This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

A Necessary Evil: Baghdad’s Security Checkpoints Bringing City to Halt

With an increasing number of checkpoints in Baghdad making an already stilted traffic flow even worse, it feels as if the capital’s road network is at breaking point. Stressed and unable to get anywhere on time, locals are spending more on taxis and fist fighting in traffic jams.

Iraqi man Othman Mohammed left Iraq 15 years ago and now he’s a very well travelled world citizen. Only a few hours after his arrival back into Baghdad though, he was already proclaiming that the capital’s traffic jams were the worst in the world.

As for the taxis and the way they plied their trade, this was even more upsetting, Mohammed said. “The fares charged here are unlike any others in the world,” the disgruntled traveller said. “Here the fares may increase during the trip, depending on the traffic.”

Mohammed is not the only person to complain about traffic in Baghdad. Because even though it’s never been pretty – the same situation as in many other capital cities around the world – now it seems to be going beyond what even the locals can stand. One of the major reasons for the continuously problematic traffic is the presence of military checkpoints on Baghdad roads – these have been deployed at the entrances to neighbourhoods, near bridges and on main arteries since 2006, and the start of sectarian violence that almost led to a civil war in Iraq. But their numbers seem to keep increasing. There are currently thought to be around 200 checkpoints in central Baghdad and many drivers go through more than three a day.

The situation is getting so bad that on Monday this week, the Ministry of the Interior issued a statement saying that it had held a meeting to bring together security leaders and traffic officers to discuss the situation.

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

One Man’s Rubbish: Basra’s Poor Fight for Wealthy Neighbours’ Garbage

Gangs of poor people in Basra are making a living sifting through rubbish in the oil boomtown’s affluent neighbourhoods. Often they’ll make more in a day than social welfare pays them in a month. Which is why the rubbish business is rife with different gangs claiming turf and competing with official garbage trucks.

Every day, early in the morning when the sun is just rising and it is still cold, groups of people roam Basra’s streets. They search through the refuse and rubbish left by others and they always seem to be racing not just one another, but also the municipality’s garbage collectors, who are always late.

And they keep searching through the rubbish until dusk. The rubbish collectors also compete with one another to be the first to go through rubbish in the city’s more affluent areas – there, one finds Iraq’s new upper class in residence, the likes of government officials, MPs, doctors, contractors and expatriates from elsewhere who are working for foreign firms in Basra.

“There is a huge difference in the standards of living of the ordinary citizen and of Iraq’s elite,” says local human rights activist, Sami al-Maliki. “The elite produce huge amounts of rubbish, throwing out food and furniture. It’s all thrown into containers and these containers have become a kind of market for the local poor. A lot of families now see the garbage business as their way to make a living.”

The rubbish collectors have also formed gangs in the city, which is booming due to its proximity to some of the country’s biggest oil wells. Different families and gangs control different streets in a number of neighbourhoods and they don’t allow others to pick through the rubbish there.

Dressed all in black, Nazim is a member of one of these groups. She’s racing to find the best rubbish and she urges her two pre-pubescent sons to run ahead and check another two streets their family controls.

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

Militiamen in Iraq do not only carry weapons, they also wield religious, moral and economic power over their social environment. They play the role of neighborhood governors in times of peace and murderers in times of war.

Mohammed, a member of a well-known Shiite militia in Iraq, insisted on being called “Sheikh Mohammed,” by which the residents of his area in Baya, south of Baghdad, know him. Speaking to Al-Monitor, he said he does not normally carry weapons without receiving orders from within his circles. What happened in the Baya neighborhood was a response to the bombing of a cafe, in which one of the neighborhood’s residents was involved.

While he spoke, the young sheikh tried to express a high degree of religious conservatism: “We are not involved in killing, as our religion prohibits us. We simply fend off certain negative influences and try to protect the residents of the area.”

Mohammed denied committing any crime that would be punishable by law. What he does is a mere self-defense, even if it comes in the form of an assassination. The residents of the neighborhood, however, depict the “sheikh” in a different light. According to one female worker, he is seen as practically the governor of the neighborhood.

When someone wants to sell his house to escape threats, Mohammed specifies the price and buys the house himself as a final settlement. No one dares to offer a higher bid.

In the Sunni Amiriya neighborhood, the scene is no different. The “sheikh” there is not only the religious guide and preacher but also the governor of the neighborhood. He does not hesitate to enforce the law by militant means if need be.

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

Dawa Official Calls for Opening Another American University in Iraq

While the number of Iraqi students studying in the United States has been on the rise in the last few years, the Iraqi government has recently shown an interest in opening another American university in Iraq. Minister of Higher Education Ali al-Adeeb expressed public support for such a move in a Dec. 16 article, “Why Baghdad Needs an American University,” which he wrote for a US website specializing in higher education.

In the article, Adeeb calls for the new American university to be located in central or southern Iraq, which would be an addition to the existing American University of Iraq in Sulaimaniyah. He asserted that such a university would advance higher education in the country, producing graduates who are critical thinkers, educated with a global and modern knowledge base, fluent in English and receptive to cultural diversity.

Adeeb’s position is remarkable because he is a leading figure in the Shiite Dawa Party, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Some observers were surprised that his ministry would be enthusiastic about such an idea given that the Shiite parties generally do not support what they view as “Western cultural penetration” of Iraqi society. The Dawa party has traditionally been opposed to Western cultural expansion, at least according to the writings of its ideological guide Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (who was executed in 1980).

The Ambassador of Sri Lanka, Sumith Nakandala, has visited the Kurdistan Region and met with the Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, Minister Falah Mustafa to discuss a wide range of issues including ways of enhancing bilateral relations.

The meeting was attended by the Deputy Head of the DFR, Karwan Jamal and the Assistant Head of the DFR, Siham Jabali.

During the meeting, Ambassador Nakandala spoke about the stability and security that Kurdistan currently enjoys and said, ‘We would like to improve relations with the Kurdistan Region in a number of areas’. The Ambassador also highlighted the Sri Lankan Minister of Trade’s upcoming visit to Kurdistan and Iraq as an opportunity to enhance these economic relations.

Minister Mustafa welcomed the steps taken by Sri Lanka which will help benefit the Kurdistan Region, adding that not only is the Kurdistan Region considered the gateway to the rest of Iraq, but it also has many opportunities for work and investment in the economic and human capacity development sectors.

Both sides also discussed the latest political developments in Kurdistan as well as Iraq as a whole, with Minister Mustafa briefing the Ambassador on the forthcoming Iraqi parliamentary elections and ongoing cabinet formation process in the Kurdistan Regional Government.

He went on to discuss the KRG’s strategies to further development and cited industry, agriculture and tourism as the current sectors that the KRG has prioritised.

(Source: KRG)

A high-level Jordanian delegation headed by the Prime Minister of Jordan, Mr. Abdullah Alnusur, arrived on December 25th accompanied by eight ministers and a number of senior advisers. The delegation was received at the airport in Baghdad, by Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Minister of Youth and Sports.

A formal reception took place at the Government Palace, where the visiting delegation was received by Prime Minister Nuri al -Maliki and a number of ministers, as the national anthem played and the guard of honor reviewed.

Official talks held with the participation of the ministers concerned , especially Foreign, Internal , Industry , Trade , Planning, Agriculture, Energy, Works and Housing and Transportation.

They reviewed pipeline project to export Iraqi oil through Jordanian territory to the Gulf of Aqaba and Jordan’s needs of crude oil and electricity interconnection and railway and cooperation in the areas of air transport, facilitating the procedures and the entry of Iraqi citizens as well as Jordanian goods and agricultural products. They also discussed the prospects for security cooperation and the fight against terrorism.

A news conference held at the end of the talks the by the prime ministers of the two countries. The Iraqi Prime Minister to held luncheon invitation in honor of the visiting Jordanian delegation .

(Source: MoFA)

By John Lee.

Canada’s SNC-Lavalin has announced that it has been awarded a contract by the Iraq Ministry of Oil’s State Company for Oil Projects (SCOP) to provide engineering services for the Iraq Export Pipeline Project.

Working closely with SCOP, SNC-Lavalin will provide front-end engineering design (FEED); long-lead items tendering and evaluation; and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) tendering and evaluation for two pipeline systems and five pump station facilities. Once completed, the pipeline system will transport 2.25 million barrels of crude oil per day and 258 million standard cubic feet of natural gas per day from a station near Basra to a station near Haditha. The work will be carried out from SNC-Lavalin’s offices in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

We are very pleased to support SCOP,” said Terrance Ivers, Executive Vice-President, Oil & Gas, SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. “The Iraq Export Pipeline project is well aligned with SNC-Lavalin’s extensive pipeline capabilities and experience in the Middle East.

(Source: SNC-Lavalin)

By John Lee.

The Head of Iran’s Petrochemical Research and Technology Company (PRTC), Gholam Reza Jokar, has said the company is negotiating the export of services to Iraq.

He said he hoped that a final deal for exporting PRTC services to Iraq will be reached soon, adding that Iraqi officials have shown interest in Iranian expertise in the field of catalysts.

According to the report from Iran’s FARS news agency, Joker also said that sanctions are “no longer effective on Iranian petrochemical researches who have mastered technology for catalysts and chemicals“.

(Source: FARS)

(Tanks image via Shutterstock)

By John Lee.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has opened the new Iraqi embassy in Abu Dhabi , capital of the brother United Arab Emirates with the participation of His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zaied Al Nuhaiyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, senior officials, members of the Arab and foreign diplomatic corps and a group of Iraqi community in the UAE.

The ribbon cutting ceremony was done by the Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs ,Hoshyar Zebari and his UAE counterpart, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zaied Al Nuhaiyan.

Iraq’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Muwaffaq Mehdi Abboud gave a welcoming speech in which he praised efforts of the Iraqi engineers and staff of the embassy to follow up and complete building of the embassy and the Ambassador’s residence in Abu Dhabi. The two Ministers gave words on this occasion praising the distinguished relations between the two brotherly countries.

Worth mentioning that the Iraqi Embassy building is an architectural edifice in Abu Dhabi which embodies the ancient civilization of Iraq.

(Source: MoFA)

The Head of the KRG, Department of Foreign Relations, Minister Falah Mustafa, recently welcomed the non-resident Canadian Ambassador to Iraq, Bruno Saccomani, to discuss the ways in which both sides can work together more closely. This visit follows a similar visit by the Canadian Ambassador to Kurdistan this past October.

The meeting was attended by the Deputy Head of the DFR, Karwan Jamal, the Senior Trade Commissioner at the Canadian Embassy, Jean-Philippe Tachdjian and a number of other Canadian Embassy and DFR officials.

Minister Falah Mustafa welcomed Ambassador Saccomani to the region and expressed his pleasure at the level of commitment that the Canadian government is showing towards Kurdistan. He expressed his pleasure with the plans that Canada has in place towards opening their Embassy Office in the region.

Ambassador Saccomani briefed Minister Mustafa on his trip, highlighting his visit to Domiz Camp to visit the Syrian refugees there and said that his team was evaluating the needs of the refugees and spoke about Canada’s continued commitment towards assisting the Syrian refugees affected by the ongoing crisis.

The Ambassador went on to brief Minister Mustafa on the latest developments regarding the groundwork for opening their Embassy Office and expressed his hopes of this paving the way for the start of good economic relations between both sides. He went on to add that a trade delegation is expected to visit from Canada in February with Minister Mustafa welcoming these steps and expressing the full support of the KRG to the Embassy’s mission in Iraq.

Minister Mustafa thanked the Ambassador for the commitment being shown by him and his government and said, “We welcome this partnership and we will support you in any way that we can. We also thank you for your concern and interest in helping Syrian refugees here whether on camp or off camp.’

(Source: KRG)