Iraq National Security Advisor Qasim Al-Araji en route to Erbil

Live: All the latest on eve of Iranian deadline for disarming Kurdish opposition groups

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Here is the statement from the head of the CTG, Wahab Halabjayee
While Turkey regularly targets the Kurdistan Region, primarily against members of the PKK, it is rare for Turkey to target the PUK's security forces.

On Sunday, a Turkish drone strike near Sinjar killed at least four members of the PKK including a senior official, the Kurdish authorities said.

Turkey has set up dozens of military bases in Iraqi Kurdistan over the past 25 years to fight against the group.

In April 2023, Iraq accused Turkey of carrying out a "bombardment" in the vicinity of the airport at Sulaimaniyah, Kurdistan's second-largest city.

The strike took place while US soldiers and the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-allied coalition dominated by Kurds, were at the airport.

The Turkish army rarely comments on its strikes in Iraq but routinely conducts military operations against PKK rear bases in autonomous Kurdistan as well as Sinjar district.

Iran has also carried out strikes on Iraqi Kurdistan. A year ago, Tehran repeatedly bombed positions of various Iranian Kurdish opposition groups accused of involvement in protests that erupted in Iran after the death in custody of Jina Amini, a young Iranian Kurdish woman.

In his comprehensive interview with The New York Times, published today, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani lays out his ambitious plans to address Iraq's pressing challenges, from corruption to environmental degradation.

Here are five takeaways from the interview:

- Prime Minister Sudani aims to address Iraq's longstanding issues of corruption and political instability. He sees his lifelong residence in Iraq as an asset in understanding the citizens' needs and priorities.

- Sudani is confronting multiple challenges including the growing influence of Iran, the entrenched corruption in the Iraqi governmental system, and the impact of global warming, particularly a fourth consecutive year of drought.

- To tackle corruption, Sudani plans to set up a civil service council to publicly post government job openings, although this would undermine the existing patronage system that allocates jobs based on sect and party affiliations.

- Sudani seeks international assistance for addressing environmental issues, particularly drought and desertification, which he calls "the most important challenge of the modern era."

- Security concerns continue to plague Iraq, notably Iranian influence and the unresolved case of a kidnapped Russian-Israeli dual citizen. These issues are detrimental to Iraq's reputation and counterproductive to al-Sudani's goals of economic development and foreign investment.

PUK leader Bafel Talabani's statement in full, translated from Kurdish:

credit: PUK Media
We strongly condemn the terrorist attack on Arbat Agricultural Airport in Sulaymaniyah, which resulted in the martyrdom of three heroic Peshmerga members and the injury of three more.

This criminal act represents a blatant violation of the border between the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. It is part of a wider conspiracy aimed at destabilizing the peace and stability of the Kurdistan Region, particularly in the Sulaymaniyah border area.

In response to this violation, it is the collective duty of all political parties in the region to address security threats and challenges together to safeguard Kurdistan from its enemies.

We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the martyred Peshmerga, who are the guardians of Kurdistan's peace. We wish a rapid recovery for the injured. Furthermore, we urge the Iraqi government to fulfill its constitutional and national responsibilities to protect Iraqi territory and airspace, including that of Kurdistan, from such violations.

We call upon our international friends, nations worldwide, and all freedom fighters to take a serious stance and unite with us in stopping these terrorist acts.

Dear people of Kurdistan,

With trust in God and in you, we will overcome this challenging situation. Through our unity, we will establish stability in the region and confront all challenges.
Here is the full statement from the PUK's CTG:

On Monday, September 18, Arbat Agricultural Airport was targeted by a drone attack, threatening the security and tranquility of the Kurdistan Region. The assault resulted in the martyrdom of three Peshmerga members, and three others were wounded.

We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the martyrs and wish a rapid recovery for those injured. We want to make it clear that this act of terrorism, guided by foreign agents and local spies, will not go unpunished. Comprehensive investigations are underway.

We are committed to bringing all parties and spies involved to justice, in accordance with the laws of our nation. We will not allow the sacrifices of our martyred Peshmerga to be in vain; their retribution is our responsibility.

PUK Security forces have confirmed the fatal drone attack in Sulaymaniyah Arbat airport:

- The Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG) of the PUK has verified the deaths of three of its members and injuries to another three in today's drone assault.
- PUK leader Bafel Talabani "strongly condemns the terrorist attack," labeling them as a breach of the sovereignty of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. Talabani calls for an immediate halt to such attacks and urges Baghdad to take measures to prevent similar incidents.

- Sulaymaniyah Governor Heval Abubakir has also denounced the attack.

- As of now, no one has been officially blamed for the incident.
Here is what Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said about his recent visit to Tehran on the looming deadline given to the Kurdish opposiiton groups to disarm and relocate to refugee camps: 

"I was in Tehran a few days ago and I had a fairly lengthy and good discussion with my colleague, the minister of foreign affairs.

Also, I had a very good and fruitful discussion with President (Ebrahim) Raisi, the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The discussion, part of it was about the deadline and how we are dealing with these groups inside Iraqi Kurdistan. There is a security agreement between Baghdad and Tehran and also cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil about how to deal with these groups.

And then KRG (Kurdish Regional Government) in Iraqi Kurdistan, in cooperation with the federal government, was able to convince some groups which were active on the border.

They had the kind of military activities to convince them to come down, and now they are in kind of refugee camps which have been established; five refugee camps have been established for them, and we deal with them as refugees.

You see, we are committed to our constitution, the Iraqi Constitution, which does not allow any organization from Iraqi soil to attack neighboring countries.

So on the basis of our constitution, the Iraqi Constitution, we dealt with these groups. But thank God, we were able to have this dialogue, positive dialogue and negotiation with the Iranian side, so that they will stop attacking Iraqi Kurdistan, (and) as a result, attacking Iraq."
In an interview today on the sidelines of the 78th UN General Assembly in New York, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein spoke with Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency about a number of topics, from the Development Road Project to counter-terrorism efforts against the PKK. 

Hussein emphasized the need for greater cooperation between Iraq and Turkey, particularly in the realm of security. He also expressed anticipation for the upcoming visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, suggesting it would bolster relations between the two nations. 

Issues surrounding energy cooperation and pending arbitration cases were also discussed, with both sides keen to find resolutions that would unblock essential oil exports.

Here is the full interview:

More talks to come – once the KRG runs out of money again

The KRG intends to resume talks with the Iraqi government after exhausting an allocation of 700 billion dinars for civil servant salaries, according to Voice of America Kurdish.

VOA cites KDP MP Shwan Mohammed Rostam, who stated that the payment to the Kurdistan Region will not resolve all issues but will alleviate financial pressures on Erbil until new negotiations can commence.

حکومەتی هەرێم پلانی هەیە دوای خەرجکردنی ئەو سێ گوژمە 700 ملیار دینارییەی ڕۆژی یەکشەمە ئەنجومەنی وەزیرانی عێراق ڕەزامەندی لەسەر ناردنی بۆ هەرێم دەربڕی بۆ موچەی فەرمانبەران، جارێکی تر گفتووگۆ لەگەڵ حکومەتی عێراق دەستپێبکاتەوە بۆ خەرجکردنی موچەی سێ مانگی کۆتایی ئەمساڵ. شوان محەمەد رۆستەم، ئەندامی...
دەنگی ئەمەریکا | Dengî Amerîka | VOA Kurdish

An Iraqi security and military delegation led by Araji is scheduled to visit the border areas between Iraq and Iran later today, with specific focus on the Bradost region in Erbil province, according to a KRG official cited by London-based Al-Araby Jadid.

The official also noted that the United Nations will participate in the meeting to address the situation of families and other individuals who will be displaced due to the vacating of Iranian opposition group bases.


Attack on KNK HQ in Erbil, fatalities reported by local media

The headquarters of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) in Erbil was attacked, leaving an unspecified number of people dead, according to preliminary reports.

A Sharpress reporter on the scene indicated that security forces swiftly arrived and began their investigation. According to Sharpress, initial communications with KNK officials suggest that the authorities are treating the incident as an 'individual act' rather than an organized attack.

Details remain limited at this time, and it is unclear who is responsible for the attack or what motivated it. Further updates are expected as the investigation progresses.


Conflicting reports on airport explosition at a military airport in Sulaymaniyah.

Unconfirmed reports of a drone attack targeting Arabat Agricultural Airport in Sulaymaniyah province have emerged, while others suggest an explosion occurred. The airport is used for training by PUK security forces (more specifically, the party's Counter-Terrorism Group).

Authorities have not yet confirmed the nature of the incident, which reportedly resulted in multiple injuries. Local media reports indicate that security forces and emergency crews have responded to the scene.


The PUK is set to hold its fifth Congress, aiming to instill a 'renewed sense of optimism among its constituency' while planning a ;comprehensive revamp' of the party's program and structure, according to Stran Abdullah, a member of the PUK Political Bureau.

In an interview with GKTV, Abdullah conveyed the party’s intention to foster innovation and safeguard decisions "with blood," emphasizing the PUK's preference for forming alliances and engaging in collaborative efforts.

Abdullah acknowledged the party's historical struggles, stating that these have affected the well-being and livelihoods of the populace. He added that had there been a concerted effort to align with the PUK's objectives, "the fundamental entitlements of our nation would have been safeguarded, and the aspirations of our citizenry would have been realized."

The congress, scheduled for Sept. 27, comes after a period of internal tensions and leadership disputes within the party. As previously reported, Bafel Talabani, eldest son of the late leader Jalal Talabani, is poised for a leadership sweep. Talabani recently dismantled the party's co-leadership structure, drawing criticism from members who see the move as stifling democratic discourse.

Some senior party members have expressed skepticism about the hasty organization of the congress, questioning its ability to effect meaningful change. Even the participation of Barham Salih, the former president of Iraq and a prominent PUK member, remains uncertain. 

The PUK’s fifth conference aims to centralize decision-making and tackle lingering issues, according to Leadership Council member Bestoon Sabrawi. The gathering in Qalachwalan, Sulaymaniyah province, will mark the party’s first major event since the collapse of its co-leadership system, and is expected to attract 600 delegates.

In the wake of its internal struggles, this congress will be closely watched both by its members and those interested in the broader political landscape of Kurdistan and Iraq.

Abdullah ended his remarks by underscoring the PUK's commitment to the interests of the Kurdish people, stating that safeguarding these interests, particularly the lives of citizens, is a primary focus within the party's operational framework.


Gulf Cooperation Council calls on Iraq to take ‘urgent’ measure on maritime deal with Kuwait

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Sunday urged Iraq to take "serious and urgent" measures concerning recent "negative" developments related to its maritime agreement with Kuwait. The call comes after Iraq's Federal Supreme Court annulled the agreement.

During a meeting at UN headquarters in New York, GCC foreign ministers stated that Iraq's action "did not serve relations with GCC countries and violated charters, treaties and international agreements, including UN Security Council Resolution 833," according to a report from Kuwait's state news agency, Kuna, on Sept. 18.

Earlier in September, Iraq's foreign minister engaged in talks with his Kuwaiti counterpart, Salim al-Sabah, after the court declared that the parliamentary ratification of the maritime agreement was unconstitutional. The deal pertains to navigation in the disputed Khor Abdullah waterway between the two countries.

The court cited a violation of Article 61, Section Four of the Iraqi Constitution, which mandates 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."

On Sept. 15, Kuwaiti Assistant Foreign Minister for Arab Homeland Affairs Ahmed Al-Bekr met with the Iraqi ambassador to Kuwait, Al-Manhal Al-Safi, and handed him a protest note over the court's ruling, Kuna reported.

Full statement
General Secretariat-New York
In the presence of Their Highnesses and Excellencies the Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, the Ministerial Council held a meeting today, Sunday, September 17, 2023, at the headquarters of the Permanent Delegation of the Sultanate of Oman to the United Nations in New York, during which the Council discussed current developments with the sisterly Republic of Iraq.

The Council called on the Republic of Iraq to take serious and urgent steps to address the negative repercussions that arose from the ruling of the Supreme Federal Court issued on Monday, September 4, 2023, and published on Thursday, September 14, 2023, adding that the ruling contained inaccurate historical details out of context regarding the 2012 agreement between the State of Kuwait and the Republic of Iraq concerning the regulation of maritime navigation in the Khor Abdullah. This agreement was ratified by the Iraqi side in 2013 and deposited with the United Nations.

The Ministerial Council affirmed that these developments do not serve the relations with the GCC countries and contravene international charters, treaties, and agreements, including UN Security Council Resolution 833.

Just In: Iraq's Ministry of Finance dismisses claims of attempted cybersecurity Breach

The Ministry of Finance has issued a statement denying recent allegations circulating on social media about an attempted hack of its network systems. 

According to the ministry, all authorized systems are functioning normally and feature the latest security protocols to prevent unauthorized access or tampering.

As is the norm these days from Iraqi state institutions, the ministry encourages the public to trust information only from official channels. It warns that information from unspecified sources or organizations could be misleading.

Just in: Parliament postpones vote on Halabja provincehood – Again

Hardly a surprise now, is it?
Katyusha rocket hits residential area near Erbil

In a predominantly Kakai neighborhood of Erbil province, a katyusha rocket has landed near a school. It didn't explode on impact and has been removed of by bomb disposal unit.
A local resident speaking to Rudaw says it came from the direction of Nineveh Plains. 

The resident says damage to possessions has been minimal and the house hit was unoccupied at the time.

Iraqi PM lands in Manhattan

Iraqi PM Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani arrives in Manhattan for the 78th session of the UN's General Assembly.
The high-level, two-week-long general debates and meetings start on Tuesday, discussing a range of topics including the climate crisis and the war in Ukraine. Sudani is also participating in the Middle East Global Summit organized by Al-Monitor and Semafor on Wednesday.

Turkish strike kills 4 PKK members in northern Iraq – officials

We posted yesterday on a drone strike in Sinjar. Here's a follow up on that story.

A Turkish drone strike killed at least four members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq on Sunday, according to authorities in the Kurdistan Region.

"A senior official from the Kurdistan Workers' Party and three fighters were killed when a Turkish army drone targeted their vehicle in the Jal Mir region on Mount Sinjar," said a statement from Iraqi Kurdistan's counter-terrorism services.

The PKK, designated a "terrorist" organization by Ankara and its Western allies, has been fighting a four-decade insurgency against the Turkish state. The conflict has often spilled over into northern Iraq, where the Turkish military regularly conducts operations against PKK bases in autonomous Kurdistan and the Sinjar district.

Sinjar is also home to the Sinjar Resistance Units, a local Yazidi movement affiliated with the PKK. The group confirmed the deaths of "three of our comrades" in a statement, attributing the attack to Turkey.

Turkey has established dozens of military bases in Iraqi Kurdistan over the past 25 years to counter the PKK. Last August, seven PKK members were killed in northern Iraq in two drone strikes coinciding with a visit by Turkey's foreign minister, Hakan Fidan, to Iraq.

Both the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government have faced criticism for allegedly tolerating Turkey's military activities to maintain economic ties. While statements from Baghdad occasionally condemn Turkey's violation of Iraqi sovereignty, the strikes continue to impact civilians. A summer 2022 strike attributed to Turkey on a tourist resort in northern Iraq killed nine people, mostly vacationers from southern Iraq. Turkey has denied responsibility for the attack, blaming the PKK.


The PUK says main opposition party 'stands against salaries of Kurdistan people'

Some more innovative media spin by the PUK. 

Party officials have publicly criticized the New Generation Movement (NGM) for allegedly putting its 'own interests above those of the Kurdistan Region's citizens' during recent budget talks. These comments were made in interviews with PUKMedia, the PUK's official media outlet.

Harem Kamal Agha, leader of the PUK faction in the Iraqi parliament, singled out Srwa Abdulwahid, the leader of NGM in Baghdad (and sister of party leader Shaswar Abdulwahid), for not advocating sufficiently for the people during crucial budget talks in Baghdad. "When the KRG delegation arrived in Baghdad, Abdulwahid was not prepared to demand the salaries of the Kurdistan Regional Government," Agha told PUKMedia.

The criticism comes on the heels of the Iraqi Council of Ministers' decision to allocate 700 billion dinars to the KRG for a period of three months. While PUK and other Kurdish factions greeted the KRG delegation in Baghdad, NGM was notably absent from these discussions. 

Sozan Mansour, a spokesperson for the PUK faction in the Iraqi Parliament, also expressed disappointment at NGM's absence during the critical talks in Baghdad. "Only New Generation was not with the Kurdish parties on the issue of salaries and budget," Mansour stated.

According to the PUK, NGM's absence and alleged lack of support during these talks reveals a discrepancy between the party's public statements and actions, suggesting they are not genuinely aligned with the welfare of the Kurdistan Region's citizens. Mansour added that NGM "chooses to remain silent and does not take any positive steps" when it comes to matters affecting the people.

It's not clear whether the NGM was even invited to this meet and greet. Nor if the PUK and KDP would even want them there if they did wish to attend. Though it is true that the NGM have rebuffed attempts at 'expressing Kurdish unity' in the past. Presumably because the ruling parties are only interested in displaying unity when they're really in the mud. The PUK themselves have been elusive in PM Masrour Barzani's delegations abroad or to Baghdad until last week's hail mary dash to Baghdad. The 'unity' push came one day after a bombshell report by Al-Monitor's Amberin Zaman shed light on a letter allegedly penned by Barzani to Joe Biden warning of the KRG's collapse if things continue the way they are. Note that the USA and other Western allies have been practically begging the KRG's ruling parties to get their house in order and foster a sense of unity for years as frictions between the PUK and KDP bring the Kurdistan Region's institutions to a virtual standstill. The PUK's own Deputy PM Qubad Talabani boycotted cabinet meetings for six full months.

Araji is meeting with KRG’s interior minister, Reber Ahmed
Also present is the UN envoy to Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert

Qasim Al-Araji's Facebook post on the visit

"Under the guidance of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, National Security Advisor Mr. Qasim Al-Araji is leading a high-ranking security delegation to Erbil. The purpose of the visit is to follow up on the implementation of the security agreement between Iraq and Iran."

Morning briefing

Key updates

  • Iraq's National Security Advisor Qasim Al-Araji leads a high-level delegation to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), to discuss the implementation of a security agreement with Iran.
  • Tehran has set a Sept. 19 ultimatum for the disarmament of Kurdish opposition groups based in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.
  • Iraq has requested an extension of the deadline, citing efforts to tighten border security and remove Iranian opposition forces from the region.
  • Iranian foreign ministry confirms its expectation for the Iraqi government to fulfill the security agreement.

The story

High-level security talks are currently underway between Iraq and Iran, focusing primarily on the disarmament of Kurdish opposition groups based in the Kurdistan Region.

Araji arrived in Erbil to spearhead these talks, following up on a security pact signed between Iraq and Iran last March. The agreement, which originally had a September 19 deadline, aimed at securing the border regions and disarming Kurdish opposition groups labeled as "terrorists" by Iran.

Iran has repeatedly accused the KRG of harboring groups that instigate attacks and unrest against the Islamic Republic. These groups include the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (PDKI), Komala, Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK), and the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK). Last year, Iranian armed forces launched attacks, including drone and missile strikes, on alleged positions of these groups in the Kurdistan region.

Waad Qado, a member of the Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee, announced that Iraq has requested an extension of the deadline to fully implement border security measures. Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein also indicated that several groups have already been disarmed and are being relocated to undisclosed locations.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani reiterated Iran's stance, stating that the Islamic Republic expects full implementation of the security agreement by the Iraqi government. Tehran has also threatened military action should the agreement not be met by the stipulated deadline.