Middle East Miscellany

by Michael Rubin

Turks say U.S., Israel are their top enemies: Some 43 percent of Turks perceive the United States as the biggest threat to Turkey, followed by Israel with 24 percent. Three percent of the Turks saw Iran as the greatest threat, 2.3 percent identified Greece, 2.1 percent said Iraq, and 1.7 percent said Russia.   

Guns Easier to Get in United States than Iraq?: So says Qubad Talabani, the representative of the Iraqi Kurdish government to the United States.

An Important Victory for Journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan: Nechervan Barzani, deputy head of his uncle’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), has announced that the KDP will lift its lawsuits against independent journalists. For the past year, Masud Barzani — using a Baath Party law passed initially by Saddam Hussein — had leveled exorbitant fines against journalists, editors, and newspapers which had criticized nepotism, corruption, and abuse of power in his region. Two journalists have been murdered after writing critically, most recently Sardasht Osman, who was apparently kidnapped by the security forces run by Masud Barzani’s son, Masrour.  There remain protests over Barzani’s attempts to ban all but government-approved demonstrations.

A Bad Sign on Corruption: Iraqi gossip circles remain busy with a story that emerged in the Arabic press in December about a fight in Dubai between the entourages of Qubad Talabani, son of Iraq’s president, and Ahmad Nuri Maliki, son of Iraq’s prime minister. Police were called. The fight reportedly involved competing personal bids between the two for a $70 million luxury hotel in the United Arab Emirates. It’s worth treating the Iraqi press with a bit of caution. If the story is not accurate, it nevertheless reflects the distrust Iraqis have toward their political class, where it is just assumed both leaders’ sons have tens of millions to invest. Then again, they have the money to invest: Iraqi Kurdish political figures say the “signing bonuses” on the Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil contracts have netted at least $2 billion for the two families which dominate that region. Only five people have seen those contracts: Masud Barzani, Nechervan Barzani, Jalal Talabani, Ashti Hawramany, and Barham Salih. The Kurdish government refuses to publish the full terms of its oil contracts.

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