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

Will Iraqis get green light to enter restricted Green Zone?

While new Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has promised to open Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone to the public and to through traffic, there are doubts that he will be able to fulfill that pledge.

The Green Zone, officially the International Zone, is a 4-square-mile area that’s home to Iraqi government buildings for the presidency, parliament, judiciary and the intelligence and national security staffs. Also located there are various foreign embassies, including those of the United States and the United Kingdom; other diplomatic missions; offices of international organizations, notably the UN; and residences of privileged Iraqis and high-level officials.

The restricted zone inconveniences many Baghdad residents, especially commuters. Opening the area could reduce heavily congested streets and slash the amount of time it takes to travel across town. It would also make it easier for citizens to access government agencies.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

Baghdad has reached an agreement with Kurdish authorities to resume exports from the Kirkuk oilfields, via the Turkish port of Ceyhan (pictured).

In a statement on Friday, the Ministry of Oil said between 50,000 and 100,000 barrels per day would be exported through the pipeline on behalf of the Baghdad-controlled State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO).

S&P Global Platts says SOMO has not exported any crude oil from Ceyhan since June 2017.

(Sources: Ministry of Oil, S&P Global Platts)

Advertising Feature

Note: ISX will be closed on Tuesday (Nov. 20, 2018) due to a religious holiday (Birth of the Prophet). The next trading session will be on Wednesday (Nov. 21, 2018).

Rabee Securities Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) market report (week ending: 15th November 2018).

Please click here to download a table of listed companies and their associated ticker codes.

The RSISX index ended the week at IQD664 (+1.6%) / $711 (+1.6%) (weekly change) (-18.1% and -14.9% YTD change, respectively). The number of week traded shares was 49.2 bn and the weekly trading volume was IQD18.3 bn ($15.1 mn).

ISX Company Announcements

  • ISX will suspend trading of Asiacell (TASC) starting Nov. 20, 2018 due the AGM* which will be held on Nov. 26, 2018 to discuss and approve 2017 annual financial results.
  • The national bonds owned by Al-Kindi of Veterinary Vaccines Drugs (IKLV) will start trading on the ISX on Nov. 18, 2018. The total number of the bonds that will start trading is 350 and each of them are from IQD5,000,000 category (ISX ticker: CBI25). Opening price for each bond will be IQD5,252,945 (IQD5,000,000 (price of the bond) + IQD252,945 (interest)) with +/-5% price change limit, and thus, the total value of the bonds that will start trading be IQD1,838,530,750 (350 X IQD5,252,945). Annual interest of the bond is 8% and the bond maturity date is Apr. 2, 2019.
  • Original shares of Dar Al-Salam for Insurance (NDSA) will resume trading on Nov. 18, 2018 after deciding to increase the capital from IQD5.0 bn to IQD7.0 bn through 40% rights issue. The opening price will be IQD0.64 with +/-50% price change limit for the first session and after that, price will be able to change with +/-20% limit per day.
  • Palastine Hotel (HPAL) will resume trading on Nov. 18  due to disclosing 2017 annual financial results.
  • The National Bank of Iraq (BNOI) signed a trade finance agreement on Tuesday with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, to help the bank’s client businesses access global markets, boosting trade and spurring economic growth. In addition, a Memorandum of Understating (MOU) was also signed between the two parties whereby the IFC will provide NBI with support related to the field of Corporate Governance. (BNOI Website)
  • Baghdad Hotel (HBAG) resumed trading Nov. 13, 2018 after discussing and approving 2017 annual financial results and deciding to distribute 44% cash dividend (0.44% dividend per share, 4.9% dividend yield).
  • Cross Transactions: 44.6 bn shares of Zain Al-Iraq Islamic Bank (BZII) on Nov. 14, 2018, which represents 17.8% of BZII capital.

Aiming for more sustainable options for dealing with the huge amounts of rubble borne out of the ISIL conflict, municipalities of around half a dozen devastated cities in western Iraq explored opportunities to establish debris recycling centres to help advance recovery efforts at a two-day workshop held in Ramadi’s Anbar University on 7-8 November 2018.

Hosted by Anbar Governorate and organized in collaboration with the Iraq Ministry of Health and Environment with technical advisory support from UN Environment, the gathering brought together – for the first time – key stakeholders from local authorities, technical government departments, university academics, demining experts, as well as UN agencies to discuss more sustainable options for dealing with the huge amounts of rubble created by the ISIL conflict.

“Over two years since retaking most of Anbar’s shattered cities from the grips of ISIL terrorists in 2016, rubble continues to be a major obstacle for tens of thousands of displaced persons to regain their homes, and restart their lives and businesses,” said Mr. Mustapha Arsan, deputy governor of Anbar Governorate.

Municipal representatives from the most damaged cities of Ramadi, Haditha, Hit, Qaim and Kubaisa, in Iraq’s upper Euphrates region, underscored the major problems they continue to face in removing colossal volumes of rubble. Lack of debris removal equipment and inadequate operational budgets were highlighted as major constraints. While most of the rubble in the streets has been removed, much of the remaining debris will be generated from building demolition.

The Qaim Maqam (head of district) of Ramadi, Mr. Ibrahim Al-Awsaj, stated that around 80 percent of Ramadi – capital of Anbar governorate with a population of over 570,000 people before the conflict – lay in ruins. Preliminary estimates by Ramadi municipality indicate that around three of the seven million tonnes of debris have so far been removed with extensive support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization.

Furthermore, debris removal is significantly complicated by exceptionally high levels of contamination with unexploded ordnance and booby traps. “Over 20,000 explosive devices have so far been from Ramadi city alone,” said Mr. Al-Awsaj. Training and establishing clear procedures for dealing with explosives in the debris is a critical prerequisite for clearing-up the rubble.

“Debris continues to be scooped and dumped in an uncontrolled manner creating serious health and environmental risks and burdensome economic liabilities for the future,” decried Mr. Qais Abd, head of the Anbar Environment Directorate. Mr. Abd added that “future campaigns to remove debris haphazardly dumped all over the place may be needed,” engendering additional costs for the financially strapped local authorities.

Emphasizing that many other post-conflict cities faced similar challenges, UN Environment expert Martin Bjerregaard affirmed that considerable experience exists from elsewhere that can help inform Anbar’s debris management efforts. “We are not starting from scratch here,” said Mr. Bjerregaard, who went on to share lessons from neighbouring Mosul as well as Syria, Lebanon, Philippines, and going to back the Balkans conflict in the late 1990s.

The workshop also highlighted ongoing work by UNDP’s Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization and the International Organization Migration to establish debris recycling centres in Mosul with technical advice from UN Environment. This initiative will help create much needed jobs through cash-for-work programmes.

Original research by Anbar University engineer Mr. Salah Thameel found that crushed debris from Ramadi were of high quality and complied with Iraqi engineering standards for use in civil works, including as underlying subbase for roads.

“The cost of crushing the debris is about one third of buying fresh quarry materials and, if transportation costs are added, it would account for only 10 percent,” explained Mr. Thameel. Furthermore, “by reusing the crushed debris, we would significantly reduce negative environmental impacts of quarrying and polluting emissions from trucking gravel from quarry sites,” he asserted.

Crushing debris would not only significantly facilitate rubble removal operations by reducing the volumes handled, but would also result in important cost savings. “We are eager to start with recycling and welcome support from the friends of Iraq to help us in rebuilding our damaged cities,” stated Ms. Asmaa Osama, President of the Committee of Health and Environment and member of Anbar Provincial Council.

Workshop participants further recommended that an Anbar-wide debris management action plan led by the Governorate is developed to help coordinate debris recycling efforts across its damaged cities. Key actions including identification of potential sites for setting-up debris recycling centres were also discussed with a specific focus on Ramadi city as a demonstration pilot.

(Source: UN)

By Omar al-Jaffal for Al Monitor. Any views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Iraq’s Governorates Reject 2019 Draft Budget

Anger is escalating in Basra over the new government’s stance toward this strategic city and the demands of its people. The continued marginalization of this oil-rich city could spell a new round of unrest.

Voices have been calling for new protests and sit-ins in Basra in light of what activists describe as neglect of the province by the Iraqi central and local governments.

As part of their efforts to organize protests, Basra activists launched the Arabic hashtag that translates into “We are coming back for you.”

They called on Basra’s residents to stage mass protests in front of the South Oil Company (SOC) on Nov. 4 and to prevent its employees from entering its premises.

Click here to read the full story.

By Hamdi Malik for Al Monitor. Any views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

As protests continue, residents of Iraq’s Basra call for autonomy

Anger is escalating in Basra over the new government’s stance toward this strategic city and the demands of its people. The continued marginalization of this oil-rich city could spell a new round of unrest.

Voices have been calling for new protests and sit-ins in Basra in light of what activists describe as neglect of the province by the Iraqi central and local governments.

As part of their efforts to organize protests, Basra activists launched the Arabic hashtag that translates into “We are coming back for you.”

They called on Basra’s residents to stage mass protests in front of the South Oil Company (SOC) on Nov. 4 and to prevent its employees from entering its premises.

Click here to read the full story.

(Picture credit: Ahmed Mahmoud)

By Salam Zidane for Al Monitor. Any views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Can Abdul Mahdi make Iraq’s grand plans a reality?

New Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi recently submitted an ambitious development and financial plan to parliament, but his proposals will face major challenges — namely a lack of revenues, spreading financial and administrative corruption, a weak administrative system and a struggling private sector.

Abdul Mahdi, who was sworn in Oct. 24, has held important economic positions in the past.

He was Iraq’s finance minister in 2004 and oil minister in 2014. In articles he published in his Al-Adala newspaper, he portrays himself as an economist capable of addressing the country’s crises.

His ministerial platform focuses on 15 points to stimulate the investment environment, aid the market economy, develop the oil industry and find international sources of funding to support more than 100 national development projects.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

Companies are reportedly relocating from the Kurdistan Region to rest of Iraq in an effort to avoid taxes and customs duties which the Iraqi government charges on goods exported to southern Iraq.

According to Kurdish media network Rudaw, the Baghdad government considers goods produced in Iraqi Kurdistan to be foreign, and subject to import duties.

Mustafah Zubeir, of the KRG Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Directorate General of Industrial Development, is quoted as saying that about 100 factories have left Kurdistan for Baghdad to avoid this issue.

More here.

(Source: Rudaw)

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action today to target four Hizballah-affiliated individuals who lead and coordinate the group’s operational, intelligence, and financial activities in Iraq.

Specifically, OFAC designated Shibl Muhsin ‘Ubayd Al-Zaydi, Yusuf Hashim, Adnan Hussein Kawtharani, and Muhammad ‘Abd-Al-Hadi Farhat as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.

“Hizballah is a terrorist proxy for the Iranian regime that seeks to undermine Iraqi sovereignty and destabilize the Middle East.  We are targeting terror facilitators like Al-Zaydi who smuggle oil for Iran, raise funds for Hizballah, and send fighters to Syria for the IRGC-Qods Force on behalf of Qasem Soleimani,” said Sigal Mandelker, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

“Treasury’s concerted actions aim to deny Hizballah’s clandestine attempts to exploit Iraq to launder funds, procure weapons, train fighters, and collect intelligence as a proxy for Iran.  This administration will impose severe consequences on anyone assisting Hizballah and their global support networks, and those who engage in business relationships with these terrorists expose themselves to serious sanctions risk.”

These designations follow the signing into law on October 25, 2018, of the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2018, which reinforces the U.S. Government’s efforts to protect the international financial system by targeting Hizballah’s supporters, financial networks, and those that facilitate and enable its destabilizing activities worldwide.

Today’s designations specifically target individuals enabling Hizballah’s activities that undermine security and stability in Iraq, and carry significant risks for those attempting to conduct business with Hizballah globally.  Today’s action continues Treasury’s historic level of Hizballah-related designations, which have reached record numbers in 2018.

Treasury’s actions today again highlight the degree to which Hizballah operates as a clandestine, terrorist arm of the Iranian regime.  On November 5, 2018, in its largest ever single-day action targeting the Iranian regime, OFAC sanctioned over 700 individuals, entities, aircraft, and vessels.  This action completed the re-imposition of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions that were lifted or waived under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The individuals designated today are subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations, which implements the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015.  Pursuant to this authority, OFAC can prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for Hizballah.

All property and interests in property of those persons designated today that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction are now blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

Shibl Muhsin ‘Ubayd Al-Zaydi (Al-Zaydi)

Al-Zaydi was designated for acting for or on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps–Qods Force (IRGC-QF), and assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, Hizballah.

Al-Zaydi has served as a financial coordinator between the IRGC-QF and sectarian armed groups in Iraq and assisted in facilitating Iraqi investments on behalf of IRGC-QF Commander Qasem Soleimani, whom OFAC designated on October 11, 2011, for acting for or on behalf of the IRGC-QF.  Al-Zaydi has also coordinated the smuggling of oil from Iran on behalf of Iran, the smuggling of oil into Syria on behalf of Iran, and has sent Iraqi fighters to Syria allegedly at the IRGC-QF’s request.  Al-Zaydi has appeared publically with IRGC-QF Commander Qasem Soleimani at least four times.

Al-Zaydi has maintained close business ties to Hizballah officials and Hizballah financier Adham Tabaja (Tabaja).  These activities have included providing protection for companies in Iraq allegedly financed by Hizballah and facilitating the movement of Hizballah funding into Iraq for investments.  Al-Zaydi has also worked with senior Hizballah officials to transfer large sums of money to Lebanon to help fund Hizballah’s participation in the Syrian civil war.

Moreover, Al-Zaydi has transferred large sums of money to Tabaja and worked with OFAC-designated Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Kallas to facilitate the movement of bulk cash from Iraq to Lebanon on Tabaja’s behalf.  OFAC designated Tabaja on June 6, 2015, for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.  Tabaja maintains direct ties to senior Hizballah officials and Hizballah’s operational component, the Islamic Jihad, and holds properties in Lebanon on behalf of the group.

In addition, Al-Zaydi is a partner and founder of Global Cleaners S.A.R.L., which OFAC designated on October 20, 2016, as an SDGT pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being owned or controlled by Tabaja.  Also, since its founding in 2014, Al-Zaydi has been the Secretary General of an Iran-aligned Iraqi sectarian armed group.  This armed group primarily operates in Iraq, but has also dispatched fighters to Syria, and its members have trained in Iran and with Hizballah in Lebanon.

Yusuf Hashim (Hashim)

Hashim was designated for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.

Hashim oversees all Hizballah-related operational activities in Iraq and is in charge of protecting Hizballah interests in Iraq.  Additionally, Hashim arranges for the protection of Tabaja inside of Iraq.

Hashim has also managed Hizballah’s relations with sectarian armed groups in Iraq, including the coordination of the deployment of fighters to Syria.

Adnan Hussein Kawtharani (Kawtharani)

Kawtharani was designated for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, Hizballah.

Kawtharani facilitates business transactions for Hizballah inside Iraq and has attended meetings in Iraq with sectarian armed groups and Hizballah officials.  Kawtharani has also been involved in securing a significant source of funding for Hizballah, and has served as the right hand man for his brother and senior Hizballah member Muhammad Kawtharani, whom OFAC designated on August 22, 2013, pursuant to E.O. 13224, for being in charge of Hizballah’s Iraq activities and working on behalf of Hizballah leadership to promote the group’s interests in Iraq, including Hizballah efforts to provide training, funding, political, and logistical support to Iraqi sectarian armed groups.

Further, as of 2016, Kawtharani worked to obtain a weapons contract in order to raise funds for Hizballah fighters.

Kawtharani is also a partner in the company Global Cleaners S.A.R.L.

Muhammad ‘Abd-Al-Hadi Farhat (Farhat)

Farhat was designated for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.

Farhat has been involved in advising sectarian armed groups in Iraq on behalf of Hizballah.  As of 2017, Farhat was tasked with collecting security and intelligence information in Iraq and subsequently providing reports to senior Hizballah and Iranian leadership.  Farhat has been involved in a project to analyze and report on the Iraqi security situation for Hizballah and the IRGC-QF.

View identifying information on the individuals designated today.

(Source: OFAC)