By John Lee.

Deceptive shipping practices are reportedly being used in an attempt to conceal cargoes of sanctioned Iranian fuel oil being shipped via the Iraqi port of Khor al-Zubair.

Writing in Lloyds List, Michelle Wiese Bockmann gives details of a network of shell companies running ‘dark’ tankers to transport the sanctioned fuel.

Click here to read the full article.

By John Lee.

Iraq has reported four new cases of coronavirus (covid-19), this time in Kirkuk province.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said the four were from the same family, and had recently returned from Iran.

They have been placed in quarantine.

According to Reuters, Iraq has indefinitely extended an entry ban on travellers from China, Iran, Thailand, South Korean, Japan, Italy and Singapore.

(Source: Ministry of Health)

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

Iraq is setting up quarantine areas aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus from across the border with Iran.

Neighbouring Iran has reported its sixth death from the disease.

There are fears that hundreds of thousands of Iranian visitors to holy sites in Iraq could spread the virus.

Al Jazeera‘s Rob Matheson reports from the Iraqi capital Baghdad:

By Dr Renad Mansour, for Chatham House. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

After Latest Turn, is Muqtada al-Sadr Losing Influence in Iraq?

The populist cleric has repositioned himself in Iraqi politics multiple times, but his recent shift against youth-led protestors may signal his decline as an autonomous political force.

Following the US strike on Qassem Solaimani and Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis, populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has violently cracked down on youth-led protests in Iraq.

His paramilitaries and ‘blue hats’ – supposedly created to protect protestors from state and allied parastatal security forces – sought to end the months-long demonstrations by attacking the places where protesters have camped since October. In Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, they successfully captured the famous Turkish restaurant which had become a symbol of Iraq’s ‘October revolution’.

Click here to read the full story.

By Bryant Harris for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq likely to continue importing Iranian natural gas under US waiver renewal

Iraqi officials have indicated that the United States is likely to renew a key Iran sanctions waiver that will allow Baghdad to continue importing Iranian natural gas to fuel its electricity needs, the AP reported.

The three-month waiver is set to expire Thursday.

Iraq relies on Iranian imports to meet the lion’s share of its electricity needs in the face of shortages that have helped provoke widespread protests in recent years.

Click here to read the full article.

(Picture credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By John Lee.

The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) has agreed a $1.4-billion deal to develop two oilfields in Khuzestan, near the border with Iraq.

The National Iranian South Oil Company (NISOC) and Iran’s MAPNA Group signed a ten-year contract within the IPC framework, to improve the recovery rate, increase production and exploitation of the Parsi and Paranj fields.

According to the NIOC, the deal aims to achieve a maximum production of 85000 barrels of oil per day and an additional cumulative production of about 121 million barrels, with an estimated direct capital cost of $ 876.6 million and an indirect cost of $ 235.3 million. Also the cost of exploitation is estimated at $ 269 million.

Work description of this contract includes upgrading and construction of surface installations (operation unit, desalination, gas pressure collecting and boosting facilities, gas injection facilities, flow and transmission pipelines and other related facilities), drilling of new wells and repairing existing wells, split layer operation, gas lift operation, drilling and EOR studies, piloting EOR plans, human resources training, technology transfer, and research and development.

Implementing this plan while increasing the crude oil production capacity of the country, will create widespread employment opportunities in Khuzestan province and also a favorable job market.

Parsi oil field is located in ​​South Dezful, about 125 kilometers from Ahvaz and Paranj Square is located between Karanj and Parsi fields, 75 kilometers from Behbahan and 40 kilometers from Ramhormoz.

(Source: NIOC)

By Vanda Felbab-Brown, for Brookings Institution. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Stuck in the middle: Iraq and the enduring conflict between United States and Iran

When the United States killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani on January 3, it also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a powerful Iraqi militia leader. The move critically destabilized U.S.-Iraq relations.

Last weekend’s rocket attacks on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which injured one person, and the 200,000-strong demonstration demanding the departure of U.S. military forces from Iraq, led by the anti-U.S. cleric-politician Muqtada al-Sadr, are merely some of the manifestations of this severe destabilization.

Although the United States and Iran managed to avoid an escalation to full-blown war — which would be very costly for both sides — a wide set of U.S. interests in Iraq has been seriously undermined, likely in a long-term way.

The full report can be read here.

By Eric Bordenkircher, for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Pivoting to the KRG: Restructuring the U.S. Military Presence in Iraq

Since the start of the Iraq War in 2003, a defining element of American policy has been the importance of the political and territorial integrity of the Iraqi state.

In light of the U.S. killing of Qassem Soleimani, subsequent retaliation from Iran, and continued violence in Iraq—most recently manifesting in an unclaimed attack against the U.S. embassy—the U.S. government must now reconsider the viability of its current policy towards Iraq.

Full report here.

By Mohammad R. Kalantari and Ali Hashem, for Foreign Policy. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Washington Doesn’t Understand Shiite Clerics in Iran or Iraq

U.S. officials who praise Iraqi Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani while denouncing Iran’s supreme leader fail to grasp that the two clerical leaders have a shared interest in resisting outside threats.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

The United States is seeking permission from Iraq to place Patriot missiles in the country to defend against attacks from Iran.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (pictured) said on Thursday:

“We need the permission of the Iraqis, that’s one issue. There may be others with regard to placement and things like that, at a more tactical, more operational [level].”

Joint Chiefs Of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley added:

“We’re working with the Iraqi government in order to [install Patriot missiles in Iraq] … the mechanics of it all have to be worked out and that is, in fact, ongoing.”

(Source: US Dept of Defense)