SELECTED NEWSNews articles from various sources carefully selected by Dr. Jawad Hashim.
The internet and social media were once hailed for creating new opportunities to spread democracy and freedom. But authoritarian regimes soon began cracking down on internet freedom. They feared the brave new digital world, because it was beyond the reach of their analogue security establishments. Their fears proved unfounded. In the event, most social media-enabled popular uprisings failed for want of effective leadership, and traditional political and military organizations retained the upper hand. Technology does not stand still, and nor should democracy.read more
ISIS threat ‘is going to morph’ and possibly go underground in Iraq, says Maj.-Gen. Mike Rouleauread more
Government corruption provided Daesh and local militias with the umbrella they needed to seize power in Iraq, officials and lawmakers told Arab News on Thursday. They said Iraq’s security and political stability will remain threatened as long as corrupt officials continue to control the country’s assets. Iraq is high on the list of the most corrupt countries. The Iraqi Parliamentary Committee of Integrity told Arab News that the estimated value of “looted” amounts during the past 12 years has been more than $200 billion.read more
US companies are eager to strengthen bilateral cooperation with Iraq in all industrial sectors, especially in oil and gas, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil said on Thursday after US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman met with Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar Al-Luaibi. Al-Luaibi invited US companies to take part in tenders called by the Iraqi ministry and said Iraq was preparing more favorable work conditions for foreign companies investing and doing business in Iraq, Oil Price reported. The two US supermajors, ExxonMobil and Chevron, already have operations in parts of Iraq. Exxon signed an agreement in 2010 with Iraq’s South Oil Company to redevelop and rehabilitate the West Qurna I Oilfield in southern Iraq.read more
Mr Al Abadi has faced internal pressures to postpone the elections for at least six months but is adamant they will go ahead. Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi has assured the nation that parliamentary and provincial elections will be held in Iraq in May as scheduled. Mr Al Abadi has faced internal pressures from the State of Law Coalition and the Union of Sunni forces in addition to Kurdish parties to postpone the elections for at least six months, Al Hayat, the pan-Arab newspaper reported. But in his weekly press conference, the prime minister dismissed any doubts, saying, “The cabinet today reiterated that provincial and parliamentary elections will be held on 12 May 2018.,” Mr Al Abadi said. “There is no reason for delaying the elections.”read more
As Iraq celebrates the defeat of ISIS, the Sunni Arab community is confronting an identity crisis in the aftermath of the occupation. For some, accommodation with the Shiite-led government offers a new Iraqi nationalism. While unbridled joy has greeted the defeat of the so-called Islamic State across Iraq, the wreckage left behind includes severe trauma to Iraq’s Arab Sunnis – leaving the minority community facing what some say is an existential crisis. One metric by which to assess this is the numbers: Most of the 5 million displaced persons in Iraq are Sunnis. And most of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who were killed, raped, or kidnapped by ISIS jihadists are Sunnis. Nearly every city left in ruins by the fight to expel ISIS – from Fallujah and Ramadi to Mosul – is predominantly Sunni. Another metric is psychological: The community’s failure has been so acute – succumbing to nearly four years of brutal ISIS rule, and even sometimes welcoming ISIS, at first – that Iraq’s Sunnis are reeling like they haven’t for a century.read more
Oil prices surged to 2-1/2-year highs and U.S. crude touched $60 a barrel in light trading volume on Tuesday, boosted by news of an explosion on a Libyan crude pipeline as well as voluntary OPEC-led supply cuts. Iraq’s oil minister said on Monday there would be a balance between supply and demand by the first quarter, leading to a boost in prices. Global oil inventories have decreased to an acceptable level, he added.read more
Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi said on Monday (December 25, 2017) he was optimistic there would be a balance between supply and demand by the first quarter of 2018, leading to a boost in oil prices. The new contact will allow Zhenhua to receive a $3.5 fee for each barrel of crude produced from the oilfield, Ameedi said, and will serve as a model for all upcoming contracts with international companies. Jalal also said his company has plans to upgrade production from the Neft Khana oilfield near the Iranian border to 8,000 barrels per day from the current 2,000.read more
Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki told Rudaw during an interview in Baghdad on Thursday that the federal government has to help the Kurdistan Region to solve the problems it is facing including the ongoing financial crisis before “it is too late.” He called the events in Khurmatu since October 16 “ethnic cleansing” and one that they are following with great concern. Maliki served as Prime Minister of Iraq for two terms from 2006-2014. Under his tenure the central government cut the Kurdish share of budget in early-2014 over the KRG’s plans to export oil independent of Baghdad. He deployed the Iraqi security forces to the borders of the Kurdistan Region at least twice when he was the PM, and became the first senior Iraqi politician to threaten Kurdistan with the use of force against the Iraqi-opposed Kurdish vote on independence. In a wide-ranging interview, he told Rudaw presenter Ranj Sangawi that he wants both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to get over what happened in the past, including the disagreement over the Kurdish vote.read more
Analysts have blamed Egypt’s autocracy for a recent attack that killed hundreds. But that’s not what’s motivating the violence. A few weeks ago, terrorists laid siege to a mosque in the small town of Bir al-Abd that lies just off the east-west road spanning the northern Sinai Peninsula. They killed 305 people and wounded many others. The photos from the scene were macabre—the stuff of Baghdad or Karachi, not Egypt. Until the attack on the al-Rawdah Mosque on November 24, the deadliest terror incident in Egypt occurred in 1997, when a group called al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya killed 57 people—most of them Japanese and British tourists—at the Temple of Hatshepsut near Luxor. The recent bloodletting in the Sinai is believed to be the work of Wilayat Sina, the Sinai branch of the self-styled Islamic State, though no one has claimed responsibility.read more
Capital failure. Blame poor leaders, distracted neighbours and a stalled peace process. Even by the standards of the peace process, this may be a new low. President Donald Trump’s advisers have spent the past year shuttling between Israelis and Palestinians. The administration is close to unveiling a peace plan, but its work has already lapsed into what the White House calls a “cooling-off period”. When Mike Pence, America’s vice-president, visits the Middle East in January, he is unlikely to be received by a Palestinian leader. The latest round of talks may be over before it begins.read more
A fter the announcement of a complete victory over terrorism in Iraq, many countries have already indicated their interest in bolstering economic cooperation with Baghdad, Fallah al-Lami, the UN adviser on the Iraqi economy, told Sputnik. Al-Lami recalled that in the past few months, “many delegations from government and private companies in Europe and the US have visited Iraq.” In particular, he referred to a recent meeting between Iraqi Central Bank officials and representatives of Airbus and Total as well as a visit by UK Prime Minister Theresa May and a spate of American companies. “All this points to the revival of Iraq. After announcing a final victory over terrorism, many have indicated that they want to invest in different areas of the Iraqi economy. Iraq is becoming a lucrative and attractive place for economic cooperation,” al-Lami pointed out.read more
After the liberation of Mosul, ISIS is unlikely to govern Iraq anytime soon; however, the ascendancy of Shiite militia groups leaves the country in a volatile state. These militia groups have multiple identities and complexities with differing degrees of integration into the Iraqi state, engagement with the international community, and cooperation with Iran. The plethora of groups has resulted in multiple clashes and rivalries among the militias, which further destabilizes Iraq.read more
The Arab Spring fostered hope for democratic reforms across the Middle East and North Africa region. Few of these hopes have come to fruition, with political violence, suppression of dissenting voices, and economic turmoil marking the region, rather than the political and economic reforms that had once seemed possible. In the realm of women’s rights, however, we are seeing slow progress.read more
Averting famine will require Saudi Arabia to permit the resumption of commercial shipping of food and fuel to the besieged country. Yemen is on course for a famine whose death toll could reach the millions, says Oxfam America’s Scott Paul, an expert on humanitarian policy. The country relies on imports for its fuel, food, and medicine, but shipments slowed to a trickle after Saudi Arabia began policing Yemeni ports in 2015 as part of a campaign to push Houthi rebels and their allies loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh out of Sana’a. After intercepting a missile fired at Riyadh from Yemen in early November, Saudi Arabia ratcheted up its blockade, sealing off rebel-held ports. Though it has since permitted some humanitarian aid, only a resumption of commercial shipments can avert famine, Paul says.read more
The Saudi elites have realized, perhaps for the first time, that they too can be subject to the same unjust, lawless prosecutions previously reserved mostly for political dissidents and terrorism. Saudi elites had long been immune to the worst failures of this brutal system. Their wealth and freedom to travel — sometimes by virtue of a handy second passport from a Western country — allowed them to flee the social, political and religious confines of their Riyadh homes. Now they know that no one is really safe when there are no laws or institutions to protect you.read more
Because until Saudi women can work, travel, file legal claims, and otherwise engage in public life without permission from their male guardians — their father or husband, sometimes even their son —the country won’t realize the economic potential of half its population.read more
Saudi Arabia: New Counterterrorism Law Enables Abuse. Criminalizes Criticisms of King and Crown Prince as Terrorism Offense. Saudi Arabia’s new counterterrorism law includes vague and overly broad definitions of acts of terrorism, in some cases punishable by death, Human Rights Watch said today.
The law replaces a widely criticized counterterrorism law promulgated in 2014, adding definitions of specific acts of terrorism and their corresponding sentencing guidelines. It includes criminal penalties of 5 to 10 years in prison for portraying the king or crown prince, directly or indirectly, “in a manner that brings religion or justice into disrepute,” and criminalizes a wide range of peaceful acts that bear no relation to terrorism.
“Saudi authorities are already methodically silencing and locking away peaceful critics on spurious charges,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of improving abusive legislation, Saudi authorities are doubling down with the ludicrous proposition that criticism of the crown prince is an act of terrorism.”read more
A road trip among ordinary Saudis revealed high hopes, and hardly any worries, about the country’s new political era.read more
We must secure military gains in Iraq with a political victory, argue Michael O’Hanlon and Sara Allawi. Otherwise, we risk the emergence of an ISIS 2.0 among embittered Sunni populations. With Mosul and other key cities now liberated from the horrible scourge of ISIS, Iraq stands at a crucial crossroads. Iraqis and Americans have squandered historic opportunities to build a new, stable and prosperous country together before. We must not let that happen again. The key danger, as before, is this: Extremism combined with sectarianism build on each other in a vicious spiral. That dynamic, in the absence of a functional state, further polarizes populations within Iraq and produces and endless cycles of violence, which creates opportunities for foreign meddling and a deepening of the kinds of resentments and paranoias that led to the emergence of ISIS—and even al-Qaida before that. We must secure military gains with a political victory. Otherwise, we risk the emergence of an ISIS 2.0 among embittered Sunni populations.read more