Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sadrists Gain Control Of Maysan Governorship

(Wikimedia)
As reported before, in an apparent quid pro quo between the Sadrists and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to ensure his second term in office, the latter have gained control of the governorship in Maysan province. On December 28, 2010 provincial council member Ali Dway was elected governor in a 14 to 13 vote. Dway was the head of the anti-corruption integrity committee in the council beforehand, and comes from the Sadrist Independent Trend of the Noble Ones list that won seven out of 27 seats on the governorate’s ruling body back in January 2009. Dway replaced Muhammad Shaia’a Sudani from Maliki’s State of Law party that was just appointed the new Minister of Human Rights on December 21. This is the latest step in the ascendancy of the Sadrists since the March parliamentary balloting. 

In the beginning of November, the first stories began to appear that Maliki had promised the Sadrists several southern governorships in return for their support of his premiership. Maysan, Qadisiyah, Babil, and Dhi Qar were all mentioned. Maysan was especially important to the Sadrists since it was the only province along with Wasit that they controlled after the 2005 elections. Then in June 2008 Maliki launched Operation Promise of Peace there, after cracking down on militias in Basra and Baghdad. Iraqi security forces eventually arrested the governor, head of the provincial council, the deputy chief of the security committee, and the head of the health committee, along with hundreds of militiamen all for being part of the Sadr Trend. In the 2009 provincial elections, the Sadrists made a bit of a comeback, coming in third behind State of Law and the Supreme Council’s Al-Mihrab Martyr List. The Sadrists were hoping to joint the ruling coalition there, but were eventually shut out after Maliki cut a deal with the Martyr List. Finally, in the 2010 vote, the Sadrists ended up winning three of the ten parliamentary seats up for grabs in the governorate.

When word spread that Maliki may give Maysan to the Sadr movement, local officials objected. Former Governor Sudani for example, rejected any deal cut between the prime minister and Sadrists for control of the province. His complaints were nullified when he was sent to Baghdad to join the new cabinet. That opened the way for Ali Dway to assume the governorship despite the Sadrists not being part of the ruling coalition.

With the election of Dway the Sadrists have increased their standing in Iraq. They now have the governors in Maysan and Babil, as well as the head of the provincial council in Karbala. That goes along with their kingmaker role in forming the new Maliki government, six ministries, and the deputy speaker of parliament. Many Iraqi politicians have told the press that this is an important development, because they want the Sadr Trend within the government rather than outside where they can cause trouble. After Maliki’s crackdowns in 2008, Moqtada al-Sadr announced that he was disbanding the Mahdi Army, and turning towards politics. With their surprising showing in the recent parliamentary elections, they are now talking about becoming the dominant Shiite party in Iraq, which could lead them to the premiership sometime in the future. Their advances however, need to be taken with a grain of salt. In 2005, Sadr attempted the exact same thing, running in the two elections that year, and being the force behind Maliki assuming power in 2006. Those moves eventually backfired as more militant factions of his movement split, he lost standing with some in the street who were opposed to the Iraqi government, and he ended up telling his followers to boycott the cabinet, which opened the door to the Americans and Maliki targeting his militia. With the sectarian war over and the Americans on the way out, the Sadr Trend may face a more favorable situation this time around. While some of their new politicians have blood on their hands like former deputy Health Minister Hakim Zamili who was in charge of running death squads out of the ministry, others are technocrats and professionals. At the same time, an estimated 1,500 former Mahdi Army fighters have recently been released, which was also part of the agreement with Maliki. If those men aren’t given jobs they could join Special Groups or gangs, and start problems all over again for both Sadr and the authorities. The future then, holds both peril and promise for the Sadrists, who have proven to be survivors if nothing else.

SOURCES

Associated Press, “Iraq’s new parliament seat distribution,” 3/26/10
- “Sadrists expect big role in new Iraq government,” 12/1/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “Ali Dway new Missan governor,” 12/28/10

Felter, Joseph and Fishman, Brian, “Iranian Strategy in Iraq, Politics and ‘Other Means,’” Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 10/13/08

Healy, Jack, “Cleric’s Anti-U.S. Forces Poised for Gains in Iraq,” New York Times, 12/19/10

Institute for the Study of War, “Iraq’s Major Shi’a Political Parties and Militias,” 4/14/08

Latif, Nizar and Sands, Phil, “Sadr Movement militants in government open to picking up arms again,” The National, 12/26/10

Leland, John and Healy, Jack, “After Months, Iraqi Lawmakers Approve a Government,” New York Times, 12/21/10

Meyerson, Thomas, “Provincial Governments in Southern Iraq,” Institute for the Study of War, 5/28/09

Parker, Ned, “Sadr sees star rise again in Iraq,” Los Angeles Times, 11/25/10

Roggio, Bill, “Iraqi forces detain Sadrist leaders, uncover Special Groups headquarter in Amarah,” Long War Journal, 7/2/08
- “Report: Iraqi security forces preparing operation against Mahdi Army in Maysan,” Long War Journal.org, 6/12/08

Sowell, Kirk, “Politics, Political Risk & Political Economy,” Inside Iraqi Politics, 11/22/10

Visser, Reidar, “Maliki Suffers Setbacks as Samarrai is Confirmed as New Speaker and More Governors Are Elected South of Baghdad,” Historiae.org, 4/19/09
- “Nujayfi, Talabani and Maliki – Plus Lots of Hot Air,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 11/11/10
- “Parliament Approves the Second Maliki Government,” Historiae, 12/21/10
- “The Sadrist Watershed Confirmed,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 3/29/10

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bloated Iraqi Government Could Get Bigger

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that his new government has an excess of ministers to accommodate all of the parties involved in the ruling coalition. He said that 7-8 of the ministries were simply created for political appeasement. 38 ministries were announced on December 22, 2010, ten of which are being temporarily run by other officials until their heads are named. Politicians aren’t done however with the creation of this bloated government. There are reports that some parties are demanding three vice presidents.

In the previous government there were two vice presidents, Tariq al-Hashemi and Adel Abdul Mahdi, who along with President Jalal Talabani formed the Presidential Council. Those three represented the main ethnosectarian groups within the country, Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds respectively, but also had veto power over any legislation. The deputy presidents and Council were only temporary however, and the new government only requires a president who be will a largely ceremonial head of state this time.

Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani and the Iraq Turkmen Front, which is part of the Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement, are two of those now calling for new vice presidents. The Turkmen Front wants one vice president spot for itself, while Barzani said that every group within Iraq should be represented in the government, and therefore offices needed to be created for them. Senior Kurdish parliamentarian Mahmoud Othman said that other parties had agreed upon just one vice president, and that two or three would be a waste of money, but political expediency could win the day. Either way, parliament would have to pass a new law to create any of them. 

The new Maliki administration already has too many ministers and three deputy premiers. Adding three vice presidents who are not necessary and would have no real power would only be for symbolic reasons, and to pay off parties for their support of the new regime. The premier said he wants this government to be professional and competent, but the political maneuvers to finally put it together undermine his pronouncements. The new Maliki coalition will have an excess of positions, just like the old one. Those will be divided amongst the various political and ethnosectarian groups and will be a drain on the national coffers as they offer personal fiefs and patronage systems to the officials who run them.

SOURCES

Dagher, Sam, “Iraq Wants the U.S. Out,” Wall Street Journal, 12/28/10

Khalat, Khader, “Iraq’s Turkoman candidates for Vice President,” AK News, 12/28/10

Saifaddin, Dilshad, “Majority votes to one vice president, says lawmaker,” AK News, 12/24/10

Taha, Yassen, “kirkuk’s political parties staking future on coalitions,” Niqash, 1/24/10

Visser, Reidar, “Abd al-Mahdi in Tehran: Who Is Paying for This?” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 12/26/10
- “Parliament Approves the Second Maliki Government,” Historiae, 12/21/10

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Iraq’s New Oil Minister Getting Ahead Of Himself In Announcements

Oil Minister Luaibi
Since Iraq’s New Oil Minister Abdul Karim Luaibi took office on December 21, 2010, he has made a number of bold statements. He’s claimed that Iraq has hit the highest production levels since the 2003 invasion, and that Baghdad and Kurdistan have reconciled their differences over natural resources, and are ready to work together. Unfortunately, many of these statements appear aimed at announcing himself as one of Iraq’s newest and most important ministers, rather than being based upon actual achievements.

Minister Abdul Karim Luaibi was the deputy to the former Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani. According to press reports, he was part of the team that negotiated contracts and terms with the foreign oil companies before and after the two bidding rounds in 2009 for Iraqi fields. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in oil engineering from the University of Baghdad, and began working at the South Oil Company in 1983. Most believe that he will continue on with Shahristani’s plans to dramatically expand Iraq’s oil industry with the help of the international energy businesses.

Perhaps not wanting to live in the shadow of his predecessor, Luaibi has tried to make a splash since his first day in office by claiming that Iraq has achieved several important breakthroughs. On December 22, the Oil Ministry announced that oil production had increased 10% to reach an average of 2.5 million barrels a day. The ministry said this was the highest amount since 2003. Luaibi then outdid himself by saying that Iraq had reached 2.6 million barrels on December 26. He went on to say that was the most produced in twenty years. In between, on December 23, the Minister claimed that a deal had been signed between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to allow the Kurds to export oil once again in just a matter of days. He stated that the central government will recognize the Kurdish oil deals, and pay the companies for their costs of operation, while Kurdish petroleum will go through the northern pipeline to Turkey and the revenues will be deposited in the capital.

The problem is that few of these statements were actually true. First, Iraq has reached or surpassed 2.5 million barrels a day seven times since 2003, and even produced 2.6 million barrels once before. In September 2004 Iraq produced 2.51 million barrels a day. In May 2008 they reached 2.6 million barrels, followed by 2.52 million barrels in June 2008, 2.54 million barrels in July 2008, and 2.5 million in August 2008, September 2009, and October of that year. Immediately before the U.S. invasion the Oil Ministry was pumping an average of 2.58 million barrels a day, but there are reports that production reached as high as 3 million barrels pre-2003. That means it’s unclear whether Luaibi’s claim of a twenty year high is true or not. As for a breakthrough between Baghdad and the KRG, a spokesman said on December 26 that there had been no discussion within the Oil Ministry about recognizing Kurdish oil contracts or allowing the Kurds to export again. 

Abdul Karim Luaibi was the deputy to one of the most powerful Oil Minister’s in recent history, Hussein Shahristani, and now wants to make his own mark. Shahristani tried to block the Kurds’ independent resources policy, develop the rest of the industry through deals with foreign companies, and wanted Iraq to be a leader in OPEC once again. That gave Luaibi some large shoes to fill, and was probably a factor in him claiming that Iraq had reached new highs in production immediately after he took office, and that a major step towards reconciliation had been achieved with the Kurds. The facts don’t support him, but the Iraqi and international media are not known for doing checks on pronouncements by politicians. Getting that attention however, was probably his intended goal to show that he was his own man, and capable of making an immediate impact upon one of Iraq’s most influential ministries. Actually reaching a new post-war high in oil output and cutting a deal with the Kurds are things he should be focusing upon, but he should be doing instead of talking if he wants to make himself different from the rest of Iraq’s political class.

SOURCES

Ali, Yaser, “KBC: Maliki signs agreement to Kurdish conditions,” AK News, 12/21/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “Oil ministry achieves highest production since 2003,” 12/22/10

Carlisle, Tamsin and al Sayegh, Hadeel, “Iraq gives go-ahead to Kurdish oil contracts,” The National, 12/26/10

Dow Jones, “Iraq Oil Minister: Kurdish Agreement ‘Activated’ In Days,” 12/24/10

Dunlop, W.G., “Iraq oil production tops 2.6m barrels a day,” Agence France Presse, 12/27/10

Said, Summer, “2nd UPDATE: Iraq Oil Min: Ctrl Govt To Recognize Oil Deals Inked By Kurdistan,” Dow Jones, 12/25/10

Salaheddin, Sinan, “Iraq’s new oil minister close ally to predecessor,” Associated Press, 12/21/10

Sandalow, Marc, “Analysis: Deceptively low-key handover is critical to Bush,” San Francisco Chronicle, 6/29/04

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Hard Lessons,” 1/22/09

Monday, December 27, 2010

What’s In The Future For The Sons Of Iraq

For the last 20 months the integration of the Sons of Iraq (SOI) has been on hold. The 2010 budget, security concerns, the March parliamentary elections, and the protracted formation of a new government have all been reasons for the delay. Now that a new ruling coalition and budget are finally moving forward, the future of the former insurgents is more in doubt than ever before.

Since April 2009 there has been a hiring freeze on the Sons of Iraq (SOI). The Interior Ministry imposed the ban due to the 2010 budget, which did not allot enough money for new employees. It denied around 10,300 SOI as a result. The following month the Defense Ministry stopped taking in SOI as well, citing the security situation, and the coming parliamentary elections. Provinces have also been strapped for funds for the SOI.

The National Reconciliation Commission, headed by Zuhair Chalabi, is in charge of the Sons of Iraq. Chalabi told the Associated Press in December that the 2011 budget has $200 million set aside to pay the SOI. The government also plans on boosting their pay back up to the $300 a month they use to get from the Americans. When Baghdad took over the SOI they cut their wages. The problem is that officials are not sure whether the up coming budget has money to pay for former fighters who are given new government jobs. When Iraq took command of the SOI they promised to give 20% of the fighters employment in the security forces, and the other 80% would be placed in other ministries or the private sector. Chalabi recently said that no more SOI would be taken into the police or army however because the freezes by the Interior and Defense Ministry are going to continue into the new year.

Ultimately the future of the SOI will rest with the new Maliki administration. The prime minister is against integrating the SOI, while Chalabi says that he will finish the job. New actors will also be involved in the second Maliki term such as Iyad Allawi who is to head a to be created National Council for Strategic Policies, the Speaker of Parliament Osama Nujafi, and Deputy Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq all of which want the SOI to be fully integrated. However the financial and political restraints may be too much to overcome. The fighters are supposed to have enough money to keep them on their posts, manning checkpoints and carrying out patrols for one more year, but that may be their last. Already many have reportedly walked off their jobs to find work elsewhere because they no longer feel safe due to insurgent attacks and government neglect. With the highly coveted security field now off limit, more are likely to dissert, which may only leave those who lack the skills and opportunity to do anything else left. Their ultimate fate may be the unemployment line, which was where they might have been all along if not for the insurgency, and then the SOI.

The Sons were always a stopgap measure created by the Americans to split the Sunni nationalists from the Islamists and foreign fighters. It was only after the sectarian civil war ended, that the U.S. began pushing for the government to provide the SOI with permanent employment. Maliki and other Shiite politicians were always opposed to the program, and therefore dragged their feet when it came to integration. With the Americans leaving and future budget constrains, they may finally have the excuse they need to end the Sons once and for all.

SOURCES

Associated Press, “Bleak outlook for plans to help Sons of Iraq,” 12/16/10

Bengali, Shashank, “With U.S. presence fading in Iraq, ex-militia faces uncertain future,” McClatchy Newspapers, 12/7/10

Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq June 2010,” 9/7/10

Sly, Liz, “Iraq plans to cut Sunni fighters’ salaries,” Chicago Tribune, 11/2/08

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/09
- “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/10

Wiseman, Paul, “U.S.-supported Iraqi militias clash with government,” USA Today, 5/27/09


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Are The Kurds Going To Export Oil Again?

Kurdish Pres. Barzani (left) and Premier Maliki (right) may be moving towards reconciliation over oil (Xinhua)

Iraq’s Oil Minister Abdul Karim Luaibi is making waves just days into his new job. Recently, while attending the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting in Cairo, Egypt, the minister told the press that a deal had been cut between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad over oil. If true, this could have wide ranging impact over not only Iraq’s natural resources, but relations between the central and regional governments and the 2011 budget.

On December 24, 2010 Oil Minister Luaibi told the press that an agreement had been reached over Kurdish oil exports and contracts. He said that not only would the KRG begin to sell its petroleum overseas once again, but that the Kurds' oil contracts would be recognized, and that the foreign companies would be paid for their operation costs in Kurdistan. In return, the Kurds would only ship their oil through the northern pipeline to Turkey, and that all the revenues would go to the central government’s coffers in Baghdad. Former Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani had declared all of the Kurds’ oil deals illegal because they didn’t go through the Oil Ministry, and had allowed the Kurds to export for just a few months in 2009, but refused to compensate the corporations involved. 

Concessions on the KRG’s oil policy was part of the power sharing agreement that put Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki back in power. Just before Maliki took the stage at parliament to have his new cabinet confirmed on December 21, he signed onto the Kurds’ 19 demands. Those included a revenue sharing and oil laws by next year, and recognition of their petroleum contracts. 

Even before that happened the Oil and Finance Ministries were working towards some kind of understanding with the KRG. In November the government announced that the 2011 budget would include 150,000 barrels a day in Kurdish exports, which would determine whether the Kurds got their 17.5% of national funds. The KRG’s Natural Resource Ministry complained about this, saying that their oil deals needed to be confirmed first. Then on December 18, Kurdish lawmakers walked out of parliament saying that the proposed budget would put them in a legal bind if the oil issues were not worked out first. They threatened to hold up passage of the spending bill until this problem was resolved.

Premier Maliki’s signing of the Kurdish demands and the Oil Minister’s announcement could be signs that the differences between the two sides have been worked out. If true, that could be a major achievement for the new government, as the former Maliki administration was marked by increasing tensions between Baghdad and Irbil, with oil being a major point of contention. At the same time, the details need to be discussed over exports and contracts, and then made public before any statement by an Iraqi politician can be taken seriously. Kurdish oil sales will only be a small fraction of Iraq’s totals, but they can be a huge step towards reconciliation between the central and regional governments.

SOURCES

Abdul-Rahman, Mohammed, “Shahrestani unauthorized to order Kurdistan currently, says source,” AK News, 12/1/10

Ali, Yaser, “KBC: Maliki signs agreement to Kurdish conditions,” AK News, 12/21/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “Govt. sets barrel price at $73 in 2011 budget,” 11/20/11
- “Iraq’s Kurdistan ready to export oil according to Baghdad govt.’s export level, official,” 12/20/10

Carlisle, Tamsin and al Sayegh, Hadeel, “Iraq gives go-ahead to Kurdish oil contracts,” The National, 12/26/10

Dow Jones, “Iraq Oil Minister: Kurdish Agreement ‘Activated’ In Days,” 12/24/10
- “Iraqi: KRG To Face Penalties If Oil Exports Fail To Hit Target,” 11/29/10

Lando, Ben, “Kurdish oil demands to Maliki revealed,” Iraq Oil Report, 12/15/10

Said, Summer, “2nd UPDATE: Iraq Oil Min: Ctrl Govt To Recognize Oil Deals Inked By Kurdistan,” Dow Jones, 12/25/10

Friday, December 24, 2010

Were The Sadrists Promised Southern Governorships In Return For Supporting Maliki?

Did Maliki offer the Sadrisrts Maysan, Babil, Qadisiyah, and Dhi Qar in return for staying in power? (Univ. of Texas)

It’s been reported that part of the deal cut between the Sadrists and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to assure him of a second term was that the latter would receive control of one to four southern governorships. In November 2010 for example, there were stories that the Sadrists were offered the top posts in Maysan, Babil, Qadisiyah, and Dhi Qar

That didn’t sit well with some of the current officeholders. The State of Law governor of Maysan for one, Muhammad al-Sudani, rejected any deal cut between the premier and the Sadrists for his position. Sudani however, was recently appointed the new Minister of Human Rights on December 21, which could provide a means for the Sadr Trend to assume power there. They currently hold seven seats out of 27 on the provincial council.

Another issue is that governors are to be appointed by the local government, not Baghdad. That didn’t stop Maliki from inserting himself into the controversy over replacing the governor in Salahaddin. There, the provincial council decided to dismiss the new governor in September 2009 over fraud charges, five months after he took office. The premier however, decided that he was going to name his replacement, and sent troops to the provincial headquarters until the local politicians gave in to his will. It took seven months to resolve the dispute with a compromise between the two sides

The events in Salahaddin show that with weak institutions, those with power can manipulate the system in Iraq. That doesn’t bode well if the rumors of a Sadrist-Maliki deal for southern governors is true. The premier could try to push through his choices in those provinces, all of which are controlled by State of Law coalitions. On the other hand, he could renege on his promises as he’s done with others in the past. Either way it is a story that needs to be followed in the coming days.

SOURCES

Associated Press, “Sadrists expect big role in new Iraq government,” 12/1/10

Healy, Jack, “Cleric’s Anti-U.S. Forces Poised for Gains in Iraq,” New York Times, 12/19/10

Sowell, Kirk, “Politics, Political Risk & Political Economy,” Inside Iraqi Politics, 11/22/10

Visser, Reidar, “Nujayfi, Talabani and Maliki – Plus Lots of Hot Air,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 11/11/10
- “Parliament Approves the Second Maliki Government,” Historiae, 12/21/10

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Another Fallout Between Sadrists And League Of The Righteous

As predicted, soon after the Sadr Trend announced that it was trying to reconcile with the breakaway Special Group, the League of the Righteous, a blow-up occurred between the two. On December 8, 2010, a member of the Sadrist movement told the press that they were going to send a delegation to meet with leaders of the League in an attempt to bring them back into the fold, get them to reject violence, and join the political process. Ten days later, the League asked to bury two of its fighters in a Sadrist cemetery in Najaf. When they said no, a firefight broke out, but with no reported casualties. Afterward, the two sides released statements attacking each other. Moqtada al-Sadr said that the government needed to stop trespassers into the Najaf cemetery, called the League corrupt, and accused them of trying to discredit him in the eyes of his followers. He went on to say that the League should be banned from joining politics because they had used violence to kill Iraqis. A spokesman for the League stated that they would not give up their weapons as long as the U.S. occupied Iraq, thus rejecting the Sadrists' overture. 

Sadr has held talks off and on with the League since 2008, with little to show for it. In December 2009 for example, Sadr issued a communiqué calling on the League to rejoin his movement. That same month however, the two groups held competing processions during a religious ceremony and taunted each other. Nothing came of the negotiations.

Every time an attempt is made to bring the two sides back together, they end up denouncing each other. This month’s events follow that pattern. The two sides apparently have little love for each other, especially at the grassroots level. Yet two years of failure has not ended the efforts at reconciliation. As in the past, after this latest spat, the Sadrists will try again. That’s because since 2004 various groups have broken off from the movement, which have weakened Sadr’s control of the street and violence, which were his main paths to power. Now, the Trend wants to consolidate its position as the main opponents to the U.S. presence in Iraq, as well as being the leading Shiite party after the March 2010 elections. If they can bring the League back into the fold, it will be another step in achieving those goals. Given their recent history however, that may be easier said than done.

SOURCES

AK News, “Attempt to incorporate al-Haq group in political process,” 12/8/10

Alsumaria, “Sadr rebukes Asaib Ahel al Haq,” 12/18/10

Daragahi, Borzou, “Muqtada Sadr’s Mahdi Army militiamen slowly resurface,” Los Angeles Times, 6/28/10

Roads To Iraq, “Al-Sadr’s election campaign, questioning Maliki is the next political crisis,” 12/9/09

Zahra, Hassan Abdul, “Iraq’s Sadr in war of words with splinter group,” Agence France Presse, 12/18/10

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Partial Iraqi Cabinet Approved By Parliament (REVISED)

On December 21, 2010 Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki walked into parliament, rattled off the names of 29 minister nominees, who were then elected by a hand vote by lawmakers. The group then posed for pictures, and the event was over. In those few minutes Iraq took its first step towards having a new acting government.

13 of the 42 ministries still don’t have heads. These include some of the most hotly contested positions such as Defense, Interior, National Security, and Electricity. Maliki is running the security ministries, while newly elected officials are in charge of the rest. The premier has promised to fill all of the posts before the December 25 deadline to form a new government. This was similar to Maliki’s first coalition announced in 2006 when the security ministries were also not filled until almost a month after the initial cabinet was put together.

Despite the Prime Minister’s calls for qualified and competent nominees for each ministry, his new cabinet was cobbled together in just a few hours before they were announced publicly. Maliki later said he didn’t even know anything about some of the officials.

The positions in the new government were distributed by the size of each winning list. The State of Law-Sadrist led Iraqi National Coalition walked away with the most positions as they were the largest bloc. It received the premiership, deputy premier for energy, deputy speaker of parliament, and 21 ministries, seven of which are temporary. Within the list, Maliki’s State of Law got 13 offices, five of which are temporary, the Sadrists received seven posts, two of which are temporary, Fadhila two, and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and Hezbollah Iraq won one each. Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement was next with eleven, followed by nine for the Kurdish Coalition, three of which are temporary, two for the Centrist Alliance, and one for the Assyrian Democratic Movement, a Christian party. Allawi is also going to head the new National Council for Strategic Policy, but it has to be created by new legislation passed by parliament.

Along with ministries, the major Kurdish parties also walked away from the day with a promise by Maliki to fulfill their 19 demands. The prime minister signed onto the 19-points just before the cabinet was made public. The list includes implementation of Article 140 that will determine the future of Kirkuk and other disputed areas and resolving the Kurds’ oil deals. Later the Kurdish Coalition claimed that Maliki pledged to follow through with Article 140 within two years. The previous two administrations made the same deal with the Kurds, but never followed through. Whether Maliki will this time around is one of the most important decisions he will be making because it involves such divisive topics that it could derail his entire government.

On the other hand, the Kurdish opposition group the Change List, ended up leaving the new government. They demanded two service ministries and a deputy premiership, but were only offered one. Disappointed, they decided to go into the opposition instead, claiming that the Iraqi National Coalition tried to marginalize them, while the Kurdish Coalition was pressuring them to rejoin their list. This marked the first time a winning party in post-2003 Iraq has not wanted to partake in the spoils of power.

Overall, Maliki’s new ruling coalition is a mixed bag. Unlike his 2006 government, Allawi, Sunni, and nationalist parties, will have a much larger role this time around. At the same time, there are so many entities involved that they had to create new positions just to satisfy all of them. The major blocs also come with competing agendas over Iraq’s major issues such as oil, federalism, security, and the disputed territories. That will mean the new government will act much like the last one with deadlock, indecision, and procrastination on the problems that beset the country. That may also allow the premier to continue to consolidate his hold on power as he did last time. The near future in Iraq, may look a lot like the recent past.

New Iraqi Government

Top Posts

  • Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Dawa, State of Law, Iraqi National Coalition, and acting Minister of Defense, Interior, and National Security
  • President Jalal al-Talabani, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Kurdish Coalition
  • Speaker of Parliament Osama Nujafi, Iraqi National List, Iraqi National Movement

Deputies

  • Deputy Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq, Iraqi National Dialogue Front, Iraqi National Movement
  • Deputy Premier Roj Nouri Shaways, Kurdistan Democratic Party, Kurdish Coalition, and acting Minister of Trade
  • Deputy Premier for Energy Hussein al-Shahristani, State of Law, Iraqi National Coalition, and acting Minister of Electricity
  • Deputy Speaker of Parliament Qusay Abdul Wahab Suhail, Sadr, Iraqi National Coalition 
  • Deputy Speaker of Parliament Aref Tayfour, Kurdistan Democratic Party, Kurdish Coalition

Cabinet

  • Minister of Agriculture, Izz al-Din al-Dawla, Iraqi National List, Iraqi National Movement
  • Minister of Communication Muhammad Tawfaq Allawi, Iraqi National List, Iraqi National Movement
  • Minister of Culture Sadoun Dulaimi, Unity of Iraq, Centrist Alliance
  • Minister of Education Muhammad Tamim, Iraqi National Dialogue Front, Iraqi National Movement
  • Minister of Environment Sargon Sliwa Lazar, Assyrian Democratic Movement
  • Minister of Finance Rafi Issawi, National Future Gathering, Iraqi National Movement
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs Hoshyar Zebari, Kurdistan Democratic Party, Kurdish Coalition, and acting Minister for Women Affairs
  • Minister of Health Muhammad Amin, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Kurdish Coalition
  • Minister of Higher Education Ali al-Adeeb, State of Law, Iraqi National Coalition, and Acting Minister of National Reconciliation
  • Minister of Housing Muhammad Darraji, Sadr, Iraqi National Coalition, and acting Minister of Public Works
  • Minister of Human Rights Muhammad Shaia’a Sudani, State of Law, Iraqi National Coalition 
  • Minister of Immigration and Displacement Dindar Shafiqq, Kurdistan Islamic Union, Kurdish Coalition, and acting Minister of Civil Society
  • Minister of Industry Ahmad Nasser al-Dali Karbuli, Renewal List, Iraqi National Movement
  • Minister of Justice Hasan Shammari, Fadhila, Iraqi National Coalition
  • Minister of Labor Nassar Rubaie, Sadr, Iraqi National Coalition, and acting Minister Of Planning
  • Minister of Oil Abdul Karim Luaibi, State of Law, Iraqi National Coalition
  • Minister of Science and Technology Abdul Karim al-Samarraie, Renewal List, Iraqi National Movement
  • Minister of Sports Jasim Muhammad Jaffar, State of Law, Iraqi National Coalition
  • Minister of State Salah Muzahim Darwish, Iraqi National Dialogue Front, Iraqi National Movement
  • Minister of State Abdul al-Mahdi al-Mutayri, Sadr, Iraqi National Coalition
  • Minister of State Salah Jabouri, Iraqi National Dialogue Front, Iraqi National Movement
  • Minister of State Hassan al-Sari, Hezbollah Iraq, Iraqi National Coalition
  • Minister of State Bushra Hussain Saleh, Fadhila, Iraqi National Coalition 
  • Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ali al-Sajri, Unity of Iraq, Centrist Alliance
  • Minister of State for Government Spokesmanship Ali al-Dabbagh, State of Law, Iraqi National Coalition
  • Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Safi al-Din al-Safi, State of Law, Iraqi National Coalition
  • Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Turan Matthaw Hassan, Iraqi Turkmen Front, Iraqi National Movement 
  • Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Jamal Batikh, Iraqi National Movement
  • Minister of Tourism Lewaa Smisam, Sadr, Iraqi National Coalition
  • Minister of Transportation Hadi al-Ameri, Badr Organization/Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, Iraqi National Coalition

Positions By List

  • Iraqi National Coalition: Prime Minister, Deputy Premier for Energy, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Ministries of Defense (temp), Education, Electricity (temp), Housing, Human Rights, Interior (temp), Justice, Labor, National Reconciliation (temp), National Security (temp), Oil, Planning (temp), Public Works (temp), Sports, State x3, State for Foreign Affairs, State for Government Spokesmanship, State for Parliamentary Affairs, Tourism, Transportation - 21 ministries total, 7 temporary
  1. State of Law: Prime Minister, Deputy Premier for Energy, Ministries of Defense (temp), Education, Electricity (temp), Human Rights, Interior (temp), National Reconciliation (temp), National Security (temp), Oil, Sports, State for Government Spokesmanship, State for Parliamentary Affairs - 11 ministries total, 5 temporary
  2. Sadrists: Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Ministries of Housing, Labor, Planning (temp), Public Works (temp), State, Tourism - 6 ministries total, 2 temporary
  3. Fadhila: Ministries of Justice, State - 2 ministries total
  4. Hezbollah Iraq: Ministry of State - 1 ministry total
  5. Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council: Ministry of Transportation - 1 ministry total
  • Iraqi National Movement: Speaker of Parliament, Deputy Premier, Ministries of Agriculture, Communication, Education, Finance, Industry, Science and Technology, State x2, State for Provincial Affairs, State for Tribal Affairs - 10 ministries total
  1. Iraqi National List: Speaker of Parliament, Ministries of Agriculture, Communication - 2 ministries total
  2. Iraqi National Dialogue Front: Deputy Premier, Ministries of Education, State x2 - 3 ministries total
  3. National Future Gathering: Ministry of Finance - 1 ministry total
  4. Renewal List: Ministries of Industry, Science and Technology - 2 ministries total
  5. Iraqi Turkmen Front: Minister of State for Provincial Affairs - 1 ministry total
  • Kurdish Coalition: President, Deputy Premier, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Ministries of Civil Society (temp), Foreign Affairs, Health, Immigration and Displacement, Trade (temp), Women Affairs (temp) - 6 ministries total, 3 temporary
  1. Kurdistan Democratic Party: Deputy Premier, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Trade (temp), Women Affairs (temp) - 3 ministries total, 2 temporary
  2. Patriotic Union of Kurdistan: President, Ministry of Health - 1 ministry total
  3. Kurdistan Islamic Union: Ministries of Civil Society (temp), Immigration and Displacement - 2 ministries total, 1 temporary
  • Centrist Alliance: Ministry of Culture, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs - 2 ministries total
  • Assyrian Democratic Movement: Ministry of Environment - 1 ministry total

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “A lone woman in Iraq’s new cabinet,” 12/21/10

Alaadin, Ranj, “#Iraq names cabinet – finally,” Ranj Alaaldin Blog, 12/21/10

Ali, Yaser, "KBC: Maliki signs agreement to Kurdish conditions," AK News, 12/21/10

Ali, Saman, "Maliki signed to implement article 140 in two years," AK News, 12/21/10

Ashur TV, “Ashur t.v. Interview with Mr. Sargon Lazar, of Foreign the Assyrian Democratic Movement,”  Christians Of Iraq, 2/29/08

Aswat al-Iraq, “Nejeifi named parl. Speaker, Suhail and Tayfour deputies,” 11/11/10
- “The new cabinet line-up announced by al-Maliki,” 12/21/10
- "North Iraq Kurdistan's "Change" Bloc withdraws from new cabinet," 12/21/10

BBC, “Iraqi parliamentary approves new government,” 12/21/10

Chulov, Martin, "Iraq names cabinet after nine-month power struggle," Guardian, 12/21/10

Healy, Jack, "Cleric's Anti-U.S. Forces Poised for Gains in Iraq," New York Times, 12/19/10

Ibrahim, Haider, “No minister assigned without my consent says Maliki,” AK News, 11/27/10

Katzman, Kenneth, "Iraq: Politics, Elections, and Benchmarks," Congressional Research Service, 4/22/09
- "Iraq: Reconciliation and Benchmarks," Congressional Research Service, 5/12/08

Kazmi, Haider, "Maliki spoke frankly and undermine his confidence: I am not convinced I do not know anything about some ministers," Al-Aalem, 12/21/10

Long, Austin, “Why Anbar voted for Allawi,” Foreign Policy, 4/5/10

Omaima, Younis, “Iraqiya got 9 ministries and the Sadrists 8, and 6 for the Kurds, and only 4 of the State of Law,” Al-Aalem, 12/21/10

Surk, Barbara and Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, "Iraq finally has a new government," Associated Press, 12/21/10

Visser, Reidar, “Change Inside Iraqiyya?” Iraq And Gulf Analysis, 11/14/10
- “Parliament Approves the Second Maliki Government,” Historiae, 12/21/10

Wikipedia, “Rafi al-Issawi”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council Finally Comes Out For Maliki

On December 16, 2010 it was reported that Ammar Hakim, the head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), had finally come out in favor of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s second term. Hakim made his announcement in a speech in Baghdad marking the beginning of the celebration for the Imam Hussein Bin Ali. The Supreme Council was the last major party to support the premier, marking their decline in Iraq’s political system.

The SIIC followed a bewildering, and ultimately self-defeating path before and after the March 2010 election. The party’s problems began with the 2009 provincial balloting. The Supreme Council faced a devastating series of losses, going from controlling most of the south and Baghdad to only Muthanna. That was a foreshadowing of its showing in 2010, as the SIIC was seen as being sectarian, too close to Iran, and having mismanaged the governorates. They didn’t seem to learn their lesson however as they joined the Iraqi National Alliance along with the Sadrists in August 2009, which was pushed by Iran to unite all of the Shiite parties. Within days the leader of the SIIC Abdul Aziz al-Hakim passed away, leaving a power vacuum, as his son Ammar took charge of the organization. The National Alliance failed to convince Prime Minister Maliki to run with them. The Supreme Council then decided to back the Accountability and Justice Commission’s banning of dozens of members of Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement for alleged ties to the Baath Party. After the voting in Mach 2010, the National Alliance and Maliki’s State of Law joined together into the National Coalition. Hakim felt threatened however because Maliki and the Sadrists had all done better than the SIIC in the balloting, and it had become a minor party as a result. That led Hakim to become one of the strongest opponents to Maliki, then reverse course and try to align with Allawi, but nominate its own candidate for prime minister, Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, in September 2010. Since Allawi was set on becoming Iraq’s leader this was a non-starter for Hakim. To make things worse, when Sadr came out for Maliki on October 1, the Badr Organization did so as well, effectively splitting the SIIC in two. When Allawi finally gave in, and agreed to Massoud Barzani’s power sharing agreement in November that kept Maliki in power, the Supreme Council was left out in the cold.

Hakim and his party lucked out because the new Iraqi regime will be a national unity government. That means all of the major parties will be included, even the SIIC. Now that the discussion has shifted from who will be Iraq’s next leader to controlling ministries, the Supreme Council has finally come around and backed the premier to try to partake in the spoils. It’s likely to only get 2-3ministries, reflecting its decline.

The SIIC went from one of the leading parties in the country, and being a backbone of the Jaafari and Maliki governments, to now being a medium sized organization that was unable to shape any of the major negotiations over the new ruling coalition. It is now an afterthought when posts are being distributed, and its decision to support the prime minister hardly gained any attention. This means some of the party’s ideas such as federalism and a Shiite autonomous region in the south are likely dead. On the other hand, exile and anti-Saddam opposition lists like the SIIC still run Iraq, occasionally wielding sectarian issues to stay in office. The party is not going to disappear, and still holds 20 seats in the new parliament, but its fall from grace hopefully means that more nationalist and domestic lists are coming to the fore, which would be a major development in Iraq’s politics.

SOURCES

Aswat al-Iraq, “Hakim pledges support for PM Maliki’s govt.,” 12/16/10

Al Jazeera, “Iraqi Shias form new alliance,” 8/24/09

Ramzi, Kholoud, “after months of negotiations, maliki holds on to power,” Niqash, 12/15/10

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

Monday, December 20, 2010

More Experts Question Iraq's Oil Production Goals


After signing a number of petroleum deals with international corporations in 2009 and 2010 the Iraqi Oil Ministry plans a massive increase in production. Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani has promised 12 million barrels a day, up from the current 2.5 million barrels by 2017. Few experts and oil executives believe this is possible however within that time frame.

Since 2009 Iraq’s Oil Ministry has consistently talked about a boost in output. In September 2010 Minister Shahristani predicted a 4.2% increase by the end of 2010. After that the country was to reach 4 million barrels a day in 2013, and finally 12 million by 2017.

No experts interviewed in the press believe those benchmarks are possible. At the end of October 2010 Reuters conducted a survey of ten banks, analysts, and universities. They believed that 2.8 million barrels by 2011 and 4.6 million by 2015 were more realistic. The Economist Intelligence Unit had the highest mark of 6.02 million barrels by 2016. In mid-November the International Energy Agency predicted 6.5 million barrels, but not until 2030. Finally, at the end of November an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that the country would only reach 8 million barrels by 2017. All of those questioned had the same reasons for their skepticism; Iraq lacks security, political stability, infrastructure, and leadership to manage such a large increase. One oil consultant said that Iraq’s planned investment in drilling exceeded the country’s capabilities. Another said Iraq needs roads, bridges, airports, and a steady water supply, not just improving its oil industry. Iraq is moving ahead with plans to expand its ports, pipelines, and other parts of the petroleum supply chain, but there are always questions about whether the country has enough financing, and can finish any of the work on time and competently.

With foreign help Iraq’s oil production will undoubtedly go up. It’s just a question of how much and how fast. Despite Oil Minister Shahristani’s prediction of immediate results following the signing of petroleum contracts with international companies, there has not been any noticeable increase as of November 2011. The nation’s current pipelines and port can’t handle any large up tick as well until they are expanded. Experts seem to agree that 5-6 million barrels a day in 5-10 years would be a much more realistic mark. Iraq wants to return to the international oil market in a big way, and be a leader in OPEC like it used to be before twenty years of wars and sanctions devastated its industry. Unfortunately, those lost years will be hard to make up, and even if Iraq produces half of what it wants to it will probably not be a game changer any time soon.


Predictions Of Iraq's Future Oil Production (Avg. Millions/Barrels/Day)

RespondentEnd 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 
Oil Ministry 4.0 12.0 
Former Oil Minister Chalabi 6.0 
PM Maliki Adviser 8.0 
Deutsche Bank 2.85 3.0 3.3 3.8 4.4
Dunia Frontier Consultants 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 5.5 
Iraq Energy Institute 2.75 3.1 3.8 4.2 
JBC Energy 2.85 3.3 3.9 4.9 
Economist Intelligence Unit 2.65 2.87 3.14 3.49 4.21 6.02 
Eurasia Consultants 2.8 3.3 3.8 4.8 
London School of Economics 3.2 3.8 4.3 4.5 4.5 
Neftex Petroleum Consultants 3.0 3.9 4.0 4.2 4.4 
Oil Company (Unnamed) 2.7 3.0 3.8 4.5 5.5 
Consultancy (Unnamed) 3.0 3.0 3.5 4.0 4.0 5.0 
Averages 2.83 3.22 3.92 3.99 4.64 5.17 10.0 


SOURCES

Lewis, Barbara and El Gamal, Rania, “POLL-Iraq oil output seen edging up, not yet game-changer,” Reuters, 10/28/10

Pamuk, Humeyra, “Iraqi oil output plans overambitious – executives,” Reuters, 10/13/10

Razzouk, Nayla, “Iraq’s October Oil Export Revenue Reaches Highest Level in Year,” Bloomberg, 11/26/10

Reuters, “UPDATE 2-Iraq oil output may hit 8 million bpd by 2017,” 11/29/10

UPI, “IEA says Iraq’s oil boost plan a fizzle,” 11/4/10

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Turkey Doing Business In Iraq

Since the sectarian civil war ended in Iraq in 2007, Baghdad has actively been seeking foreign investment and better trade agreements to rebuild the country. One of those success stories is Turkey.

The Turkish presence in Iraq is large and growing. Recently, an economic adviser to the government said that there were more Turkish companies in Iraq than from any other country. In Kurdistan alone, 60% of the foreign businesses there, roughly 730, were from Turkey. In 2009 the two countries conducted $9 billion worth of trade. That was up from almost $0 before 2003. By 2007 that had grown to $3.7 billion, then $6 billion in 2008. Turkey also has $8 billion invested in Iraq. Most Turkish businesses are involved in construction, electricity, and commerce.

There are a few complaints about the Turkish economic presence in Iraq. In Kurdistan for example, many of the Turkish firms are contractors dealing with trade. There, the Investment Board has said that most of the Turkish companies are not investing enough, and are only there for short-term profits. Kurdish businesses are pushing the regional government to make Turkey form more joint ventures as a result. Another major issue is that Turks tend to employ Turks, instead of Iraqis. They’re said to do so for ease of operation and because Turks have more experience. Again, in Kurdistan, locals are demanding that the Turks hire more locals.

Turkey has become a major player in Iraq’s economy. Outside of oil, they have more business with Iraq than any other country. Hundreds of Turkish companies have set up shop in Iraq. There is some debate about how much they actually contribute to the country however. Nonetheless, Baghdad has been eager to sign agreements with Ankara, and see the relationship between the two grow even more. That will only increase the amount of trade and investment between them. Both sides are attempting to benefit from this situation. Ankara sees its growing economic ties as a means to gain influence in Iraq, especially with the Kurds, who they shunned before 2003. Baghdad wants foreign businesses to come to the country to help revive the economy after years of sanctions and wars. While Turkey appears to have the upper hand for now, hopefully when Iraq recovers it will be able to set more equal terms.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Iraq-Turkey trade up 50 percent in past year,” 4/10/10

AK News, “Investment in Kurdistan reached almost $14 billion in five years,” 8/6/10
- “Turkish companies asset in Kurdistan over US$ 621 million,” 7/21/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “Turkish and French Companies Most Active in Iraq,” Iraq Business News, 12/4/10

Kimball, Jack and Aqrawi, Shamal, “Iraqi Kurdistan attracts $12 bln over 3-1/2 yrs-board,” Reuters, 2/15/10

Nordland, Rod, “Rebuilding Its Economy, Iraq Shuns U.S. Businesses,” New York Times, 11/13/09

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

VOA Video: Small Businesses Coming Back To Life In Iraq