Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 30
July 16, 2012-July 20, 2012
Rebels Take Over Syrian Border Checkpoints
A day following the suicide attack that killed the Syrian Defense Minister and President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law on Wednesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki created a committee to help evacuate Iraqis in Syria, and tasked Transportation Minister Hadi al-Amiri to head the effort. According to Captain Saad al-Khafaji of Iraqi Airways, his government had run eight flights as of Friday morning and evacuated 750 of its citizens from Syria. Thousands of Iraqis have reportedly already crossed into Iraq from the Syrian border.
“All the border points between Iraq and Syria are under the control of the Free Syrian Army,” said Iraqi Deputy Interior Minister Adnan al-Asadi on Thursday. Asadi said that border guards had witnessed the Free Syrian Army take control of a border post as the rebel fighters cut off the arms and legs of a Syrian Army lieutenant colonel. “Then they executed 22 Syrian soldiers in front of the eyes of Iraqi soldiers.”
Tony Blinken, the National Security Advisor to Vice President Joseph Biden, traveled to Iraq this week and met with Maliki and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi. Blinken reportedly warned his Iraqi hosts about the possible spillover from the Syrian conflict, stressing the need to resolve the ongoing political disputes in Iraq and pushing for the formation of a new electoral commission.
Obama Responds To Maliki’s Inquiry On Exxon
The White House delivered its response to Maliki’s inquiry on the U.S. position toward the Exxon Mobil contracts in northern Iraq. Last month, President Barack Obama received a letter from Maliki requesting that the U.S. to prevent the oil giant from continuing its operations in the Kurdish Region without Baghdad’s approval. “We would like to confirm that the letter was positive,” read a statement issued by the prime minister’s office, “and stresses its respect for the constitution and Iraqi laws.” The statement continued, saying that Baghdad “will take all necessary measures in applying the law and will not allow the company to implement these contracts.”
Last fall, Exxon Mobil signed an oil exploration agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which the central government in Baghdad argues is illegal. Two of the six blocks contracted are located in territories that are disputed by the KRG in Arbil and the central government in Baghdad. “Maliki views these deals as representing a very dangerous initiative that may lead to the outbreak of wars” and “breaking up the unity of Iraq,” said the prime minister’s media advisor Ali Musawi on the KRG oil contracts last month.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior administration official stated, “We advise American energy companies doing business in Iraq to consider the legal risks involved in signing deals with a region, against Baghdad’s wishes, and are concerned that such deals could be destabilizing.”