By John Lee.

The State Company for Glass & Refractories Industry (SCG&R), one of the Ministry of Industry and Minerals (MIM) companies, has announced an following investment opportunity at the following factories:

  • Rehabilitation & operation of Ceramic Wall Tiles Factory
  • Rehabilitation & operation of Ceramic Floor Tiles Factory
  • Rehabilitation & operation of Ceramic Sanitary Ware Factory

Full details available here.

(Source: National Investment Commission)

US-based security company Triple Canopy has agreed to pay $2.6 million to settle civil False Claims Act allegations that the company submitted false claims for payment to the Department of Defense for unqualified security guards stationed in Iraq.

Contractors must be held accountable for their actions, especially when the safety of government personnel is at stake” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This settlement should remind contractors of the high value we place on safeguarding our personnel abroad.

The allegations stem from Triple Canopy’s one-year contract with the Joint Contracting Command in Iraq (JCC-I), an entity established to provide contracting support related to the government’s relief and reconstruction efforts in Iraq. Under the 2009 contract, Triple Canopy was required to perform a variety of security services at Al Asad Airbase, the second largest air base in Iraq.   

The government’s complaint in intervention alleges that Triple Canopy knowingly billed the United States for security guards who could not pass contractually required firearms proficiency tests. The tests were designed by the Army to ensure that the guards hired to protect U.S. and allied personnel were capable of firing their assigned weapons safely and accurately.

The government further alleges that Triple Canopy concealed the guards’ inability to satisfy the firearms testing requirements by creating false test scorecards that Triple Canopy was required to maintain for government review, in an effort to induce the government to pay for the unqualified guards.    

Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior member of Iran’s Expediency Council, rejected the notion that the Islamic Republic helped the central government in neighboring Iraq to take full control over the disputed region of Kirkuk, which was previously held by Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

“Iran has no role in the Kirkuk operation,” Velayati told reporters on the sidelines of his meeting with Special Envoy of France to Syria Franck Gellet in Tehran on Tuesday.

He further pointed to the independence referendum recently held in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region and said the majority of Iraq’s Kurdish people are opposed to the ambitions of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani.

“We saw that the region (Kirkuk) was captured by the Baghdad government almost without any clashes,” said Velayati, who is also an international adviser to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution.

Iraqi forces completed an operation to take control of all oil fields operated by state-owned North Oil Company in the Kirkuk region on Tuesday, according to a senior military officer.

They took control of the Bai Hasan and Avana oil fields northwest of Kirkuk on Tuesday, after seizing the Baba Gurgur, Jambur and Khabbaz fields on Monday, he said, Reuters reported.

Oil officials in Baghdad said all the fields were operating normally.

The fields were previously held by Kurdish Peshmerga forces, but they pulled out of the area in the face of an advance by forces of the Iraqi central government.

Tuesday’s deployment of Iraqi government forces in Dibis, where Bai Hasan and Avana are located, is part of an operation ordered by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to take control of Kurdish-held areas outside the three provinces that form Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

The latest incidents come amid simmering tensions between the central government in Baghdad and the KRG over a recent controversial referendum on the secession of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region.

The plebiscite took place on September 25, sparking strong objection from Baghdad. Iraq’s neighbors and the international community also voiced concerns about the repercussions of the vote, which was only supported by Israel.

Kirkuk, with some 10 percent of Iraq’s oil reserves, has long been contested by Baghdad and Erbil.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

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

In the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the country’s educational system all but collapsed. Illiteracy rates have exploded. Universities have turned into sectarian battlegrounds.

Systemic violence — including beatings, rape and death threats — has forced students and faculty out of campuses. As state provision of higher education has receded, private donors have set up alternative institutions, often with a sectarian and religious twist. Foreign actors have also stepped in to fill the void.

Before the US-led invasion, education indicators in oil-rich, Baathist-controlled Iraq improved similarly as in other middle-income countries, and in several ways even more so. The country’s first university, Baghdad University, opened its doors in 1957. In 1968, the government made education free and compulsory at all levels.

In 1977, the eradication of illiteracy was made legally binding. The developmental push appeared to be working. By 1980, Iraq had already achieved near universal primary school enrollment.

Saddam Hussein’s devastating eight-year war with Iran in the 1980s and the sanctions imposed by the West over his invasion of Kuwait in the 1990s slowed these gains.

By 2000, the literacy rate of youth aged 15-24 years old stood at 84.8%, slightly higher than that of regional neighbor Egypt. The gender gap was also narrowing: Female literacy rates stood at 80.5% in 2000, a figure Egypt reached only in 2006. At the same time, underinvestment in education by a cash-strapped government led to an aged and creaking infrastructure.

For all its ills, the collapse of the Baathist regime in 2003 and its replacement with a US-installed government wrecked the country’s educational system. Junior, inexperienced American officers who failed to understand the complexities of maintaining peace between the sects were put in charge of higher education.

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

The Sept. 25 referendum, in which voters overwhelmingly voted for independence for Iraqi Kurdistan, increased the division between the Turkmen and Kurdish populations in the disputed city of Kirkuk. But Turkmens believe the Kurdish move, which raised objections from several parties, offers an opportunity to strengthen their position in Iraq.

Turkmens reported intimidation and repeated attacks on their party in Kirkuk both before and after the referendum. On Oct. 2, someone reportedly fired on the party headquarters and even lobbed a grenade at the building. Turkmen parliament member Hassan Tauran confirmed the news in a TV interview, adding, “This is the fifth attack during the week that followed the referendum.”

Turkmens strongly oppose the Kurdistan Regional Government’s efforts to annex Kirkuk and other mixed-population areas, and they hold the Kurdish side responsible for the attacks. On Sept. 19, Turkmen parliament member Jassim Mohammed al-Bayati accused what he called the “gangs” of Kirkuk’s Kurdish governor of kidnapping a young Turkmen.

But it is difficult to get to the truth behind these attacks amid the tension plaguing the city. Kurdish forces affiliated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan gained full security and military control over the city after June 2014, when the Iraqi army’s 12th division withdrew in the face of the Islamic State’s overwhelming advance.

Turkmens are the third-largest ethnic group in Iraq and say they have been denied their rights since Saddam Hussein was overthrown as president in 2003. Part of the problem is the deep sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shiite Turkmens that kept them from forming unified political blocs. When the new regime based on sectarian and ethnic quotas was established in Iraq, the Turkmens lacked the political experience of the Shiites and Kurds. The Turkmens have been involved in sectarian strife in many areas, particularly in Tal Afar, reaching the point of military clashes.

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

Iran and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq have historically been on good terms. During the Saddam Hussein years, Iran was one of the main countries to host Kurdish leaders. In the post-Saddam era, Tehran and Erbil have enjoyed good neighborly relations.

This relationship manifested itself in Iranian forces coming to the rescue of the Kurdish regions in their fight against the Islamic State (IS) in the summer of 2014. However, the recent independence referendum in the KRG has angered Tehran, and it is clear that the Kurdish moves will impact on both bilateral ties and wider regional alignments.

One important aspect to consider when assessing the fallout between Iran and the KRG following the independence vote is the economic dimension of their relationship in the geostrategic context of Iranian concerns.

Iran and the KRG have a multilayered relationship; most importantly, it is not all driven by the government. On the one hand, there are various trade links between the two sides, starting from very active border markets up to cross-border trade and investment.

There are five border markets between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan. Prior to the recent events, there were plans to expand such entities to create jobs and also shift the unofficial trade toward official channels. In fact, the KRG is an important market for Iranian exporters. The trade volume between the two sides amounted to $8 billion in 2014, which made Iran the KRG’s second-largest trading partner, after Turkey.

In recent years, Iranian exports to the Kurdistan Region have dropped due to the conflict against IS. Yet, according to Kurdish sources, the trade volume between Iran and the KRG stood at $4 billion in 2016. This means that approximately 40% of the Iran-Iraq trade goes through the KRG.

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U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, conducting three strikes consisting of three engagements in recent days, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials reported details of the strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Strike in Syria

In Syria, coalition military forces conducted one strike consisting of one engagement Oct. 15 near Dayr Az Zawr, engaging an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed two fighting positions.

Strikes in Iraq

In Iraq yesterday, coalition military forces conducted two strikes consisting of two engagements against ISIS targets:

  • Near Rahwa, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an improvised explosive device weapons facility.
  • Near Qaim, a strike destroyed a vehicle-borne-IED factory.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group’s ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said.

The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and some ground-based tactical artillery when fired on planned targets, officials noted.

Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike, they added. A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.

For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.

The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)