Iraq in December 2022
December 1, 2022
Iranian Regime Threatens to Invade Iraq
Following large-scale Iranian artillery strikes into Iraqi territory that killed hundreds of people, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Ismail Qani, traveled to Baghdad last week to warn Prime Minister Sudani and other Iraqi leaders that if Baghdad failed to “fortify its borders,” then the Iranian regime would mount a ground invasion of Iraq. Since the onset of nationwide protests inside Iran, the Iranian regime has accused parties in Iraq’s Kurdistan region of stoking the unrest inside Iran. Qani’s threat came after Sudani had previously sent his national security adviser, a senior figure in the Iranian-backed “Badr Brigades,” to Tehran to try to negotiate an end to Tehran’s military strikes against northern Iraq. Following Qani’s visit to Baghdad, Iraq’s National Security Council announced on 23 November that it will be developing a plan to deploy Iraqi border forces to secure Iraq’s borders with Iran and Turkey.
On the same day Iraqi leaders decided to deploy their border forces to the north, Prime Minister Sudani made a brief visit to Kuwait to meet Kuwait’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister. The Iraqi and Kuwaiti leaders issued a joint statement emphasizing the importance of cooperation between the two countries at the parliamentary, governmental, and societal levels.
On November 30, Prime Minister Sudani led a delegation to Tehran reportedly for talks to forestall the Iranian military incursion into Iraq that Qani had warned about. Sudani reportedly offered assurances to the Iranian regime that the Iraqi government would not “allow the use of Iraqi territory to threaten Iran’s security” and offered further new arrangements for securing the border between Iran and the Iraqi Kurdistan region. Although Sudani offered these assurances directly in meetings with Supreme Leader Khamenei, Khamenei responded by stating that he doubted Iraq’s ability to control its borders, and, in an implied criticism of the Kurdistan Regional Government, said that the Iraqi central government must extend its control over all of Iraq’s regions.
On the domestic front, Sudani gave a live press conference on 27 November to announce the recovery of $125 million out of the $2.5 billion stolen by former government officials in the fake contract scandal known as the “Theft of the Century”. Sudani gave his press conference while standing onstage next to large stacks of cash representing the money that had been recovered.
In other news, Arabic media reported that an investigative court in Baghdad had received a new lawsuit against former U.S. President Donald Trump, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi for their alleged roles in the killing of Iraqi militant leader Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis. Muhandis was killed in the American military strike that killed Qasim Sulimani in Baghdad in January 2020.
December 5, 2022
IRAQ: Iraqi Judiciary Sentences Prominent Critic to Jail for “Insulting” the Judiciary
On 4 December an Iraqi court in Baghdad sentenced (in absentia) former Iraqi parliamentarian Mithal al-Alusi to seven years in prison for the alleged crime of “insulting the Federal Supreme Court,” Iraq’s highest judicial authority. Alusi, who is a contributing author for the American Center for Levant Studies, has been an outspoken critic of the Iraqi judiciary, which he charges has come under heavy Iranian regime influence. The news of Alusi’s politically motivated sentence came on the same day the Iraqi parliament for the first time debated the issue of insufficient protections for freedom of expression in Iraq.
Elsewhere, Iraq’s new Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani visited the shrine of Imam Reza in the Iranian city of Mashhad on 2 December. Sudani and his Iraqi government delegation made an official tour of the shrine with Iranian regime counterparts. Imam Reza is the eighth imam in Shia Islamic tradition.
10 December 2022
- Demonstrators were killed in Iraq in protests following the prison sentence of an activist (Al Hadath). Hussein Riyad, spokesman for the health department in Dhi Qar province, told “Agence France Presse” that “demonstrators were shot dead” and 21 others were wounded, including five by bullets, in clashes with security forces during a gathering in the city centre of Nasiriyah. This comes after a court in Baghdad sentenced the young activist Haider al-Zaidi (20 years) to three years in prison, on charges of insulting the Popular Mobilization Forces. Al-Zaidi can still appeal this ruling.
- Al-Sudani: We will not accept that Iraq be a springboard for threatening the neighbourhood (Al Hadath). During his speech at the Arab-Chinese Summit in Riyadh, Al-Sudani affirmed support for all efforts to strengthen relations with China, explaining that his country wants open relations with the East and West on the basis of common interests.
11 December 2022
- 5 Years Since the Victory…”Shocking” Numbers Detailing Iraq’s Losses during the “ISIS” War (Alsumaria TV). The losses were distributed in the areas controlled by ISIS in the 7 governorates, where the government losses are estimated at 36 billion dollars.
12 DECEMBER 2022
- Iraqi Government Recovers More of the Money Stolen in Iraq’s “Theft of the Century” (Al Jazeera). The office of Iraqi Prime Minister Sudani announced the Iraqi government had recovered an additional $92 million of the billions stolen by Iraqi government officials in what Iraqis call the “theft of the century.”
- Iraq’s Parliament Speaker Confirms Killing Of Thousands By Iran-Backed Militia (Iran International). Iraq’s parliament speaker has recently confirmed that hundreds to thousands of people who went missing from 2014 to 2016 were kidnapped and killed by Iran-backed militias.
IRAQ: Iraqi Government Sentences Activist to Jail for Criticizing Iran on Social Media, Then Shoots Protesters Demanding His Release
On December 5, an Iraqi court sentenced 23-year-old activist Haider Zaidi to three years in prison for the crime of “insulting the Popular Mobilization Forces.” Zaidi has been a vocal critic of Iran’s interference in Iraq and has particularly criticized the role of militant Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an IRGC-Quds Force associate who was killed in the same raid that killed IRGC-Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in 2020. After news broke of Zaidi’s sentence, protesters demanded his release and clashed with government security forces in the southern city of Nasiriyah. The government forces fired on the protesters, killing two and wounded 21. Zaidi’s sentencing came at the same time that a court in Baghdad sentenced in absentia Iraqi politician Mithal al Alusi to seven years in prison for the alleged crime of “insulting the judiciary” due to Alusi’s public allegations that Iraq’s highest court is under Iranian influence.
Iraqi Parliament Speaker Acknowledges Murders and Kidnappings by Militias
Iraqi parliament speaker Mohamed Al-Halbousi stated that Iran-backed militias have kidnapped and killed hundreds to thousands of people who went missing in Iraq from 2014 to 2016. Halbousi made the revelation during an interview with a local Iraqi television channel. He added that the names of those killed by the militias have not yet been released.
13 DECEMBER 2022
- Iraq, Kuwait, and U.S. Conduct Joint Maritime Patrol in the Gulf (Iraqi News). Iraq, Kuwait, and the United States’ maritime security recently conducted a combined patrol in the Arabian Gulf.
14 DECEMBER 2022
- Iraq Recovers $7.9bn in Surplus War Reparations from Kuwait (Middle East Monitor). Iraq has received $7.9 million in surplus war reparations paid to Kuwait through a UN commission. The reparations resulted from Saddam Hussein’s invasion and occupation of its Gulf neighbor in 1990, the Central Bank of Iraq said in a statement.
15 DECEMBER 2022
- Iraq and Germany discuss intelligence cooperation and the dismantling of the Al-Hawl IDP camp (Al Sumeria). Iraqi National Security Adviser Qassem Al-Araji met with German National Security AdviserJans Plotner to discuss intelligence cooperation between the two countries and the dismantling of the Al-Hawl IDP camp in northeast Syria.
16 DECEMBER 2022
- Iraq Fortifies Border with Iran to Curb Infiltration, Smuggling (Diyaruna). Iraqi officials announced operations to fortify the southeastern part of the frontier with Iran to ‘safeguard the border and close loopholes’.
December 20, 2022
Organized Crime Alive and Well in Iraq
The Economist reported this week that Iraq’s airport has been being used as an easy way to smuggle millions of dollars out of the country. Meanwhile, Iraqi authorities destroyed six tons of narcotic substances that were seized and preserved in various locations in Iraq announcing the largest destruction operation since 2009.
US and Turkey Have Different Counterterrorism Priorities for Iraq
CENTCOM Commander General Erik Kurilla and US Ambassador to Baghdad Alina Romanowski met with Iraqi Prime Minister Sudani last Thursday to discuss continuing the security partnership between Iraq and the United States to achieve a lasting defeat of ISIS. On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Cavasoglu criticized the Iraqi government’s counterterrorism priorities, accusing Iraqi officials in Baghdad and Erbil of refusing to cooperate on combating the PKK in northern Iraq. Cavasoglu said that Turkey wanted to cooperate with Baghdad against the PKK, and added that Ankara’s message to Iraqi counterparts was “If you listen to us, we will walk together and fight terrorism together.” Two days later in Kirkuk, nine Iraqi police officers were killed in an attack claimed by ISIS. Saudi Arabia condemned the terrorist attack and offered its condolences to the Iraqi government.
France and Iraq to Co-Chair Stabilization Conference in Jordan
On 20 December French President Macron and Iraqi Prime Minister Sudani will co-chair the Baghdad-2 conference in Jordan. The conference will focus on the requirements for stabilizing Iraq’s economy and security situation. The event will include representatives of the nine countries that attended the Baghdad-1 last August, in addition to Oman and Bahrain.
Iran-Aligned Political Parties Push Against Their Sunni and Kurdish Rivals
The leader of the Iran-Aligned Coordination Framework, Turki Al-Atbi, said that changing the Sunni Parliament Speaker Mohamad Al-Halbousi from power is possible if there was a consensus within the Sunni blocs and agreement on an alternative. Meanwhile, a member of Nuri Maliki’s State of Law Coalition accused Kirkuk’s Kurds of having brought Syrian Kurds in order to manipulate the city’s elections and said the fraud was possible due to the lack of accurate statistics for the population of each ethnic community in the city.
21 DECEMBER 2022
- Baghdad Conference Calls for Regional Cooperation Without Specifying How (Al Hadath). Iraq’s Prime Minister said his country will not allow the use of its lands to launch any threats to neighboring countries….Iran’s Foreign Minister said Iran believes that “security cannot be imported or purchased…Security is a unified and interconnected phenomenon and it is impossible to mobilize all things to destabilize a country and simultaneously stabilize another country”…Saudi Arabia in its turn confirmed its support to Iraq’s sovereignty without mention of Iran.
22 DECEMBER 2022
- ISIS Steps Up Attacks on Iraqi Security Forces (Bas News). The latest ISIS attacks targeted Iraqi military convoys on consecutive days. On Monday, ISIS militants attacked the village of Albu Bali in Khalis district of Diyala province, where they killed eight civilians and wounded three others. The previous day, jihadists attacked a Federal Police convoy near Safra village in the province of Kirkuk, killing nine policemen.
28 DECEMBER 2022
- Iraqi Security Forces Arrest Man Accused of Committing 100 Murders in Diyala (Al Sumaria TV). (Ahmed Hassan Jawad) the nickname (Ahmed Roumieh) is considered one of the most dangerous wanted persons by the judiciary, and an arrest and investigation warrant has been issued against him in accordance with the provisions of Article (4 / terrorism), due to his criminal acts that threatened security and community peace.
30 DECEMBER 2022
- World Bank Warns Iraq Against Relying Entirely on Oil Trade (Mustaqila News). Salim Rouhana, the official in charge of sustainable development programs at the World Bank, said that “The demand for gas has begun to decrease, as the world has begun to turn to it as a transformational source, and to replace it with clean energy such as the sun and air…The decrease in demand is offset by a decrease in the prices of petroleum materials, and therefore a country like Iraq that depends entirely on oil will also decrease its revenues.” Rouhana noted that “the climate and development report that was issued recently confirmed that there is a huge amount of investments that Iraq must make.”
- How Does Iran Withdraw Iraq’s Dollars? (Newsalist). The depreciation of the Iraqi dinar against the dollar is a repetition of an old game that began under the government of Nouri al-Maliki between 2006 and 2014, and continues to this day after establishing solid bases for it. The bases are private banks that are under the management of party and militia leaders, and work in favor of Iran, and make speculations and transfers that go to Iran directly through its banks in Iraq. Some money goes to Jordan and Turkey before it leaks to other international banks by taking advantage of currency sales by the Central Bank of Iraq.