By Padraig O’Hannelly.

Last week, the US Embassy in Baghdad ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. Government employees from Iraq, as tension mounts between the Trump administration and neighbouring Iran. In the meantime, several other organisations have taken similar moves.

While this has made headlines, has there been any real change on the ground?

Iraq Business News spoke with Martin Aggar, General Manager of Al-Burhan Security, to get his perspective on developments.

He says that while some people have changed their travel plans in response to the increased tensions, in practice little has changed in Baghdad:

Our operations team is closely monitoring the situation, and apart from one minor incident last night, there has not been a significant increase in security-related activity or general threat levels.

“Nevertheless, some clients have chosen not to leave our secure accommodation at the Al-Burhan Centre.

“But with meeting facilities on site, and also at our villa in Al-Mansour, we can still help them to see the people they need to see while visiting Iraq. We’re equipped for all situations.”

The events of the past week seem to many to be at odds with the general trend in Iraq. Aggar explains:

This all comes against a background of steadily improving conditions in Iraq; people feel safer, infrastructure is improving, and international companies are taking more of an interest in the opportunities to be had here.

“That’s why we’ve invested in the newest and best armoured vehicles, a VIP meet-and-greet service at the airport, and the full package of services that executives need and expect when they come here to do business.

“And our sister company Al-Burhan Airways is the only private operator licensed to fly helicopters in Iraq, so we can bring visitors quickly and safely wherever they need to be in the country.

Asked how he expects this to play out, he says:

The current tensions are the result of Iran-US relations, and while they don’t originate in Iraq, they do of course influence this country.  

“However, the Iraqi government is very focussed on developing the economy and moving Iraq forward.

“The opportunities are huge and the people are determined to succeed; I think in future we’ll look back on this as the early stage of a boom period for Iraq.

By John Lee.

Oil Minister Thamer al-Ghadban has criticised ExxonMobil‘s decision to temporarily evacuate staff from the West Qurna oil field as “unacceptable and unjustified”.

In a statement on Sunday, he said the move was “political“, and pointed out that other international oil companies are continuing to work freely.

According to CNN, the company evacuated about 30 foreign engineers from Basra as a “temporary precautionary measure“.

(Sources: Ministry of Oil, CNN)

By John Lee.

Iraq’s Minister for Electricity has warned of the dangers of politicising the problems in the country’s electicity sector.

Luay al-Khateeb told AFP:

“Electricity is a national security issue … In the end, any political, economic or security crisis in Iraq will affect the whole region — and the global economy will be open to threat. We’re urging for this file not to be politicised.”

The shortage of electricity in the summer months, when people rely on air conditioning to keep cool, has been a source of social unrest in the past.

Khateeb added:

“On October 25, the week I took office, electricity generation sat at between 9.5 to 10 GW. It is now at 15 GW. [Most Iraqi provinces] will receive no less than 20 hours of electricity per day. This, to be honest, is a level of production the country hasn’t seen in years.”

(Source: AFP)

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, inaugurated its new office In Sulaymaniya [Slemani] under the patronage of the First Lady of Iraq – Ms. Serbagh Saleh; and with the participation of the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Ms. Marta Ruedas; FAO Representative a.i. for Iraq Mr. René Verduijn; the Governor of Sulaymaniyah Dr. Hafal Abu Bakr; the Head of the Provincial Council Azad Mohammed Amin; and the Director General of Sulaymaniyah’s Directorate of Agriculture.

The meeting was addressed by the First Lady who thanked FAO for its leading and effective role in combating famine and securing food around the world and in Iraq. She also highlighted the importance of promoting bio-diversity in the region.

Also speaking at the ceremony, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Ms. Ruedas, said that, “the inauguration of the new FAO Office symbolizes the interest of the UN to support the people of Sulaymaniya in achieving long-term, sustainable development.”

“It also shows the importance of investing in the Agriculture and Water Sectors, but we should be reminded to also reduce the water pollution the sector generates,” she added.

On his part, the FAO Resident Representative, a.i., Mr. Verduijn, expressed his gratitude to the First Lady for her contribution to promoting bio-diversity, in particular her work as a co-founder of the Kurdistan Botanical Foundation that is committed to establish a gene/ seed bank in Sulaymaniya and her efforts as an activist in defense of women’s rights.

“FAO in Iraq is keen on promoting agriculture to help achieve economic growth, a stable society, food and nutrition security for all and improving bio-diversity. We feel strongly towards supporting Iraq in face of the numerous challenges it faces in terms of agriculture and water through promoting Good Agriculture Practices and improving smallholder farmers’ livelihoods”, said Mr. Verduijn.

The new office comes at a significant moment as the country moves away from emergency towards more development to provide structural support to the sub-sectors, and people’s livelihoods.

The new UN office is located within the Directorate of Agriculture in Sulaymaniyah. In April, FAO celebrated its 40th anniversary of the establishment of FAO in Iraq in 1979. Assistance has targeted a wide range of sub-sectors, including crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry, and has proved to be successful in supporting agricultural research and extension institutes over years of stability, sanctions and conflict. The inauguration of the new office is another landmark in the organization’s efforts to reinforce its technical programs for the benefit of the people of Iraq.

(Source: UN)

(Picture credit: Diyar Muhammed)

By John Lee.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed the nomination of Ambassador Matthew Tueller to be the Ambassador to Iraq.

Tueller has most recently served as U.S. Ambassador to Yemen.

A native of Utah, Utah, his other overseas assignments have included Ambassador to Kuwait, Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Cairo; Political Minister Counselor at Embassy Baghdad; Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Kuwait; Political Counselor at Embassy Riyadh; Chief of the U.S. Office in Aden, Yemen; Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Doha; Political Officer at Embassy London; and Political Officer and Consular Officer at Embassy Amman.

His Washington assignments have included Deputy Director in the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs and Egypt Desk Officer.

(Sources: US Embassy, US State Department)

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

An apparent rocket attack has hit the high-security Green Zone. The area houses key government buildings and the United States embassy.

Iraq’s state-run news agency says a Katyusha rocket crashed in the area without causing any casualties.

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford joins us from Baghdad to discuss the latest updates:

By John Lee.

Plans by Iraqi Airways to resume flights between Baghdad (pictured) and Damascus have reportedly been postponed.

Syria’s Ministry of Transportation said it had been informed of the “decision to postpone the trip of two Iraqi Airways planes today… until further notice,” according to Rudaw.

The Iraqi Embassy is said to have notified the Syrian foreign ministry that “the completion of some administrative and organizational steps between the company and the Syrian civil aviation” authority is needed before flights can resume.

(Sources: Rudaw, Facebook)

GardaWorld, a global leader in comprehensive security and risk management, has made its weekly security report available to Iraq Business News readers.

Prepared by GardaWorld’s Risk Analysis Team in Iraq, this essential report includes short- and medium-term outlooks on the security situation, reports and commentary on recent significant events, and a detailed overview of developments across the country.

Please click here to download the latest report free of charge.

For more information on how GardaWorld’s services can support your business in Iraq, please contact Daniel Matthews, Senior Director Iraq, at daniel.matthews@garda.com

By John Lee.

Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban (pictured) has reportedly said on Thursday that Iraq has contingency plans in place to cope with any stoppage of Iranian gas imports.

His comments come as the US increases sanctions pressure on Iran.

According to Reuters, Ghadhban added that he hopes no such disruption will take place.

(Source: Reuters)