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

These days, Tehran is having trouble getting what it wants from its neighbor—a development Washington can encourage by backing off.

It almost goes without saying these days that Iran dominates its western neighbor. On April 27, for example, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed tweeted that Iran’s regime “controls” Iraq.

Now-U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton once compared Tehran’s grip on Iraq to the Soviet Union’s stranglehold over Eastern Europe during the late 1940s.

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

Will the Trump administration abort Iran’s land bridge to the Mediterranean?

As the showdown between Washington and Tehran escalates elsewhere in the Gulf, Iran is giving high priority to an effort to secure, control and reopen the al-Bukamal border crossing at Qaim, the only Syrian-Iraqi border crossing under Iranian control, to solidify its influence in the Levant and mitigate the impact of US sanctions.

It remains to be seen, however, whether Iran will pull off this move and how the Donald Trump administration might react.

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

Iraqi factions a wild card in US-Iran blame game

It’s hard to tell what’s really on the minds of Iranian and US officials in the flurry of words they’ve exchanged this week, but Baghdad has been perfectly clear about any potential confrontation between the two: not in my backyard.

Amid prolonged dares and double-dares between Tehran and Washington — punctuated with claims from both sides that they don’t want a war — Iraq has made it known it won’t become a proxy battleground.

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By Padraig O’Hannelly.

Last week, the US Embassy in Baghdad ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. Government employees from Iraq, as tension mounts between the Trump administration and neighbouring Iran. In the meantime, several other organisations have taken similar moves.

While this has made headlines, has there been any real change on the ground?

Iraq Business News spoke with Martin Aggar, General Manager of Al-Burhan Security, to get his perspective on developments.

He says that while some people have changed their travel plans in response to the increased tensions, in practice little has changed in Baghdad:

Our operations team is closely monitoring the situation, and apart from one minor incident last night, there has not been a significant increase in security-related activity or general threat levels.

“Nevertheless, some clients have chosen not to leave our secure accommodation at the Al-Burhan Centre.

“But with meeting facilities on site, and also at our villa in Al-Mansour, we can still help them to see the people they need to see while visiting Iraq. We’re equipped for all situations.”

The events of the past week seem to many to be at odds with the general trend in Iraq. Aggar explains:

This all comes against a background of steadily improving conditions in Iraq; people feel safer, infrastructure is improving, and international companies are taking more of an interest in the opportunities to be had here.

“That’s why we’ve invested in the newest and best armoured vehicles, a VIP meet-and-greet service at the airport, and the full package of services that executives need and expect when they come here to do business.

“And our sister company Al-Burhan Airways is the only private operator licensed to fly helicopters in Iraq, so we can bring visitors quickly and safely wherever they need to be in the country.

Asked how he expects this to play out, he says:

The current tensions are the result of Iran-US relations, and while they don’t originate in Iraq, they do of course influence this country.  

“However, the Iraqi government is very focussed on developing the economy and moving Iraq forward.

“The opportunities are huge and the people are determined to succeed; I think in future we’ll look back on this as the early stage of a boom period for Iraq.

By John Lee.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed the nomination of Ambassador Matthew Tueller to be the Ambassador to Iraq.

Tueller has most recently served as U.S. Ambassador to Yemen.

A native of Utah, Utah, his other overseas assignments have included Ambassador to Kuwait, Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Cairo; Political Minister Counselor at Embassy Baghdad; Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Kuwait; Political Counselor at Embassy Riyadh; Chief of the U.S. Office in Aden, Yemen; Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Doha; Political Officer at Embassy London; and Political Officer and Consular Officer at Embassy Amman.

His Washington assignments have included Deputy Director in the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs and Egypt Desk Officer.

(Sources: US Embassy, US State Department)

An Iranian official said the exports of natural gas to Iraq are growing steadily and are expected to hit 40 million cubic meters a day in summer.

Managing director of the Iranian Gas Engineering and Development Company (IGEDC) Hassan Montazer Torbati told Tasnim that Iran’s gas exports to Iraq are constantly increasing and nearing a ceiling set on the contract between the two neighbors.

He noted that the exports will be rising as the hot season is looming with a surge in Iraq’s electricity consumption, adding that the daily export is expected to hit 40 million cubic meters.

Baghdad and Basra are the main export destinations of Iranian natural gas, the official added.

On a gas deal with Turkey, Montazer Torbati said Tehran and Ankara are planned to enter negotiations to extend the gas export contract during the last five years of the deal, adding that serious talks to renew the contract will kick off next year.

In June 2017, Iran started to export natural gas to Iraq after years of negotiations and settlement of financial problems.

Tehran and Baghdad had signed a deal on the exports of natural gas from the giant South Pars Gas Field in 2013.

Under the deal, the Iranian gas is delivered to Sadr, Baghdad and al-Mansouryah power plants in Iraq through a 270-kilometer pipeline.

Last month, Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity said the Arab country’s gas imports from Iran are planned to rise by 13 percent by January 2020.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

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

Iraq is looking to strengthen its economy after decades of war, sanctions, sectarian division and the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS).

It has achieved some progress in recent years thanks to its oil industry; Iraq is the second-largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and oil provides roughly 85 percent of the government’s revenue.

As the country enters a period of relative calm, Iraq’s oil minister, Thamer Ghadhban, says the government is working to expand its oil industries and improve infrastructure, which includes building more refineries and investing in southern gas fields and export routes.

By John Lee.

Kuwait will reportedly fund the reconstruction of a major border crossing with Iraq.

According to Anadolu Agency, Iraq’s Border Crossing Authority said a memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between the two countries to prepare the infrastructure for the crossing at Safwan.

(Source: Anadolu Agency)

By John Lee.

President Barham Salih has highlighted the need to address the obstacles impeding the work of the private sector in Iraq.

Addressing a delegation from the Iraqi Federation of Chambers of Commerce at his Office in Baghdad, the President stressed the importance of enhancing the role of the private sector in reconstruction.

Mr. Abdul Razzaq al-Zuhairi, the Head of the Federation, said he valued the President’s support for the private sector.

(Source: Office of the Iraqi President)