Country Risk

Violent protests likely to continue in Iraqi Kurdistan in six-month outlook; elevated risk of limited federal government intervention

22 December 2017

Key Points

  • With a KRG-Baghdad agreement unlikely until after Iraq’s May 2018 elections, violent protests in Iraqi Kurdistan are likely to intensify in the six-month outlook.
  • The concentration of protests in Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)-administered areas increases the likelihood of the PUK agreeing to a direct deal with Baghdad, allowing them to resume public sector salary payments, open border crossings, and resume flights to Sulaimaniya International Airport.
  • There is an elevated risk that the Baghdad government, overconfident after the easy recovery the majority of the Kirkuk oilfields, overplays its hand by seeking to capture the Khurmala oil field; this scenario carries high risk of cargo disruption and collateral damage to oil infrastructure in disputed territories.


Violent protests broke out across the Sulaimaniya and Halabja provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan on Monday 18 December 2017, leaving at least six protesters dead and more than 100 injured.

The protests, which as of 22 December were continuing, have been concentrated in areas controlled by the Talabani family’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Hotspots have included Sulaimaniya, Halabja, Penjwen, Koye, Rania, Chemchemal, Kifri, Kalar, Taqtaq, Said Sadiq, Qaladze, Takiya, Sangasar and Piramagroon, with participation numbering in the thousands in the larger cities of Sulaimaniya and Halabja.

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