ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: October 12 – 19, 2023

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Key Takeaways:

  • Speaker Halbousi Wants Accountability Commission Disbanded As More Candidates Face Disqualification; Former PM Calls For Expulsion Of U.S., NATO Forces – On October 16, IHEC officials said they disqualified 259 candidates in the upcoming provincial elections. The majority (203) were disqualified because of ties to the banned Baath Party, as determined by the Accountability and Justice Commission. The perceived politicized nature of the disqualifications has revived efforts by Sunni political parties to dismantle the Commission. News reports said that Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi asked the Commission to submit its records to the legislature as soon as possible to prepare for its deactivation in accordance with the political agreements made during government formation last year. On October 18, former PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi called for “the immediate implementation” of the January 5, 2020 resolution by parliament for the withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO forces from Iraq. Abdul-Mahdi said his demand comes in response to the “aggression on Palestine,” and in order to “prepare on all levels” for “the long battle that awaits us.” In other developments, on October 13, thousands of Iraqis gathered at Tahrir Square in central Baghdad to protest the ongoing Israeli military operations against Gaza. A speech delivered by a representative of Muqtada al-Sadr, who had called for the demonstration, raised several demands, including the closure of all Israeli embassies in Arab capitals and an end to U.S. support for Israel. Additional protests are scheduled for this Friday, October 20. On October 17, PM Sudani received a phone call from President Biden in which they discussed the conflict between Israel and Hamas and stressed the need to contain the conflict and prevent the war from expanding. more…
  • Militias Launch Drone Attacks On Bases Hosting U.S. Forces In Anbar, Erbil, And Eastern Syria – On October 18, air defenses at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province, which hosts U.S. military personnel, intercepted two explosive drones before they could strike their targets. Later on the same day, a third drone was shot down near Hareer, a military base that also hosts U.S. forces outside Erbil. CENTCOM said the incidents left “minor injuries” among members of the International Coalition against ISIS. Meanwhile, a statement posted by “the Islamic resistance in Iraq,” a term often used by Iran-backed militias, claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying that more attacks would follow, and warning Iraqi security forces to stay away from places where U.S. forces are located. In a subsequent statement, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” claimed a fourth drone attack that targeted the Coalition’s Tanf base in eastern Syria. The drone attacks came after the commanders of several Iraqi militias, including Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahil al-Haq, Badr, and al-Nujaba, threatened last week to target U.S. interests if Washington decided to intervene in the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas militants. In other developments, on October 13, an airstrike hit a refugee camp in the Makhmour district that hosts Kurdish refugees from Turkey, injuring a 50-year-old female camp resident. On October 14, a Turkish military aircraft struck a vehicle in the Kani Masi subdistrict of Duhok, killing three PKK members. A similar strike on October 17 killed one person and injured another in the Koy Sanjaq district of Sulaymaniyah. more…
  • Displacement Due To Climate Change Impact In Southern Iraq Went Up 56% Since June – On October 15, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) published new data on the scale of climate-induced displacement affecting communities in southern Iraq. The data shows that, as of mid-September, more than 130,780 individuals across ten provinces (comprising 21,798 families) were experiencing displacement from their areas due to water shortages. The new data indicates that the number of individuals displaced by water scarcity has increased by approximately 47,200 since last fall, when the number stood at approximately 83,500, a 56% increase. Almost half of the displaced families (10,269) are from Dhi-Qar province, which saw the largest increase in displacement, followed by Maysan (4,852 families), Muthanna (1,689 families), and Diwaniyah (1,650 families). more…
  • Crescent Launches 3 Iraq Gas Projects; Baghdad Mulls Repairing Oil Pipeline To Syria; State-Owned Company To Get New Mobile Communications License – On October 15, Iraq and Crescent Petroleum signed a document marking the start of implementing the development deals for three gas blocks in Diyala and Basra. Crescent will develop the Jilabat, Khashm Ahmar, and Khidr al-Maa blocks within 18 months targeting 400 million cfd. On October 16, officials from several companies operating under the Oil Ministry held a meeting to discuss the possibility of repairing an old pipeline that once carried Iraqi crude oil to Syrian ports on the Mediterranean. Sources said the meeting discussed the scale of required repair works and coordination with the Syrian side to create estimates of the cost and time needed to bring the pipeline back into service. On October 17, the Iraqi government decided to issue a new mobile communications license and award it to the state-owned al-Salam General Company. The license will offer an exclusive right to provide 5-G services for 3 years. In other developments, on October 17, the Iraqi government increased the amount of oil exports allocated to funding infrastructure and development projects under the “Iraqi-Chinese Framework Agreement” from 100,000 bpd to 150,000 bpd. 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.


Halbousi Wants Accountability Commission Disbanded As More Candidates Face Disqualification; Former PM Calls For Expulsion Of U.S., NATO Forces

On October 13, thousands of Iraqis gathered at Tahrir Square in central Baghdad to protest the ongoing Israeli military operations against Gaza. A speech delivered by a representative of Muqtada al-Sadr, who had initially called for the demonstration, raised several demands, including the closure of all Israeli embassies in Arab capitals, an end to U.S. support for Israel, the criminalization of normalization with Israel, and the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people. Fresh pro-Palestine protests erupted in Baghdad during the early morning hours of October 18, following the deadly explosion at a Gaza hospital that killed hundreds of civilians. Authorities deployed additional security forces in and around the Green Zone in the Iraqi capital and closed bridges leading to the area in anticipation of new protests near the U.S. embassy. Additional protests are scheduled by the Sadrist organizers for this Friday, October 20.

On October 16, a spokesperson for the Iraqi High Electoral Commission (IHEC) said the Commission had disqualified a total of 259 candidates running for office in the upcoming provincial council elections. The majority of those candidates (203) were disqualified by IHEC because of ties to the banned Baath Party, as determined by the Accountability and Justice Commission. Another 54 were disqualified because of criminal records, and two were disqualified for lacking minimum education requirements. The disqualified candidates may appeal the decisions and the parties to which they belong have a 3-day period to submit alternate candidates, the spokesperson added. In related news, the Iraqi government decided to overturn a previous IHEC decision to disqualify the governor of Ninewa, Najm Abdullah al-Jubouri, and Ninewa’s police chief, Hamad Namis al-Jubouri, citing “public interest considerations.” The perceived politicized nature of the disqualifications in targeting Sunni Arab candidates has revived efforts by mainly Sunni political parties to dismantle the Accountability and Justice Commission. News reports said that Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi has asked the Commission to submit its records to the legislature as soon as possible to prepare for its deactivation in accordance with the political agreements made during government formation last year. 

On October 17, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani received a phone call from U.S. President Joe Biden in which they discussed developments in the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas. During the conversation, Sudani and Biden stressed the need to contain the conflict and prevent the war from expanding, which could threaten regional stability and international peace, a statement by Sudani’s office said. 

On October 18, former Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi called for “the immediate implementation” of the resolution by parliament on January 5, 2020 which called for the withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO forces from Iraq. The former prime minister said his demand comes in response to the “aggression on Palestine.” Abdul-Mahdi said that his second demand is to “prepare on all levels” to prepare for “the long battle that awaits us,” without providing further details. The former prime minister was referring to parliament’s reaction to the January 3, 2020 U.S. airstrike that killed Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. At the time, lawmakers issued a resolution that required the Iraqi government to “safeguard Iraq’s sovereignty” by canceling the 2014 request for assistance from the U.S.-led International Coalition in fighting ISIS, ending the presence of “any foreign forces” on Iraqi territory and preventing them from using Iraqi soil or airspace for any purposes. 

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


Militias Launch Drone Attacks On Bases Hosting U.S. Forces In Anbar, Erbil, And Eastern Syria

On October 13, the mayor of the Makhmour district said that an airstrike hit a refugee camp in the district that hosts Kurdish dissidents and refugees from Turkey, injuring a 50 year old female camp resident. This comes less than a week after another attack in which multiple rockets struck the camp and killed a woman and two children. In related news, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) said this week that in September, it withdrew the fighters it had sent to protect the camp in 2014, and redeployed them to the Qandil Mountains and other parts of the Kurdistan region. 

On October 14, the counter-terrorism service of the Kurdistan region said that a Turkish military aircraft struck a vehicle carrying members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on the road between two villages in the Kani Masi subdistrict of Duhok province. The airstrike destroyed the vehicle and killed three individuals who were inside it. Later, on October 17, the security agency said that a similar airstrike targeted another PKK vehicle in the Koy Sanjaq district of Sulaymaniyah province, killing one person and injuring another.

On October 18, air defenses at the Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province, which houses U.S. military personnel, intercepted and shot down two explosive drones before they could strike their targets in the base, U.S. military officials told Reuters. Later on the same day, a third drone was shot down near Hareer, a military air base that also houses U.S. forces outside Erbil in the Kurdistan region. The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said the incidents left “minor injuries” among members of the International cCoalition against ISIS. Meanwhile, news cites circulated a statement posted by “the Islamic resistance in Iraq,” a term often used by Iran-backed militias, claiming responsibility for the attempted attacks on the two bases and alleging that the drones scored “direct hits.” The statement also said that more attacks would follow, and warned Iraqi security forces to stay away from places where U.S. forces are located. In a subsequent statement on October 19, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” claimed a fourth drone attack that targeted the Coalition’s Tanf base in eastern Syria. The drone attacks came after the commanders of several Iraqi militias, including Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahil al-Haq, Badr, and al-Nujaba, threatened last week to target U.S. interests if Washington decided to intervene in the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas militants. More recently, the chairman of the Popular Mobilization Commission, Falih al-Fayyadh, said on October 15 that Iraq “would not allow the Americans to support the [Israeli] occupation against the Palestinians,” and pledged to send humanitarian and military support for the Palestianians. 

On October 18, the Join Operations Command of the Iraqi military said that Iraqi special forces conducted an operation in the Wadi al-Shay region of Kirkuk that led to the killing of two ISIS militants. The troops also discovered a vehicle the militants had rigged with explosives and conducted a controlled detonation to dispose of it. 

Sources cited in this section include: Rudaw, ISHM archive, Dijlah TV, Kurdistan24, Reuters, al-Sumaria, CENTCOM, Mawazin, Shafaq, Mehr, INA.


Displacement Due To Climate Change Impact On Southern Iraq Went Up 56% Since June

On October 15, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) published new data that reflects a sharp increase in the scale of climate-induced displacement affecting communities in southern Iraq. The data shows that as of mid-September, more than 130,780 individuals (comprising 21,798 families) were experiencing displacement from their areas due to water shortages impacting ten provinces. Of these families, nearly five in ten (46%) were in displacement within their home districts. Most of the displaced (more than 7 in 10) had relocated to urban areas because water scarcity and high salinity undermined agriculture and overall livelihoods. Almost half of the displaced families (10,269) are from Dhi-Qar province, followed by Maysan (4,852 families), Muthanna (1,689 families), and Diwaniyah (1,650 families) and . The worst affected district is Nasiriyah in Dhi-Qar province, which reported 3,380 families displaced, followed by Qalat Salih in Maysan province with 2,537 families, and al-Shatra and al-Rifai (both in Dhi-Qar), with 2,384 and 2,065 families, respectively. The new data indicates that the number of individuals displaced by water scarcity has increased by more than 56% (47,200) since the previous data set, published in July, when the number stood at approximately 83,500.

Sources cited in this section include: ReliefWeb, ISHM archive. 


Crescent Launches 3 Iraq Gas Projects; Baghdad Mulls Repairing Oil Pipeline To Syria; State-Owned Company To Get New Mobile Communications License

On October 15, Iraq’s Oil Minister, Hayan Abdul-Ghani said that Iraq and Crescent Petroleum have signed a document marking the start of implementing the development deals for three gas blocks in Diyala and Basra provinces. Crescent has agreed to develop the blocks within 18 months with the goal of producing 400 million cubic feet/day of natural gas, Abdul-Ghani added. In February, as part of Iraq’s fifth hydrocarbon licensing round, the Oil Ministry and Crescent Petroleum had signed 20-year contracts to develop three gas blocks: Jilabat/Qamar in Diyala, Khashm Ahmar/Injana in Diyala, and Khidr al-Maa in Basra. 

On October 16, Rudaw reported that the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) had issued new instructions to ports of entry and customs authorities to begin collecting taxes and customs in Iraqi dinars instead of U.S. dollars. A KRG statement said the move was based on a proposal by the region’s Minister of Finance and made in accordance with KRG Law no.3 of 1992. The new policy follows similar efforts by federal authorities in Baghdad to use the local currency instead of the dollar in financial transactions as the country deals with ongoing foreign currency shortages and rising exchange rates. As of writing on Thursday, the exchange rate on the parallel market was hovering  around IQD 1,598 to $1, relatively unchanged from last week levels, and approximately 21% higher than the official rate of IQD 1,320 to $1 set by the CBI. 

On October 16, sources in Iraq’s North Oil Company said that officials from several state-owned companies operating under the Oil Ministry held a meeting to discuss the possibility of repairing and reviving an old pipeline that once carried Iraqi crude oil to Syrian ports on the Mediterranean Sea. The sources said the meeting discussed the scale of required repair works and coordination with the Syrian side to create estimates of the cost and time needed for repairs. News that Iraq was considering reviving the pipeline first emerged in July of this year as the country started searching for alternatives to the Iraq-Turkey pipeline, where oil flows have been halted since March. 

On October 17, the Iraqi government decided to increase the amount of oil exports allocated to funding infrastructure and development projects under the “Iraqi-Chinese Framework Agreement” from 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 150,000 bpd. The decision is meant to support “the expansion of vital and strategic projects, and to advance growth and development in the country,” a government statement said. 

On October 17, the Iraqi government decided to issue a new mobile communications license and award it to the state-owned al-Salam General Company. The license will grant the company, which operates under Iraq’s Ministry of Communications, an exclusive right to provide 5-G services for 3 years, a government statement said. 

Sources cited in this section include: Iraq’s Oil Ministry, ISHM archives, Rudaw, al-Sumaria, INA, NINA, Zawya. 


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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