ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: September 14 – 21, 2023

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Key Takeaways:

  • Halabja Vote Blocked; GCC, U.S. Urge Iraq To Recognize Kuwait Border Treaty; Iraq Says It Relocated Iranian Opposition Groups; Sudani To visit Washington And Moscow – On September 18, Iraq’s parliament postponed a vote to formally recognize Halabja as the country’s 19th province after the Coordination Framework introduced new conditions, demanding to turn the disputed districts of Tuzkhormatu and Tal-Afar into provinces as well. On September 20, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) issued a joint statement calling for “the complete demarcation of the Kuwait-Iraq maritime boundary” and urged Baghdad “to expeditiously resolve the domestic legal status of the 2012 Kuwait-Iraq agreement.” This comes after Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court said the ratification of the treaty concerning maritime borders was unconstitutional and required a law passed by a two thirds majority in parliament. In a meeting with his Kuwaiti counterpart, PM Sudani reaffirmed Baghdad’s commitment to relevant Security Council resolutions and respect for Kuwaiti sovereignty and called for more meetings of bilateral committees to build trust and resolve problems. On September 19, a government committee overseeing a border security agreement signed with Iran in March announced that the evacuation of bases occupied by Iranian opposition groups near the border was complete. The committee added that Iraqi border guards have deployed to the border to maintain “permanent presence.” Commenting on the news, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq said Tehran intends to send a joint team to inspect the border and “evaluate the results.” On September 19, PM Sudani met with the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in New York and received an invitation to visit the White House for talks with President Biden. Sduani’s office said that a date for the visit to Washington would be determined later. Sudani is also expected to visit Moscow before the end of the year, according to Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein. more…
  • Turkish Airstrike On Sulaymaniyah Airfield Kills Three Peshmerga Fighters – On September 18, a Turkish drone struck targets in a small airfield in Sulaymaniyah province, killing three fighters from the Kurdistan region’s counter-terrorism troops and wounding three others. The Arbat airfield, which is typically used by crop dusters, doubles as a training site for the elite unit, a senior Peshmerga commander said. The Iraqi president said he would summon the Turkish ambassador to deliver a letter of objection to the Turkish government. Meanwhile, UNAMI and the U.S. embassy both condemned the airstrike. An earlier Turkish airstrike on September 17 killed three members of the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) near Sinjar. In other developments, between September 16 – 18, the explosions of a remnant of war in Salah ad-Din and an IED in Diyala killed at least three Iraqi civilians and seriously wounded two Iraqi army officers. Between September 18 – 20, Iraqi airstrikes and ground troops killed at least eight ISIS militants in Salah ad-Din, Kirkuk, and Anbar provinces. On September 20, Iraq’s Interior Minister said the government was planning to create gun registration offices across the country in an effort to regulate gun possession. more…
  • UNITAD Mandate Extended; Former Officials Charged With Abusing Grant Funds Meant To House IDPs – On September 15, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Daesh (UNITAD) for only one more year ending on September 17, 2024. The resolution also mentions that the Baghdad government asked that UNITAD investigators hand over the evidence they have gathered so far to the Iraqi authorities so they can pursue ISIS members who committed crimes and those who assisted and financed them. On September 18, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said that a criminal court in Baghdad had summoned the former Minister of Migration and the Displaced and the members of a committee that was charged with the rescue and housing of displaced persons. The group is facing charges involving alleged violations in the management of a Chinese grant to build camps for displaced persons, the Commission said, without offering further details. more…
  • KRG Welcomes Enhanced Cash Transfer Deal; Iraq Approves Reduced Winter Agricultural Plan – On September 17, the Iraqi government approved a new temporary arrangement under which it will provide the KRG with IQD700 billion ($538 million) a month over three months to pay its civil servants. The funds will come as loans from state-owned banks, to be settled against the KRG’s share of the budget. The decision came after a series of meetings between KRG PM Masrour Barzani and leaders in Baghdad. The KRG welcomed Baghdad’s decision to increase the value of monthly transfers from the IQD500 billion offered two weeks before. Lawmakers opposed to the arrangement asked the Federal Supreme Court to block the cash transfers, but the Court rejected the appeal, Judiciary sources said Thursday. On September 20, Iraq’s Agriculture and Water Resources Ministries said they agreed on a winter agricultural plan covering 5.5 million dunams of farmland, of which 1.5 million dunams would be irrigated by surface water, while the remainder would depend on groundwater from wells. This is a smaller plan than last year, when the ministries approved 2.5 million dunams for irrigation by surface water. In other developments, on September 17, Iraq’s Oil Minister said Iraq plans to expand the 30,000 bpd Najaf oil refinery by adding a new refining unit with a capacity of 70,000 bpd. On September 18, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said that the director of the country’s Midlands Refineries Company had been arrested on corruption charges. On September 20, the Sharjah chamber of commerce said it will host the first meeting of the Gulf-Iraq Business Forum on Tuesday September 26. more…
Join us for the 11th annual “IN THEIR SHOES 5K” to benefit Iraq’s most vulnerable children. EPIC is joining forces with Iraqi American Young Professionals as “Team EPIC-IAYP” to walk/run in support of the Iraqi Children Foundation, our invaluable partner in creating a better tomorrow for all Iraqis. Last year, we had the largest team. Let’s do it again! Register today!

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.


Halabja Vote Blocked; GCC, U.S. Urge Iraq To Recognize Kuwait Border Treaty; Iraq Says It Relocated Iranian Opposition Groups; Sudani To visit Washington And Moscow

On September 18, Iraq’s parliament decided to postpone a planned vote on a bill that would formally recognize the district of Halabja as the country’s 19th province. Members of parliament from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) accused the Coordination Framework of reneging on the previous agreement to support the bill by introducing new conditions. Specifically, the KDP representative said that representatives of the Coordination Framework blocked the vote by raising demands to turn the disputed districts of TuzKhormatu and Tal-Afar into provinces as well. In March, Iraq’s Council of Ministers voted to approve a draft bill to establish the district of Halabja as the 19th province and sent it to the Iraqi parliament for ratification. 

On September 18, the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries called on the Iraqi government to “take serious and urgent steps” to address the problems arising from a recent ruling by Iraq’s top court that struck down a maritime border demarcation agreement between Iraq and Kuwait. In their statement, issued after a meeting in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA meetings, the ministers warned that the nullification of the treaty undermines Iraq’s relations with the GCC, and constitutes a violation of UN Security Council resolution 833. The ministerial statement was followed on September 20 by a joint statement issued by GCC Secretary General Jasem al-Budaiwi and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in which they called for “the complete demarcation of the Kuwait-Iraq maritime boundary” and urged Baghdad “to expeditiously resolve the domestic legal status of the 2012 Kuwait-Iraq agreement.” Underscoring the seriousness of the matter, Kuwait’s foreign minister said that briefing GCC countries and the UN on the situation was the sole purpose of his trip to New York. After the GCC and U.S. issued those statements, there was a meeting between Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani and his Kuwaiti counterpart, Ahmed Nawaf al-Sabah, on the sidelines of the UNGA meetings. Sudani reaffirmed his government’s commitment to relevant Security Council resolutions and to respecting Kuwaiti sovereignty, a statement by his office said. Sudani also called for continuing the meetings of bilateral committees to build trust and resolve problems. In its September 4 ruling, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court said the ratification of the 2013 treaty concerning navigation in the Khor Abdullah channel on the Persian Gulf was unconstitutional for violating article 61 of the Iraqi constitution, which states that ratifying international treaties requires a law passed by a two thirds majority in parliament. The Court’s ruling was in response to a case filed by lawmakers from the Huqooq bloc, the political wing of the Kataib Hezbollah militia.

On September 19, a government committee overseeing the implementation of a border security agreement that was signed with Iran in March announced that the evacuation of bases occupied by Iranian opposition groups near the border was fully completed. A statement by the committee, posted by the official news agency, said these groups have been “moved away from the border and disarmed,” adding that their members would be dealt with as “refugees according to the guidelines of the UNHCR.” According to the statement, Iraqi border guards have been deployed to the border to maintain “permanent presence.” Commenting on the news, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq told reporters that Tehran intends to send a joint team of Iranian and Iraqi officials to the Kurdistan region to inspect the border and “evaluate the results of the agreement.” Earlier reports on September 15 indicated that there were limited deployments of Iraqi troops (2nd border guard brigade) along the border with Iran. A military statement said the border guards, supported by the Peshmerga, took their positions along the border after “clashes with outlaw groups” that had control of a section of the border within Erbil province. Last month, Iranian officials said that the security agreement signed in March gave Iraq until September 19 to disarm “armed terrorist groups” that have presence in Iraq’s Kurdistan region and relocate their members elsewhere.During a September 20 meeting between Prime Minister Sudani and President Raisi on the sidelines of the UNGA meetings, Sudani asserted that Iraq will not allow its territory to be used to attack neighbors. He also affirmed that Iraq rejects attacks on its security and sovereignty, calling for resolving problems among neighbors through dialogue. A statement by Sudani’s office said Raisi appreciated Baghdad’s efforts to address Tehrans’ border security concerns.  

On September 19, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani met with U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken in New York City, where he had arrived the day before to participate in the United Nations General Assembly meetings. During the talks, Blinken invited Sudani to visit the White House and meet with President Joe Biden. A statement by Sduani’s office said the Iraqi premier accepted the invitation, adding that a date for the visit to Washington would be determined later. The Iraqi prime minister is also expected to make a visit to Moscow before the end of the year, Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein told reporters on Thursday, adding that his Ministry was “working to organize this visit soon.” 

Sources cited in this section include: Iraqi PM’s office, ISHM archive, al-Sumaria, Rudaw, Shafaq, Mawazin, Reuters, al-Hurra, INA.


Turkish Airstrike On Sulaymaniyah Airfield Kills Three Peshmerga Fighters

On September 15, security sources in Baghdad said that ISIS militants launched an attack in the Tarmiyah district targeting the head of the local council of tribal chiefs. The attack, in which the militants used light and medium weapons, wounded the targeted individual, Sheik Saeed al-Mashhadani, and one of his associates.  

On September 16, security sources in Salah ad-Din province said that an explosive remnant of war (ERW) detonated near sheep herders in al-Eith region of the Baiji district. The explosion killed three of the herders, the sources added. 

On September 17, government and security sources said that a Turkish military drone struck a vehicle transporting weapons and members of the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) in the Miran Mountain area near Sinjar. The airstrike killed three members of the local militia, which is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

On September 18, an armed drone struck targets in a small airfield in Sulaymaniyah province, killing three fighters from the Kurdistan region’s counter-terrorism troops and wounding three others, a senior Iraqi military spokesman said. The aircraft had entered Iraqi airspace through the Turkish border before striking the Arbat airfield, the spokesman added. A statement by the Sulaymaniyah based counter-terrorism force vowed to avenge the fighters who fell in the attack on the airfield and to bring any “spies” who were involved in the attack to justice. Footage from the site appeared to show a large plume of black smoke rising from the airfield, which is typically used by crop dusters. The commander of the Peshmerga’s 70 Force, which is under the control of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), said the troops were receiving training at the site when the attack happened. In response to the attack, the office of the Iraqi president said the Turkish ambassador would be summoned to deliver a letter of objection to the Turkish government. Meanwhile, the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) condemned the airstrike, saying that such actions that are “repeatedly violating Iraqi sovereignty must stop,” adding that “security concerns must be addressed through dialogue and diplomacy – not strikes.” The attack was also condemned by the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, who reaffirmed Washington’s support for “respect of Iraq;s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” 

On September 18, the Security Media Cell reported that Iraqi F-16 jets struck hideouts used by ISIS militants along the border between Salah ad-Din and Kirkuk provinces. The Cell said the airstrike killed the members of an ISIS cell, without specifying a number, and destroyed two hideouts with the weapons and equipment inside them. On the following day, the Iraqi military said that another airstrike targeted ISIS hideouts in the Wadi Zghaytoun region in southern Kirkuk, killing four militants and leading to the recovery of intelligence material. Then on September 20, the Cell said that the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) killed four ISIS militants during an operation in an unspecified location in Anbar province. 

On September 18, security sources in Diyala said that an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated while troops from the Iraqi army’s 1st division were conducting search operations in the Himrin Mountains. The explosion seriously wounded two officers, one of whom lost a foot in the incident. 

On September 20, Iraqi Interior Minister Abdul-Amir al-Shammari said the government was planning to create gun registration offices across the country in an effort to regulate gun possession in Iraq. Speaking at a gun control conference organized by the national committee for gun regulation, Shammari said the government wants all small arms to be known to the government, acknowledging that many guns were stolen or missing over decades of conflict. Shammari added that the government will have a carefully planned timetable to seize medium and heavy weapons, stressing the need for cooperation with tribal leaders, academics, and political figures in order to achieve those goals. 

Sources cited in this section include: al-Sumaria, INA, Shafaq, Rudaw, social media, al-Hurra, Mawazin. 


UNITAD Mandate Extended; Former Officials Charged With Abusing Grant Funds Meant To House IDPs

On September 15, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Daesh (UNITAD) for only one more year. The resolution also mentions that the Baghdad government asked that UNITAD investigators hand over the evidence they have gathered so far to the Iraqi authorities so they can pursue ISIS members who committed crimes and those who assisted and financed them. Since 2017, UNITAD has worked alongside Iraqi institutions to investigate ISIS crimes and hold members of the terrorist organization accountable for their actions. The new resolution 2697, based on a request by the Iraqi government, extends the mandate until September 17, 2024. 

On September 18, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said that a criminal court in Baghdad had summoned the former Minister of Migration and the Displaced and the members of a committee that was charged with the rescue and housing of displaced persons. The committee members include a former Minister of Transportation, the Deputy Ministers of Education, Health, and Housing and Reconstruction at the time, as well as three director generals, three senior officers, and the president of the Iraqi Red Crescent Association. The group is facing charges involving alleged violations in the management of a Chinese grant to build camps for displaced persons, the Commission said in its statement, without offering further details or the cabinet to which the former senior officials belonged. 

On September 18, the director of child and family protection against domestic violence at Iraq’s Interior Ministry said the Ministry was receiving 100 domestic violence reports a day in the capital Baghdad alone. The official said that spousal abuse against women represented 57% of those cases, while spousal abuse against men and child abuse represented 17% and 6%, respectively.  Commenting on the data release, activists warned that the real number of cases may be several times higher because victims often do not report abuses due to fear of reprisal or stigma. Activist Sarah al-Hassani added that these figures do not take into account reports submitted to other relevant government agencies, namely the Community Police service. 

Sources cited in this section include: Reliefweb, al-Sumaria, al-Mada. 


KRG Welcomes Enhanced Cash Transfer Deal; Iraq Approves Reduced Winter Agricultural Plan

On September 17, the Iraqi government approved a new temporary arrangement under which it will provide cash to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to enable the KRG to pay its civil servants. During its Sunday meeting, the government authorized the state-owned Rafidain, Rasheed, and Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) to provide three monthly loans of IQD700 billion ($538 million) each starting in September. The decision came after a visit on September 14 by KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani during which he had talks with Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani and several other political leaders. In a statement, the KRG welcomed Baghdad’s decision to increase the amount of monthly transfers, adding that it presented a vision for long-term solution that separates the public sector payroll from other disputes. Barzani instructed his government to use the first payment coming from Baghdad to pay the July salaries of civil servants, which have been delayed because of the KRG’s cash shortage. The new arrangement is a modification of an earlier one under which the state-owned banks were to provide the KRG with IQD500 billion in monthly loans. The KRG dismissed the amount as much smaller than the IQD1.375 trillion the region is entitled to under the budget, and insufficient to cover the public sector’s monthly payroll of IQD906 billion. Lawmakers opposed to the arrangement appealed to the Federal Supreme Court to block the cash transfers, news reports said September 21, but the Court rejected the appeal, Judiciary sources said. 

On September 17, Iraqi Oil Minister Hayan Abdul-Ghani said that Iraq plans to expand the Najaf oil refinery by adding a new refining unit with a capacity to process 70,000 barrels per day (bpd). The Minister did not specify a timeline for the expansion, which would more than triple the refinery’s total capacity from the existing 30,000 bpd to 100,000 bpd. 

On September 18, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said that the director of the country’s Midlands Refineries Company had been arrested on corruption charges. The arrested official, Ayed Jabir Omran, is accused of illicit profiteering and money laundering involving amounts up to IQD8 billion. According to the Commission, Omran provided false financial records and failed to disclose more than half a dozen real estate properties in Baghdad and the state of Oman, as well as ownership stakes in a hotel and other businesses.  

On September 20, Iraq’s Agriculture and Water Resources ministries said they agreed to approve a winter agricultural plan covering 5.5 million dunams of farmland in total (a dunam equals 0.247 acres) . The plan, which took into consideration expected rainfall and water resources in Iraq’s dams and reservoirs, includes 1.5 million dunams of land irrigated by surface water, while the other 4 million dunams of crops would depend on groundwater from wells. This is a smaller agricultural plan than last year, when the ministries approved 2.5 million dunams for irrigation by surface water and four million dunams for irrigation by well water. 

On September 20, the chamber of commerce and industry of the Emirate of Sharjah, one of the seven United Arab Emirates, said it will host the first meeting of the Gulf-Iraq Business Forum on Tuesday September 26. A statement by the chamber said that 350 participants from Iraq and the GCC states will attend the event to present and discuss new opportunities for investment, trade, and industries. 

Sources cited in this section include: Iraqi PM’s office, ISHM archive, al-Sumaria, Rudaw, Ultra Iraq, INA, NINA. 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs and ERWs from September 14, 2023 - September 21, 2023

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
9/16/23 Al-Eith, Salah ad-Din province30
9/18/23 Himrin Mountains, Diyala province02

 

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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