Iraq + 1 more

ISHM: April 20 - 26, 2018

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News and Press Release
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Key Takeaways:

  • **Election Official Assassinated; Two Officials Kidnapped in Unrelated Incidents – **On April 24, Fares Mohammad Sadek, the Director of Management for the Independent High Electoral Commission in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, was assassinated by four unknown gunmen who opened fire on his car in Erbil. Spokesman for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Saadi Ahmed Bireh, confirmed that Sadek was involved in the planning and execution of the September 2017 referendum on Kurdish independence, but did not indicate whether his death was politically motivated. In separate incidents, Basra police captain Mohammed Faisal was kidnapped in the al-Juniyah district of Basra and the Vice President of the Iraqi National Olympic Committee, Bashar Mustafa, was kidnapped on the road between Baghdad and Karbala. Faisal remains missing though Mustafa was released the following day. Investigations into each of the incidents are ongoing. more…

  • **Campaign Coverage: Video Scandal, Fake News, Abadi Visits Kurdistan, and a Sunni President? – **A candidate for Parliament with the Victory Coalition, Intidhar Ahmad Jassim, was forced to withdraw her bid after a sexually explicit video circulated on social media that allegedly depicts Jassim, though the woman’s face is not clearly visible. Jassim vehemently denied that she is the woman in the video, but agreed to withdraw her candidacy citing the distraction it caused. Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq, Jan Kubis, denounced defamation in elections – particularly against women – and urged political parties to “stand up against such vulgar acts that only serve to undermine the democratic process.” ▪ Spokesman for the State of Law Coalition, Abbas al-Moussawi, denied allegations that the political bloc spent US$ 153 million on advertising to promote their candidates ahead of May elections. Moussawi said that “the popularity of the State of Law Coalition and its leader Nouri al-Maliki is increasing day after day,” and dismissed media reports on the advertising sum as fake news. ▪ Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi spent several days campaigning in Anbar, Ninewa, Sulaimania, and Erbil Provinces and will visit Kirkuk Province on April 29. While in Erbil, Abadi met with Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government Nechirvan Barzani. ▪ On April 22, Member of Parliament and Secretary-General for the Islamic Union of Turkmen, Jassem Mohammed Jaafar al-Bayati, suggested that Kurdish parties may be angling for a Kurdish Speaker of Parliament with former KRG Prime Minister Barham Salih as frontrunner, and that the Kurds would cede the Iraqi Presidency to a Sunni candidate. KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani denied those reports, saying that “the presidency of the Republic will remain for the Kurds.” According to a traditional power-sharing arrangement, the Iraqi President is a Kurd, with a Shia Prime Minister, and Sunni Speaker of Parliament. more…

  • **Iran-Backed Militias in Syria Target US Troops, Raising Concern Over PMUs in Iraq – **_Foreign Policy_reported that Iran-backed Shia militias in Syria may soon target U.S. troops on the ground. Baqir Brigade, one of the largest Iran-backed and pro-Syrian government Shia militias operating in Syria, announced that it would launch “military and jihadi operations against the U.S. occupier and all those affiliated with it in Syria.” Airstrikes carried out by the U.S., France, and Britain against Syrian government targets on April 7 seem to have invigorated some anti-western sentiment in the region. According to one report, members of the Iran-backed Shia militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq surrounded an American base in Baghdad against orders from Iraqi military leadership. U.S. officials declined to confirm or deny the incident. Later, PMU spokesman Karim Nouri said that the PMUs support Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and would follow his orders. Nouri added that “if there are Iraqi parties who have fighters in Syria, they have nothing to do with the PMUs nor with the [Iraqi] government.” more…

  • **Iraq Conducts Airstrikes on ISIS Positions in Syria – **The Iraqi Air Force conducted airstrikes in Syria against ISIS militants on April 19 and 23. Yahya Rasool, Iraqi Army spokesman for the Joint Military Command, said that Iraqi airstrikes across the border in Syria weakened the terrorist organization and said that more airstrikes may be required. The airstrikes were reportedly coordinated with the Syrian Air Force and took place just across the Iraqi border in the area of al-Shaddadi and Lam Khrais. Heather Nauert, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, said that the U.S. was aware of the strikers. more…

  • **Oil Ministry Awards New Contracts; 1991 Gulf War Reparations to Kuwait Resume – **The Iraqi Oil Ministry announced that the Basra Oil Company signed two contracts valued at US$ 118 million with the Chinese company Anton and U.S. company KBR for the operation and management of the Majnoon oil field. Shell is withdrawing from Majnoon in order to focus on gas investment operations. The Oil Ministry also announced the awarding of new contracts for development and exploitation of the Khashm al-Ahmar-Anjana and Kalabat-Kemer fields in Diyala Province to Emirati Crescent Petroleum, and of the Khana and al-Huweiza regions of Maysan Province and Sinbad region of Basra Province to the Chinese Jiu Good and UEG companies, respectively. On April 20, Iraq resumed the payment of reparations to the Kuwaiti government for the destruction of Kuwaiti oil field facilities during the 1990-91 Gulf War. The payments had been suspended since October 2014 and are tied to Iraqi oil proceeds. They are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021. more…

For more backgroundon 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.