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Iraq in March 2023

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Iraq in March 2023

8 March 2023

  1. Pentagon chief pledges continued US forces’ presence in Iraq during visit to Baghdad (Al Arabiya English). US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, making an unannounced trip to Iraq on Tuesday nearly 20 years after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, said Washington was committed to keeping its military presence in the country…“US forces are ready to remain in Iraq at the invitation of the government of Iraq,” Austin told reporters after meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani…The United States currently has 2,500 troops in Iraq – and an additional 900 in Syria – to help advise and assist local troops in combating ISIS, who in 2014 seized swathes of territory in 2014 in both countries.
  2. Fighting ISIS is Washington’s Only Purpose in Iraq: Pentagon Chief (Rudaw). The United States’ only purpose in Iraq is its focus on ensuring the defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS), said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin following his arrival in the capital Baghdad on Tuesday, as the 20th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq approaches…“We are focused on the mission of defeating Daesh [ISIS]. We are here for no other purpose,” said Austin in a press conference in Baghdad, adding that US troops are ready to remain Iraq upon the invitation of the government…Austin [was] scheduled to visit the capital of the Kurdistan Region, Erbil, later in the day to meet with the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Region’s Armed Forces, Nechirvan Barzani.
  3. In Iraq, German Foreign Minister Condemns Iran’s Cross-Border Attacks (Al Sharq Al Awsat English). Iranian missile attacks across the Iraqi border are unacceptable and put both civilians and regional stability at risk, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on a visit to the Iraqi capital nearly 20 years after the US-led invasion. “With its missile attacks, the Iranian regime shows not only that it recklessly and brutally suppresses its own people, it also puts human life and the stability of the whole region at risk to hold on to power,” she said on Tuesday…Last year, Tehran fired missiles at bases of Kurdish groups in northern Iraq it accuses of involvement in protests against its restrictions on women, displacing hundreds of Iranian Kurds and killing some.

 

9 March 2023

  1. Iran-Backed Militia Kata’ib Hezbollah:  We are not Bound by any Understandings between Baghdad and Washington (Al Arabiya). The spokesman for the Iraqi Hezbollah militia, Abu Ali al-Askari, has commented on the recent visit of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to Baghdad and his meeting with Prime Minister Muhammad Shia Al-Sudani. Al-Askari stated that the militia is not bound by any understandings between Iraqi political parties and the American forces. He added that the militia does not require permission from anyone to confront the US forces.

10 March 2023

  1. Iraqi Government Issued 43 Arrest Warrants Against Senior Officials, Including Former Ministers and Deputies (New Khalij News). In February, Iraqi authorities issued 43 arrest and recruitment orders against senior and high-ranking officials, including former ministers and members of Parliament, related to integrity issues. According to a statement by the Federal Integrity Commission on Wednesday, the cases involving senior and high-ranking officials were investigated by the commission’s investigation directorates and offices in Baghdad and the provinces, and have since been referred to the judiciary.

13 March 2023

  1. Iraq Confiscates Three Million Captagon Tablets Hidden Inside Boxes of Apples (Al Hadath). Security Forces Announced on Saturday the seizure of more than three million pills of the narcotic Captagon on the border with Syria, a type of amphetamine stimulant whose smuggling has increased dramatically over the past years in the Middle East.
  2. Iraqi Commandos Kill 22 ISIS Militants in Anbar Desert ( The National News). Lt Gen Abdul Wahab Al Saedi, head of the country’s elite Counter Terrorism Service, told a press conference that all those killed wore explosive-laden belts, adding that senior leaders were among the dead. He named two of the slain field leaders as Barzan Hussein, who served as ISIS’s governor of Fallujah, Al Janoob, and Rokan Hameed Allawi.
  3. Iraqi Security Forces Announce Numbers of ISIS Remnants (Al Hadath). ISIS maintains about 400 to 500 fighters in Iraq, a senior Iraqi military official said on Sunday, while the organization continues to launch sporadic attacks against security forces and civilians. According to estimates published in a UN Security Council report in February, the group has “between 5,000 and 7,000 members and supporters spread between Iraq” and Syria, “about half of them fighters.”

14 March 2023

  1. Sudani Says Baghdad Has Reached Budget Agreement with Erbil (Al Sharq Alawsat). Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani announced an agreement to resolve the oil revenue dispute between Baghdad and Erbil. The announcement came one day after the Kurdistan region’s Ministry of Finance received 400 billion dinars from Baghdad to fund employee salaries. In addition, the Iraqi government has approved the federal budget for the next three years. The total budget for Iraq is 197.828 trillion Iraqi dinars, with a deficit of 63 trillion dinars. marking the first time the budget has been approved for three consecutive years (2023 to 2025). The budget has been referred to Parliament for discussion. 

15 March 2023

  1. Iraqi Prime Minister Sudani Has Initiated a New Phase of Good Relations in Erbil (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad al-Sudani aims to establish a fresh chapter of constructive relations with the country’s northern region of Kurdistan following years of animosity and disagreement on various contentious matters. These issues include the dispute over certain areas between Baghdad and Erbil, the implementation of Article 144 of the constitution in relation to Kirkuk governorate, the legislation of the oil and gas law, and the allocation of the region’s share of the federal budget funds… Today, Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad al-Sudani made his first visit to the northern region of Kurdistan since assuming his position at the end of October 2022. During his visit, he held meetings with senior officials in the area, including the head of the Democratic Party and former president of the region, Massoud Barzani.
  2. Al Sudani to Dismiss The Health Minister (Yasser Eljuboori Twitter). A source confirmed the intention to dismiss the Minister of Health after information was proven that administrative positions in the ministry had been sold and that the ministry has an acute shortage of medicines.

16 March 2023

  1. Iraq Faces Drinking Water Shortage Due to Iran and Turkiye Water Diversions (Al Iraq News). Adel Al-Mukhtar, a specialist in water affairs, warned on Wednesday of the severity of the drought crisis in Iraq during the upcoming summer. He stated that the drinking water crisis might be prolonged in the shadow of this drought. He also noted that no real government action was taken to address the crisis. He said, “Until now, there has been no real government action to solve the serious drought crisis.”

20 March 2023

  1. Iraq, Iran Sign Joint Security Document (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Iraq and Iran have signed an agreement aimed at bolstering security along their shared borders…The joint security agreement includes coordination to protect the mutual borders between the two countries. Nour News, a media outlet close to the Iranian SNSC, said earlier in the day that the deal would facilitate efforts to deal with problematic Kurdish groups that coordinate measures against the Islamic Republic along with Israeli agents and armed insurgents.
  2. SDF Confirms Nine Members Killed in Duhok Helicopter Crash (Bas News). The Syrian Democratic Forces confirmed that nine of its members, including counter-terrorism commander Sherfan Kobani, were killed in Wednesday’s helicopter crash in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s Duhok province…The helicopters used Kurdistan Region’s airspace to travel between Sulaymaniyah province and Rojava without the knowledge of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), according to a statement released by the Kurdistan Security Council on Sunday.

21 March 2023

  1. Iraq Schedules First Provincial Elections in Over a Decade (Al Arabiya). On Monday, the Iraqi parliament voted to schedule the provincial elections for November, marking the first time in over a decade that such elections have taken place. These elections will involve 15 out of 18 provinces, with three of them located within the autonomous region of Kurdistan.
  2. Iraqi Prime Minister Visits Turkiye to Discuss Water and the PKK (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani is set to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday to discuss the Turkish dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, along with the presence of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. This meeting represents al-Sudani’s first visit to Turkey since taking office in October 2022.

22 March 2023

  1. Erdogan Vows to Reduce Iraq’s Water Scarcity (Iraqi News). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged Tuesday to step up the flow of water along the Tigris River to drought-stricken Iraq for one month. Baghdad accuses Ankara of withholding water in dams that choke the Tigris and Euphrates rivers near their point of origin in Turkiye. The issue has gained added urgency as the entire region is gripped by a years-long drought that has emptied water reservoirs and threatened food security for millions of people.
  2. Türkiye Urges Iraq to Designate PKK as Terrorist Group (Daily Sabah). President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on the Iraqi people to recognize the PKK as a terrorist organization, as he welcomed Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in Ankara on Tuesday. Noting that terrorist groups PKK, Daesh [ISIS], and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) pose a threat to Türkiye and Iraq’s security, President Erdoğan said the two countries reaffirmed their commitment to fighting all forms of terrorism.

23 March 2023

  1. Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis Have Rare Agreement on When Ramadan Officially Begins (Al Nahar). Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest Shiite authority in Najaf, Iraq, declared in a statement issued by his office on Wednesday that Thursday would mark the first day of the month of Ramadan. For the first time in years, this announcement aligns the beginning of Ramadan for both Sunni and Shiite sects.
  2. Iraqi Court Sentences Two Men to Death for Kidnapping of Missing Activist (Al Hurra). On Wednesday, an official statement confirmed that an Iraqi court has issued two death sentences in absentia against the individuals accused of kidnapping a prominent activist during the October 2019 demonstrations in the city of Nasiriyah, southern Iraq. The activist, who is still missing, has yet to be located.

24 March 2023

  1. U.S. Will Shift Advanced Combat Aircraft from Middle East to the Pacific (Al Arabiya). According to a report by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, the United States plans to send aging A-10 attack aircraft to replace advanced combat aircraft in the Middle East to relocate modern fighters to the Pacific Ocean and Europe to counter China and Russia. Citing US officials, the report stated that the scheduled deployment of the A-10 aircraft in April is part of a larger plan that involves maintaining a modest presence of naval and ground forces in the Middle East.

27 March 2023

  1. Iraq Wins International Arbitration Case, Halting Oil Exports from Kurdistan (Al Sharq News). On Saturday, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil announced its collaboration with Turkiye and the Kurdistan region to reach an agreement that ensures the rights of all parties in oil and gas exports. This follows Baghdad’s victory in a lawsuit concerning the export of the region’s oil through Turkiye…An Iraqi official informed Reuters that Iraq has ceased crude oil exports of around 450,000 barrels per day through the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan and Kirkuk fields in the north of the country. This was following their triumph in a lengthy arbitration case against Turkiye.
  2. Iraqi Army Moves to Fill Security Gaps on Syrian Border (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Following a missile attack on an American base in eastern Syria’s Deir Ezzor Governorate, Iraqi army forces have begun moving towards the border areas with Syria. Their objective is to fill the security gaps and strengthen security measures between the two countries… An official source in the local Al-Anbar Governorate, which borders Syria in western Iraq, reported that army forces have initiated field reconnaissance operations in border strip areas with Syria.

28 March 2023

  1. Iraq’s Election Law Amended Amid Chaos in Parliament (Al Arabi). On Monday morning, the Iraqi Parliament approved an amendment to the Parliamentary Elections Law, reverting to the version in place before the October 2019 protests. This decision has angered independent and small parties who believe it favors larger parties. The overnight session was marked by chaos, as numerous independent MPs were expelled from the hall after voicing their opposition to the law, as shown in video clips recorded by the MPs themselves.
  2. PUK Says They ‘Were not Informed’ of Kurdistan Parliamentary Elections Date (Rudaw). The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) had not been informed about the Kurdistan Region’s parliamentary elections date prior to the announcement from the region’s presidency,  officials from the party told Rudaw on Monday. The Kurdistan Region’s Presidency announced on Sunday that the Region’s parliamentary elections will be held on November 18, after the legislature postponed the procedure and extended its term by a year in October due to continued disagreements.

29 March 2023

  1. Iraq Expresses Support of Kurdistan Region Oil Exports (Iraqi News). The Oil, Gas and Natural Resources Committee in the Iraqi Parliament revealed that federal oil and gas law will be agreed upon soon, the Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported… The Iraqi MP mentioned that the law will oblige Kurdistan to deliver its oil revenues of approximately 500 thousand barrels per day to the public treasury. Baghdad, Erbil and Ankara are working to reach new understandings to regulate oil exports from Iraqi Kurdistan to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, based on the final ruling issued in favor of Iraq in Paris.
  2. Iraq Ordered to Pay Compensation to Ankara in Arbitration Case (Al Arabiya). On Tuesday, Turkey’s Energy Ministry said that Iraq had been ordered by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to compensate Ankara in a longstanding arbitration case related to oil exports from northern Iraq via Turkey…However, the Turkish statement said the ICC had recognized most of Turkey’s demands without saying how much compensation Iraq had been ordered to pay.

30 March 2023

  1. International Arbitrators Oblige Turkey to Pay $1.5 Billion for Kurdistan’s Oil (Iraqi News). An international arbitration panel obliged Turkey to pay 1.5 billion USD to Iraq for oil exports from Iraqi Kurdistan through Ceyhan port between 2014-2018 without Baghdad’s approval. Iraq won a lawsuit against Ankara in the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris.
  2. Russia Lobbies Iraq to Open Airspace for Military Flights to Syria (Middle East Eye). Russia has asked Iraq’s government to reopen its airspace to the Russian military, which wants to transport troops and equipment to its bases in eastern Syria, a diplomat and Iraqi officials told Middle East Eye. The proposed Russian-Syrian air corridor passing through Iraqi airspace would be the shortest and least costly route for Moscow, after Turkey closed its airspace to Russian civil and military aviation in April last year.
  3. Russian-American Woman Kidnapped in Baghdad; Iranian Suspect Apprehended (The New Arab). Iraqi security sources in the capital, Baghdad, disclosed that an armed group abducted a Russian-American citizen in the city center. Subsequently, security forces apprehended an Iranian citizen suspected of involvement in the incident.

31 March 2023

  1. China’s Oil Companies Top Iraqi Crude Buyers in February (Bas News). According to SOMO’s official website, seven Chinese firms were among the 35 companies that purchased Iraqi oil during the month. India’s Hindustan Petroleum was ranked second with six buyers, followed by American, South Korean, Italian, Japanese, and Greek companies with varying numbers. Companies from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Spain, Turkey, and France also purchased Iraqi oil.
  2. Iran’s Quds Force Commander in Baghdad on Unannounced Visit (Bas News). The commander of Iran’s Quds Forces, Ismail Qaani, arrived in Baghdad on an unannounced visit on Thursday evening. During his stay, Qaani is expected to hold meetings with Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani and other key political figures to discuss various political and security issues, Iraqi sources said.
  3. Iraq Generates over $7 Billion from Oil Exports in February (Bas News). The State Oil Marketing Organization, also known as SOMO, reported on Monday that Iraq earned more than seven billion dollars from its oil sales in February. In the previous month, Iraq sold over 92 million barrels of oil, and each barrel was priced at $76.55, the marketing organization pointed out in a statement. The statement confirmed that Iraq earned $7.062 billion from oil sales, mainly from the central and southern oil fields. However, the Kurdistan Region releases its oil data independently.
  4. Oil Companies Suspend Production in Iraqi Kurdistan (Iraqi News). At least three oil companies operating in the Kurdistan region of Iraq suspended or reduced their oil production on Wednesday following the suspension of oil exports from a pipeline in northern Iraq, with more disruptions expected in the future. The storage tanks are expected to reach maximum capacity within days as talks continue between Turkey, Baghdad, and the KRG to resume exports.
  5. Oil Company Official Expects Pressure to Increase Regarding KRG Oil (Rudaw). Dr. Mathew Zais, Vice President of HKN Energy, told Rudaw on Thursday that he expects the global pressure to increase regarding the recent halt of the Kurdistan Region’s oil exports to Turkiye…  Dr. Zais noted, “Turkey is a loser in the situation Iraq itself is [as] it is losing a significant amount of revenue, particularly right after a Baghdad-Erbil budget was made.”
  6. Iraqi Parliament Member Exposed for Corruption Worth $1 Billion (Iraqi News). On Thursday, a member of the Parliamentary Integrity Committee, Sarwa Abdul Wahed, revealed “a waste of public money and suspicions of corruption” in several projects in Basra Governorate. According to documents issued by Abdul Wahed, “the waste of public money in several projects in Basra amounted to 123 billion dinars, related to contracts for the purchase of machinery for projects in the province.” It is noteworthy that the governor of Basra is one of the frameworks.
  7. Yezidi Community Calls for Representation in KRI Parliament (Bas News). In an open letter, Yezidis addressed to Kurdistan Region’s authorities on Thursday asked for five quota seats in the Region’s national assembly as efforts to amend the current electoral law gain momentum ahead of the parliamentary vote. The Kurdistan Region is home to nearly 320,000 Yezidi IDPs currently living in camps …, and they are unwilling to return to their hometown because of the instability and Insecurity caused by multiple armed militia groups operating in the area. 

 

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