Let's stay with movies and look at the weekend's box office. This is from "The Numbers.com:"
|1||(1)||Captain America: The Winter Soldier||Walt Disney||Action||$25,587,056||-38%||3,825||$6,689||$200,501,510||17|
|2||new||Heaven is for Real||Sony Pictures||Drama||$22,522,221||2,417||$9,318||$29,556,414||5|
|3||(2)||Rio 2||20th Century Fox||Adventure||$22,159,742||-44%||3,975||$5,575||$75,045,122||10|
|5||new||A Haunted House 2||Open Road||Comedy||$8,843,875||2,310||$3,829||$8,843,875||3|
"Transcendence" did awful. It won't make $30 million when it's all over. Johnny Depp really needs to act with women his age.
That was the point of "Transcendence (where Johnny Depp becomes failed actor Harrison Ford)." People leaving the theater couldn't stop talking about how the woman was too young for Depp. He really needs to watch it because he can quickly become Harrison Ford and, as Ford's demonstrated, coming back can be very, very difficult.
Two weeks ago, I asked "Did Tina Fey run off ticket buyers again?"
"The Muppets" is out of the top ten. It's at number 14. It's only made $49 million.
This is a big come down from the 2012 film.
I think it's worth asking how much damage the inclusion of Tina Fey did to the film.
She's angered too many people.
She's not that funny to begin with.
Fan Boyz don't live to sing her praises.
So exactly why is anyone hiring her for anything?
I think if her TV show (she's producing, not acting in it) for Fox next year flops, it will be official that America finds Tina Fey too divisive and isn't interest in her work.
Right below "The Muppets," at number 15 is "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" which has made $107 million in ticket sales. So they can't claim that "The Muppets" failed because no one wanted kids movies.
Or look at number three on the charts, "Rio 2" with $75 million in ticket sales in only ten days.
The other thing I'll point out is that the latest Captain America movie crossed the $200 million mark. It may end being more popular than the Iron Man films.
Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Ammar al-Hakim is the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council. Alsumaria reports that he declared today that Iraq has reached a turning point. He was speaking in Babylon Province about the planned April 30th parliamentary elections. He noted the coalition he'd joined with, the Citizens Coalition, wanted to build university to continue the production of knowledge and culture and to improve the quality of life for Iraqis in the streets and in their homes. They are on the cusp, al-Hakeem declared, and they can proceed to a fair state with confidence in the judiciary, the government institutions and an equitable distribution of the walth. Or they can remain with "red tape," with neglected cities, with expanding violence and the continual shedding of blood.
The status quo is Nouri. That's what al-Hakim's speech is rejecting.
The status quo is Nouri and, whether it's out of personal elections hopes or not, politicians are rejecting him.
Sunday, Aswat al-Iraq quoted the country's Shi'ite Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi declaring, "Maliki does not regard himself responsible for the deterioration in the country, but he shoulders the greatest responsibility." He also criticized Nouri's campaign stops this month saying that Nouri's main focus should be to "create a secured stability." Osama al-Nujaifi is the Speaker of Parliament in Iraq and the head of the Mottahiddon list. NINA quotes him declaring today:
Our former attitude of patience that we committed to,was motivated to the preservation and unity of the nation and the people for fear of plans of sectarians who carry out a well-known regional and international schema . But today we will firmly repeal and strongly deter the hand that turn the executive power to merely sentences of mass executions of innocent citizens , as well as the hand that transform army’s sacred tasks of defending people and nation’s boarders to a force to crush the people , to dispersion and humiliate citizens , violate the sanctity of the Iraqi family and imprison innocent women in detention and rape them stressing the necessity to detain such a hand in accordance with the will of the whole people,the will of the constitution and the will of the right.
Osama al-Nujaifi is the brother of Nineveh Province Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi (one of the many politicians Nouri al-Maliki loathes and has attempted to have removed). With Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi in exile, Osama al-Nujaifi is the highest ranking Sunni politician in the Iraqi government.
Myriam Benraad (World Politics Review) examines the campaign field in Iraq and notes:
Three main forces are thus left competing within the Shiite political arena: Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, the Sadrist current and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), run by Ammar al-Hakim. These forces follow quite opposed ideological and political agendas and are themselves riddled with internal rivalries and disagreements.
Since Muqtada al-Sadr’s decision to withdraw from politics in February, debates have been ongoing as to the future of his movement. While some argue that Sadr’s abrupt move put an end to Sadrism, others believe that it is only a tactic for the popular Shiite leader to reposition himself ahead of the polls, both on the national scene and among his supporters. Lending credibility to the latter hypothesis, Sadr has remained politically active in spite of his announcement and is still the sharpest critic of Maliki, whom Sadr has called both a dictator and a tyrant. Sadr has also dissociated himself from other figures within his movement allegedly involved in cases of political and financial corruption.
[. . .]
The ISCI-dominated Citizen Coalition, which unites 18 other parties, ranked second in the 2013 provincial elections and today seeks to regain the standing it lost after its electoral failure in 2010. The list comprises a number of influential candidates, including Ahmed al-Chalabi. It primarily focuses its program on state reform, and has preferred a more moderate and conciliatory outlook in order to appeal to broader sectors of the Shiite population. It presents itself as a reliable successor to Maliki, but one that will not repeat the latter’s political mistakes. Contrary to Baghdad’s policy of recentralization of national political power, the ISCI favors more decentralization and hopes to garner greater support from Iran.
Benraad's take is that Nouri will win a third term (and that this will be bad for Iraq). That is a prediction and many events on the ground argue against Nouri winning or even currently being in the lead.
We'll note this Tweet.
"This country has not faced up to what we did to Iraq and Afghanistan, any more than we have faced up to slavery." -Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg has never, ever, called out the current administration for demanding that Nouri get a second term as prime minister despite losing the 2010 elections to Ayad Allawi and Iraqiya.
Daniel Ellsberg has never called The Erbil Agreement -- which went around the people of Iraq and gave Nouri a second term. Daniel doesn't have that kind of guts.
He's a fat, overweight and declawed cat barely able to make it to the litter box. And if that's harsh, so is Daniel's embarrassing refusal to speak out for the Iraqi people and what they have endured since 2010.
In other words, he should probably just roll over on his back and enjoy the sun because he has nothing to left to share.
Dexter Filkins, infamous for his propaganda regarding the attack on Falluja in November 2004, has a long article at The New Yorker. Like Ellsberg, he can't bring himself to mention The Erbil Agreement. This excerpt covers that time period:
In parliamentary elections the previous March, Maliki’s Shiite Islamist alliance, the State of Law, had suffered an embarrassing loss. The greatest share of votes went to a secular, pro-Western coalition called Iraqiya, led by Ayad Allawi, a persistent enemy of the Iranians. “These were election results we could only have dreamed of,” a former American diplomat told me. “The surge had worked. The war was winding down. And, for the first time in the history of the Arab world, a secular, Western-leaning alliance won a free and fair election.”
But even though Allawi’s group had won the most votes, it had not captured a majority, leaving both him and Maliki scrambling for coalition partners. And despite the gratifying election results, American officials said, the Obama Administration concluded that backing Allawi would be too difficult if he was opposed by Shiites and by their supporters in Iran. “There was no way that the Shia were not going to provide the next Prime Minister,” James Jeffrey, the American Ambassador at the time, told me. “Iraq will not work if they don’t. Allawi was a goner.”
Shortly after the elections, an Iraqi judge, under pressure from the Prime Minister, awarded Maliki the first chance to form a government. The ruling directly contradicted the Iraqi constitution, but American officials did not contest it. “The intent of the constitution was clear, and we had the notes of the people who drafted it,” [Emma] Sky, the civilian adviser, said. “The Americans had already weighed in for Maliki.”
But it was the meeting with Suleimani that was ultimately decisive. According to American officials, he broke the Iraqi deadlock by leaning on Sadr to support Maliki, in exchange for control of several government ministries. Suleimani’s conditions for the new government were sweeping. Maliki agreed to make Jalal Talabani, the pro-Iranian Kurdish leader, the new President, and to neutralize the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, which was backed by the C.I.A. Most dramatic, he agreed to expel all American forces from the country by the end of 2011.
The U.S. obtained a transcript of the meeting, and knew the exact terms of the agreement. Yet it decided not to contest Iran’s interference. At a meeting of the National Security Council a month later, the White House signed off on the new regime. Officials who had spent much of the previous decade trying to secure American interests in the country were outraged. “We lost four thousand five hundred Americans only to let the Iranians dictate the outcome of the war? To result in strategic defeat?” the former American diplomat told me. “F**k that.” At least one U.S. diplomat in Baghdad resigned in protest. And Ayad Allawi, the secular Iraqi leader who captured the most votes, was deeply embittered. “I needed American support,” he told me last summer. “But they wanted to leave, and they handed the country to the Iranians. Iraq is a failed state now, an Iranian colony.”
Regarding the theft of the 2010 election? Some of us called it out in real time. I, for example, don't give a damn about Iran or its interference or 'interference.' I do, however, give a damn about free and fair elections. The Iraqis risked so much to vote and the chose Allawi. But the US government refused to back the democratic process. This sent a message -- an alarming message in a country supposedly moving towards democracy, or in the early stages of democracy, or gifted with democracy or whatever damn lie the US government told that you want to hold onto.
In the end, the White House didn't give a damn about democracy and this is 2010 so I'm talking about Barack.
I have no use for Daniel Ellsberg. I don't give a ___ that he did something four-hundred-and-fifty years ago. I'm living in today. Dying is taking place today. And if he wants to talk about Iraq, he better find a spine. Otherwise, he needs to crawl back under his rock.
Not everyone's so afraid to note The Erbil Agreement. For example, Anthony H. Cordesman and Sam Khazai pointed out earlier this year in [PDF format warning] "Iraq in Crisis:"
US officials applauded the 2010 Erbil agreement, and said they were hopeful that such cooperative arrangement would provide a political breakthrough among Iraq’s leadership, and allow them to address the country’s problems. They pointed to the influence the US had in pushing for the outcome, including the adoption of an American suggestion that Allawi head a new, “National Council for Security Policy”.
And Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) even reported on it in real time:
Vice President Biden made numerous calls to senior Iraqi leaders over the past several months and U.S. officials directly participated in top-level negotiating sessions that lasted until just moments before the Iraqi parliament finally convened to approve a new power-sharing government Thursday, a senior Obama administration official said Friday.
And back in January, Ned Parker (POLITICO) wrote an amazing must read on Iraq which included:
It was the April 2010 national election and its tortured aftermath that sewed the seeds of today’s crisis in Iraq. Beforehand, U.S. state and military officials had prepared for any scenario, including the possibility that Maliki might refuse to leave office for another Shiite Islamist candidate. No one imagined that the secular Iraqiya list, backed by Sunni Arabs, would win the largest number of seats in parliament. Suddenly the Sunnis’ candidate, secular Shiite Ayad Allawi, was poised to be prime minister. But Maliki refused and dug in.
And it is here where America found its standing wounded. Anxious about midterm elections in November and worried about the status of U.S. forces slated to be drawn down to 50,000 by August, the White House decided to pick winners. According to multiple officials in Baghdad at time, Vice President Joseph Biden and then-Ambassador Chris Hill decided in July 2010 to support Maliki for prime minister, but Maliki had to bring the Sunnis and Allawi onboard. Hill and his staff then made America’s support for Maliki clear in meetings with Iraqi political figures.
The stalemate would drag on for months, and in the end both the United States and its arch-foe Iran proved would take credit for forming the government. But Washington would be damaged in the process. It would be forever linked with endorsing Maliki. One U.S. Embassy official I spoke with just months before the government was formed privately expressed regret at how the Americans had played kingmaker.
Four years ago and Americans don't want to own up to what the White House did? That action set in motion everything that followed -- as surely Bully Boy Bush's illegal invasion destroyed Iraq.
And Myriam Benraad (World Politics Review) isn't the only one who fears a third term of Nouri al-Maliki will send Iraq into even rockier waters. NINA reports:
The spokeswoman of the Watania (National Coalition), Maysoon al-Damalochi confirmed that "if the current Prime, Minister Nuri al-Maliki won a third term, the National Coalition would withdraw entirely from the political process ."
Damalochi said in an interview with the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / its details will be published tomorrow, " al-Maliki will not be the head for the next government , because he will not get the full support in this election , as happened in the previous two terms ."
Two things are worth noting here.
First, Nouri told AFP in early 2011 that he would not seek a third term. This was when protests were rocking the region and leaders were facing the threat of being toppled. Protests were taking place in Iraq as well and there was an attempt to pass a law limiting a prime minister to two terms (a law Nouri publicly stated he favored). Nouri was fearful of losing his hold on power so he made public statements. Like so many other promises from Nouri, they were meaningless. Today, no journalist appears willing to ask Nouri what happened to his promise?
Second, Nouri may already be barred from a third term by the Constitution. It prohibits the presidency and it may in fact prohibit those holding the offices of prime minister and the presidency from third terms.
We've gone over this before but let's go over it slowly.
How does one qualify for prime minister? Not the vote, how does the person whom the president will name qualify?
Article 77 of the Iraqi Constitution explains that:
The conditions for assuming the post of the Prime Minister shall be the same as those for the President of the Republic, provided that he has a college degree or its equivalent and is over thirty-five years of age.
So what are the conditions the presidency?
All agree this outline in Article 68:
A nominee to the Presidency of the Republic must be:
First: An Iraqi by birth, born to Iraqi parents.
Second: Fully qualified and must be over forty years of age.
Third: Of good reputation and political experience, known for his integrity, uprightness, fairness, and loyalty to the homeland.
Fourth: Free of any conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude.
That's the Constitution, everyone agrees.
So clearly the prime minister isn't limited to two terms?
Not so fast.
First: The President of the Republic's term in office shall be limited to four years. He may be re-elected for a second time only.
That sounds like a condition.
Because, for example, Jalal Talabani's been president for two terms now. If he wanted to go for a third one, he couldn't.
Because he's had two terms but what is the word for that?
Why? Because he's not qualified for the office as a result of having served two terms.
What does Article 77 say:
The conditions for assuming the post of the Prime Minister shall be the same as those for the President of the Republic, provided that he has a college degree or its equivalent and is over thirty-five years of age.
One of the conditions to be President of the Republic is that you've not already served two terms in the office.
Article 77 says the same conditions apply to the office of Prime Minister.
Repeating, one of the conditions to be President of the Republic is that you've not already served two terms in the office.
Can Jalal have a third term as president? No. He fails one of the conditions for the post because he's served two terms already.
If you read the Constitution, it seems rather clear -- it's not as though you're reading tea leaves.
Although . . .
Ibrahim al-Jibouri (Niqash) reports some candidates are resorting to less obvious means to win office:
Since the early 1970s, magicians and mystics have become more popular and more professional in Iraq. They proclaim themselves semi-religious, calling themselves terms like sayid, sheikh or mullah, all of which denote that they are holy men in Arabic and Kurdish. But of course, with additional, special powers. One local sociologist believes that more locals were seeking help from the magic men in Iraq because of widespread poverty and illiteracy as well as a need to find some sort of hope, or spiritual alternative, after military conflict and economic crisis. Yet their clientele come from all levels of Iraqi society.
Meanwhile another of Karbala’s candidates, Mahmoud Obeid, says he too is resorting to magic. He has run for office three times already and he’s never been successful – so this time he is enlisting supernatural aid.
Interestingly enough Obeid sought the help of a magician in India. He says he travelled there and with the help of an Iraqi living there, met with a well known magic man. “I paid the man around US$4,000 so that he would do some rituals on my behalf,” Obeid explains. “But when we left his house we were attacked by a gang of three other men who stole all our money.”
Obeid, who lost about US$8,000 on his Indian trip, is now using another method to try and secure his place in politics: He is also distributing free meals to poor families in low-income areas. “This time I really hope I win,” Obeid says.
Another Karbala candidate, Layla Flaih, says she only decided to compete in these elections because of superstition. “One of my colleagues reads coffee grounds and she advised me to run,” Flaih told NIQASH. “She said I would win. So I submitted my information to IHEC [the Independent High Electoral Commission], which runs the elections even though it’s caused a lot of problems with my family. My husband didn’t want me to run and he has threatened to divorce me.”
Still on campaign news, NINA reports the home of Shiekh Saeed Hammoud Derwish was blown up in Ramadi. He's running for Parliament with the Unity of Iraq Coalition. Parliamentary elections are supposed to take April 30th. Already, it's been announced Iraqi refugees in Syria will not be allowed to vote -- as well as Iraqis in parts of Anbar. This targets Sunni voters as thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki well knows. (Though the western press is so very kind to Nouri and avoids noting this or even addressing the issue of the refugees -- who will be voting in other countries.) Alsumaria reports a grenade attack on a Mahmudiya (south of Baghdad) rally of Ahmed Chalabi supporters which left 1 child dead. And the violence comes eight days before elections are supposed to be held. NINA reports Ahmed Chalabi was present during the attack but was not harmed.
Eariler today, AP noted that a voting center in Daqouq Village was attacked late last night and 10 guards killed. Is AP leaving out something? They quote the deputy police chief Tothan Abdul-Rahman Youssef stating that the assailants had stated "they were there to carry out a search." They stated that to the people they killed, guards in Kirkuk Province.
Kirkuk knows all about searches and all about who's allowed. Kirkuk has their own forces, they have Nouri's forces and they have the Peshmerge. In good times, that's all they have. In bad times, they have much more including the military.
So if a group of men showed and stated they were there to conduct a search and the guards initially believed it, isn't it likely that the assailants were wearing some form of uniform?
Likely and indeed true. Belfast Telegraph reports, "The gunmen were disguised in military uniforms and told the guards at the polling station that they were there to do a search."
Of course they did. They had to. Guards in Kirkuk Province know what someone who says they're conducting a "search" should look like. So to pull that claim off, you'd have to be dressed for the part.
And many conducting violence have dressed for the part. This has been going on so long that we were making jokes here in 2006 that the greatest 'terrorist' in Iraq must be a seamstress since all these uniforms were being used by fakes.
Dropping back to December 14th:
Hey, remember how men in police uniforms or military uniforms commit kidnappings and murders in Iraq? And how outlets like AFP always rush in to insist that these weren't security forces? Despite the long record of abuse at the Ministry of the Interior?
Iraq Times reports that the security committee of Basra's Provincial Council announced today that 11 people had been arrested for kidnapping, extortion and armed robbery.
The 11 accused?
1's a police officer (lieutenant colonel) the others are security forces working for the Ministry of the Interior or intelligence agency.
They are accused of robbing homes and businesses -- sometimes in uniform -- and of going to homes and carrying out kidnappings while in uniforms and pretending they have arrest warrants.
I'm searching in vain for Reuters, AP or AFP picking up on this story.
They're damn happy to counter eye witness testimony of police and soldiers carrying out crimes by running with 'Police sources say these were al Qaeda wearing fake uniforms . . .'
You would assume having pimped the line over and over, they'd be curious about what the Basra Provincial Council announced.
No, they weren't.
Many times, the uniforms worn in an attack are the uniforms the assailants wear every day.
We'll probably go into more of that in the snapshot and the recent press insisting of 'they were militants in stolen uniforms' which bit the press in the ass.
In the meantime, Alsumaria reports that the Wasit Provincial Council is publicly calling out Nouri's forces for arbitrary arrests in the province.
Again, elections are supposed to be held in 8 days.
EuroNews observes, "For a second day running a wave of suicide bombings and other attacks across Iraq have left a trail of dead and wounded."
Does "other attacks" include Nouri's War Crimes?
They did continue today as he continued having the residential neighborhoods of Falluja bombed. National Iraqi News Agency reports he killed 5 civilians today -- "including a woman and a child" -- and that ten more civilians were left injured. Anadolu Agency notes another round of bombings of Falluja housing neighborhoods left 6 civilians dead and five more injured.
Alsumaria reports Hussain al-Shahristani (Deputy Prime Minister of Energy) declared today that hs is concerned about the innocent blood spilled in Falluja. He says that Falluja cannot be stormed because innocents would be killed.
National Iraqi News Agency reports a Mosul roadside bombing left 1 police member dead and five more injured, a Tabaj roadside bombing left six Iraqi soldiers injured, Nineveh Operations Command state they killed 2 suspects, 1 person was shot dead in Tarmiyah, an Edhem roadside bombing left "four government employees" wounded north of Baquba, 2 Mosul bombs left fourteen members of SWAT injured, and 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul (the man had been kidnapped two days earlier). All Iraq News reports a Balad bombing left 3 farmers dead.
Iraq has three recurring punchlines. The first is "Nouri al-Maliki" and can be plugged into any conversation. The second is "Jalal Talabani is better and will be returning to Iraq soon." December 2012, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke. The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot). Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital. Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany. He remains in Germany currently. Since the end of December, every few weeks comes a claim of improvement and a claim that Jalal will return soon. We noted that tired joke circulated yesterday via the governor of Kirkuk. The third punchline? "Erbil and Baghdad are close to an agreement."
For background, you can drop back to the November 11, 2011 snapshot when ExxonMobil and the KRG's deal was upsetting Nouri. That was November 11, 2011. In the long space between then and now? Nouri's whined and whimpered like a helpless puppy, whimpered for the US government to force ExxonMobil to stop doing business with the KRG. July 19, 2012, when Chevron followed ExxonMobil's lead, Nouri was declaring that the US government was going to side with him on cancelling the ExxonMobil deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government, refer to that day's snapshot.
Didn't happen (and Kristin Deasy of the Global Post was one of the few to question Nouri's claims in real time). All Nouri could do was whimper and, for leadership, offer a variation the Dusty Springfield, classic "Wishin' and hopin'" (written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach). He was reduced to wishin' and hopin' due to the fact that he never got an oil and gas law passed. He had sworn he would. He was required to by the Bully Boy Bush benchmarks of 2007. Remember those?
The oil and gas law was number three on the list of 18 benchmarks Nouri was supposed to implement in order to continue to receive US funding:
3. Enacting and implementing legislation to ensure the equitable distribution of hydrocarbon resources of the people of Iraq without regard to the sect or ethnicity of recipients, and enacting and implementing legislation to ensure that the energy resources of Iraq benefit Sunni Arabs, Shia Arabs, Kurds, and other Iraqi citizens in an equitable manner.
Nouri had all but one year of his first term to get through an oil and gas law. Then Barack got Nouri a second term and he still couldn't get through an oil and gas law.
Most recently, Nouri's tantrums have revolved around a pipeline by which Kurds will supply Turkey.
Seven years and the failure of leadership hangs on Nouri.
Nouri's been attempting to use the 2014 budget as a means to blackmail the Kurdistan Regional Government over the oil issue since he failed to enact any oil and gas law. We noted this blackmail in the February 21st snapshot:
Meanwhile Isabel Coles and Jane Bair (Reuters) report that, despite claimes from Hussain al-Shahristani (Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister for Energy) earlier this week, the Kurds have not reached any agreement with Baghdad regarding exporting oil. KRG spokesperson Safeen Dizayee is quoted stating, "Absolutely we have not reached any agreement to export oil via SOMO. The dialogue and discussions are still under way."
Nouri's failures are many. He's attempting to coherce the Kurds on the oil by using the 2014 budget as a club.
February 24th, Press TV reported:
Baghdad is withholding wages for hundreds of thousands of Kurdish employees in an attempt to apparently punish the semi-autonomous Kurdish region over its controversial oil exports.
“There is this mindset and now a continuation of this mindset whereby the central government does not believe in the existence of Kurdistan region. If we look back their opposition was contained to the parliament and the government but now we see that their opposition is directly towards the income of the people, which is the wages,” said Kurdish MP Umed Khoshnaw from the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
Last week, Iraq's Kurdish Deputy Prime Minister Roj Nuri Shawais called on Kurdish ministers in the Iraqi cabinet to resign if Baghdad refused to solve the problem.
A lot of oil is at stake, a lot of money. UPI notes the KRG released figures today stating the KRG "Ministry of Natural Resources created gross revenue of around $9.7 billion." In February, he was offering them 7% of the national budget if they export 400,000 barrels of oil a day. The 2014 budget? Yes, that's not an error. Nouri's government still doesn't have a 2014 budget. It's April 2014 and they still don't have a budget. Nouri's blackmail hasn't worked. Nor has Hussain al-Shahristani repeated bleating that a deal was near. Rudaw reports al-Shahristani has started another wave of dubious claims:
In an interview with Sky News Arabia, Iraq's deputy prime minister for energy affairs, Hussein Shahristani, said that the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has given preliminary approval for Kurdish oil exports through Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO).
He claimed that Erbil had said in a statement that the exports would be within the framework of Iraqi regulations, and that they had not begun yet due to technical reasons. Shahirstani said that Baghdad was waiting for Erbil to commit to that decision.
However, there has been no indication from Erbil that such an accord has been agreed.
Earlier this week, Rudaw reported, "Kurdistan Regional Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said Sunday that negotiations with Baghdad to resolve energy and budget issues have made no progress, and warned that Erbil's patience has limits." Ali Unal (Daily Sabah) reports:
According to oil expert Shwan Zulal from London-based Carduchi Consulting, more delays means it is more likely to see an independent crude export from the KRG. "Kurdish crude is accumulating and Baghdad is playing politics with the KRG's budget, not sending the right amounts of funds and so on," said Zulal. "The case for independent crude export to decrease reliance on Baghdad for paying the bills is becoming ever stronger and the more delays we see, the more likely that we see an independent crude export from the KRG. Nevertheless, the caveat will be U.S. support for the export, which has not been forthcoming."
On the other hand, the expert believes a deal with Irbil and Baghdad is not likely in the coming days due to the Iraqi elections which will take place in May. "The deal with Baghdad does not look very promising, especially because the Iraqi elections are under way and the wrangling over the formation of the new Iraqi government will ensue in the coming days and months after the elections," said Zulal.
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