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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Sat: The I'tilaf is Back!
Kurdish Parties Financed by the State Budget? Fierce Opposition to Oil Contracts
By AMER MOHSEN 06/19/2009 5:00 PM ET
al-Bayyna al-Jadeeda
al-Bayyna al-Jadeeda
Negotiations between al-Hakeem’s SIIC and Maliki’s Da'wa to reconstitute the Shi’a I’tilaf coalition before the coming legislative elections are intensifying, al-Hayat reports. The London-based, pan-Arab daily said that an initial agreement has been reached between the two parties to rebuild the I’tilaf “on national bases, away from sectarian entrenchment.” Al-Maliki had announced that the new coalition will be renamed “the Coalition of the State of Law” (the same name as his electoral lists during the last provincial elections) and that he insists that it should be open to Iraqis from all sects, rather than a Shi'a-based alliance, as it was originally founded in 2005.

Unnamed sources in Da'wa told the paper that al-Hakeem’s SIIC has expressed its approval to “all” the Prime Minister’s conditions, despite “reservations” by the SIIC leaders towards certain articles. In addition to the two Shi'a parties, several political factions are said to have received invitations to join the new alliance, including the Sadrist Current, which has been estranged from the I’tilaf for over two years.

Meanwhile, Az-Zaman quotes SIIC leader Hameed al-Ma'alla, who claimed that the Sadrist Current has sent “positive signals” to the leaders of the I’tilaf and that his party leadership is ready to offer necessary “concessions” to encourage the Sadrists and other factions to join. One of the most important issues separating the Sadrists from the SIIC is the controversial federalist project that was espoused by al-Hakeem; Sadrists had repeatedly stated that they would not partner with political forces calling for federal arrangements, which they view as equivocal to the fragmentation of Iraq.

In other news, al-Hayat reports that “intense opposition” is brewing within the national Iraqi oil industry against the development contracts that are to be offered by the Oil Ministry to foreign companies to exploit Iraq’s major oil fields. An ex-Oil Minister was quoted as saying that the contracts, whose first round is to be handed out shortly, “are harmful to national interest and will lead to the fragmentation of Iraqi oil companies rather than support them.” The ex-Minister, Ibraheem Bahr al-'Ulum, claimed that the current format affords foreign companies the lion’s share in running and administering the oil fields for long periods of time, leaving only 25% of technical responsibilities to the national oil companies. Bahr al-'Ulum also criticized the duration and scope of the tenders that are to be handed out, exclaiming that over 80 billion barrels of reserves (out of a total of 112 billions) will be granted to the foreign firms for over 20 years, proposing that a more gradual approach be adopted, “to foster competition and transparency.”

The paper also says that it received documents and letters from “political and oil sources” showing repeated protests by the South Oil Company (Iraq’s largest) against the Ministry’s contracts. One such letter to the Minister exclaimed that the contracts have not been approved by the technical boards of the company, while another claimed that the contracts will split the crews of the national oil companies between many development areas with no clear boundaries and division of labor. A third memorandum proposing that oil development be made through service contracts run by the national oil company carried the signatures of over 20 managers, the paper said, while refusing to divulge their names.

In security news, Az-Zaman reports that the coach of the national Karate team was found killed in his house in Mosul. Investigations indicate that three gunmen entered the home of 'Izzat 'Abdallah and assassinated him, with the motives remaining “unclear.” Another assassination attempt targeted a local administrator in Diyala, who, according to al-Hayat, “escaped miraculously” after five members of his protection detail were wounded due to an explosion targeting his convoy.

Lastly, al-Bayyna al-Jadeeda reports that Kurdistani officials have admitted that the two mainstream Kurdish parties (led by Mas'ud Barzani and Jalal Talabani) are “taking” 30 million dollars from the annual budget to finance their operations.

The Iraqi daily said that the Speaker of Kurdistan’s Parliament had denied these reports in recent days, exclaiming that the sum “may be 3 millions, but not 30,” only to admit yesterday that each of the two powerful parties are appropriating 30 million dollars from the state budget.


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