Iraq

ISHM: November 19 – December 3, 2020

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News and Press Release
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Key Takeaways:

  • PM Urges Lawmakers To Fund Election; Group Drops Effort To Unseat Halbousi; Sadr’s Followers Kill Seven Protesters In Nasiriyah Clashes As He Announces Ambitious Election Bid – On November 21, the Cabinet asked for IQD60 billion to finance the Iraqi High Elections Commission and PM Kadhimi later stressed that Parliament must pass an election financing bill to allow the Commission to prepare for the June 6 polls. On November 22, Parliament discussed a controversial Law on Information Technology Crimes that was condemned by rights organizations fearing that it will damage free speech and silence dissent. On November 26, representative Ahmed al-Jubouri (aka Abu Mazin) said the recently formed Iraqi Front has halted its efforts to remove Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi. On November 27, followers of Moqtada al-Sadr rallied for mass demonstrations in several provinces and clashed with protesters in Nasiriyah’s Haboubi Square. Gunmen believed to be Sadr followers killed seven people, wounded 90 and burned protester tents in Haboubi Square. A Sadr aide blamed protesters acting on “foreign agendas” for the deadly clashes and threatened more violence. PM Kadhimi fired the police chief and formed a crisis cell led by his National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji. Thousands of Sadrists also gathered in Baghdad’s Tahrir square after Sadr said he will participate in the next elections to achieve a Sadrist majority and choose the next PM. On November 28, three more protesters died as Iraqi riot police stormed the protest square at Kut City. more…

  • Militias, Iran Disagree Over Truce With The U.S.; Washington Targets Militias Websites, Pulls More Personnel Out Of Its Baghdad Mission – On November 19, Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader Qais al-Khazali said the unilateral truce that pro-Iran militias announced in October with regard to pausing their attacks on U.S. interests has ended because “its conditions” were not met. The remarks coincided with a visit by IRGC-QF commander Ismael Qaani to Baghdad in which he told allied Iraqi militias to “stand down and cease attacks” on U.S. interests. Khazali appeared to pushback against Qaani, saying that “the U.S. occupies [Iraq], not [Iran], we will not listen to [Qaani] anymore.” On December 2, the U.S. Department of Justice seized the website of al-Ghadeer TV, a Badr Organization-owned media outlet. On December 2, Washington decided to pull an unspecified number of personnel from the U.S. embassy in the Iraqi capital amid rising concerns of increased possibility for military escalation with Iran. Recently, the Washington Post reported that senior American officials claimed President Trump was prepared to “order a devastating response” against Iran-backed militias should they kill any more Americans. more…

  • Rockets Damage Refinery; Attacks On Activists Increase; Vigilante Groups Wage Attacks On Businesses In Baghdad; Parties Begin Implementing Sinjar Security Deal – Between November 21 – December 3, ten IEDs killed at least five Iraqis and wounded 20 more in Ninewa, Salah ad-Din, Diyala, and Kirkuk. One bombing near Baiji was part of a complex attack that left more than ten casualties. Between November 21 – December 3, 13 other militant attacks killed at least four Iraqis and wounded 27 in Ninewa, Kirkuk, Anbar, Diyala and Salah ad-Din. A rocket attack on November 29 struck the Siniya oil refinery in Salah ad-Din, temporarily shutting down production. Between November 22 – December 2, gunmen carried out four assassination attempts against activists known for criticizing armed groups in Diwaniyah, Baghdad and Maysan. One of the activists was killed and another sustained serious injuries. Between November 20 – 30, Counter Terrorism forces and Caolition airstrikes killed at least 20 ISIS militants in Makhmour and south of Kirkuk. Between November 26 – December 3, three IEDs targeted liquor stores and a night club in Baghdad while Rab’a Allah, a vigilante group affiliated with Kataib Hezbollah attacked a spa in the capital, beating employees and torching the building. On December 1, federal security forces began redeploying to Sinjar under the normalization agreement signed in October, while Sinjar Protection Units (YBS), a Yazidi militia affiliated with the PKK said that its forces and the PMF began withdrawing from the area. more…

  • Aid Organizations Warn Of The Impact Of Rushed Camp Closures On IDPs, Especially Children; COVID-19 Deaths Pass 12,000 But New Cases Slow Down – On November 20, UN Human Rights Council experts urged Baghdad to halt plans to execute fifty prisoners convicted under an anti-terrorism law that the includes “vague and overly broad definition of terrorism.” On November 20, UNICEF warned that the portion of Iraqi children at risk of experiencing poverty doubled during the pandemic. On November 24, Amnesty International warned of increased risk to IDPs with perceived links to ISIS due to rush the closure of remaining IDP camps. On November 27, Save the Children reported that children and their families that have been forced to leave IDP camps often return to dangerous communities without adequate accommodation or infrastructure, where explosives remnants, destroyed structures, and kidnappers immediately endanger children. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Migration said it had closed 15 IDP camps and returned 5,180 families to their home communities in the last month. On December 3, Iraq’s Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 558,767. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 12,361 while the number of patients currently in hospitals decreased to 58,543. To date, 439,228 patients have recovered from the virus and Iraq has tested 3,576,592 samples for COVID-19. The daily average for new cases decreased from 2,488/day during the week ending Nov 19 to 2,013/day this week. more…

  • U.S. Issues New 45-Day Sanctions Waiver; Iraq Offers Forward Oil Sales, Plans Bond Issue To Generate Revenue; Oil Exports Lower In November – On November 19, the U.S. granted a 45-day sanctions waiver for Iraq to purchase energy from Iran. needs. On November 22, Iraq signed an agreement with the German Development Bank for two grants to build hospitals and support the IDP return. On November 24, Iraq’s Finance Minister said Iraq is becoming increasingly frustrated with OPEC’s indiscriminate production cuts requirements, and suggested that Iraq could leave OPEC. On November 23, Iraq’s oil marketing company sent a letter to global oil companies “seeking an upfront payment of $2 billion… for a long-term crude supply contract.” On November 27, Iraq’s Finance Ministry said it will offer bonds worth $3-5 billion to the public. On December 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said that crude oil exports during November averaged 2.709 million bpd, which is 167,000 bpd lower than October’s average of 2.876 bpd million bpd. The November exports generated $3.394 billion in revenue, slightly lower than October’s $3.43 billion. 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.