Iraqi premier calls election, bans armed factions from contesting

Iraqi forces and Popular Mobilization Forces advance toward the city of Al-Qaim as they fight against Daesh on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 02 November 2017
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Iraqi premier calls election, bans armed factions from contesting

BAGHDAD: Iraq will hold a parliamentary election on May 15 next year and political parties with armed wings will not be allowed to take part, Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said on Wednesday.
“The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), as a part of the Iraqi security system, have no right to practice politics,” Al-Abadi said. “So, as a military institution, they will not participate in the election. Political parties should give up their armed wings, or they will be prevented from taking part.”
The PMF is a government body established in June 2014 to cover all the armed factions fighting Daesh alongside the Iraqi government. It consists of more than 10,000 volunteers from all Iraqi sects, ethnicities and minorities, but its majority is Shiite and Iranian-backed Shiite paramilitary forces form its backbone. Al-Abadi’s announcement is aimed at isolating these troops from their original armed factions.
The prime minister began a campaign some months ago to restructure the PMF units, merge many of them with the regular army units, dissolve many battalions and form new brigades of fighters from different armed factions, prevent the use of the names of irregular factions, and prohibit the use of any militia marks, banners or pictures.
However, most registered Shiite, Sunni, Kurd, Turkmen, Christian and Yazidi political parties in Iraq have armed wings, and most of them are a part of the PMF.
Al-Abadi’s announcement will have an effect on those parties.
“Practically all the political parties have volunteers within the Popular Mobilization. It is not fair to punish the politicians who fought Daesh,” Kareem Al-Nuri, a PMF commander and a senior leader of the Badr Organization, one of the most influential Shiite armed factions, told Arab News.
“Yes, the participation of the security or military officials under their official title is prohibited in the constitution, but if they resign or participate as politicians, there will be no problem.
“But the PMF is a part of the Iraqi security forces. Its fighters submit to military laws and standards. And yes, they will not participate the election as they are soldiers.”
The decision on the election date needs to be approved by Parliament and the president at least 90 days in advance before it can be confirmed. Iraq has 18 parliamentary constituencies, each electing between seven and 34 deputies according to demographics.
The last election took place in April 2014, when the State of Law alliance of former Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki won most of the votes but fell short of an overall majority. Al-Maliki ceded power to Al-Abadi that August.
On the ground on Wednesday, federal officers accused the Kurdistan Regional Government of reneging on agreements with Baghdad to hand over border crossings. They warned that fighting may resume unless the Kurds reconsidered their position.


Haftar hands captured Libyan oil terminals to eastern administration

Updated 4 min 19 sec ago
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Haftar hands captured Libyan oil terminals to eastern administration

  • Libyan National Army says it had regained “full control” of oil crescent.
  • Haftar supports administration in the east that opposes government in Tripoli.

BENGHAZI: Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar will transfer control of oil ports recently recaptured by his forces to the administration in eastern Libya he supports, a spokesman for the field marshal said Monday.
Haftar’s announcement came just hours after his Libyan National Army said it had regained “full control” of the country’s oil crescent after driving a rival militia out of the area.
“All the oil installations controlled by (Haftar’s) Libyan National Army are being handed over to the National Oil Corporation dependent on the provisional eastern government and that is headed by Faraj Al-Hassi,” spokesman Ahmad Al-Mesmari said.
Haftar supports an administration based in Libya’s east that opposes the internationally recognized government in Tripoli.
The LNA already announced last Thursday that it had recaptured the Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra terminals, a week after they were seized by armed groups led by militia leader Ibrahim Jadhran, although military operations in the area were unfinished.
Jadhran’s Petroleum Facilities Guard controlled the two key oil ports for years following the 2011 NATO-backed removal of Muammar Qaddafi — but they were eventually forced out by the LNA in September 2016.
The spokesman Mesmari said oil revenues from the four terminals now under LNA control would be handled by the administration in the east supported by Haftar.
Haftar made the decision after realizing “rival armed groups are financed by oil revenues secured by the LNA,” Mesmari said, referring to Jadhran’s forces.
Up until now, the terminals have been managed by the National Oil Company tied to Libya’s internationally recognized government based in Tripoli.
The NOC is chaired by Mustafa Sanalla, who represented Libya last week at an OPEC meeting in Vienna.
Clashes between Jadhran’s forces and the LNA in the oil crescent pushed the NOC on June 14 to suspend exports from terminals in the area, warning of billions of dollars in losses.
After visiting the Ras Lanuf terminal on Sunday, the NOC said violence had slashed oil production by almost half and cost billions of dollars in losses.
Libya’s economy relies heavily on oil, with production at 1.6 million barrels per day under Qaddafi.
The uprising that led Qaddafi’s demise saw production fall to about 20 percent of that level, before recovering to more than one million barrels per day by the end of 2017.