ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: December 28, 2023 – January 4, 2024

ISHM LOGO

Key Takeaways:

  • Final Election Results Released; Sudani Confirms More Directors General; Kurdistan Parliamentary Elections Delayed Again; Winners At Risk Of Being Sidelined – On December 28, Iraq’s Electoral Commission (IHEC) posted the final results of the December 18 provincial council elections. The final seat allocation showed only small changes in several provinces from the initial results released on December 19. On January 2, PM Sudani’s government issued orders to confirm 99 senior officials at the Director General level in their positions in accordance with Civil Service Law (24) of 1960, a government statement said. This is the second batch of confirmations in the last few weeks that appear to bypass parliament. On January 3, IHEC informed the KRG that it will not be able to organize the Kurdistan parliamentary election on February 25 as previously planned. IHEC, which cited financial orders issued by the Finance Ministry as the main obstacle, asked the KRG to select another date for the overdue polls. On January 3, a senior member of the Tasmim party, led by Basra governor Asaad al-Idani, criticized what he described as an “undemocratic” plan hatched by the Coordination Framework at a meeting on Tuesday to replace all incumbent governors irrespective of election results. In other developments, On January 2, PM Sudani said that his government has set a firm deadline to shut down all remaining IDP camps and complete the voluntary return of all IDPs by June 30. more…
  • Drone Attack Raises Tension With Erbil; U.S. Strike Kills Senior Al-Nujaba Militia Commander – Between December 29 – January 3, Iran-backed Iraqi militias launched several new rocket and drone attacks on bases hosting U.S. forces in Anbar, Erbil, and in Syria. The KRG said one of the attacks by “outlaw militias” hit a Peshmerga base in the Pirmam region of Erbil, not far from the headquarters of KDP leader Masoud Barzani, on December 30. Kurdish officials held the federal government responsible for the “cowardly act” that employed “the funds and weapons of the state to target Kurdistan.” adding that it represented provocation and a dangerous precedent. On January 4, a U.S. military airstrike targeted the vehicle of a senior commander in al-Nujaba militia near the Iraqi police college in eastern Baghdad. The airstrike killed three people and injured six others. One of those killed was Mushtaq Talib al-Si’eedi (aka Abu Taqwa), a senior commander in al-Nujaba, a group blamed for many of the recent drone and rocket attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria. A U.S. military spokesman acknowledged that the strike was in response to attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria. Iraqi officials were quick to condemn the airstrike, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs calling it an act of “flagrant aggression against a security unit that answers to the commander in chief.” Meanwhile, a military spokesman for PM Sudani said the strike was “unjustified” and “no different from acts of terrorism,” warning that it “undermines all understandings” between the Iraqi military and the U.S.-led International Coalition. more…
  • PetroChina Takes Over From ExxonMobil As West Qurna-1 Operator; Oil Revenue Down In December – On January 1, PetroChina officially became the operator of the West Qurna-1 oil field in Basra, which produces an average of 550,000 bpd, replacing former operator ExxonMobil. On January 3, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that December crude oil exports averaged 3.486 million bpd and generated $8.31 billion in revenue, a drop of about $200 million from November. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of approximately $76.96 per barrel, about $5.70 below the previous month’s average. The vast majority of the December exports were shipped from fields in southern and central Iraq through the ports of Basra, while exports from northern fields in Kirkuk and the Kurdistan region remained suspended. In other developments, on January 4, Lebanon’s Energy Minister said his country reached a preliminary deal with Iraq to purchase 14 million barrels of oil, valued at $1.2 billion, on favorable financial terms, including deferred payment for six months and zero interest 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.


Final Election Results Released; Sudani Confirms More Directors General; Kurdistan Parliamentary Elections Delayed Again; Winners At Risk Of Being Sidelined

On December 28, Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) published the final results of the provincial council elections held on December 18. The final seat allocation among winners showed slight changes in several provinces from the initial results released on December 19. The following list shows the final distribution of seats among parties that won 2 or more seats in each of the 15 provinces where elections were held. 

  • Baghdad: Nabni (9); State of Law (9); Taqaddum (8); National State Forces (5); Siyada (4); Azm (4); al-Hasm al-Watani (3); al-Asas (3); Abshir Ya Iraq (2); Other (5)
  • Kirkuk: PUK (5); Arab bloc (3); Iraqi Turkmen Front (2); KDP (2); al-Qiyada (2); Other (2)
  • Ninewa: Ninewa For Its People (5); KDP (4); al-Aqd al-Watani (3); Siyada (2); Taqaddum (2); al-Hadba (2); Itihad Ahl Ninewa (2); al-Hasm al-Watani (2); al-Hawiyah al-Wataniyah (2); Other (5)
  • Diyala: Diyalatuna (4); Taqaddum (3); Siyada (3); Istihqaq Diyala (2); Other (3)
  • Salah ad-Din: Jamaheer al-Wataniyah (5); Coordination Framework (2); al-Azm al-Madani (2); Taqaddum (2); Siyada (2); al-Hasm al-Watani (2)
  • Dhi-Qar: Nabni (5); Stat of Law (4); National State Forces (2); al-Makina (2); Other (5)
  • Anbar: Taqaddum (6); Anbar Hawiyatuna (3); Qimam (2); Siyada (2); Other (3)
  • Muthanna: Nabni (3); State of Law (3); National State Forces (3); Abshir Ya Iraq (2); Other (1)
  • Karbala: Ibda’ Karbala (7); State of Law (2); Nabni (2); Other (2)
  • Babylon: Nabni (4); State of Law (3); National State Forces (3); Ishraqat Kanoon (2); Tajammo Parlaman al-Shaab (2); Other (4)
  • Wasit: Wasit Ajmal (7); State of Law (2); Nabni (2); National State Forces (2); Other (2)
  • Basra: Tasmim (12); Nabni (5); State of Law (3); Other (3)
  • Najaf: Nabni (3) State of Law (3); al-Wafa movement (2); National State Forces (2); Other (5)
  • Diwaniyah: Nabni (4); State of Law (3); Qiyam (3); National State Forces (2); Other (2)
  • Maysan: Nabni (6); State of Law (3); National State Forces (3); Other (2)

On January 2, Iraq’s Council of Ministers issued orders to confirm 99 senior officials at the Director General level in their positions in accordance with Civil Service Law (24) of 1960, a government statement said. The directors were confirmed after being evaluated based on “mechanisms and standards…approved by the Council of Ministers,” the statement added. This is the second batch of confirmations made by the government of Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani in the last few weeks. On December 20, the government had confirmed an initial group of 41 directors based on the same mechanism. The appointment of director generals and officials in similar coveted positions is a thorny and highly contested issue in Iraq. Many such positions are filled on acting basis as formal confirmations require (per article 61 of the constitution) a vote by parliament, which is often difficult due to entrenched and competing interests. In neither case did the government statements make any mention of a role for parliament in the confirmations. 

On January 2, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani said that his government has set a firm deadline to shut down all remaining camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) across Iraq and complete the voluntary return of all IDPs by June 30 of this year. The announcement comes after the Ministry of Migration and the Displaced had shut down two IDP camps in Sulaymaniyah province: Qoartu in November and Arbat in December. Twenty four IDP camps remain open in Iraq, all of which are located in the Kurdistan region, with the exception of al-Jad’ah in Ninewa province. 

On January 3, Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) informed the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) that it will not be able to organize the Kurdistan parliamentary election on February 25 as previously planned. A spokesman for IHEC explained that the Commission was unable to complete its preparations in the available time because of an ongoing lawsuit filed before the Federal Supreme Court against the region’s electoral law. The Court is scheduled to look into the case on January 21, just a month before the previously set election day. However, a copy of an official letter from IHEC to the KRG cited financial orders issued by the Finance Ministry on December 28 as the main obstacle, and did not mention the lawsuit. In the letter, IHEC asked the KRG to coordinate with it for the selection of another date for the overdue election. Last summer, IHEC had informed the KRG that it was ready to organize a regional parliamentary election on or after February 18, 2024. The move came after the KRG officially asked IHEC to oversee the regional parliamentary elections of Kurdistan, originally scheduled for November of 2023 but delayed due to IHEC’s preoccupation with the December provincial council elections. 

On January 3, a senior member of the Tasmim party (led by Basra governor Asaad al-Idani) criticized what he described as an “undemocratic” plan by the Coordination Framework to replace all incumbent governors irrespective of election results. The Tasmim member and Basra lawmaker, Amir al-Faez, said the Coordination Framework leaders made their decisions after a meeting that took place Tuesday evening, adding that it was supported by the majority and not unanimous. Faez, whose Tasmim party is also loosely part of the Coordination Framework, stressed that the Framework has no right to replace governors who have won a majority of votes in the provincial council (Idani’s party won 12 of 23 seats in Basra) calling the plan an attempt to “erase the will of the people with a political decision.”

On January 4, the chairman of the Popular Mobilization Committee paid a visit to Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani at his headquarters in the Salah ad-Din resort near Erbil, Kurdistan24 reported. During the visit, which appears to be an attempt to reduce tensions between Baghdad and Erbil, the two sides reportedly condemned the December 30 drone attack on a nearby Peshmerga base, which was strongly condemned by Kurdish leaders as a dangerous escalation by militias. (more on the attack below).

Sources cited in this section include: IHEC, ISHM archive, INA, Kurdistan24, Rudaw, PUKMedia, Shafaq.


Drone Attack Raises Tension With Erbil; U.S. Strike Kills Senior Al-Nujaba Militia Commander

On December 28, local sources in Sinjar said that an armed Turkish drone fired on a group of laborers digging a water well near the Khanasur subdistrict. The airstrike killed five people and injured two others, according to the local administration in Khanasur. 

On December 30, Ninewa police said that unidentified gunmen using silenced guns shot and killed a fighter in the Tribal Mobilization Forces in an attack in the Bashiqa subdistrict, north of Mosul. 

On December 31, local sources in Basra said that two people were injured in an explosion of unknown nature that occurred inside a building in al-Ashar neighborhood of central Basra. 

On December 29, Iran-backed Iraqi militias operating under the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” banner said they launched new attacks with an unspecified number of explosive drones against the Hareer base near Erbil, which hosts U.S. military personnel. Two days later, on December 31, the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) said that “outlaw militias” attacked a Peshmerga base in the Pirmam region of Erbil with two explosive drones. In a statement, the KRG held the federal government responsible for the “cowardly act” adding that it represented a dangerous precedent and a provocation. KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani strongly condemned that attack, which targeted an area that also hosts the headquarters of KDP leader Masoud Barzani, urging the Baghdad government to take action to prevent further attacks that “employ the funds and weapons of the state to target Kurdistan.” In response, Prime Minister Sudani ordered an investigation into the attack. On January 1, Iraqi security sources said that a drone that was targeting Ain al-Asad base that hosts U.S. military personnel in Anbar province was shot down before it could reach its target. On January 2, the militias claimed responsibility for four attacks with explosive drones and rockets against three bases in Syria (al-Shaddadi, al-Malikiyah, and al-Rmeilan twice) that host U.S. military personnel. On the same day, security sources in the Kurdistan region said a drone that was targeting a base that hosts U.S. military personnel near Erbil was shot down before it could reach its target. Finally, on January 3, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” claimed responsibility for two additional attacks with explosive drones that targeted al-Tanf base in eastern Syria. There were no reports of casualties associated with any of the attacks.

On January 2, the Iraqi military said that an army officer and a fighter from the Tribal Mobilization Forces were killed when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in the Tharthar desert between Salah ad-Din and Ninewa provinces. To the south, in the Tarmiyah district, security sources said that another “powerful” IED explosion struck an army vehicle and injured four soldiers who were inside it. 

On January 4, the U.S. military conducted an airstrike that targeted the vehicle of a senior commander in al-Nujaba militia at a facility used by the militia near the Iraqi police college in eastern Baghdad. Iraqi security and medical sources said the airstrike killed three people and injured six others. One of those killed was Mushtaq Talib al-Si’eedi (aka Abu Taqwa), a senior commander in al-Nujaba, a group blamed for many of the recent drone and rocket attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria. Si’eedi was also the deputy chief of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) operations in the Baghdad Belts region. A U.S. military spokesman acknowledged that the strike was in response to attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria. Iraqi officials were quick to condemn the airstrike, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs calling it an act of “flagrant aggression against a security unit that answers to the commander in chief.” The Ministry added that the strike represented a “dangerous escalation” and that Iraq “reserves the right to respond decisively.” Meanwhile, a military spokesman for Prime Minister Sudani said the strike was “unjustified” and “no different from acts of terrorism,” warning that it “undermines all understandings” between the Iraqi military and the U.S.-led International Coalition. The deadly airstrike was also strongly condemned by various political leaders, especially from the Coordination Framework, who reiterated the call to end U.S. presence in the country.

Sources cited in this section include: Rudaw, NINA, al-Sumaria, Reuters, INA, Shafaq, al-Hurra, Ultra Iraq.


PetroChina Takes Over From ExxonMobil As West Qurna-1 Operator; Oil Revenue Down In December

On January 1, PetroChina officially became the operator of the West Qurna-1 oil field in Basra, replacing former operator ExxonMobil, which had reached an agreement in November to exit the giant field, a statement by Iraq’s Oil Ministry said. The field produces an average of 550,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil. 

On January 3, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports during December totaled more than 108.05 million barrels, for an average of 3.486 million barrels per day (bpd), which is about 53,000 bpd higher than exports in November. The December exports generated $8.31 billion in revenue, a drop of about $200 million from the $8.51 billion achieved in November. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of approximately $76.96 per barrel, about $5.70 below the previous month’s average of $82.66 per barrel. The vast majority of the December exports were shipped from fields in southern and central Iraq through the ports of Basra, while small amounts averaging almost 15,000 bpd bpd were exported to Jordan by trucks. 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. During the first quarter of 2024, Iraq is expected to reduce its oil output by 220,000 bpd, according to an announcement made by the Ministry of Oil in November. The reduction, the Ministry noted, will be in addition to the existing output cut of 211,000 bpd that was announced in April 2023.

On January 4, Lebanon’s Energy Minister Walid Fayadh said his country reached a preliminary deal with Iraq to purchase 14 million barrels of crude oil, valued at $1.2 billion, on favorable financial terms. According to the Minister, Iraq has agreed that payment would be deferred for six months and to charge no interest on the balance. Last summer, Iraq and Lebanon had also signed a deal under which Iraq was to provide energy-strapped Lebanon with  2 million tons of crude oil per year.

Sources cited in this section include: Iraq’s Oil Ministry, NINA, ISHM archive. 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs and ERWs from December 28, 2023 - January 4, 2024

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
1/2/24 Tharthar desert between Salah ad-Din and Ninewa provinces20
1/2/24 Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad04

 

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.


Subscribe to our weekly ISHM and have the latest developments in Iraq sent straight to your inbox every Thursday and follow EPIC on Twitter to receive updates throughout the week.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email