Thursday, August 29, 2013

Iraq’s Kurdish Elections To Go Ahead In September Despite Flawed Voter Rolls


The last barrier to Kurdish parliamentary elections was recently removed. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and some of the opposition parties were complaining about outdated voter roles being used. The Election Commission said that they could go through the lists, but that would delay the vote for two months. Instead, the lists decided to hold the balloting on time, which will be in September. The parties therefore decided to maintain the status quo rather than pushing through a much needed reform.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is finally cleared to hold its parliamentary vote in September 2013. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Change List complained to the Election Commission that thousands of names on the voter roles belonged to dead people or were repeated. For example, they claimed that around 90,000 peopled had died in Kurdistan since March 2009, but that only 440 names were struck from the voter rolls, while a PUK member told the press that 10,000 deceased people voted in the last regional elections in 2009. They were worried that this could be used for ballot fraud. The Commission replied that it could go through the lists, but that would mean that the voting would have to be delayed until November 2013. Neither party was happy with that response, but decided to hold the elections on time. That means the parliamentary vote will occur on September 21. Holding up the event would have caused more controversy in the region. In July, the PUK and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) agreed to extend Kurdish President Massoud Barzani’s term two more years. (1) The official reason was that his leadership was needed to ensure the passage of the draft constitution through the parliament. The real reason was that Kurdish laws states that he can only stay in office for two years, but he did not want to go, so the ruling parties simply agreed that he could maintain his position until the laws were changed, and he could get elected again. The opposition parties were outraged by this seeming coup. Given that background the parties did not want to be accused of standing in the way of democracy anymore. They thought it was more important that the voting go ahead despite whatever reservations they might have had.

Kurdistan is going to have parliamentary elections as planned in September, but the process seems flawed. There appears to be major problems with the voter rolls, which opens up the possibility for cheating. The Election Commission said it could try to clear the lists, but it would take time. Given the fact that the presidential elections were delayed for two years in a backroom deal that violated the law, the PUK and Change List decided to drop their objections, and go ahead with the balloting next month. When they do happen the results will likely maintain the status quo. The KDP faces no real challenges in its strongholds, while the PUK and Change List will battle it out in Sulaymaniya. If there are reports of ballot stuffing or other manipulations the flawed voter rolls might have played a role. It’s rather shocking that some of the parties would agree to let this issue go when there was a possible solution. Instead, it will be business as usual in the KRG come September.

FOOTNOTES

1. Awene, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, “Iraqi Kurdish parties’ said deal prior to extension of regional president’s term,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 7/2/13

SOURCES

Ahmed, Hevidar, “Ambiguities over Voter Numbers Remain a Hurdle For Kurdistan Polls,” Rudaw, 7/31/13
- “Kurdistan Polls Still Elusive Over Voter Lists,” Rudaw, 8/19/13
- “PUK-KDP at Odds over Voter Registration Lists in Kurdistan Region,” Rudaw, 8/9/13

AIN, “KRG identifies 21, Nov for provincial elections,” 8/7/13

Awene, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, “Iraqi Kurdish parties’ said deal prior to extension of regional president’s term,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 7/2/13

Buratha News, “Barham Salih: the holding of elections is important and undue delay,” 7/31/13

Chomani, Kamal, “Kurdish region no longer possesses a legal president,” World Bulletin, 7/2/13

Iraq High Election Commission, “IHEC suggest to run both the Parliamentary and Provincial Council Elections of Kurdistan Region of Iraq in one day,” 8/25/13

Al Rayy, “Election Commission rejects the request of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to reconsider the voter registers,” 8/20/13

Shafaq News, “Change movement give up its demand of reconsidering voter’s register,” 8/26/13
- “IHEC demands to postpone Kurdistan’s Parliament elections,” 7/18/13

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sadrists Increasing Their Attacks Upon Iraq’s Prime Minister Maliki Once Again


Since the results of the 2013 provincial elections were announced, the Sadr Trend has increased its rhetoric against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Sadrists have played this double game before attacking the premier off and on, while taking no substantive measures against him, and holding onto the most ministries within the government. Now it appears the party is increasing its criticism in preparation for the 2014 national vote. Moqtada al-Sadr has always aspired to become the preeminent Shiite leader in Iraq, and with his showing in the 2013 balloting, and the deteriorating security situation he may feel like he has a real chance to surpass Maliki and his State of Law list.

The 2013 governorate level elections inspired the Sadr List to challenge Premier Maliki one more time. The Sadrists gained seven seats in the vote going from 41 to 47 seats across 14 provinces. More importantly, they worked with other parties such as the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) to shut the premier’s State of Law out of power in places like Baghdad and Basra. That combined with the wave of violence that has swept the country recently has opened cracks in Maliki’s armor, which the Sadrists are now attempting to exploit.

Sadrist lawmaker Shirifi has been one of the premier’s staunchest critics in the last few weeks (AIN)

The result is that every week a Sadr politician issues some type of statement criticizing the premier’s rule. On August 6, lawmaker Hussein al-Shirifi told the press that Maliki should not run again blaming him for the country’s poverty, unemployment, corruption, and lack of security. Two days later Shirifi claimed that the prime minister had allowed Baathists to infiltrate the security forces, and that they were now running the government. Then he condemned State of Law parliamentarian Izzat Shabandar for speaking up against the Najaf clergy. August 9, member of parliament (MP) Awad Awadi said that the latest security operation the Revenge of the Martyrs was launched too late, followed up by Shirifi accusing State of Law of spreading sectarianism in the country. On August 11, MP Hussein Mansouri said that families should sue Maliki for the violence surrounding the Al Qaeda in Iraq raid upon the Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons in Baghdad, and even claimed that the prime minister was somehow behind the operation. Two days later, lawmaker Iqbal Ghurabi stated that the Sadrists put Maliki in office, and therefore did not need to listen to his orders or take his advice. Sadrists then criticized the prime minister for always working alone instead of cooperating with his allies. On August 18, Mansouri told Maliki that he should resign if he cared about the Iraqi people since he was failing to run the country. Then on August 20, Shirifi noted that parliament had passed a law limiting the prime minister to only two terms, which meant Maliki could not run again next year, and that could not be changed, while Ghurabi claimed that Maliki’s Dawa Party was aligning with Washington to keep him in power even if that meant bringing back the occupation of the country. This relentless wave of attacks will likely be the norm for the next several months until the 2014 elections. This follows previous criticisms and threats by Sadr where he pulled his ministers out of the cabinet earlier this year, flirted with the Anbar protests in January, and considered a no confidence vote against Maliki in the summer of 2012. What all these events share in common is that they were all for show. Sadr has taken no real action against the premier even though he could seriously weaken the government if he wanted to. Rather his strategy has been to try to distance himself from Maliki publicly, and paint his rule in the worst possible manner, while maintaining ministries, and keeping the prime minister in office. Sadr basically wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Moqtada al-Sadr may finally be gaining enough confidence to take on Maliki head on. In the past, Sadr has attacked the prime minister to raise his status with the public, while working behind the scenes to gain concessions for a larger role in the government. Now, after the 2013 elections, the Sadrists worked with other parties to push the State of Law out of a few very important provincial governments. The level and intensity of rhetoric against the premier has increased since then as well. The problem with the movement is that it has taken similar steps before only to fall in line behind Maliki after a short period. Sadr definitely would like to surpass Maliki, and obtain the premiership, but right now it appears that the latest wave of criticism is just part of the back and forth that the two sides have taken part in before.

SOURCES

AIN, “Baathists control governance in Iraq again, says Sadrist MP,” 8/8/13
- “Sadr bloc warns Maliki from nominating for 3rd term,” 8/6/13
- “Sadrist MP accuses DIP of allying with Washington to keep Maliki’s post,” 8/21/13
- “Sadrist MP accuses SLC of adopting sectarian political tendency,” 8/10/13
- “Sadrist MP calls violence victims’ families to sue Maliki,” 8/11/13
- “Sadrist MP describes recent security operation as “late procedure,”” 8/9/13
- “Sadrist MP: Maliki to resign his post, if he cares about citizens’ suffering,” 8/18/13
- “Sadrist MP: Parliament limits PM’s terms to 2,” 8/20/13
- “Sadrist MP: Sadr Trend rejects Maliki’s advices,” 8/13/13
- “Sadrist MP: Statements against Religious Authority to belittle Muslims’ feelings,” 8/8/13

Al-Tamimi, Iyad, “Supreme Council and the Liberals the National Alliance: Maliki boycotted our meeting and Jaafari failed in management,” Al-Mada, 8/14/13

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

July 2013 Mixed Bag For Iraq’s Oil Industry


July 2013 had its ups and downs for Iraq’s oil industry. For the fourth month, overall exports were down. The main reason was continued problems with leaks and maintenance on the northern pipeline to Turkey. On the positive side, prices rebounded for crude due to unrest and output decreases in the Middle East, helping Iraq to earn more than June. Overall, Iraq’s exports are at a 17-month plateau, but that has not had any negative consequences for the oil dependent country yet.

Iraq’s exports dropped in July. There was an average of 2.32 million barrels of day last month. That was down from 2.33 million barrels in June, and was the lowest average since March 2011. The southern pipeline through Basra actually recovered in July going from 2.19 million barrels in May to 2.13 million barrels in June to 2.32 million in July. That was the highest amount seen through the south in years. Exports were affected by bad weather in the Persian Gulf for most of the summer. For all of 2013, Basra’s exports are up from 2.041 million barrels in 2012 to 2.191 million barrels this year. The main reason why Iraq’s exports have had problems in recent months is the northern Kirkuk line to Turkey. It has witnessed a five-month decline from 339,200 barrels a day in February 2013 to just 180,600 in July, a real low-mark. The major issue has been leaks and repair work. On June 19, the line was shut down due to leaks, and not re-opened until July4. The maintenance was slowed due to an insurgent attack upon workers. The line was immediately shut down however, and oil did not start flowing until July 16. There was another stoppage on July 21, and a bombing on July 28 that contributed to the Kirkuk line being down for almost the entire month just like it was in June. That has led to the average flow through the pipeline going from 373,300 barrels a day last year to 269,100 this year. The northern line is very old, and really showed its age during the summer. Almost every month for the last two years it has been bombed, but those usually do not have a real affect upon exports. This recent wave of leaks and maintenance work however has had a devastating effect upon the entire country’s output, and may not be resolved anytime soon resulting in Iraq remaining at its present plateau.

Iraq Oil Exports And Profits 2011-2013
Month
Avg.
Exports
(Mil/
Bar/
Day)
Avg. Price Per Barrel
Revenue (Bill)
Jan. 11
2.16
$90.78
$6.082
Feb.
2.20
$98.44
$6.064
Mar.
2.15
$107.13
$7.167
Apr.
2.14
$114.26
$7.342
May
2.22
$108
$7.45
Jun.
2.27
$105.17
$7.173
Jul.
2.16
$108.79
$7.311
Aug.
2.18
$104.91
$7.124
Sep.
2.10
$104.89
$6.619
Oct.
2.08
$104.04
$6.742
Nov.
2.13
$106.59
$6.833
Dec.
2.14
$106.18
$7.061
2011 Avg.
2.16
$105.00
$6.913
Jan. 12
2.10
$109.08
$7.123
Feb.
2.01
$112.92
$6.595
Mar.
2.31
$117.99
$8.472
Apr.
2.50
$116.79
$8.795
May
2.45
$103.03
$7.831
Jun.
2.40
$90.09
$6.487
Jul.
2.51
$97.14
$7.577
Aug.
2.56
$106.22
$8.445
Sep.
2.59
$107.59
$8.371
Oct.
2.62
$105.51
$8.578
Nov.
2.62
$104.32
$8.200
Dec.
2.34
$103.72
$7.551
2012
Avg.
2.41
$106.20
$7.835
Jan. 13
2.35
$104.92
$7.672
Feb.
2.53
$107.66
$7.644
Mar.
2.41
$103.76
$7.772
Apr.
2.62
$98.70
$7.764
May
2.48
$97.23
$7.477
Jun.
2.33
$97.41
$6.799
Jul.
2.32
$101.00
$7.272
2013 Avg.
2.45
$101.61
$7.521

Oil Exports Through Basra 2012-2013
January 2012 1.711 mil/bar/day
February 1.639 mil/bar/day
March 1.917 mil/bar/day
April 2.115 mil/bar/day
May 2.086 mil/bar/day
June 2.085 mil/bar/day
July 2.216 mil/bar/day
August 2.252 mil/bar/day
September 2.178 mil/bar/day
October 2.172 mil/bar/day
November 2.122 mil/bar/day
December 2.022 mil/bar/day
2012 Avg. 2.042 mil/bar/day
January 2013 2.093 mil/bar/day
February 2.196 mil/bar/day
March 2.1 mil/bar/day
April 2.31 mil/bar/day
May 2.19 mil/bar/day
June 2.13 mil/bar/day
July 2.32 mil/bar/day
2013 Avg. 2.191 mil/bar/day

Oil Exports Through Kirkuk 2012-2013
January 2012 393,500 bar/day
February 375,800 bar/day
March 400,000 bar/day
April 393,300 bar/day
May 364,500 bar/day
June 316,600 bar/day
July 300,000 bar/day
August 312,900 bar/day
September 420,000 bar/day
October 451,600 bar/day
November 426,600 bar/day
December 325,800 bar/day
2012 Avg. 373,300 bar/day
January 2013 264,500 bar/day
February 339,200 bar/day
March 316,100 bar/day
April 306,600 bar/day
May 283,800 bar/day
June 193,300 bar/day
July 180,600 bar/day
2013 Avg. 269,100 bar/day

Iraq did benefit from a rebound in prices in July. After prices being below $100 per barrel for the country’s oil from April to June, it rose to $101.00 per barrel last month. That was largely due to cuts in production from Libya and the unrest in Egypt. That led Iraq to earn $7.272 billion in July. That was still the second lowest amount for the year. Prices are still below their 2012 mark of $106.20 per barrel, currently standing at $101.52 in 2013. Profits have declined as well from an average of $7.835 billion in 2012 to $7.485 billion in 2013. Luckily for Iraq these prices and revenues are still above those set in the 2013 budget, so the government, which is dependent upon petroleum has not faced any real consequences from the up and down nature of the industry this year.

While Iraq has not had any negative consequences from the present export plateau, it does bring into question its development plans for the future. Iraq is hoping to become one of the largest oil producers in the world in the near future. Each year it claims that it will witness a large jump in production and exports, which have rarely been met. In December 2012 for instance, the Oil Ministry said at an OPEC meeting that it would reach 3.7 million barrels a day in production by the end of 2013, which was then revised down to 3.4 million barrels. In July, production was at 3.25 million. Because the country lacks adequate storage facilities, when exports are reduced the output at the fields has to be reduced as well. This is a major complaint of the international oil companies operating in Iraq. Their contracts with the government set production levels they have to reach. This has led to all of the businesses to begin negotiations with the central government to revise their deals. It also highlights the country’s lack of infrastructure to sustain any large increases right now. The Oil Ministry has plans to address that issue, but its work is very slow due to red tape and lack of trained staff. The result is that the current constraints on development will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Iraq Oil Exports,” 8/20/13
- “Iraq oil exports hit 16-month low despite higher production,” 8/8/13

Dananer, “Kirkuk Line – Ceyhan: the resume and stop,” 8/1/13

Mackey, Peg, “Iraq headed for 1st annual oil output drop in three years,” Reuters, 7/29/13

Al-Mada, “Iraq is losing 400 thousand barrels of oil because of the violence and attacks threaten to paralyze the line Kirkuk – Ceyhan,” 7/27/13
- “Resume pumping oil from the Kirkuk oilfields to the Turkish port of Ceyhan,” 7/4/13

Platts, “Iraq’s Kirkuk crude shut again following second failed restart,” 7/12/13

Radio Nawa, “Resume pumping oil through the line of Kirkuk – Ceyhan after a stopover due to leakage 3 weeks ago,” 7/11/13

Rasheed, Ahmed, “UPDATE 2-Iraq oil exports stagnate, deep cuts ahead due to port work,” Reuters, 8/7/13

Reuters, “Bomb attack halts oil flow through Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline: Iraq officials,” 7/28/13
- “Crude oil flows through Iraq-Turkey pipeline down,” 7/22/13

ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND THE LEVANT VIDEO: Executing Truck Drivers


Monday, August 26, 2013

Iraq’s Moqtada al-Sadr Trying To Rally His Supporters With “Retirement”


In August 2013, Iraq’s mercurial Moqtada al-Sadr said that he was quitting politics. His movement at first claimed that this was a distortion by the media, and that their leader was simply taking a break after Ramadan. That story quickly changed as hundreds of his followers and militiamen pledged their allegiance, and begged that he return. This appears to just be a ploy by Sadr to rally his forces, and deal with factions that might have been considering breaking away.

Letter to Sadr signed by his militia commanders pledging their support with their bloody thumbprints (Al-Mada)

Sadr’s movement seemed unsure of their leaders’ status at first, but then turned it into a rallying point. At the beginning of August, it was announced that Sadr was withdrawing from politics. That story was then denied. It was said that Moqtada was simply upset with the security situation, and his conflict with the League of the Righteous, a rival Shiite party, and taking a break as a result. Then it was revealed that Sadr was in Qom, Iran where his followers visited him with a letter signed in blood by his militia leaders pledging their allegiance. A few days later hundreds of Sadrists rallied in Najaf to renew their support for Moqtada as well. They called for him to reverse his decision, and return to the national stage. Before this, Sadr was complaining that people were tarnishing his group’s image, and collecting money for their own benefit. This was a theme that he had been pushing for several months, and resulted in him creating a special committee led by Hazim Araji to reform his militia. In July, Sadr warned that the name of the Mahdi Army was being exploited, and that factions might be contemplating breaking away. Then in just a few days, he froze the commission with little explanation. The Sadr Trend has always been a fractious group. His militia especially was never under central control rather comprising local armed groups with little coordination. Pats of his political movement have also broken off throughout the years. Apparently, Sadr was facing another such situation, and felt frustrated at his inability to deal with it; hence the formation and quick suspension of the Araji led commission. This might have then led him to claim that he was pulling out of politics, and retiring to Iran as a way to rally his supporters, and find out who was truly with him. Some have also speculated that Sadr might have bowed out due to clashes with the League of the Righteous, which is vying for the mantle of being the true legacy of Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, Moqtada’s father. However, there have been shootouts, assassinations, and confrontations between the groups for months now, and there didn’t appear to be any large escalation before Sadr’s announcement. Internal problems within the Trend appear to be a more plausible explanation for his course of action.

Moqtada al-Sadr is coming off a high point after the 2013 provincial elections, and now may want to enforce some order throughout his large and fractious movement. His party was not only able to gain seats in local governments this year, but posed a serious challenge to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law. Since then his followers have become more and more confrontational and critical of the premier. Then it was announced that Sadr was withdrawing from politics, which at first was denied, but then became a huge issue within the organization. With a national vote pending next year, perhaps Sadr thought this was the time to get his house in order, and deal with whatever groups were not following his orders. His tactic has succeeded in getting his forces riled up with their acts of devotion towards him. This will probably lead to a staged return where Sadr will assure everyone that he is now back, but more importantly, he is reassured of his command over his movement.

SOURCES

Alsumaria, “Moqtada As Sader quits Iraqi politics and closes down his office,” 8/5/13

Bezhan, Frud, “Reports Of Muqtada Al-Sadr’s Political Demise May Be Greatly Exaggerated,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 8/19/13

Buratha News, “Sadr freezes Commission Hazem al-Araji, and demanding leader of the

Dar Addustour, “Violent clashes between the Mahdi Army and Asaib,” 8/3/13

Al-Mada, “Araji: We want to restore prestige to the Mahdi Army in the street through the cultural and ideological work,” 7/23/13
- “Sadr accused “the people of falsehood” of trying to assassinate al-Araji, and declared three days of mourning,” 6/3/13
- “Sadrists “renew their allegiance” to their leader and they call to reverse retire from politics,” 8/20/13
- “Tensions between the Sadrists and Asaib worry neighborhoods of Baghdad and al-Khazali and clings to the truce,” 6/11/13

National Iraqi News Agency, “Sadr condemns clashes between his supporters and / Ahlil-Haq militia/in Baghdad,” 6/3/13

New Sabah, “Sadr solemn assembly a “threat” addressed to the Government,” 8/6/13

Al Rafidayn, “Sadr’s Mahdi Army: Be ready to support the doctrine,” 7/21/13

Sotaliraq, “Mahdi Army Leaders “blood” loyalty and obedience,” 8/17/13

Ur News Agency, “War fires between Asaib and the Sadrists,” 7/4/13

Mosul Campaign Day 216-217 May 20-21 2017

Latest map of west Mosul shows that the Iraqi forces are clearing up neighborhoods along Tigris River (Ninewa Media ...