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.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Inhofe endorses Iraq sanctions

The Donald Trump administration is doubling down on its Iraq pressure campaign, threatening to impose devastating sanctions on the fragile country should Baghdad move forward with its threats to expel US forces.

And the policy has buy-in from key Republican lawmakers, who are in no hurry to push back against the president’s sanctions threats.

Click here to read the full article.

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.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Inhofe endorses Iraq sanctions

The Donald Trump administration is doubling down on its Iraq pressure campaign, threatening to impose devastating sanctions on the fragile country should Baghdad move forward with its threats to expel US forces.

And the policy has buy-in from key Republican lawmakers, who are in no hurry to push back against the president’s sanctions threats.

Click here to read the full article.

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

US President Donald Trump ratcheted up his rhetoric with Iran and Iraq late on Sunday, warning of a “major retaliation” if Iran strikes back to avenge the US assassination of one of its top military commanders and threatening sanctions on Iraq after its parliament called on American troops to leave the country.

Asked on Air Force One about potential retaliation by Iran, Trump said: “If it happens, it happens. If they do anything, there will be major retaliation.”

Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo reports live from Washington, DC:

By James Risen, for The Intercept.

Massive, sustained protests in Baghdad and Tehran that have been met with violent responses from security forces throughout the fall and winter have rapidly altered the political dynamics in both Iraq and Iran.

But it is still uncertain whether the grassroots anger that has erupted will lead to significant change in either country — or whether the United States will play a role in shaping the outcome.

More here.

(Source: The Intercept)

By James Risen, for The Intercept.

Massive, sustained protests in Baghdad and Tehran that have been met with violent responses from security forces throughout the fall and winter have rapidly altered the political dynamics in both Iraq and Iran.

But it is still uncertain whether the grassroots anger that has erupted will lead to significant change in either country — or whether the United States will play a role in shaping the outcome.

More here.

(Source: The Intercept)

Treasury Sanctions Iran-Backed Militia Leaders Who Killed Innocent Demonstrators in Iraq

Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated three leaders of Iran-backed militias in Iraq that opened fire on peaceful protests, killing dozens of innocent civilians.

OFAC designated Qais al-Khazali, Laith al-Khazali, and Husayn Falih ‘Aziz al-Lami pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818 for their involvement in serious human rights abuse in Iraq.  Additionally, OFAC designated Iraqi millionaire businessman Khamis Farhan al-Khanjar al-Issawi for bribing government officials and engaging in corruption at the expense of the Iraqi people.

“Iran’s attempts to suppress the legitimate demands of the Iraqi people for reform of their government through the slaughter of peaceful demonstrators is appalling,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.  “Peaceful public dissent and protest are fundamental elements of all democracies.  The United States stands with the Iraqi people in their efforts to root out corruption.  We will hold accountable the perpetrators of human rights abuse and corruption in Iraq.”

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the individuals named below, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by them, individually or with other designated persons, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.

Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC or otherwise exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons.  In addition, any approval, financing, facilitation, or guarantee by a U.S. person, wherever located, of a transaction by a foreign person where the transaction by that foreign person would be prohibited by E.O. 13818 if performed by a U.S. person or within the United States would be prohibited.

QAIS AL-KHAZALI and LAITH AL-KHAZALI

Qais al-Khazali is Secretary General of the Iran-backed Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) militia in Iraq.  During the late 2019 protests in many cities in Iraq, AAH has opened fire on and killed protesters.  Laith al-Khazali, Qais al-Khazali’s brother, is also a leader of AAH.  Qais al-Khazali was part of a committee of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) proxies that approved the use of lethal violence against protesters for the purpose of public intimidation.

In Diyala Province, Iraq, AAH has been involved in widespread forced disappearances, abductions, killings, and torture, targeting Sunni Iraqis with impunity.  In late 2015, Laith al-Khazali controlled efforts to remove Sunnis from areas of Diyala Province, including killings to drive Sunnis from the area.

Additionally, Qais and Laith al-Khazali had leading roles in a January 2007 attack on an Iraqi government compound in Karbala.  The attack killed five U.S. soldiers and wounded three.

Qais al-Khazali is designated for being a foreign person who is 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 his tenure.

Laith al-Khazali is designated for being a foreign person who is responsible for, is complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in serious human rights abuse.

The IRGC-QF, designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 on October 25, 2007, is a branch of the IRGC responsible for external operations and has provided material support to numerous terrorist groups, making it a key component of Iran’s destabilizing regional activities.  The IRGC-QF’s parent organization, the IRGC, was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 on October 13, 2017, and on April 15, 2019 was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the Secretary of State.

HUSAYN FALIH ‘AZIZ AL-LAMI

Husayn Falih ‘Aziz al-Lami (al-Lami) is an Iran-backed militia leader, tasked by other senior militia commanders with suppressing the late 2019 protests in Iraq.  Al-Lami was part of a committee of IRGC-QF proxies that approved the use of lethal violence against protesters for the purpose of public intimidation.  In late 2019, al-Lami was responsible for ordering the assassinations and suppression of protesters in Baghdad.  Al-Lami directed militia fighters who shot protesters in early October 2019, a time when dozens of protesters were killed.

Al-Lami is designated for being a foreign person who is responsible for, is complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in serious human rights abuse.

KHAMIS FARHAN AL-KHANJAR AL-ISSAWI

Khamis Farhan al-Khanjar al-Issawi (al-Khanjar) is an Iraqi businessman and millionaire who enjoys significant power on a regional and international level.  According to a former senior Iraqi government official, al-Khanjar’s influence has been mostly due to his willingness and ability to use his wealth to bribe others.  Al-Khanjar has reportedly planned to spend millions of dollars in payments to Iraqi political figures in order to secure their support.

Al-Khanjar is designated for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, 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.

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 and severity 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

Information on the individuals designated today.

(Source: OFAC)

By John Lee.

The US has granted Iraq another 120-day waiver from its sanctions on Iran.

According to S&P Global, a State Department spokesman said the waiver ensures that Iraq is able to meet its short-term energy needs while it takes steps to reduce its dependence on Iranian energy imports.

(Source: S&P Global)

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)