Iraq and Gulf Analysis

A Smart Move by Maliki? Evoking the Stability Argument on KRG Foreign Oil Deals

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 21 June 2012 13:06

In an interesting move, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has asked President Barack Obama to intervene to stop Exxon Mobil activities in areas of Iraq controlled by the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.

Few details of the correspondence are known. The White House has officially acknowledged receipt of the letter from Maliki but has made no elaborate comment except saying it will reply in due course. A few comments on the letter by a Maliki adviser have been published by Reuters.

There is one interesting snippet of information in the reports that have emerged so far: Maliki is evoking Iraq’s “political stability” as an argument against Exxon’s operations in Kurdistan. As is well known, the conflict between Baghdad and the Kurds on oil concerns above all the right to sign deal with foreign companies generally. Additionally, some of the Exxon deals with the Kurds affect areas that are not only disputed between the KRG and Baghdad but even include territories that may well revert to the central government in a final border settlement.

The United States already has a series of executive orders in force relating to the stability of Iraq, though most of them target support for terrorism more specifically. Given Maliki’s choice of language, though, it is not inconceivable that he has in mind a logic similar to that embodied in a recent presidential executive order against US citizens threatening the stability of Yemen. That order contains deliberately vague language and could in theory apply to everything from Al-Qaeda to Aden separatism.

At any rate, by choosing the stability focus, Maliki is also addressing a latent contradiction in US policy on Iraq that is rarely addressed by the Americans themselves: Their continued support for Kurdish leaders with declared separatist agendas despite an official US desideratum of a unified Iraq within its sovereign borders.  The fact is that the United States (and many European nations) are treating Kurdish leader Masud Barzani pretty much as a head of state, with privileges during state visits etc. that few  other heads of federal entities worldwide can expect. This is precisely the sort of schizophrenic behaviour that has helped create unmanageable formulas for Iraqi governance like the Erbil agreement. It would be more honest of these players to make up their minds and either support full Kurdish independence or encourage policies that would provide for meaningful integration of the Kurdish region in an Iraqi federation.

Whether Washington will actually use this opportunity to rethink its Iraq policy remains to be seen. It is perhaps somewhat unrealistic given the presence of an able Kurdish lobby in DC that helped create the current contradictive policy in the first place. At the very least, though, Maliki will likely score some domestic points on the issue, of the same kind that recently endeared him to Sunni and secularist figures unhappy with how parts of the Iraqiyya leadership are cooperating with the Kurds, including in relation to Exxon Mobil in Nineveh.

Whether such support for Maliki’s KRG policy is sufficient to prevent any concerted action against him when the Iraqi parliament reconvenes on Saturday is still unclear. Already, some of Maliki’s enemies are accusing him of manipulating the security environment around parliament  with a view to intimidating political opponents (in particular this applies to the recent removal of the concrete barriers surrounding the national assembly). An unremarkable agenda for Saturday’s session appeared on the parliament website yesterday only to be removed again today. Parliament speaker Nujayfi now says he expects a request for a questioning of Maliki within two to three days, whereas Iraqi state television has indicated a forthcoming request for Maliki himself for an emergency session – possibly a pre-emptive move.

At any rate, with President Jalal Talabani having apparently abandoned the project of a presidential call for a no confidence vote, the conflict surrounding Maliki’s premiership is now likely to become a more long-drawn affair.

37 Responses to “A Smart Move by Maliki? Evoking the Stability Argument on KRG Foreign Oil Deals”

  1. Mohammed said


    Interesting article.

    A few questions/comments:

    1) Let’s say that Exxon backed off under pressure from Obama (very unlikely), that still leaves small players from all over the world hungry for oil who will take a chance on the KRG, and poses the same problem for Maliki (of course of a lesser magnitude given the clout of Exxon). Would it not be more logical for Maliki to repair his relationship with Turkey? Aren’t the turks the real key to putting a lid on KRG oil independent deal-making? Of course the looming oil pipeline between the kurds and turkey will put the final piece of the puzzle in play. I have yet to understand what Turkey’s goals are. If they prevent Kurd exports without iraqi central govt approval, it would doom the kurds independence ambitions. Instead of influencing Exxon, can Obama influence Erdogan to back off? or Can Maliki repair his relaitons with Erdogan to back off? Finally, it would seem that Iraq can also use their own wealth as leverage to convince people to back off KRG if they simply modified their deals to make them more profitable for the exxons and totals out there.

    2) Regarding US policy about strength of central govt (you say that they can’t make up their minds)…Well what do you think of the theory that this is really quite calculated, and in fact, their goal is not to let the central govt get too strong or too weak….A strong centralized iraq will be harder for the USA to influence, and a very weak Iraq will lead to a failed state like in 2006.


  2. Reidar Visser said

    Mohammed, on 1) I agree Turkey is the elephant in the room here.

    It is very hard to discern exact Turkish policy given the multi-layered character of its influences and ambitions in northern Iraq. There is the historical claim on the former Ottoman province of Mosul. There is support and active investment in the KRG. And there is talk about Turkish suport for Kirkuk as a standalone federal-entity.

    In all of this, I am not sure whether Maliki can realistically expect Turkey to act as a check on Kurdish tendencies of going it alone, perhaps in everything but the name. I mean, lately the Turks even had bilateral meeting with Iraqi Kurds on pipelines and border crossings – the kind of issues that even in Iraq are seen by many as within the prerogatives of the central govt. In this case the schizophrenic policy may perhaps be intended, and maybe Turkey would be happy to cede influence in southern Iraq to Iran.

    On 2) I think given the strategic value of southern Iraqi oil, I am not sure the USG would be ready to consciously cede control in southern Iraq to Iran, which will almost inevitably follow if the central govt gets very weak.

  3. Ali said

    It is truly a smart move, the argument political stability vs Exxon’s operations in Kurdistan is pretty strong. To the central government by Kurdistan signing with Exxon and not going back to central govt, is unconstitutional as the national resources of the country belong to the people and cannot be reduced to particular regions/people since the revenue goes back to the center to be redistributed. The solution for the issue of oil is to have the central government made deals with Oil companies and for the Southern and Northern part of the country receive equalization payments based on output/productivity . On the issue of Kurd’s independence it cannot be attained even if a referendum is passed within Kurdistan for the sole reason it is against nation stability and sovereignty of the Iraqi state. There needs to be a formula established to ensure that the rest of the country is with or against such move to be independent from the Iraqi state.

  4. Christian121 said

    RV,as regards to your fifth paragraph about the internal contradictions of American policy in Iraq,I can just say as an American that this is due to a perception of the KRG being far less fundamentally incompetent and unstable than the federal government in Baghdad(irony aside that said instability and inefficiency was directly caused by us of course).

    Taking this logic to a stretch,you could say that we support the KRG and eventual long term independence for the Kurdish people while also supporting a “sovereign stable unified Iraq” in as much the same way we support Israel while also somehow wanting peace in Palestine and the broader Middle East at the exact same time.

    And on a minor note(or not),both the Kurds and the Israelis have a tendency to (excuse my language) “kissass” to us a lot more than the “competition” so to speak.What immediately comes to mind is the “Other Iraq” media campaign that played out on American television in 2006,where average Americans saw happy dancing smiling Kurdish children on their tv sets thanking the United States for making their country more prosperous and democratic while also rescuing them from Baathist extermination.Barham Saleh is another example;the man makes it a point of his PR to always loudly thank the Americans for the liberation of his country whenever he gets an American interview.

    This(for better or for worse) endears foreigners to us.

  5. bks said

    I’m much more interested in what Iraqis have to say about Iraq (and in the Internet age, expatriate Iraqis may understand what’s happening on a macro scale even better than those in-country) than what Americans do, but I would like to point out to Christian121
    that the average member of the House of Representatives couldn’t find Iraq on a map if you spotted him Syria and Iran. The “schizophrenic” actions of the USA in Iraq are due to the exigencies of internal political struggle following the horrific mistakes of the Bush administrations (Bush pere and Bush fils) and have nothing whatsoever to do with the smiling faces of Kurdish children shown on Fox News. This is not to excuse Obama, who I’m sure would cede Kurdistan to Iran this very day if it would get him re-elected, just a reaction to your facile explanation.


  6. Santana said

    What makes it difficult for Exxon to do deals with the Central gov is how the Central gov writes the contracts- the Kurdish contracts are much more profitable to them than the Old Central gov versions – plus by Exxon and others relying on the Central gov means the Iranian gov is much more involved in the decision process – plus Iran’s two biggest allies- the Chinese and the Russians are not too crazy about losing business to U.S companies ….Daawa views a pervasive presence of U.S companies in Iraq would mean the U.S ending up with more at stake in Iraq and thus may not allow the Mullahs and Daawa to bring Iraq in under Iran’s fold per the Grand “wilayat alfaqih” plan to take over Iraq within 5 years.

    I think Western companies from countries involved in the sanctions can wait till hel freezes over before Ayatollah Maliki gives them any business.

  7. Reidar Visser said

    Santana, a brief question to one of your points: Do we have any evidence that the Iraqi govt actively rejected US involvement in the Iraqi oil sector in the south before Exxon got involved with the Kurds? After all, they were working in the south already. Could it be that they simply considered the southern contracts not sufficiently lucrative? (That, in turn, and in comparison with Kurdistan, inevitably suggests more of the southern oil money goes (or should go) to the Iraqi people rather than to the IOCs!)

  8. Christian121 said

    You spectacularly miss my point.

    So you are telling me that the American representatives who swoon for the Kurdish lobby even at the cost of the rest of Iraqi American policy are doing so because of an entrenched stupidity and not because of,oh I don’t know,actual motivations?

    And considering that it is both American and Iranian support together that decisively keeps PM Maliki in office or “power” as you’d say,what with the US in an election year,I’d think it’d be *somewhat* important to understand the motivations and intentions of the superpower in the region and to keep this in the back of your mind.Cause,you know,it’s a superpower after all.

    And besides,you seriously underestimate the ability of images and media in the United States to change popular and policy maker opinion.There’s a reason why the Israeli lobby continues to get listened to by the Americans despite the over 70 years of illegal wars,occupations,annexations that actually sully the US’s image in the region over the region in the long term.

    Image is a very useful tool.

    And naturally Maliki himself agrees with me.

  9. Christian121 said


    I second RV’s question.What evidence do you have that Dawaa would intentionally put off FDI from the world’s most powerful IOC (and the accompanying investment and growth that would come from it) just to satiate the ever pervasive and dastardly Khomeinist cabal?

    Wouldn’t it be …….good to have more investment in Iraq for the incumbent Prime Minister?

  10. Ali said

    I agree with Reidar point about Exxon involvement in the oil sector within the South.I would like to point out that
    the idea of “wilayat alfaqih” will not take hold in Iraq as not all the shia’s in Iraq agree with it . Chinese oil companies operate within the south as well as south Korean ones .

  11. Santana said


    An Exxon executive recently explained to me that there were numerous problems with their Southern contracts- the first being that they were “break-even” at best and it was a strategic move at the time to accept a project in the South as a “loss-leader” in order to establish a foothold in the area in anticipation of other more lucrative contracts elsewhere in Iraq. Then it quickly dawned on Exxon that they were throwing good money after bad and that Maliki and Shehrestani had other plans that did not include them… that’s when Exxon decided to start a dialogue in the North with more favorable terms. Even their entry into the South was a political move by Maliki to win the hearts and minds of the Americans till the pullout time. Now Exxon is in a tough spot with their Southern contracts frozen and the Northern contracts becoming a political issue between Kurdistan and the Central government.

    As far as your point about “more money going to the Iraqi people” is -in reality-completely false….Daawa is the recipient of any extra money squeezed out of the IOCs……Billions are going into Daawa’s coffers and this money is shared with Iran and Hezbollah Lebanon. The Iraqi people are not seeing any uptick in terms of per Capita nor sevices nor better streets or sewage or schools………etc….Kulhum haramiya ….if anyone thinks Iran pours money into Iraq nowdays is sadly mistaken-that was then-this is now…….the flow of Iraqi cash is now West to East mainly (to Iran which is broke)and some goes west to support the Syrian regime and Hezbollah Lebanon.

    Without Iraq the Iranian regime would collapse.

    Day by day the truth is coming out and this is why Maliki must go.

  12. Frankly Santana, your assessment is flatly wrong on so many levels.

    “What makes it difficult for Exxon to do deals with the Central gov is how the Central gov writes the contracts- the Kurdish contracts are much more profitable to them than the Old Central gov versions” Yes, this part is correct. The Central Government insists on service contracts, which pays IOC’s for every barrel they extract, and negotiated payments of $1-2/barrel to the IOC’s.
    KRG contracts however pay IOC’s $10-20/barrel and they are not service contracts but Production Sharing Agreements which are more favorable to IOC’s.
    PSA deals in wider Iraq would be more much more controversial however as it would be perceived by the public as selling off Iraq’s oil wealth; due to Iraq’s long history over oil, such deals are politically untenable which is why the Central Govt has so far refused to implement them.

    “plus by Exxon and others relying on the Central gov means the Iranian gov is much more involved in the decision process” Frankly, this is nonsense in two areas at least.
    Firstly, it implies that it should be only Western companies that should be involved in extracting Iraq’s oil. However Russian, Asian, etc. IOC’s have human expertise and capital to invest and are competitive against Western IOC’s for various factors. Furthermore, there are more than enough resources in Iraq for all the major IOC’s to be involved to their satisfaction.
    Secondly, you imply Iran is significantly involved in the dealings on Iraq’s oil ministry. I’ve been following news on Iraq’s oil industry for sometime now and no oil analyst has ever suggested the above. Please provide even a single quasi-reliable source for such a statement. The most supportive statement any analyst made in this regard was to state Iran was heavily advising Iraq to insist on very strict contracts, similar to the contracts the Iranians have been offering for over a decade now, which no IOC has been interested in due to the extremely low returns; the analyst stated however that Iraq was largely rejecting and ignoring such Iranian advice due to the utter stagnation of Iran’s oil sector.

    ” – plus Iran’s two biggest allies- the Chinese and the Russians are not too crazy about losing business to U.S companies ….” While this is true, I said above; Chinese and Russian IOC’s are competitive and Western IOC’s recognize this. Additionally, there is more than enough oil in Iraq to satisfy both Western and Eastern IOC’s.

    “Daawa views a pervasive presence of U.S companies in Iraq would mean the U.S ending up with more at stake in Iraq” It’s not about the pervasiveness of US companies; again, Eastern IOC’s are competitive. Nor is it in Iraq’s interest to have just a few US companies dominate Iraq’s oil sector when there are European, Russian, South East Asian, etc. IOC’s who can contribute.
    Additionally, South-East Asian nations as they develop are becoming a larger importers of Middle Eastern oil than in previous decades; it makes logical sense for their IOC’s to be involved in participating in the extraction of Iraq’s vast oil reserves, especially when Iraq’s oil is increasingly being sold to Eastern rather than Western nations.
    This is why there are US, UK, French, Norwegian, Russian, Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, etc. IOC’s operating in Iraq today.

    ” and thus may not allow the Mullahs and Daawa to bring Iraq in under Iran’s fold per the Grand “wilayat alfaqih” plan to take over Iraq within 5 years.” This does not merit a response, frankly. You view Daawa on way, others another. We’ll see what happens.

    “I think Western companies from countries involved in the sanctions can wait till hel freezes over before Ayatollah Maliki gives them any business.” Every Western IOC is already involved in Iraq.
    If you are however referring to more lucrative contract terms, its also Eastern IOC’s making the same complaints. This is as the IOC’s complaints are valid.
    IOC’s accepted the stringent $1-2/barrel fees in the first round of contracts as those were for known, existing oil fields that were under production. Their only job was to ramp production up. They furthermore wanted a foothold in Iraq.
    In the last round held a few months ago, the contracts were for exploration blocks for which PSAs are much more suited but the Govt insisted on offering service contracts only which are unsuitable for exploration and with paltry returns (upto $10/barrel at most) considering the costs for the IOCs in exploring those blocks. Furthermore, there is far more risk & capital investment involved in exploring. Additionally, some of the blocks were in insecure areas. There are also a number of other factors that made the last bidding round highly undesirable for both Western and Eastern IOC’s, none of which took interest and applied for bids.

    Lastly, it is widely believed that Iraq must offer PSAs to involve IOCs in increasing oil production exponentially.
    However, PSAs would be extremely unpopular among the Iraqi public.
    Its suspected by some that the Central Government had to have at least one round with very stringent conditions which would naturally be rejected by IOCs to then enable the Central Govt to offer less stringent contracts, and to assuage public anger in pointing out contracts with stringent conditions were offered but were not accepted by IOCs.


  13. Santana said

    Seerwan- you wrote- “Secondly, you imply Iran is significantly involved in the dealings on Iraq’s oil ministry. I’ve been following news on Iraq’s oil industry for sometime now and no oil analyst has ever suggested the above”.

    Are you kidding me? Do you actually believe “analysts” would know this? Do you have any idea how messages and instructions between Maliki and Tehran are conducted and delivered? These are hand delivered messages bud-that are passed back and forth weekly…so no CIA or any other eavesdropping parties will pick it up cuz nothing is sent over the air…….and involves instructions to Maliki on ALL government issues and not just the Oil contracts and decisions…..When will you accept the fact that IRAN runs ALL strategic decisions in Iraq thru Maliki ?? Why do you think they support him tremendously and will keep him in power…..Maybe Talabani will spill the beans on his deathbed and then you remember what I have been saying.

  14. Reidar Visser said

    Santana, if the Iranian influence is so pervasive as you say and yet so invisible to everyone but govt insiders then we others do need some very specific examples in order to get convinced about its extent!

  15. Christian121 said

    Santana if most analysts don’t know of these ultra secret hand transferred messages,then how do *you know*?
    This is a valid question.I’m not being cruel to you,I just think the community would like to know how you know these things when so many others don’t.
    Dawaa and the Khomoenists should be tracking down your IP address as we speak!

  16. faisalkadri said

    Santana says its invisible, you are asking for visible examples..! All you and the US administrators need to find is the money trail: Look for Money not Testimony 🙂

  17. Santana said

    Reidar and Christian-

    Faisal is spot on -as usual…..I can’t/won’t reveal on here how or where I get the intel but only time will tell if what I am saying is the truth or an exaggeration or even fabrications for that matter.


  18. bb said

    Reidar – but as Santana says, Tehran’s instructions to Maliki on all government issues,contracts and decisions are delivered by hand every week so no CIA or any other eavesdropping parties can pick it up and therefore Santana could not possibly be able to provide specific examples as proof. You are asking too much.

  19. Lars said

    RV, it seems to me, that if the enclosed news are correct, then it really doensn´t matter so much any more, what is the “official policy” of the US, because at the end, the sum of what is actually done/happening will eventually define that policy. If the US made a deal with KRG for Apache helicopters, I am quite sure, that supporting Exxon will just be a formality and it seems to me, at this point , there is not left much consideration for the reaction of central govt. and internal Iraqi politics.

    Informed sources in the Iraqi government Saturday for the existence of logistical preparations carried out by the Kurdistan Regional Government to receive the first batch of helicopters (Apache) from the United States of America.
    The source, who preferred not to permit his name to the Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani and during his recent visit to the United States submitted a request to buy 24 helicopters of the type ( AH-64 APACHE ), while urging Washington to reject the deal planes the ( F16 ) which plans to the Government of Baghdad to buy. The source said the deal had been without the knowledge of the Iraqi government in Baghdad and Boeing McDonnell Doclas and Martin Marrieta the Americas, which Tsanaan aircraft (Apache) will undertake the implementation of the deal, having won the approval of the U.S. Congress on the deal, which is expected to be delivered the first batch, consisting of ( 5) of the sum total of the transaction (24) aircraft (Apache) early next year to complete the transaction to take place end of the year 2015.
    The source said the deal is the fastest in terms of processing when compared to similar deals with other countries.

  20. Mohammed said


    Perhaps RV is asking too much. I will make it much simpler for you. I am not interested in proof of how the SIA (Santana intelligence agency) intercepts and decodes all these secret messages.

    I am only interested in you pointing out what policies Maliki is pursuing that are clearly detrimental to the national interests of Iraq, and beneficial to Iran? And I will save you the trouble of pointing out that Maliki is funding Iran and Hezbollah—you have no proof of that or will not prove that.  Point out some other policy Maliki has adopted that screws Iraqis?  

    For example, reputable oil analysts point out that Iraq’s 50% increase in oil exports hurts Iran. As India and Japan decrease their reliance on Iranian oil due to US pressure, Iraq is making up for it—thus making it easier to enforce such sanctions on Iran by providing Iran’s former customers with alternatives.  

    By the way, I do recommend that you share your secrets with your Iraqiya buddies when the proceed forward with the istijwab.  Don’t you think Maliki embezzling money and sending that to Iran would be a great embarrassment to reveal prior to the NCV?

    If you insist on arguing based on unsubstantiated allegations, then I suggest that the Saudis and qatari people funding you and Iraqiya with billions of dollars to undermine Iraq go back to the drawing board. Of course I also can’t reveal my “sources” that documents all the money deposited in Iraqiya Swiss bank accounts either. 

    Like I said before, I have no doubt that Iran has SOME influence over Maliki (as does Israel having influence over Obama). The burden is on you to show how they have used that influence to negatively impact Iraq through Maliki. I believe most if not all of Maliki’s policies would be no different with or without Iran.


  21. Christian121 said

    RV what is Maliki’s purpose in the recent shutting down of allegedly unlicensed press establishments?

    The AP reported this story so naturally it isn’t clear who exactly he is putting pressure on if at all.

    He seems to have moved to close both “American funded” press establishments AND religious programming.Is Maliki just closing Sadrist affiliated and Iraqiya Slate affiliated media as my thinking goes to continue consolidating power as a nationalist in the name of limiting “sectarian” and “foreign” influence or is something more subtle here?

    What is the political composition of the organizations being closed here?Are there “Pro-Iranian” establishments being affected as well?What about ISCI and Badr affiliated networks?

  22. Santana said

    Mohamed….You are in lala land again and no wonder Observer is gone now…you drove him nuts… you said-

    “I believe most if not all of Maliki’s policies would be no different with or without Iran.”

    Do you know what Maliki’s policies would be without Iran ?? I will tell you…nothing, zilch, zero…for the simple fact that he would not be in power if it wasn’t for Iran !!

    The way Maliki is running the country is a disaster…it is a cruel sectarian dictatorship. no services, control of the judiciary, the army, police, mukhabarat, estekhbarat, rampant corruption , tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis in secret prisons (just cuz they are Sunni)… different than Saddam whatsoever- infact following the same M.O as Saddam. So….ask me again…you said in your idiotic comment ”

    “Point out some other policy Maliki has adopted that screws Iraqis? “……man…get real for once !!!!!!!

  23. Reidar Visser said

    Christian, first, let’s note that despite the screaming headlines, it is not clear whether anything has actually been closed yet.

    Of course, if carried through, this medica clampdown will likely be yet another example of the failure to apply the law evenly in Iraq since there will be many media organisations who escape censure even though they are as sectarian or even more sectarian as those targeted here.

  24. @ Santana: no one doubts the Iranian Govt has influence on the Iraqi Govt, just as the US has influence on the Iraqi Govt. The disagreements are about the extent of Iranian influence.
    Iraqiya representatives such as yourself and some others (usually Khaleeji ‘analysts’) suggest it is essentially a satellite government taking orders directly from Tehran.
    Nearly everyone else views that proposition as outrageously absurd.

    As for your second post, it is bizarre you place the fault for corruption, lack of services, etc. squarely at Maliki’s door, ignoring Iraqiya’s role as being a significant part of the government, in charge of some key ministries such as the Finance Ministry and until recently the Electricity Ministry.
    Your figure of “tens of thousands” of detainees in secret prisons is exaggerated. HRW reported it was 400 held in a single secret prison in the Green Zone, and there are reports of at least ten such facilities in the Green Zone.
    Meanwhile, the central government said that it held 35,653 prisoners in 2010. However, I grant you that considering the central government seriously under-represents the figure of deaths every month while the Iraq Body Count Project and the UN provide much higher figures, it is plausible there are more, possibly far more, than only around 35,000 detainees.
    Nonetheless your figure of tens of thousands in secret prisons is hyperbolic.

    These figures and reports demonstrate the continuing need for prison and legal system reform in Iraq. Though it is understandable that such matters are not a top priority considering Iraq’s other severe issues which you have mentioned.



  25. Mohammed said


    It’s you who lives in la-la land. You make sweeping allegations and have nothing to back them up except silly superstitions. 

    You said: 
    “Do you know what Maliki’s policies would be without Iran ?? I will tell you…nothing, zilch, zero…for the simple fact that he would not be in power if it wasn’t for Iran !!”

    My response: actually despite all Iran tried to do, they could not convince Sadr to change course. In the end, Maliki won support from the ex-Iraqiya group of 20-30 or so MPs who were disgusted by how you guys were selling out Iraq to Barzani and co with respect to Kirkuk, disputed territories, and oil rights.  A sadrist on basically said that Iraqiya could not deliver 75 votes as promised.

    This brings me to my second point—why the sadrists turned against Maliki and Iran. Bottom line is Sadr wants power and influence and he feels the heat from Maliki. Iran could not guarantee that Sadr would continue to enjoy power as he has for the last 6 years because Maliki may eat into his support, so Sadr chose to ally with Barzani/Allawi instead in order to take Maliki out and thereby eliminate a threat to his power base.

    Third point…this is all about power and influence and wealth. All those examples you cited about Maliki abusing sunnis, etc have nothing to do with Iran. They are the natural response of a leader seeking to impose order and security on a society.  No different than what your gulf buddies would do to Shia if Shia suddenly started blowing things up in ksa or Bahrain. We can debate the efficacy and morality of such policies (since I do agree that summary arrests without judicial overview are reprehensible) , but there is no shred of evidence that such policies have anything to do with Iran. 

    Dude you seriously need to let go of your superstitions. Dawaa is no different than any other party that seeks to amass power and influence. They will use Iran or Zimbabwe as long as it gets them what they want. Iran is the same. Iran supports movements to benefit its interests. Explain why Iran backs Christian Armenia against Shiite Azerbaijan?

    This all goes back to your silly views that Shiites have supported Iran because they fear the curse of Abbas, etc. Tell me why would Sadr turn like that then? 

    For an “insider” your understanding of Iraq’s shia is embarrassingly shallow.

    As for Observer, while I do respect him, in the end he abandoned ship because he realized the side he is on was hopelessly outmatched. He also made erroneous assumptions/predictions like “Maliki is finished” and his famous “fat lady is about to sing.” He did not pay heed to RV’s or this ex-pat’s explanations, and in the end, Iraqiya got whooped cuz they couldn’t even hold on to their base as RV predicted.

    Mind you, my explanation in no way absolves Maliki for some of his failures. But such failures are due to him and Dawaa, not Iran.  And iran would cause havoc in Iraq as long as it serves interests, but not just for the hell of it. 


  26. observer said

    for the record, your disgnosis is wrong (as usual). The reason I do not post is because I am, and for the summer, an outsider like you and I do not want to bother the readers with empty pontification from afar.

    I know that you still call your relatives and ask them about the price of raggie in 3alawi al hella, but that is not where the puls of the country is.

    The game is still on and it is far from over. but I will not bother you as I am not updated daily anymore and I myself have to call to find out the price of raggie in 3alawi al hella 😉

    By the way, I have predicted that if it goes like it is going now, we are going to have a civil war. An experience i do not want to repeat. Maliki WILL not let go because it is the end of him and his party and he would rather burn the country than give it up. Reminds of you somebody? Oh I am sure you will not remember Saddam’s sayings 😉
    Peace from the land of the free
    home of the brave, yada yada

  27. Ronny said

    The Time of Al Maliki tacts and strategy against the Sunnis, Kurds and some inflentual shiite leaders (like Al Sadr) is not any more effective. Yet he has to aknowledge that in democracy needs to share the power with all nationla political parties for the sake of all people in Iraq. However Al Maliki is simply an agent of Iran and playing a very dangerous games against the American, Euopean and other neighbouring countries (execpt Iran) region interests . It is better for Al Maliki to step down form the power (looks like Saddam Hussein) and will leave the country and the power to all Iraqi democratic political parties to setlle the national issues, rather than to serve the Iranian and his own personal interests and precent to unstablise the total region, which refelects like the back fire towards the whole region.

  28. faisalkadri said

    You say: ” no one doubts the Iranian Govt has influence on the Iraqi Govt, just as the US has influence on the Iraqi Govt..Nearly everyone else views that proposition as outrageously absurd.”
    You have no idea how absurd your assumption of equating American and Iranian influence in Iraq. And the integration between Iran and Iraq is not an invention of Santana, it is the confessed aim of the Iranian government. Your argument and Mohammed’s not to take Iranian policy seriously is absurd.

    “Dawaa is no different than any other party that seeks to amass power and influence.” If that is true then why most high officials of Dawa families live abroad? Dawa plundered not only money but infra structure, the judicial system and the ministries where Iraqiya ministers were appointed. Dawa will fall, nobody knows when and how, but no party can “amass power and influence” for long.

  29. Christian121 said

    RV,but whom would supposedly benefit from this closure if it actually happened?It just seems a bit silly is all at best and incredibly pointless to be damaging to oneself at worst.

    For as long as the Americans and the Iranians both support Maliki,what would he have to be afraid of from the press?God knows they weren’t able to throw him out of office as is,so why this?

    It just seems unwise to deliver this pornography for the “Maliki is a tyrant” crowd right after the NCV hysteria seems to be dying down at last(relatively speaking)!

  30. Santana said


    Your comments show how little you know about what is going on- and your utter reliance on the Press- and others……but there is much more to it than meets the eye- sure, I agree that Iraqiya had members refusing the NCV vote and this is why it failed.. …but not because of the reasons you stated…the whole plan came to a halt due to Talbani stalling the NCV process by asking for a non-constitutional pre-session count….. while Daawa used this time to call as many Iraqiya deputies and either bribed them or threatened them with the “Hashimi treatment”… had nothing to do with Iraqiya’s cooperation with the KRG…then to address your other point that Iran could not change the Sadrists and bring them back in the fold is wrong too….I found out last week from inside sources that the Sadrist position was exactly what Iran had planned and instructed….and here’s why Iran played it this way–Moqtada was in constant touch with Tehran thru the whole ordeal….they played it smart- Iran TOLD Moqtada to keep up a Nationalistic face and snub Iran and let Talbani and Daawa wreck the NCV … need to use the Sadrist muscle at all and smear their popularity in Iraq by showing they were listening to Iran in opposing the NCV……’s kinda like a poker game…you lose with a winning hand so you can win later with a losing hand in a much bigger way- Iran wants a very strong and popular Sadrist organization in Iraq to make sure Iraq is always under Iranian control under Maliki and any future Iraqi administrations.

    So now that the NCV attempt is over, the Sadrists can say to Allawi and Barzani- “hey- we did our best but the Iraqiya guys that pulled out screwed us all”….cuz this is how it seems and you are best proof that it worked cuz you believe this shit………had Talabani not done what he did and the Vote proceeded while Iraqiya had a minimum of 170 then you can bet your sweet life that Iran would change course ASAP and tell Moqtada to pull out his 40 seats(even if the Sadrists lose Iraqi credibility in the process……in other words- the Sadrists were the nuclear option for Iran because Iran was not gonna accept a NCV regardless.

    To simplify it even more- my point is that Iran wanted the NCV vote smashed WITH the Sadrists on board advocating it !! ….worked out great for them didn’t it ?? They got their cake and eat it too !

    So- now you tell me….who is in “lala land”? me or you?

  31. Mohammed said


    You said: “I agree that Iraqiya had members refusing the NCV vote and this is why it failed.. …but not because of the reasons you stated…the whole plan came to a halt due to Talbani stalling the NCV process by asking for a non-constitutional pre-session count….. while Daawa used this time to call as many Iraqiya deputies and either bribed them or threatened them with the “Hashimi treatment”… had nothing to do with Iraqiya’s cooperation with the KRG…”

    My response: In the end it is up to Talibani, and he has a right to ask every member to even do 50 pushups first before he makes a formal call of NCV. Stop whining about it and use the istijwab route. You guys had defections, deal with it. As for your belief that this has nothing to do with Iraqiya’s cooperation with the KRG, then take that up with RV, since he also agrees with me that many sunnis are outraged with the iraqiya sell-out to Barzani.
    Santana you said: “Iran wants a very strong and popular Sadrist organization in Iraq to make sure Iraq is always under Iranian control under Maliki and any future Iraqi administrations.” As for your assertion that Sadr is still under the control of Iran, I fully agree that this is a possibility. However, I think this is going to cost Sadr because many shiites view his alliance with Barzani and Allawi to be a complete betrayal (and right now he is busy trying to save face). The question here is the chicken and egg issue. Did Iran push Sadr to go against Maliki (a possibility RV raised when this started), or did Sadr initiate this, and Iran intervened to stop Sadr, or is it some convoluted mess in between? The bottom line is Maliki certainly is not pleased to be in the receiving end of all of this. So if Iran was in control all the time, it shows that perhaps Maliki and Iran are not as spiritually close as you conjecture.

    I figured it was something like that, hence I tried a shot in the dark by bringing up your own words/predictions because I knew you were still surfing this site, and could not stand still. The impression you gave everybody here was that your sudden trip to the USA was more than just a summer time vacation, but in any case, follow your heart man. As for my contact with my relatives….I wish the only thing they complained about was the price of watermelon. It’s more like security lock-downs in Saydiya (and can’t even get out to see a doctor), horrific sand storms, sweltering heat, unreliable electricity, etc…The good part is that they as (sunnis) can afford to get private electricity because they have reasonable jobs, and I hear the usual complaints about how Maliki is an iranian…blablablabla (must be friends of Santana)..

    Latest press reports state “banning” of the news organizations was reversed (so they are free to report in Iraq). That’s the nature of news coming out of iraq…..lots of unreliable junk…


  32. observer said

    i know you are smart enough to understand my message, yet you ignore it and your answer is a proof in point. Let me explain it to you. Your opinion, because you are an expat, is worthless, as my opinion is now given that I am posting form outside Iraq. and this is why I am not bothering the readers with pontifications. I am no longer involved on daily basis, thus everything I say is mer speculation – just like your posts. You document in your answer why expats opinions is worthless. Despite input from the inside (with your own admission) you CHOOSE to stick to your narrative. Why? because you would have to change your entire stance if you have to accomodate information that are counter to your BELIEFS.
    When I get back (if I ever do) – I will be back here giving you the in your face counter arguments. Until then, I CHOOSE to sty silent and reserve to myself the right to laugh out loud reading the pontifications of outsiders. That by the way includes our good host, RV. I will send RV personal emails, when and if I have inside information that i think are worthy of sharing. Meanwhile, I am happy that you are happy living in lala land watching iraq go to hell in a hand basket. There information I have from KRG that will make you worry, but there is no need to share at this point,

  33. Mohammed said


    This is fast turning into a philosophical discussion, but I think it is important to have nonetheless because it addresses the differences/strengths/weaknesses of outside analysts like RV, insiders(like you), and amateurs like me. 

    I certainly rely on input from the inside by talking to people I am close to as well as my own occasional treks (planning a trip this fall). some info is very consistent no matter who I talk to, and some is as disparate as the views on this blog. My sunni relatives say Maliki is an Iranian agent. My Shiite relatives disagree. I have two Shiite uncles as ex-Baathists who are pretty high ranking in the security forces now. They share the details when we chat. I would say they have more situational awareness of the good, bad, and ugly regarding security than you or RV do. They certainly are not politicians and cannot offer me insight to the thought process of Allawi like you can. I have another close friend who is a professor in Iraq and his brother is an MP for SOL. His insider political views are different than Observer’s.

    So where is the truth in all the myriad of data? Observer, I have never challenged you on facts on the ground you report (I never accuse of being a liar). But I do have the right and responsibility to question your INTERPRETATION of the data. As does RV. Regarding the predictions and interpretations you made regarding the NCV, in the end your predictions were wrong. RV was right. I agreed with RV from early on because his explanations of all the disparate data made the most sense (I certainly can’t take credit for it). 

    We all have emotional baggage and world views that shape our interpretations of data. So whether I am an insider or outsider, I cannot let your theories/beliefs about data go unquestioned. Obviously, RV and outsiders are not in a position to be the primary sources of reporting data, but their fair and unbiased approach is absolutely essential.  If I was a decision maker in DC, I would listen to what all sides have to say, not just one insider view.

    So when you tell me that Maliki intends to turn Iraq into a theocracy, that is your belief or prediction. That is YOUR belief, and you are no more qualified than RV or me to make such a statement. When you say that Maliki appoints division commanders without parliament’s consent, that is a fact that I cannot challenge. 

    See the difference?


    PS  I hope you enjoy summer.

  34. observer said

    I was not wrong in my predictions. I was in fact very right in pointing out the weakness. Nevertheless, you and the rest of expats will be lamenting the missed opportunity if we fail to get Da3wa out. The vast difference is that outsiders will be living their lives in peace while the rest of Iraqis live in hell for the next generation. If you have time this summer read Disordered World – I highly recommend it.

  35. Christian121 said


    Will this actually be relevant in Iraqi martial affairs and national defense or will it be like the odiously wasteful embassy police training program?
    I heard before that Iraqi Armed Forces officers didn’t enjoy how they were deprived by the politicians of the large amount of us trainers they wanted.Maliki wants the armed forces to have a large and meaningful relationship with the US correct?God knows they’re not going to get trustworthy training from anyone else……..

  36. Reidar Visser said

    I think US involvement in this is far less extensive than in the police training. Sounds more like a think tank.

  37. faisalkadri said

    It sounds like the Strategic Policy Council without Iraqiya. Or maybe a symbolic testimony to a non-existing US influence.
    Christian: “They” will not get trustworthy training from Anyone. You can’t train against loyalty.

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