USAID Counselor Thomas H. Staal, a former USAID Iraq Mission Director and now one of the agency’s top officials, returned to Iraq December 5-10 to advance U.S. efforts to help Iraq’s most vulnerable communities following the defeat of ISIS.

While in Baghdad, Staal met with government officials including Dr. Mahdi al-Allaq, Secretary General of the Council of Ministers, to discuss how Iraq can strengthen its support for minority communities.

Staal also met with United Nations representatives who are implementing U.S.-funded stabilization programs in Anbar, Ninewa, and Salah ad Din provinces.  He affirmed the U.S. government’s pledge to provide an additional $150 million to this effort.

With this new infusion of funds, the United States will have provided more than $265 million for stabilization projects and a separate $1.7 billion throughout Iraq for humanitarian assistance to Iraqis who were displaced by the ISIS threat beginning in 2014.

On December 6, Staal traveled to Erbil for a closer look at U.S. assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.  After an initial meeting with the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs, he sat down with NGO leaders and representatives from the Christian, Yezidi, Sabean-Mandean, Kakai, Baha’i, Zoroastrian, and Jewish communities to hear their concerns and needs post-ISIS.

U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria between Dec. 11-14, conducting 42 strikes consisting of 53 engagements, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

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

Strikes in Syria

Yesterday in Syria, coalition military forces conducted 10 strikes consisting of 13 engagements against ISIS targets:

  • Near Abu Kamal, nine strikes engaged six ISIS tactical units and destroyed six ISIS vehicles and a fighting position.
  • Near Tanf, a strike destroyed a weapons cache and two ISIS caves.

On Dec. 13, coalition military forces conducted 14 strikes consisting of 17 engagements against ISIS targets:

  • Near Abu Kamal, nine strikes engaged nine ISIS tactical units and destroyed three ISIS vehicles and an ISIS headquarters.
  • Near Tanf, five strikes engaged three ISIS tactical units and destroyed three ISIS vehicles, four cave entrances and a tactical vehicle.

On Dec. 12,, coalition military forces conducted seven strikes consisting of seven engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged seven ISIS tactical units and destroyed two ISIS vehicles and a heavy weapon.

On Dec. 11, coalition military forces conducted six strikes consisting of seven engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged five ISiS tactical units and destroyed three ISIS heavy weapons.

Strikes in Iraq

There were no reported strikes in Iraq yesterday.

On Dec. 13 in Iraq, coalition military forces conducted two strikes consisting of two engagements against ISIS targets:

  • Near Rutbah, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an ISIS vehicle.
  • Near Tuz, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed two ISIS tents and a bunker.

On Dec. 12, coalition military forces conducted two strikes consisting of two engagements against ISIS targets:

  • Near Baghdadi, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit.
  • Near Rutbah, a strike destroyed two ISIS-held buildings.

On Dec. 11, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of five engagements against ISIS targets near Hawija. The strike engaged an ISiS tactical unit and destroyed two ISIS meeting facilities.

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)

U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria over the last three days, conducting 14 strikes consisting of 27 engagements, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported yesterday.

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

Strikes in Syria

On Dec. 8 in Syria, coalition military forces conducted two strikes consisting of three engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed a tactical vehicle and a fighting position.

On Dec. 9 in Syria, coalition military forces conducted three strikes consisting of five engagements against ISIS targets:

  • Near Abu Kamal, two strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed an ISIS vehicle and an ISIS line of communication.
  • Near Shadaddi, a strike engaged an ISIS mortar team.

On Dec. 10 in Syria, coalition military forces conducted eight strikes consisting of 13 engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged eight ISIS tactical units and destroyed two fighting positions, a mortar system, a tactical vehicle and an ISIS headquarters.

Strike in Iraq

On Dec. 9 in Iraq, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of six engagements against ISIS targets near Tuz. The strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an ISIS truck.

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)

By John Lee.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has reduced its flight restrictions in Iraqi airspace, though some restrictions will remain in place.

It had previously prohibited all US civilian flight operations over the country due to risks relating to the armed conflict with the Islamic State group.

Rudaw quotes a statement from Baghdad International Airport as saying that the announcement “means that global airlines can go over Iraqi airspace wherever they want.

The FAA statement can be viewed here.

(Sources: Govdelivery, Rudaw)

The High Level Committee of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve has met in Baghdad to discuss the way forward for the coalition’s continued support of the Iraqi security forces.

The committee’s chairman, Staff Lt. Gen. Waad Zainl Saleh, senior secretary to the Iraqi chief of defense, and Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney of the British army, the coalition’s deputy commander for strategy and support, led the discussions.

The meeting prepared for the future transition of the campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, from Iraq’s liberation to a consolidation of the hard-fought gains, coalition officials said in a statement.

Committee members discussed the sacrifices of many Iraqis from all parts of the Iraqi security forces who have been lost in battle during the campaign to liberate ISIS-controlled areas of Iraq, officials said, and they also recognized the heavy toll that the people of Iraq have paid due to ISIS’ campaign of terror.

Emphasizing Coalition’s Commitment

Together with Canadian Brig. Gen. Steven Whelan, the task force’s director of training and equipping, Gedney emphasized the coalition’s commitment to work hand in hand with the Iraqi government into the future, the statement said.

“During the past three years, the coalition of 70 nations and four partner organizations has been committed to building the [Iraqi security forces’ capabilities to achieve the military defeat of [ISIS’] so-called caliphate, liberating more than 4.5 million Iraqis and over 52,200 square kilometers of territory,” Gedney said. “In the process, he added, the coalition has trained more than 123,000 members of the Iraqi security forces, including 25,000 police officers.

“We will continue to support our Iraqi partners in the battle against ISIS with training, equipment, advice and assistance,” Gedney said. “The next phase will focus on the provision of lasting security, while developing Iraqi sustainability and self-sufficiency.”

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

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

The conflict between the United States and Iran has taken a new turn toward escalation against the Iranian-backed armed Shiite factions in Iraq. But this step might harm Washington’s interests in Baghdad and engage the Iraqi government in a crisis with the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

While Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is trying to strike a balance to tame armed Shiite factions and earn US support, Washington is seeking to add armed factions affiliated with the PMU to the list of terrorist organizations.

The US House of Representatives introduced a bill in early November called “Iranian Proxies Terrorist Sanctions Act of 2017,” which calls for imposing terrorism-related sanctions on Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba and Asaib Ahl al-Haq. The bill was referred Nov. 3 to the Foreign Affairs committee.

Before Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba was formed in 2013, the United States designated its leader Akram al-Kaabi as a terrorist in 2008 per Executive Order No. 13438, on the grounds of “causing chaos in Iraq and threatening the stability and security of the alliance forces which were in Iraq before retreating completely in 2011.”

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba was blacklisted less than a month after spokeswoman for the US State Department Heather Nauert described Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of the PMU, as a terrorist.

After Muhandis, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba and Asaib Ahl al-Haq were blacklisted, statements of various US Congress members indicated that the United States intends to designate additional Shiite factions as terrorist organizations.

While a harsher tone is being adopted in Iraqi statements against Washington, member of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee Hanan al-Fatalawi called on the Iraqi Foreign Ministry Nov. 17 to summon the US ambassador to Baghdad to find out the reasons behind “the future US war” on the PMU.

US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman (pictured) has  joined other distinguished guests and speakers at the Iraq Banking and Investment Summit on December 2.

The Ambassador spoke about the need to create economic opportunity for Iraq’s younger generation through a transition from a government-controlled, oil-based economy, toward a more diversified free market system that fosters and encourages private investment.

He noted the need to improve the ease of doing business in Iraq and emphasized that a sound banking system will be crucial to provide financing for aspiring entrepreneurs and business people.

The U.S. Embassy supports Prime Minister Abadi’s efforts to address these reforms and ‎is actively engaged in promoting U.S. business investment in Iraq.

(Source: US Embassy)

A federal jury convicted a Romanian citizen for his role in a government contract kickback scheme that caused a loss of more than $3.4 million to the U.S. Department of State.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Emil Popsecu, 49, conspired to violate the Anti-Kickback Act related to the lease of real property in Iraq in 2011.

According to evidence adduced and presented at trial, a United States government contractor headquartered in Virginia and performing services for the U.S. Department of State in Iraq in 2011, was searching for real property to lease. A conspiracy formed between Wesley Aaron Struble, 49, a United States citizen living in Batangas, Phillipines, and Joes Rivera, 60, of Potomac, Maryland, both of whom were working as government contractors in Iraq.

Struble and Rivera approached an Iraqi company and its associates and agreed to accept kickbacks in exchange for help in causing the U.S. State Department contractor to lease property that the Iraqi company controlled.

Emil Popescu was late recruited to the conspiracy and asked to open a bank account in Baghdad, Iraq. After a lease was signed between the U.S. State Department contractor and the Iraqi company, Popescu withdrew cash from the bank account and made kickback payments directly to Struble and Rivera. Popescu also facilitated other kickback payments by withdrawing money from the bank account and giving it to the Iraqi company knowing that kickback payments were owed to Struble and Rivera.

Prior to trial, Struble and Rivera each pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy and were sentenced to four years and three years in prison, respectively.

Popescu faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison when sentenced on Feb. 23, 2018. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Steve A. Linick, the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of State, and Andrew W. Vale, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema accepted the verdict. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian D. Harrison and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly R. Pedersen prosecuted the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:17-cr-44 and 1:17-cr-052.

(Source: US Dept of Justice)

Alliant Techsystems Inc., Fort Worth, Texas, has been awarded a $28,778,721 firm-fixed-price modification (P00027) to a previously awarded contract (FA8106-16-C-0004) for the exercise of option year two for contractor logistic support for the Iraqi Air Force’s Cessna 208 fleet and the Cessna 208/172 trainer fleet.

Work will be performed in Iraq, with an expected completion date of Dec. 31, 2018.

This contract is a sole-source acquisition.  Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, is the contracting activity.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, conducting 19 strikes consisting of 24 engagements between Nov. 27 and yesterday, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

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

Strikes in Syria

Yesterday near Abu Kamal in Syria, coalition military forces conducted five strikes that engaged five ISIS tactical units and destroyed an ISIS fighting position, a tactical vehicle and an explosive hazard.

On Nov. 29 near Abu Kamal, coalition military forces conducted three strikes that engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed a tactical vehicle, two ISIS watercraft, a heavy weapon, five ISIS vehicles and four supply routes.

On Nov. 28 near Abu Kamal, coalition military forces conducted five strikes that engaged five ISIS tactical units and destroyed three ISIS watercraft, an ISIS barge, a weapons cache and 11 ISIS vehicles.

On Nov. 27 near Abu Kamal, coalition military forces conducted three strikes that engaged three ISIS tactical units and destroyed a tactical vehicle, two ISIS watercraft, a rocket system and five ISIS vehicles.

Strikes in Iraq

Yesterday in Iraq, coalition military forces conducted two strikes consisting of two engagements against ISIS targets.

  • Near Rawah, a strike destroyed an ISIS construction vehicle.
  • Near Rutbah, a strike destroyed an ISIS bunker.

There were no reported strikes conducted in Iraq on Nov. 29.

On Nov. 28 near Qaim in Iraq, coalition military forces conducted a strike that destroyed an ISIS fighting position.

There were no reported strikes conducted in Iraq on Nov. 27.

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)