Obama Prepares for Drone War in Iraq
Food Prices Spike in BaghdadBy Adel Fakhir 7 hours ago
Shiite militias driving through Baghdad's Sadr City. Photo: AP
BAGHDAD — The seizure of key Iraqi cities by Islamic militants coupled with the approaching holy month of Ramadan is driving up food prices in Baghdad.
Economist Makki al-Shammari, an expert in consumer goods, confirmed what Baghdad residents have seen in the markets: the price of food has spiked this week amid an Islamist march toward Baghdad and unprecedented uncertainty about Iraq’s future. In addition to traders driving up the price of food, water and other goods amid speculation that Baghdad could fall to militants, routes to Baghdad have been cut off and residents are stocking up on essentials.
Inflation is not new to Baghdad; in 2010, the International Monetary Fund said containing rising prices was “one of the most challenging aspects of economic management in Iraq.”
“The market is witnessing significant fluctuations due to inflation and the market’s total dependence on food and commodity imports from abroad,” Shammari said. He predicted that prices “will rise dramatically in the near term.”
“As Ramadan approaches it’s normal to have slightly higher prices, but coupled with the deteriorating security situation there’s a fear that things are getting out of control, which may cause an economic crisis,” he said.
Shammari called on the government to “take a firm stance” and “tighten control over the markets.” He recommended that Baghdad ensure goods make it to stores and that traders don’t exploit the uncertainty by driving up prices.
Political polarization is stalling work in Baghdad, however. ISIS is advancing toward the capital after capturing Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, along with Tikrit, Falluja and possibly the key city of Baiji which has been the center of battles between the Iraqi military and ISIS and is home to Iraq’s largest oil refinery. Meanwhile, Parliament has failed to meet to vote on embattled Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s proposal to declare a state of emergency.
Omar Majid, 36, from the Karrada district of central Baghdad said, “Prices are rising day after day. There are greedy war-mongering traders who take advantage of the situation and increase prices.”
“People are having to deal with sick and greedy traders-exploiters raising food prices whenever there are problems,” he added. “It’s on the government to tackle this important issue because it affects the livelihood of Iraq’s poor.”
Iraqis continue to receive food subsidies even as the country’s economy has grown. Iraq’s GDP was expected to grow 5.9 percent in 2014, the fastest of any country in the Middle East and North Africa except Qatar which also had 5.9 percent estimated growth, the International Monetary Fund reported. Consumer inflation was projected at 1.9 percent, similar to 2013 and far less than the 6.1 percent inflation rate in 2012.
President Barzani Condemns Shiite Incitement Against KurdsBy RUDAW 3 hours ago
Many members of Shiite militias in Baghdad have responded to the call to take up arms. Photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani’s office condemned allegations by Shiite militia leaders who accuse the Kurds of involvement in the current crisis in Iraq, saying those making such statements would be responsible for any consequences.
“We expect the Shiite clerical authorities and political parties in Baghdad and southern Iraq to play their part and not let these voices become a threat and cause of turmoil in Iraq,” said a statement by Barzani’s office on Thursday.
It referred to recent speeches by Iraqi militia leaders, mainly in Najaf and other Shiite areas, who have vowed to fight the Kurds alongside the Sunni militants who have swept across Iraq.
Fighting continued in several parts of Iraq Friday between government forces and rebels led by the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). However, the militants’ advance against Baghdad has reportedly slowed.
Barzani’s statement condemned speeches by Qais al-Khazaali, leader of the Asaid Ahl al-Haq militia, as “hateful and chauvinistic against Kurds living in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.”
Last week Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the country’s highest Shiite authority, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, called on Iraq’s Shiites to take up arms and save the country from the ISIS, which has captured several key Sunni cities and has vowed to march on Baghdad.
Asaid Ahl al-haq was the first to respond to this call, their members taking to the streets in large numbers, waving guns and vowing jihad against the ISIS.
“He (al-Khazaali) has also incited members of his group to go and threaten Kurds in those areas and broadcasted their threats in the media,” read Barzani’s statement.
The same militia was also active against US troops in Iraq and fought battles in Baghdad, Sadr City and Basra.
Some Kurdish drivers in Diyala province complained last week that they were harassed at checkpoints manned by members of the Shiite militia group.
Referring to al-Khazaali, Barzani’s statement warned that he “cannot frighten the Kurds, and we say it clearly that he will be held responsible for any untoward incident.”
Kurdish authorities have so far refused to join the war between the Sunni militants and government troops. Kurdish Peshmerga forces are stationed along the southern borders of their autonomous region to stop the spillover of the war.
In the meantime, Kurdish leaders have called on the Iraqi government to protect Kurds living in Baghdad and other cities under the central government.
The Iraqi capital was until 10 years ago home to one million Kurds, mainly Failis. Many left during the sectarian war several years ago, but tens of thousands still live in Baghdad.“How could a group threaten people in Baghdad and in broad daylight?” said the statement published on the website of the president’s office.
Erbil Denies Selling Half-Price Oil, Slams Bloomberg ReportBy Harvey Morris 2 hours ago
Kurdistan Region Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami. Photo: AFP
London – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has denied an international news agency report that it was selling oil through its new pipeline to Turkey at half the world crude price.
A statement from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) expressed surprise and disappointment over a Bloomberg report published on Thursday and headlined: “Half-Price Kurdish Oil Threatens Iraq Breakup With Turkish Help.”
The ministry said it had complained to the American agency, which had later changed the headline. But Bloomberg stood by its claim that oil was being sold at half-price, which the ministry described as false. The agency attributed its information to an unnamed official involved in the trade.
The report came as violence in Iraq prompted a surge in benchmark crude to above $115 a barrel this week.
Exports through the new pipeline to the port of Ceyhan are a highly sensitive issue for the KRG, which has been involved for months in a bitter dispute with Baghdad that predates the latest Iraqi crisis.
What appears to have angered the ministry is that the disputed headline could imply that the KRG is conspiring in the break-up of Iraq and selling its oil cheap, perhaps to overcome buyer resistance to purchasing oil whose ownership is disputed by Baghdad.
“At a time of great tension for Iraq, such shoddy reporting, analysis and editorializing seems calculated to cause further division and mistrust, and could also harm the financial interests of the KRG and Iraq,” the MNR said in the statement.
It said the KRG would never consider exporting and selling Iraq’s natural resources at half price, either now or in the future. The KRG sold oil through the pipeline to Ceyhan on an international commercial market basis, it added.
Despite blackmail and threats by Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) and the oil ministry in Baghdad, the KRG had been able to deliver oil to its customers under commercially viable contracts, the statement said. All payments were being made into the KRG’s account in Turkey.
The statement reiterated the KRG position that direct sales of Kurdish oil are legal, constitutional, and fall within the Kurdistan region’s 17 per cent entitlement of the federal Iraqi budget.
The ministry complained that Bloomberg had made no attempt to contact KRG officials for comment or verification of its report. The story had used quotes and language in such a way as to accuse the KRG and Turkey of trying to break up Iraq and steal Iraq’s money.
The statement reiterated a commitment, made in London this week by natural resources minister Ashti Hawrami, that the KRG remained open to dialogue with Baghdad to resolve all outstanding issues on oil and gas within the framework of the constitution.
Hawrami told the Iraq Petroleum Conference in London that the first two consignments of Kurdish oil shipped from Ceyhan had been sold and that two more tankers were being loaded week.
The minister said current Kurdish exports were at 125,000 barrels per day, a figure that would double by July and reach 400,000 bpd by the end of the year. He said the export policy would remain in place “until there’s agreement on 17 per cent or we get our own 17 per cent.”
“We are not going back to where Baghdad can use its red card anytime it wants to,” he declared.Bloomberg did not immediately respond to a Rudaw request to comment on the KRG complaint.
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