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Kurds agree that they would get 17pc of Iraq’s oil income from fields already in operation; still arguing over not-yet-discovered fields

Posted by gasweek on 18 September, 2007

The Kurds had agreed that they would get 17 per cent of Iraq’s oil income from fields already in operation. But they are still arguing with the authorities in Baghdad over the management, exploration and contracts in unexploited or not-yet-discovered fields, reported The Economist (8/9/2007, p.48).

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Posted in Exploration, Iraq, Kurdistan, Middle East, oil, Volume 2520 | Leave a Comment »

Iraqi Kurdistan split by two rival administrations: Kurdish enclaves are both family affairs as KDP, PUK parties eye Turkish ambitions and US protection

Posted by gasweek on 15 September, 2007

Another huge problem for Iraqi Kurdistan is the fact that it has been run, since 1991, but two rival administrations, according to The Economist (8/9/2007, p. 48).

Barzani family, KDP rule west: In the provinces of Dohuk and Erbil, the Barzani family, which runs the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), has called the shots for generations.

Jalal Talabani and PUK run eastern region: To the east, the province of Sulaymaniyah has been run by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), run by Jalal Talabani; this too, has become something of a family affair.

Kurdish clans clash in civil war: In the last 1990s, the two outfits fought a vicious civil war, in which at least 3,000 people – some put the figure at more than 10,000 – were killed. To a large degree, the party and the union are tribal fiefs, with power, money and even land distributed from the top by the ruling families.

Top posts within region, and Iraq as a whole: When Talabani is currently president of federal Iraq, Massoud Barzani is president of Kurdistan; his nephew, Nechirvan Barzani, is its prime minister; Massoud’s son, Masrur Barzani, heads the powerful intelligence service. At the end of the year, one of Talabani’s men is supposed to take over as Kurdistan’s prime minister. No one is sure whether that will happen smoothly.

Inside Iraqi Kurdistan: no paradise: Moreover, the notion that Iraqi Kurdistan is a haven of democracy is far-fetched. The two fiefs control virtually all public activity, including the media, hitherto with remarkably little scrutiny; outright opposition has invariably been squeezed out, often amid accusations of betraying the sacred cause of Kurdistan. Patronage – some call it corruption – is the norm.

Islamists, free media chip away at duopoly: The Islamists, with a reputation for honesty, are the third force, a small for now, but waiting in the wings. If Kurdistan is to thrive, its own politics must loosen up and become more open, if not a Western-style free-for-all. Two small but plucky opposition newspapers give an airing to the peccadillos of the party duopoly. And even some of the party-owned media outlets – for instance, Kurdsat TV, owned and run by Talabani’s modernising wife, Herro – occassionally broach topics that were once taboo. Especially compared with the rest of Iraq, Kurdistan has been making strides on every front. But this does not mean it will survive as a fledging nation.

Mountain people eye nervous neighbours: The Iraqi Kurds depend, in the end, on three main things: their hardened fighting men, known as the Peshmergas (“those willing to die”), technically a “regional protection force” within Iraq; their neighbours, especially the Turks; and the mountains (“the Kurds’ only friends”, as their centries old saying goes). The Kurds’ relations with their neighbours are just as critical.

Turkish interests in northern Iraq: Turkey, with its 14m-odd Kurds of its own (many of them well assimilated) in a population of 75m, has frequently issued threats to invade Iraqi Kurdistan and clobber its Kurds if they make a grab for Kirkuk, where Turkey considers itself the guarantor of the rights of the Turkmens, their ethnic kinsfolk from the days when the area was part of the Ottoman empire. It also threatens to invade if Iraq’s Kurds do not oust or corral the 3,000-plus guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who hide in the remotest mountains of northern Iraq, where they plan and train for their lethal operations in south-eastern Turkey.

Turkey-Iraqi Kurdistan deal on the horizon? Erbil’s huge new airport, for instance, is a Turkish (and British) project. If Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan could come to an accommodation, which looks more feasible than before, it would vastly boost the chances of the latter’s survival.

Arab-Kurdish tensions remain: “The chauvinist Arabs always call us a second Israel,” says Mr Jafar, the Peshmerga leader. He denies that Israel and the Kurds have military or intelligence contacts. “I wish we did,” he said breezily.

Kurds eager for US links: Kurdish leaders are as candid about their desire for the Americans to stay on in Iraq or, if they are bound to withdraw, to keep a military base in Iraqi Kurdistan as a guarantor of the Kurd’s national safety. “We’d like the Americans to put their biggest bast in Kurdistan,” said Jafar. But the Americans have so far been wary of too warmly embracing the Kurds, concentrating instead on trying to reconcile Sunni and Shia Arabs in Baghdad. “We love the Americans but they don’t love us,” Nechirvan Barzani, the Kurdish prime minister, is said recently to have sighed.

The Economist, 8/9/2007, p. 48

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Kurds within Iraq want to build own “feeder” oil pipelines to join the national system; Baghdad wary of independent moves as foreign oil firms look on

Posted by gasweek on 15 September, 2007

Several oil companies, mostly mid-sized and small independent ones, have signed deals with the Kurdistan regional government in Iraq, and a dozen more are in negotiation, all waiting impatiently for the government in Baghdad to give the green light, according to The Economist (8/9/2007, p.48).

Baghdad restraint on Kurdish trade: The Kurds say they can dish out export permits, though the authorities in Baghdad disagree. More to the point, the Kurds do not control the existing pipelines for export. So they want to build their own “feeder” pipelines to join the national one just before it reaches the Turkish border. Several Western firms hope to get in on this act.

Meager decade for Kurds in Iraq: Plainly, the Kurds are seeking to be independent in economics as a land-locked country can be: a huge challenge. From 1991 until 2003, when the Americans invaded, the Kurds depended on smuggling, minimal trade with neighbouring countries, foreign handouts and a share (often stingily and belatedly distributed) of the UN’s corrupt and maladministered oil-for-food programme.

New start struggles without banking, postal system: In the past few years they have tried valiantly to create an economy of their own. But they are starting almost from scratch. There is no banking (“We have no access to money” says Osman Shwani, the planning minister), no insurance, no postal service and in the past few years the Kurd’s budget has entirely lacked public scrutiny. Commercial law is less than rudimentary. There is a gaping lack of statistics. Mr Shwani freely admits he does not know the size of Kurdistan’s GDP.

“No one has ever paid taxes”: There is virtually no tax system. In theory, income tax of between 3 per cent and 10 per cent is paid by salaried earners. “But no one has ever paid taxes,” says Shwani. One of the biggest brakes on the economy is the vast proportion of people in the public payroll, which gobbles up about three-quarters of the budget.

The Economist, 8/9/2007, p. 48

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