jeudi 19 janvier 2012

Syrian Kurds form their own council in Arbil

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

Riot police stand guard as Syrian Kurds protest in front of the UN office in Arbil to demand the departure of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. AFP photo

Syrian opposition Kurdish parties are preparing to announce the formation of their own “National Kurdish Council” in the northern Iraqi capital of Arbil, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.

“There will be a meeting of the Syrian Kurdish groups on Jan. 21 in Arbil. The Kurdish parties participating in the meeting will make a call to all the other Syrian Kurdish parties to join them,” Kendal Efrini, a Syrian Kurdish opposition member and representative of the Alliance of Syrian Liberals in Europe, told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview on Wednesday.

Dr. Abdul Hakim Bashar, secretary-general of the Kurdish Democratic Party in Syria, will lead the National Kurdish Council, which will become the second national council established by opposition forces after the establishment of the Syrian National Council.

France-based Efrini said he would also attend the meeting. “Right now, there are five or six Kurdish parties joining the National Kurdish Council. We want to broaden this council as much as possible.”

A member of the Syrian National Council who wished to remain anonymous said most of the leaders of the Syrian Kurdish parties had been staying in Arbil under the protection of the Kurdistan Regional Government for some time.

“We don’t know yet whether they will achieve their goal of uniting the Kurdish parties under one umbrella – we need time to see that,” he said.

The Syrian National Council described itself as the largest Syrian opposition group – including Islamists, leftists, liberals, Arabs, Christians and Kurds – when it was established in Istanbul on Aug. 29, 2011 under the leadership of Burhan Ghalioun.

There are around 15 different Kurdish parties in Syria, a few of which are represented in the Syrian National Council.


mercredi 18 janvier 2012

Turkish Officials: Israeli Drone Surveillance Data Given to PKK

Drone Data Used to Set Up PKK Camps in Northern Syria

by Jason Ditz, January 17, 2012

Officials from the Turkish intelligence agencies are reporting that surveillance data collected by Israeli drones is being given to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in helping them plan operations against Turkish targets.

A new report says that the surveillance has been going on for awhile, and that Turkey has caught Israeli drones flying over its southern provinces. They also say that PKK leaders have repeatedly visited Israel in recent months, presumably to get access to the data.
The consequences of the move are so far unclear, but Turkish officials believe that the data was used to help the PKK set up training camps in Northern Syria in places where the presence of border patrol isn’t as strong.

The revelation could have serious consequences for Israel’s already strained relationship with Turkey. So far Israeli officials haven’t addressed the latest claims, but in September Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman urged Israel to begin arming the PKK to “punish” Turkey for perceived diplomatic slights.


please see:

Rocket hits Turkish embassy compound in Baghdad


AA photo

One of three rockets fired near the Turkish embassy in Baghdad hit the perimeter walls surrounding the compound today.
It was not yet known where the two other rockets landed.



samedi 14 janvier 2012

Iraq's Turkmen fight for identity in Kirkuk (VIDEO)


Ajoutée par AlJazeeraEnglish le 18 avril 2011

The third largest ethnic group in Iraq, the Turkmen have long complained of discrimination, especially in the city of Kirkuk where the local government has been largely controlled by Kurdish parties.

That began to change recently with a Turkmen politician elected as head of the provincial council, but many say more needs to be done to preserve the Turkmen identity.

Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh reports from Kirkuk.

mercredi 11 janvier 2012

Bulgaria condemns communist Turkish assimilation

SOFIA - Agence France-Presse

Men dressed as soldiers parade in front of the Alexander Nevski Cathedral during celebrations marking the 134th anniversary of Sofia's liberation from Ottoman rule in the centre of the Bulgarian capital January 4, 2012. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

Bulgaria's parliament adopted on Wednesday a special declaration condemning the forcible assimilation of the country's sizeable Turkish minority under communism.

The declaration specifically centred on the so-called "revival process" in the mid-1980s when Bulgaria's ethnic Turks were forced to change their Muslim names to Bulgarian ones.
Those who refused to do so were jailed and many killed, sparking several deadly attacks in public places and straining relations between Bulgaria and Turkey.

Shortly before communism fell in 1989, the authorities opened the borders to those Bulgarian citizens of Turkish origin who wanted to emigrate to Turkey. Around 360,000 people left, 170,000 of whom later returned.

Their exodus, dubbed with some irony in Bulgaria the "Big Excursion," was condemned on Wednesday by MPs as "a form of ethnic cleansing performed by the totalitarian regime." The declaration called for those responsible for the "revival process" to be brought to justice and punished.

"The attempt to cover it up with a statute of limitations transfers the guilt from the concrete culprits to the whole Bulgarian people," it added.

About 13 percent of Bulgaria's current population of 7.3 million are Muslims, with most belonging to the ethnic Turkish minority.

A recent study found they were increasingly becoming less religious even if practising traditional rituals enthusiastically.


mardi 10 janvier 2012

Iraq: A country in shambles

In Sadr City, Bahgdad, the streets are cracked, filled with potholes, and strewn with refuse [Dahr Jamail/Al Jazeera]

Despite promises made for improvements, Iraq's economy and infrastructure are still a disaster.

Dahr Jamail Last Modified: 09 Jan 2012

Baghdad, Iraq - As a daily drumbeat of violence continues to reverberate across Iraq, people here continue to struggle to find some sense of normality, a task made increasingly difficult due to ongoing violence and the lack of both water and electricity.

During the build-up to the US-led invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration promised the war would bring Iraqis a better life, and vast improvements in their infrastructure, which had been severely debilitated by nearly 13 years of strangling economic sanctions.

More jobs, improved water availability, more reliable electricity supplies, and major rehabilitation of the medical infrastructure were promised.
But now that the US military has ended its formal military occupation of Iraq, nearly eight years of war has left the promises as little more than a mirage.

Ongoing water shortages

Hashim Hassan is the Deputy Director of the Baghdad Water Authority (BWA), and he admits to an ongoing shortage of clean drinking water for Baghdad's seven million residents.

"We produce 2.5 million cubic litres daily, so there is a shortage of 1m cubic litres every day," Hassan explained to Al Jazeera. "We've added projects to increase water availability, and we are hoping to stop the ongoing shortage by the end of 2012."

According to Hassan, 80 per cent of the Baghdad's piping network needs rehabilitation - work currently underway - in addition to positioning 100 compact units around the city, which would increase clean water availability until larger plants can come fully online.

Several water treatment plants are already being extended, including one that would increase the capacity of a wastewater treatment facility in Sadr City, a sprawling slum of roughly three million people.

Follow in-depth coverage of the nation in flux

Hassan said that health committees and the Ministry of Environment carry out tests, and along with BWA testing, 1,000 water samples are checked daily, "less than one per cent of the samples fail" he said. The "acceptable threshold" is five per cent.

Bechtel, a multi-billion dollar US-based global engineering and construction company - whose board members have close ties to the former Bush administration - received $2.3bn of Iraqi reconstruction funds and US taxpayer money, but left the country without completing many of the tasks it set out to.

Bechtel's contract for Iraq had included reconstruction of water treatment systems, electricity plants, sewage systems, airports and roads.
Managers at water departments around Iraq say that the only repairs they managed during the US occupation were through UN offices and humanitarian aid organisations. The ministry provided them with very little chlorine for water treatment. "New projects" were no more than simple maintenance operations that did little to halt collapsing infrastructure.
Bechtel was among the first companies, along with Halliburton (where former US Vice-President Dick Cheney once worked), to have received fixed-fee contracts drawn to guarantee profit.

Ahmed al-Ani who works with a major Iraqi construction contracting company told Al Jazeera the model Bechtel adopted was certain to fail.

"They charged huge sums of money for the contracts they signed, then they sold them to smaller companies who resold them again to small inexperienced Iraqi contractors," Ani said. "These inexperienced contractors then had to execute the works badly because of the very low prices they get, and the lack of experience."

According to a March 2011 report by the UN's Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit, one in five Iraqi households use an unsafe source of drinking water, and another 16 per cent report daily supply problems.

The situation is even worse in rural areas, where only 43 per cent have access to safe drinking water, and water available for agriculture is usually scarce and of very poor quality. These facts have led more Iraqis than ever to leave rural communities in search of water and work in the cities, further compounding already existing problems there.

The UN report states: "Quality of water used for drinking and agriculture is poor, violating Iraq National Standards and WHO guidelines. Leaking sewage pipes and septic tanks contaminate the drinking water network with wastewater. Eighty per cent of households do not treat water before drinking. Furthermore, just 18 per cent of wastewater is treated, with the rest released directly into waterways."

And this is exactly what many Iraqis experience first-hand.
"Sometimes we turn on the tap and nothing comes," explained Baghdad resident Ali Abdullah. "Other times the colour is brown, or yellow, or sometimes even smells of benzene."

Electricity and sewage

Street side electricity generators are now a common sight around Iraq's capital city, where the average home receives between four and eight hours of electricity each day. Some areas, such as Sadr City, receive an average of less than five hours a day, with some portions of the area receiving a mere hour to two a day - and sometimes none at all.

Many people opt to simply pay private vendors for electricity from the generators, whose owners run lines to their respective clients.

Some areas of Baghdad continue to receive one to five hours of electricity a day [Dahr Jamail/Al Jazeera]

Nabil Toufiq is a generator operator who serves 220 homes for 12 hours each day.

"We buy our diesel on the black market, not from the government," he told Al Jazeera. "We expect this business to continue forever because government corruption prevents them from fixing our problems."

Abu Zahra, a media liaison worker with the office of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Sadr City, Baghdad, explained that, in addition to the ongoing lack of electricity, every aspect of the infrastructure in the area needs improvement.

"We are depending on the street generators," Zahra said, before going on to say that roads have been resurfaced, but due to corruption causing corners to be cut, the pavement begins to fracture and break apart within six months, causing the cycle to begin again.

This is readily apparent, as the garbage-strewn roads are bumpy, cracking, with potholes abundant.

Turn off one of the main thoroughfares through the area and one quickly finds dirt roads with sewage streaming down the gutters.

Zahra said that one of the hopes of Sadr joining the political fray was that this area of Baghdad would obtain better services - but this has clearly not come to pass.

"Sadr asked the government to give better services and jobs here, but nothing has happened," he said, while children played near raw sewage. "There have been demonstrations here where people carried shovels asking for work, and empty kerosene cans asking for fuel. Meanwhile, we have a totally failed sewage system that needs complete reconstruction."

While water-borne diseases and diarrhoea are common across Baghdad, but they are rampant in Sadr City, where the lack of potable water, coupled with raw sewage flowing through many of the streets, make the spread of disease inevitable.

Toufiq pointed out an issue that does not bode well for the future - and likely aptly describes the root of Iraq's myriad problems.

"Many people make a living from the system being broken," he said. "From the government, to me, to the gas sellers."

Broken economy

According to the UNDP, Iraq has a poverty rate of 23 per cent, which means roughly six million Iraqis are plagued by poverty and hunger, despite the recent increase in Iraq's oil exports. Iraq's Ministry of Planning has also announced that the country needed some $6.8bn to reduce the level of poverty in the country

Zahra concurs.

"No-one in my family has a job," he said. "And in my sister's house, they are seven adults, and only two of them work."
Inside a busy market, Hassan Jaibur, a medical assistant who cannot find work in his field, is instead selling fruit.

"The situation is bad and getting worse," he said. "Prices continue to rise, and there are no real jobs. All we can do is live today."

Jaibur said he and his family are living on the fruit he sells, but he has a sick child and any profits he earns all go to medication.

"All of my relatives and friends are in a similar situation," he added. "Most of them try to find work as day labourers."

Gheda Karam, like so many in Iraq today, is the sole supporter of her family
[Dahr Jamail/Al Jazeera]

Gheda Karam sells dates and fruits. Her husband was paralysed during the Iraq-Iran war, and the benefits they get from the government for his disability are not enough.

"My family is suffering too much," she told Al Jazeera. "Even yesterday we did not eat dinner. We are 20 of us in an old house, and I'm the only one with work."

She paused to cry, then wiped away the tears.

"My children see things in the market they want to eat or drink, but we can afford none of it, and I am in debt to the fruit sellers. God help us."

The state of the economy in Iraq is a disaster. Yet this irony is highlighted by the fact that Iraq has proven oil reserves third only behind Saudi Arabia and Iran - hence one would expect it to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

But nowhere is the lack of economic growth more evident than in Baghdad. According to the Central Bank of Iraq, unemployment and "under-employment" are both at 46 per cent, although many in Iraq feel this is a generously low estimate.

Iraq continues to have a cash economy; meaning there are no credit cards, almost no checking accounts, no transfer of electronic funds, and only a few ATMs.

Iraq lacks a functioning postal service, has no public transportation, nor a national airline - and most goods sold in Iraq are imported.

Only in the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq is there rapid development and an effectively functioning government.

Iraq is ranked the eighth most corrupt country in the world, according to Transparency International. That means Iraq is tied with Haiti, and just barely less corrupt than Afghanistan.

One of Iraq's ministers recently took a forced resignation because he signed a billion-dollar contract with a bankrupt German company, along with a shell company in Canada, which had no assets or operations, only an address.

Lack of security

Recent spates of coordinated bombings that have killed more than 100 Iraqis and wounded more than 200 in the past few weeks are evidence of Iraq's current security situation.

Despite Iraq's own forces numbering 280,000 soldiers with 645,000 police and border guards, for a total of nearly one million men, and a capital city clogged with checkpoints, security remains elusive.

As Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki said recently, there can be no security without political stability. Given that his critics accuse al-Maliki of upsetting the delicate political balance within the Iraqi government by ordering the arrest of Vice President Tareq al-Hashimi, his words ring truer than ever.
Despite most of the daily violence in Iraq having long since fallen from the headlines, reports are constant and blood continues to flow.

Reported attacks around the country on January 3 included a roadside bomb killing an Iraqi soldier near Mosul, a sticky bomb seriously wounding a Pershmerga guard in Kirkuk, gunmen killing a Sahwa militia member and his wife in Muqdadiya, and a roadside bomb which wounded three civilians in Baghdad - to name but a few.

When most Iraqis are asked what their main concern is, "security" tends to be the first answer, then followed by electricity, water, jobs, and healthcare. Yet security is the foundation upon which the rest of the infrastructure can be built, so ongoing attacks across Iraq, and the chaos they bring, do not bode well for the future.

In December 2011, Iraq signed a deal worth roughly $3bn to buy 18 more F-16 fighter jet planes from the United States - a controversial move given that it occurred while Maliki was making moves his critics say were nothing more than consolidating power.

During a December press conference with al-Maliki, President Obama said, "We've got to train [Iraq's] pilots and make sure that they're up and running and that we have an effective Iraqi air force."
Most Iraqis would prefer to have their streets safe, before worrying about their airspace.
And for people like Gheda Karam, whose family is having to skip meals on a regular basis, a government that would spend $3bn on improving infrastructure and the economy would be preferred over one that buys highly advanced warplanes.
Follow Dahr Jamail on Twitter: @DahrJamail
Source: Al Jazeera

dimanche 8 janvier 2012

Irak Meclis Üyesi Neftçi'ye saldırı

Irak Meclis Üyesi Neftçi'ye saldırı

Pazar, 08 Ocak 2012 20:58

Bugün akşam saatlerinde Türkmen Asıllı ve Irak Meclis Üyesi Jale Neftçi'nin evinin, kimliği belirsiz silahlı kişiler tarafından tarandığı öğrenildi.

Kerküklü Irak Meclis Üyesi Neftçi evine akşam saatlerinde meydana gelen silahlı saldırıda yaralanan olmazken evde maddi zarar meydana geldi.

Kerkük Polis Müdürü Cemal Tahir AA'ya yaptığı açıklamada, bugün akşam yaşanan olayda can kaybı yaşanmadığını ve Kerkük polisi olarak hemen olay yerine vardıklarını, konu hakkında araştırma yaptıklarını belirtti.

Tahir "olaydan hemen sonra Irak Meclis Üyesi Jale Neftçinin evinin bulunduğu yere polisler yetişti ve olayı araştırmak ve faillerini bulmak için bir ekip oluşturduk. Bu ekip olayı araştıracak ve failleri bulup adalete teslim etmek için çalışacak" dedi.


Western Oil Firms Remain As US Exits Iraq

By Dahr Jamail

08 January, 2012

Al Jazeera

Iraq plans to increase its oil production capacity up to 12 million barrels per day by 2017 [Al Jazeera]

Baghdad, Iraq - While the US military has formally ended its occupation of Iraq, some of the largest western oil companies, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, remain.

On November 27, 38 months after Royal Dutch Shell announced its pursuit of a massive gas deal in southern Iraq, the oil giant had its contract signed for a $17bn flared gas deal.

Three days later, the US-based energy firm Emerson submitted a bid for a contract to operate at Iraq's giant Zubair oil field, which reportedly holds some eight million barrels of oil.

Earlier this year, Emerson was awarded a contract to provide crude oil metering systems and other technology for a new oil terminal in Basra, currently under construction in the Persian Gulf, and the company is installing control systems in the power stations in Hilla and Kerbala.

Iraq's supergiant Rumaila oil field is already being developed by BP, and the other supergiant reserve, Majnoon oil field, is being developed by Royal Dutch Shell. Both fields are in southern Iraq.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), Iraq's oil reserves of 112 billion barrels ranks second in the world, only behind Saudi Arabia. The EIA also estimates that up to 90 per cent of the country remains unexplored, due to decades of US-led wars and economic sanctions.

"Prior to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, US and other western oil companies were all but completely shut out of Iraq's oil market," oil industry analyst Antonia Juhasz told Al Jazeera. "But thanks to the invasion and occupation, the companies are now back inside Iraq and producing oil there for the first time since being forced out of the country in 1973."

Juhasz, author of the books The Tyranny of Oil and The Bush Agenda, said that while US and other western oil companies have not yet received all they had hoped the US-led invasion of Iraq would bring them, "They've certainly done quite well for themselves, landing production contracts for some of the world's largest remaining oil fields under some of the world's most lucrative terms."

Dr Abdulhay Yahya Zalloum, an international oil consultant and economist who has spent nearly 50 years in the oil business in the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, agrees that western oil companies have "obtained concessions in Iraq's major [oil] fields", despite "there being a lack of transparency and clarity of vision regarding the legal issues".

Dr Zalloum added that he believes western oil companies have successfully acquired the lions' share of Iraq's oil, "but they gave a little piece of the cake for China and some of the other countries and companies to keep them silent".

In a speech at Fort Bragg in the wake of the US military withdrawal, US President Barack Obama said the US was leaving behind "a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people".

Of this prospect, Dr Zalloum was blunt.

"The last thing the US cares about in the Middle East is democracy. It is about oil, full stop."

A strong partnership?

A White House press release dated November 30 titled, "Joint Statement by the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee", said this about "energy co-operation" between the two countries:

"The United States is committed to supporting the Republic of Iraq in its efforts to develop the energy sector. Together, we are exploring ways to help boost Iraq's oil production, including through better protection for critical infrastructure."

Iraq is one of the largest oil exporters to the US, and has plans to raise its overall crude oil exports to 3.3m barrels per day (bpd) next year, compared with their target of 3m bpd this year, according to Assim Jihad, spokesman for Iraq's ministry of oil.

Jihad told Al Jazeera that Iraq has a goal of raising its oil production capacity to 12m bpd by 2017, which would place it in the top echelon of global producers.

According to Jihad, Iraq's 2013 production goal is 4.5m bpd, and in 2014 it is 5m bpd. The 2017 goal is ambitious, given that Iraq did not meet its 2011 goal, and many officials say 8m bpd capacity is more realistic for 2017.

Unexplored regions of Iraq could yield an additional 100bn barrels, and Iraq's production costs are among the lowest in the world.

To date, only about 2,000 wells have been drilled in Iraq, compared with roughly one million wells in Texas alone.

Globally, current oil usage is approximately 88m bpd. By 2030, global petroleum demand will grow by 27m bpd, and many energy experts see Iraq as being a key player in meeting this demand.

It is widely understood that Iraq will require at least $200bn in physical and human investments to bring its production capacity up to 12m bpd, from its current production levels.

Juhasz explained that ExxonMobil, BP and Shell were among the oil companies that "played the most aggressive roles in lobbying their governments to ensure that the invasion would result in an Iraq open to foreign oil companies".

"They succeeded," she added. "They are all back in. BP and CNPC [China National Petroleum Corporation] finalised the first new oil contract issued by Baghdad for the largest oil field in the country, the 17 billion barrel super giant Rumaila field. ExxonMobil, with junior partner Royal Dutch Shell, won a bidding war against Russia's Lukoil (and junior partner ConocoPhillips) for the 8.7 billion barrel West Qurna Phase 1 project. Italy's Eni SpA, with California's Occidental Petroleum and the Korea Gas Corp, was awarded Iraq's Zubair oil field with estimated reserves of 4.4 billion barrels. Shell was the lead partner with Malaysia's Petroliam Nasional Bhd., or Petronas, winning a contract for the super-giant Majnoon field, one of the largest in the world, with estimated reserves of up to 25 billion."

Zalloum says there is a two-fold interest for the western oil companies.

"There is development of the existing fields, but also for the explored but not-yet-produced fields," he said. "For the old fields, there are two types of development. One is to renovate the infrastructure, since for most of the past 25 years it has depreciated due to the sanctions and turmoil. Also, some of these fields have different stratum, so once they use innovative techniques like horizontal drilling, there is a huge potential in the fields they have explored."

But there are complicating factors. As a spasm of violence wracked Baghdad in the wake of the US military withdrawal and political rifts widen, Iraq's instability is evident.

"Iraq has lots of cheap-to-get oil, but it also has a multitude of problems - political, ethnic, tribal, religious etc - that have prevented them from exploiting it as well or as quickly as the Saudis," says Tom Whipple, an energy scholar who was a CIA analyst for 30 years. "Someday it may turn out that Iraq has more oil underground than Saudi Arabia. The big question is how stable it will be after the US leaves? So far it is not looking all that good."

Jihad, Iraq's ministry of oil spokesman, however, said attacks against Iraq's oil pipelines have minimal effect on production capabilities, and claimed "sabotage will not affect our oil production and exports because we can fix these damages within days, or even hours".

Whipple, a fellow at the Post-Carbon Institute, says Baghdad had driven a hard bargain with western oil companies.

"The only reason they are participating is because everybody else is and they hope to get a foot in the door in case some new government in Iraq changes its policies to let other outsiders make more money. Remember it is not all the traditional western oil companies that are in there; the Chinese, Russians and Singapore all want a piece of the action."

Wrong idea?

Spokesman Jihad told Al Jazeera that the reason many Iraqis think western oil companies are operating in Iraq is simply to steal Iraq's oil.

"These ideas were obtained during the regime of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein, and these are the wrong ideas," he said. "The future will help Iraqis understand these companies have come to work here to help Iraq sell its oil to help the people, and they work to serve the country."

Jihad admitted that his media office works "to help Iraqis understand the nature of the work of these companies and their investing in Iraq".

Despite the efforts of Jihad's office to prove otherwise, Iraqis Al Jazeera spoke with disagree.

"Only a naïve child could believe the Americans came here for something besides our oil," Ahmed Ali, an unemployed engineer, told Al Jazeera. "Nor can we believe their being here has anything to do with helping the Iraqi people."

Basim al-Khalili, a restaurant owner in Baghdad's Karada district, agrees.

"If Iraq had no oil, would America have sacrificed thousands of its soldiers and hundreds of billions of dollars to come here?"

Oil analyst Juhasz also agrees.

"The US and other western oil companies and their governments had been lobbying for passage of a new national law in Iraq, the Iraq Oil Law, which would move Iraq from a nationalised to a largely privatised oil market using Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs), a type of contract model used in just approximately 12 per cent of the world's oil market."

She explained that this agreement has been summarily rejected by most countries, including all of Iraq's neighbours, "because it provides far more benefits to the foreign corporation than to the domestic government".

But it has not been an easy road for the western oil companies in Iraq.

"Major western companies, such as Chevron and ConocoPhillips, that had hoped to sign contracts were unable to do so. A third round [of contracts] took place in December 2010 and saw no major western oil companies (except Shell) win contracts. I believe that there was an Iraqi backlash against the awarding of contracts to the large western major oil companies. Thus, in December 2010, fields went to Russian oil companies Lukoil and Gazprom, Norway's Statoil, and the Angolan company Sonangol, among others."

Unlike under Iraq's Oil Law, these contracts do not need to go through parliament, according to the central government. This means the contracts are being signed without public discourse.

"The public is against privatisation, which is one reason why the law has not passed," added Juhasz. "The contracts are enacting a form of privatisation without public discourse and essentially at the butt of a gun - these contracts have all been awarded during a foreign military occupation with the largest contracts going to companies from the foreign occupiers' countries. It seems that democracy and equity are the two largest losers in this oil battle."

Iraq's oil future

Under the current circumstances, the possibility of a withdrawal of western oil companies from Iraq appears remote, and the Obama administration continues to pressure Baghdad to pass the Iraq Oil Law.

Nevertheless, resistance to the western presence continues.

"The bottom line is that it seems clear that the majority of Iraqis want their oil and its operations to remain in Iraqi hands," said Juhasz. "Thus far, it has required a massive foreign military invasion and occupation to grant the foreign oil companies the access they have thus far garnered."

While Iraq's security remains as volatile as ever, as does the political landscape - which can change dramatically at any moment - there is one thing we can always count on as being at the heart of these conflicts, and that is Iraq's oil.

Dahr Jamail is an American journalist who is best known as one of the few unembedded journalists to report extensively from Iraq during the 2003 Iraq invasion. He spent eight months in Iraq, between 2003 to 2005, and presented his stories on his website, entitled Dahr Jamail's MidEast Dispatches. Jamail writes for the Inter Press Service news agency, among other outlets. He has been a frequent guest on Democracy Now!. Jamail is the recipient of the 2008 The Martha Gellhorn Prize for JournalismFollow Dahr Jamail on Twitter: @DahrJamail

pro-Arab Turkmen Vs pro-Kurdish: Turkmen gunfight in Kirkuk

07/01/2012 19:19

KIRKUK, Jan. 7 (AKnews) – A gunfight has broke out in the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk between the guards of a pro-Kurdish Turkmen leader and an al-Iraqiya lawmaker’s but without leaving casualties, according to police.

An argument turned into gunfight between guards of Iraqi lawmaker Zhale al-Naftchi who is MP in the al-Iraqiya list led by Sunni-Arab backed Ayad Allawi and guards of Irfan Kirkukli, leader of the Turkmenli Peoples’ Party (TPP) – that’s close to the Kurdish Patriotic of Kurdistan Party (PUK) led by Kurdish Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Turhan Abdul Rahman, assistant police chief in Kirkuk, told AKnews that “the gunfight did not cause any casualties. The legal procedures have been taken and now there is no problem”

Ali al-Salihi, al-Nafthchi’s office manager, told AKnews that “the house of the MP al-Natfchi has been damaged due to the intense gunfire from the guards of Irfan Kirkukli”

“The son of Kirkukli alone fired more than 40 shots on al-Naftchi’s house. He [Kirkukli] and his children often harass us. I don’t know who they think they are” al-Saihi said.

Kirkukli could not immediately be reached for a comment about the incident.

The oil-rich city of Kirkuk is of multi-ethnic make-up. Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Christians live in the city. It is one of the territories disputed between Baghdad and Kurdistan Region. Since 2003, Kirkuk has been one of the unstable provinces with frequent armed attacks.

By Abdullah al-Amiri


dimanche 1 janvier 2012

Turkmens to suffer again as Iraqi blocs sharpen their swords

Turkmens to suffer again as Iraqi blocs sharpen their swords


Although most fear a collision of both a sectarian and ethnic nature is awaiting Iraq in the post-US era, experts believe threats from the blocs in favor of a federation are leverage for blocs to impose their will on one another, but they also voice concern that minorities, led by the Turkmens, will suffer under the weight of the fight before the blocs reach a consensus, if they ever do.

Only a day after the last US troops withdrew from Iraq, powerful blocs of Sunni and Shiite leaders drew their swords in a fight to snatch power from each other, reviving a scene from back in 2007 when blocs gathered along sectarian lines and took thousands of lives monthly to prove their worth in Iraqi politics.

However, a significant minority group, the Turkmens, say the pressure was always there, before the US intervention, and maybe more increasingly, after their pullout.

Having already issued an arrest warrant for the top Sunni official and asked for the resignation of the second in line, Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made the first move against rivals in the fear that Iraq might see another era of Sunni dominance and in the hope that he gathers enough power under the grip of the Shiite bloc to ensure Shiite control the country.

While Sunni and Shiite blocs took up the fight from where they left off in 2007, and the Kurdish administration started gaining political power through oil deals it secured with foreign companies, other smaller groups, most significantly the Turkmens, worry that they will be trampled as the conflicts continue.

“The Turkmen community in Iraq is the only one without arms,” Mehmet Tütüncü, the general director of İstanbul-based Iraqi Turks Culture and Mutual Aid Society (ITKYD), told Sunday’s Zaman as he expressed concern over the fate of the minority group. “If, God forbid, Iraq falls into three pieces as most believe it will, the situation of the Turkmens will be even worse, as they will be split between Kurdish and Arab blocs geographically,” he added to point out that an extensive conflict among the powerful blocs might shake the ground the Turkmen community stands on. However, he also claimed that the Turkmens would not side with any party if at some point Iraq becomes a federation, saying, “We always say the Turkmens are a part of Iraq; the Turkmens will never be a part of a part.”

According to Tütüncü, Turkmens are divided almost equally among Shiite and Sunni, but they stand together according to their ethnic identity. There are approximately 2.5 to 3 million Turkmens in Iraq, Tütüncü claimed, citing a census held in 1957, after which “Turkmen” was not listed under the category of ethnicities -- “one could either be Kurdish or Arab.” He suggested that Kirkuk was historically a Turkmen city but overrun by Arabs during Saddam’s reign and by Kurds after 2003, the year of the US intervention. “The demographic structure of the city is far from reflecting its historical settlers,” Tütüncü claimed, but both Kurds and Arabs make the same claim, saying they are the historical owners of the oil-rich Iraqi provinces.

Oil is a curse for Iraqis

Alongside the blocs’ strong desire for political dominance over each other, the Iraqi conflict is also significantly an economic one, with many areas in the country blessed with natural resources, drawing attention from the rest of the world for a share of the oil profits. The semiautonomous Kurdish administration of the north, in particular, proves to be an example where economics dominates the political scene, as the administration has struck deals with oil companies that acted against their arrangements with the Baghdadi government as they recognized the Kurdish authority as the rightful owners of the resources. Rich fields of oil are also found in the Turkmen provinces, but since the status of the Turkmen hometowns are still vague, the oil is not a contributor to their society but a cause of conflict since all blocs lay claim to the same lands. “The main challenge for Iraq lies with the integration of Kurds into central Iraqi administration, but it is still a mystery where that road will lead since Kurds are able to use their oil resources to secure economic and political power from oil deals,” Ramazan Gözen, an academic at Yıldırım Beyazıt University, told Sunday’s Zaman, as he advocated that natural resources and economic activities across the country should be supervised by Baghdad, not by local or regional administrations. “Oil deals struck by countries with the Kurdish administration steer Iraq away from solidarity for the benefit of big companies by providing the means for the Kurds to opt for a federal structure in the country,” he added. “Oil has always been a curse for the Turkmens, a major reason for the controversy regarding their lands; instead of wealth and prosperity, oil has brought trouble to the Turkmens,” Tütüncü added to clarify that wealth has its own complexities.

Turkey changes perspective on Iraq

Turkey’s approach toward Iraq also took another form after the US intervention, as the country extended its vision of Iraq consisting only of its border with Turkey and its perspective that focused on protection of Turkmens in the country. Although the struggle of the Turkmens to remain unharmed by clashes still has enormous significance for Turkey’s Iraq policy, the country is now more concerned with the stability of Iraq as a whole, rather than of its parts. “Turkish policy on Iraq before 2000 was focused solely on the Turkmens, which was a rather narrow vision that did not help anyone,” Gözen said, as he said that the Turkish attitude toward Iraq has changed over the last decade. “Now the horizon is farther away with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visiting Shiite headquarter cities, then moving on to lunch with Kurdish administration in the north,” he stated to express the change in the Turkish official Turkish perspective with regards to Iraq. Gözen also signaled that such moves were unthinkable in the last decade but that today’s Turkey was well aware that it had to ignore ethnicity and sect to help Iraqi maintain the stability the country urgently needs in the fragile Middle Eastern region. “Turkey is apparently at odds with Maliki, who probably believes Turkey is hostile to him because he is of Shiite descent,” Ufuk Ulutaş of the Ankara-based Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) told Sunday’s Zaman. He agreed that sect and ethnicity had to be ignored when looking at Iraq. “It is hard for a country [Iraq] that is psychologically divided into political blocs to understand how another country might be blind to its blocs, but this is exactly the position of Turkey toward Iraq now,” he added, stressing that Turkey was not seeking to have one bloc benefit at the expense of another because any power imbalance would harm Turkey drastically. Ulutaş also doesn’t believe Iraq will break up into pieces after the US pullout, thinking none of the blocs that currently seem to be battling actually wants to be on its own through independence.