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Al-Arabiya TV Report on the Large-Scale Smuggling of Oil fro...

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Al-Arabiya TV Report on the Large-Scale Smuggling of Oil from Iraqi Kurdistan into Iran

Aug-17-2013 at 08:38 PM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

Last edited on 11/29/2013 at 10:05 AM (UTC3 Nineveh, Assyria)
 

MEMRI: http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2544.htm


Al-Arabiya TV Report on the Large-Scale Smuggling of Oil from Iraqi Kurdistan into Iran
July 11, 2010 MEMRI Clip No. 2544

Following are excerpts from a report on the smuggling of oil from Iraqi Kurdistan to Iran, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on July 11, 2010:

Anchor: Al-Arabiya TV shot footage of oil products that are being transported into Iran through one of the border crossings in the Kurdistan province. The footage was shot at the Hajj ‘Umran crossing. Ahmed Al-Saleh has the details.

Ahmed Al-Saleh, reporter: Away from the cities and from the clamor of Iraqi politics, with which the Americans are preoccupied, at the Hajj ‘Umran border crossing, thousands of trucks loaded with Iraqi oil gather en route to Iran, or rather, loaded with various types of Iraqi oil, which, experts believe, is collected in Iran, and refined into many types of petroleum products, especially fuel.

Tanker driver: There are contracts between the companies. We just do the transportation. That’s it. We transport from Zakhu to the Iranian province of Azerbaijan.

Reporter: Some people claim that the oil trucks set out in accordance with contracts signed by companies, which have agreements with the Iraqi oil ministry. These companies are accused of being a front for some influential political forces in Iraq and the region.

<...>

There are similar truck conveys at the Bashmakh and Piroz Khan crossings.

<...>

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1. Iraqi oil output surges to 3.25 million barrels per day

Aug-20-2013 at 08:04 PM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

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Iraqi oil output surges to 3.25 million barrels per day
By Shaymaa Adel. Azzaman, August 14, 2013

Iraq is currently producing 3.25 million barrels of oil per day, a record in more than three decades, Oil Ministry spokesperson said.

“Asem Jihad said the surge in production does not include output from fields in the semi-independent region of Iraqi Kurdistan where officials say they can pump up to 250,000 barrels per day.”
Asem Jihad said the surge in production does not include output from fields in the semi-independent region of Iraqi Kurdistan where officials say they can pump up to 250,000 barrels per day.

The highest crude output level by Iraq was reported in 1979 when its oilfields pumped 3.8 million barrels.

The oil ministry says it will surpass the 1979 record by the end of the year. The country’s output ceiling, according to OPEC, is set at 4 million barrels per day.

Jihad said the increase in output was mainly due to bringing new oilfields on stream.

“The surge was due to the planning by the (Oil) ministry especially the efforts to develop new fields and the rehabilitation of old ones,” he added.

Jihad said output would increase further once new fields under development by foreign majors come on stream by the end of the year.

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2. Iraq to add 740,000 barrels of oil to refining capacity

Aug-20-2013 at 08:07 PM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

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Iraq to add 740,000 barrels of oil to refining capacity
by Azzaman, August 18, 2013

Currently, Iraq meets its fuel shortages via exports mainly from neighboring Iran.
Iraq plans to build four new refineries that will see the country’s refining capacity surging to 1.5 million barrels a day, a senior Oil Ministry official said.

The official, Deputy Minister for Refining Affairs Fiyadh Niama, said work on the first refinery with a capacity of 140,000 barrels was scheduled to start by the end of 2013 in the southern Province of Karbala.

Two other refineries each with a capacity of 150,000 barrels a day will be constructed, one in the northern Province of Kirkuk and the other in the southern Province of Missan.

The fourth refinery with a capacity of 300,000 barrels will be built in the southern city of Nasiriya, Niama said.

Niama gave no date for the completion of the four refineries but said they would meet the country’s surging needs for fuel and end fuel exports.

Iraq’s current refining capacity is estimated at 700,000 barrels a day, but the existing refineries infrastructure is antiquated making it almost impossible for the plants to reach full capacity.

Earlier reports said that the government had allocated billions of dollars to revamp refining industry and build new refineries.

Currently, Iraq meets its fuel shortages via exports mainly from neighboring Iran.

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3. Militants blow up key Iraq oil pipeline

Aug-20-2013 at 09:21 PM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

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Last edited on 11/29/2013 at 10:01 AM (UTC3 Nineveh, Assyria)
 
Militants blow up key Iraq oil pipeline
Blast near town of Albu Jahash in Nineveh province halts northern oil exports to Turkey.
by Middle East Online, August 13, 2013.
Militants sabotage Iraqi oil fields.

KIRKUK - Militants on Tuesday bombed a major pipeline carrying oil from northern Iraq to Turkey, stopping exports, a senior official from the North Oil Company official said.

The blast occurred near the town of Albu Jahash in Nineveh province, the official said, adding that production is still continuing, but the oil is being stored instead of exported.

Repairing the pipeline is expected to take between one and three days, the official said.

The 970-kilometre (600-mile) pipeline runs from Iraq's northern oil hub of Kirkuk to the port of Ceyhan on Turkey's Mediterranean coast.

There have been dozens of attacks on the pipeline so far this year, disrupting northern exports.

Oil ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said earlier this month that Iraq intends to build a new pipeline from Kirkuk to the Turkish border, because the existing one has been repeatedly attacked and to increase Iraq's export capacity.

Iraq is dependent on oil exports for the lion's share of its government income, and is seeking to dramatically ramp up its sales in the coming years to fund the reconstruction of its battered infrastructure.

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4. Kurd’s Oil Skirting Baghdad Offers Deficit Buster

Nov-29-2013 at 09:45 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

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Kurd’s Oil Skirting Baghdad Offers Deficit Buster
by Ercan Ersoy - Bloomberg News, April 24, 2013.

Iraq’s Kurdish region plans to sell oil and gas directly through an extension to an existing pipeline, which carries oil from fields in Kirkuk to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. That arrangement also bypassed the Iraqi authorities, who have warned the Kurds not to sign separate energy accords. Turkey may also take over the Kurdish government’s stake in concessions operated by Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) on the enclave’s border with the rest of Iraq, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private.

Turkey’s agreement to import lower- cost oil and gas from Iraq’s Kurdish region could help Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cut the nation’s current-account deficit by more than a third.

Erdogan and Iraqi Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani signed an accord last month to pipe oil and gas from the region to Turkey, two people with knowledge of the matter said. The deal may help lower Turkey’s borrowing costs through easing the deficit by as much as $17 billion by 2018, according to Ozgur Altug, chief economist at BGC Partners Istanbul unit.

Turkey’s imports of oil and gas, which amounted to $60 billion in 2012, were the main cause of its $47.5 billion current-account deficit last year, the world’s third-largest. The deal would give it access to lower-cost energy in exchange for infrastructure investment and grant Iraqi Kurds direct access to Western energy markets. Iraq’s government hasn’t approved the agreement and says any accord without its consent is illegal.

“That deal is likely to trigger additional rating upgrades and therefore cause more fund inflows to Turkey as it will narrow bond spreads,” Altug said in e-mailed comments on April 22. Turkey’s current-account deficit will improve by more than one percentage point as a proportion of GDP after 2015 because of the agreement, falling below 5 percent from 2016, he said. That compares with 6 percent last year.

Ratings Outlook

Turkey’s two-year note yields have fallen 400 basis points over the past year, the most among 19 major emerging markets tracked by Bloomberg. The yield was 5.45 percent today, the lowest since at least 2005. That’s still the fourth-highest among that group of countries.

Fitch Ratings raised Turkey to investment grade in November, the country’s first such ranking in 18 years. The deficit is Turkey’s “key weakness” and a balance of payments crisis could trigger ratings action against it, Fitch senior director Paul Rawkins said at a conference in London on March 7.

Iraq’s Kurdish region plans to sell oil and gas directly through an extension to an existing pipeline, which carries oil from fields in Kirkuk to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. That arrangement also bypassed the Iraqi authorities, who have warned the Kurds not to sign separate energy accords. Turkey may also take over the Kurdish government’s stake in concessions operated by Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) on the enclave’s border with the rest of Iraq, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private.

Gas Exploration

A potential gas deal with Iraqi Kurds may be more significant than any oil agreement as Iraqi gas is estimated to be about 40 percent less expensive than gas from Turkey’s main supplier Russia, according to Turker Hamzaoglu, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London.

“The most exciting part of this partnership concerns the concessions for oil and gas exploration for Turks, but there are no details on that yet,” Hamzaoglu said in an e-mailed report dated yesterday. The infrastructure for the oil and gas transportation to Turkey could be built by 2015-2016 “provided politics do not get in the way,” he said.

The Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq signed its own production agreements with companies including Genel Enerji AS (GENL), an Ankara-based company started by former BP Plc (BP/) Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward, and DNO International ASA (DNO) of Norway. Genel has been sending oil to Turkey on trucks, Hayward said Jan. 18.

Oil Imports

Turkey imported 3.8 million metric tons of crude oil from central Iraq in 2012, up from 3.1 million tons the previous year, according to Tupras Turkiye Petrol Rafinerileri AS (TUPRS), the country’s sole refiner, which is owned by Koc Holding AS. (KCHOL) Altug predicts oil imports from Iraq will reach 11.8 million tons in 2018 as Tupras forecasts Turkey’s demand for petroleum products will climb to 35.7 million tons in 2020 from 32 million last year.

Last week Turkish central bank Governor Erdem Basci cut the country’s three main interest rates by 50 basis points each, reducing the one-week repo rate to 5 percent, the first reduction since December. The bank’s monetary tightening last year, meant to tame a widening current-account deficit, depressed domestic demand and reduced the nation’s growth rate to 2.2 percent, the slowest pace since a recession in 2009.

Five-year credit-default swaps to protect against a Turkish debt default fell one basis point to 122 today. That compares with 139 basis points for Russia and 167 for South Africa, both of which have higher credit ratings than Turkey, and was down seven basis points from 127 on Turkish swaps at the end of last year.

Maliki Government

Turkey’s effort to find cheaper oil is complicated by tensions with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, which denied landing permission to Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz plane in northern Iraq on Dec. 4. Ties with Maliki were strained after Turkey backed his opponent, the Al-Iraqiya bloc led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, in 2010 elections.

Turkey has also sheltered Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, convicted by Iraq of operating death squads. Erdogan defended Hashimi last September, rejecting calls that he be extradited and saying Turkey would host him “as long as he wants to stay.”

“Northern Iraq has become, economically, a natural extension of Turkey,” Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said in a speech in Washington, according to an April 21 report by the state-run Anatolia news agency. “But while Arbil is coming closer to Ankara, we should make sure that it’s not getting away from Baghdad and we should be careful about that sensitive balance.”

Iraqi Sovereignty

Iraq’s deputy prime minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, said April 16 that his government has told Turkey that it doesn’t allow oil agreements without central government approval, and that Turkey must respect Iraqi sovereignty.

The agreement is “illegal and is a violation of the wealth of the Iraqi people,” Furat al-Sharaa, a member of the Iraqi parliament’s oil and gas committee and a lawmaker in Maliki’s coalition, said by phone from Baghdad April 18. Turkey is “taking advantage of the unstable political situation in Iraq to broker agreements with the Kurdistan Regional Government and this is discourteous.”

Yildiz, contacted through his press office, declined to comment on the deal, as did an Iraqi Kurdish official. The Oil Ministry in Baghdad didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

PKK Talks

Turkey has had a current-account surplus when excluding its energy imports, Babacan said in Ankara April 12. The government is predicting a $60.7 billion current-account gap this year and energy imports of $59.6 billion, according to its medium-term economic program.

Turkey’s deal with Iraqi Kurds comes as the government in Ankara is trying to reach a peace deal with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which started an armed struggle for a separate land in southeastern Turkey in 1984 that has left more than 40,000 people dead.

The peace process is a “visible and credit-positive step,” Moody’s analyst Sarah Carlson said in a report April 11. “The prospect of peace promises to boost investor confidence and improve southeastern Turkey’s attractiveness as a destination for foreign direct investment.”

The lira fell less than 0.1 percent to 1.8051 per dollar at 5:05 p.m. in Istanbul today, extending declines this year to 1.2 percent. The lira was the worst-performing major currency in 2011, when the deficit was the second largest in the world, behind the U.S.

The extra yield investors demand to hold Turkey’s dollar bonds rather than U.S. Treasuries fell one basis point to 199, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s EMBI Global Diversified index showed. That compared with an average of 283 basis points for emerging markets.

Turkey’s total savings may start at $1 billion this year “and will go up to $17 billion in 2018 as the energy deals come on stream,” Altug said. “Savings could rise beyond that.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Ercan Ersoy in Istanbul at eersoy < a t> bloomberg.net;

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel < a t> bloomberg.net.

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5. Iraq Kurdistan becomes Turkey’s best option... to secure affordable energy supplies

Nov-29-2013 at 09:46 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

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Last edited on 11/29/2013 at 10:19 AM (UTC3 Nineveh, Assyria)
 
Iraq Kurdistan becomes Turkey’s best option... to secure affordable energy supplies
Oil exports from Kurdistan could start next month and move risks aggravating tensions in powderkeg region and harming relations with Baghdad.
by Middle East Online, November 27, 2013.
Pipeline project is projected to carry up to 300,000 bpd

ANKARA - Oil exports from Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan to Turkey could start next month, the region's prime minister said, despite a dispute with Baghdad over how to divide the spoils from its energy resources.

Necirvan Barzani told reporters in Ankara late Tuesday that a pipeline from the Kurdish region could start carrying oil "before Christmas", without elaborating.

Barzani was due to meet Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Energy Minister Taner Yildiz on Wednesday for discussions about comprehensive energy deals between Ankara and Arbil.

The pipeline project to Turkey is projected to carry up to 300,000 barrels per day (bpd).

Turkey, which is dependent on Russia and Iran to meet its growing energy needs, is seeking to secure affordable oil and gas supplies from elsewhere, with Kurdistan seen as the best option.

But the move risks aggravating tensions in the powderkeg region and harming relations with the central government in Baghdad, which is in dispute with Kurdistan over the sharing of the region's energy wealth.

The Turkish government has been developing ties with Iraqi Kurdistan, and Erdogan held talks with Kurdish leader Massud Barzani in Turkey's own Kurdish dominated region earlier this month.

Ankara is however keen on restoring ties with Baghdad, which have been strained for several years, and has offered to mediate in the oil dispute.

A Baghdad-controlled oil pipeline currently runs between Kirkuk in Iraq and the southern Turkish port of Ceyhan but operates well below its capacity of 1.5 million tonnes a day, at around 400,000 tonnes.

In the initial phase, Ankara wants to boost the capacity of the existing pipeline and also add additional oil and gas pipelines along the route.

Iraqi Kurdistan has been shipping oil to Turkey by tanker for almost a year.

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6. Kurds export oil via fuel trucks; Baghdad warns of consequences

Nov-29-2013 at 09:48 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

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Last edited on 12/03/2013 at 03:31 AM (UTC3 Nineveh, Assyria)
 
Kurds export oil via fuel trucks; Baghdad warns of consequences
By Shaymaa Adel. Azzaman, November 25, 2013.

It has emerged that Iraqi Kurds are exporting their oil to Turkey relying on a fleet of fuel trucks, the Ministry of Oil said.

The Ministry’s spokesperson Asem Jihad, who made the remarks over the weekend, gave no details of the volume of Kurdish exports but warned that Baghdad would seek ways to halt the exports.

Asem urged the Kurds to stop ferrying oil to the outside world without specific approval from the central government in Baghdad.

“Problems with Kurdish region can be solved through dialogue and exporting oil is the sole responsibility of the government in Baghdad.”

“Problems with Kurdish region can be solved through dialogue and exporting oil is the sole responsibility of the government in Baghdad,” he said.

Baghdad is particularly angry with a Kurdish decision to build a pipeline to ferry their crude to Turkey, using initially a twin national pipeline which carries Kirkuk crude to terminals on the Mediterranean.

“The (Oil) Ministry is the executive party in charge of oil production. Oil exports must be exclusively handled by SOMO,” Asem said.

He claimed that Iraq had signed an agreement with Turkey in 2010, under which Ankara is under obligation not to let Kurds export oil through its territory without Baghdad’s approval.

“Turkey is required to respect the agreement,” he said.

Turkey is reported to have set up an escrow account where revenues from the Kurdish oil exports are to be deposited and not withdrawn without Baghdad’s approval.

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7. WikiLeaks: Assyrian-related information and oil issues

Dec-03-2013 at 03:28 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

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WikiLeaks: 2007-01-10: 07ANKARA47: Ankara Media Reaction Report
http://www.atour.com/government/wikileaks/20121004an.html

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party in parliament on Tuesday that Turkey could not be a bystander in the face of Iraqi Kurdish attempts to take control of the oil-rich northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.
Erdogan Expresses Concern over Iraq, Kirkuk

Hurriyet, Milliyet, Sabah, Vatan, Radikal, Cumhuriyet, Yeni Safak and others report Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party in parliament on Tuesday that Turkey could not be a bystander in the face of Iraqi Kurdish attempts to take control of the oil-rich northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. Erdogan warned that the sectarian fighting in Iraq could harm the wider region. "I have to make this warning against those seeking a fragmentation of Iraq and a fait accompli in Kirkuk," Erdogan emphasized. He underlined that the results of the upcoming Kirkuk referendum this year was "already obvious." Erdogan said Turkey would "not let Kirkuk become another Nagorno Karabakh."

... Vatan says Erdogan gave "six warnings to President Bush," listing them as "the territorial integrity of Iraq must be protected; oil resources must be controlled by the Iraqi central government; a referendum for the fate of Kirkuk won't work under the current demographic composition; the rights of the Turkmen must be protected; the PKK must be destroyed; and some of the Iraqi constitution provisions which pave the way for separatism must be scrapped." Erdogan said he will meet with the Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi in Istanbul on Saturday to discuss these issues.


WikiLeaks: 2006-05-15: 06BAGHDAD1613: Council of Representatives (CoR) Rank and File Grumble Over Government Formation
http://www.atour.com/government/wikileaks/20120219o.html

... no decision has been made about who in UIC 555 will control the various ministries.
... no decision has been made about who in UIC 555 will control the various ministries. He said that first, it must be decided which ministries UIC 555 will control, and then the parties in the Shia Coalition will negotiate which parties will get which ministries. He predicted, however, that SCIRI will control the Ministries of Public Works and Finance, Hussein Shahristani will be Minister of Oil, Dawa Tanzim will get the Ministry of Education, and Tawafuq will get the Ministry of Higher Education.


WikiLeaks: 2006-05-14: 06KIRKUK113: KRG Swears in Unified Cabinet
http://www.atour.com/government/wikileaks/20120219n.html

¶1. (SBU) The Kurdistan Regional Government swore in its new unified cabinet May 7, the major step in its path towards full unification. Until now, the KRG had rival cabinets in Erbil (dominated by the Kurdistan Democratic Party) and in Sulaymaniyah (dominated by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan). Creating eight new regional ministries, the new ministry lineup largely matches that in Baghdad. The extra ministerial slots also helped let the parties avoid losing many cabinet seats as they merged two complete cabinets into one. In unscripted remarks before he began his speech, PM Barzani said the large number of ministries (27) was transitional" and would later drop.

A KDP minister was named, but no ministry established, for "Affairs of Kurdistani Areas outside the KRG" (to push for other Kurdish areas to join the KRG, such as Kirkuk).
¶2. (SBU) Revealing one KRG priority, the KRG has created a Natural Resources ministry to deal with oil. In his speech, PM Barzani highlights septel) mentioned territories Saddam had removed from Kurdish control and that the KRG wants to reclaim through law. To pursue this, the KRG has now named the KDP's Mohammed Ihsan, the former Erbil minister for human rights, to be "Minister for Areas outside the Kurdistan Region" (they did not create a ministry).

¶6. (U) The KRG also created six wholly new ministries: Water Resources, Planning, Electricity, Sports and Youth, Trade, Environment.
A KDP minister was named, but no ministry established, for "Affairs of Kurdistani Areas outside the KRG" (to push for other Kurdish areas to join the KRG, such as Kirkuk).


WikiLeaks: 2006-05-10: 06BAGHDAD1554: Cabinet Negotiations Continue, Missing PM-Designate's Proposed Deadline of May 10
http://www.atour.com/government/wikileaks/20120219j.html

This leaves Assyrian Christian leader Yonadam Kanna angry and out in the cold.
¶1. (C) Summary. Prime Minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki told reporters May 9 that he might take all the time allotted to form his cabinet. He told the Ambassador May 8 that he would bend to the Kurds' insistence that Barham Salah become DPM but considered it an uncooperative beginning to their partnership in governance. Maliki was still reviewing candidates for the interior and defense ministries. SCIRI continued to push Bayan Jabr for the Minister of Interior and the Fadhila party still sought to cling to control over the Ministry of Oil. The agreement among the political parties that the Shia Coalition will use one of its ministerial slots to appoint a Turcoman and the Kurds will use one of theirs to appoint a Christian allows the Kurds to kill two birds with one stone by nominating KDP Christian Kurd Fawzi Hariri to minister. This leaves Assyrian Christian leader Yonadam Kanna angry and out in the cold.


WikiLeaks: 2006-04-23: 06BAGHDAD1317: Iraq Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) Weekly Roundup for April 7-13, 2006
http://www.atour.com/government/wikileaks/20120219e.html

¶4. (U) The oil and fuel situation in Ninawa continued to deteriorate as another week passed without Turkish fuel imports. Residents reported that supplies of propane, the primary cooking fuel, are exhausted. Black market kerosene increased seven fold. There was no news concerning the "letter of credit" issued between Turkey and the Iraq Minister of Finance (MoF).


WikiLeaks: 2006-04-13: 06BAGHDAD1215: Iraq Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) Weekly Roundup for March 31 - April 6, 2006
http://www.atour.com/government/wikileaks/20120219c.html

Unlike other provinces, Kirkuk does not have an oil product shortage.
¶15. (U) INFRASTRUCTURE. During the past ten days, 11 Bayji Thermal Power Plant engineers and technicians were killed in Bayji, a mostly Shia area. The plant stopped producing electricity as a result of these deaths and, hence, reduced the refinery power source to only one source, the Bayji Gas Power Plant. Unlike other provinces, Kirkuk does not have an oil product shortage. Existing depot stocks are adequately supplying Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah. Kirkuk receives between 700,000 to 875,000 liters of benzene daily. Kirkuk Governor took aim at the black market by issuing an order to arrest anyone selling benzene on the street.


WikiLeaks: 2005-07-27: 05BAGHDAD3107: Part I of II: an Article-by-article Analysis of the Shia-Proposal for a Constitution
http://www.atour.com/government/wikileaks/20111027y.html

Given the enormous abuses of Iraqi oil wealth in the Saddam regime, such a limitation is understandable but problematic.
-- POTENTIAL TO MICROMANAGE GOVERNMENT ECONOMIC POLICY:
Article 22 appears to give the National Assembly significant authority to micromanage the economic development work of the government within approved budgetary outlays by granting it the right to "consider" any project or loan concluded by the Iraqi government that would require expenditure of Iraqi funds. (Comment: given the enormous abuses of Iraqi oil wealth in the Saddam regime, such a limitation is understandable but problematic. End Comment.)

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8. Kurds restricting movement of Iraqi troops fighting ISIS

Jul-20-2014 at 09:24 PM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

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Last edited on Jul-20-2014 at 09:36 PM (UTC3 Nineveh, Assyria)
 
Kurds restricting movement of Iraqi troops fighting ISIS
by Azzaman, July 17, 2014.

Aliya Nasif urged the government to report the Kurds to international bodies for what she said was “a flagrant violation” of Iraq’s sovereignty.

She charged that Kurdish authorities had sacked government oil employees and replaced with Kurds.

Kurdish peshmerga troops are denying Iraqi armed forces free access to chase militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in areas under their control, a senior Iraqi leader said.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who heads the powerful State of the Law Coalition, said restrictions on the movement of Iraqi troops by Kurds mainly took place in the so-called dispute areas.

Kurdish militias, known locally as peshmerga, have taken advantage of turbulence in northern and eastern Iraq and have occupied large swaths of territory including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

“There is prevention of free movement by Iraqi troops in some joint areas to launch operations against terrorist organizations, aggravating security conditions,” in the country, Jaafari said.

Relations between the Kurdish regional government in Arab and Baghdad are at their lowest ebb.

Jaafari said the Kurds were even not giving refugees fleeing ISIS the freedom to use their territory as a passage to reach safer areas in southern Iraq.

A deputy from the same coalition lashed out at Kurdish peshmerga troops, whom he said had driven out employees from the oil fields they have occupied in Kirkuk.

Aliya Nasif urged the government to report the Kurds to international bodies for what she said was “a flagrant violation” of Iraq’s sovereignty.

She charged that Kurdish authorities had sacked government oil employees and replaced with Kurds.

Kurds building moat around areas added to their territory
by Fareed Hassan. Azzaman, July 14, 2014.

The Kurds are building a new moat around the so-called disputed areas, which their militias have occupied following the withdrawal of Iraqi troops, a senior Kurdish official said.

The official, Jabbar Yawer, said the moat will start from the Syrian borders and specifically from the border town of Rabiyaa and end at the Jalula on the Iranian border.

Yawer is the secretary-general of the Kurdish Ministry of Peshmerga, which groups Kurdish militias of the region’s two major political factions – Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

“The (Kurdish) region has started digging operations on the borders of Arbil, Mosul, Kirkuk and Dahouk,” Yawer said.

The inclusion of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk within the new 2-3 meter deep ditch indicates that the Kurds have no intention of withdrawing from the areas they have occupied since militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant routed Iraqi troops in most of north and western parts of the country last month.

Yawer said the aim behind building the moat “is to obstruct terrorist attacks targeting the (Kurdish) region.”

Yawer said the Kurds did not intend to create “a buffer zone” and that they will continue accommodating refugees fleeing unrest in Iraq.

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9. How the U.S. got mixed up in a fight over Kurdish oil — with a unified Iraq at stake

Aug-06-2014 at 07:02 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

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The oil tanker SCF Byrranga, which was renamed the United Kalavrvta in March, is seen near the Isle of Arran, Scotland. The tanker is currently off the coast of Texas, carrying $100 million worth of Kurdish crude oil. (Tom Duncan/Thomson Reuters Eikon)

How the U.S. got mixed up in a fight over Kurdish oil — with a unified Iraq at stake
by Steven Mufson. The Washington Post, August 4, 2014.

Sixty miles off the coast of Texas sits a crude-oil tanker fully loaded with years of antagonism between the Kurdish region of Iraq and the central government in Baghdad.

The United Kalavrvta, a tanker the length of three football fields, is carrying about 1 million barrels of crude oil from the Kurdish region of Iraq. It set sail for Galveston, but it never got there.

The central government of Iraq, despite recent military setbacks, dispatched its American lawyers to do battle in the federal court in southern Texas, where a judge ruled that the tanker’s cargo, worth about $100 million, should be seized if it came within Texas state waters.

The core of the dispute: The Iraqi government says that the crude cargo belongs to the Baghdad Ministry of Oil and that it was never the property of the Kurdistan Regional Government. But the Kurds argue that the Texas court doesn’t have jurisdiction, and they filed a motion (PDF archive) Monday in the court to lift the restrictions on the oil. Michael Howard, an adviser to the Kurdish minister of natural resources, said in an interview that “it’s a constitutional issue that should be determined in Iraq and shouldn’t be exported to U.S. courts.”

As the legal case plays out, the ship waits in the Gulf of Mexico, the fate of its cargo unclear. The drama in Texas is just part of a global play being made by the Kurdistan Regional Government, which is desperately seeking money in the midst of turmoil in Iraq. The Kurds, many of whom have long sought an independent state, say the central government in Baghdad has stopped providing the northern region with its share of the national budget. And without the ability to sell their own oil, Kurdish officials argue, they cannot protect themselves from violent militants or provide government resources. On Sunday, Sunni extremist militants seized three Kurdish towns, sending thousands of Kurds fleeing on foot.

But if the Kurds could sell their own oil, they would also potentially secure the financial base they need to finally declare their independence.

At stake is the U.S. goal of a unified Iraq, and the Obama administration is stuck in the middle of the dispute. Having invested tremendous effort in securing Iraqi federalism and its constitution — which says oil belongs to the entire republic — the administration has been discouraging companies and countries from buying the Kurdish oil cargoes. Revenue-sharing accords in Iraq are supposed to provide 17 percent of oil revenue to the Kurdistan Regional Government.

U.S. officials thought they had brokered an agreement between the Kurds and Baghdad in March, and they were unhappy when it fell apart, according to State Department officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Then the Kurdistan Regional Government worked out a deal with Turkey to load the tankers. Iraq said Turkey’s agreement to load Kurdish oil violates accords between the two nations.

The United Kalavrvta is one of five tankers that have been loaded with Kurdish crude oil at the Turkish port of Ceyhan since late May. One delivered its cargo in Israel, with rumors of deep discounts. Another, the United Emblem, which like the United Kalavrvta belongs to a Greek firm called Marine Management Services, is currently in the Strait of Singapore; Reuters reported that it transferred its cargo at sea to an unidentified tanker last week. Still another tanker, the Kamari, left Ceyhan on Friday and was heading for Egypt’s Port Said.

Ship-tracking data, retrieved Monday, shows the United Emblem tanker near Indonesia. (Thomson Reuters Eikon)

As part of the deal with Turkey, buyers of the oil can make payments to the Kurdistan Regional Government through Turkiye Halk Bankasi, a state-owned bank. But this is not how Iraqi oil revenue is usually handled.

Since 1991, Iraqi oil revenue has gone through the U.N. Compensation Commission, which is still sending 5 percent of the total to Kuwait as reparations for damage done during Saddam Hussein’s invasion and occupation in 1990. The most recent payment to Kuwait, $1.2 billion, was made July 24, bringing the total payments to $46.7 billion.

Lobbying Washington

The Kurds say they have no choice but to broker their own deals.

Senior Kurdish officials visiting Washington in early July said they wanted to change the State Department’s posture and allow Kurdistan to sell its own oil. They said that Baghdad had not paid Kurdistan anything this year and that they should be able to sell oil to make up for that.

“We don’t understand why the State Department has on one hand said we need your help to save Iraq, but we are not giving you any economic tools and you have to do what (Prime Minister Nouri al-) Maliki tells you to regarding oil,” Howard said. He noted that 1 million Iraqis have fled to Kurdistan from the harsh Islamic State, which has taken over much of the country, and that the Kurdish fighting force, the pesh merga, has expanded duties and costs to defend against the militants.

Brett McGurk, deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, turned to Twitter last week in an effort to lay out the U.S. position. “Our policy on the underlying issue has been clear and consistent. Iraq’s energy resources belong to all of the Iraqi people,” he said. “These questions should be resolved in a manner consistent with the Iraqi constitution.”

One of McGurk’s tweets said: “There is no U.S. ban on the transfer or sale of oil originating from any part of Iraq. Suggestions to the contrary (are) false.”

That triggered speculation about whether the State Department would allow the United Kalavrvta to unload its oil in Texas, but department officials said there was no change in the U.S. position.

McGurk added, “As in many cases involving legal disputes, however, the U.S. recommends that parties make their own decision with advice of counsel.”

That has been how the State Department has described its position. “If we hear of potential buyers, we alert them that buying this oil could expose them to serious legal risks and they should consult legal counsel about that,” a State Department official said on the condition of anonymity.

Oil industry analysts say such warnings have discouraged buyers. The United Kalavrvta idling off Texas was supposed to deliver the oil to an American chemical giant called LyondellBassell, which now says it does not want to get involved in a legal dispute between Baghdad and the Kurds. AET Offshore Services, which was supposed to remove some of the big tanker’s oil outside the port, also bowed out.

Meanwhile the United Leadership, a tanker that took on a cargo of Kurdish oil at Ceyhan on May 22, has been idling off the coast of Morocco. Industry sources say the most likely customer for the oil is Samir, a refinery owned by the al-Amoudis, a Saudi merchant clan.

State Department officials say the best solution to the tanker standoff is for Kurdish leaders to reach an agreement with the government in Baghdad. But that seems unlikely, especially while it remains clear whether Maliki, who is widely blamed for inflaming ethnic tensions, will be replaced.

Iraqi courts stay on sideline

Iraq’s judiciary has avoided stepping in. An Iraqi court said the resolution of the dispute over Kurdish oil was a matter of negotiation, not legality.

Editors' Note:

The Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) has reportedly dug 7 illegal oil wells in the Nineveh Plain. Local Mayors who have tried to deny access to land under their jurisdiction to KDP geologists and drilling crews have been warned at gunpoint by Kurdish security forces to stand down.

Christian Leaders Unhappy with Lack of Action on Nineveh Plain

“The federal government of Iraq is trying to achieve in foreign courts and in the Iraqi supreme court what is denied to the federal government by the Iraqi constitution,” Ashti Hawrami, Kurdistan’s minister of natural resources, said in a statement July 30. “The federal government cannot win, because our crude is legally produced, shipped, exported, and sold in accordance with the rights of the Kurdistan Region as set forth in the Iraqi constitution.”

He said that Baghdad’s failure to share revenue — including $7 billion in arrears this year alone, according to Kurdish official estimates — opens up the Iraqi central government to counter-claims, including compensation for Hussein-era abuses. “Our claims for unpaid compensation, which must be paid as provided in the Iraqi constitution and the law, will also be before any foreign court in which the federal government is seeking to attack us,” Hawrami said.

So for now, the fate of the United Kalavrvta off the coast of Texas is unresolved. The Kurdistan Regional Government isn’t a party to the Texas court case, but it has hired Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, which sent a letter to District Court Judge Gray Miller.

Lyondell, the chemical company that was supposed to receive the oil, told an oil industry media group, Argus Global Markets, that it bought the crude “from a reputable international trader with a guarantee of title and in compliance with U.S. law.” It added that it had “cancelled further purchases and will not accept delivery of any of the affected crude until the matter is appropriately resolved.”

In a global market thirsty for oil, tanker-loads of crude would ordinarily be sold and delivered expeditiously. Yet the United Kalavrvta is running up about $60,000 a day in fees as it waits in the Gulf of Mexico — stuck in the middle of a dispute more than 7,000 miles away.

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