By John Lee.

Commercial operations at the new Saudi-Iraq Arar Crossing will begin on a trial basis on 15th October.

Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Iraq, Abdul Aziz Al-Shammari, and Iraqi Ambassador to Riyadh, Qahtan Al-Janabi, made the announcement during a visit to the crossing point.

The Saudi town of Arar is 70 kilometers from the Iraqi border.

(Sources: Xinhua, Arab News)

The Khosravi border crossing between Iran and Iraq reopened on Friday, more than six years after a terrorist attack led to its closure.

In a ceremony on Friday, Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli and his Iraqi counterpart Yassin Al Yasiri reopened the Khosravi border crossing.

The border crossing had been closed in 2013 in the wake of a deadly terrorist attack on Shiite pilgrims.

Khosravi border crossing allows the Iranian pilgrims to take the shortest route from the common border to Iraq’s city of Karbala, where the holy shrine of Imam Hussein (PBUH) is located.

The interior ministers of Iran and Iraq had signed an agreement to reopen the border crossing and remove visa restrictions for Iranian Arbaeen pilgrims in August.

Iran and Iraq have also agreed to raise the level of services and facilities for the pilgrims and enhance border security during the Arbaeen season, which will culminate in a large gathering in Karbala on October 19.

Arbaeen, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, comes 40 days after Ashura, the martyrdom anniversary of the third Shiite Imam.

Each year, a huge crowd of Shiites flock to Karbala to perform mourning rites in commemoration of Imam Hussein (PBUH) and his companions.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

On Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on the Iraqi Communications and Media Committee (CMC) to reverse its three-month suspension of the U.S. government-funded Iraqi broadcaster Al-Hurra.

In a statement released yesterday, Iraq’s media regulator, the Communications and Media Committee, suspended the license of Al-Hurra, a regional broadcaster funded by the U.S. Agency for Global Media, for three months, accusing it of failing to provide evidence to make its case, neglecting to uphold the principles of professional journalism, and using anonymous sources to defame, according to news reports and local press freedom groups.

According to the same reports, the media regulator also suspended Al-Hurra’s activities until it “corrects its position” and broadcasts an official apology for tarnishing the reputation of Iraqi religious institutions and figures.

The suspension is related to an investigative report, which aired on August 31, alleging corruption within the Sunni and Shi’ite Muslim endowments–state bodies that administer religious sites and real estate–linked to senior religious authorities in Iraq. The report also implied ties between these state bodies and armed groups.

The Communications and Media Committee did not immediately reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.

“We call on Iraq´s media regulator to revoke the suspension of Al-Hurra’s license and allow its staff to do their jobs freely and without fear of reprisal,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Reporting on corruption should lead Iraqi authorities to bring those responsible to account rather than to suspend a broadcaster´s license.”

The U.S. Agency for Global Media issued a statement yesterday describing Al-Hurra’s report on allegations of corruption as “fair, balanced and professional,” and saying that all the “individuals and institutions involved were given the right of reply, which they declined.”

Pedro Marin, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, was quoted by Reuters as saying that neither the U.S. State Department nor the Embassy in Baghdad oversee Al-Hurra´s programming. He added, “Al-Hurra’s mission is to deliver accurate and objective information on the region, American policies and Americana,” and said the Iraqi Government “has the right to question Al-Hurra on any reporting that is perceived to be false or unprofessional.”

However, local press freedom groups, including the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory and the Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq, condemned the media regulator’s decision as invalid because, under law 65 regulating the Communication and Media Commission, the media regulator cannot suspend a broadcaster´s license without a court order.

According to news reports, the Sunni endowment denied the allegations in the report and said it would take legal actions against Al-Hurra, whereas the Shiite endowment has not yet commented on the decision.

(Source: CPJ)

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) was delighted to host H.E. Dr Abdullah Luaibi the Iraqi Minister of Transport in London today.

The Minister, accompanied by a delegation of officials, was on a 4 day official visit to the United Kingdom organised by the Department of International Trade.

His visit included meetings with IBBC Members Rolls-Royce and Serco, and a number of bilateral meetings with the British Government. UK companies play a leading role in aviation in Iraq and the Ministers visit cemented the existing ties while exploring new ventures.

By courtesy of Brigadier James Ellery and thanks to the generous sponsorship of Vitol, IBBC was fortunate to offer the Minister and his delegation Lunch together with about 20 IBBC Members and guests at the Cavalry and Guards Club on Piccadilly.

Members in attendance included representatives of Serco, Zaha Hadid Architects, Menzies Aviation, G4S, Al Burhan Group, Basra Gateway Terminal, HWH & Associate, Eversheds Sutherland, Stirling Education and Constellis.

Delegates at the Lunch were addressed by Baroness Nicholson, IBBC President and the Prime Ministers Trade Envoy for Iraq, and of course the Minister who expressed his great satisfaction about his visit and working so closely with the UK Government, UK businesses and the IBBC.

He also made it clear that establishing regular direct return flights between London and Baghdad was one of his top priorities and that he was looking at upgrading some of the major Iraqi transport infrastructure during his tenure.

IBBC’s Managing Director Christophe Michels commented:

Minister Luaibi has been a staunch supporter of IBBC members in Iraq over some years now, first as Deputy Minister and now as Minister. His office door in Baghdad is always open to us and I am pleased to say that UK companies lead the way in airport security, ground handling and air traffic control.

“Now we are looking forward for Rolls-Royce to work with Iraqi Airways and for one of the great UK architects and design companies to work on an new airport project in country.

For more information on the Iraq Britain Business Council, visit https://www.iraqbritainbusiness.org

(Source: IBBC)

By John Lee.

South Korea’s Daewoo Engineering & Construction has won a US$70.35 million order to build entrance roads for the new Al Faw Grand Port in Basra.

Under the deal with the General Company for Ports of Iraq (GCPI), Daewoo will complete the 14.5 kilometer-long road by May 2021.

Earlier this year, the company won a contract valued at $199.75 to build Al Faw Container Terminal (Phase 1).

(Sources: General Company for Ports of Iraq, Yonhap)

By John Lee.

Authorities in Baghdad are implementing a series of measures to improve passenger access to Baghdad International Airport (BIAP).

The measures include the widening of the main road to the airport, the removal of a number of security barriers and allowing vehicles to reach the departure terminals to drop off passengers.

These measures coincide with the the resumption of flights by major carries to Iraqi airports, and the expansion of Iraqi Airways route network.

The easing of access to Iraq’s main international gateway comes just a few weeks after the Iraqi authorities oversaw the opening of the so called ‘Green Zone’ in central Baghdad to traffic, fulfilling an undertaking by Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi and the Iraqi government.

Soon after the defeat of Daesh in Iraq, the Iraqi government began to remove concrete barriers, blast walls and checkpoints, which have been in place for well over a decade,
from other parts of Baghdad and cities across Iraq.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

The interior ministers of Iran and Iraq signed an agreement to implement plans to facilitate the Arbaeen pilgrimage to Iraq, including one on reopening the Khosravi border crossing.

Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli and his Iraqi counterpart Yassin Al Yasiri met in Tehran on Saturday and signed a memorandum of understanding to facilitate the Arbaeen pilgrimage to Iraq by Iranian travelers.

Based on the MoU, the two sides agreed to reopen the Khosravi border crossing and remove visa restrictions for pilgrims planning to visit Iraq for the Arbaeen ritual ceremony.

Iran and Iraq also agreed to raise the level of services and facilities for the pilgrims and enhance border security during the Arbaeen season, which will culminate in a large gathering in Karbala on October 19.

Arbaeen, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, comes 40 days after Ashura, the martyrdom anniversary of the third Shiite Imam.

Each year, a huge crowd of Shiites flock to the Iraqi city of Karbala, where the holy shrine of Imam Hussein (AS) is located, to perform mourning rites.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By John Lee.

Shares in Philippines-based International Terminal Container Services Inc. (ICTSI), which operates the Basra Gateway Terminal (BGT) (pictured) at the port of Umm Qasr, have closed up more than 6 percent on Wednesday following a strong set of results.

The company said in a statement:

“Net income attributable to equity holders of US$128.5 million grew by 42 percent compared to the US$90.2 million earned in the same period last year mainly due to improved operating income contribution from the terminals in Iraq, Australia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Subic in the Philippines.”

(Source: ICTSI)