Iraqi Kurdistan's president visits Iran to discuss security and regional politics, ease tensions 

Iraqi Kurdistan's president visits Iran to discuss security and regional politics, ease tensions 
This visit coincides with the Iraqi Kurdistan region's efforts to seek Iranian reassurance in tackling security issues and internal political challenges.
5 min read
06 May, 2024
The most recent visit by Barzani to Iran occurred on 6 August 2021, during which he met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, Iran. [Getty]

The President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani, embarked on an official visit to Tehran, where he is expected to meet with senior Iranian officials. This visit holds significant importance as it occurs amidst efforts by the regional government to seek Iranian reassurance in addressing security and political challenges affecting the region.

According to statements released by the media office of the Kurdistan Region's presidency on the X platform, Nechirvan Barzani's visit aims to bolster the relations between Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Barzani arrived in Tehran on Sunday afternoon accompanied by a distinguished delegation, including his two vice presidents, Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa and Mustafa Said Qadir, as well as key advisors and ministers.

Nadhim Dabagh, the representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to Tehran, conveyed to local and Iranian media outlets that the delegation's agenda includes meetings with prominent Iranian figures, such as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, President Ebrahim Raisi, Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian.

The primary objectives of this official visit, as clarified by Dabagh, are to enhance bilateral relations between Tehran and Erbil, discuss crucial regional issues, and foster cooperation between the two sides.

Barzani's most recent visit to Iran occurred on 6 August 2021, during which he met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran.

This visit comes at a crucial juncture for the Kurdistan Region, following recent negotiations conducted by Barzani in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani and pro-Iran political parties within the Coordination Framework. During these discussions, Barzani advocated postponing the Kurdistan region's parliamentary elections scheduled for 10 June, citing the need to address concerns by the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which announced its vote boycott.

Furthermore, Barzani is expected to address the Kurdistan region's political crises during his discussions with senior Iranian officials. This includes deliberations on the recent attack on the Khor Mor gas field, which resulted in four casualties and significant material damage. The Kurdish delegation aims to seek assurances from Iran to prevent future attacks and maintain regional stability.

 The Kurdistan Region was set to hold parliamentary elections on 10 June following a nearly two-year delay, after multiple postponements caused by disputes between political parties and pending legal cases related to the electoral process.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), a competing party to the KDP known for its close ties with Iran, has opposed any additional postponement of the regional elections.

Meanwhile, despite mounting pressure to reconsider, the KDP persists in its decision to abstain from participating in the elections. The party argues that a recent verdict by the Iraqi federal court regarding minority quota seats and the division of the Region into four constituencies violates the constitution.

Sources told The New Arab last week that Barzani, also the vice president of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), is expected to announce the postponement of the region's long-overdue parliamentary election following his visit to Tehran.

Three well-informed Kurdistan sources told TNA that Barzani's move comes after the ruling KDP demanded that the elections be delayed by at least three months.

Live Story

The delay will hinder the probability of elections taking place soon, as the mandate of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) is close to expiring.

Authorities in the Kurdistan region have implicated armed factions associated with Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in the recent attack on the Khor Mor gas field, resulting in four fatalities and significant material damage. 

Four Yemeni nationals were killed, and two others were wounded when a suicide drone hit the Khor Mor gas field in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region late on Friday, 26 April.

The Khor Mor gas field, located southwest of Sulaimaniyah, is being developed by the UAE's Dana Gas company and produces natural gas for almost 80 per cent of the Kurdistan region's power plants.  

He added that the Kurdish delegation will also discuss the drone attack carried out by Iraqi militias at the Khor Mor gas field, emphasizing that "Kurdish officials realize the importance of the relationship with Iran and its influence in Iraq to make the Iraqi militias halt their attacks.  

Late on 15 January, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) launched a barrage of ballistic missiles toward Erbil, claiming it hit a "Zionist regime's spy headquarters in northern Iraq" with the strike, but it did not provide any evidence. The Iraqi and Kurdish officials have refuted Iran's claims. The attacks killed four people, including two businessmen, and injured six others.

Live Story

Baghdad summoned its ambassador to Tehran, Nasir Abdul Mohsen, following the missile attacks and reinstated him later in February. 

 Turkey and Iran often carry out ground, air strikes, and missile attacks on the Kurdistan region, claiming they are targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Iranian Kurdish opposition parties, but this often leads to civilian casualties. 

Iran accuses the Iranian Kurdish parties of "affiliating" with Israel; Iran often voices concern over the alleged presence of the Israeli spy agency Mossad in the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region

The Islamic regime also accused Iranian Kurdish parties based in the Iraqi Kurdistan region of stoking the nationwide protests triggered by the death in custody of Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa [Zhina] Amini.

Kurdish groups, in turn, strongly deny these accusations, saying that their activities are mainly "peaceful".