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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Sat: Mosul Dam in Jeopardy?
Iraqi Politicians Use Lawsuits against Writers and Intellectuals
By AMER MOHSEN 06/26/2009 9:41 PM ET
al-Bayyna al-Jadeeda
al-Bayyna al-Jadeeda
A report in al-Jazeera painted a somber scenario that could face Iraq if the frail Mosul dam finally collapses: half a million Iraqis could die in the city of Mosul, which will be completely ravaged by a trillion gallon of waters that would drown the city under 65 feet of water. The damages would not be restricted to the northern city – the entire plain between Mosul and Baghdad would be equally ravaged and the capital itself would be flooded by 15 feet of water.

Concerns regarding the stability of the Mosul dam (in addition to several others in Iraq) surfaced years ago, and after initial denials and reassurances by local authorities, the Iraqi government acknowledged that the dam is indeed threatened and requires continuous work to protect its foundations. Local engineers familiar with the dam (originally called “Saddam’s Dam”) state that the project suffered design flaws from the outset, requiring periodic injection of concrete into its foundations. The relative lack of maintenance during the years of the sanctions and after the US invasion may have compounded the problem and threatened the structure further.

Al-Jazeera quoted the Minister of water resources who announced that a 200 meter long concrete barrier will be built under the structure’s foundations, and that work is ongoing on the project. In addition, the Ministry said that it has contacted “international experts” to provide suggestions on the maintenance and upgrade of Iraq’s dams.

In security news, al-Hayat reports that attacks and bombings are continuing in Iraq, costing the lives of seven Iraqis on Thursday, while 16 more were killed on Friday. Nine US soldiers have also been injured yesterday by two IEDs that hit US patrols in eastern Baghdad.

Also in al-Hayat, the pan-Arab paper reports that Iraq is still looking for ways to regain its airplanes that were sent to Iran, Tunisia and Jordan before and during the 1991 Gulf War. However, these countries demand that Iraq pays for 17 years of “parking fees” for these aircraft, while Iran considers these Iraqi assets to be war reparations for the 8-year Iran-Iraq conflict. Regarding the planes parked in Jordan, the Iraqi state has apparently decided to disassemble the aircraft and sell them as scrap in Iraq, given that they are no longer in flying conditions.

In other news, al-Jazeera says that the Kurdistan government has re-affirmed its rejection of the oil contracts that are scheduled to be handed at the end of the month for six major Iraqi oilfields. A statement on the website of the Kurdistan Regional Government on Friday claimed that the bidding round is “illegal” and “unconstitutional,” which could precipitate a long legal controversy over the contracts after they are finalized.

The major point of contention between the Kurdistan government and the Oil Ministry is that two of the fields that will be offered to foreign investors (Kirkuk and Bay Hassan) are in “contested territories” that Kurdish politicians consider as being part of Kurdistan. Kurdish leaders stress that the central government does not have the right to exploit these fields until the conflict over them is resolved.

Lastly, lawsuits between politicians and journalists are proliferating. Vice President 'Adil 'Abd al-Mahdi is suing Iraqi ex-politician and intellectual Hasan al-'Alawi in Syrian courts after al-'Alawi published a book on Shi'a politicians in Iraq; and today, al-Bayyna al-Jadeeda says that its editor-in-chief, Sattar Jabbar, was issued an arrest warrant by the head of the transparency committee in the Parliament, sabah al-Sa'idi – which prompted several front-page stories lambasting al-Sa'idi.


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