Baghdad Reprimands Kurds for Halting Oil Production and Allowing Fugitive VP to Leave Country

Tensions between the Kurdish Regional Government and Baghdad were heightened today after the Kurds halted foreign oil exports and allowed the fugitive vice president to leave the country. At least five Iraqis were killed and four more were wounded in unrelated violence.

Officials in Iraqi Kurdistan have reluctantly halted oil exports in a quarrel that threatens to significantly increase tensions between the federal government and that of the semi-autonomous region. The Kurds accuse Baghdad of neglecting to pay $1.5 billion in oil revenues owed in a sharing deal.

Hussein al-Shahristani, who is deputy prime minister for energy affairs and a former oil minister, ridiculed the threat, saying that Kurdistan derives more money from the sharing deal than they would receive selling their oil outright. He also complained that they had already been shorting the allotment of oil promised. The Kurds, however, have complained of missing oil that has been lost through Iraq’s corrupt oil ministry.

It is not the only squabble between the two oil producers. The Kurds want to sell their own oil on the open market with having to go through Baghdad. The federal government has not only resisted this, it has punished foreign companies who try to deal with the Kurds directly. There is also the problem of oil-generating fields in traditionally Kurdish areas, particularly Kirkuk, not yet folded into the semi-autonomous region. The Kurds want those areas back, but Baghdad has prevented any implementation of a constitutional law that could forward the Kurdish agenda.

The Kurdish government was also reprimanded for allowing Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi to leave Iraqi soil for an official trip to Qatar and other unnamed nations. Hashemi has been residing in Kurdistan to avoid capture on an arrest warrant. Thanks to separate security forces, Baghdad is unable to touch him there. Last December, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused his political rival of aiding terrorists. It is a claim Hashemi denies and says is politically motivated. Hashemi is the top Sunni politician in Iraq.

Baghdad says Hashemi’s departure is in direct violation of the law and called on international forces to apprehend Hashemi for the federal government. It is unlikely that will happen as Qatar and other predominantly Sunni nations are uneasy with Iraq’s close ties to Shi’ite Iran and the marginalization of Sunnis within Iraq itself. During the recent Arab League summit in Baghdad, many of these same nations sent lower level diplomats as an outright snub to Maliki and his government. Iraqi politicians warned these foreign governments against interference in internal Iraqi affairs.

The prime minister ordered a significant change to security procedures, particularly those in Baghdad. Many security checkpoints and barriers will be removed, while inspections at those remaining checkpoints will be more thorough.

There were few reports of violence over the weekend, but at least five Iraqis were killed and four more were wounded in new attacks.

In Mosul, four people were arrested after they led police to a body. Militants stormed a home and killed an elderly woman. Gunmen killed a Shabaki principal, when they stormed his school. A soldier was also shot to death.

A woman’s decapitated body was found in Mushairifa.

A bomb planted near an office for members of parliament left three wounded in Baquba. At least two of them were guards.

A bomb wounded a Sahwa member in Iskandariya.

Two bombs exploded and damaged cars in Khamisiya.

Author: Margaret Griffis

Margaret Griffis is a journalist from Miami Beach, Florida and has been covering Iraqi casualties for since 2006.