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.