Live: Sadr calls for pro-Palestine marches

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Iraqi PM’s full statement during the weekly cabinet meeting on the latest developments in Israel:

The Iraqi government has expressed its stance on the events taking place in occupied Palestine. This stance reaffirms Iraq's consistent position on the Palestinian issue and the struggle of the Palestinian people.

The uprising or action that occurred is a natural outcome due to the significant injustice inflicted upon the Palestinian people over the past period, including ongoing violations and transgressions at Al-Aqsa Mosque, settlement policies, and crimes committed against the Palestinian people.

Unfortunately, these crimes and violations have been met with silence and neglect from the international community. As a result, the Palestinian people have lost faith in the international system, including the charters governing the United Nations and the Security Council, and international treaties that should limit this Zionist recklessness toward Palestinian rights.

As a government, we have also made our political stance clear through statements and positions, which reflect the views of our people.

Our efforts continue in communicating at the level of our contacts with leaders, and also the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' engagement with Arab and Islamic countries. There is ongoing discussion that may lead to the convening of an Arab League summit or a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

What concerns us now is halting this escalation for fear of slipping into a dangerous level of security repercussions that could create disastrous conditions in the region.

بالفيديو/ رئيس مجلس الوزراء: موقف الحكومة تجاه الاحداث في فلسطين المحتلة هو تأكيد لموقف العراق الثابت تجاه القضية الفلسطينية ونضال الشعب الفلسطيني. ••••• المكتب الإعلامي لرئيس مجلس الوزراء 9- تشرين الأول-2023

Teachers facing pressure to end boycott

 The Sulaymaniyah branch of the Kurdistan Teachers' Syndicate released a statement in support of striking teachers, urging school principals not to pressure them into resuming work.

The statement follows news that multiple teachers from Bardarash town in Sulaymaniyah were dismissed due to their participation in the boycott.

Teachers, primarily in Sulaymaniyah province, have been striking for several weeks over unpaid salaries, affecting thousands of students who are missing educational instruction for the new year.

\The core demands of the teachers include payment of unpaid salaries for August and September, which KRG has not yet been able to fulfill, and the provision of permanent contracts for thousands of teachers currently on temporary agreements with the ministry.

KRG Deputy PM Qubad Talabani met with Christiane Hohmann, Germany's recently appointed ambassador to Iraq. It comes hot on the heels of her meetings with the KDP's Masrour and Nechirvan Barzani, PM and President, respectively. 

PUK Media states that Talabani congratulated Hohmann on her new assignment and expressed hope for the enhancement of relations between the Kurdistan Region and Germany during her tenure.

One of the primary points of discussion, as per PUK Media, was the Kurdistan Region's ongoing challenges with Baghdad, particularly surrounding the implementation of the budget law. Talabani was quoted saying, "We are currently endeavoring to identify a suitable resolution to effectively address the challenges and the citizens of the region should not be left without a budget and their salaries."

Talabani's appreciation of Germany's consistent support for the Kurdistan Region was also highlighted in the report. The Deputy Prime Minister acknowledged German aid in various initiatives led by his office, which encompassed areas like revenue diversification, economic reform, and tourism development.

Furthermore, PUKMedia reported that the meeting delved into the reforms within the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs. Talabani shed light on reunification efforts within the Peshmerga forces and acknowledged Germany's contributions to the Kurdistan Regional Government during different stages of this endeavor over recent years.


Recap of reactions from Iraq on the developments in Israel:

  • It is unsurprising that the pro-Iran PMF expressed “complete support” for Hamas's attack on Israel, stating they have been “following with pride and honor the valiant Palestinian resistance’s victory.”
  • We highlighted Sadr’s call for a large rally throughout Iraq in support of Palestine next Friday.
  • Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and militia leader Hadi al-Ameri voiced their support for Hamas's operation, during which hundreds of civilians were killed.
  • Qais Al-Khazali, the leader of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq, commended Hamas's actions in a tweet, indicating a willingness to be actively involved rather than merely observers.
  • PMF-linked Sabereen News on Telegram displayed images of Iraqis celebrating in support of Hamas's operation in the central province of Karbala.
  • Iraqi PM Sudani discussed the latest developments with King Abdullah of Jordan. The two leaders emphasized "the significance of maintaining Arab and Islamic unity, taking immediate steps to de-escalate the situation, and collaborating to halt the ongoing violations committed by the occupation authorities against the Palestinian people, which have been the primary cause of the heightened tensions in the Palestinian territories. They emphasized the importance of upholding international resolutions that have been disregarded by the Zionist entity and continuing regional and international endeavors to restore the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and establish their independent state with Al-Quds as its capital."

Sulaymaniyah official released on bail

Kareem Ali, a member of the Sulaymaniyah Provincial Council, was released on bail after being detained for remarks about illegal activities at a border point controlled by the PUK between Iraq and Iran.

Ali, a member of the Change Movement (Gorran), was taken into custody under laws on misuse of communications and mobile technologies. The complaint that led to his detention was issued by the KRG’s Ministry of Finance, which is led by a fellow Gorran member Awat Sheikh Janab.

Ali's attorney, Kawa Latif, has rejected all charges against him, asserting that the law being used to charge his client is not pertinent to the case.

Ali had discussed what he alleged to be illicit operations at the Parwez Khan border crossing during an interview with Rudaw: "On August 11, a committee from the Iraqi Ministry of Finance inspected the Parwez Khan border crossing. During their visit, several tankers were concealed from the committee. Around 700 to 800 tankers pass into Iran daily. These tankers, operated by various companies, transport oil and refinery waste. Documents indicate that on the committee's arrival day, these tankers vanished from the vicinity and were moved to the Iranian side. People close to the border checkpoint were advised to steer clear of visible roads. The goods transported through this crossing are illicit and smuggled. If not, why are they kept hidden from the committee?"

The matter of revenue from the PUK-controlled border crossing has long been a point of contention, both between the PUK and KDP, and between Baghdad and Erbil, primarily due to transparency concerns. Although the PUK launched a transparency initiative through a website titled “Shafafiyat” (meaning "transparency"), both the KDP and Baghdad have voiced apprehensions about the overall transparency of the Kurdistan Region’s border revenue, not just those managed by the PUK.

Iran and Iraq discuss border security

Iraqi and Iranian foreign ministers discussed border security issues Sunday, focusing on the recent security agreement concerning the fate of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups. According to a press release from Iraq's foreign ministry, specifics were limited. However, Iranian reports suggest Tehran is dissatisfied with the progress.

Earlier reports indicated Tehran expects Baghdad to take more action regarding opposition groups, including relocating them to camps.

On Saturday, Fars News Agency reported that Maj. Gen. Mohammad Baqeri, chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, stated that while the "separatist groups" have moved away from the Iran-Iraq border, their actions remain inadequate. "This is a significant move, but it remains insufficient," Baqeri said.

In the past, Iran has expressed its desire for opposition fighters to be expelled and their leaders extradited to Tehran.

Referring to the movements of “terrorists” across the borders of Sistan and Baluchistan Province and the Kurdistan Region, Baqeri asked, “What does it mean when Iranian separatist groups are based in Iraqi Kurdistan and commit various acts of terror in our country? Why must we keep a significant force at the border? Iraqi officials agree this issue needs a definitive solution. In last month's March agreement, the secretaries of the Supreme National Security Councils of Iran and Iraq resolved that these groups would be completely disarmed within six months. While the Iraqi government has made efforts in recent weeks, moving these groups from their bases near our border, the primary agreement wasn't solely about relocating these separatist groups. It focused on their complete disarmament, which remains our priority.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his Iraqi counterpart, Fuad Hussein, stressed the importance of Islamic nations uniting to support the "marginalized Palestinian people," according to a statement from the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Sunday.

Discussing the conflict between Israel and Gaza over the phone, both ministers called for an urgent session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to address the current situation in Palestine and offer support to the Palestinian people and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Amir-Abdollahian pushed for "coordinated and meaningful actions" by Muslim nations to help Palestinians and halt Israeli attacks "targeting women and children in Gaza and the West Bank." He highlighted the "legitimate right of the Palestinian people to resist occupation," describing the Hamas assault on Israel as a "spontaneous action by Palestinian resistance groups" and a "justified response to the ongoing aggression and extremist actions by Israel." Emphasis ours. 

Two things on that last line:

  1. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Iranians not only provided logistical and planning support for this incursion over many months but also gave the green light for it to commence in a Beirut meeting last week. If the report is true (Iran has denied it) then it's hardly a 'spontaneous action.'
  2. On the 'justified response' line: Again, Scores of civilians in Israel were rounded up and taken across into Gaza as hostages. Many more were killed where they stood.

Regarding the phone call, a statement on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, from the office of Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, Fouad Hussein, read:

"Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fouad Hussein, received a call from the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. They discussed the evolving situation in the Palestinian territories. Both ministers emphasized the need for an urgent meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation ministers to review the ongoing conflict and its implications. The conversation also touched on bilateral issues and the security agreement between the two nations."

Sadr calls for Baghdad demos in solidarity with Palestine

Prominent Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called for a large-scale demonstration in central Baghdad's Tahrir Square to show solidarity with Palestinians and 'condemn Israel's actions.'

'Israel's actions' were in response to a surprise Hamas incursion into Israel that has left hundreds of civilians dead, including over partygoers 200 reportedly massacred at an outdoor overnight music festival. 

In a statement on Twitter, Sadr underscored the need for Iraqis to protest peacefully, saying, "It's our duty as Iraqis, resisters of the U.S. occupation and supporters of the Palestinian cause, to hold peaceful demonstrations." He urged a unified gathering in Tahrir Square to "raise the voice of jihad from the Baghdad sky" and garner international attention.

He said the rally, aiming for one million attendees, is scheduled for next Friday after the weekly Friday prayers throughout Iraq.

Two down, one to go

Now Hohmann is meeting PM Masrour Barzani. 

Same talking points as the readout with Nechirvan Barzani so no point repeating them again.

Baghdad auditing committee in Erbil

A joint financial auditing team from Baghdad and Erbil was busy on Monday reviewing data on the Kurdistan Region's public sector employees and pensioners.

On Sunday, the KRG Finance Ministry announced the arrival of the Financial Auditing Committee delegation from Baghdad and said the audit is at the request of the Iraqi government to review the numbers of KRI public sector employees and their salaries. A report will then be submitted to Baghdad.

KRG Finance Minister Awat Sheikh Janab emphasized the need for cooperation and coordination between his ministry and Baghdad.

Last week, a scheduled meeting with the Iraqi Parliament's Finance Committee was postponed. Reports indicated the ongoing audit of public sector salaries and local revenues as the reason for the delay.

Erbil faces pressure to pay August salaries as Kurdish lawmakers in Baghdad and some political parties seek a new arrangement for distributing salaries and pensions. The proposal involves direct payment from Baghdad, bypassing Erbil's treasury. This has raised concerns over the KRG's weakening position. The KDP described it as unconstitutional and an attempt to undermine Erbil and the Kurdistan Region as an autonomous entity.

Pro-KDP media outlet Kurdistan 24 reported that Monday's audit involves three ministries: education, health, martyr affairs. It also includes the Directorate General of Pensioners.

The data concerning the number of public sector employees and pensioners has been contentious for years. Baghdad contends that Erbil's figures are inflated. Erbil claims to have over 1.3 million on its payroll, while Baghdad estimates the real number to be around 660,000. 

While there's a temporary agreement between Erbil and Baghdad in which the Iraqi government is providing three installments of a 700 billion Iraqi dinar loan (approximately $535 million), it's uncertain how the KRG plans to address salary payments for the remainder of the year, given that only July payments have been made.

Hunar Jamal, a spokesman for the KRG's Ministry, stated on Sunday that the KRG employee data "is largely clear to Baghdad. The outstanding issue is the number of pensioners and social welfare beneficiaries. We have all the necessary data and will provide it."

President Barzani meets with new German ambassador

Hohmann and Barzani
Hohmann and Barzani   credit: Kurdistan Region Presidency

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani recently met with the newly appointed German Ambassador to Iraq, Christiane Hohmann, accompanied by a delegation of German diplomats and military officials.

In their meeting, President Barzani congratulated Ambassador Hohmann on her appointment and discussed the mutual satisfaction both parties feel about the current state of relations between Germany and the Kurdistan Regional Government. They also touched upon expanding areas of cooperation between Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.

While both sides emphasized the need to improve Iraq's security situation, they concurrently highlighted that Islamic State remains a significant threat. President Barzani expressed gratitude for Germany's military and humanitarian support to both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.

Further discussions in the meeting revolved around the political dynamics in Iraq, emphasizing the importance of implementing the federal system for Iraq's stability. Trade expansion between Germany, Iraq, and the Kurdistan Region and the diversification of revenue sources in Iraq were also focal points of the conversation.

Who is Christiane Hohmann?

Prior to her appointment in Iraq, Hohmann served as the EU Ambassador to Albania. Reflecting on her tenure in Albania during an interview with Klan TV, she expressed regret at not having more time in the country to see its full beauty and engage with more of its people. Hohmann lauded Albania's dynamics, its progress towards the European Union, and the ongoing efforts for reforms, especially in combating corruption.

During her tenure in Albania, she was deeply involved in overseeing EU integration processes, the screening process for Albania's entry into the EU, and monitoring the country's judicial reforms. Hohmann also discussed the challenges related to the implementation of medical cannabis legislation in Albania and emphasized the importance of by-laws in ensuring lawful use.

As she transitions into her new role in Iraq, Hohmann brings with her a rich diplomatic history and insights from her time in Albania. When asked about her new assignment in Iraq, Hohmann acknowledged the challenges awaiting in the post-conflict nation but also expressed excitement about the potential developments.


Morning briefing

Hello. We'll keep this briefing short today

The PUK leader is selecting members of his party's politburo today, having inaugurated the new-look leadership council yesterday.

Stay tuned for more on that and all the other stories throughout the day.