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

The conflicts in Iraq and Syria are becoming increasingly convoluted by the day. Russia’s engagement has been an additional complication to the overlapping battles.

This international interference is undoubtedly a major challenge to the regional countries, whose security, political composition and political undertakings are vulnerable, as is the fragile concept of citizenship within their borders.

Iraq is one of those weak countries in the region that did not deal with the developing situation in a way that would protect its interests and distance it from repercussions of the religious conflict raging between the major countries in the Middle East.

The Iraqi joint operations command (covering the army, Popular Mobilization Units and internal security forces) said in a statement Sept. 27 that Iraq has signed security and intelligence agreements in coordination with various countries as part of the fight against the Islamic State (IS). The countries include disparate parties such as Russia, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Germany and France, in addition to members of the US-led coalition against IS, in which 60 countries are participating.

The press office of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Sept. 30 that Iraq, Syria, Iran and Russia agreed to set up a joint information center in Iraq. Russian airstrikes against Syrian opposition forces coincided with that announcement.

On Oct. 1, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced his country was ready to carry out air raids on IS positions in Iraq as well. Lavrov had said May 21 that Russia would meet Iraqi, Syrian and Egyptian demands for Russian support to expel terrorists from their territories.

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

A survey carried out in Iraq suggests around eight out of ten women have suffered some form of sexual harassment.

And an increasing number of professional women are experiencing harassment in public spaces.

Al Jazeera‘s Imtiaz Tyab reports from Baghdad:

Hertz Global Holdings has announced that Hertz Equipment Rental Corporation (HERC) has entered into a franchise agreement with the Khudairi Group for the exclusive license to provide rental equipment in Iraq using the “Hertz Equipment” brand and proprietary system.

This move will significantly add to HERC’s existing network in the Middle East, with HERC Iraq offering one of the largest light-to-medium equipment fleets in the country, serving oil and gas, construction, industrial, and government customers through a branch network that will include locations in Erbil, Baghdad, Basra, and Sulaimani.

Larry H. Silber, President and Chief Executive Officer, HERC, said:

“This agreement reflects our long-term global-business strategy to license franchises, establish joint ventures and, where appropriate, open company-owned branches in emerging and growth markets where the equipment-rental model is poised for continuing expansion.

“We are especially pleased to partner with the Khudairi Group, which is one of Iraq’s most prominent commercial organizations and brings more than one hundred years of demonstrated success to the HERC Iraq franchise.”

Jay Early, International Vice President, HERC, added:

“HERC Iraq is well positioned to support the country’s ongoing development, with oil-related and industrial projects, commercial construction and infrastructure work underpinning Iraq’s revitalization.

“The Khudairi Group’s experience working with firms engaged in engineering, procurement and construction (EPC), oilfield supply and service, and heavy machinery position HERC Iraq for immediate success.  In addition, HERC Iraq’s access to a multitude of clients across all sectors throughout Iraq create a solid platform for long-term growth.

“Our success in Saudi Arabia, our recent expansion into Qatar and our franchise in Iraq reflect our confidence in the ongoing development of key markets in the Middle East.  With one of the largest and most diverse equipment line-ups in the industry, we are excited to play a role in the development of the region’s important public and private projects.”

President of the Khudairi Group, Subhi Khudairi (pictured), said:

“Our experience and expertise across the oilfield, construction, industrial and government sectors enables us to understand and meet customer requirements in these demanding markets.  

“We are committed to providing best-in-class equipment backed with superior service and support with a highly trained and professional team across our locations.”

HERC Iraq will offer for rent a diverse range of earthmoving, power, aerial, material handling, electrical and compressed-air equipment, beginning January 2016.

(Source: Hertz)

KRG Minister for Foreign Relations, Falah Mustafa Bakir, this week discussed business and economic opportunities in the Kurdistan Region with senior members of the New Zealand Middle East Business Council.

The Members of the Council included Vice Chairman of the Council, Michael Webb, Executive Committee Member, Deborah Schlichting, and Executive Advisor, Michelle Boag.

Mr. Bakir provided an overview of the economic progress in the Kurdistan Region which is an investor-friendly emerging market. He called upon the members of the Council to encourage New Zealand companies to invest in the Kurdistan Region and to assist in building the capacity of Kurdistan’s private sector and its trade associations.

The Minister added that the KRG has fully supported the investment and commercial engagement of the international companies in the Kurdistan Region and expressed the readiness of the KRG to fully assist the involvement of New Zealand companies in the economic development of the region.

The KRG Minister also outlined the negative impact of the challenges facing the KRG on its economic development but stressed the KRG’s commitment to carry out economic reforms and to bring about a diversified economy driven by the private sector.

During the meeting, Minister Bakir and members of the Council exchanged views on potential areas of economic cooperation and the way forward.

The New Zealand Middle East Business Council promotes and facilitates cultural and economic contact, communication, trade, technology transfer, services and investment between New Zealand and the wider Middle East region.

The meeting was attended by the KRG Representative to Australia, Haval Syan, Director of KRG Offices Abroad at the DFR, Rebin Azad, and Director of Media and Communication at the DFR, Niyaz Barzani.

(Source: KRG)

By John Lee.

In his first news conference following the Liberal victory in federal elections, Canada’s new prime minister designate Justin Trudeau (pictured) has confirmed that Canada will withdraw its fighter jets from Iraq and Syria.

He did not set out a timeline for the withdrawal.

Canada currently has six CF-18 fighter jets taking part in the US-led bombing campaign.

(Source: The Guardian)

At the request of the family of Jacqueline Sutton, the Institute for War & Peace Reporting and the family release the following joint statement:

Jacqueline (Jacky) Sutton, IWPR’s acting Iraq country director, was found dead at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport overnight on October 17-18. She had flown from London to take an onward flight to her base in Erbil in the Kurdish Region of Iraq.

Based on an extensive review of the information provided by Turkish authorities, the family of Jacky Sutton and IWPR have reached the preliminary conclusion that no other parties were involved in her death.

The family is satisfied with the investigation undertaken by the Turkish authorities,” said Jenny Sutton, Jacky’s sister. “We were deeply sceptical about initial reports. But based on the evidence we have seen, at this stage we believe that Jacky acted alone.

The Turkish authorities have cooperated fully and provided access to the complete dossier of evidence relating to the case, including copies of the CCTV images and all documentation.

There remains the possibility that additional information will come to light.

IWPR and the family will be seeking a further assessment from an independent investigative expert in order to confirm the findings once the Turkish investigation is complete.

Although investigation is still ongoing, in order to avoid further distress to family members and friends of Jacky, and given the widespread speculation about the circumstances of her death, we therefore state the following:

  • Comprehensive CCTV footage with no apparent time gaps, still photographs, witness statements, a viewing of the body by her sister, and a site visit by IWPR and the family all indicate that Jacky was alone and that there was no sign of struggle.
  • Jacky had two credit cards and a large amount of cash with her, and there was no indication of theft or of any missing belongings.
  •  There is no evidence that any item or material was involved in the incident other than items already in her possession.

A further statement will be made when we are in a position to do so.

In the meantime, we would ask that the privacy of Jacky’s family be respected.

(Source: IWPR)

U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported on Wednesday.

Officials reported details of the latest strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Airstrikes in Syria

Attack and fighter aircraft conducted four airstrikes in Syria:

  • Near Manbij, four strikes struck four separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL structures, two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL vehicle, and an ISIL resupply point.

Airstrikes in Iraq

Attack, bomber and fighter aircraft conducted 14 airstrikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the government of Iraq:

  • Near Kisik, six strikes struck an ISIL vehicle bomb facility and destroyed five separate ISIL staging areas.
  • Near Ramadi, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL command and control node, an ISIL bomb, and denied ISIL access to terrain.
  • Near Sinjar, four strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed 14 ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL light machine gun, and an ISIL heavy machine gun.
  • Near Sultan Abdallah, one strike suppressed ISIL mortar fire.
  • Near Tal Afar, one strike destroyed 16 ISIL fighting positions.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, and the wider international community.

The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group’s ability to project terror and conduct operations, officials said.

Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the United States, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

By John Lee.

Iraq’s Cabinet has approved a budget of 106 trillion Iraqi dinars ($91 billion) for 2016.

The figures are based on crude oil output of 3.6 million barrels per day (BPD) at a price of $45 a barrel.

Spokesman Saad al-Hadithi told The Associated Press that Iraq will run with a deficit of 23 trillion dinars ($20 billion), which will be relieved through loans from local and international lenders.

The budget will now go before parliament for final approval.

(Source: Fox News)

(Budget image via Shutterstock)

By John Lee.

An arrest warrant has been issued for the Iraqi Trade Minister, Malas Abdulkarim al-Kasnazani (pictured), and his brother, on charges of financial corruption.

According to the report from AFP no details on the accusations have been issued, but local media said the Minister is suspected of awarding contracts without tenders to firms linked to his Jordan-based brother Nehru, a wealthy businessman who once had presidential aspirations.

AFP also reports that their father, a Kurd who once ran a militia backed by former president Saddam Hussein to oppose peshmerga rebels, is the leader of the largest Sufi order in Iraq, the Kasnazani order.

The Minister, a political ally of Iyad Allawi, is the highest-ranking official to be targeted in Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s crackdown on corruption.

(Source: AFP)

By John Lee.

Moody’s Investors Service has today withdrawn its provisional rating of (P)Caa1 for Government of Iraq’s planned USD bond issuance.

The issuance rating has been withdrawn following statements made by Iraq’s Deputy Finance Minister that the issuance plans have been put on hold.

The last rating action was in September 2015 when Moody’s assigned the provisional rating of (P)Caa1 ahead of the planned issuance of USD-denominated debt by the Iraqi government in the United States under Rule 144A.

(Source: Moody’s)

(Bonds image via Shutterstock)