Iraq

ISHM: September 3 - September 10, 2020

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News and Press Release
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Key Takeaways:

  • Parliament Reconvenes, May Vote On 2020 Budget Next Week; Disagreements Continue Over Electoral Districts; Finance Minister Outlines Economic Problems Before Parliament; Kadhimi Removes Sectarian Identity From Government Forms – On September 5, Parliament held its first session of the legislative season with only 169 members in attendance, and conducted a first reading of the Federal Supreme Court Law. On September 5, the head of Parliament’s Legal Committee blamed the political blocs’ failure to submit their positions on a districting mechanism was delaying the finalization of the Election Law, saying that only the Saeroun Alliance submitted a formal position. On September 10, Nouri al-Maliki and the KDP issued a joint statement in support of treating provinces as individual electoral districts and adopting the Sainte Lague system of proportional representation. On September 7, Parliament’s Finance Committee accused Finance Minister Ali Allawi of failure to develop financial reform plans. On September 8, Allawi appeared before Parliament and sought to explain the magnitude of Iraq’s economic problems, telling lawmakers that Iraq’s problems are the legacy of cumulative bad policies “dating back to the 1950s,” promising to present a white paper on reform within the month. On September 8, a spokesman for PM Kadhimi said the Cabinet will hold a special session next week to approve the delayed 2020 budget before sending it to Parliament for ratification. On September 9, PM Kadhimi ordered sect data removed from staff lists at all state institutions after leaked documents with the names of military cadets showed the forms to contain their sectarian identities, sparking wide-spread criticism. more…

  • KRG President Makes Controversial Ankara Visit; Kadhimi Visits Erbil To Discuss Elections, Security, Oil, Customs And Budget – On September 4, KRG President Nechirvan Barzani visited Ankara to discuss security, economic, and political cooperation with Turkish leaders, including President Erdoğan. The visit generated criticism in Turkey and the Kurdistan region of Iraq (KRI) amid ongoing Turkish military operations inside the KRI. On September 9, Turkey’s Foreign Minister argued that the PKK was turning the KRI into its stronghold, claiming the group’s goal was to extend its control over both Sulaymaniyah and Erbil. On September 6, a delegation from the KRG headed by Qubad Talabani arrived in Baghdad to continue negotiations with the federal government over the KRI’s disputed share of the national budget, oil revenue-sharing, and control of border crossings. On September 10, PM Kadhimi visited Erbil and met with KDP leader Masoud Barzani and KRG PM Masrour Barzani. Kadhimi called for stronger cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil, including preparing the country for early elections, underlined the need for harmony in policies and positions between the center and the region, and stressed that “dialogue and the constitution are the tent that secures the future of a unified and stable Iraq,” – a reference to the many disputes between the two side. The KRG PM acknowledged that Erbil and Baghdad face very tough financial conditions “therefore we are ready to solve all outstanding problems.” Kadhimi also made a rare visit to the Ibrahim al-Khalil border crossing to inspect customs operations – the first by an Iraqi PM in many years. more…

  • Attacks On Coalition Contractors Claim Iraqi Lives; Iraq Establishes New Regional Command; U.S. To Withdraw 2,200 Troops In September – Between September 3 – 8, at least four IEDs targeted civilian contractors transporting supplies for the U.S.-led Coalition near Baghdad, Dhi-Qar and Babylon, killing one Iraqi and injuring six others. Between September 5 – 6, three militant attacks killed five Iraqis and wounded a sixth in Diyala, Kirkuk and Ninewa. On September 5, the Iraqi military established a new regional operations command in charge of Dhi-Qar, Muthanna and Maysan province. Interior Minister Othman al-Ghanimi said the new new “Sumer Operations Command” will unify intelligence and security efforts by various security forces to fight organized crime and establish rule of law. Between September 6 – 10, four rockets targeted Baghdad Airport without causing casualties. Between September 7 – 8, the ISF launched large-scale operations in parts of Maysan and Basra searching for illegal weapons and wanted individuals. Initial reports indicate the operations resulted in scores of arrests and seizure of modest amounts of small arms. On September 8, three ISIS militants detonated explosive vests after ISF units cornered them south of Kirkuk, killing themselves and wounding two ISF members. On September 9, the top U.S. general in the Middle East announced that the U.S. plans to shrink its military forces in Iraq “from about 5,200 to 3,000 troops during the month of September.” more…

  • Iraq Relaxes Restrictions On Movement And Business Despite Growing COVID-19 Cases; Humanitarian Response Faces 60% Funding Gap – On September 7, President Salih met with the Minister of Displacement to discuss expediting the return of IDPs, especially Yazidis and other communities displaced from the Ninewa Plains to their home districts. On September 7, the National Health and Safety Committee issued relaxed COVID-19 guidelines for businesses and government offices that will take effect on September 12. The new guidelines will reopen all border crossings for commercial traffic, allow restaurants to reopen for diners, and increase staffing at all public institutions from 25% to 50%. The new instructions also permit sporting events without spectators. The orders came despite the unabating increase in COVID-19 cases and fresh warnings from top health officials that the spike in infections might overwhelm hospitals and cause them to “lose control” over the pandemic. On September 10, the Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 278,418. More than 5,030 cases were reported on September 4 alone – a new daily record. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 7,814 while a total of 213,817 patients have recovered. To date, Iraq has tested 1,840,913 samples for COVID-19. On September 8, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that donors provided $261.3 million of the $662.2 million funding requirement for Iraq’s 2020 Humanitarian Relief Plan and COVID-19 response, representing only 39.5% of funding required to address the needs of just 44% of Iraq’s total population in need. more…

  • Iraq To Upgrade Qayyara Refinery; Funding Authorized For Basra Water Project; Iraq And Saudi Arabia to Expand Transport Links – On September 6, Iraq’s Oil Minister said his the ministry plans to build new refining units at Qayyara refinery to expand its processing capacity by 70,000 bpd. On September 6, PM Kadhimi directed his Cabinet to appropriate funds for the construction of the al-Bada’a canal in Basra from the 2020 budget. Kadhimi also gave instructions to allocate funds for the water project associated with the canal from the 2021 budget. On September 6, the Ministry of Transport said it assigned a special team tasked with expediting the opening of the Arar border crossing with Saudi Arabia. Iraqi and Saudi officials also discussed establishing maritime shipping lanes, as well as air routes between Iraqi airports and Saudi Arabia’s Dammam Airport. On September 7, Jordanian energy officials announced the resumption of crude oil shipments from Iraq at a rate of 10,000 bpd. 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.