From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

There is a fight over energy in Iraq between the US and Iran. Iraq relies on Iranian gas for nearly half of its energy – gas that is now subject to US sanctions on Iran.

The Iraqi government originally obtained a 45-day sanctions waiver from the US, but that waiver is set to expire next week.

Iraq is particularly sensitive to the issue after protests against electricity cuts rocked Basra earlier in the year and Iraq’s new government is treading a thin line trying to keep both the US and Iran happy, and its people satisfied.

Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis reports:

By John Lee.

US-based Schlumberger has won a deal with Iraq’s Basra Oil Company (BOC) to drill 40 new wells at Majnoon oilfield.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Ministry of Oil also announced that the BOC had entered into a 19-month contract with the Iraqi Oil Exploration Company to carry out 2D and 3D seismic surveys at the field.

(Source: Ministry of Oil)

By John Lee.

More than 100 top executives from more than 50 US companies visitied Iraq last week as part of a US-Iraq trade mission.

Steve Lutes, vice president of Middle East Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said:

“We want to expand and diversify the US involvement in commercial activity [in Iraq] … We look forward to building on this momentum and exploring next steps!”

U.S. Ambassador Douglas Silliman described the event as, “the largest US Chamber of Commerce business delegation anywhere in the world this year!

Now we work to negotiate real contracts and investments,” he added.

(Sources: Govt of Iraq, US Chamber of Commerce)

By John Lee.

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry spent the last two days trying to convince the Iraqi government that it’s in its best interest to cut energy ties with Iran.

But according to a report from Washington Examiner, his efforts have had limited success.

Perry tweeted:

“In bilateral meetings with Iraqi President @BarhamSalih, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi, and Speaker Mohammed Al-Halbousi I reaffirmed that the U.S. stands ready to assist the Iraqi people in transitioning from Iranian energy dependence to using their full domestic energy potential.”

Iran is Iraq’s neighbor and an important supplier of the natural gas that fuels the nation’s electric grid, which is crucial to Iraq’s economy and oil industry.

More here.

(Source: Washington Examiner)

By John Lee.

Iraqi trade minister Mohammed Hashim has reportedly signed a deal on Thursday to import wheat and rice from the United States.

According to Reuters, the agreement covers the first half of 2019.

Meanwhile, Kurdistan 24 reports that a Russian delegation visited Baghdad this week to discuss exporting wheat to Iraq.

(Sources: Reuters, Kurdistan 24)

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

As the United States enacts sanctions on Iran, Iran is increasing its influence in Iraq with plans for a railway that could work around US restrictions.

The state-owned Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (RAI) revealed details Nov. 12 about its project to build a railway connecting Iran’s Shalamcheh border crossing to the port of Basra in southeast Iraq.

Maziar Yazdani, RAI’s deputy head of infrastructure and technical affairs, said the Shalamcheh-Basra leg of the project will require only 20 miles of new track at a cost of about $52,000. With the new addition, the rail system will span Iraq to reach Syria’s Mediterranean port city of Latakia.

Click here to read the full story.

(Picture Credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

A former business partner of a U.S. military contractor was sentenced today to 18 months in prison for his role in a years-long scheme to bribe U.S. Army contracting officials stationed at a U.S. military base in Kuwait during the Iraq War.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno of the FBI’s Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division, Director Frank Robey of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit and Special Agent in Charge Robert E. Craig Jr. of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s (DCIS) Mid-Atlantic Field Office made the announcement.

Finbar Charles, 62, a citizen of Saint Lucia most recently residing in Baguio City, Philippines, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre of the Northern District of Alabama.  Chief Judge Bowdre also ordered Charles to forfeit $228,558 in illicit gains.  Charles pleaded guilty in July 2018 to one count of bribery of a federal official.

According to admissions made in connection with his guilty plea, Charles was a business partner of a former U.S. military contractor, Terry Hall.  As Hall’s business partner, Charles admitted that he facilitated Hall and others in providing millions of dollars in bribes in approximately 2005 to 2007 to various U.S. Army officials in exchange for preferential treatment for Hall’s companies in connection with Department of Defense (DOD) contracts to deliver bottled water and construct security fencing to support U.S. troops stationed in Kuwait and Iraq.

As part of his role in this criminal conspiracy, Charles admitted that he managed bank accounts in Kuwait and the Philippines that he used to receive Department of Defense payments and transfer illegal bribes to various U.S. Army contracting officials, including Majors Eddie Pressley, James Momon, and Chris Murray.

All of those individuals, as well as at least 10 other coconspirators, have pleaded guilty or been convicted of crimes relating to this scheme.  Charles admitted that he falsified loan and consulting agreements to conceal the true nature of the bribe payments to the Army officers, and that he personally received over $228,000 in illicit gains as a result of his participation.

This case was investigated by the DCIS, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, the FBI and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance in this matter.  The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Peter N. Halpern and Robert J. Heberle of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.

(Source: US Dept of Justice)

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

The reimposition of US secondary sanctions has compelled Tehran to look for ways to reduce their negative impact.

According to Iranian officials, one of the strategies is to increase trade and interaction with its neighbors.

This is not new to Iran, as the country has pursued a policy of improving relations with immediate neighbors including investments in increased energy interdependency. Yet the past rationale for regional policy was more focused on security considerations.

This time, the rationale has been expanded to include trade and economic reasons. However, this strategy is facing challenges on multiple fronts, most importantly due to the existing tensions between Iran and her southern Arab region.

Click here to read the full story.

(Picture Credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)