Friday, 28 February 2014

International Center for Development Studies (ICDS) warned on the bankruptcy of Iraq in three years because of the budget deficit

Shafaq News / A report issued by the International Center for Development Studies (ICDS) , based in London warned on Thursday from the bankruptcy of Iraq in three years because of the budget deficit which now threatens the Iraqi oil sector clearly, as the report indicated that the military operations in Anbar cost per day seven million dollars.

According to the report , the deficit exceeded $ 50 billion , Iraq would be at risk of bankruptcy in 2017 . Iraq will be unable to pay the salaries of its employees . It seems that the indicators of bankruptcy is looming , especially that the Iraqi government pays the salaries of its employees , including the salaries of the staff of Kurdistan Region in monthly form, which has allocated 4.5 billion dollars for February and did not send the salaries of next March , because the available amount is not enough but for one-third of the staff of Iraq .

The report pointed out that the deduction of 15% of the budget allocated to investments in oil has contributed to reduce Iraqi exports of 2.62 million barrels per day to 2.28 million barrels per day during the past three months , what impact clearly on state revenues and plans to increase exports to more than 3.5 million barrels during 2014 .

The report adds, that the giant oil companies are unable to cope with the volatile environment of the Iraqi economy threatening to withdraw from it. In addition to the security factor that reveals the financial and administrative corruption, bureaucracy, lack of experience and the need for Iraq to infrastructure and train 70 thousand workers in the oil sector to reach the desired goals.

The report refers that “BP “company has cancelled contracts of dozens of foreign contractors in South Rumaila field and threatened to withdraw from Eni Zubair field in Basra because of bureaucratic complications that delayed the signing one of the contracts for six months.

The cost of Anbar war is 7 million dollars a day

It seems that the budget deficit in Iraq has contributed to weaken the state's ability to establish security , being engaged in a war in Anbar that cost the Iraqi economy seven million dollars a day , which is exhausting burden to the budget and affect the state's ability to carry its other burden in the defense of the rest of Iraq .

The report of ICDS notes to the real deficit in the Iraqi budget which has risen today to 32 billion dollars in the absence of an agreement between Baghdad and Erbil on oil exports , the adoption of five dollars in compensation to each oil producer province and the adoption of laws that do not fit with Iraq's ability to carry its financialburden.

The budget deficit is not justified

ICDS believes that the deficit is not justified , for the fact that the budget has been prepared on the basis of price of $ 90 a barrel , while the price of oil did not get less than $ 100 , meaning that the budget must achieve a large surplus , especially that the completion rates in most Iraqi provinces did not exceed 40 % and in some of them was zero.

In addition for that, the retained amounts from previous budgets up to 2012 was more than 50 billion dollars , raising questions about the real reason to talk about the deficit , if not a new attempt aimed to steal the public money and convert the benefits to personal gains of senior officials in the state.


The report of the International Center for Development Studies explains that financial and administrative corruption in Iraq has led to the emergence of a new class of rich people and new entrepreneurs affiliated with the Iraqi government , who came to get rich quickly , prompting the emergence of a market for luxury goods in Iraq , most notably the private aircraft in which its prices could reach $ 16 million , while a third of the Iraqi people live under the poverty line .

That issue has led the Ministry of Transport to issue checks for the purchase of these aircraft , which means that the volume of applications submitted needed the issuance of such instructions.

The report expressed surprise that economist and advisers to the Iraqi government were able to prepare budgets since 2004 , in the absence of clear closing accounts that show real spending for its resources and allows control orders on the exchange , indicating clearly the fears of disclosing them and deliberately hiding them for fear of detecting large financial and administrative corruption in Iraq for years.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Shiite leader retires: what next for the millions in the Sadrist movement?

niqash | Mustafa Habib | Baghdad | 20.02.2014

Muqtada al-Sadr (L) gives a speech.

After Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced his retirement from politics this week, there were many questions being asked. Firstly, why was he going? What would happen to his followers, some of whom are in political office? What did it mean for the elections? And what was going to happen to associated militias – would they become more dangerous?

He ended his ten year-long political campaign in a televised speech lasting around 11 minutes. In that speech Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said a number of disturbing things: that current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a dictator, that Iraq’s Parliament is paralyzed and that the country’s judiciary is too politicized.

But perhaps the most disturbing things were the questions left unanswered. And there were many.

Al-Sadr was born in 1973, the child of a well known and well respected Shiite Muslim family, based in Najaf. As the Middle East Quarterly reported back in 2004, he is “the fourth son of Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, who was, between 1992 and 1999, one of the most renowned leaders in the Hawza, the centre of Shiite religious seminaries and scholarship”. Muqtada’s father “cultivated good relations with the predominantly Shiite tribes of central and southern Iraq, even publishing a book on tribal Islamic jurisprudence,” the journal wrote.

The Sadr family were persecuted during the regime of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and after the death of his father and two brothers at, most likely, the hands of government assassins, Muqtada assumed a leadership role in the family – and therefore with their many followers.

And after many years of guiding those followers – in both bad, violent times that saw them take military action against the US as well as in calmer times, when he disarmed the Sadrist militia – it appears that al-Sadr is now ready to stand down.

“I will not interfere in political affairs,” al-Sadr said in his statement of resignation on Saturday. “There is no political entity that represents me anymore nor any position in parliament or government.”

In order to clarify his decision, al-Sadr then made a televised speech on Tuesday in which he said his decision was irreversible.

Besides criticizing the current government and judiciary in that 11-minute speech, al-Sadr also stressed the importance of participating in the upcoming elections, in order to bring about the change that Iraq needed.

Al-Sadr’s decision was unexpected – most political observers were waiting for a showdown at Iraq’s general elections in April, between the Shiite Muslim Prime Minister, al-Maliki, and other Shiite Muslim leaders like al-Sadr.

And almost immediately various parties gave different reasons as to why al-Sadr might be retiring.

At first some thought it was a tactical move, designed to show how bad things had become. After all, al-Sadr has said he would retire from politics before but then changed his mind.

Some said that al-Sadr was disappointed with those close to him, including politicians in his own party who had recently voted for a law giving local MPs various financial privileges – al-Sadr has always been an advocate of social welfare and has had many supporters from lower income areas like Sadr city, and he was opposed to this law. As was the leading Shiite Muslim authority in the land, the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who told Iraqis not to vote for those MPs that supported the law.

However this hardly seems enough to make al-Sadr retire: he is powerful enough within his movement that he could dismiss anyone in his party he chose, if they behaved inappropriately.

Others felt it was a good move by al-Sadr, in that he was moving toward a separation of church and state and allowing new political leaders to come forward.

Journalists who had interviewed him in the recent past also commented on al-Sadr’s clear disillusionment and disappointment.

The big question now is what will happen to his political bloc. The Sadrist bloc’s political party, the Ahrar party, holds 40 seats in Iraq’s Parliament and is important as part of the coalition that brought al-Maliki to power; Ahrar is basically the political wing of the multi-million-member Sadrist movement. The Sadrist movement also fields six of the Iraqi cabinet’s 26 ministers and it has 58 representatives on the 447-seat provincial councils.

A few short hours after al-Sadr announced his resignation, dozens of his politicians on provincial councils announced that they too would resign. If those decisions turn out to be final, their loss would cause a political vacuum. This happened despite the fact that al-Sadr told politicians to keep serving the country.

Other analysts are already suggesting that Prime Minister al-Maliki will be the big winner here as he will play upon sectarian sympathies to overcome recent antipathies between the Sadrists and his own party, and win them onto his side.

It would be difficult to simply replace al-Sadr in his political role because the Sadrist movement is not really a political party in the conventional sense, rather, it is political force. But as a source close to the leaders in the Sadrist movement told NIQASH, by no means was this the end of the Sadrists. “Our leader has become frustrated with politics in this country,” the source, who did not want to be named, said. “But his political followers will continue their work without negligence, even if their leader isn’t there in person.”

As Al Monitor reported this week: “Sadr announced in a brief statement that he was closing all his offices and entities in Iraq, that he was cutting his relationship with his political representatives in the government and parliament.”

Following on from this one must also ask what will become of the hundreds of bureaucrats and other staff, related to the Sadrist movement in politics. And what of the millions of Shiite Muslims who follow al-Sadr, living in places like Sadr City, the long-neglected suburb of Baghdad that’s home to 3 million Shiite Muslims?

Of most concern to many is what will happen to the Sadrist movement’s militias. After the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, al-Sadr mobilized a massive, Shiite Muslim military group that was known as the Mahdi Army. This group was held responsible for much of the violence against American troops as well as the conflicts that nearly plunged Iraq into a sectarian, civil war. However over the ensuing years, the Sadrist movement disarmed; it has also been engaged in community work and now it even seems to be becoming popular with Iraqis that did not previously support it.

After US forces left the country, al-Sadr announced that the Mahdi Army would disarm. The majority of his followers in that militia did as he asked but some joined other Shiite Muslim militias, like the now-more-extremist League of the Righteous. It is thought that, with al-Sadr’s resignation, more Shiite Muslims may join the League. Concerns have also been expressed about the Promised Day Brigades, another Shiite Muslim militia associated with the Mahdi Army.

Those militias used to be active in and around places like Sadr City – now inhabitants fear they might become so again.

Even the militias are afraid of what will happen now that al-Sadr is leaving politics.

“We are afraid that al-Maliki will arrest us,” Abbas al-Saedi, one of the leaders of the Promised Day Brigades in southern Iraq, told NIQASH. “He’s already arrested many of our members over the past years. Our leader al-Sadr – may God protect him – was always warning the government against arresting us. Now that he’s decided to withdraw, who’s going to protect us from arrest and from al-Maliki?”

It is not just Iraq’s Shiite Muslims who are worried. The country’s Sunnis had also held out hopes for al-Sadr’s political future. Over the past few months al-Sadr has been publicly supportive of the Sunni Muslim anti-government stance, paying close attention to that sect’s complaints of exclusion and marginalization by al-Maliki. He had even joined Sunni Muslim clerics in prayer.

It had seemed increasingly realistic that Sunni and Shiite politicians might get together to oust al-Maliki. Al-Sadr heads the most powerful Shiite Muslim group and together the parties could have expelled the current prime Minister. A similar scenario had already played out after provincial elections changed the balance of power in Baghdad’s local government.

“Al-Sadr’s decision means that we lose one of our potentially biggest allies and supporters,” opposition Sunni MP, Wahda al-Jumaili, told NIQASH. “Unfortunately al-Maliki looks like he will benefit from al-Sadr’s decision. That’s why we are continuing to hope that al-Sadr changes his mind again.”

Even opposition leader, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, said he was shocked to hear about al-Sadr’s resignation. Allawi actually fought al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army while he was in power in 2004.

“Iraq is facing a very complex crisis,” a statement by Allawi said. “This requires nationalist as well as Islamic forces to take on the heavy burden of responsibility – in order to stop the deterioration in the country’s political life. We are shocked to hear that al-Sadr has decided to withdraw from politics.”

The next big event on Iraq’s political calendar is the upcoming federal election, due to be held at the end of April. Many have suggested that al-Maliki may now benefit most from al-Sadr’s supporters’ votes. But this is by no means certain. Simply because al-Sadr has withdrawn from politics, doesn’t mean that he couldn’t still direct his followers to cast their ballots the way he would like them to.

One party that may well benefit is the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a mostly Shiite Muslim party headed by younger cleric Ammar al-Hakim. The recent past has seen al-Sadr and al-Hakim form political alliances in certain circumstances for their mutual benefit and against al-Maliki.

“Any decline in the political status of the Sadrist bloc will be a loss for the broader national front that’s calling for a new course for Iraq,” writes Sarmad al-Taei in the Al Mada newspaper.

Also certain is that, in general, the political outlook just became a little more precarious – this may escalate sectarian tensions in the country even further. If al-Sadr really does withdraw from politics and close all his offices, the country will have to work through a power imbalance of the kind it has not had to deal with yet.

‘save the mps’: baghdad’s satirical campaign to help retiring politicians

‘save the mps’: baghdad’s satirical campaign to help retiring politicians

niqash | Ahmad al-Rubaie | Baghdad | 20.02.2014

The campaigners hold up their satirical poster in Baghdad.

A group of cheeky pensioners in Baghdad have launched a campaign to raise funds for Iraqi politicians. By donating their spare change to the cause, they say that they can prove that Iraq’s politicians really did empty Iraqis’ pockets. Really though, it’s a satirical protest aimed at the controversial, new pensions law.

“My honourable retired brother. Please contribute part of your income to help Iraq’s Members of Parliament. If you do this, you will doubtless be rewarded generously by God.”

This is one of the sentences on a large banner hanging in central Baghdad, on Mutanabi Street. The banner was apparently “part of a charitable drive to help Baghdad’s politicians”, that was launched by a group of Iraqi pensioners in response to the recent parliamentary vote on what has been called the Unified Retirement Law. This law was supposed to replace an earlier one that sparked nationwide protestsbecause of the amount of money MPs and other civil servants were eligible to receive, even if they only did the job for a short period of time.

After much protesting and an October 2013 ruling by the Federal Supreme Court that the pension law was unjust, a special task force was formed to come up with a new law, the Unified Retirement Law. This was done and there were certainly some changes in the new law that would benefit ordinary Iraqis. However the law still contained some problematic clauses which caused further protesting and debate. Despite this, Parliament passed the new retirement law intact on February 3 – even though many MPs said they didn’t support it when they clearly voted for it.

Article 37 has been especially controversial because, despite promises to change the law, this clause gives government officials special dispensation that will, most likely, mean they still get what – in average Iraqi terms – are hefty pension payouts. As website Al Monitor wrote earlier this month: “All in all, the law is fair for the majority of the Iraqi people. That doesn’t mean condoning the law’s unfair clauses.”

And it seems that the locals in Baghdad are far from condoning the “unfair clauses”. But civil society activists and even ordinary Iraqis are getting desperate. Serious political debate doesn’t seem to be getting them anywhere. Which is why they’ve found a new way of expressing their anger and disillusionment: with satire.

“The politicians in this country ignore the opinions on the Iraqi street,” one of the campaign’s organizers, Diaa al-Shammari, told NIQASH. “When we speak to them seriously, they reply with trivial statements that show how cynical they are about the Iraqi people. That’s why we have decided to respond to their cynicism with our sarcasm.”

It’s just one, small way of making a difference and expressing all the anger that the Iraqi people feel, al-Shammari adds.

Baghdad local, Jabar Sahm al-Sudani, often comes to Mutanabi Street, a thoroughfare legendary for its booksellers and as a place where local intellectuals discuss current affairs and philosophy. Al-Sudani is a pensioner and he laughs when he sees the campaign’s humorous banners; he even donated IQD250 (around 20 US cents) to the campaign.

“This is much better than shouting and screaming,” al-Sudani said loudly.

The campaign to “help the Iraqi MPs” was the brainchild of a group of older Iraqis, most of them retired, who often meet on Mutanabi Street. They decided to donate all the small change in their pockets to the MPs’ campaign because, they say, “now we have proof that the MPs are emptying the Iraqi people’s pockets of everything”.

“We can tell them they’ve left us with nothing,” one of the other organizers, Ali Abed, told NIQASH. “Basically we’re doing this because MPs just don’t; care about the ordinary people at all. On Friday,” he added happily, “we’re going to collect old shoes and clothes so we can donate these to the poor parliamentarians too.”

The organizers believe that Iraqis have learned this method of satirical protest from things they have seen happening in other countries – for instance the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US which has made fun of big business in that country.

Writer and journalist, Hadi Jalo Marei, who is also the chairman of the Journalistic Freedom Observatory, a Baghdad-based media rights organization, was also there. Marei thinks the use of satire in this case is an expression of the ordinary people’s frustrations.

“These campaigns might have some impact on the government,” Marei speculated. “But I don’t imagine they’ll bring about any radical solutions to the country’s problems. They do help people express their frustrations though and give them some hope.”

“The politicians have been very deceitful and they’ve passed a law in a very rude way,” another well known journalist Mazen al-Zaidi said. “This is the people’s way of showing how dissatisfied they are with their politicians’ performance.”

Al-Zaidi added that he hoped campaigns like this might lift protestors’ spirits and make everyone else more aware of the problems in Baghdad’s Parliament, so they could vote for better options in the upcoming general elections. .

A lot of people donated money to the campaign for Iraq’s MPs. But one of the passers-by wanted to do a little more: he attached an IQD 1,000 bank note to one of the banners. It was his way of expressing the anger and suffering of the many ordinary Iraqis whose government never seems to get anything done for them, only for themselves.

Friday, 14 February 2014

ITF EU Representative met with Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council

ITF EU representative received an invitation from Minister Brigitte Grouwels to attend a reception in Brussels on 7th February 2014.

The guest of honour was Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council.

Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council and Dr. Hassan Aydinli, ITF EU Representative and Member of DÜTAP (DÜNYA TÜRKLERİ AVRUPA PLATFORMU)

Mr. Steven Vanackere, Former Belgian Finance Minister and Vice-Prime Minister

Mr. Benjamin Dalle, Director Politics Coordination, Secretary of State's Office 

Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council

Dr. Hassan Aydinli and other members of DÜTAP received an invitation from Minister Brigitte Grouwels to attend a reception at Daarkom in Brussels.

The guest of honour was Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council.

At the reception Dr. Aydinli took the opportunity to inform the President of the European Council and other distinguished guests about the situation of the Turkmens in Iraq.


The Ambassador of Iran to Ankara Alireza Bikdeli held a reception ceremony at Ankara Swissotel on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of Iran’s Islam Revolution. The ceremony was also attended by Iraqi Turkmen Front Coordinator and Turkey Representative Dr. Hicran Kazancı.

Ambassador Alireza Bikdeli greeted his guests at the door of the reception ceremony hall. Alireza Bikdeli thanked Hicran Kazancı for honoring the invitation. Kazancı congratulated Ambassador Alireza Bikdeli and the Iranian people on their day of celebration.
The reception was attended by numerous select guests including the Minister of Energy Taner Yıldız, Minister of Development Cevdet Yılmaz, leaders of political parties, Presidential Chief Advisor for the Middle East Erşat Hürmüzlü and the ambassadors of many countries. 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

ITF EU representative attended the Conference "The State of Freedom of Religion or Belief in the World" at the EU Parliament

ITF EU representative Dr Hassan Aydinli and the Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) Mr. Willy Fautré.

ITF EU Representative and Mr. Jean-Bernard Bolvin, Policy Officer, Human Rights Policy Instruments and Bilateral Cooperation European External Action Service (EEAS).

At a conference held in Brussels on February, 12 the European Parliament Working Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief (EPWG), co-chaired by MEPs Peter van Dalen (ECR) and Dennis de Jong (GUE/NGL), presented its first annual report on freedom of religion in the world. The report takes stock of developments regarding religious freedom and concludes that this human right is increasingly violated, around the globe. The report proposes to give the promotion of religious freedom a more prominent place in EU foreign policy. It furthermore makes recommendations for EU action in case of fifteen countries where the situation is particularly dire.

Namely: China, Egypt, Eritrea, India, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan.

The report was presented at a conference jointly organised with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, who also presented their annual report. UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt, gave the keynote speech.

The conference welcomed the adoption of EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief, by the EU Member States last year. Participants agreed that this was a major step, however, the process of ensuring a thorough implementation has only just begun. Also, complementing measures were needed.

MEP Peter van Dalen said:
"Today is a sad day as right now many millions of people are bullied, discriminated, persecuted and even killed for their faith. I hope that our work may contribute towards improving this situation."

"We made several recommendations on specific countries. On Egypt for example, we would like the EU to unfreeze the aid pledged, but tie it to human rights conditions; Coptic Christians must be able to freely and safely practise their faith. On Pakistan, we demand that hate speech be scrapped from school books, in particular where they are subsidized by the EU! On India, we'd like to see the states who have introduced anti-conversion legislation, to repeal those provisions."

MEP Dennis de Jong said:
"I am grateful for the co-operation we developed with the EEAS on the EU Guidelines. However, we now need to follow this up through an informal dialogue on the toolkit which will serve as an instrument for embassies and EU delegations to implement the Guidelines."

"Similarly, we need to further develop our dialogue with the EEAS also on the countries of concern: we identified many such countries and we now have to focus on the instruments the EU and the Member States have to help to change the situation in these countries."

Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt said:
"I see an enormous practical potential in the EU Guidelines, in harnessing the existing capacities of the EU and its Member States to make Freedom of Religion or Belief a reality. I value the Working Group's strategic role in promoting the Guidelines and their efficient implementation. The European Parliament would be well advised to upgrade the working group to an intergroup."

Recommendations for Iraq:

After relative calm for some years, Iraq is experiencing a new peak of violence along sectarian lines. Although people from every ethnic or religious background are bein made victim, smaller religious minority groups are particularly vulnerable. Despite this volatility the EU and IRAQ have signed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The EU must now make sure that the Human Rights provisions in this Agreement don't become a dead letter. 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Open letter to John Kerry from Fallujah veteran

by Ross Caputi on 09-02-2014
Tell President Obama and Congress to stop selling weapons to the Iraqi government

Dear Secretary Kerry,

        I am writing to you veteran-to-veteran, man-to-man. However, I have decided to write to you publicly. The issue that I am writing about is too important, too many lives depend on it, and I cannot take the chance that this letter and the linked petition will only reach the eyes of one of your aides.

        Like you, I felt betrayed that my country sent me to fight an unjust war, though my war was several decades after yours, and in Iraq. I have spoken out against that war to the best of my ability, as you once did against your war before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In recent years you have found yourself on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but your attitudes towards war have changed drastically.

        You supported the war in Iraq, the war that I was deployed to as a Marine, where I participated in the 2nd siege of Fallujah. You were at the end of your Presidential run during the build up to this operation. The 2nd siege of Fallujah was compared to Hue City for its military character, and to the My Lai Massacre for its moral character. But you supported this operation.

        Fallujah is currently under siege once again. You have stated that US troops will not be sent back to Iraq to assist in the current siege, but you have agreed that the US should send weapons to the Iraqi government. I am writing to implore that you do everything within your ability to stop shipments of US weapons to Iraq, whether they are sold, gifted, or loaned. Arming an oppressive regime so that they may better crush a popular uprising is not in the best interest of Americans or Iraqis. 
        During that 2nd siege of Fallujah we killed thousands of civilians, displaced hundreds of thousands, destroyed nearly the entire city, and brought immeasurable loss and hardship upon those poor people. Since then I have devoted my life to raising awareness about the suffering I helped create in Fallujah, and to assisting Fallujans in their struggle with a public health disaster and ongoing repression.

        I feel a moral obligation to do whatever is within my power to help these people who I once hurt. But I was not a lone actor in Iraq. I had the support of a nation behind me and I was taking orders from the world’s most powerful military. The 2nd siege of Fallujah was not exceptional; rather it was symbolic of our military’s conduct in Iraq and the way that our mission impacted the lives of Iraqis. Our war and occupation took so much from them. It resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions displaced, permanent environmental contamination, and a new repressive regime that most Iraqis regard as begin more brutal than that of Saddam Hussein. This is the legacy of America’s involvement in Iraq. The least that we can do at this point is to end our complicity in their suffering.

         The current violence in Fallujah has been misrepresented in the media. The Iraqi Ministry of Interior asserted earlier in the month that al Qaeda had taken over half of Fallujah and the media parroted this assertion. However, journalists who have done serious investigations into this assertion found it to be false. The uprising in Fallujah is a popular uprising, not one lead by an international jihadist group. The Iraqi government has not been attacking al Qaeda in Fallujah. Their assault has been indiscriminate, killing dozens of civilians and wounding even more. Many of these deaths have been documented by human rights organizations within Fallujah.

        I know that the US plans to send further shipments of Apache attack helicopters and Hellfire missiles. If we continue to send weapons to the Iraqi government, we will be further complicit in this violence. Iraqis have long known the Maliki regime to be brutal and repressive. This is not a regime the US should be sending weapons to. Some of your colleagues in Congress have voiced this same concern.

        When you spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971, you spoke with compassion for the Vietnamese people. You sympathized with the suffering that our illegitimate war brought to them. I am asking you to do the same for Iraqis. Please end all shipments of US made weapons to Iraq.

        I have attached a petition with 11,610 signatures. Most of the signatories are Americans like myself who want to be able to feel proud of their country, but cannot do so while we are assisting the Iraqi government in its violent internal repression.


Sunday, 9 February 2014

“With These Guns We Will Return to Kurdistan”: The Resurgence of Kurdish Jihadism

Terrorism Monitor Volume: 12 Issue: 3 / By Wladimir van Wilgenburg

February 7, 2014 - Jamestown Foundation – Kurdish jihadist militants, who were dealt a devastating blow by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, have recently made a powerful resurgence thanks to the absence of U.S. troops in Iraq and the safe havens for extremism created by the Syrian civil war. Kurdish jihadists with affiliations to al-Qaeda pose a major threat to the Iraqi Kurds, who have successfully built a relatively safe and autonomous enclave in an otherwise war-torn country.

Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups carried out bloody attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan in January, increasing worries that Iraq’s only safe region might become engulfed in turmoil.

Kurdish jihadists pose a threat to the Kurdish community’s new-found autonomy in Syria, carrying out suicide attacks in Kurdish cities and elsewhere in Syria against regime positions, including Aleppo. The first sign of trouble for the Iraqi Kurds was the September 25, 2013 attack in Erbil that targeted local security forces, killing six and injuring 60 others in response to security cooperation between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil (al-Monitor, September 30, 2013). In 2007, al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for a similar attack carried out against the Kurdish interior ministry in Erbil, which killed 19 and wounded 70 (AP, May 9, 2007; AKI Press, May 10, 2007).

Security forces in Kurdistan now fear that Iraqi Kurds with experience in Syria could return and carry out suicide attacks (Niqash, January 23). Over 200 young Iraqi Kurds have gone to Syria to join Islamist armed groups in Syria. It is possible that these Kurds have been trained for suicide missions (al-Monitor, December 14, 2013). It is likely that jihadist Kurds were involved in recent attacks in Erbil, Kirkuk and Sulaymaniya (al-Monitor, November 7, 2013).

The al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) threatened the two ruling Iraqi Kurdish parties – the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) – and rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) operating in Syria in a video released in November 2013. “With these guns, we will return to Kurdistan [in Iraq] and we will kill all of the members of the KDP, PUK and security forces,” said a masked Kurdish ISIS member who identified himself as Abu Haris al-Kurdi (Kurdpress, November 18, 2013; the video was taken down by YouTube for violating its policy against violence).

For al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, Kurdish nationalism is a form of unbelief and prevents the establishment of an Islamic caliphate. Kurdish Islamism is not something new. Islamism among the Kurds grew in the 1970s and 1980s, influenced by the regional decline of Marxism, the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan and the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979. [1].

Friday, 7 February 2014

Record breaking delay: iraqi kurdistan still doesn’t have a government

niqash | Hayman Hassan | Sulaymaniyah | 06.02.2014

Posters printed for the Iraqi Kurdish elections, held last September. Pic: Getty

Elections were held in Iraqi Kurdistan in September last year but as yet the semi-autonomous region has not managed to form a government. Generally united by their shared ethnicity, this latest political tussle makes it look as though Iraqi Kurdish politicians are going the same way as their Arab neighbours in Baghdad, sacrificing local voters’ needs for political power plays.

It has been over 148 days since elections were held in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. But up until today, no new government has been formed in the northern region, which has its own military, parliament and legislation. And in doing so – or rather, in not doing so – the Iraqi Kurdish politicians have broken all previous records around the formation of their regional government.

Parliamentary rules state that the first session of Parliament here must be held one month after election results have officially been announced. This did happen – the elected representatives met for the first time on Nov. 6, 2013, but they didn’t achieve much – they were supposed to choose the Speaker of the House and two deputies. But nobody could agree on the candidates for this job so it didn’t happen.

The main obstacle to the formation of new Iraqi Kurdish government is the change in power balance after the last elections between the region’s three major parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Change movement. Formerly the strongest parties here were the KDP and the PUK. Those two parties shared power in the region and generally acted as close allies. But after the late September elections, the Change movement - formerly the major opposition - became the second most popular political party in the region, bumping the PUK out of second place.

This has seen both the Change movement and the PUK demand the job of Deputy Prime Minister for one of their own. After three rounds of negotiations the issue still has not been resolved. And the government remains unformed.

The current Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan, Nechirvan Barzani, the nephew of the leader of the KDP, Massoud Barzani, is in charge of forming a government – over the past three months the politician has been shuttling between the parties involved and trying to negotiate a solution. However he has not met with any success as yet.

Both the Change movement and the PUK believe they have the right to fill the post of Deputy Prime Minister, albeit for fairly different reasons. The Change movement believes it has this right because it came second in the elections. However the PUK believes it has the right because of its long standing alliance with the overall winner of the elections, the KDP.

The results of the elections held Sept. 21, 2013, saw the KDP win 38 seats and the Change movement get 24. The PUK’s share of seats in the local 111-seat parliament fell to 18 while the two main Islamic parties, which have also been in opposition, won 16 together. The four remaining seats were split between the Kurdistan Islamic Movement, the local Social Democrats, the Communists and a party known as The Third Direction.

In an interview with NIQASH, Aram Sheikh Mohammed, director of the elections office for the Change movement, said that the long standing strategic agreement between the PUK and the KDP was what was causing the delay in the formation of a government. Mohammed blamed the PUK for the delay and said both the KDP and the PUK wanted to stick with their historic power-sharing agreement which basically saw Iraqi Kurdistan split into two zones of influence, with the PUK in charge of the area around Sulaymaniyah and the KDP in charge of the areas around Erbil.

“But positions should be distributed according to each party’s share of votes,” Mohammed argued. “The people of Iraqi Kurdistan expressed their will through the ballot box and that should be respected.”

However Harem Kamal Agha, a senior politician in the PUK party, told NIQASH that it wasn’t fair to blame the PUK for the delay.

“The PUK has an important status in Iraqi Kurdistan and a history of struggle for the Iraqi Kurdish people. These factors should be taken into consideration,” Agha said. “So I think we can blame the KDP for this delay. And,” Agha added, “the other reason for the delay is that when it comes to distribution of posts in government, every party involved is demanding more than their fair share.”

Naturally the KDP denies that it is to blame for the delay. “The PUK and the Change movement are to be blamed because they cannot agree on who will fill the post of Deputy Prime Minister,” says Mohammed Rauf, a senior member of the KDP. “They were all stressing that the most important things were their political programmes. But as soon as the discussion on positions began, they forgot everything else and started to compete for the best jobs.”

Some observers say that the Iraqi Kurdish government will be formed soon. However others are more pessimistic.

The lack of an official government is also having a detrimental effect on the economy of the region. A draft budget for 2014 has not been prepared and banks are running out of cash supply; some say political instability is the cause.

“The delay in forming a government means a delay in the budget, which means a delay in investments in major development projects,” posits local economist Sardar Najib. “It will also cause problems for companies and citizens who base their accounts on this expenditure. The region will lose millions of dollars because of this delay,” he concluded.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Turkish power struggle leaves new questions on Kurdish issue

Exiled Kurdish politician Remzi Kartal is seen in his office in Brussels, Jan. 30 2014. (photo by Wladimir van Wilgenburg)

Turkish power struggle leaves new questions on Kurdish issue

BRUSSELS — The escalation of the power struggle between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Islamic movement of the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen has brought out new revelations supporting suspicions of the Kurdish movement against the government. New leaks have increased suspicions that the Turkish state was involved in the killing of three Kurdish activists in Paris on Jan. 9, 2013.
Summary The AKP-Gulen power struggle has raised new questions about the killings in Paris in January 2013 of three Kurdish activists.
Author Wladimir van Wilgenburg
Posted February 4, 2014

Al-Monitor spoke in Brussels with Remzi Kartal, president of the Kurdistan People’s Congress (KONGRA-GEL), whose name was mentioned as the fourth assassination target in the newly leaked sound recording of the main suspect, Omer Guney, who allegedly assassinated the three Kurdish activists last year.

“It shows the way the Kurdish movement analyzes the government is very correct,” Kartal said in an exclusive statement to Al-Monitor.

In mid-January, Kartal claimed special teams were sent to Europe in 2011 to kill him, and the recent leaks seem to confirm there were plans by the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) to assassinate him and other high-ranking members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), despite talks between the government and the PKK to solve the Kurdish issue in Turkey.

On Jan. 9, 2013, Sakine Cansiz (founding member of the PKK), Fidan Dogan (member of the Kurdistan National Congress in Paris) and Leyla Saylemez (member of the Kurdish youth movement) were killed, sending shock waves through the Kurdish community in Europe.

The assassination was seen by both the Turkish government and the Kurdish political movement as an attempt to derail the peace talks between the Turkish government and the PKK.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Iraqi Cabinet Decides to Form Three New Governorates

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 1:44

The Iraqi cabinet made big headlines today with a shock decision to form three brand new provinces. Supposedly, there will be new governorates in Tuz Khormato (a Turkmen-dominated area currently in Salahaddin province), the Nineveh plains (a Christian-dominated part of Nineveh province) and Falluja (centre of the current Sunni-led uprising in Anbar province). With a recent decision to create Halabja as a separate governorate in Kurdistan, some observers declared that Iraq all of a sudden has 22 provinces, after decades of relative administrative stability in 18 governorates since the early 1970s.

It is not like the inhabitants of Falluja, Tuz and the Nineveh plains will feel any major changes related to administrative status when they wake up tomorrow. Some of the uncertainty regarding the new move of the Iraqi government can be glimpsed from the language of the cabinet decision itself: The agreement on the formation of these new decisions was made “in principle”, to be completed after the necessary formalities “had been completed”. Those formalities were not detailed: A special committee including members of the ministries of justice and municipalities will look into the “standards and procedures” necessary to complete the transformation.

This ambiguous choice of language in turn reflects wider legal uncertainties regarding any decision to form new provinces. In theory, despite the absence of any constitutional reference to administrative boundary changes, after 2003 such administrative changes were governed by a Baathist-era law, law no. 159 from 1969, which vested the power to change administrative boundaries in cabinet. However, the anachronistic nature of that procedure is attested to by a requirement that “the revolutionary council” approved the measure – an institution that Iraq now thankfully lacks. In any case, in 2008 a new provincial powers law specifically replaced the old provinces law (and repealed it), but it failed to make provision for new administrative boundary changes, meaning there is currently no detailed Iraqi legislation dealing with the subject of the creation of new provinces. That’s the ironic reality of the new Iraq: Whereas elaborate measures exist for the creation of new federal regions, no special provisions for the creation of new governorates exist.

Of course, the absence of a law does not necessarily mean decisions on these matters are off limits to the current Iraqi government. However, in a democracy there will be an expectation that such momentous decisions regarding the administrative structure of a country are governed by laws. Indeed, the recent Iraqi cabinet decision to transform Halabja in Kurdistan to a governorate was accompanied by comments to the effect that a law was expected to be sent to parliament for approval, the lack of relevant formal mechanisms notwithstanding. But whereas the submission to cabinet of a separate Halabja governorate project reflected longstanding internal Kurdish debate on the issue (and eventually a modicum of consensus), no such consensus is known to prevail regarding these three latest would-be provinces.

In sum, such is the uncertainty connected to today’s decision that it is tempting to view it as mainly empty rhetoric calculated to create happiness in particular political circles prior to Iraq’s 30 April parliamentary elections. The question then is what those interested political circles would be. In the case of Tuz and the Nineveh plains (Tall Kayf) one obvious answer would be minority groups in those areas that have long advocated autonomy – Turkmens and Christians respectively. Some view these projects as antidotes to Kurdish expansionism and potential annexation (either through article 140 on disputed territories or the Talabani project to change administrative boundaries back to pre-Baath conditions). It has therefore been suggested that the cabinet move today was an anti-Kurdish project, with Falluja thrown in as a new governorate simply in a rather strained attempt at mollifying Sunni Arab opinion. It would certainly look rather asymmetrical with a small Falluja governorate carved out from the vast Anbar – a hark back to the special administrative provinces seen in particularly ungovernable parts of the Ottoman Empire!

Since the early 1970s, Iraq has experienced relative stability in its administrative map with minor changes to the administrative boundaries of the 18 provinces. If actually granted governorate status, these new entities could soon apply for status as federal regions – something which the proponents of the Nineveh plains unit have long hinted at. It would open the path for similar demands from oil-rich districts in the south who have long felt marginalized within the governorates of which they currently form,including Zubayr and Qurna in Basra. If Falluja can be a governorate, why shouldn’t they claim the same status, with similar population numbers and vast energy resources?

Of course, the Maliki government is not known to be in favour of this kind of large-scale territorial fragmentation. Nonetheless, we now have yet another fictional act of state affecting centre-periphery relations in the new Iraq: The three projected new governorates come on top of a theoretical right for forming federal regions that is always rejected in practice, and a revised and very permissive law on provincial powers that few think can work in practice.

For the time being, the Maliki government may feel safe that it can play with words in centre–periphery relations without having to face the consequences. In the long run, however, the increasing gap between rhetoric and practice – and between public expectations and the state’s capacity to deliver – may form a contributing factor to a more radical political climate in Iraq.

*Postscript: The changes above are contained in conclusion number 2 from the Iraqi cabinet meeting on 21 January. However, hidden away further down in conclusion number 4 is also mention of a law project to transform the largely Turkmen Tall Afar area of Nineveh to a governorate, and to send this law to parliament for approval. That does seem to indicate plans for altogether four new provinces. Tall Afar has apparently reached a more mature stage of progress towards governorate status. It is also clear that the Iraqi government believes it can send laws for changes of borders of individual governorates to parliament, quite without there being a more elaborate legal framework for such administrative changes in place. The cabinet can also probably rest assured that parliament is unlikely to approve these measures.