By John Lee.

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) has welcomed four new members, bringing its membership to 71 companies:

Crescent Petroleum: Sharjah-based Crescent Petroleum is the only foreign oil and gas company to maintain a continuous presence in Iraq for three decades, and is the largest private oil and gas investor in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Sardar Trading Agencies (STA): One of the core companies of Sardar Group, with more than 50 years of experience in the Iraqi private business field, mainly in the automotive segment.

Stirling Education: The Luxembourg-based company is committed to providing excellent affordable education and pastoral care for students in Iraq. Across Iraq, they have around 17,000 students, 42 schools and two university campuses.

Tube Tech International: UK-based Tube Tech is a world leader in the removal of fouling from refinery, petrochemical and energy process assets.

(Source: IBBC)

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

Will the Trump administration abort Iran’s land bridge to the Mediterranean?

As the showdown between Washington and Tehran escalates elsewhere in the Gulf, Iran is giving high priority to an effort to secure, control and reopen the al-Bukamal border crossing at Qaim, the only Syrian-Iraqi border crossing under Iranian control, to solidify its influence in the Levant and mitigate the impact of US sanctions.

It remains to be seen, however, whether Iran will pull off this move and how the Donald Trump administration might react.

Click here to read the full story.

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

Last week, the US Embassy in Baghdad ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. Government employees from Iraq, as tension mounts between the Trump administration and neighbouring Iran. In the meantime, several other organisations have taken similar moves.

While this has made headlines, has there been any real change on the ground?

Iraq Business News spoke with Martin Aggar, General Manager of Al-Burhan Security, to get his perspective on developments.

He says that while some people have changed their travel plans in response to the increased tensions, in practice little has changed in Baghdad:

Our operations team is closely monitoring the situation, and apart from one minor incident last night, there has not been a significant increase in security-related activity or general threat levels.

“Nevertheless, some clients have chosen not to leave our secure accommodation at the Al-Burhan Centre.

“But with meeting facilities on site, and also at our villa in Al-Mansour, we can still help them to see the people they need to see while visiting Iraq. We’re equipped for all situations.”

The events of the past week seem to many to be at odds with the general trend in Iraq. Aggar explains:

This all comes against a background of steadily improving conditions in Iraq; people feel safer, infrastructure is improving, and international companies are taking more of an interest in the opportunities to be had here.

“That’s why we’ve invested in the newest and best armoured vehicles, a VIP meet-and-greet service at the airport, and the full package of services that executives need and expect when they come here to do business.

“And our sister company Al-Burhan Airways is the only private operator licensed to fly helicopters in Iraq, so we can bring visitors quickly and safely wherever they need to be in the country.

Asked how he expects this to play out, he says:

The current tensions are the result of Iran-US relations, and while they don’t originate in Iraq, they do of course influence this country.  

“However, the Iraqi government is very focussed on developing the economy and moving Iraq forward.

“The opportunities are huge and the people are determined to succeed; I think in future we’ll look back on this as the early stage of a boom period for Iraq.

By John Lee.

Iraq’s Minister for Electricity has warned of the dangers of politicising the problems in the country’s electicity sector.

Luay al-Khateeb told AFP:

“Electricity is a national security issue … In the end, any political, economic or security crisis in Iraq will affect the whole region — and the global economy will be open to threat. We’re urging for this file not to be politicised.”

The shortage of electricity in the summer months, when people rely on air conditioning to keep cool, has been a source of social unrest in the past.

Khateeb added:

“On October 25, the week I took office, electricity generation sat at between 9.5 to 10 GW. It is now at 15 GW. [Most Iraqi provinces] will receive no less than 20 hours of electricity per day. This, to be honest, is a level of production the country hasn’t seen in years.”

(Source: AFP)

By John Lee.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed the nomination of Ambassador Matthew Tueller to be the Ambassador to Iraq.

Tueller has most recently served as U.S. Ambassador to Yemen.

A native of Utah, Utah, his other overseas assignments have included Ambassador to Kuwait, Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Cairo; Political Minister Counselor at Embassy Baghdad; Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Kuwait; Political Counselor at Embassy Riyadh; Chief of the U.S. Office in Aden, Yemen; Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Doha; Political Officer at Embassy London; and Political Officer and Consular Officer at Embassy Amman.

His Washington assignments have included Deputy Director in the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs and Egypt Desk Officer.

(Sources: US Embassy, US State Department)

By John Lee.

Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban (pictured) has reportedly said on Thursday that Iraq has contingency plans in place to cope with any stoppage of Iranian gas imports.

His comments come as the US increases sanctions pressure on Iran.

According to Reuters, Ghadhban added that he hopes no such disruption will take place.

(Source: Reuters)

Five One Labs is pleased to announce IGNITE, our very first entrepreneurship program focusing on achieving product market fit.

This program will help you better understand the market you are competing in and how you can create the most value for your customers.

We are now recruiting tech-entrepreneurs from communities all around Iraq to participate in this month long program.

If you are passionate about a tech-focused startup idea and want to learn the skills to turn it into a business, this program is right for you!

Apply by May 21 at 11:59pm to be considered.

More details here.

(Source: 51 Labs)

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

For much of Iraq’s recent history, the trend has been for educated and talented Iraqis to leave the country, and for Iraq to use its oil revenues to import the expertise it needs.

But that’s changing; to at least some extent, the Iraqi diaspora is returning, innovative home-grown Iraqi businesses are being created, and some are even exporting their goods and services abroad.

One prime example is Arab Payment Services (APS), which I visited on a recent trip to Baghdad. Founded by Ziad Khalaf in 2013, the company now employs 100 people, many of them Iraqis who have returned from overseas with new skills and experience.

The company provides a range of banking-related services, including ATMs, point-of-sale (POS) devices, and payment processing. In this business, proper security is essential. General Manager Haider Alobaidi, who has been with the company from the start, explained:

“Our processes all comply with international standards, such as PCI DSS [Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard] — our reputation depends on flawless execution, so there is no room for error.”

In a country so reliant on cash, is there really a need for such a business? “Most definitely“, says Roger Abhoud, Advisor to the Chairman:

“The demographics are all in our favour. Forty million people, 83 percent of them without bank accounts, increasing by one million people each year — more and more of those people want access to the sorts of services that we can provide, and that trend can only continue. It’s a huge opportunity!”

His vision doesn’t end there. APS has just opened an office in Dubai, and plans to expand internationally.

This is a new and positive phenomenon for Iraq, and one that will provide welcome opportunities in the years ahead.

By Ahmed Tabaqchali, for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts.

Iraq’s new entrepreneurial generation of civil activists’ sense of civic duty flourished during the trauma brought by the ISIS takeover of a third of the country in 2014, and has continued to grow since then as reviewed in a recent report.

The report into “A New Generation of Activists Circumvents Iraq’s Political Paralysis” also looked into the origins and the determination of these civil activists to “develop solutions to policy problems that the political class has been unable to address”.

Click here to read the full article.

By Ahmed Tabaqchali, for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts.

Iraq’s new entrepreneurial generation of civil activists’ sense of civic duty flourished during the trauma brought by the ISIS takeover of a third of the country in 2014, and has continued to grow since then as reviewed in a recent report.

The report into “A New Generation of Activists Circumvents Iraq’s Political Paralysis” also looked into the origins and the determination of these civil activists to “develop solutions to policy problems that the political class has been unable to address”.

Click here to read the full article.