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Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor: March 24 - 31, 2022

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Key Takeaways:

  • Deadlock Prevents Parliament From Electing A President; Parliament Discusses Controversial Spending Bill; Rioters Attack KDP Office In Baghdad -- On March 26 and 30, Parliament failed twice to elect a new president as political deadlock between the trilateral alliance led by Muqtada al-Sadr and his rivals in the coordination framework for Shia parties (CF) prevented lawmakers from establishing a quorum. Senior CF leader Hadi al-Amiri warned that attempts to exclude CF from government "would not lead to stability." Amiri's ally, Qais al-Khazali, insisted that CF "must be part of the largest bloc" that forms the government. Muqtada al-Sadr reiterated his opposition to a deal with CF, writing that "deadlock is better than consensus and splitting the pie with you." On March 26, Parliament discussed a proposed bill called the "Emergency Support for Food Security and Development." The bill was reportedly sent by the Cabinet and aims to "achieve food security, reduce poverty, and create financial stability amid global emergencies." The bill, which some saw as an attempt to bypass the formal budget process, was met with strong opposition from lawmakers affiliated with the CF. On March 28, angry rioters attacked the KDP office in Baghdad, destroying equipment and furniture. The attack was a response to a message posted on twitter by a Kurdish commentator that reportedly contained an insult to senior Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. KDP leader Masoud Barzani condemned condemned the attack, which he described as the "second time a group of losers and provocateurs" committed acts of sabotage. In other developments, on March 24, PM Kadhimi visited Jordan for multilateral talks with the king of Jordan, president of Egypt, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, and a Saudi minister, focusing on expanding trade, mitigating food shortages, and addressing other current regional problems. more...

  • Gunmen Attack A Chinese Oil Company In Dhi-Qar For The Second Time; Rockets Strike Near Turkish Camp, Oil Fields In Ninewa -- On March 26, unidentified gunmen fired rocket propelled grenades and machine guns at facilities belonging to ZPEC, a Chinese company operating on the Gharraf oil field in the Rifai district of Dhi-Qar province. The same company was attacked in a similar fashion in December. On March 30, an attack with multiple rockets targeted a base for the Turkish military at Zelikan, north of Mosul. According to local sources, some of the rockets landed near the positions of a Peshmerga brigade, and near the work sites of Norwegian oil company, DNO. In other developments, between March 25 -- 30, the explosions of seven IEDs in Dhi-Qar, Diyala, and Ninewa injured at least seven civilians and members of Iraq's security forces. more...

  • New Humanitarian Response Plan Seeks $400 To Help 2.5 Million In Need; Lakes, Marshes Vanish As Water Scarcity Intensifies -- On March 27, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) presented the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan for Iraq, which identifies 2.5 million people who need assistance, of whom 961,000 are in acute need reaching "extreme or catastrophic levels." The plan seeks $400 million to support 996,000 IDPs and returnees "with life-saving and life-sustaining assistance to meet their most critical humanitarian needs." On March 27, footage posted on social media showed that Lake Sawa, a desert lake in Iraq's Muthanna province, has completely dried. Meanwhile, reports from the adjacent Dhi-Qar province showed that one of the province's marshes, Abu Zarag, was on the verge of disappearing too. Local activists said that most communities that lived near the marsh have abandoned it, as water scarcity undermined their livelihoods. In Maysan province, there were reports of protests amid an increase in water-borne illnesses due to water scarcity and high pollution from dumping heavy water into local rivers. In other developments, on March 31, Iraq's Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 2,319,550, an increase of 2,422 in cases from the 2,317,128 reported on March 24. Hospitalizations decreased from 14,865 to 12,119, and the daily average for new cases during the last 7-day period increased to 346/day from 285/day during the 7-day period ending March 24. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 10,352,610, including 30,553 who received their shots on March 31. more...

  • Iraq To Upgrade Subsea Oil Export Pipelines; KRG Eyes Gas Exports To Europe; Baghdad Explores Ways To Take Over KRG Oil Contracts -- On March 27, officials at the Basra Oil Company said they were preparing requests for proposals for a major infrastructure project involving two new subsea pipelines and improvements to existing oil terminals to nearly double the export capacity of Iraq's southern ports. On March 28, KRG PM Masrour Barzani said his region could begin exporting natural gas "to the rest of Iraq, Turkey, and Europe in the near future." Recently, the KRG began building a new natural gas pipeline to bring gas from the KRG-operated fields to the Turkish border. On March 29, Iraq's Oil Ministry and National Oil Company hosted a meeting with international consultants to discuss "mechanisms for managing the Kurdistan region's oil industry in accordance with constitutional principles." The consultations are part of the federal government's preparations to implement the Supreme Federal Court's decision that declared the KRG's oil and gas legislation to be unconstitutional and required the federal government to take over oil production in the region. In other developments, on March 29, the U.S. approved a new sanctions waiver that permits Baghdad to continue purchasing natural gas and electricity from Iran for another 120 days. 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.