By John Lee.

Gulf Keystone Petroleum (GKP) has announced the appointment of Ian Weatherdon as Chief Financial Officer (“CFO”).

Mr Weatherdon has over 25 years’ experience in the international oil and gas industry and joins GKP from Sino Gas & Energy Holdings Limited where he was CFO.  Sino Gas is an energy company focused on developing natural gas assets in China and was an Australian listed Company (ASX:SEH) until acquired by a private equity firm.

Prior to this, he held various executive roles, including; Vice President of Finance & Planning for the Asia-Pacific region, and Vice President of Investor Relations for Talisman Energy Inc., the Canadian exploration and production company which was acquired by Repsol in 2015.  He also held the CFO role at Equión Energía Limited, a Colombian joint venture between Talisman Energy Inc. and Ecopetrol SA.

Mr Weatherdon was educated at the University of Calgary before qualifying as a Chartered Accountant from the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada.

Mr Weatherdon will join the Board of GKP and assume the CFO role on 13th January 2020.  As previously announced, Sami Zouari will step down as CFO and a Director of the Company on 2nd December 2019, but will assist Mr Weatherdon for a short handover period.

Jaap Huijskes, Chairman of the Company, said:

Following a thorough search process, I am very pleased to announce the appointment of Ian Weatherdon as CFO.  Ian brings a wealth of highly relevant finance experience within the sector to the management team, and to the Board.  We look forward to him joining the team and to his contribution.  

“On behalf of the Company, I would like to again thank Sami Zouari for his outstanding contribution to Gulf Keystone, since joining the Company in 2015. We wish him all the best for the future.

Save as disclosed below there is no further information to be disclosed pursuant to sections LR 9.6.11, LR 9.6.12 or LR 9.6.13 of the Listing Rules, FCA Handbook.

Previous Directorships/Partnerships:

  • Talisman SAE Pte Ltd
  • Sino Gas and Energy Holdings
  • Daily Glory Investment Limited
  • Lucky Asia Industrial Limited

(Source: GKP)

By John Lee.

​Scottish-based KCA Deutag has announces that its land drilling operation has won new contracts in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

In Iraq, two of the company’s rigs have had their contracts extended by one year.

KCA Deutag currently has three rigs in Iraq.

(Source: KCA Deutag)

Leaked Iran spy documents reveal extent of grip on Iraq

Ground-breaking documents detailing staggering evidence of Iran’s espionage operations, bribery payments and efforts to expand influence within Iraq have been leaked to the US-based media organisation The Intercept in collaboration with the New York Times.

Together they reveal the huge extent of Iran’s grip on its neighbour.

The report released by the two organisations details the aggressive efforts with which Tehran worked to bring Iraq under its influence following the US invasion and toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The documents include the years of experience of Iranian spies to ensure the obedience and cooperation of the country’s leaders, pay Iraqi agents to switch sides from working with US intelligence, and gain a firm foothold in every aspect of Iraqi life.

The revelations in the report cover the bribery of Iraqi government officials. A prominent example happened in mid-October while protestors were on the streets in Iraq demonstrating against Iranian influence.

The commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Major General Qasem Soleimani (pictured), visited Iraq to persuade an ally in Parliament to help Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi maintain his position.

The report reveals how Abdul-Mahdi was groomed by and begun to work closely with Iran in 2014 while he was Iraq’s oil minister, and how his “special relationship” was connected with that of former Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi who also worked in support of Iran.

The documents go even further by broadening out the evidence of espionage to the entire region, with the IRGC under Soleimani having appointed and stationed its own ambassadors to Syria and Lebanon to gather information, report it back to their headquarters in Tehran, and produce entire reports on the findings to be presented to Iran’s Supreme Council of National Security.

The leaks also detailed how, following the withdrawal of US troops in 2011 and the power vacuum that resulted, Iran acted swiftly to recruit former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) informants in the country.

It was even written in one undated document how Iran started the process of planting a spy inside the US State Department with the promise that, “The subject’s incentive in collaborating will be financial.” The result of the endeavour remains unclear and there were no further details reported, but it described the agent as able to provide “intelligence insights into the US government’s plans in Iraq, whether it is for dealing with ISIS or any other covert operations.”

This focus on US actions and plans within Iraq was allegedly vital to Iran, particularly for the purpose of staying on top in the struggle for influence over the country.

One Iraqi man who had spied for the CIA and been abandoned by the US withdrawal was recorded to have told his Iranian handler that, “I will turn over to you all the documents and videos that I have from my training course… And pictures and identifying features of my fellow trainees and my subordinates.”

Another agent, an Iraqi military intelligence officer who met with an Iranian counterpart, stated his firm support for Iran and that “Iran is my second country and I love it.” In what was a more than three-hour meeting, he also expressed his admiration for the Iranian system of governance, which puts the clerical class in direct control of much of the government.

One major factor in the expanded influence of Iranian espionage within Iraq that is detailed in the report is the sectarian divide between Sunnis and Shia.

This was particularly exacerbated following the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the consequent ousting of every member of his Baath Party, which involved major sections of society and the workforce. Moreover, many of the Baath members were Sunnis, making the de-Baathification process the catalyst for the marginalisation and unemployment of Iraq’s Sunni community, the dominance of the Shia, and the resulting feeling of resentment amongst Sunnis leading to the insurgency and sectarian tensions.

It was this divide through which Iran sought to navigate and regulate, often by preventing Sunni militias from forming while arming and funding loyal Shia militias as a famed tool for influence in the country.

The vast number of leaked documents, more than seven hundred altogether, are seen to reveal the extent of Iran’s influence over Iraq and its body politic, confirming what were previously minor reports and suspicions of the close relationship between the two countries.

The revelation is hugely significant given the escalation in tensions between Iran and the US with its allies in the region, and especially relevant in the ongoing popular protests across Iraq.

(Source: Middle East Monitor)

Al-Burhan Group has taken over the management of Baghdad International Airport Hotel in a joint partnership with the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA).

The hotel consists of 100 rooms, a fitness centre with sauna and steam room, the hotel also benefits from having a conference Centre, meeting rooms, exhibition space, large landscaped gardens and ample parking. The hotel has been operating for over a decade.

The hotel is in need of major refurbishment works both externally and internally, as well as to its structure. Al-Burhan Group started these works immediately on its managerial takeover on the 13th of October.

Al-Burhan Group plans to make the Baghdad International Airport Hotel a leading hotel within the airport in conjunction with its current facility the Al-Burhan Centre, located just a few minutes away the hotel will primarily house transit passengers, guests of government visiting Baghdad, and we hope in the near future, tourists. The airport will also be used for airlines at positioning overnight crews in Baghdad for their onward flights.

Speaking at a directors meeting, the Managing Director of ABG Mr. Imad Burhan expressed his pleasure in undertaking this new venture and of being given the opportunity to be able to make a positive change to the surroundings of Baghdad International Airport, thus confirming its position as a reliable leader in the hospitality sector.

(Source: Al-Burhan Group)

By John Lee.

Iraq has been ranked 172nd out of 190 countries in the World Bank‘s recent Doing Business 2020 report, down from 171st place the previous year.

Top of the list were New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong, with last place going to Somalia, just behind Eritrea and Venezuela. Iran ranked 127th, with Libya 186th.

Doing Business 2020 is the 17th in a series of annual studies investigating the regulations that enhance business activity and those that constrain it. It provides quantitative indicators covering 12 areas of the business environment in 190 economies.

The goal of the Doing Business series is to provide objective data for use by governments in designing sound business regulatory policies and to encourage research on the important dimensions of the regulatory environment for firms.

More details on the full report here.

65-page profile of Iraq here.

(Source: World Bank)

By John Lee.

Two companies have won contracts with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) for the “Supply and Delivery of ICT Equipment for UNMAS Iraq“.

  • Lot 1 – Laptop Computers and Peripherals: Contract value of $32,320, awarded to Zero One Co. Ltd. 
  • Lot 2 – Apple Branded Tablets: Contract value of $10,130, awarded to Canon for General Trading Ltd Co.
  • Lot 3 – Tablets and Mobile Phones: Contract value of $4,920, awarded to Canon for General Trading Ltd Co. 

(Source: UNGM)

By Sundus Abbas, SDGs project Manager.

The importance of human development in Iraq stems from the damage Iraqis underwent as a result of decades of despotism, war and different forms of violence and insecurity.

Despite all that, Iraq’s strongest asset and real wealth remains the young population that can face all forms of the current and future challenges.

As one of the countries that has the largest young population groups in the world “50% of the population are under 19 years old”, this fact has put Iraq under pressure on already scarce economic resources, including food, water, urban infrastructure and public services.

It is expected that 5 to7 million additional job opportunities will be needed according to the Iraqi Ministry of Planning. This number may be higher if labor force participation rates increase, especially among women.

Click here to read the full story.

(Source: UNDP)

GardaWorld, a global leader in comprehensive security and risk management, has made its weekly security report available to Iraq Business News readers.

Prepared by GardaWorld’s Risk Analysis Team in Iraq, this essential report includes short- and medium-term outlooks on the security situation, reports and commentary on recent significant events, and a detailed overview of developments across the country.

Please click here to download the latest report free of charge.

For more information on how GardaWorld’s services can support your business in Iraq, please contact Daniel Matthews, Senior Director Iraq, at daniel.matthews@garda.com

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

What’s Really Polluting Southern Iraq’s Most Important Waterway?

For years, fish and other marine life has been disappearing from the all-important Shatt al-Arab waterway in Basra. This wide river at the southern end of Iraq is an important port, linking Iraq with the Persian gulf. It is a vital part of the local environment.

In the more recent past, there have been criticisms that the Shatt al-Arab is too polluted, radioactive and affected with bacterial diseases. Locals often ask why. But it’s not like there is a lack of knowledge about the various causes of this river’s life-threatening problems. A wide number of experts in the area have been studying the different types of pollution problems carefully for years.

Researcher Jabbar Hafez Jebur has conducted a number of studies on whether the Shatt al-Arab is radioactive, taking samples from  various contributing rivers. “The concentration of radioactive elements are within the permitted limits and do not require any action,” he told NIQASH.

The Shatt al-Arab is free of radioactivity, confirms Khajak Vartanian, a physicist with the southern Directorate of the Environment. “But,” he added, “there is growing chemical pollution.”

The concentrations of toxic metals like nickel, chromium, lead, zinc and cadmium can be measured on the water’s surface and in its sediments, says hydrologist Safaa al-Asadi, of the University of Basra’s geography department. There are low  concentrations of toxins spread evenly throughout the waterway.

“Yes, the river is contaminated with toxic minerals but their levels are still within the limits of daily use for irrigation and for aquatic survival,” al-Asadi explained. In fact, much of the pollution comes from the gas emissions in the atmosphere that result from oil extraction activities, he continued, as well as the pollutants issued by diesel generators. These pollutants, discharged into the air, end up in the river after it rains.

Where the various toxins end up depends very much on the tides in the Shatt al-Arab. Their location depends less on the discharge of industrial and domestic sewage, he notes, pointing out that man-made discharges directly into the river have less of an impact than those coming from the sky.

Basra’s Ministry of the Environment regularly monitors the amount of pollution in the waterways at various different points, says Ahmed Jassim Hanoun, director of the department for the protection of the environment at the ministry. Samples are taken regularly and tested, he adds.

Hanoun says his offices are concerned about the direct discharge of pollutants into the Shatt al-Arab and other nearby rivers. But he believes that one of the most important factors is the level of salinity, or salt, in the water.

No bacterial diseases were discovered in the waterways recently and Hanoun says this has a lot to do with the lower levels of salinity. Authorities have tried to ensure that more fresh water is released into the Shatt al-Arab to keep fresh water flowing, and prevent sea water from coming in from the ocean.

“What we noticed after periodic tests throughout 2019 is that the releases of fresh water from the Tigris river, coming from out of Maysan province, has meant that there is more resistance to the salt tongue coming in from the sea,” Hanoun said. The previous year, when there was not as much rainfall upriver, the Shatt al-Arab was a lot saltier and therefore more prone to bacterial growth.

“The department of water resources released 30 to 40 cubic meters [of fresh water] per second in 2018 but in 2019, it released more than 90 cubic meters per second,” Hanoun noted.

Besides the bacterial contamination, saline water from the sea and industrial and environmental pollution, there is another thing that isn’t helping, Hanoun points out: The number of submerged objects in the waterway.

His department has regularly asked the port authority to clear the waterways of the hundreds of objects there, he says.

“We are suffering because of the delay from the government,” says Khaled al-Talibi, a sea captain and head of a local mariners’ association. “The submerged items disrupt navigation in the harbour and change the way the sand and silt moves, which in turn causes a change in currents and reduces the flow of water to the river mouth.”