Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Who will blink first?

Recognize my oil deals first then I will let you have the revenues you need, that's the condition set by Iraq's northern semi-autonomous Kurdish region on Tuesday to the central government in Baghdad to resume oil exports, The Associated Press reports.

The Kurdish reply came after numerous statements made by Iraq's new Oil Minister, Abdul-Karim Elaibi, that his Ministry is ready to receive all the oil produced to export it , have the revenues and will pay only the costs incurred by the developers until a final solution is reached on the deals .

Ali Hussein Balo, an adviser to the Kurdish Ministry of Natural Resources said the crude-rich region can significantly contribute to the nation's target of raising oil exports next year by shipping 150,000 barrels a day out of the country, but only if all "our deals are recognized officially in a signed paper by Baghdad," he told the AP.

Again, we are witnessing a psychological warfare between the Kurds and Arab-led government.

The Kurds are trying to play a hardball to get their controversial oil deals recognized by Baghdad which needs each drop of oil produced to generate the sorely needed cash. While Baghdad is trying to make use of the pressure the Kurds face from oil companies who want to end this nightmare and to get their money back.

In less than a week, Baghdad twice announced remarkable increases to it's daily production from around 2.4 million barrels a day to more than 2.6 million barrels now. It promises more increases in the future as if it is telling the Kurds that I can spare your contribution so you have two options; either to accept my condition or keep you oil underground.

Who will blink first?


Monday, 27 December 2010

Good luck both of you!

Iraq's oil policy will not be changed. That's the core of the message delivered Monday by the country's newly appointed Oil Minister, Abdul-Karim Elaibi, in his first official statement during a ceremony to formally put him in charge of the ministry after he was sworn in last Tuesday.

Elaibi, who served as deputy oil minister, also thanked his fellow Shiites, Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki and current Deputy PM for Energy and former oil minister, Hussein Al-Shahristani, for picking him up for this job and their trust in him to "continue the march we started together as one team."

Number of flags picturing the Shiite most revered Imam Hussein were seen fluttering on the roof of the Ministry to mourn his death anniversary which was few days ago while the building's corridors and stairs decorated with black banners either picturing or praising the revered Imam, a scene that tells the rise of previously oppressed Shiites after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion which toppled Saddam Hussein Sunni regime.

Also during that ceremony, Al-Shahristani gave for the first time an indication about the powers that are given to him in his new post, a question which has been repeatedly asked by many people, but he also kept it somehow vague. He summarized his new role as to "follow up" with the Iraq's energy sector developments.

That could mean that Al-Maliki has bowed to one of the Kurds' main demands which is to push Al-Shahristani aside from deterring their oil ambitious by stripping him from powers. Realizing that not only the Kurds hate him, Al-Shahritsnai started his speech with this sentence:

"I didn't expect such a big gathering would be here today to celebrate getting rid of me from the Ministry of Oil," Al-Shahristani told the more than 300 ministry's employees who gathered at its Cinema hall with some of them didn't find seats to sit as he was laughing.

"Hahahaha..." the audience replied.

"You will not easily get rid of me," Al-Shahristani said at the end of his nearly 20-minute speech. "I will continue following up with what is going in the Oil Ministry from my new post...I will follow up with Iraq's energy program whether in the Oil Ministry or Electricity Ministry or Water Resources Ministry."

Good luck both of you!


Monday, 11 October 2010

Bidding War

It sounds that Iran doesn't like the idea of being overtaken by its war-torn neighbor Iraq in terms of oil reserves.

It announced today that it has 150.31 billion barrels of reserves, up from a previous estimate of 138 billion barrels, a week after Iraq announced nearly 24 percent increase to its previous estimates, which stood at 115 billion barrels, to become 143.1 billion barrels.

"It looks like almost a bidding war," analyst, Amrita Sen of Barclays in London, told Reuters.

Both countries also say that they are playing it conservative as there are more reserves underground and new numbers will be announced in the near future.


Sunday, 3 October 2010

Fortune without minds

I just got an invitation E-mailed to me by the Iraqi Oil Ministry to attend tomorrow's press conference for its Minister, Hussein Al-Shahristani, to announce the revision for the current proven oil reserves that stand at nearly 115 billion barrels.

With the current estimates, which dated back to 1970s, Iraq is ranked fourth among OPEC's 12 members after Saudi Arabia with 264.59 billion barrels, Venezuela with 211.17 billion barrels and Iran with 137.01 billion barrels.

On August 2008, Iraq resumed oil exploration after more than two decades of wars and U.N. sanctions which prevented its oil industry from keeping pace with other major producers such as Saudi Arabia.

But will Iraqis be happy by tomorrow when Al-Shahristani utters the new figure? Will jubilant crowds go out to the streets to celebrate the new findings? Will the new announcement bring Iraqis any hope for good future?

I don't think so.

I think the Iraqis will be happy and have hope for good future when they know that there are brilliant and national minds of real statesmen in this country who know how to use the revenues of this fortune for the benefit of them not the minds of what they call themselves politicians but they are.....


Thursday, 23 September 2010

Whatever your losses are, ours are bigger

As Barack Obama's administration is turning the page on Iraq's war, some U.S. media outlets are focusing on the consequences of this war on the Americans first and then talk a little about the woes Iraqis have gone through since 2003 despite that the difference is huge between the two consequences on both nations.

They are talking about how many lives of U.S. troops this war claimed, how much American money was burned for it and the most irritated thing they are still quoting U.S. officials on the "seeds of democracy" the Americans have sown in this land and how Iraq will be stable and prosperous after the full U.S. withdrawal by December 2011.

But what made me furious this morning is the Associated Press story which wrote by its Washington-based writer, Robert Burns, about FBI interrogation records with Saddam Hussein henchman, Tariq Aziz while in U.S. military custody.

In its first version, Burns preferred to mention the number of the U.S. troops who were killed in Iraq before the number of Iraqis who were killed without any sin committed which is of course bigger than the U.S. loss of life.
"More than seven years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, suspicions Saddam might have secretly collaborated with al-Qaida or other terror groups remains central to the continuing debate over the wisdom of launching the war, which has cost more than 4,400 U.S. lives and tends of thousands of Iraqis."
While in its second version, he preferred to omit the "tens of thousands of Iraqis," as if those killed Iraqis are not human beings and only the Americans are.

If you lost 4,400 lives we lost hundreds of thousands. We have a devastated society whose sects and ethnic groups hate each other more than before your invasion. We have at least five million individuals who were forced out of their homes. Our infrastructure is ruined, our antiquities are stolen and the once-fertile land is now a desert. An army of widows and orphans.

The list of the Americans' favors is too long.

I think at this critical period of time for both nations and from the ethical aspect, the American media should focus on how to prove that this war based on lies to bring those who masterminded it to justice and then they have to push for an official apology from U.S. to Iraqis who have suffered since 2003. Their readers should know that U.S. owes an apology to Iraqis.


Friday, 17 September 2010

Approve my payment quickly!

Not only the Iraqis are impatiently waiting the new parliament to convene again and start its job, but we have now another group of people who are waiting for that moment; they are the Americans who recently got their compensation payments for what they consider an abuse by Saddam Hussein's regime.

On Thursday, the Iraqi Cabinet unanimously approved a $400 million settlement for those Americans who claim to have been tortured or traumatized under Saddam's regime dating back to the 1990 Iraqi invasion to Kuwait, Sameer N. Yacoub of the Associated Press in Baghdad reported.

But the settlement still needs to be approved by the parliament which has only met once since the March 7 national elections as post-Saddam politicians are still at loggerheads over who should form the government and becomes its Prime Minister as the vote produced no clear winner. For that, the approval could take more months, giving the political wrangling and the likely fierce opposition by Sadrist and Sunni lawmakers for the plan.

And given the bad economic situation in the U.S. and how important is the cash now there, we may see these Americans involved in the talks of forming the new government or may be they would make proposals and initiatives to the politicians to end the political deadlock to let the parliament start its work or may be would go in demos and shout: "Approve my payment quickly."

Who knows.


Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Was it a tip off? It could be, but for what?

A well-known Kurdish figure suggested today that the latest New York Times report on smuggling crude and refined products from Iraq's self-ruled northern region of Kurdistan to Iran was a tip off from one of the two main parties to set a major blow to the other.

Hiwa Osman, the IWPR Iraq's country director, the son of the independent veteran Kurdish politician Mahmoud Osman and the former media adviser to the current Iraqi Kurdish president, Jalal Talbani said: "Although publicly the PUK and KDP say that they are united over this issue (oil) but in reality they are different. The recent New York Times report was apparently a tip off by one of the leading figures in one of the two ruling parties."

The animosities between PUK which is led by Talabani and KDP which is led by his rival Masoud Barzani dated back to decades ago and it reached its climax in the 1990s when the two embroiled in fierce clashes over land after the Gulf War which led to announce the three-province region as an off-limit zone to Saddam Hussein regime and enjoyed the international community protection.

The younger Osman also chastised the Kurds for not adopting a media policy that provides steady stream of information about their oil development plans and of course they can't because all the deals were awarded privately and none, inside or outside Iraq, heard anything about holding bidding rounds but instead they were awarded on no bid-basis and secretly.

I can agree with Osman's suggestion especially if we know that since Barham Salih took office as the regional Prime Minister in the second half of last year, he's been suffering with dealing with Barzani's party and his close aides mainly the region's Natural Resources Minister, Ashti Hawrami and this is something the New York Times has been mentioning in all their stories by its reporter Sam Dagher who was granted a residency in the region since early this year.

The question is what was the aim of bringing such matter to the surface by this official now? Is he only trying to smash his rival by showing how corrupt he is? Or is he trying to court the central government in Baghdad after March 7 national elections took the title away of post-Saddam era kingmakers from the Kurds?


Sunday, 11 July 2010

Kurds deny smuggling of crude, refined products to Iran

As it was expected, Iraq's self-ruled northern Kurdish regional government denied Sunday the report made by The New York Times July 8 about smuggling crude and refined products to Iran for the benefit of the main two political parties as "inaccurate" and of course they continue to say that they work for all Iraq.

The denial statement came as the correspondent of the pan-Arab and Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV, Ahmed Al-Salih, matched the Times report. Al-Salih managed to show the lines of hundreds of tankers waiting to enter Iran and also interviewed with the drivers.

In a bid to show how the central government is angry and worry about the smuggling, the government spokesman Ali Al-Dabbagh called the TV's video as a "clear evidence" that smuggling was talking place. "We will be contacting the Kurdish authorities to work together to put a stop to this phenomenon," Al-Dabbagh said.

Of course, Al-Dabbagh's statement was only a show as they will never be able to stop it as it is happening with many issues. In addition to that Iraq's Prime Minister will not dare to annoy the Kurds as he's begging for support from political factions to secure a second term in office.


Friday, 9 July 2010

Iraq's Kurds run their own oil kingdom

Iraq's Kurds in the northern self-ruled region are running their own oil kingdom by awarding oil deals solely and smuggling crude and refined products to Iran to fill their pockets, this is the core of today's New York Times article.

The Times' Sam Dagher investigates the corruption among the officials of the region's two main political parties who have turned into lieges since 1990s and have done whatever they please while Baghdad government is engulfed with its own problems and knows nothing or can't do anything.

Dagher's story also illustrates how a weak Iraq is in the benefit of the Kurds who are the only winners of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion in Iraq. Instead of coming together to build a strong and unified country, Iraq's Arab politicians are totally preoccupied by their differences and fighting over chairs and this is what the Kurds want.


Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Elections season is over, its "nationalists" are gone

Three days already passed since the posting of a gritty war video that shows some U.S. troops in killing spree in one of Baghdad's neighborhoods and the ongoing Iraqi government has not made any statement or declared any stance towards the U.S. troops.

Last Monday, a video posted at Wikileaks.org for July 12, 2007, firefight in the New Baghdad District of eastern Baghdad. It shows some "brave" U.S. soldiers firing repeatedly from their Apache helicopter on a group of men _ some of whom were unarmed _ as they walk down a Baghdad street. Among those believed to be killed in the attack was Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and his driver. Two children also were wounded.

Until now, neither Iraq's incumbent Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki nor his spokesman, Ali Al-Dabbagh _ who both buy such events to portray how nationalist they are_ have talked on this whether to blame the U.S. military or announce any measures against U.S. troops despite that a U.S. military official confirmed the video is authentic.

Unlike what happened in January 18, 2010, when Al-Maliki directed a film and gave the hero role to his spokesman Al-Dabbagh and the head of his legal consultation office, Fadhil Mohammed.In that film, both Al-Dabbagh and Mohammed invited victims of the U.S. private security firm formerly known as Blackwater for a lavish lunch to collect their signatures for a class-action lawsuit against Blackwater.

But later, the families found out that all that was only for elections purposes as none of the families has heard back from the government_represented by these two heroes: Al-Dabbagh and Mohammed_ since then.

So elections season is over now and therefor the "elections' nationalists" are gone. And now there is no need to make any statement that COULD affect the chances of any of these "nationalists" in getting a GOOD post in the new government as they don't need votes anymore but instead they need the U.S. support.


Sunday, 21 February 2010

Don't get them wrong please!

Who can make more than £13 million in five days? Yes, you are right, he's our friend Ashti Hawrami, the Minister of Natural Resources in Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government who himself a "British businessman."

The latest in Hawrami's scandals came today in a story published in the Times Online Web site about a secret trading shares in the U.K.'s Heritage Oil which holds a production-sharing contract in the region where Hawrami, UNFORTUNATELY, oversees its oil and gas development plans.

What Hawrami did in autumn 2008 was very simple: he bought the shares for £12,095,850 and started selling them five days later after the company announced that it had struck oil. The shares were sold for £25,070,709...WOW WHAT A SMART BUSINESSMAN YOU ARE MR. HAWRAMI!

The first scandal in Hawrami's controversial oil deals was last year when it was revealed that he acted as a secret buyer for shares in the Norway's DNO which also has a production-sharing contract in Kurdistan. He sold them later to Turkey's Genel Enerji.

As I said in one of my September's posts after DNO scandal, there is nothing in the Iraqi law allows Hawrami or even the KRG to involve in any commercial activities.

By these acts, Hawrami breaches 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.

And as I forecast in that post, more scandals will be revealed about this controversial Businessman-Minister and the level of corruption in the KRG officials who are alleging that what they are doing is for "all Iraqi people," not for their pockets.

So don't get them wrong please!


Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The first part of reviving Iraq's oil sector story is done

There is no doubt that Iraq's eleven mega oil deals _ one a revived Saddam Hussein-era deal and ten resulted from two auctions _ and their vast investment commitments and expected bonanza will grant the country's Oil Minister Hussein Al-Shahristani a place in Iraq's modern history.

The nuclear scientist is the first Iraqi Oil Minister to orchestrate such plans that ended up with putting more than half of Iraq's proven 115 billion barrels in the hands of International Oil Companies for development. He managed to attract their sorely needed technology and money according his terms.

With these deals, he started his elections campaign for the March 7 parliamentary elections early despite his statements to The Wall Street Journal in a June 2009 interview when he said that he was planning to quit politics when ends his term to return to the Iraqi National Academy of Science, which he established in 2003.

His first public appearance outside the Oil Ministry building was last month at the University of Baghdad to talk about the deals. His second appearance was last Saturday before a group of Iraqi economists where a white woman with green eyes who was wearing Hijab and long cloak, believed to be his Canadian wife, was accompanying him.

Few hours later of that day, he appeared before a gathering of normal people in Taji area just few kilometers north of Baghdad also to talk about the deals and the job opportunities which will be created and the expected revenues to build new infrastructure.

I think Al-Shahristani has done his job perfectly by successfully completing the first part of Iraq's efforts to revive its rundown oil industry and the next step will be left to the next government which should cooperate with these companies and most importantly it should know where and how to spend each pence of the coming revenues.


Thursday, 28 January 2010

Big Oil start making excuses

The first excuse from Big Oil for not meeting their ambitious production targets that are given to Iraq came Thursday from U.K.'s BP, backing the analysts predictions that International Oil Companies offered inflated numbers only to scoop up lucrative oil deals.

BP's Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward, who signed himself BP's sole deal with Iraq to develop the 17.8 billion-barrel Rumaila field in Basra, put it in this simple shape:

“The challenges of execution on the ground and the need to build capability on the ground will mean that things will happen a little slower than all of us are perhaps planning on today,” Hawyard said in a discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“There’s no reason to believe Iraq can’t be producing 10 million barrels a day by 2020 or so,” he added.

BP and its partners China's CNPC have pledged to increase production at Rumaila from the current nearly 1 million barrels a day to 2.85 million barrels a day seven years.

Together with other nine deals awarded in two oil auctions, Iraq plans to pump about 12 million barrels a day in six to seven years that's of course is based on the IOCs pledges.


Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Poor Iraqis!

Do you want to know how desperate the Iraqis are? And how they evaluate their government's performance? read today's UN IRINnews story on the new partnership between the World Food Program (WFP) and Iraq's Ministry of Trade to improve the state-run food aid system.

Here are some of these quotes:

-Omar Khalid Al-Jabouri, a 43-year-old video games shop owner from Jihad, a suburb of western Baghdad: “Finally we’ve got someone who will help us.”

-Kholoud Mohammed Amin, a 33-year-old hairdresser from New Baghdad, on the eastern side of the capital: “When it comes to the food rationing system, I prefer to leave it in the hands of WFP, from A to Z, because the Iraqi government has proved that it is unable to handle it properly.”

Poor Iraqis!

But folks, what about other problems in security, economy, education, heath, public services, environment...etc, can the UN and its bodies help?


Sunday, 3 January 2010

Did they agree or no?

Last Thursday, Iraqi Oil Ministry said that all international oil companies that are awarded multi-billion-dollar oil deals agreed to legal and technical changes to their contracts as the Cabinet requested and that they would be approved this week.

But on Sunday, the spokesman of the Iraqi government Ali Al-Dabbagh said the companies have not yet responded to government requests for amendments to the contracts, adding that only Angola's state oil company Sonangol, which has deals to develop to small oil fields Ninevah province, had accepted.

It is still unclear who tells the truth.

Some officials at the Cabinet say that the Ministers are growing frustrated with the Oil Ministry when it shrugged off more than 50 comments made by the Cabinet's legal committee on the contract that was awarded to BP and CNPC to develop Rumaila field from the first bidding round.

And that they have decided that they will not approve the second bidding round awarded deals unless the Ministry of Oil takes into considerations the comments on these deals before approval.