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  1. It costs 1.5 cents to make a penny. Actually a lot of people hoard the older pure copper cents. They hope someday that congress will allow their destruction
  2. Iran, Iraq to sign currency swap deal to facilitate trade: official Source: Xinhua| 2018-11-18 20:12:55|Editor: xuxin http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-11/18/c_137615665.htm TEHRAN, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- Iran and Iraq are in talks to finalize a currency swap agreement in a bid to boost trade ties between the two neighboring countries, a trade official was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency on Sunday. Iraq is a lucrative market for Iranian goods, and Iranian exports to the Arab country have increased by 30 percent over the past seven months, Yahya Ale-Eshaq, chairman of Iran-Iraq Chamber of Commerce said. In the mentioned period, goods worth about 6 billion U.S. dollars have been exported from Iran to Iraq, Ale-Eshaq said. He stressed the necessity to finalize a monetary pact between Tehran and Baghdad, saying the central banks of the two countries have held talks to sign a currency swap deal. A currency swap, also known as a cross-currency swap, is an off-balance sheet transaction in which two parties exchange principal and interest in different currencies. The purpose of a currency swap is to hedge exposure to exchange rate risk or reduce the cost of borrowing a foreign currency. Iran's main exports to the neighboring country include agricultural products, foodstuff and fruits such as watermelon, tomato and cucumber. Other Iranian exports to Iraq include canned food, tomato paste, chicken, egg, meat, construction materials, steel and evaporators. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday that his country would try to raise the level of annual trade between the two neighbors despite the amounting pressures of the United States against the Islamic republic. "The economic trade between the two countries hits about 12 billion U.S. dollars (per year) and, through bilateral efforts, we can raise this figure to 20 billion dollars," Rouhani said in a meeting with the visiting Iraqi President Barham Salih.
  3. Middle East Iraqi police: 80 percent of illegal drugs in Basra come from Iran Kurdistan 24 |http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/0b6bd473-225f-44ff-86e8-1c3c3278b1d1 An hour ago Share share Over 29.5 kg of heroin confiscated by security forces in the Kurdistan Region's Duhok Province, July 4, 2018. (Photo: Kurdistan 24) Iraq Basra Iran Narcotics A+AA- ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An Iraqi police chief on Saturday accused Iran of being the largest source of illegal drugs to Basra, a province officials say has been embroiled in a three-year drug epidemic. "The drugs that come to Basra, 80 percent of them are from the Iranian side," the province's police chief Rashid Falih said at a press conference, adding that this includes all types of drugs. Most notable among them, he said, was "crystal." It should be noted that there is often confusion about the term "crystal" in the region since it is commonly used as the local name for two different highly-addictive drugs. One is methamphetamine, known in much of the world as crystal meth, but it can also refer to a high-purity street-level heroin, sometimes called Kerack. The statement comes a week after local police began an extensive security crackdown on drug traffickers in a city that has seen months of mass protest this year against the poor standard of living, despite it being a significant source of the country's oil revenue. Falih added that most of the other illicit pharmaceutical trade in the province comes in the form of pills that are also brought in from other countries, including Kuwait. He said that local police periodically launch "major operations" to deter smugglers along the nearly 100-kilometer long border with its eastern neighbor. "We will work hard to secure these borders through Basra Operations Command, Border Forces Command, as well as the police and the naval forces," he stated. The governor of Basra, As'ad al-'Aidani, agreed to a police request to build a "big sanatorium," or clinic aimed at isolating drug users, Falih continued. He also urged for the creation of new legal provisions permitting the death penalty to be imposed on convicted "major traffickers," although the Iraqi Penal Code already allows for this. In recent years, Iraqi authorities have arrested many Iranians and Iraqis for smuggling drugs into Iraq. There are no official statistics on the number of drug-related detainees are in Iraqi jails, nor are there figures on the total number of substance abusers. The Iraqi Human Rights Commission has previously said the country had become a "market" for the sale and abuse of drugs, especially among young people. Editing by John J. Catherine
  4. Grappling with taboos, Iraqi women join wrestling squad By Reuters - Nov 15,2018 - Last updated at Nov 15,2018 0 0 googleplus0 0 0 Alia Hussein, of Iraq's first women's wrestling squad, exercises during practice at the sports club in Diwaniya, Iraq, November 10 (Reuters photo) DIWANIYA, Iraq — The toughest fight that Iraqi freestyle wrestler Alia Hussein ever faced was convincing her family that women should be allowed to grapple. The 26-year-old student was a keen cyclist and basketball player, but when she told her family last year that she wanted to try her hand at the physical world of wrestling she was met with abuse. "I was humiliated and even beaten by my family, but I defied them all," Hussein told Reuters. "I feel that I can express myself through this sport. I wanted to prove to society that wrestling is not confined to men only and that Iraqi women can be wrestlers and can win and fight." On the blue mats of the Al Rafideen Club in the conservative city of Diwaniya, some 180 km south of Baghdad, Hussein trains three times a week with 30 other female wrestlers, some still wearing headscarves. When a big competition comes up, they train every day. In September, Hussein won a silver medal in the 75 kg freestyle category at a regional event in Lebanon and gold at a local tournament in Baghdad. "I faced opposition from my family at the beginning, but after my participation in Baghdad and Beirut tournaments they started to encourage me, thank God," Hussein said. This is the second attempt by the Iraqi Wrestling Federation (IWF) to grow women's wrestling, this time prompted by the threat of a ban by the sport's global body if they did not. The first ended when the club in Diwaniya was disbanded in 2012 after complaints from the local community that the sport was in defiance of local traditions and culture. The IWF has managed to recruit 70 female wrestlers who train at 15 clubs across the country, a spokesman for the body said. Each is entitled to a payment of 100,000 Iraqi dinars ($84) a month, but the money has stopped for the last three months as the IWF invests in a new wrestling hall in Baghdad. Despite the financial offer, recruitment is tough. Nihaya Dhaher Hussein, a 50-year-old school teacher, is the driving force behind the burgeoning team in Diwaniya which started in 2016. She drives the squad to practice, trains them and undertakes the dangerous task of convincing families to let their daughters, sisters or wives wrestle. "A woman wrestling is alien to our conservative tribal society," she said. "The idea is hard to accept. It was so difficult to attract girls and convince their families. "I was threatened myself by a brother of a player who verbally abused me and tried to hit me. It is so difficult to bring them to training and return them to their houses." http://jordantimes.com/news/region/grappling-taboos-iraqi-women-join-wrestling-squad
  5. Pictures: Self-Proclaimed Wizard Captured in Anbar Basnews English 16/11/2018 - 01:10 Kurdistan ERBIL — Iraqi security forces on Thursday arrested “one of the most dangerous self-proclaimed wizards” in the western province of Anbar. “Based on intelligence tips, security forces arrested one of the most dangerous wizards in northwest of Anbar,” a security source with knowledge on the operation confirmed to BasNews. “He spelled married couples for divorce,” according to the source. A local court had previously issued an arrest warrant after people filed complaints against him.
  6. SocalDinar

    OPEC oil prices rise and record 66 dollars

    The World's Most Important Oil Region By Rystad Energy - Nov 15, 2018, 11:00 AM CST https://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/The-Worlds-Most-Important-Oil-Region.htmlJoin Our Community Middle Eastern oil production is expected to grow by 2.7 million bpd by 2025, according to latest Rystad Energy analysis. The boost in conventional oil output from the Middle East is primarily driven by supply additions from Iraq with 1.5 million bpd growth, and an additional 1.2 million bpd mainly coming from the Neutral Zone, the UAE and Iran in the medium term. Output from conventional fields outside the Middle East peaked in 2010 and is expected to continue falling with current estimates putting 2025 output at 45.6, a 2.3 million barrel decline from current levels. (Click to enlarge) Iraq Rystad Energy forecasts the country’s oil production could grow to 6.15 million bpd in 2025. The current ramp up from producing assets is expected to add about 625,000 bpd on the country’s output of about 4.65 million bpd. The growth will primarily be driven by the giant southern fields, Rumaila, West Qurna-1 and West Qurna-2. Over the past 18 months, the country has seen the sanctioning of expansion projects at Majnoon, the third phase of Halfaya development and the second phase of Garraf. These fields could add another 550,000 bpd over the next seven years. An additional 325,000 bpd could be added through near-term project approvals. These developments could include full field development at Faihaa, and further expansion of Nasiriyah and Shaikan. Iran The most vital industry information will soon be right at your fingertips Join the world's largest community dedicated entirely to energy professionals and enthusiasts With the official re-imposition of financial sanctions by the United States, Rystad Energy expects annual average Iranian oil output to dip y/y by 700,000 bpd in a conservative case (accounting for waivers granted for Europe, India, Japan and South Korea for 180 days). Should sanctions be adhered to and then lifted in 2021, underinvestment in the interim would slow the eventual ramp up in production. In which case, the producing fields would be able to restart at 90% of the pre-sanction levels and ongoing developments – primarily at South Pars (13, 14 and 22-24) – would add about 50,000 bpd by 2025. Furthermore, the development projects with FIDs delayed due to the sanctions, once restarted, have combined potential to add over 325,000 bpd. UAE Rystad Energy forecasts the UAE’s oil production could grow to 3.71 million bpd in 2025, from currently 3 million bpd.Related: Significant Crude Build Weighs On Oil Markets The country has already sanctioned expansion projects developing almost a billion barrels of oil resources in 2017-18 which have the potential to add about 350,000-400,000 bpd production in the medium term. The notable development projects sanctioned over the past 18 months include the expansion at Bab (Thamama A/B/H), the second phase of Qusahwira and Haliba fields. In addition to these projects, ADNOC could potentially sanction and bring online further expansion of the Bu Hasa and Umm Shaif fields, sustainable facilities project at Bab, and the Upper Zakum expansion where the production is expected to increase by 250,000 bpd (reaching 1 million bpd). These developments could further boost the output by 750,000-800,000 bpd by 2025. Neutral Zone The oil production from the Neutral Zone shared between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, has been shut since 2015. Earlier this year, the two sides began negotiations concerning the restart of the fields. Rystad Energy’s base case incorporates a restart and gradual ramp up of fields in the Neutral zone to about 500,000 bpd in the medium term.
  7. SocalDinar

    Kurdistan’s slow rolling coup d’état

    I still do. Baghdad has a stranglehold on them
  8. SocalDinar

    Kurdistan’s slow rolling coup d’état

    US comes to Talabani’s rescue as Barzani attempts coup after KRG referendum British and US intelligence services informed Talabani’s son, who then contacted Iranian officials to help prevent the coup Editor / Internet11:33 November 15, 2018Yeni Şafak Masoud Barzani A coup prepared by Masoud Barzani in order to take control of the Talabani region after the illegitimate referendum held in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Sept. 25, 2017 has been exposed. Kosret Resul, a former Peshmerga commander who took over as general secretary of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan following Jalal Talabani’s demise conspired with Barzani and took up the role of the commander of the coup. The Goran Movement was also involved in the coup attempt. British and U.S. intelligence services informed Talabani’s son, Bafil, and thus prevented the actualization of the coup. Kosret Resul The U.S. will have spent nearly $6 trillion on various wars and military operations aimed at winning the war on international terrorist groups by October 2019, according to a study released Wednesday.The $5.9 trillion assessment by Brown University's Watson Institute includes costs expected to be accumulated through the fiscal year that runs through September 2019, as well as past expenditures. It includes not just spending from the Defense Department, but all of government resulting as a consequence of the wars.That includes related spending by the State Department and Department of Homeland Security, veterans care spending and interest paid on war debts.US troop levels at Mexico border likely at peak: commanderAs a result, the figure is significantly higher than the Pentagon's $1.5 trillion estimate."If the US continues on its current path, war spending will continue to grow," the report states, noting that even if the wars the U.S. embarked on following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are ended by 2023 the U.S. would be on track to spend an additional $808 billion."Moreover, the costs of war will likely be greater than this because, unless the US immediately ends its deployments, the number of veterans associated with the post-9/11 wars will also grow," it adds.After Washington embarked on its military campaign against al-Qaeda, the group responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and the Taliban which offered it safe harbor, the U.S. invaded Iraq, and went on a global campaign of less expansive military efforts aimed at eliminating terrorist groups and their leaders.Death toll from California wildfire reaches 56That has included a robust targeted killings program, expanded special operations and a global intelligence collection program.Spending in Afghanistan and Iraq has amounted to nearly $1.8 billion alone, despite a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq that was completed in 2011.But Washington re-entered the fray in Iraq and later Syria, deploying troops in support of partnered forces in the fight against Daesh, which overran large portions of the countries before being rolled back through an expansive American-led air campaign and train and advise mission for local forces.Watson's study of the costs associated with the wars comes as a separate congressionally-mandated report warns the U.S. military "might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia."Authored by the National Defense Strategy Commission, a bipartisan group of former security and military experts, the assessment warned Washington is not addressing the threats posed by Moscow and Beijing quickly enough."DOD and the White House have not yet articulated clear operational concepts for achieving U.S. security objectives in the face of ongoing competition and potential military confrontation with China and Russia," the report said, referring to the Department of Defense.The commission called for a 3-5 percent increase in Defense spending above inflation in order to address the threats."Failing that, it may be necessary to alter the expectations of U.S. defense strategy and our global strategic objectives," it said. Iran’s intervention assisted in preventing the coup Bafil sought help from Iran to prevent the coup. He traveled with his mother Hiro, sibling Kubat and cousin Lahor on Oct. 11 to Sulaymaniyah and met with Hashd Shaabi leader Hadi al-Amiri and Major General in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and commander of its Quds Force Qasem Soleimani. They agreed that the coup must be prevented. Three days later, on Oct. 14, they met in the Bashir village and finalized their agreement. Bafil, Kubat and Lahor attended this second meeting without Hiro. An agreement was reached regarding a military operation against Barzani’s forces. Two days later, an operation against Barzani’s Peshmerga fighters in Erbil, Mosul and Kirkuk was initiated. Once the coup was prevented, Kosret Sesul fled Sulaymaniyah and took shelter with Barzani. Turkish counterterrorism operation neutralized four PKK terrorists in northern Iraq, the Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralize" in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.In a statement, the ministry said the Turkish Armed Forces carried out an air operation in northern Iraq’s Metina region.Turkish jets also targeted shelters, weapon positions and arms depots.The terrorists were preparing for attacks on Turkish military bases, it added.In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women and children.More than 1,200 people, including security force personnel and civilians, have lost their lives since the PKK resumed its decades-old acts of terror in July 2015. Oct. 16: Countercoup Yeni Şafak daily spoke to figures close to Barzani to discuss the developments experienced in northern Iraq before Oct. 16. A high-level official who wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons confirmed the developments following Sept. 25. The Kurdish official said Talabani’s Peshmerga participated in operations with Hashd Shaabi, and that following Talabani’s demise, the attempt to take control of two regions failed, adding that Oct. 16 was essentially a countercoup against the Talabani family. After the completion of the Oct. 16 process, regional actors brought the parties together again. Kosret Resul, who took shelter in Erbil, the center of Barzani’s forces, returned to Selahaddin after the parties agreed on a new deal. Necrettin Kerim, the former governor of Kirkuk, along with Kosret Resul, will allegedly be the two main actors of the new plan regarding energy resources. Iraq to exchange food for Iranian gas, seeks US approval Iraq has agreed with Iran to exchange Iraqi food items for Iranian gas and energy supplies, two Iraqi government officials said on Wednesday.Baghdad is now seeking U.S. approval to allow it to import Iranian gas which is used in its power stations, and needs more time to find an alternative source, they said. The sources are a senior government official and a member of Iraq's ministerial energy committee.Washington granted Iraq a waiver to be able to import Iranian gas and energy supplies as well as food items when U.S. sanctions were restored against Iran's oil sector last week. But the United States has said the exemption will last only 45 days.US sanctions against Iran’s oil exports doomed to fail miserablyIran executes two men accused of economic crimes U.S. repaid Talabani for his cooperation in the Hood Event Former head of the Turkish General Staff’s intelligence arm İsmail Hakkı Pekin said “Western forces paid off the Talabani family.” Pekin stated that Lahor Talabani played an active role in the Hood Event in Sulaymaniyah on July 4, 2003, and that 40 Peshmerga fighters were there that day. Following the invasion of Iraq, a group of Turkish troops operating in northern Iraq were caught, led away with hoods covering their heads and interrogated by U.S. soldiers. İsmail Hakkı Peki The U.S. repaid Talabani for his cooperation 15 years later by saving him from the coup attempt, Pekin said. During the raid of the building that was used by Special Forces, many documents against the U.S. belonging to Turkmens, Arabs and Kurds detailing the U.S. occupation were found and many of those figures were later executed, he said. https://www.yenisafak.com/en/world/us-comes-to-talabanis-rescue-as-barzani-attempts-coup-after-krg-referendum-3466392
  9. Kurdistan’s slow rolling coup d’état Luay Al-KhatteebThursday, October 15, 2015 عربي A capital city in Iraq is in turmoil. The government has been hit hard by collapsing oil prices and is under pressure from an array of activist groups to reveal the fate of missing oil revenues, and be far more transparent. At the helm is a man many have long accused of intimidation and close links to one of the worst dictators of modern times. This government is seen by some as a primary ally in the war against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS or Daesh). In this troubled region, protesters clamor for change on the streets of major towns, with recent fatalities as the security services (including a secretive unit run by the ruling party) try to keep order. Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders and Human Rights Watch have all noted the intimidation of political opposition. Journalists have even been arrested and TV stations have been closed. On the battlefields, an existential battle against genocidal terrorists is hampered by factionalism, with units failing to work together against the fanatical enemy, with the result that the front line has frozen in some places. In parliament there is deadlock, while international oil companies complain they are owed vast sums of money. A leader clings to power, two years beyond his constitutional mandate, as national bankruptcy looms. Surely the above description refers to the beleaguered government in Baghdad? A tale of two cities Those who herald the story of astounding Kurdish success, like Thomas Friedman, should be shocked to find that the above description accurately relates to the government in Erbil, capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI). In fact, the last week of Kurdish turmoil has made politics in Baghdad seem jovial by comparison. For example, despite popular protests, Prime Minister Abadi’s main Shi’a political rivals Hadi al-Ameri, Nouri al-Maliki and Qais al Khazali all concede that the PM will lead the anti-ISIS war effort, and even (to varying extents) accept his relations with the US, provided Iran has a seat at the table (interestingly, Kurdish parties have long maintained close ties to Iran, which seems to have gone strangely un-noticed in Washington.) The main message in Baghdad is unity against “Daesh” and political reform, even if the latter point is heavily contested. Displeasure is expressed, but nobody is shut out of the system, as we see now in Erbil with the banishing of the main opposition party (Gorran) from the capital. Furthermore, while the last Iraqi PM, Nouri al-Maliki, cracked down hard on protesters, last week’s protests mark the second time KDP security forces have used live ammunition against demonstrators since 2011. Maliki (contrary to what many expected) left center stage under a combination of foreign and domestic pressure. Meanwhile, Sunni political figures in Arab Iraq, while divided and only on the government side as individuals or through tribal representation, frequently meet their Shi’a counterparts and discuss the current challenges. Granted, these relations are strained but again, dialogue is very much there. Interestingly, Abadi’s conciliatory politics are multi-directional, a point highlighted last year when Kurdish Minister for Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami expressed confidence in the new PM and referred to “our colleagues in Baghdad”. Last November, Iraqi politics showed the potential to build consensus on issues such as oil revenues and exports, and incorporating Sunnis into Baghdad’s anti-ISIS fight. Few expected what is now a major crisis in Erbil. Related B Until very recently, the KRI was once “the other Iraq,” home to Iraq’s only billionaire, excellent security and ease of doing business and the country’s only “skyscraper” building, in Sulaymaniyah. But the collapse in oil prices, the war on ISIS and an ongoing political dispute over President Barzani’s long expired term have exposed serious issues that need to be urgently confronted, before the world loses a key partner in the fight against terrorism to factional bickering. Most worrying is the risk of a return to the political infighting the KRI experienced in the 1990s, if not the state failure witnessed at the time (given that it is semi-autonomous, the KRI cannot be a failed state in its own right.) But if not a failed state, the status of “weak” state is likely, as defined by Rotberg. The fact that regional expert Gareth Stansfield claims the political situation is as bad as it has been since 1994 is certainly worrying. In that year, when the ruling KDP and PUK began clashing, the two parties had only recently held an election, described by Saddam as treacherous. But just as PUK leader Jalal Talabani was heralding a new democratic era, both sides were dividing the bountiful revenues from sanctions busting trucks crossing through the KRI. The seeds of a politically clientelist system were being sown, a system that has seen Barzani’s KDP retain power (initially because it controlled the truck crossings) despite siding briefly with Saddam to crush the PUK and the CIA station in the KRI in 1996. It is one of the region’s strangest mysteries that the most powerful family in the KRI could side with the Baathists after the misery of the Anfal campaign which claimed around 180,000 Kurdish lives. In the bitter Kurdish civil war, Barzani enlisted the support of Iraqi army divisions to fight the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, during what the Kurds remember as the “brakujie” (Brother Killings) which claimed the lives of another 5000 Kurds. This is the same Kurdish president whose term has expired on August 19th 2015. It seems highly unlikely that such turmoil could happen again with ISIS looming on the KRI’s border and Turkey bombing the Kurdish PKK. Unlikely, until we remember Saddam was the existential threat that still could not unite the Iraqi Kurds. Governance in Kurdistan – “The Other Iraq” Since the merger of the Sulaymaniah and Erbil administrations in 2006, the KDP has enjoyed absolute control over KRI. Currently, Kurdistan’s governing coalition is thwarted by the KDP’s shadow government, effectively deep state with almost total control over security, the economy and the media. Key cabinet portfolios often seem more like window dressing than bodies with any critical function. Neither Gorran nor PUK ministers are aware of what has happened to weapons delivered to Erbil. Kurdistan’s finance minister (Gorran) is usually left in the dark to answer for missing revenues which have left a trail of many unanswered questions. In effect, the Kurdistan’s Ministry of Natural Resource (KDP) holds real authority over energy and financial portfolios of the KRI; to the Kurdish parliament, this ministry is a black box. Rotberg’s indicators Set against Rotberg’s definition, the KRI is acutely lacking on key indicators that make for stable governance. Governments that fail on all of these indicators are failed states, while the failure to produce strong results on these indicators speaks of a “weak state.” Right now, the KRI is neither headed for independence or the highly developed society many observers long expected it would become. Rotberg’s key indicators to avoid state fragility/failure are listed as good security, strong institutions to regulate and adjudicate conflicts, rule of law, ease of doing business, political participation and social service delivery, including good infrastructure and regulation of the economy. Currently, the KRI is failing on roughly five of Rotberg’s seven indicators, which should be worrying for friends of the Kurds and should focus our minds on the presidency of Masoud Barzani, who has ruled the region from 2005 onwards, during a period of excellent security and an increase in the KRI’s GDP from hundreds of millions to tens of billions of dollars, thanks to Iraq’s federal budget that financed the region for over a decade post 2003. As this golden age of Iraq’s Kurds looks to an uncertain twilight, what does Barzani have to show for it that would possibly justify extending his term four years or more beyond its legal limit, as outlined in the Kurdish constitution? The failure to achieve so many of Rotberg’s indicators hints strongly at a severe case of the “resource curse.” In other words, like countless governments with vast oil wealth before them, the Barzani-clan have built the system on oil cash, and it has come crashing down just as the price of oil has fallen. Quite rightly, the KRI’s second party Gorran, are outraged. Gorran (“Change”) are an offshoot of the PUK old guard, and shot to surprise electoral gains in 2009. This rocked the post 1998 ceasefire and growing political consensus that divided “Green” Kurdish Iraq (the PUK ruled Eastern Kurdish province of Sulaymaniyah) with the “Yellow” KRI (KDP dominated Western provinces.) As the KDP now move to put more checkpoints up on the Erbil–Sulaymaniyah road, this consensus could now be as good as dead. So we have the ugly prospect of renewed instability, wiping out one of the only Rotberg indicators that the KRI was doing well on (ease of doing business) by increasing political risk. That situation is bad enough, with the hundreds of millions IOCs are owed by the KRI and the recently upheld legal ruling in the US in support of Baghdad’s position on oil sales. For “oil curse,” just take the public sector. 70 percent of the KRI’s budget goes on salaries, and since the budget dispute with Baghdad and the oil price collapse, many government workers go without pay. Clientelism has even penetrated the higher education system, with many professors complaining you simply cannot get ahead without following a party line, to the detriment of the entire system. Take Rotberg’s desired “strong institutions to regulate and adjudicate conflicts” as another key example. The Parliament speaker is supposed to sign a judgement by the Ministry of Justice’s Consultative Council (the body which extended Barzani’s term for a second time) but Parliament has been bypassed, suggesting the KDP have effectively captured this institution. Another indicator, Rule of Law, has been severely eroded by the KDP, as mentioned in numerous reports of press intimidation, with the KDP as a major culprit mentioned in HRW, Amnesty and Reporters without Borders reports. Finally (as mentioned) security will continue to suffer if the KRI cannot coordinate the two main factions of Peshmerga against ISIS, so far a key reason why the town of Sinjar has not been recaptured since last summer, despite heavy coalition air support for the Peshmerga who occupy high ground over the town, which is only 3.5 km across. Contrast this difficulty to the Iraqi army’s problems in Ramadi, which is surrounded by a patchwork of canals and villages and is nearly 8km across: the Kurdish war effort does not look as spectacular as is often claimed. Barzani’s fair weather friends Observers who proclaim, “arm the Kurds to destroy ISIS” therefore base such arguments on simplistic analysis, at least in Iraq (in Syria, the Kurdish YPG seem far more capable of making serious advances). Barzani has lobbied and lobbied in Washington for direct US support, but the above facts should make it quite clear that Barzani cannot be seen as the legitimate leader of a democratic KRI. Is he lobbying for arms to the KDP or the PUK, or for the defence of the Kurdish region or all of Iraq? Of course, this is no argument to suggest that further Kurdish autonomy, or even independence, is impossible, nor is it an argument to suggest the KRI is doomed. Far from it. The point is to address these hard realities so that we can help the Kurds tackle their challenges, at least while there is one of the most reasonable Iraqi Prime Ministers in post 2003 currently in Baghdad. Both governments need as much help as possible, but the Kurdish region arguably faces bigger challenges, since it has become dependent on Turkey for its oil exports and future gas trades, and is reliant on Baghdad for most of its budget. The KRI has now approached a host of individual nations including Germany, Israel and Hungary, who have chosen to deal with it as an independent entity, either by supplying arms directly (in the case of Germany) or buying oil despite legal threats from Baghdad, in the case of Hungary and Israel. Building these unilateral ties seems to have had the effect of isolating the ruling party, the KDP, who control the foreign relations of the KRI, while a growing opposition look on, ever concerned about the effect of the KRI’s strident foreign policy: Turkish–Kurdish fighting has re-surfaced and the US continues to pursue a “one Iraq” policy. Barzani’s selective alliance building now looks like a shaky policy to say the least, even as he runs out of friends at home. What’s more, as his government sleep-walks into constitutional illegitimacy, these alliances may quickly turn out to be only “fair weather friends.” For a relatively small and new geopolitical entity, fostering such selective ties can be dangerous when the tide of history suddenly turns. The Kurds know this only too well, since they were effectively dropped as an ally by Iran and the US in 1975, following the Algiers peace accords between Iran and Iraq. By contrast, Iraqi PM Haider al Abadi has sought to rebuild diplomatic ties with the Gulf States and Turkey, while maintaining strong ties to both the US and Iran, the EU, Russia and China. This is the pragmatic path for the new Iraq, one that any Kurdish leader who succeeds President Barzani must now take. For now what seems clear, as I argued in 2014, is that the Kurds cannot afford to leave Iraq, as we see the incredible fragility of their oil dependent economy, long portrayed as diversified, and a plethora of hostile or unstable states surrounding their territory. What now? On the positive side, if the West can now finally see past the KDP’s superb PR machine, which has until now so effectively spun a story of commitment to democracy, the US and EU can help with a peaceful and democratic transfer of power. The KRI can then hopefully maintain a relatively good reputation for ease of doing business and low political risk. Baghdad, under the leadership of Haider al Abadi, can be a key player in this transition. If not, the Barzani clan’s gambit to stay in power could have a chilling effect on future investment. High unemployment and discontent will linger, with unforeseeable consequences, beyond the unrest we have recently seen. At worst, we could see a return to the division of the KRI into two un-cooperative administrations, increasingly beholden to whoever will support them, in an echo of the darkest periods of Kurdish history. This could herald the beginning of a long period of decline in the Kurdish region, with all of the resultant risks including problems resolving land disputes with Iraqi Arabs and oil revenues: there will simply be no-one legitimate to deal with and mediate these disputes, because the president (or his son) will be in power through a slow rolling coup. This process begins by helping the opposition assert that the constitutionally legitimate leader of the KRI is now the speaker of parliament, until a new President is chosen. This is in line with the Kurdish Presidency Law. The speaker now must be allowed to enter the parliament and take over duties from a president whose term expired two years ago, and the opposition Gorran Party must be allowed to re-enter a political process that the Kurdish “Democratic” Party is making look decidedly undemocratic. It is up to the US, EU, Turkey and Baghdad to move quickly and responsibly to help the Kurds resolve this crisis, before we enter a period of dark uncertainty: another infighting friend is another win for ISIS. https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/kurdistans-slow-rolling-coup-detat/
  10. SocalDinar

    OPEC oil prices rise and record 66 dollars

    Crude Oil: The Free Fall After The Growth Trend By FxPro Financial Services Ltd (Alexander Kuptsikevich)Commodities9 hours ago (Nov 14, 2018 04:35AM ET) FxPro Financial Services Ltd Articles (606) Platforms (3) Our Website Follow Brent crude fell by 5.7% on Tuesday, sinking below $65 per barrel. American WTI is close to $55.50, the lowest value seen in the last year. Investors have shifted their focus away from the fears of decreasing oil shipments due to sanctions against Iran, as there are many countries on the horizon who want to replace the drop-off shipments inside OPEC+. This is Iraq, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Iran wants to retain its markets share, hoping to keep a significant part of its exports. Brent Crude Against this background, the fears of supply disruptions in the near future have vanished from the market. Again, we are in a situation in which storing oil is more profitable than selling it on the spot market. However, it is worth noting that supply is likely to grow in the future. An important driving pressure of oil prices in the last month was the resumption of speculation around overproduction. The forecasted growth of production in the next year exceeds, almost twice, the forecasted increase in demand. US Crude Supply American drilling is breaking records, and OPEC predicts that the United States will increase its production by another 2 million barrels a day by the end of next year. The cartel, in turn, predicts a decline in demand for its own oil and indicates a slowdown in demand growth. It is also worth paying attention to the technical factors behind the previous day’s collapse. We have recently noted that entering the bear market is often preceded by a further decrease of 20% in prices. In our case, these levels are about $55.5 per barrel for Brent and about $50 for WTI. The fall of oil yesterday was very impactful, causing avalanche of stop orders. WTI Crude Despite the extreme levels of oversold readings observed in market oscillators, the decline in oil may keep its momentum in the coming days as long as market players see the recent decline as the end of the oil growth trend. From the technical analysis perspective, the nearest important levels may be remote marks near the next round level and previous local minimums, at $50 for WTI and $62-63 for Brent. https://www.investing.com/analysis/crude-oil-the-free-fall-after-the-growth-trend-200359021
  11. Oil dropping again will put the squeeze on. They need to come up with other revenues
  12. For the Iraqi Prime Minister, a Slew of Economic Challenges Ahmed al-Hajj https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/fikraforum/view/for-the-iraqi-prime-minister-a-slew-of-economic-challenges Ahmed al-Hajj is an Iraqi economic expert, member of the Iraqi Federal Parliament, and member of the Governorate Council of Sulaymaniyah. He has published academic economic research in a number of articles and has appeared on a number of television programs. Also available in العربية November 10, 2018 With the choice of the economist Adil Abdul-Mahdi as the new Iraqi Prime Minister, he faces the daunting task of guiding the government through necessary economic reform, service quality improvement, and reconstruction. Economic issues represent one of the most major challenges in Iraq today, and in order to truly effect change, Adbul-Mahdi must alter a single-source economy, major public debt, weak monetary policy, a fragile banking system, and financial corruption. Though overcoming these obstacles is not impossible, the Prime Minister must act quickly and with the full support of both domestic and international forces if he is to change the course of Iraq’s economic system. Debt and Capital Flight Perhaps the most immediate challenge is accurately predicting government revenues. With oil making up some 93 percent of total revenues in the federal budget, Iraq’s economy has become especially unstable in the face of oil price volatility brought about by widespread challenges in the region. Moreover, according to the Parliament’s Financial Committee estimates, oil revenues are consistently overestimated in draft budgets, as the government rarely receives the full amount of projected oil revenues. Moreover, the unofficial version of the 2019 General Budget estimated that non-oil revenue would cap out at $10 billion, down from $12 billion in 2018. The new prime minister must be especially cautious against overestimating revenue with figures unrepresentative of on-the-ground realities, as this would complicate all subsequent economic planning. Understanding available revenue is especially vital due to Iraq’s massive public debts. This is an issue with which Abdul-Mahdi is intimately familiar: in 2004, he headed the Iraqi delegation to the Paris Club in an attempt to renegotiate Iraq’s debts, which then amounted to $39 billion. The negotiations were a success, and member states agreed to write off 80 percent of the country’s debt, reducing the total figure to just $7.8 billion. Yet in subsequent years, Iraq’s public debt crisis has returned and even worsened due to failed economic policies, declining oil prices, and the depletion of the country’s revenues in the war against the Islamic State. Today, Iraq’s total public debt is estimated at $124 billion, three times as large as when Abdul-Mahdi arrived at the Paris Club almost fifteen years ago. According to the unofficial 2019 draft budget, Iraq will owe $3 billion in interest on loans alone, on top of $9 billion in payment installments this year. At a total of $12 billion, negotiations for debt servicing will present a difficult test for Abdul-Mahdi, especially given Iraq’s limited cash reserves. As of late 2014, estimates placed these reserves at around $80 billion. However, the collapse of oil prices and increase in state expenditures have drained these reserves to less than half their 2014 numbers. The government’s indirect borrowing from the Central Bank—through its purchase of government securities in accordance with Article 26 of the Federal Central Bank Law—has only exacerbated the issue. The Central Bank announced last month that Iraq’s foreign reserves are at $60 billion. Economists also question the common practice of foreign currency auction by the Central Bank, through which it maintains a fixed exchange rate. This practice, however, is conducive to financial corruption and capital flight. Foreign currency flight is a particular challenge for Iraq: figures provided by the late Chairman of the Parliamentary Finance Committee Dr. Ahmed Chalabi show that $312 billion has left the country from 2005 to 2014. While the prime minister could limit the outward flow of capital by abandoning fixed exchange rate in favour of a free-floating regime, such a reform would prove difficult since it collides with the vested interests of powerful figures benefiting from the corruption currency auctions allow. Liquidity Shortfalls It is equally challenging to translate the reserves that stay inside Iraq into a capital market. The country’s fragile and undeveloped banking sector—considered among the worst in the world—further restricts the wealth-inducing use of the currency actively in circulation. Most citizens do not trust banks, and consequently only a few thousand people per region have bank accounts. Limited reserves have rendered Iraqi banks unable to extend loans to investors who are in turn incapable of contributing to development projects. Even when loans are available, those taking out loans are often forced to pay a broker in order to actually retrieve the borrowed sums. Neither has the Iraqi stock market been able to carry out its most basic functions of buying and selling bonds and shares. More broadly, most citizens only trustcash in their hands, reverting to electronic banking only rarely. Consequently, the Central Bank is pushed to continue printing paper money. The amount of Iraqi Dinars now totals IQD 60 trillion, with around IQD 39 trillion in circulation and IQD 21 trillion stored in the Central Bank’s vaults. Even so, approximately half of the currency in circulation is practically reserve stocks, stored in households and safes. In effect, more than half of all cash at people’s disposal is outside of economic activity. This is clear result of a weak federal monetary policy, which has weakened the purchasing power of Iraqi currency. As a result, the Central Bank has committed itself to maintaining the currency’s value by selling dollars in the market and depleting the Bank’s foreign currency reserves, all in order to uphold monetary stability. Some traders try to protect themselves from exchange rate losses by dealing in foreign currencies rather than the local currency to buy and sell certain commodities. Therefore, weak monetary policy and the lack of monetary stability are key factors rocking the Iraqi economy. In order to reverse the current domestic purchasing power, the new Prime Minister must first create a sense of trust in the banking system. Federally mandated reforms structured to stimulate investment and achieve economic growth will go far towards helping in this respect. A Menu of Options As is evidenced above, Abdul-Mahdi faces a difficult test if he is to effectively implement economic reform inside Iraq. Nonetheless, the Prime Minister has a number of options available to begin situating Iraq on a path towards economic stability. Here, decisiveness is key: Abdul-Mahdi must quickly implement radical reforms of fiscal, monetary and credit policy, and he must ensure the participation and support of the parliament as well. These internal changes must be coupled with an advocacy of social reform, as trust in a system where Iraqis do not face discrimination because of their religion, denomination, nationality, ethnicity, or gender will also encourage them to engage in Iraq’s economic future. Any reform, no matter how expansive, must also grapple with the realities of Iraq’s system of financial corruption. Iraq ranks a dismal 169th out of 180 countries on the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index. Experts have pointed to a number of governmental contracts for oil export and infrastructure projects where billions of dollars have been wasted. Rahim al-Darraji, a member of the Parliament’s Integrity Committee, has confirmed that some $228 billion has been wasted on infrastructure contracts, most of which exist only on paper. The enormous scale of administrative corruption in Iraq has led to a lack of public services, deterioration of infrastructure and industrial and agriculture development. Corruption has understandably eroded trust among Iraq’s public, and it is likely that any true reforms must dismantle this system in order to be effective. In order to move forward on these monumental challenges, Abdul-Mahdi should work with international expectations and recommendations. Iraq should implement strict laws on money laundering and work towards compliance with international standards and commitments. The government should also work with both the International Monetary Fund and the World bank, as they have stood with Iraq through adversity and played a role in writing off the Paris Club debts and others in 2004. Finally, the new Iraqi government must abide by international transparency standards and allow international regulatory organizations, civil society organizations, and the media to participate in fighting corruption. Hopefully, these measures can create a sense of trust and confidence between the people and the government by involving non-governmental actors in the process of economic reform. In many ways, Abdul-Mahdi is responsible for ensuring that political actors take responsibility for that which they have always been historically responsible—the economic future of the country. While this is a tall order for Abdul-Mahdi, he may also represent the last chance for reform in Iraq and the overall preservation of the country.
  13. Iraq recovers property worth millions after illegal sale By AFP PUBLISHED: 07:58 EST, 14 November 2018 | UPDATED: 07:59 EST, 14 November 2018 +1 A file picture shows a construction worker at the site of a future tower in the Iraqi capital Baghdad's central Abu Nawas street on June 28, 2018 The Iraqi government said Wednesday it had retaken ownership of a piece of property in Baghdad worth millions of dollars after it was unlawfully sold to a government official's wife. In a statement to journalists, the Integrity Commission said it had worked with Baghdad authorities to recover the land in Kadhimiyah district. "The Baghdad-Karakh appeals court issued a decision to seize the property, which amounts to 12,642 square metres, from the wife of a leading official in the previous government and re-register it in the name of the Mayorality," the statement said. "The land registration in the name of the official's wife has been nullified, as well as all subsequent registrations," it added. The northern neighbourhood of Kadhimiyah is home to a revered Shiite shrine, as well as some of the city's most luxurious properties -- priced at up to $10,000 per square metre. The Integrity Commission said its investigation had revealed the official had sold the property to his wife in violation of laws regulating the lease or sale of state-owned property. It did not reveal the official's identity, but a parliamentary source told AFP the accused had briefly served as a deputy to Iraq's former prime minister, Haidar al-Abadi. In Baghdad, abandoned homes once belonging to Saddam Hussein-era officials or to minorities who have fled abroad are regularly occupied by powerful political parties. Iraq, according to Transparency International, is the 12th most corrupt country in the world. The embezzlement of public goods -- from land to government funds -- is a deeply rooted problem in a country with such a large public sector. Corruption, shell companies and "phantom" public employees who receive salaries but do not work have cost Iraq the equivalent of $228 billion dollars since 2003, according to Iraq's parliament. That figure is more than the country's gross domestic product and nearly three times the annual budget. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-6388813/Iraq-recovers-property-worth-millions-illegal-sale.html
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