Photo: AA/Haidar Mohammed Ali

Live: Monday’s key updates from Iraq and Kurdistan Region

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Abdullah Mohtadi, leader of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, is pushing for a thorough investigation into recent internal disputes leading to the deaths of two Iranian Kurdish opposition fighters. 

In a detailed statement released Sunday, Mohtadi urged containment of the disputes to prevent further escalations. This marks his first public comment on the incident, which occurred following the collapse of unification efforts. 

Mohtadi suggested the formation of an independent and impartial party committee to probe the incident. He recommended the committee be composed of legal experts, credible civil society activists, and veteran party members mutually agreed upon by all involved. 

In November, the two Komala factions, split since 2007, announced their reunification. This effort, however, abruptly ended last month. Reza Kaabi, the former deputy leader of the Organization of the Toilers of Kurdistan, stated on Facebook that the unification agreement's goals had not been met. Kaabi attributed the failure to unresolved political disputes. 

Kaabi was re-elected as the leader of the split faction during the party's meeting on June 29. 

Mohtadi emphasized that any investigation should be conducted "scientifically and impartially," pledging to abide by its findings and recommendations. He also appealed for an agreement or manifesto to discourage violent confrontations among Iranian Kurdish political parties.
New Generation Movement (NGM) politicians are criticizing Kurdistan Region's ruling parties for extending the tenure of the Kurdistan Parliament, a decision voided by Iraq's federal court last month. This dissolution was partially based on an NGM complaint. 

The Parliamentary Diwan has designated June 30 as the final day for MPs on the clock, officially ending the fifth term of the Kurdistan Region Parliament. 

In response, various NGM politicians released statements asserting that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) MPs were compelled to leave parliament, hailing this as a first in the three-decade-long Kurdish rule in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). 

Mzhda Mahmood Mohammed, an NGM MP in the recently dissolved Kurdistan parliament, called out the PUK and KDP for not voluntarily stepping down until forced to by the Federal Supreme Court. If NGM hadn't lodged a complaint with the Federal Court, she said, the PUK and KDP would've continued their "illegal actions." 

She expressed satisfaction that their complaint resulted in all members being sent home. She referenced the legislative vote last November to extend the parliament's own mandate, deemed illegitimate because the ruling parties failed to agree on timely elections. 

Amid concerns that disagreements would lead to further delays, the Federal Supreme Court recently struck down the vote carried in 2022, retroactively invalidating the parliament as of the 2022 date when its mandate should've ended. 

Addressing rumors about salaries, Mohammed stated that any politician's claims of forgoing their salaries are tied to a federal court decision, not virtue. They cannot receive money for non-existent positions, she stressed. She urged these politicians to officially reject both their salaries and pensions if they truly stand by their principles. 

Shaswar Abdulwahid, NGM leader, praised this as the first time in 32 years a faction decided to boycott parliament and reject salaries and pensions. He commended this as an example 'excellent' political and parliamentary work.

Iran slams France for hosting meeting of exiled opposition group MEK

Iran has accused France of hosting a meeting for an exiled opposition group, the People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), which Tehran labels a "terrorist" organization. 

On Monday, Iran's Foreign Ministry condemned France for providing a venue for the meeting of the MEK, an organization based in Albania. The meeting in question took place outside of Paris on Saturday while thousands of the group's supporters rallied in the city center.

Former US Vice President Mike Pence and former British Prime Minister Liz Truss attended the meeting, which had initially been banned by French police. Nasser Kanani, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, issued a strong condemnation via Twitter on Monday. He criticized French officials for "providing the arena for the gathering of the terrorists."

Kanani further implored the French government to focus on the demands of their own citizens rather than supporting what he referred to as "terrorist groups."

France has recently experienced a series of violent street protests following the police-involved shooting of a 17-year-old of Algerian descent, identified only as Nahel M. The MEK, viewed suspiciously by many Iranians, has been exiled since the early 1980s.

In 2013, Albania agreed to host members of the MEK, a decision prompted by requests from Washington and the United Nations. Last month, Albanian authorities raided a MEK camp on allegations of the group's involvement in cyberattacks against foreign institutions. Iran praised this raid as "commendable." 

Sepehr Khalaji, the head of Iran's information council, stated on Monday that Iran had received some of the confiscated hard drives and was in the process of data recovery. The MEK has a complicated history, having initially supported Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during the 1979 Islamic revolution before becoming oppositional and seeking to overthrow the government.


Read more on the MEK and Iranian opposition abroad in the piece below:

PM files legal challenge against budget law amendments

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani has filed a complaint about several articles in the recently published budget law, alleging constitutional violations. The complaint, signed by Sudani's legal advisor, Qassim Al-Sharifi, on Sunday, argues that these articles and amendments fail to respect the separation of legislative and executive powers and potentially impact the financial stability and political landscape of the country.

The complaint document contends that according to the Iraqi constitution, when the government proposes a budget bill to lawmakers, any amendments should consider the balance of power, the fiscal and political implications of the changes, and should not impinge on the operations or independence of the judiciary.

In light of these assertions, the complaint calls for the annulment of several articles within the budget law. Notably, none of the disputed articles pertain to the Kurdistan Region.
Complaint filed by the PM
Complaint filed by the PM  

Iraq's FM in London to boost trade ties

Iraq's deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Fuad Hussein (KDP), is in London for an official two-day visit to discuss economic and political issues.

The trip, part of the ongoing Iraq-UK strategic dialogue, is set to include a series of high-profile meetings with top British officials, according to a statement from the ministry.

Hussein's visit will feature economic talks aimed at fortifying the financial ties between Iraq and the UK. He will meet with representatives from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and several business leaders during a symposium at the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce.

A meeting with the Executive Director of British telecommunications company, BT, is also on the agenda.

The UK government, a key supporter of the Iraqi government and the KRG, has provided various types of aid, including assistance in the fight against the Islamic State.

In May, the UK reaffirmed its commitment to supporting the Iraqi government and the implementation of its ambitious reform agenda. The UK government has encouraged economic reform and energy diversification and applauded steps taken to tackle corruption, strengthen economic infrastructure, and begin transitioning to green energy.

Fish prices soar in Iraq amid water shortages and closure of fish farms

The price of fish in Iraq has seen a significant increase due to recent government measures, including the closure of hundreds of unlicensed fish farms as a response to the ongoing water crisis. Muhammad Al-Khuzai, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture, told the Iraqi News Agency (INA) that water scarcity has resulted in a reduction in fish-breeding lake areas.

In addition to shutting down unlicensed lakes, the Ministry of Water Resources has advised the owners of authorized lakes to fill their lakes to conserve water. Al-Khuzai stated, "Iraq is currently experiencing a water crisis, and the measures taken to decrease fish-breeding lakes have consequently led to a surge in market fish prices."

Huge fish kill reported in south of Iraq

In Iraq's southern Maysan province, the Al-Khair sub-district of Al-Majar has experienced a massive fish die-off, with millions of river fish and fingerlings reportedly dead. The local Basra-based media outlet, Al-Mirbad Radio, reported the news on Sunday, sharing mobile footage showing thousands of dead fish floating on the water's surface.

Environmental observers cited by Al-Mirbad point to high salt concentrations in the river and sewage discharge pollution as likely causes of this extensive die-off.

Environmental activist Ahmed Saleh Neama shared that local fishermen have begun removing the deceased fish from the water, blaming the scarcity of water and increasing pollution for the disaster.

Describing the sight as "terrifying," fishermen in the province are pointing fingers at the water authorities, as the fish's health directly impacts their livelihoods and their families' wellbeing.

Gas infrastructure projects on the horizon for Iraq

Iraq is planning a significant project to transport gas from Qatar and Gulf states to Turkey, Europe, and other Middle Eastern nations, leveraging the "Development Road" initiative for land and sea shipping, according to state-owned newspaper Al-Sabah. The venture will link Basra to Turkey, making Iraq a central channel for expansive gas pipelines.

Zargham al-Maliki, a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Oil, Gas, and Natural Resources, stated that Iraq possesses the construction capabilities and financial resources to lead this large-scale project. He anticipates that international companies with expertise in gas infrastructure will have an instrumental role in the project's execution.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict, which has disrupted gas supplies to the European Union, has sparked discussions on alternate sources to bolster gas exports to the EU. In meetings between Iraqi, Kurdish, European, and U.S. officials, the idea of enhancing and expanding Iraqi gas production has been examined.

The newspaper quotes an official stating that Iraq is well-prepared to undertake the Gulf gas transfer project to Turkey and stressed the need to cut through bureaucracy to accelerate the process.

Zahra Al-Bajari, head of the Parliamentary Transportation and Communications Committee, indicated that the project's economic feasibility is currently under study by a specialized consulting firm. The proposal includes gas transportation via tankers rather than pipelines, although the final decision on the transportation method is still pending.

Industry experts anticipate significant benefits for Iraq and the region from the "Development Path" project, especially in light of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict that has disturbed the global energy market.

The Port of Faw could be a viable alternative for transporting Qatari gas to Europe due to its shorter path, suggests Ali Samin, founder of the Middle East, Eurasia, Asia, and Pacific Studies Platform. Furthermore, the initiative could boost Turkey's energy export potential.

"Turkey, with its advanced transport lines, will be Iraq's gateway to Europe, forming a bridge between Europe and Asia," explains Wathiq Al-Saadoun, a Middle East Studies Center expert, to the newspaper.

However, the government's ambitious plans face significant challenges, as demonstrated by the Al Faw Grand Port project near Basra. Initiated in 2010, the multi-billion dollar project's progress has been slow, leading to doubts about the feasibility of plans to link the port by road and rail to the Turkish border. 

Delays in the port's construction might cause further setbacks, potentially pushing the projected completion date of 2038 even further.

Given Iraq's ongoing issues with political instability, widespread corruption, and financial and structural obstacles, realizing these ambitious goals will require tremendous effort and political will.
بغداد: رغد دحام يقف العراق على أعتاب مشروع عملاق لنقل الغاز من قطر ودول الخليج إلى تركيا ودول أوروبا والشرق الأوسط عبر ربط البصرة بالأراضي التركيَّة من خلال مشروع "طريق التنمية" للشحن البرّي والبحري. وأكدت أبحاث أجراها خبراء ومتخصصون أنَّ مشروع "طريق التنمية" يشجِّع على أن يكون
جريدة الصباح

Iraq facing severe drought

Iraq's Ministry of Water Resources has announced the country is facing its fourth consecutive season of severe drought, driving urgent measures to address the crisis.

Despite the severe conditions, there are hopeful signs of increased water releases from Turkey into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

In recent times, Iraq has dealt with significant water-related problems, including record-setting droughts that have led to major water shortages and a dramatic fall in crop production.

Water Resources Minister Aoun Diab Abdullah told the state-owned Al-Sabah newspaper that the shortage of water has greatly affected the levels of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and depleted Iraq's strategic reserves. As a result, the government has had to ban the farming of water-intensive crops such as rice and yellow corn for the current season. 

Abdullah noted that his ministry is tirelessly working to ensure water availability for domestic, industrial, health, and environmental needs. This includes maintaining quotas for marshes and improving river environments through a rigorous water distribution system.

Progress is being made in talks with Turkey to implement the terms of a memorandum of understanding between the two countries. A key part of this agreement is a summer operational plan for Turkey's dams and reservoirs, shaping Iraq's water management strategies. Promising developments have surfaced from these discussions, including Turkey's willingness to augment water releases into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers this summer.

To counteract water scarcity, the ministry has recommended building dams in the western and southern deserts to accumulate water and enhance groundwater storage, supporting the agricultural sector. In addition, a campaign to remove about 5,000 unauthorized fish lakes has already filled over 40% of them.
بغداد: شذى الجنابي ذكرت وزارة الموارد المائية، أنَّ العراق يمر بأصعب مرحلة للجفاف وللموسم الرابع على التوالي، وهو ما دعاها إلى وضع حلول ومعالجات عاجلة لتجاوز ذلك، كاشفة عن مؤشرات إيجابية بزيادة نسب الاطلاقات المائية من تركيا لنهري دجلة والفرات خلال الصيف الحالي. وقال الوزير عون ذياب عبد الله
جريدة الصباح
Here's the specific rule on what constitutes the right to free expression and protest in Sweden
Religions (as opposed to people who follow a religion, there's a huge distinction here that many overlook) are not protected in Sweden.

"In Sweden, freedom of expression entails a very far-reaching right for individuals to express thoughts and ideas on any subject. However, it does not mean the freedom to always say practically anything at all. For example, this freedom does not extend to slander or committing an act involving threats or agitation against a national or ethnic group. On the other hand, religions as such are not protected against expressions of opinion that challenge religious messages or that may be perceived as hurtful to believers."

"Freedom to demonstrate in Sweden
The freedom of demonstration is strongly protected by the Swedish Constitution and includes the freedom to organise and participate in demonstrations in public places. The Swedish Police Authority is tasked with ensuring that public gatherings can be held."

"There must be very strong reasons to refuse to issue a permit to hold a public gathering on grounds of public order. One basis for refusing a permit is that other means of preventing impediments to the gathering have been exhausted."

OIC's 25-point 'recommendation'

The OIC has issued a 25-point recommendation following the burning of a Quran copy in Sweden.

The 57-member group's arguments are based on several international treaties, including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, yet selectively omit certain aspects. 

While acknowledging freedom of expression, as defended by the Swedish court that allowed the protest, the OIC refers to an article of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), highlighting "freedom of expression entails special duties and responsibilities." The OIC neglects the article's subsequent point, which allows restrictions under lawfully defined circumstances.

The OIC suggests the protest infringes on the "respect and reputation" of Muslims, even though the event was permitted under Swedish law. 

The OIC demands various measures, including the enactment of domestic and international laws to counter "Islamophobic attacks" and "hate and violence based on religion and faith."

The organization also urged the UN Secretary-General and the Security Council Chair to condemn acts insulting religious symbols and sanctities.

Link to the full statement below:

$6b pledged by UAE and Saudi Arabia for investment in Iraq.

Baghdad has announced agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to establish joint business councils, with the two Gulf nations pledging a combined $6 billion to increase operations in Iraq, according to Abdul Razzaq al-Zuhairi, head of the Federation of Iraqi Chambers of Commerce. 

In a Sunday interview with state news agency INA, Zuhairi said the collaborations aim to strengthen trade ties and promote investment in Iraq. He underscored the substantial interest both countries have in doing business in Iraq, noting each has committed $3b for this effort. 

Zuhairi said, "In alignment with World Bank standards, Iraq should evolve with global trends and actively contribute to shaping international trade processes."

The agreements come as Iraq seeks to normalize and warm its relations with Gulf nations to attract their investments.
The Saudi foreign ministry on Friday summoned the Swedish ambassador to express its "categorical rejection" of the Quran burning incident in front of Stockholm Central Mosque, which it described as the act of an extremist.
This follows Saudi Arabia's previous condemnation of the event that occurred on June 29.

Turkey extends Sulaymaniyah airport ban until 2024 – governor

Sulaymaniyah Governor Haval Abubakr announced that Turkey has extended its flight ban over Sulaymaniyah crossing Turkish airspace until 2024, a move seen as a further attempt to geographically, economically, and diplomatically isolate the Sulaymaniyah province.

The ban first took effect earlier this year, not only barring flights to Sulaymaniyah airport but also prohibiting any flights to the province from passing over Turkish territory. This punitive measure is understood to be a response to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) developing close ties with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) controlling most of the Kurdish territories in Syria. Turkey alleges that the YPG maintains links to the PKK.

Turkey's increasingly hostile relationship with the PUK has manifested in several ways, most notably, a suspected drone attack earlier this year near Sulaymaniyah International Airport targeting Mazloum Abdi, the General Commander of the SDF. While no casualties were reported, the attack led to heightened security concerns and exacerbated political tensions in the region. 

Ankara has long held concerns about the PUK's close ties with the SDF and YPG due to the perceived affiliation with the PKK. The drone attack exposed this heightened tension between the KRG, specifically between its two most powerful parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and the PUK. 

The attack sparked public outrage, with protests erupting in Sulaymaniyah. Demonstrators condemned Turkey's aggression, called for unity among the Kurdish people, and urged for an embargo on Turkish goods.

No casualties in ongoing Turkish bombardment of Kurdistan Region

The Turkish airstrikes on the Kurdish countryside continue, with no casualties reported so far. 

The pro-PKK Roj News reports that Turkey has bombed the Berchi village in the Amedi district today, though the extent of the damage remains unknown.

Rudaw reports that areas near the villages of Belava, Guherz, and Berchi were targeted by Turkish warplanes.

A witness cited by Rudaw said heavy bombing began at 10 am local time and lasted for several hours, causing panic and fear among the local residents. 

Turkey regularly targets PKK bases and fighters in the Kurdistan Region.
بەگوێرەی سەرچاوە هەرێمییەکان، دەوڵەتی داگیرکەریی تورک گوندی بەرچی لە دەڤەری ئامێدی تۆپباران دەکات.لە چوارچێوەی هێرش و داگیرکارییەکانی دەوڵەتی تورک، بۆسەر باشووری کوردستان، بەگوێرەی زانیاریی سەرچاوە هەرێمییەکان، ئێستا گوندی بەرچی لە دەڤەری ئامێدی تۆپب
کوردی - RojNews.News

Baghdad asserts reaction to Quran burning may be uncontrollable

Baghdad gave its full endorsement on Sunday to a statement made by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) regarding the burning of a Quran in Stockholm the previous week.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized the Iraqi government's position, stating, "We renew the importance of expanding the condemnation of such incidents to counteract Islamophobia and prevent provocative actions that fuel extremism and lead to uncontrollable reactions."

The statement added that a fresh approach to international reactions is necessary to respond to "egregious acts against followers of Islam, to preserve peaceful coexistence among mankind."

This stance comes amidst ongoing fallout across Iraq and the Middle East following the Quran burning incident by an Iraqi-Swedish individual. A prime ministerial advisor suggested to Al Ahad yesterday that Iraq "should sever ties with Sweden" to prevent future disrespect towards Islam.

The OIC's executive committee convened an extraordinary meeting in Jeddah to discuss the incident, subsequently publishing an extensive statement on the organization's website. The OIC unequivocally condemned the incident, expressing deep regret that such an action was permitted. The organization issued several recommendations, including a call for its secretary general to send a letter of condemnation to the Swedish government, urging measures to prevent similar acts, deemed as misuses of freedom of expression.

The OIC also denounced attempts to disparage Islamic 'sacred values' and called upon the international community to resist such provocations. It encouraged ambassadors from member states to advocate for legislative action against such offenses in their respective countries. The organization requested its missions in New York, Geneva, and Brussels to address hate acts in their respective international organizations, suggesting the creation of new international legal texts. Freedom to criticise religion is a key component of many Western democracies so it's unlikely anything like this will be carried.

Additionally, the OIC recommended Muslim civil society organizations to take legal action in local courts, exhaust domestic remedies, and if needed, bring cases to international judicial bodies in response to Islamophobic attacks.

Six suspected IS members detained in Nineveh

The Iraqi Interior Ministry confirmed the arrest of six individuals in the Nineveh province, suspected of affiliation with the IS and involvement in "terrorist operations" against both Iraqi security forces and civilians.

The Federal Intelligence and Investigations Agency stated that their units in Nineveh, among other provinces, apprehended the six suspects, who were sought based on arrest warrants issued under Article Four of the Counter-Terrorism Law. It is believed that these men were part of IS operations "in exchange for a sum of money". The suspects are currently undergoing legal proceedings, according to the agency's statement.

While IS activities have seen a recent decline, sporadic attacks on civilians and security forces continue, particularly in territories contested between Erbil and Baghdad, including the provinces of Kirkuk, Nineveh, and Saladin.

Morning briefing

Good morning from London. As people in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region return to work from the Eid holiday, it appears to be a quieter news day. Here are today's key stories:

  • The continuing reactions to the Quran burning in Sweden are being closely monitored in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry has now voiced its endorsement for a statement issued by the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation.
  • The New Generation Movement (NGM), an opposition party, asserts they were instrumental in orchestrating the unprecedented dissolution of the Kurdistan Parliament. This claim follows the declaration from the Kurdistan Parliamentary Diwan that it will submit the retirement paperwork for all MPs to the government, thereby formalizing the dissolution of parliament.
  • Six people suspected of affiliations with the Islamic State (IS) have been arrested in Nineveh province. It is alleged they have participated in attacks against the Iraqi security forces.
  • Baghdad has reached an agreement with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to form joint business councils. The two Gulf nations have pledged a combined $6bn to bolster their operations in Iraq.
  • Lastly, Abdullah Mohtadi, leader of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, is calling for a thorough investigation into recent internal disputes that resulted in the death of two Kurdish fighters.