Customs and traditions
Iraq is a very conservative country compared
to Sweden, but Iraqis are proud of their hospitality and
generosity towards visitors.
Greetings often take the form of a ritual: one shakes
hands for a long time while hearing about the other's
condition, how it is with health, the family, the house
and more. They often hug each other and kiss each other
on the cheek.
Overview of the capital city of Iraq, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
Men are not bothered to walk hand in hand with male
friends, however, physical contact between people of
different genders is unusual. It is not obvious that a
man can greet a woman by taking her hand. The man should
wait for the woman to stretch out her hand, otherwise
just bow and address her. Usually men and women spend
time separately, with the exception of special family
gatherings. How strictly religious traditions about
gender segregation are applied, for example, varies
greatly from area to area and between different social
The upholstery is quite important. Business meetings
require a dark suit for men, and for women, skirts that
extend below the knees and long sleeves apply in all
contexts. Even when visiting Iraqi homes, one should
dress neatly and neatly. Bringing a gift is always
appreciated, preferably something typical of one's own
country, but of course not alcohol for religious Muslim
families. It is appropriate and certainly appreciated to
learn at least some basic courtesy phrases in Arabic or
Religion is very important in Iraqi society, but it
can be a sensitive issue, especially given the tense
conditions in the country. Publicly expressed atheism is
rare and can be perceived as offensive and as an attack
on religion. It is advisable to show respect and
discretion, especially with people you do not know well.
In mosques you are not allowed to wear shoes or
revealing clothing. Do not photograph veiled women
without explicit permission. Also, do not take
photographs of anything that may have the slightest
Traveling to Iraq today is still dangerous and can be
especially dangerous for foreigners. The Swedish
Ministry of Foreign Affairs discourages visits in large
parts of Iraq, except in the Kurdish areas of the north,
although fighting and assaults may also occur in these
provinces. The threat comes from both criminal gangs and
armed groups with political goals.
Different visa rules apply to Kurdish autonomy and
the rest of Iraq. Anyone with an Israeli stamp in the
passport can be denied entry into Iraq.
The US Embassy is occupied
Supporters of the militia al-Hashd al-Shaabi occupy the United States: an
embassy in the green zone of Baghdad in anger over the US air strikes that
claimed the death of 25 milers last weekend. The occupation ends a day later,
but the mission is left vandalized.
Stepped up position between the US and the militia
The US is attacking weapons stockpiles in western Iraq and eastern Syria,
which are linked to a pro-Iranian militia group. The attacks are justified by
the fact that rocket attacks have occurred two days earlier against a base in
Kirkuk where both US and Iraqi personnel are serving. An employee of a company
that worked for the US armed forces has lost their lives. 25 militiamen are
killed in US air strikes, according to the larger Shiite and Tehran-backed
militia al-Hashd al-Shaabi, which formally forms part of Iraq's defense force.
Oilfield in blockade
Protesters demanding jobs block an oil field 30 miles south of Baghdad. It is
the first time the wave of protests has taken place since the fall, affecting
oil production in Iraq, which exports 3.6 million barrels of oil per day.
Recently, there have been protests, including sitting strikes, in a number of
places in southern Iraq.
Thumbs down for prime ministerial candidates
The last day for Parliament to agree on who will be given the job of forming
government after Adil Abd al-Mahdi. President Barham Salih has already moved
forward the time limit a couple of times. In Iraq after Saddam Hussein (since
2003), the norm is for the Prime Minister to be a Shia Muslim. Names of
candidates have leaked since the government's resignation on December 1, but
quickly the center of the protest movement Tahrir Square in Baghdad has been
taped with posters crossing the faces of said politicians. If the president
fails to find a candidate who receives sufficient support in Parliament, it is,
according to the constitution, that he will step in as prime minister for the
Fell on his own grip
Parliamentarian Mahmud Mullah Talal is sentenced to six years in prison in a
corruption case that provides insight into how it can go in Iraqi top politics.
In November, he tried to prove that the Minister of Industry is on state
contracts. A person in the minister's immediate circle then contacted and argued
that the Honorable Member would be paid if he kept silent. In the background,
corruption investigators were waiting, who could take the MP on the bar with a
juicy sum of money. Mahmud Mullah Talal was elected to Parliament for a smaller
Shi'a party, al-Hikma.
US sanctions against militia leaders
US faces sanctions on three Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, which the US holds
responsible for the deaths of protesters. Practically speaking, sanctions
against leaders of Shi'ite al-Hashd al-Shaabi forces have little significance,
but the decision testifies to US concerns about Iran's strong influence in the
neighboring country. The Hashd forces have for some time been openly cooperating
with the Iraqi government army (see July 1, 2019). There have
been rocket attacks against places in Iraq where there are US personnel, and the
US has in many cases pointed out Iran-friendly forces.
The government is leaving
Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi submits the government's resignation
application to Parliament, which immediately accepts. This is in light of the
fact that the street demonstrations have escalated over the past week; the
number of casualties during the two months that the demonstrations went on has
now passed 420. Around 20,000 people have been injured, the vast majority of
protesters. Abd al-Madhi and his ministers remain until a new prime minister has
been appointed by the president.
Over 40 dead when protests are knocked down
44 people are killed and up to 1,000 injured during the bloodiest day to date
since the wave of protests against the government began in early October. Ten
people are shot to death in the city of Najaf where a crowd lit a fire at Iran's
consulate the night before in protest against Iran's political influence in
Iraq. Most victims are needed in the city of Nasiriyah in the south. 25 people
are killed when security forces break up demonstrations. According to the AFP
news agency, the violence has now claimed more than 390 deaths and more than
15,000 people have been injured.
Minister is being investigated in Sweden for crimes
A Swedish criminal investigation against Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari
is being expanded. He is heavily criticized for the violence used by government
forces against protesters in Iraq. In Sweden, where he is written and holds
citizenship, he has been investigated since November 8 for suspected grant and
folk record violations. Following allegations of crimes against humanity, he
will also be examined by the National Assembly against international and
organized crime. The minister sprang from the great tribal confederation
Shammar, historically one of Iraq's most influential groupings. Shammar consists
of several branches and lots of clans. His party has previously denied
information on Swedish citizenship; Iraqi Ministers are not expected to have
Sistani supports the wave of protest
The most revered of the Shiite religious leaders in Iraq, the storayatolla
Sistani, makes a statement spread through the Friday sermon in Karbala. At the
beginning of last fall's protest wave, Sistani cautiously supported it, now
describing the demonstrations as "an honorable way to seek change". At least 330
lives have been demanded in the protests that target both the influence of
neighboring Iran and the political system that resulted from the US intervention
to overthrow dictator Saddam Hussein. Sistani calls on Parliament to adopt an
improved electoral law as soon as possible; a proposal has been tabled, but
Parliament has not started debating it. An amended election system is part of a
UN plan that also includes constitutional amendments and legislation on
infrastructure. Sistani has met with UN Secretary-General Jeanine
Hennis-Plasschaert to show that he supports her plan.
Iran is pushing to save the government
The Shiaallian Fatah, which is the second largest in the parliament, says
after many if and only support for Adil Abd al-Mahdi's hard-working government.
Of all the judgments, it is important for neighboring Iran that the government
is riding the storm. During the recent weeks' crisis, the head of the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard's foreign operations is reported to have shuttled Iraq's
Shi'a bloc in some form of mediation. Iran's actions have aroused suspicion,
especially as it is linked to the fact that the Baghdad government has this time
chosen tough grip on the street protesters. Still, however, it is silent from
Muqtada al-Sadr, who leads the Iraqi parliament's largest faction and has driven
part of the wave of protests against the prime minister.
Sharp shots against protesters
Once again, Iraqi security forces are firing sharp shots at protesters in
Baghdad, and four people have been shot dead in a protest outside Iran's
consulate in Karbala. Authorities have stopped publishing the death toll, but
the news agency AFP counts a total of 270 deaths during this fall's protest
wave. In several places, government offices have been stormed or closed. The
protesters are not happy with the measures the government has proposed,
including new government jobs. President Barham Salih has proposed a new
election as soon as a new electoral law could be adopted.
New IS leaders with demanding names
IS confirms via its own propaganda channels that both the leader of the
movement and its spokesman have died (see October 27). The new
leader is named Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, while Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi
is named as spokesman. The names signal a relationship with Prophet Muhammad,
the new IS leadership thus claims to be legitimate in the eyes of other Muslims.
Later, in January 2020, new messages will come: A Turk from Tal Afar in northern
Iraq will be selected as a new IS leader. According to sources in spy
organizations for the British newspaper The Guardian, the man's name is Amir
Muhammad Abd al-Rahman al-Mawli al-Salbi. (IS leaders are also called for by the
US with that name.) Under IS terror, the man must have played a leading role in
the atrocities to which the Yazid minority was exposed.
The pressure on the government is growing
Demonstrations against the Iraqi government continue despite a nightly
curfew. Another five protesters die in Baghdad and the total death toll since
the wave of protests began on October 1 is said to have reached 240. Mass
meetings are held in several cities and students, teachers and court lawyers
strike. Parliament votes to dissolve provincial assemblies, withdraw benefits
for certain executives and call the prime minister for hearing; The partial
alliance led by Shia preacher Muqtada al-Sadr but also containing communists
declares that it no longer supports Abd al-Mahdi as prime minister. A day later,
Abd al-Mahdi also loses the support of Fatah, the other major party alliance
behind him as head of government.
IS leader dies at US raids in Syria
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the IS jihadist network that proclaimed a
caliphate in Iraq and Syria, blasts with a bomb belt to escape a US special
forces in northwestern Syria. He takes children with him to death. According to
the United States, his identity can be confirmed by genetic testing. The event
nevertheless raises many questions: How has the IS leader been able to move
through northern Syria, where all possible warring parties scout and have
roadblocks, to a hiding place in the west? How does the US know exactly where it
is? How can the American Council, with eight helicopters, be carried through the
airspace in northern Syria? Kurdish representatives state that the council has
been prepared for some time but delayed by Turkey carrying out a military
offensive into Syrian territory. In a separate raid, Abu al-Hasan al-Muhajir, IS
spokesman, is killed.
High death rate after protests
The wave of demonstrations that swept across Iraq in early October claimed
157 lives, including 149 civilians and eight security forces employees, a state
investigation commission said. 70 percent of the victims had been hit by head or
chest shots. Commanders of various forces who were involved have now been
suspended from service. If approved by the Prime Minister, they will be
dismissed. The UN Iraq Mission UNAMI, which conducted its own investigation, has
concluded that there were serious abuses in the actions taken against
The army admits overwhelm
The army admits in a statement, when the demonstration wave in Iraqi cities
has claimed over 100 lives, that its forces have used too much force against the
protesters. Several have died from gunshot injuries. Those responsible must be
held accountable, it is called. The Prime Minister has ordered the soldiers on
the streets to be replaced by police. The government has tried to curb the
protests the day before by promising investments in 17 points, including
increased support for families living in the margins of society.
Storayatolla supports protest wave
The protesters are supported by Ali al-Sistani, the foremost religious leader
among Iraqi Shiites. Many Shiites want to hear how the Storayatollan looks on
the wave of protest before deciding whether to participate, and he is now
calling - through Friday sermon delivered in many mosques - the government to
take steps to improve community service, create jobs for the unemployed and get
the job done. corruption.
Protests require the death victims
Curfew takes effect in Baghdad, which is shaken by violent demonstrations.
Even in the cities of al- Nasiriyya, al- Amara and al- Hilla who have witnessed
similar protests, there are exceptional rules. About ten casualties have been
required and access to the internet and social media has been limited. During
the week that follows, protests continue, and the death toll is growing. The
demonstrators are mainly young men, and the protests are linked to high
unemployment and dissatisfaction with Iraqi politicians, who have failed to
address recurrent electricity and water outages and corruption. The wave of
protests does not appear to have any unified leadership, but is perceived as the
biggest challenge to date for Adil Abd al- Mahdi's government.
Reviewer: Power on glide from the government army
A war hero is petitioned from his post by the prime minister, without public
explanation. General Abd al-Wahab al-Saadi, known for his efforts when the city
of Mosul was liberated from IS, is moved to the Department of Defense from his
job as deputy commander of an anti-terror force trained by the United States.
Groupings within the paramilitary forces al-Hashd al-Shaabi must have lobbied to
get the war hero moved, and assessors see the risk that Iran-friendly Hashd
forces, which have not previously belonged to Iraq's regular army, will advance
their positions (see July 1, 2019).
Iraq is attracted by "new silk roads"
Iraq will join China's major plans with "new silk roads", which are aimed at
expanding trade relations around the world, including the construction of ports,
railways and airports in a number of countries. The message is given by Prime
Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi, on a visit to Beijing. China is Iraq's largest
trading partner, while Iraq is China's second largest oil supplier. Criticism of
the Chinese projects is usually about the fact that the host countries where the
infrastructure construction takes place build up large debts to China.
IS leaders urge prisoners to be released
IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may have been ousted from his position as
self-proclaimed caliph, but he urged the movement's supporters to free jihadists
and relatives who are being held captive in Syria and Iraq. The audio recording
is published by IS propaganda agencies. In Iraq, more than 500 foreign nationals
have been sentenced to severe penalties for connection to IS, but the
authorities do not state how many IS faithful prisoners are imprisoned
altogether. Kurdish authorities that operate camps in northern Syria expect that
only women and children who are foreign nationals amount to 12,000, from 40
countries. The Red Cross has warned that there are "apocalyptic" conditions in
the camps and calls on the homelands to ensure that the families of IS fighters
are brought home.
Severe electricity shortages should be rectified
Iraq and the Gulf States Cooperative Organization GCC have agreed to build a
power line from Kuwait to the port city of Faw in southern Iraq. The GCC will
finance the 30-mile line building aimed at supplying Iraq with electricity
shortages. The day before, the Iraqi government has signed an agreement with
German Siemens, which is commissioned to repair war-damaged power plants in the
city of Baiji in the north. Iraq currently buys electricity from Iran, with the
exception of the sanctions the United States maintains against Iran. In
particular, during the summer, the lack of electricity has disrupted community
functions in Iraq and led to demonstrations.
Many dead in congestion accident in Karbala
Over 30 pilgrims die in conjunction with the ashura mourning in Karbala.
Around 100 were also seriously injured, many of them, in the panic that ensued
in the crowd. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims participate in ashura, which
commemorates the memory of the martyr's death in 680 by Prophet Muhammad's
Newspaper: Israel behind Iraq attack
Israel has carried out at least one attack on weapons stockpiles in Iraq over
the past month, reports the New York Times. In Syria, Israel often attacks
targets linked to Iranian forces (which assists the Assad regime), but in Iraq
such efforts are far more sensitive as the United States cooperates with the
country's government. Recently, there have been at least three explosions at the
People's Mobilization (al-Hashd al-Shaabi), forces consisting mainly of
pro-Iranian militia, and the newspaper has sources pointing out Israel.
Lifetime of massacre in Baghdad
An American who worked for security company Blackwater in Iraq in 2007 is
sentenced to life imprisonment for murder. US courts have examined his role in a
massacre of unarmed civilians. At least 14 people died when Blackwater guards,
escorting a diplomatic cortege, opened fire on a crowd in Baghdad. The incident,
four years after the dictator Saddam Hussein was driven by US-led forces,
contributed to Iraqi anger against Americans. This is the third time that US
courts are assessing the soldier's role.
Iraq: No IS members executed yet
9th of August
Since the beginning of 2018, some 500 foreign nationals have been detained in
Iraq as supporters of IS. But no sentenced persons have been executed yet, says
Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi. The Iraqi government has sent signals to
IS-jihadists' homelands that prisoners may be dealt with in Iraq if countries
that do not want to receive them bear the costs. From camps in northern Syria,
run by Kurdish authorities, Iraq, for its part, plans to welcome 31,000 Iraqi
nationals belonging to IS members.
Report: Around 15,000 active IS fighters
Remaining supporters of the Islamic State (IS) have managed to rally in
attacks against forces holding their former "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq,
according to a US Defense Inspector General's report. The report examines the
impact that US forces have largely withdrawn. IS was forced off with US military
support in both countries, but the forces that took over (in Syria, especially
Kurdish units) find it difficult to maintain control long-term and coordinate
their actions against IS, it says. IS performs murder, ambush and bombing. The
report estimates the number of IS- jihadists in Syria and Iraq to be between
14,000 and 18,000, of which 3,000 are shipped from other countries.
Corruption fighters claim some success
Iraq's anti-corruption campaigners say the Commission manages to recoup a
billion dollars to the Treasury during the first half of 2019. 857 arrest
warrants have been issued and 407 suspects have been arrested. But there is much
more to do: Since 2004, the year after a US-led invasion ousted dictator Saddam
Hussein from power, $ 250 billion of public funds is believed to have been
wasted, according to estimates made by Iraq's parliament.
The governor embraced aid
Around $ 10 million that would have gone to two hospitals in Mosul has been
embezzled by Nineve's disappeared ex-governor, a state commission against
corruption claims. Nineveh was one of the provinces where IS ravaged. In total,
about 1.6 million Iraqis are still internally displaced as a result of war, 40
percent of them from Nineveh, and their return is slowed down by the failure to
rebuild basic community services. The governor is believed to be hiding in
Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq, where money could be traced. He himself went
underground after a ferry tragedy in Mosul, which led to sharp criticism of the
authorities and his own deposition (see March 21 and
July 18, 2019).
Suggestion: "Nuremberg Trial" for IS
For a year, the British lawyer Karim Khan, on behalf of the UN agency Unitad
and with a staff of almost 80 people, traveled around Iraq to collect evidence
and testimony of crimes committed by the Islamic State (IS). Investigators have,
among other things, investigated death victims in mass graves, called video
films and examined documents from the IS Caliphate's own bureaucracy. Khan
believes that a tribunal should be set up to address the crimes, in the style of
the Nuremberg Trials against Nazi leaders after World War II (see June
3, 2019). In Iraq, IS supporters are now sentenced daily, some to
death, but victims and witnesses of criminal offenses are not admitted - for
convicting, terrorist membership is enough. Khan believes that a tribunal, like
after Nazism, would help to reduce the appeal of the violence-glorifying
New leader for Yazidis
Hazem Tahsin Bek takes over the role of leader of the Yazid minority in Iraq
at a coronation ceremony in the city of Lalish. After Father Tahsin Said Ali's
departure in January, his new role was confirmed by a religious five-member
council that includes the Yazidis' highest spiritual leader Baba Shaykh. Hazem
Tahsin Bek has previously been a member of the regional parliament of Kurdish
US sanctions on regional leaders
The United States imposes sanctions on two Iraqi militia leaders - one
Christian, the other from the Shabak minority group - and against two former
governors. The ex-governors of Nineveh and Saladin are identified as corrupt and
the militia leaders are held responsible for serious human rights violations,
including kidnappings. An Iraqi Commission Against Corruption has previously
claimed that the Nineveh Governor's circle shunned $ 64 million of state funds,
including nearly 40 million that would have been used to rebuild the war-torn
city of Mosul.
Turkish diplomat is murdered in Erbil
An attack on a Turkish consulate in Erbil in northern Iraq requires three
lives. A Turkish diplomat and two other people are shot to death. Turkish forces
carry out a few days later air strikes targeting the Kurdish PKK guerrilla in
the Qandil Mountains in Iraq. Some time before the attack in Erbil, the PKK
announced that one of the movement's leaders and other persons had been put to
death in a Turkish raid.
Kurdish government with heavy KDP profile
A new regional government has been accepted and approved by Parliament in the
Kurdish autonomy in the north (see June 11). The important post
of Minister of Oil is not appointed, the position is held by regional head
Masrour Barzani himself until further notice. Barzani's party KDP holds nine
ministerial posts, the other major party PUK six. Four ministers belong to the
Goran Party (Change), one comes from the Kurdistan Socialist Party and one is a
Christian, in accordance with rules that will secure influence for minorities.
Iran-friendly militias are closer to the army
Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi issues a decree that the Shi'ilis that go
under the collective concept of Popular Mobilization (al-Hashd al-Shaabi) should
be integrated into the army, on paper. Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr states that
his force Saraya al-Salam will follow the decree. It is also supported by
militia Asaib Ahl al-Haqq, who is considered to have close contacts with Iran.
But full integration into the federal army should not be: the militias retain
their leaders. The result, on the other hand, is believed to be that forces open
to Iranian influence gain greater legitimacy. The United States has tried to
persuade the Prime Minister to disband the militia.
No to US attack against Iran
Iraq will not, under any circumstances, allow the US to use Iraqi ground
bases to attack Iran, President Barham Salih told CNN. He also questions the
sanctions that the United States has reintroduced to Iran. Barham Salih refers
to the experience of sanctions maintained against Iraq in the 1990s. The
dictator Saddam Hussein was not disrupted, however, the sanctions according to
Salih still have effects in Iraqi society.
Important ministerial posts filled
The Baghdad Parliament approves three key positions: Najah al-Shammari
becomes Minister of Defense, Yasin al-Yasiri Minister of the Interior and Faruq
Amin Minister of Justice. The appointments mean that Badr, the dominant
Iran-friendly party, is given control over the important home ministry. The post
of Minister of Education is still empty in the government of Adil Abd al-Mahdi,
eight months after he became prime minister.
American interests are being shelled
A series of grenade or rocket attacks have been directed against US interests
in Iraq for about a week. No one has taken on the attacks, but the projectiles
are said to be fired from areas where there are armed Shia groups. No deaths
have been reported. The attacks - against military bases and oil facilities
where there are US personnel - are seen as support markings for Iran in the
conflict with war threats ongoing between Washington and Tehran.
The US allows Iran trade despite sanctions
The US extends Iraq's exemption from sanctions against Iran. Gas and oil
trade between Iran and Iraq can continue for another 90 days without US
sanctions. The energy supply in Iraq is heavily dependent on imports and
electricity consumption in Iraq increases during the summer heat. A repeat of
the 2018 protest wave is feared if there would be major disruptions in the
supply of electricity.
"King's Family" leads Kurdish autonomy
Two cousins are now leading Kurdish self-government in Iraq as Masrour
Barzani is appointed prime minister by the regional parliament. He succeeds
Nechirvan Barzani who was installed on the regional presidential post the day
before (see May 28). The Barzani family has such a grip on the
positions of power that the clan almost functions as a royal dynasty: Massoud
Barzani (father of Masrour, uncle of Nechirvan) is expected to act as a "gray
eminence" even though he no longer holds any formal position in the state
institutions. The party KDP was founded by Grandpa Mustafa Barzani (1903-1979).
The green zone in Baghdad opened
The roads through the previously closed "green zone" in Baghdad are now fully
opened, in connection with the celebration of the festival id al-fitr. The zone
on the west side of the Tigris River has a history as the seat of power under
Saddam Hussein, but has also - for security reasons - been barred for the
majority of citizens since the US-led invasion in 2003 when the dictator
collapsed (see October 25, 2018).
Tribunal against IS on the agenda
The Swedish government is holding an international meeting to discuss how a
tribunal to try suspects for crimes committed by IS could be implemented. The
meeting at the official level includes, among others, several Western countries
and the UN. From camps in Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria, several countries
have begun to bring home orphaned children and women connected to IS.
New president of Kurdish region
Parliament in the Kurdish autonomy in the north elects Nechirvan Barzani as
regional president. Barzani is the deputy party leader in the KDP party. The
other major Kurdish party, PUK, boycott the vote and accuse the KDP of a breach
of promise. When Nechirvan Barzani's representative (his uncle who held the
presidential post 2005-2017) called for a contentious referendum on
independence, he supported it. But Nechirvan Barzani has since then, as prime
minister in the self-government, been responsible for trying to make relations
with the central government in Baghdad work again.
Turkish offensive against Kurdish guerrillas
Turkish forces enter Iraqi territory during a military offensive against the
PKK. The Kurdish guerrillas have bases in mountain areas at the border. Two
weeks after the offensive began, the Turkish Defense Forces state that 43 PKK
supporters were harmless.
The US fears Iran-backed militia
15th of May
All staff who are not considered necessary are taken home from the US Embassy
in Baghdad and the country's consulate in Erbil. The United States, which over
the past year has made decisions that escalate a protracted conflict with Iran,
states that a threat exists from the Iraqi militia that has ties to Iran. At the
same time, contradictory messages about whether heightened alert status prevails
in Iraq from other countries that still have troops in place to fight the
Islamic State (IS).
The US pressures Iraq into a tightened position with Iran
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes an unannounced visit to increase
pressure on Iraq's government to reduce its dependence on neighboring Iran (see
March 11). Pompeo also demands guarantees to protect Americans
in Iraq - 5,200 militants. One year after the US withdrew from the International
Nuclear Energy Agreement with Iran and reintroduced harsh sanctions on Tehran,
the tone between the US and Iran has tightened. The United States has sent an
aircraft carrier and associated combat group to the waters south of Iran and
Iraq. Pompeo claims that the US is responding to immediate threats from Iran.
Paperless children are left without care and school
Approximately 45,000 children who have lived in IS-controlled areas are
currently in camps and have difficulty accessing healthcare and education,
according to a report from the Norwegian organization Refugee Council. A
fundamental problem is that many lack birth certificates. Not only relatives of
IS members, but also others affected by IS's exercise of power are affected.
Parents often lack ID documents. The children risk becoming stateless and thus
long-term without civil rights.
Children of IS members are flown home
More than 80 children of Tajik who have joined IS have been fetched by air
from Iraq, Tajikistan's Foreign Ministry reports. The children are Tajik
citizens (see March 11). Tajik authorities have previously
stated that more than 1,000 Tajiks joined the terrorist group in Iraq or Syria,
among them Gulmurod Halimov, who led the Interior Ministry's special forces
before announcing via a 2015 video that he had been recruited by IS. In Iraq, 43
Tajik women are convicted of terror-related crimes.
The IS leader calls for terrorist acts
IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi - who in 2014 proclaimed a caliphate in Mosul
- appears in a video on the internet that is believed to be genuine. The video
contains references to current events, in particular the defeat of the movement
in the Baghuz fortress in Syria. It's been five years since al-Baghdadi turned
out in a similar way and he is now urging sympathizers to continue committing
terrorist acts, as revenge. The terrorist group has also taken on concerted
bombings against Christians in Sri Lanka on April 21, on Easter Day.
Saudi courtship: the sports arena in gift
Saudi Arabia's Commerce Minister promises, on a visit to Baghdad, a loan
package to Iraq: a billion dollars for development projects, half a billion for
export promotion and also a gift - a sports arena for 100,000 spectators to be
built on the outskirts of Baghdad. At the same time, the minister is opening a
new Saudi consulate and more missions are planned. The parties say that the
countries' mutual relations, which have long been eclipsed by Saddam Hussein and
his war train in the region, have entered a new phase. The Saudi eagerness to be
in place should also be seen in the light of the regime in Iran, which is a
bitter rival to Saudi Arabia's rule, has strong allies in Baghdad and supplies
large quantities of goods to Iraq.
IS's last bracket has fallen
SDF, the Kurdish Arab forces in northern Syria, raises its yellow flag in the
last IS stronghold of Baghuz and declares that the final battle against the
jihadist movement is over. This does not mean that all IS fighters have been
disarmed or killed - in smaller places along the Iraq-Syria border, there are
assumed to be scattered crowds - but IS no longer controls any part of its
New Year celebrator in ferry tragedy
A ferry accident occurs in Mosul and nearly 100 passengers are feared to have
lost their lives. Most of the victims are women and children whose families are
on their way to an island with amusement parks to celebrate the Kurdish New
Year. The ferry is reported to have been overloaded. A warning of high water
levels in the river Tigris had also been issued after a rainfall, when the
hatches were opened in a pond upstream. A few days later, the governor of
Nineveh province gets fired at the request of Iraq's prime minister. Parliament
also makes decisions that allow victims to receive damages.
UN appeal for children in IS families
11th of March
The UN Children's Fund Unicef calls for children of IS members not to be
considered terrorists. Unicef estimates that there are around 3,000 children
suffering from at least 43 countries alone in the largest camp in eastern Syria,
al-Hol (al-Hawl). In addition, there are even more children from Syrian and
Iraqi jihadist families, which will be a challenge to integrate on site (see
February 19 and March 6).
State visit from Iran: Iraq is torn between two fires
11th of March
Iranian President Hassan Rohani initiates a three-day state visit to Iraq,
the first since he became president. He praises Iran-Iraq relations as "special"
and, among other things, talks trade and railway lines with the Iraqi
leadership. It is happening at the same time as the US wants the Iraqi
government to limit Iran's influence in the neighboring country, which is large
- the Shiite-dominated parties in Iraq have deep contacts with Iran. Iraq also
needs exemptions from US sanctions against Iran in order to buy electricity and
natural gas (see November 8, 2018). On March 19, the United
States is also extending Iraq's exception, again.
Britons indicate death toll after raids against IS
The British Air Force, RAF, participates in the US-led alliance fighting IS
in Syria and Iraq, and British authorities estimate that RAF's raids have
claimed over 4,000 jihadists' lives. The summation applies to raids carried out
between September 2014 and January 2019. According to these data, three-quarters
of the deaths have been required in Iraq. The British Ministry of Defense says
it only knows of a civilian death victim, but the aid and research organization
Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) which has obtained the information states that
civilian death rates are underreported. The RAF has attacked around 1,000
targets in the IS strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa during the war years, and the
military's analysis of the effects is mostly done through aerial photography.
HRW: IS children are imprisoned and tortured
At the end of 2018, about 1,500 children / youth related to IS were held in
prison by Iraqi and Kurdish authorities, Human Rights Watch said in a report.
HRW claims torture exists to persuade children to admit crime. The regional
government of Kurdish autonomy has previously denied such claims. From the Iraqi
federal government, HRW is reporting that at least 185 children of foreign
nationality have been sentenced to prison sentences on charges of terrorism. The
organization, which has interviewed children in captivity, among others, calls
on Iraqi lawmakers to change the anti-terror laws.
French IS warriors threatened by death penalty
In connection with Iraq's President Barham Salih's visit to France, it is
announced that 13 IS fighters who are French nationals will be brought to trial
in Iraq. They have been handed over to government forces by Kurdish forces and
will be tried for terrorist offenses, which could result in the death penalty in
Swedish no to IS warriors
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven says that Sweden will not assist IS warriors
with Swedish citizenship who want to return home. How Swedish authorities should
deal with children for IS supporters has not been decided (see February
Jihadist wife is denied return to London
Britain puts the issue of close relatives of IS warriors at the forefront by
revoking the citizenship of Shamima Begum, 19 years old. In 2015, she and two
other teenage girls left London to join IS and the "caliphate" movement was set
up in Syria and Iraq. Since fighting IS, she is in a refugee camp in Syria and
she has children with a jihadist. In Iraq, women and children from a variety of
countries are in a similar situation (see November 13, 2018)).
Both Iraq and the Kurdish forces in northern Syria are asking the jihadists'
homelands to take care of families as well as suspected IS hangers, as the
IS-ravaged countries have no resources to deal with them on the spot. Britain
has previously withdrawn the passport for Britons who have committed brutal
crimes in IS's name.
Female President in split Kurdish Parliament
The Kurdish autonomy parliament has got a female president: Vala Farid, who
belongs to the KDP party. She is acting on the record. The question of who will
receive the assignment permanently will be decided in negotiations between the
major parties KDP and the PUK - and the PUK chose to boycott the session, when
Parliament convened for the first time four months after the elections in the
region (see October 21, 2018). On February 15, KDP and PUK were
reported to have reached an agreement on important issues, but the cooperation
is in spite of the compromise.
Extended mine clearance in Iraq
Swedish support for the UN mine clearance in Iraq is being expanded. UN
efforts Unma's work in Iraq has so far been concentrated on Mosul and
al-Falluja, but will be expanded to more places, including Kirkuk. Of the nearly
17,000 explosive items that the miners destroyed in 2018, 782 were suicide belts
- which in many cases remained on dead persons, says Unma's Swedish manager of
TT News Agency.
Oil against electricity in border trade
Iraq resumes oil deliveries to Jordan via Kirkuk tankers. Jordan will in turn
export electricity to Iraq within a couple of years. Prime Ministers Adil Abd
al-Mahdi and Omar al-Razzaz meet at the border, where they have also agreed to
set up an industrial area (see January 14). In Iraq, there is
some grief about Jordan being given a rebate on oil, but it is linked to Iraq
looking for other sources of electricity imports when trade with Iran is subject
to US sanctions.
Riot in protest against Turkey
A Turkish army posting in Iraqi territory is stormed by protesters who claim
that a Turkish air strike claimed multiple lives; Turkey often raids Iraqi
territory in search of the terrorist-stamped Kurdish guerrilla PKK. A
demonstrator is now shot to death as Turkish soldiers open fire. Iraq's Foreign
Ministry states that a formal protest should be handed over to Turkey's
ambassador. On the same day, Turkey resumed direct flights to northern Iraq
after 16 months of blockade. The traffic was stopped in protest against the
Kurds conducting a referendum on independence in 2017.
State budget with doubled deficit
Parliament approves the state budget for 2019, which is greatly expanded
compared to the previous year. Among other things, it includes wage increases
for government employees, even in Kurdish self-government. But the budget
deficit is also growing; it more than doubles. Nonetheless, members from several
provinces feel that the appropriations for reconstruction after the war against
IS should be greater. 90 percent of the revenue in the budget is expected to
come from oil recovery.
Increased demands for US retreat
Since the Iraqi government declared victory against the jihadist movement IS
2017, countries participating in the fighting have taken military personnel
home. The number of foreign soldiers in Iraq dropped from 11,000 in January 2018
to 8,000 at the end of the year. The United States now has 5,200 troops
stationed at bases in Iraq. President Trump's surprise visit to US soldiers over
Christmas - without courtesy of Iraq's leaders - and his message that American
soldiers should be called home from Syria have increased the demand for
Americans to leave Iraq as well. Especially the proiran parties are critical and
Delayed plan for oil pipeline is taken up
Jordan's King Abdullah visits Iraq for the first time in over ten years.
Iraq's President Barham Salih, for his part, has visited Amman a few months
earlier. The countries have a 18-mile common border and Jordan imports Iraqi
crude oil. In 2013, they agreed to build a 170-mile oil pipeline between Basra
and Aqaba, but plans were halted when the jihadist IS subdued large parts of
Iraq. Jordan has decided to revive the plan, but no new timetable has been
The Baghdad government strengthens the grip on Kirkuk
The Iraqi government places special forces in Kirkuk. It is tense in the
disputed city since the Kurdish self-government flag was hoisted over a party
headquarters. Iraq's constitution says that the oil-rich and ethnically mixed
Kirkuk should obey the central government in Baghdad, while the Kurds claim to
extend their self-government there (see November 20, 2017). Oil
exports from Kirkuk resumed following an agreement between the Baghdad
government and the self-government in December 2018.