By Padraig O'Hannelly.
Last week, the US Embassy in Baghdad ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. Government employees from Iraq, as tension mounts between the Trump administration and neighbouring Iran. In the meantime, several other organisations have taken similar moves.
While this has made headlines, has there been any real change on the ground?
Iraq Business News spoke with Martin Aggar, General Manager of Al-Burhan Security, to get his perspective on developments.
He says that while some people have changed their travel plans in response to the increased tensions, in practice little has changed in Baghdad:
“Our operations team is closely monitoring the situation, and apart from one minor incident last night, there has not been a significant increase in security-related activity or general threat levels.
“Nevertheless, some clients have chosen not to leave our secure accommodation at the Al-Burhan Centre.
“But with meeting facilities on site, and also at our villa in Al-Mansour, we can still help them to see the people they need to see while visiting Iraq. We're equipped for all situations.”
The events of the past week seem to many to be at odds with the general trend in Iraq. Aggar explains:
“This all comes against a background of steadily improving conditions in Iraq; people feel safer, infrastructure is improving, and international companies are taking more of an interest in the opportunities to be had here.
“That's why we've invested in the newest and best armoured vehicles, a VIP meet-and-greet service at the airport, and the full package of services that executives need and expect when they come here to do business.
“And our sister company Al-Burhan Airways is the only private operator licensed to fly helicopters in Iraq, so we can bring visitors quickly and safely wherever they need to be in the country.”
Asked how he expects this to play out, he says:
“The current tensions are the result of Iran-US relations, and while they don’t originate in Iraq, they do of course influence this country.
“However, the Iraqi government is very focussed on developing the economy and moving Iraq forward.
“The opportunities are huge and the people are determined to succeed; I think in future we’ll look back on this as the early stage of a boom period for Iraq.”