By John Lee.

Adnan al-Zurfi has withdrawn his candidacy for the position of Prime Minister having failed to secure enough support to form a government. It is understood that he has been opposed by groups affiliated with Iran.

President Barham Salih has named 53-year-old Mustafa al-Kadhimi (pictured) as the new Prime Minister-designate, Iraq’s third PM-designate in just over a month.

According to AP, Kadhimi was appointed by former Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi as head of the Iraqi National Intelligence Service and has served in this post since June 2016.

He has 30 days to present his proposed cabinet to parliament.

(Source: AP, Reuters)

(Picture credit: Fadhafnt)

By John Lee.

Iraq‘s Higher Committee for Health and National Safety met in Baghdad on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi. The meeting was conducted via video conferencing.

The Committee discussed a number of policy options to support Iraqi nationals abroad who wish to return home, and how to address the logistical and health challenges involved.  It is expected that the Committee will make an announcement on this issue shortly.

Following discussions on COVID-19/coronavirus, the Committee decided to:

  • Extend the curfew throughout Iraq until Saturday 18/04/2020;
  • Allocate 600 billion dinars [$504 million] over the next two months to support nearly ten million citizens. Applying and accessing this support will be via a phone app. Further details will be announced later.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

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

Coronavirus curfew fails to clear Iraqi protest squares

Anti-government protests that began in October and raged through Iraq for months were officially suspended in late March as part of efforts against the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic.

Major squares, however, remain occupied. Some protesters say they have to stay amid continued assassinations of activists.

Umm Abbass, a well-known female activist in Nasiriyah, was killed on April 5 when militias allegedly stormed her home at dawn.

Click here to read the full story.

Iraqi regulator suspends Reuters’ license for 3 months over COVID-19 report

Iraqi authorities should immediately reinstate the license of the Reuters news agency, and allow all media outlets to cover the COVID-19 pandemic freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Yesterday, the Communications and Media Commission (CMC), Iraq’s media regulator, suspended Reuters’ license for three months and fined it 25 million Iraqi dinars ($21,000) for a news report published the same day, which alleged that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country are much higher than official statistics, according to a statement from the regulator and news reports.

In its statement, the regulator accused Reuters of relying on vague and untrue sources to fabricate news about pandemic in Iraq, and accused Reuters of endangering public safety and hindering the government’s efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. It also urged Reuters to issue a public apology to the government and the Iraqi people.

CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado, said:

If Iraq’s media regulator continues to suspend media outlets critical of the authorities, soon there won’t be any outlet left in Iraq at a time when the flow of news is vital to contain the spread of the COVID-19 disease.

“We call on Iraq´s media regulator to restore Reuters’ license and allow its staff to do their jobs freely and without fear of reprisal.

The Reuters report cited three doctors involved in the COVID-19 testing process, a health ministry official, and a senior political official, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because medical staff have been instructed not to speak to the media. Those sources alleged that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases was thousands higher than the official count of 772.

After the report was published, the Iraqi government on its official Twitter account criticized “some news agencies” for falsely claiming that the numbers disclosed by authorities were inaccurate.

In a statement sent to CPJ via messaging app, Reuters said it had not received any notification from Iraqi authorities regarding the license and was seeking clarification on the matter. The news agency said it stands by the story.

Iraq has also suspended the printing and distribution of newspapers to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to news reports. Yemen, Oman, Jordan, Morocco, and Iran have similarly banned newspapers, as CPJ has documented.

On April 1, the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission issued a series of new regulations restricting the movement and work of journalists and media outlets, forcing radio stations and broadcasters to reduce their staff to a minimum, requiring journalists and media workers to wear protective gear, and providing the Joint Operations Command and the Baghdad Operations Command with a list of licensed radio stations and broadcasters, according to news reports and the local press freedom group the Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq.

The Media and Communications Commission did not immediately reply to CPJ’s request for comment sent via email and social media.

(Source: CPJ)

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

Soleimani’s successor visits Iraq, then Trump tweets warning to Iran

President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to warn Iran against further attacks on US forces in Iraq – the same day that Iraqi officials told the Associated Press that the new head of the Quds Force had recently visited Baghdad.

Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq,” Trump tweeted. “If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif did not directly deny an Iranian plot in Iraq in his tweeted rebuttal.

Instead he characterized Iranian proxies as “friends” and obliquely referenced Trump’s January strike on former Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.

Click here to read the full article.

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

Iraqi government calls on civil society to fight COVID-19

Despite the Iraqi government’s intensive efforts to fight the novel coronavirus, it seems unable to accommodate the difficult circumstances due to its limited resources, not to mention the political crisis that has been plaguing it since protests erupted in October 2019.

The Iraqi government is thus calling on civil society and charities to provide aid with their resources.

Click here to read the full story.

By Maurizio Coppola for openDemocracy. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

While the Iraqi government imposes a curfew and some cities close schools, universities and malls to limit the spread of the coronavirus, living conditions are getting more and more precarious due to lack of social and health protection.

Social protests are shrinking due to risk and fear of contagion, but tens of thousands of people continue to build popular solidarity.

The coronavirus has now reached the Middle East and North Africa and is having a serious impact on people’s daily lives.

Today, the virus is also producing important changes with regard to the social protests that had begun to rock a number of states in the region in the past year.

More here.

(Source: openDemocracy)

By Maurizio Coppola for openDemocracy. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

While the Iraqi government imposes a curfew and some cities close schools, universities and malls to limit the spread of the coronavirus, living conditions are getting more and more precarious due to lack of social and health protection.

Social protests are shrinking due to risk and fear of contagion, but tens of thousands of people continue to build popular solidarity.

The coronavirus has now reached the Middle East and North Africa and is having a serious impact on people’s daily lives.

Today, the virus is also producing important changes with regard to the social protests that had begun to rock a number of states in the region in the past year.

More here.

(Source: openDemocracy)

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

Iraqi prime minister-designate faces challenges in gaining political support

As Iraq’s Prime Minister-designate Adnan al-Zurfi struggles to secure adequate parliamentary votes for his candidacy, Iraqi political parties are uncertain about whether they should support him, find a new candidate or even keep caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi in office.

President Barham Salih nominated Zurfi on March 17. He must now form a cabinet and obtain parliamentary approval for that Cabinet by April 17 to become prime minister.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

The Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Masrour Barzani, has reportedly called for the public prosecutor to launch an investigation into allegations that Russian state oil company Rosneft paid $250 million to a consultant to secure deals in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg claimed that the oil company paid the money an unknown individual in 2017 and 2018 to become the dominant foreign player in the Kurdish oil industry.

More here.

(Source: Ekurd)