ISHM: JUNE 22 – 28, 2018


Key Takeaways:

  • Abadi, Sadr Negotiate Alliance as Government Formation Process Continues – Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and influential Shia Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced on June 21 the formation of an alliance between their respective political coalitions, al-Nasr and Sairoon. The new alliance advocates unity and cross-sectarian representation, and follows last week’s announced alliance between Sadr’s Sairoon and Badr Organization Chief Hadi al-Ameri’s Fatah coalitions. Former Prime Minister and head of the State of Law Coalition Nouri al-Maliki expressed his support for the new Abad-Sadr coalition. Meanwhile, Sadr has urged Iraq’s judiciary to accelerate the process of recounting ballots from the May Parliamentary elections, warning of a “constitutional vacuum.” The recount was complicated by a June 9 fire at a warehouse housing ballots from Baghdad’s al-Rusafa neighborhood. The Iraqi High Electoral Commission (IHEC) Board of Commissioners decided last week to undertake an investigation of the fire, representing the first major decision reached by the Board since its formation. more…
  • Baghdad Calls for PKK Disarmament; Turkish Airstrikes Continue – On June 26, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for the “complete disarmament” of all non-state armed groups, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), operating inside Iraq. Abadi’s statement follows the launch of an intensified campaign by Turkey to target PKK units operating in northern Iraq’s Qandil mountains. One day later, Turkish warplanes struck a series of PKK targets in northern Dohuk Province amid statements from Ankara indicating Turkey’s intention to intensify its ground operations against PKK forces inside Iraq. The Iraqi government did not directly respond to these recent incidents. more…
  • ISIS Continues to Harass Security Forces in Diyala, Kirkuk, Anbar – A series of attacks by militants affiliated with ISIS across northern and western Iraq have indicated the jihadists’ lingering presence inside the country. Incidents have mainly comprised targeted assassinations and kidnappings, as well as limited improvised explosive device (IED) attacks. On June 23, Iraqi media reported that approximately 50 people had been killed by ISIS militants during the previous week. In Diyala, which has witnessed a particularly sharp uptick in militant incidents over the past few months, provincial security forces have announced plans to establish a security reporting and monitoring network. more…
  • Protesters Demand Reliable Electricity – On June 24, protesters in the Diyala provincial capital Baqubah demanded increased electricity supply from the Mansouriya gas power plant to support rising summer energy demands across the province. The demonstrations followed a 150 megawatt power outage from the national grid, which left many Baqubah residents without electrical power. Diyala Governor Muthanna al-Tamimi subsequently called for a commission to investigate the causes for the power disruption. Electricity shortages remain a serious problem across Iraq, particularly in the hot summer months, following years of mismanagement and neglect. (For more information, see EPIC’s report on Iraqi infrastructure challenges.) more…
  • Water Shortage Threatens Iraqi Agriculture – Iraq’s ongoing water crisis prompted a series of protests across the country’s agricultural regions last week, as farmers responded to irrigation cut-offs and fears that certain lucrative crops may be banned during the upcoming growing season. In response, the Iraqi Council of Ministers allocated “emergence funds” for farmers impacted by water shortages, to be distributed through the Ministry of Water Management. Meanwhile, the Basra Provincial Council decided on June 25 to allocate US$ 378,00 to address the increasing salinity of the province’s waterways and irrigation systems, caused by backflow of seawater from the Shatt al-Arab waterway. (For more information on Iraq’s interrelated water and agricultural challenges, see EPIC’s two-part series.) more…
  • Iraq Oil Ministry Agrees to OPEC Oil Production Increases – Iraq’s Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi expressed support for the June 22 decision by the Organization of Petroleum Producing Country (OPEC) to increase oil production, beginning in July 2018. Meanwhile, Shell handed over its operations at southern Iraq’s massive Majnoon oilfield to the Iraqi government, amid broader efforts from the oil conglomerate to move away from its Iraqi holdings. more…
  • Pence Confirms “US Commitment to Middle East” in Call with Abadi – United States Vice President Mike Pence confirmed Washington’s commitment to provide reconstruction assistance for the Iraqi government in a June 25 phone call with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. He also praised Baghdad’s efforts to return those displaced during the fighting against ISIS militants. However, the US did not pledge any money at the Iraqi reconstruction conference in Kuwait on February 14th, 2018. more…

Please note: ISHM will not be published for the next two weeks due to the July 4th vacation schedule and our transition to a new research team. We will return to our regular schedule on Thursday, July 12, 2018.

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.

Abadi, Sadr Negotiate Alliance as Government Formation Process Continues

On June 21, Muqtada al-Sadr called for movement on the ballot recounting process and asked for the Iraqi judiciary to determine a definitive time period for which the recounting process will be carried out. Sadr argued that the “constitutional vacuum” created by the recount process could be taken advantage of by corrupt powers and “could lead to undesirable consequences.” Additionally, Sadr recommended that “political blocs to move forward towards serious dialogues to achieve the appropriate alliances that take into account the real reform.” The Iraqi Parliament ordered in May the manual recounting of ballots from that month’s parliamentary elections.

On June 22, Iraqi Parliament resumed its extraordinary session for the correction of the electoral process. Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri indicated that the session was intended to “extend the life of legislative authority.”

On June 23, the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) board of commissioners decided to undertake an investigation into the burning of electoral ballots in a Rusafa warehouse on June 9. IHEC also commented that “many decisions have been taken to start counting, including conducting an administrative investigation into the burning incident, which was exposed to the storage boxes of ballot boxes in the Office of the elections Rusafa.” This is the first major decision announced by IHEC’s new Board of Commissioners. The new board of commissioners was created by the third amendment to Iraqi Electoral Law.

On June 23, Prime Minister  Haider al-Abadi issued a statement in which he advocated for increased weapons control. Abadi remarked that there “are groups that took advantage of the war to urge the stockpiling of weapons in order to threaten the state” and that, in the future, “there will be no weapons outside the framework of the state.” This statement comes after a June 17th statement where Abadi stressed the need for military forces to maintain neutrality during the recounting process.

On June 23, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Influential Shia Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced the formation of an alliance between their respective al-Nasr and Sairoon political coalitions. The new allianced released its “founding points,” which call for unity, cross-sectarian and ethnic cooperation, and a government of technocrats. The alliance between Sairoon and Fatah, announced earlier last week, solidified 101 seats as a voting bloc. With al-Nasr coalition, the seat total comes to 143 seats — 22 away from a majority. Other alliances formed prior to the election may contribute additional seats.

On June 24, the Iraqi Parliament completed its reading of a proposal to extend the current Parliament. This proposal will be raised for a vote on Thursday, June 26.

On June 24, The Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) designated which cases of reported election fraud will receive recounts and reprocessing. The commission identified that only reports of forgery will be inspected. Sources also noted that after the fires at ballot warehouses earlier this month, police presence around ballot storage areas has increased.

On June 25, two Kurdish Islamist political parties announced that they had formed an alliance. The Kurdish Islamic Union (KIU) and the Kurdish Islamic Movement (KIM) indicated that their goal is to contest parliamentary results in Kurdish regions. A spokesman for the KIM, Kamel Mahmud, stated “the coalition is ready to cooperate with any party aimed at achieving reforms and changes” and hopes to join with more Kurdish political parties to contest the results of the May 12th parliamentary elections.

On June 25, Head of the State of Law Coalition Nouri al-Maliki confirmed his coalition’s plans to support the formation of a government through the recent alliances negotiated by influential Shia Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and other large coalition leaders, including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

On June 26, the Head of the Iraqi Supreme Council Hammam Hamoudi, stated the council’s position on the Legislative decision to “extend the life of the house of representatives.” Hamoudi commented that that extension was “a dangerous precedent and a clear violation of the Constitution.” In addition to the Supreme Council, several political leaders have condemned the Parliament’s decision for extension.

On June 27, Influential Shia Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr suspended operations of his “Peace Brigades” militia in Basra province. The organization, which Sadr founded and formerly headed, will cease operations for two years. Sadr campaigned partly on platform of militia disarmament.

On June 28, the Iraqi Parliament postponed it’s extraordinary session to a date to be determined. The meeting was scheduled for June 28, and was meant to hold a vote on the extension of the Parliament.

Baghdad Calls for PKK Disarmament; Turkish Airstrikes Continue

On June 26, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for disarming all armed groups on Iraqi soil, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). He noted that his cabinet further discussed border controls in the Iraqi-Turkish-Iranian tri-border area. Abadi also pointed out that there are those who seek to take political conflict in Iraq to the “point of no return.” He further noted that “The government is working to serve the citizens and will continue until the situation is solved.” The PKK has operated from inside Iraqi territory for years, and in early June, the Turkish government launched renewed operations targeting PKK fighters operating from northern Iraq’s Qandil mountains. The Turkish military has been conducting airstrikes against PKK targets inside northern Iraq since July 2015. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by the US and EU.

On June 27, Turkish warplanes attacked positions belonging to Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in northern Dohuk Province, along the Iraq-Turkey border. Observers noted columns of smoke rising from the areas under Turkish attack. While Iraqi media did not immediately report the results of the airstrikes, Turkish media noted that military operations had “neutralized” eight PKK fighters, along with ammunition stores and material depots belonging to the organization. In a statement, the Turkish General Staff said airstrikes were carried out in the Sinat-Haftanin, Metina, and Gara regions of northern Dohuk Province. In a follow-up statement, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu noted that Turkish ground troops were making “determined steps” in a ground offensive against PKK fighters in the northern Iraq’s Qandil mountains. Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan stepped up warnings of a potential intensified Turkish ground operation against PKK bases in northern Iraq, vowing to “drain the terror swamp” there. The most recent airstrikes occured one week after similar air and artillery strikes by Turkish forces against PKK positions, which reportedly killed 26 PKK fighters (previously reported in ISHM 164). The Iraqi government did not immediately issue a statement regarding the most recent Turkish airstrikes.

ISIS Continues to Harass Security Forces in Diyala, Kirkuk, Anbar

On 22 June,a bomb exploded, killing a girl and injuring her brother in the area of ​​Qulay, on the outskirts of Khanaqin District, approximately 100 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. Khanaqin District has witnessed a series of explosive and other terrorist attacks in recent months, likely a result of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) activity in the area.

On June 22, a tribal elder in Baghdad was killed in an armed attack after an unidentified gunman opened fire near the elder’s home in the capital’s northern Tarmiya neighborhood. The elder was killed immediately, and the gunman escaped. Al Sumaria reported that “a security force arrived at the scene, transferred the body of the dead to a specialist in forensic medicine, and opened an investigation into the incident.” Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have reportedly been operating in Tarmiyah neighborhood for several months, with security forces tracing a series of shootings and explosive attacks to ISIS cells inside the capital and its surrounding rural areas.

On June 23, an unidentified armed group reportedly kidnapped a civilian from Jam Rukhan village, approximately 40 kilometers south of Kirkuk. Security forces have opened an investigation into the incident. Kirkuk Province has witnessed continuing incidents of insurgent and terrorist activity, likely conducted by cells affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).  

On June 23, Iraqi media reported that approximately 50 people had been killed by ISIS militants during the previous week. An Iraqi Army Colonel stated that underground tunnels and hideouts have been used by members of ISIS to perform these attacks specifically in Mosul, Hawija and Qayyarah in northern Iraq. Reports also indicated that “some ambushes have been carried out by ISIS militants dressed in army and police uniforms and traveling with false identities,” pointing out that the issue needs significant intelligence effort. Of those killed, 25 individuals were drawn from tribal armed groups and Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

On June 23, a senior security source in Diyala stated that local security forces outlined plans to establish a seven-station security reporting network in Diyala Province’s rural Khanaqin District, approximately 100 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. The network aims to allow security forces to monitor insurgent activity and track reported Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) cells operating in the area. The new monitoring stations are part of a broader plan to provide additional security in Diyala Province, which has witnessed ongoing ISIS activity in recent months.

On June 23, Yahya Rasool, a spokesman for the Iraqi Security Forces’ (ISF) Center for Security Information in Baghdad, reported that ISF had arrested six fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Abu Tayyban District, several kilometers west of Ramadi in Anbar Province. Rasool noted that, “military intelligence detachments in the Iraqi Army’s 10th division confirmed the presence of two terrorists planting improvised explosive devices in the vicinity of some residential houses targeting residents.” ISIS cells continue to operate across Iraq’s western Anbar Province.

On June 27, Federal Police Chief Raed Jawdat stated that a prominent member of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), Abu Suleiman Al-Jawali, had been killed in a shootout with Federal Police units in the Wadi Al-Shai area near the village of Dakshaman in southwest Kirkuk Province. Four other ISIS fighters were reportedly captured in the Federal Police operation. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) continue to conduct counter-terror raids across Kirkuk Province to eliminate remaining ISIS cells.

Protesters Demand Reliable Electricity

On June 22, a fire broke out in an orchard several kilometers northwest of Baqubah, capital of Diyala Province. The fire was successfully extinguished. The fire destroyed ten houses with no casualties reported. Iraqi media noted that “Diyala is witnessing near-daily fires, especially in agricultural areas, resulting in considerable material damage.” Orchard fires in Diyala Province are due to farmers’ neglect of safety measures and some are caused deliberately.

On June 24, a fire started in Karbala Province’s Hammam Saffarin market. It was noted that lately, in Baghdad and other provinces, the burning of buildings and governmental institutions has been increasingly common. These fires are often caused by electrical issues, high temperatures, and bad storage of goods according to the authorities.

On June 24, dozens of residents of the Diyala Province peacefully demonstrated outside of the Diyala Council building in central Baquba, demanding the allocation of some electricity from the Mansouriya gas power plant, the largest power plant in Diyala Province established four years ago by a French company, to support electricity in the province, said Abdullah al-Hayali, the mayor of Baquba. This was done in response to an electricity outage of 150 megawatts from the national system. Additionally, the head of the Council of Mansuriyah Ragheb al-Anbuge said, “[t]he demonstrators raised banners demanding justice by distributing electricity between the province.

On June 24, governor of Diyala, Muthanna al-Tamimi said he apologized to the Ministry of Electricity for the electricity outage at the Mansouriya gas station power plant, which required hours of maintenance to restore electricity. He noted electricity returned quickly “after considerable efforts made by the Diyala administration with the Ministry of Electricity”, as they worked to solve the issue. He called for the formation of a commission to determine the causes of the outage, saying the event was unacceptable as it caused great damage to the province and provinces nearby, halted the electricity in hospitals, impacted other power plants and important projects, and caused “great harm to hundreds of thousands of civilians.” Tamimi continued to say that excess power lines in Diyala are “rejected and will be removed immediately,” ensuring “continuing contact with the ministry” on account of increasing the share of electricity provided to Diyala within the national system. The Ministry of Electricity also confirmed that the Badr Organization had urged demonstrators to take action against the Mansouriya power plant.

On June 25, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Trade Development of the Netherlands Sekad Kakh, announced the donation of 30 million euros (approximately US $34,702,500) “to support job creation for small projects in Iraq,” while stressing [his] country’s “support for Iraq in the fields of construction and reconstruction.” Kakh stressed the monetary assistance in support of Iraqi reconstruction demonstrates the Netherlands’ “assistance to ‘Iraq with expertise in the field of water management.’” It is noted that the Netherlands had expressed desire to expand trade exchange in Iraq, but is also looking for investment opportunities elsewhere.

On June 26, deputy for Diyala Province Furat al-Tamimi called on the Council of Ministers to discuss the political dimensions of the electricity crisis in Diyala Province. In an interview with Al Sumaria, al-Tamimi said that this is the worst power crisis in Diyala in 2018. He noted that  “cut rates [of electricity] reached unprecedented limits, especially in the past three days.” He also stressed that the electricity crisis is due to political tension and that citizens are paying the price of this bickering. The meeting with the Council of Ministers is meant to “discuss the file of the electricity crisis in Diyala …to find out the reasons [for] and removal of any political pressure on the energy file [to] ensure the rights of the province” in obtaining a fair portion of electricity as compared to other provinces. Iran provided two lines of electricity from the Srebil and Mersad carriers after a 24-hour period of electricity suspension.

Water Shortage Threatens Iraqi Agriculture

On June 24, the governor of Dhi Qar Province, Yahya Naciri, demanded an emergency meeting with the prime minister to address the problem of water scarcity in the province, stressing the removal of the southern province’s quotas. According to Naciri, the excesses of water use in Najaf and other provinces has caused water scarcity, lead to peoples’ migration, job insecurity, and health issues, all “resulting from unjust violations against the quota of water conservation.”

On June 24, hundreds of farmers demonstrated in the center of Najaf Providence to protest the closure of water systems by the Ministry of Water Resources in the areas of Mashkhab and Abbasiyah. The demonstrators demanded official intervention into the ongoing water crisis and governmental compensation for failure to farm this season due to water shortages — threatening escalation of the situation if met with non-compliance.

On June 25, the Basra Provincial Council decided to allocate 450 million dinars (approximately US$ 378,000) from their annual budget “to address the problem of salinity water in the district of Abu al-Khasib.” The head of the committee Zahra Hamza al-Bagari said that the money “will be spent on the implementation of a project to extend a low-salinity water pipe from the irrigation channel to the pumping stations of Al-Asala water in Abu Al-Khasib in order to provide the different areas of the judiciary with irrigation water instead of the highly brackish Shatt al-Arab water.” Al Sumaria notes that since 2007, Basra Province has experienced salinity problems from the Shatt al-Arab waters in the summer time due to the saline front coming in from the Gulf to the coastal plain, and since the water discharge from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are decreasing, water salinity remains an exacerbating issue. The Provincial Council will meet on June 26 to discuss the water crisis in Basra Province.

On June 25, Rudaw released an article identifying that water shortages will likely force farmers to reduce wheat crop planting by as much as 50 percent in the next year. Iraq is currently the second-highest consumer of wheat in the Middle East behind Egypt, and “recently purchased 50,000 tons of wheat from the US, Canada, and Australia.” Crops that require a lot of water, such as rice, mung beans, and corn, have already been temporarily banned by the Ministry of Agriculture during the crisis.

On June 26, the Iraqi Council of Ministers allocated emergency funds to address the water scarcity crisis. Funds will go to the Ministry of Water Management and support their efforts to deal with the situation.

On June 26, Head of the Diyala Council Ali al-Daini said in an interview that “more than a thousand acres of palm groves and citrus trees are about to be lost in the area of Buhraz,” an area six kilometers south of Baquba, due to “severe drought and the great overrun on water quotas.” He called for the launch of a rescue plan to save the orchards from destruction. Daini also said “the destruction of a thousand acres represents a massacre against the orchards of life [which will take decades] to compensate”, in addition to the effects of environmental damage.

Iraq Oil Ministry Agrees to OPEC Oil Production Increases

On June 22, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed to increase oil production. OPEC’s agreement will go into effect in July, and production is expected to increase by approximately one percent. Prior to the decision, Iraq and Iran voiced their opposition to an increase in oil production; however, Saudi Arabia and, non-OPEC member, Russia heavily supported the decision. Large importers such as the U.S., China, and India have also expressed support. One day later on June 23, Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi expressed support for the agreement. Al-Luaibi called the increase in production a “decision [that] contributes to the stability of world oil markets.”

On June 26, Iraq joined 13 Arab nations in the first general assembly of the Arab League for Arbitration in Investment and Economic Disputes. The meeting was held in Cairo and is said to provide “legal organisation capable of settling disputes for Arab investors and protecting their rights.” Chair of the Union, Sameh Ashour noted that many Arab countries are increasingly relying on foreign investment as a source for growth and thanked Iraq for its pivotal role in the formation of the Union. The Union will provide legal teams to negotiate trade disputes among Arab countries.

On June 27, Shell handed its operations in southern Iraq to the Iraqi government. The Majnoon oil field will now be operated by the state-owned Basra Oil Company. The deal comes as as Shell more broadly moves away from its Iraqi oil interests to transition to Gas production within the country. An official in Majnoon’s operations team said that there will be no loss in production during the transition, and expects to increase production in the near future.

On June 28, oil prices rose to their highest level in months. Baghdad crude oil futures rose to US$ 78.90 per barrel. The price rise comes amidst calls by the U.S. for its allies to stop importing Iranian oil. The high price levels occur despite OPEC’s agreement to increase crude oil production, set to take effect in July.

Pence Confirms “US Commitment to Middle East” in Call with Abadi

On June 25, US Vice President Mike Pence called Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to confirm the United States commitment to Iraq and the Middle East. The press office stated that “the meeting witnessed the promotion of bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries and the situation in the region.” Pence highlighted the US commitment to the “construction and reconstruction” of Iraq and applauded the Iraqi government’s efforts to return displaced peoples to their regions. Abadi’s relayed his own focuses in Iraq by stating that “the priority of Iraq is to maintain the achievements in the field of security and economic advancement” and “forming a strong government to provide services and aspirations of the citizen.” While Pence asserts the US commitment to Iraq, the United States did not pledge any money at the Iraqi reconstruction conference in Kuwait on February 14th, 2018.

IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

06/22/2018 Diyala, on the outskirts of Khanaqin11
Baghdad, Bab al-Mumad00
Estern Baghdad, Mashtal00
East of Kirkuk, Osal Field04
Baghdad, District of Taji01
Baghdad, District of Amil00
Southern Baghdad01

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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