On Thursday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated two militia figures, Rayan al-Kildani and Waad Qado, and two former Iraqi governors, Nawfal Hammadi al-Sultan and Ahmed al-Jubouri, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption.

“The United States is taking action against four individuals in Iraq implicated in serious human rights abuse or corruption,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “We will continue to hold accountable persons associated with serious human rights abuse, including persecution of religious minorities, and corrupt officials who exploit their positions of public trust to line their pockets and hoard power at the expense of their citizens.”

Many of the corruption- and abuse-related actions committed by these sanctioned individuals occurred in areas where persecuted religious communities are struggling to recover from the horrors inflicted on them by ISIS.  Therefore, today’s sanctions demonstrate solidarity with all Iraqis who oppose corruption and human rights abuse undertaken by public officials, and underscore the Administration’s commitment to support the recovery of persecuted religious communities in Iraq.

As a result of today’s actions, all property and interests in property of these individuals, and any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by these individuals, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.  OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit any dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked persons.

RAYAN AL-KILDANI

Rayan al-Kildani (al-Kildani) was designated for being a foreign person who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuse.

Al-Kildani is the leader of the 50th Brigade militia.  In May 2018, a video circulated among Iraqi human rights civil society organizations in which al-Kildani cut off the ear of a handcuffed detainee.

The 50th Brigade is reportedly the primary impediment to the return of internally displaced persons to the Ninewa Plain.  The 50th Brigade has systematically looted homes in Batnaya, which is struggling to recover from ISIS’s brutal rule.  The 50th Brigade has reportedly illegally seized and sold agricultural land, and the local population has accused the group of intimidation, extortion, and harassment of women.

WAAD QADO

Waad Qado (Qado) was designated for being a foreign person who is or has been a leader or official of an entity, including any government entity, that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuse relating to the leader’s or official’s tenure.

Qado is the leader of the 30th Brigade militia.  The 30th Brigade has extracted money from the population around Bartalla, in the Ninewa Plain, through extortion, illegal arrests, and kidnappings.  The 30th Brigade has frequently detained people without warrants, or with fraudulent warrants, and has charged arbitrary customs fees at its checkpoints.  Members of the local population allege that the 30th Brigade has been responsible for egregious offenses including physical intimidation, extortion, robbery, kidnapping, and rape.

NAWFAL HAMMADI AL-SULTAN

Nawfal Hammadi al-Sultan (al-Sultan) is designated for being a foreign person who is a current or former government official, or a person acting for or on behalf of such an official, who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

Al-Sultan is a former governor of Ninewa Province, Iraq.  Following a ferry accident in Ninewa’s capital, Mosul, that killed nearly 100 people, Iraq’s parliament removed al-Sultan from office.  The ferry, loaded to five times its capacity, had been carrying families to an island on the Tigris River when it sank.  Iraqi authorities have issued an arrest warrant for the former governor, who fled shortly after the accident.

In a letter to Members of Parliament after the ferry accident, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi accused al-Sultan of negligence and dereliction of duty, and said there was evidence the former governor was misusing funds and abusing his power.  On March 27, 2019, the Ninewa investigations court said the former governor and several other officials were suspected of misusing their powers and wasting public money.

Al-Sultan has faced allegations of widespread corruption since 1994.  He was removed from his first post as mayor because of corruption and a conviction on smuggling charges.  In 2017, the United Nations Development Program suspended reconstruction projects after multiple allegations of al-Sultan siphoning off United Nations funds.

AHMED AL-JUBOURI

Ahmed al-Jubouri (al-Jubouri) is designated for being a foreign person who is a current or former government official, or a person acting for or on behalf of such an official, who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

Al-Jubouri, also known as Abu Mazin, is a former governor of Salah al-Din, Iraq, and current Member of Parliament who has engaged in corruption.  Al-Jubouri was removed as governor and sentenced to prison in July 2017 upon conviction for misusing authority and federal funds and appropriating land for personal use.  Al-Jubouri has since been released.  Al-Jubouri has been known to protect his personal interests by accommodating Iran-backed proxies that operate outside of state control.

GLOBAL MAGNITSKY

Building upon the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, on December 20, 2017, the President signed E.O. 13818, “Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption,” in which the President found that the prevalence of human rights abuse and corruption that have their source, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States, has reached such scope and gravity that they threaten the stability of international political and economic systems.  Human rights abuse and corruption undermine the values that form an essential foundation of stable, secure, and functioning societies; have devastating impacts on individuals; weaken democratic institutions; degrade the rule of law; perpetuate violent conflicts; facilitate the activities of dangerous persons; and undermine economic markets.  The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who commit serious human rights abuse or engage in corruption, as well as to protect the financial system of the United States from abuse by these same persons.

To date, OFAC has sanctioned 113 individuals and entities pursuant to E.O. 13818.  These designations are in addition to the numerous human rights- or corruption-related designations Treasury has issued under various other sanctions authorities.  In total, since January 2017, Treasury has taken action against more than 680 individuals and entities engaged in activities related to, or directly involving, human rights abuse and/or corruption.  The Treasury Department has also published advisories to U.S. financial institutions on human rights abuses enabled by corrupt senior foreign political figures and their financial facilitators that can be found here, as well as advisories related to some of the programs listed above, which can be found here.

View identifying information on the individuals designated today.

(Source: OFAC)

By Robbie Gramer, for Foreign Policy. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Pompeo Seeks to Make Baghdad Embassy Pullout Permanent, Officials Say

In May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered a partial evacuation of diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Iraq amid escalating tensions with Iran.

Now, several State Department officials say they are being told the drawdown in embassy staff will effectively become permanent, a move that could leave the U.S. Embassy short-staffed to undertake important tasks like countering Iran on the diplomatic front—and in the short-term has marooned hundreds of diplomats in the Washington area without an embassy to go back to.

Click here to read the full story.

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

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani presented his new Cabinet July 10, vowing to institute reforms and reinvigorate the semi-autonomous government in Erbil, Iraq.

Three main parties in Iraqi Kurdistan were able to reach an understanding on their ministerial nominations to finally form the new government: the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Gorran (Change) movement.

Parliament now has confirmed 21 ministers for the Cabinet, though the controversial post of the natural resources minister remains vacant.

Click here to read the full story.

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

Iran grants additional visas to Iraqis to boost its economy

In light of the US sanctions and the exit of foreign companies from Iran, Tehran is seeking to boost its income and hard currency by hosting the largest possible number of Iraqi tourists it can.

Iran’s economic charge d’affaires in Najaf, Arif Abbasi, said June 22, “The number of Iranian visas issued from Najaf will increase to 5,000 visas daily.

Click here to read the full story.

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

Slow progress is being made to rebuild the ruined city of Mosul in northern Iraq.

It is two years since the Iraqi army, with a United States-led coalition and Iran-backed Shia militias, drove ISIL fighters from the capital of their self-declared caliphate.

Reconstruction efforts are not being helped by the sanctions imposed by the US on Iraq’s ally Iran.

UN agencies estimate it may take tens of millions of dollars and 10 years just to remove mines and explosives.

Al Jazeera‘s Osama Bin Javaid reports:

The Al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies has just published a new report from our Expert Blogger Ahmed Tabaqchali:

The current debate over the interpretation of the 2019 budget that governs the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) share of the federal budget in return for contributing 250,000 bbl/d to federal oil exports has echoes of the first conflict in April 2012 on the issue.

The adept quote above by the International Crisis Group (ICC), in its description of the relationship between the two sides leading to that conflict, is as applicable today as it was then, and over the many repeats of similar conflicts in the intervening years.

The current flare up is initiated by members of the federal parliament against the Government of Iraq (GoI) over its continuing payments to the KRG, under the terms of the 2019 budget, while the KRG has not or refused to honour its obligations under the terms of the same budget.

The internal and external dynamics of the players on both sides, the federal politicians and the regional Kurdish politicians, follow the same trajectory that led to countless struggles over this issue and others since 2003. Each side is not only blind and deaf to the other side’s needs and motives but views it with suspicion and mistrust.

Unless something breaks the mould, either an intervention by Iraq’s international stakeholders or a change in the balance of relative power between the two, both will continue to think and act in the same manner that each had acted in the past, while still expecting a different outcome for the conflict or a different response form the other side.

Read Ahmed Tabaqchali’s full report here.

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

Turkish exporters are reeling from an unprecedented blow in trade with Iraq that has splashed cold water on Ankara’s hopes to launch a second border crossing with its southern neighbor and boost bilateral trade to $20 billion.

In a series of steps since May, touted as an effort to promote domestic production, the Iraqi government has restricted food imports from Turkey, including in major categories such as eggs and beverages.

Turkey’s business community suspects that there are political factors behind the move, including the role of non-market actors harming competition, pressure from companies linked to the ruling partners in Baghdad and the influence of Iran.

Click here to read the full story.

Defense Minister of Iran Brigadier General Amir Hatami called for the expansion of military and defense ties between Tehran and Baghdad, describing support for Iraq as a principled policy of the Islamic Republic.

In a telephone conversation with his new Iraqi counterpart, General Hatami congratulated Najah Hassan Ali Al-Shammari on taking the post.

Hailing Iraq as a friend of Iran with age-old religious, social and civilizational commonalities, the Iranian minister expressed the hope for the enhancement of military and defense cooperation between the two neighbors during Al-Shammari’s tenure.

Supporting the Iraqi government and nation is a principled policy of the Islamic Republic, General Hatami noted, adding, “We consider Iraq’s security, stability and progress as being in the interests of the region, and have always defended it.”

Stressing the need for closer consultations between Tehran and Baghdad on the bilateral and regional issues, the defense minister invited his Iraqi counterpart to pay a visit to Iran.

For his part, Al-Shammari praised Iran for supporting Iraq in the fight against terrorist groups, saying the two neighboring states share a lot of interests and their security and stability are interrelated.

Earlier in June, Commander of Khatam al-Anbia Anti-Aircraft Base of the Iranian Army, Brigadier General Alireza Sabahi Fard, said the Iranian Air Defense is fully prepared to satisfy Iraq’s air defense demands in all areas.

In April, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri said Tehran and Baghdad have agreed to launch air defense cooperation to combat possible threats to Iran’s western border.

In July 2017, Iran and Iraq signed an agreement to boost military cooperation in a host of fields, including counterterrorism.

Based on the deal, Tehran and Baghdad try to promote interaction and share experiences in the fight against terrorism and extremism, work together to ensure border security, and provide each other with training and logistical, technical and military support.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

Following the increase in tensions in the Gulf region in recent weeks, two British diplomats have expressed the view that Iraq could have a positive role to play.

Addressing delegates at CWC‘s Iraq Petroleum conference in London, the British Ambassador to Iraq, Jonathan Wilks CMG, said:

Iraq is strong enough now to keep itself out of whatever may develop between the US and Iran, as long as it asserts its sovereignty and independence with all countries, not just with Iran and the US, but with all countries east and west. It is powerful enough to do this now … [and] must be taken seriously as an economic power.

“Iraq is back as a reasonable, constructive and credible player in world affairs.

Later at the same gathering, Sir William Patey KCMG (pictured on left), a former UK Ambassador to both Iraq and Saudi Arabia, said:

Iraq is in a unique position, in that it has equity in ensuring that there isn’t a war … and I think a confident new Iraq could play a role.

“It has better relations with Saudi Arabia, it has good relations with Iran, it has a close relationship with the United States, and it has a lot at stake. So I actually think in terms of reducing the tensions, I think there is potential for Iraq, and I think  the current leadership of Iraq has the [right] vision and outlook.”

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

Following the increase in tensions in the Gulf region in recent weeks, two British diplomats have expressed the view that Iraq could have a positive role to play.

Addressing delegates at CWC‘s Iraq Petroleum conference in London, the British Ambassador to Iraq, Jonathan Wilks CMG, said:

Iraq is strong enough now to keep itself out of whatever may develop between the US and Iran, as long as it asserts its sovereignty and independence with all countries, not just with Iran and the US, but with all countries east and west. It is powerful enough to do this now … [and] must be taken seriously as an economic power.

“Iraq is back as a reasonable, constructive and credible player in world affairs.

Later at the same gathering, Sir William Patey KCMG (pictured on left), a former UK Ambassador to both Iraq and Saudi Arabia, said:

Iraq is in a unique position, in that it has equity in ensuring that there isn’t a war … and I think a confident new Iraq could play a role.

“It has better relations with Saudi Arabia, it has good relations with Iran, it has a close relationship with the United States, and it has a lot at stake. So I actually think in terms of reducing the tensions, I think there is potential for Iraq, and I think  the current leadership of Iraq has the [right] vision and outlook.”