NIDC Eyes Iraqi Drilling Market

The National Iranian Drilling Company (NIDC) is planning to participate in neighboring Iraq‘s drilling tenders.

Speaking to reported on the sidelines of an oil show in Kish Island, on Tuesday, Sepehr Sepehri, NIDC managing director, said the company’s approach is to secure itself a toehold in global markets, adding NIDC is planning to participate in international drilling tenders in Iraq.

“We have plans to join drilling projects in neighboring countries and we have started correspondences with Iraq in this regard,” the official said.

Sepehri said the two country’s access to Arvand Free Zone, favorable crude oil production capacity in Iraq’s Basra and the good terms the two neighbors are on are among the advantages of working in Iraq.

He further said that NIDC will take part in three drilling tenders that Italy’s ENI is planning to hold in Iraq.

The NIDC official added that Oman is another market the company is seeing to gain a foothold in.

“We have indicated readiness to offer services to Oman, too, and will consider the matter in more depth during a visit by an Omani delegation to Iran within the next few weeks.”

Besides drilling operations, NIDC enjoys massive potentialities in offering drilling services, the CEO added.

“After Iraq and Oman, we are targeting operations in Qatar,” Sepehri added.

(Source: Shana)

Iran Resolved to Establish Railroad Link with Iraq

The Iranian president’s chief of staff voiced the administration’s determination to construct a railroad linking Iran to the Iraqi city of Basra, saying the project would give a major boost to the transportation industry in the region.

Speaking to reporters in the southwestern city of Khorramshahr on Friday, Mahmoud Vaezi said various related bodies, including the Arvand Free Trade Zone and the presidential office, have decided to focus efforts on the establishment of the railroad to Iraq.

In addition to better services for travelers, the railroad would function as a regional corridor and bring a major change in the transportation industry, he added.

In February 2016, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had unveiled plans for railroad link with Iraq, expressing the hope that rail access to Basra would enable Iranian pilgrims residing in cities as far as Mashhad to travel to Iraq’s Karbala by train.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Iraq is Iran’s 2nd Biggest Non-Oil Customer

By John Lee.

Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization (TPOI) has issued data showing that five countries — China, Iraq, UAE, South Korea and India — accounted for 68.7 percent of Iran’s total non-oil exports in the first five months of the current Iranian fiscal year (March 20-Aug. 22).

Its non-oil exports (including gas condensate) fell 5 percent in the period, to $17.193 billion.

China was the main importer of goods from Iran, accounting for 21.8 percent of the total, with Iraq taking 15.1 percent with $2.604 billion, followed by the UAE, South Korea, India, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, Thailand and Taiwan.

(Source: Trend)

(Image credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Iran steps up Pressure on Iraqi Kurds to Halt Referendum

By Fazel Hawramy for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

Iran and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have become entangled in a war of words as the referendum on Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence nears. Both sides are now making veiled threats, which — if they materialize — could have serious consequences on stability in the region.

The Iranians, whether under the shah or the Islamic Republic, have worked hand in glove with the Kurds to undermine the Iraqi central government’s authority and thus should not be expected to be adamant about preserving the authority of the state at any cost.

Yet, according to Nazim Dabagh, the KRG representative in Iran, the situation right now is tense. Dabagh, who accompanied a delegation from his party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), in meetings July 17 with Iranian officials, told Al-Monitor, “The Iranians say, ‘We are for the territorial integrity of Iraq and we will do everything to preserve it.’”

Dabagh is well-versed in Iranian politics, having served as a Kurdish representative in Tehran for most of the last four decades. “I personally think that holding the referendum without the approval of Baghdad and the neighboring countries, without a doubt, will cause problems.” When pushed on what kind of problems Iran could cause, Dabagh — who was speaking via telephone from Tehran — did not elaborate.

Another source familiar with the content of the PUK meetings in Tehran who does not want to be identified told Al-Monitor that the Iranians were angry about the referendum and reminded the Kurds about their deep mutual ties and how Iran had assisted the Kurds at critical junctures since 1975, and in recent years, having been the first country to shore up their defenses against the Islamic State in August 2014.

“As long as you halt the referendum, we will do everything for you within Iraq; we’ll help you implement Article 140 [of the Iraqi Constitution on disputed territories and Kirkuk] and press Baghdad to reinstate your share of the [Iraqi central government’s] budget,” said a top Iranian official according to the source familiar with the meetings. “However, if you go ahead with the referendum, we will do whatever necessary to stop it — things that you cannot even imagine,” warned the Iranian official, reportedly dressing down the PUK delegation.

The coming Iran-US Confrontation in Iraq

By Zakiyeh Yazdanshenas for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

In June 2014, Mosul was seized by the Islamic State (IS), whose leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi soon afterward announced a caliphate from the city’s grand mosque. Now the caliphate is seemingly coming to an end.

Iraqi government forces took the eastern part of Mosul from IS on Jan. 24 after three months of fighting. On March 15, a spokesman for Iraq’s Counterterrorism Service said 60% of the western part of Mosul is under the control of Iraqi security forces. The day before, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said the operation is in its final stage, pledging the defeat of IS.

But military victory in Mosul is just the beginning of a more complicated phase for Iraq. Disparate forces have so far come together to pursue the common objective of expelling IS from Iraq. With the imminent achievement of this goal, many underlying and preceding power struggles will likely re-emerge.

Moreover, it should be borne in mind that various external powers — including Iran and the United States — have become greatly involved in Iraq’s security-related affairs and expanded their spheres of influence within the country since IS’ 2014 onslaught.

One key question is who will step in to fill the power vacuum in post-IS Mosul. Will the United States revert to its previous retreat from the Middle East, or will it opt to reassure its regional allies by keeping at least a part of its current forces in Iraq? Will Iran seek to establish a presence in northern Iraq, either directly or through its allies?

After having withdrawn in late 2011, the United States has once again become militarily engaged in the country, deploying over 5,000 troops and special forces, and spending more than $10 billion on combating IS in Iraq and Syria.

Taif eWallet shakes up Iraqi finance

By Robert Tollast

Recently, a friend at Fikra Space, the pioneering Iraqi hackerspace group, emailed me some news that could have far reaching effects in Iraq. On the face of it, it probably seems like a fairly mundane development.

Ideal Payments, the electronic payment providers, have partnered with Belgium based Monniz and Iraq’s Taif Money Transfer company to launch Taif eWallet, a mobile payments app.

This is something that has been talked about for a number of years but never implemented in Iraq until now. So it was fitting that the service had a big launch at TEDx Baghdad, with Iraqi PM Haidar al-Abadi present.

Why is this important?

In the nine years since Safaricom launched the revolutionary M-PESA mobile payment service in Kenya, a growing number of nations are utilizing mobile technology to “leapfrog” undeveloped banking sectors, providing millions of citizens with access to basic bank account facilities, opening the door to a host of other positive developments. In Iraq, only around 10% of the population have accounts with the roughly 50 banks operating in the country.

Specifically, the country has the lowest number of ATMs in the MENA region, at around 1 per 100,000 people, and even then some can only serve customers of that  bank.

To consider how rapidly this technology could be adopted, a 2014 MIT study noted that landline penetration took around 100 years to reach 80% in the United States, with mobile penetration in Iraq after 2003 reaching the same level by 2010. In Tanzania, mobile financial services access shot up to 90% within five years of launching.

And while Iraq’s adoption of mobile banking comes a few years behind some of the countries that have adopted the technology, many other sectors in Iraq are more developed than countries such as Kenya when it adopted mobile wallets, and mobile penetration is already far higher in Iraq than when M-PESA was introduced.

Furthermore, because the Ideal Payments technology is supported by Al Taif, it potentially has a number of advantages over M-PESA. For example, there are already Al Taif agents all over Iraq (one of which I have used, through Western Union.)  These are networks African adopters of the technology had to grow from scratch.

This has wide reaching implications. In Afghanistan for example, payroll fraud in the police was reduced (but not eliminated) when mobile salary payments were introduced and it was quickly found that 10% of the ANP were “ghost workers.” Many police thought their salaries had risen when given mobile pay, but in reality, middlemen had been pocketing a cut of the cash. Aside from accelerating local economic activity and creating more jobs, there is even evidence that mobile banking can reduce crime.

Of course, as with any development in a country with so many challenges, miracles won’t happen overnight.

But with a team holding experience in the financial sector in both Iraq and Europe, the brains behind Taif eWallet are making a great start. Traders in Iraq’s long suffering towns and cities, from the markets if Tikrit to the cement and brick factories of Karbala and Najaf, could soon see a welcome change.








Al-Qaeda Leader Urges New Iraq War

By Simon Kent.

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, (pictured) who has been the leader of the organization since the death of Bin Laden in 2011, has issued a short statement urging Iraqi Sunnis to begin an insurgency against the Iraqi government.

Predecessors of the self declared Islamic State, “Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia,” were allied to Al-Qaeda up until around 2005, when Bin Laden rebuked the Iraqi leadership of the group (and its Jordanian commander, Abu Musab al Zarqawi) for being far too brutal and killing too many civilians.

Zarqawi didn’t listen, and instead formed the “Islamic State of Iraq,” in 2006 which was largely defeated by Sunni tribes and US troops between 2006 and 2011. Since then, the so called Islamic State have risen to prominence as the most successful radical jihadi group. But since so many Sunni Iraqis have turned on IS, Zawahari’s plea may be wishful thinking, and an attempt to stay relevant.

The vast majority of Sunnis will not be likely to listen, and will likely reject Al Qaeda as much as they have recently turned on IS.

(Source: The Long War Journal)

Draft Amnesty Law Passed for Detainees

By Simon Kent.

In a potentially huge political development, Iraq’s Council of Representatives (Parliament) have passed draft amnesty law that would see as many as 5000 Shia Sadrist protesters released from prison and potentially thousands more Sunnis who have been detained over the years, allegedly on spurious information, in many cases.

For example, at the end of the last decade hundreds of Sunnis were rounded up by security forces in Baghdad following bomb attacks, and human rights campaigners say many are innocent.

According to Business Standard, 234 out of 228 MPs voted for the law, which, if implemented, could have very significant implications for political settlement after the so called “Islamic State” are defeated.

(Source: Business Standard.)

Qayyarah Oilfields Still Burning

By Simon Kent.

Qayyarah’s oilfields are still on fire weeks after the self declared Islamic State set them on fire as part of a scorched earth strategy during their retreat. The terrorists also poured oil from Qayyarah into the Tigris and set it alight in an attempt to burn a makeshift Iraqi Army bridge.

Before the recent conflict, Qayyarah, which is around 60km south of Mosul, produced around 10,000 bpd of very heavy crude, which was used in power generation.

(Source: Rudaw)

New Oil Deal Still Under Discussion

By Simon Kent.

Kurdish and Iraqi officials are still thrashing out details of a more sustainable and far reaching oil revenue and exports deal, following the resumption of federal oil exports into the Kurdish pipeline from Kirkuk.

Last week, 100,000 bpd of Kirkuk crude from Baba Gorgor, Jambour and Khabbaz, three fields in the giant Kirkuk formation, were pumped into the Kurdish export pipeline, on the orders of Baghdad.

Previously, the federal North Oil Company (NOC) had re-injected the oil but there were growing fears this would damage reservoirs. At the moment, both sides are working on revenue arrangements for this oil, which will be exported from Ceyhan in Turkey (pictured).

While the NOC still has three fields in the Kirkuk formation, the Kurdish Peshmerga control fields occupied in June 2014, including Bai Hassan and Avana. A longer lasting deal therefore, may be politically difficult for both sides, since many Kurds also blame Baghdad for cutting off their budget share, which the Maliki government did in early 2014.

(Source: Bloomberg.)