Live: Clashes Intensify Between Iranian Forces and Kurdish Opposition

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The Iraqi Ministry of Oil has announced a new bidding round to develop gas reserves in the Western and Northern parts of Iraq, according to The National News.
This marks the sixth bidding round since 2009, in which Iraq will offer 11 gas exploration blocks: nine in Anbar, two shared by Nineveh, Anbar, and Najaf, and one solely in Nineveh.
In recent years, the Iraqi government has sought to attract investment from Gulf countries. They have announced a number of projects and offered several oil and gas exploration blocks in Iraq’s predominantly Sunni West and North. However, these efforts have resulted in very little tangible investment from Gulf countries so far, due to their ongoing skepticism about the feasibility of the projects and the security and investment environment in the country.
Despite significant improvements in Iraq’s security situation in recent years, hardline groups have consistently opposed these projects. A number of front organizations have even openly threatened to attack any Saudi company investing in the region.
The US chamber's US-Iraq Business Council is in the Kurdistan Region for talks with KRG officials and businesspeople.
Clashes between Iranian armed forces and Iranian Kurdish opposition forces from PJAK near Kosalan Mountain, Sanandaj, have entered their fifth day, according to reports by the human rights organization, Hengaw.
Close to Sulaymaniyah, on the eastern border of the Kurdistan Region, these clashes started after weeks of media reports about the transfer of military equipment by the IRGC and Iranian army to border areas with the Kurdistan region.
The clashes have already resulted in casualties, according to Iranian sources, and there is a risk of further escalation.
The Kurdish service of VOA recently published an article, citing multiple Iranian Kurdish opposition sources, claiming they were asked by the KRG, under pressure from Tehran, to disarm and relocate to refugee camps They were allegedly told that the KRG can "no longer protect them." In recent months, Iran has increased pressure on the Kurdistan Region due to the presence of what it calls "separatist movements" within its borders, denouncing it as a "Zionist conspiracy".
Previously, in an exclusive interview with Hawlati in November 2022, the co-president of PJAK issued a stern statement claiming they "hadn't entered Kurdistan's mountains with anyone's permission, and "no threat will make us leave Kurdistan's mountains nor our positions."
TEHRAN – A member of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) was martyred in clashes with counter-revolutionary groups in the city of Marivan in Kurdistan Province, west Iran.
Tehran Times
On the "International Day for Countering Hate Speech", the KRG hosted an event titled "Kurdistan: The Nest of Peaceful Coexistence". Along with KRG authorities, the event featured leaders from various sects and religions.

KR Prime Minister Masrour Barzani seized the opportunity to discuss the latest political developments and the Kurdistan Region's relationship with Baghdad.

He stated, "We have made many compromises to establish a federal and democratic Iraq. We have tried our best to build a new Iraq where all communities are represented and can safeguard their rights and privileges, but we see that this process is slowly being derailed, and Iraq is being guided towards a path that risks repeating the bitter experiences of the past."

"We see attempts to violate our constitutional rights, we see hateful and hostile speech against the Kurdistan Region," he continued.

In closing, he reiterated his call for reparations: "Finally, we must emphasize that adherence to the Iraqi constitution is the only guarantee of stability and the protection of the rights of all Iraqi communities. Kurdistan, along with all its communities, has faced numerous attempts at erasure, such as the Anfal campaign, chemical attacks, land seizures, population transfers, and the erasure of national identity. Therefore, according to the constitution, we demand compensation for all the oppression we have suffered."

The Prime Minister regularly uses these events to send messages to political rivals and the leadership in Baghdad. His speech today largely reflects his party's dissatisfaction with the budget process.

During a visit to Halabja city, Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani reaffirmes his support for public sector initiatives and pledged to inaugurate a "large" dairy factory in the province within the coming year.

Despite the Deputy Prime Minister's frequent emphasis on the importance of the private sector in his addresses, businesspeople in areas under the control of the PUK often complain about intricate bureaucracies and intimidation by authorities.

A recent incident, where a PUK MP and his bodyguards were involved in a gunfight with a business less than two months ago in downtown Sulaymaniyah, has heightened concerns over both the security and business climate in the region.


Tragic Shipwreck: Over 35 Kurds from Syria Among the Passengers on Board

credit: Angelos Tzortzinis

Here is a report from the AFP on parents of Syrians missing in the Greece boat tragedy:

In war-torn Syria, parents of teenagers missing in a shipwreck off the Greek coast are desperately holding onto hope that their children might still be alive, days after the tragic incident. The capsizing and sinking of an overloaded fishing boat off Greece's Peloponnese peninsula on Wednesday claimed the lives of at least 78 people. While the exact number of passengers on the vessel remains unknown, hundreds are feared missing. According to relatives and activists, at least 141 Syrians were among those onboard. At least 35 people aboard the boat were from Kurdish-held areas in Syria's north, a relative told AFP on Friday.

Mohammed Mohammed, a tyre repairman from Kobane in Syria's Kurdish-held north, expressed his anxiety about the fate of his 15-year-old son Diyar. Mohammed explained that his son left due to the dire situation in Kobane, which, despite being a symbol of victory over the Islamic State group in 2015, is now facing threats from Turkey. Diyar had dreams of joining his brother in Germany, and he embarked on the journey with four friends. Mohammed said his brother had travelled to Greece in the hope of finding Diyar but was denied entry to hospitals where he had hoped to speak to survivors. "People are fleeing death, but finding death" along the way, he said.

Another parent, Iyad from Jassem in the southern province of Daraa, shared his distress as his 19-year-old son Ali remained unaccounted for. Iyad has received conflicting reports, one listing his son among the survivors and another among the deceased. "I have had no news of my son. I haven't spoken to him. I haven't heard his voice," said Iyad, who works at a school and declined to provide his surname. "His mother hasn't stopped crying for three days." The 47-year-old said he had heard of two Greek reports -- one listing his son among the survivors and another among the dead. "I still have hope that he will be among the survivors," Iyad told AFP by telephone on Saturday. "We are praying to God day and night."

According to his father, the teenager had ventured to Libya in search of a better life, traveling there by plane from Damascus. "He expressed his desire to work in a restaurant" and had planned to send money back home to support the family, added Iyad. "We were unaware that he intended to take a boat. Had we known, we would never have allowed him to go."
Activists at the Daraa Martyrs Documentation Office informed AFP on Saturday that out of the individuals on board the trawler, 106 were from the southern regions of Syria, predominantly from Daraa province, where they described the "living and security situation as absolutely unbearable." As of now, only 34 survivors have been accounted for, they disclosed.

Three individuals were arrested on charges of money counterfeiting this morning, according to a press statement from Duhok security forces (Asayish). In the Kurdistan Region, where the economy is primarily cash-based, currency counterfeiting presents a significant issue. Back in 2018, over 100 people were charged with dealing in counterfeit currencies in Erbil alone.
Alina Romanowski, the US ambassador to Iraq, has just provided an update on the next step of the US trade mission in Iraq. This week, they will be in the Kurdistan Region for business discussions.

2,800-Year-Old Stone Tablet Returns to Iraq

Iraq unveiled a 2,800-year-old stone tablet returned by Italy on Sunday as part of its ongoing efforts to reclaim antiquities looted from its territory. Inscribed in cuneiform, the Babylonian alphabet, the tablet bears the insignia of Assyrian King Shalmaneser III, who ruled the Nimrod region in present-day northern Iraq from 858 to 823 BC. The route this artifact took to Italy remains a mystery, but Italian authorities recently returned it to Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid during his visit to Bologna.


Rashid thanked the Italians for their efforts and cooperation at a handover ceremony held Sunday in a Baghdad presidential palace, before passing the artifact on to the national museum. The tablet reportedly arrived in Italy during the 1980s, when it was seized by police, according to Laith Majid Hussein, director of Baghdad's council of antiquities and heritage.


Despite unclear circumstances surrounding the tablet's discovery, Iraqi Culture Minister Ahmed Fakak al-Badrani suggested it might have been found during archaeological excavations or work on the Mosul Dam, Iraq's largest, built in the 1980s. He emphasized the tablet's value, given its complete cuneiform text.


As the cradle of Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian civilizations, modern Iraq has a rich cultural heritage, much of which has been targeted by looters, particularly in the chaos following the US-led invasion in 2003.


The Iraqi president asserted the country's commitment to recover all its archaeological pieces from abroad, expressing his ambition to make the national Iraq Museum one of the world's best.


In related news, two ancient sculptures - a limestone Mesopotamian elephant and an alabaster Sumerian bull from the old city of Uruk - were returned to Iraq in May, announced by New York prosecutor Alvin Bragg. The artifacts, stolen during the Gulf War, were smuggled into New York in the late 1990s and were part of billionaire philanthropist and Met trustee Shelby White's private collection.

Saleh Ali al-Kharabsheh, the Jordanian Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, has announced that the first phase of the electricity interconnection with Iraq will be completed in August. With an initial capacity of only 50 MW, this represents a symbolic first step in Iraq's efforts to diversify its electricity supply away from Iran, which is under US sanctions.

Over the past few years, Iraq has announced several projects to link its electricity grid to neighboring countries such as Turkey, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.

The title of the latest report by Arab Gulf States Institute analyst Yerevan Saeed says it all: "In Iraq, the Kurds Are Their Own Worst Enemy." The argument presented is that the approval of the federal budget has not only highlighted but also resurfaced deep divisions between the Kurdish political parties, which effectively weakens Erbil's position against Baghdad even further.

Saeed suggests that internal divisions have weakened Kurdistan Region's autonomy and bargaining power against the federal government. These conflicts have made it difficult for the autonomous region to advocate for its autonomy and budgetary needs effectively. Increasing control from Shia parties and federal audits on every dollar given to Erbil have further undermined Kurdish power. The inability of Kurdish parties to focus on governance and development has harmed the Region's potential to build strong institutions and has negatively impacted its national and international standing.  

Saeed says to restore public and legal legitimacy, the Kurdistan Region needs to hold a fresh election. While it doesn't guarantee national unity, it can help foster trust, dialogue, and citizen participation. He suggests that this requires more American and European diplomatic engagement than ever before, as a Western diplomatic vacuum could give opportunities to other countries like China. The future of the Kurdistan Region, according to Saeed, is uncertain and needs significant efforts to regain its strength.

The KRG institutions have lost their legitimacy not just in the eyes of the people but also from the legal perspective after the Iraqi supreme court ruled that the extension of the Kurdistan Region’s parliament tenure was unconstitutional.

Yerevan Saeed

Kurds were once referred to as kingmakers, a pillar of stability, and the most powerful force in the fight against ISIS. Now, the Kurdish Region of Iraq is crippled by ferocious partisanships, tribal politics, and internal splits.
The Washington Institute
Just in: KRG PM Masrour Barzani takes pride in the diverse religious background of his area of origin in the Kurdistan Region. He pledges to do his utmost to preserve and promote this diversity.
Good morning!

Here are the top news stories we are following today:

  • Reported clashes between Iranian armed forces and Kurdish opposition groups are escalating in Sanandaj, on the Eastern border of Iraqi Kurdistan. Casualties have been reported. Previously, commanders within the IRGC threatened a land incursion into the Kurdistan Region to counter these groups.
  • On the "International Day for Countering Hate Speech", Kurdistan Region Prime Minister, Masrour Barzani, took the opportunity to voice his opinion on current events. "We are witnessing attempts to violate our constitutional rights, and we are experiencing hateful and hostile speech against the Kurdistan Region," he expressed.
  • Additionally, we will continue covering the ongoing developments regarding the suspension of oil exports from the Kurdistan Region. This comes as the Iraqi parliament discusses potential alternatives to exporting crude oil via the Turkish port of Ceyhan.