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27. May 2023 22:50
We're concluding today's live blog with this hilarious claim by the Deputy Head of the KDP's Caucus in the Iraqi Council of Representatives:
In a statement on his personal Facebook page, Mariwan Qarani alleges, "During the [Kurdistani] Council of Ministers meeting, where they aimed to find solutions to broad financial issues... The Honorable Deputy Prime Minister [Qubad Talabani] was allegedly busy messaging Yousef Kalabi and Mustafa Sanad to plan the dissolution of the Kurdistan region."
He is referring to the well-publicized meeting from two weeks ago where the KDP and PUK reached an agreement on financial disputes -- a meeting that was commended by the US and British Consulates at the time.
27. May 2023 19:25
Kurdistan’s Prime Minister, Masrour Barzani, used a field visit to local farmers as an opportunity to express his thoughts on recent developments in Iraq’s political scene.
In an unexpected speech delivered in a countryside setting, surrounded by farmers, the Prime Minister voiced his displeasure about the ongoing situation. He labelled the changes to the draft budget law concerning Kurdistan as “truly duplicitous, oppressive, and a plan against Kurdistan itself.”
But he didn’t stop there. He also used this platform to make a few pointed remarks about the PUK, stating “what’s truly unfortunate is the local hand involved in this betrayal,” a sentiment which was met with resounding agreement by the farmers. He went on to say, “What’s worse is that it views the reduction of Kurdistan’s authority as an achievement for itself.”
Interestingly, in a highly edited video with English subtitles that he recently released on Twitter, the sections criticizing the PUK are conspicuously absent. This is just a small example of how the KDP tailors its message to different audiences. It seems that the KDP essentially transforms into three entirely different parties with differing platforms, values, and outlooks, depending on whether you read their official statements in Kurdish, Arabic, or English.
Here’s the full transcript of Masrour Barzani’s conversation with the farmers:
Barzani: “We have many programs to assist farmers. Through scientific methods, it is possible to increase production while reducing prices and improving quality. We will, Inshallah, work on all these things. And I wanted to see for myself [muffled noises].”
Barzani: “If it is within our means, we will do it, and we’ve consulted with experts, including foreigners, to learn how they can help our villagers increase production.”
Barzani: “If we had the resources, we’d do anything, but the issue is that the Iraqi government is pressuring us. They don't send us our share of the budget, won't let us sell our oil, and even non-oil revenues...they plot against us in various ways.”
Barzani: “The situation is a bit difficult, but together, we’re with you. Please have some patience, and Inshallah, everything [muffled noises].”
Farmers in unison: “We will endure it. We will endure it.”
A farmer: “As long as you’re there, we’ll endure.”
Barzani: “Unfortunately, you heard about what happened yesterday…[muffled noises]...what happened was truly duplicitous, oppressive, and a plan against Kurdistan itself.”
Barzani: “Let them do whatever they want. Inshallah, if God is with us, even if we only have a dry piece of bread, we will not bow our heads to oppressors and tyrants.”
Barzani: “But what’s truly unfortunate is the local hand that’s involved in this betrayal.”
Farmers: “Yes, yes.”
Barzani: “And what’s worse than everything is that it views the reduction of Kurdistan’s authority as an achievement for itself.”
Barzani: “[It] boasts, ‘We’ve achieved something that we’ve been able to...’ and this attempt won't even succeed.”
27. May 2023 17:14
Well, well, well, what d'you know?
It appears that Qasim Al-Araji was welcomed by the Kurdish Interior Minister Rebar Ahmad, who travelled from Erbil to greet him. In addition, Araji met with a high-ranking KRG delegation during his visit to Sulaymaniyah.
This new information doesn't alter the context of the visit, but it's quite intriguing that details of his meeting with Rebar Ahmad didn't reach the media until the National Security Advisor shared photos of his visit an hour ago.
27. May 2023 16:59
Odai Awad MP, who sits on the federal parliament's finance committee, spoke on the controversial amendments to the draft budget law relating to the Kurdistan Region. He stated, “The proposal I submitted to the Finance Committee regarding the Kurdistan Region, which was supported by the majority of the committee’s members, does not fully address [what the region owes the Federal Government]. Nevertheless, we see [Kurdistan] objecting to it.
"We have accomplished what we had to do without yielding to anyone. Whoever promised you [Kurdistan] that you could take Iraq’s budget for free, let him vote for you if he can.”
Awad is a member of the Sadiqun party, the political front of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, a faction led by Qais al-Khazali. KDP media has alleged that the changes were orchestrated by AAH and the PUK, although there have been no official statements from either party.
Some analysts perceive this move as being orchestrated by these two parties, each for their own benefits. AAH competes with Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law party for supremacy and influence in the Shiite arena — the theory being AAH aims to frustrate efforts to pass the budget in its current form, which Maliki prefers. The PUK, on the other hand, is engaged in a similar struggle with the KDP for supremacy and influence in Kurdistan.
Others view Sadiqun as a convenient scapegoat for Shiite leaders to claim plausible deniability and maintain cordial relations with the KDP, while advocating a tougher stance behind closed doors. This viewpoint points to the fact that the proposed amendments were accepted by a majority of the Finance Committee, of which Sadiqun and the PUK members are only a fraction.
Whatever the case may be, this is definitely a development to watch in the coming days.
Gorran has initiated what it refers to as an “initiative”, releasing a statement that calls for a summit inclusive of all main political parties in the Kurdistan region. The aim is to “resolve conflicts in the region,” discuss “new developments in the Iraqi political arena,” “remove threats to people's livelihoods,” and “protect the existence of Kurdistan.”
As a partner of the KDP and PUK in government, the Gorran Movement has had to walk a tightrope in recent months to avoid getting entangled in KDP and PUK disputes. Though largely unsuccessful, it has generally advocated for “dialogue” and “consensus” during disputes between the two leading parties in the region.
However, due to what is perceived as complicity in the KDP and PUK’s corrupt rule over the region, the party’s support and influence have significantly diminished over the past few years. In the 2021 election, it won no seats in the Iraq federal elections. Therefore, it is quite unlikely that this “initiative” will bring about any tangible changes to Kurdistan’s political scene.
27. May 2023 15:32
A statement published on Qasim Al-Araji's Facebook account this morning indicated that his visit to Sulaymaniyah is to discuss procedures related to the security agreement between Iraq and Iran.
This statement directly ties his visit to his last trip to Kurdistan, where he met with the KRG Interior Minister Rebar Ahmed in Erbil. In that meeting, they discussed "reviewing and enhancing measures that reinforce border security with Iran to safeguard our citizens, control illegal activities, and uphold law enforcement.”
These visits are likely a response to increased pressure on both the Iraqi government and Kurdish officials by the Iranian government concerning the movements of Kurdish groups, which it labels as "separatists" and "terrorists". This situation escalates in the wake of threats by an IRGC commander and the Iranian Intelligence Minister, who have threatened to take independent action if "Iraq doesn't control the security situation on the border". The Intelligence Minister went even further, claiming that they have arrested a "group associated with the Zionist entity" on the country's western borders.
قاسم الاعرجي - بتوجيه من القائد العام للقوات المسلحة...
بتوجيه من القائد العام للقوات المسلحة مستشار الأمن القومي يتوجه إلى السليمانية على رأس وفد أمني لبحث إجراءات المحضر الأمني بين العراق وايران.
27. May 2023 15:16
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' Al Sudani today unveiled a $17 billion rail project at the “Development Road Conference” in Baghdad. The project, designed to link the under-construction Grand Faw Port to Turkey and Europe, has been presented by the Iraqi government as a potential “new Silk Road” for years, offering an alternative to the Suez Canal.
The conference saw participation from transportation ministry representatives from various Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Alongside them were representatives from numerous multilateral institutions. This conference is part of the Sudani government's efforts to gain both internal and external legitimacy as it announces initiatives aimed at rejuvenating Iraq’s dilapidated infrastructure.
In addition to this, Prime Minister Sudani announced a series of other infrastructure projects during the conference. Among these are the integration of nearby cities with the country’s ports, and the establishment of a "modern smart industrial city," equipped with the latest technology and designed to anticipate advancements over the next fifty years. He also asserted that significant progress has been made toward completing the Grand Faw Port, a project first announced in 2010 that has since faced numerous delays.
There's skepticism surrounding the feasibility of these projects, as the Iraqi government has a history of making grandiose announcements that have yielded minimal results. However, with Iraq’s central bank foreign exchange reserves now at around $100 billion, thanks to high oil prices and ongoing disputes over government formation, there is hope that this time may be different. Only time will tell.
Here’s a summary of Prime Minister’s statement during the Development Road Conference published by his media office:
Highlights from the Remarks by Prime Minister Mr. Mohammed S. Al-Sudani at Development Road Conference Launched Today in Baghdad:
The Development Road Initiative is an ambitious plan to reshape the economy by utilizing strategic economic levers for sustainable growth and prosperity.
Efforts towards economic diversification and combating the impacts of climate change are crucial. The path to effectively address these challenges lies in the Development Road initiative, which serves as the key to confront these influences and pave the way for progress.
The project serves as a pillar for a sustainable non-oil economy, fostering regional cooperation and benefiting both Iraq and its neighboring countries.
The significant progress made towards the completion of the Grand Faw Port marks a crucial milestone in establishing a vital economic gateway for the region.
Urban cities will integrate with the nearby port, while establishing a modern smart industrial city that has the latest technology and anticipates future advancements for the next fifty years.
These cities will attract diverse industries, utilizing local and imported resources to meet both local and regional demand for their products.
This project will forge an economic partnership between our countries, propelling Iraq towards becoming a prominent exporter of modern industries and goods.
Our reliance on multimodal corridors, encompassing over 1200 km of interconnected railways and highways, will drive the integration of transportation systems for enhanced efficiency..
Railways and highways will enable efficient transportation of goods, while the employment opportunities generated by these projects will foster regional integration, stability, and resilience in the face of challenges.
The Development Road serves as an economic artery, offering a promising opportunity for the convergence of interests, histories, and cultures.
This government addresses the genuine needs of the Iraqi people, focusing on prioritized areas backed by relevant data, effectively tackling the underlying causes of instability and obstacles.
The Development Road Conference aligns with our reform and economic advancement goals, guiding our movement towards progress.
We have initiated this conference through constructive engagements with the leaders of our brotherly and friendly nations, fostering collaboration and understanding.
As officials, technicians, and specialists, it is your responsibility to foster these understandings. Develop a practical roadmap and strive to achieve our desired goals.
We are committed to advancing initiatives that benefit our people, enhance regional ties, promote cultural relations, and attract global investments.
Media Office of the Prime Minister May 27, 2023
27. May 2023 13:57
PUK leader Bafel Talabani met with Qassim Al-Araji, Iraqi National Security Advisor, in Dabashan, Sulaymaniyah today. The readout of the meeting from PUK's official media outlet says the meeting "addressed the political and security situation in the country and emphasized the expansion of military and intelligence cooperation and coordination in order to maintain the country's stability and peace."
Araji is a senior official in the Iraqi government and is often considered Sudani's right-hand man in the Iraqi National Security Council. He has had several high-profile visits to the Kurdistan Region. The most recent was on the 17th of May where he discussed border security with the region's Interior Minister. The reason for his latest visit to Bafel Talabani remains unclear.
Less than a week ago, Deputy Speaker Hemn Hawrami and his party stirred up controversy. They attempted to unilaterally reactivate the electoral commission via majority vote despite the parliamentary session having been officially ended by the speaker. This led to a now infamous brawl inside parliament.
Days later, he appears to be a reformed man. Reflecting on recent changes made by the Iraqi Finance Committee to draft budget law articles concerning Kurdistan, Hawrami stated, "history has proven that attempts to impose oneself, using coercive force, have always produced the opposite result."
The region's President, Nechirvan Barzani (KDP), appears to share this view, as demonstrated in his official statement: “Past experiences have shown that relying on power dynamics, majority-minority dichotomies, and violation of rights and entitlements of Iraqi components has never brought peace and stability to the country. Therefore, I call upon all parties, especially members of the State Administration Coalition, to adhere to the agreements. It is crucial that we all act responsibly, and the Kurdish parties must unite to defend our constitutional rights.”
While it's more understandable for such sentiments to come from the President, who has been attempting a balanced approach to mediating between the KDP and PUK, it doesn't make it any less ironic, considering KDP's past and present actions.
27. May 2023 13:12
Electoral commission row part 55
The two newly "appointed" members of the Electoral Commission are set to take their oath in front of the KDP-controlled KRI Judicial Council tomorrow, which prompted the Speaker of Parliament and PUK MPs to hold a press conference decrying the move.
In the press conference, Rewaz Faeq reiterated her previous objections to KDP's attempt to force through the reactivation of the Electoral Commission in Parliament, calling it unlawful and citing Parliament’s internal procedures. She went on to say that what KDP did is a blatant violation of previous agreements the party has signed with both PUK and Gorran, which stipulated sensitive governance aspects like elections will only be decided on through consensus. She ended by calling on the Judicial Council to "do its job tomorrow," blocking the "unlawful" appointments to the commission.
Appointments to the Electoral Commission are partisan, and the distribution of the current members across party lines is as follows:
KDP, 1 member, head of the commission.
PUK, 2 members.
Gorran, 2 members.
Yakgrtu, 1 member.
Komal, 1 member.
KDP de facto had 3 members, but due to the commission losing its legal mandate in 2019, the party has been unable to appoint replacements for 2 members and is now only left with one. If it succeeds in establishing the two replacements as “facts on the ground” tomorrow, it will considerably bolster its position in the commission.
However, the Electoral Commission members affiliated with Gorran, Yagrtu, and Komal have all decried KDP’s unilateral attempt at reactivating and appointing replacements to the commission, asking for the process to be done through consensus and stating they won’t participate in any of the commission’s activities.
If they hold firm to their positions and refuse to participate in any of the commission’s activities, preparations for elections cannot commence. This is because an absolute majority of the 9 members is needed to vote for it to start - without this, the commission will remain out of commission.
27. May 2023 11:57
Coming just two weeks after ISIS launched attacks on an undefended village in the province, the Iraqi armed forces and Kurdish Peshmerga forces launched a joint operation near the Tuz Khurmatu area in Kirkuk. The Iraqi Army Chief of Staff and the Deputy Commander of Joint Operations arrived in the province to oversee the operations.
Dubbed the "Swords of Righteousness" operations, this is the fifth of its kind in the region. Although these operations see limited success and restore security to the province for a period, the persistent security vacuum that exists between areas controlled by federal forces and Kurdish forces has rendered these regions some of the least secure in the country, with periodic terrorist attacks, kidnappings, and clashes.
27. May 2023 11:54
In a recent statement, Nechirvan Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region, expressed "deep concern regarding the amendments and changes to the proposed Iraqi Budget bill." Barzani vehemently rejected the alterations, saying they present obstacles to a budget eagerly awaited by all Iraqis.
Barzani stressed the importance of the State Administration Coalition's political agreement, calling it "the foundation for political peace and stability in Iraq." He condemned actions that violate the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region and warned they undermine the country's stability.
The President urged all parties to adhere to the agreements, highlighting the need for unity among Kurdish parties to defend their constitutional rights. He concluded, "We emphasize that the Kurdistan Region stands ready to address all issues based on the constitution," urging a continuation of the collaborative work seen in recent months.
We express deep concern regarding the amendments and changes to the proposed Iraqi Budget bill that pertain to the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region, and we completely reject them. These modifications create a hindrance to the budget bill for the next three years that all Iraqis have been eagerly awaiting.
Commitment to the political agreement of the State Administration Coalition serves as the foundation for political peace and stability in Iraq. It is a necessary step towards a better future for the country and all its components. Engaging in actions that violate the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region, disregarding national responsibility, and undermining the stability of the country's political landscape not only lead to disappointment but also complicate matters and harm Iraq as a whole.
Past experiences have demonstrated that relying on logic of power, majority-minority dichotomies, and the violation of rights and entitlements of Iraqi components has never brought peace and stability to the country. Therefore, I call upon all parties, especially members of the State Administration Coalition, to adhere to the agreements. It is crucial that we all act responsibly, and the Kurdish parties must unite to defend our constitutional rights.
We emphasize that the Kurdistan Region stands ready to address all issues based on the constitution. The recent months have shown positive progress through collaborative work, understanding, and solidarity among Iraqi forces and parties. The implementation of the agreement to form the Iraqi federal government brought joy to the Iraqi people and their allies. Therefore, we must build upon this direction and prevent some individuals from distorting the agreements and further complicating the situation.
President of the Kurdistan Region
27. May 2023 11:17
Hope everyone is having a good weekend, and boy, do we have some news for you today.
Condemnations abound from KDP figures after the Iraqi Finance Committee made changes to the draft budget law. After KRG PM Masrour Barzani condemned the changes yesterday, both Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani and KDP’s parliamentary team in Baghdad released statements today. The latter, however, didn’t stop at merely condemning the changes; it also harshly criticized the PUK for voting for it, calling it a “betrayal no smaller than the 16th of October”, a reference to events in Kirkuk in 2017.
After months of delays, the timing of the Iraqi parliament's vote on the draft budget law is again in doubt. Despite announcements that a vote will be held on Sunday, Shakhawan Abdullah, Deputy Speaker (KDP), said the vote on the bill has been postponed indefinitely. Whether the KDP can delay the vote, however, will depend on how much support it can marshal in Baghdad.
Following a significant reduction in Iranian gas supplies to Iraq, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry issued a statement. Its Iranian counterpart has communicated that the reductions are due to “technical issues”. Iraq imports around $4 bln worth of gas from Iran each year, and due to American sanctions, it has been increasingly difficult for Iraq to pay for these imports, which has accumulated to an outstanding debt amounting to $11 bln. An Iraqi delegation is set to visit Iran next week.