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5. October 2023 17:29
PKK, oil and water delaying Erdogan’s Iraq visit – report
Three unresolved issues have delayed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's expected visit to Iraq, the Qatar-affiliated Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported. An official from the Iraqi prime minister's office cited concerns with the PKK, restarting Iraqi oil exports through Turkey's Ceyhan port, and Iraq's water allotment from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.
Ghazanfar Al-Batikh, a member of Iraq's Coordination Framework governing coalition, underscored the complex ties between Iraq and Turkey. He pointed to security issues surrounding the PKK and Turkey's military actions in Iraq. Additionally, Iraq's quest for an equitable water share during a severe drought is pressing.
Economic ties add another layer. A stoppage in oil exports from Kurdistan through Ceyhan and a financial penalty on Ankara by a Paris court have further postponed Erdogan's trip.
Al-Batikh noted Turkey's failed attempt to have the Iraqi government waive the fine during Erdogan's intended visit. Outstanding disagreements on security and water persist.
He emphasized the importance of Erdogan's trip for both nations. The expectation is the visit will take place once the two countries settle these concerns. The Iraqi government had initially anticipated Erdogan's visit in early July.
لم يستطع العراق وتركيا الاتفاق بعد على موعد محدد لزيارة الرئيس التركي رجب طيب أردوغان إلى بغداد، وذلك في الوقت الذي تتواصل فيه الخلافات بينهما بشأن عدد من الملفات، أبرزها موضوع حزب العمال الكردستاني.
5. October 2023 17:17
Majid Al-Lajmawi, the Iraqi ambassador to Ankara, confirmed that Turkey has agreed to restart oil exports through the Iraqi-Turkish oil pipeline.
The Iraqi News Agency, a semi-official source, reported this development after Lajmawi's meeting with Alparslan Bayraktar, the Turkish energy and natural resources minister, on Wednesday.
Ambassador Lajmawi expressed gratitude on behalf of the Iraqi government and its people for Turkey's decision. He emphasized Iraq's preparedness to quickly restart oil exports and noted that this move would significantly strengthen Iraqi-Turkish ties and benefit both countries.
5. October 2023 17:10
Leader of Kurdish opposition party has sit-down with Iraqi PM over Kurdistan salaries
New Generation Movement leader Shaswar Abdulwahid has appealed to the Iraqi prime minister to approve a request from dozens of Kurdish lawmakers in Baghdad for the direct distribution of the region's civil servant salaries.
According to a document shared by the New Generation Movement's NRT TV on Oct. 2, the head of the New Generation Movement faction in Baghdad initiated the request, supported by PUK MPs and others, but not the KDP.
The document proposes that KRI civil servant salaries be paid monthly through the Trade Bank of Iraq, as with Iraqi public sector workers in other parts of the country.
Kurdish public sector workers have not received their salaries for August and September, leading to strikes by thousands of teachers demanding regular payments.
The KDP, citing articles of the constitution, say bypassing the KRG for salary distribution is unconstitutional.
The Iraqi PM's office has not issued any statement on the meeting yet.
US ambassador criticized for sponsoring 'immoral' festival in Baghdad
More evidence of the Iraqi political scene's religious reactionary turn: Several Iraqi politicians have criticized an international festival that took place last week in Baghdad's Green Zone, labeling it "immoral" due to the attire of some female attendees.
US Ambassador Alina Romanowski faced criticism from Shia militia leader Abu Ali Al-Askari, a top security official in the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah, for sponsoring the event. Romanowski shared a message on social media platform X, congratulating the organizers and noting that "music unites us all through its celebration of culture and commonalities."
The event drew hundreds of artists and media figures from Iraq and other Arab countries, receiving special coverage on al-Iraqiya TV, an arm of the state Iraqi Media Network.
Ammar Al-Hakim, leader of the National Wisdom Movement, voiced his disapproval, stating that celebrations "should not include behaviors that conflict with Iraqi traditions, societal norms, and moral standards. The incidents during the Iraqi National Day celebrations at Celebration Square in Baghdad were unacceptable."
Sobhan Mulla Jiyad, a political advisor to the Iraqi Prime Minister, responded to the controversy by emphasizing that the Iraqi government was not involved in organizing the Iraq International Festival. The event, backed by private sponsors, was orchestrated by artist Shatha Hassoun. Originally scheduled for September 29, the festival was postponed because of the Qaraqosh fire incident and later coincided with Iraqi National Day.
Jiyad remarked that some exploited the festival "for political aims against the present government, despite it having no association with the Iraqi National Day."
While Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Ahmed Al-Asadi, was the only government official present, other politicians did not hesitate to chastise the government over the event.
Mahmoud Al-Rubaeay of Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and member of the Iraqi communications and media authority commented that many perceived the festival "as an offense to Iraq and its people, showcasing behavior deemed against societal standards. Such events will be addressed. Holding officials accountable can serve as a deterrent against future occurrences."
The attire of some women drew ire from social media users who referred to much of it as "semi-nude."
The KRG has postponed a scheduled meeting with the Iraqi Parliament's Finance Committee set for Thursday, citing the ongoing audit of civil servant salaries and local revenues as the reason for the delay.
The meeting was intended to be part of ongoing discussions between Erbil and Baghdad on various issues, including the salaries of civil servants in the KRI, as well as pensions, social welfare coverage, non-oil revenues, and earnings from unofficial border crossings.
The KRG's Finance Ministry requested the meeting be rescheduled, stating that its finance minister is currently preoccupied with auditing tasks.
According to Zamen Press, affiliated with the Change Movement (Gorran), the topics originally slated for discussion in the meeting were:
Non-oil revenues and unofficial border crossings.
The volume of oil not transferred from Kurdistan to the Iraqi Ministry of Oil.
Challenges hindering the implementation of Articles 12 and 13 of the General Budget Law for 2023, 2024, and 2025, covering the following points:
Submission of all revenue and expenditure figures to the Iraqi Ministry of Finance.
Inclusion of the revenue from loans granted to the Kurdistan Region in the balance sheet.
Salaries for employees and pensioners in the Kurdistan Region, as well as those receiving social welfare benefits.
The number of KRG employees registered with the Iraqi Ministry of Planning.
Implementation of budgetary guidelines concerning the review of oil license contracts.
5. October 2023 14:30
YPG denies Ankara blast involvement
In the wake of Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan's remarks attributing a recent suicide bombing in Ankara to forces trained in Syria, People's Defense Units (YPG) spokesperson Nuri Mahmmoud has strongly denied any involvement.
Mahmoud countered the Turkish claim in a statement to Sharpress, saying, "What Hakan Fidan and Turkish government officials say about northern and eastern Syria being linked to Ankara's attack is not true."
He argued that this is an internal Turkish issue, perpetuated by the ruling MHP and AKP parties, who, according to him, are looking to externalize their domestic problems. "They always throw these accusations on northern and eastern Syria in order to further occupy Syrian territory," he added.
Iraq announces deal on closure of all unofficial KRI border crossings
Omar Al-Waeli, the head of Iraq's Border Ports Authority, announced on Thursday an agreement with the Kurdistan Region to shut down all unofficial border crossings.
Waeli emphasized that these informal outlets pose a substantial threat to the Iraqi economy and negatively impact the promotion of local agricultural and industrial goods.
A Done Deal
In an interview with Al-Sumaria News, Waeli stated that a higher committee has been set up per government directives to address this issue with the Kurdistan Region's officials. "We reached an agreement to close these outlets through a joint committee," he confirmed. Ongoing meetings aim to establish mechanisms to align the region's crossings with those of the federal government, with Waeli mentioning that "alternative measures" would be applied should these efforts not yield results.
Control over and revenues from the KRI border crossings have long been contentious issues between Erbil and Baghdad, complicating the implementation of the Iraqi Federal Budget Law.
Waeli also revealed that there are about 20 crossings and 8 unofficial outlets in the Kurdistan Region. "In the coming days, we hope to reach final solutions that will ensure seamless communication and the enforcement of federal procedures related to customs tariffs, product protection, and pre-inspections," he added.
Why It Matters
The closure of unofficial border crossings between the Kurdistan Region, Iran, and Turkey holds substantial implications for the Iraqi economy. These unofficial outlets not only undermine the market for local agricultural and industrial products but also facilitate illicit activities like drug trafficking, which has seen a recent uptick.
Closing these outlets could reinforce economic integrity, bolster regulatory compliance, and enhance national security. Furthermore, since ports and crossings account for a notable 12% of Iraq's economic output and are estimated to waste approximately $15 billion annually, streamlining their operation could bring substantial economic benefits.
5. October 2023 14:10
IS claims targeted attack on election candidate in Diyala
The Islamic State group (IS) has claimed responsibility for wounding an election candidate and one of his companions in a targeted attack in Diyala province, eastern Iraq.
In a statement released via its Telegram channels on October 4, IS said the incidentin al-Miqdadiyah region, involved an IS "security squadron" armed with machine guns.
The targeted candidate was described as being affiliated with the Shia-dominated Popular Mobilisation Forces and participating in the upcoming "polytheist" elections.
The provincial elections in Iraq are scheduled for November 6.
5. October 2023 13:01
Teacher strike ongoing in Sulaymaniyah
Teachers in Sulaymaniyah province continue their boycott over delayed salaries as some continued their protests outside schools.
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.
Teachers are not backing down despite urgent calls from the KRG to return to classrooms.
In fact, they seems to be doubling down as some decided to go on a March in Qaladze town.
Contract teachers have also been protesting calling for permanent positions.
Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani has told Patrick Durrell, advisor to the French president on Middle East and North African affairs, that Erbil remains ready to address concerns with Baghdad following the constitution and the federal system. The statement comes amid attempts by Kurdish representatives in Baghdad to set up direct federal payments for the Kurdistan Region public sector workers, a move the KDP considers to be unconstitutional.
According to a statement on the presidency's website, the two discussed the anticipated trip of French President Emmanuel Macron to Iraq, France's ties with both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, and the domestic situation within Iraq. Both emphasized the significance of France’s relationship with Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, highlighting France’s active role in the global coalition against ISIS. They also underscored the critical nature of French government backing for Iraq during this period.
5. October 2023 11:37
Here is the contentious on-air quote that has regulators, militias, and politicians up in arms
“After Mr. [Sadr] announced a campaign for reforms, promising to build 3,000 schools, all we’ve seen is an effort to establish a single library. Merely a place to sit, read, and organize books. He had asserted that Chinese or Thai companies would construct these 3,000 schools. However, to date, there’s no evidence of progress. No schools have been built, no government initiatives have been set in motion, and it seems he’s just sitting at home, in his library, reading.”
Regulators seem to have shut down an entire television news channel, militias are believed to have kidnapped an anchor (and handing him over to anti-terror forces), and lawyers appear to have initiated legal proceedings, all over a mere insinuation that Sadr is a hobbyist librarian and avid book reader.
Vital to note Sadr's political wing isn't even in office and had his MPs resign en masse after being shut out of government formation talks.
5. October 2023 11:35
Baghdadiya says sources told them the Sadr militiamen handed Dahbawi over to an 'anti-terrorism force close to Sudani.'
5. October 2023 11:31
There are also reports that a lawsuit has been filed against the Baghdadiya anchor Dahbawi for 'insulting' Sadr
This is the last post up on the Baghdadiya website as of this morning. It's from last night:
A group of 20 armed men affiliated with the Sadrist movement kidnapped Dr. Ali Al-Dahbawi, the host of the "Studio Nine" program, from his residence and transported him to an undisclosed location.
Al-Baghdadiya Channel holds the Peace Brigades responsible for the kidnapping and the safety of Dahbawi. This incident took place against the backdrop of ongoing demonstrations by Sadrist supporters. Since yesterday, dozens have been protesting outside the headquarters of Al-Baghdadiya Channel in Al-Waziriya, aiming to influence the channel's content and curtail freedom of speech.
Despite these challenges, Al-Baghdadiya Channel remains committed to its mission of opposing injustice, corruption, and militia influence.
5. October 2023 11:22
On Thursday, Turkish Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar announced that the pipeline transporting oil from the Kurdistan Region and Kirkuk is operational as of Wednesday.
Shafaq News website reported that Bayraktar said that Turkey is prepared to resume shipments following a nearly six-month hiatus. Turkish news channel NTV (hat tip Shafaq) quoted Bayraktar as stating, "There are now no obstacles to shipping Iraqi oil to global markets."
The Association of the Petroleum Industry of Kurdistan (Apikur), representing five International Oil Companies (IOCs), warned that even with the Iraq-Turkey pipeline (ITP) ready to restart, its member companies might not recommence oil exports without explicit payment assurances. This concern arises from a longstanding issue related to the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) independent oil exports, which are conducted via favorable production sharing contracts (PSCs) with IOCs, separate from the Baghdad government.
Yesterday, Reutersreported that talks are still 'ongoing'.
"We have further meetings soon and things will be more clear on how serious is Turkey to show some flexibility," an Iraqi oil official told Reuters.
Well, the pipelines being ready means very little if agreements on details have not been reached and IOCs themselves are not willing to restart exports.
5. October 2023 11:09
The Iraqi federal parliament will convene today to summon KRG and Iraqi officials for questioning over Kurdistan Region finances
It comes as the KRG finance minister delays a meeting with the Iraqi parliament's finance committee
Turkey issues thinly-veiled warning against PUK cooperation with PKK