Weekly Iraq Update #44

October 24, 2012-November 2, 2012

Iraq Sets Date for 2013 Provincial Elections as Maliki Renews Push for Majority Government

This week, the Council of Ministers set April 20, 2013 as the date for Iraq’s upcoming provincial elections. The vote will be held in all Iraqi provinces, including Kirkuk, with the exception of the three provinces of the Kurdistan region. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced that elections would be held in April, but did not specify a date. Iraq’s political parties have wrangled recently over the appointments to the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) and the elections law, casting the timeframe of the vote into question. IHEC confirmed its intentions to hold the elections on time following the Cabinet’s announcement of the election date. IHEC also announced this week that the deadline for registration and certification of political entities for the upcoming elections was November 5.

Complicating this process, however, is the fact that the law upon which the elections are to be based – an amended version of the 2008 law – has been deemedunconstitutional by the Supreme Court. After an election date was announced without reference to the Supreme Court’s decision, Higher Judicial Council spokesman Abdul Sattar Bayraktar on Wednesday reminded all concerned of the Supreme Court’s ruling and its binding nature upon the electoral process. Without a parliamentary revision of the law, the results of the election are extremely vulnerable to legal challenge. In the meantime, however, the major political blocs have little incentive to revise a law which benefits them at the expense of smaller parties.  

Instead of addressing the elections law, Iraq’s political parties have turned in recent weeks to arguing over whether to replace the current governing coalition with a majority government. Maliki has floated this notion in recent weeks, and renewed his push this week to garner support for the effort. The main Kurdish blocs and the Sadrists have rejected the move, though members of Maliki’s coalition say that he has support from a number of parties, including former Iraqiyya elements and Kurdish opposition groups. The current national unity government has remained effectively deadlocked since its formation in late 2010. 

Iraq Searches Iranian Planes Bound for Syria

The Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority searched an Iranian cargo plane bound for Syria for the second time this month. Both searches found only humanitarian and food supplies, and the flights were permitted to continue on to Syria. Iraq has come under pressure from the United States to search Iranian flights bound for Syria, following reports that Iraq was allowing Iran to use its airspace to transit arms and personnel to assist the Assad regime. Iraq is likely trying to assuage U.S. concerns, though Maliki’s government remains sympathetic with the Assad regime and has recently offered Damascus $10 million in aid. The Iranian Foreign Ministrycriticized Iraq’s searches, arguing that Iraq should ignore pressure from anti-Iranian Western countries. Meanwhile, Sunni and Shi’a Iraqis are traveling to Syria in increasing numbers to take part in the fight.

Al-Qaeda Attacks Mar Islamic Holiday

Militants launched a string of attacks across Iraq over the weekend to coincide with the Eid al-Adha holiday. More than 40 people died and 150 more were wounded in car bomb and IED attacks in Baghdad and northern Iraq. On Saturday October 27, bombs killed more than 30 civilians at restaurants and markets in several Shi’ite neighborhoods of Baghdad, including Sadr City. The following day, a car bomb exploded in the Shi’ite neighborhood of Kadhimiyah in Baghdad, killing more than a dozen. The Islamic State of Iraq, the front group for al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), claimed credit for the attacks. This is part of a pattern of AQI attacks against Iraqi civilian, and primarily Shi’ite, targets on Islamic holidays. The next holiday is the Islamic New Year in mid-November, when AQI-linked groups will likely seek to launch another round of attacks.

Past Updates

Iraq Update #43- October 17-October 24, 2012: Kurdish delegations arrive in Baghdad

Iraq Update #42- October 11-October 17, 2012: Central Bank governor suspended amid political disputes

Iraq Update #41- October 3-October 11, 2012: Iraq confirms massive arms deal with Russia

Iraq Update #40- September 26-October 3, 2012: Iraqi leaders gather in Ankara

Iraq Update #39- September 19-September 26, 2012: Protests present political opportunities

Iraq Update #38- September 12-September 19, 2012: Anti-film protests spread throughout Iraq

Iraq Update #37- September 6-September 12, 2012: Vice President Hashemi sentenced to death

Iraq Update #36- August 31-September 6, 2012: Iran resumes shipments of military equipment to Syria through Iraqi airspace

Iraq Update #35- August 22-August 31, 2012: Communications Minister resigns

Iraq Update #34- August 15-August22, 2012: Data suggests rise in violence along historic fault lines

Iraq Update #33- August 3-August 15, 2012: Baghdad’s Tensions with Irbil and Ankara Diminish

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 32- July 27-August 3, 2012

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 31- Al-Qaeda Leader Claims Credit for Deadly Attacks

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 30- July 16-July 20, 2012: Rebels Take Over Syrian Border Checkpoints

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 29- July 6-July 16, 2012: White House Says Daqduq Issue Not Closed

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 28- June 29-July 6, 2012: Sadrists Back Down

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 27- June 16-June 22, 2012: Maliki Requests U.S. To Stop Exxon Operations

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 26- June 9-June 15, 2012: Sadr Returns To Najaf, Speaks With Maliki

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 25- June 1-June 8, 2012: Sadr Goes To Iran, Pressure Likely To Increase

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 24- May 25-June 1, 2012: The Numbers Game

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 23- Efforts To Remove Maliki Intensify

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 22- May 22-May 18, 2012:Hashemi Trial Begins

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 21- May 4-May 11, 2012: Daqduq Case Dismissed

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 20- April 27-May 4, 2012: Ultimatum Issued To Maliki

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 19- April 20-April 27, 2012: Maliki Visits Tehran

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 18- April 14- April 20, 2012: Iraqiyya, Kurds Consider Vote to Unseat Maliki

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 17- Members Appointed To Human Rights Commission

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 16- March 30- April 5, 2012: KRG President Massoud Barzani Visits Washington

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 15- March 23- March 30, 2012: Baghdad Hosts Arab League Summit

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 14- March 15-March 23, 2012: Barzani Disparages Maliki

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 13- March 8- Maliki Visits Kuwait, Emir to Attend Arab Summit

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis,  Update 12- March 6- Diyala Appoints New Governor

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 11- Diyala Governor Reportedly Resigns

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 10- Judiciary Sets Hashemi’s Court Date

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 9- Investigation Escalates Hashemi Case

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 8- Iraqiyya Ends Boycott of Council of Ministers

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 7- Iraqiyya Returns to Parliament

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 6- Iraqiyya Contemplates Next Move

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 5- January 13- Iraqiyya Continues Boycott

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 4- December 30- January 13, 2012: Kurds Walk Out of Parliament Session in Protest

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 3- December 23- December 30, 2011: Tensions Increase between Maliki and Sadrists

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 2- December 19- December 23, 2011: Crisis escalates in Iraqi Media

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 1- December 19, 2011: Timeline of political crisis