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  1. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/notice-regarding-continuation-national-emergency-respect-stabilization-iraq-2/. STATEMENTS & RELEASES Notice Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to the Stabilization of Iraq FOREIGN POLICY Issued on: May 18, 2018 ALL NEWS On May 22, 2003, by Executive Order 13303, the President declared a national emergency pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706) to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by obstacles to the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in the country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq. The obstacles to the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in the country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. For this reason, the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303, as modified in scope and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004, Executive Order 13438 of July 17, 2007, and Executive Order 13668 of May 27, 2014, must continue in effect beyond May 22, 2018. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq declared in Executive Order 13303. This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress. DONALD J. TRUMP
  2. Iraqi election winner Al-Sadr hints at alliances to form government Sangar Ali | May 15-2018 11:28 AM Share share Supporters pour onto the streets of Baghdad following the victory of Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's electoral win. (Photo: AP) Iraq Elections Baghdad Sadr Iran ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Monday revealed potential political allies needed to form a new government following Saturday’s as-of-yet inconclusive elections. Sadr, who is the winner with 53 seats out of a total of 329 in Baghdad's parliament, hinted at those with whom he intends to establish a new government comprised of "non-partisan technocrats." In a tweet on his official Twitter account, Sadr described the prospective cabinet and appeared to indirectly name 12 parties and alliances. Those thought to be referred to are al-Hikma, al-Wataniya, Irada, New Generation, Gorran (Change), al-Qarrar, Bayariq, al-Nasr (Victory), Baghdad Alliance, Hawiyatuna, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and Kawadir. View image on Twitter Sadr’s tweet excluded mention of Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, al-Fatih led by Shia militia leader Hadi al-Amiri, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), all known for having close ties to Iran. Projecting himself as an Iraqi nationalist, Sadr has a zealous following among the young, poor, and dispossessed among Shia Iraqis, but had been sidelined by influential Iran-backed figures. Unlike current Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a rare ally of both the United States and Iran, Sadr is an opponent of both countries, both wielding influence in Iraq since a US-led invasion toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 thrust the Shia majority into power. Sadr has led two uprisings against US forces in Iraq and is one of the few Shia leaders to distance himself from Iran. A source familiar with ongoing talks between Iraqi political parties told Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday that the head of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qassem Soleimani is currently in Baghdad to meet with Shia parties in an attempt to prevent Sadr from choosing the new Premier. Sadr cannot become prime minister since he did not personally run in the election, but the fact that those within his party hold a large number of seats could put him in a position to pick someone for the job. Editing by John J. Catherine
  3. Sadr calls for brotherhood in phone call with Barzanis By Rudaw 35 minutes ago ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Masoud and Nechirvan Barzani called Muqtada al-Sadr on Tuesday to extend their congratulations on his election win, Sadr’s office stated. They wished “his eminence success,” the statement said. Masoud Barzani is former president of the Kurdistan Region and current leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Nechirvan Barzani, his nephew, is KRG prime minister and deputy leader of the KDP. Sadr thanked them for their wishes and expressed his hope that “the brotherhood of the Iraqi people be strengthened and for the love ties be solidified between the different sects, components and ethnicities.” A Shiite cleric, Sadr ran on a non-sectarian platform pledging to tackle corruption. His movement joined forces with the Communist Party on the Sayirun alliance. They have emerged as the surprise leader after the release of preliminary results. Fifteen days after final election results are released, the new parliament must hold its first session during which the speaker will be chosen. A new president will be elected within three days of the legislature convening and the president will then ask the largest parliamentary bloc to form a cabinet. Traditionally, the speaker of the parliament has been a Sunni Arab, the prime minister a Shiite, and the president a Kurd. Sadr and Erbil have frequently taken a similar stance with respect to Iraqi politics over the past decade, including opposition to Nouri al-Maliki during his tenure as prime minister. http://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/150520183
  4. Abadi behind, Sadrist and Hashd gains in preliminary election results By Rudaw 1 hour ago Iraqi electoral commission employees examine electronic counting machine print-outs in the central holy city of Najaf on May 13, 2018. Photo: Haidar Hamdani / AFP 12.20 a.m. Iraq's election commission has published the preliminary results for ten of the nation's 18 provinces. Incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's Nasr (Victory) Coalition has so far failed to win a province. Meanwhile, Hashd al-Shaabi's Fatih (Conquest) Alliance and Muqtada al-Sadr's Sayirun Alliance with the Communist Party has made gains. Preliminary Iraqi election results by province Results for Erbil, Sulaimani, Najaf, Duhok, Salahadin, Kirkuk, Misan and Nineveh are expected later on Monday. Baghdad: 1. Sayirun 2. Fatih 3. State of Law 4. Al-Wataniya 5. Victory Alliance Anbar: 1. Al-Anbar Is Our Identity 2. Al-Wataniya Wasit: 1. Sayirun 2. Fatih 3. Victory Alliance 4. Hikma Front 5. State of Law Babil: 1. Fatih 2. Sayirun 3. Victory 4. Hikma Front 5. State of Law Muthana: 1. Sayirun 2. Fatih 3. Hikma Front 4. Victory Alliance 5. State of Law Diyala: 1. Qarar Alliance 2. Fatih 3. Al-Wataniya 4. Sayirun 5. Victory Alliance 6. Hikma Front 7. PUK 8. State of Law Karbala: 1. Fatih 2. Sayirun 3. Victory Alliance 4. State of Law 5. Hikma Front 6. Al-Wataniya Dhi Qar: 1. Sayirun 2. Fatih 3. Victory Alliance 4. State of Law 5. Hikma Front 6. Iradah (Will) 7. Al-Wataniya Basra: 1. Fatih 2. Sayirun 3. Victory Alliance 4. State of Law 5. Hikma Front Al-Qadisiyah: 1. Fatih 2. Sayirun 3. Victory Alliance 4. Hikma Front 5. State of Law --- Unofficial results for Arab lists announced: Nasr Alliance (Abadi): 38-41 seats Sayirun (Sadr): 37-39 seats Fateh (Amiri or Hashd list): 34-39 seats State of Law Coalition (Maliki): 18-23 seats Hikma Front (Hakim): 17-24 seats Al-Wataniya (Allawi): not known Sources from the main Kurdish parties who took part in Iraq's parliamentary election on Saturday have offered Rudaw their predictions on their share of seats. KDP: 25 seats ERBIL: 8 Duhok: 9 Sulaimani: 1 Mosul: 7 PUK: 15 seats Erbil: 3 Sulaimani: 5 Kirkuk: 5 Diyala: 1 Mosul: 1 Goran: 6 Erbil: 1 Sulaimani: 5 New Generation: 4 Erbil: 2 Sulaimani: 2 CDJ: 3 Erbil: 1 Sulaimani: 2 KIU: 2 Duhok: 1 Sulaimani: 1 Komal: 2 Erbil: 1 Sulaimani: 1 Media close to former Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki claimed his State of Law Coalition was taking the lead early on Sunday. Later on Sunday morning, Reuters, citing an unnamed election body and an unnamed security source, reported incumbent PM Haider al-Abadi's Nasr (Victory) Coalition was ahead of Maliki's list and Moqtada al-Sadr's Sa'irun Alliance, which is in coalition with the Iraqi Communist Party. Ayad Allawi, a former Iraqi Prime Minister who is considered to be a moderate Shiite leader, called for an annulment of Saturday's election. “The refrainment of Iraqi people from voting in large numbers, the spread of violence, rigging, misinformation, purchase of votes, and exploitation of the conditions of the displaced," read an Al Wataniya Coalition statement, as reported by BBC on Sunday. Sunni politician Salaim al-Jabouri, the incumbent parliament speaker, is on Allawi's list. Voter turnout was 55 percent in Duhok, 48 percent in Erbil, and 40 percent in Sulaimani, according to the IHEC. Across Iraq's 18 provinces, it was 44.52 percent. This is a developing story...
  5. Will Iraq be the next hot frontier stock market? Matein Khalid/dubai Filed on April 29, 2018 Iraqi stocks are up 10 per cent in 2018, far better than Europe or Japan, while its market's capitalisation is a mere $10 billion. (Reuters) There are reasons to be optimistic on Baghdad A dismal legacy of civil war, sanctions, insurgency, foreign invasion and terrorism has had a catastrophic impact on the Iraqi economy. Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi told the assembled global elite at Davos 2018 that Iraq needed $100 billion in post-war construction. Yet money alone will not solve Iraq's problems of systemic corruption, a society divided by sectarian cleavages, poverty, the displacement of 2 million people and youth unemployment. The West and the Arab world have a vested interest in leading the reconstruction of Iraq since this pivot state straddles both the Arabian Gulf and the Turkish-Kurdish mountains. There are positive signs that the precarious political situation has stabilised. Violence in Baghdad has fallen to 2009 lows. Consumer spending metrics are beginning to exhibit growth and optimism. The share prices of the cellphone operator Asiacell has risen 65 per cent since last summer on stellar sub adds. Iraq sovereign wealth fund has amassed $50 billion in assets. Iraq's sovereign eurobond was oversubscribed six times. Western and Arab investors cannot ignore a fabulously rich country with 40 million citizens that happens to be the second-largest oil producer in the Opec after Saudi Arabia. International donors have pledged $30 billion in Iraqi reconstruction. After a stellar 11 per cent GDP growth in 2016, Iraqi real GDP growth fell to near zero in 2017 due to Baghdad's compliance with Opec output cuts. Iraq produces 4.3 million barrels of crude oil a day. However, the surge in Brent crude to $74 due to geopolitical risks, the success of the Saudi-Russian output pact and fears of renewed sanctions on Iran oil and exports are hugely bullish for Iraq, a classic petro-state. The IMF expects Iraq to deliver 2.8 per cent GDP growth in 2018. Post-war Iraq faces monumental political, social economic and even psychological challenges. Twenty per cent of the population lives in poverty. The swaths of Anbar, Diyala and Nineveh provinces under Daesh control have still not been fully stabilised and face economic depression. The government in Baghdad is divided by ethno-sectarian conflicts and unable to resist Iran's infiltration and manipulation of state institutions. This is the reason the parliamentary elections in May 2018 will be a crucial milestone in the political evolution of post Saddam Iraq. The Iraqi private sector, while exceptionally resilient, faces huge challenges from corruption, a primitive banking system insecurity and war ravaged infrastructure. Iraq ultimately needs to shed its Baathist-era model of state ownership of land and nationalised industries. Iraq needs big-bang economic reforms that the Al Abadi team has failed to deliver since it is hostage to contradictory political pressures and rival vote banks. Iraq was the classic example of a failed petro-state, a symbol of the 'resource course', under the Baathist dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, who invaded Iran in 1980, Kuwait in 1990 and conducted a campaign against the Kurds. A generation later, Iraq is quite possible the most attractive frontier market in the Middle East. Investors in Iraqi stocks faced devastating losses after President Obama withdrew US forces, Prime Minister Nuri Maliki embraced Iran, the Iraqi Army was unable to prevent militants' seizure of Mosul and oil prices crashed in 2014-16. Yet Iraqi stocks are up 10 per cent in 2018, far better than Europe or Japan. While the stock exchange in Baghdad is illiquid and hardly state-of-the-art, its market cap is a mere $10 billion, a pittance in a nation whose proven oil and gas reserves could well top 300 billion barrels. My experience in the post-Soviet frontier markets tells me Iraqi economic reconstruction could be a secular growth ballast for Iraqi banks (80 per cent of the population does not have a bank account), cellphone operators, consumer companies and, yes, hotels. I concede the Iraqi stock exchange trades behind concrete blast walls. Yet it is one of the top-performing stock markets of 2018, though down 60 per cent from its 2014 peaks. I learnt in Karachi in 2011 that the end of a civil war can be a catalyst for a powerful multiyear bull market. George Soros said the big money is made "when things go from godawful to just plain awful". No guts, no glory is the tagline of my own passage to Iraqi equities.
  6. US Ambassador breaks ground in Kurdistan for largest consulate complex By Rudaw 35 minutes ago US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman delivers remarks at the site of the new US Consulate General in Erbil, Kurdistan Region, on April 23, 2018. Photo: Rudaw TV ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman broke ground on the largest US consulate complex in the world on Monday in Erbil with Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani giving the KRG's blessing for the project. "The ties between the people of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and the United States of America have endured for decades. The new consulate building demonstrates that the United States will stand with the people of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, as they build a future that will be brighter than the past," said Silliman. The ambassador urged closer ties between the US and Kurdish business sectors. "The United States wants to work with the KRG, but more importantly with Kurdish businessmen and businesswomen to help attract new projects to come here to Kurdistan," said Silliman. "I believe the Iraqi Kurdistan Region will be an important point of entry for foreign investment because this region has a very positive history of doing business." He touched on how the United States has supported the Kurdistan Region in responsible governorance, cultural, professional and educational exchange, as well as in English language struction. "I'm very happy that we'll have beautiful new compound in the shadow of the mountains here on the northside of Erbil," concluded Silliman. Nechirvan Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdistan Region, speaks at a ground-breaking ceremony in Erbil, Kurdistan Region, on April 23, 2018. Photo: Rudaw TV Barzani echoed that the consulate building represents much more bilateral relations between Washington and Erbil. “I thank and congratulate them for this decision. We see it as a significant and valuable step, and hope that it will be finished successfully at its schedule time. Construction of the American Consulate General complex in Erbil … is a sign of trust by America in currently and bright future for Kurdistan," said Barzani. He said it is indicative of the development of relations between the United States and the Kurdistan Region "in the framework of the diplomatic relations it has with Iraqi federal government." He added that Kurdistan wants strong relations with the United States in all fields. “We want to have strong relations with America regarding politics, economy, business, science, culture and all other fields, based on mutual interests,” said the Kurdish premier. Barzani stressed that the US relations with Kurdistan Region is not something new, but it dates back to 1991 when the US had a role in establishing no-fly-zone for the region. He also reminded their relations with the US in 2003 when Baath regime was ended. He called on other countries to take a similar step and establish their complexes and buildings in Kurdistan Region. The new US consulate building will cost $600 million, and will be built on 200,000 square meters on Erbil-Shaqlawa Road. The United States currently rents homes and buildings from local residents and business owners in Ainkawa to house its consulate complex, which opened as a diplomatic office in February 2007 and was upgraded to a consulate general in 2011. EYP of Albany, New York, will be the project’s architects, which is the largest US consulate complex in the world.
  7. US, KRG, lay cornerstone for new Consulate building in Erbil Sangar Ali | An hour ago Share share Kurdistan Region Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, and US Ambassador to Iraq, Douglas Silliman, stand in front of sketches for the new US Consulate General compound at the upcoming construction site, Erbil, April 23, 2018. (Photo: Kurdistan 24) Kurdistan USA Washington Iraq Consulate ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The US Ambassador to Iraq, Douglas Silliman, along with the Kurdistan Region’s Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, on Monday announced the start of constructing a new US Consulate in the capital of the semi-autonomous region. In a statement delivered at a ceremony in Erbil, Barzani said that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) welcomes the construction of the compound, one of the largest in the world, and that “it is a sign of US confidence and trust in the Kurdistan Region, now and in its future.” He mentioned that the project is an indicator that Washington wants to develop its diplomatic relations with the Kurdistan Region, “within the framework of federal Iraq.“ “We hope [the construction of a new compound for the US Consulate] will lead to an important, strategic, and long-term partnership with the Kurdistan Region,“ Barzani stated. Sketches of the new US Consulate compound in Erbil. Ambassador Silliman also praised the project in Erbil. “The building will be a tangible sign of the continuing commitment of the US to engage with and assist the KRG and its people to build a strong region within a unified, federal, democratic, and prosperous Iraq,” the US Ambassador said, noting how ties between the Kurdish people and America have endured for decades. ”I believe the Kurdistan Region will be an important point of entry for foreign investment because this region has a very positive history of doing business,” the ambassador added, explaining that the US wants to work with the KRG, but more importantly, with Kurdish businessmen and businesswomen to help attract new projects. “The new Consulate building demonstrates that the US will stand with the people of Iraqi Kurdistan as they build a future that will be brighter than the past.” According to Silliman, the new Consulate General “will represent the best in America's architecture, engineering, technology, environmental sustainability, art, culture and construction, and of course the best in diplomacy.” Sketches of the new US Consulate compound in Erbil. The new US Consulate General building will take a number of years to complete and will be located on Pirmam Road in Erbil. “I am very happy we will have a beautiful new compound in the shadow of the mountains here on the north side of Erbil,” Silliman said. The US has a number of projects with the KRG, including the Iraqi Governance and Performance Accountability Program, with its office in Erbil to improve the management of public finances in the Kurdistan Region. There are 38 foreign consulate and representative offices in the Kurdistan Region, including the five permanent members of the UN’s Security Council. The US opened its consulate in the semi-autonomous region in 2011. Editing by Nadia Riva
  8. Haider Al Abadi announces plan to wean Iraq off oil dependency Baghdad aims to build the country's private sector Mina Aldroubi April 2, 2018 Updated: April 2, 2018 08:05 PM Iraq's government unveiled a five-year economic development plan to wean the country off its long-term dependence on oil and build its private sector. During a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi said the plan will aim to diversify the oil-reliant economy. Baghdad depends on the oil sector for more than 90 per cent of its revenue. The strategy, announced ahead of May's elections, aims to expand the private sector, provincial reconstruction, poverty alleviation and good governance. “The strategy will focus on the development of the agriculture industry, with a target of seven per cent growth rate, in addition to providing sustainable employment opportunities for nationals,” the cabinet statement said. Mr Al Abadi said that the country is "working to establish a healthy economy with diversified revenues that does not depend on the changing prices of oil." Rasha Al Aqeedi, a researcher at Al Mesbar Studies and Research Center in Dubai said that unless Iraq uproots the scourge of mismanagement and corruption "no plan is realistic." "Mismanagement and corruption drains most of Iraq's income," Ms Al Aqeedi told The National. "Mismanagement being a budget burdened by a bureaucracy that pretends to work. Iraq has an excess of desk employees in the public sector. Are there proper plans to scale down the bureaucracy while providing private sector jobs?" "The same concerns of every new annual budget remain valid. How much of a role do patronage and partisan loyalties play into this new plan?" she said. This month the country marks the 15th anniversary of the fall of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein - years in which Baghdad's central government has faced mounting sectarianism and battled the extremist group ISIL, who seized a third of the country in 2014. Underlining its current reliance on oil, the cabinet also approved a plan to raise the output of crude oil capacity to 6.5 million barrels per day (bpd) over the space of five years. In January, the Iraqi oil minister Jabar Al Luaibi, said that capacity was currently close to 5 million bpd. The country is producing more than 4.4 million bpd in line with an agreement between the 14-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other exporters including Russia in a bid to cut supply and boost oil prices. Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer after Saudi Arabia, plans to award oil and gas exploration and development contracts in 11 new blocks on April 15. Meanwhile, the Iraqi economy is expected to grow 1.5 per cent in 2018 before increasing to 4.5 per cent in 2019, BMI Research said in a report. “The extension of the OPEC deal until the end of 2018 will continue to weigh on the country’s exports through the end of the year. However, next year the completion of new development phases of major oil fields will boost production capacities and support headline growth,” said the report. Spending on infrastructure will boost Iraq’s non-oil economy and increased government spending ahead of the May elections will enhance consumer spending, BMI said. However, the report stipulates that insufficient funding and endemic corruption as well as OPEC oil supply cuts in the country will weigh on the pace of progress.
  9. Iraq economy forecast to grow 1.5% in 2018, according to BMI GDP of war torn country expected to advance 4.5% in 2019 Mahmoud Kassem April 2, 2018 Updated: April 2, 2018 02:13 PM. Iraq economy set to expand 1.5 per cent in 2018 BMI Research says. Youssef Boudlal / Reuters Iraq's economy, the second-largest producer in the Opec, is expected to post a modest recovery in 2018 and pick-up in earnest next year on the back of reconstruction efforts. Though insufficient funding and endemic corruption as well as Opec oil supply cuts will weigh on the pace of progress, according to BMI Research. The Iraqi economy is forecast to grow 1.5 per cent in 2018 before accelerating 4.5 per cent in 2019, BMI Research, a unit of rating agency Fitch, said in a report. “The Iraqi economy will experience a muted recovery in 2018, before picking up notably in 2019,” BMI said. “The extension of the Opec deal until end of 2018 will continue to weigh on the country’s exports through the end of the year. However, next year the completion of new development phases of major oil fields will boost production capacities and support headline growth.” Iraq marks the fall of Saddam Hussein 15 years ago this month. The country has grappled with internal sectarian fighting since then and battled the extremist group ISIL, which took over parts of the country in 2014. Spending on infrastructure in the years ahead will boost Iraq’s non-oil economy and higher government spending ahead of the May elections will enhance consumer spending, BMI said. The estimated cost of reconstruction for Iraq in the aftermath of the defeat of ISIL at the end of 2017 is estimated at between $88 billion and $100bn in the next decade. The government received $30bn in pledges at the International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq in February. _______________ BMI said, however, despite the massive amounts cash set to be injected into the country, it was unlikely to see growth return to the pre-ISIL levels of 13.6 per cent that Iraq witnessed between 2010 and 2013.
  10. Finance Minister: KRG delegation in Baghdad to discuss budget issues Baxtiyar Goran | An hour ago Share share The Kurdistan Region has shown willingness to discuss several issues with Baghdad. (Photo: Archive) Kurdistan Iraq Erbil Baghdad Relations ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Minister of Finance on Wednesday revealed that a Kurdish delegation was in Baghdad to discuss the budget issues with the Iraqi government and reach an agreement on Kurdistan’s oil sales. In an interview with a group of journalists, including a Kurdistan 24 correspondent, the KRG’s Minister of Finance, Rebaz Hamlan, said a delegation from the KRG had visited Baghdad to discuss the budget issues and Kurdistan’s share of the national budget. The Kurdish minister said the dialogue with Baghdad over outstanding issues would be based on the interests of the people of Kurdistan, adding that both sides could reach a final deal on the Region’s oil sales shortly. “As part of the agreement between Erbil and Baghdad, the Iraqi federal government intends to send more money to the Kurdistan Region,” Hamlan added. The KRG’s current oil exports are between 300,000 to 320,000 barrels per day, Hamlan noted, stating that Kurdistan sells its crude oil at 10 USD lower than the Brent benchmark price. “Low oil prices, the war against the Islamic State, and the influx of displaced persons and refugees in the Kurdistan Region have limited the KRG’s revenues,” Hamlan explained. He added that the Kurdistan Region often faces technical issues when selling oil to international buyers which causes disruptions in the KRG’s revenues and eventually delays the distribution of salaries in the Region. Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
  11. Iraqi central bank says reserves at USD50 billion: governor by Mohamed MostafaMar 28, 2018, 10:32 am The governor of the Central Bank Ali al-Alaq Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Iraq’s international currency reserves stand at USD50 billion, the governor of its central bank has been quoted saying on Wednesday. Semi-official al-Sabaah newspaper quoted central bank governor Ali al-Allaq saying that “the central bank’s reserve has now exceeded USD50 billion dollar”. He noted that “that rate remains within the normal limits compared to the local currency and based on the internationally-recognized International Monetary Fund’s standards”. According to Allaq, “the central bank continues to mint local currency due to its deterioration, so as to maintain the balance between the availability of the local currency and the reserve”. Allaq dismissed reports about wide-scale currency counterfeiting, saying that the scale of that forgery does not exceed six bills for every one million, and assuring that the bank possesses advanced mechanisms to detect those violations. Iraq’s oil-reliant economy has been severely damaged by the war against Islamic State militants that brought much damage to infrastructure and security.
  12. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-19/iraq-mulls-building-an-island-to-boost-oil-exporting-capacity. Iraq Mulls Building an Island to Boost Oil-Exporting Capacity By Khalid Al Ansary 19 March 2018, 12:56 GMT Country seeks bids for $4 billion seawater plan at oil fields Iraq expanding export capacity amid global oil output cuts OPEC’s second-biggest producer is ramping up efforts to expand capacity to pump and export oil, with plans that include the injection of seawater into crude deposits and the construction of export facilities on a man-made island in the Persian Gulf. Iraq is seeking bids from six companies for an estimated $4 billion project to inject seawater into its southern oil fields to dislodge more crude from the deposits, Ihsan Abdul Jabbar, the director-general of state-run Basra Oil Co., said in an interview. The country has already received bids from five companies interested in building a processing facility to double output at the Majnoon field to 450,000 barrels a day, he said, without identifying the bidders. Iraq is also studying a proposal with a Dutch company to build a 10 million-barrel storage facility and an oil-exporting terminal with a capacity of 2 million barrels a day -- all on an artificial island off the country’s Gulf coast, Abdul Jabbar said in Basra. “Let’s say we have rough weather. The tankers will be taken to a safe zone, and when the rough weather ends, we will have many vessels and not all will be able to come for loading as the waiting area will be busy,” he said. “But if we have more than one terminal, once the rough weather ends, they all can come to get crude loaded.” Giant Fields Iraq has sought to boost oil sales from its southern region, which includes giant fields such as Majnoon and Rumaila, to offset a loss in production in the north where a dispute with the semi-autonomous Kurdish region has crippled pipeline exports through Turkey. Iraq pumped 4.43 million barrels a day in February, second only to Saudi Arabia in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. It sees output capacity at 5 million barrels a day by the end of next year, even as it commits to capping production under a global oil-cuts deal. State-run Basra Oil targets an increase in production to 3.5 million barrels a day by the end of the year from 3.15 million currently, Abdul Jabbar said. It plans to pump 4.5 million barrels a day by the end of 2022, with gains at all fields in Basra province, he said. Oil producers pump water into oil fields to enhance crude recovery. Initial bids for Iraq’s seawater-injection project are due by April 15, and the government expects to award the work before June, Abdul Jabbar said. Iraq is talking with Exxon Mobil Corp. and PetroChina Co. about aspects of the project, Abdul Mahdy Al-Ameedi, the Oil Ministry’s director-general for upstream oil contracts, said last month in Berlin. Export Flexibility The country plans separately to increase output at the southern deposit of West Qurna-1 to 480,000 barrels a day by December from 450,000 barrels a day, Hassan Mohammed Hassan, head of the field’s joint management committee, said in an interview in Basra. Output at the field will jump to 800,000 by the end of 2022, he said. An artificial island with storage and shipping facilities for crude would contribute to Iraq’s strategy of maintaining an exporting capacity that exceeds its production, Abdul Jabbar said. This is “a must,” to ensure flexibility in case an accident or foul weather disrupts exports from any one oil terminal, he said. Each of Iraq’s four single-point mooring offshore facilities can export as much as 900,000 barrels a day, and a fifth is under construction, Abdul Jabbar said. “If damage occurs to one of the jetties, the maintenance takes months. If we have rough weather, it also takes two days from export capacities,” he said. “To secure your business, export capacities must be 1.5 times greater that output capacities to overcome any problems of having output but being unable to export.”
  13. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-kurds/iraq-sends-money-to-pay-kurdish-salaries-for-first-time-since-2014-idUSKBN1GV0T1. WORLD NEWSMARCH 19, 2018 / 8:22 AM / UPDATED 29 MINUTES AGO Iraq sends money to pay Kurdish salaries for first time since 2014 Raya Jalabi, Ahmed Rasheed 3 MIN READ BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq sent money to pay salaries of state employees in the Kurdish region on Monday for the first time since 2014, the Baghdad government said, although a dispute over how much it will send the Kurds in future remains unresolved. Monday’s agreement represents a step toward normalizing relations between the central government and the autonomous Kurdish region, which held a vote for independence last year that the central government swiftly crushed. Under the constitution, the Kurdish region is entitled to a share of the national budget. But that arrangement collapsed in 2014, when Iraq’s army fled the north in the face of an advance by Islamic State militants. The Kurds seized control of Iraq’s main northern oil fields at Kirkuk from Islamic State and began selling Kirkuk’s oil independently; Baghdad stopped sending money to the Kurds. Last year, after Islamic State was driven out of the north, the Kurds held an independence referendum, voting overwhelmingly to secede. But the central government responded by swiftly launching a military offensive and recapturing control of Kirkuk, which quashed the Kurdish independence bid.1 The central government and the Kurds have yet to agree on a full plan to resume payments from Baghdad to the Kurdish region. The 2018 budget, passed in parliament earlier this month despite a boycott by Kurdish lawmakers, calls for the 17 percent of total revenue allocated to the Kurds to be cut in line with the region’s share of Iraq’s population, which is disputed. The Kurdish region still conducts independent oil sales, although it has far less oil to sell now that it no longer controls Kirkuk. “The federal finance ministry transferred a cash sum of 317 billion Iraqi dinars ($267 million) to the region’s finance ministry,” Baghdad government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said. Hadithi said the transfer would cover the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) salaries for a month, for employees of all ministries and for the Peshmerga Kurdish security forces. In a statement, the KRG said its finance ministry had received the transfer and would distribute it. Asked about future payments to the KRG to cover salaries, Hadithi said the federal government would agree to pay a portion while the rest should be covered by the KRG from its oil sales. Other measures imposed by Baghdad to curtail the Kurdish region’s autonomy in the wake of last year’s referendum are gradually being eased, including a ban on direct international flights which was lifted last week. The first international flight landed at Erbil airport on Monday morning. However, the issues of the KRG’s independent oil sales and share of the budget remain unresolved. Baghdad has sent teams of auditors to Kurdistan in recent months to assess the number of employees on the region’s payroll. A statement from the Prime Minister’s office announcing the agreement on Monday, specified that the audit was ongoing.
  14. The Englishman

    Off-balance sheet

    Economy IMF objects KRG budget share, could cost Iraq billions John J. Catherine | 2 hours ago Share share Iraq's adherence to regulations in the IMF's Stand-By Arrangement acts to free up $5.34 billion in international loans. (Photo: Archive) Kurdistan Iraq IMF Economy KRG ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which controls Baghdad’s access to over $5 billion in international loans, has come out against Iraq’s recently-passed 2018 budget, in large part due to the decrease of the share allocated to the Kurdistan Region. “The budget is not satisfactory because we think it’s not enough to maintain macroeconomic stability in Kurdistan, which is an important region of Iraq,” Christian Josz, deputy division chief of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asian department, told Iraq Oil Report on Thursday. Iraq’s adherence to regulations in the IMF’s Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) acts to free up $5.34 billion in international loans. It also indirectly allows Iraq to access billions more, due to the positive effect on the confidence of investors and businesses that IMF partnership carries. If Baghdad fails to reach specific economic and governance benchmarks laid out in the SBA, the IMF can cite non-compliance to put the agreement, and therefore billions of dollars for Iraq, on hold. According to Josz, because the budget share for the Kurdistan Region has just been reduced to a level deemed insufficient by the international monetary body, “the budget is clearly not in line with the SBA.” The official added that the IMF did not expect the issue to be resolved by the current Iraqi administration and would need to wait until after a new one is formed following upcoming national elections, scheduled for May 12. “I think the logical conclusion is that the [SBA] review cannot be concluded until a new government is in place and we have reached [an] agreement with the new government,” Josz said. The IMF also objects to articles in the 2018 budget that diminish Iraq’s economic solvency, such as those reducing tax revenue and other income not related to oil production. On March 3, the Iraqi Parliament in Baghdad voted to reduce the Kurdistan Region’s annual share of the nation’s budget to roughly 12 percent, a significant drop from its previous 17 percent allocation. Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
  15. Iraq's Energy Futurewww.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/iraqs-energy-future-lies-to-the-north. POLICY ANALYSIS POLICYWATCH 2942 Iraq's Energy Future Lies to the North James F. Jeffrey and Michael Knights March 8, 2018 U.S. support for Iraqi oil export projects involving Turkey, the Gulf, and Europe can help keep undue Iranian influence at bay. Despite a fifteen-year security crisis that would have sunk most societies, Iraq has registered year-on-year oil production increases that make its energy sector a global success story. Going forward, Iraqi hydrocarbons will either be exploited by Iran and its allies or used for Iraq's own benefit, transforming the country into an energy export hub between the Gulf states, Turkey, and Europe. The United States has a strong strategic interest in promoting the latter outcome. A FAST-GROWING SECTOR At the CWC Group's "Iraq Petroleum" conference in Berlin late last month, officials, business reps, and analysts were told that Iraq has become a strong number two in OPEC oil production, coming close to 5 million barrels per day (bpd) last year, with almost 4 million exported. Moreover, Baghdad is planning a major seawater injection program with the aim of further expanding production, first to 7 million bpd and eventually to 9 million. The latter target would put it in the same league as Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Russia. Iraq's potential gas production is also enormous—it wastes an extraordinary 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) annually in flaring alone, or 0.5 percent of global production. A joint project between Shell, Mitsubishi, and the Iraqi government will be the largest flaring capture effort in the world, providing 2 bcm annually for much-needed electricity generation. Iraq's ambitious plan is to capture and use all of its gas production with zero flaring by 2021. The initial objective is to replace more expensive, less efficient, and dirtier oil products, but if Iraq reaches its capture goal, it could become not only a gas exporter, but also a gas transit hub linking Turkey, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other key economies. KURDISTAN AND KIRKUK OIL The most pressing obstacle to these plans is Baghdad's ongoing tussle with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over oil from northern Iraq. The Kirkuk fields are especially thorny, generating a dispute that has drawn in Turkey and Iran, with Washington as an occasional mediator. The problem began when the 2005 constitution gave the KRG a significant role in developing "new" fields, which it did with a vengeance by courting international oil companies and signing production sharing contracts. Yet the constitution also required the federal government—via the State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO)—to market production from everywhere in the country, including the KRG. In return, the federal budget set aside some 17 percent of oil revenues for the KRG (closer to 12 percent when certain national expenditures were taken out, though the associated figures and definitions have long been fuzzy). The KRG usually did not allow SOMO to market its oil, however, so the federal revenue payments often went unpaid. Today, the latest Iraqi budget nets the Kurds only about 12.5 percent of anticipated oil income. The two sides have repeatedly sought to paper over their differences with American help, only to break their agreements and renew the dispute. When the Islamic State invaded the north in 2014, Kirkuk city and its oil fields were defended not by the Iraqi army, but by Kurdish Peshmerga, who seized the fields and began exporting Kirkuk oil through the KRG pipeline to the Turkish border and then on to the port of Ceyhan. For the most part, they marketed the oil itself rather than byproducts. Baghdad did not like this deal but had no choice at the time. With the Islamic State's defeat, however, the central government saw its chance, particularly after the KRG's strategic mistake of holding an independence referendum last September. Amid heavy regional pressure on the Kurds, Baghdad quashed their independence bid and took back Kirkuk. The dispute now centers on how to export and market Kirkuk's oil, and who will market the KRG oil still flowing to Ceyhan. In the meantime, Kirkuk's estimated 300,000 bpd are shut in. IRAQ'S ENERGY PARTNERS When major international players look at Iraq, they see not only future energy supplies and a rich market for their exports, but also potential geostrategic gains. These players are particularly interested in Kirkuk's stranded oil. Russia. Rosneft, Moscow's main state oil company, has invested some $3 billion in the KRG hydrocarbon sector. This includes partial ownership of the pipeline from Kirkuk via the KRG to the Turkish border, which links to the Ceyhan line (portions of Iraq's original Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline running through non-Kurdish territory to the Turkish border were destroyed by the Islamic State). Turkey. Ankara still allows the KRG to market its own oil (roughly 300,000 bpd) at Ceyhan, claiming it cannot turn this flow over to SOMO unless Baghdad assumes the KRG's oil-related debts to Turkey. Ankara has clear strategic and trade interests in preserving a friendly, autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Turkey also hopes for significant gas exports from the KRG, which would be provided at below-market prices and without destination restrictions. At the same time, Ankara wants Baghdad to drop its arbitration against Turkey for allowing KRG oil exports through the jointly owned Iraqi-Turkish pipeline. Ankara covets trade opportunities in Iraq's broader imported goods and services market as well. Indeed, Turkey led international donors with a $5 billion pledge at last month's Iraq reconstruction conference in Kuwait. Iran. The Islamic Republic already exports overpriced electricity and gas to Iraq, and it seeks to strengthen this stranglehold on the country's power generation market. It also hopes to establish a pipeline from Kirkuk to Iran in order to draw northern Iraqi oil away from its traditional Turkish export route, ultimately delivering Iranian crude through Gulf ports instead of refining Iraqi crude. While locked in disputes with the KRG, Baghdad has attempted to export some oil to Iran via truck, though this effort has been stymied by marauding Islamic State remnants in the area. Iraqi authorities have also threatened to divert much of Kirkuk's oil by building a new pipeline to Iran. The larger geostrategic stakes are significant as well. If Baghdad's Shia-majority government decides to favor an export route through Shia Iran instead of through Kurdish or Sunni Arab areas of Iraq, then it would put itself firmly in the camp of the regional pariahs in Tehran and essentially write off 40 percent of its population as untrustworthy, second-class subjects. Likewise, choosing Iran over Turkey would be a major blow to Ankara's prestige given its economic strength and commitment to Iraqi reconstruction—not to mention the damage this would do to Iraq's chances of full recovery. IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. POLICY Under these circumstances, U.S.-led international mediation is necessary to avoid yet another win for Iran. Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi recently backtracked on the Iran option for Kirkuk oil, suggesting that local production could be shipped via the KRG pipeline. He has not followed through, however, probably because such a compromise would weaken him before the May national elections. While the United States and its coalition partners may need to wait till after those elections to formalize a deal, they should still prioritize efforts to hammer out the details of an export and revenue-sharing agreement between Baghdad and the KRG in the meantime. Iran is trying to make Iraq dependent on its overpriced gas, and it will likely seek to drive this gas over to Syria in the near future. Greater energy interconnection between Iran and Iraq—including oil swaps and the use of sanctioned Iranian construction firms in Iraqi pipeline projects—will only loosen Baghdad's connection to free markets and international capital. To prevent that outcome, the United States should put its weight behind a north-south energy corridor in which Iraq serves as an energy hub between ever-friendlier Gulf states and Turkey, ultimately forming an export bridge to Europe. Washington should also support the Basra-Haditha-Aqaba pipeline project to bring Iraqi oil and gas to Jordan. This project—along with reconditioning of the reversible north-south strategic pipeline linking hydrocarbon-rich southern Iraq to Turkey—would reduce Baghdad's over-dependence on exporting oil through the Persian Gulf, where Iran can hold Iraqi terminals and the Strait of Hormuz hostage. Finally, Baghdad could play a profitable role as a gas transit hub between the Gulf, Europe, and the Levant.
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