By John Lee.

Russia’s Stroytransgaz has signed a preliminary contract for the exploration, development and production of Block 17, in Anbar province.

At a signing ceremony in Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs and Oil Minister Thamer Abbas Ghadhban said that preliminary studies and information indicate the existence of oil reserves ranging between 2 and 4 billion barrels oil equivalent of gas. The block measures 12,000 square kilometers.

The Director General of Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Department, Abdul Mahdi Al-Amidi, said that the contract commits the company to build a residential complex in Anbar province in addition to the development of infrastructure and services for the province, with an estimated value of $100 million dollars.

Stroytransgaz was sanctioned by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in 2014 in relation to Russian activity in Ukraine.

The deal needs final approval by Iraq’s Council of Ministers.

(Sources: Iraqi Oil Ministry, OFAC)

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

Iraq and Iran are neighbours: Around $25m worth of Iranian goods enter Iraq every day.

But a US deadline that allows Iraq to trade with Iran is set to expire in three months, and Tehran and Baghdad are trying to find a way around it.

Iraqi traders are worried, as Iranian goods are much cheaper.

Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid has this report from Baghdad:

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)

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:

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.

Basra protests build in Iraq as sub-standard services persist

In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor, Iraqi Minister of Electricity Luay al-Khatteeb talked about the situation of Iraq’s electricity sector amid tense US-Iran relations.

He discussed the waiver timeline that Washington granted Baghdad to keep buying Iranian gas and mentioned his fear that some parties are politicizing the electricity sector in Iraq.

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.

Basra protests build in Iraq as sub-standard services persist

In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor, Iraqi Minister of Electricity Luay al-Khatteeb talked about the situation of Iraq’s electricity sector amid tense US-Iran relations.

He discussed the waiver timeline that Washington granted Baghdad to keep buying Iranian gas and mentioned his fear that some parties are politicizing the electricity sector in Iraq.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

The Trump administration has reportedly granted Iraq a 120-day waiver from its sanctions against Iran, to allow it to continue importing electricity from the country during the hottest of the summer weather.

The decision followed a phone call on Friday between Secretary of State Michael Pompeo (pictured) and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

The State Dept said it is continuing to work with Iraq to end its dependence on Iranian natural gas and electricity.

(Sources: Bloomberg, The National)

By John Lee.

Contrary to recent reports that the US had granted a waiver to Iraq to allow it to continue buying power from Iran, a State Department spokeswoman reportedly said on Wednesday that this was not the case.

Reuters quotes Morgan Ortagus as telling reporters that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has not made a decision on this issue.

(Source: Reuters)

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.

US grants Iraq reprieve to continue buying Iranian gas

The United States has decided to grant Iraq a third 90-day sanctions waiver so it can continue to purchase gas from its sole provider, Iran, giving Baghdad some much-needed breathing room.

On May 22 in Baghdad, Joey Hood, US chargé d’affaires in Iraq, stressed to reporters that the waivers will not continue indefinitely, so the United States is working with Iraq to reduce its dependence on Iran.

Click here to read the full story.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad al-Hakim said his country would stand by the Iranian nation and government in the era of US sanctions against Tehran.

Iraq stands with Iran and is willing to act as an intermediary between its neighbor and the United States, Hakim said on Saturday speaking in a press conference with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Baghdad.

He added that Baghdad does not believe an “economic blockade” by the US could be fruitful, according to Reuters.

Zarif, for his part, condemned the US sanctions and said Tehran would strongly defend itself against any military or economic aggression and called on Europe to do more to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

In May 2018, the US president pulled his country out of the JCPOA, which was achieved in 2015 after years of negotiations among Iran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany).

Ever since, the EU has failed to make good on its promise to save the nuclear deal and facilitate Iran’s economic trade with the international community.

The Iranian minister also said that the Islamic Republic wanted to build balanced relations with its Persian Gulf Arab neighbors and that it had proposed signing a non-aggression pact with them.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)