By John Lee.

Iraq‘s Higher Committee for Health and National Safety met in Baghdad on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi. The meeting was conducted via video conferencing.

The Committee discussed a number of policy options to support Iraqi nationals abroad who wish to return home, and how to address the logistical and health challenges involved.  It is expected that the Committee will make an announcement on this issue shortly.

Following discussions on COVID-19/coronavirus, the Committee decided to:

  • Extend the curfew throughout Iraq until Saturday 18/04/2020;
  • Allocate 600 billion dinars [$504 million] over the next two months to support nearly ten million citizens. Applying and accessing this support will be via a phone app. Further details will be announced later.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

By John Lee.

The Cabinet held its regular weekly meeting in Baghdad on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Oil, Thamir Ghadhban. The meeting was conducted via video conferencing.

It discussed the health situation in the country and the economic impact of the curfew on citizens, and measures to mitigate it.

The Cabinet agreed a number of measures, including:

  • Suspending all repayments due on residential plots of land sold or leased to citizens from all government institutions until the end of the current emergency, with no penalty interest for a period ending on 31/07/2020 at the latest;
  • Exempting commercial, industrial and other government real estate tenants from paying rental fees for the duration of the current emergency;
  • Exempting occupants and tenants of commercial, industrial and other properties that belong to municipal institutions  from paying cleaning services fees for the duration of the emergency;

The Cabinet authorised the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Construction, Housing, Municipalities and Public Works, Baghdad Municipality and religious endowments to establish appropriate mechanisms to implement these decisions.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

By Seth J. Frantzman, for Foreign Policy. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The PMU Is Getting More Aggressive in Iraq

In January, Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of Iraq’s largest political party, traveled to Iran’s holy city of Qom to meet with representatives of several Iraq-based paramilitaries from the hugely influential Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

That visit was part of an attempt by Sadr to position himself as the face of public anger directed against the United States over the assassination of Iranian military commander Qassem Suleimani.

Sadr is an important figure in Iraq not only because of his ties to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei but also because members of his Saraya al-Salam militia turned out in significant numbers to protect anti-government protesters against Iraqi security forces, including the PMU, last year.

The death of Suleimani caused pro-Iranian paramilitaries to flex their muscles by clashing more openly with U.S. troops, which could be a sign that the PMU is reimagining its future role in Iraq. Sadr’s intervention now makes the PMU’s ascendance undeniable.

While he tried to navigate the wave of popular protest last year, he has hedged his influence with the PMU this year, illustrating that the organization cannot be sidelined.

Click here to read the full story (subscription required).

Iraqi regulator suspends Reuters’ license for 3 months over COVID-19 report

Iraqi authorities should immediately reinstate the license of the Reuters news agency, and allow all media outlets to cover the COVID-19 pandemic freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Yesterday, the Communications and Media Commission (CMC), Iraq’s media regulator, suspended Reuters’ license for three months and fined it 25 million Iraqi dinars ($21,000) for a news report published the same day, which alleged that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country are much higher than official statistics, according to a statement from the regulator and news reports.

In its statement, the regulator accused Reuters of relying on vague and untrue sources to fabricate news about pandemic in Iraq, and accused Reuters of endangering public safety and hindering the government’s efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. It also urged Reuters to issue a public apology to the government and the Iraqi people.

CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado, said:

If Iraq’s media regulator continues to suspend media outlets critical of the authorities, soon there won’t be any outlet left in Iraq at a time when the flow of news is vital to contain the spread of the COVID-19 disease.

“We call on Iraq´s media regulator to restore Reuters’ license and allow its staff to do their jobs freely and without fear of reprisal.

The Reuters report cited three doctors involved in the COVID-19 testing process, a health ministry official, and a senior political official, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because medical staff have been instructed not to speak to the media. Those sources alleged that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases was thousands higher than the official count of 772.

After the report was published, the Iraqi government on its official Twitter account criticized “some news agencies” for falsely claiming that the numbers disclosed by authorities were inaccurate.

In a statement sent to CPJ via messaging app, Reuters said it had not received any notification from Iraqi authorities regarding the license and was seeking clarification on the matter. The news agency said it stands by the story.

Iraq has also suspended the printing and distribution of newspapers to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to news reports. Yemen, Oman, Jordan, Morocco, and Iran have similarly banned newspapers, as CPJ has documented.

On April 1, the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission issued a series of new regulations restricting the movement and work of journalists and media outlets, forcing radio stations and broadcasters to reduce their staff to a minimum, requiring journalists and media workers to wear protective gear, and providing the Joint Operations Command and the Baghdad Operations Command with a list of licensed radio stations and broadcasters, according to news reports and the local press freedom group the Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq.

The Media and Communications Commission did not immediately reply to CPJ’s request for comment sent via email and social media.

(Source: CPJ)

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

Soleimani’s successor visits Iraq, then Trump tweets warning to Iran

President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to warn Iran against further attacks on US forces in Iraq – the same day that Iraqi officials told the Associated Press that the new head of the Quds Force had recently visited Baghdad.

Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq,” Trump tweeted. “If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif did not directly deny an Iranian plot in Iraq in his tweeted rebuttal.

Instead he characterized Iranian proxies as “friends” and obliquely referenced Trump’s January strike on former Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.

Click here to read the full article.

The Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) has announced that, due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, it has made the difficult decision to cancel its annual “In Their Shoes” 5K run, originally scheduled for June.

In a statement, the ICF also renewed its call for donations to help it support Iraqi children and their families:

Dear friends,

At ICF, our highest priority is the health and safety of Iraqi children, and of our community of wonderful supporters around the world. With this in mind, and considering the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our “In Their Shoes” 5K in June this year.

While we are disappointed that we will not get to meet in person in June, we need your support now more than ever. Iraqi children and their families face many of the biggest challenges imaginable, now including the rapid spread of COVID-19.

We are committed to continuing to support these children with essential services including healthcare and nutrition, and we will continue to update you with how we are responding to the ever-evolving challenge of the current pandemic.

Please watch this space for more information about how you can support and help us grow our community. We look forward to staying in touch virtually for now, and we will look forward to seeing you for our “In Their Shoes” 5K in 2021.

We will be in touch with anyone who has registered online for the 5K already to outline next steps. If you have the capacity to donate at this critical time, please click the button below. Thank you for your ongoing support; together we will continue to work to protect the vulnerable orphans and street children of Iraq.

With love,

The ICF Team

 

Intelyse, a Sicuro Group company, has announced that it is will provide extraction flights for clients to get them home from Iraq.

It will fly people from Baghdad and Erbil to Doha, using a 150-seat Boeing 737-700.

The first flight goes into Iraq next week with a further two flights to follow.

(Source: Sicuro)

Ambassador Stephen Hickey addresses IBBC members via videoconference

Over 50 Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) members yesterday participated in a video conference call with Ambassador Stephen Hickey, from his office in the UK Baghdad Embassy.

The Ambassador updated members on the current situation in Iraq, covering four key areas of interest: COVID 19 response and challenges, The Political landscape and implications for Government , the Economy and impact of oil prices, and Security and how this is impacting on coalition activity in the region.

The Ambassador took questions from a number of members concerned about decision making within Government at this time of uncertainty, the role and support of UKEF regarding on going projects, the role of the dollar and local currencies, the likely nature of a new Government, and the general outlook for Iraq.

Feedback from the Conference suggests videoconferencing will become a regular feature of IBBC activity and reporting, due to the high volume of attendees, and IBBC expect to set up regular calls with Ministers, institutions and officials to engage with members directly and as a group.

(Source: IBBC)

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

Iraq has seen a relatively low number of infections compared to its neighbour, Iran, the regional hotspot of the pandemic.

Iraq has reported 547 confirmed cases and 42 deaths.

But there is growing concern the virus could overwhelm its fragile healthcare system.

Al Jazeera’s Simona Foltyn reports from Baghdad.

By John Lee.

Iraq’s National Investment Commission (NIC), in coordination with the General Committee for Free Zones, has announced the following investment opportunities:

  • The expansional area in Khor Al- Zubair on the land lot No. (13/8 M 44 Hila and 1/3, 2/2, 1/3 M 20 Shaawan) with total area of (20,364,200 M²) that is overlooking khor Al- Zubair stream and adjacent to the sea port and the Fertilizers company with only 55 km paved distance from Safwan border point and full covered by the power grid services.
  • Qaem [al-Qaim] Free zone , on the land lot No. (133/7533 M 21 Deyom Al- maneai) with total area of (430,000 M²) , the land is adjacent to Qaem Border Point and near to Electricity and water sources and close to the center of Qaem District while only (25) km distant from Ukaz gas field.
  • Lands allocated for free zones in Qaem – Ukashat , on the land lot No. (133/7533 and 11/5 M 21 Deyom Al- maneai) with total area of (6,612,500 M²) , the land is adjacent to Qaem Border Point that is only 20 paved kilo meters distant from its strategic location which is close to the Phosphates factory in Ukashat near Ukaz Gas field.

Willing investors are invited to apply through sending their applications to the One Stop Shop dept. of NIC oss@investpromo.gov.iq or by visiting the General Committee for Free Zones in Baghdad – Nidhal Street – White palace next to the Building of the General Committee for customs.

(Source: NIC)