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In Iraq, Combating Oil Corruption, Staving Off Fears of a Kurdish-Arab War

A round-up of the most important news out of Iraq.

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Visser writes:

After today’s official release by the Iraqi elections commission of the seat allocation in the new Iraqi provincial councils elected on 31 January, the process of forming new coalitions can begin in earnest. …

The new councils will meet within 15 days to elect their new officials, and new coalitions will have to be formed in this period. Precisely because of the relatively homogenous political map now after the seat allocation, the ongoing negotiations among party elites in Baghdad could have enormous significance.

Allies of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will take control of the southern oil hub of Basra after winning 20 out of 36 provincial council seats in local elections last month, Khalid al-Ansary reports for Reuters. Six of the seats allocated to Maliki’s State of Law coalition were assigned to women, Usama al-Ani, deputy head of the independent electoral commission, told a news conference.

Following the poor performance of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) – also known as the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) — in recent parliamentary elections, Sa’ad Salloum of Niqash sat down with Adel Abdul-Mahdi, Vice-President of Iraq and a leading SIIC member, to discuss the election and the SIIC response.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s growing post-election strength means opponents – and once allies – the Kurdistan Alliance and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq parties are looking at ways to limit his power, if not see him removed from his post, Ma’ad Fayad reports for Asharq Alawsat.

Kuwait’s deputy prime minister will go to Iraq in March in what will be the first high-level visit of a Kuwaiti official since Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of the tiny Gulf state, Aseel Kami reports for Reuters.

President Jalal Talabani agreed last Tuesday to share power within his Kurdish party to avoid a split which would have weakened the group ahead of polls in northern Iraq. Agence France-Presse reports Talabani, who is chief of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), “accepted the demands of the five leaders who submitted their resignations, so as to prevent them leaving the party.” Kosrat Rassoul, who is vice president of the Kurdistan regional government in northern Iraq, said he was resigning along with four members of the political office. Efforts to fight corruption and improve democracy in both the regional government and the PUK were among the issues in dispute.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, met Iraqi leaders and boosted economic links during a surprise visit, as a key opponent of the US-led invasion joined rebuilding efforts, Agence-France Presse reports.

On the heels of a strong showing for his political party in recent provincial elections, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki is reaching out to industrialized nations in an effort to help turn around his war-torn nation, Trenton Daniel reports for McClatchy Newspapers. ”Iraq needs construction. Iraq needs investment. Iraq needs infrastructure,” said Maliki’s close advisor, Sadiq al Rikabi, who added that another high-ranking European official would arrive in the coming days. “We need to deal with industrialized nations to rebuild Iraq.”

Steinmeier, on the first visit to Baghdad by a German foreign minister in two decades, held talks with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari.

Before heading home, Steinmeier stopped in the KRG to officially open a consulate there. “We are very pleased by this historic visit and invite Germany to participate in rebuilding the Region,” KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said at the ceremony.

Of course, Germany has already been represented in Iraq’s Kurdish region: