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)

By Aymen Al-Faisal, for the Al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Implications of the Coronavirus on the Overall Situation in Iraq

With the spread of the coronavirus globally, many countries around the world face several challenges in the absence of any looming solutions so far.

Economies are the most affected by this virus that led to restrict the movement and the freedom of travel between countries, limit the transport of goods by sea and land, and raise spending on precautionary measures to limit the virus spread.

Since the discovery of the virus in January, the stock market has not declined only in China, but it has impacted the Asian and the American markets as well.

Click here to read the full article.

By Michael Knights, Hamdi Malik and Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Honored, Not Contained: The Future of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces

Hastily raised when the Islamic State was knocking at the gates of Baghdad, the state-backed Iraqi militia network al-Hashd al-Shabi has swollen into a 160,000-strong armed force with an annual budget exceeding $2 billion.

But more than five years after its formation, the Hashd — also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces — still lacks defined roles and has largely fallen under the sway of Kataib Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed factions. Now that Iranian Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani and Kataib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis are no longer on the scene, observers are asking what comes next for the Hashd.

In this highly detailed Policy Focus, meant as a primer for Iraqi and international agencies, analysts Michael Knights, Hamdi Malik, and Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi lay out the PMF’s current status, offering a novel look at its functions, structure, and activities as a military institution.

The study identifies achievable security-sector reforms while exploring longer-term options around which consensus must first be built. Although demobilization is not a realistic goal in the near term, Iraq and its partners can take practical steps to honor Hashd units for their sacrifices while also containing them in the interests of national sovereignty and stability.

Full 236-page report here.

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

Coronavirus damages Iraqi economy with fall in tourism, oil prices

As of March 23, Iraq had registered 266 novel coronavirus cases, with 23 deaths. Although Iraq is much better off than many other countries, the fast-growing number of cases – 33 new infections and three more deaths in a 24-hour period – indicate that Iraq soon may face a very difficult situation.

Also, measures the government has taken to fight the virus have damaged the economy; these steps have included imposing a curfew, closing roads between cities and canceling all religious tourism.

This is not mention the oil price drop.

Click here to read the full story.

By Azhar Al-Rubaie, for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Despite Political Turmoil and Coronavirus, Iraq’s Protest Movement Continues

With neighboring Iran one of the most severely affected areas of coronavirus, Iraqi authorities are also confirming rising infections and deaths despite closing the border between the two states.

However, Iraqi protestors maintain that “oppression and fear are more dangerous than coronavirus,” and have consistently demonstrated a will to continue what has become known as the October 2019 revolution.

Full report here.

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 Hafsa Halawa for The Middle East Institute. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The story from Iraq since last October has been mainly one of uplifting hope, as mass protests sweep across the country in a fight against corruption, nepotism, and bad governance.

But what of the places left behind and ignored? For most of its modern history, Iraq has been embroiled in sectarianism and conflict, most recently with the rise of ISIS.

The country has celebrated its ability to fight ISIS and take back the areas the group controlled between 2013 and 2017, but for those that remain in the most vulnerable liberated areas, life is precarious and dangerous, with underserviced communities living in the most dire of conditions.

Click here to read the full article.

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.

Is another economic crisis looming in Iraq, with dropping oil prices?

Political and security crises in Iraq have been escalating, and the coronavirus outbreak has recently been added to the list.

Meanwhile, news about the dropping oil prices has added fuel to the fire, and Iraqis are all at risk.

According to Mazhar Mohammad Saleh, economic affairs adviser to the Iraqi government, 93% of Iraq’s budget relies on oil exports.

On March 14, Saleh said, “Iraq has lost half of its financial revenues, with oil prices dropping to $30 [per barrel].”

Click here to read the full article.

By John Lee.

The Cabinet held its regular weekly meeting in Baghdad on Thursday under the chairmanship of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Oil, Thamir Ghadhban.

It reviewed the impact of restrictions to contain covid-19, including curfews, on the health, financial and service sectors, and discussed measures to lessen the burden on Iraqis, receiving briefings from the Minister of Health, Dr. Jaafar Allawi and senior officials on current measures to contain the spread of the epidemic in Iraq.

The Cabinet urged all citizens to abide by curfew regulations and follow the advice of health professionals, including practicing social distancing and avoiding gathering for their own safety and that of all Iraqis.

The Cabinet discussed measures to ensure food security, continuation of essential services, transport of agricultural produce between provinces and requests from a number of Iraqi citizens abroad who wish to return home but are unable to do so because of current restrictions on air travel in several countries.

The Cabinet thanked the Crisis Cell for its role in mobilising national efforts to contain Covid-19, and expressed its gratitude to Iraqi health teams, security forces, volunteers and community leaders for their hard work and dedication at this difficult time.

The Cabinet decided to:

  • Extend the curfew to 11 April 2020 in all regions of Iraq, and for current exemptions to be maintained;
  • Direct all ministries, public bodies and local authorities to use their financial and other resources such as vehicles and equipment to support the Crisis Cell and the Ministry of Health
  • Authorise the Minister of Health to allow some health professionals who have reached retirement age to continue in their posts for the duration of the crisis.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

Despite the combined pressures of a global pandemic, political deadlock, falling oil prices and continued violence against government forces and others, SKA has continued to deliver over 90% of Iraq’s imported fuel requirements.

SKA’s unique partnership with the Ministry of Oil’s Oil Pipeline Company (OPC) and the close cooperation of Ministry of Transport’s General Company for the Ports of Iraq (GCPI) have ensured that vital supplies of imported diesel and gasoline continue to flow.

SKA’s CEO, Mr Mike Douglas said:

This is what SKA does. We stand firm in the face of adversity and get the job done. These combined challenges just make us more determined to succeed. Fuel supplies are vital to industry, transport and power generation and we will keep them flowing.

“Of note, the vital dredging we just completed during the curfew, guarantees that the biggest cargos on LR2 vessels, are not stalled; before we started, that size of ship had never been seen in the river. The company was built on the motto of “doing difficult jobs in difficult places” and now, more than ever, that is true.”

“We thank all our local and expatriate staff, and the Iraq Government, for their steadfast support and cooperation. We realize that it is not easy to be away from homes and families in these challenging times, but together we will continue to ensure that the Iraqi people get what they need to overcome these daily challenges. We hope and pray that SKA as a company and Iraq as a nation will emerge stronger at the end of all this”.

SKA operates the only private Maritime Oil Storage and Distribution Terminal in Iraq. Combined with the joint operation of the oil import jetties in Khor Al Zubair Port, SKA is responsible to the importation of over 90% of Iraq’s oil product import demand. SKA has ensured that this vital infrastructure is operated, maintained and enhanced during this difficult time.

SKA, in partnership with the Iraq Government, hopes to build on this success in the future with further enhancements to the import and export infrastructure. Mike Douglas said:

“We will overcome the current challenges and in the future build and operate more oil product storage in Khor Al Zubair. This will provide increased volumes for import and much needed cargo consolidation for export. It will also provide much needed employment for the local population. We have been in Iraq for 17 years and are here to stay.”

(Source: IBBC)