Kurdistan Regional Government
Representation in the United States

Washington, D.C.
December 2017 Newsletter
Welcome to our December 2017 newsletter

This month began with a visit to Paris by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani for talks with President Emanuel Macron. President Macron, while backing a unified Iraq, said he supported the constitutional rights of the people of Kurdistan and called for dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad to begin.
The visit to Paris was followed by a phone call to Prime Minister Barzani from UK Prime Minister Teresa May and a visit to Berlin to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that Germany's continued support for Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government would be contingent on efforts to resolve our differences.
The growing international calls for discussions between Kurdistan and Iraq to begin are welcome and urgently needed. Kurdistan is under economic and military threat. The federal government has banned international flights to Erbil and Slemani, stopped oil exports from Kirkuk and has massed troops and militias causing great alarm, including in the past few days and weeks near Makhmour. About 180,000 people have been displaced from Kirkuk and the United Nations has launched an investigation into human rights violations in Tuz Khurmatu, abuses also documented by Amnesty International. The longer the economic blockade and military threats continue, the harder it is to believe that the government of Iraq does not wish to destabilize or even dismantle the Kurdistan Region.

The United States Administration has also called for talks to begin. The KRG US Representation continues to discuss this with the White House, State Department, Department of Defense as well as members of Congress.
This month there have been protests in cities and towns in the Slemani area by citizens with grievances about economic hardship and deteriorating public services. Sadly some of the protests became violent resulting in some deaths and injuries and damage to property. The KRG leadership recognizes the right to demonstrate and has called on the demonstrators to conduct the protests peacefully, while also urging unity among our people at this critical time.  
As we look ahead to the new year, we hope for peace, stability and prosperity for the people of Kurdistan, Iraq and all our friends in the United States.

Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman
Kurdistan Regional Government
Representative to the United States
Prime Minister Barzani: Baghdad using flight ban as a "pressure card" against Kurdistan

In a press conference on December 28, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani criticized the federal authorities for extending the flight ban on Kurdistan, saying that Baghdad is using the flight ban as a 'pressure card' and as punishment for the people of Kurdistan.

"If they talk about imposing civilian aviation authority, we have already said that we are prepared for that. We are ready to receive them, to talk and accept that," the Prime Minister said.

Noting that international flights arrive to other airports in Iraq, Prime Minister Barzani asked of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi, "How can he treat the people of the same country called Iraq differently?"

Prime Minister Barzani also criticized the federal government for sending mixed messages by communicating to the KRG through press conferences, rather than by face-to-face meetings. 

Prime Minister Abadi "says that he cares about the Kurdistan Region," Prime Minister Barzani said at the press conference. "I ask, if he really cares, why does he not ask what is happening in Khurmatu city. Did he investigate it? Let him dig in there, to investigate what happened there."

Read a media report about the press conference here.

KRSC: Alarming Iraqi military buildup near  Makhmour

The Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) is alarmed by significant Iraqi military buildup in the vicinity of  Makhmour , south west of Erbil, in preparation for an attack on nearby Peshmerga positions. 

Intelligence indicates that Iraqi Army, PMU, Federal Police and ERD deployments plan to attack the Gwer-Dibege-Dibis road connecting Mosul to Kirkuk.

Peshmerga forces withdrew from  Makhmour in October to the current position to avoid military clashes with Iraqi forces. The KRG calls on the Iraqi Government to stop its provocative advances. 

The international community must condemn Iraq's aggressive military moves and call on the government to accept Kurdistan Region's call for dialogue to settle disputes.

For updates follow @KRSCPress.
KRG Representative meets new Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran

Representative Abdul Rahman met with the new Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran, Andrew Peek to discuss Erbil-Washington ties and ongoing tensions between Erbil and Baghdad.

Representative Rahman congratulated the Deputy Assistant Secretary on his appointment and wished him success. Both sides reviewed the strong relationship between the Kurdistan Region and the United States, and underlined the importance of continued cooperation. They also shared views on ways to end the current political deadlock between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Government of Iraq, aiming to address the longstanding grievances.

Representative Rahman also met recently with National Security Council's Director for Iraq, Iran, Syria and Lebanon, Joel Rayburn and the new Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East, Michael Patrick Mulroy.

Kurdistan Region top officials meet with Germany's leaders in Berlin 

A KRG delegation headed by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, was in Berlin to meet with Germany's top leaders, including the country's chancellor, Angela Merkel.

Prime Minister Barzani thanked Chancellor Merkel for the support and assistance that Germany provided to the Kurdistan Region, and briefed her on the latest developments of the relations between the Kurdistan Region and the federal government of Iraq.  Prime Minister Barzani stressed that the Kurdistan Regions is committed to the Iraqi Constitution and is ready to negotiate with Baghdad to resolve all issues within the framework of the Constitution.

Prime Minister Barzani said that, despite KRG's readiness to negotiate, Baghdad has not responded to his government's call for dialogue. Thus, the Kurdistan Region's friends in the international community, including Germany, are urged to help and facilitate negotiations.

KRG Representative and Norway's Ambassador to the United States discuss post referendum situation 

KRG Representative to the United States Ms. Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman met with Norway's Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Kåre R. Aas.

Representative Rahman expressed the KRG's appreciation for Norway's military and humanitarian support. Both officials spoke in detail of ongoing political, humanitarian, security and economic developments and the challenges facing Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, as well as the greater Middle East. The Representative highlighted the need for further international engagement aiming to ensure the peaceful settlement of disputes between Erbil and Baghdad. The Ambassador noted that the rights of the Kurdistan Region enshrined in Iraq's Constitution must be respected.

Both sides agreed that direct, immediate dialogue between the Government of Iraq and the KRG, based on the Iraqi Constitution, is the best way forward to address the longstanding outstanding issues.
Prime Minister Barzani and French President discuss Iraq and Kurdistan Region tensions

A top level KRG delegation led by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, met President of France Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

The delegation also included the Chief of Staff at the Kurdistan Region Presidency Fuad Hussein, KRG Spokesperson Safeen Dizayee, and the KRG Acting Representative in France, Ali Dolamari.

President Macron expressly recognized the legitimacy of the KRG and the political process in the Kurdistan Region. He affirmed support for an active and strong KRG, stressing the importance of internal unity in the Region. He also appreciated and praised the role of the Kurdistan Region's Peshmerga as an effective force in the fight against ISIS, adding that France's support and coordination with the Peshmerga will continue.
Abdul Rahman says Kurdistan's diversity is its strength

Representative Abdul Rahman joined a discussion on the religious minorities in Kurdistan at a debate hosted by the Middle East Institute on December 5.

The panel discussion was on the same day that Ms Abdul Rahman welcomed Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda who was visiting Washington to meet  Vice President Pence.

At the MIE event, Ms Abdul Rahman said that the KRG sees strength in the diversity of its society and highlighted the 16-point political manifesto issued by the Kurdish political parties in September recognizing the diversity of the region, promoting the inclusion and rights of religious and ethnic minorities. She pointed out that the Kurdistan Region has provided shelter to hundreds of thousands of Christians and Yezidis since 2003 and is calling for justice for the victims of genocide by ISIS.

The discussion drew on a report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom on Kurdistan. Other speakers were Randa Slim of the MEI, Jomana Qaddour of USCIRF and the moderator was the MEI's Daniel Serwer.
KRG Representative updates members of Congress

Representative Abdul Rahman met with several members of Congress this month, updating them on the situation in Kurdistan and Iraq, thanking the United States for supporting the peshmerga in the fight against ISIS and calling on the US to maintain its support.

Ms Abdul Rahman met Representatives and Senators in both parties, including Senators Lindsay Graham and Jeanne Shaheen (pictured). The KRG welcomes the bipartisan support expressed for the people of Kurdistan and the constitutional rights of the Region.
International archaeology conference puts spotlight on Kurdistan

The American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), a Boston-based international organization that supports research into the history of the Near East, highlighted the archaeology of Kurdistan at its annual meeting last month.

ASOR's 2017 conference brought together more than 1,000 academics in archaeology and studies of the ancient world from top universities and research institutions worldwide.

The sessions devoted to Kurdistan included presentations of projects by archaeologists from institutions including Harvard University, University of Copenhagen, University of Leicester, National Museum of Denmark, Brown University, University of Pennsylvania, Sapienza University of Rome, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Chicago.

Prime Minister Barzani meets with Christian political parties

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani and a senior KRG delegation visited Ainkawa district in Erbil to meet with representatives of the Kurdistan Region's Chaldean, Assyrian, Syriac, and Armenian political parties.

Prime Minister Barzani reaffirmed KRG's policy of promoting and protecting the rights of all components of Kurdistan society regardless of religion and ethnicity, that guarantee their participation in all fields of public life according to law. He also discussed the current political, security, and administrative situation in the Kurdistan Region.

Christian party representatives expressed concerns about the current situation in the Nineveh plains and called upon the Iraqi federal government to reduce their military and security forces and allow the KRG to take steps in assuming responsibility for security.

KRG and Kurdistan Parliament discuss financial situation in Kurdistan Region

A KRG delegation headed by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani held an extensive meeting with the Kurdistan Parliament Deputy Speaker Jaafar Ebrahim Eminky and heads of Parliamentary Committees of Natural Resources, Industry, Energy, Financial and Legal Affairs.

The KRG delegation included Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani and a number of senior officials.

In the meeting both sides discussed a number of pressing issues related to the current situation in the Kurdistan Region. They shed light on budget options for the 2018 fiscal year, relations with Baghdad, Kurdistan oil production, mechanisms to pay back debts, fighting corruption, transparency, reforms and efforts to protect the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region.
Head of DFR meets with the Head of ICRC Delegation in Iraq

Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, Minister Falah Mustafa, received the Head of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Iraq, Ms. Katharina Ritz. In the meeting, Minister Mustafa praised ICRC's role in providing and humanitarian aid to the IDPs and refugees in the Kurdistan Region and for its continued cooperation and coordination with the KRG institutions.

Minister Mustafa reiterated the DFR's readiness to provide all the support the ICRC needs to operate successfully in the Kurdistan Region.

The Head of the ICRC delegation in Iraq thanked Minister Mustafa and the KRG for cooperation and support and stressed that her organization's assistance for the IDPs and Refuges will continue. She also gave an overview about ICRC's future programs in the Kurdistan Region.
Prime Minister Barzani thanks US-led Coalition Forces for their support against ISIS

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani extended his congratulations to the people of Kurdistan, Peshmerga forces as well as the entire Iraqi people and Iraqi forces for the joint victory against the so-called the Islamic State terrorist group, ISIS.

Opening today's regular session of the Kurdistan Region's Council of Ministers, he praised the decisive role of the Peshmerga forces against ISIS, as they were the first force to defeat the terrorist organization on the battlefield.

Prime Minister Barzani expressed his government's gratitude particularly to the US-led international coalition forces, stating that "it would have been impossible to achieve these victories, without their support."
UNAMI Investigates Reports of Human Rights Violations in Tuz Khurmatu 

A team from the Human Rights office of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) conducted a mission to Tuz Khurmatu in Salah al-Din Governorate on 7 December to investigate reports of punitive destruction of property of residents who have been displaced by the clashes in the area in October and reports of intimidation to prevent the safe return of the displaced to their homes.

This visit has been prompted by repeated reports about indiscriminate targeting of civilians, forced evictions and destruction of property prior to but notably after 16 October 2017 that UNAMI addressed in its statement of 19 October. In that statement and in a briefing to the UN Security Council meeting in New York on 22 November by Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Jan Kubis, at least 150 houses belonging to Turkmen and Kurds were reportedly set ablaze and there were other reports of acts of violence. Moreover, the United Nations expressed concern about the clashes in the town which have inflicted casualties, and triggered a new wave of displacements primarily from the Kurdish community.

Council of Ministers meets in regular session

KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani chaired a regular session of the KRG Council of Ministers on December 22. 

The Council discussed a number of issues, including the unfortunate events that took place recently in some towns in the Kurdistan Region. The Council stressed that people have the right to peaceful and civil demonstrations, but expressed concern about the acts of violence perpetrated by some individuals during the demonstrations. The Council of Ministers voiced their condolences to the families of the people who lost their lives and wished the injured a speedy recovery. It once again called upon the citizens of the Kurdistan Region to demand their rights in a peaceful and civil way and prevent any disorder that could threaten public properties which have been built to serve all citizens.

Prime Minister Barzani shed light on his recent official visit to Germany and the outcomes of his meetings with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Minister of Defence, the Foreign Minister as well as Foreign Relations and Defence Committees at the German Parliament. He said that the need to resolve the problems between Erbil and Baghdad through dialogue on the basis of the Iraqi constitution, the political unity of the Kurdistan Region and the financial problems, were the main subjects discussed with German senior officials.

The Head of DFR and Canadian Charge d'Affaires discuss bilateral relations

Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, Minister Falah Mustafa, received the Chargé d'Affaires of the Canadian Embassy in Iraq, Mr. Andrew Turner, to exchange views about ways of developing bilateral relations, the political situation in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, and relations between Erbil and Baghdad.

In the meeting, Mr. Turner, elaborated that the goal behind his visit is to closely get acquainted with the latest political developments in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, the outstanding issues between Erbil and Baghdad and means to strengthen ties between Canada and the Kurdistan Region in all fields of cooperation.

Minister Mustafa stressed that KRG has always been ready for dialogue with Baghdad to resolve all disputes within the framework of the constitution. He also reiterated KRG's call upon the international community to help with facilitating the dialogue.

UPCOMING: Double screening of Bernard-Henri Levy's 'Peshmerga' and 'The Battle of Mosul'

On  January 23, renowned French philosopher, activist, writer, and filmmaker Bernard- Henri Lévy will offer a special presentation in Washington, DC of his two most recent documentaries, 'Peshmerga' and 'The Battle of Mosul'.

In between screenings, Lévy will join the audience for an in-depth discussion on the Kurdish will for a state and national independence; the current status of ISIS following the liberation of Mosul; and the role of foreign nations in this conflict.

Please note that KRG-US is not responsible for ticketing and seating.
Kurdistan in the media

December 20, 2017
Militias plan to take part in elections, challenging prime minister.

December 13, 2017
Editorial by DFR Head Falah Mustafa Bakir

Abadi: Baghdad cannot pay full KRG civil servant salaries - Rudaw
December 19, 2017
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday evening called on KRG authorities to "respect the peaceful demonstrations" that have drawn angry crowds into the streets of Kurdish cities for a second day and said his government cannot permit a crackdown on peaceful protests. 

December 18, 2017
Germany on Monday said its continued support for Iraq and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government was contingent on peaceful efforts by both sides to resolve their differences.

Iraqi teenagers from Kurdistan start a food bank inspired by Tulsans - Tulsa World
December 17, 2017
After visiting Tulsa and experiencing a type of volunteerism unknown in their country, teenagers in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq started a food bank.

KRG ready for 'serious talks', demands resolving airports, crossings issue per constitution - Rudaw
December 18, 2017
KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzan
i reiterated on Monday in Berlin that they were ready for "serious talks" with Baghdad and urged sorting out the issues of the Kurdistan Region's airports and border-crossings per the Iraqi constitution and called upon the international community to help bring "Erbil and Baghdad closer together."

Christians face new catastrophe as militias attack Nineveh Plain: Assyrian MP - Kurdistan 24
December 8, 2017
As a result of the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi's attacks on Peshmerga forces in the Nineveh Plain, many Christians who had returned to their liberated areas have been displaced once again, according to an Assyrian parliament member.

Iraqi Kurds still love US despite its opposition to Kurdish independence, says Kurdish leader - Fox News
December 4, 2017
U.S. opposition to an independence referendum by Iraqi Kurds will not break a long-standing alliance between the stateless community and the United States, the Kurdish prime minister says.

2 Opposition Parties Withdraw from Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government - VOA
December 20, 2017
Two opposition parties, the Gorran and the Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal), have withdrawn from Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), party sources said.

The death of Kamaran Najm was announced on the evening of 12th June 2014. A photojournalist from Sulimaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan, Kamaran had headed to the frontline alongside Peshmerga forces two days after Islamic State swept into Mosul.

IMF: 2018 Iraqi draft budget won't 'cover the needs' of Kurdistan - Rudaw
December 22, 2017
The International Monetary Fund believes Iraq's 2018 budget share proposals "do not suffice in our view to cover the needs of the Kurdistan Regional Government." Baghdad's proposal would slash the budget of the KRG by more than 4 percent.

Iraqi constitution never fully implemented, critical for deconfliction: Tillerson - Kurdistan24
December 13, 2017
The US will support the de-escalation of tensions between Erbil-Baghdad and help with the full implementation of the Iraqi Constitution, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday.

Pence meets with Iraqi archbishop ahead of Middle East trip - Catholic News Agency
December 4, 2017
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met with Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil on Monday for a "substantial discussion" on the needs of persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.

DNO triples production from Peshkabir field in Kurdistan - World Oil
December 11, 2017
DNO ASA, the Norwegian oil and gas operator, today announced a tripling of production from Peshkabir field in the Tawke license in the Kurdistan region of Iraq to 15,000 bopd following completion of the Peshkabir-3 well testing, stimulation and cleanup program.

- Kurdistan24
December 14, 2017
"The United States is very committed to the success of the Kurds in Iraq," Donald Trump's National Security Adviser, H. R. McMaster, affirmed on Wednesday.

Continuation of Erbil-Baghdad crisis does not benefit Iraq: Vice-President - Kurdistan24
December 11, 2017
Vice-president of Iraq Osama al-Nujaifi on Sunday called for "an open and comprehensive dialogue" between Erbil and Baghdad to resolve their differences peacefully, stating the continuation of current crisis would not benefit Iraq.

November 30, 2017
The oil ministers of Iran and Iraq met in Vienna late Thursday for the latest round of talks on the terms of a crude swap deal that will help supply some of Iran's refineries with feedstock and unlock Iraq's shut-in crude at Kirkuk.

Iraqi Christians tell UN Christian presence is key to regional stability - Crux
December 1, 2017
In the midst of the U.S. bishops' "Solidarity in Suffering" campaign, designed as a Week of Awareness and Education for Persecuted Christians, leaders from Iraq on Thursday urged the United Nations and the international community to recognize Christians as key to stabilizing the Middle East.

Iran in Iraq - Atlantic Council
Geographic proximity and shared Shia sect give Iran deep influence in Iraq, as shown in a new paper entitled Iran in Iraq, by American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Kenneth M. Pollack.

December 12, 2917
Foreign Minister Falah Mustafa received Turkey's new Consul General to Erbil on Saturday.
December 14, 2017
Tensions between Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, increased after the autonomous region held a vote on Kurdish independence in September that overwhelmingly backed secession from the rest of Iraq.