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IRAQ - Barham Saleh.

A Kurdish Deputy PM in charge of the economy including the petroleum sector since May 2006, Saleh is a civil engineer and comes from a wealthy Kurdish family of Suleimaniya. He graduated from a university in the US, where he was head of the Union of Kurdish Students in America. Before becoming deputy PM he was minister of planning in Dr. Ja'fari's government.

Before the 2003 US invasion, Saleh was prime minister of Eastern Kurdistan. He was credited for having developed the city of Suleimaniya, capital of Eastern Kurdistan, and for having helped modernise the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). PUK leader and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani regards Saleh as a son. It is widely said that Saleh will be Talabani's successor. Saleh has been a long-standing friend of Qubad Talabani, son of the Iraqi president and the Kurdistan Regional Government`s representative to the US.

The PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Mas'oud Barzani have merged and their territories have been unified under the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), with Arbil being its capital. Barzani is the president of Kurdistan, and the KRG Prime Minister is Najirvan Barzani, a nephew of Mas'oud Barzani. Najirvan is the son of the late Idris Barzani. The father of Mas'oud, Idris and other brothers was the late Mulla Mustafa Barzani, the founder of the KDP and the historic leader of Kirdish nationalism (see background in gmt20IraqWhoMay16-05). The KRG territory is rich in petroleum and is about to produce crude oil (see omt21IraqwhoMay21-07).

Mahmoud Al-Mashhadani: The Speaker of the House of Representatives since the spring of 2006, Mashhadani is a Sunni Arab with a controversial Ba'thist background. He built up a career as a psychologist with Saddam's Sunni/Ba'thist armed forces.

Mashhadani also had a violent past. He was once an associate of Hajji Sa'doun Abdul-Razzaq al-Ubaidi, the founder of Ansar al-Islam, one of the Neo-Salafi groups now killing many Shi'ites across the northern half of Iraq. Ubaidi's current nom de guerre is Abu Umar al-Baghdadi, the "Caliph of Iraq" (see below).

Reminding people of his violent past, Mashhadani recently slapped one of the MPs in parliament. On May 15, Mashhadani said the committee in charge of reviewing Iraq's constitution had asked for a week-long extension to complete its work - an indication that the legislature was having difficulty meeting self-imposed deadlines set in May.

Mashhadani said he had been informed that the "the Constitutional Amendments Committee had reached some results and finished a lot of issues in dispute but other issues [were] still under research". A statement from the speaker's office said the committee, which had been scheduled to present its recommendations on May 15, was now planning to present its report on May 21. But in Iraqi politics one postponement of key decisions is frequently followed by many more.

Politicians then said that the Sunni, Shi'ite, and Kurdish MPs on the committee had been unable to reach agreement on the status of Kirkuk, a disputed province which the Kurds say should be the subject of a referendum later this year on joining the KRG's zone. Many Sunni and Shi'ite Arabs as well as ethnic Turkomans living in the province say they do not want to join KRG region, but Kurdish leaders insist the timetable on the referendum to determine Kurdistan's status, endorsed by the constitution, must move forward.

Sunnis also want Iraq described as an Arab country, and have questioned federalism which they fear will leave their heartland starved of resources. The constitutional review, along with the petroleum law and a rollback of the purge of former Ba'th Party members from public life, is part of a "national reconciliation" package the US hopes will reduce tensions between the Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs. The Americans have said they will take this progress into consideration when they weigh in September whether the surge in US troops into Iraq has been able to stabilise the country.

US Ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker is to meet Iran's envoy Hassan Kazemi-Qomi on May 28. Crocker, one of a few US diplomats to have served in Iran before the 1979 revolution, is well regarded by some Iranians and seen as less ideological than his predecessor, Zalmay Khalilzad who now is the US ambassador to the UN. But Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei on May 17 said Iran had only agreed to "face-to-face" talks with the US so it could "remind the US of its responsibilities...regarding security", and to "give them an ultimatum... The talks will only be about the responsibilities of the occupiers in Iraq... They think hat the Islamic Republic has changed its firm, logical, and defendable policy in rejecting negotiation with the US. They are wrong... How is it possible to negotiate with the arrogant, bullying, expansionist, and colonialist government of the US?"

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on May 18 told the World Economic Forum in Jordan the only way to deal with the Iraq issue was for the US to admit its role was illegitimate and withdraw from Iraq and the Gulf, leaving security to Iraq's neighbours.
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Publication:APS Review Gas Market Trends
Date:May 21, 2007
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Previous Article:IRAQ - Salam Al-Zowba'I.
Next Article:IRAQ - Abu Umar Al-Baghdadi, Abu Ayub Al-Masri & Their Caliphate.


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