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

Iraqis forces parade and celebrate in the streets of Mosul as they mark a year since Iraq declared victory against the Islamic State group, the conclusion of a three-year battle to oust the jihadists.

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Government of Iraq and United Nations Launch National Strategy to Combat Violence Against Women in Iraq

The Government of Iraq and the United Nations in Iraq launched today a national strategy to combat violence against women, a significant step towards achieving women’s rights.

This strategy provides an overall framework on which policy and decision makers will draw to take concrete actions aimed at preventing violence against women and girls and protecting survivors of violence. Endorsement by all stakeholders of this updated national strategy formalises the commitment of the Government of Iraq and the United Nations to take concrete action.

The launch event in Baghdad was attended by the First Lady of Iraq, Ms. Surbagh Salih, the Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers, Dr. Mahdi al-Allaq, the Director-General of the Women Empowerment Department, Dr. Ibtisam Aziz, ministers and members of parliament, members of the High Judicial Council, civil society and international NGOs, diplomats as well as representatives of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The launch was supported by the embassies of the Kingdoms of Norway and Sweden.

“It is a propitious day to be thinking and talking about the rights of women to live lives free of violence,” the Deputy Special Representative for Iraq of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ms. Alice Walpole, said in remarks delivered at the event. “The national strategy to combat violence against women will be a significant tool for the Iraqi government to fulfil its international gender commitments, including the Sustainable Development Goals, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence against Women, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, and the Beijing Platform.”

UNFPA Representative to Iraq, Dr. Oluremi Sogunro, stated: “This strategy is yet another win for women and girls in Iraq as it adds to the progresses observed in the past few years. UNFPA is proud to have worked with the Government of Iraq to develop this strategy through the provision of the technical capacities and expertise.”

Despite achievements in the field of women’s protection and empowerment, significant challenges remain, such as the lack of parliamentary endorsement of a Law to Protect Families from Domestic Violence. The delay in the approval of this law hinders the journey towards gender equality and women’s empowerment as well as overall national sustainable development and peace-building.

The United Nations reiterates its commitment to support and engage with the new Iraqi government, including the senior political leadership and the Council of Representatives, to advocate for the prioritisation of relevant legislation in the new parliament.

(Source: UN)

Statement by Alice Walpole, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Iraq’s Democratic Experience – Prospects and Challenges

Rafidain Centre, Najaf

4 December 2018

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

Thank you for the invitation to speak here today, at the Al-Rafidain Center, on Iraq’s democratic experience.

2018 has been both an encouraging and challenging year for Iraq and its citizens. On the positive side, we witnessed two broadly successful electoral processes, consolidating Iraq’s democratic credentials. In May, within the constitutional time-frame, Iraq held its national parliamentary elections. Candidates and political parties conducted largely honourable campaigns, under an Electoral Code of Conduct drafted by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, free from sectarian-based discourse or inflammatory statements. There was, however, disappointing abuse of some, primarily female, candidates. Elections were held on time, and most people (including the displaced) were able to cast their votes and select their representatives freely and safely. The liberated areas witnessed an open voting process for the first time since the defeat of Da’esh. I commend the efforts of electoral officials, party agents and the security forces in making the elections largely peaceful, secure and orderly.

But we should not be complacent. The national elections were marked by a low voter turnout of just 44%. The decision by more than half of the voting population not to exercise their democratic right sends a strong signal of dissatisfaction to politicians over failures to meet people’s expectations or to provide for their needs, and a strong message to place the interests of the Iraqi people and the nation above partisan, sectarian, individual or group interests. I encourage the Iraqi political elites, specifically incoming ministers and members of parliament, to draw the necessary conclusions on the need for improved representation, justice for all, democratic accountability and good governance free of corruption, sectarian quotas, nepotism and patronage.

You will recall that the post-election phase was marked by widespread complaints. Allegations of electoral fraud and mismanagement resulted in the decision, which the United Nations supported, to conduct a partial manual ballot recount. I would like to note the transparent, credible and well-organised conduct of the recount (which I myself witnessed in several recount locations). I commend the professionalism of all recount staff, both Independent High Electoral Commission and judiciary personnel, under the capable, impartial supervision of the Board of Judges. I believe the recount increased public confidence in the election results. I hope it also increased confidence more generally in the electoral process.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Throughout the post-election and government formation period, the people took to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with the management of state affairs. Their demands must be taken seriously if the democratic process is to succeed in Iraq. The demonstrations which began in Basra in July and spread to other southern governorates including Missan, Muthanna, Qadisiya, Dhi Qar, Najaf, Karbala, Babil, Wasit, and then to Baghdad, were a clear call on the government to address the basic rights and needs of the people. The gravity of further violent protests in Basra in September sent a signal to the government to find tangible solutions to local problems of lack of delivery of basic services, shortages of electricity, lack of jobs and pervasive corruption. The protestors accused national leaders and successive governments of ignoring them and expressed deep and growing frustration with the political system, including a sectarian quota system they deem corrupt and dysfunctional, and perceived foreign interference in internal affairs.

While many political leaders expressed their support for the demands of the protesters, there has been little actual progress in effecting change. Former Prime Minister Abadi and the Council of Ministers made commendable efforts to implement some rapid relief measures, but these remain insufficient to address the depth of people’s needs and concerns. The new government now needs to prioritise political, economic and social reforms, justice, equality and accountability, reconciliation and the fight against corruption. Job creation will enable economic development, stability and prosperity, while Iraq should maintain its sovereignty and independence, free from foreign interference. The challenges faced by Iraq are deep-rooted and can only be tackled by strong and unified governance. Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi and his cabinet of ministers must engage in a fight against corruption, while the new Council of Representatives should reform laws that do not embed justice and equality.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I commend the successful completion of the Kurdistan Region parliamentary elections. Again, accusations of electoral fraud were fully investigated. On 30 October, the Electoral Judicial Panel of the Kurdistan Region Court of Cassation approved the election results. The Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan have assured us of their intention to consult closely with all local political parties on government formation. The Kurdistan Islamic Union and the New Generation Movement have announced that they will form an Opposition in the Kurdistan Parliament. All this is welcome progress. However, to date there have been no formal agreements on government formation. In this regard we urge the Kurdish parties to complete negotiations and the formation of the parliament to ensure that the needs of the people can be proactively addressed.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The United Nations was reassured to note that Mr Abdul-Mahdi, as PM-designate, received the endorsement of many prominent parliamentary blocs to choose his ministers freely, on the basis of their capabilities and experience rather than sectarian or political quota systems. We commended the democratic transfer of power between the outgoing Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi and incoming Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi within the Constitutional timeline. At the handover ceremony on 25 October, Mr. Abadi recalled the achievements of his government. He and his government, the Kurdistan regional government, the armed forces and the people of Iraq do indeed deserve acknowledgment and gratitude for the progress made thus far. While the government formation process has not been without difficulty, the political blocs have demonstrated willingness to act in support of the Prime Minister. Competition and differences have been largely political and not sectarian, and in this way, a break from the past. Iraq must now build on these foundations.

I remain concerned that the government formation process has stalled as disagreements over some ministerial posts continues to divide political parties and blocs. The United Nations urges Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi and the political parties to reach agreement and complete the cabinet. All political forces now share a responsibility for creating an enabling environment for the new Prime Minister and government to deliver on their programme and for ensuring political stability. The Government’s new programme, on which the United Nations was invited to offer advice is ambitious and forward looking. It outlines specific plans for reform, investment and the private sector, tackling corruption and for transitioning Iraq from a crisis context to sustainable development. It prioritises job creation, greater governorate-level participation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of liberated areas and the return of the displaced. It focuses on strengthening security, fighting terrorism, enhancing law and order and the rule of law. Special attention will be given to resolving pending challenges with the Kurdistan Region, including the issues of budget allocation and financial resources, oil and disputed areas. For this programme to be achieved, Iraq will require the continued support of the international community but also sustained political support from political leaders and parties within the parliament. On international relations, I commend Iraq’s new leaders who have acted without delay in engaging regional governments – fostering bilateral relations, tackling regional challenges such as terrorism, water issues, and discussing economic cooperation and investment for the reconstruction of Iraq.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Among the priority tasks for the new parliament is preparing the upcoming provincial council elections. With the expanding role of provincial councils in governance, the candidate choices made freely and fairly by the electorate will be extremely important for the country’s development. I welcome the Electoral Commission’s announcement of resumption of the biometric voter registration process. And I am pleased that for the first time since 2005, the Kirkuk governorate will participate in these elections – a critical step on the path to the normalisation of Kirkuk’s status and of politics in the governorate. Negotiations on the reactivation of the Kirkuk Provincial Council continue, with United Nations-supported discussions between local political actors from the Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen communities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased that several female candidates received a high number of votes within their political lists, and that 19 female candidates were elected to parliament on this basis. Our expectation for the future is that the 25% quota which currently guarantees 83 seats for women, will represent a minimum threshold, not a fixed number. I urge political leaders to ensure the full participation of women within the new government and their representation at the highest levels in Iraq’s political and decision-making structures in the parliament and the government. I very much regret that no female or minority candidates have yet been appointed to ministerial positions; and while I welcome assurances that Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi will include them in future governmental posts, I feel that an opportunity has been missed. Women must get a full chance to play key roles in shaping the post-Da’esh future of their country. Equality and empowerment of women must be central to all peace, justice, legislative, reconciliation and reform efforts.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Democracy and improved standards of living cannot be realised within an environment of persistent insecurity. Although Da’esh’s so-called caliphate has been defeated, the terrorist organisation continues to pose a threat. Iraqi Security Forces and the Popular Mobilisation Forces have maintained constant pressure on the remaining Da’esh presence and activities across North, Central and West Iraq throughout the year through successive security clearance operations. Challenges however remain for improving the overall security environment. The new government must reform and rehabilitate its security sector, putting it firmly under state control.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The United Nations works hard to support Iraq and its people. With the government formation process now close to completion, we hope that the country will continue on its journey to democracy. We will continue to offer advice and engagement. We will continue to work in partnership with the government and the people of Iraq to build progress. A prosperous future built on democracy and the rule of law – an Iraq in which the rights and needs of every citizen are recognized and fulfilled.

Thank you.

(Source: UN)

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)

Iraq’s new Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim highlighted the importance of bilateral relations with Iran and said the Arab country cannot cut off its trade ties with the Islamic Republic due to the US sanctions.

Alhakim pointed to Washington’s economic sanctions against Tehran and said, the value of annual trade between Iran and Iraq amount to $12 billion, the Arabic-language Al-Manar TV reported.

“We are not in a situation that we would be able to stop our trade exchanges with Iran,” the Iraqi top diplomat noted.

Earlier, Luqman al-Fili, the official spokesman for Iraqi President Barham Salih, had said that the US sanctions against Iran are part of regional tensions.

It is necessary that the citizens of the region are not affected by the embargoes, Fili said, adding that Baghdad is ready to cooperate to decrease the tensions.

The second batch of US sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran took effect on November 5.

Iran and Iraq enjoy cordial political, security and cultural ties but due to some internal and regional problems including Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL) terrorism in Iraq, they have not been able to increase their trade volume.

Iran’s main exports to the neighboring country include agro products, foodstuff and fruits such as watermelon, tomato and cucumber, which account for 37% of the total exports.

Other Iranian exports to Iraq include canned food, tomato paste, chicken, egg, meat, construction materials (mainly rebar, tiles and ceramics), steel and evaporative cooler.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi has reportedly named his final eight ministers, completing his cabinet after weeks of delay.

According to information received by Rudaw, the appointments are as follows:Dara Nuradin – Ministry of Justice

  • Falih Fayadh – Ministry of Interior
  • Faysal Jarba – Ministry of Defense
  • Qusay Abdulwahab Suheil – Ministry of Higher Education
  • Saba Khayradin Tani – Ministry of Education
  • Abdulamir Hamdani – Ministry of Culture
  • Nouri Natiq Dlemi – Ministry of Planning
  • Hanna Immanuel Gorgis – Ministry of Immigrants and Immigration
  • Dara Nuradin, who took the justice brief, is an independent Kurdish politician.

(Source: Rudaw)

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

Intel: How the Barzanis are looking to consolidate power in Iraqi Kurdistan

Iraqi Kurdistan’s dominant clan announced today that it was nominating Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani to succeed his uncle Massoud Barzani as president of the Kurdistan Regional Government. A spokesman for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) added that Massoud Barzani’s son, Masrour Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Region Security Council, had been nominated to take over as prime minister.

The post of the presidency has remained vacant since Massoud Barzani stepped down following the ill-fated referendum on Kurdish independence in September 2017. But the elder Barzani continues to rule from behind the scenes.

Click here to read the full story.

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

Putin eyes visit to Baghdad amid growing Russian-Iraqi contacts

Lately, official Russian-Iraqi contacts have been intensifying noticeably.

On Nov. 23, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Iraqi President Barham Salih met behind closed doors within the agenda of the Mediterranean Dialogue in Rome. On Nov. 20-21, Mikhail Bogdanov, the Russian deputy foreign minister and special presidential envoy for the Middle East and North Africa, met all of Iraq’s key decision-makers when he was in Baghdad. The sides agreed to further develop relations and make efforts to hold a meeting on the highest level.

Russian officials’ increased contacts with their Iraqi counterparts have become a virtual necessity as a result of the changes in Iraq’s domestic politics brought about by the latest electoral cycle. The number, level, and scale of the meetings are indeed exceptional, and all the more so considering the constant foreign trips Iraqi politicians themselves make.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

A former Minister for Trade and two former State Directors of the Ministry have been sentenced in absentia to seven years in prison for corruption.

A statement from Iraq’s Commission of Integrity said the three committed offenses in two contracts between the State Company for Trading Grain and a company supplying basmati rice, with “damage to public money in the two contracts” of $14.3 million.

Middle East Online names the former minister as Malas Abdulkarim al-Kasnazani [Mlas Mohammed Al-Kasanzan] (pictured), who was dismissed from Haider al-Abadi’s cabinet in 2015.

(Sources: Commission of Integrity, Middle East Online)

By Ranj Alaaldin.

The June 2014 takeover of Mosul by the Islamic State group (ISIS) was described as an existential threat to the Iraqi state and the post-2003 political order.

Yet, its emergence was only a symptom of a broader series of crises that had engulfed Iraq over the past decade. While militant groups dominate headlines, it is Iraq’s structural problems that have enabled their emergence.

This includes weakened or partly collapsed institutions; the absence of the rule of law; dysfunctional and corrupt governance; the ascendancy of sectarian divisions; and the disastrous post-conflict reconstruction process that followed the aftermath of the 2003 U.S. invasion.

State fragility in the Levant and the regional proxy war in Syria have exacerbated these challenges and have stifled Iraq’s efforts to stabilize and rehabilitate its institutions.

The full report can be read here.

(Source: Brookings Institution)