PM Barzani and President Erdogan - File photo, AA

Live: KRG PM in Ankara

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Iran's newly appointed consul to Sulaymaniyah, Mohammad Mahmoudian, met with PUK President Bafel Talabani at the party's headquarters in Dabashan to discuss economic ties and expanding trade between Kurdistan and Iran, according to PUK Media.

Talabani expressed "full support" for Mahmoudian's appointment, PUK media reported. Mahmoudian, who was appointed by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in April, previously served as head of Iran's Interests Section Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, and as General Director of the Iranian Expatriates' Affairs at the Foreign Ministry.

In his first public meeting with Talabani, Mahmoudian paid respects to the late Jalal Talabani, PUK founder and former President of Iraq, at his tomb. The consul acknowledged the late leader's role in fostering Iran-Iraq relations in a written tribute.

The PUK is known for its close ties with Iran, reflecting its geographical proximity and political alignments. Conversely, the KDP is viewed as having stronger relations with Turkey, particularly during President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's tenure and following an alleged 50-year oil contract between the KRG and the Turkish government.

Bwar News reported that Esmail Qaani, commander of Iran's Quds Force, supported the PUK's proposal to include a clause separating KRG provinces in the Iraqi budget law, illustrating the influence of these regional alliances on domestic politics.

Despite Iraq's economy relying heavily on oil and gas revenues, no law currently regulates these resources. A draft legislation prepared by the Iraqi Parliament's Oil, Gas, and Natural Resources Committee, set for vote post-recess, could change that.

Committee member Zainab Juma'a al-Musawi MP told Al-Sumaria the law could redefine Iraq's oil "map." Many experts assert that the recent approval of Iraq's budget has not only paved the way for this law, but also curtailed KRG sovereignty over oil exports and contracts with foreign firms. 

The budget law ended the KRG's independent oil export following a ruling by a Paris court on March 25. Al-Musawi warns that without cooperation from the KRG, they could face more financial issues.

Drafting this law has taken over 18 years due to disputes between the KRG and other Iraqi parties. The revised draft delegates oil field management to SOMO, supervised by the Iraqi Federal Council of Oil and Gas.

The law enhances the central government's power, allowing the Prime Minister to head the unelected Federal Council or appoint a delegate. Council membership comprises various governmental, provincial, and industry representatives, with a five-year tenure.

The council will oversee oil policy, development, and pipelines, with authority to make significant changes and review contracts. However, the law could stoke new disputes between Baghdad and Erbil, despite a preliminary agreement on KRG oil export.
السومرية نيوز – سياسة حددت لجنة النفط والغاز والثروات الطبيعية النيابية، اليوم الثلاثاء، موعد التصويت على قانون النفط والغاز تحت قبة البرلمان، وفيما بينت مساوئ عدم تكاتف أربيل بإقراره، اعتبرته سيرسم خارطة قطاع الذهب الأسود من جديد.
قناه السومرية العراقية
Shwan Zulal, managing director of Carduchi Consulting, told NRT English that Barzani's visit to Ankara is significant after yesterday's technical meeting in Baghdad.

It is seen as a positive sign that all the concerned parties - Erbil, Baghdad, and Ankara - are eager to resolve the outstanding issues and stop the bleeding of Kurdistan Region and Iraqi oil revenues.

According to Reuters, Turkey is unwilling to resume oil flows until a second arbitration case is resolved, which covers the period from 2018 to 2022


Iraqi refugee advocacy group accuses the UNHCR of 'discrimination'

On World Refugee Day, the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR) accuses the UNHCR of discriminatory policies that neglect the cases of thousands of refugees enduring inhumane conditions in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria.

Last year, out of 276,000 registered refugees from the Kurdistan Region and Iraq seeking international asylum in these countries, only 38,000 received asylum and were relocated to other nations, according to UNHCR data. IFIR claims these figures demonstrate the UNHCR's prejudiced approach and mistreatment of Iraqi refugees, resulting in the separation of numerous families. NRT English has reached out to UNHCR for comment.

The statement particularly emphasizes the situation of Iraqi refugees in Turkey, stating that although UNHCR reports approximately 147,000 refugees from the Kurdistan Region and Iraq in Turkey, the process of relocating them to third countries has halted. In Turkey, where the largest number of Kurdish and Iraqi refugees reside, some have been waiting for over five years. In 2022, only 511 out of more than 147,000 refugees were sent to third countries. From January 1, 2023, to June 6, 2023, only 30 refugees from the Kurdistan Region and Iraq have been relocated to third countries.

IFIR demands an end to the prolonged detention of war-displaced refugees, urges European governments to encourage equitable acceptance of refugees among countries that ratified the Geneva Conventions, and calls for a halt to refugee deportations by urging European countries to rescind their agreements with Turkey and Greece.

Additionally, IFIR urges the UNHCR to provide improved facilities and resources for the early integration of refugees into host communities, resume the acceptance of new refugees, especially from Iraq, Kurdistan, and Lebanon, prevent the forced deportation of refugees whose cases are not approved by Turkish authorities, and grant them humanitarian residence instead.
Just in: The Iraqi cabinet sets December 18 as the date for the 2023 provincial council elections

UN Secretary-General urges 'prevention' in counterterrorism efforts

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasized the necessity of addressing the root causes of terrorism, such as poverty, to curb its spread. He made these remarks during a counterterrorism conference in New York on Monday, pointing out that despite some gains, terrorism and violent extremism continue to proliferate. 

He identified areas in Africa where Al-Qaeda and Da'esh affiliates are gaining ground and expressed concern over the increasing internal security threats posed by neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements in some countries. 

Guterres highlighted the role of multiple global crises, including climate change and online hatred, in fueling extremism. "Prevention means more than just foiling attacks and disrupting plots. It means addressing the underlying conditions that can lead to terrorism in the first place," he stated. 

Additionally, he called for respect for human rights in counterterrorism efforts, urging the repatriation of foreign jihadists and their families held in camps after the defeat of the Islamic State.


AA has seemingly repented

The "Prime Minister of the province of Northern Iraq" has been amended to "Kurdish Regional Government", following the Turkish government's own readout. 
They still have trouble typing out the word "Kurdistan", seems like. 

IRGC strikes kill 24 Kurdish opposition 'counter-revolutionaries' in Kurdish opposition factions

Brigadier General Mohammad Kazemi, head of the Intelligence Organization of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), said that 24 "counter-revolutionaries" were killed in IRGC strikes against Kurdish opposition factions in Iraq's Kurdistan region over the past months. 

In an interview on the Supreme Leader's official website,, Kazemi noted that the IRGC targeted 44 sites, leading to "the elimination of 24 and injury to at least 165 individuals, classified as counter-revolutionary criminals."

He accused the US and Israel of spurring "terrorist groups under the disguise of ethnic nationalism along the borders," aiming to create instability in Iran. He further asserted that their objective was to convert Iran's ethnic and religious diversity into a threat.

Recently, clashes near Kosalan Mountain, Sanandaj, between Iranian forces and Iranian Kurdish opposition forces from PJAK were reported by human rights organization Hengaw.

These clashes, near Sulaymaniyah on the Kurdistan Region's eastern border, followed weeks of reports on military equipment transfers by the IRGC and Iranian army to border areas with the Kurdistan region.

VOA Kurdish cited multiple Iranian Kurdish opposition sources claiming that, under Tehran's pressure, the KRG asked them to disarm and move to refugee camps, saying it can "no longer protect them." Iran has recently increased pressure on the Kurdistan Region due to the presence of what it terms "separatist movements" within its borders, labeling it a "Zionist conspiracy".
پایگاه اطلاع‌رسانی دفتر حفظ و نشر آثار حضرت آیت‌الله العظمی سیدعلی خامنه‌ای

No clear signs pointing to resumption in KRG oil exports

There are no clear signs of the KRG resuming oil exports via Turkey. Sources suggest the issue is more political than technical or legal. The London-based Al-Arab newspaper highlighted the inconclusive negotiations between Iraqi and Turkish delegates about reestablishing KRG oil exports.

Sources familiar with the negotiations point to political issues as the primary obstacle, with the meetings unlikely to produce immediate results. The discussions come after a two-month suspension of KRG's oil export via the Turkish port of Ceyhan. 

An official cited Turkey's potential use of the situation to pressure Baghdad into compromising on Ankara's due compensation to Iraq. The official, speaking anonymously, noted the need for high-level political negotiations.

Energy analyst Shwan Zulal explained the complexity of the situation in an interview with NRT Kurdish. He highlighted Turkey's pressure on Iraq to withdraw their lawsuit over KRG's oil exports from 2018 to April 2023. Zulal predicted that the potential compensation could exceed the current $1.4 billion.

Zulal emphasized the impact of the halt in oil exports on the KRG's standing in Baghdad and Turkey's hopes for a low-priced oil agreement with Iraq. He noted the difficulties surrounding the KRG's contracts with oil companies and the potential challenges of redirecting KRG oil within Iraq.

KRG oil exports halted on March 25 following a Paris-based arbitration court ruling. The court found Turkey violated a 1973 agreement with Iraq by exporting resources from the KRG without Baghdad's consent between 2014 and 2018. This cessation resulted in a financial loss for Iraq and the Kurdistan Region exceeding $2.5 billion by some estimations.
The KDP counter-terrorism agency states that both co-leaders of the Qamishlo Canton, Gabi Shamoun (Furat) and Yusra Darwish, were killed in a Turkish drone attack in Qamishlo, Syria at around 11:20AM (local time) on Tuesday. Additionally, one of their bodyguards was severely wounded.
The YPG is a component of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Turkey labels as a "terrorist" group. The SDF, backed by the US, has recently ramped up joint operations with the PUK’s Counter-terrorism Group (CTG) on Syrian soil.

Public displays by the CTG, largely viewed as a show of force by the PUK, have increased in recent months due to deteriorating relations with the KDP. In response, Ankara has taken punitive measures against the PUK, such as banning all flights from Sulaymaniyah airport over its airspace and targeting a visiting convoy near the Sulaymaniyah International Airport.
This is how the state-owned Anadolu Agency reported on Barzani's visit to Ankara: "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with the Prime Minister of  the Province of Northern Iraq, Masrour Barzani, in the capital city, Ankara."

Notably, there was no mention of the KRG, nor were any Iraqi or Kurdish flags in sight.

Following his re-election, the Islamist authoritarian leader appears more emboldened to push forward with Turkey's questionable agenda, particularly concerning the Kurdish cause in the region, including in Iraq and Syria.

Here's a look back at an article we published discussing the impact of Erdogan's re-election on the Kurdish cause.
Kurdistan 24 says the Iraqi elections commission did not discuss regional elections in its meeting today.

The report cites Nibras Abu Souda, the spokesperson for the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC).

The commission held a meeting to discuss its internal affairs as well as the upcoming provincial elections."

Court convicts five more individuals in the ongoing Hawkar Jaff murder case

The political strife in the Kurdistan Region continues to involve court decisions, most notably in the longstanding controversial case of Hawkar Jaff.

Rudaw reported today that the Erbil Criminal Court has convicted five more individuals connected with Jaff's murder.

This case has long been a point of tension between the KDP and the PUK. It even prompted a months-long cabinet boycott by PUK ministers. The newly convicted individuals are also officers from the PUK Counter Terrorism Group (CTG) and Zanyari, including a former deputy to Jaff.

Those convicted today were arrested by KDP Security Forces on Oct. 8, 2022.

The following details emerged from today's court ruling:

  • Yasir Faisal Hosein was sentenced to life in prison. He previously served as a deputy to Jaff at the PUK's Zanyari Intelligence Agency and CTG, and was head of the CTG Centre in Erbil before his arrest. The Kurdistan Region Security Council published a video statement on Oct. 12, 2022, claiming that "Yasir supervised a surveillance team by CTG before Jaff's murder by CTG."
  • Sarmad Najmadin Rashid also received a life sentence. The Security Council claimed that "Sarmad was part of a surveillance team by CTG before Jaff's murder." The PUK's CTG group has denied this claim.
  • Three additional CTG members, Ahmad Faisal Hosein, Ali Hashim Ahmad, and Ranjdar Ismael Najm, were sentenced to seven years. The October statement from the Security Council suggested that they were also part of the surveillance team.

This isn't the first time the Erbil Court has handed down convictions in this case. In early June 2023, the court sentenced the head of the PUK's Counterterrorism Group (CTG), Wahab Halabjay, along with two other high-ranking CTG officials and three PUK officers, to death in absentia.

The officials convicted alongside Halabjay are:

  • Karzan Mohammed Rashid (Head of Intelligence of PUK's CTG)
  • Louay Mohammed Raza (Commander of CTG's regiment in Garmyan)
  • Wrya Khalid Ali (Officer)
  • Lashkir Mohammed Hassan (Officer)
  • Assi Rashid Hussein (Officer)

These verdicts relate to the 2022 killing of CTG official Hawkar Jaff in Erbil. The first verdict was announced by Jaff's family at a press conference on June 4.

The response to this decision is uncertain. After the initial verdict, PUK Leader Bafel Talabani appeared in a CTG uniform just a day later, honoring Halabjay and some other CTG officers, including those convicted by the Erbil court. Days later, Saadi Ahmed Pira, a a senior PUK leader, made light of the court's decision, indicating they did not see it as legitimate.

The Erbil court's decision comes amid tensions between the KDP and PUK over the Iraqi budget and separate share allocations for KRG provinces supported by the PUK. In response, KDP leaders and their MPs accused the PUK of "treason." Current relations between the two ruling parties are strained and uncertain, and this latest decision by the Erbil Court may further deteriorate the situation."

LGBTQ+ rights organization has licence revoked by Kurdistan courts

Mural   credit: Rasan

The Rasan Organisation, an NGO registered as a women's rights group in Kurdistan, has had its license revoked amid allegations that it was "promoting homosexuality."

Sulaymaniyah-based news site Bwar reports that a Sulaymaniyah court cited the group's breach of "norms, customs in Iraq, and internal regulations" as the reason for the revocation.

Last year, Kurdistan's NGO regulator and outspoken politicians, including former Gorran MP Ali Hama Salih, lodged complaints against Rasan for the aforementioned reasons. 

Rasan, founded in Sulaymaniyah in 2004, aimed to advance human rights and women's rights. In 2016, the NGO broadened its mandate to include the defense of LGBTQ+ rights. Over the years, Rasan has sought to raise awareness of discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community and to normalize different sexual orientations. Initiatives included painting rainbow murals in public places in Sulaymaniyah and other Iraqi cities, which some criticized as promoting homosexuality.

Tanya Kamal Darwesh, the NGO's director, unsuccessfully argued that their "mission is not to promote the LGTBI community but to raise awareness in society about it," according to a report published by Global Issues last year. Darwesh told the news site that society accuses members of this community of "prostitution, drug trafficking, or whatever else to remove them from the streets" rather than accepting their existence.

The court's ruling to revoke the license is final and unappealable, Bwar reported.

Neither Iraq nor the Kurdistan Region has a law explicitly targeting homosexuality. However, indirect criminalization methods make the LGBTQ+ community among the country's most oppressed groups. LGBTQ+ individuals across Iraq have faced appalling treatment, including torture, sexual assault, and unlawful killings.

In 2021, a gathering of gay men in Sulaimani was raided by police, leading to multiple detentions. This operation was reportedly executed under laws banning "immoral" activities and prostitution. Yet, members of the LGBTQ+ community in Kurdistan and advocates for gay rights condemned it as a direct attack on their community."
PM Barzani met with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and they discussed three main topics during their meeting today, according to Kurdistan 24's Azad Altun, reporting from Ankara:

  1. The promotion of relations between Erbil and Ankara.
  2. The trade and economic relations between the two sides, with special attention to the oil issue.
  3. Political developments in Iraq and the Middle East, including the situation in Syria.

Hopes fade for legislative elections in 2023

We've been hearing it from KRG officials, and now a member of the Iraqi election commission is saying it too: a 2024 date for the Kurdistan Parliamentary elections is more likely given the little progress made on both political and technical fronts.

Khali Abbas, the head of the Iraqi Independent Higher Electoral Commission (IHEC) in Duhok province, has told the Kurdish Service of Voice of America that following the IHEC's meeting with the KRI president on Sunday, and a series of subsequent IHEC meetings, the commission reached the conclusion that unless the Iraqi provincial elections are postponed, the IHEC would not be able to organize the Kurdistan Region elections.

"The commission will propose a date in April or May next year, and that date must first be agreed upon, before the commission can start making preparations," he said.

Interestingly, the IHEC has already started mobilizing political parties and coalitions for the upcoming provisional elections. That issue, at least, has been addressed.

Abbas added, "It is clear that the Kurdistan Region authorities do not want a 2023 date for the elections" and noted that the six-month period required for preparation has already elapsed.
ئەندامی کۆمسیۆنی باڵای سەربەخۆی هەڵبژاردنەکانی عێراق ڕایدەگەیەنێت، بڕیارە کۆمسیۆن له مانگی 12ی ئەمساڵدا سەرپەرشتی هەڵبژاردنی پارێزگاکان بکات، بەڵام ئەو کاتەی سەرۆکی هەرێمی کوردستان بۆ هەڵبژاردنەکانی پەرلەمانی هەرێم دیاری کردووە زۆر نزیکە و ڕەنگە کۆمسیۆن بڕیار بدات ئەو هەڵبژاردنانە لە بەهاری ساڵی...

Here is the statement from Barzani's media office

The Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq will meet with the President of Turkey and other senior officials of that country.

KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani arrived in Ankara on Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Prime Minister will also meet with the Foreign Minister and other senior officials of the new Turkish government to discuss the promoting relations between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey and the latest developments in Iraq and the wider region.

Morning briefing

Good morning, and happy June Solstice! We're just one day away from the longest day of the year for those of us in the north of the equator.

Here's what we're following today:

  • KRG PM Masrour Barzani is in Ankara for discussions with Turkish officials regarding "bilateral relations" and the "latest developments in Iraq and the wider region." This comes on the heels of ongoing talks between Iraqi and Turkish officials over the suspension of oil exports from the Kurdistan Region. The halt in oil production has been disastrous for the KRG's coffers, but Ankara seems to be eyeing a better deal with Baghdad before exports resume.
  • The penciled November date for the Kurdistan parliamentary elections is becoming less likely with each passing day. A member of the Iraqi elections commission has ruled out holding the election in 2023. A 2024 date now seems to be fast becoming a reality.