How Islamic State oil flows to Israel

December 3, 2015

enLogoOil produced by the Islamic State group finances its bloodlust. But how is it extracted, transported and sold? Who is buying it, and how does it reach Israel? 

See more at:

How Islamic State oil flows to Israel

By Al-Araby al-Jadeed staff

Date of publication: 26 November, 2015 

 

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Days of Rage on the Arab street

February 22, 2011

After the first successful thrust every revolution differentiates into political and class currents. This is the moment of greatest danger. The moment when the future of the revolution is decided.” (John Rees)

After successful ousting in Tunisia and Egypt now on the rest of Arab streets in every Arab capital the masses have the idea that change is possible. Will the ouster of autocrats continue remains to seen. Along the Arab street there is a long history of tensions and frozen conflicts and events in Tunisia and Egypt may be a catalyst for rebellion. Still existing regimes and dictators are using old strategies to stay in power. These included promises of rulers to resign in future, using pro-government thugs against demonstrators, wage increases and tax cuts and other economic concessions to cut support from uprisings.


Dictators have been ousted so far in Tunisia and Egypt and today it seems that Libya, Yemen and Bahrain will follow any day;  ‘Sturm und Drang’ is advancing extensively on the Arab streets.  How deep the change will be on scale reformation-revolution and wide the fire will spread on the Arab street and outside of it remains to seen.


Egypt starts post-Mubarak era

In Egypt it now appears that the coup was possible due the tensions between Tantawi and the Mubarak family. Tantawi was frustrated with the prospect that Mubarak’s son Gamal. might ascend to the presidency. Gamal Mubarak, in turn, was believed to be hostile to Tantawi and wanted him to be removed. Huge crowds of Egyptians who demonstrated for 18 days against Hosni Mubarak’s rule saw Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi and his troops as their saviour. They appealed to the military to intervene in Egypt’s crisis, and the generals did.

Party is over? Over the weekend, Egyptians and others globally celebrated. Today they awakened to the cold reality of a new dawn. Mubarak has gone, but his state apparatus remains intact. In my opinion the outcome in Egypt will be a reform not revolution, that is, changes in personnel and policies, protection of human rights, but no challenge to the structure or the constitution. Egypt’s society is diverse enough to withstand a despotic theocracy and if in doubt so the army is the final guarantor. If the military regime retains power the geopolitical arrangements would remain in place.
According social media April 6 Youth movement continues demonstration to implement following demands:

  • Acquitting the current government.
  • Abolition of the Emergency law.
  • The Release of all Detainees.
  • The formation of a presidential council, including civilians, and fair judges.
  • Retribution of all the media figures that have contributed in killing our martyrs.
  • Acquiting the state security apparatus and restructuring of the Ministry of Interior as well as all of the NDP headquarters
  • Forming a new technocratic government .
  • Aquitting the government led by Ahmed Shafik, which includes the foul faces that have a history of corruption such as Mufid Shehab \ Aisha Abdel Hadi \ Faiza Abu Naga \ Sameh Fahmi \ Ali Meselhi \ Mahmoud Wagdy, to be dismissed and Mhakthm and the formation of a new technocratic government.

To make a complete break with the bourgeois regime and that means expropriating the wealth of the big capitalists – the Mubarak family, the some 1.000 family clique around them including leading army brass. Egypt’s senior generals are part of the ruling establishment and army is up to its helmets in big business: shopping centers, tourism, property, hotels, steel, telecom. A real revolution would require a Marxist revolutionary leadership by Egyptian workers and youth and there is no signs that such a party is possible to build in near future. There is a deep divide in the opposition and thus far do not appear to have been able to generate the type of mass movement that toppled the Shah of Iran’s regime in 1979.


Libya moving to civil war

The protests in Libya are the latest in a wave of dissent sweeping the Arab world in the wake of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. After the worst unrest in Gaddafi’s four decades in power hundreds of people have been killed over the past three days in a fierce security crackdown mounted in response to anti-government protests that sought to emulate uprisings in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia. ABC News reports that the protests were originally not organised but were sparked by youths turning out for Thursday’s “Day of Rage” against the Gaddafi regime. “We don’t have here unions and syndicates or political parties, just youth going out on the “Day of Rage” (February 17).

Gaddafi’s government has moved quickly to try to stop Libyans from joining the wave of uprisings in the Middle East. In an attempt to stave off protests the Libyan government had announced it would double the salaries of government workers. It also released a sizeable number of Islamic militants from prison. As soft power was not enough the regime used hard its security troops and also “thugs” were being given cash and new cars to take to the streets and attack anti-government protesters. Government used e.g. snipers from the Internal Security Forces in the eastern city of Beyida against unarmed demonstrators. In Benghazi police initially followed orders Saturday to act against the protesters, but later joined with them because they belong to the same tribe and saw foreign mercenaries taking part in the killings.

Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam delivered a speech on national television. The content of the speech indicates the state believes it is facing a serious uprising and a potential civil war. He also has orchestrated the release of members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which is suspected of having links to al-Qaida, in the past as part of a reconciliation plan. Another of Gaddafi’s sons, Libyan National Security Adviser Motasem Gadhafi, is Seif al-Islam’s potential rival.

In some areas it also seems that the police and security forces are showing sympathy for the protesters and even army units have changed side. In Ajdabia the police seem to have sided with the protesters to fight government mercenaries and the government has reacted by shutting down electricity supplies and access to the internet has been blocked. Some towns were surrounded by the military but latest reports are claiming that many regions are already occupied by opposition. Some tribe leaders are taking side with opposition, the government has started to collapse and Gaddafi has probably escaped from Tripoli to his desert base.

Gaddafi has ordered the Libyan air force to fire on military installations in Libya, which reflects a split within the regime source, earlier air force fighters have opened fire on crowds of protesters and the navy has participated too operations against demonstrators.

Earlier possibility for an Egypt-style revolt was seen unlikely in Libya because the government could use oil revenues to smooth over most social problems. Probably the events escalated so fast that there was not enough time to use this mean.


The Middle East on the edge

Thousands of people are protesting in Yemen for a fifth consecutive day to demand political reforms and the ouster of the country’s US-allied president – Saleh – who has ruled the Arab world’s poorest country since 1978. Military ties between the US and Saleh’s administration have grown stronger in recent months, as the country struggles with the increasing militancy of a secessionist movement in the south, as well as unrest provoked by rising food prices, unemployment reaching 40 per cent – and demands for human rights to be recognized.The US is shortly to embark on a $75m project to train Yemen’s counterterrorism unit, US officials say. (Source: Uruknet)

“Down with the president’s thugs” (sign in demonstration)

Yemen used to be two separate countries: The southern half was the only Arab communist country – PDRY(People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen). There is unrest in the south because they haven’t fully integrated the two parts of the country. Government has still not resolved the issues of the rebellious so-called Houthi people on the Saudi border, where the Saudis have intervened militarily. Economically Yemen has no water, and the country faces an agricultural crisis for which there is no visible solution. A hugely disproportional amount of water that they do have is used for the cultivation of qat, a mild narcotic leaf. Yemen has no oil. It is now the place where al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has established itself, and it poses a serious terrorism issue. And similarly to other Arab despots who face overthrow, President Saleh had announced wage increases and tax cuts and other economic concessions. Like in Egypt pro-government thugs armed with daggers and batons fought anti-government protesters. The police fired warning shots into the air, but then withdrew from the streets allowing the thugs to attack the anti-government protesters.


In Bahrain, the problem is between the majority of people, who are Shiite, and the ruling government, who are Sunnis. The latest death raises the possibility of more rallies and challenges to the ruling Sunni monarchy in Bahrain. In the past week, Bahrain’s rulers have attempted to undermine calls for reform by promising nearly $2,700 for each family and pledging to loosen state controls on the media. A main Shiite opposition group, Al Wefaq, denounced the “bullying tactics and barbaric policies pursued by the security forces” against peaceful marchers staging the first major rallies in the Gulf since uprisings toppled long-ruling regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Bahrain’s protesters, however, claim they do not seek to overthrow the ruling monarchy but want greater political freedoms and sweeping changes in how the country is run. The demands include transferring more decision-making powers to the parliament and breaking the monarchy’s grip on senior government posts. Bahrain’s majority Shiites — about 70% of the population — have long complained of systemic discrimination by the Sunni rulers.

Initially the protesters were calling on the Sunni monarchy to adopt more liberal policies and also grant more rights for the country’s majority Shiite population. But as the movement grew in strength after it started on Monday of last week the demands of the protesters have become bolder, calling for jobs, better housing conditions and freedom for all political prisoners. Source: Ynetnews )

Bahrain is of particular importance to the United States because it is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. If King Khalifa falls so U.S. outpost for Iran and strategic Hormuz channel will be in danger. Also other side of the border are Saudi Arabia’s oilfields on Persian Gulf – populated mostly with Shiites.

Bahrain was the first sign of post-Egypt unrest anywhere in the wealthy Gulf states, but also in Kuwait, opposition groups had called for an anti-government protest last week, but shifted the date to March 8 after the resignation of the country’s scandal-tainted interior minister.

The Islamic Action Front is the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and it seems that it has now transformed political disillusionment into political capital. The Islamic Action Front is more liberal than Islamist parties in some other countries and so far it has backed the royal family. However supporters of this country’s largest opposition party held a rally to celebrate the new Egypt and the people power that swept away Mubarak. Jordanians took to the streets demanding constitutional reform and more say in decision-making. About 2,000 pro-democracy protesters under attack from pro-government activists armed with batons, pipes and stones. King Abdullah II dismissed his cabinet earlier this month after massive street protests against the government’s economic and political policies.

In Jordan dissatisfaction with regime was shown also indirectly. In a letter published this week by 36 Jordanian tribal leaders, who represent nearly 40% of the population and play an important role in the kingdom’s politics, the Queen Rania Al-Abdullah was criticized relentlessly. In the letter, Rania was accused of “corruption, stealing money from the Treasury and manipulating in order to promote her public image – against the Jordanian people’s will.”It was also mentioned that Jordan is suffering from “an authority crisis” and from a growing influence of “corrupt businessmen who surround the decision makers, affect political decisions and ignore national interests.” The tribal leaders called to “put these corrupt people who stole from the country on trial, regardless of their status.””Sooner or later Jordan will be a destination for a similar uprising like the ones in Tunisia and Egypt because of oppression of freedom and robbing from public funds,” said the letter. (Source: Ynetnews)

In Saudi Arabia spread over week ago a wild rumor that king, Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, is dead, which triggered a spike in the price of oil; the government assured that he is alive and in “excellent shape”. A Saudi Arabian prince on Thursday said said that the protests and unrest in Arab countries may be dangerous for his country if King Abdullah does not step up the pace of reform. Prince Talal bin Abdul-Aziz, a half brother of the king, said it was not too late for the Saudi government to take steps to avoid protests. He also said the king is the only person who can bring about major changes. Talal has called for reform before, he holds no government posts and is considered something of an outsider within the royal family.

Perhaps fearing its own uprising, the Saudi Arabia’s government (unchanged since its 1932 founding) “react(ed) to the winds of change blowing throughout the Arab Middle East. For the first time, a political party has been established – and though it has not yet received official government approval,” it asked King Abdullah to allow it. Supported by lawyers, businessmen, and others, Saudi’s new Islamic Nation Party is a first. Saying it will work for political reform and human rights, it stressed that the “regime need not fear the democratic spirit overtaking the Arab world.”Saudis domestic intelligence service, the General Directorate for Investigations, arrested five party’s founders on the night of February 16, 2011, one week after they submitted their request for recognition of the Islamic Nation Party as a political party to the Royal Court and the Shura Council, an unelected council with some parliamentary functions.

Saudi Arabia does not allow political parties. Up to now and unless changed, King Abdullah appoints a Cabinet of Ministers every four years, including many royal family members. No elections are held. In 2006, a committee of Saudi princes was established to serve unspecified future selection functions after Crown Prince Sultan becomes king. A 150-member Consultative Council also exists, headed by a royal appointed chairman to serve four years. Demonstration along the Arab streets have alarmed the Saudis and the regime is investing huge amounts of money securing their southern border for that reason.

In Syria, too, although President Bashar Assad Tuesday put on a big show of unconcern by mingling unescorted among a crowd of affectionate admirers in Damascus, the situation is very tense. Early Wednesday, he placed Syrian security forces and the army on high alert in readiness for the Day of Anger called for Friday, Feb. 18, by opposition organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood. After Syrian intelligence received word that it was planned to be the most serious attempt to date to shake the dynastic Assad regime, police and security strength in Syrian cities were beefed up. Heavy reinforcements were moved into the Kurdish areas of the north, where the most violent protests are anticipated. Assad has adopted the Iranian tactic of exerting maximum force to break up crowds as they form and giving security forces a free hand to open fire with live ammunition without having to ask for permission. (Source: Debkafile)

According the International Marxist Tendency even Iraq is now being affected as mass protest have erupted across the country, particularly in the Kurdish areas of the country where violent protests have broken out as the anger of the youth has reached boiling point. Ten people are reported to have been killed by police forces during protests in Sulaymaniya. Violent protests have taken place at various locations in Iraq, with anti-government protesters taking out rallies against corruption, poor basic services and high unemployment. In Basra, the country’s second largest city in the south, around a thousand people rallied today, demanding jobs and improved pensions.

Iraqi and Kurdish leaders have also attempted to head off the protests by slashing the salaries of ministers and MPs and diverting cash earmarked for the purchase of fighter jets to buy food for the needy. This highlights growing mass opposition to the atrocious social conditions created by the occupation regime set up by Washington after the US invasion in 2003. These include lack of electricity and clean water, mass joblessness, and surging increases in the price of food—as well as the dictatorial conduct of the new rulers placed in power by Washington.

In Palestine the turmoil started already earlier due the the Al Jazeera-Guardian Palestine Papers leak, the Palestinian Authority also made early mistake bywrongly siding with Egypt’s ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak, now the PA is employing desperate political maneuvers. According analyst Fadi Elsalameen nothing short of Abbas and Fayyad handing in their own resignations and accepting responsibility for their failures will satisfy the Palestinian streets. Abbas and Fayyad are of a past era. They are no longer representative of the future we young Palestinians seek for ourselves. Rather, we see them through the lens of withering and illegitimate Arab regimes that if not replaced democratically will be toppled through a popular revolution that I can assure them has already begun. (Source: Al Jazeera )

So far the military coup has stabilized or even improved Egypt’s relationship with Israel. Last week on 18th Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have waved through another 3,000 Egyptian troops into North Sinai, topping their number up to 4,000 and virtually scrapping the key demilitarization clause of the 1979 peace treaty. Senior Israeli military officers report that Israel posed no conditions for its permission then or now – not even demanding a timeline for their withdrawal so that Sinai might revert to the military-free buffer status which buttressed the peace for 32 years. Neither were limits placed on the Egyptian troops’ operations and movements. (Source: Debkafile)


Maghreb on the waitlist

In Morocco the government appears to be trying to calm fears over price hikes on basic goods ahead of a Facebook-arranged protests planned for next Sunday. It has doubled the money it sets aside for state subsidies to counter rising global commodity prices.The Moroccan monarchy is largely popular and entrenched in the socio-cultural foundations of the country., so much so that in Morocco we can actually talk about two layers of political authority that help set the monarchy as regime and political order above the political fray, and one that is capable of deflecting all criticism towards the state government led by the prime minister.

Communist League of Action as a Marxist revolutionary group in Morocco declared its position as follows:

  • active participation in the mobilization of the masses
  • its appreciation of the Democratic Confederation of Labour and other leftist organizations and parties (the Democratic Way, the United Socialist Party, the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, etc) who are participating to assure the success of this action
  • the objective conditions for revolutionary change are ripe, posing for the revolutionary left the responsibility to prepare for the leadership of these and other actions towards the completion of the historical tasks
  • their opposition to all forms of class cooperation with the capitalists and their dependent capitalistic stat

One, two, three, viva L’Algerie”

Algeria – a regional power, U.S. ally, and major energy producer — is vulnerable to revolution; however the number of protesters there, who went to the streets on February 12th was much smaller than in Tunisia and Egypt. In my opinion Algeria is surprisingly quiet reflected to its violent past. After massive riots caused the one-party state to collapse in 1988, Algeria failed to become a democracy, and the military took power in 1992. What followed was the decade-long Algerian civil war. Algerian civil society has only just begun to emerge from the trauma of that war, which left 200,000 people dead. To date, it remains the region’s most violent conflict between militants and the state.

In Tunisia, the revolution of the young urban elite has for the time being concealed the fact that the Islamists Renaissance party is likely to emerge from the fringes of illegal sub-activity to that of a leading political force. While this is unlikely to transform Tunisia into a stronghold of radical fundamentalism, the Islamic movement under the leadership of Rachid Ghannouchi is expected to fare well in democratic elections scheduled for this summer.

Radical Islamists gathered outside a synagogue in Tunis and chanted anti-Semitic slogans. Footage taken from the scene shows them chanting “Allahu Akbar” and “Khaybar, Khaybar. Oh Jews, Muhammad’s army will return”. They were referring to the Battle of Khaybar, which was fought in the year 629 between Muhammad and his followers against the Jews living in the oasis of Khaybar, located 150 kilometers (95 miles) from Medina in the modern-day Saudi Arabia (song came recently famous as it was popular song also in Gaza flotilla).

John Rees writes in his analysis The Tunisian Revolution in historical context as follows:

It is still possible in Tunisia that the ruling elite, having jettisoned only their hated figurehead, will attempt to crush the movement by force and restore the old regime virtually unmodified. It is also possible that there will be some transition to a weak form of bourgeois democracy where there is a change in the political structure of the country but no change to the underlying property relations. The fate of the Tunisian revolution is, so far, still hanging in the balance. Will it result in more far reaching political change? Will the momentum of the considerable working class opposition to the old dictator, including the General Strike, which was crucial in breaking his Presidency, carry the revolution forward to confront capitalist property revolutions? Will political currents emerge that represent this perspective? These questions are still to be answered.


Demography factor

One major cause behind the unrest on Arab streets is demographic expansion in all these countries. Although birth rates are falling, a third of the overall population is below 15 years old, and large numbers of young women either are or soon will be reaching reproductive age. The Ministry of Defense in the UK has projected that by 2030 the population of the Middle East will have increased by 132%, and that of sub-Saharan Africa by 81%, generating an unprecedented “youth bulge.” As unemployment among youth is high and there is no sign for improvement, the perspective for better future is rather dim.

Below I have collected some statistics reflecting demographic challenge:

Country Population % < 30

Jobless

youth

Ruler
Algeria

34,6

57

45,6

A. Boutflika, 11 years
Bahrain

1,2

+56

54.1

King Ali Khalifa
Jordania

6,4

64

27

King Hussein
Egypt

80,5

61

21,7

Military council 0 years
Libya

6,5

60

27,5

M. Gaddafi, 42 years
Morocco

31,6

56

21,9

King Muhammed VI, 11 y.
Saudi Arabia

25,7

61

16,3

King Abdullah, 6 years
Sudan

43,9

69

na

O. al-Bashir, 18 years
Syria

22,2

66

16,5

B. al-Assad, 11 years
Tunisia

10,6

50

27,3

Interim 1 month
Yemen

23,5

72

18,7

Ali Saleh, 32 years

Demography is creating other problems – than radicalism and unrest – which are limiting socio-economic solutions. The Water Sector Assessment Report on the Gulf countries expects that the availability of fresh water is likely to halve because of demographic pressures. A halving of available water supplies due to population growth over the next 20 years could all too easily intensify tensions and turn them into civil wars and international military hostilities.


Democracy now

According The Economist report the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) remains the most repressive region in the world—16 out of 20 countries in the region are categorized as authoritarian. There are only four exceptions: Israel is the only democracy in the region, albeit a flawed democracy; and there are three hybrid regimes (Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories). The average score of countries in the region declined from an already very low 3.54 in 2008 to 3.43 in 2010, almost a point below the next lowest-scoring region, Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of democracy, on a 0 to 10 scale, is based on the ratings for 60 indicators grouped in five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.


Meanwhile in Iran

In Iran demonstrations were initiated by Iranian opposition figures in ostensible solidarity with the popular protests in Egypt and elsewhere, but were plainly intended to revive the post-election protests of 2009. “How, after all, it will be wondered, can Ahmadinejad say ‘yes’ to the rights of the Arab peoples, but deny those same rights to his own people?”

Iran’s protests have sparked hope among observers of the region that the country might see a grassroots, Egypt-style uprising that would unseat the ruling theocracy. However the circumstances between Egypt and Iran differ. In the Islamic Republic there are security forces eager to do exactly what the Egyptian military were not willing to do – beat, and even shoot and kill citizens protesting on the streets. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and fiercely loyalist Basij militia consider it a “sacred duty” to quell anti-government dissent. According Hagai M. Segal, a lecturer on Middle Eastern Affairs at New York University in London “Iran has welcomed events in Egypt, yet has suppressed its own democracy movement, and even while celebrating events in Egypt they have banned public demonstrations in its favor because it fears Iranian protesters back on the streets,” he said. “Mousavi, Karroubi and others wish to remind Iranians and the West of this double standard, and if possible, reignite their own ‘revolution’ in the process.” (Source: Jerusalem Post)


My conclusions

If the people don’t go home, the regime will have a problem” (Menashe Amir)

Nelson Mandela said many times that while in prison he saw too many postcolonial leaders come to power only to abuse their people and rob them of the promises of liberation. Revolutionary movements invariably split into factions. Their sole common objective is the ouster of the existing regime. As soon as this goal comes close to being achieved, elements of the opposition begin to position themselves for the second phase of the struggle and the coming competition for power.


I am afraid (but hopefully wrong) that it is unlikely demonstrations to result in a widespread fall of regimes in near future. There may be more change among dictators, some military coups and modest reforms. However the regimes and economical interest groups behind them may stay almost untouched and the outcome at best is only an updated illusion of democracy.


Epilogue

A fresh documentary film “People & Power– Egypt: Seeds of change by Al-Jazeera reveals the story behind the unprecedented political protests in Egypt. Over the course of a remarkable fortnight, People&Power has been filming exclusively behind the scenes with a core group of young activists. It also shows how they studied “lessons learned” from Otpor – a student movement in Serbia, which helped to oust Milosevic some ten years ago.


Watch film Here!

Some of my other Middle East articles:





Election Bazaar in Iraq ongoing

March 9, 2010

“democracies make elections, elections don’t make democracies”

The counting of Millions of votes cast in Iraqis elections is going on to choose the right ones from more than 6,000 candidates from 86 political groups to gain seats in the 325-member assembly. Some violence occurred – 38 citizens were killed and around 100 were wounded in result of bombings. The country’s electoral commission called it a “glorious day” and a victory for Iraq. While election hype and afterwards PM selection and government coalitions are taking headlines some other aspects before, during and after elections may have more effect for the future of Iraq.

Comments from West have praised democratic development and even the UN Security Council Monday hailed parliamentary elections in Iraq as an “important step” toward strengthening the country’s national unity. From my point of view democracy played minor role in elections and the outcome probably will be splitting ethnic/religious entities instead of national unity.

Background information related to Iraqi elections as well later the results can be found from following link , which includes an interactive map with Province Overview/Details, Political Coalitions, Seats Distribution and later with Winning Candidates of Iraqi elections 2010 made by Alsumaria Iraqi Satellite TV network.

The De-Baathification Campaign

The anti-Baathist campaign in Iraq was strong having its influence to selection alternatives. The Accountability and Justice Commission successfully banned hundreds of candidates from the March 2010 elections for alleged Baathist ties. Unlike the barring of candidates, which was of questionable legality, the February 2008 Accountability and Justice Act actually says that Baathists are not allowed jobs in the Interior and Defence Ministries. Many southern provinces that are controlled by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law list have also created their own committees to weed out former regime members in the local governments.

Parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq and his Iraqi National Dialogue Front, who were part of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement are the most prominent of those banned. U.N. mission in Iraq sent a letter to the Election Commission calling on it to reject the banning of candidates. Parliamentarian Mutlaq said that he would appeal his case to the courts. United Nations asked Accountability and Justice Commission to reverse its decision. They replied by telling the U.N. to stop interfering in Iraqi affairs.

Vice President Joe Biden criticized Accountability and Justice Commission and said that it wasn’t being impartial and suggested that banning candidates should be postponed until after the election. Head of the Accountability and Justice Commission Ali al-Lami rejected the idea. Government spokesman later said that the U.S. was interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs.

Press reported that of the 511 banned candidates, 72 were from former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement, and 67 were from Interior Minister Jawad Bolani’s Unity of Iraq Alliance. Later Accountability and Justice Commission reinstated 59 candidates saying that there were errors in their paperwork. On January American commander of the U.S. Central Command General David Petraeus said that the Accountability and Justice Commission was working at the behest of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force. Commission responded by accusing Petraeus of working with Baathists.

And where goes the oil money?

The key element to understanding the future development of Iraq is the struggle about oil income, which same time draws lines between central government and regional/local authorities. On December 2007 the Basra branch of the Fadila party reflected local regionalism sentiment and made an unprecedented demand for a one-dollar fee per locally-produced barrel of oil to be set aside for the governorate in a special fund. Basra holds maybe 60 to 70% of Iraq’s oil (currently producing more than 1,000,000 bpd) and despite remarkable oil income has one of the lowest standards of living in the country. Despite a failed referendum initiative in January 2009 the Maliki government indicated its preparedness to give Basra 50 cent per barrel of oil. When news about this broke last May, it was immediately followed by demands from Kirkuk, Iraq’s second biggest producer (maybe 600,000 bpd) for a similar half-dollar per barrel fee. The new article 43 of the budget was accepted and went even further: So one dollar will be paid to the relevant governorates for 1) each barrel of produced oil; 2) each barrel refined oil (the biggest refineries are in Bayji in Salahaddin province and Dura near Baghdad) 3) each 150 cubic metres of produced natural gas. And not only oil, but also, 20 dollars will be paid for each foreign visitor to the “holy sites” in the governorates!

Related to oil income struggle between Kurds and central government one interesting detail is that in budget some money has been set aside for the interesting separate heading of “oil exports via Turkey”. These funds are intended to enable the Kurds to at least cover the operating costs of the foreign oil companies (DNO and Genel) that briefly began exporting from Kurdistan last year but received no payment since Baghdad does not recognize their contracts, thereby forcing the the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to make any payments from its own purse.

The new election law could lead to troubling divisions over oil revenues. The law has created conditions for even greater Kurdish control over Kirkuk and oil resources in northern Iraq. Other oil-rich regions of Iraq, such as the largely Shia south, will also have a basis to agitate for oil revenues to flow to regional governments. With the Iraqi central government still relying on oil for more than 90 percent of its national budget, the long-term viability of the country is called into question even if elections signal short-term success.

Occupied oil field

One small episode related interests in Iraq politics and oil took place on December 2009, while Iranian soldiers occupied an oilfield called al-Fakka on the Iraqi side of the border with Iran in the Maysan governorate. Episodes like the Fakka incident ultimately serve as political theatre that will deflect attention from the more fundamental question about Iranian influence – at the level of high politics in Iraq, and through a constitution that works in Tehran’s best interest. One can only speculate about the possible explanations for the Fakka occupation itself, which may range from everything like local issues in the Maysan area via internal disagreements on the Iranian side of the border to the possibility that Tehran would like to test Maliki.

A similar lack of concern was expressed at the Nahrainnet website, which is frequently mislabeled a “Sadrist” website but in reality seems more like an Iranian-inspired pan-Shiite website that seeks to bring ISCI and Sadrists together over issues like support for the Huthis in Yemen. More in an article of Gulfanalysis.

Oilfields for sale

International oil industry is making its share with partitioning Iraq. The second licensing round for Iraqi oilfields was carried out recently by the oil ministry in Baghdad. On the one hand, the contracts won by foreign companies will prove controversial because Iraq remains in the middle of a chaotic process of political transition and has yet to agree on a legal framework for the oil sector. On the whole, the mostly unsuccessful first and partially successful second licensing round have ended up producing an outcome that seems more sustainable than if all the contracts on offer had been immediately awarded to foreign companies as planned. If that had happened, the whole package would have been attacked both for selling Iraqi oil on the cheap and for marginalising the domestic oil industry.

In the event, a more balanced picture emerged, even if some of the failed offerings from round one (including Zubayr and West Qurna Phase 1) have since been awarded to foreign companies in separate deals (led by Italian and US firms respectively). In addition to Rumayla which was awarded to a Sino-British consortium in the first round in June, the successful bids in the second round include most notably the giant project West Qurna Phase 2 (in Basra; awarded to a consortium led by Russia’s Lukoil and also including Norway’s Statoil in a smaller role) and Majnun (Basra; Shell), plus Halfaya (Maysan; CNPC), Gharraf (Dhi Qar; Petronas), Badra (Kut; Gazprom) and Qayara and Najma (near Mosul, both to Sonangol of Angola). The new agreements also include partnership stakes for Iraqi state oil companies, and the “leftover” fields that were not awarded will be developed by the Iraqis themselves as well (Middle Euphrates, East Baghdad, and a group of fields near Kirkuk).

The first licensing round for Iraqi oil produced surprises and what many analysts describe as a “meagre” outcome: Only one out of eight oil and gas fields was awarded, the giant Rumaila field in the Basra area where a service contract was won by a consortium of BP and the Chinese CNPC.The two last weeks have seen considerable confusion about the Iraqi oil ministry’s position concerning oil exports from Kurdistan, where the regional authorities have signed a number of exploration and drilling deals with foreign oil companies without consulting Baghdad.

Ongoing energy struggle across Eurasia via an embattled energy corridor (and a key pipeline) that runs from the Caspian Sea to Europe through Georgia and Turkey — and the Great Game of business, diplomacy, and proxy war between Russia and the U.S. that has gone with it. On the other hand, the Turkish leadership draws ever closer to Iran, which provides 38% of Turkey’s oil and 25% of its natural gas. Ankara and Tehran also have geopolitical affinities (especially in fighting Kurdish separatism). Together, they offer the best alternative to the Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Georgia) in terms of supplying Europe with Iranian natural gas. Iraq has also discussed northern export routes through Turkey, including linking up to the Azeri-Turkish Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum (BTE) line, the planned Nabucco (Iran-Europe) pipeline, and the ongoing Arab Gas Pipeline (AGP) project. The proposed AGP pipeline would deliver gas from Iraq’s Akkas field to Syria and then on to Lebanon and the Turkish border sometime in 2010, and then on to Europe.

Votes for sale

For many voters it seems to be too insecure to wait that their selections on election days would bring some change for their living conditions. According Uruknet some of the nation’s poor, the right to vote does not mean having a say in who leads the country; it means having something to sell to make desperately needed cash. With intensive campaigning now under way in what is shaping up to be a highly competitive ballot, votes have become a precious commodity, a fact not lost on many ordinary people who care little for politics but who struggle to make ends meet.

“Elections are a beautiful opportunity to get some money,” Ahmad Salam said. “There are lots of people willing to sell their votes, and lots of people who want to buy them.” A mechanic by trade working in the impoverished Sadr City slum of north-eastern Baghdad, Mr Salam has taken on the role of an election agent with a difference. He collects votes and then offers them en masse to whichever party is prepared to make the highest bid, taking a commission for his efforts. “I have 100 people who have given me their vote to sell,” he said outside the small garage where he is employed as a casual worker, earning a few dollars a day. “None of them cares who wins, none of them thinks it makes any difference, so they give me their vote, and I sell it.” According to Mr Salam, some of the poorest voters were prepared to take as little as US$5 (Dh18) to guarantee their allegiance in the election booth. Most charge more, between $20 and $100, depending on the number of voting-age adults in their family.

One other example is Zuhair Aqeel, also an election agent, who collects votes and sells to the highest bidder. “I have done this work in every election since the first in 2005. From the last elections I earned enough to buy a small taxi which has given me a good living. “This year I hope to do even better and I think I will be able to get one of the candidates to promise me a job in a government office or as an administrator in the police or army. If I get that, I will be comfortable; I’ll have a stable salary and a stable life.”

Federation option?

The basic question, related also to sharing of oil incomes, is if Iraq is heading now more towards a confederation or a federation. The Kurds want the former, with the only role of the central government to send them some regular development money. The Kurdish autonomy is well accepted by other Iraqis but think that at least in the oil sector there should be a role for the central government. The presidency council allows the Kurds to go on with their contradictory position of demanding confederation (and threatening with secession) even though they know that even the most optimistic geological estimates will leave them as the junior partner in terms of oil reserves.

The hot spot for development Kurdish autonomy is Kirkuk, which has been subjected to two successive policies of ethnic modifications during the past four decades: a planned and systematic arabization policy and ethnic modification in favour of the Arabs by the previous regime between 1968 and 2003; then a planned kurdification and ethnic modification in favor of the Kurds. For Iraqi Turkmens to be recognized as the third main ethnic community in Iraq, with rights and duties equal to those of the Arabs and Kurds in Iraq, namely: the recognition of the Turkmen language (Turkish) as the third official language of the country; the effective participation of the Turkmen community at all levels of power in Iraq, by the inclusion of their political representatives in the supreme institutions which govern the country, such as the Presidential Council, Government Council, Parliamentary Presidency, Supreme Council of Justice, Chief of Staff of the Army, of the Police and of the Security. Turkmens have been excluded from these institutions since the invasion of Iraq, as the political power, under the Anglo-American occupation, from 9th April 2003, has been attributed on an ethnic-sectarian basis and exclusively to the parties who collaborated with the Occupiers (Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis). More e.g. Uruknet.

The incorporation of Kirkuk into the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is seen as likely. Arabs, Turcomen, and other ethnic groups that left Kirkuk following the 2006 sectarian violence will no longer be eligible voters in Kirkuk. In 1957, Kurds made up about 48 percent of Kirkuk’s population; they are now almost certainly well over 50 percent. Shia members from the southern provinces also have an incentive to support a future Kirkuk petition, as this would help secure Kurdish support for a southern Shia region where substantial oil revenues would go directly to the regional government.

Same time with election mess the Slaughter of Iraqi Christians has started. Christian families are leaving the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in their droves to escape a concerted campaign of violence and intimidation. Chaldean Bishop Emil Shimoun Nona has said that Mosul is experiencing a “humanitarian emergency” and that “hundreds of Christian families” left the city Feb. 24 in search of shelter, leaving behind their homes, property, commercial activities, according to Asia News. The situation “is dramatic”, he said, and warned that Mosul could be “emptied completely of Christians”. lack of security is due to a political vacuum in Mosul, with Arabs running the city and not sharing power with the Kurds. He said he remains hopeful that peace could return after the elections.

My guess is that ethnic/religious groups will strengthen their positions as result of elections, the self-governance/autonomy of provinces will increase at cost of central government and if the country can avoid total splitting the future of Iraq will be that of federation/confederation.

My Conclusions

From my point of view there is some base for following conclusions related to Iraqi elections 2010 and events around them:

  • Elections showed some tendency towards democracy in Iraq especially if compared to some traditional allies of western powers in Arabic world
  • After successful licensing round for Iraqi oilfields with multiple winners there is good change to develop Iraqi energy field, sustainable economy and get wealth for further development
  • The role of occupying forces is declining and Iraqi people (or at least leading tribes) are taking development work more to their own hands; as consequence the stability of Iraq probably will increase
  • Coming deals regarding government, sharing revenues and administration will reflect the fragmentation of politics along sectarian and ethnic fault lines.
  • Iranian influence, its amount still unclear, will reflect how internal issues are intertwined with regional ones.
  • The final results will indicate whether Iraq has moved away from the sectarian climate of 2005 or will it continue with a slightly more national-sounding rhetoric.
  • The challenge for nation building is that Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis probably have their religious or ethnic identity, however it is questionable if they share an Iraq identity. This may result Iraq splitting into three entities/states a bit similar way like Bosnia after Dayton. The outcome may well be a confederation/federation of these strong entities.

Use of Depleted Uranium proved in NATO Bombings

February 22, 2009

This post was first published in TH!NK ABOUT IT site 21st February 2009.

An Italian non-governmental organisation – the Rome-based “Un ponte per …” – is investigating consequences of NATO’s 1999 bombings of Serbia and the effects of the use of depleted uranium (DU) on the civilian population. The NATO allegedly used shells with depleted uranium which are still today causing an increase in the number of cancer patients. NATO has admitted the use of DU in the bombing campaign and Italian media has reported that 45 Italian soldiers who served in the international forces in Kosovo (KFOR) died after the bombing and 515 became ill with cancer.  In Serbia and its separatist province Kosovo the number of civilian victims is still unexplored but most likely the figures are manifold compared to those of soldiers.

This topic was discussed years ago when e.g. I was working in Kosovo, however any proof and warnings then did not came to my hands.  Later more information was available and on 24th Nov. 2008 I wrote an article “Depleted Uranium from NATO bombs killing people in Balkansreferring information I got from Croatian news portal Javno.

And DU is…?

To get picture above larger go to link .

The recent military use of DU

Over the 78 days of NATO bombing, a total of 31,000 shells with depleted uranium, weapons banned by international treaties, were dropped in at least 112 locations in Serbia and especially Kosovo region.  Earlier in Bosnia-Herzegovina around 10,000 rounds were fired in operations around Sarajevo in the latter stages of allied operations in Bosnia.  More than 100,000 DU shells were fired during the Gulf war 1991.

A map of places where DU has been used either in combat or by accident below:

Un Ponte per…

Un Ponte per… (UPP) is a volunteer association established in 1991 just after the end of the bombings on Iraq. Its aim was to promote humanitarian aid to the Iraqi population.  When the war in the Balkans escalated, the association created new campaign and started various projects aimed at sending medicines and health supplies to the Yugoslav Federation and helping refugees from Kosovo.  UPP’s institutional partners include ECHO, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNESCO,UNOPS,UNHOCI ,UNRWA, Italian Municipalities and Regions and Provinces, and more info about their activities can be found from their web-site .

New investigation in Serbia/Kosovo

Now the ‘Un ponte per…’ NGO investigator Alessandro di Meo told Adnkronos International (AKI) that the international community was turning a deaf ear to the problem, because the use of depleted uranium is prohibited by international conventions. “But ten years after the bombing, the world has the right to know what really happened and what the consequences are,” he said. Samantha Menngarelli – also investigator of “Un ponte per…” – said the truth about military casualties was slowly sinking in in Italy after a surprising increase in deaths and cancers amongst soldiers who served in KFOR. “But the civilian victims have been completely ignored and we want to shed light on this problem,“ she said. (Source: Andkronos International )

The ‘Un ponte per…’ investigators will tour several Serbian cities that were hardest hit during the bombings before submitting a report to the Rome-based NGO.

Same time a Serbian NGO, ironically called ‘Merciful angel’ the name of NATO’s 1999 airstrikes, recently reported that cancer ailments have jumped about 200 percent in some parts of Kosovo and areas of Serbia that were most heavily bombed.  Earlier Javno news portal reported that in Kosovo’s Kosovska Mitrovica in 2005 there were 38 percent more cancer patients than in 2004. In those two years, a total of 3,500 cancer cases in Kosovo Albanians were diagnosed.  Elsewhere since 2001, medical personnel at the Basra hospital (Iraq) claimed that they observed a sharp increase in the incidence of child leukemia and genetic malformation among babies born in the decade following the Gulf War.  (More e.g. in Croatian news portal “Javno” 17.11.2008)

Contradictory topic

The British and US governments have long denied that DU ammunition is harmful.  The British Gulf Veterans and Families Association have for years called for systematic testing. It claims that “hundreds” of Gulf warriors have died of cancers and other illnesses contracted during active service.  Also WHO is quite cautious about health risks of DU (More in WHO factsheets ).

There is huge contradiction between official position of DU users and findings on the ground. The situation is a bit similar like position of tobacco industry compared the one of smokers – many have been died but direct evidence of causality is missing.

There is a developing scientific debate and concern expressed regarding the impact of the use of DU projectiles and it is possible that, in future, there will be a consensus view in international legal circles that use of such projectiles violate general principles of the law applicable to use of weapons in armed conflict. No such consensus exists at present.  In United Nations in December 2008, 141 states supported a resolution requesting that three UN agencies: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), WHO and IAEA update their research on the impact of uranium munitions by late 2010.

From the other side there is also growing movement to ban DU military use. International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) – is now comprising over 102 member organisations in 27 countries. From their web-site one can check latest developments.

If the causality between DU military use and morbidity will came clear one could speak war crime and demand some responsibility from those who have decided to them.  This could also be one connecting factor in Balkans because DU maybe is killing people – civilians and soldiers – there regardless of their ethnicity, religion and country as well foreigners in mission.