The foreign ministers of Iran and Iraq held a meeting in Tehran to discuss a broad range of political and regional issues, including plans to broaden relations between the two Muslim neighbors.

In the Saturday meeting with his Iraqi counterpart in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed Tehran’s backing for the political trend in, and sovereignty of Iraq, saying the Arab country’s security is important for the Islamic Republic.

Zarif touched upon the attacks carried out against Iranian diplomatic sites and highlighted the necessity of guaranteeing the dignity and security of Iranian diplomats in Iraq.

He also condemned any assaults on diplomatic places and denounced any such attacks as unacceptable. Zarif said such attacks must be stopped.

He referred to the United States’ assassination of top Iranian commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, calling on the Iraqi government to discharge its responsibility in that regard.

The Iraqi foreign minister, in turn, underscored the strategic importance of Tehran-Baghdad ties.

He said the two sides enjoy age-old relations and a common geography as well as common economic and political interests, the Iranian government’s website reported.

He said Iraq will not allow its soil to be used for threatening neighboring countries.

As agreed in the meeting, an Iraqi technical team will travel to Iran in the coming two weeks to implement mutual agreements, including those on dredging the border river of Arvand Rud.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

The post Foreign Ministers Weigh Plans to Boost Iran-Iraq Ties first appeared on Iraq Business News.

By John Lee.

The United States has reportedly granted Iraq a 60-day extension to a sanctions waiver allowing it to import Iranian gas.

According to the report from AFP, Iraq relies on gas and electricity imports Iran to supply about a third of its electricity sector.

More here.

(Source: AFP)

The post US Grants Iraq New 60-day Waiver to Import Iranian Gas first appeared on Iraq Business News.

Iraq Forms Delegation to Negotiate Water Share with Iran, Turkey

The Iraqi Foreign Relations Committee in Parliament formed a special delegation headed by the Minister of Water Resources, Mahdi Rashid Al-Hamdani, to resolve the water file with Iran and Turkey.

The committee’s rapporteur, MP Iqbal Abdul Hussein, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been informed of the formation of the delegation under the direction of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, the Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported.

The negotiations delegation will seek to have serious solutions to releasing the shared water, and not establishing more dams, which have turned a number of regions in Iraq into deserts, as well as cut off a lot of water from agricultural areas,” she added.

The committee stressed on the importance that the negotiating team succeeds in resolving the water crisis and using economic relations “as a means to pressure Iran and Turkey” to resolve the water file.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

The post Iraq to Negotiate Water Share with Iran, Turkey first appeared on Iraq Business News.

By Shelly Kittleson, for the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI). Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Future of International Security Assistance in Iraq

Almost three years after Iraq declared victory against the so-called Islamic State (IS), whether and to what extent foreign countries continue to assist Baghdad in maintaining security will affect geopolitical alliances, counterterrorism operations, corruption and, indirectly, numerous other issues in the country.

How new prime minister and Iraqi national intelligence service chief Mustafa Kadhimi deals with domestic demands and balances relations with the US and Iran, especially, will also determine whether progress can be made towards a state monopoly on arms during the roughly one year he is expected to remain in office prior to elections.

Click here to read the full article.

The post The Future of Intl Security Assistance in Iraq first appeared on Iraq Business News.

Pakistan’s federal cabinet gave formal approval to the launch of a ferry service from Karachi and Gwadar ports to neighboring states of Iran, Iraq, and beyond.

At present, there is no international or national commercial ferry service operating in Pakistan for the purpose of transportation of passengers and goods.

According to Pakistan Today, the potential for initiating a ferry service in Pakistan has been felt for quite some time, especially in the context of providing an alternate route for pilgrims intending to visit holy sites in Iran and Iraq.

The Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior endorsed the proposal, but the Defence Division had raised various observations/conditions on the proposed ferry service.

Hence, the Prime Minister’s Office returned the summary with the directions to address the observations of the defense ministry and re-submit the same within the shortest possible time.

Subsequently, the maritime affairs ministry re-submitted the proposal along with a response to the observations raised by the Ministry of Defence. It proposed a slightly changed route and involvement of private operators. The Defence Division supported the proposal but stressed that ferry service should be launched in three phases.

The Defence Division recommended ferry services to Muscat and then to UAE and Abu Dhabi in first and second phases, respectively, and later to Iran/Iraq in the third phase. The ministry was of the view that ferry service without Iran/Iraq, a popular destination for the pilgrims, in the first phase shall not be commercially viable.

The foreign affairs and interior divisions endorsed the proposal of this ministry subject to addressing the security concerns raised by the Ministry of Defence. The re-submitted proposal was returned by the Prime Minister’s Office, with the direction to convene a meeting of the relevant stakeholders in order to address all the observations/concerns, including those raised by FBR and defence ministry and thereafter submit recommendations.

On Tuesday, the ministry proposed starting ferry service from Karachi (Karachi Port), linking Port Qasim and Gwadar Port with Bandar Abbas (Iran), Basra (Iraq), Muscat (Oman) and Dubai (UAE) separately or collectively.

The ferry terminals at Karachi Port, Port Qasim and/or Gwadar Port would be established by the respective port authorities, replicating all the operational facilities related to security, immigration, customs etc. as that of any international airport in the country in collaboration with other ministries.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

The post Pakistan to Launch Ferry Service to Iraq first appeared on Iraq Business News.

By John Lee.

The United States has seized control of two Iraqi news websites, which it says were unlawfully utilized by Kata’ib Hizballah, a Specially Designated National and a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

In a statement, the US Department of Justice said:

The United States has seized “Aletejahtv.com” and “Aletejahtv.org,” two websites, which were unlawfully utilized by Kata’ib Hizballah, a Specially Designated National and a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

“Once again we see designated foreign terrorist organizations turning to the internet to push their message and recruit followers for their violent causes,” said John Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.  “We will continue to fight terror recruitment and propaganda efforts in the digital world, as we do elsewhere.”

“Our system of commerce and our infrastructure, whether physical or electronic, is to be used by lawfully,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak for the Northern District of Georgia.  “We will not allow groups that have been rightfully prohibited from obtaining goods and services in the United States to use our internet services – especially to further their terrorist agenda.  This seizure underscores national collaboration and a commitment to protecting our commerce and infrastructure.”

“The District of Arizona is home to many successful technology companies whose goods and services are capable of being used by individuals across the world,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Bailey for the District of Arizona.  “We will not allow members of terrorist organizations to illegally use those goods and services to further their propaganda and agenda.”

“The National Security of the United States is, and will always be, the top priority for the Bureau of Industry and Security’s Office of Export Enforcement.  Attempts to surreptitiously utilize U.S. based online networks and services to promote Iran backed terrorist propaganda will immediately be disrupted, disabled, and seized,” said P. Lee Smith, Performing the Non-exclusive Functions and Duties of the Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement at the Department of Commerce.  “The Bureau of Industry and Security is committed to ensuring the stability of the Iraqi government and protecting our troops and Allied Forces against terrorist acts of violence”

On July 2, 2009, the U.S. Secretary of Treasury designated Kata’ib Hizballah, an Iran-backed terrorist group active in Iraq, as a Specially Designated National for committing, directing, supporting, and posing a significant risk of committing acts of violence against Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces.  On the same day, the U.S. Department of State designated Kata’ib Hizballah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization for committing or posing a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism.

“Aletejahtv.com” and “Aletejahtv.org,” acted as Kata’ib Hizballah’s media arm and published internet communications such as videos, articles, and photographs.  These communications included numerous articles designed to further Kata’ib Hizballah’s agenda, particularly destabilizing Iraq and recruiting others to join their cause.  They also functioned as a live online television broadcast channel, “Al-etejah TV.”  Portions of the communications expressly noted that they were published by Kata’ib Hizballah.

Federal law prohibits designated entities like Kata’ib Hizballah from obtaining or utilizing goods or services, including website and domain services, in the United States without a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control.  “Aletejahtv.com” and “Aletejahtv.org” are domain names that are owned and operated by a United States company based in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Kata’ib Hizballah did not obtain a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control prior to utilizing the domain names.

On August 31, 2020, pursuant to a seizure warrant, the United States seized “Aletejahtv.com” and “Aletejahtv.org.”  Visitors to the site received the following message:

This Website has been seized. The domains or Aletejahtv.com and Aletejahtv.org have been seized by the United States Government in accordance with a seizure warrant issued pursuant to 18 U.S.C.

This seizure was investigated by the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys from the Northern District of Georgia, Assistant U.S. Attorneys from the District of Arizona, and trial lawyers from the Department of Justice National Security Division prosecuted the seizure.

(Source: US Dept of Justice)

The post US Seizes Militia-Affiliated News Websites first appeared on Iraq Business News.

Baghdad has decided to bar all foreign pilgrims from visiting Iraq for this year’s Arbaeen season due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, an Iranian deputy minister said.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs Hossein Zolfaqari said he has been informed by Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad about the plans for the mourning rituals marking Arbaeen, the religious gathering in commemoration of the third Shiite Imam.

Iran’s envoy has quoted the Iraqi officials as saying that they would not allow any foreign pilgrims to visit Iraq for this year’s Arbaeen season considering the coronavirus restrictions, Zolfaqari added.

Each year, millions of Shiites flock to the Iraqi city of Karbala, where the holy shrine of Imam Hussein (AS) is located, to perform mourning rites 40 days after Ashura.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

The post “No Foreign Pilgrims Allowed” in Iraq for Arbaeen first appeared on Iraq Business News.

By John Lee.

Iran is reportedly ready to start technical negotiations with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over the opening of two important free trade zones.

Mehdi Shushtari, Iran’s Consul-General in Sulaimani, told Rudaw the preliminary work at Parvizkhan and Bashmakh border crossings has already been completed.

Click here to read the full story.

(Source: Rudaw)

By John Lee.

Trade reportedly resumed on Sunday at the Shalamijah (Shalamcheh) border crossing between Iraq and Iran.

According to Anadolu Agency, the crossing was closed from 31st July 31 until 8th August due to coronavirus.

(Source: Anadolu Agency)

(Picture credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

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.

Torn between two allies: How Europeans can reduce Iraqi dependence on Iran and the US

After the long fight against the Islamic State group (ISIS), Iraq is now struggling to win the peace and faces acute challenges in achieving stability.

Caught in escalating tension between the United States and Iran, and confronted with a resurgent ISIS, the Iraqi leadership is paralysed by political deadlock and impending economic collapse.

The potential for the deterioration of conditions in Iraq should cause real concern among European governments that have already invested significant resources to defeat ISIS and stabilise the country.

Moreover, a recovery in the fortunes of ISIS, and greater tension between Iran and the US in Iraq, would undoubtedly have implications for European security – while a collapse of the Iraqi state would reverberate across the region in dangerous ways.

Read the full article here.