Iraq and Gulf Analysis

An Iraq Blog by a Victim of the Human Rights Crimes of the Norwegian Government

The Law on Electoral Conduct, or, the New Powers That Aren’t

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 30 December 2009 17:17

Back in 2008, Sam Parker of the USIP proposed a highly useful analytical perspective for studying factionalism in “the new Iraq”, emphasising above all the distinction between the parties that are in control of the state apparatus (“the powers that be”, PTB) and those that have only limited access to state assets (“the powers that aren’t” or PTA). Among other things, the PTB/PTA distinction was helpful in making sense of how political parties that had only limited commonalities in terms of ideology – KDP, PUK, ISCI, Daawa, IIP (but not the rest of Tawafuq) – nevertheless closed ranks against outsiders in an attempt to hold on to power. It was particularly useful in explaining why mostly anti-federal parties like the Daawa and IIP hung on to their alliances with the decentralisers among the Kurds and in ISCI.

Nonetheless, on a number of occasions in 2008, ideology disturbed or even trumped the power relations that inspired the PTB/PTA dichotomy. This was seen to a considerable extent during the debate on the provincial powers law and the election law, when some Daawa and IIP elements joined Iraqi nationalists in the opposition to propose measures in Kirkuk that were perceived as centralist and anti-Kurdish. It also happened in a more dramatic and decisive fashion in the period leading up to the local elections in January 2009, when Nuri al-Maliki broke free from his pragmatic marriage with the Kurds and ISCI to successfully contest the elections on an explicitly centralist platform.

As Iraqi politics enter its final phase before the 2010 parliamentary elections, the PTB/PTA dichotomy is once more proving its usefulness in helping to explain alliances that are unrelated to ideology (or that even contradict the sphere of ideological politics entirely). Importantly, however, there are today certain changes to the line-up of the powers that perceive themselves as being in control of state assets. In particular, after its influence south of Baghdad was challenged by Maliki’s “support councils” before the last local elections and the new Daawa-led governorate councils that were subsequently formed, ISCI is increasingly seeing itself as a disadvantaged party. This situation in turn has opened up for dialogue with ideological enemies like the nationalist Iraqiyya. The IIP, too, is increasingly seeing itself as a party on the sidelines and has spared no effort in criticising Maliki’s centralisation of power.

The most concrete expression of this new tendency is an emerging debate on a so-called law on election conduct. The proposal, to be debated once the Iraqi parliament resumes its business on Sunday after another extended holiday, mostly contains measures designed to guarantee the integrity of the elections and that will come across as uncontroversial as such. However, one item has already provoked considerable debate: A suggestion to transform the current government into a “caretaker government” in the period leading up to the elections, effectively restraining its power to spend money freely.  This is a clear attempt to curb the power of Nuri al-Maliki to use ministries under his own control to further electoral aims.

In other words, this seems like another PTA/PTB clash, albeit this time with a slightly different party configuration. Reactions to the proposal have been mostly predictable: It has been supported by ISCI, IIP, Iraqiyya (some of whom even propose it be bundled with the 2010 budget, the other big issue right now, to ensure its passage); it has been blasted by Abbas al-Bayati and Ali al-Allaq, who are Maliki loyalists. The response by Fadila – that the law is unconstitutional because it has been copied from previous legislation governing the Iraqi elections commission – is at least unsurprising for its idiosyncratic character. Only the Kurdish reaction has been a true surprise: Several Kurdish parliamentarians have criticised the proposal for being “unconstitutional”, although a definitive stance has yet to crystallise.

Why are the Kurds, who used to be critical of any hint of centralism on Maliki’s part, apparently siding with the Iraqi premier in this case? To understand this, we need to understand the origins of the proposed law. It originated in fact as a “document” (waraqa) on political conduct several months ago (it was publicly known at least on 8 November, when an article in Al-Adala, controlled by Adil Abd al-Mahdi of ISCI, referred to it). And its authors are in fact the Iraqi presidency council, headed by Jalal Talabani of the PUK. But in the meantime, possibly in an attempt at finding prospective post-election partners, Maliki has initiated a tentative dialogue with the Kurds, and it is possible that the Kurds are now reciprocating by standing by their PTB ally, despite having originally signed off on the proposal through Talabani.

A number of issues are raised by the proposed law. Firstly, how can the Iraqi presidency constitutionally introduce a new law? Usually legislation is dealt with in a dialogue between the cabinet and the legislature; the role of the presidency council is normally to approve or veto. Secondly, and disturbingly, Mahmud Uthman of the KDP has said parliament will “decide” on the constitutionality of the proposal on Sunday. Isn’t that the job of the constitutional court? Finally, with regard to the sustainability of any new alliance between Maliki and the Kurds (these two together control two out of the three parliamentary presidents and can probably obstruct the whole initiative if they want), two scenarios stand out. On the one hand, if Maliki uses the opportunity to obtain meaningful concessions from the Kurds on key constitutional questions he might emerge as a figure who is capable of doing business with the Kurds in a balanced way. On the other hand, if he surrenders entirely to Kurdish demands, he is likely to meet with resistance even from his own Shiite Islamist base, where anti-Kurdish sentiment has been running high for some time.

In other news, the IHEC has warned against public campaigning before its certification of the candidates is complete. Some news has leaked, however: Some current representatives in danger of losing their seats under the new open list system have been moved to symbolic constituencies. For example, Jalal al-Din al-Saghir of ISCI will stand for election in Dahuk (a Kurdish-majority governorate) and now openly admits that his only realistic chance of winning a seat is under the quota for compensation seats.

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41 Responses to “The Law on Electoral Conduct, or, the New Powers That Aren’t”

  1. Alexno said

    I never much agreed with Sam Parker’s analysis of Iraqi politics into PTA and PTB. At the time, in 2008, I thought the analysis was intended to demean Iraqi politicians, by ignoring Iraqi nationalism (which he didn’t mention at all). At that time he was proved to be wrong. Why resurrect his theory now?

    If his theory runs better now, that Iraqi politicians are only bickering over power, we should ask why that is.

    I could imagine several reasons. One is that we are on the approach to the elections, and political power is all that counts, whatever that may be, no difference between Iraq and elsewhere.

    Two is that Maliki has somewhat lost his way, over the bombings in Baghdad. He allowed himself to believe that it was the Sunnis that did it, and started blaming Syria. I read Flujaweb myself. It was evident that anyone could have posted those claims. All you have to do is to have the right language – easy to do – and you’ll have endless “Allahu Akbar”s in response. The fact is that the Sunnis are defeated, and they know it. Me, I would say the Kurds, as they have the most interest in destabilising Baghdad (stable Baghdad equals eating away at Kurdish territorial claims). That is based on an analysis of interests. I might be wrong.

    Three is that the main interest of the Kurds is to create trouble in Baghdad, not to support one side or the other. The important point is that Baghdad should be weak.

  2. Reidar Visser said

    Alex, I think the PTA/PTB is useful in that it may help explain certain things that a straightforward ideological approach focusing on the nationalist/ethno-federalist distinction (which was useful in 2008) cannot explain satisfactorily today. Such as the persistent examples of ISCI and Iraqiyya finding common ground. Or a prospective Maliki-Kurdish alliance, especially if it should take the form of Maliki telling the Kurds that he is prepared to give in to their every demand as long as they let him continue as PM. These scenarios are, as you describe them, power-related rather than focused on ideology.

  3. Reidar,
    The analogy of Iraq’s presidency council perceiving themselves as PTA is not very convincing, considering the implication that the PUK and KDP are on opposite sides (How long will this last??). Nevertheless, I think the analogy is useful in the rest of the analysis, and the propopsal of the law on election conduct is a positive phenomenon; it seems like foreign players are not yet involved, so this is perhaps a purely Iraqi issue.
    BTW I felt that ISCI started to think like PTA when Ammar Al Hakim in a speach sounded worried about the integrity of the elections.

  4. Alexno said

    Further to your 22:14, Reidar

    Maliki is in a weak position, he must negotiate. His opponents, the same. The balance is held by the Kurds.

    It is beginning to be the case that one asks why the Kurds have a say in Baghdad. They always say they want to be independent, and act as such.

  5. Reidar Visser said

    Faisal, well the proposal is reportedly framed as an attack on the powers of the PM and as such, I think, has a PTA dimension. My suggestion was not that there was KDP/PUK disagreement but rather that the Kurds collectively had changed their position after their tentative dialogue with Maliki intensified somewhat after the proposed procedures had already been sent off to parliament. Of course, this may be just posturing in order to find out how Maliki will react, but we will probably get to know more over coming weeks if there is a vote in parliament on this. As for the degree of external involvement, I would certainly say that there are many people in DC who are extremely worried about Maliki getting too strong.

  6. Salah said

    I would certainly say that there are many people in DC who are extremely worried about Maliki getting too strong.

    Reidar Visser,
    do you means in other words , that people in DC more concerned about strong centralized government in Baghdad?

  7. Reidar Visser said

    Salah, yes I mean that there are many in Washington who are worried about what they call a “too strong concentration of power”, which inevitably overlaps to some extent with the concept of centralised government as such. (This is not the same as saying there is a deliberate plot afoot to partition Iraq!) We saw this for example in the positive reception in the US (and in Western diplomatic circles more generally) to the election of Ayad al-Samarraie as parliamentary speaker last April, which was hailed as a welcome move towards “making the executive more acccountable”. An alternative interpretation would be that the dynamics of the election of Samarraie strengthened the ethno-sectarian centrifugal forces in Iraq that threaten to make the country ungovernable, but few in the West seem to care about this as a problem.

    We saw a similar tendency with respect to the dynamics that Alex refer to. There was in principle nothing inevitable about Maliki’s turn to the Kurds and the apparent weakening of his nationalist/centralist stance. But it has been revealed that for the past six months he has to some extent been responding to calls from Joe Biden to back off from a too strongly nationalist position on issues relating to Kurdistan. That in turn meant the end to what could have been an ideologically sustainable alliance with the nationalists, and left him with the choice between the Kurds and the pro-Iran “Watani” alliance (or both).

  8. Reidar,
    Yes, the dichotomy makes sense. I think there is a third plausible scenario: Passing of the election conduct law without the “caretaker government” stipulation. This will give the PTB’s what they want and the PTA’s something to brag about and the country will get a law that may not be respected by the very parties who proposed it!

  9. Salah said

    about Maliki’s turn to the Kurds and the apparent weakening of his nationalist/centralist stance.

    I thnik there were mixed signal to Maliki about the subject of Kurds, aslo many in Washington supported the Kurds from 1991 till now with may be some exetend of thier state? I dont if that reight reflect the US promis to Kurds in, So Maliki though US support to strength his power (Central Govement) with main probel from Kurds spacailly thewent with thier own Oil deals, now they starting reconstarcting thier own military which is obvouse blow for Malik efforts top be seen by all Iraqqis as holding the central power.

    So I don’t know how US can balance these two sides and how long and what exactly the future for the kurds in north if we count the regional effects (Turkey, Iran, Syria)?

    Reidar, one last question from your sources those many in Washington DC who are extremely worried about Maliki getting too strong, are they pro-Israelis?

  10. Salah said

    كتلة المالكي: ما يتضمنه مشروع قانون السلوك الانتخابي ”انقلاباً ابيض وسابقة خطيرة”

  11. Brent said

    Interesting post Reidar, if Maliki has made concessions to the Kurds its more than likely based around oil. The fact is that the KRG are sitting on billions of barrels of it. The CEO of Gulf Keystone Petroleum has been stating the possibility of a 10-15 billion barrel oil field within the KRG governate. This will be known to Maliki and others. The fact is that Iraq needs money and the only thing they have to sell at the moment is oil.
    Alexno, “It is beginning to be the case that one asks why the Kurds have a say in Baghdad. They always say they want to be independent, and act as such.”
    The KRG has never to my knowledge endorsed breaking away from Iraq and has on many occasions stated its support in favour of the status quo. They fight their corner effectively and I for one think Iraq would be the poorer if they didnt.

  12. Reidar Visser said

    Brent, any prospective concessions to the Kurds by Maliki – for there is no suggestion that they have already been made, and a much-trumpeted “immediately-forthcoming” visit by Maliki to Arbil has yet to materialise – could involve a number of different areas. High on the Kurdish list of desiderata is of course Kirkuk. Another issue which is more often highlighted in Iraqi media than oil concerns the status of the peshmerga within the Iraqi defence system. The Kurds basically want to get separate money for these forces through the defence budget (instead of through the regional budget), but are more reluctant when it comes to unity of command issues. And then there are of course the oil deals.

    Now, in actual fact, what Maliki can deliver to the Kurds on these issues in case he continues as PM, remains unclear. This is so because several of them relate to constitutional revision, which will be for a parliamentary committee (rather than for the executive) to consider – or they fall within the domain of the federal supreme court. So, much in the same way as the recently-signed deals in the southern areas are today being challenged in the constitutional court, any horse-trading arrangement arrived at between Maliki and the Kurds could be challenged in the future – except that the Kurdistan deals are a lot more likely to be struck down by the court or in parliament not least because of the high margin of profit involved for the foreign companies, which is likely to generate controversy on an entirely different scale than what we are currently seeing with respect to the oil ministry contracts (at least some of which is simply internal score-settling in the old UIA for election purposes, and is likely to prove ephmeral for that reason). Additionally, giving concessions to the Kurds ahead of the elections would be a tough balancing act for Maliki since much of his popularity in January 2009 was attributed to his centralism (which obviously affects Kirkuk and peshmerga issues), and since there is a growing feeling that Iraq does not really need to worry so much about boosting production in the north now that the supergiants of the south are coming online.

    Salah, I wouldn’t reduce the fear of centralism in Iraq to a question of attitude to Israel. Indeed, I would say that the far most dangerous manifestation of the anti-Baghdad attitude in the West can be found among people who wholeheartedly believe they support the Arabs or the Islamic world, but who are unable to appreciate the significance of Iraqi nationalism and for that reason end up advocating decentralisation or ethno-sectarian consociational models for Iraqi politics.

  13. Wladimir said

    Is the position of the ‘Hakim party’ different now from the past? No more support for federalism?
    KDP is not so happy of PUK meeting with al-Dawa. This is not according to their strategic agreement.

  14. Reidar Visser said

    I wouldn’t say ISCI has abandoned federalism in any way. Rather there is a shift towards supporting federalism as a constitutional principle while refraining from pushing the specific vision of a single Shiite region (which they supported between 2005 and 2007). There is more about this issue at http://gulfanalysis.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/hakim-still-dreaming-about-regions/
    The contradiction inside the Shiite alliance with centralists like the Sadrists and Jaafari remains.

    I agree the PUK/Daawa meetings were interesting since they were at the party level and not as part of a Baghdad/KRG dialogue.

  15. Joel Wing said

    Brent,

    The new oil deals just signed with the Oil Ministry if they come through actually means that Baghdad probably doesn’t need the Kurdish oil. The central government will be earning billions and may grow to the second largest capacity in the world, which will shake up OPEC. That’s what the Oil Minister is talking about, and that doesn’t give him any kind of incentive to make concessions to the Kurds. In fact, they may be the big losers.

  16. bb said

    The Constitutional court?

    Reidar, was this established by the COR after the Dec 05 election?

    Who are the members and how were they chosen? Are there Islamic clerics on the court?

  17. Salah said

    Reidar,

    I don’t limited the fear of centralism in Iraq to my question.It could be one added factor that be be considered why many people in Washington DC believes, specially with some kurds officials linked Kurd project like Israelis in matter of land/State.

    Baghdad probably doesn’t need the Kurdish oil.

    I don’t believe can anyone thinks in this way about things on the ground for a state’s resources. This is really funny and odd thinking.

    If so what about other countries and states with their resources, are they careless with who control small a mount of it because they earning billion from what they had?

  18. Salah said

    Just to add one thing more in regards to OPEC, the invasion of Iraq and occupation was part of it OPEC matter as Iraq was one of the active member in the panel, in same time have the ability to play very important roll within OPEC. There are many articles discussing this matter from different resources.

  19. Brent said

    Joel, It will be years maybe 5 before they lift oil output to those levels. The Oil is ready to be sold in the north. Iraqi people need all the oil revenue they can get and are being sold short imo.

  20. Reidar Visser said

    Bb, strictly speaking, for the time being at least, that should read the “federal supreme court” which carries out constitutional review pending the establishment of a new court in accordance with the constitution. It is a CPA-era relic and as such heavily secularist in composition and outlook. I think you can expect stronger Islamic representation on a future court.

    Brent, we have an idiomatic expression in Norwegian that says roughly “you should not cross a creek in search of water”, more or less the same as “don’t carry coal to Newcastle”. I think that aptly reflects how Baghdad officials view the significance of Kurdistan oil in comparison with the more accessible and much bigger southern fields.

  21. Brent said

    Reidar, this attitude in Bagdad is why the Kurds have pushed forward with their own oil laws and contracts. Why should they wait decades for development of the oil resources in their own region? They have already waited an eternity. And a big oil find has already been made. The KRG are estimateing 1 million barrels a day. I think they will cross the creek for the river on this occasion, especially if the river will quench the thirst of the country. I have a hunch it will be as big as anything in the south at the moment. Security/accessability in the north is not as much of an issue as the south. The oil ministry has made an absolute hash of increasing oil production. It has no idea of whats required on the ground as it has been politicized. Its my understanding that historically it has been a politician as minister, and an oil man as deputy, which is not the case at the moment.
    Iraq has to accomadate all ethnic groups or it might fail again. Centralisation has been used as a tool in the past and nearly destroyed the country. Compromise will have to be made on all sides and on all issues. Nationalism is fine but it is easily hijacked, you only have to look at world history to see its consequences.
    I think Maliki is trying to build some bridges and should be commended for it.

  22. Reidar Visser said

    Brent, trust me, I am all for bridge-building as long as it is done in a realistic, sustainable and far-sighted way, taking into account Iraq’s historical legacy as a centralised, multi-ethnic polity, as well as the role of Baghdad as the undisputed capital as a basis for sound governance. Conversely, if “bridge-building” merely involves carving up the cake for personal and party gains in a panicked and chaotic atmosphere, then I think it is better to wait.

    As for the hydrocarbons dimension, I do not want to make any claim to geological expertise; all I can contribute is the observation that except for those who are paid directly by the KRG or the companies operating in Kurdistan (or hold shares in those companies), everyone seems to think the big oil is in the south and not in the north, period. Actually, “Don’t cross a lake in search of water” would probably be a more accurate reflection of the prevailing attitude!

  23. Salah said

    Brentو
    Speaking of the Kurds, and Iraq has to accomadate all ethnic groups, please read the history of kurd when their steelement in north Iraq was.
    They jsut trying to do thier side of ethnic cleansing, asking for more than other Iraq ethnic groups.

    As by saying Iraq has to accommodate all ethnic groups or it might fail again, here you ignored the external forces factor who needs Iraq week and to fail due to the their greed looking for the richness of Iraq more that internal Iraqi conflicts forces and internal Iraq ethnic groups conflicts.

    Let not forgot those Lines On The Sand that Brits empire did to set a shadowy shies and kings that was the binging of the problem and the out of those unstable area which not for the interests of the Arab people and against their wishes till now.

  24. Salah said

    DATE=2/29/2000
    TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT
    TITLE=IRAQ OIL OUTPUT
    NUMBER=2-259691
    BYLINE=JON TKACH
    DATELINE=WASHINGTON

    INTRO: A former Iraqi oil official says Iraq has the potential to drastically increase its oil output – possibly glutting world markets. Weeks before OPEC ministers meet to consider upping production to bring
    down soaring oil prices, industry experts are weighing the impact of that possibility. V-O-A’s Jon Tkach [kotch] reports.

    TEXT: Fadhil Chalabi, a one-time OPEC under-secretary general and former Iraqi oil official, says Iraq could soon produce more than ten-percent of the world’s daily oil demand.

    This huge amount of oil would not take long to be expanded. In five or six years it can reach six million or seven million (barrels per day).In a matter of eight years Iraq can reach eight million.

  25. Joel Wing said

    Just to add on to what Reidar said, it doesn’t matter how long it takes for Iraq to develop its oil or whether it can actually attain its potential, because the Oil Minister believes that they have turned the corner with the 1st and 2nd bidding rounds. He’s diametrically opposed to the Kurds signing their own independent oil deals, so together he has no need to allow the KRG to export right now.

    I can only see two scenarios for why that would change: 1) Maliki doesn’t get re-elected prime minister because he has pretty much stood behind the Oil Minister who’s an important part of his State of Law Coalition. 2) Maliki allows the Kurds to export as part of a concession for them to back his play to maintain the prime ministership after the 2010 elections.

  26. Brent said

    Interesting arguments, but with respect none of them address the current situation, which is that Iraq needs money now not in 5,6,7 or eight years time. Joel, of course the Oil minister would say that they have turned a corner, his but is on the line!! He has failed to increase production and that was his mandate. You might find the following interesting.
    http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKLDE60203A20100103?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0.

  27. Brent said

    Salah, I have read your posts over the past months and have the greatest respect for you. Im a native New Zealander and know only to well of the ways of the British Empire. At some point you have to reach rock bottom before real change can take place. I dont dwell on past wrongs but look at ways to better the situation today and for the future. Iraq has, I beleive got the backing of the majority of the world population. In my humble opinion what this majority (and me) wants is a strong Iraq that has a sustainable future for all.

  28. Reidar Visser said

    I think we are looking for something slightly more substantial than that Reuters report before this can be called anything more than elections-related posturing. This is the nth example we have this autumn of Maliki and/or the Kurds declaring an immediately forthcoming decisive meeting where all key issues will be settled and everything will be wonderful. So far nothing has happened. Maliki will face considerable opposition internally from people like Shahristani and Bayati if he goes too far in the direction of placating the Kurds and will need to take that into consideration as well.

  29. Salah said

    Brent,

    Thanks, with all due respect of your views, agreed and optimistically I wish a strong Iraq that has a sustainable future for all, let hope that will happen.

    Reidar,
    Maliki will face considerable opposition internally from people like Shahristani and Bayati

    Reidar, a Maliki stood firm in support of Shahristani when called for questioning in Iraqi Parliament, how come PM “face considerable opposition internally” form misters who are under heavy accusations on handling the oil matters, here & here?

    Also in the news regarding Oil Ministry and sector we read this:

    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also criticized Iraq’s fight with graft and fraud. The IMF has an agreement with Iraq to reduce its debt that includes better accounting of its oil profits. In 2008 the IMF said that Baghdad had not moved forward on this, and did not have a plan on how to create greater transparency. In December the organization said that Iraq had not done enough to fight corruption in the petroleum sector as a result.

    I can understand what force behind Shahristani?

    Reidar, in the matter the Kurds and central government what you think about this:

    The release of Tariq Ramadan, a former air force officer accused of carrying out the chemical attack on Halabja, raised lots of public criticism in Kurdistan. A decision to release Ramadan was issued by President Jalal al-Talabani on 6 January 2009, before the date of Ramadan’s trial.

    But let not undermined the move by the Kurds in North Iraq, who are known for setting up good security and businesses, have hired one of the Big4 consulting firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers to develop an anti-corruption plan in first quarter of 2009.

  30. Brent,

    “Security/accessability in the north is not as much of an issue as the south.”

    I don’t think so. Security is OK but accessability of oil has to be through one of three countries all of which are not friendly to an independent Kurdistan.

    “Iraq has to accomadate all ethnic groups or it might fail again.”
    The fact that so many ethnic groups survived through history in Iraq is a testament to its resilience. Sure centralism can be hijacked but it unifies, we don’t have centralism, threat comes from separetism.

    Regarding hydrocarbon, I think there is a regional political dimension: Increased Iraqi oil production could replace lost Iranian oil in case of embargo/strike. A pro-Iranian government in Iraq counter-acts any punitive plan against Iran. The results of the Iraqi elections in March is vital to Iran and key to US policy in the immediate future.

  31. Reidar Visser said

    Salah, the Maliki ouvertures to the Kurds came after Shahristani had been summoned to parliament. Whatever dirt his opponents may dig up on him, it is undisputable that Shahristani has been perhaps the most prominent and consistent defender of the rights of the central government in the Maliki administration. I am not familiar with the details of the Tariq Ramadan case, but from what I can glance from secondary sources it appears that his escape/release was an internal Kurdish matter since he reportedly was in prison in Sulaymaniyya at the time.

  32. Joel Wing said

    Brent,

    Iraq has needed as much oil money as it could get since 2003 and has only allowed the Kurds to export oil for basically a few weeks in 2009. What makes you think that after all that the Oil Ministry is suddenly going to do an about face and make a deal with the Kurds now?

    Perceptions are reality, and Shahristani thinks its only a matter of time before Iraq boosts its production, again, giving him no incentives to give into the Kurds.

    Plus the majority of the oil is in southern Iraq anyway. There are several deals already underway to drill dozens of new wells there, and renovate the ports in Basra. There have been no attacks on the southern pipeline for quite a while now. In comparison, the northern line has been shut down a few times this year, most recently in Dec. 2009, and I think Nov. 09.

  33. Brent said

    Faisal, Some good points about access and regional political dimension. The best route would of course be through the current pipe line they just need to sort out the money side of it. It is also worth noting that the climate change argument. The window for selling oil at historical highs is closing as more and more alternative fuel sources are being explored/found and introduced. Most are some way off. But the world could look alot different in 5-10 years time. If it was me Id be trying to sell as much as I could as quickly as I could. Imagine if the price of oil dropped to $30. I know Id be kicking myself if I was in charge.
    At some point the focus has to shift to the good of the people and the build up to the election is the best place for that to happen. Nothing like the thought of politicians losing their jobs to spur them into action!!

  34. Joel Wing said

    Was a little off, the northern pipeline was attacked in Dec., Oct. and Sep. of 09 resulting in it being shut down for a couple days.

  35. Salah said

    it is undisputable that Shahristani has been perhaps the most prominent and consistent defender of the rights of the central government in the Maliki administration.

    Although this very straightforward conclusions for Shahristan move, but from the talk of the streets of Iraq, he is pushing this for some reason and I think not hard to find.

    Shahristan, as you stated “defender of the rights of the central government” himself he cam with sharing the Iraqi oil field with Iran, first there is leaked paper by his own writhing after last visited to Iran instructed oil official to do the work, then it came publicly when he admitted in parliament his plan which faced with big oppositions by members.

    The recent release of Peter Moore, the British hostage reveals some facts what going on with the oil money, although these not confirmed but give some of the struggle inside Iraq who hold the power and is if for the best interest of Iraqis and Iraq or else where.

    However, friends of Mr Moore, and officials, said he was a “low to mid-level” internet technician, and that the success or otherwise of such a system did not depend on his presence. One diplomatic source said: “Peter Moore did not have a copyright on tracking movements of money. He wants to make it clear that his role was pretty straightforward, mainly training, and he was not involved in any secret investigation.”

  36. bb said

    “It (federal court) is a CPA-era relic and as such heavily secularist in composition and outlook. I think you can expect stronger Islamic representation on a future court.”

    You think so? Having just re-read the Iraq constitution, it is very striking that apart from a couple of boilerplate references to Islam in Article 2 it is a secular document through and through.

    Is it likely a future constitutional review will alter the secularism? Wouldn’t think so myself … why would the kurds, the sunni arabs and the non Islamist shia agree to enhancing the role of clerics?

  37. Joel Wing said

    Brent said:
    “Imagine if the price of oil dropped to $30.”

    In 2005 the average price of Iraqi oil per barrel was $43.90 for the entire year.

    In Dec. 08 the average price for a barrel of Iraqi oil was $34.57 for that month.

    In Jan. 09 the average price was $37 a barrel for Iraqi oil

    Feb. 09 $38.06/bar

    So Iraqi oil has reached that low level before or around there, and the Oil Ministry has still not allowed the Kurds to export except for those two and a half months from June to mid-Sep.09.

  38. Reidar Visser said

    Bb, there is a theoretical veto against un-Islamic legislation built into the constitution and the Shiite clergy is clearly interested in having it put into practice through the constitutional court, even though their practical steps in this direction have been limited so far. The likely arena is probably not the const. rev. committee but rather the parliament itself, which needs to pass a special law for forming the court with a two thirds majority. I agree there will be opposition and that the challenge is particularly hard given the requirement for a special majority, but you should not underestimate the forces of Islamisation either. Among the results of the “secular” win of Maliki in the last local election are stricter rules on restaurant services during Ramadan and the sale of alcohol in places like Basra and Baghdad.

  39. Brent said

    Joel, you seem to miss my point. Its Iraq as a whole that is missing out on revenue and the Oil minister is to blame. He has failed to increase production since 2005 in any sustained way. I think the record high of oil proves my point about missing the boat, better than the low price does yours. If you really want to you could calculate how much money Iraq has lost by not selling the Kurdish oil. Sharistani has cut his nose off to spite his face, only, the face belongs to all of Iraq.

  40. Joel Wing said

    I comletely agree that Iraq has not been making as much money as it should and that the Oil Ministry’s plans have been a failure up to the 2nd bidding round.

    My point is that doesn’t come into the calculations of whether the Oil Ministry should allow the Kurds to export their oil or not.

  41. Brent said

    Joel, I see your point. As I stated earlier the Oil ministry has been politicized to the detriment of Iraq. The second bidding round was not as much of a success as it would of been had it never happened. The delay of six months will snowball over time delaying revenue further. We can add that to the Oil ministers list of failings too. It will be interesting to see what Maliki will put forward to resolve the Kurdish oil stand off.

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