Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nouri's sad business face

October 9th, Nouri al-Malki, prime minister of Iraq, was posing and preening on the world stage as he signed a $4.2 billion weapons deal with Russia.  Over the weekend, the deal began to fall apart.  Even within the Iraqi government, confusion as to what has taken place continues.

The deal was never popular with Iraqis and why would it be?  Iraq still lacks dependable electricity and potable water.  The food-rations program has been repeatedly cut in the items provided (and may now be gutted altogether).  The people are not being served.  And yet $4.2 billion was going to Russia?  

StrategyPage notes, "Iraqi prime minister Maliki led the Iraqi delegation to Russia and supervised the final negotiations and signing of the deal. But once back in Iraq Maliki found himself under heavy criticism for buying weapons Iraq did not need (like 30 Mi-28 helicopter gunships.) Maliki critics pointed out that the biggest security problem Iraq had right now was Islamic and Sunni nationalist terrorists. " Alsumaria reports the head of Parliament's Integrity Committee Baha Araji states that the Committee contacted the Russian Ambassador on Monday and conveyed that corruption was their primary concern.  With unnamed insiders saying 'heads could roll' over the corruption it would appear that Iraqi officials are thought to be among the corrupt (this was also a thread of Saturday's reporting).    ABC News Radio notes increased speculation that the talk of the contract being broken may be an attempt to renegotiate.

Those rumors swirled yesterday as well.  If indeed this is a negotiating attempt, it's really not one to run with because Nouri has enough problems when it comes to business.  Not only has Nouri's bluster and threats harmed relations with ExxonMobil and Total, Ventures reports Heritage Oil is bailing on Iraq and handing its "49% stake in the Miran gas field" to Genel Energy.

Steve LeVine (Quartz) notes:

So why are the ordinarily conservative companies pushing Baghdad this way? Because the contract terms in the south are miserly -- ExxonMobil, for example, earns a measly $1.90 for each barrel it produces above and beyond a quota. That is not a respectable upside in the high-risk-high-reward fossil-fuels business. And Kurdistan is offering better terms. So, in a letter last month, Exxon told Baghdad that it hopes to have sold its stake in the supergiant West Qurna I oil field by December.
For Kurdistan, the strategy is clear. In part by getting its oil industry scaled up, it hopes “to carve out more autonomy,” says Joost Hiltermann, deputy Middle East director for the International Crisis Group. “That’s the minimum. Ideally they want to be independent. They make no bones about that.” (In an article (paywall) in Foreign Affairs, Hiltermann argues that “the Kurds will remain stuck in Iraq, but more and more on their own terms.”) In line with that aim, the Kurds are reported to be in advanced talks with Abu Dhabi National Energy for a majority stake in a producing oilfield called Atrush.

Again, Iraqis should be concerned about the business face Nouri is presenting to the world.  He's threatening companies, he's saying contracts worth billions of dollars are off, he's already a question mark for his refusal to honor an internal contract (the Erbil Agreement) and he's not seen as stable.

The following community sites -- plus NPR, Jane Fonda, The Diane Rehm Show, Adam Kokesh, C-SPAN, Pacifica Evening News, Susan's On the Edge, Chocolate City, The World Can't Wait, Black Agenda Report and Jody Watley -- updated last night and today:

 Hurricane Sandy meant that Black Agenda Radio was not on last week.  As you can see above, it is back.  Diane Rehm spends an hour on Petraeus and Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) has a must read column on the same topic which concludes:

And that could be the tip of the iceberg. If Broadwell’s claims about the CIA holding detainees in Benghazi also turns out to be true, that whole separate scandal is potentially far bigger, as keeping that secret, along with the administration’s already shaky history of truth-telling on Benghazi, could suggest there really was a cover-up in the wake of the attack on the consulate, that the Obama Administration lied about ending the use of CIA black sites, and got their own ambassador killed in doing so.
The possible fallout of all that, even coming after the presidential election, is virtually unfathomable, and as a part of the story continues to center on a sordid affair the real information about very really issues seems to be coming out as well.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

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