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Ramifications of Federal court’s verdict on Kurdistan Parliament

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Bewar Khinsi, energy advisor to the KRG PM, dies

Bewar Khinsi, an energy advisor to KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, passed away today during a journey from Erbil to Dohuk.

Khinsi began experiencing chest pain during the trip and was rushed to a hospital where he suffered a heart attack and did not recover. 

A respected figure in the Kurdistan Region, Khinsi was known for his expertise in energy. Born in 1959 in the village of Khins, located in Sheikhan in Dohuk province, Khinsi earned his bachelor's and master's before completing a PhD in Geology and Minerals.

Over his long and prolific career, he worked as an advisor and expert in numerous energy institutions and authored 20 books on energy and mineral resources.
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Nechirvan Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Region, has yet to respond to a recent federal court ruling dissolving the Kurdistan Parliament. Barzani and his KDP have previously strongly criticized rulings from the same court, particularly those concerning the Kurdistan Region's oil and gas sector.

The court ruling mandates the Region's president to coordinate with the Iraqi electoral commission in order to hold parliamentary elections, as Erbil currently lacks a legislature and is under a caretaker government. The Kurdistan Region Presidency Law of 2005 requires the president to issue a decree for fresh elections within 15 days following the dissolution of parliament.

Prominent judge Latif Mustafa explains that the ruling also impacts Barzani's authority. According to Article 10, paragraph 5 of the Presidency Law, the president, in consultation with the speaker of parliament and the prime minister, can issue laws with legal authority if the Kurdistan Region and its political system are under threat and parliament is unable to convene. However, Mustafa explains that given the dissolution of parliament and the speaker's subsequent loss of authority, this provision no longer applies.


KRG Head of Department of Foreign Relations Safeen Dizayee reacts:

It is with profound sadness that we mourn the passing of Dr. Bewar Khinsi, Advisor to the Prime Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Affairs. My deepest condolences go out to his family and friends. I pray for his soul to find peace in Paradise and comfort for his grieving loved ones. Indeed, we belong to God, and to Him we shall return.

PUK stresses importance of democratic, fair Elections in its 48th anniversary message

On the 48th anniversary of its founding, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Politburo issued a statement underscoring the significance of "conducting democratic and fair elections" without commenting directly on the current tense political and legal situation in the Kurdish Region.

In the statement, the PUK Politburo retraced the party's struggles across nearly half a century, from resistance against the Baath party in Iraq to landmark events such as the Anfal campaign and chemical attacks on Kurds. They asserted that "the challenging task of serving the people in Iraq and Kurdistan can only be accomplished by the PUK," citing the party's crucial role in Iraq's political process, including the establishment of a new constitution and democratic Kurdistan.

The PUK proudly recalled that "late Jalal Talabani became the first elected Kurdish president in the history of Iraq".

The statement addressed the party's political activities in disputed areas, noting that "despite efforts to undermine consensus and power sharing, the PUK maintains a pivotal political and decision-making role in Baghdad". Additionally, the Politburo emphasized the PUK's involvement as a prerequisite for the success of the political process in Iraq and Kurdistan.

Marking its anniversary on June 1st, the PUK reaffirmed its commitment to continuing "the footsteps of Jalal Talabani's efforts and vision in unifying the Kurdish nation". They further stressed the importance of ensuring representation for all, including minorities, through democratic and fair elections.

The statement comes a day after the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court declared the extension of the Kurdistan Parliament's term "unconstitutional", rendering all laws enacted by the Parliament during the extension null and void.
Aziz Ahmed, deputy chief-of-staff to the KRG PM, has this to say on Khinsi's passing:
KRG Minister Provides update on regional railway project

The KRG has long promised to establish railway stations as a new mode of transport for the region, a pledge that has often been met with skepticism by its citizens. However, in a recent press conference, Dana Hama Salih, the minister of construction & housing, announced that a Spanish company is currently conducting a feasibility study for the project.

The KRG had awarded a six-month contract to this Spanish company two months ago to examine the viability of the railway project. Akrin Abdullah, the ministry's director general, revealed the preliminary phase of the project at that time.

This initial stage plans to lay a 600km railway track that will span between the Ibrahim Khalil and Parvez Khan border crossings, establishing a direct connection between Iran and Turkey.

Abdullah added that, "The railway will eventually link the cities of Kurdistan, Kirkuk, Mosul, and other cities in the subsequent stages," and mentioned that the feasibility study is projected to be completed within six months. He conceded that the progress of the project was slowed by the Coronavirus pandemic, but confirmed that a budget had been set aside for it in 2021.

"The study has been allocated a budget of $2.6 million, which has already been disbursed. Upon the signing of the agreement, the Spanish company will begin the work immediately," he stated.

In February 2021, the KRG Ministry of Construction had signed an agreement with Deutsche Bahn, Germany's national railway company, to collaborate on the construction of this railway network.

With Kurdistan's current fiscal woes, it's hard to image how it'll be able to finance a 600km railway spanning the entire region.

Prominent judge Latif Mustafa offers analysis of verdict on Kurdistan parliament

Judge Latif Mustafa offers an intriguing perspective on the Iraqi Federal Court's decision to dissolve the Kurdistan Region Parliament, insisting that the decision serves the public interest, rather than simply favoring the KDP, as commonly believed. Mustafa rejects the notion that the KDP stands to gain the most from the dissolution due to ensuing elections under the old law. Instead, he emphasizes the critical role of the Federal Electoral Commission, which will oversee the elections.

Mustafa acknowledges the public's doubt over the Region's willingness to comply with the court decision and warns that non-compliance could render any laws passed or amended by the parliament, including the electoral law, illegitimate.

He warns that the federal government may disregard the results of the next parliamentary elections if the caretaker KRG continues to operate without recognizing the court's ruling. He proposes that the Kurdistan Region President should work in conjunction with the Baghdad Commission to schedule new elections.
Here's one of the zanier interpretations of yesterday's federal court verdict. Hussein Moenis, a member of the Parliamentary Finance Committee, has stated, "Sending any financial allocations included in the budget to the regional government is illegal after the Federal Court’s decision." 
It's crucial to remember that the Parliamentary Finance Committee has earned quite a reputation for their brazen amendments to the federal budget bill that could change the constitutional relationship between the centre and the Kurdistan Region, effectively transforming it into a sort of shadow executive government within the legislature. When individuals with such power make bold statements like this, it's certainly cause for concern.

Adding to this discourse, the pro-Shia al-Ahad News website often features statements by lawmakers and officials asserting that the KRG is not fully transparent about its actual oil production rates and the revenues it receives from border crossings.

Consider Jamal al-Mohammadawi, an MP from the Shia-dominant National Approach bloc, as an example. He demands that the KRG should deliver to Baghdad 460,000 bpd of oil, any surplus quantities produced in Kurdistan, as well as all non-oil revenues. In his words, "In the event of failure by the [Kurdistan] Region to commit to this, no expenses should be given to the [Kurdistan] Region." 

Shanaz Ibrahim Ahmed criticizes Kurdish electoral integrity before Facebook page deactivation

Shanaz Ibrahim Ahmed, an outspoken leader of the PUK and First Lady of Iraq, recently sparked controversy with a post on her official Facebook page that scrutinized the democratic process and elections in the Kurdish Region. While her Facebook page was deactivated a few hours later, her pointed remarks are still available on the PUK's official website.

In her comments, Ahmed underscored the importance of democracy, humorously suggesting that the present state of Kurdish democracy would befuddle not only local experts but even those deeply versed in Greek history, the cradle of democracy.

Ahmed didn't limit her critique to the democratic process in the Kurdish Region. She questioned why "diplomatic representatives, politicians, and moderators who advocate for expedited elections" neglect to recognize the current "unjust and inappropriate circumstances." She also challenged why the so-called "fathers of democracy" fail to confront the "illegality of reactivating our outdated Electoral Commission."

Ahmed voiced her concern about the amendment of the elections law, which, according to her, "remains neglected in one of the drawers of our Parliament building." She questioned the adequacy of the current elections law and pointed out the disconnect between "our electoral registry and the current situation and population of our provinces." Ahmed also addressed the "unresolved issues faced by representatives of minority groups."

According to Ahmed, there's a stark "discrepancy of over 500,000 voters between the Iraqi and Kurdish electoral registries." She pointed out that "these discrepancies are predominantly in Erbil and Dohuk, with 60,000 voters missing from the Sulaymaniyah region." She suggested that "the registry has secured 16 seats in the Kurdistan Parliament for Erbil and Dohuk", a reference to the cities where the KDP has a majority.

Ahmed, who is renowned for her candid political views, suggested that many fail to live up to their proclaimed values. She posited that, given the current circumstances, the prospects of "holding free and fair elections seem unfeasible."

Despite the publication of the new 'law' in the Chronicle of Kurdistan, the PUK remains firm in its opposition to the 'reactivation' of Kurdistan's electoral commission. They persist in their skepticism, stating that it would be viewed as a farce even if it were to be published in the US's Federal Register.


Kani Kurday's family returns to PUK, now aligning with Bafel Talabani

In an unexpected twist, the family of the late Murad Kani Kurday has reunited with the PUK, meeting with PUK leader Bafel Talabani. This move comes after their defection from the PUK to join the KDP last year, marking the first anniversary of Murad's death.

According to PUK's official media, Talabani lauded the Kurday family for their substantial contributions to the Kurdish struggle during the meeting. He further promised to bring to justice those involved in the murder of Murad Kani Kurday.

Notably, the Kurday family had received similar assurances from KDP Politburo member Kamal Karkuki when they joined the KDP last year. Some reports also indicated that the KDP pledged to form a special brigade for the family. Despite this, one of Kani Kurday's brothers decided against joining the KDP and expressed criticism towards the family's decision.

The Kurday family's return to the PUK and their support for Bafel Talabani may signal the implementation of the recent agreement between KDP and PUK. Others suggest that the family may have lost faith in the KDP's ability to deliver on its promises. Speculation has also arisen that the KDP did not fulfil its commitment to establish a brigade for the Kurday family.

This reunion with the PUK occurs in the wake of the recent death of Firsat Malaki, the only witness to Kani Kurday's assassination. Malaki was attacked and killed en route from Ranya to Sulaymaniyah in the PUK region on the second of this month. The circumstances of Malaki's death remain a mystery, and investigations are ongoing.

Murad Kani Kurday's assassination in November 2021 was a pivotal moment in the power struggle between Bafel Talabani and Lahur Talabany. The struggle was triggered by the sudden ousting of Lahur from power in 2021, an event he described as a "coup."

Before his death, Kani Kurday, a respected commander and Lahur ally, had expressed his intention to assume leadership of the PUK.


SOMO reports approximate $30b revenue from Iraqi Oil in Q1

Amid ongoing political debates over the Iraqi budget, the State Organization for Marketing of Oil (SOMO) has disclosed statistics related to revenue from Iraqi oil exports for the first quarter of 2023. As per the data, the total oil revenue for the period was around $30 billion, with a steady monthly export of 98 million barrels.

SOMO further elaborated that the total volume of oil exported during the initial three months of 2023 reached 393,048,679 barrels. The average monthly export was reported as 98,262,000 barrels, translating to a daily average of 3,275,000 barrels.

In terms of revenue, Iraqi oil generated a total of $29,932,167,000 during the first quarter of this year, averaging a monthly revenue of $7,483,041,000.

According to the draft of the Iraqi budget, the Kurdistan Region is obliged to transfer 400,000 barrels of oil per day to Iraq.

Roughly two months ago, Turkey halted the northern export of 450,000 barrels of oil daily from Iraq via the Iraq-Turkey pipeline. This was a response to an arbitration decision by the International Chamber of Commerce, which mandated Turkey to pay Baghdad $1.5 billion in compensation for unauthorized exports by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) between 2014 and 2018.

The suspension of oil exports could potentially cost Iraq and the Kurdistan Region more than one and a half billion USD in losses within less than two months.

As reported by Reuters last week, Iraq’s Oil Minister Hayan Abdel-Ghani said that Turkey attributed the delay in resuming oil exports from the Kurdistan Region to 'technical faults and maintenance issues.' Allegedly, Ankara has informed Baghdad that it is evaluating potential pipeline damage from a severe earthquake in February.

However, this claim seems dubious as the earthquake occurred in February, but the shutdown did not happen until March 25. Moreover, it is improbable that technical issues would take this long to resolve, considering the large volumes of oil transported daily.

Shwan Muhammed highlights "adversarial" stance towards media in Kurdistan Region

Spee Media's editor-in-chief, Shwan Muhammed, who was recently detained briefly this week by PUK security forces in Sulaymaniyah, has characterized the authorities' attitude towards the media as "adversarial."

Muhammed made these comments during the presentation of a report on media freedom in the Kurdistan Region by the local non-profit Democracy and Human Right Development Centre (DHRD) on Tuesday.

The report documented 86 cases of violations against journalists in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah provinces from April 2022 to March 2023. The data was gathered as part of the Protection and Defense of Free Opinion Project, an initiative aimed at supporting journalists.

According to Muhammed, the report extends beyond the numbers - with over 400 journalists reportedly violated in the past year - to spotlight how the weakening of institutions in the Kurdistan Region, including rule of law, has resulted in a degradation of press freedom.

Among the reported violations, the organization managed to carry out in-person interviews with 29 cases. Additionally, during the same period, the project provided 18 legal advice services to journalists and media outlets and represented seven cases involving journalists in court. Of these, one case has been resolved, while the remaining six are still pending.

Muhammed further noted that political parties have become increasingly embedded in institutions. For example, in Erbil, under KDP rule, the once covert "deep government" is now openly in charge of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), according to Muhammed. He's seemingly referring to the KRG's Premier, Masrour Barzani, who was the region's intelligence chief before assuming the role of PM in 2019.

Muhammed also mentioned that in Sulaymaniyah, where the PUK commands the security forces, this "deep government" has not yet taken formal governmental roles. This implies that PUK leader Bafel Talabani is the one calling the shots, with PUK officials in the KRG merely following his directives.

Muhammed asserted that these two "deep government" entities are the primary offenders in the violations against journalists.

Iraq-Iran border security talks focus on key areas, amid opposition activities 
According to Saudi-backed Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, a source close to the PUK has said that discussions on border security between Iraq and Iran are mainly focusing on specific areas along their shared boundary. The anonymous source revealed these measures are designed to protect Iranian borders from opposition party activities and shield Iraqi regions, particularly Kurdish areas, from potential Iranian retaliation.

Despite the 1,200-kilometer border between the two nations, security efforts are concentrated in specific zones between Iran and the Sulaymaniyah and Erbil provinces of Iraq. The source noted that over six Kurdish opposition parties, which frequently instigate anti-government protests and activities within Iran, have their headquarters in these provinces.

According to the source, the governments in Erbil and Baghdad have faced challenges controlling these opposition groups, some of which have been operating in the rugged border regions for almost three decades. All parties involved seek to avoid escalating tensions with Tehran, which has repeatedly requested Kurdish authorities to manage the borders and expel Kurdish militants, particularly from areas such as the town of  Koya. 

The recent talks led by Iraq's National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji in Tehran are part of an ongoing initiative to address these issues and implement mutually agreed-upon measures to enhance border security.

This report arrives in the wake of a recent warning from Mohammad Pakpour, Commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps Ground Forces. Pakpour threatened additional attacks against Iranian-Kurdish opposition parties unless the Iraqi government takes action against what he labels as terrorists. He insisted that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps would continue its strikes if the Iraqi government fails to respond appropriately.

Just days before the recent border security discussions in Tehran, Iraq's National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji visited Sulaymaniyah, where he had talks with PUK leader Bafel Jalal Talabani. NRT Kurdish reports that these discussions covered the activities of Iranian-Kurdish opposition parties, especially the presence of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan camp in Zirgwez and the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan camp in Koya. 
Iraqi National Security Adviser Qasim al-Araji arrived in Iran on Monday at the head of a high-ranking security delegation to discuss tightening security measures on the border between the two countries. The visit comes at the directives of Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, said Araji's press office. Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Akbar Ahmadian met with Araji, calling for the quick activation of a recent security agreement between their countries, reported Iranian media.

Komal responds to court ruling: current approach to governance tarnishes Kurdistan's reputation

Following the recent ruling by the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court, responses continue to emerge. Today, the Kurdistan Justice Group (Komal) issued a statement criticizing the governance methods of the ruling parties in the Kurdish Region, claiming that their actions "damage our nation's reputation."

Here's the full text of the statement:

"In the name of God, the Most Gracious,

The Iraqi Federal Court's decision has exposed an unfortunate truth: the ruling parties' manner of governing our region is misguided. They make unilateral decisions without adhering to laws and procedures. The extension of terms for formal institutions in the region, particularly the Parliament, serves as a stark example of this approach.

We have consistently stood against these term extensions, prompting our withdrawal from such institutions. The President of Komal has repeatedly voiced concerns that this manner of governance poses internal threats and sullies our nation's reputation on an international level, making us a laughing stock in the eyes of other nations. Yet, instead of acknowledging these legitimate worries, the ruling parties persist in their flawed decision-making and continue with their authoritarian and mismanaged style of governance.

Mohammed Hakim,
Spokesperson for the Kurdistan Justice Group (Komal)"


PUK leader in federal parliament responds to Iraqi court verdict: We respect the ruling

Just one week ago, the the PUK and KDP were embroiled in a heated dispute in the Kurdistan Parliament over the KDP's attempts to reactivate the Kurdistan Electoral Commission.

Despite remaining quiet on the issue, the PUK appears to accept the ruling from the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court. In response to the decision, the leader of PUK's parliamentary team in Baghdad told Rudaw that the court's ruling "is authoritative over all powers of the Kurdistan Parliament, the ruling parties in the Kurdish Region, the KRG, and the Iraqi government."

"No one has the power to change the situation," affirmed Harem Kamal Agha, head of the PUK's faction in the Iraqi Parliament, while emphasizing the PUK's respect for the Court's decision.

When asked about the commission responsible for conducting elections in the Kurdish Region, Kamal Agha expressed confidence that Iraq's electoral commision (IHEC) will manage the process, citing the IHEC's proven readiness and intent to administer elections in the Kurdish Region.

However, controversy still surrounds the election process, and another point of contention between the KDP and PUK is the amendment to the Iraqi budget. Kamal Agha, as the PUK's leader in the Iraqi parliament, categorically denied any clandestine agreements, dismissing all related speculations as unfounded.

He directly addressed the KDP's concerns about clauses potentially threatening the constitutional status of the Kurdish Region, stating, "We did not vote for any clauses or amendments that threaten the entity of the Kurdish Region, and we will continue to abstain from doing so." Kamal Agha further stressed, "The Kurdish Region is a constitutional entity. We have made significant sacrifices to protect it, and we will never jeopardize it."

Yesterday, the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court declared the extension of the Kurdistan Parliament's term as "unconstitutional". The ruling also decreed that "all laws enacted by the Parliament during the extension are null and void".
Just two days following the arrival of Iraq's national security advisor in Tehran, today saw the visit of the Iraqi Interior Minister Abdul Amir al-Shammari to the Iranian capital.

As articulated in their official statement, the primary aim of today's security delegation to Tehran is to deliberate on "border control and security, curbing drug trafficking, and addressing administrative affairs impacting citizens of both nations."

The Iraqi delegation was greeted by Ahmad Vahidi, the Iranian Minister of Interior, along with Iran's high-ranking security and military officials.

On Monday, a delegation consisting of representatives from Iraq's security agencies, led by Iraqi National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji, touched down in Tehran for crucial talks aimed at bolstering the border between the two countries. The conversation centered on the execution of mutually agreed-upon strategies to ensure border security and addressing the issue of Iranian opposition groups in Iraq.

In the light of the recent mutual agreement between Iraq and Iran, Ahmadian underscored Iraq's necessity to remove 'counter-revolutionary' (Iranian opposition) groups from its soil and secure the shared borders, as reported by Iranian Farda news.

In reply, emphasizing the robust bond between Baghdad and Tehran, Araji stated during the meeting, "We consider the security of Iraq as intertwined with the security of Iran, and vice versa." Both parties also reconfirmed their prior agreements regarding security and the economy.

Significantly, Araji and Ali Shamkhani, the former Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, had previously signed a security agreement in Baghdad on March 19. This pact indicated their shared commitment to synchronizing efforts in preserving the mutual border with the objective of combating activities of Kurdish armed groups conducting operations from the Kurdistan Region against Iran.

Following the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court's verdict, a pressing question emerges: who will supervise the impending general elections in the Kurdish Region?

The most likely answer is Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC).

The Kurdistan Electoral Commission's term has lapsed, rendering it incapable of organizing elections in the Kurdish Region. During the prolonged term of the Kurdistan Parliament, KDP members endeavored to revive the Kurdistan Electoral Commission. However, the Federal Supreme Court's ruling firmly asserts that "any actions undertaken by the Parliament of the Kurdistan Region - Iraq beyond the legally determined period are constitutionally invalid." As a result, the Kurdistan Electoral Commission remains dormant.

Given these circumstances, the Iraqi Court assessed the issue, and the IHEC attended the court's hearing before the final meeting. The IHEC also submitted an formal letter affirming its readiness to conduct elections in the Kurdish Region. This letter confirms that the IHEC has the power to settle the ongoing disputes concerning elections in the Kurdish Region.

Yet, according to Jumana Ghalay, the spokesperson for the commission, the IHEC has not received any formal directive to prepare for the elections in the Kurdish Region, as Rudaw reports.

Another lingering question revolves around the law that will govern the elections. Barring any objections in Baghdad, the elections will proceed under the existing elections law, even though the PUK opposes this strategy. Rumours suggest that the PUK intends to contest the elections law in the Kurdish Region, as it deviates from the law in Baghdad. The PUK also expresses discontent with minority representation, given that the current 11 seats held by minorities in parliament, are believed to be KDP-affiliated.

The extent of the Iraqi Court's intervention in the institutions of the Kurdish Region and the process of modifying laws is a cause for concern. Such a scenario could potentially spark further disagreements and escalate political friction in the Kurdish region and Iraq in the forthcoming weeks.


Morning briefing

Greetings from London! Here are some unfolding stories that we are monitoring:

  • We're delving into the ramifications of the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court's verdict, aiming to comprehend the anticipated procedure for conducting elections in the Kurdish Region in light of this decision. Yesterday, the court ruled the extension of the Kurdistan parliament’s term as “unconstitutional”. This decision also established that “all laws passed by the parliament during this period are null and void”.
  • Kurdish political parties have been responding to the Iraqi Court's judgment on the unlawfulness of extending the Kurdistan Parliament's term. However, the PUK is yet to issue an official statement on this matter.
  • Alongside the legal complications in the Kurdish Region, the PUK and KDP are entangled in a dispute regarding alterations made to the Iraqi budget. As Iraqi political factions edge closer to a consensus with the KRG on this issue, we anticipate providing more detailed insight into their disagreements.
  • The Iraqi Defense Minister, Thabet Muhammad Al-Abasi, is currently in Kirkuk, assessing the city's security. This visit coincides with a comprehensive operation initiated a few days ago aimed at eradicating ISIS in Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu.