Live: Sudani says there’s no mechanism for paying Kurdistan civil servants from Baghdad

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And here we have it: The U.S. Ambassador's comment on the meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani.

Deputy Prime Minister @qubadj and I discussed upcoming elections and the KRG’s ongoing economic reforms and plans for the future. We also detailed the steadfast U.S. commitment to a resilient Kurdistan Region within Federal Iraq.

Ambassador Romanowski

Human rights group Hengaw has released videos showing a military buildup in Kurdish cities near the Iraqi border.
Tehran is reportedly deploying forces along its border with the Kurdistan Region, ahead of a September 19 deadline for Iranian Kurdish opposition groups to move to designated camps and disarm.

Additionally, tensions are rising as the first anniversary of the death of Jina (Mahsa) Amini approaches later this week. Iran anticipates renewed protests in connection with the anniversary. Jiyar Gol of BBC Persian reported that numerous civil activists have been arrested across the Kurdish-inhabited regions of Iran.

Last week, Kurdish parties announced a call for a general strike and renewed protests on 25 September.
Iraqi lawmakers are gathering signatures to urge Baghdad to "take immediate action in disbursing salaries to public servants." According to a document shared by Kurdistan 24, numerous MPs have already signed the letter, which also advocates for severing the link between salaries and Iraq's total expenditure.

Sipan Sherwani of the KDP told the outlet that all Kurdish factions and some Arab factions support the letter, with 96 signatures collected to date.

Prime Minister Sudani stated on Monday that the budget law's implementation faces various obstacles, including issues related to resource allocation and complexities surrounding both oil and non-oil revenues, as well as regional entitlements. He noted that legal challenges are impeding continuous financing, raising concerns about salary disbursements. Sudani committed to acting on any legislative recommendations, including those from the finance committee.

Erbil maintains that it has complied with the federal budget law, while Baghdad has not. As reported earlier today, a senior Iraqi official revealed that Sudani faces significant pressure from some parties within his Coordination Framework coalition to take a tough stance on the KRG, particularly regarding the region's budget allocation and the accurate number of its employees. There is a prevailing belief in Baghdad that Erbil's reported employee count of 1.25 million is exaggerated.

Four-year budget for Peshmerga Ministry set

Peshmerga forces
Peshmerga forces   credit: Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash

The Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs held a high-level meeting today to discuss financial and accounting reforms. Secretary General Lt. Col. Bakhtiar Mohammed Sadiq emphasized the importance of a four-year budget plan.

The meeting included coalition advisers and other officials. They approved next year's budget and discussed recommendations for improving operations, such as implementing electronic salary payments for Peshmerga members.

The session was a monthly gathering of the Planning and Programming Committee on Finance and Budget for the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs. At its conclusion, coalition advisers and other attendees provided feedback on the ministry's financial plans, praising the organization's steps toward reform as vital for its continued progress.

Attending were Lt. Col. Bakhtiar Mohammed Sadiq, secretary general of the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs; Lt. Col. Hoshmand Haider Rashid, deputy chief of staff for administration and emir; Lt. Twana Sadiq, director general of budget and programs (military accounting); and Col. Jim Hunter, head of military advisers to coalition forces in the Kurdistan Region.

The U.S.-led coalition has long advocated for changes, including the unification of KDP- and PUK-controlled forces. One approach has been to offer better equipment, regular salaries, and other incentives. The aim is for the Peshmerga forces in the Kurdistan Region to move away from party-based command structures and adopt a more traditional military rank system under the command of civilian government.


The security situation in Kirkuk is stabilizing as Iraqi authorities launch investigations into the fatal events that occurred last week. Kirkuk Now reported today that the security forces, who were deployed a week ago in the Shorja and Shoraw neighborhoods of the city, have now been withdrawn. quotes First Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Shakhawan Abdullah (KDP) as saying that the first phase of the withdrawal of military vehicles and equipment from the Kurdish neighborhoods of Kirkuk is now complete. Abdullah added that the two forces responsible for opening fire on demonstrators in Kirkuk have been identified, and evidence has been submitted to the Iraqi Prime Minister.


Full quote by Sudani on Kurdistan Region salaries

"The issue at hand pertains to the financial relationship between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region, specifically concerning salaries. We all agree that the prime minister's spokesperson and the ministers are obligated to follow the law, especially the budget law. Article 12, along with other articles related to the Kurdistan Region, makes it clear that there is no separate allocation for salaries. Instead, the Kurdistan Region receives a 12.67% share of public expenditure, which encompasses the total expenses of ministries, provinces, and the state. This is stipulated by the budget law for the years 2023, 2024, and 2025, and we are bound to implement it.

However, the implementation faces numerous challenges, including those related to resource allocation and the complexities of oil and non-oil revenues, as well as the region's entitlements. Currently, the Kurdistan Region is facing a financial shortfall and is unable to independently fulfill its obligations towards ministries, provinces, and security services.

We also face legal issues that hinder continuous financing under this arrangement, leading to concerns about salary payments. While we cannot violate the law, the Council of Ministers has the authority to grant loans, which we have utilized to assist the Kurdistan Region in meeting its salary commitments.

We are fully committed to our citizens in the Kurdistan Region. This is not merely diplomatic rhetoric; it requires an environment of trust and dialogue, rather than just issuing statements and levying accusations. Recently, the House of Representatives called upon the Ministers of Finance from both the central government and the region to attend a Finance Committee meeting and submit a report. Any subsequent recommendations will be acted upon by the government. We have plans in place that, God willing, will alleviate the crisis and the hardships faced by the citizens in the Kurdistan Region."

| "During the meeting, views were exchanged on the political situation in both the region and Iraq. Discussions also covered the challenges and issues affecting relations between the Kurdistan Region and the Federal Republic of Iraq, emphasizing the importance of dialogue to resolve these matters.

In the meeting, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq expressed his country's support for both the Iraqi Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government. He encouraged the continuation of dialogue and negotiations to reach appropriate solutions, particularly concerning the budget and other outstanding issues."


US Ambassador Alina Romanowski completes 'Full Barzani, Half Talabani' in meetings with Kurdish officials

Recap of U.S. Ambassador's Meeting with the Officials:

Alina Romanowski achieved what's being termed a "full Barzani" by meeting with KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani, and KDP leader Massoud Barzani. She also had a meeting with KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talbani, accomplishing a "half Talabani."

Here is what was discussed in each meeting:

We exchanged views on the KRG’s role in federal Iraq and regional stability and security. We also agreed on the importance of dialogue with Baghdad on budget issues.

US Ambassador Alina Romanowski

and here is what Barzani said on the same meeting:

Discussions focussed on the constitutional rights and financial entitlements of the Kurdistan Region as outlined in the federal budget law. Prime Minister Barzani expressed his apprehension about certain groups in Iraq that seem inclined to treat the Kurdistan Region outside the bounds of the budget law. He emphasised that the KRG has transparently presented all necessary data and substantiated it with legal and constitutional proofs to the Iraqi officials. Hence, he firmly believes that the public sector employees of the Kurdistan Region should receive their salaries equivalently to the rest of Iraq, ensuring their rights remain intact.


Furthermore, their dialogue touched upon recent developments in Kirkuk. Both parties underscored the need for normalising the city's state of affairs, the return of the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s offices, and ensuring Kirkuk's continued peace and stabilit


On meeting with KRI President Barzani

Met with @IKRPresident & thanked him for his ongoing support planning IKP elections in February. We had a productive conversation across all the issues and looked ahead to how the U.S. & Iraq can partner to support economic growth & diversification away from the oil & gas sectors


President Nechirvan Barzani stressed the importance of implementing the federal system in Iraq as enshrined in the constitution, and pointed out that the Kurdistan Region must be treated as a federal region, and that the continuing disagreements between the Iraqi Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government do not serve the interests of the country.

KRI president

Both sides agreed on the importance of resolving the issues and providing the financial entitlements of the Kurdistan Region in accordance with the laws and agreements. They also stressed the solidarity and unity among the political parties in the Kurdistan Region, especially between the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

KRI president

Her meeting with KDP leader

We discussed how the U.S. government can support efforts to continue productive Erbil-Baghdad dialogue, and encouraged Kurdish unity in support of shared objectives and regional stability.


Nothing from the US ambassador on her meeting with deputy KRG PM Qubad Talabani (yet), but here what Talabani said about the meeting:

Both parties agreed that the internal issues of the Kurdistan Region should be resolved as soon as possible in order to try to resolve all issues between the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad, especially the budget and salaries of Kurdistan employees.

KRG DPM Talabani

Qubad Talabani emphasized that the Kurdistan Region and Kurds, in general, are subject to grave challenges and threats in this regard.  He warned that if internal issues are not resolved right away, the crisis will worsen and that the more opportunities that are wasted, the more challenging and complex difficulties and crises will be to resolve. The deputy prime minister declared that he is prepared to take all necessary actions to address the salary and budget issues.


The Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) has informed Prime Minister Sudani that it is ready to conduct the upcoming provincial elections in December, marking the first such elections in a decade.

Below is a translation of the statement issued by the Prime Minister's office

Today, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani met with the chair and members of the Independent High Electoral Commission's Board of Commissioners, including the head of the electoral district. During the meeting, the Prime Minister was updated on the commission's ongoing preparations for the provincial council elections scheduled for this December.

The Prime Minister affirmed the government's steadfast support for the Election Commission's efforts to ensure fair and transparent local elections. He emphasized the importance of broad public participation and pledged to do everything possible to guarantee the success of this democratic process, with the goal of the election results accurately representing the will of the Iraqi people.

For his part, the Chair of the Board of Commissioners highlighted the rapid progress being made by the Election Commission in fulfilling the necessary conditions for a successful electoral process across all Iraqi provinces, including Kirkuk. The head of the electoral district reported that more than 90% of the operational timetable has been completed, indicating the Commission's readiness to hold the elections on the slated date.

On the Al-Araby report below

The official added that Prime Minister Sudani is under significant pressure from parties within his Coordination Framework coalition to take a hard line on the KRG, especially concerning the region's budget share and the true number of employees in the region. A prevalent belief in Baghdad is that Erbil's reported employee count of 1.25 million is inflated.

This concern appears to contrast with Sudani's statement last night that Baghdad's task is not to pay Kurdistan salaries specifically, but rather to disburse Kurdistan's overall share of the federal budget. If the KRG is tasked with paying salaries out of its own budget share then it's not clear what Baghdad has to do with how many employees the KRG supposedly does or doesn't actually employ. 

Here's the translation of Sudani's stance on the matter

We have the budget law. Read Article 12 and the other articles related to the Kurdistan Region; there's no provision for financing payroll. The only obligation is to finance the Kurdistan Region's share, which is 12.67 percent."

Prime Minister Sudani


Iraqi officials reject KRG claims on federal budget compliance

On disputes between Erbil and Baghdad, Iraqi officials have their own take, contrasting with frequent claims by the KRG that it has followed the federal budget law while Baghdad has not. A senior Iraqi official, who asked to remain anonymous, told London-based Al-Arabi Al-Jadid that Baghdad hasn't received a dollar from the Kurdistan Region's oil exports to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. "The payments to Erbil were made to avoid causing harm," the official said, describing them as a loan that will be halted once oil exports resume and an agreement with Turkey is reached.

The official added that Prime Minister Sudani is under significant pressure from parties within his Coordination Framework coalition to take a hard line on the KRG, especially concerning the region's budget share and the true number of employees in the region. A prevalent belief in Baghdad is that Erbil's reported employee count of 1.25 million is inflated.

The State Administration coalition, comprising Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish Arab parties, failed to reach a consensus during a meeting last Saturday night in Sudani's office, attended by President Abdel Latif Rashid. The meeting sought to address crises in both Kirkuk and the federal budget.

Government spokesman Bassem Al-Awadi said Baghdad has fully met its financial obligations to the Kurdistan Region. "The government has fully implemented its financial responsibilities toward the region and has made considerable efforts to provide solutions," Al-Awadi said. He revealed that as of the end of June, the funds owed by the KRG were more than triple its share, according to the state's actual spending, yet no oil or non-oil revenues had been delivered as required by federal law.

Al-Awadi emphasized that despite the KRG's non-compliance, the federal government decided not to hold Iraqi citizens in the region responsible. "We worked within the confines of the law, deciding in the Council of Ministers to extend a loan to the region until its financial issues are fundamentally resolved," he said, stressing that adherence to federal laws is the quickest way to complete financial transfers and boost confidence.

لا تكاد العلاقة بين بغداد وأربيل تتحسن حتى تعود الأزمات بينهما، في ظل ملفات متعددة عالقة، وتحميل كل طرف الآخر المسؤولية عن نقض التفاهمات، في حين يعيد مراقبون سبب تكرار الخلافات إلى الدستور الذي لم يوضح مسألة تنظيم العلاقة بينهما.
العربي الجديد

Fuad Hussein: We expect from Tehran that it will not strike Iranian Kurdish opposition groups

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein (KDP) is set to visit Tehran as the Sept. 19 disarmament deadline approaches for Iranian Kurdish opposition groups located near the Iran-Iraq border.

Hussein, who is Kurdish, described Iraq's relationship with Iran as strong and multifaceted during a press conference in Baghdad alongside his Austrian counterpart, Alexander Schallenberg. Although he acknowledged existing challenges, he stressed that these issues are being managed through negotiations.

The foreign minister emphasized that the Iraqi constitution prohibits any group from using Iraqi soil to conduct attacks on neighboring countries. He said that steps have been taken to relocate opposition groups deeper into the Kurdistan region, away from the Iran-Iraq border. Hussein added that he expects Iran will refrain from taking violent actions against the Kurdish areas, thereby respecting Iraq's sovereignty.

Tehran has indicated that the deadline will not be extended. PUK leader Bafel Talabani met with Iran's foreign minister in Tehran yesterday, though the readout claimed there was no discussion on the topic of opposition groups being disarmed. Top Iranian diplomats also met with the KRG PM and Kurdistan Region President.


On foreign forces

The Prime Minister declared (again) that Iraq no longer requires foreign combat forces on its soil. 

While he acknowledged that the global coalition formed in 2014 was crucial in combating ISIS, Sudani insisted that the time has come for a reevaluation of the foreign forces' role in Iraq. This is a repeat of earlier statements that will no doubt please pro-Iran factions in government.

Sudani referred to a successful recent meeting in DC between security delegations from Iraq and the United States. The two sides agreed to form a joint commission to consider how the role of the US-led global coalition against IS should evolve in light of current progress on the .

Political Tensions and Violence in Kirkuk

Sudani said that the recent escalations in Kirkuk were not a matter of security but a manifestation of long-standing political tensions in the province. 

He added that the plan for the KDP to return to its offices in Kirkuk had been part of the ministerial agenda since the formation of the government and had been agreed upon by all political parties. It's not, he says, an executive order but the implementation of the agenda set during coalition-building talks in the long (and fraught) period between elections and Sudani assuming office.

Sudani also claimed there have been arrests of several suspects connected to the recent violence– both among protestors and the security services.


Talks between the KRG and the federal government

The PM also discussed the recent negotiations between delegations from the KRG and the Iraqi federal government.

These talks aim to resolve longstanding issues related to the Kurdistan Region’s share of the federal budget.

He also confirmed that Baghdad recently sent a "loan agreement" of 500 billion Iraqi dinars to Erbil to assist in covering the salaries of the Region's public servants. The KRG says this loan is nowhere near enough to cover its public sector payroll. And even if it was, it's a loan, not a disbursement of Kurdistan's portion of the budget.


Sudani on the Kurdistan Region's salary delays

Prime Minister Sudani noted that the Iraqi federal budget doesn't explicitly allocate funds for the salaries of the Kurdistan Region’s public servants. The budget does specify that the Kurdistan Region is entitled to a 12.67% share of the overall budget, not any funds earmarked specifically for salaries of Kurdistan public sector workers.

This is a common misconception in discourse around delayed salaries. Salaries are paid out of the Kurdistan Region's own treasury, which includes budget payments from Baghdad alongside a portion border revenues and any other inland revenues (the latter of which is meant to be cut from the total budget share). 

Sudani emphasized the need for “trust and dialogue” between the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) while affirming Baghdad’s commitment to its obligations toward the people of the Kurdistan Region.

Baghdad hasn't sent the Kurdistan Region's share of the budget. It says this is because the KRG hasn't been forthcoming with declaring all revenues. Kurdistan public sector workers haven't been paid since for July yet as we approach mid-September. 


Morning briefing

Lots to discuss overnight so let's get down to it.

Iraq-Kurdistan budget dispute

Iraqi PM Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani states that the federal budget does not specifically cover the salaries of Kurdistan Region's public servants, amid ongoing tensions and talks.
US frustration with Kurdistan

KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani meets U.S. Ambassador to discuss urgent solutions to internal disagreements within the Kurdistan Region.

Water crisis in Iraq

Iraqi PM outlines the severity of the nation's water crisis, drawing attention from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Foreign forces in Iraq

Iraqi PM declares that the country 'no longer needs' foreign combat forces, suggesting a reevaluation of the coalition's role.

Stay tuned for more updates.