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  1. The world's fourth-biggest oil producer can't keep the lights on By MOHAMMED ALY SERGIE on 10/22/2018 DUBAI (Bloomberg) -- Iraq is fast becoming a global oil powerhouse, gaining stature in OPEC after it surpassed Canada this year as the world’s fourth-biggest producer. But the war-ravaged country has little to show for its feat. While crude markets are preoccupied with Saudi Arabia’s ability to boost output as impending U.S. sanctions curb Iranian exports, Iraq has quietly increased shipments to Asia, Europe and the Mediterranean region to offset Iran’s missing barrels. Iraq is producing a record 4.78 MMbopd, the country’s Oil Minister Jabbar Al-Luaibi said on Saturday. Output will rise to 5 MMbpd in 2019 and 7.5 million in 2024, he said. Consultant Wood Mackenzie Ltd. forecasts Iraq could pump 6 MMbpd by 2025 and that its output is set to grow faster than for all countries but the U.S. over the next six years. For all its petro-wealth, Iraq lacks steady electricity supplies and has trouble keeping the lights on -- and attracting the kinds of investment needed to create jobs and spur local businesses. “An increase in production is good news, but Iraq still fails to provide basic services like clean water and power to its citizens, including in Basra where most of the oil is extracted,” said Ziad Daoud, Bloomberg’s chief economist in the Middle East. Political tensions Most indicators in Iraq beyond oil show little promise. Political tensions continue to simmer due to Baghdad’s stalemate with the country’s semi-autonomous Kurds, a sense of marginalization among the minority Sunnis, and the Shiite majority’s discontent with unreliable public services in their southern heartland of Basra province. Oil prices have doubled since 2016, bolstering Iraq’s finances, yet the country’s stock index is down 30% over the same period. More than $32 billion of foreign direct investment has flowed out of the country over the past five years, according to United Nations data. Fifteen years after the U.S. led a military coalition to oust Saddam Hussein’s regime, “people are frustrated that they don’t have 24-hr electricity, that the infrastructure and healthcare are poor,” said Ali Al-Mawlawi, head of research at Baghdad-based think tank Al-Bayan Center. “Wealth isn’t trickling down in a fair and equitable way.” Security improvements and efforts to form a new government are cause for some optimism, Al-Mawlawi said in a phone interview. Yet persistent corruption and a cumbersome bureaucracy make “foreign companies apprehensive about investing,” he said. None of this seems to matter for the oil industry in Iraq, the second-biggest member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia. Oil majors like ExxonMobil Corp., Total SA, Lukoil PJSC and Gazprom PJSC sat out the latest auction for Iraq’s oil and gas blocks in April, but smaller companies from the United Arab Emirates and China succeeded in securing contracts. International oil companies are responsible for two-thirds of Iraq’s current production, and their capital and technology are crucial to maintaining and raising output, said Ian Thom, Wood Mackenzie’s principal analyst for Middle East upstream. As long as the government keeps paying foreign oil companies in full and on time, producers can extract reasonable returns from Iraq’s low-cost fields, even if crude drops to $30/bbl, Thom said. Brent crude, the global benchmark, has traded at an average of more than $73 this year. “Iraq will not struggle to find foreign investors to grow its oil sector,” Daoud said. “The challenge is to attract capital and expertise to benefit the broader economy.”
  2. After all, Iraq’s ethno-sectarian quota remains ZEIDON ALKINANI 22 October 2018 So long as the ethno-sectarian quota exists, a political class that serves foreign interests will continue to determine Iraq’s political and economic destiny. Sulaymaniyah: A man is looking for his name in front of a polling station on a voter register for the parliamentary elections. Picture by: Tobias Schreiner/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.In the face of historical electoral results and popular uprisings against poor governance and corruption – Iraq’s ethno-sectarian quota remains assertively in power. The official quota or ‘al-mohasesa al-ta’ifiyah’ as it is known in Arabic, is the most fundamental problem with today’s Iraq. This is due to political parties’ ability in mobilizing communities through ethnical and sectarian motives, when the battle is nothing but political. Its function distributes the top governmental positions as follows: A Shi’ite Arab Prime Minister, a Kurdish President and a Sunni Arab Speaker of Parliament, as a proportional representation to the country’s largest three communities. This quota was first introduced by the US occupation during its early stages in 2003 when the occupational ambassador Paul Bremer appointed pro-invasion Iraqi exiles based on identity backgrounds in the provisional government known as the Iraqi Governing Council and continued throughout the country’s interim and transitional governments. This communally divided quota unfortunately, became a political tradition that shapes the power sharing between the identity–based political parties until our current state. Voters for most of the post–2003 Iraq period also reflected significant identity–based preferences. Alarmingly, this is arguably due to the lack of non-sectarian options that enjoy similar influences, platforms, and powers as the sectarian ones. Such ethno-sectarian share of power motivated regional players with power determinations such as Iran and Saudi Arabia to exploit Iraq as a proxy battlefield throughout the years. Consequently, it debilitated intra–societal relations as witnessed during the rise of Al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2004, the sectarian conflict in 2006-2008, the war with Daesh or ISIL between 2014-2017, and the rise of Shi’ite paramilitary groups funded and armed by Iran throughout the years, and in particular during the rule of former PM – Nouri Al-Malki. Nonetheless, the surprising election results and the protests which swept the country’s capital and southern provinces presented the most threatening year to the corrupted regime, and in turn presented hope to many Iraqis affected by it. In spite of the low 44.5% turnout in the election results last May, the country witnessed for the first time since 2005 the fall and demise of the ruling Islamic Da’wa party and the unfamiliar alliance between the secular Iraqi Communist Party and the Shi’ite and formerly paramilitary Sadrist organisation known as the Sairoon alliance. The latter raised two signals: a secularist political rise and a growing Shi’ite anti-Iran inclination as commonly advocated by the Sadrist leader, Muqtada Al-Sadr, whom is one of, if not the most powerful figure in post-2003 Iraq. Iran’s proxy games in Iraq and support to paramilitary groups with public allegiance to their Supreme Leader – Ayatollah Khameni has played a major role in destabilizing the country’s security. Later in the year, protests swept the country’s capital and mainly Southern province of Basra. Apart from the anti-Iran factor that was witnessed as protesters burned the Iranian consulate in Basra, the uprisings were mainly motivated by the poor electricity services which most of the population depend on during the humid and hot summer. It was also a reminder of the poor governance by the corrupted political class, which alongside electricity, also failed to provide clean water, secured borders, efficient education, infrastructural development, employment opportunities for the youth and other public services. A widespread youth-led activism also reflected a positive image of hope and determination in contrast to the pessimistic one commonly portrayed by the international media – ignoring Iraqis’ resilience, resistance, creativity and love of life in the face of hardships. In addition, the prominence of the protests encouraged both current and potential rulers to react with a sympathizing approach, as the anger on the streets was impossible to silence nor ignore. Whilst PM Haider al-Abadi sacked his Minister of Electricity and visited Basra as a way of calming violence, Sairoon surprised the post-elections governmental formation negotiations by calling for Al-Abadi’s resignation, after almost announcing the formation of a governmental coalition with him. Sistani’s call for the appointment of a PM based on merit instead of ethno-sectarian background was a turning point in Iraqi politics as the mere fact that Sistani, as the country’s most senior cleric, intervened in such a political affair with such a statement is a key milestone. The political discourse was filled with promises of forming a technocratic cabinet that would appoint independent ministers and officials whom are professionally suitable for their roles and not party-politically driven. Nevertheless, Iraq still witnesses another government being formed according to the ethno-sectarian quota. Sunni Arab lawmaker, Mohamed Al-Halbousi was elected as the Speaker of Parliament or the Council of Representatives on September 15th, 2018, with his party, literally using the word ‘Sunni’ when describing their share in the government. Separatist Kurdish politician Barham Salih was ’elected’ as President of Iraq on October 2nd, 2018, while advocating and supporting Kurdish independence in last year’s referendum. Rumours on the heavy regional and domestic political Shi’ite negotiations are confirming the potential appointment the ethno-sectarian quota’s veteran, Adel Abdelmahdi as Prime Minister, as a result of a national and regional Shi’ite agreement. Abdelmahdi, if elected will face the challenge of forming a Cabinet which must appeal to the different political parties, all of which are ethno-sectarian driven. Finally, following heavy regional and domestic political Shi’ite negotiations, Salih agreed to appoint the ethno-sectarian quota’s veteran, Adel Abdelmahdi as Prime Minister. Abdelmahdi would face the challenge of forming a Cabinet which must appeal to the different political parties, all of which are ethno-sectarian driven. Nevertheless, his appointment, as previously mentioned, highlights the certainty of Da’wa’s end in grabbing the premiership – as he presents himself as an independent politician after leaving the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. Thereupon, not only are we witnessing the return of corrupted, unqualified, disloyal politicians, and a governmental formation by parties that did not even perform well enough in the election results, but also a repeated scenario of the ethno-sectarian quota. The continued use of this externally imposed, self-demising quota can be tied to the fact that Iraq’s most influential external actors such as Iran and the US are politically and economically benefiting from their allies in Baghdad. So long as this remains the case, a political class that serves foreign interests will remain in power and will continue to determine Iraq’s political and economic destiny.
  3. SocalDinar

    GCR RV...USD Is now Gold Backed Ready.

    Well the United States M-1 is almost 3 trillion dollars. Do you really think the US has 2.5 Billion ounces of gold? Thats a lot of gold.
  4. SocalDinar

    Announcement of the largest bloc

    What hope for Iraq’s new technocrats? BARIA ALAMUDDIN October 21, 201817:23 73 In recent weeks, Iraqis were offered the unusual opportunity to apply for ministerial roles in a new government that has already been six months in the making. The staff of prime ministerial nominee Adel Abdul Mahdi are currently scrutinizing 36,000 applications received so far! The fact that such a gimmick is being countenanced is a damning indictment of the lack of capable, credible and clean figures within Iraq’s political class. Replacing familiar, corrupt and incompetent factional appointees with independent technocrats has often been proposed, notably by cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, whose list came top in the May elections. Previous attempts to appoint technocrats produced mixed results. Prime Minister Haider Abadi’s 2016 efforts to bring independent experts into government were thwarted by powerful vested interests. Meanwhile, independent figures are no less susceptible to huge temptations for personal enrichment that accompany such roles, along with efforts by powerful factions to buy off these political lightweights. By 2006, Iraq’s Interior Ministry had been thoroughly discredited. Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, who hailed from the Tehran-sponsored Badr Brigades, had flooded the ministry with his paramilitary cadres. These personnel helped spearhead the sectarian bloodletting that engulfed Baghdad between 2005 and 2008. Jabr and Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari lost their posts after secret prisons came to light, in which thousands of detainees had been subjected to the most grotesque methods of torture. Jabr was replaced by independent Shiite politician Jawad Boulani, considered a technocratic safe pair of hands. However, in a ministry dominated by omnipotent Iran-backed militants, Boulani was a lamb among wolves: “He has got to be careful about what he does just to stay alive,” one Western diplomat said. Killings attributed to Interior Ministry personnel continued at high levels throughout his tenure. After Boulani, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki ran the Interior Ministry, until in 2014 the department was given back to the Badr Brigades (now part of the Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi paramilitary coalition). Badr is today resolved to retaining its position, no matter who is nominally in control. The appointment of independent new faces is thus not a panacea for Iraq’s problems. Abdul Mahdi is nominally independent, but for years he was a leading official in the Iran-sponsored Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, so he cannot be expected to robustly confront Iranian meddling. At worst, such independent figures are window-dressing to appease the West, while the usual suspects continue pulling the strings behind the scenes. The US shortsightedly regards Iraq’s post-2014 crisis as solved, despite Daesh undergoing a resurgence, while Al-Hashd militants play a central role in Cabinet-formation efforts. American diplomats pat themselves on the back that Abdul Mahdi is their man, despite his appointment apparently being confirmed during a Beirut meeting between Al-Sadr, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force (Al-Sadr previously admitted to being a huge fan of Nasrallah, and Iran has consequently used Hezbollah’s leader every time they want to exert influence over Al-Sadr). As part of the same machinations, pro-Iran factions outmaneuvered the leading Kurdish and Sunni Arab parties that were supposed to choose the (Kurdish) president and the (Sunni Arab) Parliament speaker. Al-Hashd’s successful candidates, Barham Saleh and Mohammed Halbousi, lack a natural support base and are thus seen as easy to manipulate. Lebanon, which also had elections in May, is making sluggish progress toward forming a government. Although Saad Hariri is set to remain prime minister, Hezbollah wields more influence than ever. In recent days it was Nasrallah, not Hariri, publically discussing how the Cabinet would be formed, reinforcing the perception that this process is proceeding on his terms. For Iranian preeminence to be challenged, the international community must be more engaged than ever. Independent technocrats will proceed like lambs to the slaughter if they are abandoned to be coopted, blackmailed or threatened into acquiescing to Tehran’s agenda. Likewise in Lebanon, we cannot delude ourselves that Hariri is someone the world can do business with, when he is effectively an isolated figurehead for a regime hostile to the country’s national interests. In Beirut and Baghdad, forming governments and appointing top figures are routinely delayed while Iran’s allies veto progress until they get the appointees they want. This makes for months of dysfunctional governance when life-and-death national issues are indefinitely put on hold. Yet while parliamentary politics remains gridlocked, Nasrallah retains a free hand to belligerently exacerbate tensions with neighboring states, inching Lebanon closer to catastrophe. Distancing insatiably corrupt factions from the tap of state spending simply encourages more imaginative scams to syphon off these funds through alternative sources of liquidity. Al-Sadr’s and Abdul Mahdi’s aspirations for a technocratic national government are a seductively attractive vision, but will it be a smokescreen for sectarian paramilitaries grabbing more power and implementing their murderous agenda of sectarian cleansing across Iraq? If the political system itself is diseased, then those acquiring governing positions ultimately become corrupted. Iraq and Lebanon need more than fresh faces to achieve a fundamental change of course away from the dysfunctional, sectarian and kleptocratic political models that have prevailed for decades. If aspirations for a democratic future are to be achieved, these states require effective institutions rooted in the rule of law, accountability, and an ethos of service on behalf of all citizens. After long, tedious months of backroom deals, the eventual confirmation of these governments may be widely celebrated as a new dawn for Lebanon and Iraq. In reality, if these nominally democratic systems are genuinely to be rescued from corrupt, sectarian and militant forces backed by hostile states, this is just the beginning of a long and infinitely more complex and traumatic process.
  5. Siemens worked for the Nazis in WWII They sold Hitler electrical components used in the death camps
  6. GE stands for Good enough in the electrical industry GE snatches $15B Iraq contract from Siemens: FT Published: Oct 17, 2018 4:18 a.m. ET 3 By MARKETWATCH --The Iraqi government will give a $15 billion power-generation contract to General Electric, rather than to rival bidder Siemens AG, the FT reports, citing unnamed sources. --Media reports suggested that Siemens was close to securing the contract in recent weeks, but the Trump administration put pressure on Baghdad to award the contract to a U.S. company, the FT says. Full story:
  7. Iraq wants to know how buyers use its oil By SERENE CHEONG AND ALFRED CANG on 10/17/2018 SINGAPORE (Bloomberg) -- Major OPEC producer Iraq would like to know how and where its oil will be used, as demand rises for Middle Eastern cargoes to replace shipments from fellow group member Iran. Iraq’s state-run Oil Marketing Co., known as SOMO, is asking buyers of its Basrah crude to specify the final destination country for its cargoes, people with knowledge of matter said, asking not to be identified because the information is confidential. That aims to curb cargo resales, a practice under which companies reroute the oil to other firms who may offer a better price. The demand for final destination details coincides with growing fears of a crunch in the Middle Eastern crude market, as impending U.S. sanctions on Iran squeeze the Persian Gulf state’s exports. With uncertainty rising over whether other regional producers will be able to fill a potential supply gap, prices are climbing as buyers rush to secure alternative shipments. Global benchmark Brent crude breached $85/bbl earlier this month for the first time since 2014, and traded at $81.09/bbl in London on Wednesday. While Saudi Arabia and Iran impose country-specific destination restrictions on their supply and don’t allow buyers to resell cargoes bought under long-term contracts, Iraq’s rules are a bit looser. SOMO mostly sells to technical service contract holders that have invested in the nation’s exploration and development projects, and other lifters who have refining assets. Its end-use stipulations are limited to geographic regions, rather than specific countries. Buyers are encouraged to process the oil in their own refinery systems, rather than trade the bbl. Still, while Iraq charges buyers the official selling price that it sets monthly, the shipments are regularly resold in the spot market at a premium to benchmark prices. Now, as negotiations are set to begin for 2019 term supplies, SOMO is looking to potentially rein in the practice. The strategy is a u-turn from earlier this year, when Iraq was facing competition from the U.S. and Africa while the market was well supplied. At that time, SOMO allowed buyers to load its crude without saying where the cargo will finally end up. They only had to let the Middle East producer know about the destination two weeks after the shipment’s bill of lading.
  8. US imposes sanctions on Iraq-based money exchange for Daesh ties A vendor inspects Iranian rials at a currency exchange shop in Baghdad, Iraq August 8, 2018. (Reuters) Updated 43 sec ago REUTERS October 17, 201815:02 81 The Treasury action followed a Pentagon decision on Oct. 11 targeting a financial group supporting Daesh WASHINGTON: The US Treasury imposed sanctions on Wednesday on an Iraq-based money services business, Afaq Dubai, believed to be moving funds for the Daesh militant group. The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control added Afaq Dubai to its list of specially designated global terrorists for “assisting in, sponsoring or providing financial, material or technical support” for the Daesh group, the department said in a statement. The Treasury action followed a Pentagon decision on Oct. 11 targeting a financial group supporting Daesh. The Treasury said the moves are part of a broader US effort to target a network of money services businesses that enable Daesh to carry out operations across the Middle East. In September, the Treasury took action against Daesh financial facilitators with ties in the Caribbean and the Middle East. It took action against a money exchange group in Syria in December 2016. The Treasury said Afaq Dubai is located in Iraq and does not have branches in the United Arab Emirates, despite its name. Afaq Dubai is run by two Daesh financiers and as of early 2018 was laundering money for the group and providing money for families in the group, the Treasury said.
  9. SocalDinar

    Lady Gaga - I'll Never Love Again (A Star Is Born)

    Just took the wife to see this Movie. Very much a chick flick but have to admit that i really enjoyed it. Its a tearJerker for sure. Im guessing way to early here but would have to say that some Oscar's are due.
  10. U.S. announces $178M for Iraqi minority groups (0) Tuesday's announcement brings the United States' assistance to Iraqi minorities in fiscal year 2017 to $300 million. File Photo by Mohammed al Jumaily/UPI | License Photo Oct. 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department on Tuesday announced more than $178 million in new assistance for ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq as the head of a Christian church there blasted Washington as "wrong" for bypassing funding through official U.N. channels. The new assistance brings total State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development funding to the vulnerable population in fiscal year 2017 to $300 million. The new infusion of money includes more than $133 million as part of USAID's Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response, which targets food, shelter and medical needs in the Ninewa Plain and western Ninewa, restoring health and education services, improving jobs and local economies, and the prevention of future atrocities. Another estimated $37 million supports the clearance of explosive remnants, $8.5 million provides psychosocial and legal support, and supports increased minority representation in provincial government, and $2 million goes toward cultural heritage preservation. The announcement comes on the same day the leader of the Iraq-based Chaldean Catholic Church accused the United States of not helping the Christian minority in Iraq. "Americans are very nice and very friendly as individuals, but their policy is wrong," Cardinal Raphael Sako, patriarch of the church, said from Rome where he was attending the synod of bishops. "There are promises, but until now, there's nothing ... to help these people return to their homes." In October 2017, Vice President Mike Pence said the United States would shift funding away from United Nations-supported programs to assist Christian minorities in Iraq and instead move to direct funding. "We will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and the atrocities of terrorist groups," he said at an In Defense of Christians summit in Washington, D.C. President Donald Trump has moved away from contributing to U.N. organizations, cutting all funding from the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which assists Palestinian refugees, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which preserves cultural sites, and the U.N. Population Fund, which promotes family planning.
  11. U.S. Assistance to Ethnic and Religious Minorities in Iraq Share Fact Sheet Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC October 16, 2018 As part of the continued commitment by Vice President Pence, Secretary Pompeo, and USAID Administrator Green to support ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq as highlighted earlier this year at the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, the United States is proud to announce over $178 million in U.S. foreign assistance to support these vulnerable communities in Iraq. This brings total U.S. assistance for this population to nearly $300 million since Fiscal Year 2017, implemented by both the State Department and USAID. The preservation of Iraq’s rich historical pluralism is critical to reintegrating persecuted ethnic and religious minority communities into a peaceful Iraq. U.S. efforts to meet this objective span government agencies and are being implemented urgently, in close partnership with local faith and community leaders. Our efforts focus on the following areas: Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response (GRPR) Over $133 million in recently launched activities supporting the four pillars of USAID’s GRPR Program, bringing total funding for GRPR to $239 million. Meeting Immediate Needs: Over $51 million in life-saving humanitarian assistance to populations from the Ninewa Plain and western Ninewa, includes safe drinking water, food, shelter materials and household items, medical care, and psychosocial support. Helping Restore Communities: $9 million in funding to support early recovery needs and restore access to services like health and education. Promoting Economic Recovery: $68 million in funding to improve access to jobs and markets, support local businesses, and revive the local economy. Preventing Future Atrocities: $5 million to address systemic issues affecting minority populations and prevent future atrocities. Clearing the Explosive Remnants of War Approximately $37 million in funding to support explosive remnants of war (ERW) survey, clearance, and risk education in and around minority communities. This support has enabled the Department to significantly expand the number of U.S.-funded ERW survey, clearance, and risk education teams across Ninewa and fulfills the Secretary’s pledge to expand ERW clearance efforts in Iraqi minority communities made at the July 2018 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. Social, Economic, and Political Empowerment $8.5 million in additional assistance to projects that provide psychosocial services, legal support, and initiatives to help collect evidence of human rights abuses; increase minority representation in local and provincial government; increase access to justice for children; strengthen rule of law; and provide livelihoods support and access to economic opportunities for vulnerable groups bringing the FY 2017 total to $18.5 million. Preservation of Historic and Cultural Heritage Sites $2 million in ongoing programming to support the preservation of cultural heritage sites in Northern Iraq that were targeted for destruction by ISIS and other terrorist groups, safeguarding, preserving, and restoring access to significant cultural heritage sites of minority communities.
  12. SocalDinar

    Let us have a THINK

    I live in California with the highest taxes in the country. The state is losing many high wage earners because of this. We need a smaller less intrusive government. People need to stop expecting and receiving government handouts. Higher taxes will just mean more spending. It will do nothing to balance the budget.
  13. SocalDinar

    Let us have a THINK

    And thats why a candy bar that cost 25 cents when we were kids is now over $2,00 The Fed keeps debasing the US dollar. Biggest Ponzi scheme in the world. Silver and gold are cheap and a great insurance policy to the fall of the dollar.
  14. SocalDinar

    Central Bank: Deletes zeros still exist

    Cant be long now that they have stability They will delete the zeroes sometime in the near future. The dinar will be equal to the dollar. Can Iraq’s New Leaders Deliver Stability After Months of Deadlock? by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff Barham Salih, Iraq’s newly elected President stands during a handover ceremony at Salam Palace in Baghdad, Iraq October 3, 2018. Photo: REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani. The election of a respected Kurdish politician as Iraq’s new president and his designation of a compromise figure as premier gives the country a fighting chance of achieving stability after years of sectarian bloodshed, war, and economic turmoil. President Barham Salih, 58, who was elected by parliament, is respected by both the United States and Iran, arch-rivals whose competition for influence in Iraq has fueled factionalism in a country already dogged by deep sectarian rifts. The US embassy in Baghdad and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani both congratulated Salih on Wednesday, raising hopes he might be able to energize the traditionally ceremonial role of president and engage Tehran and Washington to Iraq’s benefit. “President Barham Salih has a strong personality and he’s well respected by the West and regional countries and most importantly Iran,” said senior lawmaker Rebwar Taha from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the party that nominated him. OCTOBER 12, 2018 10:37 AM 0 Plight of Stranded Syrians Worsens as Food Blocked Thousands of Syrians stranded on Jordan's border with Syria are running out of food as routes leading to their camp... Salih’s choice of Adel Abdul Mahdi, 76, as prime minister defuses months of tension between Iraq’s two main Shi’ite blocs who hold the most seats in parliament and possess the most powerful militias. His premiership marks the end of 15 years of rule by the Dawa Party, which has dominated Iraqi politics since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in a US-led invasion in 2003. Lawmakers said that was precisely what made Abdul Mahdi an attractive option, especially to powerful cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who despises Dawa. Sadr, alongside outgoing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, leads one of the two main Shi’ite blocs. The other is led by Iran-backed militia leader Hadi al-Amiri and former premier Nuri al-Maliki. Amiri and Maliki are Iran’s two most prominent allies in Iraq. Abadi was seen as the preferred candidate of the United States, while Sadr portrays himself as a nationalist who rejects both US and Iranian influence. PROTESTS Iraq now has its three top leaders — a president, prime minister, and speaker of parliament — and is edging closer to forming a new government five months after an inconclusive parliamentary election that was marred by historically low turnout and widespread fraud allegations. The latest appointments come weeks after protests in the oil-rich city of Basra, the jewel of Iraq’s southern Shi’ite heartland, threatened to destabilize the country. The government’s inability to handle those protests and provide residents with the basic services they were demanding convinced Sadr to abandon Prime Minister Abadi, his ally. “After the unrest in Basra, Sayed Moqtada was convinced that a prime minister who failed to bring clean water to his people will definitely fail at bringing stability to his country,” said one source close to Sadr. “That was enough for Sayed Moqtada to sit with Amiri and accept a compromise candidate, Abdul Mahdi.” Salih’s election is the first time someone has risen to one of Iraq’s top posts without a backroom deal — an outcome that may suggest lawmakers are making the country’s dire needs a priority over political gains. Since Saddam’s fall, power in Iraq has been shared among its three largest ethnic-sectarian components. The most powerful post, that of prime minister, has always been held by a Shi’ite Arab, the speaker of parliament by a Sunni Arab and the presidency by a Kurd, though that formula has not guaranteed stability. “TRUE POLITICS” Both Washington and Tehran had been vying for months to influence the shape of the incoming government, but neither can claim to be the deciding factor in the presidential outcome. “The outcome was not predetermined. Despite US and Iranian intervention, everyone was on the phones,” said Bilal Wahab, a fellow at Washington Institute for Near East Policy who is currently in Baghdad. “It was a unique political process, true politics. But this was an outlier event.” Salih designated Abdul Mahdi prime minister less than two hours after being named president. Abdul Mahdi arrived at parliament even before the presidential election was finished, knowing he was already a shoo-in. Abdel Mahdi had the right political pedigree: he is an Islamist but doesn’t belong to the Dawa Party and is perceived as a technocrat with a decent track record in government. Getting the approval of Sadr, the cleric who has mass appeal to the poor working class who have grown impatient with the political elite dominated by Dawa, was key. The other big test Abdel Mahdi passed was gaining the blessing of Iraq’s top cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Arguably the most powerful man in the country, Sistani has long urged politicians to stop clinging to power and give a new breed of technocrats a chance to rebuild Iraq.

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