Monday, May 31, 2010

Kurdish Coalition Put On Hold Due To Internal Divisions

As the two main Shiite lists, the Iraqi National Alliance led by the Sadrists and the Supreme Council and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law, struggle to solidify their coalition, and Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement continues to claim that only they have the right to form a new government, the Kurdish parties are having problems of their own. As reported before, in April 2010 a grand alliance of all the winning Kurdish parties called the Kurdish Coalition was announced. It included the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Change List, the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), and the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG). Together they held 57 seats, and were going to present a united front in parliament towards the Arab parties when they put together a new government. Internal differences however have put the Coalition on hold, showing that the Kurds are just as divided as the Arabs are currently.

Even before the Coalition was announced, there were problems between the two ruling Kurdish parties the PUK and KDP. The PUK demanded that their leader Jalal Talabani return as Iraq’s president, and that he be given equal standing to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President and KDP head Massoud Barzani. The KDP countered by saying that they held more seats in parliament, and therefore should be in charge of the Coalition. The KDP and PUK were once on equal footing, but after the 2009 Kurdish elections, the PUK lost many of their supporters to the new Change List. Since then, the KDP has been asserting its dominance in regional affairs. It was no surprise then that they should demand leadership of the new Kurdish Coalition.

Students in Sulaymaniya protesting the death of journalist Zardasht Osman, May 2010. Kurdish authorities have blamed the demonstrations on the Change List causing tensions between it and the KDP & PUK

The other dispute was between the Change list and the KDP-PUK over the death of journalist Zardasht Osman. On May 4, 2010 Osman was kidnapped in front of his university in Irbil, and found a few days later in Mosul, shot in the head. The Change List began blaming the KRG for allowing the death, and some implied that the authorities were personally involved because of Osman's writings about the ruling parties. Demonstrations sprung up that were supported by the Change list as well. The KDP and PUK responded by saying that Osman was more of a student than a journalist, and blaming all of the protests on Change. The Change List has often complained about the KDP and PUK abusing their powers, and the arguing has expanded to all the major Kurdish parties trading accusations. The rhetoric has continued to escalate, and shows the divide between the old ruling parties and the upstart Change List.

The Kurdish Coalition has been put on hold for now. A meeting between all the members was cancelled, and the Change List recently accused Talabani of excluding them from a meeting held in Baghdad with other Iraqi parties on May 20. The Coalition is still likely to happen, but they have some serious internal differences to overcome. The Change List and two Islamic parties demanded that they be equal partners and involved in all decisions when the Coalition was first discussed. The PUK and KDP dispute however, shows that the KDP wants to be in the leadership role, which wont go down well with the others. The PUK and KDP are also very wary of the growth of the Change List, and see it as a threat to their continued power in Kurdistan. Luckily for the Kurds, the Arab parties are just as divided so the Kurdish Coalition has time to work out their problems before they go to Baghdad to put together a new ruling coalition. When they get there however, they will not be the kingmakers that they once were. The Sadrists have taken that position with their surprising showing in the March 2010 election, which gives them a central role within the major Shiite parties who are determined to hold onto the premiership. That means that the Kurds, even when they do come together, may not be able to get as many concessions as they hoped from their united front. They are still considered an important part in any new government, but they will be included as part of the finishing touches on a new regime, rather than playing a central role as they once did because the Arab parties are much stronger and better organized now to express the will of the majority of Iraq’s population.

SOURCES

AK News, “Demo in protest of the killing of a student in Erbil,” 5/9/10
- “Kurdistan Opposition Parties refuse to support the latest demonstrations in Iraqi Kurdistan,” 5/25/10
- “Official: Media dispute between KDP and Gorran may develop into standoff,” 5/15/10
- “Tensions Deepen between Goran and KDP,” 5/18/10

Alsumaria, “Kurdish Party blames Iraq President Talabani,” 5/22/10

Dagher, Sam, “Abducted Kurdish Writer Is Found Dead in Iraq,” New York Times, 5/6/10
- “Killing of Journalist Inflames Iraqi Kurds,” New York Times, 5/10/10

Institute for War & Peace Reporting, “Storm Gathers Over Slain Journalist in Iraqi Kurdistan,” 5/24/10

Taha, Yaseen, “Kurdish unity under threat,” Niqash, 5/20/10

Sunday, May 30, 2010

RAND Report: Iraq Unlikely To Unravel Anytime Soon

In February 2010 the RAND Corporation released a report on potential threats to Iraq as the U.S. withdrew its forces. The study was entitled “Security in Iraq; A Framework for Analyzing Emerging Threats as U.S. Forces Leave.” It noted that there were still Sunni and Shiite extremists, but that they lacked the ability to re-start large scale fighting. The Arab-Kurdish dispute was considered the most troubling problem facing the country, but even then it was not considered an immediate challenge to stability. Rather, RAND found that as long as the major political parties and groups were involved in the government there was no real likelihood of a return to widespread violence in Iraq.

Insurgents in Fallujah, 2004. The turn towards armed groups for protection instead of the government was a sign of the power vacuum that existed within the country that led it to be a failed state

The first important part of the RAND study was that it documented the reasons why Iraq fell into a civil war and became a failed state. Violence in Iraq grew out of the weak political system created by the United States after the fall of Saddam. Sunnis and Shiites couldn’t agree upon the new government, which led to the former boycotting the January 2005 elections, and trying to vote down the new constitution later in that year. At the same time, the Sunni insurgency was gaining in popularity, supported by foreign jihadists who added to the chaos. The major political parties were also unwilling to give up their militias, and saw violence as the best way to gain an advantage against each other. This was a situation made worse by the fact that the Americans failed to deal with the armed factions of the parties they supported after the invasion, were focused upon withdrawing rather than defeating the insurgency before the Surge of 2007, and most importantly lacked the vision, resources, and knowledge to deal with post-war Iraq. The country was soon embroiled in a cycle of violence as Sunni attacks upon Shiites provoked retaliation that was later joined by the major Shiite parties and the Shiite-led government. The general breakdown in order led the population to look towards militants rather than the government for protection, as the authorities became just another part of the chorus of violence besetting Iraq. The political system ceased to be relevant, the nation fractured upon ethnosectarian lines, and Iraq became a failed state. This did not end until 2007-2008 due to a number of factors. First, the Sunni tribes turned on Al Qaeda in Iraq, the Surge reduced sectarian fighting, Moqtada al-Sadr called for a cease-fire, and finally the Iraqi forces went after the Mahdi Army and Iranian-backed Special Groups.

Representatives of the Sadrist-Supreme Council led Iraqi National Alliance in meeting with the Iraqi National Movement to form a new Iraqi government is a sign of the new status quo that emphasizes politics over violence. At the far right are Ammar Hakim, head of the Supreme Council, and Vice President Tariq Hashemi of the National Movement, Baghdad, May 2010

The end of the civil war in 2008 gave way to a new political order. The main factions within the country gave up on violence, and joined the political process, which became the core of the current system. The main ethnosectarian groups are the only ones that can disrupt Iraq’s stability today. Since they are working together on politics that means fighting between them is unlikely. Not only that, but RAND argues that the longer they partake in politics, the stronger the system becomes, and the more popularity it garners.

That doesn’t mean militant violence will end anytime soon, but it is less and less consequential to the future of Iraq. On the Sunni side, the insurgency and Al Qaeda in Iraq have lost the backing of the populace, and their continued use of violence has become the norm, so they wont change the situation within Iraq dramatically one way or another by their actions. Al Qaeda has also targeted the Sons of Iraq and Sunni politicians, which makes it less likely for either to rejoin the Islamists. Sunnis are also increasingly involved in politics and the security forces, so unless the government cracks down on them, they are an unlikely source of renewed conflict in general. For Shiites, the Mahdi Army is overmatched by the Iraqi forces, and Sadr is once again attempting to become a politician. The Shiites have also turned against the Special Groups, and Iran is deemphasizing its military policy in Iraq for its more important political and economic goals.

RAND believes that the continuation of the current status quo depends upon two factors. One of which is that the Shiite-led government needs to act responsibly and not abuse its power. Two signs of abuses would be that the authorities go after non-violent opponents, or that it begins sidestepping checks and balances, and the usual lines of authority. The former has not happened, but the latter has. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Dawa party have tried to assert their control over the government bureaucracy and the security apparatus. Maliki for example, has set up an intelligence agency, a Special Forces unit, and a military brigade that answer to him directly. He has also set up military commands throughout the country that do not answer to the Interior or Defense Ministries, but rather to him personally. Other Western commentators have written about Maliki’s move towards autocratic rule before. Maliki’s concentration of power around himself has also become a worry of the other major Shiite parties, and is the main reason why they are opposing him to become prime minister once again today.

What RAND considers the main threat to Iraq’s future is the Arab-Kurd divide. If the Sunnis and Shiites were to reconcile that could increase tensions with the Kurds. Kurdistan has historically been weary of a strong central government, afraid that it will use its power against them. If they believe that Baghdad is a threat once again, they could withdraw from politics and resort to force. This dispute could blow up over a number of factors ranging from the growing strength of the Iraqi military, arguments over oil or territory, or the government’s wish to assert their authority over Kurdistan. The U.S. withdrawal will also mean that the outside guarantor of their security is disappearing. If the Kurds split from the system, it is the only real threat to break Iraq apart once again. With that being said, RAND still seems to consider it unlikely to happen anytime soon. The Kurds have followed a dual track policy since 2003 of strengthening their autonomy while participating in national politics. Both of which have been quite successful. Even though they are losing standing in Baghdad with the renewed strength of the Shiite parties, which represent the majority of the country, they are still considered an important part of any new government put together. When they lose that status, than Iraq may have to start worrying.

Overall, the RAND report thinks that the center will hold in Iraq as the U.S. withdraws its forces beginning this year. The major groups in the country are committed to politics now, and the main short-term threat to stability, Nouri al-Maliki, may not even return as prime minister. The Arab-Kurd divide is still a long-term problem that the country needs to overcome. If that comes to a head however, it will be long after U.S. combat forces have exited the country. In the end, RAND believes that Iraqis will determine their own future, and that U.S. power has already reached its apex, and is in fact declining with each day. This has caused fits for some such as outgoing commander of U.S. forces General Ray Oderino and a slew of American think tankers that want to preserve U.S. influence by keeping U.S. troops in Iraq for as long as possible. For them, Iraq is like a prodigal son that they can’t let go of. The RAND report is also a rebuff to those that constantly fret that Iraq is about to return to major fighting over a never ending list of issues that have come and passed, and others on the horizon. As the study points out, the militants lack the means, internal support, and foreign backing to change the status quo in Iraq, despite their daily acts of violence. The next large bombing will kill many and garner international headlines, but it will not change the status quo within Iraq. While Iraq’s politicians will take their time to put together a new government that doesn’t mean the country is falling apart either, because the major players are all involved in the same process now. Iraq will move ahead on its own clock from now on, and its up to the world to adjust to this new reality.

SOURCES

Byman, Daniel, “An Autopsy of the Iraq Debacle: Policy Failure or Bridge Too Far?” Security Studies, October 2008

Gompert, David, Kelly, Terrence, Watkins, Jessica, “Security in Iraq; A Framework for Analyzing Emerging Threats as U.S. Forces Leave,” RAND, 2/17/10

Parker, Ned, “Machiavelli in Mesopotamia,” World Policy Journal, Spring 2009

Ucko, David, “Militias, tribes and insurgents: The challenge of political reintegration in Iraq,” Conflict, Security & Development, October 2008

Friday, May 28, 2010

Plight Of Iraq’s Refugees/Displaced Continuing


 Iraqi refugees waiting to register with United Nations in Syria, 2007

Iraq’s refugees are often ignored in reports on the improvements in the country. While security is much better and the government is attempting to bring in foreign investment to develop its oil and gas industry, the situation of several million Iraqi refugees and displaced is only getting worse. In February and March 2010 three organizations released reports on the problem. Those were Refugee International’s “Iraq: Humanitarian Needs Persist,” the Norwegian Refugee Council’s “Iraq Little new displacement but in the region of 2.8 million Iraqis remain internally displaced,” and the International Rescue Committee’s “A Rough Road Ahead, Uprooted Iraqis In Jordan, Syria, and Iraq."

Iraq’s refugee problem developed over several decades, and came in three waves. First Saddam Hussein forced out tens of thousands of Kurds, Shiites, and marsh Arabs for their opposition to his rule. There were also 80,000 Iraqis who lost their homes during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988 that were still displaced after the U.S. invasion. The second wave came during the U.S. invasion and its immediate impact. Most of those were temporary however. The last wave occurred after the bombing of the Samarra shrine in February 2006 that set off the sectarian civil war. It’s estimated that before 2003 around 1 million Iraqis were displaced, 190,000 more lost their homes from March 2003 to February 2006, and that 1.55 million were forced to leave after the Samarra bombing.

Displacement began to decline in 2007 as violence decreased, and there have been very few new examples since then. In 2009 for example there were no major displacements reported. In 2010, 4,300 Christian families temporarily left their homes following attacks upon their communities. There were also 4,200 families from Tamim, Ninewa, Salahaddin, Maysan, Dhi Qar, and Basra who lost their homes due to a drought.

In total, there are an estimated 1.9 million refugees and 2 million displaced. Both of those numbers are contested. First, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has registered far fewer Iraqis living in other countries, and the number of displaced is likely out of date due to returns over the last several years.

Iraqis returning home

Since the U.S. invasion over one million Iraqis have come back. From 2003 to 2009 approximately 745,630 displaced and 433,696 refugees have made the journey home, for a total of 1,179,326. The process of return has not come in the large, and steady waves as some hoped and predicted. For instance, 2004 saw the largest number of returns at around 291,997. The numbers were lower for the next three years before passing the 200,000 mark again in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

The major deterrents to coming back are the lack of jobs and security, and the demographic changes that occurred during the fighting. Baghdad for example, which saw the greatest number of Iraqis lose their homes, was once made up of mostly mixed neighborhoods, but is now largely segregated by sect. Most experts believe that refugees and those that left their provinces but still reside in Iraq are least likely to return.

Reclaiming property is another difficult matter. The Iraqi government doesn’t have the capabilities to deal with this legal issue, and hasn’t even taken care of all the property cases dating from before the war. As a result, the UNHCR reported in December 2009 that 15% of the displaced and 56% of the refugees that have returned have been unable to get their property back. Many people lack the papers to claim their lost land or homes. That also means that they are unable to send their kids to school, get services, or apply for government aid or food rations.

For those that continue to be displaced, their situation is getting worse. Of the 1.55 million that lose their homes from 2006-2007, 33% are estimated to be squatters, living in the worst conditions. They do not receive aid from the government, U.N., or non-governmental organizations. The authorities are actually opposed to helping them because they fear that will make their status permanent. In April 2010 the UNHCR reported that the number of squatters actually increased by 25% in 2009. It believes that 500,000 people live in camps, with the 260,000 in Baghdad alone.

The government has not created an effective program to deal with its refugee and displaced problem. In 2008 it began focusing upon getting Iraqis to come back, but that was largely a political move to improve the image of the country rather than to really help people. As part of the effort, $800 was offered to those that came back, but actually claiming the money proved to be a hard and arduous process due to the government bureaucracy. The authorities also issued orders to evacuate all squatters to make way for the returnees. Squatters were offered $250 per month for six months if they left. That plan was quickly dropped however.

The one exception has been in Diyala. There, the United Nations and the government have set up a largely successful program to accommodate returnees. Together they are working to rebuild 400 destroyed villages. Baghdad has committed $78 million to the project, which has resulted in 3,000 homes being rebuilt, with 6,000 more planned for 2010. Both Sunni and Shiite families have also gone back. In early 2010 the plan ran into problems, as authorities wanted to start rebuilding houses in the Khanaqin district of northern Diyala, which is a disputed territory. The district is controlled by the Kurds who object to Arab families going back there.

Iraqi family returning to Burah, Diyala 2010

In the rest of the country, there is no organized aid campaign. The Ministry of Displacement and Migration is under funded, and the amount allocated for the displaced has gone up and down. The 2008 budget had $210 million set aside, compared to just $42 million in 2009, before going back up in 2010 to $170 million. The government also stopped registering refugees at the end of 2009. When they did, they only dealt with those that lost their homes after 2006, excluding several hundred thousand Iraqis who lost their homes during Saddam’s time or during the early years of the war.

Refugees also lack assistance. Life in other countries is becoming increasingly difficult for Iraqis. Many cannot send their kids to school and employing them is banned, although lots work illegally. Many are facing poverty as a result, as their savings have been depleted. The UNHCR has a cash grant program that helped 6,000 families in Jordan and 12,000 families in Syria last year. Its resources are limited however, as donations for Iraqi refugees have decreased in recent years. 60% are also 25 years or younger, and there are fears that they may become a permanent refugee population, lacking skills, experience, and education to move on with their lives.

Although accurate numbers are hard to come by approximately 2/3 of Iraq’s refugees and displaced are still without their homes. Although the process of return has begun, it has happened at an up and down pace. Those that come back still face difficulties, and the government, United Nations, and NGOs do not have the capabilities to adequately assist them. This has led some to speculate that the majority of Iraq’s refugees and many displaced that left their provinces may never come back. That means the Iraqi government, aid agencies, and the international community needs to come up with a comprehensive campaign to deal with this large population. The displaced need to get more assistance, and be integrated into their new provinces or countries. The problem is that planning is often shortsighted, and lacks adequate funding because Iraq is a fading issue for many in the world. If things don’t change, Iraqis could become the new Palestinians without the media attention, causing social, political, and economic problems in their host countries, and within Iraq itself.

SOURCES

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, “Iraq Little new displacement but in the region of 2.8 million Iraqis remain internally displaced,” Norwegian Refugee Council, 3/4/10

IRC Commission On Iraqi Refugees, “A Tough Road Home, Uprooted Iraqis In Jordan, Syria And Iraq,” International Rescue Committee, February 2010

Rao, Prashant, “Iraq squatter camp population on the rise: UN,” Agence France Presse, 4/11/10

Refugees International, “Iraq: Humanitarian Needs Persist,” 3/17/10

UNHCR, “Monthly Statistical Update on Return – December 2009,” 1/27/10

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How Many Sons of Iraq Have Actually Been Integrated By Baghdad?

An Iraqi police officer (left) and a member of the Samarra Sons of Iraq (right) in Salahaddin, Dec. 2008
The April 2010 Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) report contains some important information about the integration of the Sons of Iraq (SOI). In 2008 the Iraqi government agreed to integrate all 94,000 plus of the SOI into the security forces or other Iraqi ministries by the end of 2009. Due to a series of delays and budgetary problems, that end date was pushed back until after the March 2010 parliamentary elections. That has come and passed and Baghdad is still no closer to providing jobs for all of the SOI, and in fact, it’s unclear how many have actually found employment.

There are two disputes surrounding the SOI numbers. First, how many have been integrated, and second, how many have found work. The SIGIR said that only 37,041 have been integrated as of April 2010, 4,565 into the security forces, and 32,476 into other ministries. That compares to Baghdad that claimed in January 2010 that it had hired 50,000 SOI, 15,000 into the police and military, and 33,000 in other government positions. A few days before, a U.S. general told the press that 40,000 SOI had been integrated, 10,000 in the security forces, and 30,000 into other ministries. That left 78,000 still receiving government wages doing their SOI work. Whatever the numbers are might not matter. According to the SIGIR, the Iraqi government claims an SOI has been transitioned when they are offered a job. Whether they actually get that position is not counted, and they are dropped from the government payroll regardless. That has been a major problem since many of the SOI lack skills or are illiterate. 81% of the SOI in Baghdad for example, only have an elementary or middle school education. Another issue is that many SOI have been offered menial jobs as a result such as picking up trash, and some have been offered work outside of their provinces, which greatly reduces their ability to accept.

Baghdad says that it is still committed to the SOI. It spent $270 million on the program in 2009, and has allocated an additional $50 million in the 2010 budget. In Diyala for example, the authorities told the press in March 2010 that they would start integrating 18,000 SOI into the police beginning in April. That has happened despite continued opposition by some in the government who think that the SOI are unrepentant militants. As a result, SOI are still occasionally arrested by the authorities. The real question is what will happen if the remaining 70,000 or so SOI have not been integrated by the end of this year. Right from the beginning it seemed unlikely that Baghdad would ever accept the SOI en masse. They were created by the Americans during the Surge with little to no input from the authorities, which caused resentment and mistrust. That doesn’t appear to have been overcome so it would be no surprise if many of the Sons Of Iraq end up unemployed and looking for jobs like so many other Iraqis currently are.

SOURCES

Alsumaria, “40,000 Sahwa members into Iraqi institutions,” 1/11/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “Diala police begins integration of 18,000 Sahwa fighters,” 3/22/10
- “Diala sahwa fighters quit checkpoints,” 1/23/10

Chulov, Martin, “Sons of Iraq turned the tide for the US. Now they pay the price,” Guardian, 5/13/10

Gisick, Michael, “’Sons of Iraq’ face weakened power,” Stars and Stripes, 1/3/10

Reuters, “Iraq Says 50,000 Former Insurgents In Govt Jobs,” 1/19/10

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 4/30/10

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

12th Oil Deal Signed By Iraq

On May 16, 2010 Iraq’s Oil Ministry announced that it had signed the 12th oil deal with foreign companies since 2003. The new contract with the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) was for the Maysan oil field. It has 2.5 billion barrels of reserves, and straddles the Iran-Iraq border. In December 2009, one of the wells was taken over by Iranian troops that led to a short standoff between the two countries. As part of the new agreement, CNOOC and TPAO have promised to increase production from the current 100,000 barrels a day to 450,000 barrels in six years. They will be paid $2.30 per barrel after reaching a set production level. The contract is for 20 years, with an option to add five more years.

In June 2009 CNOOC and China’s Sinochem first bid on the field, asking for $21.40 for each extra barrel that they produced, while the Oil Ministry offered only $2.30. Negotiations continued between the two sides for the next several months, with Sinochem eventually dropping out, and being replaced by TPAO

The CNOOC-TPAO deal is only the latest in a series of agreements signed by the Oil Ministry recently. Beginning in 2008, the Ministry inked its first foreign oil contract since the U.S. invasion with the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) for the Ahdab field in Wasit. In 2009, Iraq held two bidding founds, which resulted in ten deals. Those were made with British Petroleum, CNPC, Malaysia’s Petronas, France’s Total, Royal Dutch Shell, Angola’s Sonangol, Russia’s Gazprom and Lukoil, South Korea’s KoGas, TPAO, India’s ONGC, and Norway’s Statoil Hydro. All together, the Ministry is hoping that these new contracts will increase production to 3.2 million barrels a day by the end of 2011, and eventually reach 12 million barrels a day within six years. In 2010, Iraq is averaging 2.38 million barrels a day in 2010, which is down from 2.40 million barrels in 2009. There are still major barriers to the country’s plans, but any increase will be welcomed since petroleum accounts for 90% of the government’s revenue. They need as much money as they can get to pay for services that do not meet demand, and to hopefully develop other parts of the economy.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Iraq to boost oil output ‘above 3 mln bpd in 2011,’” 5/15/10

DPA, “Iraqi official: Iraq to sign contract developing 3 new oil fields,” 5/16/10

Hafidh, Hassan, “2nd UPDATE: Cnooc, TPAO Sign For Iraq Missan Oil Fields Deal,” Dow Jones Newswires, 5/17/10
- “Sinochem quits Iraq oil field consortium,” Market Watch, 5/16/10

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Return of Sadr’s Militia?

In May 2010, there were several reports in the Western press about the return of Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia to Iraq’s streets. On May 12 for example, the Christian Science Monitor talked to the U.S. general in charge of southern Iraq who said that the Sadrists had been emboldened by their strong showing in the March 2010 election, and were intimidating people, extorting money, and using violence. Sadrists were also seen on Friday prayers. On May 5 The National reported that former Mahdi Army members were seen in Wasit. They were not armed however. One member told the paper that this was part of a new effort to organize small units to protect mosques. The Associated Press also had a story on May 4 of militiamen deployed around mosques and parading in Sadr City and southern provinces. Sadrists were also accused of carrying out a series of attacks in Basra on liquor stores and members of the security forces. The month before, after a bombing in a Shiite area of Baghdad killed 72 people, Moqtada al-Sadr offered to use his militia to protect mosques in conjunction with the Iraqi security forces.

In mid-2008 Sadr disbanded the Mahdi Army. This came after a series of offensives launched by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki earlier in the year that killed, detained, or scattered most of the militia. Even before that, the Sadrists had broken up into several factions, and had lost much of their standing by exploiting their fellow Shiites.

The Mahdi Army was replaced a few months later with a new organization called the Promised Day Brigade. Its stated goal was to drive the United States out of Iraq. The American military has claimed that the Brigade has carried out low level attacks upon their forces. For example, in September 2009 they were blamed for killing a U.S. soldier and wounding four others in a roadside bombing in Baghdad, and also firing rockets at a U.S. base in November. As a result, Iraqi and U.S. forces continue to target them for arrest. At the end of 2009 for instance, Iraqi police and troops detained 18 Promised Day Brigade members that included its leader in the city of Amarah in Maysan province, a senior commander in Baghdad, and a cell leader in Baghdad.

Since late-2008 Moqtada al-Sadr has been trying to refashion his movement into a social and political group. When he disbanded the Mahdi Army, he said that his followers should focus upon politics, and the upcoming provincial elections. They had a mixed showing in that vote, but they did much better in the March 2010 election when they won 40 seats. Despite his attempt to move into the mainstream, Sadr still has a small armed faction, the Promised Day Brigade, which continues to carry out attacks. That shows that Sadr has still not fully embraced being a political leader. The Sadrists are almost assured a prominent role in the new regime. That could mean that its militia will return to the streets to assert its authority over Shiite areas, or its fighting component will eventually fade, as the Sadr Trend becomes a real political party and the Americans withdraw by 2011.

SOURCES

Arraf, Jane, “U.S. sees return of Sadrist threat in southern Iraq,” Christian Science Monitor, 5/12/10

Cochrane, Marisa, “The Fragmentation of the Sadrist Movement,” Institute for the Study of War, January 2009

Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” June 2009

Fadel, Leila, “Iraq’s Kurds could lose some of their influence to anti-American Sadr movement,” Washington Post, 3/24/10

Hendawi, Hamza and Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Shiite militia reviving in post-election Iraq,” Associated Press, 5/4/10

Latif, Nizar, “Mahdi army may be poised to make comeback,” The National, 5/5/10

Mohsen, Amer, “Iraq Papers Sat: ‘The Promised Day,’” IraqSlogger.com, 11/14/08

Roggio, Bill, “Iraq continues crackdown on Iranian-backed terror groups,” Long War Journal, 12/23/09

Yates, Dean, “ANALYSIS – Iraq’s Sadr avoiding fight with government,” Reuters, 6/16/08

Zahra, Hassan Abdul, “Iraq’s Sadr plans new armed group to fight US forces,” Agence France Presse, 6/13/08

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gas And Power Development Go Hand And Hand In Iraq

Iraq’s Oil and Electricity Ministries are launching a joint plan to develop Iraq’s natural gas fields to provide fuel for the country’s power plants. In April 2010 the Oil Ministry announced that it was holding auctions for three natural gas fields as well as sending the long delayed Shell-Mitsubishi deal for capturing gas in Basra to the cabinet for approval.

The three fields that are going to be put up for bid are Akkas, Mansouriya, and Siba. Akkas is in Anbar province and holds 5.6 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves. Mansouriya is in Diyala and has up to 4.5 trillion cubic feet of reserves, and Siba is in Basra with 1.1 trillion cubic feet in reserves. The Akkas and Mansouriya fields were put up for auction in 2009, but only Akkas received a bid, and that was rejected by the Oil Ministry. 45 companies that were involved in that 2009 bidding round will be allowed to make offers on the three fields, and the winners will be given 20 year technical service agreements similar to the oil deals that were recently signed. The businesses need to reach a set production level before they start being compensated. The auction for the fields will occur on September 1, 2010.

The Oil Ministry has also sent the Shell-Mitsubishi gas deal to the cabinet for ratification. If approved the deal will be worth between $10-$20 billion to collect the natural gas produced from Basra’s oil fields. That contract has been delayed since February 2008 because of opposition within the government and parliament, and Baghdad’s inability to come up with the money to pay the companies. It still faces many hurtles, not the least of which is the fact that the Oil Ministry has not worked out how Shell and Mitsubishi will cooperate with the companies extracting oil in Basra, and how those businesses will be compensated

Iraq currently produces around 1.64 billion cubic feet of gas a day, but 70% of that is burned off and wasted. It’s estimated that Iraq loses $4-$12 million a day as a result. Overall the country is believed to have up to 112 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. The Oil Ministry wants to boost gas production by five times within five years through these deals.

That extra gas will largely go to fuel Iraq’s power plants. Iraq’s Electricity Ministry wants to increase its output to 27,000 megawatts in four years based upon these gas deals. In 2008 it signed a $2.03 billion contract with Siemens for 16 turbines, and $3 billion with General Electric for 56 turbines. In May 2010 the Ministry will offer up bids to start installing some of these turbines. If the auctions for the 3 gas fields fail or the Shell deal is not approved however, the Electricity Ministry will have to scrap all of its plans.

This is quite an ambitious development program by Iraq’s Oil and Electricity ministries. With improved security the government is beginning to develop its energy industries with the help of foreign investors after decades of neglect due to wars and sanctions. Currently, oil is not up to pre-war levels, energy output does not meet demand, and natural gas is being wasted. All three need to be boosted at the same time to reach the government’s goals. That is a very complicated and intricate process that is fraught with problems. The oil companies that recently won deals for Basra’s fields for example, have not agreed to supply gas that will be produced in the extraction process to Shell and Mitsubishi. Whatever contracts that are signed now may also be scrutinized and changed by the new Iraqi government, whenever it is seated. If successful, Iraq will go a long way to reaching its potential, if not it will remain an underdeveloped state despite its rich resources.

SOURCES

Ajrash, Kadhim and Razzouk, Nayla, “Iraq Invites Bids for Akkas, Mansouriya Gas Fields (Update 1),” Bloomberg, 5/6/10

Associated Press, “Iraq Puts 3 Natural Gas Fields Up for Bid,” 5/6/10

Daood, Mayada, “iraq burns 70 billion dollars a year,” Niqash, 5/5/10

Hafidh, Hassan, “UPDATE: Iraq Sends Draft Of Shell Gas Deal To Cabinet For Approval,” Dow Jones Newswires, 5/6/10
- “UPDATE: Iraq To Hold New Bid Round For 3 Gas Fields – Official,” Dow Jones Newspapers, 4/14/10

Iraq Business Report, “Iraqi Oil Ministry Sets 2014-15 Targets for Crude and Gas Output,” 5/8/10

Reuters, “Iraq plans power boost after gas fields auction,” 5/10/10

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 4/30/10

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Talks Between Al-Hadbaa And Kurds Continue In Ninewa

In the January 2009 provincial elections the al-Hadbaa party emerged victorious in Ninewa province. They took all the positions in the governorate, shutting out the Kurdish led Ninewa Brotherhood List which had previously ruled the province. The Kurds ended up boycotting the provincial council in April 2009, ordered the sixteen districts under their power not to cooperate with al-Hadbaa, denounced the list as Baathists, and barred them from entering any Kurdish area. Besides control of the administration, the two sides have diametrically opposed views for the future of Ninewa. The Kurds for example, want to annex northern portions of the province that are disputed territories, and maintain their peshmerga militia and security forces there.

This year, the United Nations and Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement have attempted to mediate between al-Hadbaa and the Brotherhood list. In March the two met in Istanbul, Turkey at a conference to discuss provincial governance, and in April the U.N. hosted a meeting as well in Baghdad. The two just began another round of talks this month in Irbil. The Iraqi National Movement has also been pushing the talks as al-Hadbaa is a major player within the list, and Allawi wants them to make concessions in Ninewa in an attempt to win the Kurds over to his side in forming a new government. 

According to press reports, the lists have come to some agreement on outstanding issues. They have found compromises on the budget, appointment and distribution of governmental posts, staffing the bureaucracy, and the release of Arab prisoners held by the Kurds. Two other disputes over the border of Ninewa and security have been given to the central government and the Kurdish Regional Government to work out. A joint committee has also been established to work out the details of each one of these points. 

If al-Hadbaa and the Brotherhood List come to any concrete compromise it would be a major breakthrough for Iraqi politics. The dispute between the two encapsulates the larger Arab-Kurd divide, which is one of the leading problems facing the country. It is a major reason why Mosul, the provincial capital for example remains the most violent city per capita in the nation, and the last urban bastion of the insurgency. If the two lists can work together in Ninewa, it would go a long way to lowering attacks and deaths there and re-unite the divided governorate, as well as lower tensions in northern Iraq.

SOURCES

AK News, “Local consensus government likely in Nineveh: source,” 4/7/10
- “New round of negotiations between Nineveh and Hadbaa in Erbil tomorrow, sources,” 5/13/10
- "New session between sub-committees from "Brotherhood " and "Hadbaa," 5/19/10

Kamal, Adel, “signs of a solution in mosul,” Niqash, 5/13/10

Friday, May 21, 2010

Iraq’s Politics Not Much Changed By 2010 Election

Certification of Iraq’s final election results is hopefully coming soon after the manual recount of Baghdad province and the deBaathification of candidates are now over. Neither resulted in a major change in the number of seats won by each list. Iyad Allawi still came out the winner with 91 seats, while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law was second with 89. Allawi’s win was unexpected, and the result of the Shiite vote being divided between Maliki and the Sadrist-Supreme Council-led Iraqi National Alliance. Even more so was the Sadrist backed Iraqi National Gathering winning the most seats, 39, of any single political party. That was accomplished by some shrewd organizing of its followers

Despite those two surprises, the general map of Iraqi politics has not changed much. That’s shown in a comparison of the 2005 to the 2010 parliamentary elections. In 2005 the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance and the Sadrist Upholders of the Message won 130 seats, 47.2% of the total. Those parties split in two in 2010 to form State of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance that together captured 159 seats, 48.9% of the total. In 2005 the Kurdish Alliance and the Kurdistan Islamic Union won 58 seats, 21.0% of the total, and in 2010 the three Kurdish lists together won 57 seats, 17.5% of the total. The two major changes between the votes were the decline of the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front, and the growth in popularity of the nationalist lists. In the last election, the Iraqi Accordance Front won 44 seats, 16% of the total, making it the third largest list in parliament. In 2009 the Front disintegrated, and only ended up winning 6 seats, 1.8% of the total in 2010. The nationalist/secular parties on the other hand increased in popularity, largely at the expense of the Accordance Front. In 2005 the Iraqi National List, Iraqi National Dialogue Front, the Reconciliation and Liberation List, and the Iraqi Nation List took 40 seats together, 14.5% of the total. In 2010 the Iraqi National Movement and the Unity of Iraq Alliance tallied 95 seats, 29.2%. If the Sunni and nationalist lists of 2005 were added together it would be almost the same at 30.5%.

The next Iraqi government is also going to look a lot like the old one. After a long drawn out process the two main Shiite lists, State of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance merged together in May 2010. That was done to keep them in the leadership of the new government, and prevent Allawi from becoming prime minister again. They are expected to join with the Kurds, and eventually Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement to form another national unity government, made up of almost the exact same groups that took power in 2005. The Shiite parties will still hold onto the premiership, a Kurd will end up president, and the Sunnis and secular nationalists will be playing third fiddle. Below are the complete 2010 election results by lists and individual parties.

Winning Lists: 2010 Parliamentary Election

Names in parenthesis are party leaders, % is percentage of 325 member parliament

Iraqi National Movement – Iyad Allawi – 91 seats
  • Other political parties – 33 seats, 10.2%
  • Iraqi National List (Iyad Allawi) – 31 seats, 9.5%
  • Renewal List (Vice President Tariq Hashemi) – 20 seats, 6.2%
  • Iraqi National Dialogue Front (Saleh al-Mutlaq) – 5 seats, 1.5%
  • Compensatory seats – 2 seats, 0.6%

State of Law – Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki – 89 seats
  • Dawa Party (Nouri al-Maliki) – 35 seats, 10.8%
  • Other political parties – 31 seats, 9.5%
  • Dawa – Iraq – 20 seats, 6.2%
  • Independents (Oil Minister Hussain Shahristani) – 1 seat, 0.3%
  • Compensatory seats – 2 seats, 0.6%

Iraqi National Alliance – Ammar al-Hakim – 70 seats
  • Iraqi National Conference (Moqtada al-Sadr) – 39 seats, 12.0%
  • Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) (Ammar al-Hakim) – 20 seats, 6.2%
  • Fadhila Party (Hashem Ali) – 7 seats, 2.2%
  • Iraqi National Congress (Ahmad Chalabi) – 1 seat, 0.3%
  • Reform Movement (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) – 1 seat, 0.3%
  • Compensatory seats – 2 seats, 0.6%

Kurdish Alliance – Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani – 43 seats
  • Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) (KRG President Massoud Barzani) – 28 seats, 8.6%
  • Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) (President Jalal al-Talabani) – 14 seats, 4.3%
  • Compensatory seats – 1 seat, 0.3%

Change List – Nishurwan Mustafa – 8 seats
  • Change List (Nishurwan Mustafa) – 7 eats, 2.2%
  • New Iraq (Mohammed Hussein) – 1 seat, 0.3%

Iraqi Accordance Front – Osama Tawfak Tikriti – 6 seats
  • Independent Tribes (Omar Hamad) – 4 seats, 1.2%
  • Iraqi Islamic Party (Osama Tawfak Tikriti) – 2 seats, 0.6%

Unity of Iraq Alliance – Interior Minister Jawad Bolani – 4 seats
  • Iraqi Constitutional Party (Interior Minister Jawad Bolani) – 3 seats, 0.9%
  • Iraqi Awakening Conference (Sheikh Ahmad Abu Risha) – 1 seat, 0.3%
  • Iraqi Republican Gathering – 0 seats, 0.0%

Kurdistan Islamic Union/Kurdistan Islamic Group
  • Kurdistan Islamic Union (Salahaddin Bahaeddin) – 4 seats, 1.2%
  • Kurdistan Islamic Group (Aziz Nazer) – 2 seats, 0.6%

Minorities – 8 seats, 2.4%

2010 Top 5 Political Parties
1. Iraqi National Gathering – Sadrists – 39 seats, 12.0%
2. Dawa Party – Maliki – 35 seats, 10.8%
3. Iraqi National List – Allawi – 31 seats, 9.5%
4. Patriotic Union of Kurdistan – Talabani – 23 seats, 7.1%
5. Renewal List – Hashemi – 20 seats, 6.2%
5. Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council – Hakim – 20 seats, 6.2%

Comparison 2010 vs 2005 Parliamentary Elections

Shiite Parties:
2010: State of Law + Iraqi National Alliance – 159 seats, 48.9% of total
2005: United Iraqi Alliance + Upholders of the Message – 130 seats, 47.2% of total

Kurdish Parties:
2010: Kurdish Alliance + Change List + Kurdistan Islamic Union/Kurdistan Islamic Group – 57 seats, 17.5% of total
2005: Kurdish Alliance + Kurdistan Islamic Union - 58 seats, 21.0% of total

Sunni Parties:
2010: Iraqi Accordance Front – 6 seats, 1.8% of total
2005 Iraqi Accordance Front – 44 seats, 16% of total

Nationalist/Secular Parties:
2010: Iraqi National Movement + Unity of Iraq Alliance – 95 seats, 29.2% of total
2005: Iraqi National List + Iraqi National Dialogue Front + Reconciliation and Liberation List, Iraqi Nation List – 40 seats, 14.5%

SOURCES

BBC, “Guide to Iraqi political parties,” 1/20/06

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “Iraqi Accord Jabahat al-Tawafuq”
- “Iraqi National Alliance Al-I’itilaf Al-Watani Al-Iraqi”
- “Iraqi National Movement Al-Haraka al-Wataniya Al-Iraqiyya”
- “Kurdish Parties”
- “State of Law Dawlat al-Kanoon”
- “Unity Alliance of Iraq I’itilaf Wehdat al-Iraq”

Kazimi, Nibras, “About Those Sadrist Numbers,” Talisman Gate, 4/1/10

Sly, Liz, “Iraqi court upholds appeals of 9 winning parliamentary candidates,” Los Angeles Times, 5/18/10

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 4/30/10

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kurdish Oil Exports Placed On Hold Until New Iraqi Government Seated

On May 6, 2010 Iraq’s Oil Ministry announced that it had brokered an agreement with the Kurds to allow them to export oil once again. On May 18, the Iraqi cabinet said that it had approved the deal. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had originally sold its petroleum overseas from June to September 2009 before it stopped due to a dispute with the Oil Ministry over who should pay the oil companies for their work. At the beginning of 2010 the two sides began talking again as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki attempted to win the Kurds over to his side before the parliamentary elections. Eventually the KRG and Oil Ministry agreed to allow the Kurds to export, the Ministry to pay the companies for their work, the revenues to be deposited in Baghdad, and then the money to be distributed back to Kurdistan. That deal is now on hold.

On May 17, the KRG’s Natural Resource Minister said that Kurdistan would not start exporting until a new Iraqi government is seated. That makes sense since any new regime is likely to put the oil deal on hold, review it, and perhaps even change it, so it would be better to hold off on exports until the incoming parliament takes power in Baghdad, and all the final details are worked out.

Even before the Minister’s announcement, there were problems emerging. First, on May 11, the Deputy Oil Minister said that there was no final agreement between the central and regional government because the Finance Ministry had not approved the payment of foreign oil companies operating in Kurdistan. A few days later, Oil Minister Hussain Shahristani stated that if a new oil law was passed the Kurds would not have the right to sign export contracts with petroleum corporations. The Minister went on to say that oil belongs to the nation, not Kurdistan. Who has the authority to negotiate deals for the exploration and exploitation of oil has been one of the major disputes between the KRG and Baghdad. The Kurds say they can sign their own contracts, while the Oil Ministry claims only they have the right to do so. Shahristani’s statements would point to continued deadlock over the issue. The Minister may only have months more in office however as he’s likely to be shifted to another position within the new government whenever it is seated.

For now, the Kurdish export deal is being postponed. It’s likely going to take several more months before a new prime minister is named and the 2010 parliament takes office. Even then its unclear that the new government will okay Kurdish exports, although the Kurdish parties are making assurances over their oil contracts a key demand to join any ruling coalition. All along the agreement appeared to be a political one, meant to woo the Kurds to Prime Minister Maliki’s side during the 2010 elections. There’s no guarantee that he will return to power, so the country will have to wait and see whether the new regime will be any different from the previous one when it involves dealing with the KRG. The export deal may be one bell weather as to how the new relationship is working.

SOURCES

AK News, “Baghdad and Erbil reach no agreement over regional oil export,” 5/11/10
- “Shahristani: “Adopting oil law will not allow KRG to contract with international companies,”” 5/12/10

Reuters, “Iraq Kurd Oil Exports to Flow Only Under New Govt,” 5/17/10

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Is Iran And Hezbollah Behind Southern Iraq Blasts?

On May 10, 2010 three bombs went off in the southern province of Basra. All three were car bombs targeting markets in and around the city of Basra. The blasts left 30 people dead, and 126 wounded. 

The day after, the head of Basra’s provincial council's security committee said that intelligence pointed to foreign involvement in the explosions. He claimed that one Arab state and another were implicated in the attacks. On May 18, the Iraqi Interior Ministry told the press that Iran, working with an Iraqi group, was one of the countries behind bombings in southern Iraq. Sources in the Ministry said that Iranian explosives were used. If the other state was an Arab country, it was most likely Lebanon and Hezbollah. At the end of April, a U.S. military spokesman accused Iran of using Hezbollah to carry out attacks in Iraq.

Iran has a long history of supplying Shiite militants with weapons, and using Hezbollah for training and advising. Since the U.S. invasion, one of Tehran’s main goals has been to drive the U.S. out, and create sectarian divisions. Iranian backed Shiite groups have been known to attack their own people, hoping that the blame will be placed on Sunni groups like Al Qaeda in Iraq, and that will drive the population to look towards militias and Special Groups for protection.

Currently Iran is focusing upon Iraq’s elections, trying to shape the political situation, which is Tehran’s ultimate goal, but it still is providing low-level support to Shiite extremists. That’s why it would not be surprising if these claims were true, and Iranian backed Special Groups were behind the Basra bombings.

SOURCES

Alsumaria News, “U.S. Forces in Iraq Accuse Iran of Training Lebanese Hizbullah to Carry Out Attacks in Iraq,” MEMRI Blog, 4/29/10

Associated Press, “Toll for Iraq attack rises to 119,” 5/11/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “16 killed, 50 injured in Basra explosion,” 5/10/10
- “Arab states involved in Basra blasts – official,” 5/11/10

Issa, Sahar, “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq Monday 10 May 2010,” 5/10/10

Al Sharqiya, “Security Sources in Iraq: Most Recent Bombings With Iranian-Made Weapons,” MEMRI Blog, 5/18/10

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Attacks Down, And Deaths Slightly Up In Mosul

After seeing one of the lowest death counts in Mosul since the U.S. invasion in March 2010, casualties crept up slightly in April, while attacks saw a large drop. In March 2010 there were only 27 deaths in what is per capita, the most violence city in Iraq. It was not for a lack of trying however as militants carried out the same average number of attacks that month at 2.16 per day. That compared to February when 66 people were killed, and there were 2.17 attacks per day. For April the number of deaths crept up a little to 43, while attacks dropped to 1.43 per day. That was the lowest number of security incidents since May 2008 when there was 1.35 per day. The types of attacks carried out in April were similar to previous months. Small armed attacks, IEDs/roadside bombs, and bodies found on the street were the most common incidents. In March it was IED/roadside bombs, armed attacks, and grenades. There were also 94 wounded in April as well, in contrast to 125 in March, 109 in February, and 89 in January.

One reason for the decline in attacks in April may be because of the death of Al Qaeda in Iraq’s northern commander. Abu Suhabi Ahmad al-Obeidi was killed by a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation on April 20 in Mosul. He was in charge of Al Qaeda’s operations in Ninewa, Tamim, Salahaddin, and parts of Diyala. That came amongst a series of devastating losses for the organization that included the death of its two leaders. A look at attacks over the next few months will reveal whether these were major setbacks for the group, or whether they will be able to recover.


Attack and Casualty Statistics for Mosul
Month 
Attacks/Avg. Per Day 
Deaths/Avg. Per Day 
Wounded/Avg. Per Day 
Sep. 09 
72/2.40
65/2.16
60/2.00
Oct.  
66/2.12
60/1.93
82/2.64
Nov.  
55/1.83
37/1.23
71/2.36
Dec. 
60/1.93
44/1.41
108/3.48
Jan. 10
59/1.90
38/1.22
89/2.87
Feb. 
61/2.17
66/2.35
109/3.89
Mar.
67/2.16
27/0.87
125/4.03
Apr.  
47/1.56
43/1.43
94/3.13

Breakdown Of Attacks/Incidents In Mosul - April 2010: 47
Defused Bomb: 1
Home Invasion: 1
Mortar Attack: 1
Grenade Attack: 2
Bombing: 3
Shoot-out/Arrest: 3
Body Found: 6
IED/Roadside Bomb: 10
Armed Attack: 20

SOURCES

AK News, “Qaeda military leader killed North of Baghdad,” 4/20/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “2 al-Qaeda leaders, cop killed in Mosul,” 4/23/10
- “2 civilians killed in Mosul,” 4/24/10
- “2 policemen wounded in blast in Mosul,” 4/22/10
- “2 unknown corpses in Ninewa,” 4/19/10
- “2nd civilian killed in Mosul in 24 hrs,” 4/7/10
- “3 mortars land near police HQ in Mosul,” 4/30/10
- “4 family members killed in Mosul,” 4/15/10
- “4 civilians, 2 soldiers wounded in Mosul,” 4/22/10
- “7 civilians wounded in blast in Mosul,” 4/19/10
- “24 killed, injured in Mosul suicide attack,” 4/12/10
- “Army kills, arrests 2 gunmen in Mosul,” 4/13/10
- “Bomb defused in eastern Mosul,” 4/30/10
- “Casualties from Mosul blast reach 40,” 4/4/10
- “Civilian body found in Mosul,” 4/7/10
- “Civilian gunned down in Mosul,” 4/5/10
- “Civilian gunned down in Mosul,” 4/26/10
- “Civilian killed, another wounded in Mosul,” 4/8/10
- “Civilian killed, cop wounded in Mosul,” 4/24/10
- “Civilian killed in western Mosul,” 4/15/10
- “Civilian wounded in grenade blast in Mosul,” 4/11/10
- “Cop killed, 3 wounded in Mosul,” 4/27/10
- “Cop wounded in Mosul shooting,” 4/11/10
- “Corpse of Shiite civilian found in Mosul,” 4/17/10
- “Decayed body found in pool in Mosul,” 4/3/10
- “Gunman killed, another wounded in IED blast in Mosul,” 4/8/10
- “Gunmen kill 2 cops in Mosul,” 4/9/10
- “Gunmen kill civilian in Mosul,” 4/14/10
- “IED defused near mosque in Mosul,” 4/8/10
- “IED kills officer in Mosul,” 4/30/10
- “Iraqi army soldier killed in Mosul,” 4/14/10
- “Iraqi soldier wounded in IED blast in Mosul,” 4/24/10
- “Iraqi soldier wounded in Mosul clashes,” 4/22/10
- “Police officer, civilian injured in Mosul,” 4/27/10
- “Soldier wounded in clashes with gunmen southeastern Mosul,” 4/20/10
- “Unknown body found in Mosul,” 4/5/10
- “Woman wounded in blast targeting Iraqi army in Mosul,” 4/2/10

BBC, “Iraqi al-Qaeda leaders ‘killed,’” 4/19/10

Issa, Sahar, “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Sunday 18 April 2010,” 4/18/10
- “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Thursday 15 April 2010,” 4/15/10

Reuters, “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, April 6,” 4/6/10
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, April 16,” 4/16/10

Williams, Timothy, “Wider Recount of Iraq Ballots Is Requested by Vote Leader,” New York Times, 4/20/10

Monday, May 17, 2010

More On Prospects For Jobs From New Oil Deals In Iraq

In 2009 Iraq signed ten new oil deals with international companies to develop its greatest resource. Six different businesses have said that they plan to start work on four fields this year. Those corporations have begun giving out multi-million dollar contracts to oil service companies to drill wells, prepare fields, etc. Schlumberger, Halliburton, Baker Hughes, and Weatherford are four of the largest petroleum service businesses in the world, and all have received work in Iraq recently. British Petroleum for example, gave out a $500 million service contract in March 2010 to Weatherford and Schlumberger to work with the state-run Iraqi Drilling Company on the Rumaila field in Basra. As a result, Schlumberger is setting up its first camp in Iraq that will have 300 people this year, and up to 600 by early 2011. Weatherford has been hired to set up 9 rigs in Iraq with 1,000 employees by July. 

The question is how much of this work will be done by Iraqis and how much by foreigners? Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani has said that the new oil deals will provide up to 100,000 jobs for Iraqis. The problem is that petroleum is not a labor-intensive industry, so this early effort to build up Iraq’s infrastructure might be the best chance for people to find work. Iraq lacks skilled workers however. As part of each one of the oil deals that the government signed are clauses saying that the foreign companies must train Iraqis. The corporations are said to be setting up training programs right now. Even then, early reports show how little work is actually going to be available. In total, the oil service companies have only talked about 1,600 workers by early 2011. This is just the beginning of what could be a huge amount of construction work, but even if that initial number were to double, triple, quadruple, etc. that would still only a handful of positions with no word on how many of those would go to Iraqis. Even the 100,000 jobs promised by the Oil Ministry, would not be adequate to meet Iraq’s needs, because it suffers from such high unemployment/underemployment, poverty, and 250,000 new people entering the work force each year. It seems that the promise of a booming oil industry may not translate into a booming job market for the country. The best hope is that the profits from the oil deals will be invested into the economy and services, and that might be the way for people to benefit.

SOURCES

Canty, Daniel, “Iraq’s skill shortage: Challenge vs. Opportunity,” Arabian Oil and Gas, 5/5/10

Gunter, Frank, “Liberate Iraq’s Economy,” New York Times, 11/16/09

Hatcher, Monica, “Weatherford to Be Ready for Iraq Fields by July,” Houston Chronicle, 4/20/10

Klump, Edward and Wethe, David, “Iraq Oil Bases Sprout as Halliburton Chases Growth,” Bloomberg, 4/21/10

Reed, Stanley and Razzouk, Nayla, “Iraq’s Economy Wakes Up,” Business Week, 4/22/10

Reuters, “Schlumberger: Iraq work hinges on security,” 4/25/10

Sunday, May 16, 2010

No Change in Iraq’s Election Results After Recount, But It Still Served Its Purpose

Iraq’s Election Commission announced on May 14, 2010 that it had finished its recount of Baghdad province. No major examples of fraud or irregularities were found, only some small individual ones that did not change the ultimate results. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law list originally demanded the recount process in March after it came in second to Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement. Allawi’s list won 91 seats, while Maliki won 89. While the hope to gain more seats failed, the recount gave Maliki the time to outmaneuver Allawi.

At first, the Election Commission rebuffed Maliki’s calls for a recount. It said that large scale manipulation of the votes was impossible since the ballots were entered into computers twice by two different teams, and if the counts were outside of a margin of error, the results were re-entered. The Commission eventually gave into political pressure as State of Law began organizing protests throughout Iraq demanding a recount, and Maliki even threatened violence if one wasn’t held. Eventually an election court ordered a recount on April 19 just in Baghdad province. Even though State of Law won the most seats there, 26 compared to the National Movement’s 24, they were hoping a re-tally would give them enough seats to surpass Allawi’s list overall. That would undermine his claim to having the right to form a new government, and the delay in the certification of the election would also give State of Law more time to try to outmaneuver the National Movement. That was seen when Maliki’s list immediately began complaining about how the recount was being conducted in an attempt to drag out the process even more. 

Even though the recount did not change the election results, it did give Maliki time to work out a merger with the Sadrist-Supreme Council led Iraqi National Alliance. That will keep Allawi out of the premiership, and ensure that the Shiite parties will remain in control of the new government. The re-tally thus achieved its ultimate goal of giving State of Law an advantage in putting together a new ruling coalition.

SOURCES

AK News, “Iraqis protest for re-tally,” 3/25/10
- “Iraqiya might call for a re-vote: Allawi,” 4/27/10
- “Karbala province demands manual recounting,” 3/22/10
- “No fraud in more than 2000 Baghdad polling stations,” 5/6/10

Arraf, Jane and al-Dulaimy, Mohammed, “US expresses first concerns over Iraq election results,” Christian Science Monitor, 4/26/10

Associated Press, “Baghdad recount could change Iraq election results,” 4/19/10
- “Baghdad Vote Recount to Take About 2-3 Weeks,” 4/29/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “Appeals Court decision guides vote recount – Hayderi,” 5/3/10

BBC, “Iraq vote recount calls rejected,” 3/21/10

Chulov, Martin, “Iraqi elections hit with claims of fraud by opposing parties,” Guardian, 3/16/10

Fadel, Leila and Hussein, Jinan, “Prime minister warns of violence, but election board rejects calls for recount,” Washington Post, 3/22/10

Latif, Nizar and Sands, Phil, “Recount of ballots threatens to undermine Iraq’s fragile stability,” The National, 4/21/10

Myers, Steven Lee, “In Recount, Iraqi Commission Finds Little Fraud,” New York Times, 5/14/10
- “Iraq Recount Mired in a New Dispute,” New York Times, 5/3/10

Al Sumaria News, Qanon, Al Cauther, Al-Iraq News, Al Rafidayn, RM Iraq, Sotal Iraq, “Iraq Votes – Part IX,” MEMRI Blog, 3/23/10

Williams, Timothy, “Wider Recount of Iraq Ballots Is Requested by Vote Leader,” New York Times, 4/20/10

Friday, May 14, 2010

Iraq's Oil Exports Drop In March And April 2010

After Iraq hit a post-invasion high in oil exports in early 2010, both output and foreign sales dropped the next two months. In February 2010 Iraq produced an average of 2.44 million barrels a day and exported 2.05 million barrels a day, the largest amount since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. After hitting that high point however, production and exports dropped over the next two months. In March and April the country produced an average of 2.25 million barrels a day and 2.40 million barrels a day respectively. Exports for those months dropped to 1.84 million barrels a day in March, and 1.71 million barrels a day in April. That was down to the levels of the first half of 2009. The decline was blamed on an April attack on the northern pipeline to Turkey that knocked it out of service for a few days, and bad weather in March

March and April broke a ten-month plateau established in mid-2009. From May 2009 to Feb. 2010 Iraq averaged 2.45 million barrels a day in production, and 1.93 million barrels in exports. That was the highest output since the U.S. invasion, and the result of the improved security situation, which saw a dramatic drop in attacks upon the oil pipelines. Iraq’s petroleum infrastructure was also working at top capacity. As has often happened in recent years however, the country was not able to sustain that output. As a result, Iraq’s exports have continuously gone up and down.

Despite the decline in foreign sales, Iraq is still seeing increased revenues due to the rising price of oil. In February 2010 for example, Iraq earned $4.229 billion. The next month exports dropped, yet the country was able to earn $4.35 billion. The price of Iraqi crude has seen a steady increase since hitting a low point in 2008 due to the world recession.

The Oil Ministry is now hoping to boost production with the help of international companies that signed deals last year. In April 2010 the Ministry announced that it had plans to increase production to 4.5 million barrels a day, and have exports up to 3.1 million barrels by 2014. This is a multi-billion dollar investment plan that relies upon both private and public money. As reported before, a few of the foreign corporations have already begun initial work on Iraq’s oil fields. British Petroleum for example, announced that it will boost production at the Rumaila field in Basra by 10% by the end of the year. Rumaila is one of the largest oil fields in the world and currently produces 1.07 million barrels a day. Iraq needs as much help as it can get since oil provides up between 80-90% of the country’s revenue, and it still has not reached its pre-war levels.

Iraq Avg. Monthly Oil Production/Exports (Millions of Barrels Per Day)
2009

Jan. 2.16/1.91
Feb. 2.32/1.70
Mar. 2.37/1.81
Apr. 2.37/1.82
May 2.41/1.90
Jun. 2.44/1.80
Jul. 2.49/2.04
Aug. 2.49/1.98
Sep. 2.50/1.95
Oct. 2.50/1.89
Nov. 2.37/1.92
Dec. 2.40/1.91
2009 Avg. 2.40/1.88

2010
Jan. 2.46/1.92
Feb. 2.44/2.05
Mar. 2.25/1.84
Apr. 2.40/1.71
2010 Avg. 2.38/1.88

Iraq Yearly Oil Production/Export Avg. (Millions of Barrels Per Day)
2003 1.44/0.795
2004 2.25/1.47
2005 2.07/1.36
2006 2.11/1.50
2007 2.11/1.66
2008 2.41/1.84
2009 2.40/1.88

10-Month Plateau In Production – May 09-Feb. 10
2.45/1.93


SOURCES

AK News, “BP expects a 50% increase in Rumaileh oil production by the start of next year,” 4/29/10

Associated Press, “Iraq’s Oil Exports Dip in March by 11 Percent,” 4/20/10

Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, “Iraq Status Report,” U.S. Department of State, 5/5/10

DPA, “Iraqi oil revenues topped 4.35 billion in March,” 4/22/10
- “Northern Iraqi oil pipeline bombed – Summary,” 4/22/10

Iraq-Business News, “BP Awards $500mn Oil Services Contracts in Iraq,” 3/30/10

Reuters, “UPDATE 1-Iraq aims to up oil output to 4.5 mln bpd in 2014,” 4/28/10

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Is The DeBaathification Crisis In Iraq’s Election Over?

There are conflicting reports about the future of the Accountability and Justice Commission and its attempt to ban candidates from Iraq’s March 2010 parliamentary election. The New York Times reported on May 11, 2010 that Iraq’s political leadership had reached a deal to end the work of the Commission. According to Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani and the U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill there will be no more banning of candidates, and the current cases will all be dropped. The Commission head Ahmad Chalabi was quoted as saying the same, and that he would not stand in the way of the appeals of nine winning candidates whose cases are now in court. That would mean that they would all be cleared and the plurality won by Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement would be preserved. The Associated Press and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty however noted statements by the Executive Director of the Commission Ali al-Lami saying that the future of the nine candidates is still up in the air, and that he believed that their cases would fail in court and they would indeed be disqualified.

The Accountability and Justice Commission, which replaced the deBaathification Commission, started banning hundreds of candidates for alleged ties with Iraq’s outlawed Baath Party beginning in January 2010. They represented fifteen different parties, most of which were secular and nationalist such as Allawi’s and Interior Minister Jawad Bolani’s Unity of Iraq Alliance. After the first wave of 500 candidates were disqualified, the Commission announced that 52 others were banned after the election, two of which won seats, and nine other victorious candidates were also up for deBaathification. If that last round of politicians were been banned, it would give Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law list the largest number of seats in the new parliament, and empower him in negotiations with other parties.

According to Chalabi, the entire deBaathification fiasco was meant to stand up to the Americans. He claimed that the U.S. was intent on bringing Sunni Baathists back into government. Chalabi was probably referring to a number of talks that the CIA and others were conducting with Baathists in Yemen, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey in 2009. None of the talks led to anything substantial however.

Much more likely, the deBaathification crisis was used by the Iraqi National Alliance to derail any discussions of real issues before the election, and make it about a non-existent boogey man instead, the Baath Party. Both Chalabi and Lami were candidates for the National Alliance. The list was made up of the Sadrists, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s National Reform Party, Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, and a number of other smaller parties. The Alliance lacked any ideological coherence other than being led by Shiites that were opposed to Prime Minister Maliki. Since it had nothing to run on, it used the fear of Baathism as its main campaign platform. It was so successful in that endeavor that Maliki ended up joining the witch-hunt rather than opposing it. Having served its purpose, deBaathification can now be dropped as the lists negotiate a new Iraqi government. Since it proved its usefulness, it’s unlikely to rear its ugly head again, until some of Iraq’s Shiite leaders need it once again to rally the fears of the public against the ghost of Saddam Hussein.

SOURCES

Santana, Rebecca, “Iraqi vetting commission to end election work,” Associated Press, 5/12/10

Shadid, Anthony, “Iraqi Deal to End De-Baathification,” New York Times, 5/11/10

Synovitz, Ron, “Iraqi Election Hinges On Court Ruling On Banned Candidates,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 5/12/10

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kurdish Oil Exports To Start Again

On May 6, 2010 the Iraqi Oil Ministry said that it had come to an agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to allow it to export its oil. In May 2009, the central government originally authorized the Kurds to sell their petroleum abroad as long as the revenue was deposited with Baghdad. The next month the KRG began exporting from its Tawke and Taq Taq fields that were run by Norway’s DNO,  and a Swiss, Canadian, Turkish joint venture of Addax Petroleum and Genel Enerji. In mid-September 2009 the KRG stopped all work at the two fields when its Natural Resources Minister was caught in a stock scandal involving DNO and the Oslo Stock Exchange. By the beginning of October Tawke and Taq Taq were officially shut down because the KRG had not worked out a deal with the central government to pay the Norwegian, Swiss, and Turkish companies. For the time that they were operating, Baghdad was getting all the profits, but the corporations were not being compensated for their work. Afterward, Kurdish officials stepped up their attacks upon Baghdad claiming that their oil policy had failed, that the KRG didn’t have to follow the Oil Ministry’s rules, that the Kurds could export oil, and keep any profits that came from it. 

There was no breakthrough on the matter until the beginning of 2010. That’s when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki began reaching out to the Kurds, hoping to woo them before the parliamentary elections. In January the Prime Minister said that the two sides should discuss renewing exports. By March, Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani was saying that Kurdish sales would begin within a month. In April, the Oil Ministry sent a delegation to Irbil to hold talks with the Kurds about their oil contracts. After that meeting, the KRG said that they had reached an agreement with Baghdad to export again. The Tawke and Taq Taw fields would go back to work, the Oil Ministry would pay the companies working there the costs of extracting petroleum, the profits would be deposited in Baghdad, and then distributed to Kurdistan. The KRG claimed they could produced around 200,000 barrels a day by the end of the year. That led to the May 6 announcement by Oil Minister Shahristani.

This year the Iraqi government is trying to boost oil production and exports. In 2009 it signed ten deals with international companies to develop several of its oil fields. The Oil Ministry’s agreement with the KRG could be part of this plan, but there is also a large political element to it as well. Prime Minister Maliki wants to keep his position in a new Iraqi government, and knows that he needs the support of the Kurds to accomplish that. It was no surprise then that he began making concessionary remarks to them right before the March 2010 parliamentary elections about their exports. Iraq currently produces on average 2.4 million barrels a day, so 200,000 extra from Kurdistan is not that much of an increase, and not much for Maliki to give the Kurds to achieve his political goals. Either way it appears that the KRG will soon re-start its foreign sales, which will be a step towards accomplishing their goal of legitimizing their ability to develop their oil resources autonomously from the central government.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Iraqi govt resolves oil row with Kurds,” 5/6/10

AK News, “Kurdistan oil exportation to resume soon,” 4/12/10
- “Oil delegation to visit Erbil to talk over Kurdish oil exports,” 4/7/10

Bloomberg, “Iraqi Kurds plan to double oil export capacity,” Hurriyet Daily News, 3/25/10

Shattab, Ali, “Iraqi Kurds willing to export oil via national pipelines,” Azzaman, 4/12/10