Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Maliki Faces First Defection From State Of Law List

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is gearing up to announce his State of Law List that will compete in the January 2010 parliamentary elections. He has faced his first setback however. Former speaker of the legislature Mahmoud al-Mashhadani’s, a Sunni politician from the National Independent Trend, has withdrawn his group from the State of Law. Mashhadani was the first well-known figure to publicly say that he would join with Maliki on September 12, 2009. When the Maliki’s coalition is revealed, it will most likely consist of his Dawa Party, the Dawa-Iraq Organization, former national security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, independents from the old United Iraqi Alliance, the Arab Front, and members of the Shammar tribe. The Prime Minister will need to find more partners if he hopes to successfully challenge the new Iraqi National Alliance that consists of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and the Sadrists.


Alsumaria, “New coalitions arise ahead of Iraq elections,” 9/12/09

ADN Kronis, “Iraq: al-Mashhadani announced his withdrawal from Maliki’s coalition,” 9/29/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Iraqi council for national powers announced,” 9/15/09

Awan Daily, “Maliki announced next week, the electoral coalition,” 9/25/09

Independent Press Agency, “Declaration of the Alliance parliamentarians quitting Iraqi List and a splinter movement from the Sadr movement with the tide of al-Mashhadani,” 9/26/09

Roads To Iraq, "Election update - various other news," 9/29/09

Kirkuk And The 2010 Election Law

Kirkuk is again the leading issue in Iraq’s parliament as it discusses a new election law. Parliamentarians have agreed upon all the major points in the bill except for voting in Tamim province, the home of Kirkuk. The Kurdish Alliance is pushing for Tamim to vote as a regular governorate. Others, like the Iraqi Islamic Party, are suggesting creating quotas for the four major groups in Tamim, the Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and Christians. There are other factions who are calling for a delay in voting in Kirkuk altogether.

In July 2008 when parliament was discussing the 2009 provincial vote, Kirkuk led to a walkout and veto of the original election law. The 2009 bill called for a delay in balloting in Tamim as a power sharing agreement was implemented. The Kurdish bloc walked out over it, and eventually President Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council vetoed it. The final version of law also postponed voting in Tamim until a special committee could come up with a deal between the major groups in the province. The committee did nothing, and provincial voting has never happened there yet.

National elections are much more important, so it’s unlikely that Kirkuk will hold up the vote. If parliament can’t pass a new bill by October 15, 2009, Iraq will simply revert to the old 2005 law. The major difference is that the proposed legislation includes an open list that allows voters to pick either lists or individual candidates, while the old one is a closed list where the public can only vote for lists, and the parties pick the politicians.


Alsumaria, “Kurds call not to adjourn elections in Kirkuk,” 9/25/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Kurdish Alliance rejects proposal to divide the Islamic Party of Kirkuk into four electoral districts,” 9/24/09
- “Kurdish lawmaker attributes hindering elections bill to ‘illegal demands,’” 9/24/09

Iraqi Pres Agency, “Delay adoption of the Law of the Iraqi elections may lead to delayed,” 9/29/09

Salloum, Sa’ad, “election committee head explains changes in new draft law,” Niqash, 9/28/09

Visser, Reidar, “The Elections Law: Who Will Stand Up for Kirkuk?” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 9/28/09

Najaf and Karbala Complain About Iranian Business Deals Surrounding Religious Tourism

Here is an Al-Jazeera report from September 12, 2009 of Iraqi officials and businessmen from Najaf complaining about Iran’s commercial deals in the holy city. While Iran provides the largest number of religious tourists to Najaf, around 1,200 a day, locals accuse Baghdad of signing bad deals that give certain companies a monopoly over the trade. Businesses that were not in on these early contracts claim they can’t compete.

Similar circumstances exist in Karbala, another popular destination for Iranian pilgrims. There, an Iranian company controls all the travel, security, and accommodations for tourists. These contracts are often given out to political allies of Tehran such as firms owned by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. Locals there also accused the Supreme Council of setting price controls on local hotels that limited their profits, while the party controlled the province from 2005-2009.

While Iran plays an important role in Iraq’s economy, their activities are seen as a mixed bag. Iranian pilgrims pump millions of dollars into Iraq, and Tehran has heavily invested in improving the infrastructure in both Najaf and Karbala. At the same time the beneficiaries of this business seems to be very narrow, with an eye towards political friends of Tehran. Both cities would be severely hurt if Iranian tourism dried up however, so the current situation is seen as both an opportunity and a necessary evil.


Dagher, Sam, “Devotion and Money Tie Iranians to Iraqi City,” New York Times, 5/31/09

Latif, Nizar, “Resentment grows towards Tehran,” Niqash, 6/1/09

Sly, Liz, “Iranian influence soaring in Iraq,” Chicago Tribune, 3/8/07

AL JAZEERA VIDEO: Report on Iraq Human Development Report

Al Jazeera interviews the former Iraqi Planning Minister, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, and a senior lecturer from the London Metropolitan University on a UNESCO report on Iraq's political, economic, security, and social development, and the current situation in the country.

AL JAZEERA VIDEO: Interview With Iyad Allawi On The Current Situation In Iraq

The Riz Khan show on Al Jazeera interviews former Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi on the current situation in Iraq.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Targeted Assassinations In Iraq

Violence in Iraq is down across the board. The number of deaths has gone up and down each month in 2009, and are even below the months immediately following the U.S. invasion in 2003. The number of security incidents in 2009 is down almost 66% compared to 2008. Still, there are daily attacks in the country. Militants have turned to targeted assassinations of officials and politicians as one tactic to undermine the government and security forces.

August and September 2009 has seen plenty of examples. In August there were eight such attacks ranging from incidents involving a police general to a mayor to a member of parliament. September 1 to 28 has seen fourteen including an attack on the head of the Iraqi Islamic Party Osama al-Tikriti. The assassinations are a sign that militants are still active in Iraq. At the same time it shows their relative weakness and change in tactics. Shiite militias are no longer involved in the sectarian war, Special Groups only carry out occasional attacks, the Sunni insurgents are no longer about holding territory outside of Mosul. This type of low-level violence is the new norm in Iraq, and likely to continue for the foreseeable future since it is nearly impossible to stop.

Targeted Assassinations August-September 19, 2009

9/28/09 Bomb attached to car kills member of al-Hadbaa party in Mosul

9/25/09 Bomb goes off in front of judge's house in Mosul

9/17/09 District chief in Hilla, Babil killed by gunfire

9/17/09 Islamic studies director of Sunni Endowments wounded by sticky bomb attached to his car in Baghdad

9/16/09 Baghdad provincial council member escaped sticky bomb attack on his car in downtown section of the capital

9/13/09 Member of Iraqi National List shot dead in front of his house in Baghdad

9/10/09 Mayor of Sadiyah, Diyala province escaped car bomb attack on his convoy

9/8/09 Grenade thrown into house of Dawa leader in Diwaniya, Qadisiyah province

9/8/09 Police chief in Amirli, Salahaddin province killed in his convoy by bomb

9/8/09 Deputy governor of Salahaddin’s convoy struck by bomb in downtown Tikrit

9/6/09 Maysan’s palm trees department chief survived IED attack in front of his house in the provincial capital Amarah

9/3/09 Head of Iraqi Islamic Party escaped car bomb in Baghdad

9/2/09 Senior intelligence officer wounded by gunmen in Hilla, Babil province

9/1/09 Mayor of Khalis northeast of Baghdad wounded by roadside bomb

8/28/09 Al Hadbaa member killed outside of mosque in Mosul, Ninewa

8/25/09 District administrator from eastern Baghdad wounded in car bombing

8/22/09 Mayor of al-Qahira neighborhood in Mosul, Ninewa province was killed by roadside bomb

8/21/09 Parliamentarian killed by gunmen in Rabiya, Tamim province

8/16/09 Shabak provincial council member in Ninewa survived IED attack on his motorcade in Mosul

8/12/09 Police general killed by gunmen in Mosul

8/3/09 Official from Oil Products Department assassinated by gunmen in Mosul

8/3/09 Head of the Tal Afar municipal district escaped roadside bomb in convoy


Aswat al-Iraq, “Blast wounds driver, guard of Sunni official,” 9/17/09
- “Deputy governor escapes attempt on life,” 9/8/09
- “Gunmen kill district chief in Babel,” 9/17/09
- “Gunmen kill senior officer south of Mosul,” 8/12/09
- “House of Daawa Party official attacked in Diwaniya,” 9/8/09
- “INL member shot dead by gunmen,” 9/13/09
- “Local official in Missan escapes assassination attempt,” 9/6/09
- “Ninewa local official wounded in IED blast,” 8/16/09
- “Oil official assassinated in Mosul,” 8/3/09
- “Provincial council member escapes assassination attempt,” 9/16/09
- “Roadside bomb kills mayor, 2 children in Mosul,” 8/22/09
- “Senior officer injured north of Babel,” 9/2/09
- “Talafar official escapes attempt on life,” 8/3/09
- “URGENT/Lawmaker, family wounded by gunmen in Kirkuk,” 9/21/09

BBC, “North Iraq bomb kills policeman,” 9/8/09

Gulf News, “Bomb wounds official, 4 other people in Iraq,” 8/25/09

Keyser, Jason, “Iraq’s prime minister accuses Syria of harboring armed groups responsible for attacks,” Associated Press, 9/3/09

Mardini, Ramzy, “Iraqi Insurgents Take the Offensive as Parliamentary Elections Approach,” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, 9/17/09

Reuters, “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Aug 28,”8/28/09

Salaheddin, Sinan, “Bomb misses Iraq health ministry official, kills 1,” Associated Press, 9/8/09

Xinhua, “Iraqi town mayor escapes suicide car bombing in Diyala,” 9/10/09
- “Seven killed in Iraq’s Diyala violence,” 9/1/09

Monday, September 28, 2009

Joint U.S.-Iraq-Kurdish Patrols In Disputed Areas Remains A Political Football

In mid-August 2009, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq General Ray Odierno proposed joint U.S.-Iraqi-Kurdish patrols in Ninewa. The Americans made the proposal after a series of mass casualty bombings rocked the province. The offer was later extended to all of the disputed territories in northern Iraq. The idea originated from a joint military command set up outside of Kirkuk to coordinate security operations between American, Iraqi, and Kurdish peshmerga forces. The purpose of the patrols is to increase cooperation and communication between Iraqi and Kurdish forces, which have often been at odds with each other, and close the security gaps that the insurgents have been able to exploit between them to carry out attacks.

General Odierno met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Kurdish President Massoud Barzani about the plan. The Kurdish authorities immediately welcomed the idea, as did the Kurdish Ninewa Fraternal List. The main opponents of the plan have been Sunni Arab and Turkmen parties and politicians. Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, expressed concerns about the idea when he met with Vice President Joe Biden in mid-September 2009 during his trip to Iraq. A few days before on September 12 a group of Turkmen demonstrated against the U.S. plan in Kirkuk. Earlier on September 1 Arab and Turkmen marched together in opposition to the idea as well. The Arab bloc in the Tamim provincial council also threatened a boycott if the patrols were implemented, and the al-Hadbaa controlled provincial council in Ninewa was also critical of the concept in August. The most inflammatory statement however, came from the al-Hadbaa governor of Ninewa Atheel al-Nujafi who said that joint patrols in his province would influence the 2010 parliamentary elections in favor of the Kurds, and that therefore voting in Kurdish areas of Ninewa should be cancelled.

With the joint patrol concept creating that many divisive opinions, they’re unlikely to be implemented for now. There may be specific towns where local officials might be able to work something out, but otherwise the issue is becoming a political football between Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen. With parliamentary elections coming up in January 2010 as well, politicians are likely to take up the issue one way or the other to promote their own agendas further complicating the matter.


AK News, “Kurds welcome Americans Kirkuk proposal,” 8/20/09
- “Kurdish areas in Nineveh spark sharp disputes,” 9/17/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Arab bloc in Kirkuk threatens to boycott council,” 9/3/09
- “Hashemi voices reservations about joint forces presence in Kirkuk, Ninewa,” 9/16/09

International Crisis Group, “Iraq and the Kurds: Trouble Along the Trigger Line,” 7/8/09

Nordland, Rod and Dagher, Sam, “U.S. Will Release More Members of an Iraqi Militia,” New York Times, 8/18/09

Radio Sawa, “A demonstration in Kirkuk against the proposed deployment of a joint disputed areas,” 9/12/09

Visser, Reidar, “Maliki’s Northern Headache, and How General Odierno Is Compounding It,” Iraq And Gulf Analysis, 9/9/09

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Work Begins On Improving Iraq’s Electricity Supply But Problems Remain

This year Iraq is embarking on a massive development plan to increase its electrical network. It is buying new turbines, constructing new power plants, and garnering international loans and other financial assistance to pay for it. Iraq still lacks the capacity to supply all the power the country needs however.

In December 2008 Iraq signed a $3 billion contract with General Electric (GE) and Siemens to add over 10,000 megawatts to Iraq’s power grid. The problem was with Iraq’s budget cuts it had no money to pay the companies. Finally, in August 2009 the Iraqi Central Bank agreed to loan Baghdad $2.4 billion to pay part of the contract. Now equipment is finally being delivered, and work is going to begin.

On September 19, it was announced that Canada’s SNC-Lavalin Group and the Iraqi owned URUK Engineering Services each won $85 million contracts to install six turbines delivered by GE. SNC-Lavalin is going to install two 125-megawatt turbines in Hilla in Babil province in the next 18 months, while URUK is going to build a power plant with four 40-megawatt generators in Taji, Baghdad province within 15 months.

On August 19 Iraq finalized a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The loan is for $5.5 billion over five years at 1% interest. The IMF stipulated that it be spent on development projects, and most of it will go to improving the power system.

At the same time, not everything is going according to plan. The summer heat has put a seasonal strain on the power system. At the beginning of September people in Kut, the capital of Wasit demonstrated over the lack of fuel and electricity. A few days later the Electricity Minister gave a press conference to try to explain why there were still power shortages in the country. In August and September, the Electricity Ministry also complained about a Chinese, an Iranian, and a Jordanian company for not completing their work on five separate power plants.

For five straight quarters Iraq has increased its electricity production. The problem is that the supply is not close to meeting demand that has sky rocketed since the 2003 invasion. Not only that, but the power system is so old and decrepit after years of wars, sanctions, and lack of maintenance, that it can’t handle the amount of electricity that is needed. If Iraq was to ever install all of the power plants it requires, the entire grid would have to be rebuilt to handle the capacity, and Iraq does not have anywhere near the money to pay for that.


Aswat al-Iraq, “$2.4bn to pay for GE, Siemens contracts-minister,” 8/9/09
- “Iraq to get loan to improve electricity,” 8/19/09

Reuters, “Iraq awards power contracts to SNC, URUK,” 9/19/09
- “Iraq scraps $3 bln bond sale, eyes local debt,” 8/9/09

Al-Rubaai, Salah, “Protest over power shortages in southern Iraqi city,” Azzaman, 9/3/09

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/09

Friday, September 25, 2009

Will The Kurds Be Kingmakers In Iraq?

Iraq’s Kurds remain the most unified ethnosectarian voting bloc in Iraq. As the Sunnis and Shiites split up into smaller factions, the two major Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) remain largely popular amongst their constituency, and in control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the majority Kurdish regions within the disputed territories in northern Iraq.

In the January 2005 national elections, the Kurdish Alliance of the PUK and KDP won 26% of the vote, and 90% of the Kurdish electorate, which earned them 75 seats out of 275 in parliament. In the December 2005 elections they received 21% of the vote, which gave them 53 seats, making them the second largest bloc in parliament after the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance. In comparison, Maliki’s State of Law List that was the big winner in the 2009 provincial elections only won 15.1% of the vote in fourteen of Iraq’s eighteen provinces.

Recently they did face a challenge from the Change List that won 23% of the vote in the 2009 Kurdish elections. As the January 2010 national elections approach, the KDP and PUK are going to run together in a Kurdish Alliance again, but the Change List will compete independently. Afterward they are supposed to form one Kurdish bloc in parliament. That may not happen however as there are plenty of stories about Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki being interested in the Change List joining his State of Law coalition.

Either way, the Kurdish Alliance alone is still likely to be one of the most powerful groups in parliament, and crucial to any new government created after the 2010 vote. They will probably walk away with around 40 seats, and perhaps 50 if the Change List does follow through with their promise to become a united Kurdish front in parliament. In 2005 the Kurdish Alliance was a key component in the creation of both the governments of Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nouri al-Maliki. Since then the PUK, and especially the KDP have turned into some of the harshest critics of Maliki’s rule. In January and December 2008 they even threatened no confidence votes against the Prime Minister. With an expected 40-50 members in the new legislature, they could be the greatest impediment to Maliki returning as Iraq’s leader. Iraqi politics are in a period of flux however, so deals are still to be made before and after the 2010 election that could dramatically transform the situation. The Kurds however, are in a position to be one of the king makers in Iraqi politics.


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

Boot, Max and West, Bing, “Iraq’s Number 1 Problem,” Los Angeles Times, 1/28/08

International Crisis Group, “Iraq and the Kurds: Trouble Along the Trigger Line,” 7/8/09

Katzman, Kenneth, “Iraq: Elections and New Government,” Congressional Research Service, 6/24/05

Knights, Michael, “National Implications of the Kurdish Elections,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, September 2009

Kurdistan Regional Government, "Electoral Commission announces final results of Kurdistan Region elections," 8/8/09

Najm, Hayder, “kurdish opposition points to potential rapproachement with Baghdad,” Niqash, 8/17/09, “Iraqi legislative election, December 2005”

More On Allawi-National Alliance Talks

Contradictory stories are swirling over whether former Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi will join the new Iraqi National Alliance (INA). On Wednesday September 23, 2009 Allawi publicly denied that he had been talking with the National Alliance. The Iraq Pundit Blog also seems to think that the story is all rumors. Niqash however, talked with both a member from Allawi’s Iraqi National List and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, and they both said that the new coalition would be announced soon.

The main motivation for Allawi to join the National Alliance is to become prime minister again, a promise he has supposedly gotten from them. After the Supreme Council failed to bring Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki into the INA, they then turned to Allawi as a replacement candidate to try to unseat Maliki. Allawi also allegedly secretly went to Iran in August 2009 and got their blessing to become prime minister. According to Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Iran was putting heavy pressure on Maliki to join the new alliance, and when he refused, they threatened him by saying that he would be blocked from returning to his office. This is obviously their reason for backing Allawi if these rumors become true.


Iraq Pundit, “Bad News Papers,” 9/24/09

Ramzi, Kholoud, “shia coalition seeks allawi alliance,” Niqash, 9/25/09

Roads To Iraq, “Iran’s final warning to Maliki,” 9/24/09

Iraq-Syria Dispute Update

While Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said that talks with Syria have gone nowhere over the August 2009 Baghdad bombings, and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani called for an international tribunal to investigate the attacks while at the United Nations in New York City, behind the scenes things actually seem to be making some progress. On September 9, 2009 it was announced that the Syrian and Iraqi foreign ministers had agreed to stop the media campaigns against each other, return ambassadors, and form security committees. Today, September 25, Iraq’s Foreign Minister told the media that Syria had agreed to form a joint Iraqi-Syrian-Turksih committee to look into terrorist camps in Syria.


Alsumaria, “Damascus approves to form Turkish-Syrian-Iraqi investigation committee,” 9/25/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Maliki says Arab efforts to patch up differences with Syria did not work out,” 9/22/09
- “Talabani stresses importance of int’l probe into Baghdad bombings,” 9/25/09

Xinhua, “Iraq, Syria agree to stop media campaigns, speed up returning ambassadors,” 9/9/09

Iraqis Celebrate Eid Holiday

Stories about everyday life for Iraqis have been the least reported in the West. The vast majority of the news has been about the daily violence the country has been wracked with since the U.S. invasion. It’s often overlooked that with the improvements in security, many people in Iraq have been able to return to their normal lives. This is especially true in northern and southern Iraq that has seen far less violence over the last year. For example, in mid-September the Muslim holiday of Eid ended, and Iraqis in Baghdad celebrated on the banks of the Tigris River. The Los Angeles Times’ Babylon & Beyond Blog had the following pictures of the people gathering for the end of the festivities.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Maliki’s Campaign Promises May Be Unrealistic

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently went on a short tour of southern Iraq to drum up support in anticipation of the January 2010 parliamentary elections. First he went to Basra, Iraq’s second largest city, on September 10, 2009. He then went to neighboring Dhi Qar province on September 14. Maliki’s State of Law List won both governorates in the 2009 vote, and control of the south is crucial in the Prime Minister’s re-election campaign.

During his visits Maliki gave speeches and talked with local officials about one of his main campaign themes, the provision of services. In Basra he berated the governor and provincial council for not improving water and electricity. Back in June the head of Basra’s reconstruction committee said that the province was short 97 billion Iraqi dinars to pay for projects. The province is also currently suffering from the effects of the drought with seawater from the Persian Gulf encroaching into fresh water areas. So far 5,000 villagers have left their homes because of the water crisis. In response, the day before Maliki arrived in Basra City, Baghdad transferred 208 billion dinars to the province to help with expenses, promised a $20 million water pipeline project to deliver fresh water, and announced $25 million to develop the area’s marshes. While in Dhi Qar he promised that the province would get its fair share of the budget, and said with improvements in the economy they could expect more money as well.

When Maliki’s State of Law list ran in the 2009 provincial elections they promised better governance and services, and are doing the same for the 2010 national ballot. This completely ignores the financial situation in Iraq. With the world recession the country’s main source of revenue, oil, took a precipitous drop in value. The 2009 budget saw large cuts as a result, with Iraq’s 18 provinces receiving a $1,748.2 million decrease in their capital budgets that pays for infrastructure and investment, while operational costs that go towards salaries, pensions, etc. ate up 80% of the overall budget. Oil prices have begun to creep back up, but so far, not enough to make a large increase in the 2010 budget. Maliki therefore, can talk to governors and provincial councils all he wants about better services, but there is simply no money to make that a reality right now.


Aswat al-Iraq, “Al-Maliki pays surprise visit to Thi-Qar,” 9/14/09
- “Minister says govt. unable to cover projects, eyes private sector,” 9/3/09
- “New financial amounts allocated for Basra,” 9/9/09
- “PM arrives in Basra,” 9/10/09

Chon, Gina, “Biden, on Iraq Trip, Will Meet Maliki,” Wall Street Journal, 9/16/09

Chulov, Martin, “Surge of seawater drives Iraqis from their homes in the south,” Guardian, 9/11/09, “Basra: Moritorium on New Development Projects,” 6/3/09

News Network Nasiriyah, “During a meeting with the masses of Dhi Qar,” 9/14/09

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Oil Scandal Hits Kurdistan

In September 2009 the Oslo Stock Exchange announced that they had investigated DNO International, a Norwegian oil company, for insider trading involving the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami. In October 2008 DNO sold 43 million shares to a then unknown client for $29.7 million. The buyer turned out to be Turkey’s Genel Enerji and Minister Hawrami served as the middleman. The Oslo Stock Exchange originally fined DNO for insider trading, but that charge was later dropped. The company still had to pay $170,00 for keeping part of the transaction secret.

Now that this deal has become public, Minister Hawrami and the KRG have been embarrassed. Kurdistan has suspended DNO’s work for 6 weeks, and demanded that it repair the KRG’s reputation. They have even gone so far as to say that they might void DNO’s contract if they don’t give a proper explanation of what happened. The KRG has also issued a statement saying that no officials benefited from the sale of DNO’s shares, and that they were only trying to help the two companies so that they could work in Kurdistan. The Baghdad Kassakhoon blog points out that Minister Hawrami violated at least two Iraqi laws that ban public officials from taking part in business transactions as well. Since Hawrami is such an important figurehead in the KRG’s attempts to create their own independent oil policy nothing is likely to happen to him.

DNO is one of three corporations, along with Genel Enerji, who are pumping and exporting oil from Kurdistan. DNO operates the Tawke field, which is producing 40,000-50,000 barrels a day, while Genel, along with Addax Petroleum, run the Taq Taq site. On June 1, 2009 the two fields began exporting, although none of the companies have been paid for their work so far, and may not for years.

If the KRG follows through with its threat and ends DNO’s deal to run the Tawke field it could have wide ranging effects upon Kurdistan’s attempts to attract foreign energy companies to invest in the region. The on-going dispute between Baghdad and the KRG over who has the right to sign oil deals and develop petroleum fields has already kept away many major oil companies from operating in Kurdistan. That argument is also preventing DNO, Genel Enerji, and the other companies pumping oil from being compensated. Now, if the KRG punishes DNO that may keep away even more companies who will look at Iraq in general as having a bad business environment.

DNO and Genel Enerji Operations In Kurdistan
DNO owns 55% of the Tawke project and operates it, while Genel Enerji owns 25%
DNO is also working at the Dohuk site with Genel
Genel Enerji owns 44% of the Taq Taq project along with the Swiss Canadian Addax Petroleum
Heritage Oil that is also working on four fields in the KRG recently bought Genel Enerji Kurdistan


Baghdad’s Kassakhoon, “It is still scandal, more to come,” 9/22/09

Bloomberg, “Kurdish minister implicated in Norway,” 9/18/09

Lando, Ben, “DNO’s Iraq operations suspended,” Iraq Oil Report, 9/22/09

Reuters, “UPDATE 1-Iraqi Kurdistan suspends DNO’s oil operations,” 9/21/09

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Allawi To Join National Alliance?

The Arab press is reporting that former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has either agreed to or is in the process of joining the new Iraqi National Alliance (INA) put together by the main Shiite parties such as the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) and the Sadrists. While members of the SIIC are publicly denying it, Allawi has supposedly agreed to join the coalition in return for being their candidate for Prime Minister. Although this would seem to be an alliance of complete opposites, since Allawi appeals to many Sunnis and former regime members and the SIIC and Sadrists are opposed to the return of Baathists, what they have in common is a desire to block Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from returning to the top position in Iraq.

Some stories say that the inclusion of Allawi divided the National Alliance. The Sadrists conducted the negotiations, which the Supreme Council was opposed to because they were talking with Maliki. The Supreme Council and the Prime Minister’s Dawa were supposedly deep into talks with the latter even giving up the demand that Maliki be the Alliance’s only candidate for prime minister. Recently for example, the new head of the SIIC, Ammar al-Hakim gave a speech keeping the door open for Maliki to join the INA. This was part of a larger struggle for leadership of the Alliance between the two factions.

The National Alliance still has additional moves ahead and needs to define itself. First, they seem to be planning a raid on Dawa members, hoping to draw some away from Maliki. Second, Allawi will probably have to compete with Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi for the nomination of prime minister. Third, the INA has no platform. The only thing they have in common is opposition to Maliki, but that’s not something they can openly run on. In fact, if Allawi does ultimately join the coalition, it’s likely to muddle their message even more since it would include both secularists and Islamists, centralists and federalists, critics and friends of the Kurds, opponents and sympathizers with the Baathists, etc.


?, “Source in the “coalition” is likely to hold a preliminary deal with Allawi’s list to reduce the chances of winning the list of al-Maliki,” 9/22/09

Ahmed, Hamid, “Iraqi Shiite leader appeals for unity before vote,” Associated Press, 9/21/09

Roads To Iraq, “Iraqi pre-election political map – The Shiites scene,” 9/21/09

Visser, Reidar, “Why an Allawi-Hakim Alliance would Mean Retrogression in Iraq,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 9/21/09

Al-Zawraa Media Network, “Supreme Council denies Allawi’s nomination to lead the next government for joining the coalition,” 9/22/09

Monday, September 21, 2009

Update On Political Maneuvers Before 2010 Elections

Iraqi political parties and figures continue to make new coalitions and conduct negotiations with each other in preparation for the January 2010 parliamentary elections. The two major coalitions, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law and the new Iraqi National Alliance are both seeking a wide variety of new partners, some completely unexpected, which might engulf the smaller lists.

First, the new head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) Ammar al-Hakim gave a sermon on September 21, 2009 during the Eid al-Fitr holiday aimed at bringing Maliki into the Iraqi National Alliance. Hakim said that the coalition was working to bring in new members and widen its base, and that he supported the Prime Minister’s call for an international tribunal to investigate the August bombings in Baghdad. Hakim also promised better delivery of water and electricity if his list won, something that Maliki is also running on. If the Prime Minister joined the National Alliance, it would become the largest and most popular list in the country, which could muster a plurality of the votes. Maliki however, is intent on running on his own, since the Alliance would not give in to his demands to be their only candidate for Prime Minister.

The National Alliance and Maliki are also competing over the loyalty of former speaker of parliament Mahmoud al-Mashhadani and his Independent National Trend. Mashhadani, an independent Sunni, was the first well-known politician to say that he would run with Maliki. Mashhadani has since said he is reconsidering that move, and is now being courted by the National Alliance.

In a completely unexpected move, former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi of the Iraqi National List is now flirting with the National Alliance. Allawi is currently aligned with parliamentary Saleh al-Mutlaq in what could be called the neo-Baathists since they are secular, nationalists that appeal to many former regime elements. If Allawi were to join the National Alliance, and they accepted him, it would show that they only care about power and nothing else. There is already no ideological coherence to the list as is. The Sadrists and former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari for example, preach nationalism, a strong central government, and are critical of the ruling Kurdish parties. The SIIC on the other hand, are proponents of federalism and the closest allies of the Kurds in the country. The Sadrists and Supreme Council do agree on excluding Baathist from government, and yet that is exactly who Allawi appeals to. If he agreed to join his Iraqi National List would probably break apart, and he would be overwhelmed by the larger parties in return for a nominal ministership.

In Anbar, Sheikh Ahmad Abu Risha has formed a new coalition called the Iraqi Unity List. It mostly consists of small tribal groups, but pulled a coup in bringing in the Constitution Party of Interior Minister Jawad Bolani. Both the National Alliance and Maliki have talked with the Minister, and many think Bolani was going to run for prime minister. Abu Risha has been flirting about running with Maliki for months now however, so that could mean Bolani does not aspire to the top spot in Iraq.

Overall, the fracturing of the Sunnis into smaller parties, may mean that they will be overwhelmed by the larger Shiite ones. Former head of the Iraqi Islamic Party Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi for example, may run with Maliki. All of the leading Anbar sheikhs are trying to make ties with Shiites as well. Like Allawi, they may gain a few nominal ministerial positions, but be subordinate to the Shiite parties.


Ahmed, Hamid, “Iraqi Shiite leader appeals for unity before vote,” Associated Press, 9/21/09

Alsumaria, “New coalitions arise ahead of Iraq elections,” 9/12/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “National Current may reconsider alliance with State of Law,” 9/19/09

Najm, Hayder, “al-maliki faces shia election threat,” Niqash, 9/15/09

Roads To Iraq, “Iraq pre-election political map – The Sunni scene,” 9/19/09

Visser, Reidar, “Why an Allawi-Hakim Alliance would Mean Retrogression in Iraq,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 9/21/09

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Request For U.N. Investigation Into August Baghdad Bombings Said To Be Turned Down

On August 19, 2009 two large truck bombs struck the Iraqi Finance and Interior Ministries in Baghdad. The Iraqi government was quick to accuse Baathists based in Syria as the main culprits. A taped confession of an alleged member of the bomb cell responsible aired on state-run television accused two Baathists in Damascus as the masterminds. This started a war of words between the two capitals that reached its peak at the end of August when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told Turkey’s Foreign Minister that 90% of the foreign terrorists in Iraq came through Syria, that Damascus hand over the two Baathist that were behind the bombings, and demanded that the United Nations form a special tribunal to look into the August bombings. Larsa News recently reported that the Security Council rejected the idea of an international investigation due to lack of evidence.

Questions about the validity of Maliki’s accusations against Syria and the Baathists have been growing in number. First, as reported before, shortly after Iraq aired the taped confession accusing Baathists of being behind the August bombings, they announced the arrest of an Al Qaeda cell they said actually carried out the attack. Baathists in Syria have condemned the attacks, while Al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq is the only group that has publicly claimed responsibility. The United States has said that the incident has the hallmarks of Al Qaeda in Iraq as well. Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi also stated that Maliki was blaming others for his own security failures, while the Presidential Council that includes Iraq’s president and two vice presidents, called for calm and complained that the Prime Minister was acting unilaterally in accusing Syria of culpability. Middle Eastern analysts have questioned why Syria would knowingly allow such a direct attack upon the Iraqi government a day after Maliki visited the country, and the two were improving ties. A few days before the bombing for example, Iraq’s ambassador in Damascus said that the Assad government was making positive steps to improve security. There have been signs that Syria has stepped up its patrols along its border, agreed to cooperate with the United States on Iraq after a delegation visited the country in August 2009, and has told some Baathists to leave the country and others to lay low. For all of these reasons it appears that Maliki’s real purpose behind attacking Syria is to defer responsibility away from himself for the lapse in security, and keep up his image of maintaining law and order before the January 2010 parliamentary elections.


Aswat al-Iraq, “90% of terrorists came to Iraq through Syria – PM,” 8/31/09

Barnes-Dacey, Julien, “Iraq-Syria dispute jeopardize progress on stability, trade,” Christian Science Monitor, 9/19/09

Dagher, Sam, “2 Blasts Expose Security Flaws in Heart of Iraq,” New York Times, 8/19/09

Hendawi, Hamza, “Analysis: Al-Maliki’s quarrel with Syria over Baghdad bombings backfires on Iraqi premier,” Associated Press, 9/12/09

Worsnip, Patrick, “Iraq PM asks for UN inquiry into Baghdad bombings,” Reuters, 9/3/09

Friday, September 18, 2009

New Draft Election Law Sent to Iraqi Parliament

On September 12, 2009 Iraq’s cabinet sent a draft election law to the Iraqi parliament for the January 2010 balloting. The new law is a revision of the 2005 bill with one major change it includes an open list voting system. In the 2005 elections Iraq had a closed list where voters only got to choose from parties and coalitions. Party bosses selected the actual politicians. In the 2009 provincial elections, Iraq switched to an open list where people were allowed to vote for either lists or candidates. The one major drawback of the new procedure was that if one politician received a large number of votes, they could only earn one seat, and the rest were considered wasted ballots. That occurred this year when independent Shiite Yousef al-Habboubi won the vote in Karbala with 17% compared to 8% for the second and third place finishers, but because he ran alone only got one seat out of 27. Afterward, he had to settle for deputy governor as the larger parties put together the ruling coalition and took the top positions in the province.

Arguments over a closed or open list have also been caught up in the larger political struggle in Iraq between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his detractors. The new Iraqi National Alliance made up of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the Sadrists, and former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari have been pushing for a closed list because it benefits the large parties, while the Prime Minister supports an open list. This rivalry will now play out in parliament as it discusses the draft election law.


Najm, Hayder, “al-maliki faces shia election threat,” Niqash, 9/15/09

Reuters, “Iraq cabinet approves draft elections law,” 9/12/09

Rubin, Alissa, "Dark horse wins over one Iraqi city: Karbala," International Herald Tribune, 2/6/09

Serwer, Daniel and Parker, Sam, “Maliki’s Iraq between Two Elections,” United States Institute of Peace, May 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Integrity Commission Report On Iraqi Corruption

McClatchy Newspapers got a hold of the Integrity Commission’s 2008 report on corruption in Iraq. The Commission is the top anti-corruption body in the country. The report was deeply critical of Iraq’s ministries and politicians, who were accused of actively stopping investigations.

First, the Commission had a hard time following up on its cases. Over $1.3 billion worth of corruption cases were dropped in 2008, with the most coming from the Defense Ministry. That represented only 11% of the total cases pardoned however, with the others having no monetary value given to them. 2,772 defendants were also pardoned during that time, mostly under the 2008 Amnesty Law. That bill was supposed to help with reconciliation, but it also allows amnesty for corruption cases. Another barrier is Article 136B that lets ministers and other high officials to stop the Integrity Commission’s work. Iraq’s ministries blocked 210 investigations in 2008, including several cases worth $1-$6 million, and a look at two ministers. The Oil Ministry was the largest culprit in using 136B. The effect of the Amnesty Law and 136B has been only 397 convictions from 2004 to 2008. The highest number of convictions came from the Interior, Finance and Defense ministries, in that order.

Iraq’s politicians have been no better at following transparency rules. By law, Iraqi officials are required to disclose their finances each year, but this is hardly ever followed. Iraq’s Prime Minister, President, Vice Presidents and deputy Prime Ministers have never turned over their records. Of Iraq’s ministers, only the Oil Minister has disclosed his finances, and done so twice. There are 275 members of parliament, none disclosed their finances in 2008, and only 14 did so in 2007.

Financial Disclosures By Iraqi Officials 2005-2008
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki: None
Deputy Prime Ministers: None
President Jalal Talabani: None
Vice Presidents Tariq al-Hashemi and Adel Abdul Mahdi: None
Speaker of Parliament: None
First Deputy Speaker of Parliament: Once in 2006
Second Deputy Speaker: None
Minister of Interior: None
Minister of Defense: None
Minister of Finance: None
Minister of Oil: Twice – 2007 and 2008
Minister of Planning: None
Governor of Iraqi Central Bank: None
275 members of parliament: 14 in 2007, none in 2008

Corruption reached endemic levels under Saddam, and has seemingly gotten no better since his overthrow. Transparency International, which monitors corruption across the globe, has consistently ranked Iraq at the bottom of its list since 2003. In 2008 for example, it was ranked the third most corrupt country in the world out of 180 nations.

Transparency International’s Annual Corruption Index Ranking of Iraq 2003-2008
2003 Tied for 113 out of 133
2004 Tied for 129 out of 146
2005 Tied for 137 out of 159
2006 Tied for 160 out of 163
2007 178 out of 180
2008 177 out of 180

Iraq’s Planning Minister Ali Baban also recently warned that corruption is preventing the development of Iraq’s economy and the provision of services. 2009 has seen some high profile examples from the deputy Transport Minister attempting to extort money from a western security firm, to the Trade Minister and his brother being arrested for stealing funds. Neither Baghdad nor Washington has made a strong commitment to ending this problem, which probably means its continuation.


Aswat al-Iraq, “Minister says govt. unable to cover projects, eyes private sector,” 9/3/09

Chon, Gina, “Graft Case Against Ex-Minister Splits Iraq Parties,” Wall Street Journal, 6/1/09

Inside Iraq, “$1.3 billion is pardoned in Iraq and more,” McClatchy Newspapers, 9/13/09

O’Hanlon, Michael and Campbell, Jason, “Iraq Index,” Brookings Institution

Reuters, “Iraq deputy transport minister arrested for graft,” 9/3/09

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Political Parties Looking Towards 2010 Elections

Iraq’s political parties are moving into high gear looking for partners to run with in the January 2010 parliamentary elections. Some old alliances are being reformed, and new ones are in the process of forming. As before, however, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is at the center of things, and most organizations are thinking in terms of what to do in relation to him.


There are two main groups of Sunni politicians. First are the provincial parties that want to gain seats in Baghdad. Anbar’s sheikhs are one such group that has recently emerged. What was once the Anbar Awakening has now split into three main parties led by three leading sheikhs. There is the Anbar Awakening Council led by Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, the Anbar Salvation Council of Sheikh Hamid al-Hayes, and Sheikh Hatim al-Suleiman’s Anbar Salvation National Front. After participating in the 2009 provincial elections, all three are now looking for national office. Sheikh Hayes has joined the new Shiite led National Alliance. Sheikh Suleiman has aligned himself with the Banners of Iraq list that includes Karbala’s Yousef al-Habboubi, who won the most votes there in 2009, but only got one seat, because he ran alone. Abu Risha, on the other hand is in negotiations with Maliki. All three are thus seeking ties with Shiites to ensure a better chance of victory.

Ninewa’s ruling al-Hadbaa is another new party. They came to power running on an anti-Kurdish, Iraqi nationalist platform, that also promised better services. They are now planning on running in the national elections as well in Ninewa, Salahaddin, Anbar, Baghdad, Wasit, Diyala, and Tamim. All of those have large Sunni populations, and three of them have disputed territories between Kurdistan and the central government, however Wasit is the exception since it is a majority Shiite province. Prime Minister Maliki could also reach out them since they have many similar ideas.

The other group is made up of Sunni politicians already in power in Baghdad. These include parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, and the Iraqi Islamic Party and its Accordance Front list. Mutlaq recently had discussions with Maliki, but decided to run with former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi instead. This repeats a similar set of negotiations after the 2009 elections when Maliki and Mutlaq flirted with forming ruling coalitions in a few provinces, but nothing came of it. The Islamic Party and Accordance Front are in disarray. In May 2009 Hashemi stepped down as the head of the Islamic Party, and is now talking about running on his own in the new Renewal List. The Islamic Party on the other hand wants to recreate the Accordance Front by trying to bring back the parties that left it. In 2008 the Accordance Front faced a series of defections that reduced it to only the Islamic Party and parliamentarian Adnan Dulaimi’s party. The Islamic Party is also said to be talking to Mutlaq, Allawi, al-Hadbaa, the Iraqi Scholars, some of the Anbar tribes, and Interior Minister Jawad Bolani’s Constitution Party. There are reportedly few willing to work with the Islamic Party however, which has members leaving, seen its Accordance Front collapse, and is considered a sectarian party of the past. If true, the other Sunni parties may surpass them.


The new coalition of Saleh al-Mutlaq and Iyad Allawi could be called the neo-Baathists. They appeal to many Sunnis of the former regime, and preach Iraqi nationalism and secularism. Interior Minister Jawad Bolani, who is an independent Shiite was supposed to run with them, but he may join the Shiite National Alliance instead. Allawi still has an outside chance of becoming prime minister as well.


On the Shiite side, there are two main coalitions running in opposition to each other. First is the new Iraqi National Alliance. This is a revived version of the United Iraqi Alliance that won the most seats in parliament in the 2005 elections. The new Alliance is made up of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), the Sadrists, former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s National Reform Party, the Dawa-Iraq Party, and two Sunnis, Sheikh Hayes of Anbar and Khalid Abd al-Wahaab al-Mulla from Basra. The coalition was pushed hard by Tehran, but faced a major setback when the Supreme Council’s leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim passed. That has left a leadership vacuum. Hakim’s son Ammar succeeded him as head of the SIIC, but he doesn’t have the same standing. Jaafari, Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, and perhaps Interior Minister Bolani may all emerge as its candidate for prime minister, but all those names alone show that it may be rudderless. The new alliance, despite the inclusion of two Sunni figures, is also seen as sectarian, since being Shiite is the only thing that really unites these parties that disagree on just about everything. The one issue that does bring them together is their opposition to Maliki.

Prime Minister Maliki’s State of Law is the other major list. Unlike the National Alliance, Maliki is running on a nationalist agenda, and stressing cross-sectarian ties. That didn’t stop the Prime Minister from seriously consider running with them however, but their refusal to assure him of being their only candidate for prime minister ended those talks. Maliki is now scrambling to find new allies. Former speaker of parliament Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, who was once part of the Accordance Front, was the first to formally announce he would run with the Prime Minister. Mashhadani brings with him some former members of the Basra based Fadhila party. As stated before, Sheikh Abu Risha of Anbar is also in talks with the State of Law. Other possible deals might be made with al-Hadbaa, the Islamic Party, and perhaps even the League of the Righteous, an Iranian-backed Special Group that has recently announced that it wants to join the political process.

Maliki’s greatest problem however, is not so much who he will run with but how he’s currently governing. His claim of securing the country have been shaken by the August 2009 bombings, and he has been unable to deliver better services with the large budget cuts Iraq is experiencing. He still has one ace up his sleeve the referendum on the Status of Forces Agreement with the Americans, which he is pushing to coincide with the 2010 vote. That could distract the Iraqi public from domestic issues.


The two ruling Kurdish parties the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) have said that they will run together in 2010. At the same time, they have rejected any ideas of running with others. They still have a very close alliance with the Supreme Council however, so after the vote it’s likely that they will join together to try to put together a ruling coalition to elect a new prime minister. Both are actively opposed to Maliki as well. A new twist to Kurdish politics is the fact that the new Change Party has also announced that it will run in the national elections. The PUK and KDP still have a solid base, but the new Change List will cut into their monopoly on the Kurdish vote as they did in the recent Kurdish regional vote. Maliki may also make a run at convincing the Change List to run with him.


Iraqi politics are in a period of flux. In 2005 the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds ran in three large coalitions, and took in the majority of votes. Now all three of those groups are fragmenting. On the other hand, Iraqi Arabs at least, are moving away from sectarian politics. The Sunnis are seeing the greatest change with the Accordance Front disintegrating, and new parties and politicians emerging. The PUK and KDP are facing a new challenge from the Change List, while Prime Minister Maliki has broken with the other Shiite parties. The major question now is who else will Maliki align himself with, and will that give him enough votes to remain prime minister? On the other hand, will the National Alliance, PUK, and KDP be able to stop him? The real battle for power then, is likely to play out after the election in the backroom deals to form coalitions rather than the pre-voting negotiations over who will run with whom.


Alsumaria, “New coalitions arise ahead of Iraq elections,” 9/12/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Ammar al-Hakim unanimously elected as SIIC chief,” 9/1/09
- “IIP head to Aswat al-Iraq: Our doors are open to Hashemi, other blocs,” 9/1/09
- “VP announces new list for upcoming parliamentary elections,” 9/12/09

Iraq The Model, “Accord Front Collapses, Sunni Tribes Seek Shiite Allies,” 8/15/09

Kazimi, Nibras, “Coalitions,” Talisman Gate, 9/10/09

Mohammed, Abeer, “Maliki’s Chess Game,” Institute of War & Peace Reporting, 9/10/09

Niqash, “alliance building in anbar: sunnis join cross-sectarian trend,” 9/7/09

Rubin, Alissa, "Dark horse wins over one Iraqi city: Karbala," International Herald Tribune, 2/6/09

Visser, Reidar, “Al-Hadba Goes Regionalist?”, 9/2/09

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

U.S. Forces Restricted To Rural Areas and Reconstruction

After the June 30, 2009 deadline to withdraw from Iraq’s cities, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki set stringent restrictions upon the movement of U.S. troops. This caught U.S. commanders by surprise as they expected to largely continue on with their missions as they had before. Instead, Maliki ended all joint patrols, refused to pass on requests by Iraqi commanders for aid from Americans, and basically restricted most U.S. troops to their bases. Re-supply trips were only allowed at night, and U.S. advisers already with Iraqi forces, and checks on reconstruction projects were largely the only operations allowed by the government. In Baghdad, there are only a few hundred U.S. soldiers out in the city as a result. The fact that the government failed to properly inform the public and Iraqi forces about these rules also led to a number of confrontations as well. For example, Iraqis would call the authorities every time they saw U.S. forces without an Iraqi escort, and Iraqi police and soldiers would not allow American troops through checkpoints.

Two and a half months since the June pullback, and U.S. troops find themselves concentrating on Iraq’s rural areas and reconstruction projects. Maliki’s restrictions on joint patrols in major cities are still in place with the exception of Mosul. Out in the countryside however, the rules are not as strict and U.S. troops have been going out with their Iraqi counterparts. Americans are also allowed to check on reconstruction projects with Iraqi approval, which gives them another way to get out of their bases.

The reason that Baghdad has placed such tight limits on the U.S. is because of Maliki’s 2010 re-election campaign. One of the issues that he is running on is the claim that he got the U.S. to leave Iraq. The Prime Minister is also pushing for the referendum on Status of Forces Agreement to coincide with the January voting. If Iraqis vote it down, U.S. combat troops will have to leave Iraq by January 2011, instead of the planned for December 31, 2011 date. Maliki’s plans have been complicated by the recent increase in deaths, but so far he seems willing to accept these casualties because asking for U.S. aid would be seen as a major reversal for him. This gamble may not pay off as the August 19, 2009 Baghdad bombings have brought into doubt his whole approach to security.


Alsumaria, “Iraq Commander: No need for US troops,” 7/21/09

Gatehouse, Gabriel, “US troops back on patrol in Iraq,” BBC, 7/28/09

Knights, Michael and Ali, Ahmed, “Putting Iraq’s Security Agreement to the Vote: Risks and Opportunities,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy,” 8/24/09

Lawrence, Quil, “To Many Iraqis, U.S. Troops Have Not Faded Away,” Morning Edition, NPR, 7/13/09

Londono, Ernesto, “U.S. Troops in Iraq Find Little Leeway,” Washington Post, 7/20/09

Londono, Ernesto and DeYoung, Karen, “Iraq Restricts U.S. Forces,” Washington Post, 7/18/09

Nordland, Rod, “Iraqis Take the Lead, With U.S. Trailing Closely,” New York Times, 8/9/09

Shabad, Rebecca, “Iraq City Security: ‘Uneven,’” Newsweek, 6/30/09

Sly, Liz, “In Iraq, U.S. troops learn to cope with rejection,” Los Angeles Times, 9/7/09

Tharp, Mike, “Iraqis have told U.S. military no patrols permitted in Baghdad,” McClatchy Newspapers, 7/14/09

Monday, September 14, 2009

Iraq’s Electricity Minister Tries To Explain Continued Supply Problems

Iraq’s Electricity Minister gave a press conference on September 7, 2009 to try to explain Iraq’s long, hot summer. The Minister said Iraq is facing five problems with its electricity supply. First, the country does not have enough fuel to run some of its power plants. Second, the country’s budget problems are limiting the ministry’s spending power to boost and maintain production. The Electricity Ministry’s budget saw a huge 144% increase from $1.389 billion in 2008 to $3.39 billion in 2009, but almost all of that went to operational costs. In 2008 the Ministry received $89.1 million for its operational budget, which goes towards salaries, pensions, etc., and $1.3 billion for capital expenditures that paid for infrastructure, and other investments. In the 2009 budget, operational costs shot up 2492% to $2.31 billion, while the capital budget decreased 17% to $1.08 billion. Another issue is that the Ministry has barely been able to spend its money. In 2008 it only expended 12% of its budget. Third, the water shortages and drought are reducing hydroelectric power production. Fourth, the Minister said that his staff had taken serious personal losses, noting 1,000 had been wounded or killed. His last remark was that the huge increase in sandstorms this year is straining the ability of the Ministry to maintain and clean its equipment.

On the positive side, the Minister said that by the end of the year General Electric and Siemens AG should begin work on installing new generators, providing technical assistance and training, and providing spare parts as part of a $3 billion deal signed in December 2008. The Ministry didn’t have the money to pay the two companies at first, but the Finance Ministry has finally okayed the transfer of $2.4 billion to them. Together they are expected to add up to 10,300 megawatts.

As reported before, Iraq has consistently boosted its power production in recent years. According to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, the Electricity Ministry has increased electrical output for five straight quarters. From April to June 2009 average daily production stood at 124,713 megawatt hours. One factor in this increase is the boost in energy imports from countries like Iran. In the second quarter of 2009 Iraq imported an average of 16,237 megawatt hours per day, an 82% increase from the same period in 2008, and a 118% increase from the second quarter in 2007. The problem is that demand has consistently increased since the 2003 invasion above supply, and power delivery is inconsistent across the country. With improved security, the public is also demanding more services. Finally, Baghdad is trying to entice foreign companies to invest in Iraq, and officials are worried that the inconsistent electricity will keep them away. The question is whether Iraq will be able to add enough to its power grid to meet all of these different needs.


Aswat al-Iraq, “$2.4bn to pay for GE, Siemens contracts-minister,” 8/9/09

Al-Shalchi, Hadeel, “Power problems mean Iraq suffers hot summer, again,” Associated Press, 9/7/09

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 4/30/09
- “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/09

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Wasit Residents Protest Against Chinese Oil Company

Iraq’s first post-invasion oil deal was with the state-run China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) to work on the Ahdab oil field in Wasit province. In August 2008, the Iraqi Oil Ministry re-worked a 1997 contract with the company from the Saddam era, and made it a Technical Services Agreement (TSA), the only one so far finalized in Iraq. TSAs pay companies a set fee for their work, plus a dollar amount for each extra barrel of oil produced. In this case, the Chinese company is to be paid $3 billion, plus $3 per extra barrel. The Oil Ministry expects 25,000 barrels a day to be produced within three years, and 110,000 barrels later. The company isn’t allowed to sell the oil either, as it will go to fuel local power stations. CNPC accepted the deal because they wanted to get their foot in the door to Iraq’s vast oil resources. So far, the company is only in the exploration phase, and doesn’t expect oil production for another 2 ½ years.

As soon as the Chinese company arrived in Wasit, they began running into problems with the locals. First, farmers were afraid that the government would appropriate their land and give it to CNPC for oil work. The farmers responded by destroying generators, cutting power lines, and demanding compensation for damages they claimed the company had inflicted on their fields. One report claimed up to $1 million in damages had been caused by July 2009. Residents were also expecting jobs, as Wasit is one of the poorest areas in Iraq, but so far only 450 Iraqis have been hired. This led to protests by the provincial council, and a demand that $1 from every barrel produced from the field go to services in the province. The Oil and Gas Committee in parliament also took up Wasit’s complaints. As a result, the company ceased work for a time in May 2009, before Baghdad deployed extra security.

Today CNPC is back at work at the Ahdab field, but tensions are still high. Locals are still upset that they are not benefiting from the oil deal, and CNPC plans on bringing in hundreds of Chinese workers soon to work on a facility, which could make things worse. Baghdad is trying to gloss over the matter, claiming everything is fine. CNPC’s operations in Wasit could be a sign of things to come as Iraq is trying to entice foreign companies to invest in its oil sector. New corporations could face the same kinds of protests by locals, provincial governments, and parliament. That would only cause further problems for Iraq’s oil plans, which have largely gone unfulfilled.


Asian Energy, “China Experts Start Work on Iraq’s Oilfield,” 1/4/09

Chon, Gina, “China faces unexpected problem drilling for oil in Iraq,” Wall Street Journal, 5/22/09

Graeber, Dan, “New details emerge in Iraqi oil deal with China,” Iraq Oil Report, 9/4/08

Lando, Ben, “A Chinese Lesson in Iraqi Oil Exploration,” Time, 6/26/09

Latif, Nizar and Lando, Ben, “Big, careful steps,” Iraq Oil Report, 7/14/09

Latif, Nizar and Sands, Phil, “Oil company on shaky ground,” The National, 7/5/09

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Chinese Company Launches $3 Billion Oil Project In Iraq,” 3/13/09

Robertson, Campbell, “Iraq Poised to Revive Oil Contract With China,” New York Times, 8/20/08

Al-Rubai, Salah, “Angry farmers sabotage Chinese oil equipment in southern Iraq,” Azzaman, 5/5/09

Williams, Timothy, “China Oil Deal Is New Source of Strife Among Iraqis,” New York Times, 9/6/09

Yacoub, Sameer, “Official: Iraq, China finalize oil service deal to develop southern Iraqi field,” Associated Press, 11/11/08

Friday, September 11, 2009

Shell Natural Gas Deal Held Up By Iraqi Politics

At the beginning of September 2008 the Iraqi Oil Ministry signed a preliminary deal with Royal Dutch Shell to exploit natural gas in the Basra area. It was only the second agreement signed between Iraq and a foreign company to exploit its natural resources since the U.S. invasion in 2003. The Oil Ministry has been criticized by a variety of different groups within Iraq for this action, leading to inertia one year later. Now it’s been announced that Shell will have to wait even longer as officials say that nothing can be done until after the January 2010 Iraqi national elections.

The Deputy Oil Minister announced on September 5, 2009 that the Shell deal would have to wait for finalization until after the 2010 elections. He said that Iraqi politics would not allow any movement until afterward.

The preliminary agreement is a three-way deal between Royal Dutch Shell, Japan’s Mitsubishi, and the Iraqi Oil Ministry. Because Iraq has no new hydrocarbons law, the Oil Ministry used an old Saddam era laws to work out the proposed contract with Shell. Originally, the state-owned South Oil Company was going to own 51% of a joint venture, and Shell would have the other 49%. In February 2009 Mitsubishi joined with Shell, and pledged to go in 5%. The deal could be worth between $3-$4 billion over five years, and involve 500-600 cubic feet of natural gas per day. Currently Iraq has the 10th largest natural gas reserves in the world, and produces 1.7 billion cubic feet a day, but wants to increase that to 5.1 billion by 2015. Most of the natural gas in Basra is burned off instead of captured because Iraq lacks the infrastructure to do so. Overall, Iraq claims it looses more than 60% of its natural gas at a cost of up to $40 million a day.

The initial deal received immediate approval by the cabinet, but has been criticized by a number of groups. First, was the former oil minister under Saddam who asked why the government offered no-bids on such a large project. Second, members of parliament criticized the negotiations as being non-transparent. Third, the Oil and Gas Committee in the legislature worried that Shell would be given a monopoly with a 25-year contract. The committee, as well as the Fadhila party that held the governorship of Basra at the time, also said that they should’ve be included in the negotiations. Members of the committee have also claimed the deal is unconstitutional since it did not include parliament. Finally, there are disputes about how much of the natural gas will go to domestic needs, and how much will be exported, as well as the area of operations Shell will be given, will it be just for Basra or all of southern Iraq?

Iraq’s natural gas is largely underdeveloped, but has huge potential. Like the country’s oil it is a highly contested resource. On the one hand the Oil Ministry believes that foreign companies are required to exploit it, and the Oil Minister believes he can make these deals with only cabinet approval. Iraq’s parliament objects to this, claiming that they should be included in the negotiations, and have any contract ratified by them. There are also nationalist factions, and those that mistrust foreign companies, that think that the gas, like Iraq’s petroleum, should only be developed by the state. All of these arguments have held up the Shell-Mitsubishi deal for one year now, and there’s no telling whether the 2010 parliamentary elections will allow any further movement. This is the price foreign companies have to pay for attempting to do business in Iraq right now since the government is largely incapable of making big decisions because it is so divided and dysfunctional. In the meantime Iraq will be wasting most of its gas until some kind of final deal is worked out.


Ciszuk, Samuel, “Iraq politics impact Shell gas deal,” Iraq Oil Report, 4/20/09

Crooks, Ed and Khalaf, Roula, “Shell in Iraqi gas deal worth up to $4bn,” Financial Times, 9/8/08

Dow Jones, “Shell, Iraq gas Deal Progressing, Cabinet To OK Study-Official,” 7/6/09

Graeber, Dan, “Iraq approves gas deal with Royal Dutch Shell,” Iraq Oil Report, 9/7/08

Iraq Oil Report, “Iraq opts for long term oil deals, ditches no-bids,” 9/9/08

Khadduri, Walid, “Oil in a Week – Iraqi Oil 2008-2009,” Al-Hayat, 1/12/09

Lando, Ben, “Shell-Iraq gas company is a monopoly, secret agreement shows,” UPI, 11/4/08

Lando, Ben and Majeed, Alaa, “Gas deal no monopoly, Shell and Iraq say,” UPI, 11/6/08

Macalister, Terry, “Iraq parliament promises to push Shell out of gas deal,” Guardian, 4/18/09
- “Iraqi government fuels ‘war for oil’ theories by putting reserves up for biggest ever sale,” Guardian, 10/13/08

Rasheed, Ahmed, “Iraq Lawmakers Say Will Challenge Shell Gas Deal,” Reuters, 11/26/08

Salahedin, Sinan, “Iraq-Shell gas deal likely to be delayed until after January elections, official says,” Associated Press, 9/5/09
- “Iraqi official: Mitsubishi to join Iraq gas deal,” Associated Press, 2/12/09

Yacoub, Sameer, “Iraq, Shell sign deal,” Associated Press, 9/22/08

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Syria-Iraq Dispute Could Be Ending

On August 19, 2009 twin bombings occurred at Iraq’s Foreign and Finance Ministries. Three days later, the Baghdad Operations Command announced that it had arrested a suspect, and his taped confession was later played on television. He said he was a Baathist and former policeman who put together one of the truck bombs in the Muqdadiya district of Diyala under orders from two Baathist officials in Syria. On August 25, Iraq demanded that Syria turn over the two alleged masterminds, and withdrew its ambassador, with Damascus following suit. That was the beginning of a war of words between the two countries. Baghdad demanded that Syria turn over or expel all terrorists in the country, it showed another confession on television of an Al Qaeda member who said that he was trained and financed by Syrian intelligence, called for the United Nations to conduct a criminal investigation into the bombings, and sent troops and police to patrol the Syrian border. On September 9, however, at a meeting of the Arab League, it was announced that the Syrian and Iraqi Foreign Ministers had come to an agreement to ease tensions, stop the recriminations, return the ambassadors, and form a joint security committee.

This dramatic escalation of tensions between Iraq and Syria covered over the fact that Baghdad issued two contradictory stories about the bombings. On August 29, the Interior Ministry reported that it had arrested 14 Al Qaeda members in Baghdad who it said was responsible for the August 19 attack. Al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq also claimed they carried out the bombing four days earlier on a website. The government has never reconciled these two versions of events.

The Arab and Iraqi press however, were full of ideas about why Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki chose to confront Syria. What seems most likely is that Maliki wanted to defer blame for the bombings on a believable target, Baathists in Syria. First, the Baath Party and insurgents openly operate in Syria. For example, in 2008 Baath members and insurgent groups held a televised conference in Damascus, and in July 2009, militants held a summit in Syria. That made Damascus an easy target for Maliki. The Prime Minister is also running on law and order again for the 2010 elections, so he needed to blame someone other than himself for the attack. Another possible reason is that Maliki has been upset that the United States has held off and on negotiations with Baathists in Syria. It was reported that Baghdad demanded that Syria deport over 200 Baath members, which would’ve disrupted any deals with Washington as well as gotten rid of some of the most militant opponents of the Iraqi government.

If the Arab League announcement is followed through with, then this whole episode may be wrapping up. Maliki will have achieved his goal of distracting public attention away from his rule and the Iraqi security forces, to Syria and the Baathists. With all the fury and announcements, people will also probably forget that the government came out with two contradictory stories of who was responsible for the August 19 bombings. Maliki will then be able to return to the campaign trail claiming that he stood up for Iraq against the terrorists, even if he probably accused the wrong ones.


Alsumaria, “Qaeda militant says trained in Syria for Iraq attack,” 8/31/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “90% of terrorists came to Iraq through Syria – PM,” 8/31/09
- “Cabinet urges Syria to hand over suspected bombers,” 8/25/09
- “Footage of “confessions” by Wednesday bombings’ prime suspect broadcast,” 8/23/09
- “URGENT/Syria rejects Iraq’s remarks, recalls ambassador,” 8/25/09
- “Wednesday attackers Baathists – BOC,” 8/22/09

Dagher, Sam, “2 Blasts Expose Security Flaws in Heart of Iraq,” New York Times, 8/19/09
- “Iraq Presses U.S. on Pact With Sunnis in Turkey,” New York Times, 7/24/09

Iraq The Model, “Iraq has satellite imagery of Syria training camps,” 9/7/09
- “Iraq postpones census until October 2010,” 8/31/09

Lynch, Marc, “The Syrian-Iraqi spat,” Foreign Policy, 9/1/09

Raphaeli, Dr. Nimrod, “Al-Maliki Turns His Back on Iran, Embraces Iraqi Nationalism,” Middle East Media Research Institute, 9/2/09

Sands, Phil, “A safe haven in Damascus,” The National, 8/29/09

Santora, Marc, “Iraqis Demand Syria Turn Over Suspects,” New York Times, 8/25/09

Sly, Liz, “Al Qaeda-linked group claims two recent Baghdad bombings that killed 95,” Los Angeles Times, 8/26/09

Xinhua, “Iraq, Syria agree to stop media campaigns, speed up returning ambassadors,” 9/9/09

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

U.S. Holds Talks Between Al-Hadbaa And Kurds In Ninewa

Iraq The Model recently reported on a story from al-Sharq al-Awsat on U.S. sponsored talks between the ruling al-Hadbaa party in Ninewa and the Kurdish Ninewa Fraternal List. The meeting included two members of al-Hadbaa who hold 19 of the 37 provincial seats, two members of the Fraternal List who have twelve seats, a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party who have three seats, and several American officials. The U.S. was said to be working on these negotiations since at least August 2009. The Kurdish emissaries were quoted as saying that they welcomed the discussions.

Currently the Fraternal List is boycotting the provincial council since they got no positions after the 2009 elections, and 16 administrative units controlled by the Kurds in Ninewa are refusing to follow the directives of al-Hadbaa. The war of words between the two sides has only gotten worse in recent weeks. The dispute is also giving the insurgents room to operate as they are playing up Arab fears of the Kurds, and the lack of cooperation between al-Hadbaa and the Fraternal List is creating security holes, which militants have been able to exploit with attacks. The question now is how much of an effort will the Americans put into these talks, and whether al-Hadbaa and the Fraternal List are willing to compromise. So far, several Iraqi parties have tried to mediate, but to no avail. It seems for now the two sides are willing to talk, but little else.


Aswat al-Iraq, “Mosul parties’ intransigence encumbered IIP initiative – spokesman,” 8/16/09
- “Sadrist delegation in Mosul to defuse crisis,” 6/13/09

Al-Badrani, Jamal, “Qaeda stronger as blasts feed Iraqi Kurd-Arab feud,” Reuters, 8/16/09

Dagher, Sam, “Minorities Trapped in Northern Iraq’s Maelstrom,” New York Times, 8/16/09

Iraq The Model, “U.S. sponsored talks between Nineveh’s Arabs and Kurds,” 9/7/09

Mohsen, Amer, “Iraq Papers Wed: A Wounded Country,”, 6/23/09

Salahaddin’s Governor Dismissed

On September 3, 2009 on a vote of 17 for, 7 against, and 3 abstaining, Salahaddin’s provincial council dismissed Governor Mutashar al-Aliwi. The council said that the governor refused to appear before them for questioning. No other reasons were provided. The governor and council have only been in office since April 2009.

The next several days saw demonstrations for and against the council’s decision. On September 4, people gathered in Samarra, and the next day in Tirkrit to let the governor know that he should step down. On September 7, the Iraqi Islamic Party organized a counter demonstration in the city of Dalouiya, and another march was held in the Ishaqi district on September 9. The Governor has said the council’s ruling is illegal, and he is going to the courts to make his case.

Aliwi is a member of the Iraqi Accordance Front, which is led by the Islamic Party. The Accordance Front tied for first place in the 2009 provincial elections. Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List was the other first place winner, and they, along with other smaller parties, formed a ruling coalition with the Accordance Front. Some member of that group had to vote for Aliwi’s removal for it to be successful.


Aswat al-Iraq, “Demonstration in Salah el-Din against dismissal of governor,” 9/9/09
- “Demonstration in Samarra against sacking Salah el-Din’s governor,” 9/4/09
- “Demonstrators in Tikrit want governor out,” 9/5/09
- “Salah al-Din residents protest removal of governor,” 9/7/09

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Oil Companies Exporting From Kurdistan May Not Be Paid For Years

An executive from Talisman Energy of Canada said that companies exporting oil from Kurdistan might not be paid for years. In May 2009 it was announced that the two fields that were producing oil in Kurdistan, Tawke, operated by Norway’s DNO, and Taq Taq run by Turkey’s Genel Enerji and Canada’s Addax, could export their products. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) agreed to deposit all of the profits with the central government in return for the right to sell its petroleum internationally. This was seen as a major breakthrough between Baghdad and the KRG who have been arguing over who has the right to explore, produce, and export oil for several years now. There continues to be one main sticking point however, Baghdad refuses to pay the companies, and the Kurds have not paid them either. The Talisman executive, whose company has begun exploration work in Kurdistan, told Reuters that at the earliest, Iraq could work out a payment deal after the January 2010 parliamentary elections. At the latest, he warned that it could take years. This could have a severe impact on the Kurds’ plan of creating their own independent petroleum policy. Unless the companies get paid, they will only agree to small-scale exploration and drilling work, because any larger investment will not be compensated. In the meantime, Baghdad is benefiting because the extra revenue is going into its coffers at no cost.


Bergin, Tom, “UPDATE 1-Iraq may not pay for Kurdish oil for years-exec,” Reuters, 9/8/09

Ciszuk, Samuel, “No clarity on Iraq-KRG oil export flap,” Iraq Oil Report, 5/13/09

Ibrahim, Waleed, “UPDATE 4-Kurds say will launch oil exports, Iraq denies,” Reuters, 5/8/09