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14. June 2023 20:01
Tehran said to implement disarmament plan for Kurdish opposition amid rising tensions
Tehran's plan to disarm Iranian-Kurdish opposition groups in the Kurdistan Region, is now reportedly being implemented.
Anonymous sources disclosed to VOA Kurdish that the scheme has already caused disputes within these groups. A high-ranking official from the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan (Komala) told VOA's Kurdish service that the Head of Kurdistan Region's Assayish Agency (Security forces) met with several Iranian opposition parties. They were informed that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) could no longer guarantee their protection.
This contradicts Komala leader Abdullah Mohtadi's claim made to the BBC last month. He said that the KRG had requested Komala and other Iranian Kurdish opposition groups to moderate their activities and refrain from armed conflict with Tehran.
VOA added that, in response, plans are being made to establish refugee camps for members of these parties. There are plans to build one camp in Sulaymaniyah and two in Erbil over the next six months. However, the military branches of these parties rejected this plan, stating their intent to return to armed resistance in the mountains.
Tehran has intermittently targeted the bases of these groups for a long time, but the frequency of attacks has escalated in recent months. One of the deadliest incidents occurred in September in the Koya district of the Sulaymaniyah province, resulting in over 13 fatalities. This increase in aggression coincides with mounting pressure from Tehran on these groups, who are believed to have played a substantial role in the protracted anti-government protests that erupted last year following the death of an Iranian Kurdish woman, Zhina Amini (also known as Mahsa), in police custody.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has declared using heavy artillery and drone attacks in the Kurdistan province, adjacent to Kermanshah, attempting to remove PKK-offshoot PJAK fighters. The targeted region, known as Kosalan in Hawraman near Mariwan, borders Iraq's Kurdistan Region. Despite previous unsuccessful attempts to capture the Kosalan range, the IRGC says now it is fully committed to its capture.
The VOA report also quotes KRG Representative to Iran Nadhim Dabagh stating that these groups must limit their activities, as Iran no longer tolerates their presence. This aligns with what Mohtadi told the BBC about "limiting activities and providing assurances". The KRG has not yet commented on this issue.
The pressure from Iran has been building up since the border security agreement between Iran and Iraq was signed on March 19. The agreement involved Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, and his Iraqi counterpart Qasim al-Araji.
Recently, Araji met with Ali Akbar Ahmadian, his newly elected counterpart, KDP's Minister of Interior Rebar Ahmed, and PUK's Head of Assayish Agency Hiwa Ahmed. During this meeting, steps towards disarming the opposition parties and housing them in UNHCR-managed refugee camps were discussed, according to a Draw Media report at the time.
While these events unfolded, the KRG Minister of Interior was in Washington. Speculation arose about Ahmad's discussions with the Americans regarding these developments. However, Dabagh dismissed these speculations, saying Iran was directly interacting with Iraq, and the KRG had representatives at those meetings.
Naif Khalaf Sedo, the Yezidi team leader in the Iraqi Parliament, has expressed dissatisfaction with the allocation of resources for the Yezidi community in the Iraqi budget, describing it as unfair.
Sedo criticized the budget of 50 billion IQD allocated for the reconstruction of Sinjar, asserting that this amount reflects the Yezidis' marginalized status as perceived 'fourth-class citizens' in Iraq.
In October 2020, an agreement intended to establish stability in the Sinjar district was signed between Baghdad and Erbil. The agreement proposed a new administration and security structure, aiming to facilitate the return of displaced individuals. However, the implementation of this agreement has not yet been fully realized.
Discrepancies were also pointed out in the allocation of employment. The Iraqi budget provides for the recruitment of 1,500 policemen to be stationed in Sinjar and its surrounding areas. Yet, an agreement between the KRG and Baghdad had settled on the employment of 2,500 personnel, indicating a significant variance in how the agreement is being implemented.
14. June 2023 18:04
During the ninth anniversary celebrations of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), Chief Falih al-Fayyadh insisted they are a non-political military institution, obeying orders solely from the armed forces' commander-in-chief. This assertion has sparked concerns among critics who assert the PMF occasionally acts autonomously, engaging in actions without adhering to Iraq's official military structure.
Fayyadh highlighted the PMF's triumphs, focusing on their successful transformation of a difficult situation during the ISIS conflict and their subsequent control of territories formerly held by the terror group.
Despite Fayyadh's assertion, the PMF's political involvement has drawn criticism. Its participation in elections through several political factions and its representation under the Fatah Alliance - the PMF's political wing - raised eyebrows. The Alliance had some electoral success, winning 48 of 325 seats in the 2018 Iraqi elections, and securing 17 seats in 2021.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iran and the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq have certain similarities in their structure, origins, and roles....
Gulf International Forum
14. June 2023 17:59
Record 110 million people now forcibly displaced: UN
The United Nations announces that a record 110 million individuals around the globe have been forcibly displaced from their homes, branding the huge upsurge an "indictment" of the world.
Situations such as Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine, refugees escaping from Afghanistan, and escalating conflicts in Sudan have contributed to an unprecedented surge in the number of refugees seeking shelter abroad, as well as those displaced within their own countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
As disclosed in the UNHCR's flagship annual report, Global Trends in Forced Displacement, there were 108.4 million displaced individuals at the close of the previous year. This figure indicates a daunting increase of 19.1 million from the end of 2021 – the largest jump since records began in 1975.
The crisis in Sudan, which erupted later, has only added to these figures, pushing the estimated global total to 110 million as of May. Filippo Grandi, UNHCR chief, speaking at a press conference in Geneva, commented, "We have 110 million people that have fled due to conflict, persecution, discrimination, and violence, often intertwined with other motives, particularly the impact of climate change. It's quite an indictment of the state of our world."
The displacement figures for 2022 include 35.3 million refugees who sought asylum abroad, with 62.5 million being internally displaced. There were 5.4 million individuals seeking asylum and an additional 5.2 million people — primarily from Venezuela — in need of international protection.
Grandi expressed concern about an increasing trend of hostility towards refugees and fears that the figures may further escalate. He emphasized the crucial role of leadership in securing public support for those deserving international protection. He further noted that about 76 percent of refugees fled to low- and middle-income countries, while 70 percent stayed in neighboring countries.
Speaking about asylum issues in the United States and Britain, Grandi voiced his disapproval of Britain's plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for adjudication, and expressed concerns about restrictions to access asylum in the United States. However, Grandi welcomed the European Union's approach towards a pact on asylum and migration, but emphasized that access to asylum should be maintained. "Asylum seekers should not be put in jail. Seeking asylum is not a crime," he noted.
Given the alarmingly low funding of UNHCR's appeals related to the crisis in Sudan and the precarious financial situation the organization finds itself in, Grandi called for urgent global action to alleviate the causes and impact of displacement.
The refugee crisis continues to escalate, with 6.5 million Syrian refugees and 5.7 million Ukrainian refugees recorded at the end of 2022. Last year saw over 339,000 refugees return to 38 countries, while 5.7 million internally displaced people were able to return home. The countries hosting the most refugees are Turkey, Iran, Colombia, Germany, and Pakistan.
Analysis in English on World and 26 other countries about Protection and Human Rights; published on 14 Jun 2023 by UNHCR
14. June 2023 16:55
Kurdistan trade mission in London seeks to boost investment
A delegation from the Kurdistan Region, led by the KRG minister of trade, tourism officials, and various Kurdish enterprises, has gathered in West London for a two-day event aimed at strengthening trade and investment ties with the UK and beyond.
The event was organized by the Kurdistan Britain and Europe Business Council (KBE), an NGO in Erbil, which has arranged multiple trade missions showcasing sectors such as banking, finance, tourism, agriculture, and industry since its inception in 2019.
KBE's president, Ashty Aladin, highlighted the event's objective to enhance UK-Iraq trade relations, noting the significant potential for UK companies in the Kurdistan region, despite the current low trade volume and the challenges of the Iraqi business environment.
Aladin identified security issues, lack of knowledge, and negative perceptions as key hurdles for businesses, underscoring KBE's role in bridging the gap between Iraqi and UK businesses. Despite these challenges, he pointed out promising opportunities, especially given the government's support for international investment, which includes a 10-year tax exemption.
Iraq's ambassador to the UK, Mohammed Jaafar al-Sadr, stated at the London event that Iraq is more open to foreign investments following the approval of the budget bill. Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi and former chancellor, who has Kurdish roots and has had business ties with the Kurdistan Region in the past, urged UK businesses to invest in the Kurdistan Region and explore its rich history and culture.
In May, KBE hosted a public forum on investing in a promising economy, focusing on opportunities and challenges in agriculture, tourism, and investment sectors.
14. June 2023 16:42
Judit Neurink's new article, "How a Kurdish dream went up in smoke," explores the frustrations of Iraqi Kurds towards their leaders' self-interests and incessant disputes. Trust in ruling parties like the KDP and PUK is waning, leading to a call for fresh political representation.
Neurink reveals that the Kurds' hope of using oil extraction for economic growth and eventual independence has been dashed. The KRG faces fiscal deficits, rising taxes, and diminishing public services, causing escalating disillusionment and protests among its citizens.
She attributes this to the Kurdish parties' structure, centered more around individuals or families than broad-based programs addressing citizen needs. Kurdish politics often manipulate fear, creating internal divisions and portraying Baghdad as a foe.
The independence dream took a hit after the 2017 referendum, which strained relations with Baghdad and international allies. Erbil lost control of disputed territories, including the vital oil city of Kirkuk, leading not to full independence but to drastically reduced Kurdish autonomy. The Kurdish government was pushed to a caretaker status pending parliamentary elections.
Adding to this, the leadership's lack of collaboration has eroded their credibility, with many citizens believing the loss of independent oil extraction to Baghdad could benefit the region. The breakdown of oil exports, along with internal and external tensions, has significantly weakened the Kurdish position.
In Neurink's view, as independence seems increasingly unattainable, so does the vision of a unified Kurdish state. The people's disappointment is palpable as they hold their leaders responsible for the shattered dreams and governance failures."
Iraqi Kurds have had to give up the dream that oil would help them achieve independence. Citizens blame their leaders, who do not stop quarreling and enriching themselves.
14. June 2023 16:39
KRG does not have enough funds to pay salaries – Draw
The KRG is facing a significant shortfall in its funds for paying May public sector salaries, as it faces a deficit of 300 billion Iraqi dinars halfway through June.
Drawreports that the KRG is planning to delay salary payments and boost local non-oil revenue. Furthermore, it anticipates the agreed monthly allocation of 400 billion IQD from Baghdad, although this still leaves a deficit.
The halt of KRG oil exports via Turkey since March 25 has led to a financial strain, hindering the payment of employee salaries. Despite the expected monthly transfer from Baghdad, the KRG remains 300 billion IQD short for May salaries, forcing a slowdown in payments. This issue is likely to continue until the implementation of the Iraqi federal budget that passed through parliament over the weekend.
To mitigate this situation, the KRG has borrowed 800 billion IQD from Iraqi banks in the first half of this year and expects another 400 billion IQD soon, bringing the total recent borrowing to 1.2 trillion IQD. This amount will be subtracted from KRG's entitlements and funds to repay the banks once the budget is implemented. Despite criticism, KRG officials express confidence that the Iraqi budget will address the salary problem.
As per the Iraqi budget, the central government will supply 906 billion IQD monthly for employee salaries, pensions, and Peshmerga forces. This leaves the KRG with a manageable deficit of 6 billion IQD, which it expects to cover easily.
Nevertheless, the longevity of the agreement between the KRG and the Iraqi government is uncertain, as KRG-Baghdad agreements often dissolve within a few months, resulting in both parties accusing each other of violating terms."
Kurdish losses top $2b as talks to resume oil exports commence – Reuters
Iraq and Turkey are set to start technical discussions about resuming Iraq's northern oil exports next week, though a swift resolution seems unlikely, according to anonymous insiders speaking to Reuters.
Turkey halted the 450,000 barrels per day oil exports via a pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on March 25, leading to over $2 billion in losses for the KRG.
Efforts to reactivate the pipeline were postponed due to Turkey's recent elections and ongoing talks about an export agreement. Notably, Turkey seeks to negotiate the damages it was ordered to pay by the International Chamber of Commerce for unauthorized Kurdish oil exports.
Meanwhile, the suspension of the pipeline has resulted in financial difficulties for Kurdistan. Consequently, the KRG had to approve a 2023 budget that greatly curtails its financial autonomy, allowing it to receive 12.67% of the allocated 198.9 trillion dinars ($153 billion).
Reuters' calculation of the KRG's losses is based on daily exports of 375,000 barrels and the KRG's historical discount against Brent crude, with the pipeline also transporting about 75,000 barrels of federal crude.
Iraq and Turkey are set to begin technical talks by early next week on resuming Iraq's northern oil exports, but hopes for a quick resolution are slim, two sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
14. June 2023 15:35
KDP-PUK meeting looms amid tensions and international pressures
Following the approval of the Iraqi budget, tensions between the KDP and the PUK have escalated, leading to accusations of "treason" against the PUK. This dispute comes just one month after the parties' reconciliation.
According to Bwar News, international pressures from entities including the US, UN, and Iran are urging the KDP and PUK to resolve their differences through a joint meeting. The Iranian advisory specifically counsels the KDP against overreacting to PUK's recent actions in Baghdad.
Baghdad officials, including Iraqi PM Al-Sudani, warn that the strained relationship could jeopardize the oil agreement between the KRG and Baghdad. Despite this, there is currently no confirmed schedule for a KDP-PUK meeting, as both parties persist in their media-led assaults on each other.
In response to the approved budget, KDP President Masoud Barzani, and his deputy Masrour Barzani, indirectly accused the PUK of "treason." However, Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani called for "easing tensions and resolving differences" through shared political resolve.
KRG and Iraq to cooperate on expanding banking sector
At the opening of a private bank in Erbil, the KRG PM Masrour Barzani, emphasized the banking system's critical role in strengthening Kurdistan's economy.
In recent years, the financial crisis and bank insolvencies in Kurdistan have eroded public trust in banking institutions. In response, PM Barzani urged citizens and government institutions to engage more with the banking system.
Furthermore, the KRG is working on establishing a digital banking system for salary payments, called "Hazhmari Min" or "My Account" in Kurdish.
Seven additional banks have agreed to support this initiative, which aims to digitize salary payments. The goal, PM Barzani said, is to enroll all KRG employees in this system within the next two years.
The proposal has faced criticism from those concerned about potential delays or shortfalls in salary payments under the new system. Trust in the banking sector is also low due to capital controls and delays in processing withdrawals.
On the other hand, supporters argue that it will increase transparency and convenience, eliminate long lines for salary collection, and promote the banking system's integration into Kurdish society, aligning with modern practices.
The government also plans to incorporate private sector employees into the Hazhmari Min initiative. To standardize and develop Kurdistan's banking system, PM Barzani affirmed the KRG's coordination with the Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), emphasizing the need for expedited progress in the region's banking sector.
Continuing on the PMF Ceremony, the Iraqi parliament's speaker praised the PMF and other forces for their role in counter-terrorism efforts.
Speaker Mohammed Al-Halbousi, a Sunni, acknowledged the majority Shia PMF, advocating for its role as a "unifying force that fosters cooperation among all Iraqi entities."
However, Halbousi expressed concerns about the PMF's expanding roles, particularly when they operate outside government structures. He suggested that such operations should occur under a unified security framework led by the armed forces' commander-in-chief, which can fulfil both PMF's objectives and national goals.
Despite the successful defeat of ISIS, the problem of internally displaced persons (IDPs) persists in Iraq, with IDPs still scattered across various cities. Therefore, Halbousi urged the rebuilding of ISIS-affected cities and the secure repatriation of IDPs.
14. June 2023 13:14
Iraqi presidency calls for 'further PMF support'
During the PMF anniversary ceremony, the Iraqi Presidency issued a call for further support of the PMF. A speech delivered by Abdullah Al-Alaywi, the senior advisor to President, highlighted the need for enhanced support, arming, and equipping of the PMF.
Prior to this, Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid acknowledged the PMF in a statement on the occasion of its anniversary. He praised the PMF as the "victory-makers and heroes of liberation," emphasizing their vital role in responding to serious threats such as terrorism, extremism, and deviant ideologies that have troubled the country. The President issued this statement while on a formal visit to Italy.
السومرية نيوز – محلياتدعا رئيس رئيس الجمهورية عبد اللطيف جمال رشيد، اليوم الأربعاء، الى توفير كل الدعم التسليحي للحشد الشعبي.
قناه السومرية العراقية
14. June 2023 13:11
In the ninth anniversary ceremony of the jihad fatwa issued by Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani and the establishment of the PMF, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani lauded the PMF's pivotal role in supporting the army and safeguarding state institutions and Iraq's political system. He highlighted that past security issues have been resolved due to the efforts of security forces.
The PMF, which is active in Iraqi political circles and government institutions under different names, has been a crucial ally for some political parties. However, its involvement in suppressing the 2019 elections has faced criticism.
The Prime Minister further expressed his continued support for the PMF and revealed plans for building camps and bases for the PMF outside urban areas, to help fulfill its military objectives.
The PMF, an amalgamation of several militia groups, was officially integrated into the security forces by Iraq's parliament in 2016, leading to speculations of its operational resemblance to Iran's IRGC.
Prime Minister Mohammed S. Al-Sudani Attends Commemoration Ceremony of the Anniversary of Jihad Fatwa and Formation of...
14. June 2023 12:13
Iraqi PM concludes Cairo trip with a slew of new agreements
The Iraqi Prime Minister, Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani, concluded his visit to Cairo by signing 11 agreements with his Egyptian counterpart, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. These agreements span various sectors, including economic cooperation, foreign affairs, administrative development, tourism, trade, sports, and planning, marking a significant step in enhancing the relationship between the two nations.
The signing ceremony followed a series of comprehensive discussions between Sudani and various Egyptian officials. This marks Sudani's second official visit to Egypt since he took office last year, signaling the increasing importance of the bilateral relationship.
In his statement, Sudani noted that their talks covered an array of regional and international issues. Both leaders emphasized the need for continuous mutual cooperation and a commitment to translating these agreements into tangible actions. They also underscored the importance of strengthening the partnership between their respective nations.
Egyptian President Al-Sisi expressed his gratitude towards Iraq for its efforts in promoting regional stability and security. He expressed Egypt's keenness to expand cooperation with Iraq across a variety of sectors. Al-Sisi highlighted the intention to build a long-term partnership aimed at advancing the development and prosperity of not just their nations, but also the broader region.
The Egyptian-Iraqi Joint Higher Committee, co-chaired by the two leaders, convened a meeting during the visit, with the participation of the Egyptian Prime Minister, Mostafa Madbouly.
Data from Egypt’s state statistics agency, CAPMAS, indicates that the trade exchange between Egypt and Iraq was estimated at $540 million in 2022, a decrease from nearly $1 billion in the previous year. Despite this, Iraq is recognized as the 25th largest investor in Egypt. The country has made investments nearing $500 million across approximately 3,500 projects as of December last year.
14. June 2023 11:40
Good morning, everyone.
Here's the latest from Iraq and the Kurdistan Region:
This month, the KRG failed to fulfill its commitment to pay employees' salaries within the first week, as previously promised. The Finance Ministry attributed this delay to their anticipation of the monthly 400 billion from Baghdad, combined with a deficit in non-oil revenues collected within the Kurdistan Region.
Today in Baghdad, a ceremony took place to honor the anniversary of the "Jihad Fatwa" and the formation of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq. As Iraqi government officials express their support for the PMF, we'll provide ongoing coverage of this event.
Now exceeding 80 days since the halt of KRG oil exports through Turkey, losses for the KRG have been estimated by Reuters at more than $2b. This halt has also led Iraq to produce significantly less than its OPEC+ quotas for May. We'll continue to monitor and report on the ongoing oil issue in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.
The PUK and KDP have entered a new phase of uncertainty, evidenced by the transmission of their conflicts and disputes to the government institutions and media outlets they control.