By John Lee.

Iraq’s Cabinet of Ministers has approved a loan agreement between the Federal Ministry of Finance, Standard Chartered Bank and the German Deutsche Bank for the purpose of financing the construction of 13 secondary substations (132) kV, and the supply of 35 high voltage transformers with the German company, Siemens, for the Ministry of Electricity.

The Cabinet also approved the recommendation of the Ministerial Council on Energy to expand Bismayah power plant.

(Source: Government of Iraq)

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) was delighted to host H.E. Dr Abdullah Luaibi the Iraqi Minister of Transport in London today.

The Minister, accompanied by a delegation of officials, was on a 4 day official visit to the United Kingdom organised by the Department of International Trade.

His visit included meetings with IBBC Members Rolls-Royce and Serco, and a number of bilateral meetings with the British Government. UK companies play a leading role in aviation in Iraq and the Ministers visit cemented the existing ties while exploring new ventures.

By courtesy of Brigadier James Ellery and thanks to the generous sponsorship of Vitol, IBBC was fortunate to offer the Minister and his delegation Lunch together with about 20 IBBC Members and guests at the Cavalry and Guards Club on Piccadilly.

Members in attendance included representatives of Serco, Zaha Hadid Architects, Menzies Aviation, G4S, Al Burhan Group, Basra Gateway Terminal, HWH & Associate, Eversheds Sutherland, Stirling Education and Constellis.

Delegates at the Lunch were addressed by Baroness Nicholson, IBBC President and the Prime Ministers Trade Envoy for Iraq, and of course the Minister who expressed his great satisfaction about his visit and working so closely with the UK Government, UK businesses and the IBBC.

He also made it clear that establishing regular direct return flights between London and Baghdad was one of his top priorities and that he was looking at upgrading some of the major Iraqi transport infrastructure during his tenure.

IBBC’s Managing Director Christophe Michels commented:

Minister Luaibi has been a staunch supporter of IBBC members in Iraq over some years now, first as Deputy Minister and now as Minister. His office door in Baghdad is always open to us and I am pleased to say that UK companies lead the way in airport security, ground handling and air traffic control.

“Now we are looking forward for Rolls-Royce to work with Iraqi Airways and for one of the great UK architects and design companies to work on an new airport project in country.

For more information on the Iraq Britain Business Council, visit

(Source: IBBC)

By John Lee.

The British Museum has handed over of an important collection of 156 cuneiform tablets to the Government of Iraq.

This is the largest such group to be seized in the UK and returned to Iraq. They are Mesopotamian texts written on clay in cuneiform script and were incorrectly declared on entry to the UK in February 2011. After an investigation by HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service, they were identified and seized from a freight forwarder, near Heathrow Airport, in June 2013. Now they are being returned to Iraq through the British Museum.

An important part of the British Museum’s work on cultural heritage involves the partnership with law enforcement agencies on illicit trade being brought into the UK. Objects that are seized are brought to the British Museum for analysis, conservation and cataloguing. The Museum then liaises with colleagues in the national museums of the countries concerned to arrange the return of these objects.

An important collection of cuneiform tablets

The tablets range in date from the mid-third millennium BC to the Achaemenid period (sixth-fourth centuries BC). The earliest are Sumerian Early Dynastic administrative tablets and the latest are dated to the reigns of Darius I and Artaxerxes I or II but most date to the period between 2100 and 1800 BC and belong to the Ur III and Old Babylonian dynasties. Some carry cylinder seal impressions and some are still enclosed in their clay envelopes.

The documents are mostly economic documents but also include letters, legal and school texts and a mathematical text. Some of the third millennium BC tablets may be from Umma and some Old Babylonian texts come from Larsa, but many belong to administrative archives coming from a place called Irisagrig. This city was unknown until tablets referring to it surfaced on the art market in 2003 when the site – like many others in southern Iraq – must have been heavily looted in the immediate aftermath of the American-led invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of the Saddam-led government. All of these tablets will be returned to the Iraq Museum which is part of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage of Iraq.

Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum said:

“The British Museum is absolutely committed to the fight against illicit trade and damage to cultural heritage. This is an issue which concerns us all. I am delighted that we are able to assist in the return of these important objects to Iraq, via the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in London. It is a symbol of the very strong working relationships we have with our Iraqi colleagues and developed over many years”.

The Directorate General of Museums of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage in Iraq said:

“We highly appreciate the initiative by the British Museum in restoring stolen artefacts from Iraq and we look forward to further collaboration in supporting and protecting Iraq’s heritage”.

Dr Saleh Altamimi, Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq, expressed his gratitude to the British Museum, the Metropolitan Police, HMRC and Border Force for all of their work on this and previous cases and added:

“We are grateful today for the cooperation from the British authorities in returning an important collection of 156 cuneiform tablets. The protection of Iraqi heritage is the responsibility of the international society which we hope to continue for future generations”.

Rebecca Pow, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism said:

“The UK is a world leader in the protection of cultural heritage both at home and abroad, and our work in tackling the illicit trade of artefacts is a key part of this. Thanks to the combined efforts of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service and the British Museum, we are able to return these important cuneiform tablets to the collection of the Iraq Museum where they rightly belong.”

(Source: British Museum)

(Image copyright: Trustees of the British Museum)

University College London (UCL)‘s Research Grants Scheme has re-opened to applications.

This final round of funding will offer funding of up to £30,000 for successful projects. Deadline 23:59 15 November 2019

The awards

These awards support interdisciplinary research on themes relating to one or more of the Nahrein Network’s five aims. The final call, with deadline 15 November 2019, has now opened.

During the final round we will offer only one type of funding:

Small grants of up to £30,000 (FEC) for projects led by Iraqi, Lebanese or Turkish researchers, or collaborations between them and UK researchers.

Please note that all funded projects must end by December 2020.

Who can apply?

We invite applications from postdoctoral researchers (or equivalent) who are employed by, or have an official connection with:

  • EITHER a Iraqi, Lebanese, Turkish or UK Higher Education Institution (i.e., a university or similar organisation)
  • OR a non-academic organisation (e.g. cultural heritage organisation, NGO, community group) in the UK or Iraq, Lebanon or Turkey with a demonstrated capacity to conduct research.

Applications must be led by an Iraqi, Lebanese or Turkish researcher and do not need UK collaborators.

The applications deadline is 23:59 on 15 November 2019.

 More here.

(Source: UCL)

By John Lee.

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace met with his Iraqi counterpart, His Excellency Najah al-Shammari, signing a Memorandum of Understanding.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:

“The work our personnel are doing in Iraq to help them combat the scourge of terrorism is absolutely vital. Not only are we making a valued international partner more self-sufficient for the future, but we are also keeping our own streets safer by suppressing the spread of Daesh’s evil ideology.

“However, we are under no illusions and fully recognise that the threat from Daesh and al-Qaeda is still very real. This document is a signal of our commitment to continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Iraq until that danger has been diminished, and also to form a longer-term defence relationship.”

The UK currently has around 500 British personnel in Iraq, training and developing the skills and knowledge of local forces, as they deal with the ongoing insurgent threat from Daesh and other terrorist groups.

The deal signed today focuses on military education, while also confirming that the UK will work alongside Iraqi Security Forces to develop their intelligence structures and provide wider training and development.

In addition to targeting Daesh with airstrikes over Iraq and Syria, the UK has currently trained more than 103,000 Iraqi forces in infantry and weapons maintenance, counter IED, medical and engineering skills. This has already saved countless lives and is contributing to recent successful operations.

(Source: UK Ministry of Defence)

By John Lee.

Scottish-based engineering firm Wood Group plc has said that its operations in Iraq will see increased activity.

In its half-year results for the six months ended 30 June 2019, the company said:

“Growth in 2019 will be led by Operations Solutions, where we expect increased activity in Iraq with customers including Basra Gas, and in Papua New Guinea and Australia with Exxon.”

The company combined with Amec Foster Wheeler in 2017.

(Source: Wood Group)

By John Lee.

A Scottish sweet manufacturer is reportedly seeing sales of its fudge and toffee surge in Iraqi Kurdistan.

According to a BBC report, Golden Casket linked up with Sulaymaniyah-based businessman Farhad Haseb to sell the confectionery to upmarket stores in Erbil and Dohuk, as well as other towns and cities in the region.

The holiday of Eid al-Adha has proved to be a strong driver of sales for the business, with Iraq now being Golden Casket’s third biggest export market, after America and Ireland.

More here.

(Source: BBC)

By John Lee.

Iraq is reported to be close to reaching a deal with BP and Eni for an export pipeline project.

Al Jazeera quotes senior Iraqi oil officials as saying that the project was initially planned as part of a “megadeal” with ExxonMobil.

They said that under the proposed $400-million agreement, BP and Eni would build two seabed oil pipelines for Iraq’s southern exports through the Gulf.

(Source: Al Jazeera)

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By John Lee.

Iraq and Kuwait have selected British energy advisory firm ERC Equipoise (ERCE) to prepare a study on the development of shared border oilfields.

Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said a contract would be concluded in the coming days with the company, which was chosen from a list of four candidates.

ERCE is a specialist in oil and gas reservoir evaluation.

The study will include the reservoirs of Ratqa/Rumaila and Safwan-Abdali.

(Source: Ministry of Oil)