Dual Nationality allows Iraqi Officials to Escape Abroad

By Rabih Nader for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Lebanese authorities arrested a former Iraqi minister who was wanted by Interpol at the airport in Beirut Sept. 8. The identity of the minister has not been released yet, but Lebanese officials have said that he holds British citizenship.

Many officials with dual nationality accused by the Iraqi authorities of corruption have fled the country in order to escape prosecution. Basra Gov. Majid al-Nasrawi is a case in point; he left Iraq on an Australian passport Aug. 18 in defiance of an arrest warrant over suspected corruption.

Several other officials have also left the country, including former Ministers Abdul Falah al-Sudani (trade), Hazim Shaalan (defense) and Ayham al-Samarrai (electricity).

For two years, the Iraqi parliament has not been able to pass a bill bringing an end to officials holding dual citizenship, despite its inclusion in a list of parliamentary reforms announced by speaker Salim al-Jabouri in August 2015, as part of a package of government measures following widespread demonstrations in Baghdad to demand reform.

The bill, which has been suspended since the last parliamentary term, deals with the rules on Iraqi officials holding two nationalities. It is based on Article 18 of the Iraqi Constitution, which demands that holders of senior and “sovereign” offices give up their “acquired citizenship.”

However, the constitution charges the legislature with the task of working out the details and drawing up a law on the issue, something the Iraqi parliament has so far failed to do.

Amal al-Bayati, a member of the Council of Representatives, told Al-Monitor that Iraqi holders of foreign citizenship often escape justice because they can use it at the first sign of trouble. “The number of dual citizens in parliament is very high, which poses major difficulties when it comes to passing this law,” she said.

Ex-Iraqi Minister arrested in Beirut

Lebanese security services arrested have reportedly arrested the former Iraqi trade minister, Abdul-Fallah al-Sudani [Abd al-Falah al-Sudani], who is convicted of corruption.

Sudani, who is wanted by Interpol, was arrested in Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport (pictured) on 10th September.

In 2012, Sudani was convicted of embezzlement in absentia and sentenced to seven years in jail.

As a leader in the former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite Dawa Party, he served as trade minister 2006-2009.

After he was accused by the Integrity Board of corruption, he attempted to flee but was arrested in Baghdad Airport. He was then released on bail and later escaped the country.

(Source: GardaWorld)

Govt & Industry Leaders: Iraq’s Economic Capital Ready for Business

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Key figures of the Iraqi Government and Ministries have confirmed their attendance at the annual Basra Oil, Gas & Infrastructure Conference due to take place on 30-31 October in Beirut, to highlight the current investment projects available in Basra’s multiple industries and facilitate a direct dialogue towards promoting further business in Iraq’s Economic Capital.

The official meeting is held under the high patronage of the Basra Governorate and the Basra Council, with the support and participation of Iraq’s Ministry of Oil, Basra Oil Company, and Lebanese Ministry for Energy & Water and the Petroleum Administration for the Lebanese Republic.

Distinguished Speakers include:

  • E. Dhia Jaffar, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Oil, Federal Government of Iraq
  • E. Cesar Abi Khalil, Minister of Energy & Water Resources, Lebanese Republic
  • E. Thamir Ghadhban, Former Oil Minster & Advisor to Iraq’s PM, Federal Government of Iraq
  • E. Engineer Mohammed Al Tamimi, First Deputy Governor of Basra Governorate of Basra, Federal Government of Iraq
  • MP Dr Jamal Abdul-Zahra Muhammadawi, Member of the Parliament Representing Basra, Federal Parliament of Iraq
  • Wissam Zahabi, Chairman of the Board, Petroleum Administration, Lebanese Republic
  • E. Abbas Omran Mousa, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Transportation, Federal Government of Iraq
  • Ali Shadad Al Fares, Head of the Energy Committee, Basra Council, Federal Government of Iraq
  • Ihsan Abduljabbar Ismaael Al – Saade, Director General of the South Gas Company, Ministry of Oil, Federal Government of Iraq
  • Nafaa Abdulsada Ali Al-Hmidawi, Director General of Training & Development Office, Ministry of Electricity, Federal Government of Iraq
  • Naser Muhsin Muhan, Head of Licensing & Contracts, Basra Oil Company, Ministry of Oil, Federal Government of Iraq

View full list of speakers here: http://www.cwcbasraoilgas.com/speaker/

The Basra province in the south of Iraq is home to 70% of Iraq’s gas reserves and 59% of its oil, offering valuable investment projects in a variety of sectors and providing a secure environment for developers to enter and operate in Iraq. Its strategic location with access to Persian Gulf via the ports of Al Maqal and Umm Qasr, provides huge advantages in the development of Basra and its numerous industries: oil, gas, power, petrochemicals, infrastructure, construction, transport, logistics and others.

The renowned Conference will address opportunities, projects and tenders in each one of these industries through its 2 day Strategic Programme. With an easy to follow guide on which sectors are covered in each session, attendees can expect the following topics to be discussed:

  • Current updates on Basra’s oil fields,
  • Infrastructure Contracts
  • Procurement processes for accessing tenders
  • Developing the transport and logistics sector
  • Ultimate gas utilization
  • Electricity projects
  • Reconstruction of Iraq Tenders

View the full programme here: http://www.cwcbasraoilgas.com/programme/

Iranian University to Open Branches in Iraq

Iran‘s Islamic Azad University (IAU) seeks to boost cooperation with the neighboring countries and allies, a senior official at the 35-year-old organization said, unveiling plans for opening new branches in Iraq and Lebanon.

Head of the Founding Council and Board of Trustees of the Islamic Azad University Ali Akbar Velayati said on Tuesday that his organization has focused on supporting the neighboring and friendly countries as part of its international plans.

The IAU is going to open universities and academic centers in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Basra and in the Arab country’s Kurdish regions, he added.

Velayati further pointed to a shortage of scientific centers for those interested in receiving higher education in Lebanon, saying the IAU has been in correspondence with Secretary General of the Lebanese Hezbollah Resistance Movement Seyed Hassan Nasrallah in order to open offices in Lebanon and to promote cooperation with the Lebanese academic centers.

Founded in 1982, the Islamic Azad University is a private network of academic centers. It has more than 30 state university branches with 400 campuses and research centers across the country. The IAU has several overseas branches as well.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Kurdistan Referendum puts Iran at Crossroads

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

As Iraqi Kurds try to iron out internal differences ahead of their referendum on independence in September, Turkey, Iraq and Iran have all announced their opposition, questioning the timing and fearing the implications of such a move at a time when regional rivalries are at their peak.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran opposes some murmurs about holding a referendum in order to separate one part of Iraq,” said Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a meeting with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in June, adding that Iraq “should stay unified.”

While Turkey and Iraq’s opposition is understandable to an extent, Iran’s long involvement as well as cultural and historical ties with Iraqi Kurds raises serious questions about the motives for its opposition to the upcoming referendum.

The political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan have all made it clear that their ultimate aim is an independent Kurdistan, but they differ on the approach, meaning that the issue of independence is a matter of “when” rather than “if.” The Iranians are perhaps more aware of this than any other actor.

There are over 13 million Kurds on both sides of the Iran-Iraq border. Whether under the shah or the Islamic Republic, Iran has been the only country that has had an overall cordial relationship with Iraqi Kurds, be it secular, Marxist or Islamic parties. The shah and the ayatollahs both adopted the strategy of engaging enemies outside Iran’s borders. In Iraq, this has entailed weakening successive Iraqi regimes by partly using the Kurds as a proxy force.

Indeed, repression from Baghdad combined with Tehran’s assistance to the Kurds greatly contributed to Iraq almost always being at war with a quarter of its population. For instance, the Kirkuk oilfields were attacked by peshmerga, both during the shah’s reign in the late 1960s and the ayatollahs in the 1980s. Nonetheless, ironically, while Iran has been wary of Kurdish aspirations for independence, its continuous support for the peshmerga in past decades has ensured that the desire for independence continued burning amongst Kurdish fighters — and their leadership.

Dinar Counterfeiting Ring Busted

By John Lee.

Authorities in Iraq have reportedly announced the arrest a gang believed to have forged Iraqi dinars worth “billions of dollars“.

According to The New Arab, the mafia-like network with Lebanese links was detained after a woman arrested at the Baghdad Airport confessed to involvement with counterfeiting money.

(Source: The New Arab)

Lebanese Banks to help Finance Iraq Reconstruction

By John Lee.

The head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) has said that Lebanese banks are willing to help finance the reconstruction drive in Iraq.

Joseph Torbey told a banking forum in Beirut that with assets of close to $200 billion, his members were “capable and ready to be a partner in the reconstruction, through direct finance within the legal ceilings and through the attraction and management of joint financing operations.

He added that Lebanese banks were among the first to enter Iraq, and are the most active among all foreign banks.

(Source: Daily Star)

How can a Tech Sector Contribute to Iraq’s Economy?

By Hal Miran, Editor-in-Chief, Bite.Tech.

Tech has grown in prominence as a key sector in global economic health. It is now commonly accepted that an economy in which entrepreneurs have the freedom and resources to create and innovate tend to perform much more robustly.

Intriguingly, one study on the effect of tech on a country’s economy has said that there is a much greater positive spillover effect than has been widely thought1.

The world has entered the new dawn of the technology era. Sure, we’ve had major waves of technological advances since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century4. But nothing like this.

Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Robotics and Automation are set to disrupt the entire world, with virtually every major sector already recently disrupted by technological innovation.

It is a safe bet to assume that global tech is set to grow exponentially. The bottom line is that tech has already demonstrated its crucial importance to economic health, which is only set to increase.

What this means is that more than ever, tech entrepreneurs will be needed in this new tech-driven world to power economic growth.

Tech entrepreneurship in Iraq: Breaking the country’s dependence on oil

The oil sector has not been reliable since 2014, with prices fluctuating wildly. So long core for the Iraqi economy, the country can no longer depend exclusively on the fuel. What has occurred in global oil markets in the last few years is a warning that Iraq must pay attention to.

Iraq is so dependent on the fuel that the government, recently asked for the country to be exempt from the OPEC production cut agreement5, as it is desperate to produce as many barrels of oil as it can.

Tech entrepreneurship can break this dependence and help the economy to grow in ways that the oil sector, crucial as it has been for Iraq for so long, can never achieve.

How have other countries benefited from a booming tech sector?

In the U.S, the tech sector accounts for 7% of GDP and employs almost 7 million people2. In the UK, tech accounts for 8% of British GDP3. In these countries and indeed around the globe it is set to grow further, both in developed and developing economies.

Lebanon to Increase Economic Cooperation with Kurdistan

The Head of KRG Foreign Relations, Minister Falah Mustafa, yesterday received Lebanese Chargé D’affaires in Iraq Mr. Walid Ghoussaini.

The Lebanese Chargé D’affaires gave an overview of the participation of the Lebanese companies in the economic development of the Kurdistan Region and highlighted the desire of the Lebanese companies to broaden the scope of their activities.

Minister Mustafa outlined the potential that exists for strengthening economic exchanges between Kurdistan and Lebanon and appreciated the contributions of the Lebanese companies in the region. They spoke in detail of the ways to further strengthen economic cooperation between the public and private sectors of both sides.

Economic cooperation between Kurdistan and Lebanon has witnessed a positive growth in recent years, and there is potential to further increase exchanges in both trade and investment flows.

(Source: KRG)

Hashd al Shaabi Heads Meet Western Delegation

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

A hotel in Beirut was the scene of a series of secret meetings Aug. 8-11 between a diplomatic delegation that included representatives from Western countries and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and a delegation composed of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) leaders. The meetings were not covered in the media and no press statements were issued; the outcomes of the discussions were not made public. However, Al-Monitor was able to meet with a PMU faction leader who participated in those meetings at a hotel he was staying at in Beirut’s surroundings. The leader spoke on condition of anonymity about the meetings in Beirut and the situation in Baghdad.

The meetings were kept secret for several reasons, including security considerations so as to ensure the safety of the members of the Western delegation and Iraqi attendees that included military officials. Also, it is worth noting that the relations between the PMU and the countries represented in the delegation are not public.

The PMU delegation left Beirut feeling more confident about its position and its future. The PMU leader promised Al-Monitor more advanced political developments in the relationship between the PMU and the West after the liberation of Mosul. “If liberating Fallujah brought us to Beirut, what will the liberation of Mosul bring?” he said.

The text of the interview follows:

Al-Monitor:  What can you tell us about the meeting?

PMU leader:  This meeting was held as a result of efforts deployed by one of the UN organizations operating in Iraq today [which he did not disclose]. Several weeks ago, this organization suggested to the PMU leadership to meet with several Western diplomats involved in the Iraqi situation and its developments. After liberating Fallujah in June 2016, the diplomats exerted more pressure to meet with us. The only problem was the time and place of the meeting, but we finally agreed to meet here in Beirut.

Al-Monitor:  Can you tell us who participated in the meeting?

PMU leader:  The PMU was represented by a delegation of 12 people, representing most of the PMU leaderships in Iraq including brigades’ commanders, politicians and officials in charge of the various activities of our team. The other party was composed of a large number of Western diplomats from several countries, including Norway, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Italy and Germany, as well as representatives of NGOs and of course the UN organization that launched the initiative. Each of these delegations was composed of one or more officials from [the country’s] foreign ministry, as well as one or more diplomats from the countries’ embassies in Beirut or Baghdad.

Two main parties involved in our cause — namely the United States and Britain — were absent from the meeting, although we were asked when we were invited to the meeting whether we had any reservations about meeting them. We asserted that we had no reservations at all. But we later found out from some of the participants in Beirut that the Americans and the Br

Al-Monitor:  What did they [the United States and Britain] want to check, and what were the issues discussed at the meetings?

PMU leader:  Discussions lasted for several hours [every day] and covered almost everything. The Western delegation wanted to meet with us for several reasons. First, the delegation members wanted to know how we see the future of the regulatory and institutional relationship between us [PMU] and the Iraqi government authorities. They know that a government decree was issued under No. 91, which approved the integration of the PMU into the official Iraqi authority. This is why they [Western delegation] wanted to know if we intend to fully merge within the Iraqi army. Our answer was clear. We will be a military force that is part of the Iraqi state, but not part of the Iraqi army. This is due to many reasons that we explained to them, namely the corruption spread within the Iraqi government institutions, and I think they understood our point of view. We made it clear that we will be an alternative army subordinated to the state, just like Iran’s [Islamic] Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Second, the Western delegation wanted to know if we are ready to integrate into the political process in Iraq. We were also clear on this point; we asserted that we launched preparations to run in the upcoming Iraqi parliamentary elections in 2017. It seemed clear that the Western delegation expects us to score significant results in these elections and this is why they asked us about our vision of future alliances, the shape of power in Baghdad and the various scenarios after the elections. They also asked us about our perception on many issues related to the concept of governance, including our relations with the Iraqi internal parties and our stance on the regional and neighboring powers and entities.

Al-Monitor: What did they [the United States and Britain] want to check, and what were the issues discussed at the meetings?