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

IRGC masses troops on Iraq border amid rising tensions with Kurdish groups

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is launching increasingly daring operations to degrade the capabilities of armed Kurdish opposition groups.

In its latest move, it has deployed thousands of troops to difficult mountain ranges in the western part of the country used as safe havens by the groups for decades.

The IRGC’s operations have taken on an air of urgency since US President Donald Trump’s May 8 announcement that he was withdrawing the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, and re-imposing sanctions against Iran.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

Iran’s private banks have reportedly laid the groundwork for setting up a joint bank with their counterparts in Iraq.

Yahya Al-e Es’haq [Yahya Ale-Ishaq] (pictured), head of Iran-Iraq Chamber of Commerce, is quoted as saying that the bank would operate under the regulations of central banks of the two countries to facilitate money transfer.

(Source: Xinhua)

(Picture Credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By John Lee.

Turkey has announced that it will increase water supplies to Iraq to compensate for a drop in supply from Iran.

According to Abu Dhabi-based The National, Iran has said it will cut water supplies to Iraq to prioritise projects within Iran.

Turkey depends on water from the Tigris to fill a reservoir behind its new Ilısu dam.

This summer, Iraq’s agriculture ministry banned the growing of water-intensive crops due to shortages.

(Sources: The National, Sabah, Rudaw)

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

A mother covers her daughter’s mouth and nose with her headscarf as they rush through the heavy smog that blankets a crowded street. She stops to cough, but then continues to walk while covering her own mouth with her free hand. Maryam and her daughter Mina are not the only ones struggling with the air in this southwestern Iranian city.

For over two months, Ahvaz and its people have been choked by fires engulfing the Hawizeh Marshes that straddle the border with Iraq. Nearly two-thirds of the marshes are located in Iraq, with the rest not far from Ahvaz.

In mid-August, the governor of the town of Hawizeh, west of Ahvaz, said fumes and the smoke from flames originating on the Iraqi side of the marshes have sent over 250 people to the hospital. Things are not looking any better on the Iranian side of the border.

Click here to read the full story.

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

The oil-rich port city of Basra is feeling the heat of the intensifying conflict between the United States and Iran. Pro-Iranian armed groups that threaten the United States from time to time are active in the city. The US-Iran tension is expected to affect the economic situation in Iraq in general, and in Basra in particular.

The US State Department announced Sept. 28 its intention to close its consulate in Basra and pull out its diplomats. This comes after three mortar shells targeted the US Consulate there.

On Sept. 29, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the Quds Force — a special force unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — and its commander Qasem Soleimani of being behind the threats. The United States “will respond promptly and appropriately to any such attacks,” he said.

Click here to read the full story.

(Picture credit: Ahmed Mahmoud)

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

Concerned that tensions between Iran and the United States could blow back onto Iraq, a senior Iraqi diplomat said today that Iraq would be willing to facilitate dialogue between the two nations.

“Iraq is capable and willing to facilitate and create communication between not only … the US and Iran, but with all the countries in the region,” Ahmed Mahjoub, spokesperson for the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told a small group of journalists and analysts at the Iraqi Embassy in Washington.

“During the recent two years, Iraq was able to solve a couple of problems between states,” Mahjoub said, adding that he could not discuss the details because the parties agreed not to disclose the Iraqi role in those mediations. “But I assure you that Iraq managed to solve problems between states during the last few years, and I believe that Iraq is willing to continue to this role.”

Click here to read the full story.

Due to concerns about the security of U.S. government personnel, on September 28, 2018, the Department of State ordered the departure of U.S. government personnel from the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah.

In a statement, the State Department said:

“Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo [pictured] has made the determination to place Consulate Basrah on ordered departure. U.S. Embassy Baghdad will continue to provide full consular services to for those in and around Basrah. The Department’s updated Travel Advisory is available at Travel.state.gov. We remain strongly committed to supporting Iraqis in the southern provinces and throughout the country.”

Please see the Department’s updated Travel Advisory for Iraq here.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Iraq and recommends U.S. citizens currently in Iraq to depart immediately.  Because commercial options are readily available, the U.S. government does not plan to offer to transport U.S. citizens out of the country at this time.

U.S. citizens should not come to the Embassy for travel arrangements.  They should make their own transportation and lodging arrangements.  The Embassy will not accept any personal or real property for protection, including pets.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will continue assisting U.S. citizens.  Those without valid passports or who are unable to arrange for their own travel or travel for their dependents because of insufficient funds or other reasons that prevent them from traveling by commercial means, should email this office at BaghdadACS@state.gov or contact our office by phone at 0770-443-1286, as soon as possible.  If asked to come in for an appointment, people should bring:

  • U.S. citizens:  passport or other proof of U.S. citizenship; and
  • Non-U.S. citizen spouses, children, and dependents:  passports with valid visas and proof of relationship (birth or marriage certificates).

Embassy Baghdad will contact visa applicants to inform them if a change is made to their appointment.

We strongly recommend the following for U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Iraq:

  • Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.
  • Draft a will and designate appropriate insurance beneficiaries and/or power of attorney.
  • Discuss a plan with loved ones regarding care/custody of children, pets, property, belongings, non-liquid assets (collections, artwork, etc.), funeral wishes, etc.
  • Share important documents, login information, and points of contact with loved ones so that they can manage your affairs if you are unable to return as planned to the United States.
  • Establish your own personal security plan in coordination with your employer or host organization, or consider consulting with a professional security organization.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Following us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Reportfor Iraq.
  • S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

NOTE:  U.S. citizens should pass the contents of this notice to other U.S. citizens and keep it handy for reference.

(Source: US State Dept)

By John Lee.

The Iraqi Ministry of Transport has that the ferry between Al-Ashar Quay on the banks of the Shatt al-Arab in Basra and the Iranian port of Khorramshahr  has resumed after a three-year suspension.

Forty-six passengers travelled on the first service on Saturday.

The Director of the General Company for Maritime Transport, Abdul Karim Al-Jabri, that the company owns modern boats and is dedicated to the success of the service.

(Source: Ministry of Transport)

Iraq is negotiating with the U.S. for exemptions from the impending snap-back of sanctions against Iran, arguing that it could not cut consumption of Iranian electricity and natural gas immediately without suffering serious economic harm and social instability.

An Iraqi delegation was in Washington last week seeking a waiver for its cross-border trade, meeting with senior officials in the State Department, Treasury Department, and National Security Council, according to multiple officials familiar with the talks.

More details here from Iraq Oil Report (subscription required)

(Source: Iraq Oil Report)

Iraq is negotiating with the U.S. for exemptions from the impending snap-back of sanctions against Iran, arguing that it could not cut consumption of Iranian electricity and natural gas immediately without suffering serious economic harm and social instability.

An Iraqi delegation was in Washington last week seeking a waiver for its cross-border trade, meeting with senior officials in the State Department, Treasury Department, and National Security Council, according to multiple officials familiar with the talks.

More details here from Iraq Oil Report (subscription required)

(Source: Iraq Oil Report)