ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: April 11 – 18, 2024

ISHM LOGO

Key Takeaways:

  • Sudani Makes His First White House Visit; Threats Complicate Diyala Governor Election; Leading Candidate For Speaker Position Withdraws From Race – On April 15, President Biden hosted PM Sudani at the Oval Office for talks about the future of U.S.-Iraq relations. With regard to energy, Biden affirmed support for Baghdad’s efforts to reduce emissions and expand grid connections with Jordan and the GCC and underscored the need to resume oil exports through the shuttered Iraq-Turkey pipeline. On regional political cooperation, Biden told Sudani that Washington supported “strengthening democracy in Iraq, including free, fair, and transparent regional elections” in the Kurdistan region. On economic and financial issues, the two sides discussed Iraq’s “progressive efforts…to increase trade while shielding the Iraqi people from…corruption and money-laundering,” and expressed commitment to supporting Iraq’s central bank to “fully wind down the wire auction mechanism by the end of 2024.” With regard to security cooperation, Biden and Sudani “agreed that Iraq’s security forces must be able to ensure that ISIS can never again reconstitute inside Iraq” and said they would review the assessments by joint working groups to decide “when and how the mission of the Global Coalition in Iraq would end, and transition in an orderly manner to enduring bilateral security partnerships.” On April 16, Sunni parties in the Diyala provincial council said they will not participate in the council’s meetings unless the next governor is to be elected from their community following reports that some of their members were threatened by militias in order to vote for a specific (unnamed) candidate for the governor position. On April 17, lawmaker Shalan al-Karim, who was the frontrunner for replacing former speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, said he was withdrawing his candidacy for the speaker position and also leaving his Taqaddum party. Karim said he decided to drop out of the race to distance himself from the “injustice, libel, betrayal, and controversy” that have accompanied the competition for the speaker seat, without offering specifics. more…
  • Iraq Signs New Deals For U.S.-Made Weapon Systems – During PM Sudani’s visit to Washington, Iraq signed a number of weapons deals with American companies. This includes a deal with General Dynamics to upgrade Iraq’s Abrams tanks and make them more suitable for Iraq’s climate. Washington also approved a logistical support and training deal worth $140 million for Iraq’s small fleet of Cessna (C-172 and AC/RC-208) aircraft. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Austin indicated that Iraq may also purchase military helicopters through what the secretary called Credit Assured Payment Schedule (CAPS). While in Washington, Sudani also met with executives from F-16 manufacturer Lockheed Martin to discuss the need to provide spare parts and establish aircraft maintenance inside Iraq to service the country’s struggling fleet of F-16 jets. In other developments, on April 13, Iraq closed down its airspace as Iran commenced its large-scale aerial attack on Israel, which involved hundreds of ballistic and cruise missiles and explosive drones. At least 30 Iranian missiles and drones were intercepted and shot down by U.S. and allied fighters over Iraq, Iraqi security officials said. Iraq’s airspace was reopened to civilian traffic on the following day as the risk to aviation security ended, Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority said. PM Sudani said he has seen no indications that any of the Iranian missiles and drones were launched from Iraqi soil. more…
  • Customs Revenue Up; Sudani Seeks Solution To Sanctions On Iraqi Banks; Iraqi Government And Companies Sign 18 MoUs With U.S. Firms – On April 16, government officials said that revenue collected by Iraq’s Customs Commission during the first quarter of 2024 was the highest in a decade, attributing the increase to progress in automating and digitizing customs operations. Revenue achieved during that period reached IQD 471 billion (approximately $320 million), representing an increase of 120% from the same period last year. On April 16, IPM Sudani met in Washington with Deputy Secretary of Treasury Wally Adeyemo and discussed his government’s efforts to reform Iraq’s banking and financial systems. During the talks, Sudani asked about the “possibility of rehabilitating banks subjected to special [sanctions] measures…to comply with international standards in coordination with the Central Bank of Iraq.” Since last July, more than 20 Iraqi banks have been barred from conducting transactions in the U.S. dollar after they were targeted by U.S. sanction over money laundering concerns involving dealings with Iran. On April 17, the Iraqi government and private companies who are in the U.S. as part of PM Sudani’s delegation signed a total of 18 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with several major U.S. companies. The MoUs signed by the government included three agreements with GE and Honeywell concerning oil field development, capturing natural gas, and upgrading Iraq’s power plants by adding combined cycle generation units. The 14 MoUs signed on the private sector side also deal mostly with oil field development, power generation, and natural gas capture and processing (with a focus on the Bin Omar field near Basra), and featured agreements with KBR, Honeywell, GE, and Baker Hughes. 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 Makes His First White House Visit; Threats Complicate Diyala Governor Election; Leading Candidate For Speaker Position Withdraws From Race

On April 13, sources in Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement said they have received communications from many political figures who expressed interest in joining Sadr’s newly announced political formation, the National Shia Trend (al-Tayyar al-Watani al-Shee’ie). The sources said that most of those interested in joining Sadr’s new project were Shia figures from groups other than the Coordination Framework, Sadr’s main rivals. Last week, Sadr rebranded his movement, commonly known as the Sadrist Trend (al-Tayyar al-Sadri) to become the National Shia Trend (al-Tayyar al-Watani al-Shee’ie).

On April 15, U.S. President Joe Biden hosted Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudnai at the Oval Office for talks about the future of U.S.-Iraq relations. A joint statement released after the meeting outlined the outcome of the talks with regard to several areas: energy and the environment, regional integration and cooperation, economic and financial issues, the fight against ISIS, bilateral security cooperation, and strategic partnership between the two countries. With regard to energy, Biden “affirmed continued U.S. support for Iraq’s efforts to modernize its energy sector, reduce methane emissions, improve public health, more reliably provide electricity for the Iraqi people, and complete the electrical grid connections with…Jordan and GCC countries.” For his part, Sudani expressed “interest in future opportunities for cooperation to ensure Iraq becomes self-sufficient by 2030, with help from U.S. companies.” The two sides also discussed the need to resume Iraqi oil exports through the shuttered Iraq-Turkey pipeline.  

On regional cooperation, Biden reiterated U.S. support for Iraq in rebuilding its diplomatic and economic ties with the international community and its neighborhood. Biden also told Sudani that Washington supported “strengthening democracy in Iraq, including free, fair, and transparent regional elections” in the Kurdistan region. On economic and financial issues, the two sides discussed Iraq’s “progressive efforts to reform the financial and banking sector to connect Iraq to the international economy and increase trade while shielding the Iraqi people from the harmful impacts of corruption and money-laundering.” Specifically, the statement noted that since 2023, Iraqi banks have “expanded their correspondent relationships with international financial institutions to enable trade financing,” and that both sides are committed to supporting Iraq’s central bank to “fully wind down the wire auction mechanism by the end of 2024.” With regard to countering the ISIS threat and bilateral security cooperation, Biden and Sudani “agreed that Iraq’s security forces must be able to ensure that ISIS can never again reconstitute inside Iraq” to threaten Iraq, the region, or the U.S.  and discussed the “natural evolution of the global D-ISIS Coalition in light of the significant progress that has been made in ten years.” The two sides said they would review the assessments by three working groups with regard to the “continued threat from ISIS, operational and environmental requirements, and bolstering Iraq’s security force capabilities” in order to decide “when and how the mission of the Global Coalition in Iraq would end, and transition in an orderly manner to enduring bilateral security partnerships, in accordance with Iraq’s Constitution and the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement.” Finally, Biden and Sudani decided to “expand cooperation in all areas discussed in the Higher Coordinating Committee (HCC) meetings co-chaired by the U.S. Secretary of State and Iraqi Minister of Planning,” adding that they would “continue their consultations on a shared vision for comprehensive, productive partnership to advance common goals.” 

On April 16, the representatives of Sunni Arab blocs in the Diyala provincial council and the province’s Sunni Arab representatives in parliament said their parties will not participate in the provincial council’s meetings unless the next governor is to be elected from their community. A document with the announcement signed by the politicians from the Taqaddum, Siyada, and Azm parties, which have seven of the 15 seats on the council, cited recent threats of violence by directed at some of them, and accused unnamed militias undermining peace and stability in the province. News reports indicate that groups of gunmen had delivered direct threats to Sunni members of the provincial council on Sunday in an attempt to pressure them to vote for a specific (unnamed) candidate for the governor position. Diyala and Kirkuk are the only two provinces that have not elected new governors following the December provincial elections. 

On April 16, the government of Denmark said that it will shut down its embassy in the Iraqi capital by the end of May 2024. Denmark had established the embassy in 2020 as it assumed leadership of the NATO security mission in Iraq, the Danish Foreign Ministry said, noting that the embassy’s mission has concluded with the withdrawal of most Danish military personnel by early 2024. Denmark will continue to maintain a consulate in Erbil. 

On April 17, lawmaker Shalan al-Karim announced that he decided to withdraw his candidacy for the speaker of parliament position and that he was also leaving his Taqaddum party to become an independent member of parliament. Karim was the frontrunner for replacing former speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, having gained 152 votes during the January 14 session held to elect a new speaker. Karim said he decided to drop out of the race to distance himself from the “injustice, libel, betrayal, and controversy” that have accompanied the competition for the speaker seat. He did not offer specifics. Commenting on the news, a representative from the State of Law coalition said that Karim’s withdrawal brings Salim al-Issawi who came in second in the January 14 vote “very close” to becoming the next speaker, expecting parliament to have a vote within days.

Sources cited in this section include: Shafaq, al-Jazeera, AP, the White House, NINA, al-Sumaria, UTV, Ultra Iraq, Rudaw, ISHM archive. 


Iraq Signs New Deals For U.S.-Made Weapon Systems

On April 13, security sources in Najaf said that two unidentified individuals on motorcycles fired two rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) at a building used by the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) security directorate in the Hay al-Shurta neighborhood of central Najaf. One of the RPGs struck the building’s gate while the other struck an adjacent house, the sources added. The attack caused material damage but there were no reports of casualties.

On April 13, Iraq closed down its airspace to traffic as Iran commenced its large-scale aerial attack on Israel, which involved hundreds of ballistic and cruise missiles and explosive drones. At least 30 Iranian missiles and drones were intercepted and shot down by U.S. and allied fighters over Iraq, an Iraqi security official said. There were no reports of casualties as a result of downed munitions. Iraq’s airspace was reopened to civilian traffic on the following day as the risk to aviation security ended, Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority said. The Iraqi government has seen no indications that any of the Iranian missiles and drones were launched from Iraqi soil, Prime Minister Sudani said while he was in Washington. 

On April 16, the Security Media Cell reported that Iraqi F-16 jets conducted two airstrikes against hideouts used by ISIS militants in the region between eastern Salah ad-Din and Diyala provinces. Five ISIS militants were killed as a result of the airstrikes, the Cell added.

On April 16, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani met at the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and discussed the work of the High Coordination Commission (HMC) which is tasked with assessing the ISIS threat, operational requirements, and the capability of Iraq’s security forces to inform decisions on a timetable for ending the mission of the global coalition to defeat ISIS. During Sudani’s visit to Washington, Iraq also signed a number of weapons deals with American companies, Defense Minister Thabit al-Abbasi said. This includes a deal with General Dynamics to upgrade Iraq’s Abrams tanks and make them more suitable for Iraq’s climate, as well as other deals concerning air defense and aviation, the Iraqi minister said without providing more details. But a Pentagon statement said Washigton approved a logistical support and training deal worth $140 million for Iraq’s small fleet of Cessna (C-172 and AC/RC-208) aircraft. Meanwhile, a statement by Secretary Austin indicated that Iraq may also purchase military helicopters through what the secretary called Credit Assured Payment Schedule (CAPS). During his stay in Washington, Sudani also met with executives from F-16 manufacturer Lockheed Martin to discuss the need to provide spare parts and establish aircraft maintenance inside Iraq to service the country’s fleet of F-16 jets. 

Sources cited in this section include: Shafaq, al-Jazeera, INA, Mawazin, Reuters, al-Sumaria, Iraqi PM’s office, the Pentagon.


Customs Revenue Up; Sudani Seeks Solution To Sanctions On Iraqi Banks; Iraqi Government And Companies Sign 18 MoUs With U.S. Firms

On April 16, revenue collected by Iraq’s Customs Commission at various ports of entry during the first quarter of 2024 was the highest in a decade, a government official said. Revenue achieved during that period reached IQD 471 billion (approximately $320 million), representing an increase of 120% from the same period last year, when revenue was IQD 257 billion, according to a Finance Ministry official, who attributed the increase to progress in automating and digitizing customs operations. 

On April 16, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani met in Washington with Deputy Secretary of Treasury Wally Adeyemo and discussed the Baghdad government’s efforts to reform Iraq’s banking and financial system. During the talks, Sudani talked about the “possibility of rehabilitating banks subjected to special [sanctions] measures…to comply with international standards in coordination with the Central Bank of Iraq.” Since last July, more than 20 Iraqi banks have been barred from conducting transactions in the U.S. dollar after they were targeted by U.S. sanction over money laundering concerns involving dealings with Iran. In related news, Sudani met with executives from J.P. Morgan to discuss cooperation on banking reforms, including establishing correspondent relationships with international banks. 

On April 17, the Iraqi government and private companies who are in the U.S. as part of Prime Minister Sudani’s delegation signed a total of 18 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with several major U.S. companies, a statement by the prime minister’s office said. The four MoUs signed by the Iraqi government included three agreements with GE and Honeywell concerning oil field development, capturing natural gas, and upgrading Iraq’s power plants by adding combined cycle generation units. The fourth government side MoU was with MACK and deals with specialized vehicle manufacturing. The 14 MoUs signed on the private sector side deal mostly with oil field development, power generation, and natural gas capture and processing (with a focus on the Bin Omar field near Basra), and featured agreements with KBR, Honeywell, GE, and Baker Hughes.

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


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