a member of the Kurdistan Region of IraqParliament survived an assassination attempt on Monday. The ordeal occurred amid tensions and dialogue between the two main Kurdish parties in northern Iraq.
What happened: Karwan Gaznay, a member of the Kurdistan parliament for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), said in a tweet on Tuesday that he “survived an assassination attempt” the night before. His driver was injured and they are “waiting for the government’s reaction,” according to the tweet.
The reason for the attack is unknown. The incident took place in the city of Koya located in the province of Erbil. He is under investigation, according to the PUK-affiliated Esta news agency.
Kurdish news outlet NRT, affiliated with the opposition New Generation party, reported that the shooting occurred around 10 pm local time at a checkpoint manned by Kurdish internal security forces known as Asayish. The shooters were in four vehicles that followed Gaznay from Sulaimaniyah and then returned to the city after the attack.
Sulaimaniyah province is controlled by the PUK, while Erbil province is controlled by the rival Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The KDP is the largest party in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), followed by the PUK. Koya, where the shooting took place, is close to the border separating the two sides’ territories.
Why it matters: The shooting occurred at a time of great tensions between the KDP and the PUK. Tensions between the two parties are not new, but they rose significantly in October when the PUK’s anti-terror officer, Hawkar Jaf, was killed in a car bomb in Erbil.
The current tensions have multiple dimensions. One area where the two sides disagree is over energy policy, specifically the KRG’s independent oil exports, according to Aras Masifi, an independent Kurdish blogger.
“PUK believes that it has had little say and involvement in the KRG’s oil policy in recent years,” Masifi told Al-Monitor. “That is why PUK advocates for a common uniform energy policy with Baghdad in the hope that it can have more of a voice and stake in Baghdad.”
Oil tensions have worsened since a March decision by the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce ruled that Turkey had to pay Iraq damages for accepting Kurdistan Region oil imports. The decision relates to efforts by the Baghdad-based federal government to exercise its authority over the KRG’s independent oil sector. Much of the region’s oil is in KDP territory.
“Especially after the Paris court decision, the PUK has become stronger and clearer in its pro-Baghdad rhetoric,” Masifi said.
The KDP currently holds the posts of prime minister and chairman in the KRG, while senior PUK member Qubad Talabani is deputy prime minister. The tensions also relate to the division of power within the KRG, according to Masifi.
“(Talabani) believes that he has little power to fill government positions. But the PUK would also like more autonomy from the KDP/Erbil when it comes to the budget and the procurement law for large construction projects,” he said.
The two parties have also been fighting over the region’s electoral laws and when to hold parliamentary elections, which are now scheduled for November. PUK officials stopped attending KRG Cabinet meetings last December due to tensions, according to the KDP-affiliated outlet Rudaw.
The assassination attempt on Syrian Kurdish leader Mazlum Kobane in Sulaimaniyah last month further exacerbated tensions between the two parties. Kobane blamed Turkey for the attack, although the country denied this. The KDP is historically close to Turkey, while the PUK has good relations with the Syrian Democratic Forces of Kobane, as well as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PUK blamed the KDP for the attack on Kobane, Amberin Zaman reported for Al-Monitor at the time.
The attack on Gaznay is not the first to take place amid these tensions. NRT reported a “remarkable increase” in shootings, kidnappings, and physical assaults during the month of April. The outlet noted the assault of Erbil-based lawyer Mohammed Sofi and the murder of KDP official Abdullah Kuekha Mubarak’s son, among other incidents.
“Tensions between the two ruling parties in the Kurdistan Region have provided opportunities for some to settle scores, taking advantage of the deteriorating security situation,” NRT reported.
There has been a particularly high number of political assassinations in Sulaimaniyah since 2021.
Know more: Intra-Kurdish tensions in Iraq could soon dissipate. On Sunday, the PUK ministers returned to Cabinet meetings. The Cabinet quickly approved a measure to centralize income, spending and salaries across the region. This had been a PUK demand, according to Rudaw.
On Tuesday, the political leaders of the PUK and KDP met again in Sulaimaniyah to discuss the November elections.