From left to right: KDP politburo secretary Fazil Mirani; Sherri Talabani and KRG Deputy PM Qubad Talabani; former British Chancellor of the Exchequer and ethnic Kurd Nadhim Zahawi

Live: Main speeches get underway at Duhok’s MEPS Forum

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Here is the translation of the rationale behind the FSC’s decision published on the court’s website on Sunday. The court also shared the full document in Arabic
credit: Screen grab of first page of FSC's document
The principles issued by the Federal Supreme Court in ruling No. 9\Federal\2023 dated 11/14/2023:

1. The act of any party leader forcing his candidates to submit resignation requests, retain them, and use them at will violates the constitutional principles and values, and the provisions of Articles (5, 6, 14, 16, 17, 20, 39, and 50) of the Constitution. This represents a major deviation in the democratic process from its correct path, which is not familiar to most parliaments of the world, and in no way can the will of the people, represented by the Iraqi Council of Representatives, be reduced to the personality of the Speaker of Parliament.

2. The Federal Supreme Court has the authority to rule on ending the membership of a deputy in the House of Representatives whose membership has ended according to the law and to disclose this in accordance with its ruling decision if he violates his constitutional and legal obligations based on the provisions of the Constitution and the law, especially the law of the House of Representatives and its formations. At the forefront of these violations is breaking the constitutional oath, and the Federal Supreme Court has absolute discretionary power in assessing this according to the facts, evidence, and investigations conducted by it.

3. The jurisdiction of the Federal Supreme Court in deciding on the challenge to the validity of the MP’s membership, and the ruling issued in this regard, creates the termination of membership, not merely revealing it, unlike its jurisdiction to rule on the termination of the MP’s membership in application of the provisions of Article (12) of the House of Representatives and its Formations Law No. (13) for the year 2018, which reveals the situation of termination of membership established by law. The defendant, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, used resignation requests submitted by the plaintiff after he misrepresented and altered them, which necessitates the termination of his membership.

4. It is not possible to rely on the provisions of Article (52) of the Constitution when it is proven that a member of Parliament has committed constitutional and legal violations, especially breaking the oath stipulated in Article (50) of the Constitution, as his continued membership in the Council is not possible, which requires a ruling to terminate and cancel his membership.

Iraq's Federal Supreme Court has firmly defended its decision to revoke the membership of Muhammad Al-Halbousi. This decision was based on the assessment that Halbousi's actions, specifically forcing a deputy to resign, were in violation of constitutional principles and obligations, the court has said.

In a detailed statement, the court highlighted that such actions by any party leader, including the forced resignation of members of parliament, are inconsistent with the values enshrined in several articles of the Iraqi Constitution. These include Articles 5, 6, 14, 16, 17, 20, 39, and 50. The court emphasized that these actions represent a significant deviation from democratic norms and undermine the representation of the Iraqi people in the Council of Representatives.

The court's statement further clarified that it holds the authority to terminate an individual's membership if they act contrary to their constitutional and legal duties, particularly if they violate the constitutional oath. It stressed that the court possesses absolute discretion to evaluate such violations, taking into consideration the facts and evidence presented.

Additionally, the court's decision also included the termination of membership for Laith al-Dulaimi, a rival lawmaker. While the statement issued by the court on Tuesday announced this decision, it initially did not provide specific reasons for revoking their memberships.
China's exports to Iraq have seen a significant increase, surpassing $10 billion as of September 2023, according to a report by the Future Iraq Foundation for Economic Studies and Consultations. The Al-Mada daily reported on Monday that these exports, which include a major component of electrical appliances, reached $10.7 billion by the end of September, an 11.5% rise from the $9.6 billion during the same period last year.

The value of electrical appliances exported to Iraq rose to $2.14 billion, marking a 34% increase from the previous year. Additionally, China's iron exports to Iraq grew by 39%. However, there was a 5% decline in the export of electronic devices over the same period.

This growth underscores China's role as Iraq's leading trade partner, with annual trade volumes exceeding $50 billion.

Boris Johnson entering the building, with his last chancellor in tow

If you recall, Boris Johnson made Nadhim Zahawi chancellor after his two most powerful cabinet ministers resigned in unison last year. 

If Johnson thought giving Zahawi the second most powerful post in government (after the PM themselves) would buy his loyalty, he had another thing coming. Within around 24 hours, Zahawi was writing open letters to Boris calling for his resignation.

Water under the bridge, we suppose

Just in: Sudani rejects resignations of ministers from Halbousi's party

This from the Prime Minister Sudani's spokesperson:

"The government emphasizes its commitment to political representation for all national components and political affiliations and in line with the commitment to support political stability without compromising societal cohesion, and to create a stable environment for the implementation of the government's program of construction and development, the Prime Minister Mr. Mohammed S. Al-Sudani has rejected the resignations of the Ministers of Planning, Industry, and Culture. Consequently, they will resume their duties in service of our beloved people."

More on the ousting of Halbousi

The situation regarding the ex-speaker of the Iraqi House of Representatives involves Mohammed Al-Halbousi exploring legal options to reclaim his position. Al-Mada daily reports that if his domestic legal efforts fail, he might resort to international tribunals. Amidst this, Sunni political parties are showing interest in the Speaker's position, particularly as Halbousi's Taqadum party, the largest Sunni bloc in parliament, asserts its right to the role.

Competition among Sunni blocs is intensifying, with up to six individuals, five being Halbousi's rivals, proposed by their blocs as potential candidates for the Speaker's post. To be elected, a candidate must secure the support of more than half of the parliament members.

Further developments include Salam Ajami, a Taqdum politician, emphasizing that the Speaker's position should reflect the will of the people, indicating a potential appeal to public opinion. The Ministry of Interior's recent arrest of 37 armed men in Anbar Governorate for threatening citizens underscores the tense political atmosphere. These arrests and reports of demonstrations in the Karma district, Halbousi’s stronghold, in response to his dismissal, reflect the complex and potentially volatile nature of current Iraqi politics.

Given the circumstances, it's unlikely that Halbousi has any viable recourse to overturn a decision by the Supreme Court, even if he views it as punitive and lacking sound legal or constitutional justification. The Supreme Court, being the highest judicial authority, typically represents the final stage in legal disputes, leaving little room for further domestic legal challenges. Halbousi's mention of appealing to international tribunals and his broader rhetoric might be more about addressing his local Sunni Arab constituency than about pursuing serious legal avenues. This approach suggests a strategy aimed at maintaining political support and influence rather than a feasible plan to challenge the Supreme Court's decision through international or alternative legal mechanisms.


China says it's dedicated to aiding Iraq's post-war economic recovery

China is committed to aiding Iraq's post-war economic recovery and deepening bilateral cooperation, according to Mao Ning, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Speaking to Rudaw's Beijing correspondent, Mahdi Faraj, Ning emphasized China's ongoing efforts to strengthen practical cooperation across various sectors with Iraq, aiming for sustained and progressive developments in these collaborations. Ning's comments were made in the context of the transition of operations from U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil to China's PetroChina in the Qurna oil field in Basra. 

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Iraq had finalized a settlement agreement with Exxon Mobil, enabling PetroChina to become the leading contractor at the West Qurna 1 oilfield. Ning further noted, "China and Iraq enjoy a friendly relationship. As a sincere friend of the Iraqi people, China has actively participated in Iraq's economic reconstruction, contributing positively to its economic and social development. This has garnered widespread appreciation from both the Iraqi government and its people."

PUK spokesperson hopeful KDP-PUK relations are improving

Saadi Ahmed Pira, speaking to KDP's Kurdistan 24, noted that relations have progressed since the parties' politburo meeting earlier this month. He cited today's MEPS Forum as a further step in this direction. Notably, KDP deputy leader and KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and PUK leader Bafel Talabani were seen sitting close to each other, with only Nechirvan Barzani between them, marking a significant moment of proximity for the two rivals in recent months. Despite the dominant faction within the KDP, led by Masrour Barzani, showing reluctance to acknowledge Talabani's rise to leadership, both parties have made multiple attempts to ease tensions. Key issues of contention include security, revenue sharing, and election laws.

Former British PM Tony Blair with a (very short) video address 

Clocking in at 1 minute and 40 seconds, with what seemed like the majority of which was dedicated to thanking the organizers and Masrour Barzani for the invite and apologizing for not being able to make it in person.
"The solution is returning to the principles of balance and equity."

Now it's back to the more familiar ground of Iraqi constitutional violations

"Our experience of the 20 years since liberation would have been far more positive if the constitution was implemented as written and federalism – which was voted for by citizens – was fully implemented."
"The whole world should be working on halting the fighting."

"The two-state solution is the only solution to stopping the unending crisis."

'Fighting will never be a solution to any problems'

President Nechirvan Barzani
President Nechirvan Barzani  
"It may temporarily halt the crisis but the underlying causes will deepen and fester."
"We in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region must be as vigilant as ever in responding. But we must not let Iraq slide into the fray which will deepen its many crises."
"The widening of the war between Israel and Hamas and the involvement of other regional and global powers will deepen the crisis."

More focus on the war in Gaza

"This year's forum coincides with a war that threatens the region's peace and stability."

Nechirvan Barzani begins his speech by giving a special welcome to PUK leader Bafel Talabani specifically

Ever the diplomat..
From left to right: KDP politburo secretary Fazil Mirani; Sherri Talabani and KRG Deputy PM Qubad Talabani; former British Chancellor of the Exchequer and ethnic Kurd Nadhim Zahawi
From left to right: KDP politburo secretary Fazil Mirani; Sherri Talabani and KRG Deputy PM Qubad Talabani; former British Chancellor of the Exchequer and ethnic Kurd Nadhim Zahawi  
Masrour Barzani also pointed out what he deems moral inconsistency between calls for Palestinian statehood and rights compared to silence surrounding the same rights for Kurds.
Highlights from Masrour Barzani's speech

  • Urging a new approach to coexistence: Barzani emphasized the need for a fresh approach in how the Kurdistan region coexists with neighboring areas.
  • Addressing the war in Gaza: He commented on the devastating impact of the ongoing war in Gaza, highlighting the tragic effects on civilians, and stressed that such violence is not a solution.
  • Call for peaceful solutions: Barzani advocated for peaceful resolutions to disputes and emphasized understanding and respecting differences rather than resorting to war.
  • Highlighting inconsistencies in international responses: He noted the discrepancy in the international community's responses to different conflicts, citing the long-standing call for a two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis, while similar demands from Kurds have been largely ignored.
  • Climate change concerns: The Prime Minister addressed the severe implications of climate change for the Middle East, including food insecurity, water scarcity, and mass migration. He urged immediate action to manage carbon emissions and adapt to the changing climate.
  • Linking regional destinies: Barzani stressed the interconnectedness of regional destinies in the context of climate change, mentioning that the fate of places like Kuwait, Bahrain, and Basra are linked by a "common climate destiny."
  • Issues in Iraq: He expressed concern over recent developments in Iraq, including violations of the Iraqi Constitution and risks of destabilization and sectarianism. He warned against unilateral decisions and control by one group, which could lead to a return of instability.
  • Call for 'holistic' governance: Barzani suggested that a comprehensive approach to governance in Iraq is overdue, implying that addressing broader regional issues is necessary for stability.
  • Kurdistan is open and welcoming, says Barzani: In conclusion, he invited participants and the world to witness the economic progress and peaceful coexistence in the Kurdistan region, encouraging engagement and participation in the MEPS 2023 forum.

Hat-tip to Wladimir over at Kurdistan 24 for his remarkably quick write up.

5000 jobs promised at new industrial zone in Zakho


If that sounds like deja vu...

...It's because it is. The KRG quietly missed its previous ambitious deadline for ending gas flaring within 18 months more than 18 months ago. 
In this op-ed, Masrour Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, emphasizes the significant challenges posed by climate change, particularly in the Middle East. He points out the stark data regarding global warming and its dire consequences for the region, including temperature increases making parts of the Middle East uninhabitable, leading to mass migration. Barzani argues for a dual approach to addressing climate change: global efforts to reduce carbon emissions and local initiatives, such as increasing green energy usage and reforestation in Kurdistan.

He highlights Kurdistan's efforts to adapt, including agriculture prioritization and water security through building dams and reservoirs, and stresses the need for international collaboration. Barzani draws parallels between the collective effort needed to combat climate change and past successful cooperative efforts, like the fight against Islamic State, underscoring the urgency and scale of the climate challenge. 

He outlines specific initiatives his government plans to implement to tackle climate change. Key measures promised include:

1. Capturing flared gas: The KRG intends to capture more flared gas, a byproduct of oil production, which is currently being wasted and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

2. Reducing plastic dependence: Barzani emphasizes the government's commitment to reducing reliance on plastic wrappings, which pose environmental hazards by blocking rivers and disrupting ecosystems.

3. Promoting green energy: There is a focus on harnessing solar energy and other renewable sources. The KRG aims to integrate these into the regional power grid, moving away from traditional energy sources.

4. Reforestation initiatives: Barzani proposes reforestation as a means to restore the natural environment of Kurdistan, which has been depleted over the centuries. He highlights the ecological benefits of forests in creating microclimates and sustaining ecosystems.

KRG PM first dig at Zakho recycling centre 

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani (third from right)
Prime Minister Masrour Barzani (third from right)   credit: KRG Media office
They've set some lofty goals for the $23m project, which promises to recycle "80% of waste produced in the local area."
The Kurdistan Region is notoriously messy, with its verdant countryside literally (ahem) strewed with plastic waste that piles up on roadsides and blights the view as far as eyes can see.

It promises 150 jobs for locals.  

MEPS Forum getting underway in Duhok

The three day event at the American University of Kurdistan promises a stacked rooster of guests and keynote speakers, including two former British prime ministers.

We'll bring you all the best bits as they happen over the coming days.