Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Can't keep the guns and the money

Looks like yesterday's meeting was just another failed attempt to break the deadlock.

The "agreement" the political leaders reached is practically worth nothing. Washington will not like this. The US is not willing to station people overseas without legal protections...I think it's politically indefensible in the US.

The cause of this deadlock is rooted in the disagreements on power, land and money. All the Iraqi political leaders (except the Sadrists) are willing to vote in favor of immunity, but they will not give this to PM Maliki for free. Specifically, Iraqiya wants the Policies Council and Defense Ministry, while the Kurdistani Alliance wants a friendly oil and gas law [there is coordination on this issue with Iraqiya to reach a mutually accepted draft] and, eventually, some progress on disputed territories. If the Kurds and Iraqiya get these some of these demands, they will support Maliki's request for parliament to give immunity to US troops.

We either get an all-encompassing agreement addressing the issues of power-sharing, oil and gas legislation and US presence, or nothing at all. In other words, Nouri Al-Maliki can't keep both the guns and the money.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Riots erupt in Saudi village

And it is on in Saudi Arabia!
Fourteen people, including 11 policemen, were hurt when riots erupted in a Shiite-majority village in eastern Saudi Arabia, state news agency SPA said Tuesday, blaming the unrest on a "foreign country."

"A group of outlaws and rioters on motorbikes gathered" at a roundabout in the village of Al-Awamia in Al-Qatif province on Monday "carrying petrol bombs," SPA said, citing the Sunni-ruled kingdom's interior ministry.

The group carried out acts causing "insecurity with incitement from a foreign country that aims to undermine the nation's security and stability," SPA quoted a ministry spokesman as saying.

"Security forces managed to deal with those traitors at the spot and after they were dispersed, machinegun fire erupted from a nearby neighbourhood."
And it is now reported that rioters carried "Hezbollah and Iran flags...in addition to Iranian clerics pictures."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Iraq May Approve Energy Law by Year End, Committee Chief Says

An overly wishful, almost out of touch assessment of bill stuck since 2007:
“We are studying two drafts, one from within the committee and another one from the government,” Adnan Al Janabi said. “We will come out with a new law from these two drafts, and we can pass the law by the end of the year.”

Not gonna happen! First you need the three major blocs to all agree on a workable power-sharing arrangement. Only then you can expect them to start working on an agreement on one draft, before it can pass a vote by parliament. Right now, there's no end in sight for the grand power-sharing disputes.

Iraq signs deal to buy 18 F-16 warplanes

The deal is finally signed...it's unclear yet though whether it includes the same lame weapons package announced in the original notification. The final price will also be significantly lower than the $3-4 billion estimate. How much exactly? We'll have to wait, but I guess it will be around $1 billion.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Somali radio gives away assault rifles in Quran contest

You're not gonna believe what this radio station in Somalia did!
The "Al-Andalus" radio station offered weapons (and cash) as prizes for winners in a Quran memorization contest this past Ramadan. The first place winner got an AK-47 and the equivalent of $700. Second place winner got an AK-47 too, plus the equivalent of $500 in cash. The third place winner, well, he got 2 hand grenades and $400 in cash...The contestants? Children between 10 and 17 years old.

Iraq Calls for Change of Syrian Regime

This is a pretty interesting and welcome about-face.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bomb blast in Ankara as Turkey, Iran consider joint operations

This escalation will most certainly reflect negatively on the border ares of Iraq's Kurdistan Region. Actually, with a joint Ankara-Tehran operation possibly in the works, it looks like the KRG has some really tough days ahead. It could also very well influence the KRG position in their negotiations with Maliki, who will probably try to leverage the situation to improve his position..It would be a shame if the KRG allowed this to weaken their position and give up on their new joint effort with Iraqiya to enforce the power sharing agreement.

Egypt bars Islamist hard-line political party

Egypt's Political Parties Affairs Committee has made a brave decision, barring the extremist Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya from registering as a political party. The way this enfolds will have deep effects on the future of Egypt's political system.

If this ruling stands, Egypt will succeed in avoiding one of the biggest mistakes we made in Iraq when all filters were removed. We ended up allowing those who believed in violence--not democracy or human rights--to undermine the political process from within...I hope Egypt's desire to establish a real democracy does not wane.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Iraq Crude Oil Output Rises to Highest Level Since 2003

Production in August hit 2.81 million barrels per day. Going neck and neck with Kuwait, who has also been frantically ramping up output this year.

With significant revenue growth in the pipeline, the government in Baghdad is already working on a plan to expand next year's budget by more than a third.

You will see September numbers dip slightly when the next output report is released. That's because of the temporary loss of exports from Kurdistan Region, which may have been caused only by a technical problem.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Allawi no longer welcome in politics, says Maliki

Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has effectively torpedoed what was left of the power-sharing agreement that led to the formation of his cabinet.
In a very short and ominous statement to the press, he stated that Ayad Allawi "is no longer an acceptable partner in the political process."

This is going to have serious ramifications, including the potential for the collapse of the current coalition government. Much of what's going to happen next will be shaped by yesterday's negotiations between Allawi and Barzani, and tomorrow's talks between Salih and Maliki.

Iraq reworks fees to bolster 4th energy auction

The Ministry of Oil will be trying to squeeze even more revenue out of future development contracts by closing one of the "loopholes" found in earlier contracts.
"If the total production is 1 million barrels per day and the cost recovery is (the value of) 300,000 bpd, then we will deduct the 300,000 from the net production and the remainder is 700,000 bpd, so we will pay remuneration for the 700,000 only, not for the 1 million," Ameedi said. "The remuneration will be higher so it is in our interest and I think it is in the interest of the contractor." The calculation change is aimed at cutting the cost of subcontracts, which was inflated by some oil companies under the current deals signed with Iraq, Ameedi said. "We will deduct the cost of subcontracts from the total production and the remaining production will pay remuneration for it," he told reporters on the sidelines of the roadshow. "If that share of production is less, remuneration of the contract will be affected negatively, and if it is high, they will get more remuneration," he said. "It coincides with the idea of production sharing in this sense only. That there would be 'cost oil' but there would not be 'profit oil'."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tehran fantasizes about gas exports to Europe

Another Iranian pipe dream, literally.

Oil dispute flare-up

The KRG are saying exports were halted because of "technical difficulties."

This could in theory be true, but it's highly unlikely. First, exports were halted immediately after Maliki-Erbil tension boiled over draft oil law disagreements. Second, it happened while the Kurdish parties threatened to even boycott federal parliament and cabinet meetings. Against this backdrop, the technical difficulties story doesn't sound as convincing.

A lighter footprint will not prevent conflict

I'm quite sure that when General Odierno said:
"I'm not saying 3-5,000 is the right number," but "there comes a time...when it (US presence) becomes counter-productive...I'm not quite sure what the right number is, but there's a number there somewhere that is -- you've got be careful about."

...he was trying to explain that he wanted the extended US presence, should there be any, to maintain a low profile so as to avoid providing pretexts for AQI, Sadr, other Iran-backed militias to conduct violent attacks.

I have to disagree with this reasoning. I think this is not the right metric to consider when deciding the final number of troops--the reaction will be the same regardless of whether the number was 100, or 10,000.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sadr says will suspend operations against US troops

So Moqtada Sadr, trying to make himself look reasonable, issued a statement Saturday night in which he claims that:
"Out of keenness on Iraq's independence and the withdrawal of American forces from the country, I must halt military operations for the Iraqi resistance until the withdrawal is complete...in case the withdrawal is not complete and Iraq's land remained nonindependent, the decision will be to resume military operations with a new approach and severe might."

Effectively, this changes nothing. If any US troops/trainers remained in Iraq beyond the end of 2011, their presence will be used to justify militia operations. Even if no troops remained, the presence of an embassy will be used to justify militia operations...and so on...The decision is already made.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Ahmadinejad tells Assad to end the violence?

Something must have been lost in translation, because this couldn't be coming from Ahmadinejad.

Iraq Discovers Oil, Gas Field in Anbar Province, Official Says

Never heard of recent active exploration in this area,which roughly corresponds with the southern edge of "block 2", one of the 12 exploration blocks that will be auctioned off in the upcoming 4th bid round in January. I'd take this one with a grain of salt, for now.


Iraqi Army Receives Last Abrams Shipment

All 140 of them have been delivered. We'll need about 4 times as many only to complete the modernization of tank elements for 4 modern mechanized divisions...still a long way to go before having adequate defense against conventional external threats.