ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: March 14 – 21, 2024

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Key Takeaways:

  • Salah Ad-Din Elects New Governor; KDP To Boycott The Kurdistan Region’s Parliamentary Election – On March 17, the provincial council of Salah ad-Din province voted to elect Badr al-Fahal as governor, replacing former governor-elect Ahmed al-Jubouri, who stepped down on February 25 after his confirmation was blocked by President Abdul-Latif Rashid due to prior criminal record. On March 18, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) said it will not participate in the Kurdistan region’s next parliamentary election, scheduled for June 10. The KDP said its decision was in response to the “unconstitutional” interference in Kurdistan’s electoral system by Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court, which had ruled on February 21 to reduce the regional parliament from 111 to 100 representatives by eliminating the minority quota seats and divided the region into four electoral districts. The KDP argued that the Court violated several articles of the constitution regarding separation of powers and the independence of the regional parliament. The party declared that it therefore decided against participating in an election that will take place “under an imposed electoral system.” KDP leader Masoud Barzani attempted to frame his party’s position differently during a March 20 conversation with U.S. ambassador Alina Romanowski. Barzani said that the KDP “has not boycotted the election,” and that it “supports free, fair, transparent, and credible elections that are free from foreign interference…and violations of the [Kurdistan] region’s laws.” In other developments, on March 21, PM Sudani traveled to Erbil for talks with KRG PM Masrour Barzani. Meanwhile, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein is in Washington for talks with U.S. officials. more…
  • Iraq Bans The PKK Amid New Security Talks With Turkey – On March 14, Iraq and Turkey issued a joint statement after holding talks in Baghdad involving their foreign and defense ministers, intelligence chiefs, and other key security officials. Notably, the statement said both sides had “stressed that the [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK organization represents a security threat to both Turkey and Iraq” and that its presence in Iraq “represents a violation of the Iraqi constitution.” It added that Turkey “welcomed the decision by Iraq’s National Security Council to consider the PKK a banned organization.” It also said that delegations had “consulted on the measures that must be taken against the organization.” In this regard, Turkish officials proposed the creation of a joint operations center to coordinate anti-PKK operations. In other developments, on March 20, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” a front group for Iran-backed Iraqi militias, claimed that it conducted a new attack with explosive drones against the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. There was no confirmation of an actual attack hitting the airport. more…
  • Heavy Rain And Floods Leave 3 Dead In Duhok; Iraq Ends UNITAD Mission – On March 19, heavy rainfall caused flooding across several provinces in northern and southern Iraq. The floods and torrents caused the most destruction and losses in Duhok, where at least three people were killed, and authorities evacuated more than 500 people stranded by water. Heavy flooding also destroyed or damaged more than 500 homes. Floods were also heavy in Erbil and Ninewa, making roads impassable and forcing authorities to close government offices and tell residents to stay at home. The heavy rain also flooded roads in Baghdad and as far south as Basra. On March 20, the head of the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes committed by ISIS (UNITAD), said that his team was being forced to end its mission in the country before it could achieve its objectives. On Wednesday, the UNITAD chief met with the head of Iraq’s judiciary, Faeq Zaidan, who declared that UNITAD’s time in Iraq was over. “In our view, the mission has ended, and we appreciate the work that has been done and it’s time to move on,” an adviser to PM Sudani told Reuters. But the head of UNITAD emphasized that the mission required more time and “will not achieve a completion of all investigative lines.” Last September, amid tensions between Baghdad and UNITAD, the UN Security Council voted to extend UNITAD’s mandate for 12 months ending in September 2024. more…
  • Oil Ministry To Cut Exports After Exceeding Limits; Iraq Looks To IAEA To Support Peaceful Nuclear Program; Siemens To Help Iraq Use Flared Gas For Power Generation – On March 18, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said it will reduce oil exports to an average of 3.3 million bpd over the next several months to compensate for exceeding its output quota during January and February, when it exported 3.338 million bpd and 3.434 million bpd, respectively. On March 18, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, met in Baghdad with PM Sudani and discussed Iraq’s ambitions to develop a peaceful nuclear program. Grossi said that an Iraqi delegation would visit IAEA’s headquarters in Vienna in a few days to “set out a road map for the Iraqi peaceful nuclear program.” On March 20, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity signed a deal with Siemens to utilize natural gas that is currently being flared as fuel for power generation at a 2,000-megawatt power plant. The agreement involves using 120 million cubic feet per day within six months and an additional 120 million cubic feet per day within 12 months. In other developments, on March 14, the U.S. Department of State approved a new 120-day sanctions waiver that allows Iraq to pay for electricity imported from Iran. 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.


Salah Ad-Din Elects New Governor; KDP To Boycott The Kurdistan Region’s Parliamentary Election

On March 17, the provincial council of Salah ad-Din province voted to elect Badr al-Fahal as the new governor. Fahal replaces former governor-elect Ahmed al-Jubouri, who had decided on February 25 to step down and nominate a replacement from his own party. Jubouri’s confirmation was initially blocked by President Abdul-Latif Rashid because of prior convictions for larceny and corruption. Fahal, a former member of parliament, won the election with 13 votes out of 18 council members present at the session. Diyala and Kirkuk are the only two remaining provinces that have not elected new governors following the December provincial councils elections. 

On March 18, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) announced that it will not participate in the next parliamentary elections in the Kurdistan region, scheduled for June 10. In a long statement, the KDP explained that it made its decision in response to the “unconstitutional” interference in Kurdistan’s electoral system by Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court, which had ruled on February 21 to reduce the regional parliament from 111 to 100 representatives by eliminating the minority quota seats, and divided the region into four electoral districts. The KDP statement argued that the Court violated articles 116 and 117 of the constitution regarding the independence of the regional parliament. It also argued that eliminating the minority quota seats violates article 125 of the constitution and the federal election law. The KDP also complained that the Court has taken on the role of the legislative branch and violated the separation of powers by denying the regional judiciary the right to adjudicate electoral appeals. Furthermore, the KDP accused the Court of wrongfully denying 400,000 eligible voters their right to representation by rejecting their biometric records. The statement concluded by saying that the party refuses to legitimize “an unconstitutional and undemocratic election” and therefore decided against participating in an election that will take place “under an imposed electoral system.” But KDP leader Masoud Barzani attempted to frame his party’s position differently during a March 20 conversation with U.S. ambassador Alina Romanowski. Barzani said that the KDP “has not boycotted the election,” and that it “supports free, fair, transparent, and credible elections that are free from foreign interference…and violations of the [Kurdistan] region’s laws.” Barzani added that the KDP was “not afraid of the electoral process” but has its reservations about the methods being used. Meanwhile, the KDP’s main rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) insisted that elections must take place as scheduled and cannot be delayed under any circumstances. 

On March 18, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Economy, Mikayil Jabbarov, visited Baghdad for talks with Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani that focused on trade and potential investments by Azerbaijani companies in Iraq’s oil industry, a statement by Sudani’s office said. During the talks, Jabbarov also extended a formal invitation for Sudani to visit Azerbaijan.  

On March 19, news reports said that authorities in Sweden arrested former Iraqi Defense Minister Najah al-Shamari at Stockholm’s airport on charges of committing fraud to obtain social security benefits. Shamari, who was a member of Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s short-lived cabinet (2018-2020) is a dual citizen of Iraq and Sweden, where authorities say he continued to collect social benefits despite having returned to live in Iraq. 

On March 21, Rudaw reported that Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani and a delegation of government officials will visit Erbil today. Sudani’s visit, which coincides with the Newroz holiday, is expected to begin with an Iftar meal followed by talks with Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdistan region. 

On March 21, Rudaw reported that Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein began a multi-day visit to Washington, where he is expected to have talks and meetings with senior American officials. There were no additional details available as of writing.

Sources cited in this section include: al-Sumaria, ISHM archive, Ultra Iraq, Rudaw, Kurdistan24, PUKMedia, INA, Shafaq.


Iraq Bans The PKK Amid New Security Talks With Turkey

On March 14, Iraq and Turkey issued a joint statement after holding talks in Baghdad involving their foreign and defense ministers, intelligence chiefs, and other key security officials. Notably, the statement said both sides had “stressed that the [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK organization represents a security threat to both Turkey and Iraq” and that its presence in Iraq “represents a violation of the Iraqi constitution.” It added that Turkey “welcomed the decision by Iraq’s National Security Council to consider the PKK a banned organization.” It also said that delegations had “consulted on the measures that must be taken against the organization.” In this regard, Turkish officials proposed the creation of a joint operations center to coordinate anti-PKK operations. The two sides agreed to develop a memorandum of understanding to provide a strategic framework for their relations with regular communication mechanisms and permanent joint committees dealing with counterterrorism, water, trade, energy, health, transportation, and agriculture, the joint statement said.

On March 14, security sources in Anbar province said that an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated while Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) troops were conducting search operations in the Wadi Tharthar region of the province. The explosion struck a CTS vehicle, injuring an officer and two soldiers. 

On March 17, security sources in Basra said that an IED was discovered placed in front of the political office of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia in the Manawi Pasha neighborhood of Basra. The report suggests the IED was removed without incident. The finding coincided with a drive-by shooting that targeted the headquarters of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in central Basra that did not result in casualties. 

On March 17, security sources in Kirkuk said that an explosive remnant of war detonated while soldiers from the Iraqi army’s 11th division were setting up their unit’s new headquarters in al-Rashad subdistrict. The explosion caused injuries among two of the soldiers. 

On March 20, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” a front group for Iran-backed Iraqi militias, claimed in a statement that it conducted a new attack with explosive drones that targeted the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. There were no reports of an actual attack hitting the airport, which is the second to be claimed by the militias this month.

Sources cited in this section include: INA, ISHM archive, Reuters, Shafaq, NINA.  


Headline 3Heavy Rain And Floods Leave 3 Dead In Duhok; Iraq Ends UNITAD Mission

On March 19, heavy rainfall over Iraq caused flooding across several provinces in northern and southern Iraq. The floods and torrents caused the most destruction and losses in Duhok, where at least three people were killed and authorities evacuated more than 500 people who were stranded by the water. The heavy flooding also destroyed or damaged more than 500 homes, with water in some areas reaching rooftop levels, and damaged at least 25 main roads. Floods were also heavy in Erbil and Ninewa, making roads impassable and forcing authorities to close government offices and tell residents to stay at home. The heavy rain also flooded main roads in the capital, Baghdad, and as far south as the southern city of Basra

On March 20, the head of the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD), said that his team was being forced to end its mission in the country before it could achieve its objectives. On Wednesday, the UNITAD chief met with the head of Iraq’s judiciary, Faeq Zaidan, who declared that UNITAD’s time in Iraq was over. “In our view, the mission has ended and we appreciate the work that has been done and it’s time to move on,” a foreign affairs adviser to the Iraqi prime minister told Reuters, noting the mission “didn’t respond to repeated requests for sharing evidence” and must now do so before it ends. But the head of UNITAD Christian Ritscher disagrees with Baghdad’s take. “Is the work done? Not yet, this is pretty clear,” he told Reuters in an interview. He emphasized that the mission required more time and “will not achieve a completion of all investigative lines.” The same, Ritscher added, applies to other tasks, including properly archiving all pieces of collected evidence, numbering in the millions. Last September, the UN Security Council voted to extend UNITAD’s mandate for only one more year. The resolution mentioned that the Baghdad government had asked that UNITAD investigators hand over the evidence to the Iraqi authorities so they could pursue ISIS members who committed crimes and those who assisted and financed them. Since then, rights groups and members of the Yazidi community have raised concerns about the upcoming termination of UNITAD’s work in Iraq and what it means for their aspirations for justice and accountability. Iraqi authorities have apparently expressed frustration with UNITAD for refusing to share evidence gathered by the team, which in turn was worried that convictions by Iraqi courts could lead to the death penalty, which the UN opposes.

Sources cited in this section include: IFRC, Rudaw, Mawazin, Kurdistan24, al-Mirbad, al-Sumaria, Reuters, ISHM archive, INA, al-Hurra, Amwaj Media.


Oil Ministry To Cut Exports After Exceeding Limits; Iraq Looks To IAEA To Support Peaceful Nuclear Program; Siemens To Help Iraq Use Flared Gas For Power Generation

On March 14, the U.S. Department of State approved a new sanctions waiver that allows the Iraqi government to pay for electricity imported from Iran, a State Department spokesperson told reporters. U.S. officials stress that Iranian funds released from frozen assets in Iraqi banks, estimated at $10 billion, could only be used to pay for humanitarian goods and other transactions not prohibited by sanctions. The new waiver, which lasts for a period of 120 days, is the 22nd of its kind to be issued by Washington and is meant to give Iraq’s government enough room to implement its ambitious energy independence plans. 

On March 18, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that it will reduce oil exports to an average of 3.3 million barrels per day (bpd) over the next several months to compensate for exceeding its output quota during January and February. The planned reduction is meant to affirm Iraq’s “support for the initiatives by members of OPEC+ to sustain stability and balance in the oil market,” the Ministry added. Iraq had exported 3.338 million bpd in January and 3.434 million bpd in February, Ministry data shows. Iraq reportedly produced 4.2 million bpd in February, which was higher than the 4 million bpd limit set by the voluntary cuts policy Iraq had agreed to. 

On March 18, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, met in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani and discussed Iraq’s ambitions to develop a peaceful nuclear program, a statement by Sudani’s office said. For his part, Grossi said that an Iraqi delegation would visit IAEA’s headquarters in Vienna in a few days to hold talks to “set out a road map for the Iraqi peaceful nuclear program.” Grossi also had talks with Iraq’s Higher Education Minister, Naim al-Aboudi, who said that Iraq wants to work with IAEA towards building a peaceful nuclear reactor to generate electricity.

On March 20, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity signed a deal with Germany’s Siemens to utilize natural gas that is currently being flared as fuel for power generation at a 2,000 megawatt power plant. The agreement involves using 120 million cubic feet per day within six months and an additional 120 million cubic feet per day within 12 months, a statement by the Electricity Ministry said. 

On March 20, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said it finished repairing and reconnecting a 13-kilometer-long gas pipeline between the East Baghdad oil field and the Taji power plant. When operational, the 12 inch pipeline will deliver natural gas that is currently being flared to the power plant, reducing flaring and reliance on heavier fuels.The Ministry added that this pipeline project was the first in Iraq to be financed through carbon credits. In November, the Iraqi government said it decided to establish a state-owned company to manage trade in carbon credits. A senior advisor to Sudani said that establishing the company would allow Iraq to sell carbon credits resulting from carbon emission-reducing activities, such as clean gas and solar projects, to countries that are unable to directly reduce their emissions in line with their established commitments. 

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


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs and ERWs from March 14, 2024 - March 21, 2024

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
3/14/24 Wadi Tharthar, Anbar province03
3/17/24 Al-Rashad, Kirkuk province02

 

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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