Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Iraq invites oil companies to develop nearly 90 pct of its oil reserves

Postwar Iraq has managed to open nearly 90 percent of its oil reserves in 2008 to international oil companies for development through two major bidding rounds that are planned to be finalized in mid and end of 2009, Sinan Salaheddin reports for the Associated Press.

Iraq is classified as the world's third largest in oil reserves with at least 115 billion barrels underneath, but decades of wars, bad management, U.N. economic sanctions, sabotage acts and insurgent attacks have kept these resources away from the Iraqis.

With these two rounds, Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani plans to add 4 million to 4.5 million barrels a day to its current 2.4 million bpd within four to six years to help building its heavily damaged infrastructure and bringing life to its economy.

Oil and gas fields on offer in the first bidding round are: Kirkuk and Bai Hassab oil fields in the north, Rumaila, Zubair, West Qurna Phase 1 and Maysan oil fields--Buzurgan, Fauqa and Abu Ghirab--in the south, and Akkas gas field in western Iraq and Mansouria gas field in the east.

Oil and gas fields on offer in the second bidding round are: Majnoon, West Qurna Phase 2, Halfaya, Gharraf, Badra oil fields and Siba gas field in the south. East Baghdad, and the group of Kifl, West Kifl and Merjan in central.A group of Qamar, Gullabat and Naudman oil fields and Khashm al-Ahmar gas field in the east and Qayara and Nejma in the north.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Iraq's second oil, gas bidding round shrinks to 10 fields

It sounds that Iraqi Oil Ministry has changed its mind and decided to offer 10 oil and gas fields in its second bidding round instead of 14 fields as some oil officials in Baghdad said last week, Sinan Salaheddin reports for the Associated Press (AP).
Justify Full
Hussein al-Shahristani, in an interview late Monday with the state-run Iraqiyah TV, named only two giant oil fields to be inculded in the list, which are Majnoon and West Qurna Phase 2 in Basra, and left the others to be announced in his press conference due to be held Wednesday.

Al-Shahristani added that his ministry has focused on the fields which Iraq shares with neighboring countries, or that are located near borders, Salaheddin adds.

"It is unacceptable that neighboring countries extracting oil from the shared fields while Iraq stands motionless," he said. "We have decided to include these fields in the second licensing round and expedite" investments in them.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Shiites, Sunnis on rare moment of agreement

It is a really rare moment of agreement between Iraq's two main Muslim sects, Shiites and Sunnis, when both agreed on marking the beginning of the Muslim lunar calender on the same day which is Monday.

The 12-month calender, or Hijri calender as Muslims call it, is used to date events in Muslim countries such as celebrating Islamic holy days and festivals. It is called Hijri after the prophet Mohammed's Hijra (emigration) from Mecca to Madina before nearly 1430 years ago.Since then the calender started.

Sighting the crescent moon is essential to mark the beginning of this year and then each month in it.Some Muslim countries use astronomical calculations and observatories while others and particular sects in some countries, like Iraq's Shiites, rely on the naked eye alone beside having their own interpretations on how the crescent's shape should look like.

This has led, since ages, to different starting times between Iraq's Shiites and Sunnis to Muslims events especially the two major Eids (festivals), one marks the end of holy month of Ramadan and the second marks the end of Haj. And this has added more to the differences and tensions between them which exist since ages but have come to surface since the U.S. -led occupation started in 2003.

For me, this thing is a good omen which I hope that both sects to come together and renounce all their differences...Happy New Year Muslim World.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Did Mr. Bush get what he deserves from shoes?

Iraq's civilian deaths since the 2003 Mr. Bush's "liberation" ranging between 90,133 to 98,399, a new study issued Saturday by the human rights group, Iraq Body Count, found.

The data showed that between at least 8,300 and 9,000 civilians were killed in Iraq in 2008 with an average of twenty-five civilians died a day.In 2006-2007, the data found, at least 48,000 civilians were killed, it is comparable to violence during 2003-2004.

The group's co-founder and spokesman, John Sloboda, told Reuters' Missy Ryan that attacks continue against U.S. and other foreign forces, Iraqi police and soldiers, government officials and members of "Awakening Councils," local patrol units often made up of former insurgents.

"Because this violence is actually against the occupation, it is unlikely to drop while the occupation continues," Sloboda said.

Were the two shoes enough to Mr. Bush?

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Honor your words, elections approaching

As usual, Iraqi oil sources in Baghdad whispered to Ruba Husari of the International Oil Daily and told her about the final list of Iraq's second postwar bid round for oil and gas field development with 14 oil fields and two gas fields, one week before the official annoucement due to be made by Iraq's Oil Minister, Hussein al-Shahristani.

Husari made a gesture why al-Shahristani insisted to launch the new bidding round before the first one, which was announced last June for eight oil and gas fields, has been concluded or has made significant progress.

"Al-Shahristani, who was elected to the Iraqi parliament in 2005 before joining the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, wants to build a list of personal achievments as he eyes the next elections, slated for early 2010," Husari said.

"During discussions Wednesday at the ministry headquarters, oil officials from the licensing and contracting department acquiesced to al-Shahristani's pressure to announce a new offering of oil and gas fields to international oil companies before the end of the year as he had promised on several occassions," she added.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Kirkuk, a test for nation

A nice story brought to us today by the Washington Post's Sudarsan Raghavan who went through numbers of normal residents of Iraq's ethnically-mixed Kirkuk to depict a picture for the vexing conflict the city has been experiencing since the U.S.-led occupation in 2003.

Raghavan's 2239-word story also helps the reader to unleash his imagincation to form many pictures on how the future of this ethnicaly fragmented city and then the Iraqi one will look like, considering the issue as a test to our war-plagued nation.

I only picked up some quotes, but advise everyone to read the whole story.

"I have no Arab and Turkmen friends. I have only Kurdish friends," said Darawan Salahadin, a slim 17-year-old Kurdish student with thick, gelled black hair. "I can't speak Arabic or Turkmen. So I don't know them."

"Damn the Kurds," screamed one of Khalaf Hamoud al-Jubouri's sons when his father's body was brought to his house after being killed by gunmen on Nov.24. Al-Jubouri , a 58-year old Arab lawyer and father of five, worked in the crucible of the conflict, pressing Arab legal claims to disputed lands. "I know it was the Kurds who killed my father."

"The government gave me the land, because I am originally from Kirkuk," said Abid al-Jubouri, an Arab and a father of 11, who owns a real estate agency .

"Kurds lost much blood for Kirkuk -- all what happened under Saddam, the executions, the jail sentences, the rapes, the blood -- all of this was for Kirkuk," said Darwan's father Salahadin Mahadeen."If the problem is oil, then we will give them the oil. We want the land."

"How can we live without our Jerusalem, without our heart?" Mahadeen added.

"It's all Turkmen land, 100 percent," said Abu Amjad al-Najafi, 61, a Turkmen, as referring to a Kurdish enclave in the city which he said it was owned by Turkmens.

"They have to walk over our bodies to make us leave this area," said the Kurdish fighter, Luqman Majid. "We will never leave, even if this place becomes our grave. This is Kurdistan."

Of course Raghavan didn't forget to incldue a precious quote of wisdom from one of our liberators who came here only to solve our problems.

"Kirkuk could be the capstone in the house of freedom, or it can be the cheap thread that when you pull out unravels the entire suit," said Lt. Col. David Snodgrass, deputy commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, which oversees Kirkuk.

Wow, you such a wiseman Mr. liberator.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Who will help Marwa to find answers?

It could take the toddler Marwa years to figure out why she joined the army of orphans of this cursed country and why she lost her parents, brother and two sisters in a barbaric way. Big WHYs will keep hitting her little mind until she realizes that she was just a victim of a dirty play in which she and her family had no role and knew nothing about its rules.

It was the fourth and the last day of Eid al-Adha religious holiday when Marwa’s father decided to take his four kids and wife to the upscale Abdullah restaurant just outside the northern ethnically-mixed Kirkuk city in a bid to steal some time to escape from Iraq’s grim reality.

But neither they nor other families who were sitting around their tables chatting and enjoying their time while eating their favorite dishes heard or saw or even felt the devil when he sneaked to that restaurant as guiding a sick-minded man with explosive belt beneath.

As he entered the restaurant, the man set off his explosives, sending 55 souls to the heaven and other 120 bodies to different hospitals to treat their wounds. Marwa’s family was among the first 55 group while she was among the second one ended up in one hospital with severe wounds.

Police said the target was a meeting between Kirkuk’s three main ethnics_ Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen_ who are in deep conflict over who is the original inhabitant of the city and the best way to run this city, a tension never came to surface before the U.S.-led occupation that started in 2003 but instead it was buried and guarded by Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.

Kurds, who have been flexing their muscles since 2003, want to annex Kirkuk and surrounding Tamim province into their self-ruled region of northern Iraq. Most Turkomen and Arabs want the province to remain under central government control, fearing the Kurds would discriminate against them.

Minutes later and while Marwa was laying in the operation room, a heated race started between the leaders of these groups on the media outlets especially satellite channels, of course they were in elegant business suits with some of them were talking from London and other world capitals. Each one of them was eager to accuse the other of masterminding the attack against his community and demanding protection.

But the two-year old Marwa had a different demand when she was awake.

“I want mom, I want dad,” the panic crying girl said from her bed in the hospital with a tube runs into her bloody nose and a bandage on her forehead.

Wondering, who will help Marwa to find answers for her big WHYs in the future? What will Marwa say when she hears the word “sorry” or the sentence “we launched the war basing on false intelligence” that each American, European or may be UN official say when he leaves his office?

But what I’m sure of and have answer to is that Marwa’s face on AL-Sharqiyah TV will be a nightmare to all these officials who have brought these sufferings to her once-peaceful country.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Iraqi women drive again

Improved security situation in the capital, Baghdad, encourages Iraqi women drivers to take to the road again after being harassed by extremist insurgents who consider such action as "haram", or forbidden under Islam for women to drive Marwa Sabah reports for the Middle East Online.

Of course there is nothing in Islam that bans women from driving cars and it is only one of heir fantastic interpretations to Islam.

"They insulted me, and shouted at me never to drive a car again because it was 'haram'," Manal Hakim, a 38-year-old teacher recalled an experience she went through two years ago in western Baghdad which once was under control of Sunni extremists. "They said they'd kill me if I did it again. I was totally shocked," Hakim added.

But now, the mother-of-one is behind the wheel again with a smile on her face.

Sabah also makes available to us more interesting figures on how many cars in Baghdad and how many women are getting driving lessons in Baghdad, just read it.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Bush on the silver screen

America's filmmaker Oliver Stone on Friday joined hundreds of thousands of Americans whose aim is to fix the image of America in others' eyes, a picture which is heavily affected by the outgoing President George W. Bush policies outside the United States borders.

At the Mideast premiere of his movie "W." in Dubai
, Stone said the outgoing U.S. president is a man with "a giant ego" and "boneheaded arrogance," Barbara Surk writes for the Associated Press.

"I hope many people in the Middle East and in South East Asia see it and really understand how George Bush came to be and who he is, and understand the United States is not an enemy," Stone said at a press conference before the red-carpet gala showing of "W."

"He is not a nice man," Stone also said. "He's a man with a giant ego and boneheaded arrogance. I empathize with him, but I don't sympathize with him," he added.

I agree with you Stone, the United States is not an enemy, but at the same time you and other Americas have to excuse those who hate America and all Americans for the deep wounds and unbearable sufferings they have endured due to Bush's foolishness and some other U.S. officials.

It is your duty and the people like you to approach the world, especially the Middle East with such ideas to make them able to see and understand the other face of America and its people.

Wish your film all success and hope you can make it available to all Iraqis in Iraq although we don't have a big cinema to play it but I think there will be a solution for that.

Behind-the-scenes players

An interested and must-read article by the Mother Jones' Anthony Fenton on how Retired Lt. General Jay M. Garner, Iraq's first post-war U.S. administrator and a small group of former U.S. military leaders, officials, and lobbyists are pouring fuel to the fire in disagreements between the central government and the Kurds.

They are using their deep connections in Kurdistan to help Canadian companies to have access to some of the region's richest oil fields by mediating oil deals between these companies and the Kurds to whome Garner was charged after the 1991 Gulf War to secure their region, a position which enabled him to develop good relaions with the Kurds.

Since 1991, Garner was frequently seen on TV flanked by the two Kurdish guerrilla leaders, Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani as he was wearing their traditional flowing cloths.

The Kurds' oil deals, at least 20, with western oil companies have been since last year one of handfull sticking issues between the Kurds and central government and the main obstacle in adpoting Iraq's long-awaited oil and gas law which is designed to govern Iraq's oil and gas resources and to regulate the foreign investment in this field.