Photo by Aram Sabah on Unsplash

Live: Tuesday edition of our rolling blog of political news from Iraq, Kurdistan Region

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Iraqi President Latif Rashid has called on the federal parliament to approve Halabja's recognition as Iraq's 19th province.
Halabja was given provincial status and split off from Sulaymaniyah by the Kurdistan Region's parliament years ago, and does wield some provincial powers within the confines of the Kurdistan Region. But the federal legislature has yet to approve the provincial status to make it official and legal nationwide. There have been some close calls, and a bill was sent to parliament way back in 2013, but none have been able to pass.

Prime Minister Sudani orders rebuilding of Yazidi village on genocide anniversary

Marking the ninth anniversary of the genocide in which Islamic State targeted unarmed Yazidi civilians and devastated the village of Kocho, Prime Minister Sudani has announced plans for the reconstruction of the village.

"In fairness to its honorable people, and out of a sense of the government’s responsibility," the PM said, the rebuilding of Kojo aims to underscore that "our people, with their various affiliations and components, have the right to live in safety and dignity."


Thread on the Iraqi decision to ban imports of soft drinks and confectionery

The KRG can, and very often does, ignore these federal edicts at borders it controls. 
In another stop on Galligan's farewell tour, he has met with KRG Deputy PM Qubad Talabani, who 'warns' Kurdish parties in Baghdad to be united in negotiations with the federal government. 
He's a major figure in one of those parties, mind.   

Kurdistan Region lecturers to resume strikes

Representatives of lecturers in the Kurdistan Region said they will renew protests next week over the KRG indecision on permanent employment.

Ali Rauf, chief representative for the area's teachers, posted on Facebook that the government in Erbil hasn't made a conclusive decision about the permanent hiring of teachers. He suggested that a demonstration outside the Council of Ministers might be the only effective recourse.

The lecturers have set a rally for Sunday, asking all teachers to gather at 10AM

Many lecturers have long sought permanent positions. However, the KRG's recent decision to cut the school week from six days to five has meant fewer positions, upsetting many who have hoped for full-time teaching roles for years.


KRG reports progress in Peshmerga unification efforts

The KRG has announced significant advancement in the Peshmerga unification process. According to the KRG, three new brigades have been integrated into the Peshmerga ministry, with expectations for full unification within the next two years. That's probably wildly optimistic but let's see. 

The coalition forces have been intensifying their demands for the KDP and PUK to accelerate the Peshmerga unification process that began in 2017. The financial and military assistance provided by the coalition to the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga forces is at stake due to this delay. 

The rivalry and tensions between the KDP and PUK have impeded the progress.

Recent developments

A recent report on the KRG's website highlights:

  • The approval by KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani of three new brigades (26, 28, 30), which now operate under the Second Division of the Peshmerga Command's chief of staff. These brigades consist of approximately 5,400 officers and Peshmerga from Units 70.
  • Brigadier Hikmat Omar from the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs (MoPA) has confirmed the unification of several brigades (15, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 30) and that Brigades 25 and 27 are near completion.
  • The reform process adheres to military regulations and Reform Law 38, and has successfully unified 28 brigades. The comprehensive reform, facilitated by Coalition Forces and MoPA, is set to wrap up in the next two years.


In May 2017, the KRG approved a project backed by the US, UK, and Germany to modernize and unify the Peshmerga forces. By December 2017, training sessions for the brigades commenced, with the Netherlands joining in 2019. 

Efforts to consolidate the brigades of the two major political entities, KDP and PUK, started in November of the subsequent year. 

However, persistent rivalries between the two armed parties means progress has been sluggish at best. There have been accusations of discrimination and concerns over fund disbursements and force loyalty, primarily from the PUK towards the KDP-led KRG.

Despite international pressure, the set deadlines for unification have been consistently extended. Reports from December 2021 revealed that coalition forces held discussions with PUK and KDP officials, aiming for the end of 2022 as the unification deadline. Unfortunately, this target was not met, even with potential financial implications and threats of reduced support for the Peshmerga.

The US remains a significant contributor, allocating a monthly stipend of 22 million dollars for the salaries of the Peshmerga forces.
Indeed it is. 

Outgoing Canadian ambassador meets Kurdistan Region VP 

Gregory Galligan and Sheikh Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa 
Gregory Galligan and Sheikh Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa    credit: Kurdistan presidency press office

Canadian Ambassador Gregory Galligan was received by Kurdistan Region Deputy President Sheikh Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa today. The VP acknowledged Galligan's contributions in strengthening Canada-Kurdistan relations.

Ambassador Galligan thanked Iraq and the KRG for their support throughout his term and underscored Canada's ongoing commitment to the region.

Present at the meeting was Tammy Ames newly appointed head of the Canadian Embassy Office in Erbil, who received warm wishes for her upcoming tenure.

Kurdistan Region Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani met with a Global Coalition delegation in Erbil, led by the outgoing commander of anti-ISIS Operation Inherent Resolve, Maj. Gen. Matthew McFarlane

They discussed Peshmerga force reforms, with Talabani emphasizing a phased approach and the importance of keeping the Peshmerga Ministry 'free from political conflicts'.*

The incoming Coalition commander, Maj. Gen Joel B Vowell, was also welcomed, highlighting the need for continued coordination against threats.

*Major fail on that front by all involved. The Coalition and the US have publicly dressed down the KDP and PUK on this very issue in recent months. 
In July, Iraq's integrity commission disclosed that 54 orders were issued against top officials, including six arrest warrants and 48 summons. These were directed at multiple current and former officials, including eight ex-ministers and four former governors.

Good news for those travelling through the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing between Turkey and the Kurdistan Region

Ibrahim Khalil border crossing
Ibrahim Khalil border crossing   credit: Staff
The border authority has announced that new measures are being put in place as of today that will split up queues for those who travel regularly and infrequent travellers. Those who have crossed into Turkey within 15 days of travel will have a dedicated queue.

For decades, the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing has been notorious for bureaucracy, inefficiency, and excruciating wait times (with fault lying on officials both sides of the border).

Even with the border transforming over the decades from dilapidated outpost into a sprawling customs, tax, immigration and trade hub, there's still a chaotic process in wait for anyone used to frictionless travel elsewhere. 
In a piece for The New Arab, Dana Taib Menmy delves into Turkey's escalation against Kurdish groups in the Kurdistan Region and northeast Syria. This surge in aggression comes after Turkey's elections in May and prior to Recep Tayyip Erdogan's anticipated visit to Baghdad. Over 665 Turkish airstrikes, primarily targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), have been recorded in the first half of 2023.

Civilian casualties have also been reported, with this week's attacks in Sulaymaniyah being the most high profile of these.

Erdogan’s upcoming visit to Iraq aims to address bilateral concerns including the PKK's presence in northern Iraq, water scarcity issues, and potential investment opportunities for Turkey. The PKK, formed in the 1970s, has waged a longstanding battle against Turkey, seeking more autonomy for Kurds in Turkey.

Turkey insists the PKK conducts cross-border military operations against them and criticizes the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government for not expelling the PKK from key mountainous regions. Consequently, Turkey, with support from the Kurdistan Democratic Party, has established multiple military bases inside Iraq.

Several factors complicate Turkey-Iraq relations: disputes over water supplies, tensions around oil sales from the Kurdistan region, and Turkey's aspirations to weaken the PKK before seeking a peace deal. Moreover, Ankara perceives the Syrian Democratic Forces, which played a key role in defeating the Islamic State, as an extension of the PKK.

Morning briefing

Morning, all. On this rather slow start to the week, here's what we are keeping an eye on as things stand:

  • There's a Kurdistan Region-Saudi Arabian economic and trade summit taking place in Erbil that seeks to boost trade between the two countries and more foreign direct investment in the Kurdistan Region funded by those unfathomably deep Saudi pockets.
  • More reaction on the uptick in Turkish drone attacks in the Kurdistan Region.
  • A poll commissioned by Rudaw has 29% of likely voters in the Kurdistan Region undecided as things stand. 
  • Three Islamic State suspects have been arrested in Sulaymaniyah.