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Biggest Ever UK Trade Mission to Iraq

Biggest Ever UK Trade Mission to Iraq

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) Executive Chairman, Baroness Nicholson has announced the biggest ever trade mission to Iraq.

In a push to boost UK business in Iraq UKTI and the IBBC will take 100 UK companies to Baghdad, Basrah and Erbil in mid-June.

The mission will be led by David Willetts, Minister of Universities and Science and Baroness Winterbourne of the IBBC. Delegates on the mission will meet with senior Iraqi politicians and officials, supported by the British Ambassador, Embassy and UKTI teams.

In a speech at the IBBC’s Mansion House conference, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt praised the mission saying that trade between Iraq and Britain has increased by 40% in the last year and is now worth £1 billion annually.

The mission, which is aimed primarily at small to medium sized enterprises will focus on a variety of sectors, with a particular focus on healthcare, higher education, oil and gas, power, construction and infrastructure and the financial and professional services.

(Source: UK FCO)

Posted in 'Your Country' - United Kingdom, Industry & Trade, ‘Your Country’ – United Kingdom - Feature0 Comments

Car Bombings Continue, Evidence Remains Scarce

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

The bombings in Baghdad and Basra on May 20 were no different from their predecessors in terms of the method of execution, the number of victims or the importance of the targets. But they did raise several new questions about the adequacy of crime-scene analysis.

Iraqi security sources confirmed that a series of bomb blasts on Wednesday, May 15 claimed 137 lives in the simultaneous detonation of 10 vehicles rigged with explosives in the Baghdad neighborhoods of Al-Jadidah, Al-Muhstal, Al-Zaghraniyyah (south of Baghdad), Al-Kazimiyyah, Al-Husayniyyah (north of Baghdad), Al-Mualif (west of Baghdad) and Sadr City (east of Baghdad).

The targeted neighborhoods are densely populated and majority Shiite, and are not considered particular centers of official governmental institutions. They do, however, constitute attractive targets for those working to stoke sectarian violence in Iraq. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq ranked April as the bloodiest month in Iraq since 2008, stating, “A total of 712 people were killed and another 1,633 were wounded in acts of terrorism and violence.”

According to the UN mission, among those killed were 595 civilians and non-military personnel, including 161 police officers. Meanwhile, 1,438 civilians and non-military personnel were wounded as a result of these acts, including 290 police officers. These casualties were in addition to the 290 members of the Iraqi security services who were killed, and the 195 others who were wounded.

The mission’s statement went on to say that the Iraqi capital of Baghdad endured the brunt of these attacks, as the number of civilian and non-military victims there totaled 697, including 211 individuals killed and another 486 wounded. This area was followed by the provinces of Diyala, Saladin, Kirkuk, Ninevah and Anbar.

The criticism directed at the Iraqi security services’ performance dwells on their failure to discover these bombing operations before they were carried out. The dozens of inspection checkpoints set up on the streets and entry points to Iraq’s cities failed to prevent large numbers of explosive-rigged vehicles from sneaking in, finding their way to their targets and then carrying out their attacks simultaneously. However, the period following such attacks was also given to scenes of chaos and inefficacy on the part of the security services in restoring order at the bombing site.

One would assume that the Iraqi Interior Ministry’s Criminal Evidence Directorate would take charge of the scene upon its arrival, in order to collect evidence pertaining to the vehicles that bore the explosives, the type of explosive devices used, the remains of the suicide bomber, any photographs that have been taken and any other evidence that might prove essential to discovering the identities of those who planned and carried out the attack.

However, chaos and frantic activity usually prevail at the scene, and much of the evidence that might limit the scope of these terrorist acts is either ignored, contaminated or destroyed. The activity of the Criminal Evidence Directorate was at its most frenetic on Jan. 26, 2010, when the organization’s own headquarters was hit in a major attack that caused the building to completely collapse, killing a group of its senior officers and experts and destroying numerous documents and pieces of evidence.

Sources within Iraq’s Interior Ministry confirm that the directorate’s performance has visibly declined since then. This is evinced by the fact that the Iraqi Interior Ministry’s official website is devoid of any mention of the directorate or its activities.

Sources inside the directorate have confirmed to Al-Monitor that crime scenes are usually subject to changes or otherwise thrown into disarray, whether because of the local population or police officers on the scene being inexperienced in gathering evidence. It has also been discovered that trained forensic-evidence collection teams do not arrive at the scene for a long time, at which point most of the evidence has either disappeared or been contaminated. However, the directorate asserts the opposite, insisting that it is extremely effective in uncovering crimes.

The Interior Ministry’s director-general of criminal evidence investigations Brig. Gen. Talib Khalil told the state-owned Iraqi Media Network that his directorate is working to incorporate acoustic fingerprinting as a tool of evidence gathering via a database that will be completed next year. On May 15, 2013 — the very same day in which 10 explosive-rigged vehicles were simultaneously detonated — Khalil spoke about the capabilities of his directorate’s testing units with regard to analyzing poisons and organic compounds and determining their sources.

He confirmed that individuals in the directorate have both experience and qualifications that demonstrate their utmost ability to perform their duties and conduct chemical and biological tests in order to discern criminal acts, uncover crimes and make deductions regardless of how difficult or complicated the situation, or how professional the perpetrator.

He stressed that the directorate is striving to complete projects involving the compilation of databases comprising different types of imprints, similar to the fingerprinting that is conducted on materials found at crime scenes where the prints of both suspects and bystanders are taken, asserting that such imprints constitute incontrovertible evidence that can win convictions.

The tone of the Iraqi Criminal Evidence Investigations director indicated confidence in the capabilities of his unit and its activities to produce evidence against guilty parties — especially in cases involving acts of terrorism. Nevertheless, for its part, the United Nations insists that most trials in Iraq against those accused of terrorism are concluded by extracting coerced confessions.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay describes the Iraqi justice system as being “flawed to a very dangerous degree.” On April 19, 2013, she stated that “the criminal-justice system in Iraq is still not functioning adequately, with numerous convictions based on confessions obtained under torture and ill-treatment, a weak judiciary and trial proceedings that fall short of international standards.”

Mushreq Abbas is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Iraq Pulse. An author and journalist who has worked in the media for 15 years, he holds a degree in political science from Baghdad University.

Posted in Security0 Comments

News Flash – 20 May 2013

Assaye Risk Logo (Small) copy

By Tom Walker, Director, Assaye Risk

NEWS FLASH

Levels of violence rose dramatically during this brief reporting period with multiple high impact attacks across the country, especially in the central and southern belts.  With Friday Prayers in Baquba and Baghdad heavily targeted nearly 93 people were killed in one day, the highest total of any month since the final quarter of 2012.  To date nearly 260 people have been killed since last Thursday, with the count rising on a daily basis.

In the latest attacks at least 26 people have been killed and many others injured in a series of car bomb attacks in central and southern Iraq.  Baghdad was worst hit with at least five car bombs exploding near bus stations and outdoor markets in mainly Shia Muslim districts of the capital.

Two bombs also went off earlier in the day in the southern city of Basra. Basra, a mainly Shia Muslim city, had been seen as relatively peaceful, but there too, violence has increased in recent months as the Sunni insurgency has become emboldened and looks to further aggravate sectarian tensions and fears in what are normally Shia strongholds.  In March a car bomb in the city killed 10 and wounded many others, whilst on Saturday gunmen shot and killed a Sunni Muslim cleric.

At least 60 people died in three bombings in Sunni Muslim areas in and around Baghdad on Friday. Those bombings followed deadly attacks on Shia targets across Iraq.

On Sunday, at least 10 policemen were reported killed in north-western Iraq in attacks blamed by the authorities on Sunni militants.

In today’s attacks, at least 16 people died in Baghdad and more than 10 in Barsa.

Posted in Security0 Comments

Shell to Start Majnoon Oil Output

Shell to Start Majnoon Oil Output

By John Lee.

Shell is to start producing crude at the Majnoon oil field (pictured) as early as next month.

Bloomberg quotes the company’s regional vice president, Mounir Bouaziz, as saying that output will start “around mid-year” and increase to 175,000 bpd by the end of 2013.

He said that the project had faced “teething problems”, mainly due to the unexpected quantities of unexploded munitions at the field, customs-related delays of imported equipment and slow processing of entry visas, but added, “however, what is encouraging is that we do see real improvements in these administrative processes.

(Source: Bloomberg)

 

 

Associated Gas

Shell and its partner Mitsubishi Corp. (8058) started operations on May 1 at a $17 billion joint venture for salvaging gas from fields in southern Iraq. The venture, Basrah Gas Co., is now capturing 400 million cubic feet a day of so-called associated gas, which occurs together with crude, Bouaziz said. Iraq estimates that it’s losing millions of dollars by flaring off some 700 million cubic feet of gas because it lacks facilities to store and sell the fuel.

Basrah Gas will start within 18 months exporting liquefied petroleum gas, which is used for cooking and heating homes, he said. Iraq currently imports 500 metric tons to 1,000 tons of LPG a day, while it flares 4,000 tons daily, Bouaziz said.

The venture may eventually produce liquified natural gas.

“Considering the amount of gas that will be produced in Iraq, it is very likely that the Basrah Gas Co. LNG project will be needed,” he said. A final decision would be up to state-owned South Gas Co., the venture’s majority shareholder, Bouaziz said.

Posted in Construction & Engineering0 Comments

Iraq’s Future: Post-2015 Development Agenda

Iraq’s Future: Post-2015 Development Agenda

Iraqis came together on Sunday to agree on their country’s most pressing needs, and send a message to the international community on what issues should be prioritised after 2015.

With only two years remaining before the deadline of the Millennium Declaration Goals (MDGs), the UN is consulting with a wide range of Iraqi civil society, persons living with disabilities, academia, women and youth groups to add their voices to the global conversation on what issues the international community should prioritise beyond 2015.

“The importance of making this a civil society-led process cannot be understated,” explained Jacqueline Badcock, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Iraq. “The concerns of the most vulnerable, persons living with disabilities, women and youth are often drowned out. This series of consultations has ensured the voiceless are given a voice.”

The MDGs were established in 2000 to respond to the world’s greatest development challenges. They set concrete targets around which global efforts could be mobilised. Despite an increase in the level of income in Iraq, significant improvements are needed to address the needs of vulnerable groups including unemployment, gender-equality, food-security and environmental sustainability.

Iraq’s Minister of Planning, Dr. Ali Shukri, noted “We have made excellent progress in mapping and measuring progress related to the MDGs in Iraq. We look forward to working with our partners in the UN Development Programme to continue strengthening Iraq’s ability to track progress and identify where more work needs to be done.”

The UN designed the consultation process in Iraq to specifically hear from those who have traditionally been excluded from or underrepresented in the development process. Agreeing on priorities for a new global development agenda must be based on an open, inclusive, transparent process hearing from private individuals, to complement on-going inter-governmental discussions.

Civil society groups made the process possible by reviewing and validating recommendations from consultations held in Basrah, Baghdad and Erbil, on employment generation, political inclusion, access to basic services, and the management of natural resources.

(Source: UNAMI)

Posted in Construction & Engineering, Public Works1 Comment

Iraq to Rebuild Rail System

Iraq to Rebuild Rail System

Plans to revive Iraq’s rail system are gaining pace, reports Reuters.

Last year the railway company opened a 32-km line between Mussayab [Musayyib, Musayyab], south of Baghdad, and the holy city of Kerbala to transfer hundreds of thousands of pilgrims during Shi’ite religious festivals.

It is also building a new railway parallel to the old Baghdad-Basra line at a cost of about $700 million; the line is due to be in service by the end of this year.

Currently only around 250 passengers travel on Iraq’s railways on most days, but when the new Baghdad-Basra line is finished, the number could jump to between 2,000 and 3,000, officials say.

A line connecting Baghdad with Mosul is still out of service, but according to the report, transport officials hope to begin renovating it next year.

In December, Iraqi Railways signed a $115-million contract to import ten trains from China, each carrying up to 450 passengers and running at up to 140-160 km/hr.

Iraq currently has about 2,000 km of railway lines and hopes eventually to increase this to 10,000 km of dual-track railways, with electrified trains running at up to 200-250 km/hour that would connect all major Iraqi cities with neighbouring countries.

Mohammed Ali Hashem, manager of the projects department in the railway company, said the goal was to unload goods from Asia at southern Iraqi ports and transport them through the northern Iraqi city of Zakho into Europe via Turkey, avoiding the Suez canal.

He envisions around 25 million tonnes of goods passing through Iraq annually once the rail projects are completed at an estimated cost of more than $60 billion over five years.

(Source: Reuters)

Posted in Construction & Engineering, Transportation0 Comments

Patterns of Electoral Behaviour in Iraq

Patterns of Electoral Behaviour in Iraq

By Reidar Visser.

The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford and currently based at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. 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.

Patterns of Electoral Behaviour in Iraq: The Use of the Personal Vote in the April 2013 Provincial Elections

Whereas the IHEC press conference announcing the results of Iraq’s 20 April local elections was merely a readout of the names of the winning candidates and their political affiliations, a second batch of useful information, giving the numbers achieved by each candidate, has now been published.

This material makes it possible to analyse how the Iraqi electorate uses the “personal vote” option, whereby voters alongside their vote for a particular political entity can indicate their candidate of choice on that slate. When the votes are counted, the pre-set ranking of the candidates done by the party leadership is ignored altogether, and only specific personal votes garnered in the election count as the ordering of candidates on a particular list is done all over again.

Before discussing patterns of electoral behavior, some basic information about how the ballots are cast in an Iraqi election can be useful.Technically speaking, Iraqi voters do not actually receive ballot papers that include the names of the candidates, only the entity names and numbers. Accordingly, in order to make use of the personal vote option, they need to know the number of their preferred candidate and then fill in that candidate’s number after they have checked the box for their party vote.

In theory this can happen in two ways: Either by knowing the candidate’s number beforehand (and remembering it at the voting booth), or by checking a register of all candidates available at the polling station. In practice, most personal votes are probably the result of beforehand knowledge. Electoral propaganda for individual candidates almost invariably includes the key two numbers that voters require, i.e. party list number and candidate number.

Then, to the actual use of the personal vote in the 20 April 2013 provincial elections. The first point that is worth making is that the personal vote option is indeed being used by the electorate – a lot. The following quick calculations are meant to provide a cross-section of contexts and electorates and show that across parties and governorates, from Iraqiyya to Shiite Islamists and from rural Maysan to the capital Baghdad, a large majority of Iraqi voters indicate their preferred candidate when they vote. Most of the examples indicate above 90% use of the candidate vote, and nowhere is the percentage less than 84%:

ScreenHunter_01 May. 10 13.11

Posted in Politics0 Comments

Iraq Contract Win for Wood Group-CCC

Iraq Contract Win for Wood Group-CCC

Shell Iraq Petroleum (Shell) has awarded a commissioning services contract to Wood Group-CCC (WGCCC), a company equally owned by Wood Group PSN (WGPSN) and Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC), providing operations and maintenance services to the oil and gas and petrochemical industries in the Middle East.

The contract is to commission the first phase of the Majnoon field, near Basra in Southern Iraq.

Majnoon is one of the world’s largest oil fields, estimated by the Iraqi government to hold about 38 billion barrels of oil. It is being executed by Shell Iraq Petroleum, as project operator with other partners Petronas and Iraqi Ministry of Oil.

The one-year contract is effective June 2013. WGCCC will be responsible for the provision of skilled resources, tools, services and test equipment to assist the start-up, commissioning and testing of the new production facilities in the Majnoon field. New production facilities include well site facilities, a central production facility and all new-build facilities and utilities required to operate the field, including pipelines and infrastructure.

WGCCC will employ approximately 200 personnel to service the contract. This workforce will be based onsite at the Majnoon facilities, approximately 70km from Basra.

David Buchan, WGPSN’s Middle East director and board director of WGCCC said:

We will be supporting Shell on the start-up and commissioning of its facilities in the Majnoon field until steady state operations are achieved and the facilities begin operations.

“This is a significant contract for WGCCC and marks our continued expansion across the Middle East. We are currently deploying up to 200 new personnel to service the contract, demonstrating the strength of WGCCC’s ability to make expertise available to our customers’ wherever they need it.

Employing more than 3,300 people, WGCCC brings together WGPSN’s global engineering, operations and maintenance expertise with CCC’s engineering and construction capabilities and substantial regional resource base in the Middle East, to deliver services to operators throughout the region.

This is WGPSN’s second contract in Iraq in the last six months after the company announced its support to DNO for the development of the Tawke field in the Kurdistan region of Iraq at the end of 2012.

(Source: Wood Group)

Posted in Construction & Engineering, Oil & Gas0 Comments

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