Kurdish Lawmakers Dig In for Fierce Budget Battle With Baghdad
The Iraqi national budget for 2014 is estimated at some 174 trillion Iraqi dinars (ID), with the deficit expected at 27 trillion ID.
BAGHDAD, Iraq – With rows over the current year’s budget still unresolved between Baghdad and Erbil, tensions run high as Kurdish and Arab lawmakers lock horns over next year’s allocation by the central government for the autonomous northern enclave.
Some of the same rows have spilled into the latest debates.
Baghdad accuses the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of failing to account for 106 million barrels of oil allegedly exported directly by the Kurds, it refuses to pay for foreign firms involved in oil projects in Kurdistan and has withheld pay for the Kurdish Peshmarga forces that are controlled by Erbil but are constitutionally part of the armed forces.
KRG officials claim they have never received the full 17 percent of their constitutional share of the budget. Baghdad refuses to pay for oil companies working in the enclave, on grounds the contracts should have gone through the central government in Baghdad.
"Two reasons have delayed the approval of the 2014 Iraq budget,” said Heissam Jiburi, lawmaker from the State of Law Coalition, which is led by the Shiite Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki. “One is the budget deficit, which is 30 percent, and the other is the dispute between Erbil and Baghdad that includes the Kurdistan Region's oil revenues and budget for Peshmarga forces."
The Iraqi national budget for 2014 is estimated at some 174 trillion Iraqi dinars (ID), with the deficit expected at 27 trillion ID.
Jiburi contends that the revenue from millions of barrels of oil from Kurdistan remains unaccounted for, based on data from the Board of Supreme Audit in Baghdad. He says that Kurdish officials are not ready to deal with the board, on grounds that the issue has been politicized.
Rashid Tahir, the KRG’s deputy minister of finance, explained that the reason for refusing to work with data from the board is because their numbers are wrong. He said that the central government must obtain the correct numbers from the Kurds themselves.
"They have to cooperate with the KRG Board of Audit and see that data before speaking about the revenues," he advised.
Another lawmaker from the State of Law Coalition took a harsher position against the KRG, suggesting that the Kurdistan Region should be cut from the national budget altogether, in order to force Erbil to submit all revenues from oil exports.
“Baghdad must cut the KRG’s budget until Erbil sends us all of its revenues from oil exported from Kurdistan in the last two years,” said MP Alia Nusaif. “This is a technical demand and there is no political agenda behind it,” she claimed.
She said that according to article 111 of the Iraqi constitution, the Kurdistan Region must submit all oil revenues to Baghdad.
According to Nusaif, most Iraqi lawmakers agree on cutting the KRG from the national budget altogether.
Meanwhile, Kurdish lawmakers appear to have dug in for a harsh fight over the budget, which has become an annual showdown between Baghdad and Erbil.
The row is fueled even more this year by direct oil exports which began this month from the Kurdistan Region to Turkey.
The rows over the 2013 budget led to a walkout by Kurdish lawmakers in the Iraqi parliament.
Ten years on, Iraqis still divided over Saddam’s legacy
Dec. 13 marked the 10th anniversary of the apprehension of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein at a farm near the town of Tikrit, during the “Red Dawn” operation by US troops.
Innumerable facts could be listed about the implications of this event and its aftermath. We could also discuss, ad infinitum, the fate that Hussein carved for himself and the whole country when he embroiled it in a series of frivolous and destructive wars that lay waste to its capabilities and caused great psychological and sociological damage to its population. We could also review the brutal past of Hussein’s regime and the horrific circumstances of its rule, reminding ourselves of the painful and bloody legacy that we inherited from the millions of innocent Iraqi victims.
But all these subjects seem irrelevant, for further evidence indicates that Iraqi history ended at that moment on April 9, 2003, when Hussein’s regime fell.
Ten years after the end of that era, it seems strange that Iraqis continue to be divided about its legacy. Some continue to strongly defend Hussein’s rule, and give the events that followed its demise as proof positive that the dictatorial approach adopted by Hussein was, in fact, the right one. Even worse, the intellectual elites that are supposed to form a vanguard in defense of democratic ideals now implicitly say that Iraq can only be ruled by a tyrant and that otherwise, its fate is to be partitioned.
The truth is that great similarities exist between those whose interests inflame their nostalgic feelings toward Hussein, and those who incessantly curse his reign, but still advocate the adoption of a dictatorial solution to deal with the consequences that followed his downfall. Caught between these two groups is a majority that absolutely rejects a return to Hussein’s methods, and believes that the solution to Iraq’s problems lies in overcoming his regime’s legacy instead of glorifying it and using it as an excuse to devastate the country’s present and future prospects.
Hussein was apprehended in 2003, but then what? Why do some still believe that his arrest and subsequent execution were an affront to a particular sect, instead of just and legal punishment for the mountains of transgressions attributable to Hussein, his regime and his cohorts?
The answer to that question is both complex and sensitive, for it's easy to overgeneralize. Moreover, the essence of our Iraqi crisis may be due to such overgeneralization. Yet there are limits that must be adhered to:
First, we have not sufficiently addressed the subject of Hussein’s reign to be able to forget it today. Proper treatment should have included a comprehensive and limited transitional period, during which that regime’s painful legacy would have been put aside and left for history to sort out.
Second, this deficient treatment of Hussein’s legacy gave opportunists and those who reject democratic ideals the chance to switch from championing a leader to championing a religious sect. This, in turn, inflamed the sectarian conflict and increased its destructiveness when Hussein went from a dictator who ruled by the sword to a leader and representative of a sect.
Even after his execution, Hussein will remain a hindrance to any real progress in Iraq’s march forward. This is not because he actually has any supporters, but because there are those who insist that his memory remains relevant, playing on the fears of his compatriots and exploiting the animosity and hatred that he engendered. Hussein’s real departure from the scene will begin the moment when Iraqis truly and wholly become convinced that the man died and his legacy was buried with him, and that everything relating to his era, crimes and wars has been properly settled to the satisfaction of all.
We Broke Iraq And We're Still Paying For The Damage
WASHINGTON -- In 2002, during the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell issued a warning to President George W. Bush about launching a war there. “Once you break it," he said, “you’re going to own it.”
Powell was right.
We broke Iraq when we began dropping "daisy cutter" bombs more than a decade ago. And while we don’t “own” Iraq now, we pay a lot of rent in exchange for our position as its ally, protector and arms supplier. After the Iraqis themselves, we remain the key player in determining that country’s fate.
Today, Iraq's future is in doubt. Renewed sectarian violence and rising attacks from al-Qaeda and its affiliates are threatening to tear a barely reassembled Iraq into pieces.
“The situation is fragile,” said a senior State Department official, who spoke to The Huffington Post anonymously so that he could give frank assessments. “Al-Qaeda is now a very serious threat, and the [Iraqi] government needs to be more active in reaching out to all groups.
“Iraq remains important, a key to the region,” he said. “It is certainly not a 'failed state,' but there is a lot of work that needs to be done.”
Not that we haven’t invested heavily -- tragically -- for what most Americans regard as a mistake that did not make us any safer.
The Iraq War was one of the longest, most expensive and controversial in our history. It cost the lives of some 4,500 Americans, at least 135,000 Iraqis (some estimates range significantly higher) and, over the long term, more than $2 trillion to drive Saddam Hussein from power and use military means to “stand up” a replacement.
For most Americans, Iraq disappeared from sight and mind once the last U.S. combat troops left two years ago this month. The Gallup Poll has stopped regularly asking about it. President Barack Obama rarely speaks of it. The visit last month of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki caused barely a ripple in the current of cable news.
Yet in some ways, Iraq is more important than ever. If it falls apart -- if it becomes the al-Qaeda global base it never was before (Dick Cheney’s dark fantasies of 2002 notwithstanding) -- the result could dash hopes for a semblance of peace and stability in an oil-rich region stretching from Turkey to the Arabian Sea.
We aren’t stuck in Iraq anymore. But we are stuck with Iraq.
That means, among other things, executing an all-too-familiar, shopworn power move: pushing “our” autocratic strongman toward democracy (usually by threatening to withhold arms), but not leaning so hard that his government and society collapse.
“We support additional arms for Iraq,” the State Department official said. Just not all of them right away.
When Maliki came to Washington last month with a military hardware list a mile long, he got the good cop/bad cop treatment from President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and key foreign policy and defense leaders on Capitol Hill.
Biden, the administration's designated lead player on Iraq, supports the full roster of arms sales, but in a scathing letter to Obama before Maliki’s arrival, a bipartisan group of Senate leaders, including Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), decried the violence and repression they said had resulted from Maliki’s rule. The president played Solomon in the middle.
So, yes, Maliki could buy (or be given money to buy) more Hellfire missiles, and yes, the previously approved sale of F-16s would go forward, but no, he could not -- for now -- get what he really wanted, which was a brace of Boeing-made Apache attack helicopters. (Biden supports selling the helicopters to Maliki.)
Apaches, hovering battleships bristling with ammo, were and remain a potent symbol of counter-terrorism military muscle. Iraq hired as its first postwar paid lobbyists in Washington the Podesta Group, which, perhaps not coincidentally, has done work for Boeing and is known for its ties to the Obama administration.
The Iraqis are also hedging their bets (and strengthening their bargaining position) by talking to the Russians about the purchase of Russian helicopter gunships.
What does Iraq have to do to get the Apaches (which the country doesn't yet have the military sophistication to use anyway)?
Simple. Iraq must master, or at least contain, religious and ethnic conflicts that have raged in the Middle East for millennia. After all, if the country can’t do that, no one else can -- and someone must.
Those conflicts have flared into the worst violence Iraq has seen since 2008, pitting the Shia-led government and its sectarian allies against Sunni insurgents and Kurdish separatists.
According to Obama administration officials and congressional aides, the key is to guarantee Sunnis -- once the ruling faction -- a governing role strong enough to counter the appeal of a Sunni-led jihadist group called the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). ("Al-Sham" refers to the Levant.)
But the jihadists will do what they can to disrupt the fact and the message of democracy. Many ISIS recruits come from neighboring Syria, where they are fighting the Shia-backed government of President Bashar Assad, and are dedicated to theocratic rule.
The Obama administration sees ISIS as the biggest current threat to stability. It’s a bitter irony, and yet another example of the unintended consequences that stem from any action in the Middle East: Heading to war, the Bush administration was dead wrong when it said al-Qaeda was in Iraq; after the war, a new form of al-Qaeda is a grave threat, according to the Obama administration.
The civil war in Syria is also yanking Iraq back into military calculations for the region: The U.S. needs Maliki's help in avoiding an even bigger explosion in the Levant.
U.S. officials have complained that Iraq is allowing Iran to use Iraqi air space to deliver supplies to the Assad regime. Iraq has complained to Iran half-heartedly, but doesn't have the aviation wherewithal to stop the flights, even assuming that it wanted to.
Perhaps of greater concern, according to U.S. officials, is that the Syrian war has become a magnet drawing Sunni and Shia fighters from Iraq into the conflict across the border. U.S. officials say there is no evidence that the Iraqi government is encouraging the migration. But even if it tried to stop the flow, it couldn't because Iraq's control of its own borders is so flimsy.
U.S. officials told the visiting Maliki that they wanted to see evidence of further political outreach to Sunnis and Kurds at home. Maliki denied, in public and private, that he favored the Shia or that his government was excluding other groups, but since returning to Iraq, he has made a number of gestures -- including one toward better relations with Turkey -- that U.S. officials say they find encouraging.
The Obama administration is hoping -- counting on -- elections in Iraq next spring to create a stable climate. Officials see a favorable straw in the whirlwind: Maliki’s own party lost ground in regional elections earlier this year. That raised hopes for a spirited national election next April 30.
Iraq's problem isn’t elections per se; the country is actually quite good at conducting them. It’s the social and economic fabric that surrounds politics. Though the Iraqi economy is growing, the benefits are distorted by corruption, mismanagement and regional antagonisms.
America's own efforts at rebuilding the country have produced a mixed record at best. An inspector general’s report earlier this year found that more than $8 billion of the $60 billion the U.S. had spent on civilian “reconstruction” in Iraq since 2003 had been flat-out wasted, and that much of the rest of the work was of dubious value or long-term benefit.
Meanwhile, Iraq can’t fully protect or even police its own borders or air space.
“The problem is that the country was so wrecked and destroyed by the war,” said Michael Knights, an Iraq specialist at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy. “The infrastructure isn’t there.”
After spending hundreds of billions of dollars on war and reconstruction, the U.S. government is dialing back its support, which this year amounts to perhaps $3 billion, including more than a billion to support diplomatic security and a military mission led by a three-star general.
Iraq’s government has a legislatively approved budget, but the numbers are an election-year fantasy, Knights said. It assumes a much higher rate of production and sale of oil than is technically possible, he said.
Still, Iraq is selling ever-greater percentages of the oil it does produce to China, which is pouring drilling technology and capital investment into areas that American firms have left or not bid on.
Which means, in the long run, that China may end up “owning” Iraq, at least financially, and without having had to fight a war to do so.
Ismaeel: CoM to hold new session next Sunday to discuss budget law of 2014
Friday, 20 December 2013 10:50
Baghdad (AIN) –The Council of Ministers will hold a new session on next Sunday to continue discussing the budget law of 2014.
The Secretary General of the CoM, Ali Mihsin Ismaeel, assured in a statement received by AIN "The session will be held on 22nd, December to continue the discussion over the financial budget law of 2014."
*** WHO IS THIS GUY - MY SENSE IS THAT HE IS A SERIOUS INDIVIDUAL AND WE HAVE HEARD FROM HIM IN THE PAST ON " BIG " ISSUES ONLY ***
Secretary General of the Council of Ministers: Iraq has two options: wisdom and reason, or chaos, strives and leaving democratic and institutional mechanisms
10/2/2013 12:44 مساءَ
The Secretary General of the Ministers Council Ali Mohsen Ismail said the important things in each event are the lessons learned from it, and we must remember that Iraq has two options:
Option of wisdom and reason and taking advantage of the mechanisms of democracy to create the best model in the region, and to take advantage of the capabilities of the physical and human resources to serve the people of this country, and the option of chaos, strives and exit out of democratic and institutional mechanisms which lead to fragmentation, degradation and conflict.
He added, during heading the fifth session of the meetings of the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers, that either we follow the language of the mind, wisdom and benefit from the resources of the country to be a model in the region, because Iraq is a potential candidate for stable and developed countries, and to be the more important in the region due to the poor conditions in most Arab countries, where we are the more stable in many aspects, including political, economic, social, or we might descend into chaos, retreat and loss, and this is not acceptable by Iraqis themselves. He explained that the demonstrations are going to more moderate line, and our reading to the situation is derived from our meetings with the religious and social delegations. They are going to reform, which is legitimate to seek to strengthen the first line for the benefit of all. So we do believe that the idea of boycott is not the most mature idea in the patch, and the safest way is to correct from inside the systems and through constitutional, legal, and institutional practices, while negative boycott and emotional reactions do not serve the process of reform and correction.
Ismail stressed the need to disseminate the culture of the correction, and there are mechanisms for that. Thus in all other aspects of the state, because the system allows hearing different opinions, and using democracy mechanisms, he noted that the Iraqis proved that they insist on national unity and rejected violence, sectarianism and division, this matter embarrassed the enemies of Iraq who tried different methods and tools for sedition and chaos, he mentioned that that a lot of negative phenomena and problems in state institutions need to reform the political environment, which adversely affect the management requirements in terms of the selection of persons in positions of responsibility, and through influence on the requirements of accountability, as well as on the mechanics of the legislation and its requirements.
Ismail added that if the law enforcement agencies failed, the prestige of the state will fail too, thus each political block aims to run the country in the future has to think to keep these agencies and institutions with full prestige and effectiveness.
The Secretary-General concluded that many executive activities were taken upon the recommendations of the ministerial committee on considering requests of demonstrators.
This meeting was attended by Deputy Secretary General Dr. Farhad Nimatallah Hussein, Secretary Assistant for the ministries and provinces Rahman Issa Hassan, and General Managers of the General Secretariat, the meeting inspected several files like investment, unemployment, border crossings, and follow-up completed projects.
Head of political blocs behind delay of Unified Retirement Law endorsement, says Shwani
Friday, 20 December 2013 11:39
Baghdad (AIN) –MP, Khalid Shwani, of the Kurdistani Alliance confirmed "There are specialized committees from the Legal and Financial Parliamentary Commissions that are studying the defects within the Unified Retirement Law draft."
He stated to AIN "We have also contacts with the executive sides that will implement the law."
"The Legal Committee conducted huge steps towards the endorsement of the law and it will be presented for a vote soon," he mentioned.
"The heads of the political blocs requested the delay in presented the law for a vote to have time for considering it and giving their final decisions regarding its draft," he concluded.
AMS demanding the release of Sheikh Qasim Jurani.
Baghdad / NINA /-- The Association of Muslim Scholars, held the Iraqi government full responsibility for the arrest of Sheikh Qasim Jurani , a popular movement activists in Diyala province and a member of the Fiqh Council of clerics.
In a statement the AMS said that a special security force of police raided on Wednesday the house of Sheikh Jurani in the al-Tahreer area south of the city of Baquba, and took him to an unknown destination.
Arbil / NINA /--Head Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, confirmed during receiving Ahmad Jarba chairman of the National Coalition of Syrian resistance and his accompanying delegation that Kurdistan region is highly interested of the Syrian crisis because it affects upon the whole region stressing that Kurdistan province is part of the region, and expressed his hope to end the crisis and the suffering of the Syrian people as soon as possible.
A statement by the presidency of Kurdistan region reported today that the meeting took place in Salahuddin resort, noting that the Syrian resistance delegation composed of members of the Syrian National Coalition and a number of independent political figures.