Live: Iraq and Kurdistan Region back to business after Eid

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The Swedish government today condemned an incident of Quran burning near a Stockholm mosque that occurred a few days ago, labeling it as "Islamophobic." It also clarified that such actions do not represent the views of the Swedish government, according to a report by France 24.

Following the incident, swift and severe criticism poured in from Middle Eastern governments and organizations. Several leaders denounced Sweden, accusing it of Islamophobia for "allowing" the event to transpire.

The backlash was particularly fierce in Iraq, the birthplace of the man who burned the Quran. Major political party leaders issued statements condemning the act, and the government promptly started extradition procedures for the man.

Sweden's understanding of free speech and the accountability of governments for events occurring within their jurisdiction has caused contention with both domestic and international Muslim communities multiple times over the past decade. A case in point is a 2022 incident where a man of Swedish-Danish descent burned the Quran, leading to widespread riots in Sweden's Muslim communities.

Swedish media reported that the riots resulted in considerable property damage and injuries to approximately 400 police officers.

Protests against Quran burning spread throughout Iraq

Protests against the burning of the Quran continue for the third consecutive day in Iraq. Led by the conservative Shiite religious leader Muqtada Al-Sadr's party, protestors hav e taken to the streets in Basra.
مراسل UTV: احتجاجات حاشدة لأنصار الصدر وبمشاركة عشائرية في البصرة تنديدا بحرق المصحف #UTV_عراق

KDP plans to contest provincial elections in Nineveh on its own

Manaf Hassan, head of the election office at the KDP's Mosul branch, told K24 that the KDP currently plans to participate in the Nineveh provincial elections as an independent list.

The Iraqi provincial elections are scheduled for December 18 this year. Because of the war with ISIS and internal instability, the elections have been postponed several times, with the last one held in 2013.

In the previous elections, Kurdish parties presented a unified front by entering the elections on a single ticket. This was a strategic move to prevent splitting the Kurdish vote and a demonstration of unity.

However, due to worsening relationships between both ruling parties, the KDP and the PUK, and between the ruling and opposition parties, it is anticipated that multiple Kurdish alliances will enter the elections separately. This is likely to affect the overall number of seats held by Kurds in Nineveh, Kirkuk, and Diyala.
The Parliamentary Diwan has set June 30 as the final day in office for members of parliament, officially concluding the Kurdistan Region Parliament's fifth term, according to local media. This move follows a recent decision by the Federal Supreme Court (FSC) that declared the parliament's self-extension of its term unconstitutional.

Late last year, the parliament extended its term after disputes between ruling parties postponed elections originally scheduled for November 2022. Several opposition figures, including the head of the New Generation Movement and the previous speaker of parliament, contested this decision and took the case to the FSC.

Responses from both the KDP and the PUK were initially inconsistent, with senior officials from both parties making ambiguous statements about the status of the Kurdistan Region Parliament. Last week during a high-level meeting between the PUK and the KDP, the KDP's parliamentary caucus held an unexpected press conference announcing the resignation of all its members, effectively ending the parliament's term.

The implications of the Kurdistan Region now lacking a parliament, for both internal Kurdish politics and relations between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad, are not yet clear.

The timeline for the long-delayed elections also remains uncertain. However, it's reasonable to expect that these developments will have significant long-term effects on the region.

Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, a senior PUK figure, held a meeting with the PUK's Organizational Bureau in Sulaymaniyah this evening.

The meeting, according to the PUK's official website, addressed recent developments and the internal affairs of the party. Talabani was quoted saying that changes are imminent in the PUK's operational style to match the prevailing political climate.

Talabani's remarks may be alluding to the recent uproar regarding amendments to the Iraqi draft budget law put forward by the PUK. He maintained that the PUK has not deviated from its core principles, including a commitment to fiscal justice and a healthy rapport with Baghdad.

The deputy prime minister also touched on the postponed Kurdistani elections, expressing disagreement with the delays. "We are fully prepared for the elections," he said. He stressed the need for the polls to take place and expressed his support for free and fair elections that safeguard the rights of all communities.
The Kurdistan government is promoting the number of tourists who visited the region during Eid al-Adha.

According to the tourism directories of each province:

  • Erbil: 144,000
  • Halabja: 100,000
  • Sulaymaniyah: 113,000
  • Duhok: 96,000.

Kurdistan has emerged as a tourist destination in recent years, primarily attracting visitors from southern and central parts of the country.

Tourism is becoming an increasingly significant source of income for local businesses, provincial councils, and the  Kurdistan Regional Government.

PKK military wing announces its own figures for casualties

HPG, the military wing of the PKK, claims 44 Turkish armed forces personnel and 10 PKK guerilla members have been killed in clashes in June.
Earlier today, we posted the Turkish claims for guerilla members killed.

Both the Turkish and PKK have a history of exaggerating the casualty numbers of the other side.
National Security Advisor Qassim Al-Araji detailed his activities during 2023's Counter-Terrorism Week and the government's approach to the Iraqi citizens of the Syrian Al-Hol camp in an interview with state media.

Al-Araji stated that the Iraqi government has extradited 1,393 families from the camp and returned 830 families to their areas of origin following psychological rehabilitation. However, nearly 7,000 Iraqi families remain at the camp. Al-Araji pledged the country's commitment to returning most of them, adding that those who committed crimes will face the courts, and the rest will undergo rehabilitation. He further stated that 3,000 terrorists turned over by the international coalition from northeast Syria are currently facing the Iraqi justice system.

The Al-Hol camp, a refugee camp in northeast Syria, houses over 60,000 individuals displaced by the conflict between IS and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Many camp residents are believed to have ties to IS, and according to multiple international organizations, IS affiliates have gained control over large portions of the camp. SDF guards and soldiers regularly face attacks when trying to police the area.

Previously, the UN representative to Iraq referred to the Al-Hol camp as a "ticking time bomb." Data shows that three out of five camp residents are under 17, leading Iraqi and Kurdish authorities to fear a potential surge in radicalization and terrorism given the harsh conditions these children face in the camp. Over the past year, the Iraqi government has stepped up efforts to extradite its citizens from the camp.
Sabreen News, an Iraqi media outlet known for its pro-Iran bias and spreading of misinformation, mocked other "hostile" media outlets for re-broadcasting its reports on the death of an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander in an Israeli air strike in Syria. The outlet, which is associated with the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, tweeted on July 1 that an Israeli attack in Homs killed Colonel Hossein Sohani, an IRGC "drone specialist". 

Several Syria-focused outlets reported that the air strikes resulted in the death of at least one non-Syrian IRGC member. Israeli reports highlighted a Syrian anti-aircraft missile landing in Rahat, a southern Israel town.

News of Sohani's death was widely shared by Al Arabiya and Al-Hadath, notable pan-regional news channels, as well as Iran International TV, a London-based channel known for its opposition to the Iranian government and believed to be funded by Riyadh.

In its 8AM news bulletin today, Al Arabiya TV briefly covered the story following a report on the Israeli strikes on Syria. The news was sourced from "Iranian reports," and Sohani was described as "one of the leading Iranian commanders specialized in drone technology."

Sabreen's Persian-language Telegram channel wrote: "One Iraqi channel published news about the martyrdom of a man called Hossein Sohani to mock and play a practical joke on hostile media." It confirmed that such a commander doesn't exist, revealing that Hossein Sohani is an famous Iranian manufacturer of sohan–a local saffron brittle confectionery– based in the central Iranian city of Qom.
Some Kurdish outlets fell for it. Here are Bas News's tweets:
Shockingly, it isn't even the first time:
As the saying goes: Fool me once, shame on you. Profiterole me twice, shame on me.
Fallout continues to unfold in Iraq following an Iraqi-Swedish man's Quran burning stunt. An adviser to the prime minister told Al Ahad this afternoon that Iraq "should cut ties with Sweden" to prevent future disrespect of Islam. 

At the same time, Wazir Al-Sadr, often considered the spokesperson for a prominent Shiite cleric, criticized media "affiliated with certain Shiite parties" for neglecting to cover protests organized by the Sadrists in Baghdad during the past two days. 

The protests involved widespread burning of the Rainbow flag and the storming of the Swedish embassy. 

Protests are anticipated to continue today, according to the Al Arab newspaper, which suggests that Sadr may seize this opportunity to regain a dominant role in Iraq's political scene.

We have video of the protest outside the Swedish embassy in Baghdad


Iraq releases oil data for June

The Iraqi Ministry of Oil released key industry data for June yesterday:

  • Oil revenues totaled $7.115 billion
  • Just over 100 million barrels of crude exported
  • At a rate of 3.335 million barrels per day
  • With an average price of $71.11 per barrel

Although Baghdad has increased its oil production recently, the country's output remains significantly below its OPEC+ quotas due to the ongoing offline status of Iraqi Kurdistan's oil following the closure of the Iraq-Turkey Pipeline.

Reuters estimates Kurdistan has forfeited over $2b since the suspension of oil exports more than 90 days ago, a setback likely to affect the country's overall fiscal balance.

Pictures from recent protests against burning of Quran in Sweden

Sadrists took to the streets in Baghdad. There were homophobic banners and the protest included the burning of a LGBTQ+ flag. This mirror's Muqtada Al-Sadr's recent crusades against the LGBTQ+ community.
Turkish airstrikes on the Kurdish countryside persist, with local media reporting another series of strikes on the Matin mountain range this morning.

According to a statement from the Turkish National Defense Ministry on Sunday, Turkish security forces have "neutralized" nine alleged members of the PKK in "Northern Iraq."

In the past month, the Turkish government has escalated its campaign against the PKK, prompting the PKK to call off its "ceasefire" in retaliation. 

With the Turkish government largely succeeding in driving the PKK out of Turkey, the majority of the clashes now occur in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. Iraqi Kurdish authorities and local outlets report that civilians frequently become caught in the crossfire, leading to the complete abandonment of several villages.
President Barzani bids farewell to outgoing French consul general

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani met with the outgoing French Consul General Olivier Decottignies, where Barzani expressed gratitude for his efforts in promoting bilateral relations between France and the Kurdistan Region.

Decottignies, on his part, thanked the president and relevant parties for their support throughout his tenure and expressed hope for continued cooperation and support for his successor.

The consulates of Western governments in the Kurdistan Region are often revolving doors for diplomats posted at them. Consul generals are frequently within a year or two of their assignment.

This practice has presents challenges for consulates to effectively carry out their work in the region, according to some analysts.

Full readout:

President Nechirvan Barzani received the outgoing French Consul General in the Kurdistan Region Mr. Olivier Decottignies on Sunday, who paid a farewell visit to the President upon completion of his term in office.

The President thanked Consul General Decottignies for his efforts to promote his country’s relations with the Kurdistan Region and wished him success in his upcoming assignment.

For his part, the French Consul General referred to his term in office in the Kurdistan Region and thanked the President and relevant parties for their support during his tenure, and hoped the cooperation and support to continue for his successor. Mr. Decottignies also expressed appreciation for the efforts and contributions of President Nechirvan Barzani to promote relations between the Kurdistan Region and France.

The two sides also discussed the development of French relations with the Kurdistan Region and other issues of common interest.


Speaker Rewaz Faiq says goodbye to staff

د. رێواز فایەق، سەرۆکی پەرلەمان ماڵئاوایی لە پەرلەمانتاران و فەرمانبەرانی پەرلەمان دەکات و داوای گەردنئازاییان لێ دەکات ڤیدیۆ: ئەحمەد عومەر و رەنجە جەمال

Morning briefing

Good afternoon! We're back with the latest news from Iraq after a long Eid break.

  • The fallout from an Iraqi-Swedish individual burning a copy of the Quran continues in the country. Late last night, Iraqi President Latif Rashid released a statement, labeling it as a "crime" and stating that "the beliefs of 2 billion people must be respected."
  • According to Kurdish media, the Kurdistan Parliament Diwan (Administration) will submit paperwork for the retirement of all MPs to the government today, making the dissolution of parliament official.
  • Residents of villages near Halabja have blocked the main Halabja-Sulaymaniyah road. Local media reports suggest that the protests are due to a lack of services and maintenance on the road leading to their villages over the past three years.