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.

Rupee opens marginally higher against US dollar

Livemint6 hours ago

The rupee opened at 64.93 a dollar. At 9.15am, the home currency was trading at 64.97 against the dollar, up 0.08% from its Tuesday's close of 65.03.

Rupee Recovers 7 Paise Against US DollarNews18
Rupee opens 6 paise higher against US dollar at 64.96Economic Times

By John Lee.

Iraq is reportedly considering using security forces to prevent Kurdistan from blocking oil output from Kirkuk.

A spokesman for the North Oil Company (NOC) told Reuters that Kurdish officials indicated that they would shut down production at the Kirkuk oilfield, ostensibly for security reasons, but as a means of putting pressure on Baghdad.

Kirkuk produces around 200,000 barrels per day, out of total Kurdish production of over 600,000 bpd.

More from Reuters here.

(Source: Reuters)

US dollar up, yield curve flat, on inflation; stocks rise

Reuters13 hours ago

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks rose on Tuesday after company earnings reports were better than expected, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average breaching the 23,000 mark for the first time, while the U.S. Treasury yield curve flattened and the dollar …

US dollar up, yield curve flat, on inflation; stocks mixedTODAYonline

US Dollar Up, Yield Curve Flat, on Inflation; Stocks Pause

New York Times10 hours ago

NEW YORK – U.S. stocks turned mixed on Tuesday, with traders unimpressed by some bank earnings reports, while the U.S. Treasury yield curve flattened and the dollar rose to a one-week high on increased inflation expectations. World stocks' gains …
Rupee weakens against US dollar

Livemint6 hours ago

Mumbai: Indian rupee on Tuesday weakened against the US dollar tracking losses in the Asian currencies market. At 2pm, the home currency was trading at 64.90 against the dollar, down 0.28% from its Monday's close of 64.72.

Indian rupee still down by 17 paise vs US dollar in late morning tradeMoneycontrol.com
Rupee trades lower against dollar in early tradeIndiainfoline

US dollar rises on talk of potential Fed chief nominee

THE BUSINESS TIMES12 hours ago

[NEW YORK] The US dollar rose to a one-week high against a basket of currencies on Tuesday on speculation that US President Donald Trump was leaning towards nominating a Federal Reserve head who would be more inclined to raise interest rates at a …

The US Dollar Is Vulnerable, But It's TemporarilySeeking Alpha
US dollar rises amid economic dataXinhua