PUK leadership rift threatens stability in gas rich Sulaimaniya

Security forces in Sulaimaniya were mustered on behalf of respective party leaders as negotiations continue.
Bafel Talabani (left) and Lahur Talabany (right) at a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party gathering on June 15, 2021. (Source: PUK Media)

SULAIMANIYA - The dominant party in Iraqi Kurdistan's gas-rich region is facing a serious leadership crisis as a simmering family dispute has escalated rapidly, threatening cohesion within the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and order in the territory it de facto governs.

Bafel Talabani, son of the late “Mam” Jalal Talabani, the founder of the PUK and former Iraqi President, last week moved to consolidate authority within the party, which controls a swath of gas rich territory in the eastern half of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). The move burst open an internal rift with his cousin Lahur Shaikh Jangi Talabany*, with whom he shares power. The two have served as co-presidents of the PUK since a December 2019 leadership congress.

Territory under PUK control produces around 10 percent of the KRI's oil output, but it contains the Kurdistan region’s only producing gas field, Khor Mor, as well as several other promising gas assets under various stages of development.

In recent years, partisan disputes have disrupted operations at oil and gas assets in PUK administered territory including at Khor Mor and the Sarqala oil field.

This content is for registered users. Please login to continue.
If you are not a registered user, you may purchase a subscription or sign up for a free trial.
Iraq Oil Report Attribution Policy

All sources quoted or referenced spoke to Iraq Oil Report directly and exclusively, unless stated otherwise. Iraq Oil Report typically grants anonymity to sources that can't speak without risking their personal safety or job security. We only publish information from anonymous sources that we independently corroborate and are important to core elements of the story. We do not provide anonymity to sources whose purpose is to further personal or political agendas.

Iraq Oil Report Commitment to Independence

Iraq Oil Report strives to provide thoroughly vetted reporting and fair-minded analysis that enables readers to understand the dynamic events of Iraq. To meet this goal, we always seek to gather first-hand information on the ground, verify facts from multiple angles, and solicit input from every stakeholder involved in a given story.

view our independence as an integral piece of our competitive advantage. Whereas many media entities in Iraq are owned or heavily influenced by political parties, Iraq Oil Report is wholly owned by several of its employees. In a landscape that is often polarized and politicized, we are able to gather and corroborate information from an unusually wide array of sources because we can speak with all of them in good faith.

fund this enterprise, Iraq Oil Report depends on revenue from both advertising and subscriptions. Some of our advertisers and subscribers ‐ including companies, governments, and NGOs ‐ are also subjects of our reporting. Consistent with journalistic best practices, Iraq Oil Report maintains a strict firewall that removes business considerations from editorial decision-making. When we are choosing which stories to report and how to write them, our readers always come first.