ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: June 22 – July 6, 2023

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Key Takeaways:

  • Sudani’s Government Seeks To Block Parts Of The New Budget Law – On July 3, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court informed parliament that the government of PM Sudani had filed objections against certain articles in the federal budget law the legislature had approved on June 12. The government argues that parliament took unconstitutional action by adding several articles, or introducing amendments, that were not part of the original draft submitted by the Council of Ministers. Official documents show that the government specifically asked the Court to suspend the implementation of articles 2.1, 16.2, 20.6, 28.4.a and b, 57.1.c, 62.4, 63.3, 65.2, 70.2, 71, 72, and 75. Sudani said his government was preparing to submit a “second batch of legal objections” concerning other articles introduced by parliament that were are “at odds with economic reforms.” In other developments, on June 27, senior representatives from the KDP and PUK met in Erbil in an effort to normalize relations and reduce tensions after months of disputes and recriminations over elections, Kurdistan’s share of the federal budget, and the handling of the region’s finances. Political sources said a main goal was to discuss the region’s next parliamentary election, following the May 30 ruling by Iraq’s top court that ended the term of the regional parliament. On June 29, Iraq’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Swedish ambassador to deliver a formal objection letter after an Iraqi refugee in Sweden burned a copy of the Quran, sparking angry protests by Muqtada al-Sadr’s followers, who briefly stormed the Swedish embassy’s compound. On July 1, IHEC began registering political parties and coalitions that intend to compete in the country’s next provincial elections, scheduled for December 18, 2023. On July 3, lawmakers from the Coordination Framework submitted a draft “homosexuality ban” bill to the speaker of parliament. On July 4, PM Sudani replaced the president of the Federal Board of Supreme Audit. more…
  • Tensions Between Rival Militias Rise In Basra; PM Sudani Replaces Key Security Officials – On June 23, following a number of violent incidents involving rival militias in Basra, Maj. Gen. Saad Muhsin Uraibi replaced Maj. Gen. Ali Abdul-Hussein al-Majidi as the new head of the Basra Operations Command, promising he would not allow any group to organize armed parades. Days earlier, armed members of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam militia held demonstrations expressing their anger following an attack on the residence of one of their local commanders, which they blamed on Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH). Meanwhile, unidentified individuals attacked the office of a lawmaker affiliated with AAH with small arms fire, and a small IED detonated at the gate of the presidential palaces complex in Basra, which serves as a headquarters for the Popular Mobilization Forces and hosts other government buildings. On July 5, PM Sudani issued orders to replace a number of senior security officials in the National Security Service (NSS) and National Intelligence Service (INIS). Most notably, Sudani named Abu Ali al-Basri to replace Hamid al-Shatri as the head of the NSS. The deputy head of the agency, Falih al-Issawi, will be replaced with Muthanna al-Obeidi. Additionally, Sudani appointed Waqas Mohammed as the new head of INIS operations, replacing Majid al-Duleimi. In other developments, on June 25, unidentified individuals used explosives to demolish a house under construction in Qayyarah, south of Mosul, that belongs to a family with perceived ties to ISIS militants. On July 5, an explosives drone struck the headquarters of the 1st border guard brigade in the Batifa district of Duhok province without causing casualties. An armed group called Liwa Ahrar al-Iraq appeared to take responsibility, claiming it attacked “a base for Turkish occupation in Duhok.” more…
  • Officer Sentenced To Life In Prison For Killing Protesters; Bureaucratic Procedures Force The Suspension Of Critical Aid Work- On June 25, an Iraqi court sentenced an Interior Ministry officer to life in prison over his involvement in the killing of dozens of unarmed protesters in Nasiriyah during the Tishreen protests in 2019. The officer, Lt. Col. Omar Nizar, commanded a battalion in the Interior Ministry’s Emergency Response Division that was responsible for the November 2019 killings known as the Zaytoun Bridge Massacre. On July 5, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, also Doctors without Borders) said that it had to suspend the provision of medical services at two facilities in Mosul due to bureaucratic procedures by Iraqi authorities that disrupted the movement of critical medical supplies. MSF said that a shipment of medical supplies intended for Mosul was held for a full five months at Baghdad Airport, and when it was finally released, on 22 June, “many items in the cargo have already expired during transit time, while those that are still useable will have to wait still longer at MSF’s warehouse in Baghdad until permission is granted to transport them to Mosul.” In other developments, on June 26, the judicial cooperation agency of the European Union said that the Netherlands and Belgium had decided to join the Joint Investigation Team that was established by France and Sweden in 2021 to look into crimes committed by ISIS militants against Yazidis in Iraq and Syria. more…
  • Oil Exports Up Slightly In June; Power Generation Dips As Gas Imports Drop; Foreign Oil Company To Exit The Gharraf Oil Field – On July 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports during June averaged 3.335 million bpd, about 30,000 bpd higher than in May. The June exports generated $7.115 billion in revenue, nearly $200 million lower than in May on lower prices. The vast majority of exports were shipped from fields in southern and central Iraq as exports from the northern fields in Kirkuk and the Kurdsitan region remained suspended. On July 4, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity said that Iran reduced its natural gas exports to Iraq by more than half, causing Iraq’s power grid to lose nearly 5,000 megawatts from central and southern power plants. On July 4, news reports said that the operator of the Gharraf oil field in Dhi-Qar, Malaysian oil company Petronas, had informed Iraqi authorities of its intention to sell its 45% stake in the field to Petramina of Indonesia. In other developments, on July 2, Iraq’s Border Ports Commission said it generated IQD602 billion in revenue during the first half of the year, 23% up from the same period last year. On July 3, Iraqi authorities said they were investigating the causes that led to the deaths of thousands of fish in al-Mijar river in Maysan province. Experts blame lower water flow and high evaporation for higher salinity and reduced oxygen in the water, leading to the deaths. 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.


Sudani’s Government Seeks To Block Parts Of The New Budget Law

On June 23, lawmaker Ali Turki of the Sadiqioun bloc (affiliated with Asaib Ahl al-Haq) announced his withdrawal from the bloc and the Coordination Framework. The move came after Turki sparked tension between his bloc and the State of Law Coalition of former premier Nouri al-Maliki with remarks in which he blamed Maliki’s poor handling of state affairs for the fall of a third of Iraq’s territory under ISIS control back in 2014. In a statement posted on social media, Turki said he takes personal responsibility for his remarks about Maliki, which his bloc had denounced as undisciplined, and decided to leave the Coordination Framework so as not to embarrass his bloc.   

On June 24, the Democratic Forces of Change (a coalition of several reformist opposition groups formed last year) announced plans to create a unified electoral coalition to compete in the upcoming provincial elections in December. Members of the group say their goal is to create a “third power” that presents an alternative to the Coordination Framework and the Sadrists, the two dominant powers on the political stage. 

On June 26, Nechirvan Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan region of Iraq (KRG) visited Berlin where he met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. During the meeting, the two sides discussed relations between Germany and Iraq and between Baghdad and Erbil, according to a statement by the KRG president’s office. The meeting, attended also by Iraq’s ambassador and the KRG representative to Berlin, also addressed the conditions of refugees and displaced persons, as well as Germany’s support for Iraq with regard to economic reforms and combating the effects of climate change. 

On June 27, senior representatives from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) met in Erbil in an effort to normalize relations and reduce tensions after months of disputes and recriminations over elections, negotiating Kurdistan’s share of the federal budget, and the handling of the region’s finances. The meeting was attended by Fadhil Mirani, Fuad Hussein, andHoshyar Zebari on the KDP side, while the PUK was represented by Bafel and Qubad Talabani and Jafar Sheikh Mustafa, among others. Political sources close to the meeting said a main goal was to begin discussing plans for the region’s next parliamentary election, following the May 30 ruling by Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court that ended the term of the Kurdistan region’s parliament. After the meeting, Qubad Talabani said the talks with the KDP were “good,” without offering further details. 

On June 29, Iraq’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Swedish ambassador to Baghdad to deliver a formal objection letter after an Iraqi refugee in Sweden burned a copy of the Quran in front of the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm. A ministry spokesman also said that Baghdad has sent an extradition request to Swedish authorities demanding the return of the individual in question to Iraq so he could be prosecuted in accordance with Iraqi laws. Meanwhile, large numbers of Muqtada al-Sadr’s demonstrated in Baghdad and southern cities, including Basra, to condemn the incident and called for the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador. In Baghdad, Sadr’s followers who answered their leader’s call to protest, broke the Swedish embassy’s gate and briefly stormed the compound, before retreating. Both Sweden and the EU condemned the burning of the Quran, calling it an “offensive, disrespectful and a clear act of provocation,” while urging calm and condemning violence against diplomatic missions.

On July 1, Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) began the process of registering political parties and coalitions that intend to compete in the country’s next provincial elections, scheduled for December 18, 2023. Parties and coalitions in all provinces (except the Kurdistan region) will have a month starting July 1 to submit their registration applications to the Commission. According to IHEC spokeswoman Jumana al-Ghalai, the registration of individual candidates would commence on July 15 and go on for 30 days. New parties have to pay IQD25 million in registration fees in addition to IQD10 million in fees for the Justice and Accountability (de-Baathification) Commission. The spokeswoman added that IHEC will soon open centers in the 15 provinces where elections will take place to allow voters to update their records in the coming days. IHEC officials also said that candidates have to submit a list of at least 500 individual supporters as a requirement for registration. 

On July 3, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court informed parliament that the government of Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani had filed objections against certain articles and clauses in the federal budget law the legislature had approved on June 12. In the objection submitted to the Court, the government argued that parliament took unconstitutional action by adding several articles, or introducing amendments, that were not part of the original draft submitted by the government. The documents show that the government asked the Court to issue binding orders to suspend the implementation of the articles and clauses in question for being unconstitutional. The list included in the government objection mentions articles 2.1, 16.2, 20.6, 28.4.a and b, 57.1.c, 62.4, 63.3, 65.2, 70.2, 71, 72, and 75. In remarks made on July 4, Sudani said his government was preparing to submit a “second batch of legal objections” concerning other articles of the budget, arguing that some of the articles that were added to the budget are “at odds with economic reforms.” The full text of the budget law as published in the official gazette is available here.

On July 3, lawmakers from al-Sanad al-Watani bloc in parliament (led by Ahmed al-Asadi and part of the Coordination Framework) submitted a draft “homosexuality ban” bill to the speaker of parliament. In a letter to the speaker, representative Morthadha al-Saidi requested that the draft, which has not yet been made public, be presented for an initial reading when parliament returns from the current legislative recess, which ends on July 13.

On July 4, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani issued orders to dismiss the president of the Federal Board of Supreme Audit, Rafil Yassin Khdeir, from office. A copy of the orders circulating on news sites shows that Sudani has appointed Ammar Subhi al-Mashhadani to replace the outgoing official. 

Sources cited in this section include: UltraIraq, ISHM archives, Nas News, Rudaw, Kurdistan24, al-Sumaria, INA, NINA, Shafaq, AP, PUKMedia, Iraq’s parliament, NRT.


Tensions Between Rival Militias Rise In Basra; PM Sudani Replaces Key Security Officials

On June 23, Iraqi security sources said that major general Saad Muhsin Uraibi has been appointed as the new head of the Basra Operations Command. Uraibi will replace major general Ali Abdul-Hussein al-Majidi. Speaking to reporters after assuming his new command, Uraibi said that he would not allow any group to organize armed parades on the streets of Basra. The commander was likely referring to recent events in Basra, where armed members of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam militia held demonstrations expressing their anger following an attack on the residence of one of their local commanders, which they appeared to blame on the rival Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia. 

On June 23, security sources in Basra said that unidentified individuals attacked the office of parliament member Uday Awad with small arms fire. There were no reports of casualties in the attack, which took place near Saad Square in central Basra. The same office was also recently attacked with a grenade on June 23. On the same day, a small homemade improvised explosive device (IED) detonated at the gate of the presidential palaces complex in Basra, which is used as a headquarters for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and hosts other government buildings. There were no reports of casualties.

On June 24, the Security Media Cell reported that Iraqi F-16 jets struck a cell of ISIS militants who had been located by the Interior Ministry’s intelligence units in the village of Rufaie, near the Rashad subdistrict of Kirkuk province. The airstrike resulted in the death of at least two members of the ISIS cell, according to subsequent reports. On the following day, the Cell also said that army troops engaged three ISIS militants who had been seen moving through the Targalan region of Kirkuk. The army troops killed the three militants during the operation, but an army soldier was also killed and an officer was wounded during the fighting. Then on July 5, the Cell said that Iraqi F-16 jets struck another hideout used by ISIS militants, this time in the Abbara subdistrict of Diyala province. The airstrike resulted in the deaths of at least two ISIS militants. 

On June 25, security sources in Ninewa province said that unidentified individuals used explosives to demolish a house under construction that belongs to a family that has perceived ties to ISIS militants. The explosion, which occurred in the Qayyarah subdistrict, south of Mosul, did not result in casualties. 

On June 25, security sources in Salah ad-Din province said that a group of ISIS militants attacked an Iraqi federal police checkpoint on the outskirts of al-Dur, in eastern Salah ad-Din. The attack killed one member of the federal police and injured two.

On July 2, the Najaf police said that a homemade IED detonated under a civilian vehicle in the Maysan neighborhood of the city. The explosion caused limited material damage but there were no reports of casualties. 

On July 5, government sources said that Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani had issued orders to replace a number of senior security officials in key positions at the National Security Service (NSS) and National Intelligence Service (INIS). According to Iraq’s official news agency, Sudani has named Abu Ali al-Basri to replace Hamid al-Shatri as the head of the NSS. The deputy head of the agency, Falih al-Issawi, will be replaced with Muthanna al-Obeidi. Additionally, Sudani appointed Waqas Mohammed as the new head of operations at the INIS, replacing Majid al-Duleimi. Other positions included in the reshuffle include: the deputy NSS chiefs for administration and security, and the directors for technical affairs and provincial security at the NSS.

On July 5, the counter-terrorism service of the Kurdistan region said that an explosives-laden drone struck the headquarters of the 1st border guard brigade in the Batifa district of Duhok province. According to a statement by the service, the attack occurred at 14:25 local time, and resulted in some material damage, without causing casualties. The statement added that the drone originated from an area known to have PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) militants presence. On the same day, an armed group called Liwa Ahrar al-Iraq claimed that it attacked “a base for Turkish occupation in Duhok (Batifa),” without specifying the type of weapon used in the operation. For more on this armed faction, read this article.

Sources cited in this section include: al-SUmaria, Shafaq, NINA, UltraIraq, ISHM archives, INA, Mawazin, Rudaw. 


Officer Sentenced To Life In Prison For Killing Protesters; Bureaucratic Procedures Force The Suspension Of Critical Aid Work

On June 23, the Iraqi Ministry for Migration and the Displaced said that a new group of 108 internally displaced persons (IDPs) had returned from IDP camps in Duhok to their districts of origin in Sinjar. The acting mayor of Sinjar, Nayef Sedo, said that all the returnees were Yazidis from the subdistrict of Tel Azeir (al-Qahtaniyah). 

On June 26, the judicial cooperation agency of the European Union said that the Netherlands and Belgium had decided to join the Joint Investigation Team that was established by France and Sweden in 2021 to look into crimes committed by ISIS militants against Yazidis in Iraq and Syria. The investigation effort, backed by the Hague-based Eurojust, had recently led to the identification of a Yazidi victim in France, enabling prosecutors to add charges of genocide and crimes against humanity to an existing case. In related news, on June 26, the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) said that German courts convicted a female ISIS member for committing “Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes against a young Yazidi woman in Iraq.” The head of UNITAD called the conviction “an example of what meaningful justice means to survivor communities of ISIL heinous international crimes,” pointing that “the key witness in this case, traveled from Iraq to Germany to confront her perpetrator in court.” 

On June 25, an Iraqi court in Nasiriyah sentenced an Interior Ministry officer to life in prison over his involvement in the killing of dozens of unarmed protesters in the province during the country’s largest wave of anti-government protests in 2019. The officer, lieutenant colonel Omar Nizar, was found guilty by the court of the November 2019 killings known as the Zaytoun Bridge Massacre. Nizar, who at the time commanded a battalion in the Interior Ministry’s Emergency Response Division, was arrested in February of 2022. He was at the center of efforts by the campaign to end impunity in Iraq to hold individuals involved in atrocities accountable for their actions. 

On July 5, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, also Doctors without Borders) said that it had to suspend the provision of medical services at two facilities in Mosul due to bureaucratic procedures by Iraqi authorities that disrupted the movement of critical medical supplies. The aid organization said that a shipment of medical supplies intended for the Mosul facilities was held for a full five months at Baghdad Airport, and when it was finally released, on 22 June, “many items in the cargo have already expired during transit time, while those that are still useable will have to wait still longer at MSF’s warehouse in Baghdad until permission is granted to transport them to Mosul.” Moreover, authorities asked the organization “to pay a storage fee for the time its supplies were held at the airport.” Commenting on the situation, the head of MSF mission in Iraq, Fernando Galván, said this was “a loss of humanitarian medical assistance that was on its way to being provided, free of charge, to vulnerable people in Mosul, and a waste of financial donations that were intended to provide medical services to patients who need them most.” 

Sources cited in this section include: Ap, Reliefweb, al-Hurra, ISHM archives, Rudaw. 


Oil Exports Up Slightly In June; Power Generation Dips As Gas Imports Drop; Foreign Oil Company To Exit The Gharraf Oil Field

On June 27, local officials in Halabja province in the Kurdistan region of Iraq announced the opening of the Shoshmi border crossing with Iran to passenger traffic. The port of entry was previously used for cargo transit only. According to the deputy governor of Halabja, local officials were still working to obtain the approval of federal authorities to operate the border crossing, noting that the decision to open the facility to traffic was “tied more to the Kurdistan region and Iran.” 

On July 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports during June totaled 100.059 million barrels, for an average of 3.335 million barrels per day (bpd), which is about 30,000 bpd higher than exports in May. The June exports generated $7.115 billion in revenue, nearly $200 million lower than the $7.3 billion achieved in May. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of approximately $71.11 per barrel, about $0.2 below the previous month’s average of $71.3 per barrel. The vast majority of the June 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. The Qayyarah oil field in Ninewa, which resumed operations in May, contributed about 34,000 bpd to exports. Meanwhile, exports from the northern fields in Kirkuk, as well as fields under the control of the Kurdsitan regional government (KRG), remained suspended. 

On July 2, the head of the Iraqi Border Ports Commission said that it generated IQD602 billion in revenue during the first half of the year. This figure represents a 23% increase from the same period last year, when revenue was IQD486 billion, according to the head of the Commission, major general Omar al-Waili. The higher revenue is attributed to tighter controls over exemptions from customs for industrial imports that resulted in exposing large numbers of fraudulent exemption letters, according to Waili. 

On July 3, Iraqi authorities said they were investigating the causes that led to the deaths of thousands of fish in al-Mijar river in Iraq’s southern Maysan province. Footage taken by locals appeared to show huge numbers of dead small fish floating on the water surface. Experts have attributed the deaths to lower water levels and high evaporation rates, leading to increased salinity and reduced oxygen levels in the water.  

On July 4, 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 nearly 5,000 megawatts from central and southern power plants. In a statement, the ministry said gas imports dropped by more than half, from 45 to 20 million cubic meters per day, forcing the ministry to shut down the Mansouriyah, Rashid, Sadr, Taji, and South Baghdad power plants. The drop in gas flows also caused a reduction in the output of several power plants, including Rumaila, al-Khairat, al-Najibiyah, Shatt al-Basra, al-Najaf, al-Hilla, and al-Haidariyah.  

On July 4, Iraq Oil Report wrote that the operator of the Gharraf oil field in Iraq, Malaysian oil company Petronas, had informed Iraqi authorities of its intention to sell its 45% stake in the field. Gharraf, which produces nearly 155,000 bpd, is located in Dhi-Qar prince. According to internal Oil Ministry memos, Petronas had told Iraqi officials in late May that it was considering the sale of its stake to another foreign oil company, Petramina of Indonesia. The Oil Ministry has not made public comments about the intended sale. 

On July 6, Iraqi oil officials said that the state-owned oil products distribution company will increase the amount of subsidized diesel allocated to privately-owned power generators for the month of July from 30 liters per 1 KVA to 45 liters per 1 KVA. The increase is meant to increase the ability of these generators, which supply residential neighborhoods with power, to meet rising demand during the summer months. This is the second such increase this summer season. In June, the Oil Ministry had increased the fuel rations from 20 liters per 1 KVA to30 liters per 1 KVA.   

Sources cited in this section include: Rudaw, Iraq’s Oil Ministry, ISHM archives, INA, al-Hurra, Shafaq, Iraq Oil Report, UltrIraq.


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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