ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: May 9 – 16, 2024

ISHM LOGO

Key Takeaways:

  • Sudani Calls For Ending UNAMI’s Work; Halbousi’s Party Endorses New Candidate For Speaker; PUK Wins Appeal Against Suspension Of Election Preparations – On May 10, news sources published a letter from PM Mohammed al-Sudani to the U.N. Secretary-General asking to end the work of the U.N. assistance mission to Iraq (UNAMI) by the end of 2025. In his letter, which appears to have been sent in April, Sudani said Iraq remained interested in cooperation with various U.N. organizations but that it no longer needed UNAMI’s political work. A government spokesman confirmed the request in a statement on May 12, which argued that the reasons for which UNAMI was created in 2003 have ceased to exist. The letter added that a strategic assessment ordered last year by the Security Council has concluded that, in light of the “positive developments and important achievements” in Iraq, there was no longer need for UNAMI’s work. On May 13, the Taqaddum party of former speaker Halbousi said it endorsed Sunni politician Mahmoud al-Mashhadani as its candidate for the speaker position, which has been vacant since November. The announcement came a day after Mashhadadni’s bloc said it merged with Taqaddum. Parliament is scheduled to reconvene on Saturday to elect a new speaker. On May 16, the Electoral Judiciary Commission ruled in favor of an appeal filed by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) that challenged a May 8 decision by Iraq’s Electoral Commission (IHEC), based on Federal Supreme Court orders, to halt all preparations for parliamentary elections in the Kurdistan region. The ruling by the Electoral Judiciary Commission argues that the Court overstepped its powers when it decided on May 7 to suspend the implementation of the candidate registration system. The Electoral Judiciary Commission concluded thus that IHEC should not comply with the Court’s decision. more…
  • More Militia Missiles Fired At Israel; Seven Soldiers Killed In Two ISIS Attacks – Between May 10 – 15, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” a front group for Iran-backed Iraqi militias, claimed to have conducted at least six attacks against Israeli air bases and other targets in or near Eilat, Be’er Sheva, and the Negev desert. 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. Earlier, on May 9, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba had said that Israeli aircraft bombed its media office in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and threatened to retaliate for the attack in a manner that will be “surprising, powerful, and impactful.” Between May 13 – 15, suspected ISIS militants attacked two Iraqi army outposts in Salah ad-Din and Kirkuk provinces, killing at least seven Iraqi army personnel, including a regimental commander, and wounding at least six. more…
  • Rights Group Says Camp Closures Will Harm Thousands Displaced From Sinjar – On May 13, a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned that the impending closure of nearly two dozen camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Kurdistan region will “imperil the rights of many camp residents” from the Sinjar district, which remains unsafe and lacks basic services and economic opportunity to support returnees. By rushing the returns, the government “risks making an already bad situation worse,” an HRW Iraq researcher argued in the report. In January, Iraq’s Ministry of Migration announced its plan to close all IDP camps in Kurdistan by July 30. The ministry offers some incentives to encourage IDPs to return to their home districts, including a one-time stipend of IQD 4 million (approximately $3,000) per household, some government jobs, and interest-free small business loans. But these incentives are dwarfed by the level of devastation in Sinjar. The government has given IDPs two options, return to Sinjar, or relocate to areas outside the camps, the report adds. But displaced Sinjaris complain that the government has not compensated them for their lost homes and possessions, as required by law, making return to Sinjar difficult. In other developments, on May 13, the International Organization for Migration provided new data on the living conditions of IDPs as assessed during the fourth quarter of 2023. The update shows that more than 56,250 IDPs (out of a total of 1.14 million) were living in “high severity” conditions relating to housing, livelihoods, basic services, security, and social cohesion. Most of these IDPs were in Anbar, Salah ad-Din, Ninewa, and Baghdad. more…
  • Chinese Companies Capture Two New Refinery Deals, Majority Of Oil And Gas Blocks In Latest Auction – On May 11-13, Iraq’s Oil Ministry announced the results of the country’s fifth and sixth licensing rounds for oil and gas exploration and development blocks. The two auctions combined offered 29 blocks across 12 provinces, seeking ultimate production targets of 1 million barrels of oil and 3.4 billion cubic feet of gas per day. The auctions were dominated by Chinese energy companies and the Kurdistan region-based KAR Group, which together clinched deals to develop 13 of the blocks on offer. The other sixteen other blocks were not awarded. On May 12, Iraq’s Oil Ministry signed a “heads of agreement” document with China’s Geo-Jade and the Iraqi Basra Crescent company to develop the Tuba oil field in Basra and build a 200,000 bpd refinery, a petrochemicals facility, and two power plants with a combined capacity of 1,200 megawatts. Then on May 15, the ministry signed an agreement with Chinese company CNCEC to build a 300,000 bpd oil refinery, a petrochemicals plant, and a 2.000 megawatt power plant at Faw in Basra province. In other developments, on May 10, Iraq’s Transportation Ministry reopened a passenger train line between Baghdad and Samarra, 21 years after it went out of service. On May 12, Jordanian officials said that Iraqi oil supplies to the kingdom have been halted following the expiration on May 4 of the bilateral agreement governing the sales. 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 Calls For Ending UNAMI’s Work; Halbousi’s Party Endorses New Candidate For Speaker; PUK Wins Appeal Against Suspension Of Election Preparations

On May 10, news sources published a letter from Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in which the Iraqi leader was asking to end the work of the U.N. assistance mission to Iraq (UNAMI) by the end of 2025. In his letter, which appears to have been sent in April, Sudani said Iraq remained interested in maintaining strong cooperation with various U.N. organizations but argued that the country no longer needed UNAMI’s political work. The request to end UNAMI’s work was publicly confirmed by Sudani’s government in a statement on May 12. It argued that the reasons for which UNAMI was created in 2003 have ceased to exist. The letter added that a strategic assessment ordered last year by the Security Council has concluded that, in light of the “positive developments and important achievements” that took place in Iraq, there was no longer need for UNAMI’s work. UNAMI chief Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert offered a view that appeared to challenge this assessment in her latest briefing to the Security Council. She told the Council on May 16 that “Corruption, factionalism, impunity, undue interference and armed actors operating outside state control..still represent major hurdles to be overcome,” despite Baghdad’s efforts in “tackling these scourges.”

On May 13, the Taqaddum party of former speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi said it has endorsed Sunni politician Mahmoud al-Mashhadani as its candidate for the speaker position, which has been vacant since the Federal Supreme Court ousted Halbousi in November 2023. The announcement came a day after Mashhadadni’s al-Sadara bloc announced that it had merged with Taqaddum. The merger and endorsement increases Mashhadani’s chances of becoming the next speaker. He was the 3rd vote getter with 48 votes in the inconclusive vote that took place on January 14. It also offers Taqaddum a path to regaining at least part of its influence as the leading Sunni bloc in parliament. Last week, the leaders of the Coordination Framework (CF) gave Sunni political parties one week to agree on their candidate for speaker. Taqaddum initially rejected the imposition of a deadline, arguing that the matter should be resolved through a political agreement. Taqaddum insisted that it must nominate the next speaker, but its path was blocked since its former candidate, Shalan al-Karim, dropped from the race and left the party, and the CF refused to amend the parliamentary bylaws to allow new candidates to compete for the position. Parliament is scheduled to reconvene on Saturday, May 18 to elect a new speaker. The competition will be between Mashhadani and Salim al-Issawi, who is supported by Taqaddum’s Sunni rivals (the Siyada, Azm, and Hasm blocs), and reportedly remains a favorite among several CF parties.

On May 14, the Iraqi government approved a bill that would regulate the service, retirement, and compensation for members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). Commenting on the news, deputy speaker of parliament, Mohsin al-Mandalawi, said that he and the rest of the legislature will give priority to passing this law, which he said would protect the rights and entitlements of PMF fighters and veterans. Parliament must discuss and vote on the bill before it becomes law.

On May 16, PUKMedia reported that the Electoral Judiciary Commission has ruled in favor of an appeal filed by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in which the party challenged Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) May 8 decision to halt all “financial and technical procedures” connected with its preparations for the parliamentary elections in the Kurdistan region, scheduled for June 10. The IHEC decision came after Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court ruled to suspend the implementation of the candidate registration system, 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. The latest ruling by the Electoral Judiciary Commission, copies of which are circulating on social media, argues that Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court overstepped its powers when it issued its May 7 decision to suspend the implementation of the candidate registration system. The Electoral Judiciary Commission concluded thus that IHEC should not comply with the Federal Supreme Court’s decision.

Sources cited in this section include: al-Sumaria, Reuters, Iraqi PM’s office, Rudaw, ISHM archive, Shafaq, INA, Mawazin, UKMedia, Kurdistan Watch.


More Militia Missiles Fired At Israel; Seven Soldiers Killed In Two ISIS Attacks

On May 10, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” a front group for Iran-backed Iraqi militias, claimed in a statement that it attacked two unspecified targets in the Israeli city of Eilat using explosive drones. On the following day, the group claimed in another statement that it conducted another attack against Israel’s Ramon air base in the Negev desert. The alleged attack employed an Arqub-type cruise missile. This was followed by another attack with explosive drones that allegedly targeted an unspecified military target in Eilat on May 15. On the same day, the group also claimed to have fired Arqub-type cruise missiles against the Nevatim air base near Be’er Sheva and an unspecified “vital target” near the “Jericho Valley.” There were no reports confirming that the missiles and drones actually hit any of the targets. In related events, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba militia said on May 9 that Israeli aircraft bombed its media office in the Syrian capital, Damascus. The militia group said it will retaliate for the attack in a manner that will be “surprising, powerful, and impactful.” 

On May 13, Iraqi security sources said that suspected ISIS militants attacked an army outpost near the town of Mutaibijah, in an area between Salah ad-Din and Diyala provinces. The attack, the first significant one conducted by suspected ISIS militants in several months, killed an army colonel and four of his soldiers, and wounded at least five other soldiers. One of the wounded later succumbed to his injuries, raising total fatalities from the attack to six. All casualties were from the same unit (2nd regiment, 93rd brigade, 21st infantry division).  

On May 14, local sources in al-Muthanna province said that an explosive remnant of war detonated in the desert outside the remote desert subdistrict of al-Busayah. The explosion injured a local man in the leg.  

On May 15, security sources in Kirkuk province said that suspected ISIS militants attacked Iraqi army forces near al-Dibis district in the northwestern part of the province. The attack killed one army soldier and wounded two, all from the army’s 8th division. 

Sources cited in this section include: Shafaq, Mawazin, Rudaw, al-Sumaria, Reuters, ISHM archive, al-Hurra, al-Mirbad, Dijlah. 


Rights Group Says Camp Closures Will Harm Thousands Displaced From Sinjar

On May 13, a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned that the impending closure of nearly two dozen IDP camps in the Kurdistan region will “imperil the rights of many camp residents” from the Sinjar district, which remains unsafe and lacks basic services and economic opportunity to support returnees. By rushing the returns, the government “risks making an already bad situation worse,” an HRW Iraq researcher argued in the report. Some 157,000 IDPs remain in the Kurdistan region’s 23 camps. Thousands are from Sinajr and have been living in camps for almost a decade. In January, Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and the Displaced announced its plan to close all IDP camps in the Kurdistan region by July 30. The ministry offers some incentives to encourage IDPs to return to their home districts, including a one-time stipend of IQD 4 million (approximately $3,000) per household, some government jobs, and interest-free small business loans. But these incentives are dwarfed by the level of devastation to which Sinjar was subjected. The government has given IDPs two options, return to Sinjar, or relocate to areas outside the camps, whether in the Kurdistan region or the rest of Iraq, the report adds. But displaced Sinjaris complain that the government has not compensated them for their lost homes and possessions, as required by law, making return to Sinjar difficult. 

On May 13, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) provided new data on the living conditions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) as assessed during the fourth quarter of 2023. The update looked at the living conditions for over 952,000 IDPs (out of 1.14 million total) living in 2,581 locations across Iraq’s 18 provinces. The survey estimates that at least 56,250 people (representing 6% of IDPs) are living in what qualifies as “high severity” conditions. This represents a decrease of more than 9,000 from the previous data set published in June 2023. The survey also found that nearly 255,500 people (27% of the total) live in “medium severity” conditions, and the remaining 640,344 (67% of the total) were experiencing “low severity” conditions. Most of the returnees living in high severity areas are located in Anbar (15,624), Salah ad-Din (15,462), followed by Ninewa (11,232), and Baghdad (7,734). Severity is measured by IOM using 20 indicators covering various conditions relating to housing, livelihood, infrastructure and services, safety and security, and social inclusiveness.

Sources cited in this section include: IOM, ISHM archive, HRW.


Chinese Companies Capture Two New Refinery Deals, Majority Of Oil And Gas Blocks In Latest Auction

On May 10, Iraq’s Transportation Ministry reopened a passenger train line between Baghdad and Samarra, 21 years after it went out of service in 2003. Passenger service on the 120-kilometer (approximately 75 miles) line will begin with one weekly trip between Samarra and the Iraqi capital, the director of Iraq’s state-owned railway company said.

On May 11, the Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) signed an agreement with the Italian government under which the latter is to provide up to $700 million in funding in support of creating industrial projects in Iraq, a senior Iraqi official said. Meanwhile, Iraqi and Italian businessmen have signed agreements to import production lines and equipment for six factories to Iraq. The future factories deal with pharmaceuticals, steel, glass, poultry, and natural gas processing, according to Mohammed al-Darraji, an advisor to Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani. 

On May 11-13, Iraq’s Oil Ministry held an event during which it announced the results of the country’s fifth and sixth licensing rounds for oil and gas exploration and development blocks. The ministry had launched the fifth licensing round’s addendum in May of last year, followed in June with the sixth licensing round. The two auctions combined offered 29 blocks across 12 provinces, seeking ultimate production targets of 1 million barrels of oil and 3.4 billion cubic feet of gas per day. The auctions were dominated by Chinese energy companies and the Kurdistan region-based KAR Group, which together clinched deals to develop 13 of the blocks on offer. The other sixteen other blocks were not awarded, of which 15 did not receive any offers from bidders, Oil Ministry documents showed. According to information released by the Oil Ministry, the winning bids were as follows:

  1. East Baghdad – North Extension: ZEPC (China) with a profit margin bid of 6.67%
  2. Al-Deema: KAR Group (Iraq) with a profit margin bid of 6.2%
  3. Mid-Euphrates: ZEPC (China) with a profit margin bid of 9.35%
  4. Al-Faw: UEG (China) with a profit margin bid of 25.16%
  5. Allan-Sassan: KAR Group (Iraq) with a profit margin bid of 17.25%
  6. Al-Qarneen: Zennhua (China) with a profit margin bid of 17.3%
  7. Zurbatyah: Geo-Jade (China) with a profit margin bid of 7.65%
  8. Abu Khayma: Zenhua (China) with a profit margin bid of 9.1%
  9. Block 7: CNOOC (China) with a profit margin bid of 25.88%
  10. Al-Dhifriyah: Anton Oil (China) with a profit margin bid of 29.16%
  11. Sumer: Sinopec (China) with a profit margin bid of 17.3%
  12. Jabal Sanam: Geo-Jade (China) with a profit margin bid of 30.90%
  13. Al-Khleseyah: KAR Group (Iraq) with a profit margin bid of 32%

On May 12, Jordanian officials said that Iraqi oil supplies to the kingdom have been halted following the expiration of the bilateral agreement governing the sale on May 4. The Jordanian government has approached Iraq’s Oil Ministry to extend the agreement by 3 months to allow Jordan to receive the full volume stated in the expired agreement, an official with Jordan’s  Energy and Mineral Resources said. Jordan would later seek to sign a new agreement to cover oil sales for another year. Iraq exports an average of 15,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil by trucks to Jordan. 

On May 12, Iraq’s Oil Ministry signed a “heads of agreement” document with a consortium of Chinese and Iraqi companies to develop the Tuba oil field in Basra. Under the agreement, the Chinese Geo-Jade and Iraqi Basra Crescent would develop the field to produce 200,000 bpd and collect and process 50 million cubic feet of associated gas per day. The development plan also includes building a 200,000 bpd refinery, a petrochemicals facility, and two power plants with a combined capacity of 1,200 megawatts, officials with Iraq’s Basra Oil Company said. One of the power plants would generate 800 megawatts using fossil fuels, while the other would target 400 megawatts from solar energy, the officials added. 

On May 14, the Iraqi government said that the National Data Center at the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers will soon launch a unified electronic platform for completing the licensing procedures for the establishment of industrial projects. The new platform will shorten the time required to obtain a license for new projects from the current average of two months to just 15 days, the government statement added. The new service will be supported by an electronic payment system and will “provide a detailed explanation of the application process…and answers to frequently asked questions,” as well as a toll-free hotline…for assistance and inquiries.

On May 15, Iraq’s Oil Ministry signed an agreement with Chinese company CNCEC to build an oil refinery, petrochemicals plant, and a power plant at Faw in Iraq’s Basra province. The refinery will have the capacity to process 300,000 bpd of crude oil, while the petrochemicals facility will have a capacity of 3,000,000 tons per year, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said, adding that the power plant will have a generation capacity of 2.000 megawatts. The deal also involves establishing an institute to train Iraqi crews on refining technologies, with the goal of training 5,000 Iraqi workers to take over refinery operations in the future, the ministry added. 

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


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