FADED CELEBRITY BARRY O MAKES IT ALL ABOUT HIM. LIKE IN AUSTIN. LIKE EVERYWHERE.
HE'S THE FORGOTTEN CELEBRITY WHO REFUSES TO TAKE A HINT.
Mohammed A. Salih (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "Iraqi Kurdistan careened closer to independence today, with Kurdish forces advancing outside Kirkuk, which they seized last month, to seize two major Iraqi oil fields." Raheem Salman and Mustafa Mahmoud (Reuters) add "Kurdish politicians formally suspended their participation in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government.
[. . .] The Kurdish forces took over production facilities at the Bai Hassan and Kirkuk oilfields near the city of Kirkuk, the oil ministry in Baghdad said." NINA notes the Bai Hassan oil field "produces about 195,000 barrels per day."
On the issue of the Kurds walking out of the Cabinet, Al Jazeera notes:
Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshiyar Zebari, said on Friday that Kurdish politicians would stop running their ministries, a day after they had announced a boycott of cabinet meetings.
The ministries affected include Zebari's foreign ministry, the trade ministry, the ministry of migration, the health ministry and the deputy premiership, the Reuters news agency reported.
Kurdish MPs would continue to attend the parliament, elected on April 30, Zebari said, adding the country risked falling apart if an inclusive government was not formed.
BBC News reminds the seizure and the walkout follows an earlier action, "They did so after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki accused the Kurds of harbouring extremists." Nabih Bulos (Los Angeles Times) also provides context, "The always-fraught relationship between the two sides escalated sharply when Maliki on Wednesday accused the Kurdish leadership of harboring Sunni Arab insurgents dominating large swaths of the country's northern and central provinces. The Sunni rebellion prompted Kurdish forces to occupy large tracts of Iraqi territory, including the oil-hub northern city of Kirkuk."
The Kurdistan Regional Government issued the following statement in response to Nouri's charges of terrorism:
Salahaddin, Kurdistan (KRP.org) – The Spokesperson of the Kurdistan Region Presidency responded to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s accusation against the KRG.
“He [Nouri al-Maliki] has become hysterical and has lost his balance. He is doing everything he can to justify his failures and put the blame on others for these failures,” read the statement.
The Spokesperson added that Erbil, which Maliki has accused of harboring terrorists, has always been a refuge for the oppressed, including Nouri al-Maliki himself.
“Kurdistan is proud of the fact that Erbil has always served as refuge for oppressed people, including yourself when you fled the former dictatorship. Now Erbil is a refuge for people fleeing from your dictatorship. ISIS and other groups have no place in Erbil, they stay with you. It was you who gave Iraqi land and the assets of six army divisions to ISIS.”
The statement demanded that the Prime Minister apologize to the Iraqi people and step down. “You must apologize to the Iraqi people and step down. You have destroyed the country and someone who has destroyed the country cannot save the country from crises.”
As for the two oil fields? The KRG issued the following statement on today's events:
Erbil, Kurdistan Region (MNR.KRG.org) - This morning, members of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Kirkuk Oil Protection Forces moved to secure the oil fields of Bai Hassan and the Makhmour area, after learning of orders by officials in the federal Ministry of Oil in Baghdad to sabotage the recent mutually-agreed pipeline infrastructure linking the Avana dome with the Khurmala field.
The nearby Bai Hassan field and the other fields located in Makhmour district are now safely under KRG management. The KRG expects production at these fields to continue normally. Staff at the North Oil Company that previously operated these fields have been informed that from tomorrow they will be expected to cooperate with KRG management. Those who do not want to do so can leave.
The new pipeline linking Khurmala with Avana was designed and constructed with the express purpose of facilitating export from the Makhmour, Avana and Kirkuk area fields through the KRG pipeline network to help increase revenues for Iraqis, at a time of great need and at a time when most of the Iraq-Turkey pipeline is under ISIS control.
The new infrastructure was built and paid for by the KRG, working in full cooperation with officials and engineers at North Oil Company. However, the KRG learned on Thursday that some officials in the federal Ministry of Oil gave orders to a number of NOC staff to cease their cooperation with the KRG and to dismantle or render inoperable the valves on the new pipeline.
The Avana and Makhmour fields have been unable to export since March because the main Iraq-Turkey pipeline has been damaged by terrorist attacks. The main Iraq pipeline lies mostly within territory recently surrendered by the federal government to ISIS.
Despite the inability to export and the halt to refining at Beiji, the Avana and Makhmour fields were producing about 110,000 barrels of oil per day and utilising the associated gas to help with the operation of the LPG bottling plant in Kirkuk.
But instead of using the new KRG pipeline infrastructure to export the produced oil, officials at the NOC were ordered by Baghdad to re-inject the oil back into a small, disused field in Kirkuk. This politically motivated decision risked causing great damage to the field in question with a permanent loss of most of the oil that has been re-injected. It has also deprived the people of Iraq of much-needed oil export revenue.
From now on, production at the new fields under KRG control will be used primarily to fill the shortage of refined products in the domestic market. This will ease the burden on ordinary citizens caused by the failure of the federal authorities to protect the country's vital oil infrastructure in the region.
The KRG will also claim its Constitutional share of oil revenues derived from these fields to make up for the huge financial deficit triggered by the illegal withholding of the KRG’s 17 percent share of the federal budget by Baghdad.
The KRG has been and always will be open to cooperation and coordination with Baghdad, according to the rights and responsibilities of the Regions as outlined under the Iraqi Constitution. The KRG still hopes that Baghdad climbs down from its policy of punitive political and economic sanctions against the citizens of Kurdistan.This morning’s events have shown that the KRG is determined to protect and defend Iraq’s oil infrastructure whenever it is threatened by acts of terrorism or, as in this case, politically motivated sabotage.
EFE notes Iraq's Ministry of Oil released a statement declaring, ""(T)his irresponsible behavior ... violates the constitution and the national wealth, and disregards the federal authorities and threatens national unity."
One immediate effect? Iraq no longer has a Foreign Minister. Hamdi Alkhashali and Michael Martinez (CNN) report:
In a possible portent of growing factional conflict, a leading Kurdish minister was removed from Iraq's government, and the Kurdish semi-autonomous government took over two oilfields in the north, officials said Friday.
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, the face of Iraqi diplomacy for a more than a decade, was removed Friday by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, two senior Iraqi government officials said.
There are reports that Nouri's replaced Zebari.
No, he really hasn't and can't. Were he to nominate someone -- questionable with Iraq's caretaker state currently -- that person couldn't be confirmed because that requires the Parliament.
Now he did something similar in a previous time when a government hadn't yet formed. When he did that before, he took someone already confirmed by Parliament to the Cabinet and just taxed that person with additional duties and an additional office.
Deputy Prime Minister Hussain Shahristani has never been confirmed to head a Ministry so it's a stretch to call him "acting" or "interim" anything. You can call him "illegal" or "unconstitutional." But that's about it.
RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"