Top Mountain and USAID open Business Incubator and Training Center in Erbil

Top Mountain, in partnership with USAID, held a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the Business Incubator and Employment Program’s first training center.

This will be the first of four facilities that Top Mountain will open over the next two months, with three additional training centers planned for Ninevah.  The Erbil Training Center will enable Top Mountain to deliver training, events, and mentorship focused on career development and entrepreneurship for displaced people from Ninevah who are living in Erbil.

The event was attended by the U.S. Deputy Consul General, Elisabeth Rosenstock-Siller, and USAID’s Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for the Middle East, Hallam Ferguson, as well as community leaders, academics, international donors, and NGOs that are currently working in Ninevah.

During his remarks, Mr. Ferguson mentioned that this is the first time since re-establishing its presence in Iraq 16 years ago that USAID has partnered directly with local organizations. “We are very excited to be working with local groups because it’s Iraqis that play the most important role in improving their country,” he said.

USAID is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results.  USAID has funded Top Mountain’s program under the New Partnership Initiative (NPI), which aims to build the capacity of local organizations and assist populations in Iraq recovering from the genocide perpetrated by ISIS.

Top Mountain is a consulting firm based in Iraq that focuses on stabilization, economic development, and promoting employment and entrepreneurship.  The Business Incubator and Employment Program is aligned with Top Mountain’s mission to support economic development and stability in Iraq.

(Source: Top Mountain)

The children of Iraq are in crisis. An estimated 800,000 were orphaned by the end of the Iraq War.

The invasion by ISIS displaced more than 1.3 million. Thousands work on the streets, in homes, or in businesses.

They are why the Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) exists: to intervene on their behalf with love and hope.

On Giving Tuesday, 3rd December, all new monthly donors will receive a 100% match on their first donation, and the ICF is competing for a share of $500,000 in matching funds.

Thank you for your ongoing support!

The Ninewa Investment Forum is taking place from 3rd to 5th December in Erbil.

This two-day event will showcase investment-ready businesses to private investors from around the world.

Presenting a portfolio of very attractive investment opportunities will spark a virtuous cycle of both exciting project opportunities and increased investor confidence.

The event is organized by the Iraq Governance and Performance Accountability (IGPA) project, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and will feature experts and speakers in international investment and development.

The Forum represents a unique collaboration between the U.S. and Iraqi private and public sectors to support communities in Ninewa through catalytic investment opportunities.

Register now

Registration is open to qualified individuals on a space-availability basis. All registration will be confirmed by the Ninewa Investment Forum team.

(Source: Invest in Ninewa)

The following is attributable to US State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus:

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo spoke [on Tuesday] with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi.

Secretary Pompeo emphasized that peaceful public demonstrations are a fundamental element of all democracies. The Secretary deplored the death toll among the protesters as a result of the Government of Iraq’s crackdown and use of lethal force, as well as the reports of kidnapped protesters.

Secretary Pompeo urged Prime Minister Abd al-Mahdi to take immediate steps to address the protesters’ legitimate grievances by enacting reforms and tackling corruption. He reaffirmed the United States’ enduring commitment to a strong, sovereign, and prosperous Iraq, as outlined in our bilateral Strategic Framework Agreement.

Secretary Pompeo pledged to continue to support the Iraqi Security Forces in fighting ISIS.

(Source: US State Department)

By Michael Knights, for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

U.S. Interests and the Unsustainable Status Quo in Iraq

The unprecedented protests in Iraq underline the reality that Iraq is slowly failing as a state.

Though life inside the country has improved in some ways, there are still nearly a million new job-seekers each year left unemployed, militias continue to openly humiliate the government, and little is being done to prepare for the day when oil rents can no longer cover the huge bill for the bloated government payroll and social benefits.

Meanwhile, the political parties and bloc leaders that rule Iraq are content to let the country collapse as long as it serves their near-term parochial interests.

Fundamental change is needed: to the nature of party politics, endemic corruption, undue influence by foreign-backed militias, and elections that are at best rigged but are increasingly outright stolen.

In private, almost none of my senior Iraqi political contacts bothers to refute any of the above facts.

Full report here.

(Source: Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Following the completion of a U.S.-funded, 18-month demining project, the Nineveh provincial government assumed control of the Mosul International Airport during a turnover ceremony on November 5.

Demining teams from Janus, TetraTech, and local Iraqi partner Al Fahad carried out the project from April 2018 to October this year. Together, the contractors cleared more than 170 explosive hazards, including unexploded ordnances, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and bomb-making materials.

The U.S. contractors also cleared significant amounts of rubble, enabling the provincial government to start rebuilding the airport.

The United States is the largest donor to conventional weapons destruction activities in Iraq, investing more than $498 million since 2003 toward the clearance of landmines, IEDs, and other explosive remnants of war as well as for risk education.

U.S.-funded demining teams have cleared over 108,500 explosive hazards since 2016, including more than 17,000 ISIS IEDs.

This support plays an integral role in enabling the restoration of critical infrastructure, the delivery of basic services, the return of displaced communities, and the resumption of local economies safe from buried ISIS explosives and the threats they pose.

(Source: U.S. Embassy in Baghdad)

The United States has a strong and abiding interest in a secure and prosperous Iraq able to defend the nation against violent extremist groups and able to deter those who would undermine Iraqi sovereignty and democracy.

As the world watches events in Iraq unfold it is increasingly clear that the Government of Iraq and the country’s political leaders must engage seriously and urgently with Iraqi citizens who are demanding reform. There is no path forward based on suppression of the will of the Iraqi people.

We deplore the killing and kidnapping of unarmed protesters, threats to freedom of expression, and the cycle of violence taking place. Iraqis must be free to make their own choices about the future of their nation.

(Source: U.S. Embassy in Baghdad)

Press Statement by US Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo (pictured), on the situation in Iraq:

The United States welcomes any serious efforts made by the Government of Iraq to address the ongoing problems in Iraqi society. The Government of Iraq should listen to the legitimate demands made by the Iraqi people who have taken to the streets to have their voices heard.

The United States is closely monitoring the situation and from the beginning we have called on all sides to reject violence. The Government of Iraq’s investigation into the violence in early October lacked sufficient credibility and the Iraqi people deserve genuine accountability and justice.

As the efforts announced by President Salih begin, the recently imposed severe restrictions on freedom of the press and of expression must be relaxed. Press freedom is inherent to democratic reform. The U.S. government continues to support Iraqi institutions, the Iraqi people, and Iraq’s security, stability, and sovereignty.

(Source: US State Dept)

Two brothers have pleaded guilty in the US to facilitating the payment of millions of dollars in bribes to officials in nine countries, including Iraq.

Cyrus Ahsani, 51, and Saman Ahsani, 46, both of United Kingdom (UK), ran the Monaco-based oil and gas consultancy Unaoil.

They are due to be sentenced on 20th April, 2020.

The following announcement was made by the US Department of Justice:

The U.S. Department of Justice said on Wednesday that Cyrus Ahsani, 51, and his 46-year-old brother Saman each pleaded guilty in March to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) on behalf of companies to secure oil and gas contracts.

They will be sentenced on April 20, 2020, the department said.

Steven Hunter, a 50-year-old British resident and former business development director, also pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA.

The former CEO and chief operations officer (COO) of a Monaco-based intermediary company have pleaded guilty for their roles in a scheme to corruptly facilitate millions of dollars in bribe payments to officials in multiple countries. These included Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya and Syria. The company’s former business development director also pleaded guilty for his role in paying bribes in Libya.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas, Assistant Director in Charge Timothy R. Slater of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzales of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Houston Division and Special Agent in Charge D. Richard Goss of the IRS-Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Houston Field Office made the announcement.

Cyrus Ahsani, 51, and Saman Ahsani, 46, both of United Kingdom (UK), each pleaded guilty March 25 to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), for conspiring to facilitate bribes on behalf of companies in foreign countries in order to secure oil and gas contracts. UK resident Steven Hunter, 50, former business development director, pleaded guilty Aug. 2, 2018, to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA. Cyrus and Saman Ahsani are set for sentencing April 20, 2020, before U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore of the Southern District of Texas. Hunter’s sentencing is scheduled for March 13, 2020, before U.S. District Judge David Hittner.

According to court documents, former U.S. resident and CEO Cyrus Ahsani and former COO Saman Ahsani managed a Monaco-based intermediary company that provided services for multinational companies operating in the energy sector. From approximately 1999 to 2016, the Ahsanis conspired with others, including multiple companies and individuals, to make millions of dollars in bribe payments to government officials in Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya and Syria.

Additionally, court documents reflect Cyrus and Saman Ahsani laundered the proceeds of their bribery scheme in order to promote and conceal the schemes and to cause the destruction of evidence in order to obstruct investigations in the United States and elsewhere. Hunter participated in the conspiracy to violate the FCPA by, among other things, facilitating bribe payments to Libyan officials between about 2009 and 2015.

The FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigation and U.S. Postal Inspection Service conducted the investigation. Trial Attorneys Dennis R. Kihm, Gerald M. Moody Jr., Jonathan P. Robell and Gwendolyn A. Stamper of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Elmilady of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided substantial assistance in this matter.

The governments of Australia, Canada, France, Guernsey, Italy, Monaco, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland and UK provided significant assistance in this matter as did the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Eurojust.

The Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/foreign-corrupt-practices-act.

(Sources: US Dept of Justice, Reuters)

By John Lee.

A US-based company has won a contract with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) for the “Development of Internally Displaced Persons Information Centre (IIC) Referral and Information Management System“.

The contract valued at $66,000, was awarded to IT Tech Hub LLC.

(Source: UNGM)