ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: September 28 – October 5, 2023

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Key Takeaways:

  • Iran Says Iraq Implemented “Parts” Of Their Border Security Agreement; Sudani To Visit Moscow Next Week- On October 2, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said that Iraqi authorities had fulfilled “some parts” of the border security agreement signed in March for the disarming and relocation of Iranian opposition groups away from the border. A ministry spokesman said an Iranian delegation went after the deal’s September 19 deadline to evaluate the actions taken by the Iraqi side and concluded that “parts of the agreement, not all of it” had been implemented. He added that Iran will discuss the delegation’s detailed report with Iraqi officials so that the federal government and KRG can address Iran’s concerns about the presence of “terrorist” groups. On October 3, Igor Levitin, the assistant to the President of the Russian Federation, visited Baghdad and met with PM Sudani to discuss the schedule for Sudani’s upcoming visit to Moscow, which is now expected to happen on or around October 10. In other developments, on October 2, PM Sudani flew to Doha on an invitation from Emir of Qatar to attend the Expo 2023 Doha Qatar, an international event focused on countering climate change effects and reversing desertification. On October 4, the Iraqi Council of Ministers approved a draft of the Right to Obtain Information Law and sent the document to the parliament for its approval. more…
  • Defense Minister In Ankara As Turkey Escalates Operations Against The PKK In Iraq And Syria – On October 5, Iraq’s Defense Minister visited Ankara for talks with his Turkish counterpart after the Turkish military conducted a wave of airstrikes against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq and Syria following a suicide bombing that PKK operatives conducted in Ankara last week. The talks between the Iraqi and Turkish ministers are expected to focus on the complications of the PKK presence in Iraq and Ankara’s recent threats to escalate and expand its military operations against the separatist group. In a statement made October 4, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan warned that: “From now on, all infrastructure, superstructure and energy facilities belonging to the PKK or the YPG in Iraq and Syria are legitimate targets of our security forces, armed forces and intelligence elements.” In other developments, on October 3, security forces accompanied by officials from Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission (CMC) shut down the offices of al-Baghdadia, an Iraqi TV channel. Posts on social media suggest the events were precipitated by a program played by the channel that allegedly contained insults to Moqtada al-Sadr and provoked angry demonstrations by his followers outside the channel’s building. more…
  • Christian Religious Leaders Reject Government Investigation Findings About Al-Hamdaniyah Fire – On October 1, a committee investigating the causes of the tragic fire that killed more than 100 people attending a wedding in the northern, majority-Christiann town of al-Hamdaniyah last week said it concluded that the fire was caused by sparks from pyrotechnics that ignited flammable carpet and materials used in ceiling decorations. In a statement, the head of the committee added that the wedding space was overcrowded and did not have enough exits. The committee held the wedding hall owners and those in charge of the pyrotechnics responsible for the “accident,” and recommended the sacking of several local officials. Multiple Christian religious leaders rejected the investigation results, calling them “disappointing.” The Christian religious leaders demanded an international investigation into the fire, which had claimed at least 119 lives, insisting that it was intentional. more…
  • Oil Exports Steady, Revenue Climbs; Northern Exports May Resume Within Days; Central Bank To Ban Dollar Withdrawals Next Year – On October 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports during September averaged 3.438 million bpd, just 15,000 bpd higher than August. The exports generated $9.49 billion in revenue, a jump of more than $600 million from August, as average sale price rose about $8.70 to $92.05 per barrel. The vast majority of exports were shipped from fields in southern and central Iraq through the ports of Basra. Exports from the northern fields in Kirkuk and the Kurdistan region through Turkey remained suspended, but the Turkish Energy Minister said on October 2 that oil flow could resume before the end of this week. On October 5, a senior Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) official said the bank will impose a ban on cash withdrawals in U.S. dollars starting January 1, 2024, in an effort to prevent the misuse of foreign currency reserves in criminal activities, money laundering, and violations of sanctions imposed on Iran. The CBI clarified that the ban will impact only withdrawals made against incoming transfers from outside of Iraq, with withdrawals allowed only in Iraqi dinars based on the official exchange rate. Bank officials added that deposits made in U.S. dollars before January 1, 2024, will not be affected. In other developments, on October 1, the consortium operating the Halfaya oil field in Maysan province inaugurated a newly completed gas capture and processing project with a capacity of 300 million cubic feet per day. more…
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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.


Iran Says Iraq Implemented “Parts” Of Their Border Security Agreement; Sudani To Visit Moscow Next Week

On October 1, Turkish Transport Minister, Abdulkadir Uraloglu, visited Baghdad for talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani. The talks focused on “developing the mutual understandings between Iraq and Turkey regarding the Development Road project,” a statement by Sudani’s office said. During the talks, Sudani emphasized that the project has strategic importance in reinforcing mutual ties between Iraq, Turkey, and the rest of the region. For his part, Uraloglu affirmed Ankara’s interest in “active participation” in Baghdad’s project.

On October 2, a spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry said that Iraqi authorities had fulfilled “some parts” of the border security agreement that Iraq and Iran signed in March for the disarming and relocation of Iranian opposition groups away from the border. The spokesman, Nasir Kanani, said that an Iranian delegation went to Iraq after September 19 (the deadline set for implementing the agreement) to evaluate the results of actions taken by the Iraqi side. According to Kanani, Iran concluded that “parts of the agreement, not all of it” had been implemented. He added that Iran will discuss the delegation’s detailed report with Iraqi officials so that the federal government and Kurdistan regional regional government can address Iran’s concerns about the presence of “terrorist” groups. Last month, an Iraqi government committee overseeing the implementation of the security agreement announced that the evacuation of bases occupied by Iranian opposition groups near the border was fully completed. The committee said at the time that these groups had 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.” In related news, the deputy chief of Iraq’s Joint Operations Command (JOC) said on October 1 that Iraqi border guard troops had occupied about a dozen outposts along the border with Iran after displacing Iranian opposition groups from the area during the previous two weeks. 

On October 2, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani flew to the Qatari capital of Doha on an invitation from Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani to attend the Expo 2023 Doha Qatar. The international event is focused on countering climate change effects and reversing desertification through the use of innovative technologies in the cultivation of trees. Iraq’s objective from participating in the event was to present available investment opportunities in the agricultural sector, a statement by Sudani’s office said. 

On October 3, Igor Levitin, the assistant to the President of the Russian Federation, visited enBaghdad and met with Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani. The talks focused on various aspects of bilateral relations and Iraq’s plans to launch the Development Road Project, a statement by Sudani’s office said. The Russian official and Sudani also discussed the schedule for the Iraqi premier’s upcoming visit to Moscow, which is now expected to happen on or around October 10, according to unnamed Iraqi government officials. News reports indicate that Levitin also had meetings with other Iraqi political and militia figures during his visit, with at least one meeting confirmed with Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia. 

On October 4, Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani met with Patrick Dorel, the Middle East and North Africa adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron, in his office in Baghdad. The meeting discussed developments in bilateral relations and plans for an upcoming visit by President Macron to Iraq, a statement by Sudani’s office said. 

On October 4, the Iraqi Council of Ministers approved a draft of the Right to Obtain Information Law and sent the document to the parliament for its approval, a statement by the Prime Minister’s office said. Passing this legislation has been a perennial demand by free speech and human rights defenders in Iraq, and was frequently raised by activists during and after the October 2019 pro-reform protests. 

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


Defense Minister In Ankara As Turkey Escalates Operations Against The PKK In Iraq And Syria

On October 2, news sites posted a government correspondence that said that Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani instructed the Joint Operations Command to enforce previous orders to reduce the size of security details that accompany senior officials and commanders on the streets. The letter, dated September 26, also includes a ban on the movement of vehicles that openly carry and display armed security personnel and other weapons outside of combat duty. 

On October 3, security sources in Maysan province said that violent clashes erupted between two tribes in the eastern subdistrict of Kumeit. The fighting, in which the warring tribes used medium weapons and rocket propelled grenades, killed at least one person, the sources added. Security forces intervened to stop the fighting, and subsequently arrested 12 individuals who were involved and confiscated several unlicensed weapons. A vehicle belonging to security forces was damaged by gunfire in the process. To the west, in Dhi-Qar province, three men from the same family were killed on October 4 in a drive-by shooting south of the provincial capital of Nasiriyah. Security sources believe the shooting is connected to a tribal conflict. 

On October 3, security sources in Baghdad said that security forces accompanied by officials from Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission (CMC) have shut down two offices in the Iraqi capital that belong to al-Baghdadia, an Iraqi TV channel. The decision by CMC to shut down the offices, one in al-Waziriyah and the other on Abu Nawas Street, was due to the channel’s “violation of broadcasting terms and lack of security permits,” the sources said. Footage taken by one of al-Baghdadia’s staff showed a chaotic scene, with a large crowd of Muqtada al-Sadr’s followers demonstrating outside the channel’s office after it played a program that allegedly contained insults to Sadr. According to the post by the staff member, the intervention by security forces protected the channel’s workers from an imminent attack by Sadr’s followers. ISHM could not verify the accuracy of this information. 

On October 5, Iraq’s Minister of Defense, Thabit al-Abbasi, visited Ankara accompanied by a number of senior military commanders to hold talks with his Turkish counterpart. The visit comes after the Turkish military conducted a series of airstrikes against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the border regions of Iraq and Syria in retaliation for suicide bombing that PKK operatives conducted in Ankara last week. The talks between the Iraqi and Turkish ministers are expected to focus on the complications of the PKK presence in Iraq and Ankara’s recent threats to escalate and expand its military operations against the separatist group. In a statement made October 4, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan warned that: “From now on, all infrastructure, superstructure and energy facilities belonging to the PKK or the YPG in Iraq and Syria are legitimate targets of our security forces, armed forces and intelligence elements,” adding that  third parties are advised to “stay away from these facilities.”

Sources cited in this section include: NRT, NINA, Shafaq, al-Sumaria, Mawazin, social media, Hurriyet Daily News, AP. 


Christian Religious Leaders Reject Government Investigation Findings About Al-Hamdaniyah Fire

On October 1, a committee investigating the causes of the tragic fire that killed more than 100 people attending a wedding in the northern, majority-Christiann town of al-Hamdaniyah last week said it concluded that the fire was caused by sparks from pyrotechnics that ignited flammable carpet and materials used in ceiling decorations. In a statement, the head of the committee added that the wedding space was overcrowded and did not have enough exits, noting that more than 600 people were evacuated from the place while it had a capacity of 500. The committee held the wedding hall owners and those in charge of the pyrotechnics responsible for the “accident,” and recommended the sacking of several local officials, including the mayor of al-Hamdaniyah, and the chief of the Ninewa fire department, among others. Multiple Christian religious leaders rejected the investigation results, calling them “disappointing.” The Christian religious leaders demanded an international investigation into the fire, which had claimed at least 119 lives as of Tuesday, insisting that it was intentional.  Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, who in July relocated his office from Baghdad to Erbil amid tensions with the Babylon brigade of Rayyan al-Kildani, told AP from Rome that the fire “was the act of someone who sold his conscience and nation for a specific agenda.”

Sources cited in this section include: INA, ISHM archive, AP, Kurdistan24, Mawazin. 


Oil Exports Steady, Revenue Climbs; Northern Exports May Resume Within Days; Central Bank To Ban Dollar Withdrawals Next Year

On September 28, Iraqi oil officials said that the country’s newest refinery in Karbala began producing high grade gasoline (95-Octane rating) for the first time in the history of domestic oil refining operations. According to an update by the Oil Ministry, operations at the Karbala refinery, which commenced test commercial operations earlier this year, have reached the facility’s nameplate capacity of 140,000 barrels per day.  

On October 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports during September totaled more than 103.1 million barrels, for an average of 3.438 million barrels per day (bpd), which is about 15,000 bpd higher than exports in August. The September exports generated $9.49 billion in revenue, a jump of more than $600 million from the $8.84 billion achieved in August. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of approximately $92.05 per barrel, about $8.70 above the previous month’s average of $83.35 per barrel. The vast majority of the September exports were shipped from fields in southern and central Iraq through the ports of Basra, while small amounts averaging 14,980 bpd were exported to Jordan by trucks. The Qayyarah oil field in Ninewa, which resumed operations in May, contributed about 15,700 bpd to exports. Meanwhile, exports from the northern fields in Kirkuk, as well as fields under the control of the Kurdistan regional government (KRG), remained suspended, but Turkish Energy Minister, Alparsalan Bayraktar, said oil flow could resume before the end of this week. The Iraqi government has not made an official public comment on Bayraktar’s statement, but a member of the parliamentary oil and gas committee suggested that a solution is not in sight yet. The officials, lawmaker Sabah Subhi, cautioned that Turkey still has unanswered demands that will be discussed when President Erdogan makes his anticipated, and delayed, visit to Baghdad. 

On October 1, the consortium operating the Halfaya oil field in Maysan province inaugurated a newly completed gas capture and processing project with a capacity of 300 million cubic feet per day. Iraqi oil officials attending the ceremony said the facility will capture gas that used to be burned in five flares in the field, and provide feedstock for two power plants in the province.   

On October 2, Iraqi officials said the government will install solar power systems on the rooftops of 500 government buildings under a $68 million project supported by the United Nations. The project is scheduled to launch before the end of the year, the officials added. 

On October 5, a senior Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) official said the bank will impose a ban on cash withdrawals and other transactions in U.S. dollars starting January 1, 2024 in an effort to prevent misuse of the country’s foreign currency reserves in criminal activities, money laundering, and violations of sanctions imposed on Iran. The CBI clarified that the ban will impact only withdrawals made against incoming transfers from outside of Iraq, with withdrawals allowed only in Iraqi dinars and based on the official exchange rate of IQD 1,320 per $1. Bank officials added that deposits made in U.S. dollars before January 1, 2024 will not be affected. 

Sources cited in this section include: Iraq’s Oil Ministry, ISHM archive, Reuters, Kurdistan24, Zawya, al-Hurra, Shafaq.


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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