By John Lee.

Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi arrived on Thursday morning in the Chinese city of Hebei to participate in the World Conference on Industrialization.

The visit follows the granting of two major contracts in Iraq to Chinese companies in recent weeks: China Construction Third Engineering Bureau will reportedly implement civil engineering projects and infrastructure in southern Iraq in a $1.39-billion deal; meanwhile, Basra Oil Company (BOC) signed a $54-million contract with Hilong Oil Service & Engineering Company to drill 80 oil wells at the giant Majnoon oil field.

According to Foreign Brief, China displaced India in 2018 to become Iraq’s largest trading partner, with more than $30 billion in two-way trade. It adds that Iraq is now China’s second-largest oil supplier.

(Sources: Media Office of the Prime Minister, Foreign Brief)

By John Lee.

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has reportedly rejected the resignation of the health minister Ala Al Alwan (pictured).

Citing problems with blackmail and corruption, it was the minister’s second attempt to resign, having been persuaded to remain after a previous attempt in March.

More here.

(Source: The National)

By John Lee.

The UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office has announced that Mr Stephen Hickey has been appointed as British Ambassador to Iraq.

He succeeds Mr Jon Wilks CMG, who will be transferring to another Diplomatic Service appointment.

Mr Hickey will take up his appointment during November 2019. He has most recently served in New York as Ambassador and Political Co-ordinator for the UK Permanent Mission to the United Nations.

(Source: UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office)

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

A series of alleged Israeli strikes on Iran-linked targets in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq have sent shockwaves across the region and beyond. The attacks on Iraq in particular are unprecedented, with long-term effects yet to be revealed.

The immediate effect, however, is that both the general public and the elites of Middle East nations have raised the need to protect their skies more effectively. Currently, air defense systems are hindered by more than a lack of innovative equipment.

They are also hindered by their overdependence on external powers, especially the United States. Shortly after the strikes, it didn’t take long for Russia to move closer to Iraq in terms of military-technical cooperation.

Click here to read the full story.

(Picture credit: Соколрус)

Iraqi Defence Minister Najah Al-Shammari has issued an order on Thursday to refer several officers and commanders to military courts on corruption charges.

The Ministry of Defence did not name the officers or specify their ranks.

Last year, the Iraqi Commission of Integrity uncovered more than 2,000 warrants for corruption in the country in 2017, issued against 290 government officials, including ministers.

(Source: Middle East Monitor)

A three-day workshop has concluded in Baghdad, which considered ways how to ensure the meaningful engagement of Iraqi women in elections.

The workshop on gender-responsive electoral processes, jointly organized by the Independent High Elections Commissions (IHEC) and UNAMI in collaboration with UNDP, was held within the context of UNAMI’s mandate to assist and advise IHEC on preparations for the 2020 local elections in Iraq.

The workshop looked at the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) and subsequent resolutions on promoting women’s full and active participation in political and electoral processes.

UNAMI Director of Electoral Assistance and Principal Electoral Advisor, Aamir Arain, urged the IHEC to strengthen the capacity of its gender team and formulate a gender policy.

Promoting an enabling environment that allows women to fully and actively participate in electoral processes is an important step towards ensuring women exercise their right to vote and contributes to stability and democracy,” Mr. Arain said.

The discussions highlighted challenges facing female candidates, including sexual harassment, poor media coverage, insufficient campaign funds, limited support from political parties, and social discrimination due to negative patriarchal attitudes.

It underlined the importance of the quota system to guarantee women’s representation, and the need for specific security measures and awareness to enable women to vote safely and freely, and a code of conduct to promote integrity in the overall electoral process.

Two former MPs who are members of the Women Advisory Group (WAG) shared their experiences as candidates in previous national legislative elections. Another WAG member described her previous work as a national elections observer.

The group was launched early 2019 to advocate for better representation of women in reconciliation and political processes amongst other concerns.

(Source: UN)

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States, which includes exempting Iraq from 75% of its debts within the support funds provided to Arab countries, scheduling the remaining amount and paying for its contributions to the budget of the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States.

The issue of exempting Iraq from 75% of these debts was one of the items on the agenda of the Arab Summit in Tunisia voted by the Arab leaders, and as a result of the diplomatic efforts carried out by the Ministry, and the Iraqi Representation in the League of Arab States.

This memorandum was one of the topics of the talks held by Foreign Minister Mr. Mohamad A. Alhakim (pictured) in his meeting with the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, in Baghdad, which resulted in expediting its signature and bringing it into force.

The MoU was signed by Ambassador Mr. Ahmed Nayef Rashid Al-Dulaimi, Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq to Cairo, and Mr. Abdullah Sorour Al-Jarman, Head of Administrative and Financial Affairs Sector at the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States.

(Source: Iraqi Foreign Ministry)

On Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on the Iraqi Communications and Media Committee (CMC) to reverse its three-month suspension of the U.S. government-funded Iraqi broadcaster Al-Hurra.

In a statement released yesterday, Iraq’s media regulator, the Communications and Media Committee, suspended the license of Al-Hurra, a regional broadcaster funded by the U.S. Agency for Global Media, for three months, accusing it of failing to provide evidence to make its case, neglecting to uphold the principles of professional journalism, and using anonymous sources to defame, according to news reports and local press freedom groups.

According to the same reports, the media regulator also suspended Al-Hurra’s activities until it “corrects its position” and broadcasts an official apology for tarnishing the reputation of Iraqi religious institutions and figures.

The suspension is related to an investigative report, which aired on August 31, alleging corruption within the Sunni and Shi’ite Muslim endowments–state bodies that administer religious sites and real estate–linked to senior religious authorities in Iraq. The report also implied ties between these state bodies and armed groups.

The Communications and Media Committee did not immediately reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.

“We call on Iraq´s media regulator to revoke the suspension of Al-Hurra’s license and allow its staff to do their jobs freely and without fear of reprisal,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Reporting on corruption should lead Iraqi authorities to bring those responsible to account rather than to suspend a broadcaster´s license.”

The U.S. Agency for Global Media issued a statement yesterday describing Al-Hurra’s report on allegations of corruption as “fair, balanced and professional,” and saying that all the “individuals and institutions involved were given the right of reply, which they declined.”

Pedro Marin, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, was quoted by Reuters as saying that neither the U.S. State Department nor the Embassy in Baghdad oversee Al-Hurra´s programming. He added, “Al-Hurra’s mission is to deliver accurate and objective information on the region, American policies and Americana,” and said the Iraqi Government “has the right to question Al-Hurra on any reporting that is perceived to be false or unprofessional.”

However, local press freedom groups, including the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory and the Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq, condemned the media regulator’s decision as invalid because, under law 65 regulating the Communication and Media Commission, the media regulator cannot suspend a broadcaster´s license without a court order.

According to news reports, the Sunni endowment denied the allegations in the report and said it would take legal actions against Al-Hurra, whereas the Shiite endowment has not yet commented on the decision.

(Source: CPJ)

UNAMI Urges Inclusion of Women in Politics and Decision-Making

Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Alice Walpole (pictured), has addressed the launch of a Regional Forum aimed at advancing women’s rights in Iraq and across the Middle Eastern region, with participants from Iraq, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia and Yemen.

The forum is being held under the auspices of the President of the Republic of Iraq, with support from the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), UN Women, the Women’s International League for Peace and the Dutch Embassy.

DSRSG Walpole called on women representatives attending the Forum to use this unique gathering to learn from one another in facing the challenges and difficulties that continue to obstruct the advancement of women in the region.

She recalled that implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, remains a key priority for the (female) leadership of UNAMI and urged the Iraqi authorities to pursue a national action plan to enable the meaningful representation of women in political and decision-making processes in Iraq.

“Iraq, at this critical moment of its post-conflict development, simply cannot afford to ignore the energy and expertise of half its population” DSRSG Walpole underlined.

The Baghdad Regional Forum will include two days of interactive workshops on 26-27 August, discussing the role and achievements of regional mechanisms in implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, reducing violence against women and empowering women in politics.

(Source: UNAM()

By John Lee.

A US military contractor has won a judgment estimated at $140 million against Iraq to reimburse it for unpaid invoices relating to work done for the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.

Dale Stoffel, the President of Wye Oak Technology, was killed in mysterious circumstances fifteen years ago while attempting to recover the debt.

In its ruling, the District Court of the US District of Columbia said:

Fifteen years ago, Wye Oak Technology, an American company, entered into the Broker Services Agreement (BSA) with the Iraqi Ministry of Defense (MoD) to play a key role in re-equipping the Iraqi military. Iraq urgently needed to rebuild its armed forces as the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) transferred sovereignty back to the Iraqi people and the interim Iraqi government prepared to hold its first parliamentary elections since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

“The BSA was set to be the central component of the Iraqi Military Equipment Recovery Project (IMERP). Under the BSA, Wye Oak was responsible for developing an inventory and assessing what military equipment was salvageable and what was scrap, providing military refurbishment services, arranging for scrap sales, and arranging for the sale of military equipment. Wye Oak began performing as soon as the BSA was effectuated.

“By October 2004, Wye Oak submitted three pro forma invoices to MoD for work in relation to the IMERP. But MoD never paid these invoices to Wye Oak. Instead, MoD paid a third-party, Raymond Zayna, the money owed to Wye Oak under the BSA. Nonetheless, Wye Oak continued to perform under the contract while desperately trying to extract the funds it was owed. And briefly, Wye Oak thought it succeeded. After months of performing vital activities as part of the IMERP despite not being paid, all issues seemed to be solved after a December 5, 2004 meeting. However, this was not the case.

“A few days later, Wye Oak’s president Dale Stoffel and his colleague Joe Wemple were brutally murdered on their way to arrange for funding to finally be released. Nonetheless, Wye Oak still did not immediately abandon the IMERP even after Dale Stoffel’s tragic death. Instead, Wye Oak exceeded the goal of producing a mechanized brigade of operational armored vehicles for Iraq’s January 2005 parliamentary election. Yet Wye Oak was never paid for the vital work it performed under the BSA.

“Now, more than fifteen years after Wye Oak entered into the BSA, and more than a decade after Wye Oak first filed suit, the Court finds MoD breached the BSA. And because MoD is an integral component of the national government itself, the Republic of Iraq is also liable for the breach. Ultimately, the Court will award Wye Oak damages for its three invoices, lost profits from construction, lost profits from refurbishing military equipment, and lost profits from scrap sales.

“Also, the Court will award Wye Oak prejudgment interest and costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses.

According to Associated Press, a lawyer acting for Wye Oak estimates that the true judgment will total roughly $140 million.

More details here.

(Sources: District Court of the US District of Columbia, Associated Press)