Iran-US tensions decrease in Iraq, for now


Iraqi counter-terrorism forces stand guard outside the US embassy in the capital Baghdad
Iraqi counter-terrorism forces stand guard outside the US embassy in the capital Baghdad AHMAD AL-RUBAYE AFP/File

Baghdad (AFP)

It has been weeks since Iran-backed factions in Iraq traded fire with US forces, but experts warn the rivals could be using the time to prepare for an escalation.

After the last Katyusha rockets slammed into American installations in Iraq in March, the United States began planning an unprecedented bombing campaign in Iraq and new Iran-aligned factions threatened to kill Western ambassadors.

“Even if we haven’t seen rocket attacks, the Iranians are repositioning themselves for something else,” said Phillip Smyth, who researches Shiite armed factions for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Meanwhile, US troops in Iraq are hunkered down and taking the threat more seriously,” Smyth said.

Those troops, deployed as part of the coalition fighting the Islamic State group, have been hit by more than two dozen rocket attacks that have grown gradually deadlier.

Last month, the Pentagon began drafting plans for a major escalation against the Iran-backed factions — namely the hardline Kataeb Hezbollah — blamed for the rockets.

“Washington told us they’d simultaneously hit 122 targets in Iraq if more Americans died,” a top Iraqi official said.

The scale of such bombing could have enormous consequences.

Coalition head General Pat White feared it could spin out of control, writing to US Central Command in March with “concerns” that targeted groups would respond, putting thousands of coalition troops in “significant” danger, according to a US military official who saw White’s memo.

Non-US coalition members are “nervous” the bombing could kill civilians or push Baghdad to permanently oust foreign troops, diplomats from two coalition countries said.

The plan has been set aside for now as the US fights the spread of COVID-19, three Western diplomats said.

“But if there’s another attack and it kills an American, then all of this comes back again,” one told AFP.

– Coalition ‘no longer exists’ –

Washington and Tehran have already edged dangerously close to outright conflict after the US killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad in January, prompting Iran to launch ballistic missiles at US troops in western Iraq.

Apparently fearing more strikes, the US deployed Patriot anti-missile batteries and C-RAM rocket defence systems to Iraq to protect its forces, a move which US officials acknowledged to AFP could be seen by Iran as provocative.

At the same time, it reduced the coalition’s presence, pulling out of half the bases it once operated from in Iraq and withdrawing hundreds of trainers indefinitely as a precautionary measure against COVID-19.

As most non-US troops were trainers, that has left relatively more Americans in the remaining forces.

“The coalition as we knew it no longer exists,” a Western diplomat from a coalition country told AFP.

A key lawmaker from Fatah, the bloc representing pro-Iran factions, cast doubt on Washington’s intentions this week.

“The American side wasn’t serious about withdrawing and handing over bases, and was actually re-deploying its troops for tactical reasons to protect its soldiers amid the spread of the coronavirus,” said Mohammad Ghabban.

Kataeb Hezbollah has insisted the shifts should lead into a full and permanent withdrawal, raising the prospect of further rocket attacks.

“There will be no death for these forces if they keep withdrawing as part of a total departure from Iraq,” the group said this month.

– ‘Turn up the flame’ –

At the same time, apparently new factions have emerged.

In the last month, three previously unknown groups have called for rocket attacks, threatened the American and British ambassadors, and released rare drone footage of the US embassy in Baghdad and the western Ain al-Asad base, which hosts the most coalition troops.

Two top coalition officials said they suspect the groups were “the same old actors” — Kataeb Hezbollah and allies — who were “organising themselves slightly differently”.

Smyth said it appeared Iran was restructuring its Iraqi allies and using front groups for plausible deniability.

“There’s calm now, but they’ll just turn up the flame once the situation improves for them,” Smyth added.

In politics, too, the tug-of-war between Iran and the US over Iraq is at a critical juncture.

Premier-designate Mustafa Kadhimi, seen as a compromise figure, is preparing his cabinet and US officials are due to visit Baghdad in June for key talks.

“This was a rollercoaster relationship — it shouldn’t be,” said an Iraqi official with knowledge of the talks.

But if Kadhimi fails, a Western diplomat told AFP, the US may cast Iraq’s government as irreversibly “hostile and pro-Iran” and introduce new sanctions.

Even the June talks could lead to more polarisation, said Renad Mansour, a researcher at Chatham House.

“The US want to push the Iraqi government to choose a side, which could be a risky move,” he told AFP.

“It’s almost making the Iraqi government decide: are you with us or against us?”


A Kurdish bloc opposes the share of the component in the Al-Kazemi government: unjust matter

04/1920 2020 13:45:29

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Shafak News / On Sunday, the Kurdistan Change Movement expressed its objection to granting the Kurdish component only 3 ministries in Mustafa Al-Kazimi’s government, usually this is unfair and far from political and population merit.

The movement member and former deputy in the Iraqi parliament, Amin Bakr, told Shafaq News, “Initial agreements, according to leaks from government formation negotiations, indicate that the Kurds obtained 3 ministries, which is far from the population and political merit of the Kurds compared to the Sunni component that will receive 6 ministries.”

 He added that “the number of Kurdish representatives in the Iraqi parliament is 60 and the number of representatives of the Sunni component in parliament is 80, and it is unfair to give us half the entitlement of Sunni blocs in the government of Prime Minister-designate Mustafa al-Kazemi, confirming the compatibility of the main Kurdish parties in the region, including the Movement for Change, to adopt the constitution to dissolve Pending problems and issues and ensuring the legitimate right of the Kurdistan region to the Iraqi state.

Bakr called for “adopting common national standards and ties to achieve a balance in the administration of the next government among all components and building a government that is far from sectarian and sectarian standards.”

Leaks revealed that the main political blocs in Iraq reached a final agreement with Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Al-Kazemi to form the next transitional government.

According to the leaks, the Kurds and minorities will receive five ministries, two of which are the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which is the Ministry of Finance and Electricity, while the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan will have a ministry, and Christians will have a ministry, and the Turkmen will have a ministry as well.

Deputy of the Region’s Parliament: Ensuring implementation of the agreement with the government of Abdul-Mahdi, highlighted the demands of the Kurdish delegation

Politics 4/20/2020 18:30 83    

Baghdad today – Baghdad

One of the most prominent demands of the Kurds, which will be raised during negotiations with the Prime Minister-designate, Mustafa al-Kazemi, is the implementation of the oil agreement that took place with the government of the outgoing Prime Minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, said a member of the Kurdistan Regional Parliament.

Karim said in an interview with (Baghdad Today) that “the most prominent demands of the Kurds are to recognize the constitutional rights of the region, and to deal with it as an independent entity through its official institution, and understanding with him on positions allocated to the Kurds on this basis.”

He added, “Ensuring the rights of employees and the peshmerga and sending their monthly salaries and dues, as well as ensuring the implementation of the previous oil agreement with the government of Abdul-Mahdi, which guarantees the arrival of budget funds to the region are the most prominent major demands of the Kurds at the present time.”

He pointed out that “the visit of the delegation of the current regional government is a first beginning of the upcoming negotiations.”

The Kurdish negotiating delegation, who arrived in Baghdad at midday Sunday (19 April 2020), held its first meeting in Baghdad with the Oil Minister Thamer Al-Ghadban, while members and representatives of the two main parties in the region, the Democratic and the National Union, revealed the agenda of the next delegation.

Member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Sirwan Hassan, said in an interview with (Baghdad Today) that “the Kurdish demands from the new government headed by Mustafa Al-Kazemi summarize the issues of the financial and oil agreement and guaranteeing the rights of citizens in the region.”

Hassan indicated that “the government delegation will discuss technical and financial issues that pave the way for political talks with the Prime Minister-designate and to resolve the issue of oil export and reduce production.”

And between, that “these negotiations are an important part of the process of forming the Iraqi government and the demands of the Kurds, as they relate to the main demands of the Kurdistan region.”

The Kurdish delegation is headed by the Minister of Finance in the Kurdistan Regional Government, Sheikh Janab. It also includes the Minister of Planning, Rashid House, the Minister of the Territory, Khaled Shwani, and the Chief of the Cabinet Office, Sabah.

Announcing the contents of the oil agreement between Baghdad and the region

Time: 04/1920 2020 15:08:57

(Baghdad: Al Furat News) Today, Sunday, the Minister of Oil, Thamer Al-Ghadban, announced in a press conference after the first meeting of the delegation of the Kurdistan Region, which arrived in Baghdad today, the development of a new mechanism to reduce oil production in the coming months.

Al-Ghadban said, “We discussed about reducing production in a gradual manner, and accordingly, the big reduction will be 23% during the next two months to June by 9.7 per day, the rest of the year, i.e. the next 6 months, will be reduced, by 8 million per day.”

Al-Ghadban added, “We discussed the issue of gas investment, as there is an untapped and untapped field in the region, and we will discuss together a proposal in which we made progress on increasing the hours of electricity and gas for some regions. Electricity is an important sector with a direct impact and it is important to cooperate and coordinate to overcome obstacles.”

He continued, and “ We agreed on a transparent mechanism for exchanging information regarding the transportation of oil. ”

For his part, Finance Minister Fouad Hussein said,“ We discussed the rights and duties of the region, as part of Iraq covered by solving its problems, we agreed on the oil output, and exchange information transparently, and we will work to take additional steps in improving Relations between the two sides.

Today, Sunday, the Kurdistan Region delegation arrived in the capital, Baghdad, and held its first meetings with the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Oil, Thamer Al-Ghadban.

The delegation will discuss with federal government officials to reduce oil production according to OPEC + agreement, and the file of electricity and benefits of the Kurdistan region Almalah.anthy

Ammar al – Masoudi

Al-Sadr’s new position on Al-Kazemi’s government .. The latter is moving Tuesday towards Parliament


04/1920 2020 06:39:26

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Shafaq News / The leader of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, issued a new position regarding the selection of the members of the ministerial cabinet of the taxpayer Mustafa Al-Kazemi, at a time when the parliamentary bloc Al-Fath announced that Al-Kazemi will submit a request to Parliament next Tuesday to hold a session of granting confidence.

Informed political sources told Shafaq News that “Al-Sadr delivered messages to the political forces and Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Al-Kazemi regarding the selection of members of the cabinet cabinet for the new government, in which he confirmed that he had no objection to the nomination of political forces as personalities for ministerial portfolios, provided that the candidate is independent.” Exclusively those who have competence and experience in their field of work. ”

The sources indicated that “Al-Sadr changed his position in accepting the nomination of some political figures by the political forces to the ministerial portfolios, so that he would not be obstructed in passing the previous government, and to repeat the scenario of what happened with Muhammad Tawfiq Allawi, who the political forces refused to give him confidence in Parliament.”

For his part, Deputy for Al-Fateh Amer Al-Fayez told Shafaq News that “Al-Kazemi has ended the cabinet, and he will submit a request to the parliament next Tuesday to hold a session to give confidence to his government.”

He added that “the ministerial cabinet that Al-Kazemi will present to parliament will be from 22 ministries, but the names of some of the candidates for ministerial portfolios are subject to change within the next 24 hours.”

On Saturday, Al-Kazimi outlined the features of his ministerial team, which he intends to present to parliament. He said, “We want an efficient and impartial government team that faces crises and is moving the country toward success and achieving people’s demands.”

He added, in a tweet on social networking sites “Twitter” that “consultations with political forces continue in a friendly atmosphere, and we try to overcome obstacles on the basis of positive dialogue.”

On April 9 this year, President of the Republic Barham Salih authorized Al-Kazimi to form the government within 30 days, less than an hour after the former Prime Minister-designate, Adnan al-Zorfi, announced his apology for this task.

The indications suggest that Al-Kazemi’s mission will be easy in light of the support he received from most of the Shi’ite, Sunni, and Kurdish political blocs.

The Minister of Finance and the Iraqi Central Governor discuss options for requesting external loans

Direct: Iraqi Finance Minister Fuad Hussein, with the Central Bank Governor Ali Al-Alaq and bank managers, discussed the recent OPEC agreement and the request of foreign loans.

A statement of the Information Office of the Ministry of Finance indicated that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Fouad Hussein chaired an expanded meeting in the presence of the Governor of the Central Bank, the Under Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, general managers of Rafidain and Rashid and Iraqi banks for trade, customs and tax authorities and the Public Debt Department to discuss the economic and financial situation in order to secure the government’s needs.

He added that the minister reviewed the recent OPEC agreement and the decision to reduce the global oil market shares and reduce approximately one million barrels per day from the share of Iraq and the implications of that decision, especially with the collapse of current oil prices and how to overcome these obstacles and cross the current stage.

The relationship stressed, according to the statement, the need to maintain the continuity of the banking system and balances, stressing the importance of analyzing data to obtain information about those balances, whether it is self-financing or central.

The statement indicated that the banks, during the meeting, reviewed their balances and capabilities in order to contribute to strengthening the current economic and financial reality.

The options for entering the IMF program and asking for external loans were also discussed, as one of the options that the current government can make to cross the stage.

He pointed out that the meeting also discussed the need to review the tax exemptions that were granted previously, with the exception of humanitarian organizations and agencies whose goods are gifted to the government.

Baghdad and Kurdistan agree on a number of economic points


04/1920 2020 06:03:39

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Shafaq News / A meeting between a government delegation from the Kurdistan Region ended with the Deputy Prime Minister – Minister of Oil Thamer Al-Ghadhban and other officials.

After the meeting, the meeting held a press conference, where Al-Ghadhban stressed, “Because of the OPEC agreement, we agreed to reduce the export quantities of oil, and other measures will follow.”

He added, “We also discussed the issue of gas investment, including unexploited developed fields, the region’s government will study a proposal we have made to invest in stations to increase electricity generation, and an oil team of oil and electricity will be sent to discuss this matter.”

For his part, the Finance Minister of Awat Janab province said at the conference, “We agreed to reduce oil production, and a mechanism to invest gas for the benefit of both parties, as we agreed in principle to secure a portion of the electricity of Kirkuk and Mosul.”

This morning, a delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government arrived in Baghdad to meet a number of government officials.

The delegation is headed by the Minister of Finance of the Territory Government, Awat Sheikh Janab, accompanied by the Minister of Planning Dara Rashid, the Minister of the Territory Khaled Shawani, Chief of the Cabinet Office Omid Sabah, Cabinet Secretary Amanj Rahim.

This is the first visit of the Kurdistan delegation to Baghdad since the announcement of Mustafa Al-Kazemi’s mandate to form the Iraqi government.

For his part, Cabinet Office Omid Sabah said, “The ministries of electricity in Baghdad and the region will work to develop electric power, and we have had a positive meeting.”

The arrival of the Kurdish delegation negotiating the formation of the new government in Baghdad

Politics 04/1920 10:53 1029 Editor: ht    

Baghdad today – Baghdad

On Sunday (April 19, 2020), an informed political source said that the Kurdish delegation negotiating the formation of the new government had arrived in the capital, Baghdad.

The source said in an interview with (Baghdad today), “The Kurdish delegation headed by the Minister of Finance in the Kurdistan Regional Government, Sheikh Janab, arrived in Baghdad to negotiate the formation of the new government, the budget file and the export of oil, and other files.”

He added, “The delegation includes the Minister of Planning, Rashid House, the Minister of the Territory, Khaled Shawani, and the President of the Cabinet Office, Omid Sabah.”

And an informed source said yesterday, Saturday, that a high-level Kurdish delegation will arrive in Baghdad today, Sunday, to discuss financial dues and export oil.

Yesterday  , Saturday (April 18, 2020), a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Bloc, MP Diyar Barwari, confirmed  that the Kurds share in the next cabinet of 3-4 ministries .

Barwari said in an interview with (Baghdad Today), “The number of ministries is not a problem and the basic condition is that the choice of ministers and government curricula be with the consent and consent of the Kurdistan region, which is a basic condition, pointing out that negotiations in the Shiite house are still ongoing .”

And, “Some Shiite parties abandoned the ministries file and gave the commissioner the authority to authorize it, but others have conditional approval,” noting that “after the negotiations are over, the field will be wider with the Kurdish party .”

Berwari added, “The government is going through exceptional situations, and it is necessary to support it and work to solve all outstanding problems. This comes first, and the file of ministries comes second .”

Barwari replied about the possibility of the Kurds abandoning the Ministry of Finance in another sovereign ministry, that “the Kurds have no objection to any ministry assuming the real participation and that the taxpayer has a real vision in dealing with Kurdistan and the file of ministries and benefits comes second, currently we have no objection because we have not reached To that stage of negotiations, pending the conclusion of the Shiite and Sunni house negotiations, and then our role will come . ”

A Kurdish delegation in Baghdad to discuss the recent OPEC agreement with the anger

19-04-2020 01:51 PM

Baghdad / news

Today, Sunday, Kurdish Rafid visited Baghdad and met with the oil minister in the resigned government, Thamer Al-Ghadhban, to discuss the implications of the recent OPEC agreement.

The Al-Akhbariya correspondent said that the visiting Kurdish delegation includes the Minister of Finance for the Kurdistan Region Awat Sheikh Janab, the Minister of the Territory Khaled Shawani, the Minister of Planning at Rashid and the head of the Cabinet Office, Omid Sabah.

He stressed that the delegation is currently discussing with Oil Minister Thamer Al-Ghadhban the recent OPEC agreement to reduce oil exports.