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Live: Kurdistan oil producers threaten to halt exports even if pipeline reopens

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Broadcast regulators shut down news station after 'offensive' remarks about Muqtada Al-Sadr aired

The Iraqi Media and Communications Commission has suspended the operations of Baghdadiya, a local TV channel, after supporters of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr gathered outside the channel's main office. The commission cited "violations of broadcast terms and a lack of security clearance" as reasons for the suspension.

Reports suggest that Sadr's followers convened at Baghdadiya's office in Baghdad's Waziriyah neighborhood, protesting remarks made by Ali Zabhawi, the anchor of "Studio Nine." They perceived his comments as insulting to Sadr and demanded a public apology.

Following the protest, a representative from the Iraqi Media and Communications Commission, with security personnel, arrived to halt the channel's operations. The commission shuttered offices in both the Waziriyah and Abu Nawas Street areas in central Baghdad.

While the official statement referred to broadcasting violations and security issues for the shutdown, it did not address the protest or detail Zabhawi's remarks.

Kurdistan 24, a pro-KDP news site, stated that the station's closure came after Sadr supporters' demonstration at the television studio.

You might wonder what Zabhawi said to upset both Sadr's followers and federal broadcast regulators to the point where the entire channel is shut down?

Here's the offending quote broadcast on Baghdadiya

"After Mr. [Sadr] announced a campaign for reforms, with promises to build 3,000 schools, we only see an effort to set up a library now. Just a place to sit, read, and organize books. He had claimed that Chinese or Thai companies would construct these 3,000 schools. But so far, there's no sign of progress. No schools are built, no government initiatives are in place, and it appears he's merely sitting at home, in his library, reading."

They appear to have shut down an entire television news channel over an anchor saying Sadr is a hobbyist librarian and avid book reader.

The freedom of expression and journalism in Iraq has been under increasing strain recently. Read the excellent New York Times piece below for more on that.

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Macron to visit Iraq again

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to pay another visit to Iraq, confirmed by the media office of Prime Minister Sudani on Wednesday. The announcement followed a meeting between Sudani and Patrick Durel, the Advisor for Middle East and North Africa Affairs at the French Presidency.

In the statement released by the Prime Minister's office, it was noted that Durel, at the outset of their discussion, extended his condolences to both the Iraqi government and its people over the tragic fire incident in the Hamdaniya district. He conveyed his heartfelt wishes for a quick recovery to those injured and for mercy upon the victims of the accident.

The focal point of the meeting was the forthcoming visit of President Macron to Iraq. The two officials also explored ways to foster the bilateral ties between France and Iraq. This comes in line with the comprehensive strategic agreement previously signed between the two nations, covering various domains including investment, economy, energy, and environmental issues.

In ;ate August 2021, President Macron had embarked on an official trip to Iraq. He was in attendance at the “Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership”. Subsequent to the conference, he toured the city of Erbil, the administrative center of the Kurdistan Region, where he engaged in talks with top-ranking Kurdish officials.

شفق نيوز/ ذكر المكتب الإعلامي لرئيس مجلس الوزراء محمد شياع السوداني، يوم الأربعاء، أن هناك زيارة مرتقبة سيجريها الرئيس الفرنسي إيمانويل ماكرون إلى العراق.وذكر المكتب في بيان، أن السوداني استقبل اليوم
شفق نيوز

Is it constitutional or not?

The Kurdish blocs in the Iraqi parliament, with the exception of the KDP, have petitioned for Baghdad to directly distribute the civil servant salaries of the Kurdistan Region instead of transferring funds to the KRG. This has ignited a heated debate among experts and politicians, particularly between those affiliated with the KDP and others, regarding the constitutionality of such a move.

Pro-KDP outlets, such as Rudaw and Kurdistan 24, have quoted multiple Kurdish politicians who assert that this action would violate the Iraqi constitution. Rudaw cites the Iraqi deputy finance minister, Massoud Haidar (KDP), while Kurdistan 24 mentioned the head of the Iraqi parliament’s legal committee, Rebwar Hadi (KDP), among others. They defended the stance that direct payments from Baghdad to KRI civil servants would contravene articles 117 and 121 of the Iraqi constitution, which state that the KRI has both legislative and executive authority.

On the other hand, non-KDP politicians, including the former Kurdistan Parliament Speaker, Dr. Yousif Mohammed, argue that no legal obstacles stand in the way of such a move.

Mohammed, who played a role in the landmark Iraqi federal court ruling that dissolved the regional parliament, contended that designing financial policy, which includes salary distribution, is a federal issue as per article 110 of the constitution. He also emphasized that the KRI lacks a specific law regarding civil servant salaries and continues to rely on Iraqi laws.

While there is intense debate about the constitutionality of the matter, the real question is: How will the pro-Iran Shiite parties, currently dominating the government in Baghdad and the federal court, perceive this issue? Recent decisions by the federal court have undoubtedly not been in favor of the Kurdistan Region's autonomy.


Qaraqosh fire: wake-up call to local authorities

After a tragic fire last month in Qaraqosh, Nineveh, Iraqi authorities shut down dozens of businesses nationwide due to insufficient fire safety measures.  Kirkuk Now reports that 159 establishments, including 70 in Nineveh, were closed following the incident.

The fire resulted in 119 deaths and many injuries, raising significant concerns about the local authorities' oversight and regulation of safety conditions in areas with large gatherings.

Following the tragedy, officials arrested more than a dozen people and dismissed others for negligence, underscoring the pressing need for enhanced safety measures.

Iraqi PM, UN representative talk provincial elections, climate Prime Minister Sudani and Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the United Nations secretary-general's representative in Iraq, discussed the provincial elections set for December and Baghdad's climate change efforts.

They talked about Iraq's efforts to help internally displaced individuals return to their homes once the right conditions for stability and reintegration are established. They also addressed Iraq's strategies for combating climate challenges, including measures against drought.

Iraq is among the nations most susceptible to climate change effects, recently facing intense drought and desertification.


Sulaymaniyah students miss school amid teacher strikes

Tens of thousands of students in Sulaymaniyah province haven't returned to school this term due to a strike by thousands of teachers over unpaid salaries.

On Tuesday, the KRG's education ministry urged teachers to return to their classrooms. Erbil officials said they are "doing their utmost to secure the financial entitlements of the Kurdistan Region." They emphasized that past strikes have disrupted the educational process, and there's no flexibility in this year's curriculum.

Although the ministry expressed gratitude to the teachers for their contributions, this sentiment was met with dissatisfaction. For the third consecutive day, teachers in Sulaymaniyah protested. Some declared that gratitude wasn't what they sought; they wanted their wages.

Erbil managed to negotiate a temporary agreement with Baghdad to obtain loans to cover salaries for Sept. through Nov. However, outstanding payments for other months and ongoing uncertainties have driven the teachers' strike. The KRG has tried to claim the loans earmarked for Sept., Oct., and Nov., will actually pay for missing Jul. and Aug. salaries. Teachers in Sulaymaniyah. However this just pushes the salary schedule back with no viable explanation on how the KRG will catch up with the three months of arrears.  

Some teachers, speaking to opposition-affiliated NRT TV, stated they wouldn't return to work unless their demands were addressed. In solidarity with K-12 educators, university and college faculty have also joined the protest.

Translated statement by the KRG education ministry

"Teachers and staff have a fundamental right to a salary – a right we recognize along with the crucial role educators fulfill in our society. The financial hurdles Kurdistan faces are well-known, as are the reasons behind them. We firmly believe that salaries are an inalienable right for our educators, and the Kurdistan Regional Government is diligently striving to secure financial dues from the federal Iraqi government. Given the detrimental impact of past boycotts, we strongly advise resuming the educational process immediately. We can't alter this school year's curriculum. Accordingly, we request all relevant General Directorates of Education to recommence school operations as soon as possible."

Turkey pounds Kurdistan Region mountain ranges again in pursuit of PKK fighters

Turkey's defense ministry said Tuesday it conducted air operations against 16 sites in the Kurdistan Region, claiming it "neutralized" several people identified as "terrorists." 

The ministry said the airstrikes were in response to "terror attacks on Turkey," coming after the PKK took responsibility for a bombing in Ankara.

The targeted areas encompassed caves, bunkers, and depots in Metina, Gara, Hakurk, Qandil, and Asos, regions where the PKK have a presence. 

The operations used domestically-made munitions to "neutralize a significant number of individuals identified as terrorists," the ministry said. 

While the ministry emphasized precautions taken to avoid harming civilians, allied forces, cultural sites, and the environment during the actions, there were claims in 2022 that 18 civilians, including six children, died, and 58 were wounded by Turkish actions in the Kurdistan Region.

Apikur members threaten to halt exports over payment concerns

The Association of the Petroleum Industry of Kurdistan (Apikur) warned that even with the Iraq-Turkey pipeline (ITP) ready to restart, its members might not resume oil exports without clear assurances on payment. This decision stems from a long-standing issue involving the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) independent oil exports via favorable production sharing contracts (PSCs) with International Oil Companies (IOCs), separate from Baghdad.

"Even if the ITP reopens, the member companies of Apikur will not be in a position to produce oil for pipeline exports until it is clear how International Oil Companies (‘IOCs’) will be paid for their contractual entitlements of oil already sold and delivered for export in the past and for future sales of such oil for export," Apikur stated. They further emphasized the gravity of the situation, noting members are "owed nearly $1 billion in overdue and unpaid arrears."

The association clarified the rights of IOCs, explaining, "IOCs holding production sharing contracts (‘PSCs’) have the right to, amongst other things, take in kind and separately sell their respective entitlement shares of crude oil." Without a resolution, Apikur indicated its members might resort to selling "their contractual entitlements of crude oil to buyers who can give certainty of payments for oil deliveries, e.g., through upfront payments."

The PSCs, governed by English law, stipulate that any disagreements would be addressed via "international arbitration at the London Court of International Arbitration."

Addressing the financial implications of these delays, Myles B. Caggins III, Apikur's spokesman, said, “The delays in re-opening the Iraq-Türkiye pipeline and resolving IOC contractual entitlements are costing Iraqis an estimated $1 billion per month in lost revenues.” He further stated the association's willingness to "work with the Governments of Kurdistan and Iraq to reinstate these revenues and even increase them through maximizing production," but emphasized progress can only come "after payment arrangements are agreed and existing contractual arrangements are respected."

Concluding, Apikur urged "all parties to urgently engage with each other in a constructive manner to put in place mutually beneficial commercial solutions that will encourage international investment for the benefit of all Iraqis."