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)

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)

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)

Iraq Business News has learned of claims that Iraq’s anti-corruption bodies are investigating the contract to operate the duty-free shops at Baghdad and Basra airports.

Early last year we reported that the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) and the Ministry of Transport had extended Iraq Duty Free‘s exclusive contract at the airports by ten years to 4th March 2029; the company has been running the stores since 2004.

According to a report from Al-Ahad TV, the total duration of the contract, and fact that it was extended two years before it was due to expire, are in breach of Iraqi law.

It goes on to state that Iraq Duty Free’s parent company, Financial Links, is owned by UK-citizen Ahmed Sarchil Kazzaz, who has a conviction for fraud in the United States in relation to the payment of bribes to help win contracts in Iraq.

IBN reported that Kazzaz and his business, Leadstay, were charged in 2012; he subsequently pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 months in prison and a substantial fine. This conviction would normally preclude contracting with any Iraqi government entity.

Iraq Duty Free has not yet responded to IBN’s request to comment.

(Picture: Duty free, from asiandelight/Shutterstock)

Iraq Business News has learned of claims that Iraq’s anti-corruption bodies are investigating the contract to operate the duty-free shops at Baghdad and Basra airports.

Early last year we reported that the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) and the Ministry of Transport had extended Iraq Duty Free‘s exclusive contract at the airports by ten years to 4th March 2029; the company has been running the stores since 2004.

According to a report from Al-Ahad TV, the total duration of the contract, and fact that it was extended two years before it was due to expire, are in breach of Iraqi law.

It goes on to state that Iraq Duty Free’s parent company, Financial Links, is owned by UK-citizen Ahmed Sarchil Kazzaz, who has a conviction for fraud in the United States in relation to the payment of bribes to help win contracts in Iraq.

IBN reported that Kazzaz and his business, Leadstay, were charged in 2012; he subsequently pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 months in prison and a substantial fine. This conviction would normally preclude contracting with any Iraqi government entity.

Iraq Duty Free has not yet responded to IBN’s request to comment.

(Picture: Duty free, from asiandelight/Shutterstock)

KBR, Inc. announced today that it has been awarded a contract by the Basra Oil Company (BOC) for the development of the Majnoon Oil Field in Basra, Iraq.

Under the terms of the contract, KBR says it will provide overall project management, multi-discipline engineering support, procurement and construction management services to BOC under a two plus one year extendable service contract.

Jay Ibrahim (pictured), KBR President Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific region, commented:

KBR has a long and rich history in Iraq and we are excited to be able to leverage our broad expertise in onshore oil and gas processing facilities across the project lifecycle as a true partner to BOC.

“This award highlights BOC’s confidence in KBR’s capabilities to deliver in multiple engineering discipline areas across a variety of projects. We look forward to transferring our knowledge and experience to local Iraqis in order to leave a lasting legacy in the country.

A statement from the Ministry of Oil at the end of April put the value of the contracts with KBR and China’s Anton Oilfield Services Group (Antonoil) at $118 million, adding that there would be “other secondary contracts” to follow.

BOC is expected to take over operations at Majnoon from Shell by the end of June.

(Sources: KBR, Ministry of Oil)

The U.S. Embassy Announces Open Application Period for the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Program

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is pleased to announce that the application period is now open for the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) program.

Applications are due June 30, 2018. Detailed program information, eligibility guidelines, and application procedures can be found at the U.S. Embassy Baghdad website at: https://iq.usembassy.gov/education-culture/exchange-programs/flta-program/

The FLTA Program is a nine-month non-degree program that provides teachers of English an opportunity to refine their teaching skills, increase their English-language proficiency, and extend their knowledge of U.S. society and culture.

Through the FLTA program, teachers are placed at U.S. colleges and universities and serve as assistants in Arabic language classes in order to build their teaching skills and gain exposure to U.S. teaching methodologies.

Applicants must be early career teachers of English or in training to become teachers of English, and possess a bachelor’s degree by June 1, 2018.

Applicants for this program must have fluency in English, limited or no prior U.S. experience, and be Iraqi citizens residing in Iraq.  The U.S. Department of State fully funds participants’ travel, program costs, health insurance, housing, and a modest living stipend.

For more information, applicants may send an email to: FulbrightIraq@state.gov or call 07704431572.

(Source: US Embassy)

Bright and early last Saturday morning, runners in the Washington, DC area took off when the starting gun fired.

It was the sixth annual IN THEIR SHOES 5K for Iraq’s most vulnerable children.  This year, for the first time, the US-based 5K was joined by a “sister” 5K in Basra, Iraq, hosted by BP.

Veterans, Iraqi-Americans, diplomats, businesses, children, and families all joined to raise awareness and support for Iraq’s orphans, street kids, and displaced children.  The result?  A record $59,000 was raised to deliver tutoring, legal protection, nutrition, health care, and childhood fun to some of the most vulnerable and at risk kids in Iraq.

Joined by Iraq’s Ambassador to the United States Fareed Yasseen, the three Youth Ambassadors for the 5K – Humoody, Teeba, and Ala’a – served as the faces and voices of children back in Iraq.

Team Teeba won for the largest 5K team with 33 registered, and the Iraqi-American Young Professionals (IAYP) came in second with 23.  Tim Reilly and Veronica Scott took home trophies for first place in the men and women’s division.

Looking for your race time?  Check here.  Pictures of the event?  Check out recent posts and an album on our ICF Facebook page.

The race was followed by an after party with music by Salaam Band, dancing,  and Iraqi food.  Our friends at Old Town’s Casa Rosada Artisan Gelato provided free gelato for everyone, and there was face painting and balloon animals for the kids.  At a table hosted by Kids Giving Hope to Kids, special drawings were made for Hope Bus kids in Baghdad

To each of you who ran or walked, donated or volunteered, the Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) expresses its deepest appreciation.  Thanks for being a part of the team to deliver love and hope to Iraq’s children!

(Source: ICF)

(Photo credits: George Banker and BP)

Bright and early last Saturday morning, runners in the Washington, DC area took off when the starting gun fired.

It was the sixth annual IN THEIR SHOES 5K for Iraq’s most vulnerable children.  This year, for the first time, the US-based 5K was joined by a “sister” 5K in Basra, Iraq, hosted by BP.

Veterans, Iraqi-Americans, diplomats, businesses, children, and families all joined to raise awareness and support for Iraq’s orphans, street kids, and displaced children.  The result?  A record $59,000 was raised to deliver tutoring, legal protection, nutrition, health care, and childhood fun to some of the most vulnerable and at risk kids in Iraq.

Joined by Iraq’s Ambassador to the United States Fareed Yasseen, the three Youth Ambassadors for the 5K – Humoody, Teeba, and Ala’a – served as the faces and voices of children back in Iraq.

Team Teeba won for the largest 5K team with 33 registered, and the Iraqi-American Young Professionals (IAYP) came in second with 23.  Tim Reilly and Veronica Scott took home trophies for first place in the men and women’s division.

Looking for your race time?  Check here.  Pictures of the event?  Check out recent posts and an album on our ICF Facebook page.

The race was followed by an after party with music by Salaam Band, dancing,  and Iraqi food.  Our friends at Old Town’s Casa Rosada Artisan Gelato provided free gelato for everyone, and there was face painting and balloon animals for the kids.  At a table hosted by Kids Giving Hope to Kids, special drawings were made for Hope Bus kids in Baghdad

To each of you who ran or walked, donated or volunteered, the Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) expresses its deepest appreciation.  Thanks for being a part of the team to deliver love and hope to Iraq’s children!

(Source: ICF)

(Photo credits: George Banker and BP)