Iraqi Kurdistan gets new cabinet, without oil minister

Members of the Parliament of the Kurdistan region vote to nominate Masrour Barzani for Prime Minister of the Kurdistan region, in Erbil, Iraq July 10, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 10 July 2019

Iraqi Kurdistan gets new cabinet, without oil minister

  • Barzani was appointed premier nearly a month ago by his cousin Nechirvan Barzani

IRBIL: A new regional government came into power Wednesday in Iraqi Kurdistan, but the key post of oil minister remained unassigned and therefore de facto managed by new prime minister Masrour Barzani.
Barzani was appointed premier nearly a month ago by his cousin Nechirvan Barzani, who had served as prime minister for seven years before he was elected president in June.
Masrour Barzani is the son of veteran Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, who remains a crucial powerbroker in the autonomous region.
On Wednesday, 88 of the regional government’s 111-member body granted a vote of confidence to 21 new ministers.
Among them, the Barzani-led Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) was awarded nine ministerial posts.
In October 2017, the KDP spearheaded a controversial independence referendum that prompted Baghdad to reoccupy large swathes of Kurdish-held territory and led to Masoud’s resignation as president.
Nearly a year later, the party emerged victorious in regional parliamentary elections and has since cemented its control of key government posts, including the presidency, premiership and cabinet chief.
Its main rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), was awarded six ministers. Qubad Talabani, the son of PUK founder Jalal Talabani, will retain his post as deputy premier.
Four of the new ministers hail from the Goran (Change) Movement and one from the Kurdistan Socialist Party.
Based on a sectarian quota system, one post was also awarded to the region’s Christian minority.
But the ministry of natural resources — of which oil is the most important and lucrative — remains without an official head, making PM Barzani its de facto manager.
The regional government in Irbil is currently locked in a dispute over oil revenues with Iraq’s federal authorities, which insist that the KRG must hand over revenues from the 250,000 bpd it exports through the north.
In exchange, the KRG would receive a portion of the federal budget and Baghdad would pay the salaries of its employees.
The parties regularly accuse each other of failing to fulfil their obligations.
Observers have pointed out that Nechirvan Barzani’s ascent to the presidency could ease the ties between the two, but Masrour Barzani — who embodies the KDP’s more “nationalist” current — would adopt a harder line and be less willing to negotiate.
On Wednesday, PM Barzani said a delegation from Irbil would travel to Baghdad soon to strengthen ties.
Ministers would then tackle the profound financial crisis ravaging the Kurdish region’s economy in recent years.
“The government currently owes $14 billion in debts,” he said.


At least five Yemeni soldiers killed by Houthi missile in Marib military base

Updated 6 min 35 sec ago

At least five Yemeni soldiers killed by Houthi missile in Marib military base

  • Two senior officers were among those killed in the missile attack
  • The strike hit a Marib military base for the Arab coalition

RIYADH: Houthi militants fired a missile at the Arab coalition’s headquarters in the city of Marib on Wednesday during a visit by the Yemeni defense minister, killing seven Yemeni soldiers and injuring at least 12, local officials said.
The base, in Sahn Al-Gin district, is the main military facility overseeing a ground offensive aimed at recapturing the capital Sanaa, controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi militia since 2014, which lies 120 km (75 miles) to the west of Marib.
There was no immediate confirmation from the Arab coalition fighting to restore the legitimate Yemeni government and who have been battling the Houthis in Yemen for more than four years.
But Saudi-owned news channel Al Arabiya said a high-ranking official was among those killed.
Military sources told Al Arabiya that the “Iran-backed Houthi militia fired two missiles from Jabal Haylan, located about 70 km east of Sanaa.”
Mohammed Al-Maqdishi, the defense minister of Yemen’s internationally recognized government, and Saudi military officers were in the compound at the time, the officials said.
A military official, on condition of anonymity, said the Houthis carried out Wednesday’s attack.
The official told AFP the casualty toll was confirmed by a medic at Marib hospital and included two senior officers.
However, no group claimed responsibility for the attack.
The uptick in violence follows weeks of relative calm in the war between the internationally-recognized government and the Iran-backed Houthi militia.
Separately, Wadah Dobish, a spokesman for the government’s forces, says they repelled an attack by Houthi militants south of the key port city of Hodeida on Tuesday. Dobish says four Houthi fighters were killed.
Last week, Houthi forces fired missiles and drones at the Red Sea port city of Al-Mokha, killing eight people, among them four civilians, and damaging a hospital.
(With AP and Reuters)