Kurdistan Regional Government
Representation in the United States

Washington, D.C.
January 2020 newsletter
Welcome to our January 2020 newsletter

For the people of Kurdistan Region and Iraq as a whole, and for those who watch events there from afar, January has been a long and unsettled month.

The month began with rapidly escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, the targeted killing of an Iranian and Iraqi commander by the US, and the retaliatory attack by Iran on bases, including in Erbil, that house US forces.

Kurdish leaders called for de-escalation and urged all parties to avoid making Iraq the battleground for regional and international conflict.

A resolution in the Iraqi Parliament to expel foreign troops passed, but with zero votes from Kurdish members and none from most Sunnis. We believe the US-led coalition against ISIS is still vital to the fight against the terrorist organisation.

Meanwhile, protests in Baghdad and southern Iraq continue despite a major crackdown by security forces using live ammunition.

In the midst of these turbulent times, President Nechirvan Barzani met with President Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos. In a friendly and productive meeting, they discussed events in Iraq and the region, energy cooperation, and the threat of a resurgent ISIS. President Barzani thanked President Trump and the people of America for supporting Kurdistan in the fight against the terrorist organisation.

Here in Washington, our Mission has been active in conveying the KRG's concerns for the stability of Kurdistan and Iraq and our view that the US-Kurdistan partnership should not only continue but should flourish.

Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman
Representative to the United States
Kurdistan Regional Government
President Nechirvan Barzani and President Donald Trump discuss developments in Iraq and the region

On Wednesday January 22, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, President of the Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani and President of the United States Donald Trump held a meeting in which they discussed the situation in Iraq as well as Kurdistan Region's relations with the United States.

President Trump described the people of Kurdistan as a great people and said, 'We are indebted to you.' The U.S. President also reiterated the gratitude and appreciation of his country for the Kurdistan Region and the Peshmerga for their role in defeating ISIS and protecting ethnic and religious communities in Kurdistan.

The two Presidents discussed energy cooperation, Erbil - Baghdad ties, and the danger of the resurgence of terrorism and how to confront it. They also discussed developments in the broader Middle East, Kurdistan Region's relations with regional countries and the situation in Syria.

Read a press release here.
Prime Minister Masrour Barzani receives US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani received the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker and the US Consul-General in Erbil Steven Fagin.

Discussing the latest developments in Iraq and the Middle East, Prime Minister Barzani expressed his deep concern about recent events and highlighted the need for dialogue to deescalate the situation in Iraq.

Recognizing progress made in talks between the KRG and Baghdad, Assistant Secretary of State Schenker welcomed the KRG's role as a partner and an advocate for peace and stability in the region.

Representative Abdul Rahman discusses security situation with senior Pentagon official

Acting US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Kathryn Wheelbarger welcomed KRG Representative Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman for a meeting at the Pentagon.

The two officials discussed the importance of US-KRG security cooperation, particularly in counterterrorism operations against the ISIS terror groups, which reports indicate is resurgent in some parts of Iraq. Representative Abdul Rahman highlighted how important US security assistance has been for Kurdistan's Peshmerga Forces, and underscored the importance of expanding this relationship.

Representative Abdul Rahman visits Capitol Hill for meetings with Congress

Representative Abdul Rahman made numerous trips to Congress this month to meet with Members to discuss the rapidly evolving set of challenges facing Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. 

Among the members the Representative met were Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Richard Burr (pictured) , Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith , as well as other members of the House and Senate intelligence, foreign relations, and armed services committees. 

In each meeting, Representative Abdul Rahman thanked the Members for their continuing support for the Kurdistan Region, particularly their support for the Peshmerga. They discussed the evolving political and security situation in Iraq, the ongoing humanitarian crisis, and the recent meeting between President of the Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani and President of the United States Donald Trump.
President Nechirvan Barzani meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdulmahdi

Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdulmahdi arrived in Erbil on January 11 and was received by President Nechirvan Barzani

President Barzani and Iraqi Prime Minister Abdulmahdi reiterated that Iraq should not become a battleground for settling rivalries among regional and international powers. They also emphasized that Iraq's relations with other countries must be on the bases of mutual interest and respect for the sovereignty of Iraq.

They also agreed that all sides should work together to prevent further escalation of the situation while restoring peace and stability, and that the interests of Iraq are the priority for all parties.

US Congressmen Jason Crow and Jim Cooper are new Co-Chairs of the Kurdish-American Congressional Caucus

KRG Representative Abdul Rahman welcomed Congressmen Jason Crow and Jim Cooper as new Co-Chairs of the Kurdish-American Congressional Caucus, joining existing Co-Chairs Congressmen Ralph Abraham and Frances Rooney. 

Congressman Cooper (pictured) represents Tennessee's Fifth Congressional District, which includes Nashville where the largest population of Kurdish diaspora in the US live. He has been a steadfast supporter of his Kurdish constituents and Kurdistan. 

Congressman Crow represents Colorado's 6th District. As an Army Ranger, the Congressman served as a platoon leader in Iraq in 2003. In his first term as a member of Congress, Mr. Crow proposed a bill to issue Special Immigrant Visas to Syrian Kurds who supported the counter-ISIS effort. 
Kurdish art exhibition open through February 25 at Middle East Institute

An art exhibition at the Middle East Institute featuring Kurdish artists will remain open to the public through February 25. 

On February 7, the gallery will host an open house featuring a performance by Kurdish musician and artist Lukman Ahmad. Kak Lukman's music and paintings have been featured in galleries across the United States.

The exhibition is sponsored by the KRG Representation in the United States and Justice for Kurds.

If you miss the open house event, you can visit the gallery on weekdays between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.
KRG Prime Minister chairs meeting of ministers to discuss Peshmerga Ministry reform

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani chaired a meeting of government ministers to discuss reforms in the Ministry of Peshmerga.

Prime Minister Barzani emphasized that modernizing Peshmerga forces, including their pensions, salaries, retirement, and other entitlements, is a significant part of the KRG's Reform Bill. Acknowledging the huge sacrifices and key role of the Peshmerga forces, the Prime Minister expressed his cabinet's full support for efforts to secure their rights.

Representative Abdul Rahman visits US Department of Energy

Representative Abdul Rahman visited the US Department of Energy to meet with Dr. Matthew Zais, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of International Affairs.

Representative Abdul Rahman and PDAS Zais discussed the need to prioritize coordination on actions in order to boost the region's energy security and possibilities for expanding the role of US energy companies in the Kurdistan Region. They also discussed events in Iraq and the region.

President Nechirvan Barzani meets the Secretary-General of the United Nations

President of the Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani met with the Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

President Barzani commended the role of the United Nations and its agencies in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, and stressed the need for the anti-ISIS international coalition's continued engagement in order to prevent the resurgence of terrorism.

The President also expressed support for the legitimate demands of the Iraqi demonstrators, as they call for basic services and a better future.

Read a press release here.
Speaker of Parliament  Rewas Faiq sends Reform Law to President Nechirvan Barzani for enactment

Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament Dr. Rewas Faiq sent the Reform Law to the President of Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani on January 22. Per the Kurdistan Region's laws and procedures, President Barzani has 15 days to sign the law to enact it, or return it to Parliament once only if he requests a change.

Once the law is signed and enacted, it will be published in Waqaa'ia Kurdistani (the official gazette of the Kurdistan Region).

President Barzani condemns latest rocket attacks on US Embassy compound in Baghdad

President Nechirvan Barzani issued a statement condemning the January 27 rocket attack on the US Embassy compound in Baghdad.

In a statement, he said, "These actions threaten Iraq's stability and interests, and if continued, they will have severe consequences on the country. Protecting the security of diplomatic missions is the duty of the Iraqi authorities. Violating the international rules and regulations by targeting diplomats and diplomatic missions must be prevented. We reiterate that Iraq should not become a battleground for regional and international forces."

The statement echoed a prior one issued jointly on January 8 by Kurdistan's President, Prime Minister, and Speaker of Parliament (pictured), which called for a de-escalation of tensions between Iran and the United States in Iraq.

The three leaders added that, "The Kurdistan Region views the support of the International Coalition in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region in confronting terror as a necessity, particularly since the terrorist groups' movements and actions have resurged. Therefore, the Kurdistan Region urges the international community not to allow terror to revive."
Prime Minister Barzani speaks with US Energy Secretary

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and the US Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette spoke by telephone on January 10.

Secretary Brouillette conveyed the US Energy Department's support for expanding the role of US energy companies in the Kurdistan Region. Prime Minister Barzani and Secretary Brouillette  were aligned on the need to prioritize coordination on actions that boost the region's energy security.

They agreed to stay in close contact as they work together to strengthen ties in the energy sector.

KRG approves reforms to Kurdistan Region tax system

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani chaired a meeting of the cabinet to discuss implementing best practice for the taxation system of the Kurdistan Region.

Prime Minister Barzani emphasized his cabinet's commitment to an ambitious reform agenda, notably tax revenue reform in the Kurdistan Region, which will ensure fair implementation of the system and provide the government with the enhanced enforcement tools.

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani meets with investors, discusses opportunities in Kurdistan Region

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani met with a delegation of investors and business leaders from the Kurdistan Region.

Highlighting the KRG's ambitious reform agenda, Prime Minister Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Talabani affirmed their commitment to supporting economic growth in the Kurdistan Region. The reforms, aimed at transforming the Kurdistan Region into a destination of choice for investors, will help to eliminate red tape, in turn generating further opportunities in the region's growing economy.

Prime Minister Barzani stressed the KRG's mission to facilitate opportunities in all sectors for both local and foreign investors, with an emphasis on protecting public and investors' interests.

More than 20,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Kurdistan Region since October 2019

Following the resurgence of violence in northeastern Syria after the Turkish incursion in that part of the country in October 2019, more than 20,000 Syrians have fled their homes and crossed in to Kurdistan Region. The majority are being housed in two refugees camps in Duhok Governorate.

This crisis is in addition to 230,000 Syrian refugees that were already in Kurdistan Region prior to October 2019, as well as the 787,000 internally displaced Iraqis. All told, more than 1.05 million people are displaced into the Kurdistan Region. 

Click here for daily statistics about arriving Syrian refugees.
Prime Minister Masrour Barzani chairs first meeting of the Economic High Council of the Kurdistan Region

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, alongside Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, chaired the first meeting of the Economic High Council of the Kurdistan Region.

The Council convened with a ministers and governors to discuss the financial situation in the Kurdistan Region and to seek ways to boost the economy.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Barzani emphasized the need to establish a roadmap for economic growth with policies that will update the tax system, reduce excessive and unnecessary expenditures and increase national revenues.

Kurdistan in the media

January 24, 2020
Interview with Representative Abdul Rahman

January 16, 2020
Q&A interview with President Nechirvan Barzani

January 23, 2020
Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani told a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday that the recent non-binding Iraqi parliament resolution to expel foreign forces from the country was not backed by Kurdish and Sunni lawmakers.

January 29, 2020
ISIS has begun reasserting itself in Iraq and Syria under a new leader assessed to be an Iraqi operative who was a driving force behind the terror group's genocide against the Yazidi people, according to a report submitted to the UN Security Council which was made public on Wednesday.

January 11, 2020
Iraq's caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi arrived in Erbil Saturday morning where he was received at the airport by Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani. He is expected to visit Sulaimani as well.

January 9, 2020
American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) was again ranked top among universities in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq by the National University Ranking (NUR), Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Aram Mohammad Qadir announced in a press conference.

January 8, 2020
Leaders in the autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq said Wednesday that they were worried that any further escalation between the United States and Iran on Iraqi soil could throw the already unstable nation into a more volatile situation. 

Iraqi PM urges Kurds to help rid Iraq of US troops - Al Monitor
January 15, 2020
Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi arrived Jan. 11 in Erbil - his first official visit to the Kurdistan region since taking office - to discuss the country's stability and the need for Kurdistan to cooperate with a push to expel US forces.

Syria refugees bring new tastes and traditions to Kurdish Iraq - France24
January 19, 2020
At first, no one in the Iraqi Kurdish capital Arbil would drink the bitter coffee at Syrian refugee Abdussamad Abdulqadir's cafe. But now it's a hit, part of a growing cultural exchange.

Kurdistan Region's parliament passes contentious reform bill - Rudaw
January 16, 2020
A contentious public salary reform bill was approved by the Kurdistan Region's parliament on Thursday. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) insists the bill will result in fairness and for public service employees.

MERI Ranked as Iraq's Leading Think Tank and Among the Top 7% in MENA Countries - MERI
January 29, 2020
The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the University of Pennsylvania's Lauder Institute ranked the Middle East Research Institute (MERI) as the top think tank in Iraq in 2019 for the fifth consecutive year in its 2019 Global Go To Think Tank Index report.
January 19, 2020
A recently established tote bag factory has created jobs for 25 women in the Kurdistan Region's Halabja  and aims to promote alternatives to plastic 

January 28, 2020
Misery hangs over al-Hol, the dystopian refugee camp in northeastern Syria where tens of thousands of wives and children of Islamic State fighters are interned.

Kurdistan still to iron out new oil deal with Baghdad - Reuters
January 23, 2020
Iraq's autonomous region of Kurdistan has yet to begin implementing a new oil deal with the central government as final details have yet to be agreed with Baghdad, its president Nechirvan Barzani told Reuters.

January 8, 2020
The Kurdistan Region's most senior leadership has urged parties involved in US-Iran tensions to conduct dialogue and prevent further escalation after Iran fired ballistic missiles at US targets in Iraq in the early hours of Wednesday.

January 14, 2020
Speaking to reporters on Monday, David Schenker, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, described his recent visit to the Kurdistan Region.

January 28, 2020
A new UN report published on Tuesday shows that while considerable effort has been made by Iraqi authorities to bring former ISIL terrorist fighters to justice, there are "serious concerns" about the fairness of the proceedings. 

Finding beauty in Iraqi Kurdistan - International Travel News
January 2020 issue
The sheer beauty of Iraqi Kurdi­stan absolutely shocked me. Mountains unexpectedly surrounded us everywhere we went, and there was snow in those mountains!

January 13, 2020
Now is not the right time for the withdrawal of US-led coalition forces from Iraq, President of Iraq's Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, said.