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Zig’s Place Chat and News Tuesday PM 4-13-21

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Butterfly   Iraq, however, has not only leaned on the strength of its regional bilateral relations. The country is in discussions with French oil major Total for a massive $7bn investment to develop oil and gas fields, cap flaring of gas as well as produce one gigawatt of solar energy, which will be a first for the fossil fuel-reliant state.

The agreement with Total is likely to be concluded “before July”, Iraq’s oil minister Ihsan Ismael told Asharq News in March.  Baghdad could tap into French export credit agency Bpifrance, providing a guarantee for banks, as well as enter into potential pre-paid oil sales agreement to finance such a massive deal, said an informed financial analyst, who did not wish to be named.

Iraq’s credit rating was “significantly higher” than the lowest investment grade awarded by ratings agencies, he added. The country was “punching above its weight” and needed to implement significant institutional changes as detailed in the seminal white paper on economic reform submitted to parliament last year.

“The public sector wage bill continues to increase. They’re hiring up to 200,000 more people. The budget was passed with about $20bn in deficit,” he added.

Earlier this month, the Iraqi parliament approved a budget of $89.65bn for 2021, with an estimated deficit of $19.79bn. The spending was calculated on the basis of a $45 per barrel oil price with expected exports of 3.26 million bpd. The state will derive 97 per cent of its finance for the budget from the sale of oi

butterfly   The IMF expects the price of oil to be about $58.52 a barrel this year and $54.83 a barrel next year. The average price of oil was $41.29 a barrel last year.

Iraq exported nearly 3.4 million bpd in February, including oil sold through Ceyhan, but reduced its volumes considerably to 3.2 million bpd in March, according to Kpler data.

Give the regional support the country has received it is unlikely to violate its quota over the next three months as Opec+ plans to add 300,000 bpd in May and June and 450,000 bpd in July, Homayoun Falakshahi, an oil and gas equity analyst with Kpler, said.    Updated: April 13, 2021 08:03 PM

I J B  Mich. Lawsuit Shows Evidence Of Election Fraud, Electronic Vote Tampering – Michigan attorney Matthew DePerno filed a lawsuit, challenging voter fraud and electronic meddling with 2020 elections in his state.

“Our states give access to people to the qualified voter rolls,” DePerno explained. “We believe that the state of Michigan has given over 32 groups access to the qualified voter roll.”

The lawsuit, filed last week, is based off several forensic reports. These reports revealed thousands of ballots were illegally cast for Joe Biden and there was electronic manipulation of votes.

DePerno found more than 66,000 unregistered ballots were counted in nine Michigan counties.

butterfly   Parliament Speaker Muhammad al-Halbousi announced that the Progress Party, which he heads, will not run in the elections in the south and the Middle Euphrates.

Al-Halbousi said in a televised statement: “All Iraqis do not have confidence in the political process,” pointing out: “The Anbari citizen has more confidence, after Anbar became an ally of the state and supported the government.”

butterfly   The Ministry of Immigration and Displacement announced the closure of (90%) of the camps for the displaced, at the level of Iraq, out of (174) camps, and the return of (577) thousand displaced families to their original areas of residence.

A statement by the Ministry stated that during the last six months of last year (90%) of the camps were closed throughout Iraq, which contributed to the return of (66,671) families from the governorates of Salah al-Din, Nineveh, and Diyala, as well as the return of about a thousand displaced citizens from Iran and Turkey And Europe.

The statement added: “The number of remaining camps in the country is (28) camps, which will be closed this year as part of the national plan for the return of displaced persons launched by the ministry and approved by the Council of Ministers.”

The ministry indicated that it had distributed (3 million and 710 thousand) different shares of food, health, household and kitchen baskets, mattresses, blankets, etc. The amount of two billion dinars was spent as a grant for the returnees with the aim of encouraging the displaced to return voluntarily, while the total relief aid provided to the care categories reached (4 million and 200 thousand) a different share during the year 2020, with the distribution of (300) apartments in the Maysan complex for the displaced families in Governorate, distributing and installing (491) caravans to accommodate displaced and returning families whose homes have been destroyed, restoring more than (3000) homes in the governorates of Nineveh and Anbar in coordination with the International Organization for Migration, and opening (95) income-generating projects for returning families.

butterfly  The technical and engineering teams in the Kirkuk Roads and Bridges Directorate have completed the reconstruction of one of the most important bridges in the province, six years after it was destroyed by the terrorist ISIS.

Chief Engineer Qassem Hamza, Director of Roads and Bridges, said: “The Zghitoun Bridge, which connects Kirkuk to Tikrit, has been completely completed and will be opened within days, and it is one of the projects of the Reconstruction Fund for Areas Affected by Terrorist Operations.”

He added: “The complete reconstruction of the bridge that was destroyed by ISIS represents the return of life to the main road linking Kirkuk and Tikrit, and will contribute to the development of the agricultural and economic sector.”

butterfly   2021-04-13 07:50   Shafaq News / Agence Française de Développement (AFD), exhibited interest in establishing a branch in Iraq and finance government projects.

This came in a meeting between the Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, Mustafa Ghaleb Mukhif, and a delegation from the Agency.

A statement of the Central Bank of Iraq said that Mukhif emphasized the importance of international technical support to implement the financial and economic reforms presented in the reform Paper, proposing a meeting between the AFD and the private banking sector to define the area of cooperation.

According to the statement; The French Development Agency has expressed its desire to establish a branch in Iraq to increase cooperation, grant loans for the Iraqi government and its productive projects, and provide funding for the public and private sectors.

It is worth noting that the AFD is a public development finance institution that works to combat poverty and promote economic growth in developing countries.

butterfly   2021-04-13 13:32    Shafaq News/ Kurdistan’s President Nechirvan Barzani opened today Tuesday a four-part series of virtual discussions at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs on “The Kurds in the Middle East.”

The seminar, which focused on the status of the Kurdish question in the Middle East, was arranged by the organization Justice for Kurds, and was attended by friends and supporters of the people of Kurdistan in the United States, Britain and France.

The seminar took place concurrently with the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 688, which imposed the No Fly Zone following the Operation Provide Comfort in 1991. The historic UN resolution effectively protected the embattled people of Kurdistan and led to the establishment of the Kurdistan Region as a constitutional entity based on the federal system within Iraq.

President Barzani was highlighted the UN 688 resolution and its outcomes. The President also highlighted a broad vision for the Kurdistan Region’s bilateral relations with the neighboring countries, the international community and the status of the people of Kurdistan for now and in the future. The resolution of the problems, the future of Kurdistan Region’s relations with the federal Iraq, partnership and cooperation in order to secure peace and stability in Iraq and the wider region were underlined.

The following is the message from President Nechirvan Barzani:

Thank you to Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, with my friends: General Petraeus, Ambassador Ford, Emma Sky, Professor Levinsohn, Ted Wittenstein and Justice for Kurds, and its founders: Thomas Kaplan and Bernard-Henri Lévy, for having organized, this friendly exchange, with our American, British, and French friends.

This month, April 2021, is of major historic significance for the Kurds and for US-Kurdistan relations. It marks the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 and Operation Provide Comfort.

butterfly  The successful military-humanitarian intervention during which the US with France, the UK and other partners protected Iraqi Kurdistan. The operation rescued over a million of our people who were stuck at the border-mountains of Iran and Turkey. It provided a safe haven for our desperate people at that time. Many of whom died especially children and elderly due to hunger and exposure before aid arrived.

The forced no-fly zone over Kurdistan following this operation was critical to the establishment of the Kurdistan Region’s institutions and infrastructure. And in many ways today the existence of a stable peaceful and tolerant Kurdistan Region is a direct consequence of this intervention by the United States, France, Britain and other partners.

Since those April days of 1991 America has supported and stayed engaged with the Kurdistan Region most recently with the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Kurdistan is and strives to continue to be an island of peace, stability and coexistence in the troubled Middle East. We are for a mutually beneficial relationship with all our partners so that we are able to help ourselves and help others in need.

As we recognize the vital importance of helping vulnerable communities fleeing violence. The Syrian Civil War and the invasion of ISIS provoked multiple waves of displacement. At one point, our population had increased by almost 30% with nearly two million IDPs and refugees from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Yes, the people of Kurdistan do share your values and are ready to contribute positively. We have shed blood to defend life and freedom against the forces of evil. As the leader of the free world it is in the interest of the US to look beyond its border. We are pleased to see the Biden administration’s renewed engagement globally.

We welcome the US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue. It is a strong commitment and an important step towards a balanced relationship.

butterfly   We don’t expect the US to fight our wars; however, we do expect the US to remain engaged with us in Iraq to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS.

To achieve this objective, we need the continued commitment of the US and, its coalition partners to help our brave Peshmerga and the Iraqi Security Forces to win the war.

The establishment of the No-Fly-Zone, 30 years ago, gave us the hope and the space to set the foundations for the Kurdistan Region today as a stable and peaceful part of Iraq and a reliable ally of the US and the international community.

To consolidate this achievement, we need to maintain a long-term partnership. With your help, we were able to turn Kurdistan Region into a success story in the Middle East. With your continued engagement and support we can and will transform Kurdistan Region into a more peaceful, stable and prosperous place, which is in our mutual interest. We are and will remain committed to peace, stability, good governance and reform.

My dear friends, in America:

Our friendship and partnership were made in the mountains of Kurdistan Region in 1991, let us continue together to defend our common values and principles of dignity and openness. Let us strive to build together a more peaceful, just, free and secure world.

butterfly  2021-04-13 15:05   Shafaq News/ AT A FEB. 2021 meeting of the Munich Security Council, President Joe Biden proclaimed, “America is back.” The question is: America is back “to do what?”

For Iranians, the question is especially salient. “America is back” should mean respect for Iran’s sovereignty and an end to the fear mongering of past decades. Additionally, President Biden should clearly affirm what American and Israeli intelligence agencies have been saying for years—that Iran has never wanted to build a bomb and has never been a threat to the United States, Israel or its regional neighbors.

America’s “big stick” policies have not achieved the regime change many in the Washington establishment have been hoping for. Unfortunately, few among them question the efficacy, let alone the morality, of U.S. foreign policy toward Iran. What right, for example, does the United States have to overthrow governments, dictate, threaten, and assassinate leaders, bomb, invade, and destroy lives and eco-systems in a region it knows only in terms of the energy resources it provides?

America’s forever-sanctions-war has taken its toll on Iran, but it has not produced the changes Washington has desired. A major reason is that, unlike other countries in the Middle East, Iran is not the product of British or French colonial plans or a military coup. It is one of the world’s oldest, proudest and abiding civilizations, which has endured all manner of attack over its 7,000-year history.

To remedy its foreign policy failures, Washington must take account of its own history with and failed policies toward Iran and reevaluate its current alliances and strategic partnerships in the Middle East.

butterfly  Such an accounting would reveal that U.S. interests have been poorly served by U.S. animus toward Iran, and that America has more in common with Iran than with most countries in Southwest Asia. Because of its regional stature, Iran could provide Washington with the meaningful assistance it needs in tackling its difficult impasses in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and in Palestine-Israel, as it did by providing valuable assistance on al-Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The ideals of Iran’s 1979 revolution have yet to be realized. The Islamic Republic has been under continued attack since its inception and yet it has survived despite all obstacles the U.S. and its allies in the region have thrown its way. After millennia of monarchy, Iran has formed a republic with a written constitution and regularly held parliamentary and presidential elections. Iran’s government is unprecedented in the Islamic world.

The Biden administration has thus far displayed the same imperial attitude and lack of historical insight that has brought about America’s disastrous history with Iran; a history that first derailed with an ill-fated decision in 1953, and continues to haunt both countries to this day.

With British urging, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. It set the stage for Washington’s future acts of trickery and malign behavior and for Iran’s continuing mistrust of the United States.

butterfly  With the defeat of Mossadegh’s democratic government, CIA coup plotter, Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., reported to Washington that the shah had been “safely installed” back on the Peacock Throne. Before leaving Tehran, Roosevelt met with the shah. Raising his glass in a toast to Roosevelt, the shah remarked, “I owe my throne to God, my people, my army—and to you!”

The prime minister was arrested and hauled before a military tribunal. There he uttered the words that resonated with Iranians then and now: “I have had only one objective, and that was for the people of Iran to control their own destiny and for the fate of the nation to be determined by nothing other than the will of the people…” He continued, “I am well aware that my fate must serve as an example in the future throughout the Middle East in breaking the chains of slavery and servitude to colonial interests.”

The shah loyally executed U.S. interests until 1979 when millions of Iranians brought down “America’s shah” to, in Mossadegh’s words, control their own destiny.

The 1979 Iranian Revolution—the most consequential of the 20th century—inspired hope for political transformation and has changed the balance of power in the region.

One of Washington’s greatest fears was the power of the ideology born of the revolution, particularly through the messages of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founding father of the Islamic Republic. His calls for Shi’a-Sunni unity with entreaties such as, “The Muslims must be a united, single fist, none can rise up against them,” echoed across the Islamic world, much to the consternation of Arab dictators in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The political and economic power of a unified Middle East, inherent in the Ayatollah’s rhetoric, much like Mossadegh’s 26 years earlier, was not lost on the United States.

butterfly  America’s intense anti-Iran policy, already on the rise after the revolution, intensified with the seizure, by Iranian students, of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the taking of 52 American hostages from November 1979 to January 1981.

The Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) further deepened Iran’s distrust of the United States. Although Iraq started the war, President Ronald Reagan decided that it would be in America’s interests to help Saddam Hussain defeat Iran. The U.S. provided financial and military assistance to the Iraqi regime, including dual-use technology that allowed Iraq to make chemical weapons.

Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers was met with a muted response from Washington. Although Saddam was using chemical weapons against Iranian forces and civilians, Ayatollah Khomeini specifically prohibited the production or use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

In March 1984, the U.S. State Department issued the following statement:

“While condemning Iraq’s chemical weapons use…The United States finds the present Iranian regime’s intransigent refusal to deviate from its avowed objective of eliminating the legitimate government of neighboring Iraq to be inconsistent with the accepted norms of behavior among nations….” The statement was more condemnatory of Iran than Iraq. However, by 1991, Iraq had lost favor with Washington after Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait.

Containing Iran and Iraq became the official policy of President Bill Clinton. Using Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, Clinton’s “dual containment” policy objective was to isolate both countries politically, economically and militarily. It was a policy underwritten and supported by Israel and its lobby groups, including the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a think tank funded by AIPAC and its supporters.

butterfly  To garner international support for harsher additional sanctions, the U.S. and Israel accused Tehran of sponsoring terrorism, pursuing nuclear weapons and of being a “rogue state”—a narrative that has become uncontested doctrine.

Washington’s efforts to destabilize Iran have been ongoing. The U.S. Congress authorized millions of dollars for covert operations in the Intelligence Authorization Act of 1996 and the Iran Freedom Support Act of 2006.

U.S. perfidy was clearly reflected in President George W. Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address when he included Iran among his “axis of evil” countries. The slight was particularly confounding to Iranians because they had been working with the U.S. to help establish an interim government in Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion of that country in October 2001.

In a 2003 proposal to Washington, which later came be known as the “grand bargain,” Iran offered to discuss several issues of concern to both countries, including willingness to accept full transparency of its nuclear program.

Iranians were stunned by Bush’s refusal to even reply to Tehran’s proposal. Instead, he launched an unprecedented financial war intended to drive Iran out of the global economy.

butterfly   RAPPROCHEMENT MOVES

In 2015, it seemed that rapprochement was finally possible. President Barack Obama had managed to conclude a nuclear agreement despite the relentless machinations of war zealots in Congress, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Although it had no nuclear weapons, Iran agreed to the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which included more restrictions and intrusive monitoring than other states with nuclear programs or weapons.

The JCPOA was the most important pact between the United States and Iran since 1979. But in 2018, entrenched U.S. anti-Iran institutional forces proved more powerful than the word of President Obama. Israel and its American supporters applauded President Donald Trump’s unceremonious withdrawal from the agreement and his efforts to bring the Iranian economy to its knees.

For over five years, the U.S. has been punishing Iran for a nuclear weapons program that does not exist.

Despite Trump’s 1,000 crippling sanctions, Tehran abided by the terms of the agreement. That changed in January 2020 when Trump ordered the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani. When he boasted about his murder and conspired with Israel to assassinate yet another nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in November 2020, Iran ramped up its uranium enrichment level to 20 percent, where it was before the accord.

Iranians believe that a double standard exists for them. The world, for example, continues to be outraged by the brutal murder, in 2018, of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on the orders of de facto Saudi ruler, Mohammad bin Salman.

butterfly   The U.S. murders of Soleimani and Fakhrizadeh did not prompt the same outrage, although both were in violation of international law and could be considered an act of war.

For over 40 years, the U.S. has used Iran as a foil to maintain its primacy in the Middle East. The country has been under constant attack because of its refusal to acquiesce to U.S.-Israeli plans for the region. This, not Iran’s nuclear program, is the actual reason for America’s hostility toward Iran.

Israel has successfully hyped Iran as a nuclear danger to the Jewish state. However, if Iran were to at-tack Israel using nuclear weapons, it would not only kill Israelis but the Palestinians Iran supports. It would also obliterate Jerusalem and other sites sacred to Islam and Iran. This would be an illogical and inconceivable act by the Islamic Republic.

Like all nations, Iran has a right to defend itself. U.S. provocations and threats from regional neighbors have forced it to pursue a defensive security posture. Although Tehran has not drawn on nuclear weapons for security, it may have to decide that nuclear weapons would be a safeguard from the “axis of evil” it confronts at its doorstep—the U.S., Israel and Gulf Arab regimes. Furthermore, Iran deserves a guarantee that if it reenters the JCPOA no change of government in Washington will abrogate it.

butterfly   America has spent enormous financial, political and military energy trying to eliminate the Islamic Republic, to no good end. Since it was President Trump who unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear agreement in 2018, the onus is on Washington to reenter it without preconditions. By reentering the JCPOA, President Biden could begin the process of undoing the damage that America’s adversarial policies have caused Iran over many decades.

The United States has yet to understand that if it wants to achieve any of its objectives in the region; it will need Iran as a strategic partner, not apartheid Israel or Arab strongmen. An equitable U.S.-Iran partnership could be the ballast America needs if it intends to play a more visionary role in the Middle East. Source: Washington Report for Middle East Affairs

butterfly   2021-04-13 09:21 Shafaq News/ The Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has dismissed Syria’s Central Bank Governor Hazem Karfoul, the state news agency (SANA) said on Tuesday.

Karfoul, assumed his position in 2018, holds a doctorate of financial and banking sciences.

It did not immediately say whether Assad had appointed a replacement or give a reason for Karfoul’s dismissal.

Syria’s economy has been decimated by the country’s decade-long conflict, and it also faces Western sanctions, but probably the dismissal is due to the collapse of the Syrian currency, which has lost more than 100 percent of its value since he took office.

Assad removed Imad Khamis as prime minister in June following weeks of economic hardship and a rare outbreak of anti-Assad protests in government-held areas, replacing him with Hussein Arnous.

The Syrian pound has been tumbling, driving up inflation and aggravating the hardship faced by Syrians as they struggle to afford food, power and other basics.

The currency has rebounded somewhat in recent weeks since hitting a low of 4,000 to the U.S. dollar in March after authorities’ tightened controls on bank withdrawals and internal transfers and restricted movement of cash around the country to stop hoarding of dollars. Reuters said.

Bankers and business people had told Reuters the Central Bank of Syria instructed banks to cap withdrawals at 2 million pounds ($572) from an earlier limit of 15 million pounds and acted to curb movement of cash within provinces to up to 5 million pounds. It also imposed a ceiling of up to one million pounds on transfers within government-held areas to reduce the demand for dollars.

The pound had traded at 47 to the dollar before protests against Assad’s rule erupted in March 2011.

Butterfly  Pay up: US tax dodgers are costing US $1 trillion, IRS says

The ballooning difference between the tax dollars Americans owe and the tax dollars actually collected by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has become a point of focus for US lawmakers who see more aggressive tax enforcement as a way to boost government revenue.

butterfly  The head of the IRS calculated that tax evasion in the U.S. may total $1 trillion a year, a figure that is multiples higher than previous estimates from the federal government.

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Chuck Rettig told a Senate panel Tuesday that previous tallies of the tax gap — which came to a cumulative amount of about $441 billion for the three years through 2013 — didn’t include some tax evasion-techniques that weren’t on their radar at the time.

butterfly   New estimates include the use of cryptocurrency, he said. Offshore tax evasion, illegal income that goes undetected by the IRS and underreporting from pass-through businesses also contribute to a larger than previously known tax gap, Rettig said.

“I think it would not be outlandish to believe that the actual tax gap could approach and possibly exceed $1 trillion per year,” Rettig told the Senate Finance Committee.

The ballooning difference between the tax dollars owed and what is actually collected by the IRS has become a point of focus on Capitol Hill, where a rising number of lawmakers are coming to see more aggressive tax enforcement as a way to boost government revenue.

butterfly Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden said the $1 trillion figure is “jaw dropping” and a “wake-up call” for lawmakers.

The Oregon Democrat said he’s already spoken with the committee’s top Republican, Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho, about bipartisan ways the address tax evasion.

Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, announced plans to introduce legislation to address crypto-currency users dodging taxes, and Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren said she is working on a bill that would direct mandatory funding to the IRS so that the agency’s budget for auditors wouldn’t fluctuate year-to-year.

butterfly  Enforcement Focus

President Joe Biden has proposed to strengthen corporate-tax enforcement as part of his proposal to pay for his $2.25 trillion, infrastructure-led spending plan. He also plans to outline individual-tax proposals in the coming weeks. Biden’s budget proposal last week also called for an additional $900 million for expanded audits.

Rettig said that an extra $1 billion for enforcement could let the IRS hire 4,875 front-line audit personnel and update computer systems to help identify fraud and tax evasion. He said rebuilding the agency’s auditing capability will be a multi-year process, after the IRS lost 17,000 enforcement-related employees in the past decade.

“We want to get there, but we do need your help,” Rettig said.

butterfly   Strengthening tax-reporting requirements and the regulations overseeing tax-return preparers would help the IRS stop fraud and close the tax gap, Rettig said. About 99% of taxes are paid to the IRS when there is automatic withholding and reporting to the agency, but only 45% of what’s owed gets paid when those are lacking, he said.

butterfly  Wealthy Evaders

Most individuals earn their income through wages, where taxes are automatically deducted from each paycheck. However, income from pass-through entities, such as partnerships and limited liability corporations isn’t subject to automatic withholding, giving the owners more opportunity to skirt tax obligations.

A study released last month, which included two IRS officials as authors, found that the richest 1% of Americans don’t report about 20% of their income to the government. Those individuals are able to use pass-through businesses and offshore structures to shield their income from the IRS’s view, the study said. Collecting that money would boost tax collections by $175 billion a year, the study found.    SOURCE: BLOOMBERG

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