ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: June 20 – June 27, 2024

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Key Takeaways:

  • POLITICS: Popular Militia Commander Renews Call To Sack Muthanna’s Governor; KRG Legislative Elections Set For October 20 – On June 24, Hameed al-Yasiri, a prominent commander of a Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) unit in the Muthanna province, called on the provincial council to withdraw confidence from the governor, Mohannad al-Itabi, “immediately” and appoint “an independent and honest” replacement. Two weeks ago, Yasiri, who is affiliated with the shrines of Najaf and Karbala and known for criticizing Iran-backed militias, had urged PM Sudani to appoint a military governor and shut down the “economic offices” that he said powerful parties use to extort money from local businesses. At the time, Yasiri threatened to mobilize protests in the province but postponed them after Sudani instructed the Integrity Commission to investigate the corruption allegations. On June 26, KRG President Nechirvan Barzani set October 20, 2024 as the new date for holding the much-delayed legislative elections in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Officials from Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), which will be in charge of organizing the election, said the date was “very suitable,” and will give IHEC enough time to complete its preparations. This week, IHEC extended the deadline for coalitions, parties, and individual candidates to register to compete in the elections by ten days from June 24 to July 4. In other developments, on June 23, the Board of Trustees of the Iraqi Media Network (IMN) voted to elect Thaer Hitayhit al-Ghanimi as its chairman. Ghanimi is thought to have close ties to several Iran-backed militias. On June 25, Khamis al-Khanjar, leader of the Siyada party, said the political deadlock that prevented the election of a new speaker of parliament for more than six months will be resolved soon. The remarks came after political sources said that Khanjar reached out to former speaker Halbousi with a new initiative to mend fences between their rival parties and resolve the impasse over the speaker position. more…
  • SECURITY: Militia Leaders Threaten Attacks On U.S. Interests If Israel Attacks Lebanese Hezbollah – On June 24, the leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, Qais al-Khazali, threatened to attack U.S. interests in Iraq and across the region if Israel were to attack Hezbollah in Lebanon. On the following day, the leader of another Iran-backed Iraqi militia, Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, said that Iraqi “resistance” factions will participate in any war that breaks out between Hezbollah and Israel. The group’s leader, Abu Ala’ al-Walaie said the “geographic barriers” that had “forced the Islamic Resistance in Iraq” to limit its involvement in hostilities against Israel to long-range attacks “will disappear” in case Israel decided to “wage war on Lebanon.” In related developments, on June 22, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” a front group for Iran-backed Iraqi militias, claimed in a statement that it conducted two attacks against five ships at or near the Israeli port of Haifa in cooperation with the Houthi militants of Yemen. On June 24, authorities in Wasit province said they discovered a crashed drone of unknown origin. The aircraft was not carrying any weapons or explosives. Analysis of an image of the crashed drone suggests that it was a Houthi-made Samad-2 drone. more…
  • HUMANITARIAN: Access Restrictions Complicate Government Plan To Close Down IDP Camps – Between June 24 – 27, Iraq’s Ministry for Migration and the Displaced said that two groups totaling 966 internally displaced persons (IDPs) had returned to their home district of Sinjar from out-of-camp settlements in the Khanki and Sharya regions of Duhok province. Meanwhile, Migration Minister Evan Jabro said this week that achieving the government’s goal of closing down all remaining IDP camps in the Kurdistan region by the established July 31 deadline will be “challenging” due to access restrictions. Jabro claimed that while authorities in Sulaymaniyah were cooperating with ministry staff, authorities in Duhok and Erbil have been preventing the ministry staff from accessing IDP camps under their jurisdiction. In other developments, on June 24, the Iraqi government said it will increase the amount of subsidized diesel fuel allocated to privately-owned power generators during July and August to help them meet rising demand during the summer months. Power and water shortages have been reported in various parts of Iraq this week and have sparked protests in at least three southern provinces: Dhi-Qar, Babylon and Maysan. more…
  • ECONOMY & CLIMATE: Sudani Appoints New Civil Aviation Chief; Oil Exports Down 53,000 BPD In May – On June 24, PM Sudani appointed Bengin Rikani, the Minister of Construction, Housing, and Public Works, as the new head of Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA). Rikani’s appointment came after Sudani convened a meeting of senior officials to review government efforts to address security and compliance issues that have been preventing the Iraqi national carrier, Iraqi Airways, from operating in European skies. On June 27, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports during May averaged 3.359 million bpd, about 53,000 bpd below April. The statement neglected to mention the total revenue generated by the exports and the average price at which the oil was sold. All of the May exports came from fields in southern and central Iraq, while exports from Kirkuk and the Kurdistan region remained suspended. In other developments, on June 26, electricity officials in the Kurdistan region said that a sudden drop in the pressure of gas supplied from the Khor-Mor gas field has forced them to shut down several power plants across the region. The senior grid control official in Sulaymaniyah said he expects the region to lose 70% of its power if the gas disruption continues. The problem has also impacted the neighboring Ninewa province, which lost some 150 megawatts of electricity it typically receives from the Kurdistan region. more…

Attention readers! ISHM will take a break next week for the 4th of July holiday, but it will be back the week after, with comprehensive coverage of the week we missed!

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.


POLITICS: Popular Militia Commander Renews Call To Sack Muthanna’s Governor; KRG Legislative Elections Set For October 20

On June 23, the Board of Trustees of the Iraqi Media Network (IMN) voted to elect Thaer Hitayhit al-Ghanimi as its chairman, a source from IMN told the press. Ghanimi is one of the five new members appointed to the board by the government of Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani on February 27, 2024. The appointments were criticized by parliament’s legal committee as a violation, arguing that the role of the Council of Ministers is limited to nominating candidates for parliament to vote on. Ghanimi is also regarded by analysts as “close to multiple militias,” including several “U.S.-designated terrorist groups.”

On June 24, Hameed al-Yasiri, a prominent commander of a Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) unit in the southern Muthanna province, called on the provincial council to withdraw confidence from the governor, Mohannad al-Itabi, “immediately” and appoint “an independent and honest” replacement to lead the province. Yasiri, who commands  Ansar al-Marjiyah, a PMF unit affiliated with the shrines of Najaf and Karbala, warned the council members that failure to replace the governor would make them partners in his mismanagement of Muthanna’s affairs. Two weeks ago, Yasiria, who is thought to be close to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and is known for his strong criticism of Iran-backed militias, had called on his followers to hold demonstrations at the provincial government headquarters and near the offices of various political parties whom he accused of corruption and exploitation of public funds for personal and partisan gains. Yasiri has also called on the government to appoint a military governor and shut down what he described as “economic offices” that powerful parties use to extort money from local businesses. In an attempt to defuse the situation, Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani met with Yasiri on June 9 and instructed the Integrity Commission and Board of Supreme Audit to investigate the corruption allegations. 

On June 25, Khamis al-Khanjar, leader of the Siyada party, said that the political deadlock that has prevented the election of a new speaker of parliament for more than six months will be resolved soon. Khanjar, whose party has been competing for the post against the Taqaddum party of former speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, stressed that the delay was the result of “difference, not disputes” among Sunni Arab parties. Last week, members of the Siyada party said that Khanjar had reached out to Halbousi with a new initiative meant to mend fences between the former allies-turned-rivals and resolve the impasse over the speaker position. 

On June 26, the President of the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) set October 20, 2024 as the new date for holding the much-delayed legislative elections in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, a spokesman for KRG President Nechirvan Barzani said. Officials from Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), which will be in charge of organizing the election, said the date was “very suitable,” and will give IHEC enough time to complete its preparations. IHEC also decided to extend the deadline for coalitions, parties, and individual candidates to register to compete in the elections by ten days from June 24 to July 4. 

Sources cited in this section include: Mawazin, ISHM archive, Shafaq, The Washington Institute, al-Mirbad, al-Mada, NINA, Rudaw, Ultra Iraq.


SECURITY: Militia Leaders Threaten Attacks On U.S. Interests If Israel Attacks Lebanese Hezbollah

On June 21, police sources in the Tarmiyah district, north of Baghdad said that security forces found an improvised explosive device (IED) that was placed under a vehicle belonging to the local mukhtar of al-Sheikh Hamad area of the district. The bomb was defused and removed without incident. 

On June 22, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” a front group for Iran-backed Iraqi militias, claimed in a statement that it conducted two attacks against ships at or near the Israeli port of Haifa in cooperation with the Houthi militants of Yemen. The first attack allegedly struck four vessels at the Haifa port, while the second operation targeted a ship named “Shorthorn Express” while crossing the Mediterranean on its way to Haifa. Both attacks involved the use of explosive drones. A spokesman for the Houthis said the four ships targeted in the first operation were carrying cement and other cargo, adding that “the two operations successfully achieved their objectives, and the strikes were precise and direct.” 

On June 22, the Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada militia said that one of its fighters was killed in an airstrike that targeted his vehicle while on patrol near the Iraq-Syria border. The militia group said that the airstrike was conducted by U.S. forces, a claim that the U.S. Central Command has denied. A report by the Syrian Observatory for Human rights provided additional details, saying that the airstrike happened inside Syria in the town of al-Sukkariyah near the border town of Al-Bukamal. The report also raised the casualty figure to three killed, including two members of Iraqi militias, and a third unidentified individual.

On June 22, the Security Media Cell reported that Iraqi F-16 jets struck a tunnel and series of hideouts used by an important cell of ISIS militants operating in the Pulkana Mountains area within the Tuzkhormatu district of Salah ad-Din province. The airstrikes killed seven ISIS militants, including the cell leader, the report added. On the following day, F-16 jets conducted another airstrike against ISIS hideouts, this time in the Himrin Mountains in Diyala province. The operation destroyed the targeted position, killing three militants inside, another report by the Security Media Cell said. 

On June 24, the leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, Qais al-Khazali, threatened to attack U.S. interests in Iraq and across the region if Israel were to attack Hezbollah in Lebanon. Speaking to a group of his supporters, Khazali warned that if the U.S. continued to support Israel’s war effort, and the latter decided to attack Hezbollah, “then America should know that it will have made all of its interests in the region and in Iraq as targets and at risk.” On the following day, the leader of another Iran-backed Iraqi militia, Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, said that Iraqi “resistance” factions will participate in any war that breaks out between Hezbollah and Israel. In a message on social media, the group’s leader, Abu Ala’ al-Walaie said that “geographic barriers” had “forced the Islamic Resistance in Iraq” to limit its involvement in hostilities against Israel to long-range attacks “from a distance of more than 800 kilometers.” He added that these barriers “will disappear” in case Israel decided to “wage war on Lebanon.” Earlier this week, a spokesperson for Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, said that the Iraqi “resistance” factions will participate in any war that breaks out between Hezbollah and Israel. The spokesperson told Shafaq that “the ongoing war…is a war of one axis, and Iraq is part of this axis,” adding, “we, the Iraqi factions, are part of this war, and we are already involved in it.” 

On June 24, security sources in Wasit province said that locals near al-Basha’ir subdistrict of the province have discovered a crashed drone of unknown origin. Authorities, including civil defense, national security, and intelligence officials, arrived at the scene to investigate the crash, which occurred in open land and did not cause damage or casualties. The aircraft was not carrying any weapons or explosives, local officials said. An image of the crashed drone shows close resemblance to early variants of the Iranian-made Shahed-129 drone. But the sources in Wasit noted that the aircraft was approximately 2 meters in length, about 1/4th that of the Shahed-129, making the more likely explanation that it was a Houthi-made Samad-2 drone. 

On June 25, security sources in Diyala province said that a man was killed and his sibling was seriously wounded in the explosion of a remnant of war in the Mandili district near the border with Iran. According to the sources, the victims found an old artillery shell and attempted to extract metals from it, causing it to detonate. 

On June 25, Ninewa police said that a legacy IED detonated in the al-Qadisiyah area of al-Baaj district southwest of Mosul. The explosion killed an eleven year old boy, the police added. 

Sources cited in this section include: Shafaq, al-Sumaria, Reuters, CENTCOM, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rudaw, INA, Ultra Iraq, Mawazin, social media, NINA.


HUMANITARIAN: Access Restrictions Complicate Government Plan To Close Down IDP Camps

On June 24, Iraq’s Ministry for Migration and the Displaced said that a new group of 397 internally displaced persons (IDPs) had returned to their home district of Sinjar from out-of-camp settlements in the Khanki subdistrict of Duhok province. This was followed on June 27 with an announcement that another group of 569 IDPs had returned to their home district of Sinjar from out-of-camp settlements in the Sharya region of Duhok province. In related news, Migration Minister Evan Jabro said this week that achieving the government’s goal of closing down all remaining IDP camps in the Kurdistan region by the established July 31 deadline will be challenging due to access restrictions. Jabro claimed that while authorities in Sulaymaniyah were cooperating with ministry staff, authorities in Duhok and Erbil have been preventing the ministry staff from accessing IDP camps under their jurisdiction.

On June 24, the Iraqi government said it will increase the amount of subsidized diesel fuel allocated to privately-owned power generators for the months of July and August to 40 liters per 1 KVA, up from the typical amount of 20 liters per 1 KVA of generation capacity. The increase is meant to boost the ability of these generators, which supply residential neighborhoods with power, to meet rising demand during the summer months. The government has set the price of the subsidized fuel at IQD 200 (approximately 16 cents) per liter. Generator operators will be required to provide supplemental electricity to their customers for a minimum of 12 hours per day. To address high demand during the summer months, the government this week also approved two contracts between the Ministry of Electricity and two private companies (Mass Global and the KAR Group) to supplement the national grid with electricity from their power plants in the Kurdistan region and imported electricity from Turkey, respectively. Power and water shortages have been reported in various parts of Iraq this week, and have sparked protests in at least Dhi-Qar, Babylon and Maysan provinces.

Sources cited in this section include: INA, PUKMedia, NRT, ISHM archive, UTV, Iraq Observer, al-Mirbad, Rudaw. 


ECONOMY & CLIMATE: Sudani Appoints New Civil Aviation Chief; Oil Exports Down 53,000 BPD In May

On June 24, Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani appointed Bengin Rikani, the Minister of Construction, Housing, and Public Works, as the new head of Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA), government documents showed. Rikani’s appointment came just days after Sudani convened a meeting of senior officials to review government efforts to address security and compliance issues that have been preventing the Iraqi national carrier, Iraqi Airways, from operating in European skies. 

On June 25, the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) inaugurated the new Jamarka dam in the Qosh-Tappa district of Erbil province. The new dam is 17.5 meters in height, 262 meters long, and 8 meters in thickness. Its construction cost IQD 4.3 billion. It is one of several that are under construction in the region, according to KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, who attended the inauguration ceremony. It is unclear what the storage capacity of the new dam is.

On June 26, electricity officials in the Kurdistan region said that a sudden drop in the pressure of gas supplied from the Khor-Mor gas field has forced them to shut down several power plants across the region. The senior grid control official in Sulaymaniyah said he expects the region to lose 70% of its power if the gas disruption continues. Khor-Mor provides the majority of natural gas needed to keep the region’s power plants running, while smaller amounts are provided from the Khurmala oil field, the official added. The problem has also impacted the neighboring Ninewa province, which lost some 150 megawatts of electricity it typically receives from the Kurdistan region. 

On June 27, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports during May totaled more than 104.130 million barrels, for an average of 3.359 million barrels per day (bpd), which is about 53,000 bpd below exports in April. In its statement, which once again came almost a month behind schedule, the Ministry of Oil neglected to mention the total revenue generated by the May exports and the average price at which the oil was sold. All of the May exports came from fields in southern and central Iraq, while exports from the northern fields in Kirkuk, as well as fields under the control of the Kurdistan regional government, remained suspended. 

Sources cited in this section include: Ultra Iraq, Iraqi PM’s office, Kurdistan24, Rudaw, Shafaq, Iraq’s Oil Ministry ISHM archive.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs and ERWs from June 20, 2024 - June 27, 2024

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
6/21/24 Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad00
6/25/24 Mandili, Diyala province11
6/25/24 Al-Baaj, Ninewa province10

 

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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