By Robbie Gramer, for Foreign Policy. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Pompeo Seeks to Make Baghdad Embassy Pullout Permanent, Officials Say

In May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered a partial evacuation of diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Iraq amid escalating tensions with Iran.

Now, several State Department officials say they are being told the drawdown in embassy staff will effectively become permanent, a move that could leave the U.S. Embassy short-staffed to undertake important tasks like countering Iran on the diplomatic front—and in the short-term has marooned hundreds of diplomats in the Washington area without an embassy to go back to.

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By John Lee.

Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi received Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi on Wednesday in Baghdad.

During the meeting they discussed strengthening the relations between the two countries and the opening of air routes, facilitating entering visas, as well as their joint role in maintaining security and stability in the region.

The Prime Minister welcomed the opening of the Omani embassy in Baghdad, which he said will contribute to increasing cooperation between the two countries.

(Source: Media Office of the Prime Minister)

On June 9, 2019, Ambassador Matthew H. Tueller presented his credentials to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq to President Barham Salih and Foreign Minister Mohamed Alhakim.

Ambassador Tueller thanked President Salih and Minister Alhakim for their warm reception and commented:

The United States is committed to our Strategic Framework Agreement which defines our bilateral relationship with Iraq as one of America’s most important and strategic partners in the region.

“I am honored to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and I look forward to engaging with our Iraqi partners and the Iraqi people to support a united, democratic, and prosperous Iraq.”

Ambassador Tueller replaces former Ambassador Douglas Silliman.

He previously served most recently as U.S. Ambassador to Yemen, U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait, Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Cairo, Political Minister Counselor at Embassy Baghdad, and Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Kuwait.  His Washington assignments have included serving as the Deputy Director in the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs and as the Egypt Desk Officer.

Ambassador Tueller holds a B.A. from Brigham Young University and a M.P.P. from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

(Source: U.S. Embassy in Iraq)

From the U.S. Embassy in Iraq:

The U.S. State Department has ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. Government employees from Iraq, both at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate in Erbil.

Normal visa services at both posts will be temporarily suspended.

The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq.

SOS International LLC (SOSi) has announced its award of a $5 million base plus four-year contract by the U.S. Army to provide human resources, accounting, and technical security assistance services to the Office of Security Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

U.S. security assistance supports the development of a modern, accountable, fiscally sustainable, and professional Iraqi military capable of defending Iraq and its borders. U.S. security assistance programs also promote civilian oversight of the military, adherence to the rule of law, and the respect for human rights, while simultaneously increasing the Iraqi military’s capability to respond to threats and conduct counter-terrorism operations.

The U.S. Embassy Baghdad maintains the Office of Security Cooperation to further these goals and facilitate Iraq’s role as a responsible security partner, contributing to the peace and security of the region.

Frank Helmick (pictured), SOSi Senior Vice President of Mission Solutions Group, said:

“SOSi has been supporting U.S. liberalization and stabilization efforts in Iraq since 2003. We look forward to our continued relationship with the Office of Security Cooperation and State Department.”

(Source: SOSi)

By John Lee.

Finland is preparing to reopen its embassy in Baghdad.

Finland has not had Finnish diplomatic personnel in Baghdad since 1991. Since 2006, Finland’s official representative for Iraq has been a Roving Ambassador based in Helsinki. At present, 14 EU member states are permanently represented in Baghdad at an ambassadorial level.

According to a statement from the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the reopening of the embassy will promote the development of broad bilateral relations and commercial cooperation.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini (pictured) said:

Iraq belongs to the European neighbourhood, and its development will affect Finland, too. Finland has a fairly large Iraqi diaspora community, which means that cooperation between the citizens of the countries and other collaboration are increasing. The agenda of the discussions on the bilateral relations between Finland and Iraq includes also questions relating to the return of those whose asylum application has been refused.

(Source: Finnish Foreign Ministry)

Moscow is holding negotiations with Iraqi authorities on the possibility of moving the Russian embassy, which currently occupies a building in Baghdad’s Mansour district, to a safer area of the Iraqi capital city, local media reported, citing a Russian diplomatic source.

The negotiations to provide Russia with a new site for the embassy in Baghdad are underway. In general, the Iraqis are ready to provide it.  We are now assessing the propriety of accepting the site that the Iraqi authorities are proposing as this depends on the safety and the type of construction“, the source told press.   The source added that it was dangerous to stay in the current Embassy building, and only men without their families were sent to work there.

Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov (pictured) has reaffirmed Moscow’s support for the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Following a meeting in Moscow between Bogdanov and the chief of Iraq’s anti-terrorist service Talib al-Kenani, Bogdanov also stated that Russia opposes any external interference in Iraq’s internal affairs.  He also said that that Russia will help to enhance the anti-terrorist capabilities of the Iraqi government.

For his part, al-Kinani said that Baghdad highly valued the cooperation with Russia in the anti-terrorism fight.

(Source: GardaWorld)

Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani received Mr. Abu Magsoud Forhad, Bangladesh’s Ambassador to Iraq.

Ambassador Forhad discussed his government’s intention to open in Erbil an office of his country’s Iraq embassy.

Discussing the situation of the Bangladeshi nationals, resident in Iraq and Kurdistan Region, he said opening of embassy’s office in Erbil will facilitate the affairs of the Bangladeshi citizen’s in Kurdistan and will also help strengthening bilateral relations between the Kurdistan Region and Bangladesh.

He expressed his country’s willingness to develop cooperation programmes in the areas needed in Kurdistan Region.

Prime Minister Barzani expressed his government’s willingness to develop bilateral relations with Bangladesh.

He expressed his government’s readiness to offer all the needed facilities to the Bangladeshis working in Kurdistan. He also suggested that a joint entity could be set up between the two sides helping the Bangladeshi workers to come and work in Kurdistan officially through their government agencies.

The two sides also discussed the possibilities of cooperation in various fields particularly work force, industry and construction sectors.

(Source: KRG)

By John Lee.

Mr Jon Wilks CMG (pictured) has been appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Iraq in succession to Mr Frank Baker OBE.

Mr Wilks, who currently serves as Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Muscat, will take up his appointment in November 2017.

He has previously served in diplomatic roles in Baghdad, in addition to Syria, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

(Source: UK FCO)