Protecting communities from COVID-19: Canada commits funds to tackle growing pandemic in Iraq

The Government of Canada has contributed US$1.85 million (CAD 2.5 million) to support the Government of Iraq’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Iraq.

The funds will be directed toward two critical areas of work; $1.85 million will support UNDP Iraq’s immediate response to COVID-19, which supports 12 governorates, and includes increasing the testing capacity of laboratories, providing personal protective equipment to healthcare workers, increasing the number of isolation wards, and undertaking assessments to establish post-COVID-19 recovery strategies.

An additional $75,000 will be used to provide local police engaged in Iraq’s COVID-19 response with personal protective equipment including masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, largely focusing on officers in Baghdad, which has seen the highest number of cases in the country.

“The emergence of COVID-19 has presented yet another challenge for Iraq – which is still reeling from the devastating effects of the ISIL conflict, and is now faced with an economic crisis due to the decline in oil prices. This generous contribution from Canada will ensure the health and safety of communities through access to improved health services and infrastructure, and protect those serving local communities in the line of duty,” says UNDP Iraq’s Resident Representative, Zena Ali Ahmad.

The funds have been repurposed from existing agreements under UNDP Iraq’s Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS), and the Security Sector Reform/Rule of Law programmes. As one of UNDP Iraq’s key partners, Canada has provided approximately $27 million to the two programmes.

(Source: UNDP)

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

Iraq’s coronavirus cases top 100,000 as Baghdad airport reopens

Iraq is instituting a “total curfew” for the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday.

The curfew will be in place from July 30 until Aug. 9, according to a statement today from the Iraqi government.

Past total curfew orders in Iraq have mandated a ban on non-essential movement and business, meaning people could only go to local supermarkets and pharmacies.

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Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) conducted a ceremony with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to transfer the Coalition area of Besmayah Base, Iraq, July 25, 2020.

Due to Iraqi Security Forces’ success in the campaign against Daesh, the Coalition is adjusting its positioning and focus in Iraq. These military movements are long-planned in coordination with the Government of Iraq.

“Today marks the seventh base this year transferred to the ISF, as part of an ongoing partnership between the Iraqi security forces and the anti-ISIS international military Coalition,” said Maj. Gen. Gerald Strickland, CJTF-OIR deputy commander for strategy. “Iraqi forces trained here were critical in the liberation of Mosul three years ago. Besmayah serves as a shining example of Iraqi military capability. The Coalition has supported the development of this facility, enabling the Iraqi military to deliver forces ready to root out the remnants of Daesh.”

Coalition activities at Besmayah were primarily led by Spanish forces, who trained nearly 50,000 Iraqi military personnel at the site. In conjunction with their Portuguese partners, Spain’s military forces trained the ISF in a broad range of military tactics and programs. Courses quickly evolved to a “train-the-trainer” approach, with Iraqis assuming daily leadership and delivery of the programs.

The Spanish contingent transferred and divested $4 million in classrooms, barracks, weapons ranges, mock urban training sites, and other facilities to the Government of Iraq. The United States contributed $1 million in power generation and base force protection materials and equipment.

“The train-the-trainer courses were highly successful in building a sustainable future for Iraqi-led training programs,” said Spanish Col. Leopoldo Ramirez, the CJTF-OIR senior national representative for Spain. “More than 5,000 Spanish soldiers served 12 rotations at this base, they can be very proud that their Iraqi partners have assumed full control and are capable of operating independently for a secure and stable future of Iraq.”

CJTF-OIR will continue to relocate and consolidate personnel and equipment from Iraqi bases throughout 2020, in cooperation with the Government of Iraq. The ISF increasingly conducts independent operations in the fight against Daesh and the defense of their homeland including the 2020 series of operations “Heroes of Iraq,” in which they have cleared thousands of kilometers to capture enemy fighters and equipment.

Coalition troops will depart Besmayah in the coming days. As a member of the 77-nation international Coalition, Spain firmly believes that unified, well trained Iraqi armed forces are essential to defeating Daesh, and remains committed to a long-term engagement with the Iraqi people in support of this objective.  Spain therefore remains a strong member of the Coalition, providing advisors to the Iraqi Joint Operations Command and valuable helicopter support to the Coalition.

(Source: Operation Inherent Resolve)

Ziad Akle, Unaoil‘s territory manager for Iraq, has been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for paying over $500,000 in bribes to secure a $55m contract to supply offshore mooring buoys.

The new buoys formed part of the post-occupation Iraqi government’s “Master Plan” to rebuild Iraq’s oil industry and thereby expand the country’s oil export capacity. To ensure Unaoil benefitted from these state-run projects, Akle, conspiring with Stephen Whiteley and others, bribed public officials at the South Oil Company to secure contracts for Unaoil and its clients.

In his sentencing, HHJ Beddoe said:

“The offences were committed across borders at a time of serious need for the government of Iraq to rebuild after years of sanctions and the devastation of war. They were utterly exploitative at a time when the economic and political situation in Iraq was extremely fragile.”

A jury at Southwark Crown Court found Akle guilty on two counts of conspiracy to give corrupt payments. Another individual, Stephen Whiteley, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to give corrupt payments in relation to the same crime. He will be sentenced on a date to be determined.

SFO Director Lisa Osofsky said:

Ziad Akle and his co-conspirators exploited a country reeling from years of dictatorship and military occupation to line his own pockets and win business. It is this combination of greed and heartless avarice that led to these convictions.

“Today’s sentencing sends a clear message that the United Kingdom and the SFO will not tolerate criminal activity that undermines the fairness and integrity of international business.

The convictions followed the guilty pleas of co-conspirator Basil Al Jarah who, in July 2019, admitted five offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments. Al Jarah, who admitted to paying bribes totalling over $6million to secure contracts worth $800m for the supply of oil pipelines and offshore mooring buoys, is due to be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on 8 October 2020.

(Source: SFO)

No one could predict what the year 2020 would bring, especially facing an unprecedented global health pandemic.For Mosul, which today is still reeling from the effects of ISIL’s four-year brutal rule, COVID-19 presented a crisis upon crises affecting the city’s quest for stability.

Under its Funding facility for Stabilization Programme (FFS), UNDP has been active in Mosul before its liberation, working to restore critical infrastructure and services, provide short-term job opportunities, and build cohesion amongst its fragmented communities.

To mitigate health risk and to safeguard the safety and health of workers and communities, UNDP temporarily halted its field operations in mid-March, to comply with the curfews and movement restrictions instructed by the Iraqi Government and health advice provided by the World Health Organization.

More here.

(Source: UNDP)

A senior Iraqi official said the construction work for establishing a major railway project connecting the Arab country to neighboring Iran will get underway not in the too distant future.

“The railway between Iran and Iraq through the Shalamcheh link will get going soon,” said Qasim al-Araji, a national security adviser to the Iraqi government, in a tweet on Thursday.

The announcement comes just days after a high-ranking Iraqi delegation traveled to Iran to discuss key issues with officials in Tehran, Press TV reported.

The announcement by Araji, a former interior minister of Iraq, could be a sign that Iran and Iraq have reached fresh arrangements on how they can finish a project that that has stalled on the Iraqi side of the border for almost eight years.

Iran’s Mostazafan Foundation (MFJ), a semi-governmental charity with years of experience in construction activities, is responsible for funding and execution of the entire project in Iran and Iraq.

Iran has finished its side of the railway, a 17-koilometer link between the cities of Khoramshahr and Shalamcheh. However, MFJ plans for continuing the project into Iraq hit a snag in 2014 when the Arab country became involved in an extensive war on terror.

The $150-million project, which spans 47 kilometers through the two territories to reach the Iraqi city of Basra, has also faced issues like mine clearance inside Iraq.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

United Nations Secretary-General on COVID-19 and the Arab region: recovery is an opportunity to build back better

The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on an Arab region struggling with decades-long development challenges, including occupation and conflict but also a dire economic situation, which have limited States’ capacity to mitigate the impact of the virus.

However, the Arab region can leverage recovery plans as a means to build back better, tackling new and long-standing obstacles in tandem. That is the proposal made by the United Nations Secretary-General’s policy brief launched today on “The impact of COVID-19 on the Arab Region: An Opportunity to Build Back Better”.

The brief argues that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic represents an important opportunity to address some of the structural weaknesses of the Arab region. Conflict, weak public institutions, undiversified economies, inadequate social safety nets, and high unemployment and inequality levels are some of the region’s long-standing vulnerabilities outlined the brief.

Not only have these vulnerabilities been exposed by COVID-19, they have also been exacerbated by its dire repercussions. The brief highlights alarming numbers: an estimated 5% contraction in the economy; one quarter of the population falling into poverty; 17 million jobs lost when 14.3 million adults of working age were already unemployed; and heightened risks for the 55 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, including the 26 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).

“Now is the time to take immediate measures to slow the spread of the disease, end conflict and meet the urgent needs of the most vulnerable,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations. “We must deepen efforts to address inequalities, boost economic recovery through reimagining the region’s economic model, and prioritize human rights,” he affirmed.

The brief also underlines the strengths and opportunities that Arab countries can leverage to build back better. Those include a determined young population that should be further empowered; educated women and girls whose equal rights should be upheld and participation ensured; and an active private sector that can become a recovery booster, namely through further investment in human capital, technology and innovation.

The Secretary-General also invited Arab States to “ensure a vibrant civil society and free media and create more accountable institutions that will increase citizen trust and strengthen the social contract”.

According to the brief, for the region to build back better, health-sector and social protection reforms should be widened; provisions for continued access to education should be adopted; and steps to ensure Arab countries’ greater access to funds, such as a regional solidarity fund, could be taken.

(Source: UN)

United Nations Secretary-General on COVID-19 and the Arab region: recovery is an opportunity to build back better

The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on an Arab region struggling with decades-long development challenges, including occupation and conflict but also a dire economic situation, which have limited States’ capacity to mitigate the impact of the virus.

However, the Arab region can leverage recovery plans as a means to build back better, tackling new and long-standing obstacles in tandem. That is the proposal made by the United Nations Secretary-General’s policy brief launched today on “The impact of COVID-19 on the Arab Region: An Opportunity to Build Back Better”.

The brief argues that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic represents an important opportunity to address some of the structural weaknesses of the Arab region. Conflict, weak public institutions, undiversified economies, inadequate social safety nets, and high unemployment and inequality levels are some of the region’s long-standing vulnerabilities outlined the brief.

Not only have these vulnerabilities been exposed by COVID-19, they have also been exacerbated by its dire repercussions. The brief highlights alarming numbers: an estimated 5% contraction in the economy; one quarter of the population falling into poverty; 17 million jobs lost when 14.3 million adults of working age were already unemployed; and heightened risks for the 55 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, including the 26 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).

“Now is the time to take immediate measures to slow the spread of the disease, end conflict and meet the urgent needs of the most vulnerable,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations. “We must deepen efforts to address inequalities, boost economic recovery through reimagining the region’s economic model, and prioritize human rights,” he affirmed.

The brief also underlines the strengths and opportunities that Arab countries can leverage to build back better. Those include a determined young population that should be further empowered; educated women and girls whose equal rights should be upheld and participation ensured; and an active private sector that can become a recovery booster, namely through further investment in human capital, technology and innovation.

The Secretary-General also invited Arab States to “ensure a vibrant civil society and free media and create more accountable institutions that will increase citizen trust and strengthen the social contract”.

According to the brief, for the region to build back better, health-sector and social protection reforms should be widened; provisions for continued access to education should be adopted; and steps to ensure Arab countries’ greater access to funds, such as a regional solidarity fund, could be taken.

(Source: UN)

Oryx Petroleum Corporation has announced that the Corporation’s two largest shareholders have informed the Corporation that Zeg Oil and Gas Ltd. acquired control of the Corporation from AOG Upstream BV on July 23, 2020 in the context of the previously announced transaction.

The acquisition was conditional upon and subsequent to the closing of the Loan Settlement announced by the Corporation on July 23, 2020.

In connection with the change in control, Jean Claude Gandur has resigned from the Board of Directors of the Corporation.

As part of securing consent for the change in control of the Corporation’s interest in the Hawler license area from the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (“MNR”), the Corporation has agreed to amend certain terms of the Production Sharing Contract governing the Hawler license area (pictured).

Specifically, the Corporation has agreed to a 22% reduction in the cost pool related to its interest, and to finance all costs attributed to the 35% interest it does not own for the duration of the development period and without a cap on such financing facility.

Previously, the Corporation was financing only the costs attributable to a 20% interest in the license, to a maximum of US $300 million. The MNR has agreed to waive any rights it has to audit costs incurred up to December 31, 2020.

Depending on actual future revenue and cost profiles, the changes may or may not result in a lower share of future cash flows attributable to the Corporation’s interest compared to the applicable terms prior to amendment.

(Source: Oryx Petroleum)

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

Iraq’s coronavirus cases top 100,000 as Baghdad airport reopens

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Iraq exceeded 100,000 on Thursday as the country’s airport in Baghdad reopened to commercial flights for the first time since March.

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