CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help prevent deadly violence. It keeps decision-makers up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises every month, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. In addition, CrisisWatch monitors over 50 situations (“standby monitoring”) to offer timely information if developments indicate a drift toward violence or instability. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.

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January 2024

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Iran launched first direct attack in Iraq since Gaza war and hostilities between U.S. and Tehran-backed militias escalated; region braced for retaliation after Iraqi umbrella group killed U.S. troops in Jordan.

Gaza war continued to fuel escalation. In first direct Iranian attack since start of war in Gaza, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps 15 Jan launched three missiles at house of prominent Kurdish businessman in Kurdistan’s regional capital Erbil, killing at least four; like similar strike in March 2022, Iran claimed attack targeted Mossad activities, which Kurdistan Regional Govt (KRG) denied. Meanwhile, U.S. 4 Jan struck Iran-backed Harakat al-Nujaba group in capital Baghdad, reportedly killing four, including commander of paramilitary coalition Hashd al-Shaabi. U.S. for first time acknowledged use of ballistic missiles by Iran-backed umbrella group Islamic Resistance in Iraq in 20 Jan attack on Ain al-Asad base in Anbar governorate, injuring several personnel. In major escalation marking first fatal strike on U.S. forces since Gaza war, drone attacks by Islamic Resistance in Iraq, likely operating in Syria, 28 Jan killed three U.S. personnel in north-eastern Jordan (see Jordan). U.S. and Iraq late Jan began formal talks on withdrawal of U.S. forces. Militant group Kataib Hizbollah 30 Jan announced suspension of attacks on U.S. forces “to prevent embarrassment” of Iraqi govt.

Türkiye-PKK attacks intensified in north. Late Dec spate of attacks on Turkish troops continued, as PKK 5 Jan killed five soldiers in attack on military base and clash 12 Jan killed nine Turkish soldiers. In response, Türkiye 12-16 Jan launched airstrikes in both northern Iraq and Syria, targeting PKK/People’s Protection Units militants. Ankara also increased attacks on Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), party based in Sulaymaniyah province; Turkish FM Hakan Fidan 16 Jan threatened “further measures” if PUK did not change its attitude toward PKK.

Baghdad and Erbil ended budget dispute; Islamic State (ISIS) maintained activity. After KRG President Barzani’s 13 Jan visit to Baghdad, govt next day agreed to allocate monthly funds to KRG, marking shift from previous arrangement of loans. Suspected ISIS militants 6 Jan reportedly attacked Hashd al-Shaabi forces in Salah al-Din governorate, killing two; 14 Jan killed three soldiers near Haditha town.

December 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Iran-backed groups and U.S. traded deadly attacks amid Israel-Gaza war, country held first provincial elections in a decade, and lethal clashes occurred in north between Türkiye and Kurdish militants.

Iran-backed militias attacked U.S. assets, U.S. conducted retaliatory strikes. Iran-linked groups throughout Dec continued multiple attacks targeting U.S. troops at Ain al-Asad base, Anbar governorate, and Hareer base, Erbil governorate; groups launched attacks into eastern Syria targeting U.S. bases. Notably, U.S. drone 3 Dec killed five Iran-linked militants in Kirkuk governorate. Rockets 8 Dec targeted U.S. embassy in capital Baghdad in first attack on non-military U.S. asset since outbreak of Gaza war (see Israel-Palestine) and rockets same day struck Ain al-Asad airbase; in response, govt took stance against groups, established investigative task force and 14 Dec announced detention of several affiliates of groups. Kataib Hizbollah 25 Dec attacked Erbil airbase, injuring three U.S. personnel; U.S. same day struck three Kataib Hizbollah and Harakat al-Nujaba sites, killing one and injuring eighteen; govt condemned U.S. strike as “hostile act”.

Country held first provincial elections in ten years. Iraq 18 Dec held first provincial elections since 2013 in which Shia Coordination Framework reportedly won 101 of 285 seats. In southern governorates, Shiite State of Law Coalition, tied to former PM Nuri al-Maliki, and Nabni coalition, tied to Popular Mobilisation Forces, stood out among Shia parties. In Kirkuk governorate, where voter turnout reached highest nationwide at 66%, Kurdish parties such as Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdistan Democratic Party won most votes.

Türkiye-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) clashes killed twelve Turkish soldiers. Marking escalation in casualties, clashes with PKK 22-23 Dec killed twelve Turkish soldiers in north; Turkish Defence Minister 27 Dec said retaliatory attacks struck 71 sites in Iraq and Syria, “neutralizing” 59 Kurdish fighters. Meanwhile, two explosive-laden drones 30 Dec struck Peshmerga base in Primam, north of Erbil; regional authorities blamed “government-linked outlaw groups”.

In another important development. Clashes in Baghdad between militiamen loyal to Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and rival Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) group 26 Dec reportedly injured two, after AAH erected portraits of slain Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

November 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

U.S. launched first deadly strikes on Iran-backed militias after facing dozens of attacks since Israel-Hamas war; Supreme Court removed Parliament Speaker amid forgery scandal.

U.S. forces struck Iran-backed militias in first airstrikes since Israel-Hamas war. U.S. as of 29 Nov tallied around 74 attacks against its forces in Iraq and Syria since 17 Oct – of which approximately half occurred in Iraq – that injured around 60 personnel. Notably, two drone attacks 9 Nov targeted Ain al-Asad airbase, Anbar governorate, and al-Harir airbase, Erbil governorate. IED same day struck U.S.-led coalition convoy near Mosul Dam. Two drones 20 Nov targeted Harir air base in Erbil. Close-range ballistic missile 20 Nov struck Ain al-Asad airbase, injuring eight, which prompted U.S. to use airborne gunship to respond, killing at least one alleged militant of Kata’ib Hizbollah – associated with Iran-backed umbrella group Islamic Resistance in Iraq. In further escalation, U.S. 21 Nov carried out second series of airstrikes, killing eight Kata’ib Hizbollah members in Jurf al-Sakhar area; group vowed retaliation. While pace of attacks on U.S. declined as Gaza truce took effect late Nov (see Israel-Palestine), further attacks claiming significant casualties could trigger escalatory spiral toward wider conflict.

Federal Supreme Court suspended Parliament Speaker. Supreme Court 14 Nov terminated Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi’s tenure following accusations that he forged resignation letter of MP from Halbousi’s Taqqadum party, Layth al-Dulaimi, who was also suspended; Sunni parties are expected to appoint new speaker before Dec provincial elections. In response, Taqqadum party same day announced resignation of three govt ministers and boycott of parliament; PM Sudani 20 Nov rejected resignations. In separate case, Halbousi faces investigation for alleged relations with company tied to former Israeli PM Ehud Barak, illegal under anti-normalisation law.

In other important developments. Islamic State (ISIS) bomb and gun attack 30 Nov killed eleven civilians in Muqdadiyah city, Diyala province. Türkiye 13 and 17 Nov claimed operations killed total nineteen PKK members and its intelligence services 17 and 20 Nov reportedly eliminated senior PKK members; PKK attack 26 Nov killed three Turkish soldiers. Unknown gunmen 20 Nov reportedly attacked office of Kurdish politician Shakhawan Abdullah in Kirkuk city.

October 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Iran-backed armed groups could further escalate attacks on U.S. forces as Israel expands military campaign in Gaza; Türkiye intensified airstrikes on Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Iran-backed groups targeted U.S. after Israel-Hamas war erupted. Following outbreak of war between Hamas and Israel on 7 Oct (see Israel-Palestine), Iran-aligned “resistance groups” – including Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Badr Organization and Kataib Hezbollah – stated readiness to support Palestinians, threatening to strike U.S. assets across region. U.S. 31 Oct revealed its forces in Iraq and Syria had suffered 27 attacks with drones or rockets since 7 Oct, of which sixteen occurred in Iraq and caused minor injuries to personnel; attacks come after months-long period of informal truce. Israeli ground operations in Gaza may fuel further such attacks and prompt calls from Iran-aligned politicians for withdrawal of U.S. troops. Notably, drone attacks 18 Oct targeted U.S. forces at Ain al-Assad airbase, Anbar governorate, and al-Harir airbase, Erbil governorate. Rocket attack next day targeted Ain al-Assad airbase and three Katyusha rockets struck international coalition base near Baghdad airport. Coalition of Sunni insurgent groups Islamic Front for the Iraqi Resistance claimed drone attack on 21 Oct targeting Ain Al-Assad airbase. Meanwhile, thousands 13 Oct responded to calls of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to demonstrate in solidarity with Palestine in capital Baghdad.

Türkiye escalated strikes on PKK targets following Ankara attack. In response to 1 Oct PKK attack in Turkish capital Ankara (see Türkiye), Türkiye escalated attacks targeting PKK in northern Iraq; notably, 1, 3, 4 Oct struck PKK targets along Turkish border, including Metina, Gara, Hakurk, Qandil, and Asos governorates. Turkish FM Hakan Fidan 4 Oct announced all PKK infrastructure, including energy facilities, were “legitimate targets”. Iraqi Kurdish authorities 26 Oct announced ten PKK members were killed in airstrikes in Erbil and Dohuk provinces.

In other important developments. Military and Kurdish Peshmerga forces 22 Oct clashed in dispute over control of strategic military posts previously held by PKK, reportedly in Makhmour district between Erbil and Ninewa governorates, killing four. Iran 2 Oct said Iraq had implemented some parts, but not all, of border security arrangements requiring it to relocate Iranian oppositions groups.

September 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Protests turned deadly in Kirkuk city, govt relocated Iranian Kurdish groups away from Iranian border under pressure from Tehran, and Türkiye struck Kurdish militants in north.

Clashes over Kurdish Democratic Party’s (KDP) presence in Kirkuk killed four. Following protests by Arab and Turkmen residents of Kirkuk city late Aug over govt decree to hand building used by Iraqi army back to KDP in line with deal between Baghdad and Erbil, KDP supporters 2 Sept held counterprotest demanding demonstrators unblock Kirkuk-Erbil highway, creating standoff with police acting as buffer. As clashes between sides erupted, security forces opened fire and killed four Kurds and injured over dozen; security forces next day deployed to city. Supreme Court 3 Sept issued temporary ruling delaying handover of building; absent lasting solution, violence could flare up again in run up to Dec provincial polls.

Govt began relocating Iranian Kurdish opposition groups. Ahead of 19 Sept deadline set by Iran for Iraq to disarm Iranian Kurdish opposition parties based in Kurdistan region, FM Fuad Hussein 12 Sept said Iraq had started relocating groups from Iranian border to undisclosed camps; Hussein next day visited Iranian capital Tehran to urge Iran not to resort to military action amid concern Iranian forces may stage operation to create buffer zone on Iraqi territory. Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and Komala parties reportedly vacated bases in Erbil governorate, while Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) – affiliated to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) – refused to hand over weapons; deployment of Iraqi border guards reportedly caused tensions with PKK, raising prospect of violent escalation between pair.

Türkiye continued strikes on PKK targets. In north, clashes 6 Sept killed Turkish soldier. Authorities from Iraq’s Kurdistan region 17 Sept reported Turkish drone strikes killed four PKK members, including one senior member, near Sinjar mountains; drone strike next day killed three members of Peshmerga in Arbat airfield near Sulaymaniyah city. Reportedly, Turkish security forces 27 Sept targeted another seasoned PKK member near Sulaymaniyah. Maritime dispute with Kuwait surfaced. Supreme Court 4 Sept nullified ratification of 2013 Iraq-Kuwait treaty regulating maritime navigation in Khor Abdullah channel.

Maritime dispute with Kuwait surfaced. Supreme Court 4 Sept nullified ratification of 2013 Iraq-Kuwait treaty regulating maritime navigation in Khor Abdullah channel.

August 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Hostilities intensified between Türkiye and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in north, parties formed lists ahead of provincial elections in Dec, and Islamic State (ISIS) continued low-scale insurgency.

Türkiye escalated drone strikes on PKK. Turkish drone 6 Aug killed two PKK militants in separate strikes in Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk governorates; 9 Aug killed two PKK members in separate strikes in Sulaymaniyah. Clashes between Turkish forces and PKK 9-10 Aug killed at least six Turkish soldiers in Zap region, Dohuk governorate; Türkiye 10 Aug responded with airstrikes, killing four PKK members. Türkiye 24 Aug launched drone strikes in Erbil governorate, killing seven PKK members. IED 25 Aug killed Turkish soldier in north. Turkish FM Hakan Fidan 22 Aug visited capital Baghdad and Erbil, declaring “we will clear this virus [PKK] from Iraq together”.

Shiite parties formed separate lists for forthcoming provincial elections. Ahead of provincial polls set for 18 Dec, party registration 14 Aug closed with 303 registered parties and 37 coalitions. Shiite Coordination Framework parties decided to compete separately through multiple lists, including former PM Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition and Hadi al-Ameri’s Fateh alliance comprising many Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF)-affiliated groups; scattered coalition reflects parties’ competing local interests, particularly in south. While Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement continued boycott of formal politics, it could back independents.

ISIS continued attacks as govt discussed role of U.S. forces. ISIS 7 Aug attacked PMF position in Salah al-Din governorate, killing one. Clashes between French/Iraqi forces and ISIS cell 28 Aug killed French soldier in Salah al-Din. UN experts 14 Aug warned that ISIS still commands 5,000-7,000 members in Iraq and Syria. Defence Minister Thabit Muhammad al-Abbasi 7 Aug met U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in U.S. capital Washington to discuss defence partnership beyond defeat of ISIS; continued presence of around 2,500 U.S. troops is recurring issue of contention, particularly for pro-Iran parties that constitute governing coalition and in wake of reports that U.S. forces recently bolstered presence at Ain-al-Asad airbase.

In another important development. Iran 28 Aug said it agreed with Iraq that “armed separatists and terrorist groups” in Kurdistan would be disarmed before 19 Sept.

July 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Tensions rose between Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement and rival Shiite Coordination Framework, protestors torched Swedish embassy over Quran burning, and pro-Iran groups demanded U.S. waivers.

Tensions between Sadrists and rivals mounted. Israel 5 July claimed Kataib Hezbollah (member of framework) in March kidnapped Russian-Israeli academic Elizabeth Tsurkov while conducting research partly on al-Sadr’s movement; Kataib Hezbollah denied allegation. Pro-Iran groups affiliated with framework interpreted Tsurkov’s meetings with Sadrists as Israeli attempt to infiltrate movement. Sadrist supporters 15-16 July attacked offices of Shia parties, including Dawa party, Badr Organization, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, in Basra, Najaf and capital Baghdad after alleged defamation of Sadr’s father, Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr.

Quran burnings sparked unrest, straining ties with Sweden and Denmark. Protestors, mostly from Sadrist movement, overnight 19-20 July ransacked Swedish embassy in capital Baghdad after Sweden permitted demonstrators to burn Quran in front of Iraqi embassy in Stockholm. Govt 20 July expelled Swedish ambassador, withdrew ambassador to Sweden and threatened to sever diplomatic ties. Hundreds 22 July attempted to storm Baghdad’s Green Zone to reach Danish embassy after Quran burning previous day in Danish capital Copenhagen; demonstrators same day set fire to Danish Refugee Council headquarters in Basra governorate.

Pro-Iran factions demanded U.S. waivers. PM al-Sudani 11 July announced deal to exchange Iraqi oil for Iranian gas. Group of pro-Iran “resistance factions” 14 July protested outside U.S. embassy to demand waivers, amid faltering support for unilateral moratorium on attacks on U.S. forces. U.S. 18 July signed 120-day waiver allowing Iraq to pay for Iranian electricity through non-Iraqi banks.

In other important developments. Türkiye continued targeting Kurdistan Workers’ Party in north (see Türkiye). President Rashid 3 July revoked special decree granted to head of Chaldean Church, provoking protests among Christian community. In first visit to Syrian capital Damascus since 2011, al-Sudani 16 July held talks on security cooperation with Syrian President Assad. In Kurdistan region, militant 7 July allegedly shot dead two members of Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan in Sulaymaniyah province; explosion 23 July killed former member of Kurdistan Democratic Party-linked intelligence agency in Dohuk city.

June 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Parliament passed budget to expand public employment and resolve oil spat with Erbil, Türkiye struck Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in north and Islamic State (ISIS) maintained low-level insurgency.

Parliament passed controversial federal budget. Against International Monetary Fund’s advice for tighter fiscal policy, parliament 12 June passed record-large budget, which relies almost exclusively on hydrocarbon exports and adds 700,000 new public employees in response to youth-led protests over unemployment. Notably, budget outlined new revenue-sharing mechanism for oil exports between federal govt and Kurdistan Regional Govt (KRG) that resolves a main sticking point between pair; arrangement guarantees Erbil 12.7% share of federal expenditures and increases its allocation of public salaries and pensions; KRG’s allocated budget is estimated to increase by 30%. Govt 19 June met Turkish energy delegation in capital Baghdad to discuss resumption of oil exports after Ankara paused them following international arbitration ruling. Over 50 MPs in Kurdistan regional parliament late June resigned in protest of Supreme Court’s ruling in May that assembly’s decision taken in Oct to delay elections by year was unconstitutional.

Türkiye struck PKK, which ended unilateral ceasefire in Türkiye. Suspected Turkish drone 1 June hit house in Sinjar district, injuring two PKK-affiliated fighters. After unidentified gunmen 9 June shot dead PKK member in Sulaymaniyah, PKK blamed Turkish intelligence and 10 June declared end to four-month unilateral ceasefire in Türkiye, citing operations against its members (see Türkiye and Syria). Turkish forces 26 June said it “neutralised” four PKK members in north.

Low-scale ISIS insurgency continued. ISIS attack 11 June killed three soldiers and injured four others in Wadi al-Naft, Kirkuk governorate. Iraqi forces conducted antiISIS operations throughout month; notably, 2 June killed four suspected ISIS militants in Diyala governorate. Defence Ministry 17 June announced killing four suspected militants in airstrike in Tarmiya district, north of Baghdad. Israeli jets 24 June killed suspected ISIS militants in Al-Rafi’i in Kirkuk governorate.

In other important developments. Govt 20 June announced first local provincial elections since 2013 will be held 18 Dec. Clashes between two rival Iranian Kurdish dissident groups 22 June killed two fighters in Zirgwez, Sulaymaniyah governorate.

May 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Tensions eased between rival Kurdish parties following months-long feud, dispute between Erbil and Baghdad stalled federal budget, and violence broke out in centre and south.

Rival Kurdish factions struck accord, as Türkiye continued strikes. U.S. delegation 3-4 May visited Erbil and Sulaymaniyah cities with aim of “bridging divisions”. Kurdistan PM and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masrour Barzani 8 May met Kurdistan Deputy PM and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Qubad Talabani for first time since tensions between parties spiked over assassination of intelligence officer in Oct 2022 that KDP blamed on PUK; leaders agreed to stop verbal attacks in media ahead of Nov regional elections. PUK 14 May ended its six-month boycott of regional govt’s cabinet meetings. In Ninewa governorate, Turkish drone strike 16 May killed three PKK-affiliated Sinjar Re-sistance Units (YBS) fighters in Khanasor town and 23 May killed three in Khalaf village.

Erbil accused Baghdad of breaking oil deal, delaying federal budget. Federal parliament’s finance committee 25 May made series of amendments to draft 2023 budget articles related to Kurdistan’s oil revenue; Erbil next day condemned amendments as “unconstitutional” and contrary to previous agreement struck with federal govt. Dispute indefinitely postponed parliamentary vote on three-year budget bill scheduled for 27 May, as talks to resolve differences continued.

Centre and south witnessed violence, amid low-scale Islamic State (ISIS) insurgency. In Salah al-Din governorate, fighting between families 1 May reportedly killed three, including police colonel and Popular Mobilisation Forces member, in Albu Nassif village. In Dhi Qar governorate, security forces 20 May reportedly intervened in exchange of gunfire between Al-Awwad and Al-Sayed Taher clans in Al-Shatrah district. Meanwhile, army 5 May said it killed three alleged ISIS members in Wadi al-Shay in Kirkuk governorate. Alleged ISIS gunmen 21 May killed two in Tarmiya district, Salah al-Din governorate.

In other important developments. Protesters 1, 5 May filled Tahrir Square in capital Baghdad, demanding higher public-sector salaries. Demonstrators demanding employment 21 May clashed with security forces in Dhi Qar governorate, leaving 32 injured. Iran 13 May summoned Iraq’s ambassador to protest presence of “terrorist” groups, likely Kurdish, in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

April 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Türkiye continued strikes in Kurdistan region amid intra-Kurdish tensions, rifts surfaced between armed Shiite factions in capital Baghdad, and deadly tribal clashes flared in south.

Türkiye continued strikes in Kurdistan, highlighting inter-party tensions. After Türkiye 3 April asserted Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) infiltrated Suleimaniya international airport security, Suleimaniya officials 7 April claimed Türkiye carried out drone strike near airport, allegedly targeting Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commander Mazloum Abdi’s convoy that was accompanied by three U.S. personnel. Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)-led regional govt same day accused Suleimaniya authorities – dominated by rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) – of provoking attack, while PUK party leader Bafel Talabani indirectly accused KDP of providing Türkiye with intelligence. Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu 11 April vowed to continue operations in Suleimaniya, alleging PKK controls city. Alleged Turkish drone 15 April killed two near Penjwen town, Suleimaniya governorate.

Friction persisted between Shiite armed groups, intercommunal violence flared in south. Highlighting potential for violent infighting within Shiite paramilitary coalition Popular Mobilisation forces, Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia Saraya al-Salam 9 April paraded weapons through Baghdad’s Dora district in response to dispute with Kataib Hizbollah over local property. Meanwhile in Dhi Qar governorate in south, following months of tensions between al-Rumaid and al-Omar clans in al-Islah district, protests over water scarcity and related demand for dismissal of district commissioner (member of al-Rumaid clan) 13 April escalated into armed clashes between groups, killing four and injuring dozen. Security sources 19 April reported clashes between Atab and Hatem tribes in Dhi Qar’s al-Nasr district, following killing of tribal leader.

Low-level Islamic State (ISIS) insurgency continued, Baghdad and Erbil inked oil deal. Security forces 7 April killed five alleged ISIS members in Diyala governorate. Suspected ISIS members 18 April killed two in al-Mudadiya district, Diyala governorate. Following International Chamber of Commerce ruling in March on Kurdistan’s oil exports to Türkiye that marked win for federal govt in years-long dispute, Baghdad and Erbil 4 April signed temporary agreement, likely solidifying Baghdad’s sole control over Türkiye-Iraq pipeline on Iraqi side.

March 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Govt approved first draft budget in three years as parliament advanced electoral reform, while low-scale violence persisted in north and Islamic State (ISIS) continued its insurgency.

Govt approved budget and parliament pursued electoral reform. Council of Ministers 13 March approved 2023-2025 federal budget for parliament ratification, which expands public employment but fails to address structural causes of poor economic and financial situation and lack of govt services. Parliament 20-25 March passed 15 articles of new draft electoral law for Nov 2023 provincial council and parliamentary elections; new law reintroduces voting along party lists, turns each governorate into single electoral constituency, and raises minimum age for candidates to 30, which marks major setback for emerging parties and reform-minded independent candidates; Sadrist movement expressed opposition. Meanwhile, PM Sudani 13 March announced agreement with Kurdistan Regional Government to deposit Kurdistan’s oil revenues in bank account under federal govt’s supervision.

Türkiye targeted Kurdish militants and intercommunal violence flared in north. Turkish drone 1 March hit vehicle in Sinjar, Ninewa governorate, killing two Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) fighters. Following months of tit-for-tat attacks between Shiite Dulaimi and Sunni Azzawi tribes in Diyala governorate, militants 6 March attacked al-Haziniyah village, reportedly killing at least five members of local leader Sheikh Mustafa al-Tamimi’s tribe; PM Sudani 8 March visited governorate and deployed military reinforcements. Two helicopters 15 March crashed in Chamanke region, Duhok governorate, killing nine Syrian Democratic Forces members on knowledge-sharing trip.

Low-scale ISIS insurgency and anti-ISIS operations continued. Military 12 March announced security forces killed 22 alleged ISIS members in Anbar governorate. Alleged ISIS militants 8 March killed one in attack on security forces in Tuzkhormatu district, Kirkuk governorate.

In other important developments. Court 3 March issued warrants to freeze assets of former Finance Minister Ali Allawi and three senior aides to former PM Kadhimi for alleged facilitation of tax misappropriation. Govt and Iran 19 March signed border agreement aimed at securing frontier between Iran and Iraq’s Kurdish region.

February 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Protesters rallied in capital Baghdad, Turkish forces continued striking Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in north as hostilities halted in Türkiye, and security forces targeted Islamic State (ISIS).

Protesters rallied against currency devaluation and electoral law. Iraqi dinar 2 Feb reached new low at 1,750 to $1 at street exchanges, compared to official rate of 1,460; protesters next day demonstrated devaluation in Baghdad. Central Bank 7 Feb lowered exchange rate to 1,300 to $1. During visit to U.S., FM Fuad Hussein 10 Feb listed economy and endemic corruption as country’s biggest challenges. Protesters 27 Feb rallied in Baghdad against draft electoral law seen as undermining independent candidates. Meanwhile, govt continued regional security dialogue. Saudi FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan 2 Feb visited Baghdad and announced cooperation to reduce regional tensions. Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 5 Feb visited Baghdad and met PM Sudani to discuss bilateral relations, counter-terrorism and Iraq’s role in regional mediation. Iranian FM Hossein Amir-Abdollahian 22 Feb visited Baghdad for talks on border security and Iran-Saudi Arabia dialogue.

Turkish forces continued attacks on PKK in north. Despite unilateral ceasefire announced by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) commander in Türkiye following calamitous earthquake on 6 Feb that killed tens of thousands (see Türkiye), Turkish forces continued ground operations and airstrikes in north; notably, Turkish defence ministry 11 Feb announced “neutralising” six PKK members and Turkish strike 27 Feb reportedly killed three militants. Before earthquake, Iran-backed Islamic Resistance Ahrar al-Iraq Brigade claimed eight rockets that 1 Feb targeted Turkish military base in Ninewa governorate; Turkish forces and PKK mem-bers 2 Feb reportedly clashed in Metin mountains; Ankara 4 Feb announced “neutralising” three PKK members.

Security forces conducted anti-Islamic State operations. Army 12 Feb announced killing seven suspected ISIS members in airstrikes in Hamrin mountains in Diyala governorate. Iraqi forces 14 Feb killed three ISIS militants in Wadi Shay, Kirkuk governorate; same day killed three in Kubeisa town, Anbar governorate. Iraqi airstrikes 15 Feb reportedly killed at least 12 suspected ISIS members around capital Baghdad. Security forces 16 Feb clashed with suspected ISIS cell in Tarmiya district, Salah al-Din governorate, killing three militants and four soldiers.

January 2023

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Govt sought to pass 2023 budget and stabilise currency amid protests against hardship, armed groups targeted international coalition forces, and Islamic State (ISIS) continued attacks.

Govt haggled over budget amid protests demanding jobs. PM Sudani 11 Jan met Kurdistan Regional Govt (KRG) PM Barzani in capital Baghdad to discuss KRG’s share in 2023 federal budget and other bilateral issues; Barzani 15 Jan said they had reached “preliminary agreements”. PM Sudani 23 Jan replaced Central Bank governor Mustafa Ghaleb Mukheef with Muhsen al-Allaq after Iraqi dinar 20 Jan reached new low at 1,670 to U.S. dollar. Demonstrations took place across country as protestors demanded employment; notably, hundreds 2 Jan protested in front of North Oil Company in Kirkuk city as police responded with tear gas, injuring five. Hundreds 8 Jan reportedly demonstrated in front of finance ministry in Baghdad. Hundreds 25 Jan protested currency devaluation in Baghdad.

IED attacks targeted International Coalition. In first attack targeting International Coalition convoy in months, IED 12 Jan hit convoy in Taji distict, Baghdad; armed group al-Muqawama al-Dawliya same day claimed attack. IEDs 19 and 26 Jan targeted convoy in Yusufiya district, Baghdad governorate. PM Sudani 15 Jan defended U.S. troop presence, saying: “We think that we need the foreign forces”. Sudani 16 Jan received White House Envoy Brett McGurk to discuss bilateral relations; McGurk reaffirmed U.S. commitment to support Iraq against ISIS.

Low-level ISIS insurgency continued. Alleged ISIS sniper 9 Jan killed police officer in Muqdadiya district, Diyala governorate. Suspected ISIS militants 18 Jan killed two police officers in Jabal Bur, Kirkuk governorate. Counter-terrorism operations continued; notably, airstrikes 21 Jan killed two alleged ISIS militants in Salah al-Din governorate.

In other important developments. U.S. forces 8 Jan shot down drone near Ain al-Asad airbase housing U.S. personnel in Anbar governorate. In possible indication of political comeback after months of silence, Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr 13 Jan addressed supporters ahead of Friday prayer.

December 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Govt struggled to pass 2023 budget amid street protests and internal political jockeying, while Islamic State (ISIS) staged multiple deadly attacks.

Govt faced popular protests and internal rifts over 2023 budget. Govt struggled to draft 2023 budget having promised to create 500,000 public sector jobs, while population suffered from decreasing value of Iraqi dinar. Notably, protesters throughout month demonstrated outside electricity and education ministries in capital Baghdad and local branches in southern governorates demanding permanent state employee contracts; demonstrations could grow in scale and become politicised if opposition parties, such as Sadrist movement or those formed after 2019 protest movement, join unrest. Elsewhere, hundreds 7 Dec protested prison sentence handed to activist over Twitter post allegedly insulting Iran-linked armed groups in Nasiriyah city, Dhi Qar governorate; security forces opened fire, killing three and injuring at least 17. Meanwhile, primary backers of PM Sudani in Shiite Coordination Framework, former PM Nuri al-Maliki (State of Law Coalition) and Qais al-Khazali (Asaib Ahl al-Haq), competed for influence over govt portfolios and security institutions; Sudani’s failure to balance demands could prompt leaders to oppose govt program and budget allocations.

ISIS conducted deadly attacks amid ongoing insurgency. Suspected ISIS IED 14 Dec killed three soldiers in Tarmiya district, Salah al-Din governorate. ISIS IED 18 Dec targeting federal police patrol killed at least nine security personnel in Riyadh district, Kirkuk governorate. Unknown gunmen 19 Dec stormed Albu Bali village, Diyala governorate, killing eight civilians and injuring seven; local police blamed ISIS.

In other important developments. Missile attack 3 Dec targeted Turkish base in Zilkan, Ninewa governorate; armed group Liwaa Ahrar al-Iraq 3 Dec claimed attack; another attack next day again targeted base. Meanwhile, Turkish air campaign targeting Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) abated during month (see Türkiye). Leaders, including from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, France and European Union, 20 Dec held second round of high-level Baghdad conference in Jordanian capital Amman to enhance regional dialogue on challenges facing Iraq.

November 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Türkiye intensified strikes against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in north after deadly Istanbul bombing, while Iranian forces resumed attacks on Iranian Kurdish groups.

Türkiye targeted PKK and threatened ground incursion. Following 13 Nov bombing in Turkish city Istanbul that killed six, which Türkiye blamed on PKK and Syrian affiliate People’s Protection Units (YPG), Turkish forces 20 Nov launched “Operation Claw-Sword” in northern Syria and Iraq (see Türkiye); Turkish defence ministry claimed strikes in both areas 20-21 Nov killed 184 militants. Turkish President Erdoğan starting 21 Nov repeatedly signalled possible ground invasion into northern Syria and Iraq; threat of ground incursion in northern Syria appeared more likely than Iraq (see Syria). Before new operation, Turkish drone attacks 1, 3 Nov killed at least four PKK-affiliated Sinjar Resistance Unit members in Sinjar district, Ninewa governorate. Militant attacks in north 5 Nov and 25 Nov killed four Turkish soldiers.

Iran resumed strikes on Iranian Kurdish groups in Kurdistan region. Amid ongoing domestic turmoil in Iran that authorities blame on foreign agitation (see Iran), Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) 14, 20-21 and 22 Nov launched missile and drone attacks against Kurdistan Democratic Party – Iran (KDPI) in Zargawez area of Sulaymaniyah governorate and Sidakan area of Erbil governorate, reportedly killing at least two; forces also bolstered military presence in Iranian border regions. IRGC Quds Force commander 14 Nov visited capital Baghdad and threatened ground offensive if border was not secured from Kurdish infiltration.

In other important developments. Islamic State (ISIS) continued its insurgency; notably, ISIS 19 Nov attacked army position in Kirkuk governorate, killing four soldiers. Unidentified assailant 7 Nov killed U.S. aid worker in capital Baghdad; PM Sudani same day formed committee to investigate killing. In Kurdistan region, Kurdish Democratic Party 3 Nov held first party congress in 12 years, which appointed Masrour Barzani, son of party leader Masoud Barzani, as second deputy president amid waning influence of his cousin Nechirvan Barzani.

October 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Parliament elected president, breaking year-long political deadlock and paving way for new govt, while Türkiye and Iran continued attacks in Kurdistan amid intra-Kurdish tensions.

Election of president led to appointment of PM-designate and new cabinet. Parliament 13 Oct elected Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) member Abdul Latif Rashid as president, as nine rockets landed near Green Zone in capital Baghdad, injuring ten people. Rashid won support of Shiite Coordination Framework and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) after former reportedly promised KDP not to enforce Feb 2022 Supreme Court ruling on oil and gas sales. Rashid same day named framework’s nominee Mohammed Shia al-Sudani PM-designate, tasked with forming cabinet by 12 Nov. Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr 15 Oct refused to join new govt; with Sadr sidelined, PM-designate 27 Oct passed cabinet. Sadr is likely to watch govt performance at distance while retaining street-mobilising power for future.

Protesters marked three-year anniversary amid tensions between rival Shiite factions. On anniversary of 2019 Tishreen protest movement, demonstrators 1 Oct protested in Baghdad and southern governorates; in Baghdad, security forces clashed with protesters, injuring over 80. In Dhi Qar governorate, police imposed curfew after unknown groups 3 Oct attacked govt buildings and injured security forces. Unidentified groups 4 Oct fired rockets at presidential palace in Basra city, used by security forces and Iran-aligned groups; al-Sadr 6 Oct announced banning weapons use, except in Salaheddin province, for armed groups under his command.

In Kurdistan region, Türkiye and Iran continued operations amid intra-Kurdish tensions. After Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) 1 Oct killed Turkish soldier, Turkish drone 4 Oct reportedly killed two alleged PKK members in Sulay-maniyah governorate; armed group 8 Oct fired missiles at Zilkan base housing Turkish forces in Dohuk governorate. Regional authorities said Turkish strike 28 Oct killed two PKK militants in Sinjar. Continuing Sept operation, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps 4 Oct reportedly struck alleged Iranian Kurdish groups in Sedikan area; 9 Oct announced end of operation. Meanwhile, in regional capital Erbil, explosive device 7 Oct killed PUK officer close to ousted PUK leader Lahur Talabani – cousin and rival of current PUK leader Bafel Talabani.

September 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Govt formation made modest progress amid tense atmosphere, Türkiye and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) battled in north, and Iranian forces struck Kurdistan region.

Govt formation slowly progressed amid violence. PM al-Kadhimi 5 Sept convened second round of talks to resolve political deadlock, which Sadrists boycotted. Supreme Court 7 Sept ruled it could not dissolve parliament, key demand of Sadrists. Shiite Coordination Framework 28 Sept pushed for parliamentary session, which was attended by more than 200 MPs despite Sadrist supporters staging protests outside Green Zone; session reached quorum to elect new deputy speaker to replace resigned Sadrist MP, also reaffirmed support for current speaker. As session ended, Sadrist protesters clashed with security forces outside Green Zone, causing injuries on both sides; rockets 28-29 Sept struck Green Zone. Earlier in month, Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam forces and Iran-aligned Asaib Ahl al-Haq 1 Sept clashed in Basra city, killing at least four.

North witnessed uptick in attacks between Türkiye and PKK. Turkish drone attack 11 Sept killed two PKK members in Sinjar, Ninewa governorate. Later same day, Türkiye claimed PKK killed four Turkish soldiers in Kurdistan region and 12 Sept an-nounced killing three PKK members in Khalifan district of Kurdistan. Turkish intelligence 14 Sept arrested two PKK members in Makhmour refugee camp, Ninewa governorate; next day said it had neutralised five PKK members. Meanwhile, Turkish intelligence chief 10-11 Sept met senior officials, including president and PM, indicating Ankara’s desire to mend ties after Türkiye’s July attack, which killed nine civilians, and regain Baghdad’s support for operation against PKK.

Iranian forces heavily shelled northern Kurdistan. Amid protests in Iran (see Iran), Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards claimed responsibility for missile and drone strikes targeting Iranian Kurdish opposition parties beginning 24 Sept; notably, strikes 28 Sept killed at least 13 people and wounded 58, including civilians; guards claimed attacks targeted bases of “separatist terrorists”, accused them of key role in unrest. U.S. military 28 Sept downed Iranian drone reportedly targeting Erbil.

Military continued operations against Islamic State (ISIS). Notably, military 10 Sept said airstrikes had killed dozen ISIS members, including two commanders in Hamrin mountains, Salah al-Din governorate.

August 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Unrest escalated further in capital Baghdad, where armed clashes between rival Shiite factions killed 30; ruling Kurdish parties quashed protests in Kurdistan. After supporters of populist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stormed parliament in capital Baghdad in late July, thousands of anti-Sadr protestors 1 Aug demonstrated outside Baghdad’s Green Zone. Sadr 3 Aug called for protestors to continue sit-in outside parliament, demanded dissolution of parliament, constitutional amendments and early elections; rival Nuri al-Maliki 8 Aug refused demands. Rival bloc Shiite Coordination Framework 12 Aug began sit-in outside Green Zone, demanding govt formation and resumption of parliament meetings. Sadrist protestors 22-23 Aug gathered outside Supreme Judicial Council in Green Zone after Sadr 10 Aug had called on body to dissolve parliament. Shiite leader Kazem al-Haeri 29 Aug announced retirement and encouraged his own followers to support Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei; in response, Sadr announced retirement, leaving his supporters to demonstrate without guidance. Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) that night fired on Sadrist protesters in Green Zone; Saraya Salam, armed wing of Sadr movement, deployed in response, leading to violent fighting that killed 30 and wounded over 200. Sadr supporters attacked PMF offices across southern provinces. Sadr next day called for calm and supporters’ withdrawal. Deadly clashes night of 31 Aug reportedly spread to southern city Basra. In Kurdistan region, ruling Kurdish parties Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) 6 Aug quashed protests called by leader of New Generation Movement against delayed govt salary payments, rising food prices and unemployment; in PUK-dominated areas, security forces 6 Aug raided houses of political activists and New Generation Movement headquarters, reportedly arresting at least 40 party members. In KDP-dominated areas, security forces in days before 6 Aug arrested activists and journalists. Meanwhile, protests over electricity shortages 6 Aug erupted in southern Basra, Maysan, Wasit and northern Diyala governorates. Unidentified drone strike 1 Aug targeted Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) in Ranya district of Sulaymaniyah governorate. Turkish defence ministry 27 Aug said it killed nine PKK militants in north. Low-scale Islamic State (ISIS) attacks continued; notably, suspected ISIS attack 2 Aug killed five soldiers in Diyala governorate.

July 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Amid stalled govt formation, tensions between rival Shiite factions escalated as Muqtada al-Sadr’s supporters stormed parliament in capital Baghdad; alleged Turkish attack killed nine tourists in Kurdistan. Shiite Coordination Framework failed to form two-thirds bloc in parliament needed to elect new president following Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s political withdrawal in June. In audio leaked 13 July, former PM and one of framework’s leaders Nuri al-Maliki said he was arming select groups in south in preparation for civil war against al-Sadr, whom he accused of plotting state takeover; Maliki 17 July denounced allegations as false, while Sadr next day called on Maliki to exit political process. In show of strength for Sadr, tens of thousands of supporters 15 July gathered in capital Baghdad, answering Sadr’s call to mass prayer; supporters 27, 30 July stormed Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone and parliament, where clashes between protesters and security forces injured 125. Rival Shiite Coordination Framework called for counter-protests on 1 Aug, raising prospect of violence between camps. Meanwhile, Türkiye continued airstrikes against Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) and affiliates; most notably, alleged Turkish artillery fire 20 July killed nine civilians and injured 23 in tourist resort in Barakh, Zakho district, Duhok province, Kurdistan autonomous region; Ankara denied responsibility for attack, blaming PKK, while Iraqi and Kurdish regional authorities blamed Türkiye. In capital Baghdad, dozens same day protested attacks in front of Turkish embassy and police next day clashed with around 500 protesters. National Security Council 20 July called on Türkiye to withdraw from Iraqi territory. Beyond Kurdistan region, alleged Turkish drone 17 July struck vehicle in Mosul, Ninewa province, killing five and injuring two. Alleged Islamic State (ISIS) attack 3 July killed two Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) members and injured five in Sherwin area of Diyala province. In deadliest attack since Jan, ISIS militants 20 July killed six police officers and injured seven in al-Jilam region, Salahaddin province. Tensions between federal and Kurdistan regional govts deepened over oil production and export from Kurdistan; commercial court in Baghdad 4 July ruled contracts of four foreign oil companies operating in Kurdistan were void.

June 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Largest parliamentary bloc resigned amid deadlocked govt formation, while Türkiye struck Shiite militias for first time and continued to target Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) and its affiliates. Stalled govt formation efforts entered ninth month; in protest of deadlock, 73 lawmakers from Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc 12 June resigned and Sadr 15 June announced he would withdraw from political process, raising prospect of Sadr encouraging street protests; parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi 12 June accepted resignations. Parliament 23 June held emergency session for replacement MPs to take their oath. Earlier in month, parliament 8 June approved emergency food security bill backed by Sadr, allocating $17bn for food, gas, electricity and public service salaries. Drones allegedly launched by Shiite paramilitary coalition Popular Mobilisation Forces’ (PMF) 30th battalion 2, 9 June targeted Türkiye’s Zilkan base in Bashiqa, Ninewa governorate; group has launched eight attacks on base this year. In response, reports suggested Türkiye 9 June launched indirect fire against 30th battalion, resulting in two casualties in Ninewa plains, in first Turkish assault to date on PMF group not aligned with PKK; tit-for-tat attacks between Türkiye and PMF could increase in disputed areas of Ninewa. Meanwhile, Türkiye continued operations targeting PKK in northern Iraq; notably, in Sinjar district of Ninewa, Türkiye 15 June allegedly conducted airstrikes against PKK-affiliated Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) positions in Sinuni town, killing two and injuring seven. Turkish drone 17 June targeted vehicle in Kalar town in Sulaymaniyah governorate, killing four PKK militants. In Kurdistan, judicial council 4 June rejected federal supreme court’s Feb ruling that declared regional govt’s development of oil and gas fields outside federal supervision “unconstitutional”. IED-laden drone 8 June hit Pirmam road near U.S. consulate facility in regional capital Erbil, injuring three; security forces claimed Shiite militia Kataib Hezbollah was responsible for attack, while Iranian media said strike targeted Israeli secret service. Low-level Islamic State (ISIS) attacks and counter-ISIS operations continued throughout month; notably, security forces 3 June announced killing four ISIS members in Wadi al-Qathf region in Anbar governorate.

May 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Govt formation efforts remained stalled, army clashed with Sinjar Resistance Units in Sinjar, and Turkish forces launched drone strikes in northern Iraq. Govt formation remained deadlocked. Shiite cleric and leader of largest bloc in Oct 2021 parliamentary elections Muqtada al-Sadr faced setback when Federal Supreme Court 15 May banned govt from appointing senior positions, proposing draft laws and contacting new loans, ending Sadr’s plans to govern without fully authorised govt; Sadr same day announced intention to go into opposition, allowing second largest bloc, Shia Coordination Framework (SCF), to form govt. Meanwhile, SCF sought to intimidate Sunni MPs through threats of violence and court rulings; notably, after SCF petitioned Supreme Court, court 16 May revoked parliamentary status of Sunni lawmaker Mishan al-Jubouri on corruption charges. In Sinjar district, Nineveh province, clashes 1-2 May erupted between army and Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK)-affiliated Sinjar Resistance Units (YBŞ), notably in Dukuri village, following military operation to clear YBŞ forces from area; clashes killed at least three and displaced around 3,000. Joint Operations Command 3 May confirmed clashes ended; tribal leaders and Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary force mediated ceasefire. YBŞ has come under pressure from Turkish air campaign against PKK in Kurdistan and restriction of cross-border movement into Syria due to govt construction of wall along Syrian border. Suspected Turkish drone 21 May reportedly targeted vehicle near Chamchamal town in Sulaymaniyah province, killing five, including at least two alleged PKK members; another drone same day hit vehicle in Makhmour refugee camp in Nineveh province, reportedly killing two. Drone attack claimed by Ahrar Sinjar militia 21 May reportedly targeted Zilkan military base hosting Turkish troops in Bashiqa, Nineveh province, killing one. In Kurdistan region, six missiles reportedly launched from Bartella town in Nineveh province 1 May hit oil refinery in regional capital Erbil. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps 11 May reportedly targeted Erbil with artillery fire. Iraqi Security Media Cell 24 May announced it shot down drone approaching airbase near airport of capital Baghdad that hosts Iraqi and U.S. forces. Low-level Islamic State (ISIS) attacks continued throughout month; notably, two ISIS attacks in Kirkuk and Nineveh provinces 23 May reportedly killed 12.

April 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Deadlocked govt formation led to unprecedented constitutional impasse, Turkey launched new operation against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and Islamic State (ISIS) stepped up attacks during Ramadan. Govt formation remained stalled after last month’s failed attempts to achieve two-thirds quorum in parliament, leaving country in unprecedented situation that upends constitutional timeline for parliament to appoint president within 30 days of speaker’s election (completed in mid-Jan); constitution requires president to appoint PM. Following Shiite cleric and leader of bloc that won largest share of seats in Oct 2021 parliamentary election Muqtada al-Sadr’s announcement late March that he would give rivals in Shia Coordination Framework 40 days to negotiate with his allies Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and Sunni Sovereignty Alliance to form govt, KDP and Sovereignty Alliance 1 April issued statement reaffirming commitment to Tripartite Alliance with Sadr, now rebranded “Saving the homeland” bloc. Hundreds of demonstrators 15 April protested political deadlock in capital Baghdad. Turkish military 17-18 April launched new operation against PKK in northern Iraq dubbed “Claw-Lock”; fighter jets targeted infrastructure and bases used by PKK militants in Metina, Zab and Avashin-Basyan regions; Turkish Defence Ministry next day announced killing at least 19 militants. President Salih 19 April called attack threat to Iraq’s national security and Foreign Ministry 20 April summoned Turkey’s envoy. As part of yearly uptick in attacks during Ramadan, ISIS conducted over dozen attacks against security forces in central regions. Notably, Security Media Cell 4 April announced that alleged ISIS suicide bomber injured at least four soldiers in Nwegeit mountains, Ninewa province, while Iraqi troops killed three militants. Counter-ISIS operations continued throughout month. In Ninewa governorate, suspected Hashd al-Shaabi-linked militant groups 3-4 April launched rockets on Turkey’s Zilkan military base in Bashiqa town; three missiles launched from Hamdaniya district in Ninewa 6 April targeted oil refinery in Khabat district, Erbil governorate. U.S.-led international coalition 8 April announced downing drone targeting Ain al-Assad airbase in Anbar governorate. Unknown attackers 15 April launched explosives-laden drone at Hashd al-Shaabi base in Tal Afar district, which injured one commander, possibly in retaliation for 6 April attack.

March 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Iran launched missiles at alleged Israeli target in Erbil, govt formation remained deadlocked, and Islamic State (ISIS) appointed new leader. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) 13 March fired 12 ballistic missiles at alleged Israeli “strategic center” in area near U.S. consulate in Kurdistan’s regional capital Erbil; attack reportedly conducted in response to Israeli drone strike that killed two IRGC officers in Syria 7 March (see Syria) and Israeli attack on drone facility in Iran’s Kermanshah province in Feb; attack was launched from Iranian soil and without consultation of local Iranian allies who faced backlash for Iran’s violation of Iraqi sovereignty. On political front, govt formation remained deadlocked. Following failure to elect president last month, parliament 5 March voted to reopen nomination period for presidential candidates; Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) subsequently officially nominated Reber Ahmed as candidate. Parliament speaker 15 March announced election of president would take place on 26 March, however quorum was not obtained with session postponed again to 30 March; head of al-Fateh bloc Abbas al-Zamili next day reportedly said Shiite Coordination Framework would not attend session without agreement on govt formation with Tripartite Alliance that includes Sadrists, Sunni Sovereignty Alliance and KDP. Parliament 30 March failed to elect president due to lack of quorum. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr 10 March held phone calls with top officials, including former PM and rival Nouri al-Maliki, who al-Sadr had long refused to include in govt-formation; indicated consensus govt is likely to prevail notwithstanding division between Sadrists and Framework leaders that could lead to months of wrangling. Hundreds of protesters supporting Iran-aligned groups 27 March reportedly attacked KDP’s office in capital Baghdad. Following death of ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Quraishi in Syria in Feb, ISIS 10 March appointed new leader (see Syria). Meanwhile, low-scale ISIS attacks and anti-terrorism operations continued throughout month. At least four rockets attributed by military to “criminal terrorist gangs” 17 March targeted Balad airbase in Salah al-Din province. Protests erupted 9 March in south over rising food prices; notably, over 500 protesters gathered in Nasiriyah, Dhi Qar governorate.

February 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Parliament failed to elect new president, stalling govt formation and leading country into uncharted constitutional waters, while Turkey launched new military campaign in northern Iraq. Govt formation came to unprecedented standstill after parliament 7 Feb failed to reach necessary two-thirds quorum to elect new president within constitutional deadline. Unsure of obtaining two-thirds of votes for their Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) presidential candidate Hoshyar Zebari, tripartite alliance – comprising Sunni parties, KDP and Shiite Sadrist movement and led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr – boycotted session. Supreme Court 13 Feb invalidated Zebari’s candidacy over corruption charges. Fearing Sadr could form govt excluding rival Shiite Coordination Framework, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander 8 Feb visited Iraq to meet Sadr who maintained intention to form majority govt. Lack of precedent for deadlock fuelled uncertainty, which may eventually force new elections. In move likely to raise tensions between Baghdad and Erbil and possibly cause rift within tripartite alliance, Supreme Court 15 Feb ruled Kurdistan regional govt’s law regulating region’s independent oil industry unconstitutional. Meanwhile, Turkey early Feb launched new military campaign Operation Winter Eagle against Kurdish militants, constituting most significant escalation in airstrikes since Aug 2021. Turkish air force 1 Feb conducted over 20 airstrikes in Sinjar district, Nineveh governorate, and Makhmur district, Erbil governorate, killing ten Yazidi Resistance Units (YBS) and Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) members. In following days, YBS protested in Sinjar, raising tensions with military who banned protests. Previously unknown Ahrar Sinjar group – likely front for pro-Iran Shiite group Asaib Ahl al-Haq – claimed 2 Feb rocket attack on Turkish military base in Sinjar. Group deemed to be front for pro-Iran faction Alwiat al-Wa’ad al-Haqq claimed responsibility for three drones target-ing United Arab Emirates on 2 Feb. In Maysan governorate, PM Al-Kadhimi 7 Feb established new operations command amid insecurity; notably, unidentified gunmen 9 Feb assassinated member of Sadrist militia Saraya al-Salam in Amara city, latest in series of killings involving Sadrists and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, raising fears of more clashes between groups. Anti-Islamic State operations continued throughout month.

January 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Parliament held first session since Oct election, Popular Mobilisation Forces stepped up attacks, and Islamic State carried out one of its deadliest attacks in months. Parliament 9 Jan held first session since Oct election, re-electing Mohammed al-Halbousi as parliament speaker, Sadrist movement’s Hakim al-Zamili as first deputy and Kurdistan Democratic Party’s (KDP) Shakhawan Abdullah as second deputy; session went ahead despite verbal altercations and suspected attempts at disruption in line with Shia coordination framework’s wishes; latter 10 Jan filed complaint at Supreme Court challenging parliament proceedings as unconstitutional but court 25 Jan rejected appeal to overturn selection of speaker. Following session, unclaimed hand grenade attacks 13 Jan targeted KDP headquarters, 14 Jan struck Sunni Taqaddum and Azm party offices in capital Baghdad in likely warning to Shia leader of largest bloc Muqtada al-Sadr not to exclude Shia parties in govt formation. Twin explosions 16 Jan targeted banks associated with Kurdish politicians in Baghdad, injuring two. Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Ismael Qaani and Hizbollah representative Mohammed al-Kawtharani 16-17 Jan mediated between Shia parties in Baghdad, with some sources indicating Iran’s possible acceptance of non-Shia majority govt. Rockets 25 Jan struck near speaker’s residence in Karma district, Anbar province, injuring two civilians. In increase of attacks compared to last month, Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF)-affiliated resistance factions early Jan conducted at least 22 attacks on domestic and foreign targets; notably, in commemoration of 2020 assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, PMF 3-6 Jan launched drone and rocket attacks on Green Zone and airport in Baghdad and Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar governorate; previously unknown group Qassem al-Jabarayn 5 Jan claimed Ain al-Asad attack. Also marking Soleimani’s killing, thousands 1 Jan rallied in Baghdad chanting anti-U.S. slogans. PMF-affiliated groups 6 Jan attacked Peshmerga forces near Altun Kopri in Kirkuk governorate. Rocket attack targeting U.S. embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone 13 Jan injured two. Six rockets 28 Jan hit Baghdad International Airport compound and landed near U.S. air base Camp Victory. ISIS attacks continued throughout month; most notably, suspected ISIS gunmen 21 Jan attacked army barracks in Azim district in Diyala governorate, killing 11 soldiers.

December 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Islamic State (ISIS) attacks killed dozens, U.S.-led coalition forces formally ended combat mission, and deadlock over govt formation continued following disputed election results. Surge of ISIS attacks on Peshmerga forces along border between Kurdistan region and disputed territories continued early Dec; notably, ISIS 2 Dec killed ten Peshmerga and three civilians in at-tack on Khidir Jija village in Makhmur region; 5 Dec reportedly killed four Peshmer-ga and one civilian in Qara Salem village. ISIS same day took control of Luhaiban village before Iraqi security forces recaptured it next day. ISIS 6 Dec killed four Peshmerga in attack near oilfield between Kirkuk and Makhmur cities. In southern city Basra, rare motorcycle bomb 7 Dec killed four and injured 20; while attack remained unclaimed, Basra governor blamed ISIS. In Diyala governorate, ISIS attack killed three soldiers in Qara Tapa. Ahead of 31 Dec deadline for withdrawal of coalition troops, National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji 9 Dec announced end of Coalition Forces’ combat mission. Coalition next day announced start of new “advise, assist and enable mission” consisting of 2,500 U.S. troops; pro-Iran paramilitary groups subsequently condemned largely unchanged troop numbers. Two rockets 18 Dec hit Green Zone near U.S. embassy in capital Baghdad. Federal Supreme Court 27 Dec ratified final election results, after rejecting fraud allegations submitted early month by Fateh Alliance leader Hadi al-Ameri, who requested results be annulled. Meanwhile, Shiite parties continued negotiations over govt formation. In Sinjar district, Turkish airstrike targeting vehicle outside Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-affiliated Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) headquarters 7 Dec killed local commander Marwan Badal in Khanasour village; protests against Turkish airstrikes 12 Dec set fire to Iraqi army vehicle in Sinuni town. Turkish defence ministry 9 Dec announced death of three soldiers in PKK attack in northern Iraq; Ankara launched retaliatory air attacks reportedly killing PKK-affiliated militants in northern Iraq throughout month. Syrian PKK-affiliated Revolutionary Youth Union members 15 Dec clashed with Iraqi border authorities at Fishkhabour-Semalka border crossing, demanding return of Syrian Kurdish fighters’ bodies killed in Turkish airstrike; clashes prompted closure of border point, sparking fears among humanitarian agencies about access to Syria.

November 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

PM al-Kadhimi survived assassination attempt, protests against election results turned violent in capital Baghdad, and Islamic State (ISIS) continued deadly attacks. Three explosive-laden drones 7 Nov targeted PM al-Kadhimi’s residence in capital Baghdad’s Green Zone, injuring six guards; while unclaimed, Iraqi security and militia sources reportedly attributed attack to Iran-backed paramilitary groups. Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Ismail Qaani 8 Nov visited Baghdad in show of support to al-Kadhimi. Attack followed weeks-long sit-in outside Green Zone by Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF)-affiliated parties in protest of parliamentary election result; notably, protesters 5 Nov tried to breach Green Zone and clashed with security forces; according to health ministry at least 150 were injured, while paramilitary group Asaib Ahl al-Haq claimed two were killed. Amid ongoing appeals against 10 Oct election result, losing parties continued call for vote recount; notably, prominent Shiite coalition Fateh Alliance 18 Nov filed lawsuit with Federal Court to annul election results. Final results released 30 Nov confirmed victory of Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement with 73 seats, followed by Sunni Taqaddum Party with 37 seats. Leader of Sadrist movement Muqtada al-Sadr, whose bloc increased parliamentary seats in election, 18 Nov called on PMF to purge “undisciplined elements” and urged armed factions to disband and come under control of PM and Hashd al-Shaabi Commission (organisation under PM’s nominal control set up in 2014 in attempt to institutionalise paramilitary groups, but which prompted recruitment drive by paramilitary groups in defiance). Sadr next day announced dissolution of Promised Day Brigade armed faction as “goodwill gesture”. Meanwhile, Iraqi security source reported ISIS attack 6 Nov killed two coal workers in Hawija district, Kirkuk governorate; ISIS 9 Nov attacked fishing boats on Zarka River in Tuz district, Salah al-Din governorate, killing two; ISIS next day attacked police unit in same area, killing two; ISIS 28 Nov killed five Peshmerga in northern Diyala governorate. Military 23 Nov announced foreign combat troops would leave Iraq within 15 days, while small foreign presence would remain at Ain al-Assad base. Meanwhile, Turkish security forces targeted alleged Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in northern Iraq throughout month.

October 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Parliamentary elections held amid record low turnout, gun attacks and fraud allegations, while security forces arrested two prominent Islamic State (ISIS) members. Iraqis 10 Oct cast their ballots in general election that witnessed lowest voter turnout of any election since 2003, with only 41% participation of registered voters. Main winners included Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement, which boosted seats in parliament from 54 to 73, while pro-Iran Shiite parties, including Fateh Alliance, lost seats; Tishreen protest movement-linked party Imtidad recorded successes in southern governorates. EU observer mission 12 Oct said vote was “well-managed and competitive” amid concerns over low turnout and press freedoms. Notably, gun attack on election centre in Riyad region, south of Kirkuk city, reportedly killed three police officials; unknown gunmen same day attacked voting centre in Sa’diyah town, Diyala governorate, injuring two soldiers. Several Shiite parties 12 Oct alleged fraud, called for recount; pro-Iran paramilitary group Kataib Hezbollah called vote “scam”, threatening violence. Hundreds of supporters of paramilitary coalition Popular Mobilisation Forces 17 Oct blocked roads south and north of capital Baghdad in protest at results and 19 Oct began sit-in near Green Zone in Baghdad. Earlier in month, around 1,000 protesters 1 Oct demonstrated in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, marking two-year anniversary of Oct 2019 protest movement. Meanwhile, ISIS attacks remained lethal, primarily in Kirkuk, Anbar, Diyala and Salah-al Din governorates. Notably, ISIS 3 Oct killed soldier in clashes near Tuz Khurmatu district that cut off Baghdad-Kirkuk highway; attack on village in Diyala 26 Oct killed 12 and injured another 15. PM al-Kadhimi 11 Oct announced capture of senior ISIS leader Sami Jasim in intelligence operation and 18 Oct announced arrest of ISIS militant Ghazwan al-Zobai in unidentified foreign country and transport to Iraq 16 Oct; al-Zobai was mastermind behind 2016 bombing that killed almost 300 people in Baghdad. ISIS attack 26 Oct on Shiite village in Diyala governorate killed at least 15 and prompted retaliation by residents on Sunni village accused of siding with group. Turkey continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK): airstrikes throughout month targeting suspected PKK in northern Iraq neutralised dozens of alleged militants.

September 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Opposition parties announced boycott of October polls, Islamic State (ISIS) conducted deadliest attack this year, and Turkey continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In run-up to 10 Oct elections, office of PM al-Kadhimi 1 Sept announced security forces had thwarted plan to “rig the elections by putting pressure on a number of election commission employees”. Around 40 political parties associated with 2019 Tishreen protest movement 4 Sept announced boycott of elections, saying polls “lack integrity, fairness and equal opportunities”. UN official 22 Sept said UN election observers will number over 800. Meanwhile, series of suspected ISIS attacks continued. Notably, in Kirkuk governorate suspected ISIS militants 2 Sept killed one soldier; 5 Sept killed 13 federal police officers in Rashad region in deadliest attack this year; 11 Sept killed three federal police officers. ISIS ambush 21 Sept killed two in Garmiyan area, Sulaymaniyah governorate. Military and Peshmerga 17 Sept announced joint security operation against ISIS. Turkey continued operations – including airstrikes – against PKK in northern Iraq (see Turkey). In sign of increasing PKK retaliatory at-tacks in population centres, IED 15 Sept killed two members of so-called Rojava Peshmerga armed group in Akre, Duhok governorate. Unknown assailants 18 Sept shot dead mid-ranking PKK commander Yasin Bulut in Sulaymaniyah province. In-security and attacks persisted across country. In Nineveh governorate, gunmen 5 Sept killed at least three soldiers in attack on army checkpoint south of Mosul city; attack on vehicle same day killed paramilitary Popular Mobilisation Forces commander in Babil governorate. Explosives attack 11 Sept killed at least four near Makhmour. Rockets 11 Sept targeted Erbil International Airport hosting U.S.-led coalition; in al-Muthanna governorate, IED next day reportedly targeted international coalition convoy. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) 9 Sept fired missiles at headquarters of unspecified foreign-backed organisation near Erbil city; Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran same day said it was targeted; IRGC 20 Sept struck four bases belonging to “anti-revolutionary groups”. While Baghdad and Washington 16 Sept reportedly agreed to reduce U.S. troops in Anbar and Erbil provinces, New York Times 20 Sept reported that U.S. deployed additional 2,000 troops for nine months.

August 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq

Divisions emerged within political factions ahead of Oct elections, security operations targeted Islamic State (ISIS), and intra-Kurdish rivalry boiled over in Kurdistan. Tensions rose within ethno-sectarian political blocs ahead of 10 Oct parliamentary elections. Within Sunni bloc, rivalry between Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, politician Mohammed al-Kabourli and challenger Khamis al-Khanjar escalated throughout month into acts of sabotage, including removal of campaign advertisement. Among pro-Iran Shia parties, tensions arose between factions of paramilitary coalition Population Mobilisation Forces (PMF), chiefly Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kataib Hezbollah, which early Aug publicly accused each other of corruption. Hamid al-Yaseri, leader of PMF group Ansar al-Marjaiya, 14 Aug delivered speech describing resistance groups’ loyalty to Iran as “treasonous”. Shiite cleric and leader of largest parliamentary bloc Muqtada al-Sadr 27 Aug reversed July decision to boycott Oct election. In northern Baghdad, security forces 14 Aug launched large-scale anti-ISIS operation, arresting seven suspected ISIS members, and next day killed ISIS leader Mustafa Hassan Ismail. In Diyala province, security forces 18 Aug arrested three suspected ISIS members for attack on power lines. PM Kadhimi 23 Aug announced second operation in Tarimyah town, north of Baghdad. In Kurdistan region, infighting within prominent political faction escalated. Co-chair of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Bafel Talabani 2 Aug issued decision to expel his cousin and co-chair Lahur Talabani from Iraq, in move that escalated July power struggle between two leaders; Lahur 3 Aug declared authorities had issued warrant for his arrest and said he had no intention of leaving, raising prospect of clash between Peshmerga brigades under each leader’s command. President Barham Salih 3 Aug intervened to mediate, alleviating tensions. Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) 12 Aug conducted mortar attack on Turkish military base in northern Iraq, killing one Turkish soldier; reported Turkish drone and airstrikes 16-17 Aug around Sinjar district targeting PKK-linked Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) and medical clinic killed at least ten people, including civilians and senior YBS member Said Hassan. Internationally, govt 28 Aug hosted regional summit with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, the Emirates and some European countries to discuss avenues for cooperation, especially on economy and energy.