By Miran Hussein.

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.

Now that Massoud Barzani has ensured he is Iraqi Kurdistan’s President for another two years, many are wondering if he’s actually gunning for an even better job: President of Iraq. And if so, when will he move to Baghdad?

Through clever sleight of legislation, Iraqi Kurdistan’s President has managed to extend his term in office, which was supposed to finish at the end of August 2013, for a further two years. And now some are saying it’s just preparation for Massoud Barzani’s next job: President of Iraq.

The current President of Iraq is another Iraqi Kurdish politician, Jalal Talabani. The government of Iraqi Kurdistan is dominated by two major parties, Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, the KDP, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK, which Talabani heads. The two parties have agreed to share power in the semi-autonomous region, which has its own parliament, military and legislation- and this includes splitting important political positions.

But Talabani, generally considered the elder statesman of Iraqi Kurdish politics, has not been well for some time and locals suggest that Barzani may like to take his place soon.

Having made a big effort to remain in power until Iraq’s next parliamentary elections – slated for 2014 – he will then be able to swap the presidency of Iraqi Kurdistan for that of Iraq. In this way Barzani will retain a senior post for the Iraqi Kurdish people.

“That’s why Barzani was kept in the current job: it’s to keep the position of the Iraqi presidency open for the Iraqi Kurdish,” a senior politician and strategist with the PUK, Fareed Asrad, told NIQASH. “It is also meant to help solve the current political crisis around the region’s presidency.”

After all if Barzani is nominated for the job and has to go to Baghdad, then his old job will open up and this would resolve the conflict around the Iraqi Kurdish presidency: many believe Barzani should not be allowed to keep this job for another two years.

The Department of State warns all U.S. citizens in Iraq of increased threats of terrorist activity throughout the coming weeks:

U.S. citizens should exercise extreme caution in light of the increase in violence and use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), particularly since the beginning of Ramadan.

The Department of State further strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid large gatherings and to remain vigilant. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad warns U.S. citizens of continued incidents of violence in Iraq. Terror attacks have claimed the lives of several hundred people since February 2013, and such terror attacks may occur at any time.

The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S. Government personnel throughout Iraq to be serious enough to require them to live and work under strict security guidelines. All U.S. Government employees under the authority of the U.S. Chief of Mission must follow strict safety and security procedures when traveling outside the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulates.

We urge U.S. citizens to stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Please check our current Travel Warning and Country Specific Information Sheet for further security guidance.

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Iraq enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at www.Travel.State.Gov. STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency.

If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The Embassy also offers SMS text alerts delivered to your mobile phone when new security and emergency messages are released.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State’s Internet website at travel.state.gov where the Worldwide Caution, Country Specific Information for Iraq, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. Download our free Smart Traveler app, available through iTunes or Google Play, to have travel information at your fingertips.

Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Consular Section

American Citizen Services

U.S. Embassy Baghdad

0770.443.1286 – emergency hotline only

baghdadacs@state.gov

www.FVAP.gov

VoteBaghdad@State.Gov

By John Lee.

Shares in Irish-based exploret Petrel Resources jumped more than 37 percent on Friday, following the announcement of a possible deal in Iraq.

The Board said that negotiations on “a potential Iraqi investment are at an advanced stage whereby a private company with extensive hydrocarbon interests in Iraq would inject an asset into Petrel in return for a minority shareholding in Petrel as well as board representation.

(Sources: Petrel Resources, Yahoo!)

By Haider Najm.

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.

Recently conservatives in Baghdad closed several cafes by force, claiming they were fronts for immoral behaviour, prostitution and drugs. Liberals say it’s not so – and that this is just the latest campaign to clamp down on Iraqis’ everyday rights.

Recent raids on, and closures of, some of Baghdad’s more modern, youth-oriented coffee shops are a “sign of Iraq’s future,” writes Mushriq Abbas, a Baghdad journalist. “They show the country at a cross roads, looking down one road or another. The question of whether Iraq will become a carbon copy of Iran or Afghanistan, or whether it will be a modern civil state, remains.”

Abbas is just one of many locals angered by the apparently unofficial closure of a number of coffee shops in Baghdad’s central Karrada neighbourhood. Among the reasons given for the closures were arguments that the coffee shops were employing under-age females, that they were fronts for brothels, that there was immoral contact between the sexes going on there as well as drug dealing and that the cafes were open at illegal hours.

In his recently published article, Abbas call the closures “religious raids on the personal freedoms of the Iraqi people” and criticises local security forces, who did nothing to prevent the closures which Abbas feels violate the Iraqi Constitution. Some of the cafes appear to have been forcibly shut down by local religious and tribal groups.

In fact, various reports indicate that the coffee shops were not actually closed because of any official violations or because they were contravening rules on when food can be served during the month-long Muslim festival of Ramadan. During Ramadan, when most practising Muslims fast during the day, only a handful of restaurants are usually given special permission to open. But this was not the case with these modern, some would call them “trendy”, cafes.

By Reidar Visser.

The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford and currently based at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Anti-Maliki Forces in the Iraqi Parliament Reach Another Milestone

In many ways, the approval by the Iraqi parliament this week of a Sadrist nominee as head of the country’s de-Baathification board is significant also as an indicator of the shrinking parliamentary support base of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Ever since his accession to the Iraqi premiership in 2006, Maliki’s strength has been the ability to avoid outright showdowns with the Iraqi parliament despite persistent and growing frictions. In some cases, this has been done simply by letting parliament quarrel among themselves regarding key legislation whereas Maliki governs based on Baath-era laws: The oil and gas law is a case in point.

In other cases of problematic legislation, Maliki has relied on the judiciary to strong-arm the national assembly into obedience. This approach proved itself successful in a number of cases – and perhaps most spectacularly so when the supreme court struck down early attempts to decentralize the provincial powers law in 2010, as well as in Maliki’s moves to attach the independent commissions administratively to the executive and to limit the right to question ministers.

And again other potential conflicts have been defused in the last minute by the resuscitation of sectarian alliances, sometimes with reported Iranian support. First, there was of course the last-minute détente with the Sadrists that largely helped save Maliki’s premiership in early summer 2012 when things almost reached a critical level. As late as January this year, only months before the provincial elections, Shiite parties similarly sided with Maliki and failed to attend an emergency session of parliament intended as a show of support for growing political unrest in Iraq’s provinces.

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

On July 19, outgoing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid his last official presidential visit to Iraq, where he was received by Iraqi Vice President Khodair al-Khozaei.

Ahmadinejad’s first visit to Iraq in 2008 was of significant importance for Iranian and Iraqi parties, as well as for the US, which was holding talks with Iran at the time about Iraq and other issues. Back then, he was received by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani accompanied by then-Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih and a number of other senior Iraqi officials.

Ali al-Moussawi, adviser to the Iraqi prime minister, described Ahmadinejad’s visit as “a symbolic visit on the occasion of the end of his term, and it will be devoted to the visit of holy sites.” He added, “We do not expect that there will be any formal agreements.”

Moussawi also announced a planned visit by Iran’s incoming President Hassan Rouhani to Iraq, and expressed hope that a new chapter will start with Iran on the basis of common interests and mutual respect.

At the diplomatic level, this rhetoric conveys dissatisfaction toward Iran’s policies on Iraq under Ahmadinejad. What’s more, the anti-Iraqi government forces have expressed that Ahmadinejad is not welcome in Iraq. It is worth mentioning that the visit was scheduled to take place a year ago but was postponed several times due to the illness of President Talabani, according to a statement by Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Araghchi.

Key talks were held during this visit between the two parties on Syrian affairs, according to Iran’s al-Alam news channel. This was confirmed by several political figures from the major blocs in the Iraqi parliament, including the Kurdistan Alliance and the Iraqiya List.

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) until 31st July 2014, so it can “continue to advise and support the country, which has been hit by the worst violence in years, to progress on the path to stability and development“.

In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member body also called on the Government of Iraq to continue to provide security and logistical support to the Mission, and on Member States to continue to provide it with sufficient resources.

UNAMI will now take responsibility for several issues relating to Kuwait, which were moved from Chapter VII to Chapter VI in a vote in late June.

But the extension of the mandate also has implications for the credibility of the forthcoming parliamentary elections, which are due to take place in the first half of next year; UNAMI will be observing the conduct of the elections, with logistical support committed by Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

With violence on the increase, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki unlikely to be allowed a third term in office, the election may be quite eventful — having the UN Assistance Mission still in place will certainly aid the process.

By John Lee.

Reuters reports that the China Petroleum Engineering & Construction Corporation (CPECC), the engineering and construction subsidiary of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), has won a $548-million service contract to develop the Halfaya oilfield.

The company will handle engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning work at the oilfield, which is forecast to produce 535,000 bpd in 2017.

CNPC has a 37.5 percent stake in Halfaya, with 25 percent hel d by Iraqi’s South Oil Company, 18.75 percent by Malaysia’s Petronas and another 18.75 by French giant Total. Under the terms of their contract, signed in 2010, they receive a fee of $1.40 per barrel.

State-owned China National Petroleum Corp said last year the first phase of the Halfaya field had started operating and had a production capacity of 100,000 barrels per day.

(Source: Reuters)

By John Lee.

Volvo Group Trucks is on track to grow by 30 percent in the Gulf region by 2015 on the back of a construction boom in Iraq and a strong economy in Saudi Arabia, according to a report from The National.

Stefan Soenchen, business team director in Iraq, said:

The key markets are Saudi Arabia and Iraq, [which is] where we expect the biggest growth. The whole infrastructure was destroyed [after the invasion of Iraq], so it is necessary to do huge investment over the next five to ten years to rebuild the whole country. That is then a normal growth from year to year.

The company operates two truck centres in Iraq in partnership with ZamZam General Group and plans to open a third by the end of the year. There will also be a new truck assembly line in Babylon-Iskandariya, which will be one of the first in the country.

(Sources: The National)