storage and exports. The depot is expected to enter service in the second quarter of 2025. 

On May 29, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani appointed Faisal al-Heimus as the new chairman of the Iraqi Securities Commission. Heimus previously served as director of the Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) and deputy governor of the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI). 

On May 31, Iraq’s Oil Minister, Hayan Abdul-Ghani, inaugurated a new natural gas liquefaction facility at the Rumaila oil field in Basra, with a capacity to process 200 million cubic feet per day (cf/d). According to the minister, a second phase of the facility would become operational by the end of the year, bringing gas utilization capacity at the field to 400 million cf/d. The facility, which is operated by the Basrah Gas Company, will then yield 320 million cf/d of gas for power plants, along with 2,150 tons per day of liquified petroleum gas and 5,900 barrels per day (bpd) of condensates.  

On June 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports during May totaled 102.46 million barrels, for an average of 3.305 million barrels per day (bpd), which is about 17,000 bpd higher than exports in April. The May exports generated $7.3 billion in revenue, nearly $500 million lower than the $7.79 billion achieved in April. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of approximately $71.3 per barrel, about $2 below the previous month’s average of $73.37 per barrel. The vast majority of the May exports were shipped from fields in southern and central Iraq through the ports of Basra, while small amounts (averaging 10,000 bpd) were exported to Jordan by trucks. Meanwhile, exports from the northern fields in Kirkuk, as well as fields under the control of the Kurdsitan regional government (KRG), remained suspended. 

Sources cited in this section include: INA, AP, Iraq’s Oil Ministry, ISHM archives, Shafaq, Rudaw. 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from May 25, 2023 - June 2, 2023

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
5/26/23 Nukheib desert, Anbar province11
5/27/23 Khan Bani Saad, Diyala province03
5/27/23 Al-Khalis, Diyala province02
5/31/23 Buhruz, Diyala province01

 

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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