Showing posts tagged as "Baghdad"

Showing posts tagged Baghdad

5 Aug
Iraq chaos catches up with Kurdistan | Agence France-Presse
It was nearly the perfect heist. In June, Iraq’s Kurds snuck in behind retreating government troops to grab long-coveted land and watched from their new borders as Baghdad and jihadists fought over the rump state.
But the move dragged Kurdistan’s celebrated peshmerga out of their comfort zone and the cash-strapped force is now taking heavy losses along its extended front.
"They’ve bitten a whole chunk of cake that’s going to take a long, long time to digest," said Toby Dodge, director of the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics.
The autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq expanded its territory by around 40 percent when it took the slipstream of soldiers fleeing the onslaught the Islamic State launched on June 9.
Peshmerga troops initially took up positions right in front of IS territory and seemed determined not to get involved.
FULL ARTICLE (Global Post)
Photo: James Gordon/flickr

Iraq chaos catches up with Kurdistan | Agence France-Presse

It was nearly the perfect heist. In June, Iraq’s Kurds snuck in behind retreating government troops to grab long-coveted land and watched from their new borders as Baghdad and jihadists fought over the rump state.

But the move dragged Kurdistan’s celebrated peshmerga out of their comfort zone and the cash-strapped force is now taking heavy losses along its extended front.

"They’ve bitten a whole chunk of cake that’s going to take a long, long time to digest," said Toby Dodge, director of the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics.

The autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq expanded its territory by around 40 percent when it took the slipstream of soldiers fleeing the onslaught the Islamic State launched on June 9.

Peshmerga troops initially took up positions right in front of IS territory and seemed determined not to get involved.

FULL ARTICLE (Global Post)

Photo: James Gordon/flickr

4 Mar
The new normal in Baghdad | Le Monde diplomatique
by Peter Harling
After violence that shattered hundreds of thousands of lives and left nearly everyone with a tragic story to tell, life in Iraq has settled into a strange normality — with no discernible direction or clear future. “How do you make sense of the last ten years?” said a novelist, who is trying to do just that. “The problem is not the starting point, but where to end. To write the history of the Algerian civil war, you had to wait till it was over. Here, we are still in the middle of a sequence of events whose outcome we cannot see.” The structure of his novel, in which each chapter relates to a different year, means he remains hostage to a political system that continues to keep the country in suspense.
A decade after the US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraq remains in crisis, although you wouldn’t know it from visiting Baghdad. The suicide attacks, car bombs and other explosive devices used, and abused, by the resistance and sectarian militias are much rarer than they were a few years ago, leading the world’s media to lose much of its interest in Iraq.
Traffic is easing its way through the maze of roadblocks and concrete barriers that had made it a nightmare. Many Iraqis who fled the violence in 2006 and took refuge in Kurdistan, or abroad, have returned. Those who stood accused of “collaborating” with the US are fitting back into society. The high cost of living doesn’t stop the new recipients of oil money from frantic consumerism. Indeed there’s more of a bustle in the shopping streets than in the corridors of power, where politicians on all sides react to the latest political tussle with remarkable nonchalance.
Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s detractors have been growing as he has accumulated powers. His trial of strength with the Kurdish leadership in the northeast of the country, over oil revenue and disputed territories, did help him rally support among the Arab population, both Shia and Sunni, establishing him as the defender of their interests and, more generally, of the country’s integrity. But then he overreached himself by using the “terrorism” argument to push aside politicians such as Rafi al-Issawi, his Sunni deputy, in a political system where senior government posts are allocated on ethno-sectarian lines. This led to huge popular protests against Al-Maliki, which forced Sunni politicians whom he had co-opted to distance themselves from him.
That in turn almost inevitably rekindled Shia identity politics, in a society still scarred by sectarian violence, particularly rife between 2006 and 2008. But not everyone in this diverse Shia community is an ally of Al-Maliki, since his personal power increases by reducing the influence of his rivals.
FULL ARTICLE (Le Monde diplomatique)
Photo: James Gordon/Flickr

The new normal in Baghdad | Le Monde diplomatique

by Peter Harling

After violence that shattered hundreds of thousands of lives and left nearly everyone with a tragic story to tell, life in Iraq has settled into a strange normality — with no discernible direction or clear future. “How do you make sense of the last ten years?” said a novelist, who is trying to do just that. “The problem is not the starting point, but where to end. To write the history of the Algerian civil war, you had to wait till it was over. Here, we are still in the middle of a sequence of events whose outcome we cannot see.” The structure of his novel, in which each chapter relates to a different year, means he remains hostage to a political system that continues to keep the country in suspense.

A decade after the US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraq remains in crisis, although you wouldn’t know it from visiting Baghdad. The suicide attacks, car bombs and other explosive devices used, and abused, by the resistance and sectarian militias are much rarer than they were a few years ago, leading the world’s media to lose much of its interest in Iraq.

Traffic is easing its way through the maze of roadblocks and concrete barriers that had made it a nightmare. Many Iraqis who fled the violence in 2006 and took refuge in Kurdistan, or abroad, have returned. Those who stood accused of “collaborating” with the US are fitting back into society. The high cost of living doesn’t stop the new recipients of oil money from frantic consumerism. Indeed there’s more of a bustle in the shopping streets than in the corridors of power, where politicians on all sides react to the latest political tussle with remarkable nonchalance.

Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s detractors have been growing as he has accumulated powers. His trial of strength with the Kurdish leadership in the northeast of the country, over oil revenue and disputed territories, did help him rally support among the Arab population, both Shia and Sunni, establishing him as the defender of their interests and, more generally, of the country’s integrity. But then he overreached himself by using the “terrorism” argument to push aside politicians such as Rafi al-Issawi, his Sunni deputy, in a political system where senior government posts are allocated on ethno-sectarian lines. This led to huge popular protests against Al-Maliki, which forced Sunni politicians whom he had co-opted to distance themselves from him.

That in turn almost inevitably rekindled Shia identity politics, in a society still scarred by sectarian violence, particularly rife between 2006 and 2008. But not everyone in this diverse Shia community is an ally of Al-Maliki, since his personal power increases by reducing the influence of his rivals.

FULL ARTICLE (Le Monde diplomatique)

Photo: James Gordon/Flickr

20 Aug
Baghdad and Erbil Battle for Iraq | The National Interest
By Joost R. Hiltermann 
The August 1 announcement by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that it was ready to resume oil exports through the Iraqi pipeline after a four-month suspension concluded what was rather like a nasty school-yard brawl in the manner such scuffles invariably end: with a bloody nose and some tears. Will a handshake soon follow?
The federal government in Baghdad and the Kurdish government in Erbil long have been at loggerheads over a range of issues that, at their core, concern the nature of Iraq’s federal system and the Kurdish region’s future. They disagree especially over the extent of the region’s powers, including the authority to sign oil contracts; the status of territories claimed by the Kurds as part of Kurdistan; and payment for the Kurds’ regional guard force as well as federal budget allocations more generally. Although the 2005 constitution addresses these questions, its many ambiguities and gaps make it subject to varying interpretations. Both sides have employed these weapons to great effect.
The conflict escalated sharply late last year when ExxonMobil became the first major oil company to sign with the Kurdistan Regional Government, then aggravated the situation by taking exploration blocks located squarely in disputed territories. The Iraqi government threatened to punish the company, which holds significant concessions in the South, but has yet to take any concrete retaliatory steps. Instead, Chevron, Total and Gazprom have now followed in ExxonMobil’s footsteps, with others queuing up.
With the Kurdish region’s growing production potential, the question has been how the oil will get to market in the absence of a federal hydrocarbons law and as long as relations between Baghdad and Erbil remain as deeply frayed as they have been. For now, Baghdad controls the export pipeline, but the KRG hopes that, with Turkey’s consent, it will be able to skirt the Baghdad-controlled pipeline and pump the oil northward once the necessary infrastructure has been built. In the words of the KRG’s mineral-resources minister Ashti Hawrami, “The oil will flow… . When you have one million barrels a day stranded, it will find its way to the market despite the political haggling.”
Earlier this year, an agreement signed by the federal and Kurdish governments in February 2011 broke apart over Erbil’s allegation that Baghdad had failed to compensate fully the three companies with KRG contracts that have put oil into the export pipeline. Baghdad declared itself ready to pay but said it was awaiting expense receipts from the KRG for an audit; Erbil replied it had given Baghdad all it needed. The matter reached an impasse when, on April 1, the KRG pulled the plug on its exports, saying it would resume them only once Baghdad coughed up the money it owed and pledged to make future payments in a timely manner.
FULL ARTICLE (The National Interest)
Photo: The U.S. Army/Flickr

Baghdad and Erbil Battle for Iraq | The National Interest

By Joost R. Hiltermann 

The August 1 announcement by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that it was ready to resume oil exports through the Iraqi pipeline after a four-month suspension concluded what was rather like a nasty school-yard brawl in the manner such scuffles invariably end: with a bloody nose and some tears. Will a handshake soon follow?

The federal government in Baghdad and the Kurdish government in Erbil long have been at loggerheads over a range of issues that, at their core, concern the nature of Iraq’s federal system and the Kurdish region’s future. They disagree especially over the extent of the region’s powers, including the authority to sign oil contracts; the status of territories claimed by the Kurds as part of Kurdistan; and payment for the Kurds’ regional guard force as well as federal budget allocations more generally. Although the 2005 constitution addresses these questions, its many ambiguities and gaps make it subject to varying interpretations. Both sides have employed these weapons to great effect.

The conflict escalated sharply late last year when ExxonMobil became the first major oil company to sign with the Kurdistan Regional Government, then aggravated the situation by taking exploration blocks located squarely in disputed territories. The Iraqi government threatened to punish the company, which holds significant concessions in the South, but has yet to take any concrete retaliatory steps. Instead, Chevron, Total and Gazprom have now followed in ExxonMobil’s footsteps, with others queuing up.

With the Kurdish region’s growing production potential, the question has been how the oil will get to market in the absence of a federal hydrocarbons law and as long as relations between Baghdad and Erbil remain as deeply frayed as they have been. For now, Baghdad controls the export pipeline, but the KRG hopes that, with Turkey’s consent, it will be able to skirt the Baghdad-controlled pipeline and pump the oil northward once the necessary infrastructure has been built. In the words of the KRG’s mineral-resources minister Ashti Hawrami, “The oil will flow… . When you have one million barrels a day stranded, it will find its way to the market despite the political haggling.”

Earlier this year, an agreement signed by the federal and Kurdish governments in February 2011 broke apart over Erbil’s allegation that Baghdad had failed to compensate fully the three companies with KRG contracts that have put oil into the export pipeline. Baghdad declared itself ready to pay but said it was awaiting expense receipts from the KRG for an audit; Erbil replied it had given Baghdad all it needed. The matter reached an impasse when, on April 1, the KRG pulled the plug on its exports, saying it would resume them only once Baghdad coughed up the money it owed and pledged to make future payments in a timely manner.

FULL ARTICLE (The National Interest)

Photo: The U.S. Army/Flickr

3 Aug

Joost Hiltermann, Crisis Group’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, discusses the political crisis developing in Iraq over the possibility of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki seeking a third term. 6:04


(Source: crisisgroup.org / Crisis Group)

13 Jun
Scores killed in bombs targeting Shiites and Kurds, feeding pessimism about Iraq’s future | Global Winnipeg
By Kay Johnson and Sinan Salaheddin
Car bombs ripped through Shiite and Kurdish targets in Baghdad and other cities Wednesday, killing at least 66 people, wounding more than 200 and feeding growing doubts that Iraq will emerge as a stable democracy after decades of war and dictatorship.
The latest bloodshed comes against a backdrop of sharpening political divisions that show Iraq has made little progress in healing the breach among its religious and ethnic communities that once pushed the country to the brink of civil war. The co-ordination, sophistication and targets of the attack bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida and its Sunni militant allies seeking to exploit these tensions.
FULL ARTICLE (Global Winnipeg)
Photo: Karim Kadin/ AFP

Scores killed in bombs targeting Shiites and Kurds, feeding pessimism about Iraq’s future | Global Winnipeg

By Kay Johnson and Sinan Salaheddin

Car bombs ripped through Shiite and Kurdish targets in Baghdad and other cities Wednesday, killing at least 66 people, wounding more than 200 and feeding growing doubts that Iraq will emerge as a stable democracy after decades of war and dictatorship.

The latest bloodshed comes against a backdrop of sharpening political divisions that show Iraq has made little progress in healing the breach among its religious and ethnic communities that once pushed the country to the brink of civil war. The co-ordination, sophistication and targets of the attack bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida and its Sunni militant allies seeking to exploit these tensions.

FULL ARTICLE (Global Winnipeg)

Photo: Karim Kadin/ AFP

25 May
Iran, big powers agree to hold more nuclear talks in June | Reuters
By Andrew Quinn and Justyna Pawlak
Iran and world powers agreed to meet again in Moscow next month for more talks to try to end the long-running dispute over Tehran’s nuclear programme, but there was scant progress to resolve the main sticking points between the two sides.
At the heart of the dispute is Iran’s insistence that it has the right to enrich uranium and that economic sanctions should be lifted before it stops activities that could lead to its achieving the capability to make nuclear weapons.
Western powers insist Tehran must first shut down enrichment activities before sanctions can be eased.
But both sides have powerful reasons not to abandon diplomacy. The powers want to avert the danger of a new Middle East war raised by Israeli threats to bomb Iran, while Tehran also wants to avoid a looming Western ban on its oil exports.
After discussions in Baghdad extended late into an unscheduled second day on Thursday between envoys from Iran and the six powers, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said it was clear both sides wanted progress and had some common ground, but significant differences remained.
"We will maintain intensive contacts with our Iranian counterparts to prepare a further meeting in Moscow," she told a news conference in Baghdad.
The next meeting, the third in the latest round of talks that began in Istanbul last month, will be held in Moscow on June 18-19.
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)
Photo: Freddy Moris/Wikimedia Commons

Iran, big powers agree to hold more nuclear talks in June | Reuters

By Andrew Quinn and Justyna Pawlak

Iran and world powers agreed to meet again in Moscow next month for more talks to try to end the long-running dispute over Tehran’s nuclear programme, but there was scant progress to resolve the main sticking points between the two sides.

At the heart of the dispute is Iran’s insistence that it has the right to enrich uranium and that economic sanctions should be lifted before it stops activities that could lead to its achieving the capability to make nuclear weapons.

Western powers insist Tehran must first shut down enrichment activities before sanctions can be eased.

But both sides have powerful reasons not to abandon diplomacy. The powers want to avert the danger of a new Middle East war raised by Israeli threats to bomb Iran, while Tehran also wants to avoid a looming Western ban on its oil exports.

After discussions in Baghdad extended late into an unscheduled second day on Thursday between envoys from Iran and the six powers, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said it was clear both sides wanted progress and had some common ground, but significant differences remained.

"We will maintain intensive contacts with our Iranian counterparts to prepare a further meeting in Moscow," she told a news conference in Baghdad.

The next meeting, the third in the latest round of talks that began in Istanbul last month, will be held in Moscow on June 18-19.

FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)

Photo: Freddy Moris/Wikimedia Commons

22 May
Iran Nuclear Crisis: What’s On The Table At The Baghdad Talks? | Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty
By Charles Recknagel
World powers are meeting in Baghdad with Iran this week over the Islamic republic’s controversial nuclear program. Here are five things to know ahead of time. 
Who is meeting and why?The five permanent Security Council members — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — plus Germany (better known as the P5+1) are sitting down with Iran in the Iraqi capital on May 23 to discuss ways out of the Iran nuclear crisis. Western powers accuse Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program under the cover of its nuclear-energy activities. Iran denies the charges.What’s on the agenda?
The most urgent item on the agenda is to convince Iran to give nuclear inspectors access to the Parchin military site near Tehran. Concerns over Iran’s nuclear intentions have increased since the UN nuclear-watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reported in November that Iran has carried out past activities “relevant to the development of an explosive nuclear device.”Western officials suspect Iran built a container at Parchin in 2000 for the probable testing of high explosives and want to know more about experiments there. They also accuse Iran of refusing to let UN inspectors inside Parchin until Tehran can remove incriminating evidence. Iran has dismissed the allegations as “ridiculous.”Overall, the UN Security Council is demanding that Iran suspend uranium enrichment and other activities they say could contribute to acquiring bomb-grade nuclear material until it proves its program is peaceful. Tehran says it has the right to enrich uranium as part of its nuclear energy program.
FULL ARTICLE (Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty)
Photo: AFP

Iran Nuclear Crisis: What’s On The Table At The Baghdad Talks? | Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty

By Charles Recknagel

World powers are meeting in Baghdad with Iran this week over the Islamic republic’s controversial nuclear program. Here are five things to know ahead of time. 

Who is meeting and why?

The five permanent Security Council members — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — plus Germany (better known as the P5+1) are sitting down with Iran in the Iraqi capital on May 23 to discuss ways out of the Iran nuclear crisis. Western powers accuse Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program under the cover of its nuclear-energy activities. Iran denies the charges.

What’s on the agenda?

The most urgent item on the agenda is to convince Iran to give nuclear inspectors access to the Parchin military site near Tehran. Concerns over Iran’s nuclear intentions have increased since the UN nuclear-watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reported in November that Iran has carried out past activities “relevant to the development of an explosive nuclear device.”

Western officials suspect Iran built a container at Parchin in 2000 for the probable testing of high explosives and want to know more about experiments there. They also accuse Iran of refusing to let UN inspectors inside Parchin until Tehran can remove incriminating evidence. Iran has dismissed the allegations as “ridiculous.”

Overall, the UN Security Council is demanding that Iran suspend uranium enrichment and other activities they say could contribute to acquiring bomb-grade nuclear material until it proves its program is peaceful. Tehran says it has the right to enrich uranium as part of its nuclear energy program.

FULL ARTICLE (Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty)

Photo: AFP

21 May
Reuters | Maliki, in charm offensive, invites scholars to Baghdad
By Alister Bull
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, concerned by his portrayal in U.S. media as an autocratic leader intent on consolidating power, has invited several influential Washington scholars to Baghdad to meet his team next week.
The rare invitation was extended to Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institution and Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group, Reuters has learned.
"I think it a very smart and constructive step on his part," said Pollack, a former CIA military analyst who served in President Bill Clinton’s White House and also authored an influential book backing the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Maliki’s opponents have accused the Shi’ite leader of amassing power they fear will restore the dictatorship toppled by the United States when it felled Saddam Hussein.
Iraqi officials said the idea behind inviting the scholars was to put out Baghdad’s side of the story and respond to a “deliberate distortion of reality” being promoted by Maliki’s opponents.
"He feels that there is an increasing hostile activity against Iraq and the Iraqi government that attempts to give an unfavorable and negative picture about the situation in Iraq," said Ali Al-Mussawi, chief media adviser to the prime minister, responding to an enquiry made to Iraq’s embassy in Washington.
President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of last year is blamed by critics for a political crisis that erupted as soon as they left and has raised fears the country could tip back into civil war.
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)

Reuters | Maliki, in charm offensive, invites scholars to Baghdad

By Alister Bull

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, concerned by his portrayal in U.S. media as an autocratic leader intent on consolidating power, has invited several influential Washington scholars to Baghdad to meet his team next week.

The rare invitation was extended to Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institution and Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group, Reuters has learned.

"I think it a very smart and constructive step on his part," said Pollack, a former CIA military analyst who served in President Bill Clinton’s White House and also authored an influential book backing the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Maliki’s opponents have accused the Shi’ite leader of amassing power they fear will restore the dictatorship toppled by the United States when it felled Saddam Hussein.

Iraqi officials said the idea behind inviting the scholars was to put out Baghdad’s side of the story and respond to a “deliberate distortion of reality” being promoted by Maliki’s opponents.

"He feels that there is an increasing hostile activity against Iraq and the Iraqi government that attempts to give an unfavorable and negative picture about the situation in Iraq," said Ali Al-Mussawi, chief media adviser to the prime minister, responding to an enquiry made to Iraq’s embassy in Washington.

President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of last year is blamed by critics for a political crisis that erupted as soon as they left and has raised fears the country could tip back into civil war.

FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)

26 Sep

AFP: Widespread graft hitting Iraq development: ICG

BAGHDAD — Widespread corruption throughout Iraq’s government has hampered development, resulting in slow improvement of public services, the International Crisis Group said in a report published on Monday.

The Brussels-based organisation’s sharp criticism comes around two weeks after Iraq’s anti-corruption chief stepped down, citing political interference in his work and describing graft as “part of the struggle for power.”

FULL ARTICLE (AFP)

Photo: Flickr/ chrisdbruyn