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6. September 2023 17:50
Millions of Shiite pilgrims flock to Iraq's Karbala
Millions of Shiite Muslim pilgrims massed at the golden-domed mausoleums of the holy Iraqi city of Karbala on Wednesday, commemorating Arbaeen, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world.
The event, organised under strict security, brought together some 22 million pilgrims this year, according to official figures.
Iran hit a new participation record with four million visitors, a top security official told the Iranian news agency IRNA, up from three million last year.
Marked by Shiites, who constitute the majority in Iraq and Iran, Arbaeen ("Forty" in Arabic) marks the 40th day of mourning for the martyr Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed and a founding figure of Shiite Islam. Karbala, where Hussein and his brother Abbas are buried in two enormous mausoleums facing each other, is an epicentre of Shiite Islam.
Pilgrims freely expressed their suffering, weeping and wailing in memory of Hussein, who was killed in 680 during a battle in Karbala with the Umayyad caliph Yazid.
Pilgrims dressed in black, some sporting headbands bearing religious messages, moved forward shoulder-to-shoulder to enter the mausoleums and pray.
As they massed on the esplanade between the mausoleums, mist machines struggled to provide cooling in 41-degree Celsius heat.
Accompanied by religious chants and prayers, processions of the faithful holding up black banners with Hussein's image moved around the two mausoleums and the esplanade.
The pilgrimage reached its climax on Wednesday, but the faithful had already been converging for several days on Karbala.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani visited Karbala on Tuesday evening, where he said: "The state has mobilised all of its resources to serve its citizens", according to a statement from his office.
He also hailed the volunteers from across Iraq's provinces who preserve the tradition of setting up and financing "mawakeb", stands that serve free drinks and food along the pilgrim routes.
6. September 2023 17:30
The KRG says that Baghdad is obligated to send a monthly payment of 1.375 trillion dinars, of which 906 billion dinars are designated for civil servant salaries.
A cabinet meeting of the KRG concluded with a detailed statement on the current issues between Erbil and Baghdad. Here are the key points:
- The KRG states that although it is accountable for salaries, pensions, and other public payments in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), delays in salary payments have occurred due to Baghdad's failure to send the region’s financial entitlements.
- The KRG maintains that it has met all its obligations to the federal government in accordance with the budget law and the constitution.
- According to Iraq's 2023 budget plan, the KRG says it is entitled to 16.498 trillion dinars for the fiscal year, which translates to 1.375 trillion dinars per month.
- Baghdad's loan of 500 billion dinars per month is allocated to cover the months of September, October, and November.
- No funds were released for the budget allocation for the months of July and August, beginning from the end of June.
- The cabinet proposes a meeting among the political parties in the KRI to share its financial calculations. It also urges KRI political parties to stand united in defending the region's rights, powers, and constitutional entitlements.
- The Council of Ministers appeals to the international community to support the Kurdistan Region in securing its constitutional rights and financial entitlements, and to prevent any unjust violation of the rights of the Kurdish people.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the deadline for some of those Kurdish groups to be disarmed is two days later, on Sept. 18.
6. September 2023 15:38
Major Iranian Kurdish opposition parties call for general strike on anniversary of Jina Amini's death
Six Kurdish Iranian opposition parties, including the PKDI, Komala, and PAK, are calling for a general strike throughout the Kurdish-populated part of Iran on the anniversary of the death of Jina [Mahsa] Amini on September 16.
The 22-year-old Jina Amini from Saqqez has become the symbol of a widespread anti-government movement that led to months of demonstrations and strikes throughout Iran.
Here is an excerpt from the statement by the Kurdish parties:
We have agreed on the following:
Supporting civil society activists and independent organizations in their demands for active participation and respect during the anniversary of the "Women, Life, and Freedom" revolution.
Declaring September 16 as a day of general strike across Iranian Kurdistan. All shops, markets, work centers, and administrative offices will be closed on this day. On the morning of September 16, the Kurdish people will visit the graves of the late Jina and all the martyrs of the "Women, Life, Freedom" revolution in cities and villages across Kurdistan.
We invite all freedom-loving individuals in Iran, including women, youth, workers, teachers, pensioners, environmentalists, and oppressed communities, to support the Kurdish people's strike, signaling the ongoing nature of the revolution.
We appeal to all struggling activists, progressive forces, and parties abroad to support the general strike scheduled for September 16 in all possible ways. We encourage mass demonstrations and marches on that day to attract international attention in support of the Zhina Revolution.
Each of the Kurdistan political parties attending this meeting declares their support for and participation in both the September 16 strike and the memorial ceremonies at the graves of martyrs.
State Department says it is 'closely monitoring' Kirkuk situation
We are closely monitoring the tensions in Kirkuk. We condemn the violence that took place and express our condolences to the families of those killed. The US calls on all parties to resolve any disputes through dialogue and through the activation of Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution.
Vedant Patel, principal deputy spokesperson
6. September 2023 14:47
Major Kurdish leaders have chosen silence in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's remarks describing Kirkuk as the "homeland of Turkmens," an ethnic Turkic community, and "a place where different cultures peacefully coexisted for centuries."
Erdogan added, "We will not allow acts that will harm the peace and integrity of this region."
Meanwhile, Shia militia leader Qais Al-Khazali criticized Erdogan, stating that Kirkuk is Iraqi and "Turkmens are Iraqis and no one has the right to interfere in our internal affairs."
Khazali, the leader of the Iran-backed militia group Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous), has been blamed by some for the recent tensions in Kirkuk.
With Kurdistan public sector employees still awaiting July salaries as we approach the second week of September, here's what's happened since Tuesday:
The Iraqi Ministry of Finance announced that Rafidain and Rasheed Banks will sign a loan agreement with the Kurdistan Region's Ministry of Finance to cover civil servant salaries. The ministry cited Resolution No. 23500 from a Council of Ministers' session held on Sunday.
The KRG stated that Baghdad has agreed to send 500 billion dinars per month for September, October and November as both sides work toward a long-term budget solution.
The US Consulate in Erbil urged both Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region to reach a mutual budget agreement to facilitate monthly salary distribution.
Full Statement from the Iraqi Ministry of Finance:
In accordance with Resolution No. 23500, passed by the Council of Ministers on Sept. 3, 2023, Rafidain and Rasheed Banks will sign a loan agreement with the Ministry of Finance in the Kurdistan Region. This loan aims to cover salary payments for employees in the Kurdistan Region and will be backed by a deposit submitted to the Federal Ministry of Finance. Repayment will come from the Kurdistan Region's allocated funds, in line with budget law provisions.
The ministry seeks to safeguard the financial rights of all citizens and employees, adhering to established regulations and guidelines. To this end, the federal government has decided to disburse loans specifically for KRG employee salaries. Representatives from the Kurdistan Region are expected to coordinate with Rafidain and Rasheed Banks to facilitate the loan agreement's signing by the Kurdistan Region's Minister of Finance.
Moreover, the Ministry of Finance is adhering to Federal General Budget Law No. 13 of 2023, which includes provisions for securing the financial rights of eligible parties.
The government remains committed to meeting the financial needs of employees in the Kurdistan Region and is actively working on financial reforms to stimulate economic growth.
بناءاً على موافقة مجلس الوزراء وتنفيذاً لما جاء بقراره المرقم (٢٣٥٠٠ ) في جلسته المنعقدة يوم الاحد ٣ ايلول ٢٠٢٣...
6. September 2023 13:29
Listen in closely to hear the sounds of goal posts being moved
Iraq's oil exports to Turkey are not expected to restart before October, amid ongoing legal and energy talks between the two countries. Turkey halted the flow of Iraqi oil on March 25 following a $1.5 billion arbitration ruling by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in favor of Iraq for unauthorized exports by the KRG via Turkey from 2014 to 2018.
The delay in resuming oil flows is partly due to Iraq's petition in a US federal court to enforce the ICC award. A senior Turkish official cited the unresolved litigation as a reason for the postponement of President Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Baghdad, initially scheduled for August. Erdogan still intends to visit and is keen on signing an agreement, but 'concrete steps' from Iraq 'have yet to be taken', according to the official.
An Iraqi foreign ministry official stated they have not received a definitive timeline for Erdogan's visit, adding it could occur later this month or more likely in October. The delay is attributed to complex discussions on energy issues.
Turkey is also seeking a reduction in the ICC-ordered damages and has expressed interest in having Iraq drop a second arbitration case concerning exports from 2018 onwards. The KRG has reportedly lost about $4 billion since the halt of oil flows to Turkey’s Ceyhan Port.
Iraqi oil flows to Turkey are not expected to resume before October, when Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will likely visit Baghdad, sources said, after the trip originally scheduled for August was postponed.
6. September 2023 12:38
Iraqi, Kuwaiti foreign ministers discuss bilateral relations following annulment of maritime agreement
Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein spoke with his Kuwaiti counterpart, Salim Abdullah Al-Sabah, about bilateral ties in the wake of an Iraqi federal court decision nullifying the parliament's approval of a maritime navigational agreement between the two countries.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmed Al-Sahhaf said Hussein and al-Sabah focused on bilateral relations and regional developments during their conversation. The discussion aimed to further mutual interests and covered a variety of issues relevant to both countries.
On Monday, the federal court declared that the parliament's ratification of the maritime agreement between Iraq and Kuwait was unconstitutional. The agreement governs navigation in the disputed Khor Abdullah waterway, which lies between the two nations.
The court's decision is based on a violation of Article 61, Section Four of the Iraqi Constitution, which stipulates that the "process of ratifying international treaties and agreements shall be regulated by a law enacted by a two-thirds majority of the members of the House of Representatives."
نائب رئيس مجلس الوزراء وزير الخارجيَّة فؤاد حسين يبحث مع نظيره الكويتيّ سُبُل تعزيز العلاقات بين البلدين تلقى نائب رئيس مجلس الوزراء وزير الخارجيَّة فؤاد حسين، اليوم الثلاثاء المُوافِق 2023/9/5، إتصالاً هاتفياً من نظيره الكويتيّ معالي الشيخ سالم عبدالله الجابر الصباح بحث الجانبان العلاقات الثنائيَّة الوثيقة التي تربط البلدين الشقيقين ومناقشة آخر المستجدات الإقليميَّة والتطورات الراهنة في المنطقة. كما تم خلال الإتصال بحث عدد من الموضوعات محل الاهتمام الثنائيّ وكل ما من شأنه أنَّ يحقق المصالح المُشترَكة للبلدين والشعبين الشقيقين. *********** بالإمكان الإطلاع على الخبر أعلاه في الصفحات والحسابات الرسميَّة التابعة لوزارة الخارجيَّة العراقيَّة التاليَّة: الموقع الإلكترونيّ: https://mofa.gov.iq/2023/39397/ حساب الفيس بوك: https://www.facebook.com/MOFA.IQ?mibextid=LQQJ4d حساب تويتر : https://twitter.com/Iraqimofa حساب الإنستغرام : https://www.instagram.com/iraqmofa/ قناة التيلغرام : https://t.me/iqmofa قناة اليوتيوب: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChF-ueFRRjvLadjK4BIYBMA
6. September 2023 12:31
Just in: Iraqi and Iranian FMs share phone call
With a Sept. 18 deadline approaching for Iranian Kurdish opposition groups in the Kurdistan Region to disarm and relocate to designated camps, the foreign ministers of Iraq and Iran are discussing the implementation of a security agreement between the two countries.
The Iraqi foreign ministry said in a statement that both ministers discussed bilateral relations and expressed optimism about their ongoing development.
They also discussed the security agreement between Iraq's federal government and Iran, reaffirming a 'mutual commitment' to it.
نائب رئيس مجلس الوزراء وزير الخارجيَّة فؤاد حسين يتلقى إتصالًا هاتفيًا من نظيره الإيرانيّ تلقى نائب رئيس مجلس الوزراء وزير الخارجيَّة فؤاد حسين، اليوم الثلاثاء المُوافِق 2023/9/5، من وزير خارجيَّة الجمهوريَّة الإسلاميَّة الإيرانيَّة السيِّد أمير حسين عبداللهيان. قدم الوزير عبد اللهيان الشكر بإسم حكومة وشعب إيران لحكومة وشعب العراق على التنظيم الكبير للزيارة المليونية إلى كربلاء المقدسة، مُعرباً عن شكره للشعب العراقيّ على كرم الضيافة وحسن الاستقبال لزوار الإمام الحسين (ع). بدوره أكّد السيِّد فؤاد حسين؛ أنَّ الشعب العراقيّ يعتز بزوار كربلاء ولقد كانت الحكومة الاتحاديَّة وحكومة أقليم كردستان وجميع الحكومات المحليَّة في المحافظات في خدمة الزائرين. وفي جانبٍ آخر من الحديث تطرق الجانبان إلى العلاقات الثنائيَّة، وأعربا عن تقييمهما للتطور المستمر لهذه العلاقات، كما تطرقا إلى الإتفاق الأمنيّ بين الحكومة الاتحادية والجمهوريَّة الإسلاميَّة، إذ جرى التأكيّد على التزام الجانبين به، وناقش الجانبان أهم الخطوات التي تم تنفيذها في هذا المجال في أقليم كردستان. وفي الختام، وجه وزير الخارجيَّة الإيرانيّ الدعوة إلى السيِّد نائب رئيس مجلس الوزراء وزير الخارجيَّة فؤاد حسين لزيارة طهران لمناقشة مجموعة من القضايا الثنائيَّة والضروريَّة والمتعلقة بالبلدين. *********** بالإمكان الإطلاع على الخبر أعلاه في الصفحات والحسابات الرسميَّة التابعة لوزارة الخارجيَّة العراقيَّة التاليَّة: الموقع الإلكترونيّ: https://mofa.gov.iq/2023/39401/ حساب الفيس بوك: https://www.facebook.com/MOFA.IQ?mibextid=LQQJ4d حساب تويتر : https://twitter.com/Iraqimofa حساب الإنستغرام : https://www.instagram.com/iraqmofa/ قناة التيلغرام : https://t.me/iqmofa قناة اليوتيوب: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChF-ueFRRjvLadjK4BIYBMA
6. September 2023 16:58
The Kurdish Service of Voice of America reports that it has obtained a list of Iranian Kurdish opposition leaders who are most wanted by Tehran. According to the report, this list comprises leaders and senior officials from major opposition groups. Tehran allegedly seeks their handover as a condition for a security agreement between Iraq and Iran.
Here's the breakdown:
Mustafa Hijri, Muhammed Sahibi, Muhammed Nazif Qaderi from the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI)
Reza Kaabi, Omer Ilkhanizade, Nawid Mihrawar, Amjad Hossein Panahi, Abdulla Azarbar from Komala
Mustafa Mawludi from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (HDK)
Hussein Yazdan Pana from the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK)
Kako Aliyar, a former member of the committee that oversaw the failed merger of two Komala factions
Nawid Mihrawar informed the website that although he is aware he's wanted, he has not been officially notified. Muhammed Nazif Qaderi told VOA that the list may have been released as part of psychological warfare by Tehran. He added that no official entity, whether local or international, has informed them about this list.
The future of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups operating in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is increasingly uncertain, facing challenges from multiple fronts. On one side, these groups are under increasing pressure from Iran to disarm. Iran has given the KRG and Iraq given a six-month ultimatum to disarm these groups, while Iran continues to militarily target them. The deadline is in less than two weeks: Sept. 18.
The opposition groups themselves are grappling with internal divisions and decreasing influence. The Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, one of the oldest and most prominent of these groups, has seen bitter infighting between two factions led by Abdullah Mohtadi and Omar Ilkhanizade. The divide culminated in violent clashes in June, resulting in deaths.
Although both factions announced a reunification in not so long ago, it has proven to be superficial, as disagreements and public statements indicate ongoing rifts. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) has also faced its own challenges having to relocate its forces in the face of pressure from Iran and the KRG, according to leader Mustafa Hijri.
6. September 2023 11:38
More PUK cake-eatism
The PUK media outlets continue their critical coverage of the KRG while the PUK Deputy PM Qubad Talabani and his party's team in cabinet is in the meeting, governing the Region.
The KDP complaint that the PUK is a key coalition partner that runs half of the Kurdistan Region but acts like an opposition party rings true here.
Here is how the Esta News website is reporting on the cabinet meeting today:
The civil servants in the Kurdistan Region are still waiting to receive their salaries for the month of July.
Boycotting public offices, schools, and departments looms as economic uncertainty and public frustration grow due to the government’s failure to distribute the salaries of civil servants on time.
According to estimates, as many as one million people in the Region are named as civil servants, which heavily rely on their monthly incomes for their living costs, leaving direct impacts on the economy.
It's like the PUK wants to bake the cake, have the cake, eat the cake, hoard the cake, criticise the cake, and threaten to take half the cake away.
Though, to be fair to them, the KDP always seems to get the bigger slice.
6. September 2023 11:31
The Kurdistan Regional Government says two people from the region who were detained in Saudi Arabia have been released.
In a statement, the KRG's foreign office said the two Iraqis had traveled to Saudi Arabia to attend a soccer match and were detained Sept. 5 for 'being unclear about the country's laws and regulations.'
The statement said Sabah Mussa and Salar Kareem, both from Erbil, had not committed any crimes.
The pair was arrested in Taif. The statement did not specify the reason for their detention.
Hello! The KRG cabinet is having its weekly meeting today, with Baghdad's implementation of the federal budget bill at the top of the agenda.
Yesterday, KDP-sponsored protests against Baghdad's interpretation of the budget bill's passages concerning the Kurdistan Region lit up central Dohuk with Kurdistan flags. The KDP's Dohuk Governor Ali Teter was in attendance. The Iraqi finance ministry has announced that the KRG will sign loan agreements with two Iraq banks to fund salary payments for struggling Kurdistan Region public sector workers.
Elsewhere, we posted a report last night on Kirkuk's fragile calm. Do check it out. Overnight, the US State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Verdant Patel said Article 140 should be the basis for solving the issue of Kirkuk. More on that later in the day.