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Courtesy of PUK Media

Live: Kurdistan marks 48th anniversary of PUK founding amid political strife

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Iraqi PM statement on the anniversary of PUK

On the 48th Anniversary of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed S. Al-Sudani issued a statement lauding the PUK's commitment as "a national movement devoted to confronting dictatorship, advancing cultural, social, and political objectives, and championing democracy and justice for all Kurds and Iraqis."

The Iraqi Premier acknowledged the contributions of the late Jalal Talabani, former President of Iraq, describing him as a "unifying national figure" with pivotal roles "in the formation of a new Iraq, advocating justice and equality, and drafting the Constitution." He added, "We honor and pay homage to the martyrs of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Kurdish movement, and the Iraqi national movement."

Here is the text of the full statement

Today marks the forty-eighth anniversary of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan—a national movement committed to fighting dictatorship, pursuing cultural, social, and political goals, and striving for democracy and justice for all Kurds and Iraqis.
On this occasion, we remember the late Former President Mam Jalal Talabani, the founder of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and a unifying national figure. His honorable positions and efforts were instrumental in shaping a new Iraq, establishing justice and equality, and drafting the Constitution. These achievements consolidate the significant gains made through the sacrifices of Iraq’s dedicated sons.

Congratulations to all members and leaders of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan on this milestone anniversary. We commend those who have contributed to its noble cause, placing the people's interests at the forefront of their national endeavors. May the Union’s positive momentum continue to foster prosperity and civil peace.

We honor and pay tribute to the martyrs of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Kurdish movement, and the Iraqi national movement. Their sacrifices have secured a unified Iraq characterized by unity, brotherhood, and love.

Prime Minister
Mohammed S. Al-Sudani
June 1, 2023 
Second death tied to Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever reported in Kurdistan Region
As the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) continues its spread in Iraq, it has now made its way to the Kurdish Region, disclosed Health Minister Saman Barzinji. The Minister stated that the region has registered its second fatality linked to the fever, with the first case in the Soran area and the latest one within Erbil city; the latter victim was a butcher.

As of May 14, the Iraqi Health Ministry reported 13 deaths and 95 infections from CCHF. Still, Minister Barzinji highlighted that the actual figures are "significantly higher than what is being disclosed by the Iraqi government."

To safeguard the public, Barzinji is encouraging people to buy meat only from hygienic, approved stores. Similarly, Dlovan Mohammed, the Director of Erbil's Health Directorate, stressed the disease's rapid spread and the need for caution when purchasing meat.

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani has sanctioned an allocation of $1.3 million to counter the virus spread. To date, no known cure or vaccine exists for this disease, leading the Kurdish Ministry of Agriculture to enact several measures, including the quarantine of imported animals, to curtail the outbreak.

Between January 1 and May 22, 2022, Iraqi health authorities reported 212 cases of CCHF to the World Health Organization, comprising 115 suspected and 97 confirmed cases, as verified through laboratory testing. These cases resulted in 27 fatalities, with 14 deaths among suspected cases and 13 among confirmed cases. The number of cases reported in the first five months of 2022 far exceeds the total 33 laboratory-confirmed cases reported in 2021. This outbreak has been reported in various governorates across Iraq and adds extra strain to an already overwhelmed healthcare system.

Though animal-borne diseases are not new in Iraq, the country has seen a worrisome uptick in infections since last year.

Turkish army drones strike "YBS HQ" in Sinjar, two wounded

In a report from the KDP-affiliated Kurdistan 24, Turkish army drones were reported to have attacked the headquarters of the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), located in the largely Yezidi-populated region of Sinjar. Two militants were reported injured, according to the Kurdistan Counter Terrorism (CT), which also confirmed the attack.

The Kurdistan CT further detailed the attack, stating that it occurred today at 15:20 local time and the targeted location was indeed the YBS headquarters situated at the heart of Sinjar. The Turkish army drones were expressly identified as the culprits behind the airstrike by the Kurdistan CT.

In contrast, Roj News, which is affiliated with the PKK, presented an alternate account of today's attack in Sinjar. They claimed that the targeted location was a "house in Sinjar," conveniently leaving out the detail that it was the YBS headquarters. Additionally, Roj News alleged that the "Turkish government masterminded the attack with the objective of obstructing the Yezidis' return to their homes."
بەپێی زانیارییەکانی پەیامنێری ڕۆژنیوز لە شنگال، کەمێک لەمەوبەر فڕۆکەیەکی بێفڕۆکەوانی دەوڵەتی تورکی داگیرکەر، ماڵێکی لە ناوەندی شنگال بۆردوومان کرد، لە ئەنجامدا زەرەری ماددی زۆری لێکەوتووەتەوە، بەڵام هێشتا لەبارەی زەرەر و زیانەکانەوە زانیاریی ورد لەبە
کوردی - RojNews.News
The Iraqi Ministry of Oil has announced that the revenue from oil exports surpassed $7.306 billion in May. The official figures revealed that the country exported 102,463,387 barrels of oil during the same month, averaging 3,305,000 barrels per day at an average selling price of $71.30 per barrel.

This disclosure comes on the heels of the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) reporting statistics on oil revenue and exports for the first quarter of 2023. According to SOMO, the total oil revenue during this period was approximately $30 billion, supported by consistent monthly exports of around 98 million barrels. The total volume of oil exported during this quarter stood at 393,048,679 barrels, with an average monthly export of 98,262,000 barrels or a daily average of 3,275,000 barrels.

The revenue from these oil exports was $29,932,167,000 during the first quarter, resulting in a monthly average revenue of roughly $7,483,041,000. As stipulated in the draft Iraqi budget, the Kurdistan Region is required to transfer 400,000 barrels of oil per day to Iraq.

About two months ago, Turkey ceased the northern export of 450,000 barrels of daily Iraqi oil via the Iraq-Turkey pipeline. The suspension was in reaction to a ruling by the International Chamber of Commerce that ordered Turkey to pay Baghdad $1.5 billion in compensation for unauthorized exports conducted by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) between 2014 and 2018.

The cessation of oil exports could result in losses exceeding $1.5 billion for both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region within less than two months.

Last week, Iraq’s Oil Minister Hayan Abdul-Ghani informed Reuters that Turkey ascribed the delay in resuming oil exports from the Kurdistan Region to 'technical faults and maintenance issues.'

He further claimed that Turkey notified Baghdad of potential pipeline damage due to a significant earthquake in February. However, the credibility of this assertion is questionable, given the timeline discrepancy between the earthquake in February and the shutdown on March 25.

Moreover, it is unlikely that technical problems would persist for this long, considering the substantial daily oil transport volume at stake.
KRG publishes a new investment guide: Invest in Kurdistan

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) recently unveiled a comprehensive investment guide titled "Invest in Kurdistan."

This English-language booklet serves as a resource for foreign investors seeking business opportunities within the Kurdistan Region. The guide, aimed at stimulating further growth and development in the investment sector, underscores the region's key investment sectors.

KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani pens an introductory message in the 64-page booklet, extending a warm invitation to investors to consider the Kurdistan Region as a promising destination for investment. He reassures potential investors of the government's steadfast support and commitment to ensuring the success of their ventures.

The guide is divided into eight sections. It begins with an overview of the Kurdistan Region, followed by reasons for choosing the region as an investment destination. The booklet cites the region's economy as experiencing significant growth over the past two decades. Since 2006, it has attracted sizeable investment from both local and foreign investors, with "total invested capital exceeding $66 billion."

The later sections concentrate on various sectors such as agrifood, industry, tourism, infrastructure, and services. Each segment includes a brief introduction, information on opportunities, and key data and figures. In addition, each section lists reasons for investing in each sector and features notable companies operating within those sectors. The guide also outlines opportunities available in each sector.

Currently, the Kurdish region hosts 32,252 registered companies, including 3,200 foreign companies.

However, opposition parties in the Kurdish Region have historically contested some of the data and figures published by the KRG ministries. They argue these figures fail to accurately depict the region's economic challenges.

Additionally, they question the legitimacy of investments in the Kurdish Region, maintaining that the primary income sources are oil revenues and budget shares received from Baghdad.

These parties also express concerns about the potential for the younger generation to find employment in the private sector, as well as the future of the private sector itself, given its predominant monopolization by the ruling parties, the KDP and PUK.

In any case, more investment can't be a bad thing. You can read the (rather well-put together) booklet right here on the blog:

Sharq al-Awsat highlights escalation in PUK-KDP tensions after Federal Court decision

Saudi-backed newspaper Sharq al-Awsat has analysis on the growing tensions between the PUK and KDP following the Iraqi Federal Court's decision.

This development comes amid disputes over the KRG's share in the proposed Iraqi budget law. The court's decision came after the Kurdistan Parliament extended its term in October 2022 and delayed the general elections for a year.

The report underlined the fact that while the KDP protested alterations made by the Finance Committee in the Federal Parliament concerning specific budget clauses contradicting Erbil's interests, the PUK's Finance Committee bloc approved these changes, indicating the depth of the crisis between the two parties.

The crisis isn't limited to the PUK and KDP feud. The New Generation Movement (NGM), headed by Shaswar Abdulwahid, filed a lawsuit against the parliamentary term extension. Srwa Abdulwahid, an NGM member in the Iraqi Parliament, labeled the court's ruling as "historic."

Former Iraqi Parliament member and PUK leader, Ala Talabani, also endorsed the Federal Court's decision, terming it "historic." 

The KDP, directly affected by the decision, hasn't released an official statement about their stance on the decision but reiterated their commitment to regional elections.

Senior PUK official Ahmed Harki suggested to the newspaper that Kurdish political forces require substantial political dialogue to form a new elections commission in the region and to revise the election law. He insisted on political dialogue and legal interpretations playing a part in this process, and urged the KDP to reconsider its policies and the election law.

The Iraqi Federal Supreme Court declared the extension of the Kurdistan Parliament's term as "unconstitutional" two days ago, stating that "all laws enacted by the Parliament during the extension are null and void."

IMF Indicates Iraq’s economic growth hampered by FX Market volatility and reduced oil output

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has expressed concerns over the slowdown in Iraq’s economic growth due to volatility in foreign exchange markets and a decrease in oil production. A team from the IMF visited Amman, Jordan, from May 24-31 to converse with the Iraqi authorities about recent economic trends, future outlook, and upcoming policy strategies.

Tokhir Mirzoev, the IMF team leader, issued a statement following the visit. He outlined the reasons behind Iraq's slowed economic growth, citing lower oil production due to the OPEC+ production cut, the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline outage, and the impact of the Central Bank of Iraq's tighter anti-money laundering/combating terrorism financing controls on foreign exchange sales, which have adversely influenced the import-dependent non-oil sectors.

The IMF predicts a 5% decrease in Iraq's oil exports in 2023. From March 25, Turkey halted oil exports from the Kurdistan Region following the ICC International Court of Arbitration's ruling in Paris, favoring Iraq. Turkey, which previously facilitated KRG’s independent oil exports without Iraq’s consent, was directed to pay $1.5 billion for violating a 1973 pipeline transit agreement. This halt has resulted in a crisis for the KRG and reduced oil revenue for Iraq.

Concerns over short-term inflation

According to the IMF, the Iraqi authorities' fiscal strategies could trigger inflation and foreign exchange market instability in the short term. The organization further warns of macroeconomic stability risks due to current policies, considering the uncertainty surrounding future oil prices. Absent a significant surge in oil prices, the existing fiscal stance may lead to growing deficits and mounting financial pressures in the years ahead.

The IMF suggests that the proposed 2023 budget law could significantly impact Iraq's economy. The law proposes increased government spending, a 'fiscal loosening' approach, which could lead to a greater deficit once oil revenues are factored out, potentially reaching up to 75% of Iraq's non-oil GDP.

This strategy could push the overall budget balance into a 6.5% GDP deficit, accounting for all of Iraq's national income, including oil revenues, and government expenditures. The combined effects of increased government spending, fluctuations in Iraq's currency value, and reduced oil production could push the fiscal break-even oil price to $96 per barrel. This is the price per barrel Iraq would need to balance its budget. If the real-world price is lower, Iraq runs a deficit; if higher, a surplus.

Recommendations by the IMF

The IMF underscores the importance of fiscal discipline and comprehensive structural reforms to minimize Iraq’s vulnerabilities, bolster resilience, and foster durable, inclusive growth.

Among the suggested strategies are a significantly tighter fiscal policy to lessen the government’s reliance on oil revenues while protecting essential social spending, expanding government revenue sources, reducing the government's large salary expenses, and reforming the pension system for financial sustainability and wider coverage.

The IMF agrees with the government's intent to boost support for social programs, but recommends targeted assistance to the most vulnerable.

The effective management of public funds remains crucial, the IMF states, expressing concern over the proposed creation of new funds outside the main government budget, which could raise governance and effectiveness issues.

The IMF also advocates for the enactment of a comprehensive framework to manage government guarantees, which includes Parliamentary approval and an annual limit on government guarantees as part of the budget law.

Furthermore, the IMF sees the urgent need to establish a Treasury Single Account, a step that would significantly enhance public financial management.

Lastly, the IMF commends the progress made by the Iraqi Central Bank in improving its cash flow management and its Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism frameworks, emphasizing the importance of synchronizing fiscal and monetary policies for effective economic management. The IMF pledges support to Iraqi authorities in their reform initiatives.

KDP Minister promises resolution to budget disputes in Iraq

Recent developments around the KRG share of the Iraqi budget have raised concerns. However, Fuad Hussein, Iraq's Foreign Minister from the KDP, has assured that this issue will be "resolved, take my word."

In a noteworthy move, Fuad Hussein, a KDP leader, met with Jasim Mohammed Aboud Hamadi, president of the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court, just two days after the Court ruled the extension of the Kurdistan Parliament's term as illegal.

Hussein revealed that he intended to meet the Court's President prior to the ruling and that his visit was in his capacity as Foreign Minister to discuss "the federal court's relations with foreign courts and the situation in Iraq." In an interview with Rudaw, he mentioned that the upcoming elections were also a topic of discussion.

Reports suggest that the PUK's leader in the Iraqi Parliament lodged a lawsuit against the current Kurdistan election law, specifically targeting the "quota for minorities," as the PUK believes that the KDP is exploiting these seats. Hence, it's highly likely that Hussein took this opportunity to present the KDP's viewpoint on this issue to the Federal Court.

When asked about the Iraqi Commission's supervision of the anticipated Kurdish Region's elections, Hussein affirmed that "the decision is made by the Federal Court, and it is clear."

The PUK and KDP continue to dispute over the KRG's share of the Iraqi Budget bill in Baghdad. The PUK, which supports a clause in the Iraqi budget that would allow Kurdish Region provinces to receive their share of the budget directly in case of a dispute with the KRG, stands opposed to the KDP. The latter believes that such a clause would undermine the sovereignty of the Kurdish Region and its government.

Despite the KDP officially expressing readiness for elections following the Federal Court's decision, the PUK has not issued a corresponding statement. Recently, KDP and PUK politburos, led by Masoud Barzani and Bafel Talabani respectively, convened meetings but did not release any specific statement regarding the Court's verdict or the KRG's share of the Iraqi budget."

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani set to attend Recep Tayyip Erdogan's swearing-in ceremony

President Barzani extended his third congratulatory message to Erdogan since May 14 on his re-election during a phone call on Wednesday. He wished him success and expressed the Kurdistan Region’s keenness to cultivate its relationship with Turkey across various fields, as stated in a release from Barzani's office.

The release also mentioned Erdogan's invitation to Barzani to attend his swearing-in ceremony in Ankara.
The Turkish presidency confirmed the phone call via a brief Twitter statement but did not mention the invitation.

In recent times, Barzani has successfully upheld a fruitful partnership with Erdogan. The dependence of the KRG on Ankara economically and politically has steadily grown, thereby rendering the region more vulnerable to Erdogan's intensifying autocratic sway.
Nechirvan Barzani and Masrour Barzani, both vice presidents of the KDP, celebrated the PUK's anniversary in unique ways. Nechirvan, who serves as the President of the Kurdish Region, and Masrour, the Prime Minister, each extended their congratulations to the PUK, but their approaches varied significantly. Nechirvan personally called Bafel Talabani, the PUK President, while Masrour chose to post a statement on Facebook and Twitter.

Known for his closer ties with the PUK, Nechirvan extended his congratulations to Bafel Talabani, voicing his hope that the occasion might prompt "national unity and reconciliation, particularly between the KDP and PUK."

Despite the recent tensions between the KDP and PUK, Nechirvan has managed to maintain his relationship with PUK leaders, notably Bafel Talabani and Qubad Talabani, who served as Nechirvan's deputy in the 8th KRG cabinet.

Conversely, Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, used social media to express his congratulations to the "PUK leadership, members, and followers." He encouraged "all political parties to work together and shoulder the historic responsibility of serving the national interest."

Interestingly, Masrour's statement congratulating the "PUK leadership" instead of directly acknowledging Bafel Talabani's presidency, might be seen as a nod to Lahur Talabany the ousted former co-chair of the PUK who was removed by Bafel in a internal putsche two years ago. Lahur returned to the political fold this year, claiming to have 'resumed' his duties as co-chair fo the party. 

In recent months, Masrour has been reportedly aligning more closely with Lahur, conspicuously avoiding the recognition of Bafel's presidency, a move his supporters still dispute, claiming Lahur remains the legitimate co-chair of the PUK. Media reports have even suggested discreet meetings between Masrour and Lahur, indicating a continued relationship.

Masrour's posts on social media may suggest he remains at odds with PUK's Deputy PM Qubad and his brother, Bafel Talabani. Despite a meeting on May 8th, which followed a seven-month boycott of KRG cabinet meetings by Qubad and his ministerial team, the relationship seems to remain tense. 

Multiple factors underlie the tensions between Masrour and Qubad. Masrour views the current PUK leadership, particularly the Talabani brothers, as obstacles to effective governance in Sulaymaniyah and a hindrance to the flow of government revenues back to the KRG's Ministry of Finance.

Conversely, the PUK accuses Masrour of not equitably sharing the KRG's budget and salary allocation in Sulaymaniyah. Recent changes in the Iraqi budget have further fuelled the discord. Masrour alleges that the PUK introduced a clause in the Iraqi budget that permits separate allocation in case of disputes with the KRG. However, the PUK contends that this clause safeguards the KRG's sovereignty and could similarly apply to KDP-controlled provinces of Dohuk and Erbil.

The personal attributes of both leaders, with military and intelligence backgrounds, could also contribute to their strained relationship. However, Nechirvan Barzani, known for his diplomatic approach, maintains amicable relations with various political parties.

Founded in Damascus, Syria, by the late Jalal Talabani, the PUK remains a significant political force in the Kurdish region, exerting control over the provinces of Sulaymaniyah and Halabja. Jalal Talabani, affectionately known as Mam Jalal, passed away in 2017 following a stroke. His enduring legacy continues to impact the PUK and the broader Kurdish political landscape.
Bafel Talabani calls for 'cooperation and solidarity'

In commemoration of the 48th anniversary of the PUK establishment, party leader Bafel Jalal Talabani stressed the importance of dialogue and cooperation in his statement. He underscored, "We envision dialogue and compromise as the cornerstones of problem-solving. By working collaboratively, we can pivot Kurdistan away from self-imposition and towards a brighter future."

Bafel Talabani did not directly comment on the prevailing tensions in Iraq and Kurdistan, especially the recent verdict from the Iraqi Court and the debates concerning the allocation of the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) budget within the Iraqi parliament. Instead, he emphasized the vital role of cooperation and unity, stating that "only through solidarity and cooperation can we guarantee the strength and survival of the region."

Bafel is the son of PUK founder Jalal Talabani.

Here's the full text of the statement:

I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the beloved Kurdish people, the proud relatives of the martyrs, on the 48th anniversary of the founding of the PUK and the 47th anniversary of the beginning of the new revolution of our people.

To President Mam Jalal, our leader, the PUK's founding members, and the revolution's driving forces, I offer my sincere greetings. You fought hard, and we owe you for your glorious past.

Today is the day when we should reaffirm our allegiance to the sacrifices made by the martyrs and the PUK's unalterable values, which include consolidating (peace, democracy, human rights, and self-determination).

We face significant obstacles as Kurdistan navigates a delicate time. Only cooperation and solidarity can ensure the region's strength and survival. Let the welfare and life of our people be our top priorities.

We want the foundation for problem-solving to be dialogue and compromise and by working together, we can steer Kurdistan away from self-imposition and toward a brighter future.

In order to better serve the Kurdish people, the PUK has always taken the initiative to coordinate efforts, fortify democratic and governmental institutions, and widen the sphere of freedom. We sincerely believe in collaborating to solve problems and advance the political process. We must put the disagreements behind us, work together to build a more secure future and uphold the standard of living we promised to our people.

The PUK has always promoted solidarity and cooperation because we think that our strength depends on our ability to work together. We have made every effort to uphold our legal rights and serve as the genuine Kurdistan Region delegates in Baghdad for this reason. We have attempted to overcome challenges and will continue to do so with our partners in Iraq.

On the basis of sincere cooperation and expanding harmony, we aspire to secure a better future for the people and the nation.

We pledge to the valued Kurdistani people, the proud families of the martyrs, and all devoted PUK members that we will not allow the PUK to stray from its sacred route and that we will guard the future of your struggling party with our spirit. The PUK has been and will remain your permanent home.

May President Mam Jalal's spirit, as well as the souls of all other Kurdistan freedom struggle martyrs, rest in peace.

Bafel Jalal Talabani
President of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan

Morning briefing

Greetings from London, and a hearty afternoon to those tuning in from the Kurdistan Region. Here are today's top stories:

  • We're keeping a keen eye on the repercussions of the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court's recent verdict, seeking clarity on its effects on the roles of the Kurdish Prime Minister and the President of the Kurdistan Region. Additionally, we're tracking the forthcoming general elections in the Kurdish Region, with a particular focus on preparations and anticipated schedule.
  • Today marks the 48th anniversary of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Amid a tense political climate in both the Kurdish Region and Iraq, we'll be reporting on the statements made in recognition of this event.
  • As per the official figures released by the KRG's Minister of Health, two individuals have succumbed to Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever in the Kurdistan Region. Prior to this, the KRG Prime Minister approved the assignment of over $1.3 million (two billion IQD) for tackling the Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic fever.
  • Recent weeks have seen Iranian authorities intensifying their threats against Iranian-Kurdish opposition groups. They've been exerting further pressure on the Iraqi and KRG governments to shut down Iranian-Kurdish opposition bases within the region. As reported by the Hangaw Organization for Human Rights, Iranian forces persist in transporting heavy weapons, ammunition, and artillery to Kurdistan's borders.