Weekly Iraq Update #49

Jordanian Terror Plot Reveals AQI Regional Network

On December 2, new details were revealed about a foiled terror plot in Amman, Jordan linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Last October, 11 Jordanians were arrested by Jordanian intelligence for plotting a multi-wave attack in Amman, targeting shopping centers, hotels, and the U.S. Embassy. The men, captured after crossing into Jordanian territory from Syria, were charged with conspiracy to carry out a terrorist attack and possession of explosives. According to the criminal investigation AQI played a crucial role in facilitating weapons training and smuggling and provided direction on the creation of deadly explosives. Throughout the past year, AQI has been known to operate inside Syria and actively fighting against the Assad regime. Due to the ongoing crisis in Syria, AQI has been able to utilize historical supply lines between Syria and Iraq.  Reenergized by increased freedom of movement and a spike in access to weapons, AQI has expanded its operations in Iraq and Syria over the last year. Thus, the recent Jordan plot reveals AQI’s attempts at reestablishing their regional networks that were last used to coordinate the 2005 attacks in Amman that killed 56 people. As the Syrian conflict persists, AQI will likely continue to use territory in eastern Syria to attempt to organize, facilitate, and carryout regional attacks.

Tensions Remain High Between Baghdad and Erbil

The conclusion of last week’s peace negotiations dimmed what was initially seen as a positive development in the heated conflict between Baghdad and Erbil. On November 29, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rejected 11 of the 14 points of a peace plan proposed by the Kurdish Regional Government. Maliki reiterated his refusal to dissolve the Tigris Operations Command and called for the immediate removal of Peshmerga forces in the disputed areas of Ninawa, Salah ad-Din, Kirkuk, and Diyala. According to the media director of the Ministry of the Peshmerga, Halgurd Hikmat, Maliki demanded that all Kirkuk security forces fall under the control of the Tigris Operations Command, an unacceptable stipulation for the Kurds. In an interview with Az-Zaman News, President of the KRG Massoud Barzani blamed the prime minister’s office of sparking the recent escalation, calling the Iraqi Army the “army of one person” with an unconstitutional command structure. Kurdish officials also vowed to oppose the “militarism” of the central government.

On December 3, following the failed peace negotiations, the Ministry of the Peshmerga redeployed its forces outside Kirkuk, the disputed city at the center of the Baghdad-Erbil crisis. The central government quickly denounced the move. Furthermore, the secretary general of the Ministry of the Peshmerga, Jabbar Yawar, accused the central government of continuing to build up its military forces around Kirkuk and of arming tribes in the area. While no further armed confrontations have ensued between Peshmerga and Iraqi forces, tensions remain dangerously high. Current discussions have focused on the creation of joint-force checkpoints.

Previously on December 2, Maliki agreed to a preliminary arrangement proposed by Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, which called for the withdrawal of Iraqi and Peshmerga forces from the disputed areas. The proposal also stated that local police forces would be fully in charge of security. Until an agreement is finalized and fully implemented by both sides, however, tensions will remain dangerously high.

Baghdad Turns Away Turkish Energy Minister Amid Continuing Oil Dispute

The KRG stated on December 5 that it would reduce oil exports by 50 percent to the rest of Iraq. This statement follows Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs Hussein al-Shahristani’s November announcement that Baghdad would not make a second payment to oil companies working in the Kurdistan region. An advisor to the KRG’s Ministry for Natural Resources attributed the export cut directly to Baghdad’s refusal to pay. The announcement came on the final day of the Kurdistan Oil and Gas Conference, at which KRG Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami spoke alongside Turkish Deputy Energy Minister Selahattin Cimen. Absent from the conference was Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, whose plane was prevented from landing at Erbil airport by the Iraqi Transport Ministry when Baghdad reportedly “banned all VIP flights to northern Iraq.” The move highlights the deterioration in relations between Baghdad and Ankara, due in large part to Turkey’s increasingly strong economic ties with the KRG.

Iranian Flyovers Continue to Draw Criticism

On December 1, the New York Times published an article shedding new light on Iranian weapons shipments over Iraq to Syria. Iraqi officials have claimed a commitment to inspecting Syria-bound flights, though recent actions by Baghdad suggest otherwise. In total, Iraq has inspected only two Iranian flights to Syria, one of which was inspected while returning from Damascus. According to the New York Times, Iraqi officials, including Hadi al-Amiri, the Iraqi Minister of Transportation and the head of the Iranian-aligned Badr Organization, are informing their Iranian counterparts as to when inspections would be conducted. In at least one instance, an Iranian pilot ignored an inspection request by Baghdad. According to the article, Iraq is coordinating inspections with Iranian planes that intentionally contain only humanitarian aid in order to satisfy increased inspection demands from the U.S. In response to the accusations, Maliki’s media advisor, Ali al-Moussawi, denied any collusion by Iraqi officials and reiterated Baghdad’s commitment to halting arms shipments. Whether or not Baghdad is complicit in the flyovers, Iraq is unable to force any Iranian cargo plane to land for inspection, and thus Iranian shipments will continue.

Past Updates

Iraq Update #48- November 21- November 29, 2012: Tentative agreement reached on disputed territories standoff

Iraq Update #47- November 15- November 21, 2012: Freed Daqduq travels to Beirut

Iraq Update #46- November 7-November 15, 2012: Rumors surround Daqduq release

Iraq Update #45- November 2-November 7, 2012: Tigris Operations Command Continues to Cause Concern

Iraq Update #44- October 24-November 2, 2012: Iraq Sets Date for 2013 Provincial Elections as Maliki Renews Push for Majority Government

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