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Private Security Companies in Iraq

Private Security Companies in Iraq

By Robert Tollast.

Robert Tollast is a consultant at Noorbridge, a Helsinki based consultancy with staff in London and Nasiriyah, Iraq. He has written extensively on security, politics and economic issues in Iraq for various publications, and is currently researching a modern history of Iraq with support from The Middle East Forum. email: twitter: @roberttollast

Private Security Companies in Iraq: Think Again. An interview with Haider Abadi of the Al Sajer Security Company.

What comes to mind when you imagine private security firms in Iraq? At worst you might recall the leaked footage (from 2005) of Blackwater personnel firing wildly at civilian cars during the coalition occupation. We then heard of 2007’s infamous Nisoor square massacre, and Blackwater’s reputation hit rock bottom.

Sensationalist books such as License to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror or Hollywood portrayals from The Green Zone and The Hurt Locker have not helped an industry widely perceived as mercenary. Perhaps you are a soldier reading this who served in Iraq and remember nothing but swagger, expensive sunglasses, caps and chinos and the knowledge that these men were making far more money than you.

These days the industry in Iraq is highly regulated, and after coming under significant pressure from the Iraqi government in 2012 it has reformed considerably. 2008 saw the advent of the Montreux document, an international agreement that now has 49 participating states, initiated by groups such as the Red Cross and the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces.

It would be hard to argue that from a tactical, strategic, ethical, reputational or business perspective, these regulations do not make sense. A community that is alienated by bad behaviour is more likely to be hostile, and incidents are often broadcast on the global stage in minutes thanks to the proliferation of smart phones.

Some private security companies have adapted to the extent that they are considerably reliant on local staff (not just Iraqi nationals, as specified by Iraqi law.) This bond with the community is often vital and is now happening in Al-Qaim: the town where the Abu Mahal tribe started the first uprising against al-Qaeda in 2005 that shattered the organization (before it was allowed to revitalize) lies close to the Akkas gas field in Anbar, currently being worked on by the Korean company KOGAS.

Haider Abadi, projects manager at Al Sajer Security explains that this could be one of the most dangerous private security jobs in the world. But with the Anbar council supporting the project and local tribal involvement, it is currently manageable. Haider Abadi’s work shows us that PSCs are not only securing their clients, but also Iraq’s economic future.

Posted in Oil & Gas, Robert Tollast, Security0 Comments

Everyone Wants to Be a Governorate

Everyone Wants to Be a Governorate

By Reidar Visser.

The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Everyone Wants to Be a Governorate: 17 Iraqi Districts Demand Status Upgrade

The recent announcement by the Iraqi cabinet that a number of existing district (qada) administrative units will be upgraded to governorate status (muhafaza) has prompted intense discussions across Iraq. As of today, beyond what the cabinet has announced, around 17 additional districts have in various ways been promoted as candidates for governorate status.

The lists that follows is supposed to be up to date as of the time of writing, but this is clearly a moving target, with the situation quite literally changing by the hour. Nonetheless, it can be assumed that the most eager candidates for governorate status have made their voices heard by now. Also, to some extent, there are a few common characteristics between these would-be governorates that seem to explain their candidacies.

In particular, in many cases, they form the second most populous area of their current governorate, but not the seat of the provincial government. Furthermore, distinctive minority populations are important in some areas (Yazidi in Sinjar, Shia Arab in Balad and Dujayl, Kurdish in Khanaqin). Some of the districts involved stand out for their natural resources (Qurna and Zubayr in Basra).

Generally speaking, it is worth noticing that whereas the new governorates proposed by the cabinet were mainly Shiite minority and other minority areas in the north that are scheduled to be separated from mainly Sunni Arab majority governorates, most of these “bottom-up” demands for governorate status are Shiites wishing to separate from Shiite majority governorates (Dujayl and Balad in Salahaddin being the exception, but Shiite politicians have been talking about plans for the attachment of these to Baghdad at least since 2011).

Posted in Politics0 Comments

$700m Air Traffic Control System for Iraq

$700m Air Traffic Control System for Iraq

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq for Air Traffic Control and Landing Systems and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $700 million.

The Government of Iraq has requested a proposed sale of commercially available FAA Air Traffic Control (ATC) Equipment Suite and Airfield Navigational Aids Suites to be installed at four bases (Tikrit, Al Basra, Al Kut, and Taji). The ATC Equipment Suite includes 4 ASR-11 Airport Surveillance Radars, 10 ATC Automation system with 10 controller consoles, 4 AutoTrac II Airfield Support and Navigation Suites, 2 Primary Search Radars and 2 Mono-pulse secondary surveillance radars.

The Airfield Navigation Aids Suite includes 2 Very High Frequency Omni-directional Range (VORTAC) and 3 Instrument Landing Systems with Distance Measuring Equipment, 2 Airfield Lighting Systems with Flush Mounted Lights for the runway and taxiways, Air Traffic Control Tower Equipment Suite.

Also provided are site surveys, system integration, installation, testing, repair and return, facilities, warranties, spare and repair parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The estimated cost is $700 million.

This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner. This proposed sale directly supports the Iraq government and serves the interests of the Iraqi people and the United States.

Posted in 'Your Country' - United States, Security4 Comments

Weekly Security Update 28 Jan – 03 Feb 2014

Weekly Security Update 28 Jan – 03 Feb 2014

By Constellis Consulting

Amid reports that the Iraqi army is preparing an imminent assault on Fallujah, under control of ISIL militants for over a month, heavy shelling continued to strike key locations in restive Anbar governorate. Whilst the unrest absorbs government resources, political divisions have been increasingly apparent and the authority of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki openly challenged by prominent figures of the opposition.

In a recent visit to Washington, Parliament Speaker Osama Al-Nujaifi criticised Maliki’s position on the Anbar crisis, who refuses to address the grievances voiced by moderate Sunnis and rather focuses on the security dimension of the insurgency. On 04 February, members of Nujaifi’s Sunni coalition announced that they would only return to parliament if an emergency session is held on Anbar.

Political tensions continued to be reflected in high levels of violence across the country, with central and northern regions attracting most incidents. While sequences of VBIEDs Security Incidentsreturned to Baghdad, patterns observed over the past month have been disrupted this week, with levels of violence across northern provinces consistent with data recorded in November 2013. Indeed, while the concentration of ISF efforts in Anbar had previously prompted ISIL militants to capitalise on the unrest and strike northern Sunni-dominated governorates with mass-casualty attacks, these tactics were largely avoided over the reporting period.

As the ruling coalition seeks to consolidate Shia votes ahead of elections in April, militants could be saving their resources to launch complex assaults in southern governorates, in a bid to undermine Maliki’s electoral strategy and relieve pressure in Anbar. Continued stagnation in the political sphere will continue to impact on levels of violence, whilst increased militant activity could also be recorded across southern governorates in the next days.


Although the situation in Anbar remained stagnant, with a decisive victory of ISF forces over ISIL insurgents implanted in the main cities increasingly unlikely, incidents in northern provinces returned to levels seen prior to the outbreak of the crisis. VBIEDs were only recorded in Salahuddin province, with two car bombs detonating on 29 January and resulting in scores of casualties. On 02 February, another VBIED targeted a police checkpoint, killing eight civilians and injuring dozens.

Elsewhere in northern governorates, IEDs and small arms attacks continued to hit ISF forces, with Nineveh witnessing most of the violence. The decrease in militant activity across northern governorates could signal a tactical shift decided by ISIL, and prompted as much by ISF operations launched in response to increased levels of violence in the north, as by the strategic opportunity to hit southern provinces. Whilst violence will undoubtedly continue to plague northern provinces, the near-absence of complex assaults could therefore be balanced with expeditionary mass-casualty attacks in the south. Meanwhile, Kurdish provinces remained free from violence.


Following a trend which has been consistently sustained over the past weeks, Baghdad continued to attract most of the violence, with series of complex attacks and VBIEDs witnessed in several districts of the capital. Car bombs detonated in sequence in northern, southern and eastern neighbourhoods. On 29 January, a VBIED killed six civilians and injured 26 others. On 30 January, another device detonated in the Shaab area, killing one civilian and injuring 18. On 03 February, a series of car bombs caused dozens of fatalities.

Meanwhile, the continued unrest in Anbar prompted government forces to prepare an assault on the city of Fallujah, which has been at the hands of militants since December 2013. Whilst under-reported clashes continued to occur in the outskirts of urban areas, intensified shelling killed an undisclosed number of civilians, accelerating the humanitarian crisis in Anbar and further weakening the legitimacy of ruling elites. Due to a lack of internal support from Sunni tribes, an assault on Fallujah will do little to break the stalemate, and is only likely to fuel violence and invigorate militant cells present in surrounding provinces.


Whilst southern governorates remained largely insulated from militant operations, the relative absence of mass-casualty attacks in northern regions and the continuing unrest in Anbar could signal the imminence of sophisticated assaults in the south. Southern governorates represent the core of Maliki’s support base and its security is therefore essential in the lead-up to competitive elections scheduled in April. Furthermore, the concentration of ISF forces in Anbar and northern regions has created an opportunity which militants could seize and translate into attacks against civilian gatherings.

This trend was highlighted by incidents reported this week, with two VBIEDs dismantled in Basra on 02 February. On 03 February, three civilians were wounded when a car bomb detonated near Kut, in Wasit province. Whilst security measures will probably be reinforced following these incidents, levels of violence are expected to increase over the next reporting period.

Posted in Weekly Security Update1 Comment

Details of Coalitions Contesting April Elections

Details of Coalitions Contesting April Elections

By Reidar Visser.

The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

IHEC Publishes the List of Constituent Elements in Coalitions Contesting Iraq’s 30 April Elections

At long last, following publication of certified entities as well as the numbers of entities and coalitions, the Iraqi electoral commission has released the list of the constituent elements of the 39 electoral lists in the 30 April Iraqi parliamentary elections that are coalitions of more than one party. The list is to some extent helpful in forming a more precise picture of the strength of the various lists and the competition between them.

With regard to the big and well-known lists, there aren’t that many surprises. The core line-up of the State of Law alliance of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is confirmed as the two main Daawa branches, the Shahristani bloc and Badr. The new list confirms that the Risali movment of ex-Sadrist Adnan al-Shahmani is also on the State of Law ticket.

The Turkmen minister for the provinces who played a central role in the recent announcement of new governorates is also on Maliki’s list. Another noteworthy minority representative is a Shabak politician, Hunayn al-Qaddo. Qaddo was previously an advocate of the territorial integrity of Nineveh governorate in the context of Kurdish expansion. He has however congratulated the Shabak on the news of the establishment of the Nineveh plains governorate.

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect regarding the Shiite Islamist Muwatin alliance associated with Ammar al-Hakim and ISCI is the inclusion of a former Maliki ally, Ali al-Dabbagh. Ahmad Chalabi is also here (rather than with the Sadrists, whose election alliance with ISCI in 2009-10 he played a key role in forging), and Fawaz al-Jarba of the Shammar tribe constitutes a mostly symbolic Sunni representation. Basra is particularly well represented in the ISCI alliance, with the party of Shaykhi leader Amir al-Fayiz alongside businessman Tawfiq Abbadi and others.

Posted in Politics1 Comment

List of Coalitions and Entities in the Elections

List of Coalitions and Entities in the Elections

By Reidar Visser.

The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Following the lottery yesterday in which participants in the 30 April parliamentary elections were given ticket numbers, the Iraqi election commission has released an official list that also provides the first official overview of coalition and entities that will take part in the election.

It is noteworthy that although the deadline for forming coalitions expired late last year, IHEC has so far refrained from publishing a list of the constituent elements of the various coalitions.

One reason may be that the process of certification of entities continued well into 2014, with constant updates to the official list of individual entities. This means that there is still no official source that can be used for evaluating the potential strength of the various coalitions, but the most recent list is at least helpful in that it authoritatively distinguishes between coalitions and entities that will run on their own, ending some of the speculation as regards the choices of some of the smaller parties.

The key statistics of the new list are as follows. Altogether 107 lists will take part in the 30 April parliamentary elections. Of these, 36 will be coalitions. A maximum of 71 entities will run on their own.

All the main coalitions are well known. With respect to Shiite Islamists, the following main groups are defined as coalitions: State of Law, Muwatin (mainly ISCI), Ahrar (Sadrists), Islah (Jaafari) and Fadila (with some lesser known smaller parties). Smaller “coalitions” include list 238 which is organized by Sabah al-Saadi, an ex-Fadila MP known for his ferocious verbal attacks on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Posted in Politics1 Comment

Mister, Can You Spare a Dinar?

Mister, Can You Spare a Dinar?

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Mister, Can You Spare a Dinar? Life with the Beggar Mafia of Basra

Some estimates suggest that almost a third of the residents in one of Iraq’s oil-richest cities live in poverty. And now begging has gone beyond poverty, human rights groups say, it’s become a business here and one of the most popular ‘jobs’ around.

By rights the southern Iraqi city of Basra should be one of Iraq’s wealthiest – it is the site of a major port and some of Iraq’s biggest oil fields are located in the surrounding province. But somehow this wealth has not had any effect on the lives of many ordinary people who live here – the poverty level in Iraq sits at around 22 percent but some recent estimates suggest that it’s higher in Basra. They say that just over a third of the population in Basra live in poverty.

Possibly this is why begging appears to have become an industry here and why local beggars have formed gangs, become associated with criminals and also developed a wide variety of techniques for begging.

The beggars of Basra have developed systems. Begging is like a job here with the beggars choosing where to ask for donations depending on which day it is. So, for instance, on Mondays they might work on the bridges, on Tuesdays in the market places and, on Thursdays and Fridays, at the mosques.

“Fridays and other religious occasions are the best, blessed days,” Hussein Jaber, a 40-year-old beggar, explained to NIQASH. “We ask people for money and tell them that we will ask the clerics to pray for them and their loved ones and their sick or dead relatives. But it’s not easy to find a spot near a religious site,” Jaber admitted. “Almost all of the spots for begging are occupied by veiled women. In fact there are fierce fights between these women to get a place closest to the entrance of a mosque. If one finds such a place, one does not give it up easily because it is very precious in terms of returns you can make here.”

Posted in Banking & Finance, Industry & Trade7 Comments

Veolia wins $115m Desalination Contract

Veolia wins $115m Desalination Contract

The Iraqi Ministry for Municipalities and Public Works has chosen Veolia to build and operate for five years a desalination plant in Basra, Iraq. For Veolia, this contract represents cumulated sales of $115 million.

Limited water resources and conflict over its use have made water a crucial resource for Iraq’s development, especially in the country’s south. Water in this part of Iraq is mainly sourced from the Euphrates, which has a high salt content, and water from the Persian Gulf.

Under this new contract, won in partnership with Japanese conglomerate Hitachi and Egyptian engineering firm ArabCo, Veolia will build and operate a desalination plant with an ultrafiltration unit and reverse osmosis membranes.

It will produce 200,000 cubic meters of drinking water a day. The technology used will reduce the salt content in the drinking water producedfor Basra’s population of 2.3 million people. Additionally, in a country with a chronic shortage of electricity, this desalination plant will be completely autonomous as it will have its own electricity generators to guarantee continuous service.

Construction work on the plant is due to commence in the first quarter of 2014 and should be completed within 30 months. This contract will also create 300 jobs for the construction of the desalination units, provided by ArabCo, and 50 jobs for the facility’s operation for five years.

Antoine Frérot, Chairman and CEO of Veolia Environnement, said:

This new contract that we have won in Iraq is further proof of Veolia’s ability to deliver concrete and reliable solutions to the scarcity of water resources and the challenges facing large cities, especially in countries where water is crucial to economic development … I am delighted that Veolia has been chosen by the Iraqi authorities to support the modernization of Basra, and that the company is able to provide a solution to the challenges confronted by this city, a leading center for the oil and gas industry.

As part of its reconstruction, Iraq has launched several national plans aimed at modernizing basic services, such as water, wastewater, waste treatment and energy, in order to support its economic growth. With the country’s sole access to the sea, Basra is the subject of special attention from the Iraqi government, which is modernizing this port city to speed up its economic growth.

Jean-Michel Herrewyn, Director, Global Enterprises, Veolia Environnement, explained:

This plant is part of a comprehensive plan to rehabilitate and extend the city’s water treatment plants. The innovative technology and solutions we are providing Basra will enable it to improve its citizens’ access to quality drinking water while protecting its resources.”

(Source: Veolia)

(Picture: Veolia Water, at Basra Oil and Gas exhibition)

Posted in Construction & Engineering, Public Works1 Comment

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