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12. June 2023 18:42
The New Generation Movement (NGM) and Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) factions in Baghdad are planning to take legal action against the Iraqi Parliament for its failure to approve a clause that would require the KRG to repay deducted salaries of its employees and pensioners.
NGM made a statement saying they're ready to take legal steps in the Federal Court over this. Jamal Kochar, who leads the KIU, said they're on the same page and will also bring the issue to the federal court.
During the final stages of the Iraqi budget approval, a dispute arose between the Iraqi MPs and Kurdish MPs over the clause pertaining to the repayment of deducted salaries of KRG employees. The clause was eventually crossed out by the speaker after talks between KDP, PUK and other Iraq factions in Baghdad.
Over recent years, the KRG has made deductions from all KRG employee salaries due to the financial crisis they have been facing.
After overcoming some tough obstacles, the budget bill is pretty much good to go. It just needs to be sent to the Iraqi president for the final sign-off within the next 15 days. After that, it'll be published in the official gazette and will come into effect from then on.
The president, Abdul Latif Rashid, who's Kurdish, technically has the power to veto any bill he thinks goes against the constitution. However, chances are he won't do that.
12. June 2023 18:23
The process for dissolving the parliament and initiating preparations for an election, as per the Federal Court's decision, is set to commence shortly. A delegation from the Presidency of the Kurdistan region last week visited Baghdad and extended an invitation to the Federal Court and the Iraqi Electoral Commission to visit the Region to start its work in preparing for the upcoming November elections.
According to a report by Bwar Media, a delegation from the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court and the Electoral Commission is anticipated to visit the Kurdistan Region. The visit aims to discuss the practical steps required for conducting general elections in the Region.
On May 30, the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court deemed the extension of the Kurdistan Parliament's term as "unconstitutional". Consequently, all laws enacted by the Parliament during the extended period have been nullified.
12. June 2023 18:17
Iraqi PM on second visit to Egypt within three months
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani is making his second visit to Cairo, Egypt, within a span of three months.
Leading a top-level delegation, the Prime Minister is expected to finalize several agreements between Baghdad and Cairo during this trip, as per the Prime Minister's press office.
The delegation includes Fuad Hussein, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as Atheer Dawood Salman, the Minister of Trade. As reported by Shafaq News, Sudani plans to extend invitations to Egyptian companies to take part in the reconstruction efforts in Iraq and aims to activate bilateral committees between the two countries, primarily focusing on economic and investment objectives.
Several memorandums of understanding are anticipated to be signed across various fields such as finance, commerce, tourism, workforce development, diplomatic coordination, and sharing experiences across different sectors. The agenda for this visit also includes the signing of memorandums in areas like housing, services, and sports, according to the PM's office.
12. June 2023 18:08
Adnan al-Dilemi, the leader of the Sadiqoun parliamentary faction, the political arm of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq (Leagues of the Righteous) militia, states that the recently approved budget has, for the first time, achieved a fair balance between the responsibilities and rights of Erbil and Baghdad.
Factions like Asaib Ahl al-Haq, which are allied with Iran, have long argued that the Kurdistan Region has been receiving more benefits while contributing less. The KRG has been expanding its hydrocarbon sector and exporting oil to Turkey without the approval of the Iraqi federal government for several years. This has led to ongoing conflicts between Erbil and Baghdad.
However, with the approval of the new budget, the KRG is now required to permit Baghdad to oversee oil exports and sales. This includes gaining access to information related to oil contracts, shipping, and other aspects of oil production.
Both the KRG and International Oil Companies (IOCs) are now obliged to provide monthly summaries detailing their oil-related operations.
Two Turkish soldiers, who were wounded in an explosion of an improvised explosive device in the Kurdistan Region, have succumbed to their injuries, the Turkish National Defense Ministry said on Sunday.
The ministry added that the bomb was planted by the PKK fighters.
In a statement, the ministry said that the two soldiers – Cem Ahmet Kaya and Halil Sahin – were injured in the explosion in the Claw-Lock Operation region earlier on Sunday.
The soldiers were rushed to the hospital where they breathed their last, the statement added.
12. June 2023 17:21
Iraq Budget: Economist Ahmed Tabaqchali tells AFP that a wave of recruitment, as approved in the budget, would create 600,000 more public sector jobs, with wages and pensions accounting for more than $58 billion a year.
Tabaqchali, a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics' Middle East Centre, warned that this could be unsustainable.
"The vulnerability for Iraq is, should oil prices decline, that would mean that you would have to cut spending, and since you can't cut fixed expenditures, you'll have to cut on investment."
12. June 2023 17:18
The Islamic State (IS) group has claimed responsibility for the attack on a military base in the Dibis district of Kirkuk, kiling three Iraqi soldiers.
According to the statement released via IS's Telegram channels on June 11th, the assault took place on the previous day near the village of Tall al-Ward.
The report claimed that the attackers, using machine guns, managed to kill three military personnel, which included two ranking officers. One of the slain officers was reportedly a first lieutenant. Four additional people, including an officer, were purportedly injured in the onslaught.
Following the initial attack, a military support patrol that arrived at the location also reportedly faced fire from the IS militants, resulting in damage to several vehicles. The militants, according to IS, subsequently retreated back to their bases without suffering any losses.
12. June 2023 16:32
'Failed battle' should have been fought in Erbil - Speaker of dissolved Kurdistan Parliament
Rewaz Faeq, the Speaker of the (now dissolved) Kurdistan Parliament, congratulates Iraq for the approval of the budget, commending the lawmakers' commitment to uphold the role of institutions despite the country's challenging political climate.
Faeq, a member of the PUK, voiced her dismay at the disputes among Kurdish political parties, which have left the region without a legislative body.
In her words, "The Iraqi budget has been approved. Kudos to the country whose institutions continue to operate in line with the constitution and existing laws, even amid political discord. The trajectory of institutional work remains unaltered, and despite the criticisms and shortcomings, people maintain their hope and expectations in these institutions."
Contrastingly, she notes, the lawmakers of Kurdistan have been barred from performing their duties due to "illogical excuses." The regional legislature was paralyzed by KDP-PUK disputes over election law, which preceded the federal court's ruling to dissolve the regional parliament.
Like many others, Faeq has expressed concern that the budget law reflects a weakening of the Kurdistan Region.
Although the PUK claims it has achieved a significant victory with the passage of a provision that empowers provinces within the KRG to directly receive funds from the Iraqi central government in case of a dispute with the KRG, Faeq asserts that "no one [among the Kurdish parties] was a winner."
She contends that the battle lost in Baghdad should have been fought in the Kurdistan Parliament, "because even though our disagreements may bruise us, they won't break our bones."
The Iraqi Federal Supreme Court is scheduled to deliberate tomorrow on a lawsuit involving KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, concerning the establishment of a bank account for KRG oil revenues.
Uday Awad, a member of the Iraqi Parliament's Finance Committee, lodged the lawsuit which implicates the Prime Minister of Iraq, the KRG Prime Minister, the Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), and the Iraqi Minister of Oil.
The suit questions the constitutionality of opening a bank account for KRG oil revenue at American City Bank without securing authorization from the CBI. This legal action predates the recent discussions surrounding the Iraqi budget in Parliament.
According to the newly passed Article 14 of the 2023 Iraqi budget, bank accounts for KRG oil revenue shall fall under the purview of the CBI and the Iraqi government.
Awad, from Basra, is a member of the political wing of pro-Iran Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, which is part of Parliament's Fatah coalition.
12. June 2023 15:27
Security forces in Duhok seize NRT Kurdish journalists' equipment
The media advocacy group, Metro Center, has condemned the actions of Duhok's security forces towards NRT Kurdish journalists. It is calling on relevant parties to investigate the incident that involved the seizure of their equipment.
NRT Kurdish reporter Biryar Nerwayi reported that he was prevented from covering a protest in Duhok city during a live broadcast at around 11 am. The protest was by bazaar traders demonstrating against the government's relocation plan.
Nerwayi stated that his live streaming equipment was confiscated and subsequently destroyed by security forces.
Metro Center argued that this attack not only contravenes the provisions of the Journalism Law, but also goes against the promises made by the Kurdistan Regional Government in the Strategic Human Rights Plan.
NRT Kurdish, which is affiliated with the New Generation, is frequently barred from covering protests, and its journalists have been repeatedly targeted by the KDP and PUK security forces.
Last year, over 430 violations against journalists in the Kurdistan Region were recorded, pointing towards a rising trend of suppression of press freedom.
12. June 2023 14:07
Baghdad to 'diligently review' the budget bill amendments- Iraqi PM
The Iraqi Premier Muhammed Shia al-Sudani congratulates lawmakers for approving the budget bill and says, "the government will diligently review the budget bill amendments to ensure their alignment with the approved ministerial program, reflecting the government's vision and objectives."
Sudani explains: "our government's proposal of the three-year federal budget bill is founded on a transparent reform vision outlined in our government program. This strategic approach addresses the issue of recurring or failed projects that has persisted in previous years, while also emphasizing reduced operational spending, increased non-oil revenues, and support for the private sector."
Economists have criticized the budget for its expansion of the public sector and heavy reliance on oil prices, despite a record deficit of approximately 64.36 trillion dinars.
Last month, the International Monetary Fund asserted that "a significantly tighter fiscal policy is needed to strengthen resilience and reduce the government’s dependence on oil revenues while safeguarding critical social spending needs."
Despite this, Baghdad's promises to make such changes have been many, while actual progress has been limited.
Congratulations to the esteemed Presidency and Parliament on the approval of the federal budget bill for 2023, 2024, 2025.
The Council of Ministers' approval of the federal budget bill on March 13th prioritizes the essential needs of Iraqi citizens and families, aiming to meet their expectations for government services, construction, and infrastructure projects.
Our government's proposal of the three-year federal budget bill is founded on a transparent reform vision outlined in our government program. This strategic approach addresses the issue of recurring or failed projects that has persisted in previous years, while also emphasizing reduced operational spending, increased non-oil revenues, and support for the private sector.
In light of this, the government will diligently review the budget bill amendments to ensure their alignment with the approved ministerial program, reflecting the government's vision and objectives.
We express deep appreciation for the efforts invested in the approval of the long-awaited federal budget bill, and extend our gratitude to the members of the Parliamentary Finance Committee, the Strategic Planning Committee, and the Parliamentary Federal Service Committee for their invaluable contributions during this period.
12. June 2023 13:10
KRG Interior Minister in Washginton
Reports suggest that a key topic during the KRG Interior Minister's visit to Washington pertains to Tehran's pressure on its Kurdish opposition groups based within the Kurdistan Region.
Rebar Ahmed is expected to discuss the escalating pressure on Iranian-Kurdish opposition parties and potential plans on moving their members within the Kurdistan Region to refugee camps, possibly under the supervision of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). These discussions come on the heels of Ahmed's recent trip to Tehran. Another suggestion has been expelling the members of the parties all together. This however, was denied by one of the leaders of the opposition.
Abdullah Mohtadi, leader of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, disclosed in a BBC HARDTalk interview with Stephen Sackur that the KRG has only advised these groups to moderate their activities and refrain from engaging in armed conflicts with Tehran. He insisted that they have not been informed of any other plans.
In Washington, according to a statement from the KRG Representation in the US, Ahmed is slated to meet a host of senior US officials. This includes representatives from the Department of State, Department of Defense, Department of Treasury, and the White House, as well as members of Congress and other institutions.
Earlier unofficial reports hint at a deadline set by Iranian authorities for KRG to disarm Iranian Kurdish opposition groups and relocating them to refugee camps. This however, was denied by one of the leaders of the opposition.
During the Iraqi National Security Advisor Qassem al-Araji’s visit to Iran—accompanied by high-ranking KDP and PUK officials including 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 beefing up its troop presence along the Kurdistan border have emerged alongside speculation that recent meetings between Iranian and Iraqi officials could signal further 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.
Following last year's protests in Iran and Kurdish cities, the Iranian government has been increasing pressure on the Iranian-Kurdish opposition parties in Kurdistan Region, accusing them of smuggling weapons into Iran, an allegation they have consistently denied.
Militants kill three Iraq soldiers: military official
Three Iraqi soldiers were killed and four others wounded Sunday in a pre-dawn attack in the country's north blamed on the Islamic State group, a military official told AFP.
The assailants used automatic weapons in the attack on their barracks in Wadi al-Naft, about 25 kilometres (15 miles) west of the city of Kirkuk, the official said on condition of anonymity.
"Three soldiers, including two officers, were killed, and four other soldiers were wounded". There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The attack occurred in an area disputed between Iraq's federal government, which holds Kirkuk, and the country's autonomous northern region of Kurdistan.
IS militants seized swathes of Iraq and neighbouring Syria in 2014, declaring a "caliphate" which they ruled with brutality before their defeat in late 2017 by Iraqi forces backed by a US-led military coalition.
Despite the setbacks, the extremist group can still call on an underground network of fighters to carry out attacks on both sides of the porous border, the United Nations says.
In April, the international coalition set up to fight the Sunni Muslim extremists said there had been a reduction in IS attacks in both Iraq and Syria.
In March, a senior Iraqi military official said IS had between 400 and 500 active fighters in the Shiite-majority country.
12. June 2023 12:18
Iraq passes budget, Erbil loses control over oil export
Iraqi lawmakers approve a massive budget after days of voting and months of wrangling over its articles in a country long accustomed to budget delays. Most contentious parts of the bill were related to the Kurdistan Region’s share of the budget and its control over its oil sector.
The new bill allocates 12.67 percent of the budget to the Kurdistan Region in return for handing over of at least 400,000 barrels of oil per day to the Iraqi state marketer SOMO, with revenues going to a central bank account overseen by Baghdad.
Approval of articles 13 and 14, pertaining to the Kurdistan Region, followed intense eleventh-hour talks between Iraqi and Kurdish political parties. Kurdish leaders had previously denounced amendments relating to oil in the budget, resulting in repeated delays to the vote. However, the final cause of tension emerged from disputes among the Kurdish political parties themselves.
Iraq’s parliament on Monday approved a massive budget that boosts public spending in the country and grants the federal government the upper hand over oil exports from the autonomous Kurdistan region. The 198.9 trillion dinar ($153 billion) budget — valid for three years though subject to future amendments — also sets out record spending on public wages, investments and development projects. Lawmakers approved the bill after days of voting and months of wrangling over its articles in a country long […]
12. June 2023 11:02
Good morning, everyone.
Here are the latest updates from Iraq and the Kurdistan Region:
After over four days of intense discussions and negotiations among political parties, Iraqi parliament has approved one of the largest budget bills since 2003. This budget not only sets out the financial plans for the next three years in Iraq but also carries substantial implications for the Kurdistan region. In a significant first, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will lose control over oil export.
The new Iraqi budget bill has stoked further tensions in the already fraught political landscape in the Kurdistan Region. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has backed the 8th clause in Article 14, which provides the provinces under the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) with the alternative to directly obtain funds from the Iraqi central government if a disagreement arises with the KRG. For such funds to be allocated, the approval of the Iraqi Prime Minister would be necessary. Even though the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) maintains that the PUK did not achieve its intended result and cannot secure direct funds from the Iraqi government, statements from KDP President Masoud Barzani and KDP's KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani suggest that we are likely to see a surge in tensions between the PUK and KDP.
In other news:
Three Iraqi soldiers were killed and four others wounded Sunday in a pre-dawn attack in the country's north blamed on the Islamic State group, a military official said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani is set to visit Egypt on Monday for talks on enhancing bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) fighters are blamed for the death of two Turkish soldiers in the Kurdistan Region.