Iraq's Kurdish region warns against 'unlawful' stop to funds

BAGHDAD — Iraqi Kurdish authorities on Thursday pushed back against a decision by Iraq‘s top court that blocked payments from state coffers funding the semi-autonomous region.

Jutiar Adel, a spokesperson for Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government said in a statement that the “unlawful decision from an illegitimate court will impact (the) mutual understanding” between Kurdish authorities in northeastern Iraq and the central government in Baghdad.

The Iraqi Federal Supreme Court issued a ruling Wednesday that invalidates a series of decisions by the government in Baghdad to transfer funds to the KRG to pay salaries in 2021 and 2022, arguing that the transfers violated Iraq’s 2021 budget law and were unconstitutional.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Mustafa Sanad — an independent lawmaker who is allied with Iraq’s ruling coalition composed of largely Shiite parties backed by Iran — and by the governor of the Wasit province in eastern Iraq. Sanad praised the decision, saying it had “stopped the financial bleeding.”

The decision cannot be appealed. It places in doubt both the future payment of salaries and the fragile relationship between the Kurdish regional government and Baghdad.

Nechirvan Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region, said in a statement that the decision “targets not only the public employees and the people of Kurdistan who are Iraqi citizens, but also the entire political process and stability.”

A KRG official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly, said the “KRG will be in talks with the federal government to find a way to bring back normality to the ground.”

Should those talks fail, he said, “the people of Kurdistan region will be the victims.”