Live: All the day’s news as Iraq celebrates Islamic New Year

Newest first
Newest first
Oldest first
See latest updates
See one new update
See new updates
No posts for now

Iraqi FM discusses Quran burning with Swedish counterpart

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein (KDP) has discussed the Quran burning incident with his Swedish counterpart, Tobias Billstrom, demanding the act 'not be repeated' and claiming it falls outside the limits of free expression.

However, he also reassured Sweden that Iraq he emphasized the importance of protecting diplomatic missions from attacks. Sweden's embassy was subject to attacks and incursions by protestors in Baghdad following the burning of the Quran by Iraqi Salwan Momika.

PUK aligns with dozen political parties for upcoming Iraqi provincial elections

Gorran is among them. The KDP is not. No surprises there.

Thirteen parties issued a joint statement, announcing their intent to form an inclusive Kurdish list for the approaching provincial council elections in the disputed territories. This effort aims to secure a majority for Kurdish interests amidst the region's volatile political climate. 

Significantly, the coalition includes Gorran and the PUK, pro-PKK Tavgari Azadi, and the Islamist Kurdistan Justice Group (Komal).

The KDP, alongside two major opposition forces: the Kurdistan Islamic Union and New Generation Movement, are notably absent.

'Surprisingly Close' – NOT

More on the non-update update. 

The Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) has suggested February 2024 as the most likely date for the Kurdistan Region parliamentary elections. In a widely shared letter signed by Omar Mohammed, the head of the IHEC, addressed to the dissolved parliament of the Kurdistan Region and federal authorities, the commission says February is the absolute earliest date they can hold the elections. Again, they said this morning the elections may be 'surprisingly close'. Hours later, they're saying 'six months or any time after that'. So basically 'any time', given they've always maintained the need for six months of prep. 

This proposed date is a response to a request from the Kurdistan Region Presidency, which had asked the IHEC to set the election date to either coincide with the provincial elections on December 18 or a later date. The IHEC states in the letter that holding two electoral events simultaneously, or in quick succession, presents challenges due to their distinct natures and issues related to technical and procedural aspects. The commission has marked August 1 as the date to begin preparations for the election, which are estimated to take around six months, leading to a potential election date at the end of February 2024.
Letter by commision chief Omar Mohammed 
Letter by commision chief Omar Mohammed    credit: IHEC

Electoral commission issues specific timeline for Kurdistan parliamentary elections

The electoral commission has issued a definitive timeline for the upcoming elections, stating they can occur on 'Feb. 18 or later.'
Considering that the commission has consistently maintained that six months of preparation time is necessary for an election, and that Feb. 18 is precisely six months from today, it remains unclear what they meant in their statement this morning when they suggested the election date could be so imminent as to be a 'surprise' for us all.

The breaking news is that we have no news.

Indian refineries turn to Iraq for crude – reports

India's state-owned oil refiners are negotiating with Iraq for discounts to increase crude purchases, a senior Indian government official told the Indian Express. This follows a significant reduction in discounts on Russian oil and potential payment issues, with Moscow's benchmark Urals crude trading above the G7 price cap of $60 per barrel.

The lower discount on Russian oil has led India's public sector refiners to consider buying less from Russia, particularly if prices go beyond the G7 cap. India is pursuing better payment terms from Iraq, such as extending the credit period from 60 to 90 days. This is in exchange for Indian public sector refiners, such as Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation, and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, increasing their purchase of Iraqi oil.

The government official described this move towards traditional suppliers like Iraq as a "cleaner deal". The official commended Iraq for its supportive approach and past discounts, though details about those discounts and the potential increase in oil volumes were not provided.

Prior to the Ukraine conflict, Iraq was India's top crude oil supplier. However, in the past 15 months, Russia, which offered considerable discounts to Indian refiners, has been India's primary oil source, accounting for more than 40% of India's oil imports by volume.

More details on the oil-for-gas deal

In the recently agreed crude-for-gas swap deal between Iraq and Iran, Iraq will provide Iran with 2 million tons of high sulfur fuel oil (HSFO) and 30,000 barrels per day of crude, starting in August for six months, according to a source talking to Argus Media.
In exchange, Iraq will receive Iranian gas. This agreement is designed to allow Iran to be paid for the gas it delivers to Iraq, which has been challenging due to US sanctions. Iraq owes Iran $12.12b, a debt that led Iran to reduce gas supplies to Iraq by more than 50% as of 1 July.

The swap deal, announced on 11 July by Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani, will ensure the resumption of gas supply. The deal also creates a mechanism for Tehran to bypass sanctions, and aligns with Iran's strategy of reducing US influence in the region. However, the inclusion of HSFO in the deal is unclear, given that Iran is already a significant producer and exporter of HSFO.

Kurdistan parliamentary elections may be 'surprisingly' close

Rudaw has received a statement by the federal electoral commission saying that the date is close to being set and may be even closer to being conducted then people thought possible. 

President Nechirvan Barzani sent the commission a letter last week, which the commission is now responding to.

"It has been decided to hold elections in the Kurdistan Region. We are now working on a date for the elections that may be so close that it may be a surprise. The parliamentary elections are a higher priority for us than provincial council elections in the Kurdistan Region.” 

Provincial elections will be held on Dec. 18.

State Department expresses concern over treatment of Cardinal Sako

Rudaw's Julian Bechocha has an excellent article laying out the State Department's reaction to a story that has been rumbling on in the background of Iraqi politics for a week now

The United States has expressed its concern over the "harassment" of Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church. 

This follows President Abdul Latif Rashid's decision to revoke a decree that formally recognized Cardinal Sako and granted him powers over Christian endowment affairs, triggering tensions between the government and Iraq's Christian community. The Cardinal has since relocated from Baghdad to a monastery in Kurdistan. State Department spokesperson, Matthew Miller, voiced worries about the Cardinal's position being attacked, particularly by Rayan al-Kildani, leader of the nominally Christian Babylon Movement, a party and militia affiliated with pro-Iran forces.

President Rashid says the revocation was a procedural one based on constitutional necessity, not a political decision.

The State Department has been in constant communication with the Iraqi government, urging them to reverse their decision, which they consider "a blow to religious freedom". The Christian community in Iraq has been under significant stress, with numbers dwindling from over 1.5 million before the 2003 American invasion to fewer than 300,000 today.

Morning briefing

Welcome to this midweek edition of the live blog. It's a quiet start to the day today due to the public holiday: today is the Islamic New Year.

We'll keep you updated on any stories and developments that may emerge, including:

  • The Federal Electoral Commission has responded to a letter from Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani, stating that they consider Kurdistan's parliamentary elections to be even more important than the upcoming provincial votes in December.
  • More details are emerging about the oil-for-gas deal between Iraq and Iran. Reuters reports that the US has given Iraq a 120-day sanctions waiver to allow it to pay for Iranian gas.
  • The Kurdistan Region's head of foreign relations, Safeen Dizayee, says they are working towards building more diplomatic representation abroad during a week-long trip to the US.