Lahur Talabany
Lahur Talabany

Live: Lahur Talabany reportedly contesting Iraq’s provincial elections

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Plans for two new universities in Kurdistan confirmed

The KRG has announced the establishment of two new universities, one in Akre and the other in Garmiyan.

Simultaneously establishing universities in both the KDP and PUK zones signifies a long-standing mutual agreement between the Kurdistan Region's two main parties. It also reflects ongoing divisions in governance.

However, critics question the sustainability of launching universities without a comprehensive employment plan for graduates. As more universities emerge, graduates find it increasingly difficult to secure jobs. There are fewer avenues of further education and vocational training outside the university system. There are far more graduates per year than the creaking public sector can employ. The private sector has not caught up in terms of job creation. 

Some even view the creation of these institutions more as electioneering tools rather than strategic planning for the education system. During his visit to Akre in May, Prime Minister Barzani celebrated the forthcoming university as a significant achievement for the town.

The new university in the KDP zone will be the University of Akre for Practical Sciences, while the PUK zone will house the Polytechnic University of Garmyan.

Currently, over 15 public and more than 15 private universities, along with their various campuses, exist in the Kurdistan Region. Erbil boasts a larger number of private universities compared to Sulaymaniyah.

The University of Sulaymaniyah, established in 1968, was the first university in the Kurdistan Region. However, in 1981, the Baath Regime relocated the university to Erbil and renamed it the University of Salahaddin due to allegations of Kurdish political activities fomenting on campus. Following the Kurdish uprising in 1991, the University of Sulaymaniyah reopened in 1992.

Official in charge of post-IS reconstruction fund dismissed

The National News reports that a senior Iraqi official in charge of a state-run fund dedicated to rebuilding regions damaged by the war with IS has been dismissed due to alleged corruption. 

The government spokesperson revealed that the dismissal was part of several recommendations submitted to the Prime Minister to "examine suspicions of corruption and mismanagement in the use of fund allocations."

The fund, established in 2015, was designed to aid the reconstruction of areas liberated from IS, which at the time still controlled over a tenth of the country. Since then, reconstruction efforts have advanced at a slow, irregular pace, leaving approximately one million Iraqis internally displaced within the country. 

Earlier this month, a report by Human Rights Watch highlighted how political disagreements are hindering the rebuilding of Sinjar, home to the Yazidi population, who suffered a genocide perpetrated by ISIS.


KDP and PUK politburos to meet

An anticipated meeting between the KDP and PUK politburo is on the horizon, following more than a month after their previous gathering in May, during which a KDP delegation visited Sulaymaniyah and met with the PUK. Although the meeting's agenda remains unclear, Rudaw reports that it will be held at PUK's Politburo headquarters in Erbil.

Currently, international representatives are exerting mounting pressure on the KDP and PUK to facilitate the necessary arrangements for the Kurdistan Parliament elections. A few days ago, KDP politburo member Hoshyar Zebari told Rudaw that they are continually engaging in talks and communications with the PUK, aiming to resolve their disagreements.

Over a month ago, their joint statement declared, "both sides encouraged everyone to cooperate in continuing the atmosphere of brotherhood and working together to resolve the issues of the past." However, this sentiment proved short-lived as a mass brawl erupted in the Kurdistan Parliament on May 22, triggered by differing views over the reactivation of the Kurdistan Electoral Commission.

The conflict escalated when the Iraqi Federal Court ruled the Kurdistan Parliament term extension illegal and decided to dissolve the Parliament a week later. This ruling led to a new phase of political dispute between KDP and PUK, particularly over articles related to the KRG's share in the Iraqi budget.

The PUK backed a separate share and a direct budget from Baghdad amid disputes with the KRG, a move perceived as a "betrayal" and undermining the constitutional position of the Kurdistan Region. PUK leaders, however, have rejected these accusations.

Politicians close to Lahur Talabany confirm earlier reports of electoral comeback

In an interview with Rudaw, Shadman Mala Hassan, a politician close to Lahur Talabany, confirmed earlier reports that Lahur is urging political parties to form a united front for the upcoming Federal provincial elections. 

Hassan disclosed that three parties — Komal, KUI, and Gorran — have been officially invited to join the coalition so far, with plans to extend the invitation to both KDP and PUK. The proposed coalition aims to halt the worsening situation in disputed territories and prevent a further decline of KRG influence in Iraq.

In response to a question about whether they would participate in the provincial elections if the coalition isn't formed, Hassan said, "we are here to participate in the political process. We won't boycott it." This statement implies Lahur's intention to participate, coalition or no coalition.

When asked if this preparation was for the upcoming parliamentary elections in Kurdistan, Hassan avoided a definitive answer. Instead, he said, "we'll see how things evolve and then we'll decide on an approach."

Regarding Talabany's previous assertions that they remain PUK and will participate in the political process as such, Hassan dismissed the issue as a dispute "over names." He emphasized that the name they use is irrelevant as they still embody the original PUK spirit. He added that the PUK is currently fully controlled by Bafel, making the politburo and political organs inside the party insignificant.

Snap analysis

Lahur's efforts can be interpreted as a full return to politics after his removal, using the idea of Kurdish unity as both a pretense and an election strategy.

To avoid a situation similar to Barham Salih's, Lahur appears to be testing the waters with the provincial elections first.

Given his grassroots support in Kirkuk and the Kurdish Garmiyan region of Diyala — traditional PUK areas of influence — his chances of impacting the provincial elections seem substantial.

A high-ranking PUK delegation led by Bafel Talabani met with leadership of both Gorran and the KIU today.

PUK-affiliated Gali Kurdistan TV reported that the motivation behind these visits was Bafel Talabani's interest in preserving the unity of Kurdish parties.

The specific circumstances prompting these meetings are not immediately apparent. However, they might be an attempt by Bafel Talabani to demonstrate political strength.

This move comes after recent reports suggested Lahur Talabani had directly contacted both Gorran and KIU to discuss the formation of a united Kurdish front in the upcoming Iraqi provincial elections.

In March, following a meeting between Gorran leadership and Lahur Talabany, Gorran released an official letter. The letter, which congratulated "PUK leader" Bafel Talabani on Nawroz, was reportedly produced under direct pressure from him, according to local media sources. Reports overnight suggest that the ousted former PUK co-leader Lahur Talabany was putting out feelers to Gorran and KIU to set up a joint list for the same elections.
In an announcement by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, an Iraqi delegation is currently visiting Turkey to negotiate an increase in water flow from that nation. Iraq relies heavily on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, its primary sources of water. However, many tributaries feeding these rivers originate in Turkey and Iran. 

Factors such as increased dam construction, historic droughts and environmental degradation have led to significantly decreased water levels in these rivers. In fact, the Ministry of Water Resources reported a 30% plunge in water levels from the two key rivers this February.

Iraq has engaged in multiple negotiations over water rights with both Turkey and Iran, but with mixed results. A meeting in March between Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Sudani and Turkey's President Erdogan ended with a promise to cooperate on water issues and a commitment from Erdogan to increase water flow to Iraq for a month. However, due to limited leverage, Iraq continues to face challenges in these negotiations.

As Iraq experiences its intense summer heat, the country typically grapples with exacerbated water scarcity, making these negotiations even more critical.
Earlier today, Kurdish media outlets reported on a disturbing incident in which a young individual allegedly shot his brother and recorded the act.

The incident reportedly occurred yesterday in Bamarni, Mergasur, Dohuk. According to these reports, the alleged perpetrator indicated that the shooting was in response to a physical assault and humiliation by the victim. The individual's age has not been confirmed, but visual evidence suggests they are rather young. A police source confirmed the alleged perpetrator's arrest, as reported by Rudaw.

This incident follows a recent incident in Chamchamal, where a young individual was reportedly shot by a friend due to differences in "religious beliefs," as well as another incident in Erbil, where a man allegedly killed his wife and sister-in-law due to familial conflicts. 

According to Rudaw, there have been 49 reported killings in the Kurdistan Region this year. The reported motives behind these killings include family disputes, tribal conflicts, and so-called honor killings.

There seems to be a trend of increasing killings in recent months
  • January 10 reported killings
  • February 3 reported killings
  • March 6 reported killings
  • April 9 reported killings
  • May 12 reported killings
  • June to date: 10 reported killings

Despite this recent uptick, the six-month total represents a decrease compared to last year's figures, as reported by KRG police.

They recorded 183 intentional killing incidents last year. Some community members attribute the increase in killings to the prevalence of unregulated firearms in the region and a perceived lack of punitive action from security forces. They suggest that familial agreements often resolve these cases, potentially encouraging a recurrence of such incidents.

Airstrike targets suspected IS members in Kirkuk

Iraqi Forces targeted a house near Kirkuk's Industrial zone with an airstrike due to the presence of suspected ISIS members, according to a source within the Kirkuk police who spoke to NRT Kurdish.

The house, which was completely demolished, was believed to be a gathering place for ISIS, reported Dyar Mohammed, an NRT Kurdish reporter based in Kirkuk. 

The house is located in Tirkalan village, near Kirkuk city, and was suspected to shelter four ISIS members. The site is currently surrounded by Unit 32 of the Iraqi Army and Unit 63 of the PMF, with surveillance from the Iraqi Aviation Force.

Security in Kirkuk and its surrounding areas remains precarious, with Iraqi forces routinely conducting operations to eradicate remaining ISIS members. Although ground forces are primarily used, there has been an uptick in the involvement of the Iraqi Air Force.

PM releases the cabinet's report on progress in governance 

The Iraqi government is marking its own homework.

Prime Minister Al-Sudani has released his cabinet's biannual report in a televised speech yesterday, outlining the progress made on key commitments given during the formation of his government. 

The report spotlighted the recently announced "Development Road" project, which aims to connect Iraq to Turkey and Europe. The document also recorded "significant progress" in countering the drug trade and hailed the adoption of a proactive approach to economic diplomacy in Iraq's international dealings. 

Among the more tangible achievements detailed in the report were the completion of 414 schools nationwide, the construction of 25 healthcare institutions, and the inauguration of the now-operational Karbala refinery.

In recent years, the release of biannual and annual reports has become somewhat of a tradition among Iraqi prime ministers, garnering mixed reactions from analysts and the public. A pervasive skepticism regarding the veracity and reliability of the "achievements" listed tends to dominate conversations about these reports. Critics argue that the lack of detailed information makes it challenging to verify the government's assertions.
Iraqi PM Al-Sudani recently met with Hadi Al-Amiri, the leader of the Al-Fatah Alliance, to discuss the country's political and economic landscape.

According to the Prime Minister's media office, the meeting also focused on prioritizing services and economic development to address the needs of Iraqi citizens. In their first foray into elections, the Fatah Alliance won 48 seats in the Iraqi Parliament. It secured only 17 seats in the last election, following changes to the electoral system. 

The Al-Fatah Alliance serves as a platform for the political activities and organizations of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a majority Shia fighting force. Despite formal integration into the state's security forces, the PMF is often perceived as a parallel military force given its outsized power vis-à-vis the Iraqi standing army. In addition to leading Fatah, Amiri is also at the helm of the Badr Organization.

Full text of the English statement published by the PM's media office:

Prime Minister Mr. Mohammed S. Al-Sudani Receives Al-Fatah Alliance Leader Mr. Hadi Al-AmiriThe Prime Minister, Mr. Mohammed S. Al-Sudani, received this morning, Al-Fatah Alliance Leader, Mr. Hadi Al-Amiri.

During the meeting, they discussed the political and economic situation at the national level, along with strategies to improve government executive work, progress in performance, and the successful implementation of government programs. These efforts aim to prioritize services and economic development to meet the needs of citizens across Iraq.

Media Office of the Prime Minister
June 25, 2023

Lahur Talabany to make political comeback for provincial elections – reports

Two years after his ouster as co-chair of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Lahur Sheikh Jangi Talabany has proposed a shared, unified list for the anticipated Provisional Council Elections involving Kurdish political parties in disputed areas, according to Kurdish Draw Media. 

Talabany, who labeled his removal from power as an intra-party "coup," has forwarded the "Nation List" proposal to the Change Movement , Kurdistan Justice Group (Komal), and Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU). He reportedly intends to approach the PUK and Kurdistan Democratic Union (KDP) as well.

A source from Komal, speaking on the proposed list, confirmed its existence to Draw Media. The source noted that the list advocates for a unified roster and coalition of Kurdish parties in the forthcoming provisional elections outside the Kurdistan Region.

The provisional elections are scheduled to occur later this year, with Kurdish political parties planning to participate in the provinces of Kirkuk, Nainawa, Saladin, and Diyala.

Previously, there was speculation that Talabany planned to form a new list after failing to push his way back into the PUK's leadership fold. Rumor had it he intended to establish a list under the PUK's name, which didn't go down well with PUK leader Bafel Talabani

Lahur Talabany remains embroiled in a power struggle with his cousin, Bafel. Founding this list could potentially mark a new chapter in Lahur's political career–which at one point seemed dead and buried– offering a test of his popularity and a foundation for future election efforts in the Kurdistan Region.

Shadman Mala Hassan, a senior politician close to Lahur, confirmed Draw Media's story.

For the councils of the mentioned provinces, Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and other minorities are vying for 71 seats, distributed as follows:

  • Kirkuk: 15 seats
  • Nineveh: 26 seats
  • Saladin: 15 seats
  • Diyala: 15 seats.

Incident between two Sulaymaniyah security agencies leads to injuries – reports

Kurdish media outlets are circulating footage of armed clashes between the Sulaymaniyah Asayish and police forces. K24 reports that the conflicts have resulted in injuries, though the precise number of casualties remains unknown at this time. 

Preliminary reports suggest that the clashes ensued when a police force confronted an Asayish convoy for disregarding traffic rules, which escalated into a confrontation. 

Disregard for law by law enforcement and armed forces is reportedly common within Kurdistan, with the most recent State Department human rights report claiming that some groups operate with impunity within the region.

'Technical issue' leads to halt in Kor Mor production

In a statement issued last night, the Ministry of Electricity reported a technical issue that halted a transportation company's ability to transfer natural-gas condensate from the Kor Mor gas field to the Ministry of Natural Resources inventories.

The malfunction necessitated a production cut at the gas field by approximately 40%, or 250 mmcm, resulting in a reduction of electricity generation by 1800 MW. This accounts for about half of Kurdistan's power production, as the region predominantly relies on natural gas for its electricity plants.

The incident follows maintenance work at Dana Gas three weeks ago, which resulted in the loss of 1000 MW for the region.

About an hour ago, the Ministry of Electricity released an update asserting the situation has returned to normal. They anticipate electricity production will soon revert to regular levels, although a specific timetable was not provided.

More transfers for Baghdad to Erbil for salary payments

The Iraqi government has transferred approximately $307m to the KRG to offset its deficit and help pay public sector employee salaries.

With Eid celebrations rapidly approaching, many Kurdistan Region citizens have been anxious about the financial strain Eid can have even when salaries are paid on time. So this news will be a relief to many. 

Morning briefing

Good morning, folks. As always, we're bringing you the latest news from Kurdistan and Iraq:

  • According to a report by Draw, the deposed PUK leader Lahur Talabany is preparing to participate in Iraq's forthcoming provincial elections with a list called "Gel" (people). If this is confirmed, the elections in Diyala and Kirkuk are set to be quite fascinating!
  • The KRG Ministry of Electricity issued a statement stating that due to logistical issues in transporting natural-gas condensate to inventories, the Kor Mor field had to reduce gas production by 250 mmcm. This has resulted in a nearly 50% cut in energy production in the Kurdistan region. However, an official from the Ministry of Natural Resources has assured that this issue will be resolved later today.
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani has released the government's half-year report, which tracks the progress of key promises made by his cabinet. The report, focusing on "five key priorities of the government program: tackling unemployment, combating poverty, combating financial and administrative corruption, service provision, and implementing economic reforms," provides detailed insights into the government's claimed achievements during this period.