Iraq + 2 more

ISHM: January 9 - January 16, 2020

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Key Takeaways:

  • U.S. Refuses To Discuss Withdrawal While Coalition Resumes Operations; Iraqis Renew Pro-Reform Mass-Protests; Meeting To Contain Tensions Continue; Rumors Circulate Of A Deal To Reinstate Abdul-Mahdi – On January 9, Iraq’s caretaker PM asked the U.S. to send a delegation to establish a mechanism for U.S. withdrawal. Washington rejected the request. Despite this, by January 15, U.S. military officials confirmed that Coalition operations against ISIS have resumed. On January 9, Iraq’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires to register Baghdad’s condemnation of Iran’s bombardment of Iraqi military bases. On January 10, Iraqi protesters launched new mass demonstrations in Baghdad and southern provinces to renew pressure on the political class to enact political and economic reforms. Protesters in Dhi-Qar gave the government one week to elect a new prime minister. On January 11, KRG leaders met with PM Abdul-Mahdi in Erbil and stressed their interest in increased cooperation between federal and KRG security forces in coordination with the U.S.-led Coalition. On January 12-15, PM Abdul-Mahdi met with the British and French,Canadian, Russian, and Australian ambassadors and Qatar’s foreign minister to discuss measures to safeguard national and regional security and deescalate tensions between the U.S. and Iran in Iraq. On January 13, Moqtada al-Sadr called from Iran for mass protest against American presence in Iraq. Hadi al-Amiri, now expected to become top commander of the popular mobilization forces (PMF), endorsed al-Sadr’s call. These anti-U.S. rallies are scheduled for Jan 24. On January 14, the Ataa bloc, part of al-Fatah coalition, appealed to the religious authority in Najaf to endorse Abdul-Mahdi’s return to the premiership with full powers. The appeal followed reports of a meeting between al-Fatah and Saeroun to discuss reinstating Abdul-Mahdi. Protestors responded angrily to the rumors. On January 15, President Salih, caretaker PM Abdul-Mahdi, and Speaker Halbousi met to discuss the election of a new PM and the formation of a new government, while parliamentary sources mentioned that several candidates could be presented next week for final negotiations. more…
  • Assassins Target Iraqi Journalists And Activists; New Rocket Attacks Strike Iraqi Bases; Turkey Resumes Airstrikes Near Sinjar – On January 10, gunmen assassinated Djilah TV reporter Ahmed Abdul-Samad and camera operator Safaa Ghali in Basra, and on January 13, gunmen assassinated activist Hassan Hadi Mhalhal in Dhi-Qar. On January 10, unidentified warplanes killed eight Iraqi militiamen near the Syrian border. On January 11, an IED attached to a motorcycle injured two civilians in Baghdad. On January 11, gunmen killed a PMF brigade commander in Baghdad. On January 12, eight rockets struck the Balad air base north of Baghdad, injuring four Iraqis. On January 14, eight more rockets struck Camp Taji, another major ISF base north of Baghdad, without causing casualties. On January 13, an IED explosion south of Mosul wounded two policemen. On January 13, ISIS militants attacked Iraqi border police patrols near the Jordanian border, killing one member of the border police and wounding three. On January 14, ISIS militants attacked the ISF in Dujail, north of Baghdad, killing two members of the ISF and wounded five. On January 15, Turkish airstrikes targeted the Sinjar resistance units (YBS) in northwestern Ninewa, killing five YBS members, including the militia’s commander. On January 16, a vehicle borne IED exploded on the highway between Nukhaib and Arar in southwest Iraq. The explosion wounded six members of the Iraqi border police. more…
  • Journalists Condemn The Assassination Of Abdul-Samad And Ghali; Korea And Denmark Support Demining, UNITAD And Services For IDPs; Militia Threats Force Closure Of News Channel Offices – On January 12, Iraqi journalists in Basra started the “I Am Next” social media campaign to protest the assassinations of journalists Ahmed Abdul-Samad and Safaa Ghali in Basra on January 10, and to call attention to the increasing security concerns for journalists in Iraq. On January 13, South Korea donated $2 million to the UNHCR to support IDPs, refugees and IDPs who have returned to their home districts with food, shelter, cash, and protection services. On January 13, Denmark gave $800,000 to the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh (UNITAD) to support efforts to train and mentor Iraqi investigative judges and forensic evidence experts. Denmark also granted over $4.4 million to the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) to support the removal of explosive hazards that impact the safety of Iraqi IDPs. On January 14, al-Hurra news channel said it will shut down its Baghdad offices in response to threats made against the channel by militias, reflecting the Iraqi government’s failure to provide a safe operating environment for journalists. more…
  • U.S. Threatens To Block Iraq’s Access To Oil Funds; Central Bank Stabilizes Exchange Rate; Baghdad Moves Forward With China Deal – On January 11, the U.S. State Department threatened Iraq with restricting its access to an important account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that holds $35 billion of Iraq’s oil revenue. On January 12, the Central Bank of Iraq said it has taken measures to prevent inflation and provide ample supply of hard currency to keep the exchange rates stable after threats of U.S. sanctions caused the Iraqi dinar to drop by more than 3% against the dollar. On January 14, the parliamentary services committee confirmed that Iraq and China will move forward with implementing the oil for construction agreement, first introduced during caretaker PM Abdul-Mahdi’s visit to China in September of 2019. Analysts are questioning the fairness of the agreement, while MPs pointed to a lack of legislative oversight and transparency concerning the agreement’s documents, which they claim were not seen by Parliament. On January 10, Reuters reported that two European airlines, Lufthansa and Austrian, have resumed flights to Erbil airport after a brief disruption due to heightened security risk arising from Iranian ballistic missile strikes on Iraqi military bases on January 7. 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.