ISHM: February 11 - February 25, 2021

News and Press Release
Originally published
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Key Takeaways:

  • Militia Leaders Lash Out At Turkey, Oppose NATO Mission Expansion; New Rocket Attacks Challenge Kadhimi And Biden; Two Killed, Dozens Injured Amid New Protests -- On February 14, Fatah Coalition leader Hadi al-Amiri claimed he had seen "confirmed intelligence" about Turkish plans to attack Sinjar, and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba threatened to attack "Turkish occupation forces." On February 21, Saeroun Alliance and Fatah Coalition members criticized NATO's plan to expand its Iraq training mission as a front for U.S. "occupation," insisting that the expansion requires Parliament's approval. On February 14, PM Kadhimi announced the arrest of four people accused of assassinating activists and journalists in Basra. On February 15 -- 16, Iraqi courts sentenced two former governors to time in prison for corruption. On February 16, Kadhimi denounced a deadly February 15 rocket attack in Erbil as a "terrorist act" meant to halt his government's progress. The U.S. State Department expressed "outrage" over the attack that used "Iranian-supplied" rockets and injured U.S. personnel, while the White House said it "reserves the right to the manner and at the time it chooses." On February 23, Kadhimi dismissed subsequent attacks on Balad Air Base and the Green Zone as an "mischievous" attempt to embarrass his government. Kataeb Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq denied involvement, accusing ISIS, the U.S. and Gulf states of trying to frame them for the attacks. The State Department said the U.S. would not play into the culprits' hands by lashing out militarily. On February 24, Kadhimi and President Biden discussed the need to protect diplomatic missions in Iraq, and plans to resume the bilateral strategic dialogue. On February 22, hundreds demonstrated in Basra and Nasiriyah to demand accountability for attacks on activists and journalists, and the sacking of Dhi-Qar's governor. At least two protesters died and dozens were injured in clashes that continued for days. On February 25, Iraq's Electoral Commission extended deadlines to register candidates and electoral coalitions. more...
  • Rocket Attacks Hit Erbil, Baghdad And Balad; More Attack Target Coalition Contractors, Businesses, And Activists; NATO To Expand Its Iraq Mission; Turkey Intensifies Operations In Iraq -- Between February 11 -- 25, nine militant attacks killed at least nine Iraqis and wounded ten others. Between February 12 -22, operations by Iraqi security forces and the International Coalition killed at least 20 ISIS members, and left three dead and five injured among Iraqi forces. Between February 15 -- 22, three attacks involving a total of 21 rockets struck areas in Erbil, the Balad Air Base, and the Green Zone. The Erbil attack, claimed by a group called Saraya Awliya al-Dam, originated from an area just outside Erbil City. It killed a foreign civilian contractor and injured several U.S. servicemembers and Iraqi civilians. Between February 12 -- 25, the explosions of 20 IEDs and two remnants of war killed at least four Iraqis and wounded 15 others. Eleven of the bombings targeted local contractors working for the International Coalition, and businesses in Baghdad. Between February 13 -- 20, at least five attacks, including small arms fire and an attempted bombing, targeted activists in Dhi-Qar and Wasit. Between February 12 -- 24, escalating Turkish military operations in the Kurdistan region killed more than 50 PKK fighters and at least three Turkish soldiers. On February 18, NATO Defense Ministers voted to increase the number of NATO personnel in Iraq from 500 to 4,000 to support Iraqi forces in the fight against ISIS. more...
  • Iraq Imposes New Restrictions To Combat A Surge In COVID-19 Cases; KRG Criticized Over Imprisoned Journalists; Most Returning IDPs Didn't Want To Leave Camps; New COVID-19 Strain Spreads -- On February 13, Iraqi authorities announced new measures to control the spread of COVID-19, including curfews, a national mask mandate in public, and a suspension of in-person classes. On February 15, UN-Habitat said it received a €10 million from the EU to support resettlement projects for Ninewa IDPs, focusing on housing and livelihood. On February 16, the KRG sentenced seven people, including journalists to six years in prison after a court found them guilty of "endangering national security." On February 21, a report by the UN OHCA indicated that more than 60% of the 46,998 people who had left IDP camps on government orders through January 2021 said their exit was involuntary. On February 11, Iraq's Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 684,362. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 13,351 while the number of patients currently in hospitals jumped to 43,293. To date, 627,718 patients have recovered from the virus, and Iraq has tested 6,728,075 samples for COVID-19. The daily average for new cases more than doubled, from 1,475/day during the 14-day period ending February 11 to 3,389/day over the last 14-day period. The Health Ministry said 50% of new infections involved the new UK strain. more...
  • Economy May Return To Pre-Pandemic Levels By 2024; Fiber-Optic Internet Service Launched In Baghdad; Iraq Eyes Seven Solar Farm Projects, Akkaz Gas Field Development -- On February 11, the IMF outlined the long-term impact of the pandemic on Iraq's struggling economy following recents discussions with Iraqi authorities. While expecting Iraq's economy to "gradually recover," the IMF said that GDP won't return to its levels prior to the pandemic before at least 2014. On February 14, Reuters reported, citing Iraq's Oil Minister that Iraq was engaged in negotiations with companies in China to build new installations to store Iraqi crude there to support greater oil exports to Asia. On February 15, Iraq's "National Internet Service Project" launched its inaugural fiber-optic internet service in Baghdad. On February 15, Iraq's Ministry of Agriculture said it has approved plans to export 10,000 tons of tomatoes to Saudi Arabia via the Arar border crossing. On February 17, the head of Iraq's national investment commission said the Cabinet approved a plan to offer seven solar power plant projects as investment opportunities. On February 19, S&P Global reported, citing Iraqi oil officials, that a transaction worth $2 billion with a Chinese company to purchase Iraqi oil in exchange for advance payments is facing delays. On February 21, Iraq's Oil Minister said Iraq has initiated talks with "a major oil company" to invest in developing the Akkaz gas field in Anbar province. 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.