Cabinet group photo
One big happy family again? The KRG cabinet group photo from 2018 with PUK present

Live: PUK ends cabinet boycott

Last updated:
Newest first
Newest first
Oldest first
See latest updates
See one new update
See new updates
No posts for now
According to a statement from the office of Muqtada al-Sadr, Tuesday is the deadline for signing what he has termed "the blood fingerprint pledge." He previously declared that anyone who has not signed the document will not be allowed to visit the shrine of his influential father, Muhammad-Sadiq al-Sadr, on the 25th anniversary of his death.

Sadr released the pledge in response to a group, identifying themselves as the "People of the Cause", who proclaimed him as Muhammad Al Mahdi, a figure often viewed as a messiah-like redeemer in Shia Islam. The pledge, which is to be signed in blood, asserts loyalty to Sadr, promotes adherence to his path, and emphatically denounces this group.

Commanders from his militia, Saraya al-Salam, immediately complied with his instructions, posting pledges signed in blood on social media. His followers, in a bid to demonstrate they do not regard him as a messiah-like figure, formed long queues in multiple cities, eagerly signing the document to express their fealty to the influential cleric.

Although Muqtada owes much of his initial influence in the country to the fame and popularity of his father, Muhammad-Sadiq al-Sadr, who was assassinated by the Ba’ath regime in 1999, he has managed to carve out a distinct reputation since then. His party, appropriately named The Sadrist Movement, emerged victorious in Iraq's 2021 election.

The Iraqi President, Abdul Latif Rashid, has been officially invited to join this year's Arab League Summit in Jeddah, according to a statement from his office.

As a formality, the invitation was delivered by Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Iraq, Abdulaziz Al-Shammari.

Although the Arab League isn't typically considered a highly influential organization, this year's session is particularly noteworthy. The Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, has been invited after his country's membership in the organization was suspended 12 years ago at the onset of the Syrian Civil War.

Full statement:

On Sunday, May 14, 2023, the President of the Republic of Iraq, Abdullatif Jamal Rashid received an official invitation addressed to him by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz to attend the 32nd regular session of the Arab League Summit, scheduled to be held in Jeddah.

President Rashid received an invitation to participate in the Arab Summit while meeting the Saudi Ambassador to Iraq, Abdulaziz Al-Shammari, at the Baghdad Palace.

 At the outset of the meeting, the Saudi Ambassador first conveyed greetings from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, to President Rashid, and extending the message to Iraqi people, wishing them progress and prosperity.

The Iraqi President reciprocated, asking Ambassador Al-Shammari to convey his greetings to the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud and the Saudi royals, in turn, and his appreciation for this kind invitation, wishing Saudi people further progress and well-being.

It is a matter of critical importance to hold the Arab League Summit, at the time, to discuss several key issues, including the issues of common concern, and address the regional challenges, that are faced by the states of the region, His Excellency President Rashid emphasized.

Iraq- Saudi Arabia relationship was discussed during the meeting, and how best to promote these ties at every level, in the way that would most serve both nations' citizens.

Iraq's President (right) and the Saudi ambassador
Iraq's President (right) and the Saudi ambassador   credit: President's office
See thread on Fuad Hussein interview on TotalEnergies deal.
We're not saying this out-of-context still from the video of today's cabinet meeting confirms Draw's report that Dana Abdulkareem was unhappy...
Dana Abdulkareem (middle) with some excellent side-eye
Dana Abdulkareem (middle) with some excellent side-eye   credit: Peregraf
But it doesn't refute it, either.
The Council of Ministers has concluded its high-profile meeting on Sunday that saw the return of PUK ministers.

The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Masrour Barzani with Deputy PM Qubad Talabani and the PUK’s team in attendance, was the culmination of weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations.

According to the readout, the meeting began with a routine discussion on the status of oil exports to Ceyhan. The statement read, "The Kurdistan government has fulfilled its obligations under the 4th of April deal signed between KRG-Baghdad and is now awaiting a deal between Baghdad and Ankara."

The second item of discussion was by far the most critical, revolving around the initiation and implementation of a previously unmentioned project, "the restructuring of public finances in the Kurdistan Region."

Reportedly, the cabinet unanimously agreed on a restructuring of public finances in the Kurdistan region through "the centralization of revenues, liquidity, spending, and salaries". This process would involve "reorganizing all sources of revenue from banks, treasuries, border crossings, and tax and customs departments to protect public revenues." Further, the cabinet decided to prioritize salaries and categorize them as "sovereign spending."

For expenditures other than salaries, the cabinet reportedly agreed to find mechanisms through which "expenditures should be allocated in a fair manner based on the population of each province and autonomous administration."

In relation to security issues, potentially an indirect reference to the murder of Hawkar Jaff in Erbil, the cabinet decided to "conduct a joint investigation by forming a special committee from relevant agencies."

The cabinet's decisions today are a result of the last two weeks of political maneuvering. What we're witnessing is an unprecedented rapprochement between the KDP and the PUK in a six-month period filled with media attacks, accusations of terrorism, and charges of treason.

The specifics of these decisions, however, do not come as a surprise, as their outlines were leaked to the media days before. They reportedly represent an agreement between KDP and PUK signed during the initial meeting between Qubad Talabani and Masrour Barzani on the 8th of May.

However, the journey ahead is not without challenges. Fundamental disagreements between KDP and PUK persist, and structural power imbalances between the two parties will likely render any agreement temporary.

According to Draw, Dana Abdulkareem, Minister of Housing and Reconstruction and head of Gorran’s ministerial team, raised objections in today's meeting.

Abdulkareem reportedly claimed the agreement would diminish the Finance Minister's authority, as the KDP and PUK's teams have agreed to establish a joint committee for public finances on the sidelines of the cabinet meeting, without consulting the FM. This assertion, which seemingly took both parties by surprise, was ultimately dismissed. However, it highlights the unpredictable nature of politicking in Kurdistan.
Safeen Dizayee, the head of Kurdistan's Department of Foreign Relations, welcomes the return of Qubad Talabani and his PUK ministerial team
The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the Iraqi ambassador on Saturday over what it described as an "invitation issued to members of separatist groups to participate in an official meeting in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the constant provocations of terrorist groups in the region," according to Iranian media reports.

The statement is believed to refer to the invitation of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups, based in Iraq, to the inauguration of the Barzani Memorial. Many officials from Baghdad, including Prime Minister Sudani, attended the event.

On March 19, Iraq and Iran signed a well-publicized border security agreement in an attempt to curb the presence of Kurdish opposition groups in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region. Iran has accused these groups of terrorism and separatism.

The Kurdish opposition, however, contends that Iran is simply trying to externalize its domestic issues. The country has been dealing with months of protests sparked by the death of Jina [Mahsa] Amini, who was beaten to death by Iranian security forces over an allegedly "inappropriately worn hijab."
As voting in today's momentous elections in Turkey winds down, Turkey's Consul General to Kurdistan, Memet Mevlut Yakut, visited the Deputy Speaker of the Kurdistani Parliament, Hemin Hawrami.

The meeting's readout depicted both parties as agreeing on "the importance of maintaining their nations' close bilateral ties in many areas, as neighboring countries with shared interests."

Hawrami, a member of KDP's politburo, is active on the international stage, frequently meeting foreign delegations domestically and leading delegations internationally.

Most notably, he led a delegation to Russia during the week it started a full-frontal invasion of Ukraine. Given the ongoing speculation about whether the KDP's tight relationship with Turkey will endure a transition from Erdogan, this meeting is especially significant.
In a ministerial decree leaked to the media today, Ibrahim Namis Al-Jubouri, Iraq's education minister, has sacked four general education directors across the country.

Adnan Sabir Muhammad, Abdul Ali Hussein Ta’ma, and Muhammad Lufta Abdul Ali, who headed the General Directorates of Education in Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Dhi Qar, respectively, have been dismissed. 

General Directorates of Education, the highest authorities at the governorate level, operate directly under the ministry, executing its orders and forming governorate-level policies.

The Kirkuk General Directorate of Education, located in an ethnically diverse region, has been involved in several controversies over the years. 

The reasoning behind these terminations remains uncertain.
In an exclusive report by the Financial Times, a natural gas liquids (NGL) plant in Basrah, constructed to reduce flaring and help Iraq reduce its reliance on Iranian natural gas, will depend on electricity supplied by a power plant built by the Iranian MAPNA Group. 

According to documents viewed by the newspaper, MAPNA is entitled to 78% of the revenues from electricity sales by the gas-powered Rumaila power plant, which supplies electricity to the NGL plant.

Dubbed MAPNA's "largest international power project" on their website, it demonstrates Iran's entrenched influence in all aspects of Iraq's energy sector. Although the Iranian ambassador to Iraq claims the country owes Iran $11 billion for gas imports, this is only part of the story re: Iran's influence in Iraq's energy landscape.
Ano Abdoka, the head of the National Unity Alliance and Minister of Transport & Communication in the Kurdistan Regional Government, recently shared his thoughts on various controversial issues in a chat with Rudaw Arabic.

The interview kicked off with a rather awkward blunder. They introduced Abdoka as a member of the KDP, a claim he didn't refute. Abdoka used to be the KDP's representative in Ankawa, Erbil's Christian neighborhood, until he formed his own party with the KDP's tacit support. He's often (mockingly) referred to as a KDP man, so the intro doesn't help.

When asked about the feud between Rayan al-Kildani, head of the Babylon Movement, and Louis Sako, Patriarch of Baghdad, Abdoka stated that the two couldn't be compared. He views the Patriarch as a role model and believes that the Babylon Movement's recent success in the 2021 Iraqi election was due to votes from non-Christian areas in Iraq. Al-Kildani, who runs a militia and is under US sanctions, has had a tense relationship with the Chaldean Catholic Church. Things escalated this week when he accused the Patriarch of misrepresenting Christians and seizing land from the persecuted minority. This triggered protests in Baghdad yesterday, with hundreds rallying against Al-Kildani while holding olive branches, a universal symbol of peace.

Switching gears to discuss minority quotas in Kurdistan, Abdoka strongly opposes any reduction in the number of seats, stating it's not a handout from any Kurdistan party but a right earned by the Assyrian martyrs who fought in the mountains.

On the voting regime topic, where the debate is between a unified voter register for all or separate registers for minorities, Abdoka takes a more diplomatic stance. Although he acknowledges potential "human rights issues" if minorities have separate voter registers, his party now supports this policy.

The KDP has been resistant to changing the rules so that people who aren't from minority groups can't vote for minority quota candidates. It's been alleged that the KDP has directed its security forces to vote en masse for minority candidates they favor in past elections, resulting in most minority MPs being KDP allies. Abdoka's public support for separate lists marks a significant shift from the KDP's policy.

Wrapping up the interview, Abdoka briefly touched on the closure of Turkish airspace to Sulaymaniyah International Airport. He mentioned that a committee set up by the Kurdistan Council of Ministers has completed its review of the airport and will soon release its report. Despite not providing a detailed action plan or steps the KRG is taking to rectify the situation, Abdoka remained hopeful that the Turkish airspace would reopen soon.
Good afternoon and welcome to NRT English's live blog. Here's your morning digest:

  • The Kurdistani Council of Ministers will convene for its regular meeting today, with the PUK team participating for the first time in six months. Topics on the agenda include oil exports and public finances.
  • Shakhawan Abdullah, the deputy speaker of parliament, has stated that the long-awaited Iraqi budget will be put to a vote this week, following the parliamentary Financial Committee's final report on the budget law.
  • In response to a grenade attack in Qara Hanjir, Kirkuk, which injured two women yesterday, the Kirkuk Police Department has announced the arrest of three individuals linked to the incident. The security situation in and around Kirkuk remains unstable, with grenade attacks being a common tactic among criminals.
  • Voting in Turkey’s pivotal election has begun. With Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu neck-and-neck in the polls, the outcome is anyone's guess as to who will secure the presidency. Given the high stakes of this election, the world's attention is firmly focused on Turkey.