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ISHM: February 17 - 24, 2022

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Key Takeaways:

  • Finance Minister Resists Sadr's Power Play; Maliki Assembles New Bloc; Halbousi's Party Pleads For Help Amid "Siege"; Top Court Says Minority Representation Unfair -- On February 17, Deputy Speaker Hakim al-Zamili summoned Finance Minister Ali Allawi and Central Bank of Iraq governor, Mustafa Ghalib, citing "instruction" from Muqtada al-Sadr. Zamili also asked the judiciary to place a travel ban on Allawi until he complied. Allawi initially refused to attend Parliament's meeting on February 19, saying the demand was illegal. On February 23, Parliament said Allawi agreed to attend a meeting on February 28 based on a formal request endorsed by 100 lawmakers. On February 21, members of the State of Law coalition of Nouri al-Maliki said that the coordination framework for Shia parties was forming a new parliamentary bloc, called al-Thabat al-Watani, with an "official count" of 88 lawmakers. On February 22, the Siyada coalition of Speaker Halbousi urged other political parties to help prevent further attacks on its offices and members. Siyada said it was "deeply worried...about the siege of towns by armed columns of factions that don't answer to the commander in chief." On February 22, Iraq's Supreme Federal Court ruled that the election law clause concerning minorities representation is unconstitutional. The Court said the legislature must write a new law that grants the Yazidi, Shabak, and Fayli Kurdish communities equal representation to that of Christian and Mandaean Iraqis. In other developments, on February 22, a court in Nasiriyah issued an arrest warrant for lieutenant colonel Omar Nizar on charges related to the killing of protesters in Nasiriyah the November 2019. On February 22, the UN Security Council unanimously approved resolution 2621, which ends the mandate of the UN Compensation Commission in charge of collecting reparations in connection with the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. On February 24, KRG President Nechirvan Barzani signed a decree setting October 1, 2022 as the date for the region's next parliamentary election. more...

  • New Attacks Target Politicians And Activists; Dhi-Qar Attack Kills Oil Worker, Disrupts Pipeline Work -- Between February 18 -- 22, the explosions of six IEDs and three remnants of war in Basra, Dhi-Qar, Anbar, Ninewa, and Babylon killed at least five Iraqis and wounded four. Two of the IEDs targeted the residence of a lawmaker from Emtidad and an office of the Taqaddum party in Dhi-Qar and Anbar, respectively. On February 19 gunmen attempted to assassinate a local activist in Nasiriyah. On the following day, unidentified assailants set the home of a local activist on fire after stealing its contents. On February 19, a gunmen reportedly affiliated with an armed militia killed an engineer working on a gas pipeline northwest of Nasiriyah, prompting the implementing company, Weatherford, to suspend its operations at the site. In other developments, on February 19, Turkey said that its forces killed 13 PKK fighters in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. On February 20, the Interior Ministry has appointed major general Khammas al-Dilfi as the new chief of intelligence and counter-terrorism in the ministry, in charge of the "Falcons Intelligence Cell." Between February 23 -- 24, Iraqi forces killed at least six ISIS militants during operations in Kirkuk and Diyala. more...

  • IDP Returns Slowed Down In 2021; Prison Time Reduced For Kurdistan Journalists; 2.5 Million People Need Help This Year -- On February 20, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that a total of 120,666 individuals returned to their districts between December 2020 and December 2021. This represents a 50% drop in returns compared to the previous 12-month period. More than 600,00 returnees continue to live in what qualifies as "severe conditions." On February 22, the defense lawyers for five journalists imprisoned on questionable charges of espionage said that KRG president Nechirvan Brazani ordered their sentences reduced by 60%. According to the lawyers, the five journalists, known as the "Badinan Five," will be released within six months. On February 23, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that 2.5 million people will need assistance in 2022, including more than 960,000 with "acute" humanitarian needs. OCHA added that the Humanitarian Response Plan for 2022 needs $400 million to provide "life-saving and life-sustaining" assistance to nearly 1 million people. In other developments, on February 19, the chief of Salah ad-Din operations command said that 95 families that evacuated their villages in the Makhoul Mountains were to return home the following day after security forces decided to postpone planned operations in the area. On February 24, Iraq's Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 2,298,164, an increase of 11,713 from the 2,286,451 reported on February 17. Hospitalizations decreased from 52,964 to 39,667, and the daily average for new cases during the last 7-day period dropped to 1,673/day from 2,671/day during the 7-day period ending February 17. Total vaccinations reached 9,829,679 including 47,711 who received their shots on February 24. more...

  • KRG To Open New Border Crossing With Iran; Iraq Seeks Qatari Gas; Overflights Crossing Iraqi Airspace Nearly Double -- On February 22, KRG officials met with Iranian officials to discuss opening a new border crossing that would connect Iran's Sarbel Zahab with the Garmyan district in Iraq's Kurdistan region. On February 23, Iraq's Oil Minister said that he had "preliminary discussions" with his Qatari counterpart about infrastructure requirements for importing 1.5 million tons of Qatari gas (frequency unspecified). On February 23, Iraq's state-owned Aeronautical Services Company said that international overflights crossing Iraq's airspace had increased to 450 per day, up from 250 per day a year ago, as more airlines relaxed previous safety restrictions. In other developments, on February 24, Iraqi Airways pilots staged a strike at Baghdad International Airport, temporarily disrupting all domestic and most international flights. The striking pilots demanded better pay, separation from the Transportation Ministry, and the replacement of managers suspected of corruption. 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.