ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: May 2 – 9, 2024

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Key Takeaways:

  • Coordination Framework Gives Sunni Parties One Week To Agree On A New Speaker; Court Ruling Places Kurdistan Elections On Hold – On May 6, the Coordination Framework (CF) gave Sunni political parties one week to agree on their candidate for the speaker of parliament position, which has been vacant since November. CF leaders added that they plan to convene parliament after the deadline to vote on a new speaker. The Taqaddum party of former speaker Halbousi rejected the imposition of a deadline, arguing that the deadlock should be resolved through a political agreement. Sunni parties remain divided on how to proceed. Taqaddum insists that it must nominate the next speaker, but its path is blocked since its former candidate, Shalan al-Karim, withdrew from the race, and the CF refuses to amend parliamentary bylaws to allow new candidates to run. Meanwhile, Taqaddum’s Sunni rivals are in favor of having a vote as soon as possible since their main candidate, Salim al-Issawi, appears to be widely accepted by the CF parties. On May 8, the IHEC board of commissioners decided to halt all “financial and technical procedures” connected with its preparations for the parliamentary elections in the Kurdistan region, scheduled for June 10. The decision came a day after Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court ruled to suspend the implementation of the candidate registration system of the regional election, which the Court itself had modified in February, when it eliminated the minority quota seats and divided the region into four electoral districts. The suspension will continue until the Court can look into an appeal filed by the KDP, which seeks to overturn the changes introduced by the Court in February. In other developments, on May 6, KRG president Nechirvan Barzani visited Tehran for talks with Iranian leaders, including President Raisi and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, aimed at insulating the Kurdistan region from the fallout of escalating regional conflicts. more…
  • Militias Increase Long-Range Missile And Drone Attacks On Israel; Baghdad And Erbil To Deploy Joint Military Brigades – Between May 3 – 9, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” a front group for Iran-backed Iraqi militias, claimed to have conducted at least five attacks against Israeli targets in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Eilat, Be’er Sheva, and Ashkelon. The alleged attacks involved the use of Arqub-type cruise missiles and explosive drones. There were no reports confirming that the missiles and drones hit any of the intended targets. On May 6, Iraqi defense officials reported that the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Peshmerga have completed the process of establishing two joint military brigades to address the security gaps between their respective lines of control. The officials said the two brigades have their salaries funded and have commenced training, adding that their specific deployment locations will be decided soon. The plan was first agreed to in August of 2021, but faced long delays due to budget and political disputes. more…
  • Iraq Conducts Another Mass Execution; Displacement Due To Climate Change Continues To Rise In Southern Iraq – On May 6, Iraqi authorities executed 11 prisoners in another controversial mass execution at the Nasiriyah Central Prison. The executions came just two weeks after Amnesty International called on Baghdad to “immediately halt all executions” over lack of transparency surrounding recent mas executions and reports that prisoners were executed without prior notice and without authorities informing their lawyers or families in advance. On May 8, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) published new data that reflects further increase in the scale of climate-induced displacement affecting communities in southern Iraq. The data shows that as of mid-March, more than 140,000 individuals (comprising 23,364 families) were experiencing displacement due to water shortages impacting twelve provinces. Almost half of the displaced families (10,385) are from Dhi-Qar province, followed by Maysan (5,215 families), Muthanna (2,365 families), and Diwaniyah (1,871 families). The worst affected district is Nasiriyah in Dhi-Qar, which reported 3,902 families displaced, followed by Qalat Salih in Maysan with 2,599 families, and al-Shatra and al-Rifai (both in Dhi-Qar), with 2,461 and 2,082 families, respectively. The new data indicates that the number of individuals displaced by water scarcity has increased by more then 4,500 since the previous data set, published in February, when the number stood at approximately 135,500. more…
  • Iraq Exports Propane, And Soon Diesel, For the First Time; TBI To Handle Kurdistan Civil Servants Salary Distribution – On May 2, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that the Basrah Gas Company has exported its first ever shipment of 10,700 metric tons of semi-refrigerated Propane gas. Iraq is also preparing to start exporting unspecified surplus volumes of diesel after local production capacity began to surpass demand. On May 8, the state-owned Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) said that it was ready to start distributing the salaries of KRG civil servants through accounts to be opened for them at the bank, in accordance with the February 21 Federal Supreme Court ruling in this regard. TBI officials have recently met with KRG officials and discussed the mechanism for opening payee accounts, issuing debit cards, and deploying enough ATM systems throughout the Kurdistan region. In other developments, on May 5, a huge fire erupted in a popular market near the Citadel of Erbil, destroying hundreds of the market’s 4,000 shops and stores. On May 7, Iraq’s Oil Ministry appointed a new director for the country’s State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO). On May 8, officials at the Darbandikhan Dam reported that the three billion cubic meter reservoir was full for the first time in eight years, thanks to recent heavy rainfall. 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.


Coordination Framework Gives Sunni Parties One Week To Agree On A New Speaker; Court Ruling Places Kurdistan Elections On Hold

On May 6, the leaders of the Coordination Framework said that Sunni political parties have one week to agree on their candidate for the speaker of parliament position, which has been vacant since the Federal SUpreme Court ousted former speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi in November 2023. The Framework leaders added in a statement that they plan to convene parliament after that week’s deadline to elect a new speaker and resolve the impasse. The Taqaddum party of former speaker Halbousi rejected the imposition of a deadline, arguing that the matter should be resolved through a political agreement. Sunni political parties remain divided on how to proceed. Taqaddum, which is the largest representative of the Sunni community in parliament, continues to insist that it must nominate the next speaker. But Taqaddum’s path appears blocked since its former candidate, Shalan al-Karim, dropped from the race and left the party, and the Coordination Framework refuses to amend the parliamentary bylaws to allow new candidates to compete for the position. Meanwhile, Taqaddum’s Sunni rivals (the Siyada, Azm, and Hasm blocs), are in favor of holding a session to elect a speaker  as soon as possible since their primary candidate, Salim al-Issawi, appears to be widely accepted by the Coordination Framework parties.

On May 6, Nechirvan Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) began a visit to Tehran for meetings with Iranian leaders, including President Ibrahim Raisi, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Speaker Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf, and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian. At the top of Barzani’s agenda for the visit, which comes after an Iranian ballistic missile attack on the KRG capital in January, are Erbil’s efforts to insulate the Kurdistan region from the fallout of escalating regional conflicts, a report by Rudaw said. During the talks, Raisi stressed that maintaining border security was a key prerequisite for cooperation between Iran and the Kurdistan region, adding that he expects federal and regional authorities in Iraq to “prevent any attack against Iran from their soil.” Meanwhile, the talks with Iran’s foreign minister focused on improving bilateral relations and dealt with “available opportunities to increase commerce…and projects by Iranian private sector companies in Iraq and the Kurdistan region,” a statement by Barzani’s office said.  

On May 6, the European Union Ambassador to Iraq, Thomas Seiler, met with Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani for talks that focused on building stronger economic ties between Iraq and EU countries, a statement by Sudani’s office said. Specifically, the two sides discussed cooperation between Iraq and the European Banks for Investment and Development and Reconstruction, and possible measures aimed at lifting the existing, safety related ban on Iraqi Airways flights to Europe.

On May 8, the board of commissioners of Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), stated that the Commission has halted all “financial and technical procedures” connected with its preparations for the parliamentary elections in the Kurdistan region, scheduled for June 10. The IHEC board decision comes a day after Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court ruled to suspend the implementation of the candidate registration system of the regional election, which governs how parliamentary seats are allocated among the electoral districts. The Court had modified the system in February, when it ruled to reduce the regional parliament from 111 to 100 representatives by eliminating the minority quota seats, and divided the region into four electoral districts. That ruling prompted the KDP to threaten to boycott the election because of the “unconstitutional” interference in Kurdistan’s electoral system by the Court. The suspension will continue until the Court can look into an appeal filed earlier this week by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which seeks to overturn the changes introduced by the Court in February. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the KDP’s main rival, has filed an appeal with the Electoral Appellate Commission challenging IHEC’s decision to suspend election preparations. Meanwhile, the New Generation opposition party said it filed a case before the Federal Supreme Court arguing for the dissolution of the regional government if new elections are not held within three months.

On May 8, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court dismissed a case demanding the removal of lawmaker (and former frontrunner candidate for speaker of parliament) Shalan al-Karim from parliament. In a statement, the Court said it did not find anything that requires the termination of Karim’s membership in the legislature. The case in question was filed by Coordination Framework lawmakers Hussein Moanes, Falih al-Khazali, and Yousuf al-Kilabi, immediately after the January 13 inconclusive vote to elect a new speaker. 

Sources cited in this section include: Ultra Iraq, ISHM archive, Rudaw, Shafaq, al-Sumaria, Iraqi PM’s office, INA, PUKMedia, NRT.


Militias Increase Long-Range Missile And Drone Attacks On Israel; Baghdad And Erbil To Deploy Joint Military Brigades

On May 2, security sources in Diyala province said that unidentified gunmen shot and killed a member of the Iraqi Federal Police near his residence in the al-Sada neighborhood in the outskirts of Baquba.

On May 3, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” a front group for Iran-backed Iraqi militias, claimed in a statement that it had conducted an attack with multiple cruise missiles against the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. The alleged attack, the first against Tel Aviv, employed Arqub-type missiles. Two days later, on May 5, the militia group claimed to have attacked the Israeli port of Haifa using the same type of missiles. Then on May 7, the group claimed in a statement that it conducted a new attack with explosive drones against an unspecified “vital target” in the Israeli city of Eilat. Finally, on May 9, the group said it launched explosive drones against the Nevatim military air base near Be’er Sheva in southern Israel, and fired a cruise missile against the port of Ashkelon. There were no reports confirming that the missiles and drones actually hit either one of the targets.

On May 6, the Security Media Cell reported that the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Peshmerga have completed the process of establishing two joint military brigades to address the security gaps between their respective lines of control. The Cell’s chief, major general Tahsin al-Khafaji, said the two brigades have their salaries funded and have commenced training, adding that their specific deployment locations will be decided soon. The federal government and the Kurdsitan regional government (KRG) had first agreed to form these brigades back in August of 2021, but implementation faced long delays due to budget and political disputes. The two  brigades will be attached to the Iraqi army’s general staff, Khafaji added. 

On May 7, security sources in Kirkuk province said that a group of four unidentified gunmen broke into the residence of a civil society activist in southern Kirkuk and opened fire, hitting the targeted individual with three bullets before leaving the scene. The victim was taken to the hospital for treatment. 

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


Iraq Conducts Another Mass Execution; Displacement Due To Climate Change Continues To Rise In Southern Iraq

On May 6, Iraqi authorities said they executed a group of 11 prisoners in another controversial mass execution at the Nasiriyah Central Prison in Dhi-Qar province. The executed prisoners were previously found guilty of being members of the ISIS terrorist organization, Iraqi officials added. The executions came just two weeks after Amnesty International had urged the Iraqi government to “immediately halt all executions” following an earlier act of mass execution against 13 men at the same prison. The rights organization expressed concern about lack of transparency surrounding the executions and reports that neither the prisoners nor their lawyers or families were notified in advance. In January, UN human rights experts expressed “deep concern” about “mass executions” in Iraq’s prison system. The practice, the experts noted, constitutes “a form of ill-treatment, which renders the subsequent execution contrary to article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

On May 8, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) published new data that reflects further increase in the scale of climate-induced displacement affecting communities in southern Iraq. The data shows that as of mid-March, more than 140,000 individuals (comprising 23,364 families) were experiencing displacement from their areas due to water shortages and environmental degradation impacting twelve provinces. Of these families, more than four in ten (47%) were in displacement within their home districts. Most of the displaced had relocated to urban areas because water scarcity and high salinity undermined agriculture and overall livelihoods. Almost half of the displaced families (10,385) are from Dhi-Qar province, followed by Maysan (5,215 families), Muthanna (2,365 families), and Diwaniyah (1,871 families). The worst affected district is Nasiriyah in Dhi-Qar province, which reported 3,902 families displaced, followed by Qalat Salih in Maysan province with 2,599 families, and al-Shatra and al-Rifai (both in Dhi-Qar), with 2,461 and 2,082 families, respectively. The new data indicates that the number of individuals displaced by water scarcity has increased by more than 4,500 since the previous data set, published in February, when the number stood at approximately 135,500.

On May 8, the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights at the Department of State, Uzra Zeya, visited Baghdad for meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani and Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein. During the talks with Hussein, the U.S. official raised the question of the compatibility of some Iraqi laws with Iraq’s international obligations with regards to human rights protections, a clear reference to the anti-LGBTQ+ law that Iraq’s parliament passed last month. The Iraqi minister responded that such laws are a domestic matter that must take into consideration the culture and traditions of Iraq’s society. Zeya also met in Erbil with KRG president Nechirvan Barzani. The two sides discussed “shortcomings” affecting freedoms and human rights conditions in the region, regional elections, the return of internally displaced persons, and the status of the Sinjar agreement, a statement by Barzani’s office said.

Sources cited in this section include: al-Hurra, ISHM archive, IOM, al-Sumaria, Rudaw.


Iraq Exports Propane, And Soon Diesel, For the First Time; TBI To Handle Kurdistan Civil Servants Salary Distribution

On May 2, Iraq’s Ministry of Oil said that the Basrah Gas Company has exported its first ever shipment of semi-refrigerated Propane gas. The shipment, transported by specialized tankers, involved more than 10,700 metric tons, the ministry added. In related news, the Ministry of Oil also said this week that it was preparing to start exporting surplus volumes of gas oil (diesel) after local production capacity increased to exceed demand. Logistical preparations are underway at Iraq’s southern ports to accommodate the loading operations, the ministry added, without providing details about the expected volumes or the timeline for commencing exports.

On May 3, Dana Gas, part of the Pearl Gas consortium operating the Khor-Mor field in the Kurdistan region, said that gas and condensate production at the field has returned to its normal levels prior to the deadly drone attack that struck the facility on April 26. The attack, which was the first since August of last year, left four workers killed (all Yemeni nationals) and eight injured. It  also halted gas flow to power plants, causing the regional grid to lose 2,500 megawatts.

On May 4, Iraq’s Oil Ministry issued a statement defending its decision to award the Akkaz gas field development project to Ukrzemresurs, a little known Ukrainian company. In the statement, the Deputy Ol Minister for Extraction, Basim Mohammed Khudhair, affirmed that Ukrzemresurs had submitted its proposal in accordance with Iraqi standards and provided legal and financial guarantees. Meanwhile, the ministry’s director for Petroleum Contracts and Licensing stressed that the vetting process was “standard, meticulous and objective,” adding that Ukrzemresurs was the “only company” that expressed interest in developing Akkaz based on a technical service contract (as opposed to the more lucrative production sharing model). After it was announced last month, the deal was soon met with skepticism after a Ukrainian chamber of commerce official in Iraq told Rudaw that Ukrzemresurs was a small company that’s not suited for managing a development project of this size. 

On May 5, a huge fire erupted in a popular market near the Citadel of Erbil, causing extensive damage to many of the market’s 4,000 shops and stores. The blaze, whose causes are being investigated and remain unknown, destroyed at least 235 shops and stores at the market, known as Bazari Qaisari, according to the mayor of the Erbil district. Several people sustained injuries as a result of the fire, which has since been brought under control, but there were no reports of fatalities. 

On May 6, the Trade Bank of Iraq signed a new cooperation agreement with Japan’s International Cooperation Agency (JICA) under which the latter would help finance private sector projects aimed at rebuilding Iraq’s various industries. Initially, the agreement would provide for up to $200 million in loans to fund critical industrial projects in pharmaceuticals, chemicals, energy, food, and construction materials, an Iraqi government statement said.  

On May 7, Iraq’s Oil Ministry decided to remove the current director of the country’s State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) from office, a member of the parliamentary oil and gas committee told reporters. The outgoing director, Ammra al-Anbaki, will be replaced by his deputy, Khudair Abbas, the lawmaker added.  

On May 8, the Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) said that it was ready to begin the process of basing the salaries of KRG civil servants in accounts to be opened for them at the bank, as instructed by Prime Minister Sudani and in accordance with Federal Supreme Court rulings in this regard. TBI officials have recently met with KRG officials and discussed the mechanism for opening payee accounts, issuing debit cards, and deploying enough ATM systems throughout the Kurdistan region, the TBI statement added. TBI also said it was waiting for the KRG to send the lists of payees to commence preparations. On February 21, the Court ruled that delays or deductions affecting the salaries and pensions of civil servants in the Kurdistan region were against the constitution. The Court thus ordered Sudani and KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani to make the necessary arrangements to base the salaries of all Kurdistan region payees in state-owned banks so that salaries and pensions could be disbursed directly to beneficiaries.

On May 8, officials at the Darbandikhan Dam in Sulaymaniyah province reported that the reservoir was full for the first time in eight years after recent heavy rainfalls boosted water levels at rivers and streams that feed into the 3 billion cubic meter reservoir.

Sources cited in this section include: INA, ISHM archive, Rudaw, al-Mirbad, Iraq’s Oil Ministry, Iraqi PM’s office, Kurdistan24.


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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