By John Lee.

On Wednesday, the Lebanese President, General Michel Aoun, welcomed the Vice President of Iraq, former Iraqi Prime Minister, Dr. Iyad Allawi, with whom he discussed the bolstering of Lebanese-Iraqi relations in all areas, especially on economic matters.

Following his meeting with President Aoun, Xinhua quotes Vice President Allawi as saying:

“We have discussed with Lebanese President Michel Aoun the possibility of creating partnership between Lebanese and Iraqi businessmen and we will be following up on our agreements to make sure they are put in action very soon.”

He reportedly added that Iraq is keen to benefit from the Lebanese expertise in the banking sector.

(Source: Govt of Lebanon, Xinhua)

Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon have committed to digitally transform their countries, discussing their roadmaps to support the Mashreq region’s integration into the rapidly evolving global digital economy.

The commitments came on the first day of the landmark, high-level forum on Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship Development in Mashreq, which was  hosted by the Government of Jordan and organized jointly with the World Bank Group.

The three governments had identified the challenges and solutions that would allow Mashreq countries to realize more gains to their economies and societies. Digitalization is shaping the present and future of economic activities as it brings about higher productivity, efficiencies and quicker inclusion of lagging economic and social groups, such as women and youth.

Mobile and digital solutions are contributing to facilitating greater financial inclusion. E-commerce and other digital applications are being leveraged to promote entrepreneurship, including the empowerment of women as entrepreneurs, and digital solutions are being sought to improve access to learning resources in an easier and less expensive way.

The Mobile Gender Report for 2018 lists a gender gap in mobile ownership among women in the region which can reach up to 20%. while this gap is only 2% in countries like Egypt or Turkey. Bringing this gap to less than 4% everywhere in the Mashreq would bring income opportunities for women in the region. Broadband access is estimated to increase employment among married women by as much as 4% in high income economies.

Broadly speaking, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon face similar obstacles to their quest to transform Mashreq into a regional hub for IT and Business Process Outsourcing.  Policymakers, international and regional businesses, startups and investors all convened at the King Hussein Business Park to enrich the discussion with their expertise and experience on how to push this agenda forward.

The digital roadmaps were presented by the three ministers holding the Information Technology portfolio in their respective countries. World Bank Group  committed to supporting these countries achieve their goals with specific focus on increasing broadband access, establishing cashless payment systems and bridging the gender gap in mobile usage.

Iraq

The Government of Iraq (GOI) is committed to further advancing the digital economy and aims to ensure affordable access to high speed internet, by doubling access to broadband to 54% in 2021 and 90% by 2030, achieving 100% broadband network coverage, establishing a conducive regulatory and policy framework for digital payments, developing interoperable digital payments infrastructure, and striving towards 100% financial access. The GOI is also committed to delivering digital government services and ensuring highest standards of cybersecurity and data privacy to boost consumer trust. The GOI is also keen to ensure that education and training programs meet current and future job market skills needs.

Jordan

The Government of Jordan (GOJ) is committed to advancing the digital economy as strategic growth sector for the Kingdom. On digital infrastructure, the GOJ commits to further developing access to internet broadband to reach 100% penetration rate by 2021. As part of that, the GOJ is opening the National Broadband Network (7,000 kilometers of fiber) for Public Private Partnership, allowing affordable fiber broadband to 1.3 million households around Jordan. On digital payments, the GOJ commits to increasing country-level cashless payments from 33 to 50% by 2020 and to digitizing 80% of government to citizens payments by 2021.  On developing digital skills, the GOJ will launch a national skills development initiative to train 35,000 people on the 21st century skills and mainstreaming digital skills in public schools to train 300 thousands by 2022. To enable a friendly business environment for entrepreneurs, the GOJ is committed to launching a regulatory reform process in 2019, following a participatory approach with ecosystem representatives. To complete automation of Government services, the GOJ commits to automate key services by 2021. Building on the recent transformations of the Ministry of ICT to Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship, the GOJ will launch its digital transformation action plan in partnership with the ecosystem by end of 2019.

Lebanon

The Government of Lebanon (GOL) is committed to building a Digital Nation and to transform Lebanon into a regional technology and innovation hub. The GOL  is in the process of finalizing its digital transformation plan and aims to double the knowledge economy’s contribution to GDP and double the employment in this sector by 2025. To achieve this, the GOL plans to: (i) reach 100% broadband penetration rate by end of 2021; (ii) develop and execute the digital transformation of the public sector and offer citizens a fully digitized journey across all government services, with 500,000 users signed up to the government digital platform by end of 2021; (iii) provide a supportive regulatory framework to help grow the Fintech industry and facilitate digital payments, launch a new national digital currency by the end of 2020, and launch an Electronic Trading Platform (ETP) to improve financing for private sector activities in 2020; (iv) leverage its pool of skilled and entrepreneurial talent in Lebanon and abroad to build a digital economy focused on innovation and private initiative, increase the number of start-ups fivefold and double yearly venture capital funding by 2025; and (v) address the existing skills gap by preparing the youth for the global, digital jobs of the future through launching a national training academy by 2021.

The World Bank commits to support Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan in achieving their visions and plans for digital transformation by providing the necessary resources and instruments. The World Bank will work closely with the Governments, private sector, academia and civil society to maximize the impact of digitization and reap the digital dividends for their societies. This support will include: (i) pursuing plans to ensure affordable access to high-speed internet and facilitate investment in broadband; (ii) delivering digital government services and improving access to data, while ensuring the highest standards of cybersecurity and data privacy; (iii) developing a modern digital payment infrastructure; (iv) scaling up digital entrepreneurship; and (v) ensuring education and training programs meet current and future skills needs.

More details, including a video of the procedings, can be found here.

The second high-level Digital Mashreq Forum will convene in Beirut in June 2020.

(Source: World Bank)

Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon have committed to digitally transform their countries, discussing their roadmaps to support the Mashreq region’s integration into the rapidly evolving global digital economy.

The commitments came on the first day of the landmark, high-level forum on Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship Development in Mashreq, which was  hosted by the Government of Jordan and organized jointly with the World Bank Group.

The three governments had identified the challenges and solutions that would allow Mashreq countries to realize more gains to their economies and societies. Digitalization is shaping the present and future of economic activities as it brings about higher productivity, efficiencies and quicker inclusion of lagging economic and social groups, such as women and youth.

Mobile and digital solutions are contributing to facilitating greater financial inclusion. E-commerce and other digital applications are being leveraged to promote entrepreneurship, including the empowerment of women as entrepreneurs, and digital solutions are being sought to improve access to learning resources in an easier and less expensive way.

The Mobile Gender Report for 2018 lists a gender gap in mobile ownership among women in the region which can reach up to 20%. while this gap is only 2% in countries like Egypt or Turkey. Bringing this gap to less than 4% everywhere in the Mashreq would bring income opportunities for women in the region. Broadband access is estimated to increase employment among married women by as much as 4% in high income economies.

Broadly speaking, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon face similar obstacles to their quest to transform Mashreq into a regional hub for IT and Business Process Outsourcing.  Policymakers, international and regional businesses, startups and investors all convened at the King Hussein Business Park to enrich the discussion with their expertise and experience on how to push this agenda forward.

The digital roadmaps were presented by the three ministers holding the Information Technology portfolio in their respective countries. World Bank Group  committed to supporting these countries achieve their goals with specific focus on increasing broadband access, establishing cashless payment systems and bridging the gender gap in mobile usage.

Iraq

The Government of Iraq (GOI) is committed to further advancing the digital economy and aims to ensure affordable access to high speed internet, by doubling access to broadband to 54% in 2021 and 90% by 2030, achieving 100% broadband network coverage, establishing a conducive regulatory and policy framework for digital payments, developing interoperable digital payments infrastructure, and striving towards 100% financial access. The GOI is also committed to delivering digital government services and ensuring highest standards of cybersecurity and data privacy to boost consumer trust. The GOI is also keen to ensure that education and training programs meet current and future job market skills needs.

Jordan

The Government of Jordan (GOJ) is committed to advancing the digital economy as strategic growth sector for the Kingdom. On digital infrastructure, the GOJ commits to further developing access to internet broadband to reach 100% penetration rate by 2021. As part of that, the GOJ is opening the National Broadband Network (7,000 kilometers of fiber) for Public Private Partnership, allowing affordable fiber broadband to 1.3 million households around Jordan. On digital payments, the GOJ commits to increasing country-level cashless payments from 33 to 50% by 2020 and to digitizing 80% of government to citizens payments by 2021.  On developing digital skills, the GOJ will launch a national skills development initiative to train 35,000 people on the 21st century skills and mainstreaming digital skills in public schools to train 300 thousands by 2022. To enable a friendly business environment for entrepreneurs, the GOJ is committed to launching a regulatory reform process in 2019, following a participatory approach with ecosystem representatives. To complete automation of Government services, the GOJ commits to automate key services by 2021. Building on the recent transformations of the Ministry of ICT to Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship, the GOJ will launch its digital transformation action plan in partnership with the ecosystem by end of 2019.

Lebanon

The Government of Lebanon (GOL) is committed to building a Digital Nation and to transform Lebanon into a regional technology and innovation hub. The GOL  is in the process of finalizing its digital transformation plan and aims to double the knowledge economy’s contribution to GDP and double the employment in this sector by 2025. To achieve this, the GOL plans to: (i) reach 100% broadband penetration rate by end of 2021; (ii) develop and execute the digital transformation of the public sector and offer citizens a fully digitized journey across all government services, with 500,000 users signed up to the government digital platform by end of 2021; (iii) provide a supportive regulatory framework to help grow the Fintech industry and facilitate digital payments, launch a new national digital currency by the end of 2020, and launch an Electronic Trading Platform (ETP) to improve financing for private sector activities in 2020; (iv) leverage its pool of skilled and entrepreneurial talent in Lebanon and abroad to build a digital economy focused on innovation and private initiative, increase the number of start-ups fivefold and double yearly venture capital funding by 2025; and (v) address the existing skills gap by preparing the youth for the global, digital jobs of the future through launching a national training academy by 2021.

The World Bank commits to support Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan in achieving their visions and plans for digital transformation by providing the necessary resources and instruments. The World Bank will work closely with the Governments, private sector, academia and civil society to maximize the impact of digitization and reap the digital dividends for their societies. This support will include: (i) pursuing plans to ensure affordable access to high-speed internet and facilitate investment in broadband; (ii) delivering digital government services and improving access to data, while ensuring the highest standards of cybersecurity and data privacy; (iii) developing a modern digital payment infrastructure; (iv) scaling up digital entrepreneurship; and (v) ensuring education and training programs meet current and future skills needs.

More details, including a video of the procedings, can be found here.

The second high-level Digital Mashreq Forum will convene in Beirut in June 2020.

(Source: World Bank)

By John Lee.

The Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament has reportedly called for the restoration of an oil pipeline between Iraq and Lebanon, which ceased operation during the Iran-Iraq war more than 30 years ago.

On the last of a four-day visit to Iraq, during which he met with Iraqi President Barham Salih, Nabih Berri is also quoted as saying:

“We discussed Lebanese investment in Iraq and especially the subject of the oil installations between Kirkuk and Tripoli, a topic we must return to.”

(Sources: Al Bawaba, Office of the Iraqi President)

By John Lee.

A delegation of major Lebanese companies have arrived in Baghdad for a series of meetings with Iraq’s National Investment Commission (NIC).

The were accompanied the Lebanese Minister of Telecommunications, Dr. Muhamed Shuqair, and the opening meeting was attended by the Iraqi Minister of telecommunications, Dr. Naeem Al- Rubaiee; NIC Chairman, Dr. Sami Al- Araji; Chairman of the Damaged Areas Reconstruction Fund, Mustafa Al- Heti; and the Head of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) office in Iraq, Mr. Ziad Badr.

In his opening speech, Dr. Al-Araji invited Lebanese companies to get involved in the Iraqi market “in a way that is consistent with the historical and social relations between the two countries“.

(Source: NIC)

KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani received Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil, Minister of State for Combating Corruption Nicolas Tueni, and their accompanying delegation.

In the meeting, also attended by Kurdistan Regional Government ministers and senior officials, they discussed the political situation in Iraq including the post-election process, and the formation of the new Iraqi government and new Kurdistan Regional Government cabinet.

Minister Bassil thanked the Kurdistan Regional Government for its assistance and support to the Lebanese community. He emphasized the desire of Lebanon to strengthen relations with the Kurdistan Region, especially in the fields of investment, trade, tourism and culture.

Prime Minister Barzani reaffirmed the KRG’s support to Lebanese businessmen and investors. He praised the activities of the Lebanese community in the Kurdistan Region.

The political situation in the wider region was also discussed.

(Source: KRG)

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

In Iraq, tension between the US-led coalition and armed groups linked to Iran has risen in recent months.

For example, the United States sanctioned key representatives of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah on Nov. 13, saying they had moved money, acquired weapons and trained fighters in Iraq. Problems have also arisen with some factions of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

As a whole, the PMU are part of Iraq’s security forces, but some of its dozens of factions are Shiite armed groups with ties to Iran. There has long been tension between some of the local Sunni population and those Shiite-majority PMUs from southern and central Iraq.

Click here to read the full story.

(Picture Credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By John Lee.

The Iraqi government has said it is introducing changes to simplify visa and residency procedures for visitors, international investors and entrepreneurs from a number countries.

It added that citizens of Lebanon will be able to obtain entry visas on arrival at Iraqi airports as part of a reciprocal agreement between the two countries.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

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

The dealmaker: Mueller witness helped broker $4.2 billion Iraq-Russia arms deal

A Lebanese-American businessman reported to be cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe helped broker a controversial 2012 Iraq-Russia arms deal valued at $4.2 billion, Iraqi sources tell Al-Monitor.

The Russia arms deal

George Nader, 58, traveled to Moscow in 2012, telling Russian interlocutors that he represented Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the deal should be negotiated through him, according to two Iraqi sources. Nader’s role in the deal was controversial to Iraqi officials because Iraq’s minister of defense was in Russia to conduct the negotiations, and they were unaware that Maliki was working with Nader to bypass official channels.

One of the Iraqi sources, a former Iraqi official who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition that he not be named, personally witnessed Nader’s interactions with Maliki in their Moscow hotel when he accompanied Maliki to Moscow in October 2012 to sign the arms deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Nader’s career as a deal broker in Iraq ran from the mid-2000s until Maliki left office in 2014, the Iraqi sources said. Nader then became an adviser to the powerful Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. It is in that capacity that Nader’s meetings with members of the incoming Donald Trump administration in 2016-2017 — including Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former chief strategist Steve Bannon — brought Nader to Mueller’s attention.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Nader was arrested and questioned by the FBI when he landed at Washington Dulles International Airport on Jan. 17 en route to celebrate Trump’s first year in office at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. He was questioned by Mueller’s grand jury March 2 and is reported to now be cooperating with Mueller’s probe.

One line of inquiry Mueller is reported to be questioning Nader about is whether the United Arab Emirates (UAE) might have funneled money to members of the incoming Trump administration in an effort to curry influence with them, including in their dispute with Qatar.

From journalist to deal-maker

Nader’s recent career as a Middle East deal broker is both an outgrowth and departure from his past. As an editor of Middle East Insight magazine in Washington in the 1980s and 1990s, Nader interviewed President Bill Clinton and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

During this time, Nader also served as a frequent go-between in informal Syrian-Israeli talks encouraged by the Clinton administration before abruptly disappearing from the Washington scene around 2000.

“He was a reliable go-between, a facilitator,” Martin Indyk, who knew Nader when Indyk served as Clinton’s assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs and ambassador to Israel in the 1990s, told Al-Monitor. “He was not a con man.”

Nader was connected to the Hafez al-Assad regime through then-Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa and then-Syrian Ambassador to the US and current Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, Indyk said. “He was going to Israel from time to time. He set up an interview of [Syrian Foreign Minister al-Sharaa] with Israeli journalist Ehud Yaari as a confidence-building measure. George is the one that made that happen. … Then he hooked up with [Ron] Lauder. He traveled with Lauder 16 times to Damascus in 1998” in efforts to advance an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement.

“And then when the Clinton administration was gone, George was gone,” Indyk, now executive vice president of the Brookings Institution, said.

“Last time I heard from [Nader] was after the US invasion of Iraq,” journalist Hisham Melham told Al-Monitor. “He called me from Kurdistan. But why would MBZ [the crown prince] need him when he has [UAE Ambassador] Yousef Al Otaiba?”

From dabbling in Syria-Israel peace talks to Iraq postwar dealmaker

Nader appeared in Iraq in the mid-2000s, looking to translate his Rolodex of connections from his Middle East Insight days into work advising various Iraqi political clients, including some of Iraq’s new Shiite political leaders, as well as Kurdish officials.

According to Iraqi sources, Nader helped arrange meetings for the 2005 visit to Washington of leading members of an Iraqi Shiite political party with close ties to Iran, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. In 2010, Nader similarly arranged meetings for then-Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani with high-level UAE officials, including the crown prince, a second Iraqi source now living in exile told Al-Monitor. But Nader failed to win over the KRG leader, the second Iraqi source said.

“Nader got Nechirvan Barzani meetings with MBZ and [Lebanese Prime Minister] Saad Hariri,” the second Iraqi source said, adding that he advised Iraqi Kurdish interlocutors at the time to be wary of Nader.

Nader had a “knack for claiming that he had unique access to ‘mysterious’ persons,” the second Iraqi source said. “This way he would be able to latch on from one new confidant to another.”

By 2012, Nader had forged close ties with the Iraqi prime minister and Maliki’s son and deputy chief of staff, Ahmed Maliki, Iraqi sources said. Nader had worked with the younger Maliki on power generation projects, the former Iraqi official said. The relationship that Nader forged with Maliki’s son apparently brought Nader into the father’s inner circle when the huge Russian arms deal was being negotiated.

In August 2012, Iraq’s Minister of Defense Saadoun al-Dulaimi spent 24 days in Moscow to finalize negotiations for the $4.2 billion Russian arms deal. But during the negotiations, the former Iraqi official told Al-Monitor that he received a message from former Russian Energy Minister Yuri Shafranik warning him that there were other people in Moscow claiming that they, and not the defense minister, were representing Maliki, and that the deal should go through them.

Eventually, on Oct. 3, 2012, Shafranik went to Baghdad to try to clarify the situation with Maliki, the former Iraqi official said. Shafranik even offered Maliki a direct communication line with Russian President Vladimir Putin to avoid confusion and leaks.

“The third of October, Yuri [Shafranik] came to Baghdad, met the prime minister and told him clearly that ‘Mr. Putin is suggesting direct relations between you and him to avoid any leakage and … cut any unhealthy things,’” the former Iraqi official said. “The prime minister welcomed that.”

Maliki assured the officials that he welcomed the suggestion to streamline their contacts and signaled that the confusion over who represented Baghdad in the arms deal would be resolved.

So the former Iraqi official was astonished when he accompanied Maliki to Moscow in October 2012 to sign the Russian arms deal to see Nader enter their hotel and take the elevator to Maliki’s suite.

“We were in a Radisson hotel in Moscow,” the former Iraqi official said. “And all of a sudden, George Nader came, walking very fast, entered the elevator, went up and, I saw from the screen over the elevator, went to the level where the prime minister was staying.

“When the minister of defense came down to the ground floor, I asked, did you notice George Nader? And he said yes; he saw him entering the prime minister’s suite,” the former Iraqi official said. “By that time I realized the issue is in-house. The corrupted party, which went to Moscow to represent Maliki, they are not … strange people. They are in the circle with Maliki.”

The former Iraqi official continued, “Also, while we were there we discovered new facts. I myself did not know that those people who traveled to Moscow at the end of August, that they are connected to Maliki and his son. But George Nader I knew very well. I was shocked. Then it immediately came to me — Nader’s relations with the son of Maliki.”

Over the course of the trip to Moscow, “we came to know that one of the three people who had been in Moscow presenting themselves as [Maliki’s] representative was George Nader,” the former Iraqi official said.

A call Wednesday by Al-Monitor to an attorney who represented Nader in an earlier case was not returned. A spokesman for the Iraqi Embassy said it did not have information on the matter.

The Iraqi-Russian arms deal was controversial in Iraq and long suspected to have involved corruption. In November 2012, just a month after it was signed, Iraq’s then-acting Defense Minister Dulaimi announced that the deal was canceled, “citing possible corruption in the contract,” Reuters reported.

But Maliki’s then-media adviser Ali al-Moussawi was cited by Reuters as saying that the deals would be renegotiated and any suspension of the contract was “a precautionary measure because of suspected corruption.”

From Iraq to the UAE

After the end of Maliki’s run as Iraq’s prime minister in 2014, Nader made his way to become an adviser to the Abu Dhabi crown prince. Until Trump’s election, however, he had maintained such a low profile that even several Washington consultants who have advised the Emirates said they were entirely unaware of his role.

It may now be left to Mueller to help deepen understanding of Nader’s mysterious activities and what role they may have played in influencing the Trump administration’s policies toward the Middle East.

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

Iraq is boosting its efforts to extradite fugitives wanted in corruption cases.

On Jan. 25, Iraqi authorities in cooperation with Interpol took custody of former Trade Minister Abdel Falah al-Sudani, who had been extradited from Lebanon. Sudani, a fugitive since 2009, had been tried and sentenced in absentia to seven years in prison for corruption.

Ziad al-Qattan, the former general secretary in the Ministry of Defense, was extradited from Jordan and handed over to Iraqi authorities Jan. 11.​ Qattan is accused of embezzling about $1 billion from the ministry.

“Such steps toward trying accused [politicians] in a country that is at the top of the list of the most corrupt countries, such as Iraq, are of paramount importance to regain the people’s confidence in the Iraqi judiciary and its ability to tackle corruption,” legal expert Ali Jaber told Al-Monitor.

“The extradition of wanted people is twofold. The procedure goes through the bilateral agreement between Iraq and other countries and through the international police [Interpol],” he said.

The UN Charter allows countries fighting terrorist groups to ask for assistance from the Security Council, which is the case with Iraq. These countries can also claim funds that had been smuggled abroad.

“Many countries have been helping Iraq to recover funds and take fugitives into custody,” Jaber said. “I believe that Iraq will witness many breakthroughs in the future at this level, especially since the Iraqi government said tackling corruption will be its top priority after the end of the war on the Islamic State.”

In early January, a representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency met in Iraq with Integrity Commission Chairman Hassan al-Yasiri to discuss, among other topics, coordinating anti-corruption efforts.

The Integrity Commission said Iraq, with Interpol’s help, recovered about 2 billion Iraqi dinars ($1.68 million) in December from nine convicted fugitives by tracking their money and conducting investigations to follow financial transactions globally.

Many officials accused of corruption remain free, however. Some have dual nationality, which makes it easier for them to leave. For example, Basra Gov. Majid al-Nasrawi used his Australian passport to flee Iraq in August. He faces charges of stealing public money.

There are also warrants out for the arrests of fugitive officials wanted on corruption charges, including former Minister of Electricity Ayham al-Samarrai, former Transport Minister Louay al-Ors and former Defense Minister Hazim Shaalan, who was accused in 2005 of being involved in the theft of at least $1.3 billion from the ministry.

Judge Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, a spokesman for Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council in Baghdad, explained extradition procedures to Al-Monitor. “The Supreme Judicial Council issues warrants for the recovery of smuggled funds. The Extradition Division in the public prosecutor’s office follows up on the matter. The prosecutor then issues the necessary decisions,” which could entail property confiscation.

Legal expert Tariq Harb told Al-Monitor, “The current process in Iraq is that the authorities hand over the official documents of charges of the accused to Interpol. In the event Interpol catches the accused, the Iraqi security authorities will take them into custody to stand a fair trial.”

Iraq’s increased efforts to recover assets from abroad will help speed up the often lengthy process of extradition. However, “this doesn’t mean this road won’t be fraught with many obstacles, as many of the accused are linked to powerful politicians who could pull some strings to derail or end the procedures.” Some countries might also use prisoners as bargaining chips, he said.

Ahmad al-Jubouri, a member of the parliamentary Legal Committee, told Al-Monitor, “The process to recover funds and arrest [those accused] is of major importance, as the Iraqi people have been demanding reforms and the fight against corruption. Under this pressure, the Iraqi government has started to take serious steps” and has even hired foreign companies to help track funds and facilitate extradition. “The upcoming period will witness major changes in corruption investigations,” he said.

He added, “The arrest of Sudani and Qattan will open the door to further arrests of the people who misused and smuggled public funds to neighboring countries. Some of the accused are traders and businessmen who made illicit deals in the name of influential politicians or political parties. Iraq is known for the rampant corruption among politicians. The arrests will include all those who took part in or facilitated embezzlement of public funds. This will be a crucial step in recovering these funds.”