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18. May 2023 16:00
PINNED: UN Security Council session:
Special Representative for Iraq and head of UNAMI Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert will brief on recent developments in Iraq and the Secretary-General's reports on UNAMI and the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-party nationals and missing Kuwaiti property.
No posts for now
18. May 2023 18:37
Iraqi, Kurdish security forces arrest dozens of suspects on terrorism charges
Iraqi security forces announced on Thursday the arrest of six suspects in the Salahadin province on terrorism charges.
According to a statement shared by the semi-official Iraqi News Agency, the Federal Intelligence and Investigation Agency said, "Investigations and intelligence reports indicate that the arrested individuals participated in crimes such as setting up explosive devices, detonating residential homes, attacking security bases, and providing support to ISIS terrorist groups during their control of certain areas."
Meanwhile, the Iraqi News Agency reported the arrest of six additional suspects in various provinces.
These arrests were made in coordination with the Kurdistan Region security forces and include two suspects in Sulaimaniyah, one in Erbil, two in Falluja in the Anbar province, and the last one in Mosul.
18. May 2023 18:15
Joint Baghdad-Erbil effort nabs suspected people smuggler wanted by Interpol
Iraqi authorities have announced the arrest of an internationally wanted suspect on charges of smuggling migrants to EU countries. A statement by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior stated that the arrest was executed through high-level intelligence coordination between Baghdad, Erbil, and Interpol.
The identity of the suspect hasn't been revealed. However, Qatari outlet Al-Araby Al-Jadeed cites a KRG official who claimed the suspect was responsible for transporting Iraqi citizens by air to other countries using transit and tourist visas.
The transit locations included Damascus, Dubai, and Istanbul, from where the migrants were transferred to Belarus. They then traveled overland to other EU countries.
The source described the suspect as an "international broker," whose activities resulted in dozens of Iraqi families facing major humanitarian dilemmas at the borders between 2021 and 2022. He reportedly charged each family between $5,000 and $10,000 to transport them to the Belarusian borders with Poland and Lithuania.
In 2022, Iraq evacuated over 4,000 citizens, mostly from the Kurdistan Region, stranded on the Belarusian border. Al-Araby Al-Jadeed added that Iraqi officials had blamed human trafficking networks for pushing Iraqis into unlawful migration to the EU. These officials alleged that these networks were colluding with the Belarusian government to exert pressure on the EU.
18. May 2023 17:01
On the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for November (after postponement from last year), head of UNAMI, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, tells the UN Security Council that "another postponement would be detrimental to public trust."
I hope parties will now step up, bridge differences, and work in peoples’ interest. A glance at KR history or geography reinforces urgent need for sustainable solutions. KR elections are long overdue. Another postponement would be detrimental to public trust.
18. May 2023 16:59
UNAMI Chief Hennis-Plasschaert has voiced her concerns over the escalating water crisis in Iraq, where the country can only meet a mere 15% of its water needs.
With approximately 90%, of Iraq's rivers suffering from pollution, seven million residents are grappling with diminishing water access, posing a severe threat to Iraq's stability, she says.
Hennis-Plasschaert commends the government's recent prioritization of water security and its ambitious plans for extensive improvements in the water management systems, a vital response to meet the growing demands caused by population growth and urbanization.
However, Hennis-Plasschaert warned against treating water as a competitive resource and instead advocated for its equitable distribution among Iraq's neighbors, arguing that regional cooperation offers the most effective solution to this issue.
She further emphasized the critical role of diplomatic efforts in fostering relationships with neighboring countries over a range of topics, from border security to climate challenges, and underscored the importance of respecting the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and good neighborliness.
Lastly, Hennis-Plasschaert highlighted that regional security, economic, and political shifts will continually influence Iraq, further reinforcing the need for these diplomatic initiatives.
90% of Iraq's rivers are polluted and seven million people are currently suffering from reduced access to water. This is a significant multiplier of threats to Iraq's stability. The priority placed on the issue of water security by Iraq's government is therefore most welcome.
And plans for the extensive updating of Iraq's water management systems are set to be underway.
This will be vital in meeting demands driven by population growth and urbanization.
Now, the fair sharing of resources among Iraq's neighbors is equally important.
If water is a competition, everyone loses both domestic actions and close regional cooperation offer the only winning solution. On that note, I also wish to draw attention to a simple fact, which is that regional security, economic and political developments do and will continue to impact Iraq.
I therefore cannot overstate the importance of the government's efforts to scale up diplomacy with and among its neighbors in a number of areas from border security and trade to water sharing and climate issues.
Of course, regional stability will also hinge on respect for the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and good neighborliness.
18. May 2023 16:48
Full statement on Sinjar from UNAMI chief:
We can only express disappointment that little to no progress has been made in the implementation of the 2020 Sinjar agreement.
This is despite the repeated declarations of commitment to state.
The obvious such stagnation creates further space for spoilers of different backgrounds and affiliations to exploit the situation to their own ends.
And it blocks thousands of displaced Sinjarris from returning to their areas of origin.
Sadly, a recent rise in tensions between communities in Sinjar was in large part further fueled by online disinformation targeting the Yazidi community.
Local leaders from all sides have collectively worked to dispel this spike intentions but challenges to reconciliation will persist until meaningful steps are taken including those towards a unified administration, stable security structures and reconstruction.
Now with the inclusion of the 2020 sin Agreements as an explicit priority in the government program, it is high time to get things done.
18. May 2023 16:42
UNAMI chief The head of UNAMI urges for more proactive policymaking in anticipation of future issues and formalizing the relationship between Baghdad and Erbil to ensure smoother cooperation.
Now allow me here to underline once more the importance of anticipatory governance and thus the structural institutionalization of relations between Baghdad and Erbil. Be it the budget questions surrounding hydrocarbon resources, disputed territories, the implementation of the Sinjar agreement or any other outstanding issue for that matter.It remains essential to move beyond ad hoc engagements.
18. May 2023 16:35
On the relationship between Erbil and Baghdad, Hennis-Plasschaert says it can be best described as "good but complicated."
Referring to KDP-PUK tensions, she says "fighting in the Kurdistan Region did not help as it also affected the relationship with partners in Baghdad."
18. May 2023 16:23
While it is our firm
belief that outstanding fiscal, administrative, security and electoral
disagreements could have been addressed months ago, the will to
compromise was for far too long, glaringly absent. That said
we meet repeated efforts by the region's president as well as others to
have the parties return to the negotiation table. And the recent meeting between the region's Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister led at last to some good news. After more than six months, the Kurdistan region's cabinet met in full on Sunday at this stage. I can only express hope that parties will now step up bridge differences and work in the interests of all peoples.
18. May 2023 16:20
Hennis-Plasschaert says conflicts between KDP and PUK in recent months drove the Kurdistan Region "close to the brink."
It was for good reasons that the political situation was described by many as increasingly reckless and irresponsible.
18. May 2023 16:19
Colonel Mohsen al-Lami, from the Iraqi anti-narcotics office, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that Iraq is planning to set up a dedicated anti-drug institution, similar to its anti-terrorism agency.
"The security forces are achieving significant success in terms of dismantling smuggling networks and gangs, but it is too early to talk about a decline in their trade due to the considerable challenges at the border with Syria and Iran, which serve as the main drug outlets for Iraq via land routes across the border."
He pointed out that "Iraq does not produce any kind of drugs or psychotropic substances. Whatever arrives through drug gangs comes from our two neighbouring countries, Iran and Syria."
18. May 2023 16:18
One glance at the history
or geography of the Kurdistan Region reinforces just how urgent the need for
sustainable solutions is. Also the region's parliamentary elections are long
overdue initially scheduled for October 2022.
An election day has now
been set by the region's president after consultations with all parties for 18
November of this year and let me use this opportunity to remind parties that
time is of the essence agreement on outstanding electoral issues must urgently
18. May 2023 16:12
Head of UNAMI Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert says Baghdad showed resolve to combat corruption, over-reliance on oil revenues and other challenges facing the country.
She says the main issues still facing the country include:
Corruption, weak governance, the presence of armed and
non-state actors, impunity, factional politics, poor service delivery,
inequality, unemployment, and an over reliance on oil.
18. May 2023 15:58
Not to be upstaged by the Kurdish authorities in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi security forces have reported the arrest of nearly 9,000 individuals implicated in drug trafficking, in addition to the seizure of around 10 million Captagon pills, all within the past six months.
Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Sudani announced the government's intention to implement a drug-free Iraq plan.
The General Directorate of Narcotic Affairs in the Ministry of Interior, under the direct supervision of the Minister of Interior, Mr. Abdul Amir Al-Shammari, carried out specific security operations within Baghdad and other provinces from the time he took up his duties on November 1, 2022, until May 1, 2023.
According to judicial decisions, these operations resulted in the arrest of 8,676 individuals suspected of drug trading, transportation, and abuse. Additionally, 4,494 convicts were found guilty by the competent courts after they were apprehended with 406,783 kilograms of various types of drugs, 9,275,333 Captagon narcotic pills, and 456 other pills, one firearm, 118 grenades, and 808 wheels.
The remaining 4,182 suspects arrested are currently under investigation and trial.
This is what KDP politburo heavyweight Fazil Mirani shared with Zhiyar Mohammed of Voice of America Kurdish regarding the internal issues of the PUK:
When questioned about KDP's perspective on the ousted co-leader Lahur Sheikh Jangi (who prefers the name Lahur Talabany in English), Mirani commented, "As I see it, we shouldn't meddle in the PUK's internal affairs, just as we wouldn't appreciate others meddling in ours.
"That is a matter internal to the PUK. If they reconcile tomorrow, we won't pose an obstacle. We are not accountable for their split, and we aim to be a positive influence, but we shouldn't step into that morass because, just as we dislike others interfering in our internal matters, we should refrain from interfering in the affairs of other political parties."
When Mohammed pushed him on whether the KDP would entertain talks with Talabany in his (claimed) role as the PUK co-leader, Mirani hesitated before finally stating, "We wouldn't endorse any side against the other."
Tensions within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s (KRI) second-largest party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), have escalated following the return of ousted party co-leader Lahur Sheikh Jangi. In late February, Sheikh Jangi announced his return to the party, demanding that the party leadership, members, and supporters acknowledge him as co-leader while criticizing his cousin and PUK leader Bafel Talabani’s authoritarian rule. Sheikh Jangi’s announcement was bolstered by regional institutions recognizing his co-leadership, including the Kurdistan Regional Judicial Council and […]
18. May 2023 15:05
Foundation laid on $100m solar power plant
The foundation has been laid for the first major solar power plant in Erbil with a 25 megawatt capacity. This eco-friendly facility, part of a $100 million project, is set to feed into the national power grid and is expected to be operational within a year.
The plant, spanning 590 acres, is located on the outskirts of Erbil. Prime Minister Masrour Barzani announced the ambitious project at the inaugural ceremony, expressing the government's commitment to ensure a sustainable electricity supply for citizens.
Barzani urged citizens to adopt responsible electricity usage habits and regularly meet their tariff obligations, a move that will help the government manage the significant production costs.
He noted that, despite a surge in power production, the government has been unable to provide round-the-clock electricity due to increasing demand.
The Kurdistan Region suffers from chronic shortages in mains electricity, with neighborhoods having to rely on environmentally unfriendly fossil fuel-powered local generators that emit both environmental and noise pollution.
The PM also boasted the low-cost electricity provided by the government, which significantly undercuts the actual costs of production, transportation, and distribution. In return, he implored citizens to use electricity economically and less wastefully. Barzani promises that by paying electricity bills regularly, citizens can expect 24 hour mains power.
Barzani affirmed the Kurdistan Regional Government's commitment to improving public services, emphasizing the mutual responsibility between the government and citizens in this endeavor.
Interestingly, the ceremony was held in the presence of Chinese representatives, with the project getting Chinese investment. China continues to extend its economic footprint by investing heavily in infrastructure projects across developing countries, like this one in Erbil. This financial commitment is viewed as part of China's broader geopolitical strategy, commonly referred to as the Belt and Road Initiative. Through such investments, China seeks to foster diplomatic alliances, expand trade routes, and secure access to vital resources, thereby consolidating its global influence.
Kurdistan 24 reports that the election organs of KDP and PUK are meeting on Friday to discuss the outstanding issues between the two parties.
The Masrour Barzani mouthpiece reports that Speaker Rewaz Faiq and Deputy Speaker Hemn Hawrami will attend the meeting, along with the heads of the parliamentary factions from both parties.
This meeting may set the stage for a parliamentary session focused on the election issue. As of today, we're eating into the six months of prep time Kurdistan's electoral commission says it needs before polling day to organize an election.
18. May 2023 14:19
Sulaymaniyah security forces announced on Wednesday that they had seized over 120 kilograms of narcotics and arrested two drug dealers. The seizures represent a mere fraction of the region's rampant illegal drug trade.
The Asayish (security) forces in Sulaimani did not disclose the full names of the arrested dealers, providing only their initials, though they published the list of different drugs seized.
According to the force’s official Facebook page, the seizure included 10 kilograms of cocaine, 75 kilograms of crystal meth, 30 kilograms of amphetamines, and 5.6 kilograms of opium.
Since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the country has become a conduit for narcotics. Drugs such as Captagon, produced in Syria, are transported to the rest of the Middle East via Iraq, while numerous other drugs originating from Iran and Afghanistan are delivered to the West.
Addressing the drug issue earlier in May, Iraq’s prime minister emphasized that combating narcotics in the country was as critical as fighting terrorism. “The drug issue poses a significant threat to societies and state entities; the war against drugs is no less dangerous than the war against terrorism,” he stated.
Federal and Kurdish security forces have collaborated on several occasions to tackle the phenomenon, but often the strategy is applied equally to drug users and dealers.
Iraq as a whole, including the Kurdistan Region, lacks the necessary infrastructure and educational systems to effectively combat narcotics. Prisons are frequently overcrowded with both dealers and users, and lack a rehabilitation system to ensure that those arrested can reintegrate into society without drug dependence. The failure to implement a suitable rehabilitation system has repeatedly led to many users reverting to drug use after their release from prison.
According to Iraq’s Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Law, all dealers are subject to a life sentence, leaving many with no opportunity for redemption.
Adel Bakawan, director of the French Center for Research on Iraq, with ties to Nechirvan Barzani's Rudaw, tweets a perspective that seems intuitively clear on Barzani's congratulatory message to Erdogan.
He suggests that a victory for Erdogan would allow the KRG to continue benefiting from their favorable positioning, whereas a loss would pose a significant risk.
US mediation efforts to reopen Semalka border crossing fail
The Semalka border crossing, between Iraq's Kurdistan Region (KRI) and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), remains shut despite US mediation efforts, reports indicate.
The Rojava Information Center (RIC), a pro-AANES outlet, stated today that the deadline for KRI residency holders, staff of foreign NGOs, and foreign journalists to cross from Syria into Iraq has been extended to Saturday.
This follows unsuccessful US efforts to reopen the crossing, as reported by RIC and other media sources. The crossing is the only one between AANES and its neighbors, as neither Turkey nor the Syrian government maintain any connections with the self-governed administration.
RIC attributes the crowding at the border to "unprecedented demand" among those trying to cross on Wednesday. Images shared by RIC display long lines of cars attempting to pass through the border.
"Hundreds of AANES residents left NES [northeast Syria] today after US mediation to reopen the border failed," RIC reported. "RIC spoke to queuers who arrived at 2 a.m. and had spent 8 hours waiting."
The last time KRI officials closed the border was in December 2021, a closure that last weeks.
KRI border officials attribute the shutdown to weapons and ammunition transfers from Syria to Iraq by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), as per a statement shared with the pro-KDP Kurdistan 24.
The statement alleges that three separate agreements on border management were signed, "but PYD has always violated the agreements and continued its oppressive policy." It further asserts that PYD attempted to smuggle weapons into the Kurdistan Region to destabilize the security situation, a claim that international coalition forces are reportedly aware of.
The PYD denies these allegations and states it is unclear about the actual reasons behind the closure.
RIC warns that the closure will negatively impact NES economically and humanitarianly and exacerbate strained NES-KRI diplomatic relations. The falling Syrian pound against the U.S. dollar, leading to continual price increases, and the border closure have driven up prices for items like cement.
Earlier reports suggested that the closure was due to the AANES authorities barring the Kurdish National Council (KNC/ENKS), a KDP-backed coalition in Syria, from crossing over to attend the Barzani National Memorial inauguration.
Hosted by KDP leader Masoud Barzani in Barzan, Erbil province, the memorial was dedicated to his late father, Mustafa Barzani, marking Barzani's most prominent appearance since the ill-fated referendum of 2017, with guests and delegates from Iraq and other countries.
18. May 2023 11:28
Just in: Shaswar Abduwahid, leader of Kurdistan Region's largest opposition party, New Generation Movement (NGM), reiterates call for holding parliamentary elections on time.
Here is Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani's statement in full:
President Nechirvan Barzani warmly congratulated President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, during a phone call Wednesday evening, on the victory of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey’s general elections, and wished him success in the second round of the presidential elections.
President Nechirvan Barzani reiterated that the Kurdistan Region attaches importance to the elections in Turkey, and expressed delight at the success of the democratic process and the peaceful elections held in the country with a high turnout.
The President also expressed optimism and confidence in President Erdogan’s victory in the upcoming round of the presidential elections, and considered his victory as necessary and critical for the people of Turkey and the future juncture.
In response, President Erdogan expressed his and the AKP’s appreciation for the congratulatory call of the Kurdistan Region President, and showed his country’s keenness to further develop relations with Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.
18. May 2023 11:14
Here's what's on the agenda for today
In a gushing statement, Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani expresses "optimism" about an Erdogan victory in Turkey's second round of presidential elections.
Kurdistan Region border authorities extend deadline for NGO workers, journalists and KR residency permit holders to cross the Semalka border before it is shut for good.
KDP politburo bigwig Fazil Mirani talks to Voice of America Kurdish and rejects allegations of interference in the PUK's internal affairs.
We will keep an eye out on the UN Security Council meeting on Iraq.