Currency Auction Results, 6th Dec

By John Lee.

The Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) has reported that 36 banks and 15 remittance companies took part in its currency auction on Tuesday.

A total of $150,044,142 sold at a price of 1182 Iraqi Dinars (IQD) per dollar.

(Source: Central Bank of Iraq)

Italy Increases Support to Iraq

Italian Foreign Minister Paulo Gentiloni has met with his Iraqi counterpart, Ibrahim al-Eshaiker al Jafaari, telling him:

“We are standing by you while Mosul is being liberated and we will continue to be by your side through the post-Daesh stabilisation process. Italy intends to keep its commitment in the region, by supporting the Baghdad Government and the anti-ISIL coalition through the carrying out of crucially important activities, such as the restructuring of the Mosul dam, the training of local police corps and the stabilisation of liberated areas.”

Mr Gentiloni confirmed to Mr al-Jaafari the need for an inclusive approach capable of reaching out to all ethnic-religious components.

He also highlighted the Italian effort to provide the Country with humanitarian assistance: over 20 million euros were donated in 2014, to which 30 million euros more will be added in the 2016-2018 period, a preferential credit amounting to 360 million euros and the traditional Italian engagement in the protection, retrieval and enhancement of the archaeological and cultural heritage of Iraq.

(Source: Italian Foreign Ministry)

Unaoil takes Legal Action Against UK SFO

By John Lee.

Monaco-based Unaoil, which has been implicated in an international bribery scandal, has launched legal action against the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), alleging that it has unlawfully misused its powers.

The SFO is currently conducting a criminal investigation into the activities of Unaoil, its officers, its employees and its agents in connection with suspected offences of bribery, corruption and money laundering.

The company claims that a raid organised by the SFO on its offices in Monaco was a “speedy and aggressive” fishing expedition.

The SFO is opposing Unaoil’s legal challenge, maintaining that it had significant grounds to suspect that Unaoil had “paid bribes … to high-ranking Iraqi and other public officials on behalf of [its clients].

Judgment is to be given at a later date.

(Sources: The Guardian, WA Today, SFO)

Iraq Wrangling with $26.6bn Budget Deficit

By Sami-Joe Abboud for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq’s parliament will meet Dec. 1 to continue hashing out a draft of the 2017 general budget, which currently includes a deficit that will require the country to seek out non-oil income, attract investments and eliminate alleged corruption.

So far, the draft law pegs the budget at 102 trillion dinars (about $85 billion) with a projected deficit of $26.6 billion.

The country’s finances have been hammered by low oil prices, the war against the Islamic State (IS) and, according to a citizens group, significant government waste.

Much of its budget will depend on the price of oil. Iraq received good news today when OPEC agreed to cap oil production. After two years of prices that sometimes dropped below $50 per barrel, OPEC now expects that figure to reach $55-$60, the Wall Street Journal reported. OPEC has not always followed through on its promises, however.

Parliament is trying to resolve disputes over a number of items, including the budget for the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). The legislature voted Nov. 26 to make the Iran-backed PMU into an official government military force. Shiite parliament members supported the move, but the Sunni minority boycotted the vote.

On Aug. 31, the proposed budget was amended to increase the PMU’s allocations, which had amounted to about 6 trillion dinars ($5 billion) in 2016, but the PMU leadership said that was not enough to cover all necessities. Najiba Najib, a member of parliament’s Economics and Investment Committee, criticized the PMU on July 12, telling the media, “Allocating 25% of the state budget to the army and the PMU overburdens the budget and adversely affects the economy.”

New Career Opportunities in Iraq

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraq:

(Source: UN)

New Career Opportunities in Iraqi Kurdistan

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised several new positions in Iraqi Kurdistan:

(Source: UN)

Iraq Oil Exports Break Record

By John Lee.

Iraq’s Ministry of Oil has said that total oil exports for November have reached a record high of 4.051 million bpd.

The figure is made up of 3.407 million bpd from the southern oilfields, 64,000 bpd from Kirkuk, and 580,000 bpd exported from fields controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

The Ministry has still not published export figures for October, but Reuters quotes industry sources as saying that exports from the southern terminals were 3.310 million bpd.

(Sources: Ministry of Oil, Reuters)


Progress in Mosul; Third Axis at City’s ‘Doorstep’

Iraqi forces are making significant progress in isolating Mosul, as part of efforts to liberate the northern Iraqi city from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the Defense Department’s press operations chief told reporters at the Pentagon yesterday.

Iraqi forces have been approaching the city from the east, the southeast and the north, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said, noting forces from two axes have already entered Mosul.

“The third, the northern axis, they’re now … essentially on the doorstep of Mosul city as well,” he said. “So you’ll see very soon here there will be three axes that are now inside of Mosul proper.”

Additionally, a group largely made up of Popular Mobilization Forces, along with Iraqi security forces, have retaken Tal Afar airfield. The forces have cut off a highway west of Tal Afar, Highway 47, the main artery connecting Mosul and Tal Afar all the way to Syria, Davis explained.

“This is significant,” he said. “This essentially means now that Mosul, everything east of this point, is isolated.”

Previously, there was free communication along Highway 1 and Highway 47 to connect Mosul with the rest of ISIL-controlled areas in Syria, according to Davis.

Other progress, he said, includes the coalition disabling four of the five bridges connecting east and west Mosul.

Targeting Bridges

The targeting of the bridges was to cut off the flow of fresh fighters from the east into the west and stem the flow of car bombs, which were a problem for Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service forces as they came into eastern Mosul, Davis said.

The liberation of the city will take time, he noted.

“We have said all along this was going to be a very hard fight,” he said, explaining urban warfare requires a slow, methodical approach. “It’s not going to happen quickly,” he said.

ISIL casualties in Mosul have been significant, Davis said, adding, “They have lost many of their best fighters in eastern Mosul.”

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

Brainstorming in Sulaimaniyah on Promoting Social Cohesion

Activists, NGOs and community leaders brainstorm in Sulaimaniyah on promoting social cohesion

As part of the United Nations Development Programme’s commitment to support social cohesion in Iraq, a three-day workshop has been organized on 25-27 November 2016 in Sulaimaniyah, in partnership with King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID).

The workshop targeted over 30 activists, representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and community leaders from different governorates across Iraq.

Terminologies relevant to social cohesion, such as bias, prejudice and discrimination, have been introduced and clarified. Participants have reflected on and exchanged experiences about their communities, as well as the challenges they face and potential opportunities for promoting social cohesion.

Ms. Farah Salem, one of the participants from Baghdad, said:

“I have suffered in recent years from lack of social cohesion in the Iraqi society because of the situation in the country. The stories I have heard from participants motivated me, and the many activities touched our minds with bright ideas.

“I have been motivated to convey my experience in the workshop and my personal experience to my students and young women. I wish if I could build a rehabilitation centre at each school to clarify the meaning and the importance of social cohesion.”

UNDP’s Social Cohesion Project Manager, Mr. Dhafer Hasan, said:

“The participants were very committed to share and listen to each other. The trainer helped them to dig deeper into their personal experiences to discover more about themselves and their communities.”

The workshop has concluded with the participants’ presentations on future promotion and advocacy activities they had designed during the proceedings.

Trainer, Ms. Justine Abi Saad, flagged one of Hamlet’s quotes ‘There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so,’ stressing:

“This is the spirit we want to instill amongst the participants. Each one of us has a different perspective, different views and beliefs; all we need is a set of skills and attitude to deal with differences, diversity and conflicts in order to have a social cohesion.”

During 2017, UNDP will continue targeting activists in this field and encouraging them to adopt creative approaches and activities to promote social cohesion.

(Source: UNDP in Iraq)

Shiite Forces Advance on Tal Afar

By Shelly Kittleson for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Damaged aircraft hangars and twisted metal are scattered across Tal Afar airport, to the south of the city, and tunnels have been dug in several locations. Graffiti praising the Islamic State (IS) and posters of martyrs and Shiite religious figures are plastered on the walls of the airport buildings.

On Nov. 16, the mostly Shiite Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) took the destroyed air base from IS and pushed on to seal off Mosul, meeting up with the peshmerga forces on the northern axis on Nov. 23 and agreeing to coordinate with them on that front.

In the areas west and southwest of Mosul, the PMUs are the only active Iraqi force. According to Abu Taha al-Nasseri, the division commander, the battle took six hours and resulted in only three deaths among PMU fighters, despite the vast destruction at the airport.

Nasseri told Al-Monitor during a visit Nov. 20 that 15 enemy fighters had also been killed and that no air support had been provided by the international coalition. Incoming fire from IS-held territory continued while Al-Monitor was there.

In the preceding weeks, Al-Monitor had had the chance to visit some of the PMUs near the front lines as they progressed northward.

During an Oct. 31 briefing to a small group of reporters near the front line in Zargah, southwest of Mosul and 342 kilometers (212 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Badr Organization chief Hadi al-Amiri said that he “thanked God” that they had not received any air support from the Americans. “We had enough with the invasion of Iraq [in 2003].”

The Badr Organization was originally founded in 1983 and operated in exile in Iran until the regime of Saddam Hussein was ousted in 2003. During that time, it received funding and training from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.