By John Lee.

Iraq is well positioned to service its debt obligations, according to an article in Australia’s Investor Daily.

Responding to the question “what’s your view on bonds issued by Iraq’s government?“, Mark Baker writes:

“Iraq is a net external creditor, meaning its external assets are greater than its external liabilities. That means the nation is well positioned to service its debt obligations.”

More here.

(Source: Investor Daily)

From Breaking Defense.

Contrary to declarations made by President Donald Trump, the U.S is not withdrawing forces from Iraq, but is building at least three semi-permanent new bases very close to the Iranian border in northern Iraq, Israeli sources tell Breaking Defense.

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(Picture: Balad Air Base)

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

As Iraq’s protests continue, is political solution on the horizon?

Iraq’s current situation has come to resemble a tangled ball of yarn, with new complications and complexities arising daily.

While the protesters fire up the political scene, political parties are unable to calm the tension and send the protesters home. Meanwhile, the tensions between Iran and the United States are intensifying.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

Transparency International has said that Iraq’s ranking has risen slightly in its global Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

From a total of 180 countries, Iraq came in at number 162; last year’s position was 168 out of 180 countries.

This result puts it on equal ranking with Chad and Cambodia.

Libya was ranked in 168th place, with Iran in 146th.

New Zealand beat Denmark to first place, with Somalia in last place.

The Corruption Perceptions Index ranks countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople.

More here.

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.

US Syria envoy: Any talks on troop withdrawal from Iraq must include all aid

US-led international operations in Iraq against the so-called Islamic State (IS) have been put on pause, as some 5,000 US forces in Iraq are primarily focused on protecting themselves in the wake of escalating violence between the US military and Iranian-backed groups that culminated in the Jan. 3 US drone strike on Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani and an Iraqi militia leader at Baghdad airport, a top US envoy said today.

But any discussions with the Iraqi government about a possible future withdrawal of US forces in Iraq would need to be broadened to encompass the entire scope of US-Iraq relations, including diplomatic and financial support, said James Jeffrey, the special envoy to the global coalition to defeat IS.

Click here to read the full story.

KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani chaired a meeting of the cabinet on Wednesday to discuss implementing best practice for the taxation system of the Kurdistan Region.

The ministers reviewed an internal pilot project tasked with developing a new legal and auditing framework. The framework updates current auditing practices and increases the transparency of the taxation system.

Prime Minister Barzani emphasised his cabinet’s commitment to an ambitious reform agenda, notably tax revenue reform in the Kurdistan Region, which will ensure fair implementation of the system and provide the government with the enhanced enforcement tools.

The cabinet also approved a project designed to improve monitoring and auditing of government and private sector budgets, the facilitation of which will be supported by the Ministry of Finance and Economy.

During the cabinet meeting, the KRG also approved the merging of the High Institute for Audits and Accounting with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, bolstering their research capabilities and raising scientific standards.

Prime Minister Barzani called for everyone to work together to ensure that public property and government vehicles are used in the best interest of the public and in accordance with government rules and regulations.

(Source: KRG)

By John Lee.

The Palestinian Authority has reportedly filed a formal request to Israel to allow the import of fuel from Iraq.

Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammed Shtayyeh, told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that although the request was made four months ago, Israel has yet to respond.

He said:

“Fuel is our biggest expense … The cheaper fuel from Iraq will reduce the pressure on our budget considerably.”

More here.

(Source: Haaretz)

As a part of his meetings with a number of leaders and heads of State, President Salih held in-depth talks with US President Donald Trump on Wednesday, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.

The President stressed the need to intensify international efforts to establish international and regional security and stability, noting that their consolidation and strengthening is the only way to ensure comprehensive and lasting peace in the region.

His Excellency added that Iraq is eager to establish balanced relationships with all friends and allies to strengthen its sovereignty, respect its independent decision, achieve the interests of Iraqis, continue the economic development and reconstruction. In addition to Iraq must not be turned into a battleground to settle scores, he stated.

The US President, in turn, reiterated his country’s support for Iraq, showed his desire to have a closer relation, expand the scope of cooperation and raise the trade volume between Iraq and US to serve both peoples. Iraq’s pivotal role in the region, he appreciated.

Discussions covered the presence of foreign forces, the reduction in troops strength in the country as well as the importance of respecting Iraqis people’s demands in maintaining national sovereignty and ensuring security and stability.

(Source: Office of the Iraqi President)

From AFP. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq protests swell with youth angry at slow pace of reform

Protests escalated across Iraq’s capital Baghdad as demonstrators sealed off streets with burning tyres in outrage at the government’s slow pace of reform.

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UN Iraq Representative urges renewed push for reform, calls for demonstrations to remain peaceful

With public demonstrations across many parts of Iraq in their fourth month, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, is urging a renewed push for reform and expressing concern about ongoing human rights violations.

She emphasizes the importance of pressing ahead to meet the needs of the Iraqi people: building resilience at the state and societal level is challenging but essential work.

“In recent months, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from all walks of life have taken to the streets to voice their hopes for better times, free from corruption, partisan interests and foreign interference. The killing and injury of peaceful protesters, combined with long years of undelivered promises, have resulted in a major crisis of confidence.”

Two months after the Prime Minister announced his resignation, political leaders remain unable to agree on the way forward. While there was public acknowledgement by all actors that urgent reform is needed, it is now high time to put these words into action and to avoid further derailing of these protests by those pursuing their own objectives, not wishing well for this country and its people.

“Any steps taken so far to address the people’s concerns will remain hollow, if they are not completed. Domestic unity, cohesion and determination are urgently necessary to build resilience against narrow partisan interests, foreign interference and/or criminal elements which actively seek to hinder Iraq’s stability.”

The recent escalation in regional tensions has understandably taken much attention away from urgent unfinished domestic business. However, geopolitical developments must not eclipse the rightful demands of the Iraqi people. This will only further fuel public anger and distrust.

The Special Representative urges the Iraqi authorities to do everything to protect peaceful demonstrators. “Violent suppression of peaceful protesters is intolerable and must be avoided at all costs. Nothing is more damaging than a climate of fear. Accountability and justice for victims is critical to building trust, legitimacy and resilience.

She calls on protesters to remain peaceful, avoiding counterproductive violence and destruction of property.

(Source: UN)