Saturday, April 07, 2012

The mess that is Nouri

In Baghdad today, AP reports that a mini-bus bombing claimed 2 lives and left nine people injured. As the violence never fades, Heath Druzin (Stars and Stripes) offers an analysis of Iraq which includes:

In a four-day span last week, Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish government cut off oil shipments to Baghdad, Sunni-majority Qatar refused to hand over Iraq's fugitive Sunni vice president to the country’s Shiite-dominated authorities, and Iran hinted they might favor moving nuclear talks to Baghdad.
[. . .]
Perhaps as combustible as the Shiite-Sunni tensions, which broke out into a bloody sectarian civil war in 2006, is the ongoing sparring between the Arab-dominated Baghdad government and Kurdish authorities in the north, who cut off oil shipments to the South on Sunday. The move came amid Kurdish charges that Baghdad was delinquent on oil payments and countercharges that the Kurds had illegally negotiated their own oil contracts without Baghdad’s approval.

And there is also Baghdad's insistence that ExxonMobil cancel its contract with the Kurds. In fact, Nouri's government has gone so far to insist (repeatedly) this week that the contract has gotten the axe. As Reuters notes, the Kurds have stated the deal made in October is still on. Aabha Rathee (Wall St. Cheat Sheet) reports, "A statement on the Kurdish president Masoud Barzani’s website said Exxon chief executive officer Rex Tillerson has reaffirmed the company’s commitment. “Rex Tillerson renewed the commitment of his company’s signed contracts with Kurdistan and Iraq and expressed the readiness of Exxon Mobil to continue its work in Kurdistan,” the statement said." The Kurdish Globe also notes the story. The Trefis Team (Forbes) offers this background:

Exploration companies have been lured to sign contracts with the KRG as it has offered attractive production sharing contracts while the central government has given out service contracts that compensate players based on a production linked fee. [1] The better security environment in Kurdistan also makes the region more lucrative to companies intending to set up local operations. However, despite these advantages, most oil majors have stayed clear of pursuing deals with the KRG to avoid antagonizing the central government, which does not recognize the validity of such regional contracts.

ExxonMobil is not the only issue of difference between the Nouri's government and the Kurdistan Regional Government. Pierre Betran (International Business Times) notes KRG President Massoud Barzani's visit to DC this week and points out, "At the heart of the Kurdish-Arab dispute is a constitutional provision that Kurdish President Massoud Barzani said last week hasn't been implemented by Baghdad. Speaking in Washington, he said the provision is designed to set governing and power-sharing agreements between the two governments. The law would also repatriate strategic oil-rich parts of Iraq to Kurdistan."

The ongoing political crisis in Iraq might have been resolved on Thursday had the national conference taken place as scheduled but it was called off. Not called off was Nouri al-Maliki's authoritarian way. And it's not just bothering the Kurds, Iraqiya and others in Iraq, it's bothering a number of people in the region. Mayada al-Askari (Gulf News) notes:

Gulf rulers snubbed Baghdad, staying away from the summit and sending a message of dissatisfaction. The blunt words of Shaikh Hamad Bin Jasem Bin Jabr Al Thani, the Qatari prime minister, summarised the sentiment in Arab Gulf states. Speaking on Doha-owned Al Jazeera television, he said the no-show was a reflection of the disapproval of Iraq's marginalisation of the minority Sunni community, a policy he insisted was not in the interest of the country or the Arab world.
The tensions came to a boil with the recent visit of Sunni Vice-President Tarek Al Hashemi to Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He is wanted by the government on "terrorism" charges, which according to Al Hashemi and his supporters are "politically motivated."

How bad are relations between Iraq and its neighbors? AFP reports Falih al-Fayaad went toTurky this week to meet with Turkish officials on Nour's behalf. As 2011 was winding down, what was Nouri doing? Oh, that's right, he was trashing the president and the prime minister of Turkey and doing so publicly and repeatedly. And when not issuing insults about them, he was accusing them of trying to control Iraq.

Yet now Nouri sends a minister to beg for forgiveness. That's how bad things are for Nouri's government right now.

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