The United Nations Security Council today expressed concern over the “potentially destabilizing impact” of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s plans to unilaterally hold a referendum next week.
In a statement issued to the press, members of the Council noted that the planned referendum is scheduled to be held while operations to counter Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) – in which Kurdish forces have played a critical role – are ongoing.
The referendum “could detract from efforts to ensure the safe, voluntary return of over three million refugees and internally displaced persons,” the 15-member body added.
Secretary-General António Guterres earlier this week voiced similar concerns about the timing of the vote in a statement issued by his Spokesman, which noted that all outstanding issues between the federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government should be resolved through structured dialogue and constructive compromise.
“The Secretary-General calls upon the leaders across Iraq to approach this matter with patience and restraint. The United Nations stands ready to support such efforts.”
This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Iraqi Kurdistan is in the spotlight and the international media are reporting on the upcoming independence referendum, far and wide. But a focus on international opposition, means that important context is often missing.
While recent front pages around the world have been reserved for earthquakes and hurricanes, the referendum on independence in Iraqi Kurdistan has never been too far behind. Mostly this has been due to widespread international concern about what the referendum will mean, and what kind of problems it could cause, either in the lead up to the event, or afterwards.
Perhaps the most interesting thing for Iraqis about international coverage of the independence referendum, scheduled for Sept. 25, is the sympathy with which the whole world appears to view the Kurdish people of Iraq.
Most reports freely acknowledge that the Kurdish are the world’s largest ethnic minority without their own state. Almost every writer details the trials and tribulations that Iraq’s Kurds have gone through and, in particular, what they suffered under former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein. The heinous chemical weapons attack on the city of Halabja, in which thousands died, is not forgotten.
But after expressing understanding, most Western media go on to talk about international disapprobation of the referendum. The list of friends and enemies who oppose this Kurdish example of direct democracy grows longer by the day.
European media have found it particularly notable that this time, the US – generally a staunch ally of Iraqi Kurdistan – couldn’t do the back room deals their envoys usually do, to postpone the referendum. Many analysts noted that the statement the US eventually issued on the topic was unusually harsh.
By Fazel Hawramy for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Mlitary commanders and diplomats from both Iran and the United States are swarming Iraqi Kurdistan in a last-ditch attempt to convince the Kurds, an important ally in the war against the Islamic State (IS), to either postpone the planned Sept. 25 referendum for independence or cancel it all together.
Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s powerful Quds Force, and Brett McGurk, the US special anti-IS envoy accompanied by US Ambassador Douglas Silliman, were shuttling this week between Baghdad, Erbil and Sulaimaniyah to convince all sides to come to an agreement.
“Both the Iranians and the Americans were in agreement about the referendum and reiterated that it should not take place,” a source briefed about the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s (PUK) separate meetings with American and Iranian officials on Sept. 11 told Al-Monitor.
Both Iran and the United States also separately conveyed similar messages to Gorran movement officials. The latter believe that the referendum should be postponed until regional and international support is secured.
“We will not support you, and you will be on your own,” a Gorran official told Al-Monitor when recounting a meeting with the American ambassador. Indeed, “The United States is 100% opposed to the referendum on September 25,” Weshyar Omar, who was part of the Gorran delegation meeting with the Americans on Sept. 13, quoted McGurk as saying.
“Until now, we have held back the [Hashid Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Units (PMU)] from attacking, but I will not bother to do that anymore,” Soleimani warned the senior PUK officials, the source briefed on the meeting told Al-Monitor. “Just look at Mandali and what happened there. That is the beginning,” he cautioned, referring to the Sept. 11 incident in which a group of over a hundred Iranian-backed Iraqi militia fighters arrived in the disputed subdistrict of Mandali in Diyala province, 100 kilometers (62 miles) northeast of Baghdad, and forced the Kurdish head of the town’s council out of his job and announced that the town will not be included in the Kurdistan referendum.
By Ali Mamouri for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the newly appointed chairman of Iran’s Expediency Council, visited Iraq recently, fueling speculation about his political agenda. His meetings indicate that he most likely was seeking to unify Shiites ahead of the 2018 elections, although he doesn’t appear to have succeeded.
Shahroudi, who is a dual Iranian-Iraqi citizen and was a senior leader in the Islamic Dawa Party and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq before he became involved in Iranian politics, was warmly welcomed by those two groups, but later in his weeklong visit, he found himself snubbed by others.
Sheikh Humam Hamoudi, a leader of the Islamic Supreme Council and the first deputy parliament speaker, greeted Shahroudi at the airport on Aug. 31. Later, Shahroudi met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and with Nouri al-Maliki, the leader of the Islamic Dawa Party and a vice president of Iraq.
In Najaf, however, Shahroudi was not welcomed at all. He did not meet with any of the four leading religious authorities there, even though he is one of the most prominent graduates of the Hawza (Shiite seminary) in Najaf and most likely knows all four clerics from the years he studied there.
Sources close to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf said religious authorities there refused to receive Shahroudi — even though they knew in advance about his visit — because they resent some aspects of Iran’s policies regarding Iraq. It seems the rejection was a source of embarrassment to Shahroudi when he returned home, where he issued a statement that his visit was not an official one but merely a religious trip “to the holy sites and shrines of holy Imams.”
By Rabih Nader for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
The Lebanese authorities arrested a former Iraqi minister who was wanted by Interpol at the airport in Beirut Sept. 8. The identity of the minister has not been released yet, but Lebanese officials have said that he holds British citizenship.
Many officials with dual nationality accused by the Iraqi authorities of corruption have fled the country in order to escape prosecution. Basra Gov. Majid al-Nasrawi is a case in point; he left Iraq on an Australian passport Aug. 18 in defiance of an arrest warrant over suspected corruption.
Several other officials have also left the country, including former Ministers Abdul Falah al-Sudani (trade), Hazim Shaalan (defense) and Ayham al-Samarrai (electricity).
For two years, the Iraqi parliament has not been able to pass a bill bringing an end to officials holding dual citizenship, despite its inclusion in a list of parliamentary reforms announced by speaker Salim al-Jabouri in August 2015, as part of a package of government measures following widespread demonstrations in Baghdad to demand reform.
The bill, which has been suspended since the last parliamentary term, deals with the rules on Iraqi officials holding two nationalities. It is based on Article 18 of the Iraqi Constitution, which demands that holders of senior and “sovereign” offices give up their “acquired citizenship.”
However, the constitution charges the legislature with the task of working out the details and drawing up a law on the issue, something the Iraqi parliament has so far failed to do.
Amal al-Bayati, a member of the Council of Representatives, told Al-Monitor that Iraqi holders of foreign citizenship often escape justice because they can use it at the first sign of trouble. “The number of dual citizens in parliament is very high, which poses major difficulties when it comes to passing this law,” she said.
Moscow is holding negotiations with Iraqi authorities on the possibility of moving the Russian embassy, which currently occupies a building in Baghdad’s Mansour district, to a safer area of the Iraqi capital city, local media reported, citing a Russian diplomatic source.
“The negotiations to provide Russia with a new site for the embassy in Baghdad are underway. In general, the Iraqis are ready to provide it. We are now assessing the propriety of accepting the site that the Iraqi authorities are proposing as this depends on the safety and the type of construction“, the source told press. The source added that it was dangerous to stay in the current Embassy building, and only men without their families were sent to work there.
Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov (pictured) has reaffirmed Moscow’s support for the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Following a meeting in Moscow between Bogdanov and the chief of Iraq’s anti-terrorist service Talib al-Kenani, Bogdanov also stated that Russia opposes any external interference in Iraq’s internal affairs. He also said that that Russia will help to enhance the anti-terrorist capabilities of the Iraqi government.
For his part, al-Kinani said that Baghdad highly valued the cooperation with Russia in the anti-terrorism fight.
Iraq has signed for receiving a Japanese loan worth USD270 million according to a statement from the Japanese Embassy in Iraq.
The loan is designed to improve Iraq’s financial situation and to help the country proceed with reforms, the statement by the embassy said, noting that it comes as a second tranche of a USD500 million Japanese financial assistance commitment.
The statement said falling world oil prices and spending on defence and refugee relief portfolios had largely reduced the country’s budget resources. It also pointed to earlier assessments by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which estimated Iraq’s budget deficit for 2016 by 14.1% and public debt for the same year by 6.99% of the GDP.
In February, Japan approved a loan of about $100 million to support humanitarian, counter-terrorism and infrastructure projects in Iraq. In January, Japan agreed to lend Iraq up to 27.2 billion yen ($240 million) to rebuild damaged electricity infrastructures in areas recaptured from Islamic State militants.