ISHM: January 7 - January 14, 2021

News and Press Release
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Key Takeaways:

  • U.S. Sanctions Senior Militia Figures; Deadly Clashes Erupt During Nasiriyah Protests; New Kurdish Faction Formed In Parliament – On January 8, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Popular Mobilization Committee Chairman Falih al-Fayyadh over human rights violations. Then on January 13, the U.S. State Department added Kataib Hezbollah commander Abdulaziz al-Mohammedawi (aka Abu Fadak) to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. On January 8, Demonstrators gathered at Haboubi Square in Nasiriyah to demand the release of detained civil society activists. Subsequent clashes killed one police officer and injured 111 people, amid reports that Army soldiers intervened to defend the protesters. Moqtada al-Sadr blamed protesters and sympathetic Army personnel for the violence. On January 9, the Iraqi Parliament finished the first reading of the draft budget bill for 2021. On January 11, a group of 15 Kurdish members of Iraq’s Parliament announced the formation of a new group they named the Kurdistan Hope Alliance. On January 12, Iraq’s top leaders met the country’s Election Commission and UNAMI chief to discuss preparations for the upcoming elections. The officials emphasized the need to expand biometric registration, and the need to finalize the law of the Supreme Federal Court. On January 14, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the Kurdistan region’s Parliament accused “influential” parties in Sulaymaniyah of siphoning the revenue of border crossings in the province. more…
  • Gunmen Target Dhi-Qar Lawyers And Academics; IED Attacks On Liquor Stores Increase; Army Plans To Transfer Security To Interior Ministry Forces – On January 8, PM Khadhimi appointed Lieutenant General Ali al-Fraiji as the new Commander of Baghdad Operations, replacing Major General Qais al-Mohammadawi. Between January 8 – 12, gunmen killed a prominent lawyer and activist in Dhi-Qar, and conducted two failed attempts on another lawyer and a university professor. Between January 8 – 13, the explosions of seven IEDs and one remnant of war killed at least five Iraqis and wounded three other. Four of the bombings targeted liquor stores in Baghdad. Between January 8 – 13, eleven other security incidents left 12 Iraqis dead, three wounded and two others missing. On January 8, Joint Operations Command spokesman, Major General Tahsin al-Khafaji announced plans to withdraw Iraqi Army forces from cities across the country, handing over internal security duties to the Ministry of Interior. The plan aims to complete the withdrawal of the Army from five provinces, Babylon, Wasit, Diyala, Diwaniyah, and Muthanna in under two months. more…
  • Authorities Move Another 5,000 IDPs Out Of Ninewa Camps; Iraq’s Population Tops 40 Million; Iraq Expands Travel Ban In Response To New Virus Strain – Between January 9 – 12, the Ministry of Migration and Displacement announced that more than 5,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the Salamiyya camps in Ninewa returned to their original home districts in Ninewa, saying the “voluntary” return was part of an “emergency plan” to resettle IDPs. On January 11, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament said he tasked the Human Rights and Labor committees to evaluate the “conditions and problems” facing IDPs and look into reports of an increased suicide rate in IDP camps. On January 12, Iraq’s Planning Ministry announced that Iraq’s population grew to an estimated 40 million and 150 thousand people in 2020. On January 13, The Iraqi government expanded a travel ban from countries that have detected the new, more infectious strain of the coronavirus to include a total of 20 countries. On January 14, Iraq’s Health Ministry reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 606,186. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 12,922 while the number of patients currently in hospitals decreased to 28,905. To date, 564,359 patients have recovered from the virus and Iraq has tested 5,010,080 samples for COVID-19. The daily average for new cases decreased to 773/day over the last 7-day period. more…
  • COVID-19 Delays GCC Electricity Link; Baiji Refinery Capacity Reaches 140,000 BPD; Iran And Iraq Discuss Boosting Trade To More Than $20 Billion/Year – On January 10, Iraq’s Ministry of Planning said that the Central Bureau of Statistics’ Job Information Bank has registered the information of two million state employees as part of a program to verify the information of all government employees. On January 11, a Ministry of Electricity spokesman said a pause in construction due to COVID-19 is delaying an electricity deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council. On January 11, the Ministry of Oil announced that the capacity of the al-Sumood refinery at Baiji increased from 70,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 140,000 bpd. On January 12, Iraq’s Trade Minister led a delegation to Tehran to attend the fourth Iraqi-Iranian Joint Economic Committee meeting. The two sides discussed creating a joint investment fund, expanding shipping and air travel, and exchanging technical and engineering expertise. Iran’s Energy Minister said Iran wants to increase annual trade to more than $20 billion by removing customs barriers and tariffs. 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.