ISHM: April 30 – May 14, 2020 – Iraq

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Key Takeaways:

  • New Government Releases Detainees, Pays Delayed Pensions; Call For U.S. Support Divides Fatah; Kadhimi Appoints Acting Ministers, Reinstates Popular General; PM Talks Security, Economy With Trump And Rouhani – On May 8, PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who underlined NATO’s interest in strengthening counter terrorism cooperation. On May 9, the new government held its first formal session and took decisions to immediately pay pensioners, release protesters detained since October and reinstate Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saidi, who was sacked in September. The government will also assemble foreign policy experts to prepare for strategic dialogue with the U.S. and legal experts to study preparations for early elections. On May 9, a senior member of the Fatah coalition asked Washington to “increase its support for Iraq,” in an apparent departure from traditionally anti-U.S. rhetoric. Asaib Ahl al-Haq attacked the comments from the Badr wing of Fatah, saying that the U.S. represents “an eternal enemy.” On May 9, PM Kadhimi met with the envoys of Iran, U.S., Jordan, Turkey and EU nations. Talks with the U.S. ambassador focused on preparations for strategic dialogue, security and economic cooperation and protecting Iraq from becoming a battleground for conflict, a point Kadhimi also emphasized during talks with Iran’s envoy. On May 10, the Saeroun coalition accused unnamed political parties of agitating the public and organizing protests to undermine PM Kadhimi after Baghdad and southern provinces saw limited protests that resulted in casualties among protesters and security forces. On May 11, PM Kadhimi appointed five members of his cabinet as acting ministers for the vacant portfolios of oil, trade, migration, justice and culture. On May 11, President Trump spoke with PM Kadhimi and offered economic assistance and more cooperation in fighting COVID-19. Kadhimi spoke with the Iranian president about economic relations, especially reopening border crossings. more…

  • String Of IEDs Hit Baghdad; PM Targets Militia That Fired On Protesters; ISIS Burns Crops; Prominent Activist Assassinated; Interior Ministry Eyes Gun Controls – Between May 7-10, ISIS snipers killed two members Iraqi security forces (ISF) in Diyala and Babylon. Between May 8-10, the ISF killed seven ISIS militant and seized weapons in Anbar, Ninewa, Kirkuk and Diyala. On May 9, an IED injured three ISF members in Salah ad-Din, while ISIS militants opened fire on firefighters and civilians trying to extinguish crop fires in Diyala. On May 10-11 ISIS militants kidnapped and executed two farmers in Diyala and set their farms on fire and torched farms elsewhere in Diyla and southwest of Erbil. On May 9, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a prominent activist in Nasiriyah. He died in the hospital amid widespread condemnation of the deliberate targeting of activists. On May 11, PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered the ISF in Basra to pursue armed groups that recently fired live bullets on protesters. The ISF raided an office belonging to Thar Allah, a Shia Islamist militia, confiscating weapons and arresting several individuals. On May 10, five IEDs killed one civilian and wounded at least ten in Baghdad. On May 12, ISIS attacks killed five ISF members in Salah ad-Din and Diyala. On May 12, Interior Ministry officials issued a statement listing the groups allowed to legally carry firearms, adding that the ministry will seek to restrict the possession of weapons to legitimate government entities. PM Kadhimi declared establishing state monopoly over arms one of his top priorities, and reiterated that point during a May 13 visit to the Defense Ministry. On May 12, attacks killed five people and wounded four in Salah ad-Din and Anbar. On May 13, an IED and small arms fire wounded seven civilians in Diyala. On May 14, suspected ISIS militants sabotaged a high voltage electrical tower near the Khabbaz oilfield in Kirkuk.
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  • KRG Begins To Reopen While The Rest Of Iraq May Impose Stricter Measures As COVID-19 Risk Rises And The County Confirms 600 New COVID-19 Cases – On May 10, the Iraqi government decided to change curfew hours to be from 5pm to 5am and enforce a full curfew during the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday. Iraq’s new Health Minister warned that the COVID-19 situation “remains dangerous” attributing that to poor compliance with social distancing measures, and suggesting that Iraqi may be forced to reimpose a full curfew. Meanwhile, the KRG decided to end the curfew that was imposed since March while extending the ban on travel between provinces until May 18. Government offices in the region will resume limited operations and the KRG has also allowed mosques and most shops to reopen. On May 10, the UNHCR said that the U.S. and Japan have contributed about $8 million in support of the organization’s effort to help IDPs and refugees deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. On May 12, the World Bank said it reallocated $33.6 million to support the Iraqi Health Ministry’s response to COVID-19. On May 14, Iraq’s Health Ministry reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased this week to 3,143 representing the highest weekly increase the country has seen. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 115 while a total of 2,028 patients have recovered. more…
  • Iraq Reports Surplus In Refined Fuels; Russia Interested In Iraq’s Gas Fields; Iraq To Cut Oil Output By 700,000 BPD – On May 10, Iraq’s Oi Ministry said that Baghdad has canceled contracts to import gasoline for May due to slowing demand and rising fuel stocks produced by domestic refineries. On May 12, Russia’s ambassador to Iraq said that Russian energy companies were interested in investing Iraq’s Mansouriyah gas field in Diyala province. On May 12, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi met with the World Bank representative for Iraq to discuss options for helping Iraq manage the current financial crisis. On May 13, Iraqi oil officials said Baghdad reached agreements with international oil companies to cut production by 300,000 bpd from the oil fields of Zubair, Rumaila and West Qurna 1 and 2. Iraq will also reduce production from fields operated directly by its state-owned companies, bringing total production cuts close to 700,000 bpd to meet Baghdad’s obligations under the OPEC+ production reduction deal. 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.

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