ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: April 4 – 11, 2024

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Key Takeaways:

  • PM Sudani Invites Embattled Chaldean Patriarch Back To Baghdad Ahead Of White House Meeting – On April 11, Cardinal Louis Sako, the Patriarch of the Chaldeans, met in Baghdad with PM Sudani, who had invited him to return to his original headquarters in the Iraq capital. Sako had been away from Baghdad since last July when he moved his office to Erbil in protest of a decision by President Abdul-Latif Rashid to recall a 2013 decree by his predecessor that recognized the religious leader as Patriarch of the Chaldeans. Sako was also embroiled in a conflict with Rayyan al-Kildani, the leader of the Babylon Movement (and militia), whom he accused of “stealing the properties” of Iraqi Christians and hijacking their community’s representation in parliament. In other developments, on April 7, the former governor-elect of Salah ad-Din province, Ahmed Abdullah al-Jubouri, claimed that PUK leader Bafel Talabani and Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader Qais al-Khazali threatened President Rashid with removal from office if he were to ratify Jubouri’s appointment. On April 7, KRG president Nechirvan Barzani said he had productive talks with PM Sudani and the leaders of the Coordination Framework that focused on their budget and oil disputes, the upcoming election in Kurdistan, and preparations for Sudani’s visit to Washington. On April 8, the U.S.-Iraq bilateral Higher Military Committee (HMC) held another round of talks about winding down the U.S.-led anti-ISIS Coalition mission in Iraq. more…
  • PMF Commander Says Militias Await Tehran’s Guidance On Conflict With Israel – On April 5, the chief of staff of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), Abdul-Aziz al-Mohammadawi (aka Abu Fadak), said during a visit to Iran that the actions of the “axis of resistance in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine,” and Iran were “announcing the end of Israel.” The PMF commander said he was “waiting for the [Supreme] Leader to express his view on the next step…What will the response be to the aggression on the Iranian consulate and the killing of some of the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC] commanders?” Abu Fadak, who was attending Quds Day events in Tehran, said he was in there “to express our solidarity with the vision and the plan of the Leader…and to renew our covenant [meaning allegiance to the Supreme Leader] and wait for the Leader’s decision regarding the latest attack [on Iran’s consulate].” In other developments, between April 6 – 7, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” a front group for Iran-backed Iraqi militias, claimed to have launched at least three new attacks with explosive drones against economic and military targets in Israel. There were no reports confirming actual attacks hitting any of the facilities. On April 8, unidentified gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed Motaman Suheir, a youth activist and former protester in the Souk al-Shuyukh district of Dhi-Qar province. more…
  • More Than 1.1 Million People Continue To Experience Displacement In Iraq – On April 9, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) provided updated data on the situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq. The update indicates that there were 1,123,663 IDPs (comprising 192,665 households) across Iraq as of December 31, 2023, reflecting a decrease of approximately 18,300 during the fourth quarter of last year. More than three quarters of the remaining IDPs reside in private settings, while 14% are housed in IDP camps. The remaining 9% (approximately 97,000) are in “critical shelter” situations with limited access to basic services. In other developments, on April 9, the IOM published a report about the number, provinces of origin, and countries of departure of Iraqi migrants, including former refugees and asylum seekers, who had returned from abroad between May 2018 and December 2023. During that period, IOM identified 52,910 Iraqi returnees across the 18 provinces. More than half of all returnees, 56%, were recorded in the southern province of Dhi-Qar. Ninewa was second with 34%, and Anbar was third with 4%. Nearly half of returnees (47%) returned either from Turkey (29%) or Syria (18%). more…
  • Iraq Revives Damaged Oil Export Pipeline To Turkey, Potentially Bypassing Kurdistan – On April 8, Iraq’s Deputy Oil Minister said that Baghdad was working on repairing the old Iraqi section of the Iraq-Turkey oil export pipeline, which has been unusable for more than a decade. The section, from Baiji to the Turkish border at Fishkhabour, is slated to become operational again by the end of April, allowing Iraq to pump up to 350,000 bpd of oil. Testing operations have already commenced with test runs of the IT1 pumping station at Baiji, officials with Iraq’s North Oil Company said. If restored to service, the pipeline will offer an alternative to the export pipeline that was inaugurated by the KRG in 2014. In other developments, on April 8, Iraq and TotalEnergies signed land lease and grid connection contracts related to a deal signed last year for the construction of a 1,000-megawatt solar farm in Basra a part of the broader Gas Growth Integrated Project (GGIP). On April 8, an Iraqi government spokesman said that Iraq’s foreign debt has shrunk by more than 50% since the end of 2022, dropping from $19.7 billion to approximately $8.9 billion. 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.


PM Sudani Invites Embattled Chaldean Patriarch Back To Baghdad Ahead Of White House Meeting

On April 7, the president of the Kurdistan regional government (KRG), Nechirvan Barzani visited Baghdad for talks with Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani and the leaders of the Coordination Framework. The meeting, hosted by Sudani, focused on the budget and oil disputes between the KRG and federal government, the upcoming parliamentary election in Kurdistan, and preparations for Sudani’s upcoming visit to Washington. A spokesman for Barzani said the talks regarding the salaries of KRG civil servants made “an important step forward,” without providing further details. The spokesman added that the Coordination Framework provided assurances that they don’t seek to “sideline the constitution and weaken the Kurdistan region.” In a subsequent statement, Barzani also said that the KRG will be represented in the delegation that will accompany Sudani to Washington next week.

On April 7, the former governor-elect of Salah ad-Din province, Ahmed Abdullah al-Jubouri (aka Abu Mazin) claimed that two parties used threats to pressure President Abdul-Latif Rashid to decline to ratify Jubouri’s appointment in February. In a televised interview, Jubouri specifically accused Bafel Talabani and Qais al-Khazali, the leaders of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, respectively, of threatening President Rashid with removal from office if he refused to prevent Jubouri from assuming office. Jubouri had stepped down in February after the Coordination Framework called on Jubouri to step down and avoid “new conflict” in the province. Jubouri’s confirmation was initially blocked by President Abdul-Latif Rashid on allegations of prior convictions for larceny and corruption. A statement by Rashid’s office denied the allegations and affirmed that Jubouri’s appointment could not be confirmed due to his criminal record as verified by the Integrity Commission and the Supreme Judicial Council. 

On April 8, the U.S.-Iraq bilateral Higher Military Committee (HMC) held another round of talks about winding down the U.S.-led anti-ISIS Coalition mission in Iraq, the military spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani said. The spokesman, Yahya Rasoul, said the HMC reviewed the work done by the three sub-committees within the HMC, conducted an assessment of the threat posed by ISIS, and evaluated the operational environment and the capabilities of Iraq’s security forces. This is the third reported meeting of the HMC, which had convened for the first time on January 27. 

On April 11, Cardinal Louis Sako, the Patriarch of the Chaldeans, met in Baghdad with Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani to discuss efforts to bring about social cohesion and address the needs and concerns of Iraq’s minority communities, a statement by Sudnai’s office said. Sako, who had been away from Baghdad for months, has also decided to return to his original headquarters in the Iraq capital, a statement by the Chaldean Church said. The statement added that Sako’s return to Baghdad was in response to a personal invitation from the prime minister. Last year, Sako had moved his office from Baghdad to Erbil in protest of a decision by President Abdul-Latif Rashid to recall a 2013 decree by his predecessor that recognized the religious leader as Patriarch of the Chaldeans. Sako was also embroiled in a conflict with Rayyan al-Kildani, the leader of the Babylon Movement (and militia), whom he accused of “stealing the properties” of Iraqi Christians and hijacking their community’s representation in parliament.

Sources cited in this section include: Iraqi PM’s office, ISHM archive, Rudaw, Ultra Iraq, Mawazin, INA, al-Hurra.


PMF Commander Says Militias Await Tehran’s Guidance On Conflict With Israel

On April 5, the chief of staff of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), Abdul-Aziz al-Mohammadawi (aka Abu Fadak), said  during a visit to Iran that the actions of the “axis of resistance in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, and the Islamic Republic of Iran” were “announcing the end of Israel.” The PMF commander said he was “waiting for the [Supreme] Leader to express his view on the next step…What will the response be to the aggression on the Iranian consulate and the killing of some of the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC] commanders?” Abu Fadak, who was attending Quds Day events in Tehran, said he was in there “to express our solidarity with the vision and the plan of the Leader…and to renew our covenant [meaning allegiance to the Supreme Leader] and wait for the Leader’s decision regarding the latest attack [on Iran’s consulate].”

On April 5, local sources in Dhi-Qar province said that unidentified gunmen launched a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) at the home of a local government official in the Sayyid Dakhil district of the province. The attack left significant damage to the building but there were no reports of casualties. 

On April 5, Najaf police sources said that two unidentified individuals on motorcycles dropped a small explosive device on a civilian vehicle in the village of al-Ghadir, north of Najaf. The explosion badly damaged the vehicle but there were no reports of casualties.

On April 7, Iraqi security sources said that a group of ISIS militants attacked an army outpost near the village of Balani in the Makhmour district. The army troops repelled the attack and there were no reports of casualties, the sources added.

On April 6, 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 against an Israeli oil refinery in Haifa. In subsequent statements on April 7, the militia claimed to have launched two other attacks with explosive drones against Israel. The first targeted an Israeli air base in the Golan heights. The second attack is said to have targeted an unspecified “vital target” in Eilat. There were no reports confirming actual attacks hitting any of the facilities. 

On April 8, unidentified gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed Motaman Suheir, a youth activist and former protester in the Souk al-Shuyukh district of Dhi-Qar province, local sources and his family said. The late activist’s father insists that his son was the victim of “an assassination” and that the incident was not related to personal or tribal conflicts.

Sources cited in this section include: Ultra Iraq, AP, Shafaq, NINA, Mawazin.


More Than 1.1 Million People Continue To Experience Displacement In Iraq

On April 9, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) provided updated data on the situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq. The update indicates that there were 1,123,663 IDPs (comprising 192,665 households) across Iraq as of December 31, 2023, reflecting a decrease of more than 18,300 during the fourth quarter of last year. Most of that decrease was related to the IDP population in Erbil and Duhok provinces. More than three quarters of the remaining IDPs reside in private settings, while 14% are housed in IDP camps. The remaining 9% (approximately 97,000) are in “critical shelter” situations with limited access to basic services. 

On April 9, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) published a report about the number, provinces of origin, and countries of departure of Iraqi migrants, including 

former refugees and asylum seekers, returning from abroad during the period between May 2018 and December 2023. During that period, IOM identified 52,910 Iraqi returnees across the 18 provinces. More than half of all returnees, 56%, were recorded in the southern province of Dhi-Qar. Ninewa was second with 34%, and Anbar was third with 4%. Nearly half of returnees (47%) returned either from Turkey (29%) or Syria (18%). 

Sources cited in this section include: IOM.


Iraq Revives Damaged Oil Export Pipeline To Turkey, Potentially Bypassing Kurdistan

On April 8, Iraq’s Deputy Oil Minister, Basim Mohammed, said that Baghdad was working on repairing the old Iraqi section of the Iraq-Turkey oil export pipeline, which has been inoperational for more than a decade because of the war with ISIS. The section, which runs from Baiji to the Turkish border at Fishkhabour through Ninewa province, is slated to become operational again by the end of April, allowing Iraq to pump up to 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil, the senior oil official said. Testing operations on the pipeline section have already commenced with test runs of the IT1 pumping station at Baiji, officials with Iraq’s North Oil Company said. If restored to service, the pipeline section will offer an alternative to the export pipeline that was inaugurated by the Kurdistan regional government in 2014 to allow the region to export oil independent of the federal government.

On April 8, Iraq and TotalEnergies signed land lease and grid connection contracts related to their deal, signed last year, for the construction of a 1,000 megawatt solar farm. The solar facility is to be built in Basra over two years and in four stages, each designed to generate 250 megawatts. The solar project is part of a major energy deal known as the Gas Growth Integrated Project (GGIP), which involves four projects worth an estimated $27 billion. Iraq and TotalEnergies signed the deal in July of last year after many delays since it was first initiated in 2021 due to disagreements over financing and ownership stakes. In addition to the solar facility, it involves a seawater processing and transport project, a project to harness associated gas from several oil fields with a capacity of 600 million cubic feet per day, and a third project to develop the Ratawi oil field. TotalEnergies has a 45% stake in the venture, while Iraq controls 30% and the remaining 25% is assigned o to QatarEnergy.

On April 8, an Iraqi government spokesman said that Iraq’s foreign debt has shrunk by more than 50% since the end of 2022, dropping from $19.7 billion to approximately $8.9 billion. The spokesman, Basim al-Awadi attributed this reduction in foreign debt to the government’s decision to end borrowing from foreign lenders and efforts to restructure existing debt.

On April 9, an Iraqi government official said that the Riyada initiative for youth job training and small business creation has successfully graduated more than 10,000 participants from 1,041 courses since it was launched by Prime Minister Sudani in March of 2023. Hussein Flamerz, an adviser to Sudani in charge of Riyada, added that a total of 223,000 young Iraqis had applied to benefit from the initiative, which provides job training, business development guidance, and small business loans ranging from IQD 1 to 20 million (approximately $680-$13,500). 

Sources cited in this section include: al-Hurra, NINA, Mawazin, ISHM archive, INA.


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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