By Al-Monitor staff. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq returns to lockdown after surge in coronavirus cases

By opening two border crossings with Iran and Iraq, Turkey is seeking to boost the economy, and many businesses resume operations in the country this week.

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(Picture Credit: Joaoleitao)

Iran signed an agreement on exports of electricity to neighboring Iraq, covering 2020 and 2021.

The two sides signed the agreement during a visit to Baghdad by Iran’s Minister of Energy Reza Ardakanian, stressing their determination to broaden cooperation in the energy sector, despite American pressure on the Iraqi government to reduce economic ties with its neighbor.

Ardakanian in an interview highlighted the achievements of his one-day visit to Baghdad, where he signed the contract with the Iraqi Electricity Ministry.

The new agreement, he said, covers 2020 and 2021, while the previous deals had lasted for one-year periods.

He said Baghdad paid Tehran about $400 million – half of Iraq’s due debts to Iran for electricity supply – thanks to the Iranian Embassy’s follow-up efforts in the Iraqi capital.

The minister also noted that he discussed with Iraqi officials a three-year cooperation plan earlier signed between the countries’ private sectors to reconstruct Iraq’s electricity industry.

He further announced plans for a visit by Iranian technical teams to Iraq next week to pen two important agreements on reducing power grid losses and repairing electricity equipment, according to Press TV.

Heading a delegation of electricity experts, Ardakanian visited Iraq on Wednesday and held meetings with senior officials, including Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, President Barham Salih and Electricity Minister Majid Mahdi Hantoush.

The Iraqi Prime Minister’s office said in a statement that Kadhimi had, in his meeting with Ardakanian, stressed Baghdad’s willingness to develop the best of relations with its neighbors.

The two sides exchanged views on cooperation opportunities in the energy sector and boosting bilateral ties between the two neighboring states, according to the statement.

Kadhimi also underlined the need for maximum efforts to resolve complicated problems gripping the region.

Separately, the Iraqi president’s office released a statement on Ardakanian’s meeting with Salih, saying the latter called for bilateral interactions, especially in the fields of electricity and water.

The two officials, the statement read, also explored ways to enhance bilateral relations in all sectors in line with mutual interests.

Iraq and Iran share a 1,400-kilometer-long border. Except for gas and power, Iraq depends on Iran for everything from food, fruits and vegetables to machinery and home appliances.

Iranian energy accounts for between 30 and 40 percent of the electricity consumed in Iraq.

Over the past months, Washington has been pressing Baghdad to stop buying natural gas and electricity from Tehran as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign aimed at choking off Iran’s revenue.

Illegal US sanctions are preventing Iran from repatriating its money.

Last month, Iraq’s former electricity minister Luay al-Khatteeb said Iran will remain a key source of energy to the Arab country for years to come until suitable alternatives materialize.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Iran’s Minister of Energy Reza Ardekanian has paid a visit to Iraq for talks on energy cooperation.

During his trip to Baghdad, Ardekanian will hold talks with his new Iraqi counterpart and the other senior officials of the Arab country to weigh plans for the promotion of cooperation in the electricity industry.

The Iranian and Iraqi energy ministers are expected to discuss the expansion of Tehran-Baghdad cooperation in the energy industry, a plan to synchronize the power grids of Iran and Iraq, the training programs, and development of the electricity networks of the two neighbors.

In a ceremony in November 2019, Iran connected its national grid to Iraq.

Power cuts in Iraq have often prompted protests against the authorities. Iran supplies enough gas to power 2,500 megawatts (MW), as well as providing Iraq with 1,200 MW in direct power supplies.

(Picture credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By Ranj Alaadin, for Brookings Institution. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq has a new prime minister. What next?

After five months and two failed attempts, Iraq has a new prime minister.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s appointment offers the country the prospect of some respite after months of political paralysis and mass social unrest since October 2019.

The unrest has rocked the political class, and has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, the dramatic decline in oil prices, and tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

The full report can be read here.

By Hamdi Malik for Foreign Affairs. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi (pictured), Iraq’s new prime minister as of May 12, has already announced a bold intention.

In a short government manifesto he submitted to the Iraqi Parliament, Kadhimi emphasized his plans to “impose the state’s prestige” by bringing armed groups under government control.

To observers of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, the manifesto’s meaning is clear: the damage to the state’s “prestige” has, after all, come mainly from pro-Iranian militant groups who answer to the commanders of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), rather than to Iraq’s commander in chief.

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By John Lee.

Iraq’s national lockdown in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has reportedly given a boost to local businesses.

According to a report from AFP, local businesses no longer have to compete with imports from countries such as Turkey, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait.

It quotes the owner of an ice-cream factory in Basra as saying:

“The coronavirus crisis has allowed us to prove ourselves on the Iraqi market.”

More here.

(Source: AFP)

By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi received a phone call from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani May 11 asking him to accelerate the procedures for reopening the border between the two countries for trade.

“We are looking forward to opening the borders between the two countries for commercial purposes,” Rouhani said.

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Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami underlined closer defense cooperation and strategic partnership with the new Iraqi government for regional security and stability.

In a videoconference with his new Iraqi counterpart Juma Anad Saadoun on Sunday, the Iranian defense minister emphasized the need for closer defense cooperation between Tehran and Baghdad to ensure regional stability and security.

Congratulating the Iraqi minister on taking office, Hatami said Iran is willing to provide all of its capacities for Iraq. “We seek to become strategic partners and turn our relations into a successful paradigm of cooperation.”

The Iranian official also hailed the formation of the new Iraqi government on the basis of national consensus and in line with the interests of all Iraqi ethnic and religious groups.

Pointing to the historical, cultural and religious commonalities between the two neighbors, the Iranian general said, “Iran’s principled policy is (support for) a united, independent and powerful Iraq with the participation of all ethnicities and religions.”

He further wished the new government of Iraq success in fulfilling the national demands, improving the economic situation and fighting against the coronavirus, saying the Iranian Defense Ministry would donate a consignment of COVID-19 diagnostic test kits and other coronavirus-related medical supplies to the Iraqi Embassy in Tehran.

Hatami also invited the new defense minister of Iraq to pay an official visit to Iran.

In a telephone conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reaffirmed the country’s commitment to supporting Iraq, saying Tehran will fully back the new Iraqi government to help it serve the interests of the Iraqi nation.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By Albert B Wolf, for Foreign Policy. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

To Stop a U.S.-Iran War, Finlandize Iraq

A the coronavirus pandemic rages around the world and Americans remain divided on reopening the economy, lawmakers in the United States seem united on one issue: an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives agrees that the conventional arms embargo on Iran, due to expire in October, should be renewed.

While it is indisputable that Iran supports terrorism and should have its access to conventional weapons curtailed, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration’s so-called maximum-pressure campaign carries a bigger danger:

The United States could get caught in another war of choice in the Middle East.

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By Sajad Jiyad, for the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). Any opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News

Time for a reset: Iraq’s new prime minister and the US-Iran rivalry

Iraq needs to reset its relations with both Tehran and Washington in a way that protects Iraqi sovereignty and allows the central government to reassert control over the security apparatus.

Read the full article here.