US-based Textron Aviation Defense has been awarded a $15,350,000 contract for continued support for the completion of the reconstitution of 15 T-6A aircraft.

This modification provides for a schedule extension to complete the reconstitution of 15 T-6A aircraft and procure cartridge actuated devices and propellant actuated devices. Work will be performed at Imam Ali Air Base, Iraq, and is expected to be complete by July 31, 2019.

This modification involves 100 percent foreign military sales to Iraq, and brings the total cumulative face value of the contract to $35,338,422. Foreign military sales funds in the full amount are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Training Aircraft Division, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

By Robert Cole, for the AMAR International Charitable Foundation.

The AMAR-led initiative to bring to an end the horrors of religious persecution, which began with a series of high-level conferences in Windsor Castle, has now led to Baghdad.

The November event, held over two days in the Iraqi capital, attracted more than 200 delegates, including senior religious leaders and politicians. There were representatives from the Shia and Sunni community, Yazidis, Christians, Mandaeans, Chaldeans and Mormons.

AMAR’s chairman, Baroness Nicholson (centre right), and delegates.

It was the fourth in the Windsor series. AMAR believes that the recognition of the Yazidi faith by other world religions would prevent further genocidal attacks on this peaceful people once and for all.

In the summer of 2014, thousands of Yazidis were killed, and thousands more women and girls kidnapped, held as sex slaves by ISIS gangs. A further 400,000 were forced from their homes and condemned to a miserable life in the sprawling IDP camps of northern Iraq.

“AMAR is determined to end once and for all the dreadful scourge of religious persecution. We began by inviting many highly influential religious leaders and academics to Windsor Castle to discuss how best to achieve this, and over three separate meetings, we drew up a comprehensive and extensive plan,” explained Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, the AMAR Chairman and Founder.

She added: “The next step was to take this right to the heart of the Middle East, to a region that was the cradle of modern civilisation, one with a rich and diverse history, but a region where there has been so much religious and ethnic strife over the last few decades.”

The Baroness said it was vital that the Windsor plan got massive worldwide support. Gaining the backing of faith leaders in Iraq was the first step to getting this.

And support it they did. Speaker after speaker condemned the curse of religious discrimination. Television news crews spoke during breaks to leaders of every faith, and each time were told in no uncertain terms that murdering, raping, kidnapping and torturing in the name of god was an anathema and had no part in their religion.

A delegate listens to the speakers.

A leading Muslim academic and researcher, Dr Lahaye Abdul Hussein, said the conference was invaluable because its messages would help reduce tension between faith groups. She said Iraqis were beginning to understand the destructive nature of religious intolerance.

Dr Wathik Al Hashmi, President of an Iraqi strategic studies group, said that if religious leaders always spoke the language of tolerance and anti-extremism they would “completely destroy” terrorism.

Father Maysr Binyami, a member of the Chaldean Catholic Church, said the conference would help educate Iraqis on what needed to be done in order for the country to move forward.

“In order to fight extremism, it is critical that there should be tolerance towards different religions and societies,” he explained.

Reading the final communique to the packed hall, AMAR’s General Director in Iraq, Dr Ali Muthanna, said all were determined to discredit the Takfiri extremist ideology which sanctions violence against others in the name of religion, so that once and for all they could close the door on violence and extremism.

“Religious scholars of all faiths must take the lead in spreading a culture of tolerance and moderation, criticising extremist interpretations and misinterpretations of the religious texts used by the terrorist Takfiris and their followers.”

AMAR’s General Director in Iraq, Dr Ali Muthanna (centre), with delegates.

The delegates called on the new Iraqi leadership to “concentrates all efforts” on deepening the paths of co-existence and co-operation among all Iraqi citizens no matter what faith or ethnic origin.

This could be achieved by “building a society free from racism and sectarianism based on freedom of belief and opinion for all, renouncing all forms of violence and extremism and eliminating all forms of discrimination and hatred.”

The conference concluded that education was also invaluable in helping to spread the culture of tolerance and love and helping enshrine the values ​​of citizenship through the educational curricula.

Dr Ali continued: “We must empower women in our society, not only within their own families, but at work and in education. Women have a vital role to play in preventing violence and we must offer them legal and social protection to ensure they have a more active role in their communities.”

On the second day of the conference, delegates heard from three leading members of the Yazidi administrative council, and from a senior member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Elder Tony Perkins.

Elder Perkins pointed out that there were many similarities between the suffering experienced by members of the fledgling Mormon religion in the early 19th century and the Yazidis’ experiences today.

The Mormons were hounded out of many US States and had to flee further West each time, finally ending up in the desert of Utah where they eventually set up home. Along the way they faced extreme violence, threats and abuse. In the state of Missouri, they were even subjected to an “extermination order”.

Elder Perkins said they had overcome the relentless persecution of those early years and were now an extremely successful community with much influence not just in the United States but around the world.  This was an example that the Yazidis could take heart from and realise that there was a future beyond this recent dark period.

Members of the Yazidi panel took time to explain to the other religious leaders the suffering endured by their people at the hands of ISIS. Thousands murdered, kidnapped, tortured and enslaved.

More than 3,000 women and girls were still missing, the majority believed to be in Syria. Hundreds of thousands of others were still forced to live in IDP camps, uncertain of whether they can ever go home.

The Yazidis suggested that a way to keep their community safe was for the Iraqi government to create a new governorate exclusively for them in the Sinjar region. It would have its own police force, political leaders, courts and community centres.

In her closing remarks, Baroness Nicholson said so much physical violence comes from religious persecution and “violence leads to more violence. Violence does not make peace.”

She said she would be inviting those attending the conference to join the Windsor movement to pursue “the wonderful philosophy” contained in the first day’s final communique.

“I would suggest, for the Yazidis in particular, that we should be trying to assist their move from despair to success, from degradation to respect, from a hatred to a real human love for the other.”

The Baroness said it was all entirely possible. The Church of Jesus Christ the Latter Day Saints had shown that very clearly. “There is a map, a plan, that can be followed.”

(Source: AMAR)

Empowering women in Iraq through Gender Equality Tool Seal

Gender mainstreaming is the cornerstone of development and peacebuilding, it occupied a very important part in SDGs and Agenda 2030. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had developed an assessment tool to track gender equality in the public institutions, in order to create a baseline and to prioritize the work for the coming years.

This tool is divided into six parts related to tracking progress on gender equality goals: Framework, capacities, enabling environment, partnership and engagement, laws, policies and programmes and results and impact.

A workshop was held on Public Sector Gender Equality Seal in Dec. 2018, in addition to two consultations meetings with the Women Empowerment Directorate in the General Secretariat for the Council of Ministries and the Ministry of Planning (MoP), to choose the public institutions which will be assessed.

As a result, the Women Empowerment Directorate was chosen as an implementer for the Gender Equality Tool, due to its mandate in empowering women in Iraq, and for being the umbrella for gender units and departments all over the ministries, which can be used to implement the tool.

Deputy Minister of Planning, Dr. Maher Johan, stressed the importance to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 agenda, particularly SDG 5 which states on achieving gender equality and empowering women, and SDG 16 which states on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, and also agreed on selecting MoP as a sample.

UNDP in cooperation with Women Empowerment Directorate and MoP conducted a workshop on 7th Jan. 2019 in Baghdad, attended by 39 representatives from the gender units of line ministries. The workshop presented the Tool of Gender Equality Seal in order to enhance the capacities of Women Empowerment Department to implement the tool in Public Sector, and discussed the important of Gender Statistics as well as it presented the gender mainstreaming into the national development plans and strategies.

It was mentioned by the Deputy Country Director Mr. Vakhtang Svanidze that:

“UNDP chose Iraq to be part in this pilot as we believe that the Government of Iraq had taken critical steps towards gender equality and women empowerment in different levels, in additional to its efforts to implement the sustainable development goals and leaving no one behind. This pilot is an opportunity for Iraq to share its work globally, and advance gender participation within public-sector institutions”.

This workshop was part of the efforts to integrate SDG 5 into policies and plans, UNDP cooperation with gender units on the Gender Equality Seal Tool which has been developed by UNDP to measure Gender Mainstreaming within institutions will create solid working places.

Gender mainstreaming is considered as one of the main pillars of the mandate of gender departments, in coordination and follow up with gender units and departments within Iraqi’s ministries and provinces. this tool will be the bedrock for true and genuine work to empower women in Iraq.

(Source: UNDP)

Iran’s Top General Unveils Plan for Air Defense Cooperation with Iraq

Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri said Tehran and Baghdad have agreed to launch air defense cooperation to combat possible threats to Iran’s western border.

Briefing reporters on the results of a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart in Tehran, Major General Baqeri said Iran and Iraq have warm relations in military areas.

“Iran and Iraq have deep commonalities. Our relations with Iraq are different from those with other countries because Iran and Iraq enjoy common interests and are exposed to common threats,” IFP quoted him as saying.

The general then referred to the great number of Iranian religious tourists visiting Iraq each year, noting that the militaries of the two sides need to establish further cooperation to preserve regional security and achieve their common goals.

He also pointed to his recent visit to Damascus for a trilateral meeting with his Iraqi and Syrian counterparts on regional security, adding that during the meeting, he held some discussions on military cooperation between the three countries.

“And during my meeting with Iraqi commander in Tehran, we discussed border issues. Meanwhile, based on an agreement reached by two sides’ high-ranking officials, Iran and Iraq are set to dredge the Arvand river in the near future. The security of the project is expected to be provided by the two sides’ militaries. We also exchanged views on Iran and Iraq cooperation in the river to strengthen the Persian Gulf’s security,” he said.

Elsewhere, the top general said during the meeting, he also urged reopening of the Khosravi border checkpoint for Iranian religious tourists.

“The Iraqi official promised to provide Iranian religious tourists with a safe road through Diyala province and reopen the Khosravi border checkpoint in the near future so that Iranian pilgrims could also travel to Syria through Iraq. The Iraqi side also expressed his country’s readiness to prepare the border routes. Meanwhile, the Syrian side has already announced its readiness to take part in the project,” Baqeri said.

He further said that he and his Iraqi counterpart have discussed air defense cooperation between the two neighbors.

“We sense some air threats from our western borders. To cope with any potential attack, we feel that Iran and Iraq should establish air defense cooperation”, he added.

The brigadier general also referred to the presence of American forces in Iraq and said the Iraqi officials have ensured the Islamic Republic that they won’t participate in the US sanctions against Iran.

“So far, they have had good cooperation with Iran and the Iraqi commander ensured that his country would have more controls over US forces. He maintained that the US forces are stationed in Iraq for only training purposes,” Major General Baqeri said.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

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

The vote on a “nonbinding” draft law designed to phase out the offices of inspectors general took place March 9 in Iraq’s parliament.

The major differences between political blocs over the draft law resulted in adjournment of the discussion until the March 14 session. Following a second discussion and vote in parliament, this draft will turn into binding law.

In parallel to the draft law to phase out inspectors general offices, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced Jan. 29 a plan to fight rampant corruption, which includes the restructuring of the Supreme Anti-Corruption Council and 40 files on alleged corruption to be treated as a priority in the fight against financial and administrative corruption.

Click here to read the full story.

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

Cairo hosted a tripartite summit March 24, bringing together Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Jordanian King Abdullah II and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

The summit’s final communique underlined the importance of enhancing coordination between the three countries, and taking advantage of the potential offered by their geographical positions and common strategic and economic interests in order to combat terrorism and confront all those who support terrorist groups by funding, arming or providing safe havens and platforms, particularly in light of the victory Iraq has achieved against the Islamic State (IS).

Click here to read the full story.

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

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has welcomed an additional contribution of USD 1,625,000 from the Government of Japan to further mitigate the threat posed by explosive hazards in support of the provision, facilitation and enablement of humanitarian and stabilization support.

Japan has recently decided a new assistance package for Iraq amounting to USD 63 million, which includes this project as a contribution to explosive hazard management,” said His Excellency Mr. Naofumi Hashimoto (pictured), Ambassador of Japan to the Federal Republic of Iraq.

He reiterated Japan’s continued support for Iraq’s reconstruction efforts, notably through humanitarian and stabilization assistance to help displaced people return to their communities.

UNMAS, working in tandem with its implementing partners, continues to maintain a weighted presence in Iraq, especially in the areas liberated from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

This contribution from the Government of Japan will support UNMAS explosive hazard management activities in Iraq. UNMAS implements a strategic, comprehensive response to mitigate the risks posed by explosive hazards through three primary areas: explosive hazard management, capacity enhancement, and risk education.

This range of activities allows for a dynamic and adaptable approach covering clearance, enhancement of existing government resources, and engagement with communities to ensure a unified response to explosive hazards.

This contribution is complemented with a risk education event for internally displaced people (IDPs) sponsored by Japan, entitled “Safe Run”. Through interactive activities and a two-kilometre run for children of families residing in the camp, the event highlighted correct behaviors to adopt when encountering explosive hazards.

Mr. Katsumi Moriyasu, Consul of Japan in Erbil, talked to children in his speech at the event:

“It is my sincere hope that you keep yourselves fully cautious and protect yourselves, based upon the lessons you have learned today. You are assured that your parents, authorities, UNMAS, local and international communities continue to work closely toward a world without mines so that you, your sisters and brothers can attend school and play at outside fields, being free from getting victimized.”

Mr. Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Senior Programme Manager in Iraq, said:

“Significant explosive contamination remains uncleared throughout the liberated areas and pose a significant threat to all members of the affected communities, with children being especially vulnerable. Whether through direct explosive hazard management, or risk education initiatives such as this ‘Safe Run’, Japan’s generous contribution will go a long way in supporting humanitarian and stabilization efforts in the country.”

The Government of Japan is an essential contributor to UNMAS explosive hazards management activities in Iraq and has donated over USD 14.4 million since 2016.

(Source: UN)

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

Will Iraq lose its benefits from Shatt al-Arab River to Iran?

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Baghdad March 11 to endorse the two countries’ renewed commitment to the 1975 Algiers Agreement regarding the shared border of the Shatt al-Arab River. The agreement has sat idle for decades, as Iraq has attempted to evade what it sees as unfair terms.

However, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi last week signed a number of economic accords with the Iranian president that address the following issues: entry visas for citizens of both countries, raising the value of trade exchange, railway connections and demarcation of the water borders as per the Algiers Agreement, which was first signed when the shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was in power and Saddam Hussein was vice president.

But the recommitment to the agreement has sparked fears among media commentators, water resource specialists and political factions in Iraq that the country will lose out on benefits from the Shatt al-Arab.

Click here to read the full story.