Hengaw, a Norway-based Kurdish NGO focusing on human rights in Kurdish-majority areas in Iran, reports that Iran continues to transport heavy weaponry to its border with Kurdistan.
On Saturday and Sunday, Hengaw released videos depicting what appears to be an Iranian military build-up near the border with the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.
Videos of this heavy weaponry being transported to the Iranian borders with Kurdistan began circulating on May 30th. This was a day after the Iraqi National Security Advisor led a high-ranking delegation that included officials from both the KDP and the PUK to Iran.
Hengaw asserts that the accumulation by the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) encompassed heavy weaponry, artillery, and ammunition. It reports that deployments were visible in multiple locations, with trucks traversing through several Iranian Kurdish cities such as Eslamabadi Gharb, Kamyaran, Boukan, and Oshnavieh.
As of the time of writing, there was no official confirmation from Iran. However, the exiled Kurdish opposition responded swiftly. On June 3rd, the Cooperation Centre of Iranian Kurdistan's Political Parties released a statement urging the global community not to remain silent. The group interpreted the recent transfers of weapons by the IRGC as a precursor to new missile and drone attacks on their positions.
Unofficial reports hint at a deadline set by Iranian authorities for KRG to disarm Iranian Kurdish opposition groups. The looming threat of renewed attacks against these groups in northern Iraq underpins these activities if the authorities' actions fall short of Iran's expectations.
During National Security Advisor al-Araji’s visit to Iran—accompanied by high-ranking KDP and PUK officials including KRG Interior Minister Reber Ahmed—Iran allegedly issued an ultimatum to the Kurdish parties. Iran's ultimatum reportedly instructed these parties either to confiscate the weapons of Iranian Kurdish rebels and relocate them to UN-administered refugee camps, or to expel them altogether.
Unverified reports of Iran escalating its troop presence along the Kurdistan border have emerged alongside speculation that recent meetings between Iranian and Iraqi officials could signal the start of a crackdown on Iranian opposition bases in the region.
The joint security agreement, signed in March, focuses on bolstering border protection and cooperation in diverse security fields, extending to Iraq's commitment to prevent armed groups from launching attacks against Iran from its Kurdish region. The Iranian government has been exerting pressure on the Kurdistan Region following last year's demonstrations in Iran and Kurdish cities, accusing the KRG of aiding Iranian-Kurdish opposition parties in smuggling weapons into Iran - a claim that the KRG has denied.
4. June 2023 19:24
According to a statement from the Electricity Ministry in the Kurdistan Region, electricity production has been reduced by 1000 MWs, amounting to approximately 25% of the region's total production. This significant reduction is attributed to the prolonged operations of Dana Gas in Khor Mor.
The Kurdistan region, already grappling with chronic electricity shortages, especially during the extreme summer and winter months, could see considerable impacts on both households and businesses due to this reduction, depending on its duration.
The region relies on gas from Khor Mor for generating between 50% and 70% of its electricity. Hence, any disruption in the gas supplies from the Khor Mor fields significantly affects the availability of electricity in the region.
Reports are emerging about escalating tensions between Kurdish farmers and Iraqi security forces in Kirkuk. Local Kurdish media outlets have revealed that the Iraqi Army has arrested several Kurdish farmers in the Shinaga village, situated in the Sargaran subdistrict of Kirkuk province.
The representative of the farmers in the Sargaran area, Mohammed Amin, disclosed to the Esta website that nine farmers were arrested. He explained that the farmers were merely conducting their routine agricultural activities when they were apprehended by security forces. According to Amin, the farmers were targeted because they are not allowed to engage in any farming activities beyond the harvest season.
4. June 2023 19:00
In recent years, the relationship between the KDP and PUK has been under enormous strain. Despite reaching an agreement that promised a peaceful resolution to longstanding issues, recent events suggest the tension might be reaching a boiling point. Our latest analysis, "Unraveling Relations: KDP-PUK Agreement on the Brink," delves into the deep-seated disputes between these two parties. From financial disputes to disagreements over election laws and power imbalances, we provide an overview of the factors driving the current instability and potential future implications for the region.
Over the past two years, the relationship between historic rivals and government partners, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has been notably strained. Six primary factors contribute to this tension: financial disputes, disagreements regarding key government appointments, differences in alliances and attitudes towards Baghdad, the scheduling and execution of regional elections, PUK’s disapproval of KDP’s support for ousted PUK co-leader Lahur Sheikh Jengi Talabany, and finally, “security disputes,” particularly with reference to the assassination […]
4. June 2023 18:13
PUK official media silent following death sentences
Several hours have elapsed since an Erbil court reportedly issued a series of death sentences for several PUK officials, yet there has been no formal or media response from PUK about the recent court ruling.
The court sentenced Wahab Halabjayee, the head of the PUK's Counterterrorism Group (CTG), along with two other high-ranking CTG officials and three PUK officers, to death in absentia. This verdict is linked to the 2022 killing of CTG official Hawkar Jaff in Erbil, as alleged by Jaff's family in a press conference held this afternoon.
The other PUK officials convicted alongside Halabjayee are
Karzan Mohammed Rashid (Head of Intelligence of PUK's CTG)
Louay Mohammed Raza (Commander of CTG's regiment in Garmyan)
Wrya Khalid Ali (Officer)
Lashkir Mohammed Hassan (Officer)
Assi Rashid Hussein (Officer)
The ruling is likely to be vehemently dismissed by the PUK as politically motivated by the KDP. The PUK has long criticized the courts in the KDP-controlled provinces of Erbil and Duhok for their alleged lack of judicial independence and political affiliations.
The PUK operates a number of official media outlets, including the PUK Media website, Kurdistani Nwe newspaper, and the Kurdsat TV and Gali Kurdistan TV satellites. Additionally, there are several semi-official websites, such as Esta, known to align with PUK leader Bafel Jalal Talabani.
There are also various social media platforms and media outlets that maintain close ties to the PUK. Although most PUK media outlets have stayed silent, some PUK-affiliated Facebook and Twitter accounts have hinted at forthcoming responses. One such response stated, "General Wahab Halabjayee, no political court can diminish your dignity and greatness."
Hawkar Jaff, a colonel in the CTG closely associated with PUK's ousted co-president Lahur Sheikh Jangi Talabany, was removed from the CTG during a purge led by PUK leader Bafel Talabani in 2021. On October 7, 2022, Jaff was assassinated when a sticky bomb attached to his car detonated as he was leaving his home in Erbil. The KDP-controlled Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) implicated the PUK's CTG and its head, Wahab Halabjayee, in the assassination.
4. June 2023 17:57
Snap Analysis: Online business registeration not enough
While the today's implementation of the online business registration process by the KRG is a step in the right direction, much more is required to cultivate a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Kurdistan Region.
The first major issue that needs to be addressed is the perception of public sector employment being more secure and prestigious. This mindset is widely prevalent among the youth, creating a barrier to fostering an entrepreneurial culture. To shift this perception, it's essential to promote the value and potential of entrepreneurship through education and awareness campaigns, showcasing successful local businesses as role models.
Access to financial support is another major challenge for entrepreneurs in the Kurdistan Region. Current dependence on family and friends for financial backing and the lack of favorable loan conditions from banks stifles innovation. The KRG could consider promoting initiatives that encourage local banks to offer more startup-friendly loan terms. Furthermore, introducing or expanding government-backed loan and grant programs could stimulate entrepreneurship.
Institutional corruption and bureaucratic red tape are also significant concerns that dampen investor confidence. The KRG must undertake a series of reforms aimed at reducing corruption, promoting transparency, and streamlining business-related administrative processes. The new digital business registration system is a promising start, but further digitization and simplification of business processes are needed.
Finally, there's a need to diversify the type of investment projects within the region. While commercial projects like shopping malls and hotels play a vital role in economic development, they offer limited job opportunities for the wider population. Policies to encourage investment in a broader range of sectors, especially those that can leverage the skills and talents of the local population, can lead to more sustainable economic growth and job creation.
In conclusion, while the KRG's online business registration is a positive stride, a multi-pronged approach addressing perception, financial support, administrative reforms, and diversified investments will be crucial for businesses to thrive in the Kurdistan Region.
4. June 2023 17:39
The Department of Information Technology in the KRG reports that the new digital business registration system reduces costs by 80%, and allows businesses to complete their registration in just 24 hours.
The KRG launches an online portal designed to streamline the process of business registration, thereby reducing costs, and simplifying procedures for entrepreneurs in the region.
The system promises to allow business owners to submit their applications online and receive a Unique Entity Number that provides access to various government services.
The KRG website said this effort is a collaboration between several governmental entities and seeks to replace the previous, more cumbersome registration process, ultimately removing barriers to economic development and business growth.
Here is the KRG statement in full:
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has launched an online portal to streamline and expedite the registration process for businesses. This initiative aims to reduce costs and simplify procedures, making it easier for entrepreneurs to establish their companies in the region.
With the new online system (business.digital.gov.krd), business owners can conveniently submit their applications from anywhere and at any time. Upon registration, they will receive a (Unique Entity Number) that grants access to various governmental services.
The platform is a collaborative effort between the Kurdistan Parliament, the offices of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, the Department of Information Technology, and the General Directorate of Company Registration at the Ministry of Trade and Industry. It replaces the previous time-consuming and expensive process that required entrepreneurs to make multiple visits to the General Directorate of Company Registration. This new system eliminates these frustrations and removes obstacles to economic development, business growth, and entrepreneurial initiatives.
The benefits of this portal are numerous. The registration process is now both time and cost-efficient. Additionally, the platform reduces registration costs by 80% and offers assistance in registering company names and protecting trademarks.
The new system adheres to international standards by providing a comprehensive list of business activities categorized according to industry standards. This transparency helps entrepreneurs make informed decisions about business opportunities and obtain the necessary information.
This modern system represents a significant milestone in business registration within the Kurdistan Region. It will play a crucial role in the development and advancement of the economic sector, ultimately leading to increased employment opportunities.
The Kurdistan Regional Government is committed to public service through digitalisation, aiming to facilitate development and good governance.
Department of Media and Information
4. June 2023 17:09
Cost of Kurdistan Region oil suspension nears $2 billion
The ongoing suspension of oil exports from the Kurdistan Region via Turkey has led to an estimated loss of around $2 billion. With the interruption now extending beyond 71 days, there is no clear sign of when the exports will recommence. This prolonged cessation has dealt a financial blow to both the KRG and the Iraqi government, totalling approximately $2 billion.
Turkey’s decision to halt the export of the region’s oil on March 25 came following an arbitration ruling. The International Chamber of Commerce in Paris ruled in favor of the Iraqi government against Turkey and ordered Ankara to pay $1.5 billion after the Turkish government exported the region’s oil from 2014-2018 without Baghdad’s consent.
March saw a 6-day halt in KRG's oil exports. The Iraqi budget proposal stipulated that the KRG was obligated to yield 400,000 barrels of oil each day, priced at $79 per barrel during that month. The cost for this 6-day period accumulated to $189.6 million.
April brought an extended suspension of KRG's oil exports via Turkey, while the international market valued Iraqi oil at $74 per barrel. This situation resulted in a daily loss of $29.6 million, leading to an overall loss of $880 million for the month.
In May, the suspension persisted for the entire month, with the cost per barrel settling at $71.30. Consequently, the loss for that month tallied up to approximately $884.12 million.
The price of oil per barrel proposed in the Iraqi budget bill is set at $70. Iraq aims to export 3.5 million barrels daily, with the KRG anticipated to contribute 400,000 barrels per day to this overall figure.
After a considerable period of silence, the Iraqi Oil Minister has confirmed ongoing negotiations with Turkey to restart oil exports via Ceyhan. In a Rudaw interview, the minister stated, "We are in dialogue with the Turkish side about restarting the pumping and we're expecting a Turkish delegate soon to help resolve this issue." The political environment surrounding the Turkish election was widely considered the primary hurdle to restarting oil exports.
Despite expectations that oil exports from the Kurdistan Region would resume earlier this month, following the April 4 Erbil-Baghdad deal to reopen the Ceyhan port in Turkey, there have been minimal indications of the pipelines being activated, almost a month after the agreement.
4. June 2023 16:58
Srwa Abdulwahid, the leader of the New Generation Movement's (NGM) caucus in the Iraqi Parliament, announced via Twitter that two new lawsuits have been filed against the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq's Federal Supreme Court (FSC). This follows closely on the heels of a major legal victory that resulted in the dissolution of the Kurdistan Region's parliament.
The first lawsuit pertains to the "compulsory saving" program initiated during the financial crisis that began in 2014. Under this scheme, a specific percentage of government employees' salaries was deducted.
The second lawsuit relates to the provincial councils in the region. Given that the last provincial council elections in Kurdistan took place approximately ten years ago in 2014, the plaintiffs argue that these councils have been operating without a legal mandate for the past six years.
Kurdish and Turkmen farmers in Yaychi, Topzawa, and several other villages in rural Kirkuk are protesting for the seventh consecutive day against what they perceive as an attempt to seize their lands.
On 29 May, an Iraqi army regiment informed residents of Topzawa that they would have to halt their ongoing harvest. Local sources indicate that the army confiscated both their equipment and harvest. According to Kurdish media, this action followed a complaint lodged in court by Arab farmers who resided in Topzawa during Saddam's reign.
This triggered widespread protests among the farmers, with some accusing the Iraqi authorities of reverting to a "Saddam-like mentality." Others voiced concerns about the significant financial impact they would face if prevented from harvesting their fields over an extended period.
However, the order was reversed just two days later on 31 May, following the Iraqi Defense Minister's visit to Kirkuk. Farmers were permitted to resume their harvesting, seemingly putting an end to the controversy. But this resolution was short-lived. Three days later, on 3 June, the Iraqi military intervened once again, this time notifying villagers that some of the farms they were utilizing were legally military property, and they needed to vacate. This has sparked a new wave of protests in the province, which are still ongoing.
Land ownership in Kirkuk has long been a contentious issue due to Saddam's Arabization campaign that resulted in Kurds and other minorities being displaced and replaced by Arabs. This, followed by years of instability post-2003, and several shifts in control over Kirkuk between Kurdish and Federal authorities since 2014, have contributed to a complex situation where multiple parties claim ownership over the same land with different deeds from different periods.
The lack of a solution is exacerbated by ethnic tensions, a divided Iraqi society, and ongoing disputes between Kurdistan and Baghdad. As such, it's expected that tensions will flare up periodically over land disputes in Kirkuk.
4. June 2023 16:41
According to an official statement from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), PUK’s Counterterrorism Group (CTG) participated in four operations in Syria alongside the SDF in May. Previously rare, PUK’s CTG has been increasingly cooperating with the SDF in operations on Syrian soil in the last few months.
Largely seen as a show of force by the PUK, public displays by the CTG have increased in the last few months, precipitated by deteriorating relations with the KDP when the latter accused the CTG of assassinating PUK CTG official Hawkar Jaff. PUK’s close relationship with the SDF, which Ankara sees as an extension of the PKK, has caused anxiety in Turkey, and these joint operations are thought to be one of the reasons driving Turkey’s decision to close its airspace to the Sulaymaniyah International Airport.
It is unclear if this is part of a sustained PUK policy to shift its local and regional alliances or if it is merely a tactic to pressure the KDP and Turkey. Though, the former seems to be increasingly likely.
The Turkish occupying State and its affiliated mercenaries have committed numerous violations against the occupied areas and the safe areas of NE Syria. These violations include killings, kidnappings for ransom, theft of civilians' money and property
4. June 2023 16:33
4. June 2023 14:43
The recent visit of Syria's Foreign Minister, Faisal Mekdad, to Iraq, a long-standing ally, comes at a defining moment in Syria's geopolitical landscape. Emerging from the shadows of years of diplomatic seclusion, Syria is navigating a phase of gradual integration back into the regional scenario. Mekdad's trip to Baghdad, and his impending dialogues with Iraq's leadership, potentially signals a critical turning point, the AFP reports.
Mekdad's journey to Iraq comes on the heels of the Arab League's decision to lift Syria's suspension from its membership. This move welcomed President Bashar al-Assad's regime back into the regional fold, a significant step considering the ruinous civil war that has ravaged Syria.
It's worth noting that Iraq stood by Syria during the comprehensive Arab boycott, maintaining a close alliance and cooperative stance throughout Syria's civil war. This included mutual efforts in the struggle against the Islamic State group. This consistent partnership, undeterred by the wider Arab League's stance, underscores the depth of the Syria-Iraq relationship and underlines Iraq's potential role in Syria's gradual reintegration into regional blocs.
Mekdad's meetings with the Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani, President Abdul Latif Rashid, and Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, are expected to further solidify bilateral relations. Additionally, these interactions are likely to explore Iraq's potential role in facilitating Syria's re-entry into the Arab League.
In 2011, Syria was suspended from the Arab League over Assad's violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators—a conflict that ultimately escalated into full-scale war. It's interesting to note that Iraq abstained from the vote that led to Syria's suspension. This aspect of Iraq's stance might give us an insight into their possible supportive role in Syria's current political scenario.
The two nations, which share a 600-kilometre desert border marked by continuous militant activity, have witnessed serious security challenges, even after the defeat of IS. Drug trafficking, particularly of the amphetamine-like drug captagon, has surged, often transiting this porous border. Security coordination against these mutual threats will likely continue to be a significant part of their bilateral dialogue.
The collaboration between Baghdad and Damascus extends to other crucial areas, like water management. Both nations are grappling with severe water scarcity, a crisis exacerbated by dam construction in neighbouring countries and the impacts of climate change. These shared challenges point towards the necessity of continued coordination on multiple fronts.
4. June 2023 14:30
Death Sentences for PUK Officials Signal Potential Breakdown of Recent KDP-PUK Agreement
In a move set to exacerbate already strained relations between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), an Erbil court has reportedly issued death sentences in absentia for several high-ranking PUK officials. The sentences, connected to the assassination of a former PUK security officer, emerge amid escalating tensions between the two parties over aspects of the Iraqi budget bill and the law governing elections in the Kurdistan Region.
Wahab Halabjayee, the head of the PUK's Counterterrorism Group (CTG), two other high-ranking CTG officials, and three PUK officers have reportedly been sentenced to death in absentia by an Erbil court over the killing of CTG official Hawkar Jaff in Erbil in 2022. This claim was made by Jaff's during a press conference this afternoon.
NRT English has been able to validate the story and we anticipate the court's decision to soon be public. This development may profoundly impact the relations between PUK and the KDP potentially undoing months of negotiations.
Hawkar Jaff, who was a colonel in the CTG and closely associated with PUK's ousted co-president Lahur Sheikh Jangi Talabany, was removed from the CTG during a purge led by PUK leader Bafel Talabani in 2021. On October 7, 2022, Jaff was assassinated when a sticky bomb attached to his car detonated while he was leaving his home in Erbil. The KDP-controlled Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) implicated the PUK's CTG and its head, Wahab Halabjayee, in the assassination.
The CTG refuted the accusations, countering that the KRSC had fabricated the evidence. The dispute escalated with the KDP and PUK trading allegations of terrorism, treason, and despotism. This, in conjunction with disagreements over revenues and elections, led to a political crisis between Kurdistan's two ruling parties.
In May, under intense international pressure, Prime Minister Masrour Barzani (KDP) and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani (PUK) consented to meet. They agreed to form a joint committee, with international supervision, to investigate Jaff's assassination. This agreement was codified in a Council of Ministers meeting on 15 May, with the readout emphasizing the committee's role in investigating security issues devoid of political interference.
Recent disputes over regional elections and disagreements over articles related to Kurdistan in Iraq's draft budget law have increased tension between the two parties. This has led to speculation regarding the viability of the agreement reached in May. Today's court decision, which contradicts previous understandings, marks a significant escalation by the KDP.
It is challenging to accurately predict the future of Kurdistan's political landscape. However, it's plausible to suggest that the KDP and PUK's May agreement has collapsed, mere weeks after its inception.
4. June 2023 13:15
Kurdistan Security Forces Deny Arresting French Journalist
Sulaymaniyah security forces (Asayish) controlled by the PUK have refuted allegations of arresting a French journalist, Benoit Drevet, and his local assistant during their reporting assignment in the Galala region on the Iraqi-Iranian border on Friday.
Drevet, a freelance French journalist based in the Kurdistan Region, was documenting the civilian impact of Turkey's regular airstrikes in the Kurdistan Region—ostensibly targeting PKK fighters—when he and his assistant were reportedly arrested, their belongings confiscated, and contact with the French consulate denied. "When we left, we were intercepted by the Asayish (the regional police), and they confiscated our belongings. They took my cell phone after I asked to contact the French consulate," Drevet told AFP.
Drevet further claimed he was transported to the central police station in Sulaimaniyah, where he was subjected to "several interrogations" and put "on file," unable to communicate with the outside world.
The Sulaymaniyah Asayish Directorate responded a few hours later, dismissing the arrest claims. They asserted that the two journalists were simply “removed from the location for their own safety,” citing overhead flights by what were presumed to be Turkish drones, often deployed in airstrikes.
The Directorate's statement also emphasized that “the journalists were treated with respect” and that they had “notified the French consulate.” It stated the journalists were moved to the city of Sulaimaniyah after they refused to leave the area for their safety, prompting the security forces to intervene.
Yesterday, the French Consulate General in Erbil released a statement condemning what they referred to as the ‘arbitrary’ arrest. The Consulate asserted that it “deplores the recurrent attacks on freedom of the press and the rights of journalists throughout the Kurdistan Autonomous Region,” marking this incident as another such instance.
Kurdistan is becoming an increasingly precarious place for journalists. Last year, during an attempted protest by the NGM opposition party, a Voice of America journalist was similarly detained, her phone searched without due process. The Metro Center for Journalists Rights and Advocacy logged 431 “violations” against 301 journalists in 2022 alone.
Hello everyone. Here are the latest updates from Iraq:
Following several quiet weeks, the Iraqi Oil Minister has confirmed that discussions are underway with Turkey concerning the resumption of oil exports via Ceyhan. In an interview with Rudaw, the minister shared, "We are in dialogue with the Turkish side about restarting the pumping and we're expecting a Turkish delegate soon to help resolve this issue." The political situation surrounding the Turkish election is broadly seen as the major roadblock to the resumption of oil exports.
The arrest of a journalist and his fixer in Sulaymaniyah has prompted the French Consulate in Erbil to issue a condemnation. The Sulaymaniyah Asayish Directorate countered this last night with a statement, insisting that "they were moved from the location for their own safety" and "were treated with respect." The journalist, however, recounts a different experience: his belongings were confiscated, he was interrogated multiple times, and he was held in detention for 17 hours.
According to reports, the Shiite Coordination Framework is set to convene today to discuss the draft budget law. They met last week in the office of the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, but the results of that meeting are still unclear. Internal disagreements within the Framework are considered a key factor in the delays regarding the passing of the draft budget law.