Live: Iraqi PM expected to meet U.S. president as UN General Assembly continues

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KRG PM says no to political interference in Peshmerga Ministry

KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani has stated that the Peshmerga Ministry should remain free from "any political party interference or personal interests," during a meeting with coalition forces commander Major General Joel Vowell.

According to a KRG statement, Barzani also addressed "rumors" concerning issues in the Peshmerga Ministry's reform process. "He emphasized that the Prime Minister's efforts to appoint a qualified minister to implement the government's agenda should not be obstructed."

This comes in the context of reports suggesting that KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani has advocated for the appointment of the PUK’s Dara Rasheed as acting Peshmerga Minister. Barzani, however, has expressed reservations about this decision.

The Peshmerga Minister's position, which is the PUK’s share, has been vacant since Shorish Ismail resigned months ago.

The KDP and PUK remain at odds over various issues, including Peshmerga reform and overarching control of the KRI's security matters. Both parties accuse each other of hindering the unification of their respective Peshmerga forces.

A significant number of Peshmerga are aligned with either the KDP or PUK. While a KRG Peshmerga Ministry has been established as part of the reform process, only about 50,000 fighters—less than one-third of the total force—fall under its jurisdiction. Both parties have publicly committed to unifying their Peshmerga factions but have been slow to relinquish what are essentially party militias that unite for defense when needed.

The PUK has expressed concerns that a unified Peshmerga force would be predominantly under KDP authority, as the latter controls the Kurdistan Region presidency and the commander-in-chief of Peshmerga forces. The PUK has also aired grievances with the KDP over military promotions, claiming favoritism toward KDP-affiliated personnel.

Western nations have been advocating for Peshmerga reforms for many years.
ئه‌مڕۆ پێنجشەممە ‌9/21 مەسرور بارزانى، سه‌رۆكى حکومەتی هه‌رێمى كوردستان، پێشوازى له‌ جەنەراڵ جۆول ڤاوڵ فەرماندەی گشتیی هێزەكانی هاوپەیمانان لە عێراق و سووریا و شاندێکی یاوەری کرد.
حکومەتی هەرێمی كوردستان

President Barzani silent on Arbat drone attack

credit: President's Office

In his first public appearance since Sunday, President Nechirvan Barzani met with coalition forces commander Major General Joel B. Vowell to discuss Peshmerga reforms. However, the meeting did not touch on the recent Turkish drone attack on Arbat airfield in Sulaymaniyah. Barzani, who has close ties with Ankara, has not commented on the incident.

The two officials discussed the latest developments in Peshmerga reform and the challenges it faces. A statement issued on the presidency's website read: "In another topic of the meeting, both sides pointed out that despite some progress in the reform process and reunification of the Peshmerga, there are serious problems that need to be addressed. In this regard, President Nechirvan Barzani reaffirmed the Kurdistan Region's commitment to continue working for the success of the process and the reunification of the Peshmerga."

Additionally, they discussed efforts to counter ISIS and the risks associated with the group's potential resurgence.


KRG DPM, German military delegation discuss Arbat attack, Peshmerga reform

Qubad Talabani discusses recent fatal attack on Arbat airport in Sulaymaniyah urging international coalition forces and the Iraqi government "to take immediate measures to stop any further attacks that would violate the sovereignty of both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region."

In a meeting with a German military delegation in Erbil, Talabani rejects the "attacker's justifications" for targeting security forces near the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) at the site of the attack on Arbat Airport in Sulaymaniyah province.

Talabani is addressing Ankara's concerns that members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were present at the base during the attack.

Relations between the PUK and Ankara have recently been strained. Turkey accuses the PUK of allowing PKK-affiliated forces to operate freely in areas under its control and of recently engaging in military collaboration in northeastern Syria and Iraq.

The Turkish army is generally reticent about commenting on its strikes in Iraq but regularly conducts military operations against PKK strongholds in the Kurdistan Region and in the Sinjar district. A Turkish drone strike last week killed a senior PKK official and three fighters in the Sinjar Mountains of northwestern Iraq, according to Iraqi Kurdish authorities.

The DPM said: "The attack on Arbat airfield, which was directed against an official Kurdish and Iraqi force, is a serious incident and a blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty," he also disregarded the attacker's justifications, saying that all of the brave Kurdistan Peshmergas who were martyred and injured were CTG members and that except for the CTG forces, there were no additional forces at the airfield.”

Peshmerga Reform

"The Peshmerga Ministry's reform process was another topic of discussion during the meeting. The absence of a Peshmerga Minister is hindering the correct execution of the reform stages," said the Deputy Prime Minister. He added, "We have proposed a candidate to serve as the acting Peshmerga Minister, and we hope that the legal processes leading to his appointment can be concluded as soon as possible so that the reform process can proceed as intended."

"He warned that delays in the Peshmerga Ministry's reform procedures could weaken the Kurdistan Region's standing and erode the trust of its allies."


PUK leader discusses Turkish drone attack with Supreme Judicial Council chair

credit: PUK Media
Bafel Talabani met with Faiq Zidan in Baghdad to discuss the recent Turkish drone attack on Arbat Airport in Sulaymaniyah.

Talabani says: "It is our collective responsibility to address transgressions and illegal border crossings. The stability of our territory and nation cannot be jeopardized; limits must be imposed on these attacks."

Below is a recap of all of Talabani's meetings with Iraqi officials in Baghdad.

Estonia to extend defense force mandate for operations in Iraq

The Estonian government is set to discuss a draft resolution on Thursday that aims to extend the deployment of up to 110 defense personnel to the US-led international military operation, Inherent Resolve, in 2024. 

The move comes after a visit in August by Estonian Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur and Commander of the Estonian Defense Forces Gen. Martin Herem to Erbil. 
During the visit, they met with senior officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to discuss Estonia's ongoing support for the Peshmerga forces and international efforts to counter the Islamic State (IS).

Pevkur emphasized the significance of Estonia's contributions to regional security, stating that Iraq's security is at its best in recent times, partly due to the involvement of Estonian military personnel. 

"The closer to the original source a problem is solved, the less likely it is for terrorist attacks to reach our region," Pevkur added. The Estonian delegation also met with top Iraqi officials in Baghdad. 

In May, ESTCOY-18, a reduced infantry company based at Erbil Air Base, took over the rotating duties of Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq, succeeding the Netherlands.

Iraqi Air Force targets suspected IS hideouts in Kirkuk Province

The Iraqi Air Force has conducted airstrikes on locations believed to be used by the Islamic State (IS) in the province of Kirkuk.

According to a statement by the Joint Operations Command on Thursday, the airstrikes were aimed at IS hideouts in the Zeghitoun Valley in Kirkuk. State-run Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported that the strikes resulted in several casualties.

Following the operation, the air force recovered four bodies, rifles, explosive belts, and documents at the targeted site. The bodies are currently under examination for identification, it says.  

Despite Iraq declaring victory over IS in December 2017, remnants of the extremist group continue to operate in northern and western Iraq, especially in the disputed territories between Erbil and Baghdad.
In the X version of the statement regarding the meeting with Iraian President Raisi, Prime Minister Sudani focuses on border security and upholding Iraqi sovereignty. However, the emphasis on sovereignty raises questions, as Iraq's territorial integrity is routinely compromised by Turkey and Iran.
Journalists are calling for more pressure on the KRG regarding violations against members of the media.

Here is some background on Guhdar Zebari:

Zebari was scheduled for release on August 16 but was informed on the same day that he had been charged with another offense. He was initially sentenced to six years in prison by the Erbil Criminal Court in February 2021, along with journalist Sherwan Sherwani and three activists. The three activists were released in March.

Amnesty International states that they were sentenced to six years of imprisonment in "a grossly unfair trial" on charges that included "spying on behalf of foreign actors, supplying the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) with sensitive information, jeopardizing the lives of senior Kurdistan regional authorities and foreign officials by gathering information about them, and collecting arms with the intention of supplying them to an unidentified armed group."

Amnesty further adds that "the 2021 trial was marred by serious violations of the right to a fair trial, including uninvestigated allegations of torture, the use of confessions obtained through torture to convict the defendants, and a refusal to allow defense lawyers timely access to the case files."

The high-profile cases have led to local and international outcry, amid growing concerns over increasing restrictions on freedom of speech in recent years.

JUST IN: The UK says it is “deeply concerned about journalist Guhdar Zebari’s ongoing hunger strike in detention."


Peshmerga members to receive salaries

The Ministry of Peshmerga has announced that the salaries of its infantry brigades will be distributed on Sunday. According to an official statement from the ministry's media office, the General Directorate of Budget and Programs (Military Accounting) has completed all necessary financial and accounting procedures.

The statement also noted that financial assistance from the US-led coalition has been transferred to the ministry's account. Banks have been notified and are prepared to distribute the salaries for the month of August.

Some members of the unified Peshmerga forces are receiving their salaries more consistently, thanks to ongoing financial assistance from the US-led coalition. The coalition's support, amounting to approximately $20 million per month, is contributing to more regular salary disbursements for these troops.
Is today the day?

Kurdistan 24, affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), quotes an Iraqi lawmaker stating that the process to release a 700-billion-dinar loan to Erbil is nearing completion.

KDP's Sherwan Dubardani indicated that banking procedures are expected to conclude today. Upon approval from the KRG Finance Minister, the loan will be disbursed.

Dubardani further noted that the loan will be distributed through three banks: 200 billion dinars via TBI, 250 billion dinars via Rasheed Bank, and 250 billion dinars via Al-Rafidain Bank.

Despite recent agreements between Baghdad and Erbil regarding fund disbursement, civil servants in the Kurdistan Region have yet to receive their salaries for July.
PM Sudani's statement (translated) on his meeting with the Iranian president:

Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani met with Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi yesterday evening, Wednesday (Baghdad time), in New York. The meeting took place on the sidelines of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Sudani emphasized the significance of strengthening ties between Iraq and Iran across multiple sectors, for the benefit of both neighboring nations. He stressed the need for expediting joint projects, notably citing the recent railway connection initiative aimed at facilitating passenger transport between the two countries.

His Excellency also made it clear that Iraq would not permit its territory to be used for attacks against neighboring countries. He reiterated the country's commitment to maintaining its security and sovereignty, stating that any regional disputes should be resolved through dialogue in order to find lasting solutions to ongoing crises.

President Raisi, in turn, expressed gratitude to Iraq for its hospitality, particularly towards pilgrims visiting holy shrines during the Arbaeen commemoration of Imam Hussein and his companions.

He described the relations between the two countries as both important and distinguished. He emphasized the need for officials from both nations to focus on strengthening and elevating economic and trade relations through bilateral initiatives. Additionally, he commended the Iraqi government's efforts to manage situations in areas adjacent to Iraq's northern borders.


Here is the full translated statement from the PM's office on the meeting with Bret McGurk:

credit: PM Office

Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa Al-Sudani met with Brett McGurk, the U.S. President's Special Envoy for the Middle East and North Africa, after midnight on Wednesday (Baghdad time) in New York. The meeting took place on the sidelines of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Discussions focused on the overall relations between Iraq and the United States and explored avenues for strengthening and developing these ties across various sectors, aimed at benefiting the people of both friendly nations.

Prime Minister Sudani emphasized Iraq's commitment to building strategic relations with the United States, founded on mutual interests and constructive economic partnerships. He also pointed out that investment opportunities in Iraq are open for American companies, particularly in reforming and reconstructing Iraqi infrastructure.

His Excellency also highlighted the readiness and efficiency of the Iraqi security forces in various sectors, including their success in combating remnants of Islamic State (IS). He emphasized the importance of a recent visit by an Iraqi delegation, led by the Minister of Defense, to Washington, discussing the future of Iraq's relationship with the international coalition against terrorism.

On his part, McGurk affirmed the United States' support for Iraq's reform initiatives and its ongoing provision of advisory and training services to Iraqi forces in their fight against IS. He also reiterated the U.S. administration's commitment to the Strategic Framework Agreement and its support for government reforms in economic development, infrastructure reconstruction, and combating corruption.

Morning Briefing 

While it is relatively quiet in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, Iraqi PM Muhammed Shia al-Sudani has been active in New York, meeting with world leaders including Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi. The two discussed border security issues between their countries. Sudani assured Raisi that "Iraq will never allow its lands to be used to attack neighboring countries."

Sudani is also slated to visit Washington for his inaugural meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden.

On Wednesday, Sudani met with Brett McGurk, the U.S. President's Special Envoy for the Middle East and North Africa. The discussions covered a broad range of topics, including bilateral relations, security cooperation, and Baghdad's anti-corruption initiatives.