Iraqi Kurdistan

Iraqi Kurdistan by Alistair Galloway

Turkey continued air raids in Northern Kurdistan targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Kurdistan is experiencing a rise in illegal gun sales and violence amongst citizens thought to be due to the influx of weapons used in the fighting against the Islamic State (IS). The Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) was happy to report the death of a senior IS leader following airstrikes in Mosul. Towards the end of the month Baghdad experienced a string of suicide car bombs that left many injured as well as many fatalities. Iraq also faces non- military security threats such as the imminent deterioration of the Mosul dam which is need of urgent repair. If left neglected floodwaters would put millions at risk. Kurdistan continues to enrich its foreign diplomatic relations with a delegation traveling to Russia this month to both meet with President Vladimir Putin as well as attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). A new political party affiliated with the PKK was founded in the Shingal province of Kurdistan after requesting official recognition from Baghdad. Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan continue to be major suppliers of oil. It was revealed that OPEC’s newest production cut would not include oil exports from the Kurdistan region. Although the Iraqi government recently authorized a project in Kurkuk, Kurdistan is facing a suit by a consortium of companies seeking financial compensation for delayed project starts in oil fields. If they are not paid they may be able to seize Kurdistan’s assets. Iran and Kurdistan continue to have good relations after officials in Tehran stated they would be open to create an oil pipeline leading from Kurdistan to Iran as well as in addition recently opening a fourth international border crossing. Human rights in Iraq and the Kurdistan region continue to be a key focus for officials domestically as well as international organizations. 

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Iraqi Kurdistan by Alistair Galloway

The Kurdistan Region’s ruling parties agreed to form a referendum committee. While no date is set, Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani hopes a vote regarding Kurdish independence will take place before the end of 2017. The head of the Shia Ruling Alliance of Iraq, thought by some Kurdish officials to be a supporter of the Kurdish cause, came out in support of Baghdad. Turkish military jets carried out strikes in northern Iraq and northeast Syria as a means to prevent the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) from sending terrorists, arms, and explosives to Turkey. Iraqi leaders as well as other prominent international political figures have claimed the strikes are a clear violation of Iraqi sovereignty even though Turkey claims the operation was within the scope of International Law. Relations are also a little tense with the Qatari government after they issued a complaint regarding millions of dollars wrongfully sized by Iraqi authorities. Iraq claims the funds, intended to be used to secure the release of Qataris kidnapped in 2015, were intended for armed groups within Iraq. Participation numbers for the Peshmerga have risen in the past 3 years since the war against the Islamic State (IS) first began. A senior Peshmerga official reported that the US State Department approved a $295.6 million weapons sale with aims to establish a unified wireless communication network. The Iraqi parliament will restore the Kurdish share of the health department’s medication and equipment budget after initially cutting them last month. The Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization (JHCO), in cooperation with the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army, sent a plane with humanitarian, medical, and in-kind ail to Iraq’s Kurdistan Region. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) resumed crude oil exports via the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline. Iraq sold its first cargo of Basra Light crude oil through an auction on the Dubai Mercantile Exchange underscoring Iraqi attempts to diversity its means of getting cash for crude oil. Iraq’s minister of Oil, Jabbar Luaibi, said that Iraq fulfilled its obligations to reduce oil output in accordance with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreement by 97%. The third and final phase of work to expand Iraq’s southern Halfaya oil field was launched. The expansion project intends to double its output capacity in 2018 to 400,000 barrels per day. The Iraqi Ministry of Electricity has plans to import power for Mosul and surrounding areas from the Kurdistan Region. Iraq’s Ministry of Transportation banned all cargo planes bound for the Kurdistan Region from landing directly in Kurdistan however, they quickly repealed the decision. A delegation from the Kurdistan Parliament visited the European Parliament in Strasbourg after a request to meet by the Council of European Union and European lawmakers to discuss Kurdistan’s economic and political crises. Kurdistan’s Ministry of Agriculture plans to set up a company in the Kurdistan Region to manufacture tractors in an attempt to aid the Region’s farming industry. 

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Iraqi Kurdistan by Alistair Galloway

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) delivered counter-Improvised explosive device equipment to Iraq’s Ministry of Interior in accordance with an agreement dating back to July 2015. Tensions between Kurdistan Region’s two main political factions continue to rise with Patriotic Union of Kurdistan forces storming an oil field in Kirkuk leading to a halt in oil production. The spotlight continues to be put on Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan concerning human rights in the wake of the Mosul offensive and general ongoing battle against Islamic State (IS). Secretary- General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres arrived in Iraq to discuss civilian protection and look closely at camps for IDPs. Dubai cares in conjunction with Unicef will proved Dh 3.8 million in funding to two schools in the Kurdistan Region to support education for refugee and displaced children. Germany also contributed aid to the Kurdistan Regional Government Ministry of Education to be distributed to teachers in different provinces. Talks between Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan and a representative of the Saudi Arabian King Salman Centre for Relief and Humanitarian aid to discuss humanitarian situation in Kurdistan. Despite positive engagement with Turkey and plans to open six new border crossings with the state via Kurdistan, a Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) group operation in Duhok province are accused of planning an attack against Turkey. US President Donald Trump, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and a representative for Iraqi Kurdistan met in Washington to discuss the global initiative against IS. US Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend stated he hopes for a long term American military presence in Iraqi Kurdistan. Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to investigate the use of lethal force against protestors in Sinjar. Construction of an extended railway is underway to connect Iran to the Syrian west coast on the Mediterranean Sea via the Kurdistan Region in Northern Iraq. The Governor of the Kirkuk Province Najmaldin Karim issued an order to enforce the use of the Kurdistan language alongside Arabic between the Iraqi federal government in Baghdad and the Erbil- based Kurdistan region as well as ordering official building to raise the Kurdish flag. Despite the large influx of injured military personnel from the Mosul offensive, the Iraqi government has decided to cut the Kurdistan Region’s cut of medical supplies. Due to low economic performance and a decline in oil production, Iraq, a major wheat and rice buyer, informed suppliers it will pay for goods in instalments. Beyond domestic economic troubles, Kurdistan’s continued issues with oil output is giving foreign investors trouble. Authorities are hopeful that a project to construct 20 new dams will address issues of drought in Kurdistan. Japan ended its project of building and equipping police stations across Kurdistan. 

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Iraqi Kurdistan by Alistair Galloway

The question of Kurdish independence continues to be a key topic of debate in Iraq, amongst economic troubles, the care of IDPs and refugees, as well as the ongoing battle against Islamic State (IS). Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildrium met with President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Masoud Barzani while visiting Iraq, to enhance ties between Turkey and the KRG. The KRG expressed discontent with the involvement of Baghdad backed Shi’ite Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in the liberation of Kirkuk from IS. Several IS members were arrested which prevented a planned attack on the city of Kirkuk. Germany’s Parliament voted to extend training missions of Kurdish Peshmerga. US President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring citizens from seven Muslim countries, one of which is Iraq, from obtaining American visas. KRG President Barzani attended the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos Switzerland, where he met with various world leaders and discussed ending conflict in Iraq and Syria. Belgium and Japan both signed agreements looking to establish Consulate Generals in Erbil. The Kurdistan Ministry of Higher Education reported dropping enrolment rates at private higher education institutions. It also announced a scholarship program for Hungarian students to study in Kurdistan over the 2017-2019 academic years. Kurdish business leaders and officials expressed concerns over Baghdad imposed taxes on imports of foreign goods into Kurdistan, which has affected Turkish imports in the autonomous region. Norwegian gas and oil operator DNO announced the discovery of oil in Peshkabir-2 well’s Cretaceous Horizon in the Peshkabir field, which is currently being drilled in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The KRG said it is close to resuming regular monthly payments to international oil companies as their depleted treasury is slowly restored. Truckloads of Kuwaiti medical aid weighing 10 tons arrived in Kurdistan to aid internally displaced Iraqis.

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Iraqi Kurdistan by Alistair Galloway

Iraqi Kurdistan continued to push for statehood as well as economic independence from Baghdad by rejecting the 2017 federal budget and refusing to cooperate with a new Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreement. Foreign governments such as Germany and Russia showed continued support for Kurdish forces but remained quiet on stances of Kurdish statehood. Kurdistan Regional Government President Barzani visited Washington to assess the incoming Presidential administration’s stance on US and Kurdish relations. United States (US) Defense Secretary Ash Carter made a visit to Baghdad to assess the Mosul Offensive. PKK forces in Sinjar finally agreed to leave after requests by both the US government and KRG. Iraqi troops resumed fighting in the Mosul-offensive after a two-week lull. Commanders were optimistic Mosul can be taken within the next few months. The Kurdish region received extensive foreign aid to help IDPs as well as address issues of clean water and waterborne disease. ExxonMobil cut its Kurdistan portfolio by half. Iraq continued to work to address the protection of journalists in the country as well as the prevention of false reporting on the Mosul offensive. 

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Iraqi Kurdistan by Alistair Galloway

The Iraqi prime minister and the leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government met to discuss territory and the preparation for the battle to dislodge the Islamic State (IS) from Mosul. On 30 September the French defence minister announced that the government-led offensive to retake Mosul would begin soon. On 29 September a United States (US) military spokesman announced that air strikes by the US and its allies had killed 18 IS leaders in the past 30 days. On 28 September US and Iraqi officials announced that 615 new US troops would be sent to Iraq to assist in the operation to retake Mosul. On 21 September a US military official announced that the military is testing material retrieved from an IS rocket attack in Iraq to see if a chemical agent had been used. On 24 September, 18 people died in an IS attack on a checkpoint north of Tikrit. On 28 September the World Food Programme (WFP) announced that food aid had reached civilians in Shirqat, northern Iraq. IS militants lost control of their last oil wells following the recapture of Shirqat by the Iraqi military, the oil ministry announced on 28 September. On 21 September the Iraqi parliament passed a motion of no-confidence against Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari. On 14 September the US announced that it was giving Iraq $181 million in humanitarian aid ahead of the operation against Mosul.

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Iraqi Kurdistan by Lewis McKinnon

The President of the Kurdistan region of Iraq met with the Turkish President on 23 August and discussed the Islamic State (IS) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The United Nations (UN) human rights spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly stated that the mass execution of men accused of the killing of soldiers were denied proper legal defence and called for fair trials. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated that the agency was struggling to find enough land for camps to house the number of refugees expected to flee the operation against Mosul. The UNHCR released a statement which said that up to 3000 Iraqi villagers may have been captured by IS whilst attempting to flee to Kirkuk. On 15 August the Iraqi parliament approved 5 positions for vacant ministerial positions, including that of the oil minister. The corruption allegations against Parliamentary Speaker Salim al-Jabouri were closed on 9 August with the associated travel ban lifted. On 30 August the head of the US’ military’s Central Command, General Joseph Votel, stated that Iraq would be able to retake Mosul from IS control by the end of this year should the operation be approved. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Jamal stated that Iraq had requested Saudi Arabia to replace its ambassador to Baghdad, Thamer al-Sabhan. On 25 August the Iraqi parliament impeached the Defence Minister, Khaled al-Obeidi. On 22 August an unnamed British national was killed whilst clearing mines laid by IS. On 7 August IS suicide bombers attacked a military base occupied by the US-backed New Syria Army. On 27 August the Iraqi oil minister stated that Iraq is willing to play an active role in in OPEC to support oil prices. On 30 August the Iraqi Prime Minister stated that Iraq would support OPEC’s decision to freeze oil output with the aim of propping up prices. On 11 August the UN Development Program stated that it would hire experts to help Iraq tackle the issue of graft which is affecting the economy. 

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Iraqi Kurdistan by Lewis McKinnon

The United States (US) Defence Secretary announced on 11 July that 560 additional troops would be deployed to the Qayara air base, Iraq. Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shi’ite Muslim cleric, instructed his followers through his website to target US troops. The Iraqi Prime Minister fired three officials in charge of Baghdad’s security following the truck bomb on 3 July. On 28 July, the US military announced that it had killed 14 civilians in Iraq and Syria in six airstrikes between 28 July 2015 and 29 April this year. On 3 July, Iraqi security services were ordered to stop using fake bomb detectors by the Iraqi Prime Minister following the truck bomb attack. On 25 July, a suicide car bombing, claimed by the Islamic State (IS) killed 16 people outside Khalis, with a further five civilians killed during an attack on two energy facilities. On 7 July, three suicide bombers killed at least 35 people and wounded a further 60 near the Mausoleum of Sayid Mohammed bin Ali al-Hadi, near Balad. IS claimed responsibility for a truck bomb attack on 3 July in Baghdad that killed 292 people and injured a further 200. On 1 July, a spokesman for the Pentagon announced that a US-led coalition airstrike on 25 June killed two senior IS military commanders. On 7 July, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated that its executive board approved a new standby arrangement for Iraq. On 18 July, the United Nations (UN) announced that the humanitarian situation caused by the upcoming operation against Mosul could cost up to $1.8 billion. 

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Iraqi Kurdistan by Lewis McKinnon

A senior Iraqi official announced on 26 June that the Islamic State (IS) was fully removed from Fallujah in a month-long operation. On 9 June two suicide attacks in and around Baghdad killed at least 31 people and wounded at least 77 more. An Apache attack helicopter was used in a strike against an IS target for the first time since President Barack Obama authorised their use in offensive operations in early 2016. Turkish warplanes targeted Kurdish militant targets belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. Jordan announced that its border regions with Syria and Iraq are now closed military zones following a suicide bomb attack in Jordan on 21 June. A further 250 British troops were sent to Iraq to help local forces in the operation against IS. The troops will consist of 50 soldiers in addition to a squadron of engineers and 90 air base guards. The United Nations (UN) children’s agency, Unicef, released a report stating that 3.6 million children are at serious risk of death, injury, sexual violence, and recruitment into armed groups. On 16 June a UN report, based on interviews with dozens of survivors, was released and stated that IS forces are committing genocide against Yazidis in Syria and Iraq. On 29 June there was an announcement that Iraq has secured a $2.7 billion loan from the United States (US) to fund ammunition and maintenance of fighter jets, tanks, and other military equipment for use in the operation against IS. The UN released $15 million in emergency aid to provide life-saving assistance to civilians fleeing the operation to retake Fallujah

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Iraqi Kurdistan by Lewis McKinnon

A United States (US) military spokesperson said that 20 coalition airstrikes killed 70 Islamic State (IS) militants in Fallujah, including the commander of the city. Troops from the coalition were seen close to the frontline of the offensive that was launched on 29 May to retake villages near Mosul. On 19 May the Iraqi military said that it had retaken the town of Rumba from IS, whilst on 6 May a Pentagon spokesperson said that a coalition airstrike had killed a top IS commander. IS launched multiple suicide attacks across Iraq. The Finnish Immigration Service said that it is now safe for asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia to return to their home countries, and this will affect asylum applications. The Communication and Media Commission shut down two television channels and ordered a satirical show to stop broadcasting. The United Nations (UN) World Food Programme has prepared plans to deal with up to 700,000 people who could be displaced by the planned offensive against Mosul, with a contingency of up to 900,000 displaced people. Thousands of anti-corruption demonstrators attempted to approach the Green Zone, central Baghdad, on 27 May demanding better protection against IS attacks and anti-graft reforms. The Iraqi Finance Minister announced on 19 May that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed a $5.4 billion standby agreement with Iraq, subject to approval from the IMF board. 

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