Saturday, October 8, 2011

Iraq's Continuing Uncertainties

WaPo reports today about frantic preparations the US State Dept is making to take over the bazillion enterprises that the US military had been running in Iraq.  The military is slated to depart Iraq completely by 1 January.  Iraqi leaders say they'd like a few thousand US troops to remain as trainers (and, I assume, a kind of last-ditch praetorian guard in the event that things begin to spin out of control - which is not beyond the realm of possibility).  But they also insist that US troops that might stay must not be immune to prosecution in Iraqi courts for any misdoings.  There have been, of course, more incidents of misdoings by US troops in Iraq than one can count.  (Indeed, has the US military even been keeping a count?).  Sec Def Leon Panetta asserts, no immunity, no US troops.  But no Iraqi politician who hopes to maintain any public support - or fend off assassination - is going to agree to such immunity.
That will leave the job of protecting US State Dept installations and assets in Iraq in the hands of private contractors, whose many acts of brutality and high-handedness in Iraq have been documented copiously.  As the WaPo report makes clear, the State Dept is completely overmatched by the many responsibilities now confronting it, including supervising contractor cowboys and watching over the flow of US funds - billions of dollars of which have already been lost to fraud and corrupt administrators, American and Iraqi.
To be able to once again stand on its own two feet, the Iraqi government desperately needs the revenues from oil production, which remain the only significant contributor to its treasury.  But a national oil law to govern the allocation of those revenues within Iraq has yet to be worked out - and the security of the oil wells and pipelines themselves remains iffy.  Other reports today (like the following from China's Xinhua news agency) make that clear:
Two explosions hit oil pipelines overnight in Iraq's southern province of Basra and temporarily halted crude oil production, an oil official said Saturday.
"The oil production in the southern Rumaila oil field has been temporarily stopped because of two explosions late on Friday night, " the official from the state-owned South Oil Company told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. He said the incidents were apparently acts of sabotage that struck the pipeline network which transports oil produced from southern Rumaila oil field to Zubair area, the source said.
One of the blasts occurred in the desert area near the town of Safwan in the southwest city of Basra, some 550 km south of Baghdad, and the second one hit the network at al-Qrinat area, not far from the site of the first blast, the source said.
"Iraqi firefighters put out the fires on Saturday morning and started to repair the damaged pipelines in cooperation with one of the foreign oil companies," the source said without naming the company. . . .The explosions came four days after Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul- Kareem al-Luaybi announced that Iraq's oil production hit 2.9 million barrels per day (bpd) and will reach three million bpd by the end of this year.
Meanwhile, Iraq politics remain as discombobulated as ever.  Reidar Visser on the current disarray - and inefficacy - of Iraq's parliament:

Iraqi politics remains in its usual messy state. Everyone shouts they will agree to anything that is in accordance with the constitution. (Few of them know what is actually in it.) Ammar al-Hakim garners widespread praise for a supposed initiative of five principles for dialogue that have nothing substantial to them. (This is precisely why everyone thinks they are wonderful.) The Kurds declare that Maliki has agreed to implementing the Arbil agreement. (Again.)
There is a real danger that the Iraqi parliament is becoming unable to reach decisions except on matters that are so petty and insignificant that few will notice anyway. Arab Spring enthusiasts in search of a model democracy please look elsewhere.

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