ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: January 11 – 18, 2024

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Key Takeaways:

  • Parliament Fails To Elect A New Speaker; Sudani Discusses Future Security Cooperation With NATO, Revives Plans To Visit Washington – On January 14 Iraq’s parliament failed to elect a new speaker to replace Mohammed al-Halbousi, whose tenure was ended by Iraq’s top court last November. The inconclusive vote may indicate that factions comprising the Coordination Framework were unable to unite behind one candidate. Of the 314 lawmakers present, 152 gave their votes to Shalan al-Karim, backed by the ousted Halbousi, the KDP, Ammar al-Hakim, Haider al-Abadi, and independent lawmakers. The second vote getter was Salim al-Issawi, backed by Khamis al-Khanjar and some factions from the Coordination Framework, who received 97 votes. Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, backed by Muthanna al-Samarraie (and reportedly by Nouri al-Maliki and Qais al-Khazali) came in third with 48 votes. Parliament adjourned the session without setting a new date for resuming the process. On January 17, PM Sudani met in Davos with NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, and discussed the future of cooperation between Iraq and NATO, and Iraq’s plans to end the presence of U.S.-led Coalition forces. Sudani stressed that Iraq “does not mind” cooperation with the individual member states of the International Coalition with regard to equipping and training its security forces “within the framework of bilateral relations” with those states. Sudani also had talks with Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s National Security Advisor, during which they agreed to set a specific date for a previously announced plan for a visit by Sudani to Washington. In other developments, on January 17, KRG PM Masrour Barzani canceled a meeting with Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, to protest Iran’s ballistic missile attack on Erbil earlier this week. Abdollahian has defended Tehran’s actions, saying that Iran had reliable intelligence about Israeli Mossad agents operating from the targeted sites. He further argued that Iran’s actions were justified within the framework of a border security agreement signed with Iraq last year. more…
  • Iran Fires Ballistic Missiles At Erbil Targeting Alleged Mossad Operations – On January 16, Iran’s military fired 11 ballistic missiles at civilian targets in Erbil, killing at least four people, including two prominent businessmen and a child, and wounding several. KRG PM Masrour Barzani called the strike a “crime against the Kurdish people,” and urged the Baghdad government to take serious action to protect the region, saying that such aggression must not go without a response. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran (IRGC) claimed that its missiles targeted spying facilities run by the Israeli Mossad, adding that it also fired additional missiles at groups linked to ISIS in Syria’s Idlib province. Iraq’s National Security Adviser, Qassim al-Aaraji, said that Iran’s claims were “baseless.” Iraqi PM Mohammed al-Sudani said the attack “undermines the strong relations between Iraq and Iran.” Meanwhile, Iraq’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said it recalled Baghdad’s ambassador from Tehran and summoned the Iran’s charge d’affaires to deliver a letter of protest. Iraq also sent a formal complaint to the UN Security Council. In other developments, between January 11 – 16, Iran-backed Iraqi militias launched at least six new attacks on U.S.-led International Coalition forces in Iraq and Syria using rockets and explosive drones. Most of the latter were shot down and there were no reports of casualties. The militias also claimed another cruise missile attack on central Israel, without providing specifics. On January 13, Turkish airstrikes hit multiple PKK targets in the Kurdistan region, reportedly killing 36 PKK fighters, after the group killed nine Turkish soldiers inside Iraq. On January 14, ISIS militants killed three Iraqi soldiers in an attack on their checkpoint in Anbar province. more…
  • Iran Cuts Gas Supplies To Iraq; Erbil To Receive Regular Monthly Payments In Accordance With Federal Budget Provisions – On January 12, Iraq’s Electricity Ministry said that Iranian gas supplies to power plants in central and southern Iraq dropped by more than 75% to just 10 million cubic feet per day, causing the country’s grid to lose more than 4,000 megawatts. On January 14, Iraq’s Council of Ministers said the federal government will start making monthly budget payments to the KRG based on actual expenditures as determined under the Iraqi budget law. The new mechanism replaces the monthly loans that the KRG has been receiving from Iraqi state-owned banks since last fall to cover the salaries of civil servants in the Kurdistan region. The move comes after KRG PM Masrour Barzani made a new diplomatic push in Baghdad to secure the financial interests of his government, during which had talks with PM Sudani and several key political leaders, including Nouri al-Maliki. In other developments, on January 18, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said that the Director General of the state-owned Iraqi Cement Company was arrested on charges of soliciting $500,000 in bribes from investors in exchange for awarding a contract for the overhaul and development of the Badush Cement Factory in Ninewa province. 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.


Parliament Fails To Elect A New Speaker; Sudani Discusses Future Security Cooperation With NATO, Revives Plans To Visit Washington

On January 14 Iraq’s parliament met to elect a new speaker to replace Mohammed al-Halbousi, whose tenure was ended by a Federal Supreme Court ruling last November. The vote was inconclusive as none of the candidates succeeded in winning a majority of votes. The results may indicate that factions comprising the Coordination Framework were unable to unite behind one candidate. Of the 314 lawmakers present, 152 gave their votes to Shalan al-Karim, who is backed by the ousted Halbousi, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Ammar al-Hakim, Haider al-Abadi, and independent lawmakers. The second vote getter was Salim al-Issawi, backed by Khamis al-Khanjar and some factions from the Coordination Framework, who received 97 votes. Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, who is backed by Muthanna al-Samarraie (and reportedly by Nouri al-Maliki and Qais al-Khazali) came in third with 48 votes. Parliament adjourned the session following the inconclusive vote, without setting a new date for resuming the process. Meanwhile, two members of parliament from the Coordination Framework filed a lawsuit against Shalan al-Karim accusing him of having links to the banned Ba’ath Party and asking the Federal Supreme Court to bar him from office. 

On January 15, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani met with the Dutch ambassador to Iraq, who delivered a formal invitation for Sudani from the Dutch prime minister to visit the Netherlands, a statement by Sudani’s office said. The two sides also discussed bilateral cooperation with regard to establishing a joint council on water management, as well as the Netherlands’ upcoming role as leader of the NATO mission in Iraq, starting in May of this year, the statement added.

On January 16, the President of Estonia, Alar Karis, arrived in Baghdad on an official visit, where he was met by his Iraqi counterpart, Abdul-Latif Rashid. Speaking at a joint press conference, Karis said that his talks in Baghdad focused on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and efforts to end the fighting there, as well as the Russian war on Ukraine and the need to end that conflict too. Meanwhile, Rashid said that he expressed Iraq’s appreciation for the role of Estonian military advisors working in Iraq as part of the International Coalition, as well as the country’s interest in having Estonian companies do business in Iraq. On the following day, Karis went to Erbil, where he met with Nechirvan Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan regional government (KRG). No further information about the meeting was made available. 

On January 16, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani met Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s National Security Advisor, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. A statement by Sudani’s office said the two sides discussed convening a bilateral committee tasked with reviewing the mission of the International Coalition in Iraq with the purpose of discussing a timeline to end the presence of U.S.-led International Coalition forces and “transition towards comprehensive bilateral relations with Coalition member states.” The two sides also discussed a visit by Sudani to the United States and agreed to set a specific date for the visit, the statement added. 

On January 17, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani met with NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. A statement by Sudani’s office said the two sides discussed the future of cooperation between Iraq and NATO and Iraq’s plans to end the presence of U.S.-led International Coalition forces. The statement added that Sudani stressed that Iraq “does not mind” cooperation with the individual member states of the International Coalition with regard to equipping and training its security forces “within the framework of bilateral relations” between Iraq and those states. While in Davos, Sudani also had meetings with other world leaders and heads of international bodies, including French President Emmanuel Macron, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Swiss Confederation President Viola Amhrd, IMF President Kristalina Georgieva, and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

On January 17, Reuters reported that KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani canceled a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian to protest the ballistic missile attack that Iran had launched against Erbil earlier this week (more details below). Barzani was supposed to meet Abdollahian in Davos, where they were attending the meetings of the World Economic Forum. Iran’s top diplomat has defended Tehran’s actions, saying from Davos that Iran had reliab;e intelligence about Israeli Mossad agents operating from the sites target in the Iranian strikes. Abdollahian further argued that Baghdad and Erbil are obligated to secure the borders in accordance with a border security agreement signed last year, adding that Iran’s actions were justified within the framework of that agreement.   

On January 17, the Arab League convened an emergency meeting of its members to discuss the repercussions of the ballistic missile attack that Iran had launched against Erbil earlier this week. At the meeting, the Secretary General of the Arab League issued a statement strongly condemning the Iranian attack on Erbil as a “flagrant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty” that raises the risk of “expanding the zone of war in the region,” and warned that Iraq must not become a place for settling scores. The Secretary General also stressed “complete solidarity” with Baghdad “in any measures it takes to defend the country’s sovereignty and security.”

Sources cited in this section include: INA, ISHM archive, NINA, al-Sumaria, Shafaq, Iraqi PM’s office, Iraqi president’s office, Rudaw, Reuters, Kurdistan24, Mawazin, Ultra Iraq, the Arab League. 


Iran Fires Ballistic Missiles At Erbil Targeting Alleged Mossad Operations

On January 11, security sources in the Kurdistan region said that an attack with an explosive drone targeted the Harrer base near Erbil, which hosts U.S. military personnel. The sources said the drone, “launched by outlaw militias,” was shot down before they could reach their target. On the following day, Iraqi security sources said that a similar attack targeted the Ain al-Asad base, which also hosts U.S. military personnel, in Anbar province. The drone was also shot down before it could reach the base. Then on January 14, Iran-backed Iraqi militias claimed new attacks with drones and rockets against U.S. forces in two bases in Syria, and an additional attack on the Hareer base. On Tuesday, hours after Iranian ballistic missiles struck Erbil, security sources in the Kurdistan region said that three additional explosive drones targeted U.S. forces near Erbil’s airport but were intercepted and shot down. The militias also claimed to have launched another cruise missile to strike targets in central Israel, without mentioning the exact date or location of the strike. Meanwhile, Iraqi security sources said that an explosive drone crashed without detonating near al-Alam district of Salah ad-Din province. It is unclear where the drone originated from or where it was headed before crashing. 

On January 12, Iranian officials in the border town of Mehran said that one Afghan migrant was killed and four others were injured when they triggered a landmine explosion while illegally crossing into Iraq. The explosion of the legacy landmine occurred two miles inside Iraqi territory 

On January 13, security sources in the Sinjar district said that an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in a marketplace in the al-Yarmouk neighborhood of Sinjar. The explosion damaged a number of shops but there were no reports of casualties.

On January 13, Turkish military aircraft struck multiple targets belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Qandil Mountains and other parts of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, reportedly killing 36 PKK fighters. The latest wave of Turkish airstrikes, which also hit targets in Syria, comes a day after PKK militants attacked a Turkish base inside Iraq, killing nine Turkish military personnel. In televised remarks on January 16, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country’s military struck a total of 114 PKK targets in Syria and Iraq, vowing to continue the military campaign “until every inch of the mountains in northern Iraq that have become the source of terrorist actions … are secured. Erdogan then added that “In the same way, we will not stop until the terror nests in Syria … are completely destroyed.”

On January 14, security sources in Anbar province said that unidentified militants attacked a checkpoint of Iraqi security forces on the road between Baiji and Haditha in the western part of the province. Three Iraqi soldiers were killed in the attack, the sources added. 

On January 16, the Kurdistan region’s security council said that several ballistic missiles fired by Iran’s military struck civilian targets across Erbil just before midnight, killing at least four civilians and wounding several. Those killed included prominent Kurdish businessman Peshrw Dezayee, his daughter and housekeeper, and one of his business associates. Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdistan region, called the strike, which hit a residential area near the U.S. consulate a “crime against the Kurdish people.” Barzani urged the Iraqi government to take serious action to protect the region, saying that such aggression must not go without a response. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran (IRGC) claimed that its missiles had targeted spying facilities affiliated with the Israeli Mossad and groups linked to ISIS that were involved in attacks against Iran. A senior IRGC commander said Iran fired a total of 11 ballistic missiles at Erbil and another 4 missiles at “Daesh terrorists” in Syria’s Idlib province. Iraq’s National Security Adviser, Qassim al-Aaraji said that Iran’s claims of targeting espionage facilities were false, posting after visiting the site of the attacks that he “visited the residence of the businessman targeted last night in Erbil, and it turns out that the allegations about targeting a Mossad base are baseless.” In his first response to the incident, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani called the attack on Erbil “a clear act of aggression” and “a dangerous development that undermines the strong relations between Iraq and Iran.” Sudani added that Baghdad “reserves the right to take all diplomatic and legal measures in accordance with the principle of national sovereignty.” Meanwhile, Iraq’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said it recalled Baghdad’s ambassador from Tehran and summoned the charge d’affaires of Iran’s embassy to deliver a letter of protest. The Ministry also said that Iraq has sent a formal complaint about the latest aggression to the United Nations Security Council. 

On January 18, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said that a joint force of army troops and Tribal Mobilization fighters killed four ISIS militants in an operation in the Jazira region of Anbar province. One of the militants killed in the operation was the top ISIS militant (aka Wali) in the Jazira region, the statement added.  

On January 18, police sources in Kirkuk said that two unidentified gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed a 40 year old woman in the Sarchnar neighborhood of Kirkuk. The victim was identified as a member of the Kurdistan Society Freedom Movement, a political party with links to the PKK.

Sources cited in this section include: Rudaw, Shafaq, al-Sumaria, AP, Kurdsitan24, Reuters, INA, al-Hurra.


Iran Cuts Gas Supplies To Iraq; Erbil To Receive Regular Monthly Payments In Accordance With Federal Budget Provisions

On January 12, Iraq’s Electricity Ministry said that Iranian gas supplies to its power plants dropped by more than 75% to just 10 million cubic feet per day, causing the country’s grid to lose more than 4,000 megawatts. The ministry added in a statement that it will coordinate with the Oil Ministry to operate the affected power plants using alternative fuels to compensate for the loss of gas “due to maintenance works in the Islamic Republic.” 

On January 14, Iraq’s Council of Ministers decided that the federal government will start making monthly budget payments to the KRG based on actual expenditures as determined under the Iraqi budget law. The new mechanism replaces the monthly loans that the KRG has been receiving from Iraqi state-owned banks since last fall to cover the salaries of civil servants in the Kurdistan region. The monthly payments are calculated at IQD 618 billion, the statement by the Iraqi government said, while the monthly loans stood at IQD 700 billion each. The move comes after KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani made a new diplomatic push in Baghdad to secure the financial interests of his government. Barzani had arrived in Baghdad on January 13 and had talks with Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani and several key political leaders, including Nouri al-Maliki. 

On January 18, Iraq’s Integrity Commission said that the Director General of the state-owned Iraqi Cement Company was arrested on charges of soliciting and receiving bribes from investors. According to the Commission, the official demanded a sum of $500,000 from the investor in exchange for awarding a contract for the overhaul and development of the Badush Cement Factory in Ninewa province. Law enforcement ambushed the official during the handover of $200,000, representing the first tranche of the sum.  

Sources cited in this section include: Rudaw, Iraqi PM’s office, ISHM archive, Mawazin. 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs and ERWs from January 11, 2024 - January 18, 2024

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
1/12/24 Near the Iranian border in Wasit province14
1/13/24 Sinjar, Ninewa province00

 

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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