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Iraq in January 2023

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Iraq in January 2023

January 5, 2023

Iraqi Leaders Mourn IRGC Chief Qassem Soleimani, Denounce the U.S. for Killing Him.

This week Iraqi politicians and government officials made public shows of mourning on the third anniversary of the death of Iranian terrorist chief Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi deputy Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed by a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad on 2 January 2020.  Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani denounced the U.S. airstrike that killed Soleimani as “a violation of all international norms and laws.”  Iraq’s six southern provinces declared  January 2 an official holiday to honor the two men, while on Tuesday a large group of pro-Iran militia members and leaders made a pilgrimage to the site of Soleimani’s death near Baghdad airport to unveil a new monument to Soleimani and Muhandis.  Iraq’s French-educated Former Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, meanwhile, made a pilgrimage to Muhandis’s gravesite in Najaf, where he sat in vigil graveside while reading the Qur’an.

6 January 2023

Iraq’s Largest Parliamentary Bloc Seeks Death Penalty for 83,000 People (Al Iraqi News). The Coordination Framework called on the President of the Republic to ratify “the death sentences issued against 83,000 terrorists who spilled Iraqi blood.”

January 9, 2023

 Iraq’s government echoed Tehran’s anti-U.S. rhetoric on anniversary of Soleimani’s death.

Iranian influence in Iraq’s state institutions was on full display last week as the head of Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council, Judge Faiq Zaidan, spoke at a ceremony commemorating the deaths of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al Muhandis and said that Iraqi judiciary had issued an arrest warrant against former President Donald Trump, adding that Trump had “confessed to committing the crime.” In response to Zaidan’s statements, Iraqi politician Mithal Al-Alusi said on Thursday  “that the matter will harm Iraq’s interests, which are linked to strong relations with the United States.” Finally, former Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who reportedly has visited the grave of Al-Muhandis on a monthly basis, was highlighted on Iranian media outlet Al Alam as having kept a vigil at the gravesite on the anniversary of Muhandis’s death

Iraqi military thwarts drone threat to base housing U.S. troops.

On Sunday, 8 January, two days after the IRGC warned of possible attacks against U.S. forces at Iraq’s Ain al-Assad base, Iraqi defense systems intercepted and shot down a drone flying over the base.

10 January 2023

  1. Anbar:  Most of the Captagon Smugglers from Syria are Iraqis (RUDAW). The local government in Anbar Governorate, in the west of the country, stated that most of the smugglers of the narcotic drug Captagon from Syria to Iraq are of Iraqi nationality.

11 January 2023

  1. IRGC Leader Says Iran Will Not Be a Second Copy of America’s Destroyed Iraq (Al Iraqi News). The Commander-in-Chief of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, General Hossein Salami, described the cities of Iraq as “shattered, their homes empty and turned into ghost towns,” indicating that America wants to transform Iran like Iraq through demonstrations.

12 January 2023

  1. The Head of the Al-Fateh Alliance Said “America Rejects Iraq’s Cooperation with China, Russia and Beloved Iran.” (Al Iraqi News). Hadi Al-Amiri said in a statement on the sidelines of his meeting with the French ambassador in Baghdad, Eric Chevalier, “Iraq suffers from the absence of economic independence due to the presence of the Central Bank of Iraq’s reserves in dollars in the US Federal [Reserve] Bank,” explaining that “everyone knows how the Americans use the dollar as a weapon to starve people, and today they are putting pressure on Iraq to prevent its opening up to Europe, China, Russia and Iran.” Al-Amiri called on “French companies to invest in Iraq and contribute to the implementation of large service and strategic projects that would develop the infrastructure in Iraq,” noting that “investment is the real solution to eliminating unemployment and creating job opportunities.” 

13 January 2023

  1. Iran is Behind the Draining of Dollars from the Iraqi Market (Al Iraqi News). On Thursday an official security source disclosed the arrest of a gang that buys US dollars in large quantities from the markets in exchange for counterfeit Iraqi currency. The source confirmed that this gang consists of 8 people belonging to the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia, who purchase dollars not for themselves, but to send to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

January 16, 2023

Sudani Sees Need for U.S. Troops

Prime Minister Sudani gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal on January 15 in which he said Iraq is still in need of “foreign forces” to combat ISIS and that Iraq wishes to enjoy good relations with both Iran and the United States. Sudani’s statements were in marked contrast to recent calls by some key members of his government, including Hadi al Ameri, for the U.S. to withdraw its troops.

Intra-Kurdish Tensions Boil Over in Public

On January 15, Iraqi Kurdistan’s two major parties traded public accusations that signaled tensions between the two have reached a boiling point. KDP leader and Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government Masrour Barzani accused the rival PUK of hindering the functioning of the regional government and of being behind the October 2022 assassination of a senior Kurdish counterterrorism official who had switched party allegiance from the PUK to the KDP. In reply on the same day, PUK leaders accused Barzani of heading “the worst cabinet in the KRG’s history.” The PUK also repeated an earlier claim that under Barzani, the KRG cabinet was “blockading” the PUK-dominated city of Sulaymaniyah by refusing to pay the city’s operating expenses. The tensions between the two parties are at one of their worst points since the two fought an intra-Kurdish civil war in the late 1990s.

Breakdown in the Maliki-Khazali Political Coalition 

On January 15, Iraqi and regional Arabic media reported that the political battle between former Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and militia leader Qais al-Khazali have escalated to the point that several key ministers of the Sudani government could resign. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat cited sources who claimed that Maliki directed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Oil Hayan Abdul Ghani, who belongs to Maliki’s political bloc, to submit his resignation after a dispute with Khazali’s bloc over “the mechanisms for signing oil contracts.” The political coalition between the Maliki and Khazali blocs is the core component of Prime Minister Sudani’s three-month-old government, and if the two blocs turn against one another, the government could very well collapse.

17 January 2023

  1. Al-Sudani Meets with Biden’s Middle East Coordinator Brett McGurk (Iraqi News). Amos Hochstein, the Special US Presidential Coordinator for Global Infrastructure and Energy Security, and Alina Romanowski, the US Ambassador to Iraq, were also in attendance at the meeting in Baghdad.

18 January 2023

  1. Commander of the Iranian Quds Force Qaani Arrives in Baghdad Coinciding with the Visit of an American Delegation and Holds Meetings with Iraqi Leaders (The New Arab). An expert on Iraqi political affairs indicated that “Qaani’s visit may also be related to the internal disputes that are currently seeping between the forces of the coordination framework on the one hand, and the recent discrepancy between the leaders of the framework and the faction leaders with Prime Minister Muhammad Shia’ al-Sudani over the issue of dealing with the military presence of the United States in Iraq”.

19 January 2023

  1. President of Iraq:  Baghdad and Erbil Reject the Violations of Iran and Turkiye (Al Hadath). Iraqi President Abd al-Latif Rashid said that the Turkish military presence on the territory of Iraq is unacceptable, and stressed the need for an agreement between the two countries to grant Baghdad a fair share of water.

20 January 2023

  1. Iraq Wins 25th Gulf Cup Championship (Iraqi News). The Iraqi national team won the 25th Gulf Cup title after achieving a 3-2 victory over Oman. With this win, the Iraqi team is crowned with the Gulf Cup title for the fourth time in its history, after an absence that lasted for 35 years.

January 23, 2023

After a series of measures imposed by the US Federal Reserve Bank concerning dollar transfers, Iraq’s Deputy Central Bank Governor Ammar Khalaf announced on Sunday that the central bank has the capability to make all financial transactions electronic. 

On Monday morning, the Iraqi News Agency reported that Prime Minister al-Sudani decided to relieve the Central Bank Governor Mustafa Makhaif of his post, at Makhaif’s request, and assigned Ali Al-Alaq to run the Central Bank by proxy. The Turkish news outlet Daily Sabah attributed the dismissal of the Iraqi Central Bank Governor to the drop of the Iraqi dinar, explaining that Iraq’s banking situation mirrors Lebanon’s banking collapse due to corruption and money laundering.

24 January 2023

  1. Iraq’s Prime Minister Al-Sudani Will Visit Washington to Solve the Dollar Crisis (Al Sharq Al Awsat). The Iraqi Prime Minister, Muhammad Shia’a al-Sudani, and his Foreign Minister, Fuad Hussein, are preparing separate visits to Washington soon, with two main files:  the “dollar crisis” and the “strategic framework” agreement between Baghdad and Washington…The announcement of Al-Sudani’s visit to Washington coincided with his decision to dismiss Central Bank Governor Mustafa Ghaleb Makhaif and Salem Chalabi, director of the Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI), against the background of the significant decline in the exchange rate of the dinar against the US dollar.
  2. Al-Sadr Gives 24 Hour Ultimatum to Sweden for Allowing Quran Burning (Bas News). Iraqi Shia cleric and leader of the Sadrist Movement Muqtada al-Sadr has given a 24-hour ultimatum to Swedish authorities over permission to allow a protest in which a copy of the Quran was burnt, to charge the perpetrators of the incident or the Sadrist Movement will take a stance on the issue.

25 January 2023

  1. Iraqi Judiciary Issues Arrest Warrant Against Former MP for Defamation (Al Nahar). The Iraqi judiciary issued a new arrest warrant against former Iraqi Member of Parliament Faeq Al-Sheikh Ali on charges of defamation…Previously, in January 2022, the Iraqi judiciary issued an arrest warrant against him after he was accused by Badr Organization leader Hadi Al-Amiri of “making threats.”

26 January 2023

 

  1. The Iraqi “Tashkeel Al-Wartheen” Militia Claims Responsibility for the Attack on U.S. Base in Southern Syria (Syria TV). An Iraqi militia with strong relations to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force claimed responsibility for the three drone attacks that targeted al-Tanf base which houses American forces last week.
  2. Thousands of Iraqis Protests in front of The Central Bank in Baghdad Against the Falling Exchange Rate of The Dollar (Al Jazeera). The protesters said that the continued depreciation of the dinar against the dollar left Iraqi citizens with additional burdens and caused confusion in the local market and a state of stagnation.
  3. Federal Court Blocks the Government From Sending Money to Kurdistan Regional Goverment (Al Iraq News). A member of the Iraqi Parliament, Mustafa Jabbar Sanad, announced in a press conference on Wednesday that he had won a lawsuit to stop the Council of Ministers from transferring funds to the Kurdistan Region to pay monthly salaries of employees and workers in the public sector there. Sanad said that  “the Federal Supreme Court decided to annul all decisions related to transferring funds to the Kurdistan Region in violation of the law and the constitution.”

27 January 2023

  1. Breaking News: Iraq Likely to Win International Commercial Court Judgment Against Türkiye Over Turkiye’s Oil Arrangements with Erbil (@BilalWahab, Twitter). Researcher Bilal Wahab reported on Twitter on Thursday that the International Commercial Court in Paris is prepared to issue an arbitration ruling in Baghdad’s favor in a claim filed by Iraq against Turkiye. Baghdad claimed that Ankara, by allowing the Kurdistan Regional Government to export oil via the Iraqi-Turkiye pipeline without Baghdad’s consent, is in violation of the two countries’ pipeline agreement.
  2. Iraqi Prime Minister Signs Strategic Partnership Agreement with France (Bas News). Iraqi PM Sudani and President Macron signed a bilateral memorandum of understanding in combating corruption and recovering stolen Iraqi funds, a strategic partnership agreement to increase economic as well as security cooperation, and a joint declaration on cultural heritage and antiquities maintenance.
  3. KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani Discusses Iraqi Federal Court Ruling With White House Middle East Coordinator Brett McGurk (Bas News). Concerning the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court ruling which prevents Baghdad from sending Erbil’s share of the federal budget for the last two months of 2022, Prime Minister Barzani expressed his disappointment with the ruling in light of the otherwise “positive atmosphere” and improving relations between Erbil and Baghdad. He described the ruling as “politically motivated and an overreach of the Court’s authority.”
  4. KRG President Nechirvan Barzani Visits Turkiye to Discuss Energy Relations (Bas News). The discussions covered the relations between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi federal government, including the negotiations to resolve the pending issues between the two sides and the existing opportunities to expand the joint partnership of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region with Turkey in the field of energy, which can actively contribute to filling the void and addressing the needs in the world today, especially Europe’s need for natural gas.“
  5. Iraqi News Highlights Report of Possible Collusion Between the Kurdistan Region and Turkiye (Al Iraqi News). The American news outlet “The Hill” reported on Thursday that the Kurdistan Regional Government, in order to spite Baghdad, allowed recent Turkish airstrikes inside Iraq. “The Hill” also indicated that the differences between the Kurdish parties threaten a Kurdish civil war.

31 January 2023

  1. Saudi FM Visits Baghdad to Resume Saudi-Iranian Dialogue (Iraqi News). The Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fuad Hussein, announced on Sunday that the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, will visit Baghdad soon to hold talks on resuming rounds of dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

 Baghdad Governing Parties and Judiciary Seek to Starve Kurdistan Government of Cash  

In a continuation of a years-long power struggle, the Iraqi government in Baghdad took major steps last week to starve the Kurdistan Regional Government of cash and force it to relinquish its partial autonomy over oil resources. 

On January 25, the Iraqi judiciary ordered the Baghdad government to stop paying the Erbil-based Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) its share of the Iraqi national budget. The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by a member of parliament who represents the IRGC-backed militia Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq, a US-designated terrorist group that periodically attacks American troops and facilities in Iraq. The lawsuit alleged that the KRG has illegally sold oil and gas to Turkiye without going through the national government in Baghdad. The court order will halt the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars meant to be used by the KRG to pay civil servant and peshmerga salaries. 

The legal dispute was compounded just days later when news broke that the International Commercial Court in Paris was poised to rule in Iraq’s favor in a lawsuit against Turkiye, in which Baghdad claimed Ankara violated the two countries’ pipeline agreement by buying oil directly from the KRG.

Baghdad’s actions are ostensibly about who in Iraq has the authority to sell oil, but in actuality they are part of the larger unsettled question of how the KRG and central government relate to one another. By starving the KRG of cash, the governing parties in Baghdad threaten to break the KRG’s constitutional autonomy, a longstanding objective of Baghdad’s Shia political parties in particular. 

Baghdad’s lawsuit in Paris also aims to cut the KRG’s relationship with Ankara, thereby leaving Erbil with no foreign alternative to Baghdad. This political struggle coincides with an internal Kurdish battle between the KDP, which relies upon relations with Ankara, and the PUK, which relies on relations with Tehran. 

Finally, the Iranian regime is involved as well; Tehran blames the KDP for fueling Iran’s protest movement and seeks to break the KDP’s power or to partition the KRG so that half of Iraqi Kurdistan is controlled by the Tehran-friendly PUK. Last week’s court order demonstrates that Tehran has the ability to wield the Iraqi government and judiciary against the KDP for this purpose.

 

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