Thursday, December 16, 2010

Maliki says Chevron in contact with Iran

Maliki claims Chevron raised the issue of cross-border oilfield development with Iran:
The PM said he is currently in negotiations with Chevron to develop various oil fields, to include a cross-border oil field with Iran. The PM claimed that Chevron had told him that it had already raised the issue of a cross-border development with Tehran as well. ... The PM asked the CDA about the political feasibility of such a deal involving a U.S. firm working both sides of a cross-border field, given current USG policies toward Iran. The CDA noted that U.S. law on sanctions would apply, but added that the Administration was reviewing its policies on Iran.
Chevron has denied any wrongdoing.

The US Baghdad Embassy cable from March 2009 doesn't name the oilfield in question but a few months later (Dec 2009) Iranian troops occupied a disputed oil well from the Fakka oilfield a few hundred meters inside Iraq, an incident which left everyone in Iraq scratching their heads at the time.

Incidentally, Iranian media reported just today that Iraq and Iran have finally reached an agreement on plans to develop five of the eight cross-border oilfields. Majnoon (now being developed by Shell and Petronas) and Fakka are the largest border fields, with other smaller undeveloped or abandoned fields that straddle the border from al-Siba, south of Basra, to Naft Khaneh, northeast of Baghdad.

So far, Halliburton seems to be the only American company to get anything out of these Iraqi development deals, since Shell (and others) have already awarded them subcontracts to drill new oil wells in the Basra government.

Maliki also said he will ensure any oil reform proposals would not go through parliament for approval:
The CDA asked the PM about the status of the reform proposals from the oil symposium hosted by Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh in early March. She said that it was a good sign that the government had formalized the symposium's conclusions into recommendations for government decision, and asked if the package would need only COM agreement or would also have to go to the COR for approval. The PM said no, he does not intend for the reform proposals to go to the COR and that he would do everything to avoid this, commenting that the COR would "take us into a political maze," which was completely unnecessary.
Of course, the much-touted oil reform law is yet to pass, mostly due to political wrangling between officials in Baghdad and the Kurdish region.


Regarding the Mujahedin e-Khalq residents of Camp Ashraf, Maliki "frustrated" on behalf of Iran:
The PM then expressed some frustration and questioned why the GOI had to act so responsibly towards a organization determined to be a terrorist group by both Iraq and the U.S.. He noted that this created daily problems within the GOI. ... "It is not because of Iran," he said. "We have great internal pressures to resolve this matter." ... He said that Iran had asked how the GOI could support cross border military actions by Turkey against the PKK, but not allow Iran to take similar action against the MEK at Camp Ashraf.


Boat with 70 Iraqi refugees smashes against rocks in Australia

Twenty-seven bodies are recovered from the churning waters off tiny Christmas Island. Another 41 people are rescued and one person makes it to shore of an estimated 70 on the boat. Authorities believe the asylum-seekers are from Iraq and Iran.

More (graphic video in link)

I have always advised the Iraqis I know never to take this disastrous route. But for some Iraqis in desperate situations, the benefits (real or perceived) far outweigh the risks of such a perilous journey. They tend to be younger college graduates, both single and with families, who do not have a very realistic idea of what awaits them during the trip to Australia. The local "handlers" also play a big role in this tragedy as they can receive up to $10,000 in cash for a single person and they keep the circumstances of the journey ambiguous until the moment the refugees are told to crowd onto one of these boats.

My cousin made it all the way to Malaysia two years ago and then decided to return home when other Iraqis there described this crazy boat journey to Australia. He had been kidnapped twice in Baghdad by a local gang whose members were linked to an Iraqi police checkpoint in the neighborhood. His family paid hefty ransoms only to be told that their son would return to them in a coffin the third time if they don't leave their house. When he returned to Iraq he told me he would rather die a quick death by a bullet outside his house than to drown in stormy seas halfway across the globe.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Iraqi child prodigy

Iraq's youngest photographer was born in the same year his country was invaded by the United States. But the young man known as the boy wonder refuses to take any pictures of the violence that surrounds him.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

"Baghdad is not Kandahar"

You think so?
The Iraqi Ministry of Education has banned theatre and music classes in Baghdad's Fine Arts Institute, and ordered the removal of statues showcased at the entrance of the institute without explaining the move, but some of the students mull religious reasons as the real motive.

“Prohibiting theatre and music in the institute for its so called “violation” of religion is only an individual opinion touted by some people hailing from religious parties, but it is contradictory to the opinion of most religious clerics and scholars,” said Dhaya al-Shakarchi, a writer and a politicians, told

Students have also fears that the ban will extend to include other arts such as photography, directing, sculpting, and drawing.

Yesterday there was a story in the Western press about Iraq's dying classical musical tradition which had survived the last five centuries.

Last week the authorities shut down all casinos, bars, nightclubs, social clubs that serve alcohol, something "even Saddam did not dare to do," to borrow the words of an angry Iraqi writer. A few intellectuals and writers staged a poorly covered protest a few days ago.

I guess the government of the Islamic Republic of Iraq must be really worried about all those drunk Iraqis who flock out of bars and social clubs every night to blow up innocents in churches and markets, or those radical musicians and actors with their instruments of mass destruction.