Tuesday, 15 December 2009

At least two obstacles overcame

With his head shaved at the annual Muslim Hajj as a symbol of renewal, Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain Al-Shahristani didn't let the smile to abandon his flushing face when he was awarding seven of ten oil projects offered in Iraq's second bidding round on 11-12 December.

That weekend picture contradicts the picture of June 30 when Al-Shahristani inaugurated his first bidding round which offered six oil and two gas fields to International Oil Companies for long-term development.

The then huge gap between the prices asked by IOCs and what Iraq was ready to pay made it extremely difficult to him and senior officials to secure more than one deal, leaving them pale and somehow nervous. And even they were seen as if they were begging when allowing more time to the executives to reconsider the prices.

I think with the latest success in its second round, Iraq has overcome at least two challenges or obstacles in the way of developing its dilapidated oil industry.These are the worries about the security situation and the absence of the oil law.

When Iraq started planning to lure IOCs, analysts and critics, said that the security situation would prevent the IOCs from landing in Iraq. And when the security situation started to improve, they said the absence of the oil law would discourage the IOCs from doing business with Iraq.

And now they are saying that these deals could not be honored by the new government to be born after the March 7 national elections. And the contracted companies have put inflated or fake production targets to deceive Iraqis and scoop up the deals.

And we'll see.

For detailed coverage for Iraq's 1st and 2nd bidding round go to: www.iraqoilforum.com


Monday, 7 December 2009

CPJ Blog: An Iraqi in America: In the middle of nowhere

An Iraqi in America: In the middle of nowhere

We are all stuck in the middle of nowhere. Millions in Iraq and millions outside it face an ambiguous future. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis fled Iraq under Saddam's regime, which lasted for almost 40 years, but since the led-American invasion in 2003 that number has exceeded 4 million, according to United Nations estimates.

Most of the Iraqis, including me, didn't expect to see Iraq torn to pieces as has happened these six years. Our own people have no identity, whether inside Iraq or outside it.

My country is cursed, and it seems predetermined for our people to live with a chain of endless sufferings. Iraq is a perplexing country. It has everything you could want. It has one of the oldest civilizations on earth with two rivers that connect all parts of the country and flow like the veins in a body. It has every reason to expect an affluent life—from agriculture to industry to precious commodities like oil and mercury—and yet the majority of its people live in misery and poverty.

I was thinking that by coming to America and by giving something to my parents to compensate them for what they've already missed in their lives, I would be able start a new chapter that had no connection to my distressed past, but it seems I was wrong. It's harder than I ever expected. Life has not been different.

The Iraqi refugees here in America are facing many problems, which has forced some to return to the places they came from. Some returned to Iraq to face the risk of death, and some returned to neighboring countries, like Syria and Jordan. Many had already fled to these places in the last six years to face bad treatment and an unstable life.

The American government is helping some Iraqis—those who worked for American armed forces and other American organizations—to resettle in the States, but there aren't any actual specifics about what happens once we get here. When refugees arrive, they are handed over to refugee organizations, and then begins the hardship.

There are a few organizations here in Tucson, but they are responsible for hundreds of refugees—mainly from Iraq, Somalia, and Bhutan. The first problem is that those organizations are not governmental and there is no governmental supervision of them. Another problem is that hundreds of refugees are sponsored by very few employees.

I was enduring the situation when I was by myself, but now with my parents and my younger brother with me it has become unbearable. I'm the one who is taking care of everything: I have to work in a restaurant with a wage lower that the one I received in Iraq as a journalist. It either covers our household expenses…or not. The financial aid we get from the government and the non-governmental relief organization the International Rescue Committee is not enough to pay the rent.

My parents now think they are a burden to me since they know I'm responsible for most of their expenses now, including rent, bills, and daily purchases. My father is thinking about going back to Iraq to work so he can send us money to help with my mother and brother's needs. It really hurts me to see my dad thinking like this; he spent most of his life working hard for us and I was thinking that by bringing him here I can give him the time to think about himself. I can't help after all, and I don't want to be apart from either of my parents now, not for any reason.

Many Iraqis I know talk about how Americans also suffer from unemployment. We sometimes lament our bad luck for coming to the States at this time. We even make jokes about us being a bad omen for this country.

There are too many stories to tell about the Iraqi refugees in America. Stories of old people, young people, and families. All came to the States looking for a better future but still can't believe how hard life is for them here. I have known many Iraqi friends in different cities of America and most of them find it hard or impossible to be part of this country, or at least imagine that they will be American citizens in five years.

I have to say that I haven't seen or heard any Iraqi complaints about cultural differences or any other issue related to our traditions or religion We all find that this country is truly the "land of freedom" in all its meanings. The American people are also very nice and polite and none of the Iraqis I know have ever complained about bad treatment.

The adjustment for old people and those who don't speak English is harder than it is for me. With this country’s current high rate of unemployment, it is nearly impossible to find a job, especially for those Iraqis with no English or elevated qualifications. The irony of the whole thing is that a lot of the Iraqi refugees here in the States are working or wanting to work as security guards for a country that was unable over the last past six years to provide security to their own country!

As for me, with a bachelor's degree, at a good age, and having served the U.S Army in Iraq in addition to working with The New York Times as a local reporter, I could barely find a job in a seafood restaurant. My sacrifice helping the U.S. Army and media organizations has not paid off financially here, but it has helped help me establish good relationships and to receive occasional words of commendation.

We are not sure whom to blame or whom to hold responsible for the whole thing. Is it the American government? It seems to be morally obliged to resettle Iraqis in America. Is it the refugee organizations? They have limited aid and support to offer the refugees. Or should we blame Iraq—the wealthy country that has left its refugees scattered in other countries living like orphans?

Mudhafar al-Husseini worked at The New York Times in Baghdad for two years, reporting news stories and writing blog entries as well as acting as a fixer and translator for other reporters. Before that, from 2004 to 2006, he was a translator for the U.S. Army in Iraq. He graduated from Baghdad University in 2007 with a degree in English literature. Now living in the United States, he is updating us on this new chapter in his life.

Read al-Husseini's previous entry here. To read all his "Finding Refuge" entries, click here.


Friday, 4 December 2009

Iraq's war will not be forgotten

Iraq's war will continue running and never be a forgotten one. And American taxpayers will not pour billions of dollars any more to keep this war alive.It will cost only $79.95!

The Modern Conflict Studies Group (MCSGroup) announced today the January 29, 2010 release of the new simulation board game Battle for Baghdad with a primary purpose to demonstrate the kinds of challenges inherent in the occupation.

The simulation game comes complete with a mounted satellite image map of the city of Baghdad, playing cards that comprise the Arms Bazaar, Arab Street, and Command Structures of the various groups, conflict displays, and infrastructure and security tokens.

The final retail price of Battle for Baghdad will be $79.95.

Just wondering what would happen if this game was produced before the invasion? would it stop Bush and Blair?


McClatchy's Baghdad Observer: The forgotten war?

December 03, 2009

The forgotten war?

The Korean War used to be known as "the forgotten war." More recently, during the hey-day of the Bush administration's adventure here in Iraq, Afghanistan was the forgotten war. No more, of course.

Now, it seems, Iraq is the forgotten war. I've been here nearly 5 weeks now, and I'm amazed at how far this conflict has fallen in the American consciousness, if I am judging it correctly from thousands of miles away. Iraq is off the front pages, off the television screens and, for the most part, off the main page of major news Web sites.

This isn't entirely a bad thing. News follows conflict and bloodshed, and Iraq has less of both than it used to. Sectarian violence is still an every-day occurence, but it is way down. U.S. troop deaths are way down too - there were two deaths each in October and November from combat-related injuries. Most of Iraq's problems now are of a more complex, murkier political and economic variety.

But that's no reason not to pay attention. Iraq appears to be at a tipping point, where things here could get a wholoe lot better--and still go badly, badly wrong. And what happens in Iraq matters a lot, because of its oil, because of its central geographic position in the Middle East, because of the US invasion here, and because it's the only Shiite-dominated political system in the Arab world.

In other words, just as Iraq enters a really critical period, where its leaders will decide whether they will solve differences without violence, and when the country truly stands on its own with a much smaller crutch from the US. -- many in the West have stopped paying steady attention.

The once-huge international press corps here has shrunken significantly, with many verteran war correspondents decamped to Afghanistan. Major U.S. TV networks have pulled out, or are in the process of doing so. Other news organizations are hanging on until after the elections, which have been delayed from January to at least late February or March. (McClatchy, I am proud to say, plans to maintain a presence in Baghdad).

One of my Iraqi colleagues and I were talking the other day and, sad to say, we both knew what it would take to bring Iraq back to the front pages and the television screens. A major bombing that kills dozens or hundreds. Renewed civil strife. Iraq really having weapons of mass destruction.

Regardless of your views of the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq in the first place, the United States has spent enormous amounts of blood, treasure, political capital here in Mesopotamia. It's been the subject of a divisive national debate and played a role in elections for offices high and low.

And the story is not over. So keep paying attention. I know that even after my assignment here is complete, I will.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Barham Salih is a killer

In an interview with the pan-Arab television station Al-Jazeera, the newly appointed Prime Minister of the Iraq's northern Kurdistan Regional Government, Dr. Barham Salih has killed all the hopes inside some Iraqis that his presence will help ease tensions between Kurds and Arabs.

"I thank those who are counting on me because I consider it a trust.But I warn from the gravity of any exaggerated expectations," Salih told the TV."...Counting on one person and one stance will not be a right thing."

On the KRG's controversial nearly two dozen oil deals with some 30 Western oil companies, Salih defended them as constitutional, adding that his region acted in tandem with the powers that are given by the constitution to the provinces and regions when manage the oil sector.

"The region's government insists that these (oil) deals are signed in compliance with the powers that are given to it by the constitution," he said.

While his statements on the oil-rich Kirkuk were: "I'm a Kurd and my point of view is clear regarding Kirkuk.I say that Kirkuk historically, geographically and from the population aspect is part of Kurdistan region."

Salih didn't forget also to offer a solution to what he called his Arab and Turkmen "partners who do not agree with me." This solution is to rely on constitution, a word which is used by all Iraqi politicians since it was approved in December 2005 but none has solved any problem yet because simply it is vague enough to keep politicians at loggerheads.

Since he was assigned to his new position, the eyes were turned to Salih to find some other solutions as his wide experience in Baghdad's political atmosphere and politicians could help to ease the tension.But after this interview he has killed all the hopes inside those who believe so.


Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Iraq Inquiry: an evidence for the West arrogance

The Iraq Inquiry has started.The facts are being unearthed.The liars are on the stage one after one.But who will punish them? Who will heal Iraqis' wounds and bring back their beloved ones who are lost to this dirty war? And who will fix Iraq?

These are questions the West must tackle because simply they were behind all the sufferings and ordeals this country has been facing since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion which, day after day, is being approved that it was based on lies and those who were behind it were only blood-seekers.

Last June, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the Inquiry.That's fine.But only "to identify lessons that can be learned from the Iraq conflict" and not seeking the facts for setting the appropriate apology to Iraqis and determining the mechanism on how to help their country, which has been turned into a jungle, stand on its legs again.

"Those lessons will help ensure that, if we face similar situations in future, the government of the day is best equipped to respond to those situations in the most effective manner in the best interests of the country," the Chair of the Inquiry, Sir John Chilcot, said at the launch of the Inquiry.

What an arrogance.This is the West double standards.

This is as if someone says: LET the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who are slain since 2003, the millions of widows, sons, lovers who are left behind them, the millions of displaced people and refugees and the 179 dead British soldiers and their families, GO TO HELL.

The first two liars were William Ehrman, the Foreign Office's director of international security from 2000 to 2002, and Tim Dowse, the Foreign Office's head of counter-proliferation between 2001 to 2003.

Ehram said: "in terms of nuclear and missiles, I think Iran, North Korea and Libya were probably of greater concern than Iraq."

While Dows added that Iraq "wasn't top of the list" and "In terms of my concerns on coming into the job in 2001, I would say we put Libya and Iran ahead of Iraq."


But even the two went further when said that Iraq's previous regime had no relations with Al-Qaida and no evidence was found that Saddam Hussein had provided terrorist groups with material for chemical or biological weapons as the West was alleging at that time.

And for possessing chemical and biological arms can be detonated within 45 minutes, Ehrman said: "We did, at the very end, I think on the 10th of March, get a report that chemical weapons might have remained disassembled and Saddam hadn't yet ordered their assembly."


Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Iraqi presdient guarntees oil deals to Total

During an official visit to Paris, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani assured France's Total that it will have a special treatment and will get oil deals in his war-torn country in its second bidding round.

"We might favor a French bid whatever the figures. Don't fear this auction. ... The figures aren't everything," Talabani quoted by AFP. "We want to see Total work in our oil fields."

Wonderful Mr. President...travel around the world and spread oil deals. You don't care about the figures but you only care about seeing Total in Iraq.Saddam Hussein did the same!


Sunday, 8 November 2009

"Mabrouk Iraq al-Jadid"

Eventually "Iraqi" parliament passed today the long-delayed election law which will help the nation to hold its Jan. 16 parliamentary elections, thanks to, NOT the lawmakers and politicians, but to the American Ambassador to Baghdad or "Iraq's real ruler."

Yes, we should thank Ambassador Christopher Hill for his distinguished role today at the parliament which I my self saw it and none told me about it.He was relentlessly moving between all the parliamentarian blocs' offices at the parliament building to put an end to this mess.

All those who attended Today's session, mainly reporters were seeing Hill and his aids more than anyone else from the Iraqi lawmakers who preferred to stay inside their offices or who left the country to Qatar with the Speaker and leave the problem to Mr. Hill.

As an Iraqi who lived today's story, which is full of shame, I can only say what the U.S. civilian administration that President George W. Bush installed in Baghdad after the invasion L. Paul Bremer used to say: "Mabrouk Iraq al-Jadid" or "Congratulations to the new Iraq."

Go to hell our "elected" lawmakers!


Wednesday, 4 November 2009

To whome this victory: Hussain Al-Shahrisntani or Big Oil?

Unlike his previous public appearances, Iraq's Oil Minister Hussain Al-Shahristani on Tuesday was happy and friendly and never complained when local and foreign reporters circled and rained him with questions, but even I had the feeling that he was ready to talk for hours about his last achievement, the biggest in Iraq's history.

Yes, it is a victory for Al-Shahritsnai to bring UK's BP and China's CNPC to develop Iraq's biggest oil field, the 17.8-billion-barrel Rumaila, with these companies' money and according to the Iraqi terms. And even he promised that more such deals will see the light in the coming days.

Analysts say Big Oil accepted Iraqi low fees only to set foot in this country and then they will have more lucrative deals in the future. But what would happen if they find Al-Shahristani again in office in the next government? Would be any chance for any lucrative deals in the future after signing such deals now?


Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Iraq's new Kurdish government takes over

Iraq's former deputy prime minister, Dr. Barham Salih and his 20-Minister Cabinet sworn in today before the parliament of the self-ruled northern Kurdish region as the region's sixth government since 1992.

What is interesting is that Salih reappointed the region's Minister of Natural Resources , Dr. Ashti Hawrami, despite the controversy that surrounds his career due to his vague oil deals.

The latest controversy is around an illegal transaction of shares in which he worked as a middleman, or may be as a businessman, between Norway's DNO and Turkey's Genel Enerji.

The other interesting thing is that assigning the Justice portfolio to judge Raouf Abdul-Rahman, a previous chief judge in Baghdad who sentenced Saddam Hussein to death in November 2006 for his role in the killing of Shiite Muslims in the town of Dujail after an assassination attempt in 1982. Saddam was hanged the following December.

For more on Salih's biography click here: http://barhamsalih.net/


Tuesday, 27 October 2009

For how long Iraq will continue like this?

Despite the grief and sorrow that have engulfed Baghdad since last Sunday when two suicide car bombers killed 155 people and injured hundreds others, some upbeat news were brought amid that atmosphere.But of course will not help removing that grief.

The Associated Press reported today that Iraq's oil exports climbed almost 6 percent in the third quarter of the year, gaining $12.18 billion in revenues versus $9.57 billion in the prior quarter.Daily oil exports averaged 1.998 million barrels per day compared to an average of 1.885 barrels per day in the preceding quarter.

How much of these money will be spent to renovate the buildings, roads and other infrastructure which were destroyed in Sunday's attacks? how much of these revenues will be allocated to buy more or new "technologically advanced" equipment to detect bombs or stop the suicide bombers?

And for how long Iraq will continue like this: spends what it earns to fix things damaged by the war or buys weapons or loses what it earns due corruption?


Sunday, 25 October 2009

Another dagger in Baghdad's heart

At least 736 families are grieved now.Some 155 of them lost their beloved ones while the rest have their beloved ones wounded in today's explosions in the heart of Baghdad.


Thursday, 22 October 2009

Do I need to tell you who you are?

Iraq's 2003 war aimed at grabbing the country's oil not for Mass Destruction Weapons. And China has become the envy of the rest of the world specially the U.S. as the energy-thirsty nation has so far secured two oil deals with Iraq and it keeps its eyes open on other lucrative deals in this country.

That was summarized by the U.S. oil tycoon T. Boon Pickens comments which were made Wednesday before the Congress in which he claimed a share in Iraq's oil in return to the lost lives of the American troops and the money the American taxpayer spent in Iraq.

"They're opening them (oil fields) up to other companies all over the world ... We're entitled to it," Reuters quoted Pickens as saying of Iraq's oil. "Heck, we even lost 5,000 of our people, 65,000 injured and a trillion, five hundred billion dollars."

"We leave there with the Chinese getting the oil," Pickens said.

Mr. Pickens, the Chinese are smarter than you, they have morals and they value their and other peoples' lives.They are not killers, gang leaders and thugs. They respect other countries' people and never humiliate them or destroy their houses, schools, mosques or violate their honor.

Do I need to tell you who you are?


Saturday, 17 October 2009

Ashti Hawrami to be brought before parliament

The regional parliament of Iraq's self-ruled Kurdistan Regional Government will summoned its Natural Resources Minister, Ashti Hawrami, on Monday to investigate the vague and outlawed shares' transaction with the Norway's DNO ASA oil company, a local daily reported Saturday.

During the investigating session, Hawrami is supposed to clarify the deals he had with the DNO when secretly bought 43 million of its shares and then sold them, also secretly, to Turkey's Genel Enejri, according to Hawlati’s interview with Kurdish lawmaker Sherwan Haidary.

Hawrami will face tough questions from at least quarter of the 111-seat parliament members who won remarkable number of seats after July's regional elections.They were tapping into widespread frustration over alleged corruption and intimidation by the longtime ruling establishment.

The expected investigation will definitely embarrass the region's designated Prime Minister, Barham Salih, who, according to some Kurdish politicians, wants to reinstate Hawrami in this position.


Tuesday, 22 September 2009

It is still scandal, more to come

The Minister of Natural Resources in Iraq's Kuridstan Regional Government, Ashti Hawrami is now asking Norway's DNO International ASA to "find ways to remedy, and to our full satisfaction, the damage done to the KRG reputation," the KRG Web site says.

And in a bid to present himself as an honest man who raged by the reveal for his name by Oslo Stock Exchange as the secret middleman to sell DNO's shares to Turkey's Genel Enerji, Hawrami ordered the suspension of all DNO's oil operations in the region for six weeks until it finds these ways.And if not he will terminate the DNO's involvement in the region.

I challenge you that you will not to do it Mr. Hawrami.And it is still a scandal and I'm sure that more scandals will come soon.

Dear Mr. Hawrami, nothing in the Iraqi law allows you to do what you said it was "with the sole intention of helping DNO to raise the capital required for its projects in the Kurdistan Region" and "to be supportive of the companies working in the Kurdistan Region."

Simply put, you have breached Iraq's Penalty Law No. 111 in 1969 and the Civil-servant Disciplinary Law No. 14 in 1991.

Both laws say that any civil servant in the Iraqi government, from the lowest levels to the president of the state, has no right by any mean to practice any work outside his governmental job especially the commercial activities.

Such acts, which you described as to fall in your "official capacity as minister, and not on a personal basis", are considered by these two laws as either bribe or exploiting governmental position for raising money illegally. The penalty for the two cases could send you to the prison for up to three years.

And therefore, the regional parliament has the right now to summoned you for investigation, but just like other Iraqi officials I'm sure you will say "I'm not an Iraqi citizen, I hold another nationality so the Iraqi law doesn't apply on me."

Am I right?


Monday, 21 September 2009

Disappearing marshlands

Iraq's once-lush southern marshlands area is disappearing as it has reached almost the same level during Saddam-era, a report issued in a UN-affiliated Web Site says.

The UN IRINnews gives scary figures; from 8,350sqkm in 1973 to 835sqkm by 2003 due to upstream dam construction in Iraq, Turkey and Iran and Saddam's drainage operations to chase down Shiite insurgents.

By 2006-2007 only about 75 percent of the marshlands as they were in the 1970s had been restored.But now only 10-12 percent of the current marshland area is covered by water due to low water levels of the Tigris and Euphrates and below average rainfall.

What else Iraq is going to lose?


Sunday, 20 September 2009

Sorry for misunderstanding you

The Minister of Natural Resources in Iraq's self-ruled Kurdistan Regional Government, Ashti A. Hawrami, was not working for his pocket sake when acted as a secret middleman in a transaction of 43 million DNO International shares last year.But instead his intention was to be "supportive" as much as he can to the western oil companies working in the KRG.

That's the core of the Sept. 19th statementt made by KRG which written by Hawrami's senior adviser, Dr. Khaled Salih, to face the scandal that had come to surface a day before with publishing the results of a probe done by Oslo Stock Exchange which found that the deal was arranged the between Hawrami and DNO Chief Executive Officer Helge Eide.

Salih said facilitating the treasury shares transaction was a "sole intention of helping DNO to raise the capital required for its projects" in KRG. WOW!, IT SOUNDS THAT DNO KNOWS ONLY KRG AND ITS HAWRAMI IN THIS WORLD TO OFFER SUCH A HELP.

He added: "We wish to make it absolutely clear that neither the KRG nor any of its ministries, officials, employees or advisers has benefited directly or indirectly, through DNO or Genel Enerji, from the transaction or subsequent resale of the shares referred to by OSE." O REALLY!, GOOD TO TELL ME THAT...SORRY FOR MISUNDERSTANDING YOU.

I would like to ask Dr. Salih this question: does the the Iraqi law permit Hawrami to offer such a help? Only one law permits your master to do so; it is your law according to which you granted more than two dozens of production sharing contracts on no-bid basis to these companies.


Saturday, 19 September 2009

The secret middleman and Salih

The first scandal for the Minister of Natural Resources in Iraq's self-ruled Kurdistan Regional Government, Ashti A. Hawrami, has just come to surface, a report by Bloomberg News reveals.

The Sept. 18 report says that a probe by Oslo Stock Exchange found that Hawrami was the secret middleman in a transaction of 43 million DNO International shares last year. And the transaction was arranged between Hawrami and DNO Chief Executive Officer Helge Eide.

That simply helps to understand Hawrami's underground deals with the international companies that have secured lucrative deals in northern Iraq on no-bid basis. I'm sure that there will be more to come in the coming days or months or years about this man and his vague deals.

According to a Sept. 6 report by Reuters, Hawrami was expected to be reappointed in the yet-to-be-formed new KRG government by former Kurdish deputy prime minister, Dr. Barham Salih.

Salih now faces his first exam.


Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Iraq-Shell gas deal delayed or not?

Once again Iraqi Oil Minister, Hussein al-Shahristani issues statements differ from the ones his close aides issue and that could explain a gap between the politician and the technocrat inside the Ministry of Oil. Or what the politician and the technocrat want.

Few days ago, senior Deputy Oil Minister, Ahmed al-Shamaa told Reuters that the Iraq-Royal Dutch Shell final deal to make use of the flared gas in the south was likely to be postponed until after the Jan. 16 national elections, citing current political strife. It was planned to be finalized this month.

But al-Shahristani, a politician more than anything else, denied Wednesday that the multi-billion-dollar deal will be postponed, the Dow Jones Newswire's Hassan Hafidh reported from Vienna. "No," al-Shahristani told reporters when asked if the deal is going to be postponed. "We are negotiating with Shell," he added.

Al-Shahristani is in dire need to collect as much as he can from the "achievements cards" to face his political foes when summon by the parliament and to enhance his position when runs in the coming elections along with Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

While al-Shamaa, an advocate to the deal, is realizing that he deal will be dead if it will be negotiated by the current government.Al-Shamaa's comments also reflected he desire of Shell for not signing the deal with outgoing government.


Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Hussain al-Shahristani sounds to get important card

It sounds that Japan's Nippon Oil Corp. and its partners offer to develop Iraq's promising southern Nassiriya oil field, and may be to construct a 300,000-barrel-a-day refinery, has won the hearts of the Iraqi oil officials.

Reuters' Missy Ryan and Ahmed Rasheed reported today that the two sides are planing to finalize the deal next week when representatives from Nippon Oil Corp., Inpex Corp. and plant engineering firm JGC Corp. visit Baghdad.

It sounds that the latest visit by Iraqi Oil Minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, to Tokyo helped to push the negotiations with the Nippon-led consortium steps forward to leave Italy's Eni and Spain's Repsol behind in the race.

The battered al-Shahristani will likely move quickly with the deal to have a card to be used against his foes at the parliament as pressure is amounting to summon him and to be used also for his elections campaign.


Saturday, 29 August 2009

Still more past lessons need to consider

It sounds that the Iraqi Oil Minister, Hussain al-Shahristani has learned from the lessons of his disappointed 1st bidding round and decided to make his 2nd bidding round a success.

Expert Ruba Husari, who runs Iraq Oil Forum called last Tuesday road show presentation in Istanbul for the ten oil projects on offer "impressive" and predicted that the process would be a "straightforward piece of work."

As usual, Husari is ahead of other news agencies in revealing the contents of the offered contracts and other details of the process. One of these things is that the Oil Ministry is now giving the International Oil Companies the right to fully operate the fields.

Another change in the offered contract, which aims at alleviating domestic worries, is to add a clause states that in case of conflict it's the Arabic version of the contract that prevails not the English one, Husari added.

Despite that such changes, and probably many others, in the way of thinking is crucial to win the 2nd bidding round but other changes in the mentality of dealing with the domestic audience is also badly needed.

The Oil Ministry needs to successfully marketing the plans domestically to have the public opinion support and this also needs to learn from previous lessons when oil officials didn't pay attention to that point and then the opponents managed to mess the stage.

The officials need to adopt a new media strategy such as going on public from time to time in foreign and local media outlets and not only talking about the plans when they travel abroad. They need to hold weekly press conferences or round tables or issue statements on the latest developments.

They need also to cooperate with non-governmental organizations that deal with economic issues or universities to organize seminars and meetings on this bidding round. They need to invite proposals from experts whether inside or outside Iraq.

The coming bidding round will be in the core of the January’s elections campaigning and that winning the pubic hearts is vital to be a success.


Sunday, 2 August 2009

Savvy, hypocrite or man of controversies?

What the State-run Al-Iraqiya TV reported today prompted me to write again.

It said that Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, met Saturday night in his office in Bagdhad's fortified Green Zone with a "delegation" from a prominent Shiite militant group which is backed by Iran and known of its atrocities against civilians and brazen and sophisticated attacks against Iraqi and occupation forces.

Yes, it is Asaib Ahl al-Haq group, or League of the Righteous, who broke away from anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia and started to work on its own with money, weapons, training and everything from Iran.

Their acts ranged from sectarian killings to kidnappings and blackmailing to leading daring and sophisticated attacks such as the killing of five U.S. soldiers in an inroad on a local government headquarters in Karbala province on Jan. 2007 and the May 2007 kidnapping of five Britons from inside the Finance Ministry in Baghdad.

Two of the Brits are confirmed dead, two others are believed to be dead and the fifth one is believed still alive.

Of course all these acts were considered by the government, top of it al-Maliki himself, and other politicians as terrorism and the group's members were considered as enemies to the democracy and stability of the the "New Iraq."

Al-Iraqiya said that both sides discussed "the support of the political process and the government's efforts in the national reconciliation project." WHAT??? EXCUSE ME!

Then al-Maliki's fabulous spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, told reporters after the meeting: "the delegation of Asaib Ahl al-Haq group announced its support to the political process and dismiss the violence and support of national unity's efforts." WONDERFUL!

And "both sides agreed to solve the pending problems, especially the detainees' file, whom their hands have not been stained with Iraqis' blood and with no criminal evidences against them." HEHEHE...

What a hell this al-Maliki is doing or what kind of a message he wants to send and to who?

He always says that he will not tolerate Saddam Hussein's dissolved Baath party and Sunni militant groups for their killings to innocent Iraqis and now he shakes hands with this group's members who killed hundreds of people.He always appreciates the occupation forces' "sacrifices for liberating Iraq," and even visited the cemetery of U.S. soldiers who are killed in Iraq and now he invites some of their killers to his office.

Is this al-Maliki a savvy politician? or hypocrite? or a man of controversies?


Sunday, 21 June 2009

Last minute statement

Iraq's Kurds on Sunday renewed their stance against the federal Oil Minister, Hussain al-Shahristani and his first oil bidding round to develop eight oil and gas fields.

The statement comes two days before al-Shahristani's appearance before the parliament and other executives to discuss the auction process and eight days before the award of the contracts to the bidding companies.

Khaled Salih, Senior Advisor to the semi-autonomous region's Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources, brought everything in the statement he wrote on behalf the two as a latest attempt to mess up everything.


Thursday, 18 June 2009

Fronts against Hussain al-Shahristani

As Iraq is heading to wrap up its first post-Saddam oil bidding round to develop six oil fields and two gas fields, different fronts are being opened against the rounds' engineer: the country's Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani by using all the means in bids to confuse the bidding companies and derail the process.

One of these "mean" means came from al-Shahristani's main foe: the Natural Resources Minister of Kurdistan Regional Government, Asthi Hawrami who has implicitly threaten, through Reuters' writer Mohammed Abbas, the oil companies willing to develop two of the offered fields in the disputed province of Kirkuk.

"They will be on shaky ground. Speaking about fields in the disputed territories, the contractors will not actually have a chance to work on the ground. I cannot see how they will have the security and support they need in these disputed territories without the KRG being party in providing that help," Mr. Hawrami told Abbas on Thursday.

What an irony, Mr. Hawrami, who signed more than 20 controversial production-sharing contracts on his own and none knows anything about their terms, wants to be consulted by the central government who has to take his permission to develop the two Kirkuk oil fields on offer!!!.

Why you didn't consult the central government on your ambiguous deals Mr. Hawrami?

Now would you please tell me Mr. Hawrami what these companies will face if al-Shahristani will not consult you? will you send your peshmerga or any of your secret security forces to kidnap oil executives in Kirkuk or plant roadside bombs or park car bombs on their way to these fields? is that constitutional or legal Mr. Hawrami to publish such threats in the media? are you a politician or a gang man?

The other front to al-Shahristani was opened by the Head of State-run South Oil Co. Fayad al-Nema who also through Reuters' Abbas renewed Thursday his rejection to the first bidding round as "useless and won't serve the Iraqi economy."

I don't know where Mr. al-Nema was since the announcement of this round a year ago , why he didn't express his rejection as he was heading the Minsitry's Planning and Studies Department ? and why he issued such statements during the past week which surprised many in the industry? may be just to bring the lights towards him as he was newly appointed to this position, why not.

In addition to these two guys, the governor of disputed Kirkuk, a Kurd, who also copied his fellow statements and Iraq's former oil minister, Mohammed Bahr al-Ulom. In addition to them the Parliament's Oil and Gas Committee which is headed by a Kurd and one of his main aid is Jabir Khalifa Jabir from Shiite Fadhila party, a main rival to al-Shahristani's party.

And another question mark is that why Reuters published today what it did publish over the past few days based on the same comments from the same persons?

Does that mean that media outlets are also opening fronts against al-Shahristani?


Saturday, 16 May 2009

New cock in the neighborhood

A new cock just started to crow in Iraq's western desert, where Anbar province stretches, to get his share from the Iraqi hydrocarbon resources. He is Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha, the head of the influential Awakening Council in Iraq which hold remarkable seats in the newly-founded Anbar Provincial Council.

It sounds that during a visit to the United Arab Emirates, the Sharjah-based Crescent Petroleum whispered to Abdu Risha about how promising the Akkaz gas field is, unleashing his imagination on how much money this field on the border with Syria can bring to his pocket.

He now alleges that he has a "written approval" from Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to start negotiations with the Crescent Petroleum to develop the field, but Iraqi Oil Minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, opposes it.The same allegations the Kurds say to justify their deals but have not presented this "written approval" yet.

In an interview with the Dubai-based al-Arabia satellite channel on Friday, Abu Risha added that the company is ready to enter to Anbar province, pump millions of dollars to develop the field, build a 3,600-megawatt electricity power plant and create 100,000 Job opportunities.

He also alleges that the constitution gives his Provincial Council the right to do so and gives him the right also to reject all the Oil Minister's decisions.

How smart move from the Crescent Petroleum in a bid to copy the same deal it secured with the Kurds and how clever our sheik is who doesn't know that Akkaz field is offered in the first bidding round that is planned to be finalized next month.He also doesn't know what the law says about his Provincial Council's authorizations.

This is only one of cocks I talked about in my 14 May post....what you think?


Friday, 15 May 2009

Let's see to where this will take us

The Iraqi Oil Minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, has fired back from neighboring Jordan toward the Kurdistan Regional Government and other parts of the world where the International Oil Companies, who hold contracts with the Kurds, are based.

Al-Shahristani eventually broke his silence and put the dots on the letters, as the Arabic language puts it, when said: "Those who signed the contracts with these companies are responsible to pay back and compensate them."

"The company won't receive from the oil ministry any dollar or a barrel of oil," al-Shahristani told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview late Thursday night.

On Friday afternoon, the usually quiet al-Shahristani became more aggressive, challenging the KRG's Natural Resources Minister, Ashti Hawrami if he can get the companies' share from the produced oil.

‘If [the Kurdish oil minister] can get a dollar out of the [Iraqi finance] ministry, let him call me,’ he told the Financial in a video interview.

Now your turn comes Mr. Hawarmi, but try to bring something new not only mentioning the same "constitutional rights," something practical on how these companies will be paid.

And let's see to where this will take us....


Thursday, 14 May 2009

It has become very boring

There was a joke widely circulated after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein about a man who slaughtered his cock after his neighbors' complaints about its crow which disturbed their day and night.

To prove his step, the man invited his neighbors to a lunch in his house where he offered his cock meat to them with rice. As the invited neighbors were enjoying the feast in a quiet neighborhood, crow of dozens of other cocks reached to their ears from everywhere.

The invited neighbors looked to each other as the man laughed.

"You were complaining from one cock and now you have dozens of them who were not dare to crow when mine was here," the man told his guests.

I think this is the picture in Iraq today: a lot of cocks crowing from all the sides while the country and its normal people are the only ones who suffer and pay the price .

Today, the fight of words between Iraqi Oil Minister, Hussain al-Shahristani and Ashti Hawrami, the Natural Resources Minister at the Kurdistan Regional Government, entered a new page with Hawrami issuing a fiery statement through Iraq Oil Report about al-Shahristani's latest comments on the Kurds controversial deals.

In his provoked e-mail, Hawrami challenges al-Shahristani if he dares to do anything to the two dozen production-sharing contracts with the International oil companies since he considers them illegal and illegitimate.

He went on as saying that al-Shahristani's authority "is not recognized" in the KRG as if the Kurds are in an independent neighboring state. He called also his statements against the deals as "very boring."

Few hours later, al-Shahristani replied through Bloomberg.

"We are not bound by agreements signed” by the KRG, he said in an interview on the eve of the annual World Economic Forum for the Middle East in Jordan. “These agreements to us are void and we will not compensate those companies who signed agreements. They will have to seek compensation from whomever they signed them with.”

These men, al-Shahristani and Hawarami, are only some of the cocks now crowing everywhere in Iraq and fight each others while Iraq and its people are in dire need for each cent.

Frankly speaking their long-running dispute has become very boring.


I'm not Baathist in case you might get me wrong.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

I can't wait until June 1

The long time Hussain al-Shahristani and Ashti Hawrami keep mum on the details of their controversial and obscure agreement, the more questions and analysis we will see everyday trying to find out who imposed his conditions and then won the war.

Today, Daniel Canty wrote for the arabianoilandgas.com in which he echoed what Baghdad's Kassakhoon and others raised recently about exporting oil produced in the Kurdish region , but he went further to put an end to all our questions by describing the latest development "as elusive as ever."

As far as the IHS Global Insight Middle East energy analyst, Samuel Ciszuk, understands by analyzing the deal and al-Shahristani's afterward comments, the oil companies would not be reimbursed for their investment and the Kurds would have to manage the full production cost, cost recovery, and profit margin out of their own 17% share of the government revenues.

Also Wednesday, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Masoud Barzani, pretended in an interview with Reuters that he knew nothing if there was a special arrangement with central government on how to pay DNO and Addax.

But he didn't miss the occasion to slap al-Shahristani. "I don't think he personally understands himself or what he does, but it isn't important for us what he says," Barzani said of Shahristani.

I can't wait until June 1 to find out.


Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Hussein Al-Shahristani's trap

The Iraqi Oil Minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, reissued the same contradictory statements on Tuesday about the Kurds' oil deals, saying that although he's still considering them "illegal and illegitimate" but he wants the oil extracted by the companies which hold these contracts, The Associated Press reports.

This is weird Mr. Minister, I think you should be clear on which oil deals you are talking about , on what terms you will collect the oil produced from Tawke and Taq Taq specifically, does your approval to Kurds export plans from these two fields mean that you implicitly accepting these deals or you will change their terms?

I think that al-Shahristani has been dragged to a trap in which he will find himself at the end of the day forced to accept other deals unless there is somthing to be agreed on before June 1.


Monday, 11 May 2009

Ambiguity still there...

Norway's DNO International ASA and Canada's Addax Petroleum along with its Turkish partner Genel Enerj have become the first western oil companies to be granted crude export permits from Iraq's central government.

The companies' Monday statements, which announced the formal notifications they received from Kurdistan Regional Government to launch export next month, didn't mention anything about how the terms of their controversial production-sharing contracts, which are rejected by the central government, will be implemented.

Only Addax Pterolum threw a paragraph in its statement in which it prepares the audience for something in the horizon, I guess.

"The crude oil will be marketed by the State Oil Marketing Organization ("SOMO") and revenues will be directed to Addax Petroleum and Genel Energy through the coordination of the KRG on terms to be agreed under the framework of the production sharing contract," it said without elaborating.


Sunday, 10 May 2009

Ashti Hawrami was not lying

In a remarkable development, Iraqi central government agreed Sunday to grant the Kurds in the northern semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan an export permit for the oil produced in their region, Sinan Salaheddin reports for The Associated Press.

Today's news rebuffed last Friday denial by the Oil Ministry when the region's Natural Resources Minister, Ashti Hawrami, set June 1 to start crude exporting from two oil fields. Assem Jihad, who denied Hawrami's statement on Friday, confirmed today the reports.

But it sounds to me that the two sides have reached a middle solution by keeping the issue of how these companies will be remunerated and how they will take their shares from the profit oil pending. Both sides are now saying that all the produced oil will be handed over to the Oil Ministry's State-run Oil Marketing Organization, SOMO.

But none is saying anything about how this issue will be treated, we'll find out in the future.


Friday, 8 May 2009

Ashti Hawrami lies again...why?

The Minister of Natural Resources in Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government, Ashti Hawrami, announced Friday that the Kurds will start exporting crude oil, produced in two oil fields in their region, on June 1 via the Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline. But later it was found out that the annoucement was only a lie.

Immediately after the announcement, two senior Iraqi officials, the Oil Ministry's spokesman and the head of state-run oil marketing organization, denied that any deal had been completed. In addition, the companies involved in developing Tawke and Taq Taq oil fields also denied Hawrami's annoucement.

So what Mr. Hawrami wants to gain from this move? does he want to embarrass Iraqi Oil Minister, Hussein al-Shahristani who is under heavy pressure to increase Iraq's nearly 2.4 million barrels a day to force him to recognize the widely-rejected production-sharing contracts the Kurds signed with western oil companies? or he just wanted to shore up the two companies shares in the stock market?....or what?


Thursday, 23 April 2009

It is the central government fault

Once again the Kurdish Natural Resources Minister, Ashti Hawrami, finds an opportunity to release his usual fiery statements and criticism against his counterpart in the central government, Hussain al-Shahristani.And listed reasons.

After hearing rumors of delaying bids to develop eight oil and gas fields, Hawrami found Iraq Oil Report a good place to issue his statement which came with a picture for him smirking.

He says Baghdad oil officials are acting un-constitutionaly and illegally and that they have to be punished because they are violating the constitution, neglecting the parliament approval, not inviting KRG to these negotiations and offering fields in disputed areas.

And finally he said that Baghdad's Oil Ministry wasted time over the past years as it didn't sign any contract yet, forgetting or trying to forget the security situation Iraq has gone through since 2003 which I personally believe that Kurds have in somehow a role in it.

And now he and other Kurdish officials are acting as Kurds and not Iraqis as trying to tell the central government that they can put the sticks in the wheel and blow up all their development plans unless they (Baghdad officials) recognize their illegal and unconstitutional contracts which they signed without consulting the central government or even their regional parliament and without any bidding process.

I think you, Mr. Hawrami, should answer all these questions before you accuse and threaten the central government and behave in a very arrogant way. You, the Kurds, are the ones who are squandering Iraq's oil resources in your region and derailing the development plans in other areas in Iraq at a time Iraqi people need what ever dollars from each barrel.

As an Iraqi, I can blame the central government for only one thing which is to give the Kurds the opportunity to flex their muscles to an extent they never dreamed of before.


Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Iraq's battered economy

It is Reuters' day as offering three stories on Iraqi oil and battered economy.

In one of them, Ahmed Rasheed reports Iraqi Oil Minister, Hussain al-Shahristani's reply to parliament's oil and gas committee on the multi-billion dollar natural gas deal Iraq signed with Royal Dutch Shell last year.

Al-Shahristani said the initial agreement would not allow Shell to set the price for gas sold within Iraq's domestic market.And The Associated Press quoted him as saying local energy demands would be the top priority and not the exports. [ENDLESS POLITICAL CONFLICT]

On the second story, Suleiman al-Khalidi reports that Iraq's budget deficit could soar to $25 bln (17.2 billion pounds) this year if oil exports stay at their current low levels. [EXPECTED AND THE WORSE TO COME]

The country's Finance Minister, Bayan Jabor, said the government is mulling new taxes and import duties to boost revenues. [OF COURSE THE ONLY ONE WILL BE AFFECTED IS THE NORMAL CITIZEN]

And the third was brought by, Mohammed Abbas, who also quoted Jabor as saying that the government is considering securing a $7-billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to enhance its shaky budget. [BEGGING JUST STARTED]