This week’s headlines:
Iraq Is Granted Exemptions From Iran Sanctions, Protests Resume in Basra Province – On November 2, three Iraqi officials stated that the United States (U.S.) exempted Iraq from sanctions concerning the import of gas, food, and energy supplies from Iran after Washington reimposed sanctions on Iran’s oil sector. On November 2, protests in Basra Province resumed as demonstrators demanded that the Iraqi federal government provide job opportunities and services to the province. On November 3, Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced a recent Tweet from the U.S. Embassy that called on Iran to respect Iraq’s sovereignty and to allow the demobilization of Iranian-backed Shia militias. According to Reuters, Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it “rejects interference in Iraq’s internal affairs, especially domestic security reform and demanded the Twitter post be removed.” On November 7, the U.S. Department of State provided an update on the waivers granted to Iraq with regards to the sanctions placed on Iran. Brian Hook, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran, told reporters that “we granted Iraq a waiver to allow it to continue to pay for its electricity imports from Iran. We are confident that this will help Iraq limit electricity shortages in the south. Iraq is a friend and a partner, and we are committed to its stability and prosperity.”
General Fortin Appointed as New Commander for NATO Training Mission in Iraq, Bombing Attacks in Baghdad Province Kill 8 and Injure 14 – On November 4, the Canadian Embassy in Iraq announced that Canadian General Danny Fortin was appointed as the Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Training and Capacity-Building Mission in Iraq. On November 5, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi visited the headquarters of the Baghdad Operations Command. On November 4, an anonymous security source told Reuters that eight people were killed and 14 were injured following a series of bombing attacks in Baghdad Province. On November 4, Jan Kubis, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, condemned the bombing attacks that took place in Baghdad and Sadr City, approximately 15 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. Kubis statement read“these heinous acts aim to break the spirit of the Iraqis, in particular Baghdadis who have started to enjoy the fruits of peace, and derail their country’s steady progress towards stability, but the unity of the people and the decisive efforts of the security forces are certain to foil the terrorists’ evil designs.”
Council of Ministers Approves Increase of Salary for PMUs, Discussions Concerning 2019 Federal Budget Continue – On November 6, the Spokesman for the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) and member of the Fatah Alliance, Ahmed al-Asadi, called on the Iraqi government to increase the salaries for the PMUs in the 2019 Federal Budget. On November 6, the Council of Ministers approved an increase in the salaries provided to the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs). Rudaw News reported that “the council decided to transfer just under 197.9 billion dinars (USD $166 million) from the 2018 budget to the paramilitary forces.” On November 6, Member of Parliament (MP) of the Sairoon Alliance, Burhan Al-Mamouri, stated that the Council of Representatives was likely to reject the 2019 Federal Budget and send it back to the Council of Ministers. On November 6, a number of deputies from Ninewa Province objected to the most recent 2019 Federal Budget draft over a lack of funds allocated for post-ISIS reconstruction of the province. On November 6, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi met with his Cabinet to discuss the 2019 Federal Budget. On November 7, second Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Bashir Haddad, of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), urged Kurdish parties to meet and present a unified decision on an acceptable 2019 Federal Budget.
KDP To Confirm Nechirvan Barzani As KRG Prime Minister, KRSC Warned of Unchecked ISIS Attacks and Assassinations – On November 6, Fazil Mirani, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Committee Secretary argued that Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani was the logical choice to continue to lead the region. Mirani told Rudaw News that “Mr. Nechirvan is a prominent candidate of not only the KDP, but I imagine for other political forces as well, and even among the populace.” On November 4, the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) warned that in October 2018, some of the attacks carried out by Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) members in the disputed areas of Iraq were not preventedby Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The KRSC wrote on Twitter that “tracked security incidents from October signal a reemergence of VBIED-based attacks in Kirkuk and Mosul. Targeted assassinations against mokhtars and attacks on electricity infrastructure continued unabated.” On November 7, Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) Masrour Barzani met with U.S. Major General Patrick Roberson, Deputy Commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), to examine the progress of the anti-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria.
WHO Examines Gastrointestinal Illnesses in Basra Province, UNAMI Reports of 202 Mass Grave Sites Found in Iraq – On November 1, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report examining the outbreak of gastrointestinal illnesses that first occurred on August 12, 2018, in Basra Province. Symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramps, vomiting, and nausea, gas/bloating, diarrhea, and fever, were reported. The Ministry of Health (MOH), Directorate of Health (DOH) in Basra, and the WHO responded by conducting studies and taking precautions to prevent waterborne and foodborne diseases. MOH has tested more than 10,000 stool samples and reported that cholera was not detected. On November 6, United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published a report identifying 202 mass grave sites that have been located in Iraq. Most of the gravesites were found in Ninewa Province (95 sites), Kirkuk (37), and Salah ad-Din (36). The majority of the bodies that were discovered, 1,283 of which have already been identified, appeared to have been thrown in mass graves after being murdered by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). On November 7, the German Ambassador to Iraq, Dr. Cyrill Nunn, met with United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Iraq Country Office and Higher Judicial Council representatives, the Ministry of the Interior and the Office of the National Security Advisor at the German Embassy.
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.