ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: November 30 – December 7, 2023

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Key Takeaways:

  • Court Dismisses Case Against Former Speaker’s Party; Top Iranian General In Baghdad Calling For More Security Cooperation – On December 3, the Electoral Judicial Committee in Iraq dismissed a case that was filed by a prominent Sunni Arab political party calling for the removal of the Taqaddum party of ousted parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi from the ballots in the upcoming provincial elections. On December 4, the Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of Iran, General Mohammad Bagheri, visited Baghdad for meetings with several Iraqi political and security leaders, including President Abdul-Latif Rashid, the Ministers of Defense and Interior, the Popular Mobilization Committee chairman, the army chief of staff, and National Security Adviser. During talks with Iraqi official, Bagheri expressed Iran’s interest in greater security cooperation with Iraq, including through joint military exercises and the sale of Iranian military equipment to Iraq. Meanwhile, Bagheri’s talks with the commanders of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) focused on enhancing intelligence cooperation and improving the combat capabilities of the PMF. In other developments, on December 6, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court ruled that decisions made by former PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi to restructure the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers were invalid. The Kadhmi-era orders that were struck down allowed the Secretariat to establish new departments and expanded its powers to the extent that “the secretary general supplanted the prime minister,” the complaint filed before the Court by lawmaker Basim Khashan argued. more…
  • Deadly Attack Hits Diyala; Militias Resume Attacks On U.S. Forces After Brief Pause; Sadr’s Followers Attack Rival Parties – On November 30, suspected ISIS militants conducted a complex attack in Diyala that killed 11 people and wounded more than a dozen. The attack near the Muqdadiyah district began with the detonation of two IEDs against a bus carrying civilians returning from an election campaign event, followed by small arms fire targeting people who gathered at the site, inflicting further casualties. On December 3, Iraqi militias launched new attacks with explosive drones and rockets on the Hareer and Ain al-Asad bases in Iraq and two bases hosting U.S. forces in Syria. The attacks ended a brief pause in hostilities that was announced in parallel with a temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. The U.S. military responded with new airstrikes on militia targets, killing five militiamen who were preparing to launch another drone attack on U.S. forces. The deadly preemptive strike, however, did not deter further attacks. Militias targeted both Hareer and Ain al-Asad with explosive drones again on December 6. On December 3 – 4, several offices of the Dawa party and State of Law coalition of in Basra, Najaf, and Wasit were attacked with RPGs. A statement by Dawa implied that the attacks were a reaction by followers of Muqtada al-Sadr to a social media post by one of Maliki’s staffers that included an insult to Sadr and his late father. Then on Wednesday, reports said that hundreds of Sadr’s supporters attempted to storm one of Ammar al-Hakim’s Hikma movement’s offices near Sadr City and torched campaign billboards of its candidates. Here too, events were precipitated by a social media message criticizing Sadr for boycotting the election. In other developments, on December 7, unidentified gunmen on motorcycles assassinated Fadhil al-Marsoumi, a cleric and founder of al-Da’ie al-Rabbani, a small political party in the Taji district of Baghdad. more…
  • UN Adviser Warns Against Abrupt End To The Mandate Of Team Investigating ISIS Crimes – On December 6, Christian Ritscher, the head of the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by ISIS (UNITAD) warned the Security Council that an abrupt end of his team’s mission, scheduled for September 2024, could “only mean a loss for all those concerned,” especially the survivors and victims of ISIS atrocities. Ritscher noted that “it will likely be the case that — by September 2024 — the Team will not be able to deliver final outputs on all lines of inquiry it has initiated.” The UNITAD team chief urged the Baghdad government and Security Council members to “give due consideration to the end state of our mandate more than the end date.” Iraq’s representative, however, reiterated that UNITAD’s mandate must end next September as scheduled. more…
  • Oil Revenue Down In November, More Output Cuts Coming; Siemens to Build Five Power Facilities In Central Iraq – On December 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that November crude oil exports averaged of 3.433 million bpd, about 100,000 bpd lower than in October. Exports generated $8.51 billion in revenue, a drop of more than $1.1 billion from the previous month as Iraq sold its oil at an average price of $82.66 per barrel, about $5.60 below October’s average. Trucked exports to Jordan dropped to 5,700 bpd in November, just over a third of the regular volumes. Meanwhile, exports from the northern fields in Kirkuk and the Kurdistan region remained suspended. In related news, the Oil Ministry said that Iraq will reduce its oil output by an additioanl 220,000 bpd during the first quarter of 2024. On December 6, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity and Siemens signed a major contract for the construction of five high voltage substations to service provinces in Iraq’s Mid-Euphrates region. The five 400-132 kilovolt substations will have a combined capacity of 7,500 megavolt ampere and will assist in stabilizing power supplied through the grid to 2.5 million households, according to the Ministry. In other developments, on December 4, Iraq dispatched a new delegation of senior energy officials to Turkmenistan to negotiate terms for the purchase of 25 million cubic meters/day of gas. On December 5, Iraq’s Transportation Ministry said that it has completed the initial designs for 600 kilometers of railway and 300 kilometers of highway as part of Iraq’s plans for the strategic Development Road project. 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.


Court Dismisses Case Against Former Speaker’s Party; Top Iranian General In Baghdad Calling For More Security Cooperation

On December 1, the State Department said that Secretary Antony Blinken spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani and urged Baghdad to “fulfill its commitments to protect all installations hosting U.S. personnel at its invitation and to pursue those responsible for attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq.” A statement by the State Department added that Blinken and Sudani discussed the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the need to prevent the conflict between Hamas and Israel from spreading. For his part, Sudani affirmed his government’s commitment to protecting U.S. military personnel in Iraq, while registering his objection to the November 22 U.S. airstrike that killed several militiamen at Jurf al-Sakhr, calling it a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty, a statement by Sudani’s office said.   

On December 3, the Electoral Judicial Committee in Iraq dismissed a case that was filed a week before by a prominent Sunni Arab political party calling for the removal of the Taqaddum party of ousted parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi from the ballots in the upcoming provincial elections. The al-Hal party, whose Karbouli family founders are former allies-turned-rivals of the ousted speaker, pointed in a letter to IHEC that the 2015 Political Parties Law states that a political party founder must not be guilty of committing crimes or misdemeanors. The letter further argued that Taqaddum’s registration must be revoked following the Federal Supreme Court’s ruling that found Halbousi guilty of forgery. 

On December 4, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court decided to postpone ruling in a case filed by Arab and Turkmen politicians from Kirkuk against IHEC demanding provincial elections in the disputed province to be postponed until the voter registry has been audited. The Court also requested that Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani attend the next session, scheduled for December 12, and provide his testimony as a third party in the case. 

On December 4, the Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of Iran, General Mohammad Bagheri, visited Baghdad for meetings with several Iraqi political and security leaders, including President Abdul-Latif Rashid, the Ministers of Defense and Interior, the Popular Mobilization Committee chairman, the army chief of staff, and National Security Adviser Qasim al-Aaraji. During his talks with Iraqi officials, Bagheri expressed Iran’s interest in greater security cooperation with Iraq, including through organizing joint military exercises and the sale of Iranian military equipment to Iraq. The talks also dealt with the issues of border security and joint efforts to combat drug trafficking. Meanwhile, Bagheri’s talks with the commanders of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) focused on enhancing intelligence cooperation and improving the combat capabilities of the PMF.  

On December 6, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court ruled that several decisions made by former Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to restructure the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers are invalid. The Court said it determined that the orders by the former premier had exceeded the powers of a caretaker government. The Kadhmi-era orders that were struck down by the Court allowed the Secretariat to establish new departments under its control and expanded its powers to the extent that “the secretary general supplanted the prime minister,” the complaint filed before the Court by lawmaker Basim Khashan argued. The ruling is bound to diminish the powers held by the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers, a position that’s been occupied by Sadrist politician Hamid al-Ghazi since April of 2019. 

Sources cited in this section include: State Department; Shafaq, al-Sumaria, al-Taghier, ISHM archive, Rudaw, Ultra Iraq, Mawazin, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court. 


Deadly Attack Hits Diyala; Militias Resume Attacks On U.S. Forces After Brief Pause; Sadr’s Followers Attack Rival Parties

On November 30, security sources and local officials in Diyala said that suspected ISIS militants conducted an attack with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and sniper fire that killed 11 people and wounded more than a dozen others. The attack, which took place in the village of al-Omraniyah, near the Muqdadiyah district, began with the detonation of two IEDs against a bus carrying civilians returning from a campaign event for a candidate in the upcoming provincial election. Militants then opened fire on the locals who gathered at the attack site, inflicting further casualties.  

On December 2, local sources in the Makhmour district said that ISIS militants launched two attacks overnight against Iraqi army troops in the village of Kobtaba. The attacks killed one Iraqi soldier and injured five army personnel, including an officer. A subsequent statement by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said that Iraqi troops tracked a group of ISIS militants in the Makhmour area and killed four of them after surrounding them in an abandoned building. On the following day, the Joint Operations Command said that Iraqi airstrikes hit a hideout used by ISIS militants in the Wadi al-Shay region in southern Kirkuk. The statement said the airstrike killed “several” militants, without providing additional details.

On December 3, Iraqi militias operating under the umbrella of “the Islamic Resistance in Iraq” said they launched a new attack with an explosive drone on the Hareer base in Erbil, which hosts U.S. military personnel. On the same day, the militias also said they attacked Ain al-Asad base in Anbar with another explosive drone, and launched rockets and a drone at two bases hosting U.S. forces in eastern Syria. Images published by the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) showed a modified tanker truck that was used to launch 15 Katyusha-type rockets in the latest attack, which targeted the Rumaylan base in Syria. The resumption of attacks on December 3 followed a brief pause in hostilities that was announced in parallel with the temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. The U.S. military responded to the attacks with new airstrikes on militia targets. A CENTCOM statement said that U.S. drones struck a group of militiamen who were preparing to launch another explosive drone attack on U.S. forces, killing five of them and destroying their weapons. The deadly U.S. preemptive strike, however, did not deter further attacks, and the Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba militia issued a statement vowing to avenge the killing of its fighters. And on December 6, both Hareer and Ain al-Asad were targeted in new drone attacks, with the latter attacked twice. At least one drone got shot down before reaching its target. 

On December 3, the State of Law coalition of Nouri al-Maliki said that its main office in Basra was attacked with a rocket propelled grenade (RPG), adding that the offices of some of its members who are running for election were also attacked, without providing further information. Other news reports on December 4 said that an office of the Dawa party (also led by Nouri al-Maliki) in Najaf was also attacked by an RPG launched by unidentified militants. At least one other Dawa party office in al-Kut in Wasit province was attacked this week as well. A statement by the Dawa party implied that the attacks were a reaction by followers of Muqtada al-Sadr to a social media post by one of Maliki’s staffers that included an insult to Sadr and his late father. The statement said that the offensive post was not made by a party official, and condemned the attacks on its offices as acts of “terror.” This week, tensions also increased between the Sadrists, who are boycotting the upcoming provincial elections, and the Hikma movement of Ammar al-Hakim. On Wednesday, news reports said that hundreds of Sadr’s supporters attempted to storm one of Hikma’s offices near Sadr City and torched campaign billboards of its candidates. Here too, the events were precipitated by a social media message criticizing Sadr for boycotting the election that was allegedly posted by a senior figure in Hakim’s party. An Iraqi court in Baghdad said that 12 suspects were arrested in connection with the incident in east Baghdad. 

On December 7, Baghdad police said that unidentified gunmen on motorcycles assassinated Fadhil al-Marsoumi, a cleric and founder of al-Da’ie al-Rabbani, a small political party in the Taji district of Baghdad. The police added that two other men who were in the same vehicle as the targeted cleric were seriously injured in the shooting, and one of them died later in the hospital. 

Sources cited in this section include: al-Hurra, Rudaw, INA, Mawazin, Ultra Iraq, Shafaq, CENTCOM, ISHM archive.


UN Adviser Warns Against Abrupt End To The Mandate Of Team Investigating ISIS Crimes

On December 6, Christian Ritscher, the head of the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by ISIS (UNITAD) warned the Security Council that an abrupt end of his team’s mission, scheduled for September 2024, could “only mean a loss for all those concerned,” especially the survivors and victims of ISIS atrocities. Ritscher noted that “despite a shift of resources and intensifying our efforts, it will likely be the case that — by September 2024 — the Team will not be able to deliver final outputs on all lines of inquiry it has initiated.” The UNITAD team chief urged the Baghdad government and Security Council members to “give due consideration to the end state of our mandate more than the end date.” Iraq’s representative, however, reiterated that UNITAD’s mandate must end next September as scheduled, and complained that Iraqi authorities have yet to receive material of significant legal value or evidence that could be used in criminal proceedings, and insisted that “during this final year, all evidence must be provided.” 

Sources cited in this section include: the United Nations, ISHM archive.


Oil Revenue Down In November, More Output Cuts Coming; Siemens to Build Five Power Facilities In Central Iraq

On December 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports during November totaled more than 102.975 million barrels, for an average of 3.433 million barrels per day (bpd), which is about 100,000 bpd lower than exports in October. The November exports generated $8.51 billion in revenue, a drop of more than $1.1 billion from the $9.66 billion achieved in October. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of approximately $82.66 per barrel, about $5.60 below the previous month’s average of $88.26 per barrel. The vast majority of the November exports were shipped from fields in southern and central Iraq through the ports of Basra, while small amounts averaging 5,700 bpd bpd were exported to Jordan by trucks (just over a third of the regular volumes). The Qayyarah oil field in Ninewa, which resumed operations in May, contributed about 34,625 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, despite repeated announcements by Turkish and Iraqi officials in recent months that the restarting of exports was imminent. In related news, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said on November 30 that Iraq will reduce its oil output by 220,000 bpd from January 1 until March 31, 2024, in coordination with other oil producers. The ministry noted that the reduction will be in addition to the existing output cut of 211,000 bpd that was announced in April 2023.

On December 4, Iraq dispatched a new delegation of senior energy officials to Turkmenistan to negotiate the purchase of natural gas for Iraq’s power plants, an Electricity Ministry spokesman said. The delegation, led by Electricity Minister Ziyad Ali Fadhil, will discuss the terms for importing 25 million cubic meters/day of gas from Turkmenistan utilizing the Iranian gas network for transport. The spokesman explained that this volume would ensure that all gas-fired plants in central and southern Iraq (Mansouriyah, Quds, Taji, South Baghdad, Sadr, and Basmayah) would be fully supplied with natural gas. The latest negotiations come after a similar delegation visited Turkmenistan on November 7 with a mission to finalize the arrangements for importing natural gas from the central Asian gas producer. In October, Iraq and Turkmenistan had signed a memorandum of understanding for natural gas sales to meet Iraq’s fuel demand for power generation. 

On December 5, Iraq’s Transportation Ministry said that it has completed the initial designs for 600 kilometers of railway and 300 kilometers of highway as part of Iraq’s plans for the strategic Development Road project. A ministry spokesman added that soil analyses have also been completed for 1,000 kilometers of the project’s path within Iraq’s borders. The spokesman noted that parts of the project’s path interact with oil pipelines and archeological sites, adding that his ministry will coordinate with the concerned ministries to resolve these interactions. 

On December 6, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity and Siemens signed a major contract for the construction of five high voltage substations to service provinces in Iraq’s Mid-Euphrates region. The five 400-132 kilovolt substations will have a combined capacity of 7,500 megavolt ampere and will assist in stabilizing power supplied through the grid to 2.5 million households, a statement by the Electricity Ministry said. The contract is signed within the framework of a strategic memorandum of understanding for improving Iraq’s power grid that Iraq and the German company had signed in January 2023. 

On December 6, the Iraqi government organized a conference about reforming the country’s outdated tax system. Speaking at the conference, the chairman of Iraq’s General Tax Commission said that the government was determined to create a tax system that is fair and transparent on par with tax systems in developed nations in order to increase the country’s non-oil revenue. The official pointed to the rapid growth in electronic payment systems in Iraq as an example of preparatory steps that will enable the Tax Commission to digitize its own payment system, simplify procedures, and reduce corruption. The chairman noted that tax revenue was already showing signs of growth, rising 149% in 2023 to reach IQD trillion, up from IQD 2.7 trillion in 2022. Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani, who attended the opening day of the conference, underscored that much work remains to be done, pointing out that an estimated $26 billion in imported goods had escaped the tax and customs system through fraud and manipulation, inflicting serious damage on industries, trade, and national income. The prime minister also stressed that real tax reforms send a message to investors and the international community that Baghdad is serious about creating a good environment for business. 

Sources cited in this section include: Iraq’s Oil Ministry, ISHM archive, Ultra Iraq, INA, Shafaq, Iraqi PM’s office, NINA, NRT. 


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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