ISHM: March 2 – 8, 2018


Key Takeaways:

  • Federal Budget Adopted in Parliament Amid Strong Kurdish Objection – On March 3, the Iraqi Parliament passed a federal budget of approximately US$ 88 billion, assuming revenues of US$ 77.6 billion (based on conservative estimates that the price of oil will hover around US$ 46 per barrel for the year) and assuming a budget deficit of $10.6 billion. The budget places several stipulations on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to receive allocations based on the region’s population, including remittances of oil exports and settling back payments to the federal government. Kurdish Members of Parliament boycotted the vote and the outcome sparked outrage from Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government Nechirvan Barzani, who said that the law was a “breach of consensus” and showed that Baghdad was not committed to its partnership with Erbil. more…
  • Amid Reconstruction, ISF Continue to Target ISIS Militants in Mosul – On March 2, four Iraqi soldiers were killed by ISIS militants in an armed attack on their location in Badush, 24 kilometers west of Mosul in Ninewa Province. Continued operations and airstrikes in the vicinity led to eight ISIS leaders killed and 17 arrested. Iraqi Security Forces also arrested 20 suspected ISIS militants in the Hajar neighborhood of eastern Mosul. Ninewa Operations Commander Najim al-Jubouri requested a significant increase in police deployments in the region from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who reportedly promised to send 10-12 thousand additional officers. more…
  • Iraq’s Tank Fleet In Trouble as Contractors Pull Out – U.S.-based defense contractor General Dynamics, responsible for maintaining Iraq’s fleet of U.S.-made M1 Abrams tanks, has pulled most of its employees out of Iraq at the request of the U.S. government. According to an employee, the U.S. government suspended the maintenance program until all nine M1 tanks controlled by Iranian-backed Shia Popular Mobilization Units are returned to the Iraqi Army (as previously reported in ISHM). Member of Parliament Shakhawan Abdullah, who serves on the Security Committee, said that the contractor’s presence in Iraq is necessary for the preservation and upkeep of the fleet. more…
  • Turkish, Iranian Delegations Visit Baghdad – Iraq hosted a Turkish military delegation and an Iranian business delegation separately in Baghdad this week. Iraqi Defense Minister Irfan al-Hayali and Turkish Army Chief of Staff Khulosi Akkar discussed border security, reconstruction, and trade exchange logistics. Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister later announced that Turkey and Iraq will conduct a cross-border military operation against PKK members after Iraqi national elections in May. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Iranian First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri met to discuss Iraq’s reconstruction needs, trade, and cultural and educational exchanges. more…
  • Iraqi Government, UN Launch Joint Humanitarian Plan – The Government of Iraq and the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq launched their 2018 plan for the country: the Plan for Relief, Shelter and Stabilization of Displaced Persons and the Humanitarian Response Plan. Jasim Aljaf, Iraq’s Minister of Migration and Displacement, said that the first plan focuses on supporting returning families with one-off emergency cash assistance and maintaining camps. Ramanathan Balakrishnan, Acting Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq said that “Continued advocacy by the humanitarian community against involuntary or premature returns and strengthening mechanisms with the government authorities for supporting voluntary and safe returns is a key component of the 2018 response plan” which requires US$ 569 million in funding. 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.

Federal Budget Adopted in Parliament Amid Strong Kurdish Objection

On March 2, the Deputy Chairman for the Gorran Party in the Iraqi national Parliament, Amin Bakr, called the reduced proportion of the federal budget for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) an “injustice.” Bakr condemned the vote on the budget in Parliament without representatives of the KRI as “unacceptable.” In the initial draft proposal of the budget, the KRI’s allocation of the budget was set at 12.67 percent, a drop from its historic portion of 17 percent. Some believe the reduction was in retaliation for the KRI’s September referendum for independence.

On March 2, Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri called for an end to corruption and Iraq’s dependence on oil. Jabouri noted that, after the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), Iraq must reduce its dependence on oil “because Iraq is full of…self-potential and industrial development.” Jabouri noted that the country’s economic stability would lie not only in investment, but also in ending corruption and the waste of resources.

On March 2, Zaher al-Abadi, a Member of Parliament (MP) representing Basra, said that MPs in his province would not vote on the budget if it did not include the oil-producing provinces’ agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. In an interview, MP Abadi said, “what was put in the parliament session yesterday regarding the vote on the federal budget does not meet the minimum aspirations of the province of Basra, which produces daily four million barrels of oil and exports 3.6 million of them.”

On March 2, Najeeb Najib, an MP for the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the Iraqi national Parliament stated that the KRI was a victim of the current federal budget. She said, “this year’s budget was overshadowed by the electoral tone and became a propaganda paper for some political figures at the expense of the rights of the people of Kurdistan.” Najib’s comment refers to the reduction of the KRI’s budget allocation from 17 percent to 12.67 percent, which some believe was in retaliation for the September referendum on Kurdish independence.

On March 3, the Iraqi Parliament began to finish its vote on the budget. The vote was called by Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri after a quorum was established. However, Kurdish lawmakers boycotted the vote. Kurdish MP Ashwaq Jaff said, “We boycotted the vote and there are proposals for Kurdistan to withdraw from the entire political process in Iraq over the unfair treatment we have received.” During the vote, the The vote began on March 1 when 12 articles of the bill were voted on. The budget also included a 200 percent tax on alcoholic beverages. Parliament also abolished a proposed reduction of salaries for government employees.  Later that day, Parliament completed its vote against strong objections from Kurdish lawmakers.

On March 3, Kazim Sayadi, an MP with the State of Law Coalition, stated that the budget would be passed by the majority party, not the majority of Parliament. Sayadi declared that there would be an outlet for Iraqi citizens since the budget would not appeal to a Parliamentary majority.

On March 3, the Iraqi Parliament released the text of the budget law to Al Sumaria. According to a translation by Reuters, the total budget will be 104 trillion dinars (US$ 88 billion). The government expects revenues of 91.6 trillion dinars (US$ 77.6 billion) with a deficit of 12.5 trillion dinars (US$ 10.6 billion). These numbers were set based on projected oil exports of 3.8 million barrels per day, at US$ 46 per barrel. MPs for the oil-producing provinces had initially opposed the budget because of the price per barrel it had originally set. However, in the new budget, oil-producing provinces can choose between an additional 5 percent of oil returns, refinery returns, or natural gas returns for their budget. The oil-producing provinces were also given an additional 400 billion dinars (US$ 336 million) for projects. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) heavily opposed the proposed budget because of its reduction of the KRI’s allocation from 17 percent to 12.67 percent. However, in the new budget, the bill does not give a percentage, only declaring that the allocation would be proportional with the KRI’s population. Additionally, the budget allocated a percentage of the federal Iraqi Army budget to the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga in accordance to their numbers. However, the budget requires the KRG to settle its dues from 2004-2017 to the Iraqi national government and contribute 250,000 barrels of oil to the overall exports. If the KRG does not comply with these requirements, the federal Ministry of Finance will deduct the allocated amounts and implement them at later times.

On March 4, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani responded to the passing of the federal budget. He asserted that he was “concerned” about its adoption and would be meeting with Kurdish parties in order to take a stance on the budget. He also stated that the passing of the budget was a “breach of consensus and partnership” and showed that Baghdad was not committed to its partnership with Erbil.

On March 4, former KRG President Massoud Barzani accused Baghdad of undermining the constitutional rights of the KRI by reducing its allocation of the budget. He said, “What happened in the Iraqi parliament was another clear step in undermining the consensus and sharing power, balance and constitutional rights of Kurdistan.”

On March 5, Iraq’s Parliament voted to establish a new National Oil Company to manage its energy sector. Member of Parliament Husham al-Suhail consider this as a significant law to push the development process of Iraq’s energy sector. Kurdish lawmakers voted with the majority to establish the new company, despite ongoing acrimony between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government following a September referendum on Kurdish independence.

On March 8, United States (U.S.) Spokesperson for the Department of State Heather Nauert announced that the U.S. would not help mediate between Baghdad and Erbil on the federal budget. Nauert asserted that the budget was an internal matter and that the U.S. would not interfere in it.

Amid Reconstruction, ISF Continue to Target ISIS Militants in Mosul

On March 2, a security source said that four Iraqi soldiers were killed in an armed attack in Badush, 24 kilometers west of Mosul. The gunmen, who are believed to belong to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), attacked the Iraqi checkpoint in Badush with machine guns.

On March 2, Iraqi Security Forces arrested 17 ISIS militants in Badush, 24 kilometers west of Mosul. Eight ISIS leaders were killed by airstrikes that targeted tunnels in Badush, where they had been hiding.

On March 2, according to an article published on Shafaaq News, Ninewa Operations Commander Najim al-Jubouri announced that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi promised to send more police officers to Ninewa Province to reinforce security in the area. The article reported Jubouri as saying that after discussing the security issues in Ninewa with Abadi, the Prime Minister promised to send 10,000-12,000 police officers to the province.

On March 4, a security source reported that Iraqi Security Forces arrested a number of informants working with ISIS in Ninewa Province. The source said that the security forces conducted the operation in Mosul, arresting some journalists in the A’maq news agency, an affiliate of ISIS.

On March 4, a conference was held in the city hall of Ninewa Province to attract investors to play a role in reconstructing Mosul. Oday al-A’dhami, a spokesman for the conference, said “Scores of investment companies, activists and officials attended today’s gathering to probe ways of pumping more investments into war-torn Mosul.” The conference is part of the Iraqi government’s bids to attract the largest possible number of investors and businessmen to reconstruct areas devastated by the counter-terrorism war in Mosul.

On March 6, a security source said that the SWAT forces withdrew from the Al-Zuhour neighborhood in eastern Mosul. The source said that this came after a dispute between the Ninewa Police Chief, Brigadier General Hamad al-Nams, and ousted Ninewa Governor Nofal Hammadi, who said that the SWAT forces’ presence was causing traffic jams and that the area now did not have protection at its entrance.

On March 7, the representatives of the Reconstruction Fund for Liberated Areas and the representatives of Kuwait Advisory Office signed a contract in Baghdad to establish 19 health centers in five liberated provinces. The Head of the Reconstruction Fund for Liberated Areas, Mustapha al-Hiti, said, “The contract includes the construction of 19 health centers in Ninewa, Salah ad-Din, Anbar, Diyala and northern Babil Provinces, with a one-year of limitation for the construction work” with an estimated value of US$ 15 million. A total of US$ 100 million from the Kuwait Grant was allocated for the health sector in liberated area affected by ISIS.

On March 8, Iraqi Security Forces seized a shipment of weapons in Mosul. These weapons were intended to be sent to Afrin in Syria, to support Kurdish forces fighting Turkish military operations in the area. Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” in January 2018, which targets the Kurdish-led Democratic Union Party in Syria (PYD), People’s Protection Units (YPG), and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) positions in Afrin, Syria.

On March 8, a security source said that twenty ISIS militants were arrested in Mosul. The operation was carried out by Iraqi Security Forces in the area of Hajar, eastern Mosul.

Iraq’s Tank Fleet In Trouble as Contractors Pull Out

On March 5, Shafaaq News reported on an article published by Foreign Policy concerning the issue of the M1A1 Abram tanks to the Iraqi Army that had fallen in the hands of Iran-backed Shia Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs). According to the article, the American company that repairs Abram tanks pulled many of its people out of Iraq after the PMUs took control of at least nine tanks. As a result, many of Iraq’s tanks are unusable due to their need for maintenance, which could jeopardize Iraq’s campaign against lingering Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. Indeed, while ISIS has lost control over most of its territories in Iraq, smaller groups of militants continue to target Iraqi Security Forces and their allies. Iraq bought 140 M1s beginning in 2008 to re-equip its previous armored units, destroyed by the United States(U.S.)-led coalition when it invaded Iraq in 2003. As part of the sale, the Pentagon made an arrangement with General Dynamics Land Systems, the company who manufactures the tanks, for its workers to maintain Iraq’s tanks, repair battle damage, and train Iraqi mechanics to fix the vehicles themselves. The U.S. Army paid US$ 320 million to General Dynamics for the work starting in 2012, but in late December 2017 most of the General Dynamics contractors abruptly left Iraq. One employee said that they were told that the U.S. government had shut the program down until the missing M1s would be returned, adding that a score of Iraq’s tanks are not “battle-ready.” The contractor said that in late February that only two M1s remain missing and that the deal with the Iraqi military to provide contractors to maintain the tanks is technically still in place. However, the maintenance program remains in limbo until the last two tanks are retrieved and only ten General Dynamics employees are still in Iraq as part of the M1 program. The contractor added that the Iraqi Army is unable to maintain the tanks without American help and now as many as half of Iraq’s M1s await repairs.

On March 5, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg began an official visit to Iraq, paying a visit to NATO’s training facilities in Besmaya, a city about 10 kilometers southeast of Baghdad. Stoltenberg met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad, and discussed Iraq’s security situation and the cooperation between NATO and Iraq. At the request of the Iraqi government, NATO is planning to scale up its support with a new training mission. Stoltenberg said, “We will continue to train the trainers, and help the Iraqi Government to establish specialist military academies and schools.”

On March 5, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared that NATO forces would remain in Iraq “at the request of” Iraqi authorities, following an Iraqi Parliament call for setting a schedule for foreign troops to withdraw from Iraq. During his visit to Baghdad, Stoltenberg said, “We are here because Iraq wants it, we are not here without the consent and the invitation of Iraq.” He said that NATO troops from 19 different countries are intensifying training for Iraqi forces, especially in the fields of mine clearance, military medicine, and equipment maintenance. Stoltenberg also praised the “important shift” in Iraqi forces, which grew from near collapse in 2014 to successfully regaining all cities in 2017. Stoltenberg added that NATO would keep training Iraqi forces as long as necessary to ensure that there would not be another ISIS, adding that in order to achieve this, Iraq will also need military schools and academies, as well as working on its institutional reforms.

On March 6, Shakhawan Abdullah, a Member of the Iraqi Parliament Security Committee, affirmed that the U.S. concern over the use of Abrams tanks has grown into a breach of the contract signed by the two sides. Abdullah said that there“have been official talks more than once on this regard” between the U.S. and the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and that the U.S. has “accurate information” about the use of the tanks by the PMUs. He added that it is not clear whether the company who builds and maintain the tanks has left Iraq, but if that was the case the tanks would become useless, noting that the company’s presence is necessary.

On March 6, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense announced the arrival of the first lot T-50 South Korean fighter jets. The statement did not disclose the number of jets included in this first lot.

On March 7, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense released a brief statement that the second lot of T-50 South Korean fighter jets had arrived in Iraq. This announcement comes after the first lot arrived on Tuesday, March 6.

On March 7, German Defense Ministry spokesman Frank Finnigan announced that Germany intended to continue training Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraq. However, the head of the German governmental press- and information-agency, Steffen Seibert stressed that the number of members of the German battalion in Iraq will be reduced, from 1,200 to 800.

Turkish, Iranian Delegations Visit Baghdad

On March 2, Iraqi Minister of Defense Irfan al-Hayali received Turkish Army Chief of Staff Khulosi Akkar and his delegation in Baghdad to discuss the development of military relations between Iraq and Turkey in the fields of training and combating terrorism. During his visit to Baghdad, Akkar also met with Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanmi. They agreed to enhance military cooperation and coordination between the two countries, as well as promoting joint military exercise on a larger scale. They also discussed issues of mutual concern including border security, reconstruction, and trade exchange. Akkar’s visit comes at a time when Iraq has demanded the withdrawal of Turkish troops from northern Sinjar, as the Turkish army carries out military operation against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) elements.

On March 5, an Iranian business delegation arrived in Baghdad to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the president of Iraq Muhammad Fuad Masum, and the Speaker of Iraqi Parliament Salim al-Jabouri. The business delegation was led by Iranian Trade Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari and was organized to discuss trade and economic cooperation, and the expansion of trade deals between two countries. Another delegation was scheduled to arrive in Baghdad on Wednesday, headed by the First Vice President of Iran, Eshaq Jahangiri.

On March 7, Iraqi and Iranian delegations held official talks under the chairmanship of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the Iranian First Vice President, Eshaq Jahangiri in Baghdad, stressing the benefits of cooperation between the two countries. Abadi said, “We have strong historical ties between the two countries and the people and we seek to strengthen them in the economic, political, cultural, commercial and other fields […] The agreements are great and the problems are small.” The Iranian delegation showed its commitment to support Iraq in its reconstruction work. Abadi showed his appreciation that Iran has contributed up to US$ 2 billion to Iraq’s reconstruction needs, hoping to expand their communication within trade, commerce, culture and education for the goods of people of both countries.

On March 8, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu announced that Turkey and Iraq are planning a trans-border military operation against the PKK. Cavusoglu said that the joint military operation will take place after the Iraqi national elections on May 12, 2018.

Iraqi Government, UN Launch Joint Humanitarian Plan

On March 5, the Special Representative of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, concluded an eight-day visit to Iraq. Patten met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other senior government officials, at federal, regional and provincial levels in Baghdad, Erbil and Mosul. She also engaged directly with survivors, civil society groups, and Christian, Shia, Sunni, Turkmen, and Yazidi religious leaders. During her visit to Mosul, where thousands of Iraqi women and girls were subjected to rape, sexual slavery, and other grave forms of sexual violence perpetrated by Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), Patten was joined by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, British Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict. They both called on the authorities of Ninewa Province to address the pressing needs of survivors in ongoing reconstruction efforts, including through the significant scaling-up of medical services, mental health and psychosocial support, and economic livelihoods opportunities.

On March 6, the Government of Iraq together with the United Nation and its partners launched their 2018 plans for Iraq – the Plan for Relief, Shelter and Stabilization of Displaced People and the Humanitarian Response Plan. According to Jasim Aljaf, Iraq’s Minister of Migration and Displacement, the Government’s Plan for Relief, Shelter and Stabilization of Displaced People focuses on supporting returning families with one-off emergency cash assistance to provide basic necessities, in addition to supporting some basic projects, and continuing to support displaced families with relief items and maintaining the provision of services in camps.

On March 6, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) requested US$ 569 million through 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan to respond to the 3.4 million most vulnerable people in Iraq. The humanitarian crisis in Iraq has entered a new phase. The pace and scale of displacement have made the Iraq crisis one of the largest and most volatile in the world. Civilians have been at extreme risk throughout, from aerial bombardment, artillery barrage, crossfire, snipers, and unexploded ordnance. Tens of thousands of civilians have been used as human shields and hundreds of thousands have survived siege-like conditions. Ramanathan Balakrishnan, the Acting UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq stressed that, “As people return to their areas of origin with a large number of camps in Iraq becoming consolidated or decommissioned during the course of this year, many will need assistance including those who are returning as well as those who are unable to. Continued advocacy by the humanitarian community against involuntary or premature returns and strengthening mechanisms with the government authorities for supporting voluntary and safe returns is a key component of the 2018 response plan.”

On March 8, Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) finished his three-day visit to Iraq, where he met with Iraqi President Fuad Masum and traveled to Anbar and Salah ad-Din provinces. He stressed that, “The big battles may be over, but I am seeing that their consequences are certainly not. For all the massive destruction I saw in Ramadi and Fallujah, I saw a lot of reconstruction already taking place, and that’s a testimony to the resilience of the Iraqi people.”

On March 8, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) published the United Nation Migration Agency’s Iraq Crisis 2018 Funding Appeal. IOM appeals for US$ 26.7 million for the urgent needs of more than 700,000 Iraqis across the country including Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and the increasing numbers of returnees. Just over half of IOM Iraq’s appeal is requested to assist IDPs and returnees with seasonal shelter and non-food items. The appeal also covers support to camp coordination and camp management, psychosocial support, health-care services, emergency livelihoods in retaken areas; and the implementation of the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM).

IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

03/08/2018Mahmudiyah, 31 kilometers south of Baghdad04
03/06/2018Taji, 36 kilometers north of Baghdad05
03/06/2018Rawa, 205 kilometers north of Ramadi13
03/05/2018Diwaniyah, 190 kilometers south of Baghdad14
03/05/2018Radwaniyah, 19 kilometers southwest of Baghdad03
03/05/2018Rutba, 309 kilometers west of Ramadi03
03/04/2018Tel Kaif, 30 kilometers north of Mosul13
03/04/2018Sadr City, 17 kilometers east of Baghdad02
03/03/2018Taji, 36 kilometers north of Baghdad03
03/03/2018Jihad, 13 kilometers west of Baghdad01
03/02/2018Abu Ghraib, 30 kilometers west of Baghdad12


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 Education for Peace in Iraq Center.

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