Prime Minister Mohammed S. Al-Sudani met today, with Parliament Speaker Mohammed Al-Halbousi.
The meeting addressed recent political developments and focused on efforts to sustain political stability.
The Prime Minister emphasized the significance of dialogue and resolving emerging issues through communication among the political forces, which form the fundamental basis of the political process.
15. November 2023 13:07
Ousted speaker holds presser
Mohammad Al-Halbousi, the ousted speaker of parliament, criticized the federal court's decision to end his parliamentary membership, labeling it unconstitutional. In a Wednesday press conference, Halbousi questioned the legal process's integrity, stating, “If the concerned party violates the constitution, where do the litigants turn?” He argued that membership termination is legally valid only in cases of death, withdrawal, imprisonment, or illness, none of which apply to him.
Halbousi challenged the court's claims to jurisdiction over the matter, noting, “The court can only consider a representative's membership through Article 52 of the Constitution,” and that it cannot invalidate membership without a council decision. He accused the Federal Court of exceeding its jurisdiction, especially in cases involving the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Addressing accusations against himself, Halbousi dismissed claims of involvement with an American company as "a lie and slander," and criticized the court's overreach in several matters."
السومرية نيوز – سياسةاعتبر رئيس مجلس النواب محمد الحلبوسي المنتهية ولايته، اليوم الأربعاء، أن المحكمة الاتحادية لم تلتزم بالدستور عندما أصدرت قرار انهاء عضويته من البرلمان.
قناه السومرية العراقية
15. November 2023 12:16
Pentagon reported on Tuesday that U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria have faced 55 attacks since Oct. 17. Deputy Pentagon Spokeswoman Sabrina Singh, during a press briefing, detailed 27 incidents in Iraq and 28 in Syria.
Singh updated on the casualties, stating that 59 U.S. personnel have suffered injuries classified as traumatic brain injury (TBI) or non-serious. She noted that about 27 were evaluated for TBI and 32 for other minor injuries. All 59 have since returned to duty.
These remarks followed U.S. military strikes on Sunday targeting two locations in eastern Syria, believed to be used by Iran-backed groups.
15. November 2023 11:23
Pro-Iran forces reposition along Iraqi border with Syria
Reports indicate that factions loyal to Iran have repositioned along the Iraqi-Syrian border. According to Shafaq News citing Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, these militias have strategically moved in Syria's Deir Ezzor province, mainly on the Euphrates River's western banks.
The factions shifted their bases around Al-Mayadeen, Al-Bukamal's outskirts, and within Deir Ezzor city. The repositioning involved moving weapons and ammunition to safer locations, likely preparing for potential Israeli or U.S. strikes. This follows recent attacks on the militias and two U.S. airstrikes in Syria targeting Iran-aligned groups.
According to U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the strikes hit a training site near Albu Kamal and a safe house near Mayadeen. These developments come amid heightened tensions following U.S. base attacks in Iraq and Syria and the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.
شفق نيوز / أفادت مصادر إعلامية، يوم الأربعاء، بأن الفصائل المسلحة الموالية لإيران، عمدت خلال الساعات الفائتة إلى إجراء عمليات إعادة تموضع جديدة في مناطق نفوذها على الحدود العراقية السورية. ونقل "المر
15. November 2023 11:11
President Barzani meets French ambassador
Full statement in English:
President Nechirvan Barzani held a meeting with Mr. Éric Chevalier, France’s Ambassador to Iraq, earlier today.
Their discussion focused on the recent political developments in Iraq, the relationship between Erbil and Baghdad, and the efforts to resume oil exports from the Kurdistan Region. They also delved into France’s relations with both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, and exchanged perspectives on the situation in the Middle East and its impact and repercussions.
President Nechirvan Barzani welcomed the continuation of the ongoing talks between Erbil and Baghdad, aimed at resolving the outstanding issues. He also described the recent visit of the Iraqi Prime Minister and Oil Minister to Erbil as constructive and positive, emphasizing the Kurdistan Region’s commitment to resolving matters with the Iraqi Federal Government in accordance with the Constitution.
In light of the tensions in the Middle East, the two discussed efforts to prevent further escalation and stressed the importance of maintaining peace and stability in Iraq. They concurred that Iraq should not be drawn into the conflict and underscored the need to maintain the safety of coalition forces and diplomats.
Furthermore, President Nechirvan Barzani and Ambassador Chevalier touched upon the President’s recent visit to Paris and his meeting with President Emmanuel Macron. They also highlighted the relations between Iraq and the Kurdistan Region with neighboring countries, along with other issues of mutual interest.
15. November 2023 10:46
Video of missing academic Elizabeth Tsurkov surfaces in Iraq
Al-Rabia TV reported Monday that Elizabeth Tsurkov, an Israeli-Russian academic kidnapped in Baghdad in March, has appeared in a video. Al-Rabia, known for its ties to pro-Iran Iraqi militias, broadcast the footage. Tsurkov, unaccounted for since Kataib Hezbollah, aligned with Iran, reportedly kidnapped her, is visible for the first time since her disappearance.
In the video, Tsurkov speaks Hebrew, referencing the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The recording's date remains unclear. She says she worked for the CIA and Mossad in the U.S., Iraq, and Syria, saying, "I arrived in Iraq in the service of the Mossad and CIA and have been held for seven months. I served the country. Until now, nothing has happened." She expresses concern about the Israeli government's lack of action regarding her release.
However, a senior Israeli official cited by Israeli media denied that she's an Israeli agent.
According to BBC Monitoring, Tsurkov’s sister told Israel's Channel 12 News: "It seems that they literally told her word for word what she should say. Some of the syntax there is a bit unnatural for her, it doesn't flow so easily in Hebrew. I guess they gave her the text in Arabic."
In the video, Tsurkov criticizes the Israeli government's actions in Gaza, suggesting they could foster long-term animosity. She particularly criticizes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's leadership, arguing it could exacerbate the conflict.
Tsurkov, a critic of Israeli policies in Palestinian territories, last communicated via a tweet on March 21, sharing an article she wrote for the U.S.-based New Lines Institute. She is a fellow at this institute and a research fellow at the Forum for Regional Thinking, an Israeli-Palestinian think tank in Jerusalem. On her website, Tsurkov says her research aims to "understand and convey" Middle Eastern people's experiences and "highlight abuses by powerful actors, whether they are dictatorial regimes, armed groups, or foreign countries intervening in the region."
The context for KRG PM Masrour Barzani's tweet, "Today's ‘federal court’ decision is a farce," was in response to the supreme court rejecting Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani's executive order to hand over the KDP's Kirkuk HQ back to the party.
15. November 2023 09:52
Read this piece on the Washington Institute website for details on how pro-Iran forces have weaponized the supreme court to remake Iraqi politics in their image
Here's a sample:
At the very end of 2022, the muqawama abandoned direct challenges to the election’s results and hit upon a new and more successful strategy, centered on Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Court and its chief, Judge Faiq Zaidan. In a series of legal rulings between January and February 2022, the court shifted the goalposts for government formation, making it almost impossible to form a government without a super-majority, including the militias and the SCF. In a key February 2022 ruling, the Court effectively raised the required quorum in parliament to vote to choose a president and form a cabinet—reinterpreting Article 70 of the Iraq constitution which previously was understood to require a two-thirds majority of MPs present for the vote (parliament’s usual quorum requirement is a simple majority of total members). This handed the SCF and muqawama affiliates (a clear minority holding only 62 of 329 seats) the ability to effectively veto any choice—bringing Iraq to a political standstill. Muqawama politicians referred to their newfound power as “the blocking third”—the turning on its head of democracy in Iraq and a return to the minority rule last experienced under Saddam’s regime.
The piece has since been proven prescient, with the Iraqi supreme court fielding all sorts of cases that were previously situated solely within the domain of politics.
Do read the whole paper by Crispin Smith and Michael Knights below:
The slow-rolling regime change focused on capturing U.S.-supported institutions and turning them against U.S. interests, highlighting the threat that motivated, well-funded groups pose to developing democracies.
The Washington Institute
15. November 2023 09:47
The judicial approach is a new one, but Halbousi has been subject to threats and attacks before
Following reelection as speaker in 2022, his house was hit by a salvo of rockets. He has been repeatedly threatened by pro-Iran forces in Iraq and the rocket attack was also suspected by many to be initiated by forces on Iran's axis.
At least three rockets landed near a residence of the Iraqi parliament speaker in his native Anbar region on Tuesday as political wrangling, disappearances and threats from Iran-linked militias continue.
Al-Monitor: Independent, trusted coverage of the Middle East
15. November 2023 09:44
Indeed, two parliamentary officials told AP that there's no route for appeal
Two Iraqi parliamentary officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the matter said the court decision cannot be appealed and the parliament will need to elect a new speaker.
Iraq’s top court has ruled that the speaker and a rival lawmaker should be ousted from the country’s Parliament, following a high-profile feud between the two men.
15. November 2023 09:40
It's unclear how Halbousi intends to legally challenge a verdict by Iraq's top court. Then again, it wasn't clear the top court had the power to remove elected officials over what appear to be minor offenses on the scale of Iraqi abuses of power.
15. November 2023 09:32
In a major shift in Iraqi politics, the Taqadum Party announced its withdrawal from the government following the Federal Supreme Court's decision to revoke the parliamentary membership of its leader, Mohammed Al-Halbousi. This decision comes after allegations of document forgery against Halbousi, brought forth by Laith Al-Dulaimi, a former member of the Taqadum Party.
The Taqadum Party, the largest Sunni bloc in the parliament, has responded strongly. It stated its members would withdraw from key positions in the government and boycott legislative sessions, indicating a significant realignment in Iraqi politics. The party will also cease participation in meetings with the State Administration Coalition, signaling potential shifts among Iraq's political factions.
Halbousi, during a parliamentary session, expressed surprise at the court's decision, describing it as "strange." He hinted at plans to take legal steps to preserve constitutional rights, but did not elaborate further.
The political turmoil extends further with Deputy Bassem Khashan's announcement of a new lawsuit against Halbousi regarding the appointment of six advisors who allegedly did not meet legal requirements. Khashan's actions and his praise for the Federal Court's decision as a sign of its independence underscore the legal and political challenges Halbousi and other political forces not aligned to Iran face in Iraq where the supreme court is taking an increasingly activist role in politics. Khashan has accused Halbousi of constitutional violations and 'manipulations of the Council's will.'
Legal expert Salem Hawass pointed out to Shafaq News the constitutional requirement for an immediate election of a new Speaker following Halbousi's dismissal. This development is crucial ahead of the provincial council elections set for December 18, the first since 2013. The electoral commission's term expires on December 7, adding urgency to the parliamentary process.
Halbousi's removal, a former governor of the Sunni-majority Anbar province, marks a significant moment for Iraq's sectarian power-sharing system, where the parliament speaker is traditionally a Sunni.