US, Qatar sign deal on combating terror financing

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Qatar's foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani (R) and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson exchange a memorandum of understanding in Doha, Qatar, July 11, 2017. (Reuters)
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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meeting with Qatar's Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. (AFP)
Updated 12 July 2017

US, Qatar sign deal on combating terror financing

JEDDAH: The US and Qatar on Tuesday signed an agreement aimed at combating the financing of terrorism.
The signing of the pact, during a visit to Doha by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, comes after the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ) — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt — last month imposed sanctions on Qatar for financing extremist groups.
Tillerson said the agreement signed with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani followed intensive discussions.
“The agreement which we both have signed on behalf of our governments represents weeks of intensive discussions between experts and reinvigorates the spirit of the Riyadh summit,” Tillerson said at a joint news conference with Sheikh Mohammed.
“The memorandum lays out a series of steps that each country will take in coming months and years to interrupt and disable terror financing flows and intensify counterterrorism activities globally,” said Tillerson.
Tillerson said the agreement includes milestones to ensure both countries are accountable through their commitments.
“Together the United States and Qatar will do more to track down funding sources, will do more to collaborate and share information and will do more to keep the region ... safe,” Tillerson said.
Fahad Nazer, a political analyst based in Washington, wondered why it took so long for Qatar to agree to stop financing terror.
He told Arab News: “The memorandum of understanding between the US and Qatar could potentially be a positive development, but it really begs a legitimate question: What took Qatar so long? Saudi Arabia and most other (Gulf Cooperation Council) states have long resolved to take similar measures, and have indeed taken concrete steps to cut off financing of extremist groups and organizations. Some of these measures were implemented 10 years ago and even earlier. In some ways, the agreement raises more questions than it answers.”
Perry Cammack, fellow, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the symbolism of the US-Qatar memorandum of understanding on terrorist financing is more important than the content.
"By sidestepping direct reference to the list of Saudi and Emirati demands, the agreement allows Qatar to implicitly acknowledge its willingness to increase its efforts against terrorist financing, while establishing the United States as a mediator in the conflict," said Cammack.

"It remains to be seen, though, whether this agreement can be a bridge to a broader GCC political settlement, since both sides are deeply entrenched in their positions," he added.
Dr. Theodore Karasik, senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics, told Arab News: “The agreement helps tone down the acrimony between the two sides and gives Tillerson’s shuttle diplomacy a chance. This is a possible first step, but the bigger picture remains the same for Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain — Qatar must change.”
For its part, the ATQ issued a joint-statement saying the four countries value US efforts. However, the quartet made it clear that this step is not enough and that Qatari “seriousness in combating all forms of financing, supporting and harboring terror” will be closely monitored.
Tillerson is expected in Jeddah on Wednesday for talks with the foreign ministers of the Anti-Terror Quartet.

Kurdish party nominates Iraqi veteran Barham Salih for next president

Updated 20 September 2018

Kurdish party nominates Iraqi veteran Barham Salih for next president

  • Iraq’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the ruling Kurdish parties, selected Salih to take over from Fuad Masum
  • The nomination and election of the president is the second step in the process of forming a government

BAGHDAD: Veteran Kurdish leader Barham Salih has been nominated to be the president of Iraq.

Iraq’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the ruling Kurdish parties, selected Salih to take over from Fuad Masum, Kurdish leaders told Arab News on Wednesday.

The nomination and election of the president is the second step in the process of forming a government.

The elected president will then assign the candidate of the largest bloc to the post of prime minister, to form a government.

The rival Shiite-led blocs on Tuesday agreed to nominate Adel Abdul Mahdi, the former vice president, for the post of prime minister.

An initial deal was made by the two heads of the factions to dedicate the parliament session on Sept. 25 to elect the president and assign the nominated prime minister to form a government, negotiators told Arab News.

Salih, who was born in Sulaymaniyah in 1960, is a graduate of American universities and holds a PhD in statistics and data. He headed the Kurdistan Regional Government in 2001, and was one of the deputies of the federal government in 2006. He occupied many ministerial posts in Baghdad and Erbil in the last 15 years. 

“Barham is the sole nominee for the post of president,” Sa’adi Berah, the  PUK spokesman said on Wednesday. “PUK leaders have voted today on this decision after he (Barham) accepted all the conditions of the PUK.”

The relationship between Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region dominated by the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (DPK), the second ruling Kurdish party, has faltered since September last year when the Kurdistan regional government held an independence referendum.

Baghdad responded by launching a military campaign to push Kurdish forces out of disputed areas they had taken control of in the preceding years. This included the city of Kirkuk - one of Iraq’s main oil producing regions.

Salih, a secular politician, is a moderate and acceptable figure to all political parties and can play an active role in dismantling both the crisis between the Kurdish region and Baghdad, and disputes between the Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish political parties inside the Iraqi capital, Shiite negotiators said.

The backing of the Shiite and Sunni parliamentary blocs in Baghdad for Salih’s nomination is crucial to him winning the post as the president needs two thirds of the votes of the 329 members of parliament to be approved.

“Initially we are happy to back Barham for the post as he is calm, pragmatic and has no problems with Arabs,” a key Shiite negotiator told Arab News.

“We are waiting for them (PUK and DPK) to conclude their decision and officially present his name for us, then we can discuss the other details.”

The US envoy to Iraq and Syria, Brett McGurk, played a key role in restoring Salih to the PUK, which he had split  from in 2017 to form his own coalition. 

McGurk met with Hero Khan, secretary-general of the PUK and wife of the late Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, several times last week at her residence in Sulaymaniyah. 

Khan and her two sons have dominated the leadership council of the PUK since 2013 after Talabani fell ill. McGurk’s efforts were rewarded on Wednesday as Salih won 26 votes of the 40-member PUK leadership council, sources told Arab News.

The post of Iraq’s president falls to the Kurds as part of a power-sharing agreement adopted by Iraqi political forces after 2003. 

Salih's candidacy must first be approved by the DPK.

“We have no objection to Barham's nomination for this post. The DPK does not look for this position,” Reibein Salam, a DPK leader told reporters.

“But we have made many concessions in favor of the Kurdish interest and we have to get something in return.

“We want the position of governor of Kirkuk in return. It is not reasonable that PUK gets both posts.”