ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: May 16 – 23, 2024

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Key Takeaways:

  • Parliament Fails To Elect New Speaker; 2024 Budget Includes IQD 11 Trillion In New Spending; Judiciary Partially Restores Minority Quota Seats In Kurdistan Parliament – On May 18, Iraq’s parliament met to elect a new speaker to replace Mohammed al-Halbousi, who was ousted by Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court (FSC) in November. None of the contenders managed to secure the required majority. Out of the 311 lawmakers present, 137 voted for Mahmoud al-Mashhadadni, who is backed by Halbousi’s Taqaddum party, while 158 voted for Salim al-Issawi, backed by rival Sunni parties. The close race indicates that parliament remains deeply divided on the issue. The vote was chaotic at times and involved heated arguments that devolved into physical altercations between Sunni lawmakers. On May 19, PM Mohammed al-Sudani said his government has prepared the revenue and spending tables for the 2024 federal budget and shared them with parliament for review. The budget includes total planned spending of IQD 210.9 trillion ($159 billion), based on expected revenue of IQD 144.3 trillion and a deficit of IQD 63.5 trillion. The 2024 budget is more than IQD 11 trillion larger than the previous year’s bill. The majority of the budget, IQD 156.8, is allocated to operational expenses, including salaries of more than 4 million civil servants on government payroll. On May 21, the FSC dismissed a case filed by KRG president Nechirvan Barzani against the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) over the candidate registration system in the Kurdistan parliamentary election, which governs the allocation of seats across districts. Changes to that system, based on an FSC ruling in February, had prompted Barzani’s KDP to threaten to boycott the planned legislative election. This came as the Electoral Judiciary Commission, in an apparent compromise, ordered the reinstatement of five of the 11 minority quota seats that had been eliminated by the FSC in February. Two of the reinstated quota seats are allocated for Christian and Turkmen communities in Erbil (out of 34), the same applies for Sulaymaniyah (with 38 seats), while one seat is allocated for Christians in Duhok (out of 25). The PUK has led an appeal against the new quota seat distribution. more…
  • At least Seven Iraqis Killed In Multiple Bombings This Week; Clashes Between Militias Leave Two Dead in Baghdad – Between May 18 – 23, the explosions of three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in various parts of Salah ad-Din province killed at least 7 Iraqis, including a soldier and six civilians from one family, and wounded at least eight soldiers. On May 19, violent armed clashes erupted between gunmen from the Saraya al-Salam militia of Moqtada al-Sadr and gunmen from the Ansar Allah al-Awfiya militia in al-Obeidi district of east Baghdad. The clashes, which involved the use of machine guns and rocket propelled grenades, killed at least two members of Sadr’s militia and wounded seven people, including three police officers. In other developments, on May 23, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” a front group for Iran-backed Iraqi militias, claimed that it attacked multiple Israeli targets, including the port of Haifa, military assets in the Golan Heights, and the Nevatim air base using Arqub-type cruise missiles and explosive drones. There were no reports confirming that the missiles and drones hit any of the targets. more…
  • IDP Returns Accelerate Despite Warnings About Conditions In Volatile Areas Of Origin – On May 22 – 23, Iraq’s Ministry for Migration and the Displaced said that two groups of internally displaced persons (IDPs) totaling 1,720 individuals returned to their home districts of Sinjar and Balad from three IDP camps in Duhok and Sulaymaniyah. Migration Minister Evan Jabro affirmed that her ministry continues to work towards “the voluntary return” of all IDPs and “completely closing the displacement file by July 30.” Last week, Human Rights Watch 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. more…
  • Iraq Awards New Deal To Develop Major Gas Field In Diyala – On May 20, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that the state-owned Midland Oil Company has signed a preliminary agreement with a consortium of Chinese and Iraqi companies to develop the Mansouriyah gas field in Diyala province. The consortium, comprising Chinese company Gereh and local company Petro Iraq, is expected to bring production to 100 million cubic feet per day within 18 months and to triple that volume within 4-5 years. In other developments, on May 23, Jordanian energy officials said that Iraq has approved a three-month extension for the bilateral agreement under which Iraq supplies Jordan with crude oil, which expired earlier this month. The expiration of the deal on May 4 had halted oil supplies to the kingdom’s refinery at Zarqa, which averaged 15,000 barrels per day delivered by tanker trucks. On May 23, a joint press release by USAID and UNDP said that the federal government of Iraq and the KRG have adopted the country’s first Climate Investment Plan, which aims to attract investments in “agriculture, water security, ecosystems, low-emission transport, energy, and circular urban economy” in order to “enhance resilience, reduce emissions, and foster a safe environment for investment.” 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.


Parliament Fails To Elect New Speaker; 2024 Budget Includes IQD 11 Trillion In New Spending; Judiciary Partially Restores Minority Quota Seats In Kurdistan Parliament

On May 18, Iraq’s parliament held a session during which lawmakers cast their votes to elect a new speaker to replace Mohammed al-Halbousi, who was ousted by Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court in November. The results were once again inconclusive, similar to a previous vote in January, as none of the contenders managed to secure the required majority of 166 votes. Out of the 311 lawmakers in attendance, 137 voted for Mahmoud al-Mashhadadni, who is backed by Halbousi’s Taqaddum party, while 158 voted for Salim al-Issaw, who is backed by Taqaddum’s rival Sunni parties (Azm, Hasm, and Siyada). Meanwhile, the third candidate, Amir Abdul-Jabbar, received just three votes, and 13 ballots were declared as invalid. The small difference between the two frontrunners indicates that parliament remains deeply divided on the issue. The Saturday vote was chaotic at times and involved heated arguments that devolved into physical altercations between Sunni lawmakers, leaving one of them with bruises and minor bleeding. As of reporting, it remains unclear when parliament will reconvene to conduct a final runoff election between Mashhadani and Issawi.

On May 19, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani said his government has prepared the revenue and spending tables for the 2024 federal budget and shared them with parliament for review in accordance with the three-year budget law passed in 2023. The 2024 budget includes total planned spending of IQD 210.9 trillion ($159 billion in the official exchange rate), based on expected revenue of IQD 144.3 trillion and a planned deficit of IQD 63.5 trillion, Sudani told reporters. The 2024 budget is more than IQD 11 trillion larger than the previous year’s bill. The majority of the budget, IQD 156.8, is allocated to pay operational expenses, including the salaries of more than 4.07 million civil servants on the federal government’s payroll.  

On May 21, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court dismissed a case filed by Kurdistan regional government (KRG) president Nechirvan Barzani against the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) over the candidate registration system in the Kurdistan parliamentary election, which governs how parliamentary seats are allocated among the electoral districts. The Court also decided to rescind its own May 7 order that temporarily suspended the implementation of that system until it could make a ruling in Barzani’s case. The announcements by the Court on Tuesday came as the Electoral Judiciary Commission, in what appears to be a compromise, ordered the reinstatement of five of the 11 minority quota seats that had been eliminated by the Federal Supreme Court in February. That February decision set off a crisis, as Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) accused the Court of illegal interference in the regional election and threatened to boycott the election. The reinstated minority representation quota seats will be allocated as follows: one seat each for Christian and Turkmen communities in Erbil (out of 34), one seat each for Christian and Turkmen communities in Sulaymaniyah (out of 38), and one seat for Christians in Duhok (out of 25). Halabja province will see no change to its allocation of three seats. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has filed an appeal against the new minorities quota allocations, which the party said were unfair because no quota seats were allocated for Halabja. Both the KRG and IHEC are now waiting for one another to set a new date for the election, which was supposed to take place on June 10, a date that’s been rendered impractical by the recent disputes, legal challenges, and disruptions to preparations.

On May 22, Iraq’s parliament voted to approve an amendment to the law of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) that allows the term of the IHEC board of commissioners to be extended. Specifically, the amendment sets the term to five years that had started on January 7, 2020 and ends on January 6, 2025. The term can be extended by request of the board of commissioners and the approval of an absolute majority of lawmakers. The amendment is meant to give the current IHEC board sufficient time to oversee the delayed legislative elections in the Kurdistan region. 

On May 22, Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei while visiting Tehran to attend the funeral of Iranian president Ibrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash on May 19. The Iraqi government had declared a day of mourning after the news of Raisi’s death was confirmed. A senior delegation from the KRG, led by president Nechirvan Barzani, is also in Tehran to attend Raisi’s funeral. 

On May 22, Iraq’s parliament voted to approve a new law that designates public holidays in the country. The law lists 11 public holidays, including “Eid al-Gahdeer,” which marks an important day in Shia Muslim history. The inclusion of this holiday has been championed by Moqtada al-Sadr. The proposal has raised objections among the Sunni community and other groups that voiced concerns about Iraq sliding into theocratic rule and are worried that the bill could revive sectarian tensions.

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


At least Seven Iraqis Killed In Multiple Bombings This Week; Clashes Between Militias Leave Two Dead in Baghdad

On May 18, Iraqi security sources said that an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near army troops in the area between the Haditha district of Anbar province and the adjacent Salah ad-Din province. The explosion wounded four soldiers, the sources added.

On May 19, security sources in Baghdad said that violent armed clashes erupted between gunmen from the Saraya al-Salam militia of Moqtada al-Sadr and gunmen from the Ansar Allah al-Awfiya militia in al-Obeidi district of east Baghdad. The clashes, which began after a member of the second militia wrote a post on Facebook in which he insulted Sadr and his late father, Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, killed at least two members of Sadr’s militias, and wounded seven people, including three police officers. At least one house was burned in the fighting, which involved the use of machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. 

On May 22, security sources in Salah ad-Din province said that an Iraqi army patrol struck a roadside IED while participating in search operations near the Tuzkhormatu district in the eastern parts of the province. The explosion killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded four.  On the following day, another roadside IED exploded on the highway between Baiji and Tikrit in central Salah ad-Din, striking a civilian vehicle. The explosion destroyed the vehicle and killed its six occupants, a couple and their four children.

On May 22, the Security Media Cell reported that a special force from the Anbar police conducted an intelligence-driven operation south of the remote Rutba district that led to the killing of two ISIS militants. One member of the police force was also killed during the operation, and another was wounded, the Cell added. 

On May 23, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” a front group for Iran-backed Iraqi militias, claimed in a statement that it attacked “vital targets” at the Israeli port of Haifa using Arqub-type cruise missiles. The group also claimed that it fired explosive drones at unspecified military targets in the Golan Heights. The group also launched two 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. 

Sources cited in this section include: al-Sumaria, Shafaq, INA, Mawazin.


IDP Returns Accelerate Despite Warnings About Conditions In Volatile Areas Of Origin

On May 22, Iraq’s Ministry for Migration and the Displaced said that a new group of 785 internally displaced persons (IDPs) had returned to their home district of Sinjar from two IDP camps in Duhok province. On the following day, the ministry said that another group of 935 IDPs returned to their home districts in Sinjar (Ninewa province) and Balad (Salah ad-Din province) from the Ashti Camp in Sulaymaniyah province. The transportation of the former IDPs and their possessions was conducted in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Migration Minister Evan Jabro said. Jabro added that all returnees received financial assistance, aid packages, and essential household appliances to facilitate their return. The minister affirmed that her ministry continues to work towards “the voluntary return” of all IDPs and “completely closing the displacement file by July 30.” Last week, 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. 

Sources cited in this section include: Rudaw, NRT, ISHM archive.


Iraq Awards New Deal To Develop Major Gas Field In Diyala

On May 20, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that the state-owned Midland Oil Company has signed a preliminary agreement with a consortium of Chinese and Iraqi companies to develop the Mansouriyah gas field in Diyala province. The consortium, comprising Chinese company Gereh and local company Petro Iraq, is expected to bring production to 100 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) within 18 months. Iraq hopes to triple that volume to 300 MMcf/d within 4-5 years, the director of Midland Oil Company said. 

On May 23, Jordanian energy officials said that the Iraqi government has approved a three-month extension for the bilateral agreement under which Iraq supplies Jordan with crude oil, which expired earlier this month. The expiration of the deal on May 4 caused oil supplies to the kingdom’s refinery at Zarqa, which averaged 15,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil delivered by tanker trucks, to be halted. 

On May 23, a joint press release by USAID and UNDP said that the federal government of Iraq and the KRG have adopted the country’s first Climate Investment Plan, which aims to offer “viable options for public and private investments to fulfill the climate commitments of Iraq into the investment strategies for the period 2025-2030.” The plan focuses on attracting investments in priority sectors that include “agriculture, water security, ecosystems, low-emission transport, energy, and circular urban economy” in order to “enhance resilience, reduce emissions, and foster a safe environment for investment.” USAID provided funding to support the development of the plan while UNDP provided technical support to the National Investment Commission in Baghdad and the Board of Investment in Erbil, the statement said.

Sources cited in this section include: Iraq’s Oil Ministry, Iraq Observer, ISHM archive, Reliefweb.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs and ERWs from May 16, 2024 - May 23, 2024

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
5/18/24 Desert between Haditha (in Anbar) and Salah ad-Din province04
5/22/24 Tuzkhormatu, Salah ad-Din province14
5/23/24 Highway between Baiji and Tikrit, Salah ad-Din province60

 

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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