The escalating tensions between Baghdad and Erbil have triggered an unprecedented upsurge in applications from wealthy Iraqi nationals for second citizenship programs.
Data collected by Savory & Partners, one of the largest companies in the Middle East that provides citizenship-by-investment programs, shows that compared to the same quarter last year, interest has increased by 300 percent, while applications processed are more than 42 percent higher than last year.
Company founder and CEO Jeremy Savory (pictured) told Iraq Business News:
“The immediate days following the Kurdistan referendum saw a remarkable spike in the number of applicants from Iraq, not only from Kurdish Iraqis, but from all parts of Iraq.
“In the past, the Iraqi passport was very strong … but over recent years the number of countries which have visa-free waivers has dropped considerably; hence, the need for second passport that enables people to travel to more countries visa free has seen a great spike.
“We have done Iraqi citizenship applications for Iraqi nationals for all the five Caribbean jurisdictions, all of which have been approved by the government. We have done European citizenship applications for Malta and Cyprus for Iraqi nationals, too.”
Iraqis constitute the company’s third largest client group after Syrians and Lebanese, with St. Kitts, Grenada and Dominica in the three most popular programs with an equal demand for all three programs. The company had only one Iraqi rejection in the last six years out of total of close to 800 passports, a rejection rate of less than 1 percent.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said on Tuesday that it would accept a Supreme Court decision prohibiting the region from seceding from Iraq.
It said in a statement:
“At the request of the Secretary General of the Iraqi Council of Ministers on November 5th, 2017, the Federal Supreme Court issued Decision No. 122 on November 6th, 2017, regarding the interpretation of the Article 1 of the Iraqi Constitution which states: ‘The Republic of Iraq is a federal, independent and fully sovereign state in which the system of government is parliamentary and democratic republic, and this Constitution is a guarantor of the unity of Iraq.’
“As we, in the Kurdistan Region, have always emphasized on finding solutions to disputes between the federal Authorities and the Kurdistan Region through constitutional and legal means, and based on our known position which welcomes all relevant initiatives, especially the initiatives by the Grand Ayatollah Ali Al- Sistani, Iraqi dignitaries and friendly countries to the Iraqi people regarding addressing disputes on the basis of the Constitution, we respect the interpretation of the Federal Supreme Court of the First Article of the Iraqi Constitution.
“We believe that this Decision must become a basis for starting an inclusive national dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad to resolve all disputes through implementation of all constitutional articles and in a way that guarantees all rights, authorities and status mentioned in the Constitution, since this is the only way to secure the unity of Iraq, as Article 1 stated.“
Tourism in Iraqi Kurdistan has reportedly been hard hit following Baghdad imposed punitive measures on the Kurdistan Region following the independence referendum.
Many restaurants and guesthouses in Erbil have had to lay off employees after international flights were banned and the borders temporarily closed.
According to Rudaw, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had planned to invest in modern infrastructure and build hundreds of new tourist attractions across the Region, spending an estimated $100 million over the coming years to revive and develop an industry which many believed would be profitable in the long-run.
Rudaw reports that the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) has called on all Iraqi banks to halt their operations in the Kurdistan Region indefinitely.
It says that any bank that disobeys will no longer receive foreign currency transfers from the central bank.
Banks have reportedly been given one week to inform Iraq’s financial regulator of what steps they have taken to halt their operations in the Kurdistan Region if they want to continue to trade foreign currencies with the Central Bank.
As Iraq and Kurdistan are faced with grave and dangerous circumistances, we are all obliged to act responsibily in order to prevent further violence and clashes between Iraqi and Peshmerga forces.
Attacks and confrontations between Iraqi and Peshmerga forces that started on October 16, 2017, especially today’s clashes, have caused damage to both sides and coud lead to a continuous bloodshed, inflicting pain and social unrest among different components of Iraqi society.
Certainly, continued fighting does not lead any side to victory, but it will drive the country towards disarray and chaos, affecting all aspects of life.
Therefore, in order to fulfill our responsibilites and obligations towards the people of Kurdistan and Iraq, we propose the following to the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi and world public opinion:
Immediate ceasefire and halt all military operations in the Kurdistan Region.
Freeze the results of referendum conducted in the Iraqi Kurdistan.
Start an open dialogue between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraqi Federal Government on the basis of the Consititution.
The Council of Ministers of the Kurdistan Regional Government held a meeting on Thursday to discuss the latest developments in the region.
Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani attended the meeting and discussed the situation in Kirkuk and other areas that witnessed tensions and clashes this week.
The Council of Ministers welcomed Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s call for negotiations in order to address the issues between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraqi Federal Government, within the framework of the federal constitution, and based on partnership and consensus.
It also called on the international community to help the two sides to start and conduct the talks. The Council of Ministers reiterated that the Kurdistan Regional Government has always been ready for dialogue and negotiations with Baghdad.
In a statement after the meeting, the Council of Ministers said that history has proven that the will of the people of Kurdistan will not be shaken by military actions, and the issues of Iraq will not be solved militarily.
The Council of Ministers also instructed relevant authorities to provide assistance for the people from Kirkuk and Tuz Khormatu, who fled their homes due to the recent violence. The Council also thanked the people and KRG agencies for their outpouring support for the displaced.
The Council of Ministers of the Kurdistan Regional Government extended its condolences to the family and friends of member of Kurdistan Parliament, Shwan Qaladzayee, who lost his life in a car accident.
By Dr. Olgu Okumuş for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
On Sept. 28, when Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan jointly stated their support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq, they also made a point of stressing their countries’ continued commitment to two joint mega energy projects: the Turkish Stream gas pipeline and the Akkuyu nuclear power plant.
The success of these projects would diminish the importance of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) as a regional economic actor, pushing the significance of its oil and gas resources into the background.
Given the KRG’s apparent hope to leverage such resources as part of a continued drive for independence — a drive Erdogan has said would lead to “even more serious mistakes” by the KRG — Erdogan and Putin’s joint statements are worthy of increased scrutiny.
This was the second visit by the Russian leader to Turkey since the improvement in relations that has taken place after ties suffered a major blow when Turkish forces shot down a Russian jet in November 2015. Putin’s first visit, in October 2016, was also energy-inspired, as it occurred at Erdogan’s invitation to participate in the 23rd World Energy Congress.
Last week’s meeting was labeled a “solely pragmatic meeting” by the Kremlin, because it covered several essential bilateral trade issues, such as Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system, Russia’s embargo on Turkish tomatoes and the two countries’ joint energy projects. At the leaders’ press conference, they stressed their discussions on energy projects, while also commenting on international security issues such as Syria and the KRG independence referendum.
Turkey needs a cooler relationship with the KRG. Since January 2013, the Turkish-British joint venture Genel Energy’s truck-based deliveries from the KRG have been bypassing the Baghdad-controlled Kirkuk-Yumurtalik oil pipeline; the oil has instead been going to Turkey’s Ceyhan port on the Mediterranean Sea. This had already prompted concerns about the KRG’s drive for economic and political independence, and pushed Ankara into the middle of an international diplomatic crisis.
By Hamdi Malik for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
The Sept. 25 referendum, in which voters overwhelmingly voted for independence for Iraqi Kurdistan, increased the division between the Turkmen and Kurdish populations in the disputed city of Kirkuk. But Turkmens believe the Kurdish move, which raised objections from several parties, offers an opportunity to strengthen their position in Iraq.
Turkmens reported intimidation and repeated attacks on their party in Kirkuk both before and after the referendum. On Oct. 2, someone reportedly fired on the party headquarters and even lobbed a grenade at the building. Turkmen parliament member Hassan Tauran confirmed the news in a TV interview, adding, “This is the fifth attack during the week that followed the referendum.”
Turkmens strongly oppose the Kurdistan Regional Government’s efforts to annex Kirkuk and other mixed-population areas, and they hold the Kurdish side responsible for the attacks. On Sept. 19, Turkmen parliament member Jassim Mohammed al-Bayati accused what he called the “gangs” of Kirkuk’s Kurdish governor of kidnapping a young Turkmen.
But it is difficult to get to the truth behind these attacks amid the tension plaguing the city. Kurdish forces affiliated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan gained full security and military control over the city after June 2014, when the Iraqi army’s 12th division withdrew in the face of the Islamic State’s overwhelming advance.
Turkmens are the third-largest ethnic group in Iraq and say they have been denied their rights since Saddam Hussein was overthrown as president in 2003. Part of the problem is the deep sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shiite Turkmens that kept them from forming unified political blocs. When the new regime based on sectarian and ethnic quotas was established in Iraq, the Turkmens lacked the political experience of the Shiites and Kurds. The Turkmens have been involved in sectarian strife in many areas, particularly in Tal Afar, reaching the point of military clashes.