Iraq

ISHM: March 26 - April 2, 2020

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Key Takeaways:

  • New Sanctions Target Iran’s Affiliates In Iraq; Abdul-Mahdi Cautions Against Escalation Between U.S. And Militias; Fatah Moves Against President Salih; Zurfi Faces Stiff Opposition And Iran Pushes For Alternatives – On March 26, the U.S. added twenty Iranian and Iraqi businesses and individuals to the list of entities designated by the Treasury Department as supporters of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. On March 29, outgoing PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi warned against further military escalation between the U.S. and pro-Iran militias in Iraq after The New York Times said the Pentagon was developing plans for large scale attacks on Kataib Hezbollah. On April 1, the leader of Fatah’s bloc in Parliament, Mohammed al-Ghabban, threatened to prosecute President Barham Salih through “legal and parliamentary” measures in an effort to nullify the selection of Adnan al-Zurfi as PM-designate. Ghabban vowed that Zurfi “shall not see the premiership.” Meanwhile, Iranian General Ismael Ghaani, the new Quds Force commander, arrived in Baghdad to persuade Iraqi Shia political leaders to agree on an alternative to Zurfi. In spite of persisting opposition, sources close to PM-designate Adnan al-Zurfi claimed on April 1 that he was “close to wrapping up his cabinet selection,” and could present it within a week. more…
  • Anbar Commander Sacked On Corruption Charges; U.S.-Led Coalition Vacates K-1 Base; U.S. Deploys Patriot Batteries To Iraq – On March 27, a rocket struck near the Green Zone without causing casualties. On March 27, ISIS militants killed one member of the popular mobilization forces (PMF) and wounded two in Diyala. On March 28, four mortar rounds struck the Abbara subdistrict in Diyala. On March 30, an IED killed one civilian in the same area. On March 28, Turkish airstrikes killed eight PKK members in the Kurdistan region. On March 28, al-Sumaria reported that the Iraqi army’s chief of staff issued orders to send the Anbar operations commander, Major General Nasir al-Ghannam, to face corruption charges at a court martial. On March 29, the U.S.-led coalition handed over the K-1 base near Kirkuk to the Iraqi security forces (ISF). On March 29, American officials said the U.S. military began positioning Patriot air and missile defense units in Iraqi bases hosting U.S.-led coalition forces, starting with Ain al-Assad and Harir. On March 30, the ISF killed three ISIS militants and destroyed their vehicle in Salah ad-Din. On March 31, two rockets targeted, and missed, Ain al-Assad base in Anbar. On March 31, four mortar rounds struck a village near Jalawla in Diyala. On April 1, an IED killed one member of the federal police and injured three more. On April 1, ISF killed four ISIS militants, including a suicide bomber, in Diyala. On April 1, an IED killed one member of the federal police and injured five more in Salah ad-Din. On April 2, an IED wounded one civilian south of Kirkuk. more…
  • Iraq Extends Curfew, Sends Military Backup To Help Enforce It In Sadr City And Karbala; Health Ministry Says COVID-19 Cases Rise To 772, But Doctors Say Thousands Are Sick – On March 27, The U.S. government said it was providing $15.5 million to help Iraq set up labs and emergency procedures at entry points to enable better response to COVID-19. The aid includes 11 sets of COVID-19 testing equipment to help expand testing. On March 28, courts in Iraq began releasing detainees to reduce the risk of COVID-19 breakouts at detention facilities. On April 1, Iraq’s Health Minister said the government decided to extend the general curfew imposed since March 17 through at least April 19. Minister Jafar Allawi said that Iraq could “defeat” COVID-19 by June if the public cooperated with government orders. Earlier this week, Iraq sent military reinforcements to Sadr city and other provinces to help enforce the government imposed curfew to control the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes Karbala, as the city prepares for an upcoming annual Shia Muslim pilgrimage. In the Kurdistan region, where a quarter of COVID-19 cases exist, the governor of Erbil warned that not taking the curfew seriously would bring “catastrophe” since the virus was now spreading within the community. On April 2, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen to 772 and deaths from the disease reached 54, while a total of 202 patients have recovered. A number of Iraqi health workers claim the number of cases is actually much higher than the official figures, offering numbers between 3,000 and 9,000 based on information available to them. On April 2, Iraq’s Health Ministry asked the Transport Ministry to put a hold on the repatriation of Iraqis who are stranded abroad until there is room to hold them isolated for 14 days. Iraq’s Foreign Ministry has been organizing special flights to repatriate Iraqis who were stranded in Lebanon the UAE, Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Jordan. more…
  • Iraq Seeks Oil Production Cost Cuts As Revenue From Exports Drops By Almost Half – On March 27, Reuters reported that Iraq’s Oil Ministry has asked foreign oil companies operating some the country’s major fields to prepare to cut their oilfield development expenses by 30%. Iraq also wants to delay payments due to foreign oil companies for at least three months. Meanwhile, oil refiner Hindustan Petroleum Corp, a major buyer of Iraqi crude, asked Iraq to cancel two shipments of one million barrels each as fuel demand slumps because of COVID-19. On April 1, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil announced that crude oil exports during March averaged 3.376 million bpd, generating $2.988 billion in revenue, about $2.5 billion below February’s figures. In March, Iraq sold its oil at an average price of $28.43 per barrel, about 45% lower than from February’s $51.37. In spite of lower prices and slowing demand, Iraq reportedly plans to increase production and exports by 200,000 bpd in April. On March 30, Iraq Oil Report mentioned that the KRG has created four new pipelines it will soon use to import refined fuels from Iran. 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.