Live: KRG delegation to visit Baghdad as relations sour over budget payment delays

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In a statement issued on the eve of the 31st of August anniversary, the PUK Political Bureau strongly condemns the events of 1996.

The PUK criticizes the KDP for perpetuating policies that, in their view, continue to be detrimental to Kurdish unity and interests. The statement asserts that the KDP has not learned from past missteps and still pursues policies that fuel conflict and undermine the future of the Kurdish people.

Here is excerpts from the statement:

Twenty-seven years ago, at the behest of the KDP leadership, the Republican Guard forces of the Baath dictatorship occupied Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region that symbolized the dream of freedom and served as the hub for our country's sovereign institutions. The events of that occupation have indelible national and patriotic implications that will never be forgotten.

For five years, the Kurdish people had revolted against the oppression of the Baath regime, reclaiming part of the Kurdistan Region, However, under the guise of maintaining a balance of power during the civil war, the KDP once again introduced the specter of Anfal and chemical attacks to Kurdistan and its capital, Erbil.

This act of betrayal stands as a dark chapter in our nation's history, one that cannot be erased by hundreds of media speeches, biased books, or misleading narratives.

Regrettably, the force responsible for the betrayal on August 31 has not learned from history. Instead of adopting wiser policies, it continues to prioritize narrow party interests, fueling conflict and dishonesty. Misinterpreting patience and self-control as signs of weakness, the group undermines the future of the Kurdistan Region. Despite the lasting memory of history, this force continues to make unfounded accusations against patriotic entities, particularly the PUK.

The KDP has exploited resources, power, and media, opting for deception rather than reconciling with the past. Rather than trying to turn a new leaf with sound Kurdish and national policies, the group seeks to legitimize its past betrayals, demonstrating indifference to the political process and the future of our people.

Kirkuk Now reports on the detrimental impacts of a three-day blockade on the Kirkuk-Erbil highway. 

Demonstrators, preventing the KDP to return to its offices and demanding the revocation of a Prime Ministerial decision related to the Kirkuk Joint Operations Command building, have set up sit-in tents that have halted the movement of vehicles and tankers.

This blockade has led to a cessation of state-subsidized petrol supply to the adjacent Altun Kopri district. Mayor Abdul Muttalib Najm al-Din tells the website that the lone state-owned petrol station has been closed for three days, forcing drivers to either purchase fuel from the black market at elevated prices or travel to the Dibs district, some 18 kilometers away. 

The blockade has also prevented many students from attending exams, according to other media reports.
Due to the closure of the Kirkuk-Erbil road by demonstrators, the Northern, Oil-rich city of Kirkuk has stopped the supply of state-subsidized petrol to one of its adjacent districts days ago forcing vehicle drivers to buy fuel from the black market or go to a neighbor district. Demonstrators have

The Association of the Petroleum Industry of Kurdistan (Apikur) is optimistic about ongoing dialogues between the federal government and the Turkish government to restart the Iraq-Turkey pipeline (ITP). Reopening the pipeline is vital for rejuvenating the primary industry of the Kurdistan Region, accounting for 80% of its economy, and for international oil companies (IOCs) to continue their operations.

However, Apikur has flagged concerns about payment structures for IOCs. The organization states it will not resume oil production for pipeline exports unless there is clarity regarding how IOCs will be compensated for past and future oil exports.

Apikur's concerns come in light of the newly adopted Iraqi budget for 2023-2025. The organization argues that the federal government's budget does not sufficiently address the production costs and contractual obligations for IOCs. The budget hints at a reimbursement based on an ambiguous "average cost of production," rumored to be around $6 per barrel, calculated from unspecified Iraqi fields. This amount is considered insufficient by Apikur and contradicts existing Production Sharing Contracts, which are governed by English law.

Additionally, Apikur has reservations about Iraq’s forthcoming oil and gas legislation. The current draft law does not acknowledge historic international investment in the Kurdistan Region or the contractual conditions that have led to significant economic growth over the past 15 years.

Apikur warns that failing to account for these international investments and contractual obligations could result in expensive arbitration processes and harm Iraq's investment climate. The organization urges all parties to promptly establish mutually beneficial commercial agreements that serve the interests of Iraq's citizens. With the closure of the pipeline since March causing an estimated loss of $5 billion, the stakes are high for all parties involved.


What makes August 31 a divisive date in Kurdish political history?

Official PUK outlets giving lots of column inches to the August 31 anniversary
Official PUK outlets giving lots of column inches to the August 31 anniversary   credit: PUKMedia

The PUK has been intensifying its media focus on August 31, a date it refers to as "the Treason of August 31." On this day in 1996, their rivals, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), recaptured Erbil, but not without the military aid of Saddam Hussein, Iraq's then-dictator.

The events of August 31, 1996

Two years into a civil war between the PUK and the KDP, Masoud Barzani, the leader of the KDP, solicited the help of Saddam Hussein to oust the PUK. With considerable military support, including tanks and helicopters from the Iraqi government, the KDP succeeded in reclaiming Erbil and seizing the PUK stronghold of Sulaymaniyah. This led to the declaration of a KDP-led government in Erbil.

By October, with Iran's backing, the PUK managed to recapture Sulaymaniyah. This marked the onset of dual governance in the Kurdistan Region, an arrangement that continues to have repercussions today.

The date as a marker in Kurdistan's collective memory

For many in the Kurdistan Region, August 31 is considered a dark day, even against the backdrop of a devastating civil war. The day is particularly stinging because it saw a Kurdish faction seek assistance from what many considered to be the Kurds' principal enemy. To add insult to injury, there are reports that Saddam's regime was able to capture (and execute)  as part of the deal some of the Iraqi opposition figures that had sought refuge in Erbil.

The KDP’s justification

Initially, the KDP avoided discussing the events of that fateful day, which was easier during a time it had firm control over the public sphere in Duhok and Erbil.

However, as scrutiny mounted, the party had no choice but to justify its actions. According to the KDP, they were backed into a corner, facing imminent defeat to the PUK, who had the support of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Faced with this grim prospect, the KDP contends that reaching out to Saddam was a last-resort move for survival.

On the other hand, the PUK asserts that the KDP's actions were not merely a desperate act of self-defense but a betrayal that had been in months in the offing.


Iraqi President discusses water crisis with Turkish special envoy

Iraqi President Abdul Latif Jamal Rashid met with Veysel Eroglu, special envoy for water affairs to the Turkish president, to focus on the ongoing water crisis and bilateral relations. The goal is to update existing agreements for the benefit of both nations' citizens, according to a statement from the president's office.

Rashid emphasized the need for clear information on Turkey's water management plans, particularly concerning the minimum water releases into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Technical notes will be exchanged to formalize any agreement, he said.

Iraq is currently drafting proposals to address water scarcity and is in talks with Turkey to finalize a plan for equitable water distribution.

Rashid also noted the global impact of the water crisis, worsened by climate change, pointing out its severe effects on Iraq's agriculture, natural resources and quality of life.

Eroglu said Turkey is committed to working closely with Iraq on resolving the water issue, aiming to strengthen bilateral relations and reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

The meeting comes amid growing concerns about climate change's impact on water availability in both countries.

Last week, a meeting between the Turkish and Iraqi foreign ministers had water scarcity among its top agenda items.


Baghdad-Muscat flights open

Screengrab from Skyscanner
Screengrab from Skyscanner   credit: Skyscanner
Iraq has launched a direct flight route between Baghdad and Muscat, Oman.

The Iraqi Embassy in Oman said the new service is an important move to strengthen bilateral ties. The flights aim to bolster cooperation in areas such as politics, economy, culture and tourism.

The flights, which last 2 hours and 40 minutes, are operated twice a week by Oman's SalamAir.

The service aligns with the new Iraqi government's initiative to improve relations with Gulf countries. The embassy said it is ready to assist travelers and the airline, underlining its role in promoting international ties.
العراق يفتتح الخط الجوي المباشر بين بغداد ومسقط تتقدم سفارة جمهورية العراق لدى سلطنة عمان، بأحر التهاني والتبريكات لشركة طيران السلام على افتتاح خطها الجوي المباشر بين بغداد ومسقط، والذي يعد خطوة مهمة في تعزيز العلاقات الثنائيَّة بين البلدين الشقيقين. إنَّ هذا الخط الجوي يفتح آفاقاً جديدة للتعاون والتبادل في المجالات السياسيَّة والاقتصاديَّة والثقافيَّة والسياحيَّة، ويعكس الثقة المتبادلة والرغبة في تطوير الشراكة الإستراتيجيَّة بين العراق وسلطنة عمان، ويسهل حركة المواطنين والزوار بين العاصمتين، خاصة إنَّ هذه الخطوة تقترن بتسهيل منح سمات الدخول إلى العراقيين الراغبين بزيارة السلطنة عن طريق المكاتب التجاريَّة. وفي هذه المناسبة، نود أنَّ نؤكد على استعداد سفارة جمهورية العراق لتقديم كافة التسهيلات والخدمات لشركة طيران السلام وللمسافرين على هذا الخط، و نتمنى لهذه المبادرة كل التوفيق والنجاح. *********** بالإمكان الإطلاع على الخبر أعلاه في الصفحات والحسابات الرسميَّة التابعة لوزارة الخارجيَّة العراقيَّة التاليَّة: الموقع الإلكترونيّ: حساب الفيس بوك: حساب تويتر : ‏ حساب الإنستغرام : ‏ قناة التيلغرام : ‏ قناة اليوتيوب: ‏
The eye-watering cost of halted oil exports

The ongoing halt in Kurdish oil exports through Turkey's Ceyhan port has cost Iraq and the KRG a staggering $5 billion since late March, according to KRG officials.

The interruption, requested by Baghdad following its arbitration win, has had far-reaching economic and geopolitical implications.

An international arbitration court awarded Iraq $1.5 billion for allowing the KRG to independently sell its oil. "Mathematically speaking, it is illogical to lose $5 billion in order to take back $1.5 billion," said Safeen Dizayee, head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations.

The stoppage has disrupted global markets and strained relations between Erbil, Baghdad, and Ankara. "The stakes are high. A continued dispute could lead to catastrophic instability in the region, something that militant groups such as the Islamic State could take advantage of," said Emir Gurbuz in Foreign Police. The pipeline carried about 10 percent of Iraq's overall exports, affecting not only global buyers of Kurdish crude but also contributing to large budget deficits in both the KRG and Baghdad.

The Association of the Petroleum Industry of Kurdistan (Apikur) has called for immediate commercial solutions, noting that losses have surpassed the arbitration award and continue to increase. Apikur is an organization that represents the interests of oil and gas sector companies who have invested in the Kurdistan Region. Apikur also warned that under the current Iraqi budget, international oil companies will not resume operations until it's clear how they will be compensated for past and future exported oil.

The failure to account for historic international investments and contractual obligations could lead to "costly arbitration and further harm Iraq’s investment climate," according to an Apikur press release.


Protest Blocks KDP's return to Kirkuk for third consecutive day

Dozens of demonstrators affiliated with Arab and Turkmen political groups in Kirkuk province have obstructed the main road to Erbil for a third consecutive day, according to Shafaq News.

The protests follow KDP's recent announcement of plans to reopen its Kirkuk offices in advance of the upcoming Iraqi provincial elections. 

The KDP vacated its Kirkuk offices in 2017 due to the fallout from the Kurdistan independence referendum. The office is currently used as the headquarters for Kirkuk's Joint Operations and has also been claimed as a center for maintaining law and order by the Arab Coalition list in Kirkuk and the Unified Turkmen Front of Iraq. 

Both the Arab Coalition and the Turkmen Front argue that vacating the KDP's headquarters would send a "negative message for social peace" and could result in renewed security instability. They also assert that the office, which is built on state-owned land, has been refurbished and equipped by the Joint Operations.

The protests have been criticized as undemocratic and based on flimsy justifications. Anti-KDP sentiment is reportedly high among certain factions of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which control many of Iraq's security fronts. 

Mohammed Kamal, the KDP's Kirkuk branch leader, stated that factions affiliated with armed groups have staged a sit-in, blocking the road from Kirkuk to Erbil. Kamal said this was done with the approval of local security authorities and added that orders have been issued to clear 33 KDP offices in Kirkuk. However, he accused "hostile parties" of resisting this move to protect their own interests. 

Kamal also said "chauvinistic and fanatical" forces are trying to prevent the KDP from resuming its political activities in the area. According to Kamal, the issue of the KDP's headquarters is being exploited by individuals from the Arab and Turkmen communities to distract from their own internal conflicts.
شفق نيوز/ أقدم العشرات من المتظاهرين المؤيدين لجهات سياسية عربية وتركمانية في محافظة كركوك، اليوم الأربعاء، على قطع الطريق الرئيسي الذي يربط بين المحافظة ومدينة أربيل عاصمة إقليم كوردستان لليوم الثاني
شفق نيوز
KRG launches government backed-loan scheme for small business

The KRG’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is introducing Project Bloom, a website designed to facilitate loans for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the Kurdistan Region. The website is set to begin accepting applications in four days.

SMEs can secure a loan of up to 150 million Iraqi dinars (approximately $115,000) without the need for collateral. The loans will be disbursed through Project Bloom's partner private bank, Cihan Bank. There's a 2% admin fee on the loans, but it remains unclear whether this fee is a one-time charge based on the entire loan value, or if it is a recurring fee assessed over the duration of the loan.

In addition to receiving a loan, SMEs will benefit from complimentary, tailored one-on-one consulting services through a business accelerator, Top Mountain. They will also receive support in opening a business bank account.

The loan approval process is expected to take six months.

Such initiatives are critically needed in the KRG, particularly because they promise to be transparent and not influenced by the all-too-common wasta system [wasta refers to a cultural practice in the Middle East where influence and personal connections can sway business and governmental decisions]. It will be interesting to see how much funding is allocated to this project and how the KRG plans to finance this venture, especially considering its ongoing struggles to pay its civil servants.

It's not yet clear what the total funding package earmarked for this project is. You'd assume there's a cap.

Project Bloom provides accessible loans of up to IQD 150 Million with no collateral requirements

Lawk Ghafuri, a former KRG official, offers a rather grim interpretation of the delays in restarting oil flows

He sees them as evidence of Baghdad's increasing leverage over Erbil.

Ghafuri argues that Baghdad is likely to use this newfound leverage as a means of 'coercing' Erbil into making concessions on longstanding, yet unresolved, issues.

These issues encompass control over critical sectors in the Kurdistan Region, such as oil and gas, as well as border points.

They also extend to security matters, such as the disarmament of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups.


Pressure is mounting once again on the KRG to pay July salaries and pensions for the public sector. Erbil is blaming Baghdad for failing to uphold its agreement concerning the Region's financial obligations.

A KRG delegation is expected to visit Baghdad today to discuss the matter.

On Tuesday, the KRG’s Finance Ministry issued a statement denying media reports that claimed the ministry had refused to accept a loan of 598 billion Iraqi dinars (approximately $460 million) from Baghdad for paying its civil servants.

The ministry reiterated its commitment to all articles of the Iraqi Federal Budget Law, adding, "We hope that the Iraqi government will implement the law as it is written."

The ministry concluded by saying that when the money arrives in its bank account, it will announce a salary distribution schedule.

As the Kurdistan Region approaches long-delayed parliamentary elections scheduled for February, the KDP-led KRG is growing increasingly concerned about ongoing delays.

These delays could significantly undermine Prime Minister Masrour Barzani's re-election prospects, with a cabinet that needs demonstrate a stable and competent track record during the campaign. It has, after all, stakes its chips on stability and competence in its PR messaging.

Shortcomings will see its rival, the PUK, and opposition parties, try to seize upon them during the election campaign. Try to being the operative phrase here. The KDP wouldn't be so confident about the elections if its political rivals were any good at seizing upon shortcomings.

In case you missed it, check out Ranj Bindiani's latest piece on the existential threats facing armed Iranian Kurdish opposition groups based in the Kurdistan Region as Iran reaffirms its September deadline for these groups to be disarmed. 

In recent months, tensions between Iran and Kurdish opposition groups in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region have been thickening. Earlier this year, Tehran issued these groups a six-month ultimatum to disarm, dated September 18, adding another layer of complexity to an already turbulent relationship marked by sporadic military skirmishes. Having maintained bases in Iraq’s Kurdistan since the 1980s, these groups now find themselves at a precarious crossroad..


Morning briefing 


  • Yet more 'KRG delegations' en route to Baghdad as Kurdistan ministers sound the alarm over the federal government's reluctance to transfer the Kurdistan Region's share of the budget or funds for regional public sector workers. 
  • The Iraqi PM's office says President Macron will visit Baghdad 'soon' as it offers condolences for a French soldier's death in Iraq this week.
  • KRG Minister and head of the foreign relation's department Safeen Dizayee concedes that the Kurdistan Region has lost $5b since oil exports were halted earlier this year.