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)

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)

Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi on Wednesday chaired a meeting of the Higher Committee for Health and National Safety.

The Committee was established to direct and coordinate Iraq‘s national efforts to combat Covid-19.

The Committee agreed a number of measures, including:

  • Exempting all medicines, medical supplies and devices, diagnostic and laboratory equipment from import license regulations
  • Transferring 50 million US dollars to the General Company for Marketing Medicines and Medical Supplies
  • Establishing a committee to assess current and future market needs in terms of food, medical supplies and agricultural produce, with a mandate to promote Iraqi products
  • Facilitating the transit of lorries and refrigerated trucks carrying foodstuff, agricultural products, medical and veterinary materials between provinces and within cities
  • Monitoring the prices of essential goods to ensure that they remain stable, and to take measures against profiteers, according to law
  • Facilitating the transport of agricultural harvesters and livestock between provinces
  • Establishing a committee at the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers to investigate and report on support mechanisms for workers in the private sector during Covid-19
  • Establishing a committee to be chaired by the Minister of Planning to report on the financial impact of Covid-19 on citizens, and to suggest options to provide financial support to affected groups, especially those on low income

The Committee also discussed declaring a national day of solidarity to show support for those leading the national effort to combat Covid-19, to thank all Iraqis for their steadfastness and unity, and to pay the nation’s respect to Iraqi families who lost loved ones because of Covid-19.

During the proposed national day of solidarity, which will be specified later, sirens will sound at a particular moment in the day, and the national anthem will be played on all TV channels, radio stations and other media throughout Iraq.

The  Higher Committee for Health and National Safety, which is chaired by the Prime Minister, includes several ministers, the Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers, the Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, the National Security Adviser, and a number of other officials.

The Committee is mandated with setting out policies, and adopting the necessary measures to contain Covid-19.

It will also coordinate with the Council of Representatives (Parliament), the judicial authorities, as well as relevant international organisations.

The Government Crisis Cell will continue to have responsibility for taking the necessary preventive measures and the delivery of Covid-19 health services, subject to the approval of the Prime Minister.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

KEY MESSAGES

  • 695 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Iraq as of 1 April 2020
  • 50 fatalities confirmed due to COVID-19 as of 1 April 2020
  • 170 patients who have recovered from the virus
  • Curfews/airport closures extended
  • WHO expects spike in recorded cases due to increased testing
  • New ministerial high committee formed

SITUATION OVERVIEW

As of 1 April 2020, the Iraqi Ministry of Health has confirmed 695 cases of COVID-19 in Iraq; 50 fatalities; and 170 patients who have recovered from the virus. Approximately one-quarter of the cases are in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI; the remainder are in federal Iraq.

The Government of Iraq (GOI) has extended curfews and movement restrictions in federal Iraq until 19-April. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has extended curfews and movement restrictions until 10-April, and announced that government offices will remain closed until 16-April. Airports throughout Iraq and the KRI will remain closed until 11-April.

The GOI has established a ministerial High Committee for National Health and Safety to help contain the outbreak of COVID-19. The committee is chaired by the Prime Minister and includes the Ministers of oil, finance, planning, foreign affairs, interior, higher education, trade, health, agriculture, labor and social affairs, communications and transportation.

Other members include the National Security Adviser, Civil Aviation Authority Director, Kurdistan Region representative, Communication and Media Commission Director, Border Authority Director and the head of the Iraqi media network.

The confirmed case load in Iraq has doubled over the past week, which the World Health Organization (WHO) attributes primarily to more labs opening throughout the country and the increased availability of testing. There is expected to be a continued surge in confirmed cases in coming days.

The Iraqi Red Crescent Society has undertaken a mass disinfection campaign throughout the country, sterilizing thousands of sites including markets, shops, residential areas, hospitals, health institutions, prisons, mosques and shrines.

Camp management actors are working with the Iraq Information Centre (IIC) on the mass dissemination of information related to COVID-19 prevention and preparedness via SMS for families living in camps. The IIC is a call centre that provides information on humanitarian assistance in Iraq to IDPs, returnees, asylum seekers, refugees, and vulnerable host community members.

Some banks are re-opening in both KRI and federal Iraq, on reduced operating hours. This is expected to help ease reported problems with cash-based transfers to people in camps, as well as the payment of salaries for national staff. Partners continue to monitor the liquidity of financial institutions.

(Source: OCHA)

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)

US Treasury Designates Vast Network of IRGC-QF Officials and Front Companies in Iraq, Iran

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has designated 20 Iran- and Iraq-based front companies, senior officials, and business associates that provide support to or act for or on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) in addition to transferring lethal aid to Iranian-backed terrorist militias in Iraq such as Kata’ib Hizballah (KH) and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH).

Among other malign activities, these entities and individuals perpetrated or supported: smuggling through the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr; money laundering through Iraqi front companies; selling Iranian oil to the Syrian regime; smuggling weapons to Iraq and Yemen; promoting propaganda efforts in Iraq on behalf of the IRGC-QF and its terrorist militias; intimidating Iraqi politicians; and using funds and public donations made to an ostensibly religious institution to supplement IRGC-QF budgets. The terrorist militias supported by the Iranian regime such as KH and AAH have continued to engage in attacks on U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq.

“Iran employs a web of front companies to fund terrorist groups across the region, siphoning resources away from the Iranian people and prioritizing terrorist proxies over the basic needs of its people,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “The United States maintains broad exceptions and authorizations for humanitarian aid including agriculture commodities, food, medicine, and medical devices to help the people of Iran combat the coronavirus.”

Today’s designations were taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, as amended, which targets terrorists and those providing support to or acting for or on behalf of designated terrorists or supporting acts of terrorism.

RECONSTRUCTION ORGANIZATION OF THE HOLY SHRINES IN IRAQ

The Reconstruction Organization of the Holy Shrines in Iraq (ROHSI) is an IRGC-QF-controlled organization based in Iran and Iraq whose leadership was appointed by the late IRGC-QF Commander Qassem Soleimani. Though ostensibly a religious institution, ROHSI has transferred millions of dollars to the Iraq-based Bahjat al Kawthar Company for Construction and Trading Ltd, also known as Kosar Company, another Iraq-based entity under the IRGC-QF’s control. Kosar Company has served as a base for Iranian intelligence activities in Iraq, including the shipment of weapons and ammunition to Iranian-backed terrorist militia groups.

Additionally, Kosar Company has received millions of dollars in transfers from the Central Bank of Iran, which was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 in September 2019 for its financial support of the IRGC-QF and Lebanese Hizballah. Both the IRGC-QF and Hizballah have been designated by the U.S. Department of State as Foreign Terrorist Organizations under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

In addition, IRGC-QF officials have used ROHSI’s funds to supplement IRGC-QF budgets, likely embezzling public donations intended for the construction and maintenance of Shiite shrines in Iraq.

ROHSI and Kosar Company are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being owned, controlled, or directed by, directly or indirectly, the IRGC-QF.

OFAC is also designating Mohammad Jalal Maab, the current head of ROHSI, who was personally appointed to the position by former IRGC-QF Commander Soleimani. Jalal Maab succeeded Hassan Pelarak, an IRGC-QF officer and co-owner of Kosar Company, who was selected by Soleimani to serve as his special assistant on an IRGC-QF-led committee focused on sanctions evasions activity. Pelarak also worked with IRGC-QF officials to transfer missiles, explosives, and small arms to Yemen, intensifying the Yemeni conflict and exacerbating one of the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophes.

Mohammad Jalal Maab is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being a leader or official of ROHSI. Hassan Pelarak is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the IRGC-QF.

Alireza Fadakar, another co-owner of Kosar Company, has worked in Iraq on behalf of the IRGC-QF for several years and is an IRGC-QF commander in Najaf, Iraq. Muhammad al-Ghorayfi is an IRGC-QF affiliate and employee of Kosar Company who provides administrative support to Fadakar and has facilitated the travel of IRGC-QF officials between Iraq and Iran.

Alireza Fadakar is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the IRGC-QF. Muhammad al-Ghorayfi is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, Alireza Fadakar.

Masoud Shoustaripousti, another co-owner of Kosar Company, has worked in Iraq on behalf of the IRGC-QF for several years and has laundered money for the group. Shoushtaripousti worked with Mashallah Bakhtiari, who used Kosar Company to launder money and worked with officials at the Baghdad-based branch of Iran’s Bank Melli to deposit funds for the IRGC-QF in Iraq. OFAC designated Bank Melli in November 2018, pursuant to E.O. 13224, for acting as a conduit for payments to the IRGC-QF which also used Bank Melli to dispense funds to Iranian-backed terrorist groups in Iraq.

Masoud Shoustaripousti is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the IRGC-QF. Mashallah Bakhtiari is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, the IRGC-QF.

AL KHAMAEL MARITIME SERVICES

Separately, OFAC is taking action against Al Khamael Maritime Services (AKMS), an Iraq-based company operating out of Umm Qasr port in which the IRGC-QF has a financial interest. The IRGC-QF leveraged Shiite militia group contacts to evade Iraqi government inspection protocol at Umm Qasr port and has charged foreign companies and vessels fees for services at its terminal at the port. AKMS also worked to sell Iranian-origin petroleum products in contravention of U.S. sanctions against the Iranian regime.

AKMS is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being owned, controlled, or directed by, directly or indirectly, the IRGC-QF.

OFAC is also designating Hasan Saburinezhad, also known as Engineer Morteza, who is involved in the finances of AKMS. As a representative of AKMS, Saburinezhad worked to facilitate the entry of Iranian shipments into Iraqi ports for the benefit of the IRGC-QF. Saburinezhad is also involved in IRGC-QF financial and economic activities between Iran, Iraq, and Syria, including smuggling activities along the Syria/Iraq border. Saburinezhad also runs smuggling routes to help Iraqi terrorist group KH and the IRGC-QF smuggle goods into Iraq from Iran, and has assisted KH in funding the acquisition and transfer of goods out of Iran.

Saburinezhad is the Managing Director and a member of the board of directors of Mada’in Novin Traders (MNT), an Iran- and Iraq-based company associated with multiple IRGC-QF officials, including Vali Gholizadeh, who has worked with Saburinezhad for the benefit of both AKMS and MNT.

Hasan Saburinezhad is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the IRGC-QF. Mada’in Novin Traders is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being owned, controlled, or directed by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Saburinezhad. Gholizadeh is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being a leader or official of Mada’in Novin Traders.

OFAC is also designating Mohammed Saeed Odhafa Al Behadili, the Managing Director of AKMS, and Ali Hussein Falih Al-Mansoori, also known as Seyyed Rezvan, the company’s deputy managing director and head of its board of directors. Additionally, as of 2018, Al Behadili was focused on facilitating shipments and business transactions to circumvent U.S. sanctions against the Iranian regime. Al-Mansoori has worked with IRGC-QF officials on business issues related to AKMS.

Mohammed Saeed Odhafa Al Behadili is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, AKMS. Ali Hussein Falih Al-Mansoori is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being a leader or official of AKMS.

Sayyed Reza Musavifar, who is responsible for the accounts and finances of AKMS, has worked with the IRGC-QF to transfer money to terrorist militias, including KH and Lebanese Hizballah. In 2014, Musavifar transferred the equivalent of millions of dollars of foreign currency to senior IRGC-QF officials.

Musavifar is a part owner of Middle East Saman Chemical Company, an Iran-based company that maintained an account at Rashed Exchange, an Iran-based exchange house used to convert currency for the IRGC-QF that was designated in May 2018 for being owned or controlled by Mohammadreza Khedmati, an individual designated for support to the IRGC-QF.

Sayyed Reza Musavifar is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, the IRGC-QF. Middle East Saman Chemical Company is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being owned, controlled, or directed by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Sayyed Reza Musavifar.

Additionally, Ali Farhan Asadi is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, AKMS.

SAYYED YASER MUSAVIR AND MEHDI GHASEMZADEH

IRGC-QF official Sayyed Yaser Musavir has been deployed to Iraq extensively since early 2014 in support of the IRGC-QF, and he has coordinated operations between the group and Iraqi terrorist militia group officials. In 2019, Musavir coordinated with IRGC-QF officials to sell Iranian petroleum products to Syria. In 2018, Musavir coordinated propaganda efforts with AAH on behalf of senior IRGC-QF officials. AAH was designated in January 2020 by the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and as Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) pursuant to E.O. 13224.

Sayyed Yaser Musavir is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the IRGC-QF.

Mehdi Ghasemzadeh is an IRGC-QF official and is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the IRGC-QF.

SHAYKH ‘ADNAN AL-HAMIDAWI

Shaykh ‘Adnan Al-Hamidawi is a Special Operations Commander for KH who in 2019 planned to intimidate Iraqi politicians who did not support the removal of U.S. forces from Iraq. KH, an Iranian-backed terrorist militia group that has been a U.S. Department of State-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and SDGT since 2009, receives lethal support from the IRGC-QF, and has been responsible for numerous terrorist acts against Iraqi, U.S., and Coalition forces in Iraq for over a decade, including bombings, rocket attacks, and sniper operations.

Shaykh ‘Adnan Al-Hamidawi is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, KH.

SANCTIONS IMPLICATIONS

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these persons that are in or come within the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve and property or interests in property of blocked persons.

In addition, persons that engage in certain transactions with the persons designated today may themselves be exposed to sanctions. Furthermore, any foreign financial institution that knowingly conducted or facilitated any significant transaction on behalf of individuals and entities designated today could be subject to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through account sanctions.

Identifying information on the entities designated.

(Source: OFAC)

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraqi Kurdistan:

(Source: UN)

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

We are proud to announce that IBN Expert Blogger Ahmed Mousa Jiyad has just published a new book.

Governing Modalities of the Extractive Industry in Iraq, Resource-Revenue Management Issues” is structured to address and analyze four broad topics, review development of related issues and answer some seventeen main questions and many others within:

I – Legal and Institutional Framework Governing Extractive Industry Sector in Iraq;

II – Revenue distribution;

III – Revenue volatility;

IV – Government spending.

Moreover, for each of the topics above mentioned, the research work endeavors to:

(a) Explain the current (up to 2015) state of affairs; and,

(b) Answer the questions listed for each topic.

Throughout the research the emphasis was on three important components:

  • Instruments, Policies and Institutions;
  • The constitution, various related laws, legal frameworks and modalities (Instruments);
  • Adopted polices, strategies, actions and plans (Policies) and involved state federal, regional or provincial entities, ministries, councils, committees and bodies (institutions).

The book is now available for purchase by clicking here.