The victory of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s party in Iraq’s recent election has put the United States in a wait-and-see position, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told reporters yesterday in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The secretary was in Colorado to preside at the change-of-command ceremony for North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command.

“History tells us that all wars eventually end, and the decisions you take following a war — comparing the United States leadership after World War II, versus what came out of Versailles after World War I — can set the conditions for the future,” the secretary said, adding that in this case, the United States must first see who is going to be the prime minister, because no party or coalition won enough to govern Iraq on its own.

After World War II

“First, all wars eventually come to an end. By 1948, ’49, after the vicious World War II, the Pacific Island Campaign was as vicious a fighting between two nations that’s ever been in history,” Mattis said. “We all know what Germany did during World War II with death camps [and] with invasions across Europe.”

And yet, by 1948 and 1949, he said, “we were standing up NATO to defend Western Europe, and we were working with Germany.”

“The Marshall Plan was underway,” Mattis said. “We were [also] working with Japan.” Germany and Japan now are U.S. treaty allies, he noted.

Mattis pointed out that despite the rout of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, some terrorists remain in Iraq. “But it was interesting, wasn’t it, that in the midst of everything going on next door in Syria, having recently destroyed the ISIS strongholds in Iraq – they are still isolated cells of them, of course,” the secretary said.

A Responsive Government

The secretary reiterated the United States will have to see whether the new Iraqi leaders form a responsive government.

Mattis noted the Marshall Plan was met with initial skepticism.

“People in 1944 were told basically in five years we’ll be serving alongside German troops and sending locomotives and railroad tracks to Germany,” he said. “We would have laughed in your face, said that’s not going to happen; this is a war to the death. Damn near lost.”

But that’s exactly what we did, he noted.

“So wars rub the veneer off all of us and leave the passions really exposed, and now it’s time for strategic thinking, for looking to the future, and determining how the Iraqi people can dictate their future,” the secretary said, “not external threats from Iran, not money from Iran, not internal threats from ISIS or other terrorists.

“This is between our two governments, and we’ll see what government they end up with,” Mattis said. “So we’ll play that forward. It’s too early to tell.”

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

Coalition Trainers in Iraq Helping ‘Make a Good Force Better’

The coalition training effort in Iraq is all about “making a good force better,” said Italian army Brig. Gen. Roberto Vannacci, the deputy commanding general for training for Operation Inherent Resolve’s Joint Forces Land Component Command in Iraq.

Iraqi security forces continue to press the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria by rooting out and destroying pockets of ISIS terrorists in the country. From the nadir when ISIS was knocking on the gates of Baghdad, Iraqi forces have taken on the terror group and liberated almost all of the territory the group once held.

The trainers of the coalition’s Operation Inherent Resolve gave Iraqi security forces the training they needed to expel the violent extremist group, Vannacci said during a video teleconference from Baghdad to reporters in the Pentagon.

“By all measures, the Iraqi security forces have already proven that they are more than ready and capable of securing the country,” Vannacci said. “On May the 12th, Iraq’s first national election since the rise of ISIS was held peacefully despite repeated warnings from ISIS of their intent to use violence to discourage Iraqis from voting. This is mostly thanks to the training and preparations conducted by Iraqi security forces to ensure that all Iraqis were able to exercise their right to vote free from fear of harm.”

Vannacci said the coalition continues the mission to train and equip Iraqi security forces, to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS, and to set the conditions for full-on stabilization efforts.

“To date, more than 150,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained across multiple locations in Iraq,” the general said.

That training runs the gamut from full-on combat to policing to stabilization, he said.

Demining, Lifesaver Training

In addition to basic combat skills, the coalition trainers have also stressed demining operations and combat lifesaver training. “In Western Baghdad, more than 25,000 police and border guard personnel have been trained in law enforcement and border security procedures,” Vannacci said.

And, more than 18,000 members of Iraq’s elite counterterrorism force received coalition training, the general said.

The coalition also trains and equips the Iraqi air force, Vannacci said. This, he said, includes training Iraqis to fly and maintain their aircraft.

Training the Iraqi forces is a multinational effort, the general said. “Australian forces in Taji and Spanish forces in Bismayah are training ground troops,” Vannacci said. “In the Kurdish region and in western Baghdad, Italian personnel are training army and police forces. Also, German forces are providing training in the Kurdish region while Danish forces are leading the training in Al Asad Air Base.”

The coalition has also provided Iraqi forces with more than $2 billion in equipment, the general said.

Providing Equipment

“Seventeen Iraqi army brigades have been provided with initial equipment sets, including personal equipment, small arms, ammunition, around 1,000 nontactical vehicles and over 1,100 armored vehicles,” Vannacci said.

Efforts to train police and border guards continue apace with the coalition providing additional equipment to around 20 federal police and border force brigades, including provisioning more than 180 prefabricated, border guard and police presence infrastructure since the beginning of 2018, he said.

The coalition has also provided more than 400 explosive detection and demining kits to assist in the detection and removal of improvised explosive devices, Vannacci said.

Iraqi security forces have shown their worth as part of the coalition by conducting strikes in Syria, where they targeted ISIS activity designed to export violence, the general said.

“The hard-fought victories in Ramadi, Mosul and Tel Afar prove that the Iraqi security forces have always been capable of fighting for the freedom of all Iraqis,” Vannacci said. “The coalition’s goal is simply to make a good force better and to enhance to capability of the Iraqi security forces to ensure Iraq’s lasting peace and security. By all measures, they are well on their way.”

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has brought further charges against two individuals facing trial in relation to the Unaoil investigation.

Basil Al Jarah and Ziad Akle have both been charged with conspiracy to give corrupt payments to secure the award of a contract worth US$733 million to Leighton Contractors Singapore PTE Ltd for a project to build two oil pipelines in southern Iraq.

  • Basil Al Jarah was charged on 15 May 2018 with two offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments, contrary to section (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977.
  • Ziad Akle was charged on 16 May 2018 with one offence of conspiracy to give corrupt payments, contrary to section (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977.

Basil Al Jarah and Ziad Akle will appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 23 May 2018.

The SFO would like to thank the Australian Federal Police for the assistance it provided in connection with our investigation.

The investigation is ongoing.

(Source: SFO)

Iraq Duty Free has responded to allegations regarding the renewal of its contract to run the duty free concessions at Baghdad and Basra airports in Iraq.

According to the statement from its CEO, Ahmed Kamal, the owner of company has not been convicted of “any crime of punishment that deprives the freedom in Iraq.”

His response is carried in full below:

Iraq Duty Free strongly refutes all such allegations regarding the contract renewal which have been aired on Al Ahad channel. The contract between Iraq Duty Free and Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority has passed through a number of legal and regulatory authorities before concluding it. It was approved by Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority and then further endorsed by Ministery of Transportation. So all allegations by Al Ahad channel regarding the contract renewal are baseless and these allegations are aimed to tarnish our reputation and business goodwill. What was published about us in Al Ahad Channel is flagrantly untrue, and we have requested the channel to show evidence and documents of what it has stated; or else the right of reply is assured for us by law.

As for what your website has reported about the Al Ahad Channel and what was published about our company, we would like to indicate to you and all observers that businesses in Iraq have been encountering many challenges and every day false accusations are being published here and there and the last of which is what was aired about us in Al Ahad Channel which is baseless and defamatory act targeted on a business which has employed hundreds, if not thousands, of Iraqis and is one of the major employers in Iraq. We not only bring a pleasant shopping experience to Iraq but also we bring world best brands for Iraqi travelers. As a responsible corporate citizen, Iraq Duty Free is regularly contributing its resources for the welfare of Iraqi people.

We inform you that our company has a contract of leasing Iraqi duty free shops, which was entered into with relevant parties under the supervision of the Ministry of Transportation, and our company has not lagged behind in implementing the provisions prescribed in the contract, as it is an investment contract and cost us millions of dollars in order to develop and modernize the free duty shops, showrooms and some works related to Baghdad International Airport in terms of modernization, reconstruction and development, and there is no legal impediment to prevent renewing the contract even before its expiry; rather both contracted parties are entitled by law to do that with mutual consent.

Regarding what is said on website about the owner of company, we would like to tell you that the owner of company is an Iraqi National and not convicted of any crime of punishment that deprives the freedom in Iraq; furthermore, there is no text or law that prevents him from contracting inside Iraq, requesting your esteemed website kindly to investigate the facts before publication, as the bad information could commercially affect the company’s reputation, especially that our company is of the leading companies in Iraq.

We would request Iraq Business News to not pick the defamatory news spread by Al Ahad channel. If Al Ahad Channel has any evidence or legal documents that confirm what is published about us, we request them to announce it before slandering it on media.

(Picture: Duty free, from asiandelight/Shutterstock)

By John Lee.

Five suspected members of an organized crime ring that was smuggling stolen cars into Iraq have reportedly been arrested in Turkey.

Police detained three members of the gang, one of them a Greek national, at a customs office in Istanbul after they cleared a luxury Jaguar through customs.

They later detained a Turkish national and the Iraqi leader of the group in a raid on a villa, also confiscating Mercedes SUV and $55,000 in cash.

According to Hurriyet Daily News, the two cars will be returned to their owners in Germany.

It adds that the leader of the is understood to be a prominent figure in Iraq’s automobile market, owning many auto galleries in the country.

(Source: Hurriyet Daily News)

(Picture: Smuggling, from dizain/Shutterstock)

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has welcomed a contribution of AUD 11 million (USD 8.6 million) from the Government of Australia dedicated to explosive hazard management in support of humanitarian and stabilization efforts.

Approximately 2.1 million civilians are still displaced due to the recent conflict and unsafe conditions to allow their return. A nation-wide intentions survey was carried out by REACH in partnership with the Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster in internally displaced person (IDP) camps between 12 December 2017 and 14 January 2018 highlighted that 52% of people interviewed were not planning to return home.

Of the 52% that will not return, 21% stated this was due to the possible presence of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and unexploded ordnance. In effect, 1 in 10 IDPs in the camps surveyed who are not leaving the camp are not returning home because of the fear of explosive hazard contamination in or nearby their homes.

The Government of Iraq maintains explosive hazard management capacities within a number of government entities and established mine action authorities, though the demand for assistance far exceeds the resources available.

With the three-year contribution from Australia, UNMAS will conduct survey and clearance of liberated areas suspected to be affected by explosive hazards. This is in direct support of the Government priorities as outlined in the Directorate for Mine Action (DMA) “National Strategic and Executive Plan for Mine Action for 2017-2021” which highlights DMA’s aim to be able to survey, mark and render safe 50% of known explosive hazard contamination by 2021.

Simultaneously, in collaboration with DMA, risk education will be provided to those living in and returning to liberated areas, directly mitigating the threat posed by explosive hazards and IEDs. The efforts will specifically target affected communities known or suspected to have an explosive hazard or IED threat.

The Australian Ambassador to Iraq, Dr. Joanne Loundes (pictured) said:

“Australia is proud to partner with UNMAS and provide AUD11 million over three years towards critical demining activities in Iraq. Even though Iraqi territory has been liberated from ISIL, explosives remain hidden in homes, schools, hospitals and roads in former ISIL controlled areas. Unless these areas are cleared, people cannot return home, stabilisation and reconstruction efforts will stall and the human toll from this devastating conflict will continue.”

Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Senior Programme Manager, added:

“Through this generous contribution, the Government of Australia will further enable UNMAS to respond to explosive hazards through survey and clearance and in turn enable safe and dignified returns.”

(Source: UN)

GardaWorld, a global leader in comprehensive security and risk management, has made its weekly security report available to Iraq Business News readers.

Prepared by GardaWorld’s Risk Analysis Team in Iraq, this essential report includes short- and medium-term outlooks on the security situation, reports and commentary on recent significant events, and a detailed overview of developments across the country.

Please click here to download the latest report free of charge.

For more information on how GardaWorld’s services can support your business in Iraq, please contact Daniel Matthews, Senior Director Iraq, at daniel.matthews@garda.com

By John Lee.

The alliance headed by former Shia militia chief Moqtada al-Sadr has won the parliamentary election.

But according to BBC News, Sadr cannot become prime minister as he did not stand as a candidate.

He is, however, expected to play a key role in forming the new government. Sadr is strongly opposed to Iranian and US involvement in the country.

The party of outgoing PM Haider al-Abadi was pushed into third place, behind a pro-Iranian alliance led by Hadi al-Amiri.

More here and here.

(Source: BBC, Reuters)

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on the Governor and a senior official of the Central Bank of Iran, an Iraq-based bank and its chairman, and a key Hizballah official, all of whom have moved millions of dollars on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to Hizballah.

They were designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.

“Iran’s Central Bank Governor covertly funneled millions of dollars on behalf of the IRGC-QF through Iraq-based al-Bilad Islamic Bank to enrich and support the violent and radical agenda of Hizballah.  It is appalling, but not surprising, that Iran’s senior-most banking official would conspire with the IRGC-QF to facilitate funding of terror groups like Hizballah, and it undermines any credibility he could claim in protecting the integrity of the institution as a central bank governor,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

“The United States will not permit Iran’s increasingly brazen abuse of the international financial system.  The global community must remain vigilant against Iran’s deceptive efforts to provide financial support to its terrorist proxies.”

Today’s action cuts off Iran’s use of a critical banking network and follows last Thursday’s disruption of an IRGC-QF-associated currency exchange network procuring millions of dollars through the UAE.  Both actions seek to stifle Iran’s ability to abuse the U.S. and regional financial systems.  These actions continue the aggressive campaign against the IRGC and its proxies that the Treasury Department has led under this Administration.

These actions build upon President Trump’s May 8 decision to cease the United States’ participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and begin reimposing U.S. sanctions that had been lifted under the JCPOA, including against the Central Bank of Iran.

The IRGC-QF was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 on October 25, 2007.  The IRGC-QF’s parent organization, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) itself was also designated on October 13, 2017 pursuant to E.O. 13224 for its support to the IRGC-QF, and consistent with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

Hizballah was designated by the Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in October 1997 and as an SDGT pursuant to E.O. 13224 in October 2001.  It was listed in January 1995 in the Annex to E.O. 12947, which targets terrorists who threaten to disrupt the Middle East peace process, and also designated in August 2012 pursuant to E.O. 13582, which targets the Government of Syria and its supporters.

Iran’s Central Bank Governor and a Senior Staff Officer

OFAC is designating Valiollah Seif, Iran’s Central Bank Governor, for assisting, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, the IRGC-QF.  Seif has conspired with the IRGC-QF to move millions of dollars through the international financial system in a variety of foreign currencies to allow the IRGC­QF to fund its activities abroad.  Seif has also supported the transfer of IRGC-QF-associated funds to al-Bilad Islamic Bank, an Iraq-based bank which is also being designated today.

OFAC also is designating Ali Tarzali, the assistant director of the International Department at the Central Bank of Iran, for assisting, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, the IRGC-QF.  Tarzali has worked with Hizballah and proposed that the terrorist group send funds through Iraq-based al-Bilad Islamic Bank.

As a result of today’s actions, Veifollah Seif and Ali Tarzali are subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to the Iranian Financial Sanctions Regulations (IFSR), which implement, among other authorities, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA).  Pursuant to the IFSR, OFAC can prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for designated agents or affiliates of the IRGC or persons designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 in connection with Iran’s support for international terrorism or E.O. 13382 in connection with Iran’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

Today’s designations of Valiollah Seif, Iran’s Central Bank Governor, and Ali Tarzali, assistant director of the International Department at the Central Bank of Iran, do not extend to the Central Bank of Iran.  However, due to President Trump’s May 8, 2018 decision to cease the United States’ participation in the JCPOA, as of August 7, 2018, the United States Government will re-impose sanctions that extend to certain transactions with the Central Bank of Iran, including sanctions on the purchase or acquisition of U.S. dollars banknotes by the Government of Iran.  Furthermore, on November 5, 2018, additional sanctions will be re-imposed on persons knowingly engaging in certain significant transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.

Al-Bilad Islamic Bank and Its Chairman and Chief Executive

OFAC is designating Aras Habib, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Al-Bilad Islamic Bank, for assisting, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, the IRGC-QF.  Aras Habib enabled the IRGC-QF’s exploitation of Iraq’s banking sector to move funds from Tehran to Hizballah, jeopardizing the integrity of the Iraqi financial system.  Habib, who has a history of serving as a conduit for financial disbursements from the IRGC-QF to Iranian-backed Iraqi groups, has also helped provide IRGC-QF financial support to Lebanese Hizballah.  Al-Bilad Islamic Bank is being designated for being owned or controlled by Aras Habib.

As a result of today’s actions, Aras Habib and Al-Bilad Bank are subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to the IFSR, which implement, among other authorities, CISADA.  Pursuant to the IFSR, OFAC can prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for designated agents or affiliates of the IRGC or persons designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 in connection with Iran’s support for international terrorism or E.O. 13382 in connection with Iran’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

Hizballah Official Working with IRGC-QF

OFAC is designating Muhammad Qasir (Qasir) for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.  Qasir acted as a critical conduit for financial disbursements from the IRGC-QF to Hizballah.  Qasir has worked with the IRGC-QF to transfer funds.

Qasir is subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations, which implements the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015.  Pursuant to this authority, OFAC can prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for Hizballah, or a person acting on behalf of or at the direction of, or owned or controlled by, Hizballah.

Identifying information on the individuals and entities designated today.

(Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury)

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Human Rights Office (HRO) organized a training course in Dohuk for human rights activists and staff members of NGOs working in the field of human rights in Dohuk Governorate.

The training course, entitled “Strengthening Human Rights Monitoring and Documentation Skills,” was part of a series of activities the HRO is running to support civil society organizations and regional institutions for protecting and promoting human rights in the Kurdistan Region.

The training course focused on deepening participants’ understanding on key principles, legal frameworks and core skills including fact-finding missions, interviewing, and report-writing. Sessions were provided by United Nations human rights professionals.

Representatives of 25 NGOs (10 women and 15 men) from Dohuk city and surrounding areas participated in the training.

Mr. Zito Siany, the Human Rights Officer of HRO, stated that the training is part of the HRO program aimed supporting the NGOs in Dohuk and other KR districts to build their staff members’ capacities in monitoring and documenting violations of human rights.

Participant Twana Othman, from the National Center for Human Rights (NCHR), noted that the training assisted him in acquiring knowledge about human rights monitoring principles along with his involvement in prison monitoring and holding interviews with detainees.

Mr. Othman further explained:

“Through this training I have learned the appropriate methods of preparing for and conducting interviews with the victims and have gained substantial knowledge regarding the state’s obligations towards the ratified international human rights treaties, and how to make the best use of United Nations Human Rights Conventional and Unconventional Mechanisms to protect and promote human rights.”

(Source: UN)

(Picture: Human rights, from igorstevanovic/Shutterstock)