GardaWorld Weekly Security Report

GardaWorld, a global leader in comprehensive security and risk management, has made its weekly security report available to Iraq Business News readers.

Prepared by GardaWorld’s Risk Analysis Team in Iraq, this essential report includes short- and medium-term outlooks on the security situation, reports and commentary on recent significant events, and a detailed overview of developments across the country.

Please click here to download the latest report free of charge.

For more information on how GardaWorld’s services can support your business in Iraq, please contact Daniel Matthews, Senior Director Iraq, at daniel.matthews@garda.com

Aiding Iraq in Reconstruction Iran’s Priority

Aiding Iraq in Reconstruction Iran’s Priority after Daesh Defeat: Defense Minister

Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami said that following the defeat of the Daesh (ISIL or ISIS) terrorist group in Iraq, Iran’s priority in its cooperation with Iraq now is helping the Arab country in its reconstruction process.

In a meeting with Iraqi Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji in Baghdad on Thursday, Brigadier General Hatami hailed the victory over the terror group as an important achievement not only for Iraq but also for the security and stability of the entire region.

He highlighted Iran’s policy of support for the Iraqi people and government and said that after the defeat of Daesh, the Islamic Republic’s first priority now is helping with the reconstruction of the Arab country.

Al-Araji, for his part, thanked the Iranian government and people for their all-out support for his country.

He also called for the development of bilateral ties in the defense, law enforcement and security fields.

Heading a high-ranking delegation, Brigadier General Hatami arrived in Baghdad on Wednesday for talks on enhancing the defense ties with the Arab country.

Iraq has been facing the threat of terrorism in recent years, mainly posed by the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group.

Amid tensions in Iraq, Iran has been known as the first country to help the Arab nation and has always voiced support for Iraq’s territorial integrity and prosperity.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Exxon, Baghdad face Setback on Seawater Project

By John Lee.

Talks between ExxonMobil and Iraq on the multi-billion-dollar Common Seawater Supply Project (CSSP) have reportedly reached an impasse.

According to Reuters, two sides differ on contract terms and costs.

Ian Thom, principal analyst at consultancy Wood Mackenzie, told the news agency:

“The CSSP would be expensive and challenging but there’s opportunity here (for Exxon) … to get access to resources on a very large scale and to achieve something and really make a difference to its own business.”

More here from Reuters.

(Source: Reuters)

Electronic Vote Counting sparks Controversy

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

Electronic Vote Counting sparks Controversy ahead of Iraqi Polls

This year, for the first time, Iraq’s general elections will be conducted via a modern electronic system. The initiative is intended to reduce the possibility of fraud while expediting results in the May 12 elections, according to the Electoral Commission, which announced the completion of the new system April 9.

Yet the supposed advantages of electronic vote counting and sorting have not prevented some of those on the country’s electoral lists from expressing anxieties about the new scheme. It is feared that Iraq’s lack of experience, capacity and modernization when it comes to such a system might bring the results into doubt and under dispute, especially among losing parties or those with fewer seats in the new parliament.

In a meeting with Al-Monitor, the vice president of Iraq’s Electoral Commission, Rizkar Haji, discussed the details of the electronic system. He said, “This system was prepared by the previous commission [whose members were replaced in November], which contracted with the South Korean company Miru [Systems] to import equipment for the electronic counting, as well as 40 Korean experts to implement and maintain the devices.”

He said voters this year will “use a special [rubber] stamp instead of the customary pen to indicate their chosen candidate or list, and the devices will only read this stamp.” He said the electronic counting and sorting system is integrated into a box that receives ballots “and sorts them immediately.”

Haji said continuing technical training courses have been held to “prepare Iraqi cadres for working with modern Korean systems. Around 100 employees have been trained so far, with dozens more expected to be trained before the election.”

With regard to the possibility that the counting machines will malfunction, be misused or be subject to power outages, Haji said, “The devices are equipped with batteries to power them for 12 hours without electricity, while boxes at the 58,000 polling stations contain flash drives that record results immediately for backup, comparing them with the results from counting and sorting devices.”

He said the Electoral Commission is “wired to satellites that send results from each electoral center to the headquarters of the commission’s president in Baghdad, ensuring speed and enabling the announcement of results within hours.”

Haji said the electronic aspect will not be limited to vote counting and sorting. There will also be special hardware (imported from the Spanish company Nidra) that reads each voter’s card and records fingerprints to prevent the repetition of votes and to establish the actual number of voters.

The Electoral Commission did acknowledge that some pressure had been exerted by political parties to cancel the electronic count and return to manual counting and sorting. Although these entities were not named, the most prominent bloc adopting a stance against the electric method is the State of Law coalition led by Vice President Nouri al-Maliki. In a statement March 30, the coalition declared the need for “manual counting after the closure of booths in the presence of local and international observers, to not give any opportunity for skepticism about the integrity of the elections.”

The leader of the Supreme Islamic Council, Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, told Al-Ghad Press agency April 14 that fraud in the parliamentary elections is inevitable. He questioned the accuracy of the electronic count, emphasizing the possibility of cheating in the calculation of results.

In any case, a judgment about the efficacy of the electronic counting devices has not yet been issued by the Electoral Commission’s specialized technical committees, which ensure that the equipment has been manufactured specifically for Iraq.

However, Basil Hussein, the deputy head of the Iraqi Center for Strategic Studies and an expert on electoral issues, told Al-Monitor that the center “has obtained information suggesting that the equipment imported by the commission suffers from a lot of stalling, contains batteries that are no good and cannot operate for long hours. It has not yet been subjected to tests by the committee and the only test it will undergo will be just days before the election.”

The commission said earlier this month that it will test the Miru system later in the month and could resort to a manual system as an alternative in case the electronic system does not work properly.

In terms of the possibility of fraud, Hussein said:

“The most worrying element is that the results will be sent via a satellite headquartered in an Arab country [the satellite server is in the United Arab Emirates], without any encryption. After 200 hours, they will then be sent encrypted to Baghdad, meaning that there is a vast window of time to penetrate the results. This raises a lot of questions about the purpose of spending $100 million on buying these miserable devices and around $166 million on electronic servers, while leaving 200 hours without any oversight of the election results.”

(Picture: Hand of a person casting a vote into the ballot box during elections, from Roibu/Shutterstock)

Women, Children with perceived ties to IS Denied Aid

Women and children with perceived ties to IS denied aid, sexually exploited and trapped in camps

Iraqi women and children with perceived ties to the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) are being denied humanitarian aid and prevented from returning to their homes, with an alarming number of women subjected to sexual violence, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

The Condemned: Women and Children Isolated, Trapped and Exploited in Iraq reveals widespread discrimination against women living in camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) by security forces, members of camp administrations and local authorities, who believe these women are affiliated to IS.

Amnesty International established that sexual exploitation was occurring in each of the eight camps that Amnesty researchers visited.

“The war against IS in Iraq may be over, but the suffering of Iraqis is far from over. Iraqi women and children with perceived ties to IS are being punished for crimes they did not commit,” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International.

More here from Amnesty International.

(Source: Amnesty International)

Basra Gateway Terminal joins the Iraq Britain Business Council

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) has announced that Basra Gateway Terminal (BGT) has joined the Council.

BGT is one of Iraq’s premier container and multi-purpose cargo handling facility, with a team of high-performing Iraqi and International port professionals who deliver customer-focused, high productivity and congestion-free port services to Iraq’s economy.

Situated in Umm Qasr, 50 km from Basra and 500km from Baghdad, the Terminal is operated by International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI). ICTSI is an internationally recognized expert in port construction, operation and management with more than 30 years of experience. It is one of the major maritime terminal operators in the world present in 6 continents, operating 30 marine terminals in 20 countries positioned in some of the world’s most strategic trade lanes.

Christophe Michels, Managing Director of IBBC says:

“IBBC is delighted to welcome Basra Gateway Terminal to the Council. BGT has a reputation for great professionalism and efficiency in Iraq and is managed by international experts in port operation and management. I have no doubt that BGT will prove a valuable addition to the IBBC and its growing membership in 2018.”

Investment in Iraq:

In April 2014, ICTSI signed a contract for 26 years with General Company for Ports of Iraq (GCPI) to operate, develop, and expand the container handling facilities at the Port of Umm Qasr. Presently BGT is operating four berths with two more under construction, catering for container, general, project and RORO cargo.

ICTSI is half way through a USD 230 million investment programme, which includes rehabilitation and operation of the port’s existing facility at Berth 20 and construction of three new berths at Berth 25, 26 and 27. In 2017, BGT was extended to perform the operation at Berth 19 and 21 for general cargo and RORO cargo respectively hence helping BGT to launch itself in the project cargo for oil and gas sector business.

These investments have been supported by the introduction of state-of-the-art technology in Iraq’s port sector with BGT being the first terminal to introduce the SAP ERM system and the Navis Sparcs N4 Terminal Operating System.

(Source: IBBC)

New Career Opportunities in Iraq

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraq:

(Source: UN)

(Picture: Finger pressing a new career start button, from Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock)

New Career Opportunities in Iraqi Kurdistan

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraqi Kurdistan:

(Source: UN)

(Picture: Success, growth, career, development signpost from 3D_Creation/Shutterstock)

ISIS Suspects’ Homes Confiscated

Iraqi security officers are denying immediate relatives of suspected Islamic State (also known as ISIS) members security clearance to reclaim homes being occupied or to seek compensation, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today.

Security forces have also destroyed or confiscated some property. Such acts, based only on family relationships to ISIS suspects rather than individual security determinations, are a form of collective punishment.

“These families deserve the same protections that Iraqi courts provide to all citizens,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Courts should be the guarantors against discrimination that will only further sectarian divisions in the country and delay needed reconciliation.”

More here from HRW.

(Source: HRW)

Expert Blog: Seeds of Life

By Elena Kornienko.

Once upon a time, there lived a widow woman and her son, Jack, on their small farm in the country. Every day, Jack would help his mother with the chores — chopping the wood, weeding the garden and milking the cow. 

But despite all their hard work, Jack and his mother were very poor with barely enough money to keep themselves fed. And one day he was told by his mother to go and sell their cow and use the money to buy seeds to plant a good crop. On his way to the market he met a man who offered to buy the cow for three magic beans.

The boy did this deal, however his mother got very upset that he brought home only three beans…. Long story short, the magic happened and this family started making money and had a decent living. Fairy tale, right? We have been raised by so many stories like that, but did we relate any of them to our adult lives? Just last week I felt like this boy planting the magic seeds. The seeds of knowledge. The seeds to grow the expertise of local Iraqi companies which work with international oil companies (IOCs).

It’s no secret that upon completion of any tender exercise, most of the bidders do not get any feedback from Procurement team on what made them loose that contract. And in most of the cases it is not price, but the technical proposal itself. Even having all capabilities to perform services, most of the contractors struggle to understand how to put their proposals in the best way.

And Iraq, unfortunately, is not unique in that. It is a common situation that Procurement departments are detached from their bidders and contractors. Some of IOCs run workshops on understanding their specific requirements in tenders and systems, however what is still missing in the industry is a good education system for local contractors on requirements to tenders from IOCs.

Last week, 10th April 2018, the first training in Iraq on tendering skills for oil and gas contractors took place in Basra, which was run independently from IOCs. It was specifically dedicated to local Iraqi companies and all participants got to benefit from learning what exactly is happening in Procurement teams of IOCs operating in Iraq and what makes bids win the contracts.

It was the biggest surprise to all participants that 70 percent of bids do not even make through the technical evaluation, and Procurement teams do not even get to see their prices! And while this training was a matter of planting the seeds, the watering is still to happen.

From the left to the right: Majid A. Abdullah from Basra Chamber of Industry, Sabeeh H. Al-Hashemi, Iraqi Businessmen Union Basra, Elena Kornienko, InfoCORE Consultancy, Najih Shinawa Ahmad Alqanas, Basra Chamber of Commerce

After the training, the meeting with Basra Chamber of Commerce, Basra Chamber of Industry and Iraqi Businessmen Union took place to discuss the future opportunities for local companies. Whenever it comes to education and training, it is about the future vision.

It might seem that these three beans are too small for the exchange of a milking cow, but the magic of those beans should not be underestimated. All these organizations have a great understanding of the importance of the development of local Iraqi companies, and agreed to provide support in conducting future training sessions for local companies in Basra.

What was unique and magic about that meeting is the understanding that all participants are on the same level of grasping the needs of local companies development. It was planting those magic beans and start watering them to grow the capabilities of local Iraqi contractors to make the economy of Iraq more sustainable.

Elena Kornienko has more than 15 years of professional experience in contracts, procurement and tendering in various roles from demand-identification to contract close-out. She has worked on major international oil and gas projects, including the Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 fields in Russia, and Iraq’s West Qurna-2. Now based in Dubai, she provides consultancy services to the oil and gas industry. Elena is a fluent English and Russian speaker, and a graduate of the Moscow State University of Commerce, holding a degree in Economics. She also graduated with distinction from the School of Business Administration at Portland State University and holds a CIPS diploma.