Tensions flared last night over Article 14 of the budget bill

Live: Finish line in sight for budget bill

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And that’s a wrap

Sitting adjourned until 1PM tomorrow. 

So close to the finish line. Yet so far. No cigar. Good night. We’re exhausted.
Now that the contentious article on direct funding for provinces has passed, a battle has ensued in the media to assert each party's favored interpretation of the text.
We’re at Article 41 now in the chamber, for those counting. 

KDP politburo to issue a formal statement on the changes to Article 15

Things are rapidly escalating up the political food chain. Remember, in Kurdistan politics it’s the party politburos that form the apex of power, not the halls of parliament.

No timeframe on the politburo statement, mind.
Just in: The KDP faction, in a press conference at the Iraqi Parliament, has labeled today's move by the PUK as ‘unilateral and unconstitutional.’
Former KRG official nails it when he says expect deterioration of KDP-PUK relations.
When asked whether they are ready to defend their position at the federal courts, confidently he said that is a matter for the court.
Khaled Shwani informs KurdSat News that most parts of Articles 13 and 14 were passed through consensus among the political parties.

He explains their insistence on clause 8: the PUK wants to ensure that funding from Baghdad is allocated to civil servants and projects. Without such provisions, Baghdad could directly distribute the funding to ensure 'no province is marginalized.'

He maintains that this doesn't imply the fragmentation of the KRI.
Article 29 has also passed. Article 15 appears to be the sticking point.

The Media Department of the House of Representatives states that they'll vote on it 'later.'

The details are still unclear.
The KDP seeks to return home with some political achievements, especially now that they have lost out to the PUK on one of the most controversial points in the budget – undermining its authority as the party in charge of the KRG in relation to PUK-controlled Sulaymaniyah.
KDP MPs now assert that they have received a 'promise' from the speaker and other Arab factions to add an additional clause.
This clause intends to return owed public servant salaries at a rate of 12.5%, topped up on existing salaries per month, jointly funded by Erbil and Baghdad.

The previous amendment had KRG on the hook for 10% of existing salaries being paid back to employees per month until the debts were settled.
We’re hearing Speaker Halbousi is insisting that the budget be passed in its entirety tonight.

Three more articles pass (25, 26,27)

Now Kurdistan 24 reports that KDP MPs haven’t left the building after all.
They’re back in the chamber.
Sherwani now tells Rudaw TV that it's up to the KDP MPs to decide whether to return to the chamber.
Indicating potential upcoming tensions with the PUK again, he states that the PUK hastily passed clause 8 and blocked the reintroduction of a clause on reimbursing public sector salaries.

P(UK)ot, meet K(DP)ettle 

Sipan Sherwani (KDP) has returned to his party’s media outlets, alleging that 'chauvinistic Shia MPs' initially agreed with the PUK to introduce clause 8.

Sherwani claimed that the PUK intends to retain its local non-oil revenues while seeking additional funding from Erbil.

They believe they can secure further funding from Baghdad, but Sherwani asserts that such a move is unconstitutional and will not be allowed.
NGM MPs in Baghdad tried to disrupt today's session during the vote on Article 14, which initially included a now-removed clause calling for the repayment of cut salaries to Kurdistan's civil servants and public sector workers. This clause was not part of the final text presented for the vote.

Here’s where the KDP MPs have run off to

They’re deep into conversation with Speaker Al-Halbousi

And from the copious amounts of side eye, they don’t seem happy.

The chamber appears almost empty 

No sign of a quorum let alone any imminent progress in terms of voting.

KDP MPs are preparing to issue a statement

One KDP MP views Clause 8 as a threat to the Kurdistan Region as an entity.

According to Kurdistan 24's coverage, there are discussions around appealing the clause, with claims that it is "unacceptable" due to its violation of 'prior political agreements'.

PUK MPs are celebrating the passage of a clause that mandates the Iraqi PM "must take necessary measures" concerning public sector salaries, pensions, and investment funding directly, if Erbil fails to implement the stipulations of the budget law.
Article 14:

Clause 1
A- The Federal Oil Ministry is obligated to deposit all proceeds from the export and sale of oil originating from Kurdistan Region’s fields into a dedicated bank account established by the Iraqi Central Bank. This account will accumulate the full revenue from the export or sale of crude oil and all its derivatives without any deductions. Any other accounts serving a similar purpose will be closed.

B- The Federal Finance Ministry is responsible for transferring the Kurdistan region's entitlements, as defined by this law, into an account endorsed by the Iraqi Central Bank. This account will be controlled by the Prime Minister of the Region or his authorized representative, who will disburse funds as per the procedures stipulated in this law. Both the Federal Financial Auditing Bureau and the Federal Government will oversee this account.

Clause 2
The Federal Financial Auditing Bureau and the Federal Ministry of Oil, in collaboration with the Kurdistan Region's Auditing Bureau, are tasked with auditing the accounts mentioned in Clause 1 and ensuring their oversight. Should this prove impossible, a unique contract will be formed with an international auditing firm, complying with regulations and procedures for auditing and oversight related to the account. This firm will have access to comprehensive information about contracts, shipments, and other pertinent details. All companies involved in the extraction, shipment, and export process, as well as the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Ministry of Finance, must supply the Federal Auditing Bureau with a monthly summary. This summary will assist the Bureau in auditing in conjunction with KRG's auditing, and this information should be forwarded to the Federal Finance Ministry - Accounting Directorate for incorporation in the state's accounting.

Clause 3
An international auditing firm, as outlined in Clause 2, will supervise both accounts mentioned in Clause 1, overseeing all revenues and expenditures. This firm is required to provide regular reports to the Federal Board of Supreme Audit and the Kurdistan Board of Supreme Audit.

Clause 4
The KRG's Finance and Economy Ministry, along with the Accounts' auditor (a reputable international company), will provide semi-annual and annual financial data. An official copy of this data will be sent to the Federal Finance Ministry.

Clause 5
A joint committee will be established with the goal of comprehensively reviewing Kurdistan's oil and gas sector, as well as its relationship with the Federal Ministry of Oil. This committee will strive to develop a vision that aligns with the constitution to resolve any outstanding issues from “the previous period.”

Clause 6
Clauses 1 through 5 of this article will take effect from the date this law is enacted until the Federal Iraqi Oil and Gas Law is passed.

Clause 7
In the event of discrepancies between the Federal Government and the Regional Government regarding the rights, responsibilities, and procedures outlined in this law, a joint committee will be formed to resolve these issues. This committee is obliged to submit its recommendations within 30 days of its formation to the President of the Federal Council of Ministers, who will make an informed decision based on these findings.

Clause 8
The Kurdistan Regional Government pledges to prioritize salary payments for regional employees and pensioners, as well as settling investment dues for the provinces within the region, in accordance with the criteria established in this law. Should these provisions not be adhered to, the Federal Prime Minister is required to take the necessary steps to enforce paragraph A, which includes the provision of funding.
Rudaw TV: The Iraqi parliament was unable to proceed with its session on voting for Article 25 after voting Article 14, due to tensions between KDP and PUK MPs.
The PUK's KurdSat reports that there will be a 15 minute break. the 15 minute timeframe is almost certainly aspirational. 
Second Deputy Speaker Shakhawan Abdullah and other KDP MPs have left the chamber

BREAKING: Article 14 passes.


The clause in dispute: Direct payments to provinces

The disputed clause is the one put forward by the PUK last month at committee stage: direct budget payments to provinces if there's a dispute between the KRG and individual provinces for budget allocation and spending.  
Fuzzy reports of KDP MPs and a number of Sovereignty Coalition MPs withdrawing from the session.

Tensions flare up once again over Clause 7 of Article 14

Multiple sources are reporting another squabble in parliament like the one last night.

Rudaw Arabic reports than Clauses 1-6 have been voted on and passed. 
Article 14 is being read on the floor right now.

Signs of last-minute agreement between KDP and PUK. Let's wait and see.
BREAKING: Quorum reached; sitting begins.

Kurdish MPs co-sign amendment for salary repayments

In a peculiar turn of events, local Kurdish media outlets have circulated a letter addressed to the Speaker of Parliament.

This letter, signed by the heads of the PUK, KDP, Komal, and Kurdistan Islamic Union caucuses, proposes an amendment to Article 14.

The modification would oblige the federal government to "coordinate with the KRG" and allocate the necessary finances to increase civil servants' salaries in the KRG by 12%. This raise would compensate for "obligatory cuts" implemented in prior years. 

However, we believe this proposal isn't serious. It appears to be a mere gesture by the KDP and PUK to preserve their public image given the removal of the previous clause from the bill. It's almost certain to be voted down, given that there's little enthusiasm in Baghdad to assume more of the KRG's financial burdens.

Last month, the budget bill was amended to compel the KRG to pay its public sector workers back the missing salary payments going back a decade.

SCF-aligned media channels report quorum has been reached

Breaking: Bell rings again (again), and media outlets are reporting Speaker of Parliament Halbousi has entered the chamber.

KRG Finance Minister: Budget situation a ‘second Anfal’

Awat Janab Noori, the economy and finance minister for the KRG, has released a fiery statement opposing the amendments made to the draft budget law in Baghdad.

In a scathing critique, Noori started by stressing that "political and administrative corruption should never be conflated with the constitutional and national rights of the Kurdistan region." He outrightly rejected the alterations made to the draft budget law, stating, "all the changes made to the articles of the Iraqi budget bill related to the powers, rights, and financial entitlements of the Kurdistan Region contravene the constitution and all the decisions, agreements, and understandings reached between the KRG and the Coordination Framework prior to the formation of this cabinet."

Noori went on to accuse the Iraqi authorities of backtracking on all previously agreed terms during the negotiations, once the draft budget law was submitted to Parliament. He described this behavior as indicative of the "chauvinistic mentality of the Iraqi leadership", accusing them of undermining, provoking, and diminishing the Kurdistan region. He even compared these actions to the policies of the Saddam regime.

But Noori didn't stop there. He directed additional criticism towards the political parties, specifically targeting PUK, who support the draft budget law. He compared the current situation to the “second Anfal” and argued that not only regime forces but also all Kurdish forces voting for the draft budget law share the responsibility for the alleged misdoings.

He concluded his statement by expressing hope that Kurdish MPs would question the integrity of Iraq, urging them to ask, "is there corruption in Iraq too?"
Despite the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Article 14, Moein Al-Kadhimi, a member of the Finance Committee, has announced that an agreement has been reached regarding this contentious budget article.

Al-Kadhimi revealed that the Coordination Framework and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) have had extensive discussions about setting up a Committee dedicated to resolving the disputes between the central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

He further confirmed that voting on the budget bill will continue in the Parliament.

The Iraqi Parliament has passed the vast majority of the proposed articles. However, it chose to postpone the voting on articles 14 through 17. Articles 4 and 22 were completely omitted from the proposed budget.

New Generation: Salary repayments back on the menu 

NGM claims the speaker of parliament and Iraqi factions have agreed to put repayment of KRG public sectors salaries cut under the "salary saving scheme" to a vote tonight.

Bold claim. Let’s see if it pans out.
Breaking: KDP media reports the bell of chamber of parliament is ringing for a second time today, beckoning MPs in.
Wonder if you can tell how happy parties are by whether it’s their media outlets reporting on the bell ringing or their opponents’. 

For whom the bell tolls — or doesn’t toll.

There are ongoing disagreements about disagreements regarding Article 14 of the draft budget law. 

KDP MPs in Baghdad have claimed that most disagreements over Article 14 have largely been resolved and anticipate a vote to occur soon. However, PUK MP Bryar Rashid counters this claim, stating "No, the KDP is not telling the truth. Disagreements over Article 14 persist and we will not abandon our demand for justice for public servants."

Currently, it seems the KDP has the upper hand in Baghdad. Nearly all other Kurdish factions oppose the PUK-sponsored provision. This provision grants the PUK legal authority to separate Sulaymaniyah's finance in cases of disagreements with the KDP.

In any case, it seems they can’t even agree to disagree.

Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, KDP MPs, and Speaker Al-Halbousi are currently in a meeting. As reported by a UTV correspondent in Parliament, "there's a positive atmosphere." 

In parallel, INA reports that First Deputy Speaker Mandalawi is chairing a meeting between the heads of the SCF to discuss the latest developments regarding the draft budget law.

In other news, provincial elections in Iraq are slated for November 6th...

...but some are keeping their eyes on the prize. Maliki is expected to emerge as a significant victor in these elections, particularly if voter turnout remains low and Sadr continues his boycott of the political process.

Minutes later...

...state media reports session is delayed "until quorum is reached."


KDP leader: Tentative agreement on Article 14 reached

At the moment, only a limited number of MPs are present as negotiations continue over the remaining articles of the draft budget law.

Viyan Sabri, the head of the KDP caucus in Baghdad has indicated a "tentative agreement" on article 14, but she urges leaders of the SCF to "instruct their MPs" and instil discipline for a smoother negotiation process.

BREAKING: SCF-aligned media channels are reporting that the bell has rung, signaling MPs to enter the Parliament chamber.


Meeting of Kurdish party heads later today

In a press conference, Srwa Abdulwahid, the head of the NGM caucus in Baghdad, announced that a meeting is scheduled to take place today between the leaders of all the Kurdish party caucuses and the parliamentary finance committee.

Abdulwahid emphasized that NGM will participate in the meeting to once again advocate for the reinstatement of the clause related to the repayment of cut salaries to public servants in Kurdistan.

Furthermore, Abdulwahid restated NGM's previous positions on other changes, reiterating their stance by saying, "we don't want to transfer money from one thief to another thief" in reference to the ongoing financial disputes between the KDP and the PUK.

Multiple sources have reported that disagreements on article 14 among the leading Kurdish parties are one of the primary reasons for the delays in today's Parliamentary session.
Prime Minister Al-Sudani, in his role as commander-in-chief visited the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) headquarters this morning and met with members of the Operations Command. 
According to the official English summary, Sudani "lauded the Popular Mobilization Commission as a crucial pillar of the military security establishment, acknowledging its critical role."

The Prime Minister also addressed the contentious, newly formed Muhandis Company, stating that "[it is] a significant participant in implementing service projects." He underscored "its role in enhancing efforts to provide essential services to our people, as part of the service and engineering team's work."

In recent months, the expanding role of the PMF in Iraq's security and economic sectors has become a point of debate, with critics arguing that Iran-aligned forces are seeking to convert the PMF into a structure akin to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Middle East Eye claims to have seen documents that show a de jure doubling in the PMF's size over the past two years, making it half the size of the official military.

Full statement

Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces Mr. Mohammed S. Al-Sudani Visits Popular Mobilization Commission Headquarters and Holds Meeting with Operations Command Members


On Saturday morning, Mr. Mohammed S. Al-Sudani, the Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, paid a visit to the headquarters of the Popular Mobilization Commission. Upon his arrival, he presided over a security meeting with the members of the Operations Command.

Mr. Al-Sudani expressed heartfelt congratulations to the members of the Popular Mobilization Forces on the occasion of its 9th anniversary. He recalled the heroic tales and the immense sacrifices while combatting terrorism alongside our courageous security forces. He emphasized the pivotal role played by the blessed fatwa of the esteemed Supreme Religious Authority, His Eminence Sayyid Ali Al-Sistani, which thwarted aggressive schemes and tilted the balance of power.

This significant development led to the establishment of this national force that successfully foiled terrorist plots and served as the catalyst for the defeat of ISIS and a fresh beginning for Iraq and its people. It symbolized a united front, fostering unity, reconstruction, and a profound message of peace to all Iraqis from all components.

His Excellency highlighted the role of the battle against terrorism as a unifying force for the Iraqi people, countering extremist sectarian agendas that sought to disrupt societal harmony. He emphasized the significant impact of the blessed fatwa, which played a pivotal role in achieving a substantial triumph, made possible through the sacrifices of martyrs and wounded heroes. This remarkable victory resulted in the eradication of takfiri gangs. On this occasion, we honor the memory of the fallen martyrs, the leaders of victory, and their unwavering dedication to safeguarding the state and its democratic foundations.

His Excellency commended the Popular Mobilization Commission as a vital cornerstone of the military security establishment, recognizing its pivotal role. He emphasized the government's commitment to approving the Military Retirement Law, ensuring the rights of all security force members, including those serving in the Popular Mobilization Forces.

Mr. Al-Sudani highlighted Al-Muhandis Company, which is part of the Popular Mobilization Commission, as a key player in executing service projects. He emphasized its role in bolstering endeavors to deliver essential services to our people, as part of the work of the service and engineering team.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces urged all members of the Popular Mobilization Forces to prioritize the unity and stability of Iraq. He emphasized the importance of preserving the strong bond between citizens and the Popular Mobilization Forces, acknowledging their unwavering love and the sacrifices they have made for Iraq, particularly in the liberated provinces.

Mr. Al-Sudani underscored the genuine opportunity for our state's success, emphasizing the importance of leveraging stability and carefully reviewing and addressing present circumstances while delivering exceptional services to our citizens. He highlighted the government's meticulous diagnosis of challenges and the development of a comprehensive three-year roadmap, poised to significantly enhance performance and bring about tangible improvements.

Media Office of the Prime Minister
June 10, 2023

Where is everyone?

Although parliament was expected to reconvene half an hour ago to vote on the draft budget law, a quorum is nowhere in sight.

Al-Ahad TV, aligned with the Shia Coordination Framework (SCF), predicts that the session will likely commence at 6 or 7 PM.

Meanwhile, the KDP-aligned Kurdistan 24 reports that KDP MPs in Baghdad are about to hold a meeting presided over by Iraqi Foreign Minister and KDP Leadership Committee member Fuad Hussein.

HDP condemns the killing of Turkish Kurd in Sulaymaniyah

The killing of Hüseyin Arasan, a member of the Mesopotamia Workers' Association, in Sulaymaniyah, has been vehemently condemned by the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).

The HDP released a statement on their social media platforms, declaring that this attack continues the tragic trend of killings of Nagihan Akarsel and numerous Kurdish patriots. The party underscored the urgent obligation of the regional administration (referring to the KRG) to swiftly identify and bring to justice the individuals responsible for this appalling murder.

According to local media and sources affiliated with PKK, Hüseyin Arasan was hit by three bullets out of nine shots fired and was quickly rushed to Shorsh Hospital in a critical state. He remained in a critical condition until his death on Saturday. Members of the Mesopotamia Workers' Association have confirmed that an autopsy will be conducted later today.

In a separate statement released on Saturday, the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) blamed "the KDP and the Turkish Intelligence agency for colluding in Arasan's assassination," asserting it as part of a coordinated plan. 

The KCK vowed to "avenge the perpetrators" behind this assassination.

Arasan, a native of the Kurdish-majority province of Mardin in Turkey, sought refuge in the Kurdistan Region due to legal cases initiated against him in his home country.
Masoud Barzani, leader of the KDP, was in attendance at the 12th congress of the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Syria (KDP-S). In his address, he extended a warm welcome to the attendees in Erbil and heaped praises on the Roj Peshmerga for "their sacrifices against ISIS".

While the KDP-S is not officially recognized as a Syrian branch of the KDP, the two parties share a close relationship. The KDP directly assisted in the creation and training of the Roj Peshmerga forces, who are predominantly active in Iraqi Kurdistan. 

KDP-S conventions are held in Erbil due to ongoing disputes with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the leading faction within the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES). The KDP-S asserts that its members have been threatened and imprisoned by the PYD. However, the PYD vehemently denies these allegations and counters by accusing the KDP-S of serving as proxies for the KDP and Turkey.

Adil Abdul-Mahdi chimes in on his own ouster with tired tropes

In an exclusive interview with the Axis of Resistance-oriented Cradle Media, former Prime Minister of Iraq, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, shared his thoughts on the state of Iraq, the US role in the region, and his belief that the October 2019 protests, which led to his ouster, were instigated by Israeli and American agents.

In response to a pointed question about Iraq’s consociationalist system, Abdul-Mahdi drew parallels between Iraq and historical developments in the United States. “The US also witnessed conflicts between blacks and whites, and civil wars before it settled on a federal system,” he commented, referring to societal conflicts in Iraq.

Though his interpretation might not align with conventional historical perspectives, Abdul-Mahdi didn't shy away from expressing his views. On the topic of American actions post-invasion, he held particularly negative views about Paul Bremer, deeming his actions the “height of American arrogance.”

“[Bremer] wanted to impose a system of elite elections as in the US, and not general elections for all the Iraqi people. However, Ayatollah Ali Sistani refused and insisted that writing the constitution be left to Iraqis voted in through an elected national assembly,” Abdul-Mahdi said. He implied that this resistance to Bremer's plans ensured that Iraq avoided elite capture and became more democratic than the US.

When discussing the peaceful protests that marked the end of his brief tenure, Abdul-Mahdi voiced a strong belief that external forces were at play. “The October events in Iraq were an expression of an American and Israeli desire to weaken Iraq when it began to emerge – even partially – from the circle of American dictates,” he stated.

Despite his certainty about the forces behind the October/Tishreen movement, Abdul-Mahdi was notably silent on the identity of the "third party" responsible for the sniper attacks on hundreds of peaceful protesters. Regrettably, The Cradle did not press him on this issue.

Lastly, Abdul-Mahdi referred to Iraq's pivot towards China as a “natural path,” and not a “political decision.” He noted, “we are witnessing an Asian rise, and today there are large countries on the continent that compete with the US militarily, economically, technologically, scientifically, morally, and socially, and are even ahead of them at times.”

Hadi Al-Amiri instrumental in yesterday's last-minute negotiations

Confirming rumors from yesterday, Hadi Al-Amiri actively intervened to resolve disputes between KDP and PUK over clauses in the draft budget law, according to Voice of America Kurdish and the deputy head of the PUK caucus in Baghdad.

Al-Amiri conducted a private meeting, spanning over three hours, in an attempt to broker a consensus between the KDP and PUK MPs. As reported by VOA Kurdish, the primary disputes were centered on two clauses in Article 14 of the draft budget law. Clause 12 compels the KRG to reimburse public sector employee salaries deducted under the “forced saving” scheme that started in 2014, while the second clause allows Kurdistan Region provinces to seek payment directly from Baghdad in case of budget disputes with the KRG.

An anonymous source present at the meeting informed VOA Kurdish that, after three hours, Amiri emerged with "a red pen", eradicating 14.12 and making several adjustments to the wording of the other clause. This revised clause proposes that the Prime Minister establish a committee to probe into the 'injustices' encountered by the province.

However, the PUK still appears unhappy with these compromises, a possible reason for the delay in voting on Article 14 until today.

"We have not consented to alter the rights of provinces 'protesting' [to KRG financial disbursement] and the payment of salary arrears, [we made that clear] even as Hadi Amiri was making amendments to the specific provisions. We will not remain silent on these two issues," stated Karim Shkur, the deputy head of PUK’s caucus, to VOA Kurdish.

سەرباری نێوەندگیری کردنی هادی عامری سەرۆکی هاوپەیمانێتی فەتح لە نێوان یەکێتی و پارتی، بەڵام هێشتا ئەو دوو پارتە لەسەر ئەو بڕگەیەی نێو پرۆژە یاسای بودجە ڕێکنەکەوتوون کە ماف دەداتە هەر پارێزگایەکی هەرێم لە ئەگەری هەبوونی گلەیی و گازەندەی لە حکومەتی هەرێم، ڕاستەوخۆ شایستە داراییەکانی لە حکومەتی...

Clause for sending payments directly to provinces removed from draft bill – KDP MP

In a statement on the KDP's official website, Sabah Subhi, a KDP MP, reported that the clause in Article 14, which pertains to Kurdistani governorates negotiating separately with Baghdad over objections to KRG disbursements, has been eliminated.
Subhi further underscored that the main point of contention is Clause 7 of Article 14 and anticipates that the budget will be passed today.

J.P. Morgan and Iraq explore strategies to boost non-oil revenues

J.P. Morgan representatives recently visited Iraq to engage in talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani concerning strategies to increase the nation's non-oil revenue. 

A statement issued by the Prime Minister's press office underscored the government's commitment to driving reforms in the banking sector, promoting global trade, and taking robust steps to combat money laundering, in alignment with international norms.

The meeting was attended by Daniel Zelikow, Chair of the Governing Board of J.P. Morgan Development Finance Institution, and Ghali Laraki, Head of MENA Public Sector Group. The central theme of their discussions was the provision of support to the banking sector, the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), and the private sector.

Other key areas of focus included international trade, risk management, and most crucially, enhancing non-oil revenues, a significant priority in Iraq's administrative and financial reform agenda.

Prime Minister Sudani lauded J.P. Morgan's critical role in founding the Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI), which operates as Iraq's main conduit for international commercial banking. Sudani says Iraq has created a comprehensive development plan spanning all sectors, adding that the government stands ready to assist international banks operating in the country, including J.P. Morgan's international subsidiaries. These entities form the backbone of a banking system designed to provide investor guarantees. The Prime Minister also stressed the importance of supporting the CBI and improving the capacity of the Industrial Bank of Iraq to draw significant investments, mirroring the successful model of the TBI.

The Iraqi government has long struggled to diversify its economy away from fossil fuels.

New York City-based J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. is a leading global financial services firm.

Full statement by the PM's office:

Prime Minister Mr. Mohammed S. Al-Sudani Receives a Delegation from J.P. Morgan Bank

Prime Minister Mr. Mohammed S. Al-Sudani met today with a delegation from J.P. Morgan Bank, which included Mr. Daniel Zelikow, Vice Chair, and Mr. Ghali Laraki, Head of MENA Public Sector Group.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Mohammed S. Al-Sudani and the J.P. Morgan Bank delegation discussed support for Iraq's banking sector, the Central Bank of Iraq, and the private sector. They also addressed topics such as international trade, risk management, and the government's priority of expanding non-oil revenues through financial and administrative reforms.

The Prime Minister acknowledged the significant role played by J.P. Morgan Bank in establishing the Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI), which currently serves as Iraq's primary gateway to international commerce. Emphasizing Iraq's imminent large-scale reconstruction efforts across all sectors.

The Prime Minister welcomed the idea of J.P. Morgan Bank opening branches in Iraq. He emphasized the government's preparedness to extend support to international banks operating in the country, as they play a crucial role in providing investor guarantees and fortifying the banking system. The Prime Minister also called for ongoing support to the Central Bank of Iraq and the enhancement of the Industrial Bank, enabling it to become a qualified institution for development and investment, similar to the success achieved by the Iraqi Trade Bank in the past.

Mr. Al-Sudani emphasized the government's ongoing efforts to reform Iraq's banking system, encompassing the public and private sectors. These reforms aim to address issues related to fund movement, bolster global trade, and combat money laundering in accordance with international standards. He highlighted the government's significant achievement of establishing a three-year federal budget, a first in Iraq's history, which will provide support to the private sector through initiatives like the Iraqi Fund for Development and various agricultural and industrial projects.

Media Office of the Prime Minister
June 8, 2023

Snap analysis: The stances KDP, PUK on Clause 12

Public servants comprise a formidable constituency in Kurdistan, and no political entity can risk openly opposing their interests. Thus, when the Parliamentary Finance Committee introduced a new clause (14.12) to the draft budget law, mandating the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to reimburse public sector employees' salaries that were cut under the 2014 "forced saving" scheme, both the KDP and the PUK needed to proceed with caution.

The KDP purports to support the reimbursement of salary cuts, offering as evidence Masrour Barzani's classification of these repayments as "financial obligations" in his statements.

However, the KDP's proposed repayment plan is largely impractical. The KDP contends that since "Baghdad cut KRG's budget in 2014", it "should be held accountable for the salaries that went unpaid in Kurdistan". Therefore, the KDP proposes to make Baghdad responsible for these repayments, independently of current budget agreements. 

Regardless of whether Baghdad's decision to cut the KRG's federal budget was justified, the KDP's proposal isn't credible – it's a condition that Baghdad will likely never accept. In the wake of the International Chamber of Commerce ruling, Erbil's bargaining power has diminished significantly, reducing its capacity to push through such demands.

In contrast, the PUK has initiated a dispute with the New Generation Movement (NGM) and sought to portray itself as the chief architect of clause 14.12. As several analysts have observed over the past two years, the PUK has increasingly echoed the opposition's rhetoric when confronting disagreements with the KDP. Furthermore, as the KDP has consolidated its control over Kurdistan institutions, the PUK has striven to present itself as a challenger to government policies.

However, beneath the rhetoric, the PUK has largely expended its political capital in Baghdad in trying to pass a clause allowing for the Green Zone (under its security umbrella) to receive direct financing from Baghdad in the event of disputes with the KDP.

Opposition parties like the NGM and the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) have expressed concern over this clause, suggesting it could undermine Kurdistan's standing and autonomy. In response, the PUK has launched a highly critical media campaign against them.

A prime example is an article on PUK Media, the party's official platform, alleging a joint agreement between the NGM and KDP to remove clause 14.12. The article reproduces Facebook posts criticizing the NGM and KIU, suggesting neither party has "10 Peshmerga among their ranks."

NGM claimed yesterday to have amassed 66 signatures for the reinstatement of Clause 12. Though early signals that it would  boycott the floor vote in protest of its removal turned out to be inaccurate.


Iranian military movements seen on Kurdistan border amid opposition group tensions

New videos released by the Hengaw Organization reportedly show Iranian forces transporting ammunition and military equipment to the borders of the Kurdistan Region.

These actions take place amid allegations of military escalation near the Iraqi Kurdistan border, posing a potential threat to Kurdish opposition groups, including the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), Organisation of Iranian Kurdistan Struggle (Khabat), The Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK), and Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK).

These groups, some of which have operated in the mountainous border regions for nearly three decades, present a persistent challenge to governments in both Erbil and Baghdad.

All involved parties are eager to prevent increased tensions with Tehran, which has persistently urged Kurdish authorities to maintain border control and expel Kurdish militants, notably from areas like the town of Koya.

The recent diplomatic efforts led by Iraq's National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji in Tehran are part of an ongoing initiative aimed at addressing these issues. The goal is to implement mutually agreed measures to enhance border security.

These developments follow a stern warning from Mohammad Pakpour, Commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps Ground Forces. Pakpour threatened further attacks on Iranian-Kurdish opposition parties unless the Iraqi government acts against what he refers to as terrorists. He affirmed that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps would continue its operations if the Iraqi government does not respond appropriately.

Prior to the border security discussions in Tehran, National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji visited Sulaymaniyah. There, he held talks with Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Bafel Talabani. According to NRT Kurdish, these talks encompassed the activities of Iranian-Kurdish opposition parties, with a specific focus on the presence of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan camp in Zirgwez and the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan camp in Koya.

Governor of Central Bank discusses anti-money laundering measures, credit card regulations

In an interview with the Iraqi News Agency (INA), Ali Mohsen al-Alaq, governor of the Iraqi Central Bank, disclosed that a cash withdrawal limit has been set for credit and debit cards outside of Iraq.

The steps are aimed at combating the misuse of credit cards for money smuggling and money laundering. Alaq attributes the issue to outdated regulatory frameworks that have facilitated the illegal outflow of cash from Iraq.

Additionally, new restrictions have been enacted on the issuance of credit and debit cards. Companies are now only permitted to issue one card per customer. Fingerprinting will be implemented to prevent duplication.

Al-Alaq stressed the government's commitment to curbing money laundering. All credit and prepaid cards must bear the traveler's name at airports or border points. A deposit limit of 10m Iraqi Dinars and a withdrawal limit of $3000 per month will also be imposed. 

Alaq affirmed that any illegal activity relating to money laundering will be prosecuted under Iraqi law, specifically the Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Law of 2003.

In other news, the Central Bank of Iraq plans to bolster its monetary and gold reserves, aiming to maintain no less than $500m in gold holdings by year-end.

Recently, the Iraqi government has decided to conduct payments in Iraqi dinars at investment companies and property sales by private companies. Alaq mentioned coordination with the National Investment Commission and other bodies to supervise and scrutinize the enforcement of these rules.

With a view to modernize and digitize trade in Iraq, the Iraqi cabinet issued Decision No. 23044 in 2023, underscoring the expansion of point-of-sale (POS) systems and electronic payments. Alaq confirmed that several ministerial directorates, including those of Construction, Housing, Public Municipalities, Trade, Electricity, and Interior-Passport, have begun to implement these new systems.

Lastly, Alaq pledged ongoing support for housing finance for civilians, noting that over 10 trillion Iraqi dinars have already been allocated in housing loans.

Kurdish opposition MPs express unhappiness over budget bill changes re: salary repayments

Kurdish opposition MPs are voicing their strong objections to the removal of clause 12 from A13 of the draft budget law, a regulation that would compel the KRG to reimburse public sector employee salaries. These salaries were previously cut under a "forced saving" scheme initiated in 2014 by the KRG.

The call to reinstate Clause 12 of Article 14 came via an official letter addressed to the Speaker of Parliament. Reportedly, the letter was signed by 66 MPs, including Srwa Abdulwahid, head of the New Generation Movement (NGM) caucus in Baghdad. Abdulwahid demands the reinstatement of 14.12 to "protect the rights of hundreds of thousands of public servants."

In a press conference, Muthanna Amin, head of the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) caucus in Baghdad, took issue with perceived "intervention" and "mediation" by factions "outside parliament". Amin suggested that these interactions between the KDP and the PUK have resulted in public employees in Kurdistan "losing their rights." He firmly rejected the changes.

The Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG) appeared to be in agreement. In a recent interview, KIG MP Soran Omar alleged that Speaker Halbousi had removed clause 14.12 unilaterally, with no consultation. He further claimed that there was a deal between Shiite and Sunni factions, meaning article 14 would pass without the disputed provision.

Full text of Article 14, Clause 12 reads:

"The Kurdistan Regional Government is obliged to pay an additional amount, no less than 10% of each employee’s salary, on top of their full salary. This payment is intended as compensation for the compulsory savings deducted in previous years. This supplementary percentage will continue to be paid until the total amount deducted has been fully repaid."
In Iraq, a myriad of societal pressures and a scarcity of resources such as abortion services, orphanages, or state-provided care often lead to distressing outcomes. Women face intense societal stigma surrounding premarital sex and children born out of wedlock. In some extreme cases, this can even lead to violence against the mother or the child.

Furthermore, the societal pressure for women to remarry after a failed marriage, coupled with the challenges of a single working mother lifestyle, often lead to untenable situations.

Economic hardship is another potential factor in cases like these.

These pressures, combined with a lack of sufficient resources, frequently result in infants being abandoned on roadsides or left outside medical buildings. As reported by Kirkuk Now, this is the third such incident occurring in Kirkuk this month alone.

Shakhawan Abdullah: Sticking point is Clause 7

In an interview with Kurdistan24, Shakhawan Abdullah (KDP), the second deputy speaker of parliament, reiterated yesterday's statements made by KDP MPs, asserting that the primary disagreement blocking the approval of Article 14 lies in disputes over Clause 7. This clause delineates the conflict resolution mechanism between Baghdad and Erbil when disagreements occur. 

Abdullah explained that "some" MPs are advocating for a rewording of this clause to make it mandatory for the federal government to cease all funding to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) after 15 days if a dispute remains unresolved between the two sides. The existing clause, however, allows Prime Minister Sudani the unlimited discretion to develop a response he deems suitable within a 30-day period.

Shwan Kalari MP (KDP), expressed a similar sentiment in a separate statement earlier today.

The full text of Clause 7 is as follows: 

"Should differences arise between the federal government and the Regional Government regarding the rights, obligations, and mechanisms stipulated in this law, a joint committee will be established to address these unresolved matters. This committee is obligated to present its recommendations within a 30-day period from its formation date to the President of the Federal Council of Ministers, who will then make an informed decision."