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TALOS Iraq Weekly Analysis Report 18 July

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The grey areas depicted on the map indicate geographic areas Islamic State (IS) is assessed to maintain a significant operational and often administrative presence. Since the completed liberation of Iraq at the end of 2017, related zones are currently relegated to Syria. Not depicted are locations within Iraq subject to limitations in security control where IS often retains a significant insurgent presence, particularly in active areas of Nineveh, Salah ad Din, Kirkuk, Diyala, Baghdad, and Anbar Provinces. The integrated heat map depicts concentrations of activity during the reporting period.

Key developments:

  1. Rare Iranian artillery fire along border and various other developments in KR-I
  2. Peshmerga forces sustain significant casualties during operation to clear IS safe haven near Makhmour
  3. IS inflicts several ISF casualties during coordinated attacks in oilfield area west of Kirkuk
  4. Vehicle borne IED found and cleared in Tikrit City
  5. Multiple demonstrations in Baghdad express solidarity with events in Basra
  6. Demonstrations in Basra ignites unrest across the Southern Region
  7. Demonstrations result in an elevated level of violence in Basra Province

Forecast:

  • Unrest will likely continue across the Southern Region if political promises fail to materialize

NATO to assume new training mission in Iraq:
As part of a NATO summit in Brussels, it was announced that the Canadian military will assume command of a new NATO training mission in Iraq centered on improving the country’s military academies.  Approximately 50 Canadian advisors will be deployed to Baghdad along with another 145 personnel performing force protection tasks and other support at the NATO headquarters.  Up to 250 Canadian troops may be deployed in total.  Prior to these developments, the U.S. undertook significant efforts to call on its allies to support a new NATO-led training initiative in Iraq.

“We are proud to take a leadership role in Iraq, and work with our allies and the government of Iraq, to help this region of the Middle East transition to long-lasting peace and stability,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement on 11 July.  Iranian-supported Hashd al-Shaabi organization Asaib Ahl al-Haq issued a statement denouncing these initiatives, stating “Iraq does not need any foreign forces”.  Asaib Ahl al-Haq spokesman Naeem al-Aboudi called for parliamentary approval for this planned commitment.  This announcement was quickly overshadowed by more decisive security developments in the Southern Region.

Rare Iranian artillery fire along border and various other developments in KR-I:
On 11 July, the Kurdistan Parliament voted to not hold the region’s presidential election alongside the parliamentary election on 30 September.  The bill indicated that MPs elected during the upcoming election will decide on the future of the presidential post within their first two years in office, with additional clarification expected in the future.  This legislation was supported by the KDP, Gorran, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and opposed by the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG), and New Generation Movement.  The KIU previously called for the abolishment of the presidency.  The position has been vacant after Masoud Barzani stepped down in November 2017, with associated responsibilities now shared by representatives from all three branches of government.

Beginning on the morning of 12 July, IHEC employees under the supervision of judicial officials and UN monitors initiated the partial recount for ballots cast during the 12 May parliamentary elections in Erbil Province.  The recount shifted to in Dohuk and Nineveh two days later.  This follows the conclusion of the recount in Sulaymaniyah, with the IHEC continuing to wait until the conclusion of all recounts before announcing the official results.  As seen in Sulaymaniyah, the main opposition parties comprised of Change Movement (Gorran), the Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ), the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), and Komal are boycotting the recount in Erbil.

Multiple demonstrations were reported in Erbil Province and adjacent KRG-controlled areas of Nineveh.  This included two demonstrations demanding improvements in public services in Erbil City, and a demonstration that blocked the Erbil – Mosul Road in response to tax increases.  This incident forms the third recent demonstration along major routes outside Erbil involving opposition to tax increases.  Overall, it is more important to note that civil unrest in the KR-I remains in line with established patterns and trends, with no current indicators of escalations similar to that seen in Baghdad and the Southern Region.  KRG officials confirmed blocking social media outlets in conjunction with a request issued by the Iraqi Ministry of Transport in a controversial measure.

Border regions of the KR-I remained active with routine Turkish strike activity and clashes between PKK and Turkish forces.  More notable this week was a rarely seen uptick in Iranian cross-border artillery fire affecting PDKI support zones in eastern Erbil Province.  On 13 July, Iranian Army artillery shelled PDKI positions in the Haji Omaran Sub-District, with no casualties reported.  On 17 July, more intense shelling targeted PDKI positions in at least a dozen areas located along the border in the Choman and Soran Districts.  Initial reports indicate one Peshmerga member and one civilian were wounded.  Sidakan Mayor Ihsan Chalabi stated that the bombardments caused individuals to displace from three villages, with a number of agricultural areas set on fire.

These events significantly form the first Iranian indirect fire affecting areas within the KR-I since 24 September 2017.  Upticks in militant activity in border areas within Iran since early June likely served as a precursor for this rare cross-border shelling.  The Iranian military is assessed to be concerned that Turkish military operations against the PKK elsewhere in the Soran District could be exploited by Kurdish-Iranian separatist groups such as the PDKI to expand their operations in northwestern Iran.  These events follow atmospherics reporting from 1 July where the Iranian government called on locals to vacate portions of the Haji Omran Sub-District, and highlight Iranian military intent to generate a narrow buffer zone along segments of the border in eastern Erbil Province.

Peshmerga forces sustain significant casualties during operation to clear IS safe haven near Makhmour:
At 0300 hours on 16 July, Coalition airstrikes targeted several IS positions on Qarachokh Mountain, located east of Makhmour extending towards the Kirkuk provincial border.  These airstrikes initiated a security operation said to involve a 500-man Peshmerga unit supported by Coalition advisors.  Peshmerga forces conducted clearance operations along the mountain, including multiple rural areas to the south.  However, Peshmerga forces sustained heavy losses with at least 10 killed from highly effective sniper fire during these events.  Kurdish security officials were predictably reluctant to confirm these figures, and instead issued likely inflated claimed that 14 insurgents were killed during airstrikes associated with the operation.

The 16 July events are assessed to form the deadliest episode affecting Peshmerga forces since the seizure of Kirkuk by Iraqi forces in October 2017, and likely the deadliest involving IS since initial phases of the battle for Mosul in 2016.  The resulting effects on the image of the Peshmerga could harm an established KRG narrative involving calls for the return of Peshmerga forces to disputed territories such as Kirkuk Province, which are often perpetuated in the aftermath of setbacks affecting Iraqi forces.  Meanwhile, Kurdish officials highlighted the conditions surrounding the 16 July operation to further emphasize the impact of the “security vacuum” left in the wake of the October 2017 events, and difficulties conducted cross-boundary operations.

Following the events of October 2017, IS militants exploited seams between Iraqi and Kurdish control zones along the Qarachokh Mountain as a safe haven to support their operations in the Makhmour and Dibis districts of the respective provinces.  The Coalition later released a statement that the operation “successfully cleared a ISIS safe haven in the region of the Makhmour Mountains.” As with recent increases in operations in active environments in Kirkuk Province, the long-term effectiveness of this operation will be better judged in hindsight.  Cautious optimism is in play that appropriate security measures will be emplaced to deny IS access to Qarachokh Mountain following the challenging 16 July operation.

IS inflicts several ISF casualties during coordinated attacks in oilfield area west of Kirkuk:
At 2345 hours on 10 July, IS gunmen attacked an ISF position near the Tanak neighborhood in Dibis, west of Kirkuk. The post secured a parking lot owned by the North Oil Company (NOC) containing several heavy equipment vehicles.  Three security personnel employed by the NOC were killed and as many as four other security personnel were wounded over the course of the clashes.  No IS casualties were reported.

Hours later a suicide bomber armed with an explosive vest attempted to target ISF near the Dibis General Hospital. The operative was shot and wounded, and subsequently arrested.  EOD personnel rendered safe the device.  Another assessed coordinated action was intended to target responding security forces.  At 0815 hours on 11 July, an IED detonated against a Federal Police patrol near Qara Dara Village, wounding as many as four members.

While not extremely effective in terms of casualties inflicted, the 10-11 July attacks stand out as the most notable high-impact attack in Dibis Town since a complex attack on 3 November 2015, which resulted in the deaths of several security personnel.  The 10 July attack also forms the second recent attack affecting security personnel said to be guarding oilfields and associated infrastructure in the Northern Region.  On 7 July, IS militants attacked an Oil Police checkpoint in in the Nida area of Baladruz District, with one Oil Police member killed and two wounded.

The organization continues to refrain from directly targeting oil infrastructure for unclear reasons, with no confirmed attacks affecting oil pipelines in Kirkuk thus far this year.  That said, the 10 July attack forms the second recent instance where IS militants directly or indirectly targeted heavy equipment associated with the oil industry in a suburb of Kirkuk.  As part of a set of coordinate attacks on the night of 24 April, IS militants using an IED destroyed two excavators Qush Qaya Village in Dibis.  IS will undoubtedly continue to conduct occasional attacks against civilians and security personnel in oilfields west of Kirkuk as well as Diyala in order to pressure the commitment of additional security resources to these key areas.

In a notable security response, ISF arrested 88 individuals suspected of involvement in the attack in the Tanak neighborhood in Dibis on the night of 10 July, which killed at least three security personnel and wounded several others.  These largescale arrests illustrate a knee-jerk response to the attack backed by little intelligence, reflecting a poor measure of performance.  The operation conducted near Makhmour on 16 July discussed above will arguably have a larger impact on IS capabilities in the Dibis District, with future activity patterns important to monitor.

In other notable security developments this week, some reports indicate two Federal Police battalions from Kirkuk, and one Emergency Response battalion from Tuz Khurmatu were withdrawn as part of responses to unrest in the Southern Region.  This may reduce the availability of forces for proactive operations, but is not assessed to represent a substantial drop in the availability of forces.  IS may seek to exploit such conditions for improved freedom of movement and to support attack planning.

Vehicle borne IED found and cleared in Tikrit City:
On 12 July, Diyala Operations Commander Lieutenant General Mizher al-Azzawi announced the launch of the Second Operation Vengeance for the Martyrs, which is intended to track IS sleeper cells along the Diyala – Salah ad Din border.  To recall, Operation Vengeance for the Martyrs was launched on 4 July in response to the 17 June abduction and execution of eight individuals at a fake checkpoint on the Baghdad – Kirkuk Highway (Highway 2), and the subsequent recovery over their bodies on 27 June.  The initial main effort involved search operations in areas east of Highway 2 in mountainous areas outside Tuz Khurmatu and in northern Diyala that were suspected of hosting the responsible IS cell.

The latest operation, or perhaps more accurately the second phase of Operation Vengeance for the Martyrs, encompassed a wide range of areas of eastern Salah ad Din located west of Highway 2.  Most reports cited paltry effects including a handful of caches and IEDs being cleared.  On the afternoon of 16 July, ISF units armed with heavy weapons attacked IS positions in the Mutaybija area of eastern Salah ad Din.  Four insurgents were reportedly killed during the engagement or an associated airstrike.  This forms the first IS casualties claimed in accordance with the second phase of the operation in a small albeit notable success.

Established IS threats persisted along the Tigris River Valley despite such operations, with the most notable incident reported in Tikrit City.  At 0500 hours on 15 July, EOD personnel cleared a vehicle borne IED on Atibba (Doctors) Street.  Anecdotal reporting indicated the vehicle was transported into the city via the Duyum Checkpoint, which forms the main access point in western Tikrit on the Baghdad – Mosul Highway (Highway 1).  Three vehicle borne IED incidents have now been reported in Salah ad Din Province thus far this year. With two attacks in Tikrit in as many months, there is a clear potential for continued targeting at similar intervals over the foreseeable future.

On a broader basis, the 15 July find forms the 14th vehicle borne IED incident in Iraq thus far this year, and the fourth since June.  The bulk continue to be noted in environments extending from Kirkuk Province through Salah ad Din and Diyala towards Baghdad.  For client operations, the latest incident including reported entry along Highway 1 serves as another reminder of the common use of major commercial routes such as Highway 1 and Highway 2 to support the movements of vehicle borne IEDs.  This similarly underscores the extant potential for exposure to associated incidents at checkpoints on major routes.

As regularly discussed, the conclusion of major operations with IS in late 2017 was associated with overall reductions in the sophistication of IS explosive attacks.  Attack effectiveness for vehicle borne IED incidents across Iraq remains moderate thus far in 2018.  In addition to an equal number of detonations and finds, none of the detonations were confirmed to have resulted in greater than two fatalities.  This drop in effectiveness reflects the ongoing preference towards the use of devices with moderate explosive yields, the lack of suicide initiation in most instances and associated challenges facing effective attack timing, and the vigilant nature of security forces.

Confirmation of significant Coalition strike in northern Diyala and continued IED activity:
Coalition weekly strike summary issued on 16 July identified only 14 strikes in Iraq and Syria, which is amongst the lowest levels in recent history.  Only two strikes were reported in Iraq, with one in the Northern Region.  On 9 July, one Coalition airstrike engaged one IS tactical unit and destroyed two motorcycles, one IS-held building, one vehicle and one supply cache near Diyala.  This report corresponds with a previously discussed report issued by the Security Media Center on 10 July, which claimed a Coalition airstrike targeted IS positions in the Kubashi area, located in the Sadiyah Sub-District of northeastern Diyala.  The airstrike reportedly killed eight insurgents and destroyed a pair of vehicles as well as a cave.

The insurgents were reportedly planning to conduct an attack using a fake checkpoint, though this could not be readably verified along with the claimed casualties.  In any event, this confirmed Coalition airstrike is assessed to form one of the most tangible security successes associated with Operation Vengeance for the Martyrs and the threat posed by skilled IS gunmen in Diyala.

Meanwhile, regular IED activity continues to be noted in the vicinity of Khanaqin despite increased security measures.  On 10 July, an IED detonated against a Hashd al-Shaabi convoy on Sadiyah – Khanaqin Road near Nawduman Village.  Four Hashd al-Shaabi personnel were wounded as a result.  Two civilians were later wounded by another detonation in Bani Rajab on 12 July.  Four IED detonations were reported in the Khanaqin District in May, increasing to six in June, and now five detonations halfway through July.  Such threats are understandably expected to remain relevant consideration for client operations in the Khanaqin security environment despite targeting focuses centered on security personnel and individuals with government affiliations.

Multiple demonstrations in Baghdad express solidarity with events in Basra:
Throughout this review period activity was limited in Anbar, possibly due to the ongoing internet restrictions imposed across the province.  Meanwhile, on 11 July, Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji officially reopened a segment of Highway 1 between Ramadi and Fallujah Cities, whilst establishing a new checkpoint northwest of Ramadi City equipped with a scanner to assist in detecting explosive material and other illicit items.  The road was previously reopened, but access was exclusive to military and governmental employees.  Extensive security and reconstruction efforts have been noted along the entirety of the International Highway in order to revitalize trade links with Jordan and stimulate economic growth in Anbar.

Multiple demonstrations were reported in Baghdad, either to show sympathy for counterparts in southern Iraq, or otherwise influenced by those events.  Throughout this review period 14 demonstrations were recorded, a significant increase from a single incident reported the previous period.  Of these, five were noted at Tahrir Square despite heightened security measures and efforts by the GoI to limit demonstrations as the government formation process continues.  On 12 July, dozens of citizens demonstrated at Tahrir Square, expressing solidarity with counterparts in Basra and supporting their demands for improvements in electricity provisions and other services.  This incident followed another sympathetic demonstration along these lines the day prior.  Although these events remained peaceful, it is clear that many communities in Baghdad harbor similar grievances to the Southern Region.

Demonstrations escalated on the evening of 13 July, as a number of individuals conducted a demonstration in Shula area of Kadhimiyah in northwest Baghdad.  The individuals blocked the Shula Highway with tire fires as they supported the ongoing revolts across Iraq and called for improvements in basic services.  Another demonstration formed in Jawadayn area of Shula the following morning.  On 16 July, a stream of reports cited demonstrations being planned in multiple areas of the city that evening, along with associated intent to converge at the International Zone.  As a likely precautionary measure and to ensure unrest is confined to the Southern Region, a security source stated that a significant number of Riot Control units deployed to central Baghdad and began searching vehicles.  In addition to this, social media cited that the GoI ordered several ISF units operating in the Baghdad Belt to deploy to the center of the capital.

Despite these measures, multiple demonstrations formed on the evening of 16 July.  A peaceful event formed at Tahrir Square.  More notably, reporting from several social media accounts indicated that hundreds of individuals demonstrated in the Hayy al-Amil area in west Baghdad.  In response, Riot Control units deployed to the area and closed several roads leading to the Baghdad International Airport.  Meanwhile, Riot Control units dispersed approximately 300 demonstrators and arrested 15 individuals in the Shula area, northwest Baghdad.  A similar protest was reported in the Ur area, northeast Baghdad.

In a likely effort to reduce the level of violence witnessed during demonstrations, Baghdad Police announced that individuals who burn tires or conduct other violent acts during demonstrations will be immediately arrested. Directives of this nature indicate a clear GoI intent to ensure protests in the Southern Region are not emulated in Baghdad, as many areas of the capital also suffer from inadequate government services.  Significant demonstrations were previously motivated by these issues in early March, as residents blocked several arterial routes and prevented the flow of commercial traffic.  It is likely that the GoI is willing to use heavy-handed security measures to avoid a repeat of these events.

Demonstrations in Basra ignites unrest across the Southern Region:
Similar to events in Basra Province during the previous reporting period, significant demonstrations and related violence were witnessed across the Southern Region, largely focusing outside government buildings as protesters denounced shortfalls within government services.  Extensive casualties were noted, as violence escalated, and protesters attempted to breach government buildings.  Excluding Basra Province, 44 demonstrations were noted, a stark contrast to 15 cited the previous period.  The frequency of demonstrations elevated between 13 and 15 July, as 32 events were noted.  Significant unrest was seen in Najaf on the evening of 13 July, as hundreds of demonstrators stormed the Najaf International Airport, entering the terminal and tarmac, and disrupting airport operations.  No serious casualties were reported, but some reports claimed three demonstrators were injured.

A protester identified as Ali stated, “The demands are clear. The reason why people came to close down the airport is to show the regime something. This is not a protest. This is a revolution.” In response, Royal Jordanian Airlines and Flydubai announced that it had suspended flights to Najaf due to the “security situation at its airport”.  Reporting indicated that the Najaf International Airport remained largely operational following 13 July.  In response to the ongoing unrest in Najaf, Interior Minister Qassem al-Aaraji dismissed and replaced Najaf’s Police Chief Brigadier Majid Hatam.  This dismissal represents the first senior-level replacement and will unlikely form the last, as federal officials seek to remove incompetent security officials and reimpose law and order across the Southern Region.

Other areas of the Southern Region witnessed similar events, as in Amara City, a group of aggravated demonstrators assembled outside the Maysan Governorate Building.  ISF fired into the air to disperse individuals attempting to breach the site.  Maysan Health officials later claimed that two protesters were killed, and 22 individuals were wounded including at least 11 security personnel during these events.  In Nasiriyah City, Protesters using bricks and stones clashed with security personnel at Haboobi Square as well as Dhi Qar Governor Yahia al-Nasiri’s residence. The Dhi Qar Police Command later reported that six civilians and 36 security personnel were wounded during these events.

Possibly in response to this elevated level of violence, on 14 July, significant internet outages were reported in Baghdad and the Southern Region.  Highly controversial actions along these lines are rare and are intended to disrupt demonstration organizing that is frequently conducted via social media.  Such heavy-handed measures also reduce the flow of media reporting portraying unrest, including footage of potentially controversial security responses.  On 15 July, demonstrations continued with renewed intensity across the region as 12 demonstrations were noted.  In Samawa City in Muthanna, as many as 3000 individuals demonstrated along Corniche Street, whilst protesters breached the Muthanna Provincial Council Building.  A source further added that various political headquarters were torched, along with five vehicles at the Muthanna Provincial Council Building.  As a result of these events, 28 civilians and 43 ISF casualties were reported.

Meanwhile, dozens of individuals reportedly demonstrated and blocked the bridge leading to the Petronas Gharraf Field Camp in Rifa’i District, Dhi Qar Province.  Protests outside the Petronas Gharraf Field Camp are rare, as a similar event has not been recorded in recent history.  Conflicting accounts regarding the total casualties following events on 15 July were released during this period.  On 16 July, the Ministry of Interior announced that 274 security personnel were wounded, whilst Security Media Center Spokesperson Brigadier General Yahia Rasul largely corroborated with this number and stated 262 security personnel were injured and six individuals remain in a critical condition.

Protest casualties are far more disparate and equally difficult to confirm, with some reports suggesting that hundreds were wounded and 10 killed.  Security and political officials likely remain reticent to comment on civilian casualties to avoid international condemnation.  Although the rate of demonstrations subdued during the latter half of the reporting period, cautious optimism must be applied, and further unrest is possible if political promises fail to materialize.

Demonstrations result in an elevated level of violence in Basra Province:
Despite additional promises and commitments to redevelop dilapidated government services, unrest predictably continued across Basra Province and resulted in a significant number of casualties.  Demands remain unchanged, though protesters appear increasingly willing to forcefully enter government buildings, oilfields and torch political headquarters.  Throughout the review period 71 demonstrations were noted across the province, a marked increase from 11 reported during the previous period.  Despite internet outages and numerous political efforts to stem further unrest, demonstrations continued in an unrelenting manner.  Protesters gathered outside oilfields, government buildings, along critical commercial routes and closed border crossing points to pressure the government and ensure their demands are met.

On 12 July, hundreds of individuals demonstrated near the West Qurna 2 Oilfield and blocked access to the site. Local employees stated approximately 10 protesters successfully breached the outer cordon and briefly entered a gas-oil separation facility before police pushed them back.  Meanwhile, dozens of individuals established a sit-in outside the West Qurna 1 Oilfield.  During Friday prayers on 13 July, a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, expressed solidarity with demonstrators in Basra.  The same day, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Basra and met with security leaders and several tribal figures.  Despite encouraging comments, hundreds of demonstrators assembled at the Basra International Hotel and called on the Prime Minister to leave.  In response to the unrelenting unrest, significant military assets not organic to Basra were deployed around vital oil infrastructure in northern Basra.

Despite these reinforcements, the implementation of heightened security measures and enforcing a vehicle lockdown, 13 protests were noted on 15 July and witnessed an elevated level of violence.  The most significant event centered around the Basra Governorate Building, as thousands of demonstrators attempted to breach the building, whilst security forces deployed tear gas, water cannons and discharged small arms fire into the air in an attempt to disperse protesters.  Unverified sources indicate that as many as four were killed, forming the first fatalities sustained during demonstrations in Basra since 8 July.  Information suggested that as many as 600 individuals were arrested by Riot Control units in Basra City.  Largescale arrest operations are not uncommon following escalated levels of violence.  However, the indiscriminate nature often motivates further demonstrations.

To the west of Basra City, protesters blocked an unspecified road near the Burjisiya Oilfield in Zubayr District, whilst local sources reported that 36 protesters were wounded.  Protesters also blocked the Khor al-Zubayr Road and access to the Northern Umm Qasr Port, disrupting commercial traffic.  The following day on 16 July, 11 protests were noted as heightened security measures, the deployment of 9th Iraqi Army Division units and protester fatigue possibly reduced the intensity of unrest.  As the week came to a close, demonstrations shifted from oilfields in the north of province to Basra City and oilfields in Zubayr District.  This notable shift possibly reflects a massing of security forces in the West Qurna area and near the Majnoon oilfield.  A likely tenuous lull in demonstrations was also noted, though additional demonstrations remain likely as tensions remain elevated across the province.

Multiple political promises fail to stem a significant level of unrest:
Multiple promises were issued by various political officials in an effort stem further unrest and satisfy demands.  The Minister of Oil Jabbar al-Luaibi was the first to respond, issuing guidance to oil companies operating in the West Qurna area, tacitly directing companies to provide additional employment opportunities for local residents in a coercive move.  Jabbar al-Luaibi added that approximately 2 billion IQD will be allocated to the Ministry of Water Resources and 200 small desalination plants will be distributed to further improve the availability of water in Basra Province.  The minister also confirmed the import of a special desalination unit from the United Arab of Emirates.

The Ministerial Crisis Cell issued further promises which included the creation of 10,000 extra jobs for local residents, and employment for those related to the protester who was killed on 8 July.  The Governor of Basra Assaad al-Eidani, stated that a process will be established in order to receive employment applications and appropriately distribute the 10,000 extra jobs promised by the GoI.  Assaad al-Eidani further added that the allocation of these positions will be geographically impartial and focus on reducing youth unemployment.  Similar to other political promises, the practicalities of creating an extensive number of jobs and effectively distributing them are apparent and cautious optimism must be applied.

Following a visit to Basra Province, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi allocated 3.5 trillion IQD (3 billion USD) to redevelop and support the province’s underfunded government services.  In conjunction with these promises, an Iraqi delegation was sent to Iran in order to resolve the decision to reduce power provisions by 1000 MW, which was tied to Iraqi debts amounting to $1 billion USD.  However, on the 17 July, the Minister of Electricity Qassem Fahdawi stated that Iran was unable restore power provisions to Basra Province due to problems with production and distribution.

Political promises and commitments to redevelop Basra’s basic amenities have often formed the crux of a government response to unrest in Basra.  Although, a combination of hollow political promises and the ruined state of government services that unequivocally fail to reflect Basra’s financial contribution to the national treasury, has eroded the trust between the government and residents of Basra.  Basra was once known as the “Venice of the Middle East,” but now suffers from high unemployment and significant shortfalls in basic services.  Oil exports from the province account for over 95% of the GoI’s revenues, large amounts of which are squandered by a highly corrupt central government.  Regardless of the multiple impracticable promises issued by the GoI, renewed instances of unrest cannot be ruled out as tensions remain elevated across the Southern Region.

 

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