Anglo-Turkish oil giant, HeritaGE

Heritage Oil has just announced the details of a takeover of Genel Enerji that will transform it into the largest oil company in the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq.  The newly merged company will be named HeritaGE and will have an estimated net worth of U$6bn.  It is currently listed as a FTSE 250 group and will most likely move into the FTSE 100 category.

Security guard at Tawke oil refinery near Zakho (Photo credit: ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)

Security guard at Tawke oil refinery near Zakho (Photo credit: ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)

Heritage is listed in London, incorporated in Jersey, and has headquarters in Canada.  Its founder and CEO is Tony Buckingham, who gained notoriety as a leading figure with mercenary groups Executive Outcomes and Sandline International.  Genel is owned by the Çukurova Group, a conglomerate that spans media to cars to shipping and is controlled by Mehmet Emin Karamehmet, a Turkish billionaire.

The deal involves the acquisition of Genel for U$2.5bn in stock and will be completed in September.  Buckingham, current CEO of Heritage and a 33% owner, will become Executive Chairman of HeritaGE and Karamehmet will be its Executive Director.  Mehmet Sepil, who is CEO of Genel Enerji, will become CEO of the newly-formed HeritaGE group.

There are two major oil fields in the Kurdistan Region involving HeritaGE: Taq Taq and Tawke.  Taq Taq is managed by the Taq Taq Operating Company (TTOPCO), a joint venture between Genel (holding 44%) and Addax (holding 36%).  Addax Petroleum (Swiss-Canadian) is facing a takeover of its own by China’s SINOPEC.  Tawke field, operated by the Norwegian company DNO, first struck oil in late December of 2005.  Genel owns a 25% stake in DNO’s Tawke operations.

Oil from Taq Taq is loaded into tankers at an export facility at Khurmala, south-west of Erbil, from which it is pumped

KRG oil fields and pipelines

KRG oil fields and pipelines

to Baiji and into the northbound Kirkuk pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.  Oil from Tawke is pumped directly into the same pipeline.

The crude being extracted from the first newly developed oilfield to have come on stream anywhere in Iraq for 30-odd years is cause for celebration and pride amongst Iraq’s Kurds.   It is also the first instance of exploration leading to extraction and export by private companies in Iraq since Saddam nationalised the oil industry in 1972.

Iraq still has no federal petroleum law, and the exports are being conducted under an informal arrangement between Kurdistan and Iraq’s federal government.  The terms of the Taq Taq agreement are for Baghdad to receive 88% of the profits with the oil companies keeping 12%.  Baghdad will then send back to the KRG 17% of what it receives.  In effect, the KRG will net just under 15% of total oil revenue.  Terms for Tawke operations are similar.

However there are still lingering doubts about how HeritaGE, Addax and DNO will be paid for the oil they are pumping.  Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani has rejected paying the three firms as part of the contracts signed independently with the KRG.  He says the exports are not completely legal but hopes that the oil law now (still) being discussed will allow it to happen.  Al-Shahristani says the KRG must pay the companies from its 17% share of the federal budget it receives annually.

Additionally, the Iraqi cabinet agreed on Tuesday to draft a law allowing the government to allocate U$0.50 from each barrel to the province where it was produced.  This is the first time Baghdad will send any revenues back to the provinces in such a fashion.

Net production for the new company from Kurdistan is now approximately 30,000 barrels a day and is estimated to rise to about 43,000 barrels a day by the end of the year.  Kurdish Oil Minister, Ashti Hawrami, aims to increase total production from the region from 100,00 barrels a day by the end of the year to more than 1 million barrels by 2012.

HeritaGE has said it will use its share of the revenues to finance a 1,300km pipeline linking its Ugandan oil fields to Kenya’s coast.

Sources:

Hume, Neil.  False news shock – Heritage Oil edition, Financial Times Blog, 10 June 2009

Lando, Ben.  KRG firms are takeover prospects.  Iraq Oil Report, 09 June 2009

Forston, Danny.  Turks’ Heritage delight.  TimesOnline/The Sunday Times, 07 June 2009

Rasheed, Ahmed.  Iraq says Kurd oil deals illegal, Kurds foot bill.  Guardian Online, 10 June 2009

Salaheddin, Sinan.  Iraq gov’t hopes to end oil dispute with Kurds, AP, Forbes.com, 10 June 2009.

Iraqi Kurdistan begins first time oil exports, Al Arabiya, 01 June 2009

Kurdistan goes glug glug, The Economist, 28 May 2009

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Kirkuk as summer capital?

The Arab press (al-Dustour, Asrar al-Sharq, etc.) are reporting today that calls are being made to make Kirkuk the “summer” capital of Iraq. Fawzi Akram Terzi, a Turkoman parliament deputy in Baghdad associated with the Sadrist bloc, made the call saying that Kirkuk has “great economic, political and strategic implications” for Iraq’s future.

Fawzi Akram Terzi

Fawzi Akram Terzi

Two months ago Terzi told Radio Free Europe “a Kurdish-Arab civil war is out of the question in the new Iraq where disagreements are settled by dialogue and according to the constitution.”

So is his plan to make Kirkuk a second capital city dialogue or part of the constitution? Or is it merely another ploy to prevent the Kurds from reclaiming what was taken from them by Saddam’s brutal policies of Arabisation?

Terzi rationalises this idea by suggesting that summer capitals are “in place in many countries the world.” He also said that the government should begin massive economic revitalisation programmes in the city as it is far removed from all forms of partisan conflict found in Baghdad.

Yes, perhaps the Turkomen have a claim to a power-sharing arrangement in Kirkuk, with 12% of the city’s population (Kurds make up 52%). However, I do not think that making Kirkuk the “summer” capital will do anything to remedy the tense ethnic relations in the city.

With al-Maliki centralising power and leaning towards a more authoritarian style of leadership, Terzi’s idea would only be seen by the Kurds as a Baghdad-takeover of Kirkuk.

And Kirkuk?

Last weekend’s elections in Iraq were “hailed by both Iraqis and the international community as a success and a sign of the country’s growing stability” (McLain).  But will that stability reach (and sustain itself) in the three provinces that bridge the Kurdish-Arab ethnic lines?  These provinces are Nineveh, Ta’mim (formerly Kirkuk province), and Diyala.  Kirkuk did not participate in the recent elections.

NYTimes

Striped areas show provinces of mixed Kurdish/Arab/other ethnicities. source: NYTimes

The tensions along the Kurdish-Arab line mirror a much larger, and potentially more destabilizing division.  That of the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

At the forefront of the debate is Kiruk and oil.   There is no clear consensus on who controls the KRG’s natural resources.  The constitution is incredibly vague on this issue and it has led to ever-hardening battles over the oil reserves.  The province of Kirkuk (Ta’mim) sits on 13% of Iraq’s oil.

But oil is not the only friction there.  Kurds (and other groups) were ethnically cleansed from the province under Saddam’s Arabisation policies.  Arabs from the south were relocated to the area.  Subsequently, Kirkuk has become a de facto symbol of oppression against the Kurds.  It is a city that has strong emotional attachment to Kurdish identity in the region and Kurds will continue the fight to incorporate it into the KRG.

However, Prime Minister al-Maliki  and his centralisation policies have been strengthened by the elections and he may take that as a mandate to reign in local governments.  At the same time, the Kurds see wins in Kurdish districts (smaller units of the provinces) as proof of voters’ desire to become part of the KRG.

But the complications are not just domestic.  Turkey has warned that it would not tolerate a Kirkuk governed by the KRG.  It views a Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk as a threat to its national security.

The KRG has scheduled provincial elections for 19 May.  No date has yet been set for Kirkuk.

Sources:

What Iraq’s elections will mean for the crucial oil sector, The Daily Star, 06 February 2009,
http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=3&article_id=99140

Carpenter, S. Surprises from Iraq’s Provincial Elections, Policy Watch #1472, The Washington Institute, 06 February 2009, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC05.php?CID=3008

McLain, S.  You have to solve Kirkuk, The National, 07 February 2009, http://www.thenational.ae/article/20090207/FOREIGN/47173813/1011/NEWS

‘The new Iraq is based upon the principle of consensus’

A transcript of The LA Times’ interview with Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani.

By Ned Parker
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

In Sunday’s paper, The Times interviewed Kurdistan region’s President Massoud Barzani about the growing rift between the Kurds and Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. Below is a transcript of most of the interview.

Barzani, whose late father led multiple revolts against Baghdad in the 20th century, discusses the Kurds’ differences with Maliki and his own conviction that the prime minister is drifting toward authoritarian rule. Barzani reviews in details his differences with Maliki over the the Iraqi army’s current direction and a pending oil and gas law. Other topics discussed include disputed territories like Kirkuk, and a recent confrontation between Maliki’s body guards and Kurdish security forces at the Iraqi parliament, that ended with Maliki’s guards calling in an Iraqi army unit to seize control of the parliament building. The interview was conducted Saturday at Barzani’s offices in Salahuddin, outside Irbil.

Barzani is asked about his expectations for Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s coming visit to Kurdistan.

barzani1Barzani: “I think it will be his fourth visit to the region as PM. Although the time has not been set for the visit, but of course when he does come, there are five specific issues and the issues which have been set forth that will be discussed, and they will be the key topics to be discussed with him.

“The first one will be the file of the security and the military. The second one would be partnership in government –- in other words our partnership in government. The third one is the economical one, which covers oil and gas as well. The other file would be the disputed regions. And finally the foreign affairs or foreign politics.”

Barzani is asked about disagreements between Maliki and his partners in the government, including the Kurds. Have those disputes centered about concerns that the Prime Minister is trying to rule by himself and is there any progress in resolving these questions.

Barzani:“What I mentioned earlier. One of the issues that will be discussed and one of the key files is partnership in administration. Which is based on the rule by consensus among the key groups as well as commitment to the constitutional principles and what has been laid out in the constitution. Indeed, it is a big issue in Iraq.”

Barzani is asked to describe the prime minister’s policies.

Barzani:“We certainly have expressed our views very openly and clearly and we also have expressed our views in official correspondence with the prime minister. We have expressed that we have reservations on certain issues and they have also been made public. What we have geared, what we have aimed, is to resolve these issues through direct contact, and obviously adhering to the constitution that has laid the groundwork for such issues.”

Barzani is asked about comments he made in November on the Al Hurra satellite television channel that the Iraqi government ignores the Kurdish role whenever possible in every area and that the government wants to return to a one-party system and a totalitarian authority. He is asked to elaborate on what he meant.

Barzani:“It was earlier in November when I was interviewed by al Hurra. After that interview I visited Baghdad actually … I stayed there for a couple of weeks. We had meetings and we presented our views and certain notes that I had mentioned earlier and the committees [that] were formed were as a result of those notes, as a result of the concerns that we had expressed openly and sometimes in private, so these committees were agreed. We had a chain of meetings – of key groups al Dawa, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, KDP [Kurdistan Democratic Party], PUK [Patriotic Union of Kurdistan] and Islamic Party of Iraq as key components or political groups, or government to government, or KRG with federal government.

“So these committees were formed in order to handle these issues, in order to resolve these pending issues which are detrimental. This is what we are proceeding with right now… The formation of the new Iraq is based upon the principle of consensus. These key groups must adhere to the constitution, to the roadmap that has been laid, as well as the principle of consensus because no single party has won elections and has come to power by absolute majority. This is through consensus and we all have to adhere. If one particular group diverts or moves away from this line and principle of consensus, obviously it creates such problems which have been [seen] more recently. We would fully support issues to be handled and to be resolved through the constitution and dialogue. This is how we’ve proceeded and this is what we are doing right now.”

Barzani is asked if any of these new committees have made progress.

Barzani:“There has been some progress within certain committees, but maybe not that significant or tangible due to the fact that there were was full concentration by all parties on the security agreement or SOFA. Everybody was concerned with that. As of now the committees have begun their work in earnest.”

Barzani is asked if there has been any progress on the oil law.

Barzani:“As far as we are concerned, there is a foregone conclusion on how the oil law should be drafted, but unfortunately it seems that Baghdad is dragging its feet and not wanting an amicable solution to it. In real essence, the problems or blame are being laid at the doorsteps of the Kurds at a time when the state has no oil policy and the ministry is a failed ministry with a failed policy. And at the same time, they do not want to see any development in this field in Kurdistan as well and [are] blaming the Kurds for the failures in Baghdad. And quite contrary to that the problem is not with the Kurdistan region.

“Over the past three years, there has been a budget of eight billion dollars allocated for the [rehabilitation] of the oil industry sector in order to increase the production level, and when you look at it the production it has perhaps even decreased, rather than increased. That’s what the Iraqi public has to be told. What was the reason and why [was] this budget that was allocated was not properly spent and what actually has happened to that budget and why has the oil production not met the required production level.

Barzani is asked why the money hasn’t been spent properly.

Barzani:“This is what we ought to know as well, to know the reason for it, the Iraqi public need to know about it.”

Barzani is asked if the reason is corruption in the oil ministry.

Barzani:“I can’t prejudge that. I cannot say. It’s a very important issue, that the Iraqi people need to be aware of and they need to be informed.”

Barzani is asked if he feels that elements within the government or parties are trying to blame the Kurds about the oil law to distract the Iraqi public from larger political issues.

Barzani:“Until very recently, yes indeed, it was the case to blame the Kurds for any mishaps or lack of developments, whether it was [in] the prime ministry or any particular ministry where they face obstacles or problems. And they were trying to blame the Kurds for any lack of developments, which was not the case, although things have moved on a little bit now. It has improved but until very recently that [was] the case having the Kurds as a scapegoat for every misfortune.”

[Asked about the negotiations on the oil law, Barzani speaks about an agreement to start shipping Kurdish oil through the Iraqi oil pipeline to Turkey, following a visit by Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani to Kurdistan in November]

“We have all agreed in principle in the constitution that oil and gas belongs to all Iraqi people and should be distributed equally and this 100,000 barrels can be part of this greater Iraqi oil production level in order to be distributed as per agreements we have reached.”

Barzani is asked about his previous comments that Kurds have been marginalized in the Iraqi army

Barzani:“The very beginning after the new developments in post 2003, when there were efforts to reform and rebuild the Iraqi army, it seems that people were hesitant to join the army – neither the Sunnis nor the Shiite Arabs were joining the Iraqi army. The very first steps were taken by the Kurdish side. The very first three divisions were actually formed by Kurdish units and elements. Thereafter other people gradually joined in and volunteered to join the army. Like oil and other resources, the military is for all Iraqi people and there has to be a balance of all elements of Iraqi society to participate in the army. And of course the military should and must have its own regulations and [foundations] that it has been set up on.

“Under normal circumstances, it is very natural to move around officers and units of various types and elements to various parts of the country. Of course, looking at the situation in Iraq, it is not a normal situation. It is an abnormal situation at the moment. And in more recent times, we have witnessed there has been a deliberate attitude to marginalize and to oppose the Kurdish participation [in the army]. And there seems to be a unilateral move in order to create an army that would be more responsible to an individual, which is more alarming. First and foremost, the military should not be engaged in politics, Furthermore the military should not be engaged in settling internal disputes of this group and that group.”

“I believe there are 16 divisions right now in the Iraqi army. Normally the heads of divisions have to be nominated and for the parliament to approve the nomination. But I challenge [to find] any single division head of the army that has been nominated and approved by the parliament. They have been approved on personal will [decrees], and of course this is something which is not tolerated. This is not an army … we were hoping to create.

“We have been very flexible and we have tolerated this because we feel that we should discuss these matters and give this [newly formed] committee a chance in order to review the situation and come up with some kind of solutions [that can] be implemented. This is why we did not want to make a big deal out of it, until a final solution has been put forward and discussed and agreed [upon]. We hope that this would lead to a balanced participation in this important military. Either that [solution] has to be implemented… or [it] would be unacceptable to go in [a] direction that would be extremely difficult for us to tolerate. This is not a problem for us only as Kurds, but I believe this is a problem for all Iraqis.”

Barzani is asked about cases of the army being used for politics or to resolve internal disputes between Iraqi groups

Barzani:“One of the examples is the issue of Khanaqin. And it was on the agenda to follow the same line in other areas [of sending Iraqi troops against peshmerga forces]. Once we realized that this was the case, obviously the program was foiled.

“Very recently there was a dispute between the bodyguards of the prime minister and the security of the parliament, when the prime minister was visiting the parliament. Immediately, the military was called, the military surrounded the parliament, and actually occupied the parliament. That’s another example. This is quite a major event. What else can [we] expect.”

Barzani is asked about in which other provinces had there been plans before the Khanaqin confrontation to send Iraqi troops to evict Kurdish forces.

Barzani:“Kirkuk, Mosul [provinces] as far as southern areas were concerned I’m not too sure, too aware.”

Barzani is asked how Kurds in the military have been marginalized.

Barzani:“They have been either transferred to other units out of the region or they have been sent back to the ministry of defense”.

Barzani is asked about whether Maliki is the individual he is referring to as the person who is trying to direct the Iraqi army alone.

Barzani:“The prime minister has been the [commander in chief] of the armed forces. That doesn’t mean the [commander in chief] of the armed forces has the authority to do whatever he likes. The office of the [commander in chief] of the armed forces is doing things all by itself and not coordinating or working with the ministry of defense or the chief of staff nor with other various departments of the armed forces.

“And of course, why should we blame the situation only on one person, of course other institutions are to be blamed, such as the presidency council, the parliament itself and the council of ministers. How can they tolerate this? I think they should have a say in this matter as well.”

Barzani is asked about allegations made by Maliki at a November 20 press conference that Kurdish forces had been involved in illegal arrests and tortures?

Barzani:“First I think it was a big mistake for him to make such a statement and unfortunately he had gone against the grain of this solid traditional relationship that we had with him and his group in the past. Perhaps there are two reasons for that kind of attitude. First perhaps he may well have been misinformed by groups or individuals who were actually trying to create some kind of animosity. The second reason may well have been to attract and to gain some support of some chauvinistic elements and individuals. But adopting that position he did not calculate … who exactly he would be losing.”

Barzani is asked if the two have spoken since Maliki’s press conference.

Barzani:“We have expressed our official view in the response. The letter. After that letter that was sent out to him, I have not met with him nor spoken to him. I had visited Baghdad for a couple of hours when President Bush was visiting Baghdad, but it was not for a meeting with the prime minister.”

Barzani is asked about times when he backed Maliki when others wanted to force the prime minister from office.

Barzani:“You are right. It was in April 2007. When we felt there was a serious effort to remove him from his seat. We felt what was behind it, was not well intended. It was people of sinister intention with a sinister agenda, It was not for the benefit of Iraq in general and neither for the Kurds in particular. Toward the end of April 2007, the 26th or 27th of April, there was a gathering of various Iraqi groups under the auspices of various intelligence groups of regional countries, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi, Turkey and the Emirates. I think there were six countries in total, who had organized this gathering of certain Iraqi groups and the whole idea was to undermine the situation, and we were alarmed by this. This is why we fully supported [Maliki’s] position because we felt this was first and foremost against Iraq. It was a very direct and sinister intervention in Iraqi affairs though intelligence apparatuses of these countries. We felt alarmed by it and this is why we moved on it and we supported obviously the PM. We felt it was against the Iraqi people, against Iraq and against the Kurdish people. That led to this four-party coalition, which was later extended to five [a consultative body grouping Barzani, the Iraqi presidency council and Maliki].”

Barzani is asked about a plot to topple Maliki last spring during his military campaign in Basra, and if he rallied to Maliki’s side then as well.

Barzani:“When he embarked on this operation, I phoned him … I told him I fully support you in every way and if need be I can dispatch military units to help you with this operation. Indeed, we were serious in our intervention and sincerity.”

Again Barzani is asked there was an effort to unseat Maliki by some groups during the Basra military campaign.

Barzani:“Indeed that was the case. There were intentions to unseat him, but the way to remove him and the [motives] behind the removal were not well intended. Still I am not for any such measures to unseat him, or to even remove any single government official or police officer from his position through the sinister efforts of regional intelligence apparatuses. I don’t support that.”

Barzani is asked if he feels Maliki has forgotten what the Kurds have done for him and the way the Kurds have been a good partner for Iraq.

Barzani:“Unfortunately, he seems to have forgotten it. Not only recently but even the relations we had in the 1980s and what we had offered him then. We had very close contact and provided support for his group, the Dawa party.”

Barzani is asked why Maliki has forgotten the past.

Barzani:“We want to know. It is also a surprise for us. In Arabic there is a saying that absolute authority could lead to an individual losing insight or bearing. In other words, his character would be lost in absolute authority.”

Barzani is asked if he is saying this is what has happened to Maliki.

Barzani:Unfortunately, we are disappointed. This is the reality. It is a very sad reality. We are disappointed. My expectations were that even in my absence somebody like Maliki would be defending the rights of the Kurds in any gathering or platforms. I never expected that he would be opposing the rights of the Kurdish people nor he would be opposing the existence of peshmerga units or peshmergas or Kurds within the Iraqi army and he would be marginalizing them. Unfortunately, this is what is happening and we are disappointed by that. To elaborate on the earlier [point], one gets lost in absolute authority. You become too authoritarian, you lose yourself.”

Barzani is asked to describe his last conversation with Maliki.

Barzani:“On a personal level he is a good close friend of mine. And in fact, when I get to see him, I tell him far more face to face rather than what I say publicly. So I’m very open and very frank with him. In the media, I try to consider his situation and not to be so rigid.”

Barzani is asked to describe their recent conversations.

Barzani:“Just to conclude on that, we have this dispute. It is very clear. We have identified the areas. These committees have been formed upon agreement of all parties concerned and we are waiting for the outcome of their work. We don’t want to exacerbate the situation further. We certainly want to concentrate on the work of the committees. Hopefully they will come out with some agreements which will be amicable, pragmatic and practical.”

Barzani is asked whether there is a solution for Kirkuk through the UN beyond the referendum called for in the Iraqi constitution’s article 140. The UN has advocated alternative ideas, including Iraqi political factions coming to a consensus on what areas might be annexed to Iraqi Kurdistan.

Barzani:“The reason we had agreed as the Kurdistan region to remain within the state of Iraq is so long as Iraq is in possession of such a constitution and so long as they adhere to this constitution. The disputed areas are far more important than has been given credit. It is historical issue for us and if you look at the more recent history of the Kurdish confrontations or movements against successive and various Iraqi regimes [they] were all over these disputed areas. There were aggressions against the Kurds and unfortunately there has been a lot of unfortunate and unkind treatment of the Kurds historically on this issue. Article 140 is a constitutional article and it has given a roadmap for a solution to the issue.

“We cannot afford to lose time and to come back to new proposals every day. The constitution is very clear. The constitution was voted by 80 percent or more of the Iraqi population. The constitution is a package. One cannot be selective in taking a part of it out … Therefore it should be comprehensive. There has to be efforts to fully implement the constitution. Those who oppose any article of the constitution should have opposed voting for it in the referendum [on the constitution in 2005]. Now that it has been voted for, therefore, it has to be respected. And you cannot be selective and you cannot allow individuals or groups to take a part of it out and to stand against it and to support other parts of the constitution… No alternative to article 140 would be acceptable.”

Barzani is asked does this mean he thinks there has to be a referendum on the disputed territories.

Barzani:“Normalization, census and referendum. Whatever the people decide then it should be respected.”

Barzani is asked about a recent comment by Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih that there were attempts to take political and social problems in Baghdad to provoke an Arab-Kurdish conflict.

Barzani:“As far as full-scale and all-out Arab-Kurdish conflict, this is impossible because we will not tolerate and we will not accept such a conflict between the two communities, the two people. Throughout our history, we have not had any animosity or any move against the Arabs as a people, and we will never do that, and the Arab people in its entirety, the majority of it have been sympathetic to us and in support of us, the dispute is with the political forces.

“But if an individual or the head of a tribe or clan tries to enter such a conflict and turn the conflict into a Kurdish-Arab conflict then he will be confronted by all people and I think he will be the loser. If he tries to drag the entire Arab population to this, I think he will fail. It has not crossed our minds to settle problems through violence. We strongly believe in the constitution, we believe in dialogue, if somebody or individual groups consider using force, then of course, we have the capabilities to stand against it…

“In the last few years almost 2,000 Kurds have been killed in Mosul. … We have not responded in the same manner and we have not reacted in any act of vengeance, but of course everything will have its limits.”

Barzani is asked if he thinks Maliki can really change his behavior, via the committees set up to broker compromise.

Barzani:“I think we have discussed a lot about the prime minister so we want to go on.”

Barzani is asked about a meeting in December of major political leaders in northern Iraq that some media reports described as a meeting to plot Maliki’s ouster. The gathering included Barzani, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and vice presidents Tariq Hashimi and Adel Abdul Mehdi.

Barzani:“In fact, the gathering was purely social because of the feast [the Muslim holiday Eid al Adha] that had taken place, so we gathered there. Issues of all aspects, in general issues were discussed. On the issue that you mentioned, under no circumstances, this was discussed replacing him… There was no discussion about replacing him. Discussions were only in general terms about reconciliation and political reforms that should take place and to also activate the committees that have been set up.”

Barzani is asked again whether there have been any discussions at all among senior Iraqi leaders about replacing Maliki.

Barzani:“There hasn’t been any discussion on his removal at all in the meeting in Dokan [Sulaymaniya]… That was the last meeting [of Iraq’s senior political leaders] in Dokan.”

Barzani is asked whether Iraqi Kurdistan will always remain part of Iraq.

Barzani:“So long as Iraq is in possession of such a constitution and adheres to such a constitution, Kurdistan will be part of Iraq.”

Barzani is asked what the Kurds would do then if Iraq does not remain loyal to the constitution.

Barzani:“That’s the bridge we will have to cross when we come [to] it. Even in the preamble of the constitution, it says very clearly adhtrence to this constitution is a precondition to preserving the unity of Iraq. For sure, we will not accept an Iraq ruled by dictatorship.”

Barzani is asked if he is optimistic about the country’s future and challenges facing the country in the coming years.

Barzani:“In our position, one always has to be optimistic. Terrorism, and secular disputes and confrontations and of course rule of the state, the culture of democracy has to be promoted and deeply rooted.”

original story can be found at: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fgw-transcript12-2009jan12,0,2173247.story

Article 140

In 1972 Iraq nationalized its oil industry giving the state new, unrestrained power over the local population. Government power became state suppression.

Ba’athists claimed they would “assimilate Kurds into a crucible of the Arab nation and if necessary, by force.” And force they did use.

It was the beginning of the scorched-earth policy in Kurdistan. Kurdish villages were razed and families were forcibly relocated to other parts of the country—most notably the southern desert areas. At the same time thousands of Arab families from the south were moved to Kirkuk. The Arabization of the Kirkuk region was under way.

With Arabization came the ethnicization of oil-rich Kurdish territories, particularly Kirkuk, changing the face of Kurdish identity. The petroleum debate centered the perception of Kurdishness (Kurdayetî) on the ethnic origins of Kirkuk.

The 2005 Iraqi constitution states that the executive authority shall undertake the necessary steps to complete the implementation of the requirements of all subparagraphs of Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL).

Article 58 of the TAL, without going into all the details, provides for the return of and compensation for forced migrants and for the resolution of

disputed territories including Kirkuk through arbitration. Basically it tries to remedy the injustices of the coercive Arabization policies of Saddam Hussein’s regime, which also included the redrawing of administrative borders to include more Arab towns in the region.

There is a referendum afoot that will decide if the Kurdish portions of four provinces (Ninevah, Ta’mim [Kirkuk], Salahuddin, and Diyala) will become part of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The Kirkuk Referendum is a part of this larger referendum procedure. See map of Iraq provinces. There are three provinces now in the KRG: Dohuk, Erbil, and Suleimaniyeh.

Before the referendum is carried out however there must be a reversal of the Arabization policies. A last-minute provision to the 2005 constitution, Article 140 provides for that. It states that, Article 58 of the TAL shall extend and continue to the executive authority elected in accordance with this constitution, provided that it accomplishes completely (normalization, census, and referendums in Kirkuk and other disputed territories to determine the will of their citizens) by a date not to exceed December 31, 2007.

Swedish diplomat and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Staffan de Mistura, proposed extending this deadline by six months. The Kurdish regional parliament agreed to his proposal. Now almost a year later it still has not been implemented.

Some say that with the original deadline past that there is no longer a constitutional obligation for Iraq to hold a referendum on Kirkuk or any other disputed territory. Kurds vehemently disagree.

The KRG is now lashing out at de Mistura for his delaying tactics accusing him of favoring the old Arabization policies. De Mistura had promised to issue a package of recommendations in September or October (of 2008) to cover eight areas in dispute.

Said de Mistura, “I don’t want to enter into polemics with the Kurdish leaders but I decided to postpone until next year the announcement of my proposal to avoid creating tensions before the provincial elections.” The elections are slated for 31 January 2009.

It will certainly add to the tensions between Kurds and Arabs in Iraq. If the Iraqi Constitutional Court rules in favor of implementing Article 140, regardless of timeframe, then the UN will continue its work in implementing normalization efforts. If the court rules against the implementation of Article 140, differences between the KRG and Baghdad will take a turn for the worse.

Sources:

-Janabi, Nazar. Kirkuk’s Article 140: Expired or Not? The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch #1335, 30 Jan 2008, www.washingtoninstitute.org
Kurds Upset over U.N. Article 140 Report. Middle East Times, 12 Jun 2008. www.metimes.com.
Kurds Push for Article 140 Passage. UPI.com, 09 Oct 2008
Article 140 and the Future of Iraq. 09 May 2008. Washington Kurdish Institute, www.kurd.org
Iraqi Kurds Accuse UN of Delaying Report on Disputed Areas. Easy Bourse, 30 Nov 2008. www.easybourse.com
-Natali, Denise. The Kurds and the State: Evolving National Identity in Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005.

Kurdistan Is a Model for Iraq

From the Wall Street Journal

12 November 2008


Kurdistan is a Model for Iraq
Our path to a secular, federal democracy is inspired by the U.S.

by Masoud Barzani

Iraq’s Kurds have consistently been America’s closest allies in Iraq. Our Peshmerga forces fought alongside the U.S. military to liberate the country, suffering more casualties than any other U.S. ally.

And while some Iraqi politicians have challenged the U.S.-Iraq security agreement, Iraq’s Kurdish leaders have endorsed the pact as essential for U.S. combat troops to continue fighting terrorists in Iraq.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is committed to a federal, democratic Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors.

We have benefited enormously from the service and sacrifices of America’s armed forces and their families, and we are deeply grateful. We are also proud to have shared in such sacrifices; my brother was among those severely wounded during the liberation of Iraq.

Last year, following a U.S. request, we deployed Kurdish troops to Baghdad. These troops played a decisive role in the success of the surge. Last month I once again visited Baghdad to meet with the leadership of the federal government. We stressed our commitment to developing an Iraqi state that abides by its constitution and that is based upon a federal model with clearly delineated powers for its regions.

In spite of all this, some commentators now suggest that the Kurds are causing problems by insisting on territorial demands and proceeding with the development of Kurdistan’s oil resources. These allegations are troubling. We are proceeding entirely in accord with the Iraqi constitution, implementing provisions that were brokered by the U.S.

In the constitutional negotiations that took place in the summer of 2005, two issues were critical to us: first, that the Kurdistan Region has the right to develop the oil on its territory, and second, that there be a fair process to determine the administrative borders of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region — thus resolving once and for all the issue of “disputed” territories.

Unfortunately, ever since the discovery of oil in Iraq in the 1920s, successive Iraqi governments have sought to keep oil out of Kurdish hands, blocking exploration and development of fields in Kurdistan. Saddam Hussein’s government went even further, using Iraqi oil revenues to finance the military campaigns that destroyed more than 4,500 Kurdish villages and to pay for the poison gas used to kill thousands of Kurdish civilians.

The Kurdish leadership agreed to a U.S.-sponsored compromise in 2005 in which the central government would have the authority to manage existing oil fields, but new fields would fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the regions. Since then, the KRG has taken the lead with Baghdad in negotiations on a hydrocarbon law that is faithful to Iraq’s constitution and is conducive to modernizing Iraq’s oil infrastructure and substantially increasing its oil production.

We have awarded contracts for foreign oil companies (including some American ones) to explore our territory. In so doing, Kurdistan is not threatening the unity of Iraq. It is simply implementing the constitution.

The “disputed territories” have a tragic history. Since the 1950s, Iraqi regimes encouraged Arabs to settle in Kirkuk and other predominantly Kurdish and Turkmen areas. Saddam Hussein accelerated this process by engaging in ethnic cleansing, expelling or killing Kurds and Turkmen, or by requiring nationality corrections (in which non-Arabs are forced to declare themselves to be Arabs) and by moving Arabs into Kurdish homes.

The dispute between Baghdad and the Kurds over Kirkuk has lasted more than 80 years and has often been violent. All sides have now agreed to a formula to resolve the problem, to bring justice to Kirkuk, and to correct the crimes against Kurds committed by Saddam Hussein’s regime. Iraq’s constitution requires that a referendum be held in disputed territories to determine if their populations want to join the Kurdistan Region. Conducting a plebiscite is not easy, but it is preferable to another 80 years of conflict.

If the pro-Kurdistan side should lose the referendum in Kirkuk, I promise that Kurdistan will respect that result. And if they win, I promise that we will do everything in our power to ensure outsized representation of Kirkuk’s Turkmen, Arabs and Christians both on the local level and in the parliament and government of the Kurdistan Region.

Regional stability cannot come from resolving internal disputes alone. That is why expanding and deepening our ties with Turkey is my top priority.

My meeting last month in Baghdad with the Turkish special envoy to Iraq was a historic and positive development. There should be further direct contacts between the KRG and Turkey, as well as multilateral contacts that involve the U.S. We are eager to work with Turkey to seek increased peace and prosperity in the region.

I am proud that the Kurdistan Region is both a model and gateway for the rest of Iraq. Our difficult path to a secular, federal democracy is very much inspired by the U.S. And so we look forward to working with the Obama-Biden administration to support and defend our hard-fought successes in Iraq, and to remain proud of what the Kurdistan region is today: a thriving civil society in the heart of the Middle East. When we insist on strict compliance with our country’s constitution, we are only following America’s great example.

Mr. Barzani is the president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.