Shaswar Abdulwahid, leader of the New Generation Movement (NGM), discussed the political situation in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq with U.S. State Department officials in Washington.
According to a report by the NGM-affiliated NRT website, Abdulwahid met with Victoria Tyler, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and Karen Bronson, Director of the Office of Middle East Affairs. The report also stated that he met with Congressman Seth Moulton.
The report did not offer further details about his visit, which is his first since 2021 when the NGM gained prominence by winning nine seats in the Iraqi parliament.
The Reuters report was published a day after a meeting between Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shai Sudani and U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Elizabeth Rosenberg.
The PM’s office said they discussed financial coordination between Iraq and the U.S., as well as ongoing reforms aimed at reducing corruption in Iraq.
The meeting focused on joint coordination between Iraq's financial institutions and the U.S. Treasury Department, the PMO statement said.
It added that Prime Minister Sudani emphasized that the government is committed to reforming the banking sector as a cornerstone for economic development. He added that these reforms have significantly reduced money laundering, addressed dubious trading, and curbed corruption.
Rosenberg commended the Iraqi government for its major steps in financial and banking reforms, stating that these would contribute to boosting Iraq's economy and enhancing its sustainable development initiatives.
U.S. Treasury official says Iraq must act to avoid further action on banks - Reuters
A senior U.S. Treasury official has cautioned that Iraq's central bank needs to urgently address the risks of misuse of dollars in the country's commercial banks.
The warning comes as Iraq faces potential further sanctions from the U.S., and follows allegations of fraud, money laundering, and evasion of Iran sanctions, Reuters reports.
U.S. pressure on the Iraqi Central Bank has proven to be a lingering headache for the Iraqi government, as it has exerted pressure on the value of the local dinar in exchange for dollars, thereby squeezing the purchasing power of Iraqis.
Here are the main points:
The U.S. Treasury official, speaking anonymously, emphasized that several Iraqi banks continue to operate with significant risks that "must be remediated."
The U.S. has based its actions on clear indications of illegal financial activities, including money laundering, bribery, extortion, embezzlement, and fraud.
The Treasury official noted that although the new Iraqi government has been more cooperative than previous administrations, "vested interests" still pose obstacles to change.
This comes as Iraq's central bank governor has expressed commitment to implementing tighter financial controls and combating dollar smuggling. Farhad Alaadin, adviser to the Iraqi Prime Minister, told Reuters that the government is taking strict measures to improve the banking sector and is committed to ongoing reforms and fighting corruption.
The Iraqi government is in a complex position, being supported by Iranian-backed parties and therefore unable to fully alienate Tehran or displease groups invested in Iraq's informal economy.
14 banks that were given dollar bans in July are urging the Iraqi government for remedial action, claiming they are in compliance with regulations.
Iraq's central bank must address continued risks of the misuse of dollars at Iraqi commercial banks to avoid new punitive measures targeting the country's financial sector, a top U.S. Treasury official said, citing fraud, money laundering and Iran sanctions evasion.
14. September 2023 16:52
'The outcomes of the meeting will be discussed in Sunday's KRG cabinet session.'
14. September 2023 16:50
JUST IN: PM Barzani expresses optimism but offers no concrete details about today's marathon talks, stating that the outcomes of the meeting will be discussed in Sunday's KRG cabinet session.
Qais Al-Khazali is a prominent and controversial figure in Iraqi politics, serving as the leader of Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), an Iranian-backed Shiite militia and political party.
Khazali gained notoriety during the U.S. occupation for attacks on American soldiers and was imprisoned from March 2007 until his release in 2010. Since then, he has played dual roles: as a militia leader fighting both in Iraq against IS and as a political actor, with 17 seats in Iraq's parliament.
Khazali’s AAH is part of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units and has been accused of sectarian violence and human rights violations. Despite U.S. sanctions against him, Khazali has maintained significant influence, fueled by his relationship with Iran.
This is especially true in recent months in matters related to the tension between the KRG and the federal government over budget allocations and the aborted handover of KDP offices in Kirkuk.
Given his divisiveness, as well as his influence within a militia that operates outside formal Iraqi military structures, Khazali's role in negotiations between Masrour Barzani and the Iraqi government will be closely watched, particularly given reports of Iranian proxies within the federal government and cabinet attempting to block budget payments to Kurdistan.
14. September 2023 15:51
It's a real who's who of Iraqi politics today
Apparently, Masrour Barzani and the crew are due to complete around a dozen separate meetings throughout the night and into the early morning.
In the tweet below you have him meeting:
Right: leader of the Sunni Sovereignty Alliance, Khamis Al-Khanjar.
Top left: former interim PM and former Vice President of Iraq Ayad Allawi
Bottom left: former PM and leader of the Shia Victory Alliance, Haidar Al-Abadi
Now it's the KRG PM's readout from the meeting with his federal counterpart
Still lots of platitudes, but with a lot sharper and more explicit criticism thrown in.
On Thursday, September 14, 2023, a delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government, led by Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, met with Federal Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani and other relevant officials from the federal government.
During the meeting, attended by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani and several ministers from the Kurdistan Regional Government, Prime Minister Barzani emphasized the need to resolve issues based on the constitution and previously signed agreements. He also insisted that the financial rights of the Kurdistan Region and the salaries of its employees should not be entangled in political disputes. Barzani stressed the urgency of addressing these matters to ensure that salary payments in the region are not delayed.
In the same meeting, Prime Minister Barzani reminded all parties that the Kurdistan Regional Government has fully met its obligations and expects the federal government to do the same.
Federal Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani expressed his willingness to resolve problems in compliance with the constitution and laws. He also emphasized the need for all parties to offer political support to find swift solutions to these issues.
Prime Minister Barzani noted during the meeting, "We recognize that Iraq possesses immense human and natural wealth. By creating an appropriate environment and good management, the entire country can move toward a more advanced and prosperous stage."
New Generation Movement and other Kurdish opposition parties introduce amendment to extend electoral commission mandate
New Generation has launched legal proceedings in the Iraqi parliament to extend the term of the Election Commission for overseeing the upcoming parliamentary elections in the Kurdistan Region.
The Iraqi electoral commission has stated that the Kurdistan Region will hold its parliamentary elections on Feb. 25 after many delays.
New Generation's faction in the Iraqi parliament has gathered signatures to amend the Election Commission Law, aiming to extend the commission's term by six months. Both the Kurdish Islamist parties, Komal and the KIU, along with a number of Arab MPs, have signed New Generation's bills.
The KRG had initially announced that the parliamentary elections would take place in October 2022. However, the elections were postponed due to disagreements among the parties concerning the voting system and electoral law.
Voice of America: Iranian Kurdish opposition groups withdraw from bases
According to a source close to the opposition groups speaking to Voice of America Kurdish, Iranian Kurdish factions have withdrawn from their bases in the Halgurd and Berbzin mountains. The retreat comes in line with recent comments from Iraqi officials, and it paves the way for Iraqi and Kurdish security forces to dismantle these bases in the coming days, the source told Voice of America.
Iranian Kurdish opposition groups are said to have retreated from their bases in Halgurd and Berbzin mountains.
A source close to the groups confirms that the withdrawal allows Iraqi and Kurdish security forces to potentially destroy these bases soon.
The Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK), based in Pirde, Kirkuk province, has reportedly surrendered their heavy weapons to KDP security forces.
Reports suggest that Tehran is preparing to strike opposition bases should they fail to disarm and relocate as ordered.
Arelan Yarahmedi, an activist with human rights monitoring group Hengaw Organization, said Iran has amassed forces at the border with the Kurdistan Region and is expected to attack. A camp in Koya, Erbil province, is reportedly among the targets.
Precautions have been taken to safeguard the residents of the camp targeted for potential attack.
Iraq and Iran are exploring options to move opposition group members to camps in Anbar province, a proposal the opposition rejects.
Another proposal recommends that the fighters disarm but stay in their existing camps, like the one in Koya. This plan also considers extraditing opposition group leaders to Tehran, though this is considered unlikely.
Yarahmedi noted that a new camp might be established in Khalifan, Erbil province.
Iraq sentences IS member to death over pilgrim bombing
An Iraqi criminal court on Thursday sentenced an Islamic State group member to death for his role in a 2014 suicide bombing that killed 17 Shiite pilgrims in Taji district, north of Baghdad, the judiciary announced on its website.
The bombing targeted a "mawkeb," a stall offering free food and beverages to pilgrims during Shiite Muslim festivals. The victims were on foot, traveling to Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Hassan al-Askari, a revered figure among Iraq's Shiite majority.
Although the judiciary did not name the convict, it said he had "filmed the tragedy" and was a member of Daesh, the Arabic acronym for IS. The individual has the right to appeal the verdict.
IS lost its self-declared "caliphate" after offensives in Iraq and Syria. Despite Iraq's declaration of "victory" over the Sunni extremist group at the end of 2017, IS cells still sporadically attack military and police targets, especially in remote areas of central and northern Iraq.
In late August, Iraq executed three individuals convicted for an IS attack that killed 323 people in Baghdad in July 2016. Amnesty International reported that Iraq was the world's sixth-largest executioner last year, with at least 11 executions carried out. The London-based human rights group said more than 41 death sentences were issued in 2022, and over 45 people were executed in 2020.
14. September 2023 14:45
Iraqi president ‘confident’ that Erbil & Baghdad will be able to solve all outstanding issues
Iraqi President Abdullatif Rashid met with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Barzani on Wednesday to discuss unpaid civil servant salaries and rising ethnic tensions in Kirkuk province, according to a statement from the president's office.
Rashid expressed support for the KRG delegation, advocating for a "joint and united team" in negotiations with Baghdad. The president's support comes at a time when his party, the PUK, faces strained relations with the rival KDP, weakening Erbil's negotiating position with Baghdad.
The statement noted that Barzani thanked Rasheed for his efforts to "bring together differing views among the heads of Kurdish political blocs." The collaboration aims to expedite salary disbursements for KRG employees, aligning them with federal government workers.
14. September 2023 14:44
Cholrea cases rise in Sulaymaniyah
The number of confirmed cholera cases in Sulaymaniyah province has risen to 130, KRG Health Minister Saman Barzanji said Thursday.
Barzanji warned that the official count might not capture the full scope of the outbreak. He noted that many individuals with mild symptoms have not sought medical treatment.
"Only 20% of individuals showing symptoms of diarrhea are actually being tested," Barzanji said, suggesting that many cases likely go unreported.
The surge in cholera cases comes as health workers in Sulaymaniyah have announced a boycott, disrupting most health services except for urgent care, childbirth, and other critical departments.
Cholera has been spreading across the Kurdistan Region, with cases recently confirmed in Duhok province. Health officials have linked the outbreak to a lack of clean drinking water in the region.
14. September 2023 14:38
Great analysis on the the plight of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups by Wladimir van Wilgenburg for the Washington Institute
Analysis by Wladimir van Wilgenburg for the Washington Institute's Fikra Forum paints an alarming picture for Iranian Kurdish opposition groups based in the Kurdistan Region. As the anniversary of the death of Jina [Mahsa] Amini approaches, Iranian authorities have issued a firm deadline for the disarmament and relocation of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups operating in the KRG by September 19.
According to van Wilgenburg, the KRG has been put in a precarious position due to its weakened economic status following an international arbitration case against Turkey that ended Kurdistan's independent oil exports, making it more dependent on Baghdad for budgetary support. As a result, Iran sees an opportunity to exert more pressure on the KRG to comply with its demands.
"Iran has been increasing the pressure in the weeks leading up to the anniversary of Jina Amini’s death," van Wilgenburg writes. Nasser Kanaani, Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said this week that the deadline “will not be extended” under any circumstances and that Iran expects prompt action from Baghdad in evacuating and transferring the Iranian Kurdish parties.
Furthermore, van Wilgenburg emphasizes that Iran is not only targeting Kurdish parties with military attacks but is also applying diplomatic pressure. Iran's President, Ebrahim Raisi, personally contacted Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani to insist that "separatist terrorist groups" undermining regional security would not be tolerated.
Notably, van Wilgenburg points out that the KRG faces internal political costs if it complies with Iran’s demands. "These groups have a long and close relationship with [the] local population so any move by KRG to disarm them will be politically costly for its ruling parties,” he states.
Van Wilgenburg also touches on the geopolitical implications of Iran's actions, arguing that Iran is using these circumstances to further extend its influence over Iraq and weaken the Kurdistan Region’s status.
The situation remains volatile as the deadline looms, with van Wilgenburg quotes officials from the Iranian Kurdish parties lamenting the silence from the West.
He quotes Arash Saleh, the PDKI's U.S rep, as saying: "Iran's end game here is ultimately to tighten its grip on Iraq. The regime in Tehran is trying to increase its influence and leverage in Iraq and to undermine KRG status and they use any baseless pretext to further their agenda. The silence in Washington, London, and Paris about this matter can be disastrous for the West's interests in Iraq and the broader region."
Iran has stepped up pressure on Baghdad and Erbil to disarm and relocate Iranian Kurdish opposition parties in the Kurdistan Region amidst ongoing disputes between Erbil and Baghdad over budget and oil revenues.
The Washington Institute
14. September 2023 14:14
Predictably, the parliamentary debate on recognizing Halabja's provincehood has been delayed for Monday.
14. September 2023 13:02
Full readout Iraq's foreign ministry on meeting with Iranian counterpart
On Wednesday, September 13, 2023, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fuad Hussein met with his Iranian counterpart, Minister Amir Hussein Abdullahian, in Tehran. They discussed bilateral relations, the security landscape, and evolving developments in both the regional and international arenas, focusing on their implications for the security and stability of Iraq and the region.
The ministers talked about fully implementing their security agreement and the disarmament of armed groups, advocating for multilateral solutions over unilateral actions.
Water issues and the resulting damages were also discussed, with both parties emphasizing the need for a technical committee meeting between the two countries and urging Iranian cooperation in this domain.
FM Hussein emphasized Iraq's eagerness to bolster bilateral cooperation with Iran across various sectors. He also highlighted the importance of collective regional and international efforts to counter extremism, end conflicts, and build trust and cooperation among neighboring countries, including Iran. He emphasized that dialogue should take precedence in establishing a safe and stable environment, noting that Iraq's stability is important for Iran as well.
The two sides exchanged views and ideas on regional and international issues of mutual interest. They discussed the current developments in the region, the challenges it faces, and the importance of promoting peace and stability through collective efforts.
As for the Iranian Foreign Minister, he emphasized the Islamic Republic's ongoing support for Iraq's stability and security. He expressed gratitude for Iraq's efforts to promote calm and prevent regional escalation, as well as for its significant role in improving relations between Tehran and Riyadh. He also extended his thanks and appreciation to the Iraqi government and people for their hospitality toward visitors.
As is custom with these things: lots of platitudes, very little substance.
14. September 2023 12:35
The Iraqi PM is first out with his readout
Today, Prime Minister Mohammad Shia Al-Sudani welcomed Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, along with Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani and their accompanying delegation.
The meeting emphasized the importance of resolving legal and financial issues between the federal and regional governments in line with the constitution and existing laws.
Prime Minister Sudani stressed that the current administration is committed to fostering lasting stability, free from disputes. He highlighted the government's dedication to finding fundamental solutions to issues concerning the Kurdistan Region.
Furthermore, he noted that the government is actively ensuring that the quality of life for all Iraqi citizens, including those in the Kurdistan Region, is not compromised by any legal or administrative obstacles.
14. September 2023 12:32
Iranian president demands 'full implementation' of agreement to disarm Kurdish opposition groups
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has demanded the 'full implementation' of a security agreement signed with Iraq in March from Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, adding that Tehran "does not tolerate the presence of terrorist groups" on its border with Iraq.
The comment was part of a statement on Raisi's website about a meeting with Hussein in Tehran as the Sept. 19 deadline for disarming and relocating Iranian opposition groups nears.
The statement added that Hussein presented a report on the execution of agreements between the two countries, particularly in the area of security, emphasizing Iraq's full commitment to these accords.
He said the Iraqi government will not allow any movement or group to operate within its borders if such entities pose a threat to or violate the boundaries of neighboring countries, especially Iran.
Iraq has already announced that the disarmament of the groups has begun and camps for their relocation have been established.
'We won't leave empty-handed,' says a source to Kurdistan 24
A source with knowledge of the meeting between Masrour Barzani's delegation and Iraqi PM Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani told Masour's (alleged) Kurdistan 24 news site that:
Our meeting with the Iraqi prime minister was positive, there is good news and we will not return empty-handed.
They would say that, wouldn't they. I doubt there's been a meeting like this without positive spin radiating from all corners of the room after they conclude them. It's what happens when everyone has gone home that matters.
14. September 2023 12:09
Jina Amini's father summoned by Iranian intelligence
Not just once, but four times. This comes ahead of the first anniversary of Jina [Mahsa] Amini's death by the hands of Iran's morality police. Iran is nervous about the resumption of mass protests. Last month, Jina Amini's uncle was also detained.
"Our coverage of this critical event will continue"
Well, at least something's critical in their coverage as they head for a commercial break.
But wait! It plays a short trailer of Masrour Barzani meeting various leaders to the backing of some dramatic trailer music. Ends with this:
14. September 2023 10:42
Vian Sabri says there's a document somewhere about Iraqi public sector salaries and within that there's a section on Kurdistan Region salaries. She again reiterates that she expects the problem to be solved today.
Earlier this week, Sudani told reporters that Iraq has nothing to do with Kurdistan salaries and only owes Kurdistan its overall share of the budget–once deductions and reconciliations have been accounted for. It's up to the Kurdistan Region to pay salaries from its share of the federal budget (which hasn't been paid anyway).
It's unclear what the play is here. It seems intuitive that the KRG gets a budget allocation from Baghdad and spends that money as it sees fit. That's surely the benefit of having a devolved government. But it seems like the KDP is pushing for Baghdad to cover salaries separately from its budget share.
14. September 2023 10:35
Leader of the KDP federal parliamentary party: We believe all the issues left hanging will be solved by this visit
14. September 2023 10:32
Prime Minister Masrour Barzani (KDP)
Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani (PUK)
Minister of Finance Awat Janab Nuri (Gorran)
Interior Minister Reber Ahmed (KDP; he was in Baghdad anyway earlier this week so probably crashed on someone's couch until his bosses arrived)
President of the Cabinet Diwan Omed Sabah (KDP)
KRG Cabinet Secretary Amanj Raheem (PUK)
14. September 2023 10:26
Now someone non-KDP is very generously given some airtime
The aforementioned Jamal Kochar MP is asked if the unity displayed by the welcome of "a majority of" Kurdish parties in Baghdad (the opposition New Generation Movement isn't there) will put pressure on Baghdad to make concessions to the Kurdish delegation.
Jamal Kochar awkwardly takes a long time to say "maybe, our voice and their voice will perhaps put some pressure on Baghdad."
It probably won't be resolved today, though. That's Kochar's warning, which is ignored by the anchor. Surely that would be something to follow up on?
Then he's again asked if this historic never-before-seen unity will mean something in the grand scheme of things. Clearly, the dial has been set to 'unity' on the PM's PR SPINOMATIC 3000.
14. September 2023 10:18
It's staggering how openly sycophantic Kurdistan 24 is
The anchor is not just begging the question but providing the approved answer before the guest (himself cherry-picked by the channel) get get in a comment edgewise.
14. September 2023 10:12
"The philosophy of this cabinet has been unity"
Says a talking head (Duhok-based Dr. Ibrahim Sharafani) on the (allegedly) Masrour Barzani-linked Kurdistan 24.
He's referencing the fact Barzani (and Talabani, we guess) were greeted first by a group of Kurdish politicians "from all sides and parties" that are based in Baghdad.
The inset picture on the right, for example, is Barzani being greeted by the Kurdistan Islamic Union party's Jamal Kochar MP.
Still. If we had to pick a governing philosophy adopted by this cabinet it probably wouldn't be unity.
14. September 2023 10:05
Hello and welcome to the live blog. Not much going on today. Apart from hugely consequential talks between KRG PM Masrour Barzani and Iraqi leaders in Baghdad.
Kurdistan society is at an inflection point, unpaid for July, August, and September. Disquiet is on the up. The ruling parties are nervous. A leak of a letter allegedly written by Barzani to Joe Biden warned of Kurdistan's potential 'collapse' if the screw was turned any tighter by Baghdad.
The KRG denies a letter with 'that content' was ever sent, but the fact it was leaked to an esteemed journalist like Amberin Zaman suggests even the recipients of said letter are tired of the KRG's protestations. Kurdistan's Western allies have been practically begging the two bickering Kurdish parties to get their house in order. The response has been more petty bickering with two leaders equally as stubborn as each other.
It's probably not coincidental that Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani (PUK) was on the plane to Baghdad two days later. He's barely ever been part of delegations led by PM Barzani.
In other news, the federal parliament is scheduled to debate the provincehood of Halabja today. We'll keep you posted.