ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: March 21 – 28, 2024

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Key Takeaways:

  • Sudani To Meet President Biden On April 15; Erdogan To Visit Baghdad On April 22 – On March 22, the White House said that Iraqi PM Mohammed al-Sudani is scheduled to meet with President Joe Biden when he visits Washington on April 15. During their talks, Biden and Sudani will discuss the “shared commitment to the lasting defeat of ISIS and evolution of the [U.S.-led Coalition’s] military mission,” as well as “ongoing Iraqi financial reforms to promote economic development and progress towards Iraq’s energy independence,” the White House statement added. Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein was in Washington this week for talks with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other U.S. officials in reparation of Sudani’s visit. The talks focused on the work of the bilateral Higher Military Commission (HMC), budget and oil disputes between Baghdad and Erbil, banking reforms and Iranian deposits in Iraqi banks, and Iraq’s gas projects. On March 25, ISHM learned that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to visit Baghdad on April 22. In other developments, on March 28, Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) extended the deadline for parties in the Kurdistan region to submit their lists of candidates for the regional legislative election, scheduled for June 10, until March 31. The original deadline was set to expire today. The extension comes a week after the KDP announced that it will not participate in the election. more…
  • Court Dismisses Charges Against Officer Convicted Of Analyst Hisham Al-Hashimi’s Assassination- On March 25, Iraqi judicial sources said that an Iraqi court dismissed charges against Ahmed Hamdawi, a former police officer who was sentenced to death in 2021 for the July 2020 assassination of prominent journalist and security analyst Hisham al-Hashimi. The sources explained that the court decided after a retrial to drop the charges for lack of evidence, saying that Hamdawi’s televised confession was inadmissible. In other developments, between March 23 – 28, the explosion of three remnants of war in Kirkuk and Diyala wounded five Iraqis, including two children. On March 24, 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 Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. There were no reports confirming an actual attack hitting the targeted facility. more…
  • Oil Ministry, Companies Exchange Blame For Failure To Restart Kurdistan Exports; Iraq Renews Iranian Gas Import Deal – On March 23, the Association of the Petroleum Industry of Kurdistan (APIKUR) blamed the Iraqi government for the failure to restart export from Kurdistan, halted since March last year when Baghdad won an arbitration case against Turkey for the right to use the Iraq-Turkey export pipeline. APIKUR claimed that despite meetings between the oil companies and federal and regional officials, the Baghdad and Erbil governments have not presented “any proposal…that would lead to a resumption of exports,” adding that this has cost Iraq an estimated $11 billion in lost revenue. APIKUR reiterated its conditions for resuming exporting production, which include “payment surety for past and future oil exports,” and preserving the “current commercial terms and economic model” between the oil companies and the KRG. For its part, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said the oil companies were responsible for the continued suspension of exports by refusing to hand over the oil in accordance with the budget law. The Ministry insisted that that contracts between the companies and the KRG “lack the proper constitutional and legal foundation” and must be revised, adding that production costs and arrears claimed by the oil companies were exaggerated and lacked transparency. On March 27, Iraq’s Minister of Electricity signed a new contract with the Iranian national gas company to import up to 50 million cubic meters of natural gas per day for another five years. 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.


Sudani To Meet President Biden On April 15; Erdogan To Visit Baghdad On April 22

On March 22, the White House Press Secretary said that Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani is scheduled to meet with President Joe Biden when he visits Washington on April 15. During their talks, Biden and Sudani will “reaffirm their commitment to the Strategic Framework Agreement and deepen their shared vision for a secure, sovereign, and prosperous Iraq fully integrated into the broader region,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. The two leaders will also discuss Baghdad and Washington’s “shared commitment to the lasting defeat of ISIS and evolution of the military mission,” as well as “ongoing Iraqi financial reforms to promote economic development and progress towards Iraq’s energy independence,” the statement added.

On March 25, ISHM learned that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to visit Baghdad on April 22. The specific date was mentioned by Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein during a policy event in Washington that was attended by the ISHM team. 

On March 27, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein met in Washington with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken for talks that focused on security cooperation, the work of the bilateral Higher Military Commission (HMC), budget and oil disputes between Baghdad and Erbil, and other bilateral and regional issues, a statement by Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said. During his visit, which comes in preparation of Prime Minister Sudani’s planned Washington visit on April 15, Hussein also met with other U.S. officials, including the Department of the Treasury Department’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, with whom he discussed banking reforms and Iranian deposits in Iraqi banks. Hussein also met with Amos Hochstein, the Special Coordinator for the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, for talks concerning Iraq’s gas projects and halted oil exports from the Kurdistan region through Turkey.

On March 28, Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) decided to extend the deadline for political parties in the Kurdistan region to submit their lists of candidates for the regional legislative election, scheduled for June 10, until the end of day on Sunday, March 31, a spokesperson for the Commission said. The original deadline was set to expire on Thursday, March 28. Last week, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) announced that it will not participate in the next Kurdistan parliamentary elections. 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.

Sources cited in this section include: The White House, INA, ISHM archive, PUKMedia, IHEC.


Court Dismisses Charges Against Officer Convicted Of Analyst Hisham Al-Hashimi’s Assassination

On March 23, medical sources in Kirkuk said that two animal herders were injured when an explosive remnant of war detonated near them while working near the town of al-Bashir, south of Kirkuk. To the south, security sources in Diyala said on March 27 that another remnant of war exploded in the Wadi Tursaq area near the border with Iran in southeastern Diyala, seriously wounding two children. Local sources say the incident involved an old landmine that was exposed by flooding caused by heavy rainfall. On the following day, security sources in Diyala said that another old landmine left over from the Iran-Iraq war exploded on a farm in the Mandili district wounding an animal herder.  

On March 24, security sources in Kirkuk said that unidentified gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on two off-duty Iraqi soldiers near the Daquq district in the southern parts of the province. The targeted individuals sustained multiple bullet wounds.

On March 24, 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 Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. Similar to previous claims of trans-border operations against Israel, there were no reports confirming an actual attack hitting the targeted facility. 

On March 25, Iraqi judicial sources said that an Iraqi court ruled that a former police officer who was previously convicted and sentenced to death for the assassination of prominent journalist and security analyst Hisham al-Hashimi was innocent. The sources explained that the court decided after a retrial to drop the charges against the officer, Ahmed Hamdawi Owayid (also Ahmed Maarij al-Kinani), for lack of evidence. The Court also ruled that Hamdawi’s televised confession was inadmissible and made under duress. In May of 2023, an Iraqi court found Hamdawi guilty of Hashimi’s assassination of and sentenced him to death. He had been arrested in July of 2021 and made a televised confession about his role in the assassination. He was identified as a police officer who worked in the Interior Ministry, and was involved with unnamed “rogue” groups. 

On March 28, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command (JOC) said that Iraqi troops killed a senior ISIS militant during a special operation on the border between Iraq and Syria. The targeted militant, Sameer Khidr al-Nimrawi, was responsible for moving weapons, fighters, and equipment across the Iraqi-Syrian border and was involved in killing civilians in Anbar province, JOC added in a statement. 

Sources cited in this section include: Shafaq, NINA, al-Sumaria, ISHM archive, al-Hurra, Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council, INA.


Oil Ministry, Companies Exchange Blame For Failure To Restart Kurdistan Exports; Iraq Renews Iranian Gas Import Deal

On March 22, Iraq’s Water Resources Ministry said that heavy rainfall over the previous three days, which exceeded 300mm in Duhok and surrounding areas, has assisted in boosting the country’s water reserves in various dams and reservoirs. According to Water Resources Minister Awn Thiab, the current volume of water reserves is four billion cubic meters higher than it was during the same period of 2023. The latest rainfall also caused flooding across the country and forced several provinces to close schools and government offices due to bad road conditions.

On March 23, the Association of the Petroleum Industry of Kurdistan (APIKUR), issued a statement marking the passage of one year since oil exports from the Kurdistan region were halted after Iraq won an arbitration case against Turkey for violating a treaty for the use of the Iraq-Turkey export pipeline by allowing the Kurdistan region to export oil without its consent. The statement blamed the Iraqi government for the failure to restart the export, which it said has cost Iraq an estimated $11 billion in lost revenue. APIKUR added that in the year that passed, and despite meetings between the oil companies and federal and regional officials, the Baghdad and Erbil governments have not presented “any proposal…that would lead to a resumption of exports.” The statement reiterated the group’s conditions for resuming exporting production, which include “payment surety for past and future oil exports,” and preserving the “current commercial terms and economic model” between the oil companies and the Kurdistan regional government (KRG). For its part, Iraq’s Oil Ministry responded by blaming the oil companies for the continued suspension of exports by refusing to hand over the oil they produce in accordance with the budget law. The Ministry insisted that that contracts between the companies and the KRG “lack the proper constitutional and legal foundation” and must be revised, adding that its demand to see copies of these contracts have been ignored. The Ministry also said that the companies are violating government policy by producing up to 225,000 barrels per day without informing the Ministry or getting its approval. Addressing the issue of production costs and arrears, the Ministry argued that the amounts claimed by the oil companies were exaggerated and lacked transparency.

On March 25, a spokesman for Iraq’s Transportation Ministry said that the country’s state-owned railroad company expects to receive 50 new locomotives in the near future. The arrival of the new engines would more than double the size of Iraq’s locomotive fleet from currently 30 operational engines to a total of 80. The spokesperson did not provide details about the origin or specifications of the new engines. 

On March 27, Iraq’s Minister of Electricity signed a new contract with the Iranian national gas company to import up to 50 million cubic meters of natural gas per day for another five years, the Electricity Ministry said. Daily volumes may vary depending on the amounts needed to operate Iraq’s power plants, the Ministry statement added. In subsequent remarks to the press this week, Electricity Minister Ziyad Ali Fadhil explained that reaching independence from Iranian energy imports and replacing them with domestic production and imports from other nations requires an estimated 3 to 5 years.   

On March 28, an advisor to Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani said the government has completed the initial designs for the Baghdad Metro project. According to the advisor, Nasir al-Asadi, the design extends over 148 kilometers covering 85% of the Iraqi capital with 64 stations providing access to universities, holy sites, and major tourist destinations and government centers. Asadi added that the long anticipated project has been presented to potential investors, without adding further details.

Sources cited in this section include: Mawazin, al-Sumaria, INA, APIKUR, ISHM archive, Iraq’s Oil Ministry, NRT, Iraq’s Electricity Ministry.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs and ERWs from March 21, 2024 - March 28, 2024

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
3/23/24 Al-Bashir, Kirkuk province02
3/27/24 Wadi Tarsaq, near the Iranian border in Diyala province02
3/28/24 Mandili, Diyala province01

 

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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