Live: Date for Kurdistan Parliamentary Elections Set for February 25

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Breaking: Dilshad Shehab, a spokesman for the Presidency of the Kurdistan Region, announces that President Nechirvan Barzani has set February 25, 2024, as the date for the Kurdistan Parliament elections.

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Regarding the expiration of the IHEC's mandate on January 7, Shehab mentions there is an understanding that the mandate will be extended. This is not only to accommodate the Kurdistan Region's elections but also to give IHEC ample time to finalize the results of the provincial elections scheduled for December 18.
Shehab says every single political party in the KRI agree on the date despite disagreements over details.
Shehab is now taking questions from reporters.
Dilshad Shehab is currently delivering a live address about setting the date for the upcoming elections, a decision derived from discussions with various political parties.

Reading the official letter issued by Barzani, Shehab highlights:

  1.     The regional parliamentary elections are scheduled for February 25.
  2.    All political parties are required to respect this decision and cooperate with the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to implement it.
  3.   This decree is effective from its date of issuance and will be published in the official gazette.

EU highlights significant challenges facing Yazidi community

The EU says the Yazidi community continues to face significant challenges and calls on Baghdad and Erbil to proceed with the implementation of the Sinjar Agreement.

The Yazidi community in Iraq continues to face significant challenges. These include various obstacles preventing displaced persons from returning to their homes, particularly in Sinjar/Shingal, limited access to basic social services, and security concerns, such as recent episodes of hate speech, which the EU strongly condemns.

EU High Representative

The EU also calls on the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to proceed with the implementation of the Sinjar Agreement.

This includes the appointment of a mayor for Sinjar, which will pave the way for the other provisions of the Agreement, including the re-establishment of core civil services in Sinjar. With the adoption of the Federal Budget the recruitment of 2500 local security personnel, as stipulated by the Agreement, can proceed without further delay. The EU encourages all parties to act in cooperation with the United Nations and the international community. The EU welcomes the adoption of the Yazidi Female Survivors Law. To ensure the full implementation of the law, the EU calls for facilitating improved access to compensations provided for in the law and also welcomes the decree of Yazidi land ownership approved by the Government of Iraq in December 2022 looking forward to concrete steps to ensure its swift and full implementation.

EU High Representative


Here are some highlights from PM Sudani's speech in Baghdad on the ninth commemoration of the Yazidi Genocide.

"From the beginning of our administration, we have relentlessly strived to pass the law for Yazidi women survivors."

"We resolved the long-ignored issue of Yazidis' residential land and house ownership. We have encouraged refugees to return home by providing them with humanitarian support."

"Teams dedicated to engineering, service, and social research were dispatched to provide aid in affected areas."

"Efforts to uncover mass graves and search for the missing continue. Special security agencies remain committed to finding the missing and securing the release of all those kidnapped."

"The Sinjar and Nineveh Plain Reconstruction Fund has been incorporated into the three-year budget. I have directed the expediting of compensation processes for the families of martyrs and the injured, including for property damages."

"The Council of Ministers has decided to declare the first Wednesday of April as an official holiday for Yazidis, recognizing their rich culture that contributes significantly to Iraqi culture as a whole."

Statement from Iraqi PM office on meeting with Estonian defence minister

Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani welcomed Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur, along with his delegation, on Wednesday.

The meeting centered around strengthening the friendly relations between Iraq and Estonia, Estonia's contribution to the international coalition against terrorism, and the development of bilateral economic cooperation.

Discussions also expanded into areas of cyber-security and e-governance. 

During the meeting, Prime Minister Sudani emphasized the government's efforts to regulate alliances in the battle against terrorism, adapting to the post-war period following the fight against ISIS.

He underscored the need to counter narratives that incite violence and terrorism.
Estonian defense minister visits Kurdish officials, tours military base in Erbil
Estonian Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur and Commander of the Estonian Defense Forces Gen. Martin Herem visited Erbil, meeting with the KRG prime minister, deputy prime minister, and president to discuss Estonia’s ongoing support for the Peshmerga forces and the international coalition's efforts to counter the Islamic State (IS).

President Nechirvan Barzani stated that both parties agreed on the need to continue the coalition's mission against IS, considering it a persistent threat to security and stability in the region.

The Estonian officials also toured the Erbil air base and met with the Estonian Defense Forces' Stone Task Force, serving in the international military operation Inherent Resolve as part of the coalition forces.

According to the Estonian public broadcaster ERR, Pevkur stated, "Iraq's security is in a better state than at any time in the past, thanks in part to the valuable contribution made by Estonian military personnel."

Pevkur asserted that Estonia's contribution to the security of Iraq and the region is essential, given the borderless nature of terrorism. "The closer to the original source a problem is solved, the less likely it is for terrorist attacks to reach our region," he added.

The Estonian delegation also held meetings with the Iraqi president, PM, and minister of defense during their visit to Baghdad.

In May, ESTCOY-18, a Scout Battalion's reduced infantry company based at the Erbil Air Base, assumed the rotating duties of the US-led mission Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq, succeeding the Netherlands.

Oil minister, parliamentary oil & gas committee meet 

The Parliamentary Oil, Gas, and Natural Resources Committee held a meeting with Oil Minister Hayan Abdul Ghani to discuss several issues, including the recent barter agreement with Iran involving crude oil for gas. The semi-official Iraqi News Agency reported that Minister Ghani and his deputies responsible for extraction and gas met to review the deal between Iraq and Iran.

Last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Sudani announced Baghdad would begin exchanging crude oil for Iranian gas to circumvent recurring payment delays due to the required US approval for such transactions. This move, however, could potentially violate US sanctions against Iran, as reported by Reuters.

Iraq's electricity supply, heavily dependent on Iranian gas, faces frequent disruptions due to payment delays. These interruptions often incite public anger, especially during the scorching summer months.

The meeting also tackled other matters, such as Iraq's agreements with Jordan for subsidized crude oil exports, aid of crude oil exports to Lebanon and Syria, investment in free and associated gas, and the crude oil transport pipeline project from Basra to Haditha Aqaba.

Iraqi president seeks international assistance for displaced Yazidis

President Abdul Latif Rashid has announced that Baghdad is actively seeking assistance from international organizations, including the United Nations, to facilitate the return of displaced Yazidis to their homes.

Rashid says efforts are underway to hold members of the terrorist group Daesh accountable for their heinous crimes. 

"In collaboration with the United Nations team, we are drafting legislation to establish a specialized court," said Rashid.

"This court's primary objective will be to prosecute those Daesh criminals who have violated sanctities, leading to the sexual enslavement of many Yazidi women and girls, and the murder of innocent individuals and children."
The US says it "continues to support the full recovery of the Yezidi community" on the ninth anniversary of the Yazidi genocide.

Baghdad denies ceding Umm Qasr in border agreement with Kuwait 

In response to rumors, Baghdad has denied plans to cede the city of Umm Qasr in southern Basra Province as part of any border demarcation agreement with Kuwait. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs firmly refuted claims about the surrender of Iraq's terrestrial or maritime sovereignty, particularly concerning the Umm Qasr area. It assured that the land border with Kuwait aligns with Security Council Resolution No. 833 (1993), to which Iraq remains fully committed. This commitment fulfills international obligations and asserts that the land border's official demarcation will remain unchanged.

Furthermore, the ministry clarified that government housing along the Iraq-Kuwait border resides on Iraqi land. The relocation of residents to a newly built neighborhood was conducted to provide a more stable alternative without violating the sanctity of Iraqi sovereignty, not as an optional measure but a mandated act of sovereignty affirmation. 

These statements followed public concern sparked by discussions between both countries' foreign ministers on July 30. Social media users criticized the potential border demarcation deal, which Bassem Al-Awad, the Iraqi cabinet spokesperson, described as "political blackmail" and "rumors." 

Awad clarified that the debate was centered on a small area near Umm Qasr, known as the residential compound of the navy forces. Post the 1994 demarcation approval, this area became part of Kuwaiti territory. In 2020, Kuwait built an alternate residential city housing 228 dwellings—more than double the original 102—with comprehensive services, including a police station, schools, clinics, and a mosque. Kuwait requested the demolition of the original 102 houses after confirming alternate housing provisions in the region.

Sinjar Genocide: Ninth anniversary commemorated amid unresolved crises

Kurdish officials marked the ninth anniversary of the fall of Sinjar and the Yazidi genocide perpetrated by the Islamic State (IS) groups, while hundreds of displaced Yazidis remain unable to return to their homes. Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani acknowledged the dire conditions faced by the Yazidis in Sinjar, characterized by lack of services, security instability, and insufficient job opportunities.

Barzani advocated for the implementation of the Sinjar Agreement, signed in 2020, aimed at normalizing security in the Nineveh town by limiting operations to Iraqi federal forces and requiring other armed groups to leave. The agreement, which has yet to be implemented, also gives Erbil input on establishing a new local authority and managing budgetary and reconstruction plans.

Pro-PKK forces and others such as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), who helped free the town in 2017, remain active in Sinjar. Turkey continues to launch attacks on the town, ostensibly targeting pro-PKK fighters, further destabilizing the security situation.

"PKK forces and all foreign forces must leave the area. These forces have only created disaster, instability, and deepened the wounds of Sinjar and the Yazidis,” stated Barzani, emphasizing that the continued presence of militias and illegal armed groups hampers the return of the displaced Yazidi population and hinders the region's reconstruction.

However, criticism and accusations persist against the KDP forces, who are alleged to have abandoned Sinjar on the eve of the IS attack leading to the massacre and abduction of thousands of Yazidis.

PUK leader Bafel Talabani criticized the lack of action taken to address this horrific crime. "The Yazidi brothers and sisters are currently becoming the victims of political disputes, and their homeland of Sinjar is still a post-war ruin," said Talabani, adding that "no concrete actions have been taken to recompense them." He urged Baghdad to uphold its humanitarian and legal duties to the Yazidis, which include paying them compensation and rebuilding Sinjar.


Iraqi authorities recall tainted Indian cold medicine

Following investigations by Bloomberg, Iraqi health authorities have initiated a nationwide recall of an Indian-made cold medicine, Cold Out. Tests conducted by an independent lab, Valisure LLC, revealed unsafe levels of the toxic industrial solvent, ethylene glycol in the product. Kocher Younis, the head of registration at the Kurdistan Region's Medical Control Agency, confirmed the recall was implemented in response to the toxicology findings.

The product was manufactured by Fourrts (India) Pvt. Ltd, who stated a subcontractor was responsible for its production. This incident highlights the fifth occurrence in the past year where Indian pharmaceutical exports were found to contain excessive levels of ethylene glycol, a chemical linked to several fatalities in Gambia and Uzbekistan last year.


Social media reaction to the finance ministry statement

Araz Omer: What's rush, wait until we die of hunger, as long as we don’t surrender!

Hawkar Sardar: The arrival of salaries is akin to the arrival of the end time, its signs appear gradually. Lol The ministry of delivery.

Hedy Rasul: The more you explain it, the more complicated it gets.

Hiwa Omar: Are local revenues zero? [questioning whether KRG’s local non-oil revenue can make up the shortfall]

Many others accused the KRG of stealing the revenues. Others ask where inland revenues have disappeared to over the last two months that have seen salaries go unpaid.

The Ministry of Delivery seems to be trending as a nickname for the KRG's finance ministry. It's a reference to the KRG losing fiscal autonomy and, in the eyes of many, being a mere vehicle for delivering salary payments as-and-when Baghdad decides to transfer them. 

Taxi for the KRG? Or maybe just Uber it...

June salary distribution for Kurdistan Region gets underway

The KRG Ministry of Finance has begun the distribution of June salary payments, starting with the health ministry. The ministry plans to soon release a payment schedule for other departments and ministries. 

In a statement, the ministry disclosed that the Central Bank of Iraq has allocated 598 billion dinars for salary distribution. However, the Kurdistan Region requires over 940 billion dinars each month just for salaries, without accounting for costs associated with other expenditures, administrative budgets, investments, infrastructure and electricity generation. 

The KRG finance ministry expressed concerns about the federal government and the Iraqi Ministry of Finance not adhering to the agreement established between the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad or executing the Iraqi budget law. 

According to the budget law, the Kurdistan Region should receive more than 1.384 trillion dinars monthly. Based on actual and average monthly expenditure of the Iraqi Ministry of Finance, they should have transferred 1.174 trillion dinars to the Kurdistan Region. However, the amount sent falls short of these agreed-upon amounts and budget law requirements. 

Erbil relies heavily on Baghdad for the payment of its civil servants, especially since oil revenues plummeted to nearly zero following a halt in crude exports in March. Despite the passage of the budget law and KRG's insistence on its compliance with all clauses of the law, Baghdad has not sent the region its full share.

NRT Kurdish team prevented from covering Erbil protest

Security forces in Erbil obstructed an NRT Kurdish news team from covering a protest, threatening to damage their recording equipment.

The journalists were attempting to provide live coverage of a demonstration by bird farm owners when they were warned not to film.

NRT reporters, particularly in the KDP strongholds of Erbil and Duhok, frequently face restrictions on coverage.


'Heist Of The Century' suspect extradited in joint operation with Jordanian authorities

In a joint operation with Jordanian authorities, the Iraqi Federal Integrity Commission has successfully extradited a prominent businessman accused of playing a pivotal role in the infamous "Heist of the Century." This case refers to the unsolved disappearance of 3.7 trillion Iraqi dinars, roughly equivalent to $2.5 billion, from the country's tax secretariat funds. This operation was supervised by Prime Minister Sudani, the commission was keen to state.

The massive theft sparked public outrage across Iraq, leading to widespread protests against corruption and the alleged involvement of high-ranking officials and businessmen. While some of the stolen money has been recovered, Sudani has pledged to 'relentlessly' pursue all those involved in the theft.

According to the commission, the extradited businessman is suspected of aiding Nur Zuhayr Jasm Al-Mudhafar, the primary suspect who is currently in custody. He allegedly facilitated the creation of fictitious foreign companies and staged fraudulent waivers from these companies to Mudhafar.

The businessperson, who is implicated in two separate cases, had several arrest warrants issued by the Second Karkh Investigation Court for charges including theft and impersonation of a state official.

The Integrity Commission applauded the PMs 'diplomatic efforts' that have, they say, strengthened cooperation with other nations, specifically citing extraditions and the recovery of smuggled funds from the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

In its ongoing efforts to secure the repatriation of stolen funds, the Commission has opened two bank accounts—one in dollars and the other in dinars—at Rafidain Bank, where the recovered funds from this case will be deposited.

The president of the Iraqi Supreme Court, Jassim Mohammed Aboudsays that the budget law guarantees the resolution of the salaries of employees in the Kurdistan Region.

He also stated that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has been "very" compliant towards decisions of the Federal Supreme Court. The KRG's share of the budget is over 16 trillion dinars, the bulk of which is handed out to the bloated public sector.

Despite several appeals against items of the budget, the issues remain unresolved. The court is set to meet again on August 7, 2023, to discuss a complaint filed by Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani about several articles of the budget law.

Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani has emphasized the importance of enforcing the Sinjar Accord and urged militia groups to withdraw from the town of Sinjar. 
Barzani's statements came during his tribute to the Yazidi victims of the Islamic State's genocide on its ninth anniversary.

He urged cooperation with the Iraqi federal government and the international community to rebuild Sinjar, restoring authority to the indigenous Yazidi population. He also praised the Peshmerga fighters' efforts in liberating Sinjar.

The atrocities committed by the Islamic State have resulted in the displacement of approximately 400,000 Yazidis, many of whom remain internally displaced within Iraq.

This week, the British government formally acknowledged the Yazidi Genocide. 

Morning briefing

Greetings and a very good morning to you all. Here's what's making headlines today:

  • The Kurdistan Region PM Masrour Barzani pushes for the implementation of the Sinjar Accord, calling for an end to the presence of militias and the restoration of authority to the native population of Sinjar.
  • The Iraqi Supreme Court assures budget law guarantees the revolution of salary issues for Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) employees, citing compliance of the KRG with Federal Supreme Court decisions.
  • The draft of the crucial Iraqi oil and gas law, aiming to harmonize Kurdistan Region and federal energy production regimes, is nearing its final stages and is expected to be approved this year.

Stay with us as we delve into these stories throughout the day.