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Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor: May 19 – 26, 2022

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Key Takeaways:

  • Militias Threaten Kurdish Leaders; KDP, PUK Meet In An Attempt To Break Deadlock; Parliament Passes Bill Criminalizing Ties With Israel – On May 23, an umbrella group of Iran-backed Iraqi militias accused the KDP of collaborating with Israel and “training armed factions…that aim to spread chaos.” The message included a threat to the Kurdish leaders, saying that “the fire they try to start will turn on them and burn them first.” The security council of the Kurdistan region responded with a message of deterrence, warning that “any aggression on the Kurdistan region…would be very costly” for the aggressors. On May 25, the political bureaus of the KDP and PUK issued a joint statement after a meeting in Erbil that was chaired by the KDP’s Nechirvan Barzani and PUK’s Bafel Talabani. The statement said the Wednesday meeting, and an earlier meeting between Barzani and Talabani in Sulaymaniyah, “set the stage for…normalization between the two sides…and for restoring confidence between them.” On May 26, Iraq’s Parliament voted to approve a law for the “Criminalization of Normalization with the Zionist Entity.” The new law makes it illegal to travel to Israel or engage in any “diplomatic, political, military, economic, cultural, or any other relations” with Israel. The law, which threatens violators with harsh penalties, including death, was approved unanimously by 275 lawmakers who attended Thursday’s session. more…

  • Turkey-PKK Violence Escalates In Kurdistan; Deadly ISIS Attacks Kill 15 Iraqis; Drone Targets Baghdad Airport - On May 21, airstrikes by Turkish drones on two vehicle in Makhmour and Chemchemal killed seven people, including locals and members of the PKK. On the same day, an explosive drone struck a Turkish military base north of Mosul, killing a member of a local Iraqi militia that receives training from the Turkish military. Between May 24 – 26, the Turkish Defense Ministry said that six of its soldiers were killed and two were injured during clashes with PKK militants in the Kurdistan region. Between May 23 – 26, seven attacks by ISIS militants in Kirkuk, Diyala, Ninewa, and Salah ad-Din killed at least 15 Iraqis, wounded 12, and left two missing. The deadliest of these attacks struck the village of Islah, near Jalawla, and Taza in Kirkuk, and accounted for 12 of the fatalities. On May 24, air defense systems near Baghdad airport shot down a drone, which security sources said was an Iranian made, and was headed for the “diplomatic support area” at Baghdad airport, which hosts personnel from the U.S. and International Coalition nations. more…

  • New Sandstorms Blanket Iraq; Iraq Asks EU To Help Close Al-Hol Camp; Hemorrhagic Fever Outbreak Is “Not An Epidemic” Yet – On May 23, Iraq’s Health Ministry said that more than one thousand people received medical help for breathing problems amidst a new severe sandstorm that covered large parts of Iraq, as well as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. This is at least the third intense sandstorm to hit Iraq in May, and the eighth since April. On May 24, Iraq’s National Security Advisor called during a meeting with a delegation from the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defense for closing al-Hol, the massive camp for refugees and IDPs in Syria. The official called the camp a “real danger to the region and the world.” On May 24, a spokesman for Iraq’s Health Ministry said that the recent spread of hemorrhagic fever has not reached epidemic levels. Iraq has reported 98 cases to date, among which 18 were fatal. In other developments, on May 23, the World Bank said it decided to fund a $10 million project to develop teaching practices of 4,000 Arabic and math teachers, and enhance “literacy and numeracy skills” among 300,000 struggling primary school students. The Bank said recent student assessments indicate that, by 3rd grade, more than nine out of ten students were not comprehending what they were reading. On May 26, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 2,327,665, an increase of just 700 from the 2,326,965 reported on May 19. Hospitalizations decreased from 1,238 to 1,025, and the daily average for new cases during the last 7-day period decreased to 100/day from 115/day during the 7-day period ending May 19. The number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 10,58,203 including 14,132 who received their shots on May 26. more…

  • Iraq Looks To Export More Oil Through Turkey; Foreign Currency Reserves Rise; Positive Developments In Major Deal With TotalEnergies- On May 22, Iraq’s Oil Minister met with Turkey’s ambassador to Baghdad and emphasized the need to “increase exports capacity through Turkey’s port of Ceyhan…through new projects and agreements.” On May 25, Iraq’s Finance Minister said the Central Bank of Iraq’s foreign currency reserves increased to $70 billion in April, an increase of nearly $16 billion compared to March of 2021. On May 26, Iraq’s Oil Minister met with the chief executive of TotalEnergies in Paris and agreed on a set of timelines for executing a package of energy projects, which had been facing obstacles due to disagreements over financial arrangements. The projects involve the development of an oil field, harnessing gas from five oil fields, building a 7.5 million bpd seawater reprocessing plant, and developing a 1,000 megawatt solar energy plant. In other developments, on May 24, new statistics released by Iraq’s Planning Ministry showed that there were a total of 2,282 hotels and other tourist lodging facilities across the country, an increase of 37% from 2018. 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.