MP: Ratifying the budget without the approval of the Kurds' Ministers is a dangerous step
BAGHDAD / NINA / MP, of the Kurdistan Alliance, Hamid Bafi described the approval of the Council of Ministers on the Federal budget without the approval of the Kurd Ministers a dangerous step for the future of Iraq, as he put it .
He said in a statement today : "Iraq is a multinational and religions state and the Kurds is an authentic component in federal Iraq. The people of Kurdistan has fought for decades against tyranny , injustice and dictatorship in order to achieve their national, political, administrative and cultural rights and bring democracy to Iraq. The Kurds contributed in the removal of the former regime and the creation of the new democratic system. "
He added: "Baghdad government's decision to pass the federal budget without the approval of the Kurds' Ministers and without listening to their vision is very dangerous and tyranny, indicating that the decision of the government in Baghdad is a clear message to the people of Kurdistan, especially at this particular time, that the economy of Kurdistan and the rights and interests of its people are still under threat."
He stressed that: "Kurdistan region's leadership, parliament and its government need to reconsider its relationship with the Baghdad and take a decisive stand to maintain the dignity of the people of Kurdistan and maintain their rights and their freedoms."
The Cabinet had approved, on last Wednesday, the general budget of 2014 and sent to the House for a vote. The Kurds objected on that, considering it as an encroachment on their rights.
Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki held the Kurdistan provincial government responsibility for delaying the budget, noting that the government has prepared the budget for a long time , but the reason for the delay is due to failure of the province to fulfill its commitment to the export of 400 000 barrels per day .
For her part, MP of the Kurdistan Alliance, Ashwaq al-Jaf called on the "federal and provincial governments to agree on all outstanding issues before starting to vote on the federal budget in the House of Representatives.
She said in a statement today that "there are many controversial points about the budget, including the budget of the Peshmerga and Article 140 of the Constitution and the share of the oil companies operating in the region."
Othman: A delegation from the Kurdistan region arrives to Baghdad today for talks with the federal government on outstanding issues
BAGHDAD / NINA / Kurdish independent, MP Mahmoud Othman announced that a delegation from the Kurdistan region will arrive in Baghdad today for talks with the federal government on outstanding issues , including the budget and export of oil ."
He predicted in a statement to the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / " successful talks between the delegation of the province and the federal government , on the budget and the export of oil and the salaries of the Peshmerga , and get agreement between the two governments before or after approving the budget , as happened last year , pointing out that "The direct dialogue between the two governments is the only way to resolve the outstanding problems ."
He stressed on the need to pass the law of the state budget for 2014 , and the retirement law , within the remaining period of Parliament , describing the lack of their approval in this period as disaster , pointing to the possibility of approving the budget without the approval of the Kurdistan Alliance and vote on it in Parliament and get approval by a majority vote.
Nujaifi Arrives in Kuwait at the Head of a Parliamentary Delegation
BAGHDAD / NINA / Speaker of the House of Representatives Osama Najafi arrived to Kuwait at the head of a parliamentary delegation at the invitation of the Speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly to participate in the works of the thirteenth session of the Executive Committee and the Twentieth Congress of the Arab Parliamentary Union.
A statement by the Information Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives said that the Kuwaiti National Assembly Speaker Marzouk Al-Ghanem received Nujaifi at Kuwait International Airport.
The statement noted that Nujaifi also visited governor of Basra Majid Nasraoui at his residence in Kuwait, in order to see him after suffering a heart attack.
Compared to the years following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Kurdish political parties have achieved greater maturity and sophistication in administering their autonomous enclave (Kurdistan Region-Iraq) but have been too lax in synchronizing their short-term with long-term goals. Iraq's Kurds have so far established the basic pillars of a state with a flourishing economy and a functioning government that is protecting the security of the region, providing basic social services, and maintaining diplomatic and commercial ties with over 20 countries. However, one wonders if the Kurds still think that the constitution would protect them from Baghdad's threats and provocations .
The Kurds have often declared that they will remain within Iraq as long as the central government respects the constitution and if not they would go their own way. Iraqi Arabs and outside observers have always suspected that the Kurds were preparing themselves to declare independence when they feel that the time is right. If this assumption were correct, at what point and under what circumstances would the Kurds declare independence? Since time is of the essence, some observers believe that the Kurds might have already missed the boat for not preempting the central government to reconstitute power in Baghdad.
Increasing foreign investment in Kurdistan Region rather than in Arab Iraq is an expression of investors' recognition and confidence in Southern Kurdistan's professionalism in the international arena. If the Kurds have been able to come this far within less than a quarter of a century, they should be able to go the rest of the way with or without the blessing of Baghdad. The US never rewarded the Kurds for the help they offered them during Iraq's occupation. Instead, Washington continues to hinder the Kurds from achieving self-reliance, in maintaining their own security, or in exploiting their own oil resources.
The US has been very unhappy about the growing political and commercial ties between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Turkey, fearing that might damage American broader interests and destabilize the already unstable Middle East. Contrary to Washington's Think Tanks opinions that are shaping the White House policy, the Kurds have been a source of stability in Iraq and their growing ties with Ankara has contributed to improved living condition in the Kurdistan Region and in Iraq, as well as across the border in Turkey. Washington lacks a real understanding of factors with a direct bearing on the security and political stability of the Middle East, as evidenced by the deteriorating American standing in the Middle East for the past six decades.
It is not the Kurds who have destabilized Iraq, Syria and Egypt, but the undemocratic systems of governments, functioning as incubators to produce terrorist groups, and those who finance them. The new generation of strategists and political analysts in Washington should discard their outmoded analytical tools and sharpen their focus on the real culprits destabilizing the Middle East. The US should pay more attention to the 40 million Kurds, who are seeking peace, stability and economic prosperity in the Middle East.
The US has been discouraging Turkey since 2003 from embracing the Kurds with the same excuse that the Kurds were undisciplined troublemakers, which the Western allies used to deprive them of their rights to nationhood following WW1. Washington "Think Tanks" should discard their outdated dysfunctional frame of mind and Oriental's ideology, which has led to wars and destruction in the Middle East during the past six decades. It is time to look at the Kurds and their culture in a more positive and realistic manner that has already contributed to peace, stability and economic prosperity in Iraqi Kurdistan and beyond. It is more cost-effective and fruitful to put the US Kurdish policy on the right path rather than enforcing the same old ideas, which have miserably failed. Just look at the new book "Duty" by former US Secretary of Defense Robert concerning the US policy in the Middle East .
Arab Iraq has failed to accomplish in 9 decades what the Iraqi Kurds have accomplished in less than two and a half decades. It makes no sense for the US to hinder the Kurds in improving their own lot by exploiting Kurdistan's natural resources while strengthening the hands of their oppressors in Baghdad, who are unable to stabilize Iraq's security and are contributing to the Syrian conflict. One can find no rationale in the US policy of pressing Turkey to close its door in the face of Iraqi Kurds. Among the neighboring states, which are circling Iraqi Kurdistan, only Turkey realized that the Kurds are their most dependable neighbors for maintaining regional security and undertook joint commercial ventures that would promote prosperity rather than violence and destruction.
[8:38:49 AM] MarcG.: It is puzzling why US foreign policy architects think that close political and economic ties between Iraqi Kurdistan and Ankara would harm the US in interests in Arab Iraq, which been devastated by sectarian war since the US invasion of the country in 2003. Washington should understand that the former US President George W. Bush unraveled the old Iraq (Humpty Dumpy) and it cannot be put back together again. The old Iraq died in 2003 and why should one keep trying to keep it alive artificially? Formal fragmentation of Iraq would not be more painful than the 13 years of suffering has been for Iraqis.
Currently, people do not feel safe even in their homes and those who go to work in the morning are not sure if they would return home safely in the evening . Peyamner News Agency reported that a shopkeeper in Baghdad named Ra'ad Mohammed said that we have no idea who is targeting us and why and feel that death is awaiting us everywhere in the city . Casualties in 2013 matched the peak of the sectarian violence in 2007-2008 . Let Iraq split into its original natural components, Kurdish,www.Ekurd.net Sunni and Shiite Arab independent enclaves. Time of preserving the old empires ended with the collapse of Ottoman Empire, Yugoslavia and Soviet Union. The US does not need Middle East oil as it did before, and its relations with Sunni Arab states stand on shaky grounds because of its failure to solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue and now for reviving tie with Iran, Saudi Arabian archenemy now.
The Kurds, who have suffered at least as much abuse under successive Arab governments in Baghdad as South Sudan had in the hands of North Sudan, have a proven record of self-government and necessary skills and capacity to contribute to regional development and stability. They deserve at least the same opportunity as that given to South Sudan. The Shiite-dominated government has been busy since 2005 to consolidate the Shiite community's grip on power rather than establishing secular democratic federal institutions. The government in Baghdad is in shambles, security is chaotic, the ruling party has marginalized other political factions, many ministerial positions remain vacant since 2010, and the sectarian violence is rampant. The Shiite-dominated government is turning its back on the constitution and increasingly turning to authoritarianism.
In advance of the April elections, al-Maliki has unleashed his new sophisticated media outlet against the Kurds, portraying them as villains, who are hindering the central government from putting its house in order and from fighting the Sunni Arab insurgents cum al-Qa'ida (Islamic State of Iraq-DAISH) . In the same vein, al-Maliki blamed the Kurds for the delay in approving the 2014 national budget, which had drastically trimmed KRG's 17 percent share of the national budget on the ground that they had failed to export 400,000 barrels of oil per day . The KRG capacity of producing oil falls far short of what Baghdad is calling for. Peyamner News Agency reported on January 10 that the KRG had announced on its website that the KRG would export 1 million barrels of oil by the end of January, which would increase to 4 million barrels by the end of February 6 millions by the end of March, and 10-12 millions by the end of December 2014 . Frustrated by continued cooperation between the KRG and Turkey, "Baghdad summoned Turkey's Charge Attaché d' Affairs on January 12 over moves by Iraq's Kurdish region to sell oil independently via Ceyhan [Turkish port city], saying the move was a violation of its constitution as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned Turkey on not interfering on the issue."  On the contrary, both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Ankara insist that oil-gas contractual agreements between them are in line with the Iraqi constitution .
Al-Maliki told the Reuters reporter on January 12 that the unilateral oil export by the KRG, "is a constitutional violation which we will never allow, not for the (autonomous Kurdistan) region nor for the Turkish government. Turkey mus not interfere in an issue that harms Iraqi sovereignty."  Al-Maliki, who had already reduced KRG's share of Iraq's budget, threatened to cut their 17 percent entitlement if they proceed with their oil export plan through Turkey. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) spokesperson Safeen Dizayee described the reduction in KRG's share of the budget as a collective punishment against the Kurds .
Under present conditions in the Middle East, the US is now more concerned about eradicating al-Qa'ida than in supporting Iraq's Kurds, who are seeking peaceful coexistence with their neighbors, especially with al-Maliki, who is accusing them of thievery for exporting their own oil to Turkey . The Kurds claim that they are being obliged to export oil unilaterally in order to pay oil companies their entitlements for the work they had done in Kurdistan after Baghdad refused to do so.
Just watch how al-Maliki's belated political posturing against al-Qa'ida, synchronized with the international community's fight against terrorism in Syria and debate on Iran's nuclear enrichment program, gained him US recognition and support in terms of military hardware, which is used against Sunni Arab protestors cum al-Qa'ida. The US, who had been accusing al-Maliki of authoritarianism and of marginalizing Sunni Arabs from power, suddenly shifted gears to support him after he claimed that he is fighting the same al-Qa'ida fighters who are fighting in Syria. He copied President Bashar al-Assad of Syria's tactics by shifting attention from his marginalization policy to fighting terrorism. He cleverly mixed Sunni Arab insurgents with al-Qa'ida in one package in order to gain the US sympathy. The US fell for al-Maliki's slick tactic and expedited sending him a new package of sophisticated military hardware and planes supposedly to be used for against al-Qa'ida. Kurdish officials had earlier cautioned the US against selling such offensive weapons to al-Maliki unconditionally; fearing that they might be used them against them.
Washington seems to be paying more attention to the squeaking wheel, which is greased more quickly than the wheel that runs smoothly. The Kurds should remain vigilant about regional and domestic cutthroat politics in order to be able to preserve their considerable security, political and economic gains. The recently declared US support for al-Maliki emboldened him against not only Erbil and Ankara but also Saudi Arabia,www.Ekurd.net who has long despised him for his sectarian policy toward Iraq's Sunni Arabs. He told reporters that he has submitted a formal complaint to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon during his visit to Baghdad on January 12 against Saudi Arabia allegedly for supporting the al-Qa'da linked-Islamic State in Iraq (DAISH) . The reckless saber rattling by al-Maliki against Saudi Arabia and Turkey could lead to a new wave of instability in the region while the West is trying to find a formula for peace in Syria. ( continued )
The lack of response from Ankara to al-Maliki's smear tactics leaves the KRG defenseless in the cold and one wonders what would be the fate of all the fruitful collaborative work done between Erbil and Ankara until 2013. The ongoing regional and Western Middle East policy correction in the Middle East has strengthened al-Maliki's hands in Iraq and weakened KRG's political standing vis-à-vis Baghdad in recent days.
Observers wonder if Ankara is sincere in developing healthy neighborly ties with their next-door Kurdish neighbors or if they merely wanted to punish the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad for marginalizing Sunni Arabs and for supporting the Alawite-run Syrian government. There is no doubt that Ankara-Erbil collaboration during recent years has contributed to peace, stability and economic prosperity in the Kurdistan Region as well as across the border in Turkey, especially in Northern Kurdistan-Turkey. However, what is puzzling is why Ankara has left Erbil in the cold to fend for itself, especially after Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz's tripartite (Ankara-Erbil-Baghdad) collaborative oil exploration and export proposal was rejected by Baghdad. Erbil seems to be until now rolling with the punches it is receiving from Baghdad in order to avoid pitfalls. The US continued opposition to Ankara-Erbil collaboration and support for al-Maliki has placed the KRG in a defensive posture. It might have been disappointing to Kurdish officials when the Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters at the last minute, "We will not be engaged in a business violating the Iraqi constitution. We would not 9 act in violation) of Iraq's integrity and sovereignty." 
While the US wants to protect its so-called legacy of freeing Iraq from Saddam Hussein's authoritarian Sunni Arab minority government, they replaced him with another dictator, whose aim is to consolidate the Shiite power in Iraq. Washington's paranoia with al-Qa'ida has unleashed Prime Minister al-Maliki's primordial thirst for power, for revenge, and for suppressing Kurdish and Sunni Arab minorities. Al-Maliki knows that the overwhelming majority in the protestors' camps in the Anbar province were ordinary Iraqi citizens, protesting against his marginalization policy.
With the April elections approaching, the government controlled media campaign is projecting al-Maliki as a man with an iron fist fighting al-Qa'ida , challenging KRG's autonomous rights and protecting Iraq's sovereignty. In reality, al-Maliki has sorely failed to eradicate the so-called DAISH, who have been freely roaming Iraqi provinces of Diyala, Baghdad and Nineveh, and Salahadin since 2011. He ordered his troops to camp in the outskirts of Ramadi and Falluja, not to avoid bloodshed per se, but to avoid his troops being massacred by Sunni insurgents cum al-Qa'ida, who have killed as many people in 2013 as at the peak of the sectarian violence in 2007-2008. Yet, we see al-Maliki blowing hot air in the media by attacking the Kurdish and Sunni Arab leaderships and receiving Washington's blessing for his clumsy governance and failed political and military performance.
Although it would have a more appropriate for the KRG to disengage itself from the dysfunctional government in Baghdad before in early 2013, it is still not too late to assess the situation carefully. Al-Maliki is trying to not only divert attention from his failure to provide Iraqi people with basic social services and protect them from daily terrorist attacks, to Iraqi Kurdistan and erode its political and economic achievements.