ISHM: November 5 – November 12, 2020

News and Press Release
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Key Takeaways:

  • Baghdad And Riyadh Push For More Cooperation; Iraqi Leaders, Factions Cautiously Welcome Biden’s Victory; Borrowing Bill Approved Despite Kurdish Objections – On November 5, UNAMI issued a report on the Iraq’s preparations for the next parliamentary, calling the approval of electoral districts a “significant and welcome step forward in electoral preparations.” On November 6, Basra Police opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing a 29-year-old protester and wounding seven more. The Interior Ministry arrested the shooter and called the killing an “individual act,” that disobeyed orders. On November 8, Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs congratulated Joe Biden on his victory in the U.S. election, adding that the Ministry “looks forward” to increased cooperation and “strengthening of bilateral ties.” Dhafer al-Ani, a member of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, called on Biden to avoid the mistakes of Obama’s Iraq policy, which he said allowed Iran’s power to grow. Pro-Iran factions welcomed Biden’s victory too, but expressed concern Trump may “use this transitional period to target our leadership.” On November 10, PM Kadhimi held a teleconference with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to discuss security, economic and political cooperation and recent meetings of the Iraqi-Saudi Coordination Council. In a joint statement, they highlighted agreements on the opening the Arar border crossing within a week and establishing a Saudi commercial office in Baghdad. The two sides also pledged to adhere to OPEC and OPEC+ decisions “to guarantee fair and appropriate oil prices.” Baghdad and Riyadh also discussed conducting joint military exercises and the exchange of military attaches. On November 12, Parliament voted to approve a borrowing bill designed to cover public sector salaries amid Iraq’s ongoing financial crisis. The vote took place in the early hours of Thursday despite strong objections from Kurdish representatives. Lawmakers lowered the borrowing amount from IQD41 trillion to IQD12 trillion and decreased “essential expenses” estimates from IQD57.811 trillion to IQD22.5 trillion. more…

  • Deadly ISIS Raid Shakes A Baghdad Suburb; IEDs, Abductions Hit Kirkuk And Anbar As ISF Launches Anti-ISIS Operation In Salah Ad-Din – Between November 5 – 12, ten active and legacy IEDs in Ninewa, Kirkuk, Diyala, Salah ad-Din and Baghdad killed at least six Iraqis and wounded another 20. On November 8, four ISIS militants attacked a tribal PMF outpost in Radwaniyah, southwest of Baghdad. There were conflicting causality reports, with one security source saying the attack killed eleven people, including six civilians who attempted to assist the PMF fighters with personal weapons. The incident prompted the commander of Baghdad Operations to urge higher authorities to consider providing better armaments to the tribal PMF fighters. On November 10, security sources said ISIS militants kidnapped five civilians from Anbar and Kirkuk. On November 8, Iraqi forces launched a large anti-ISIS operation in the Makhoul and Khanouka mountain ranges in northern Salah ad-Din province backed by airstrikes by the Iraqi Air Force and International Coalition aircraft. more…

  • Aid Groups Warn Rushed IDP Camp Closures Could Leave Thousands Homeless; COVID-19 Cases Surpass 500,000 – On November 8, the World Health Organization and the KRG launched a joint COVID-19 prevention and awareness campaign intended to slow the recent increase in cases in Erbil and Duhok provinces. On November 9, the Ministry of Migration and Displacement announced all camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq outside of the Kurdistan region will be closed and their residents relocated by the beginning of 2021. The camp closure plans have raised alarms among aid groups. On November 9, the Norwegian Refugee Council expressed concern over Baghdad’s efforts to close the camps, arguing that the hasty closures were “rendering more than 100,000 people homeless.” On November 10, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that while the rise in COVID-19 cases has slowed in recent weeks, the Iraqi government’s lax approach toward virus-related restrictions places vulnerable displaced populations at disproportionate risk. On November 12, the Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 511,806. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 11,531 while the number of patients currently in hospitals increased to 61,046. To date, 439,228 patients have recovered from the virus and Iraq has tested 3,076,646 samples for COVID-19. The areas most affected this week were Baghdad and the Kurdistan region, which reported 827 and 1,170 new positive cases on November 12 alone, respectively. more…

  • Kadhimi Wants More Revenue, Stricter Control At Border Crossings; Iraq Intensifies Talks With Daewoo Over Delayed Faw Port Project; Finance Ministry Releases Salaries – On November 8, PM Kadhimi met with the head of the Border Crossings Authority to discuss efforts to control formal and informal border crossings to “combat smuggling, counterfeiting, and waste of public money.” Kadhimi emphasized closing informal crossings to protect local products and the national economy. On November 12, Iraq’s Transport Ministry said that fresh negotiations with Daewoo over al-Faw Port have produced an “understanding with the company.” Minister Nasir al-Shibli stressed that PM Kadhimi instructed “to implement the project as quickly as possible,” adding that talks with the company continue to “resolve technical and financial issues.” On November 12, the Finance Ministry announced that it has instructed its departments and banks under its control to prepare to pay the delayed October salaries of government employees starting Sunday, November 14. 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.