More Lebanese Doctors leave for Iraq

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

More Lebanese doctors leave for Iraq

As Lebanon is sinking deeper into an unprecedented financial and political crisis, many medical doctors are increasingly packing their bags and leaving for the Gulf or Europe, and more recently for Iraq.

Click here to read the full article.

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Jiyad: Iraq, and the China-Iran Cooperation Program

By Ahmed Mousa Jiyad.

Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq and the China-Iran Comprehensive Cooperation Program

The China-Iran Comprehensive Cooperation Program (CICCP) was signed on 27 March 2021; two days later the CICCP's direct impacts on Iraq began emerging and one of such impacts seems to benefits both Iraq and Iran!!

A few days ago I completed a detailed preliminary assessment of CICCP document. The assessment was written in Arabic entitled "China-Iran Comprehensive Cooperation Program: Tactically Important Strategically Impacting if Implemented", it was circulated widely and posted on many websites.

The assessment uses composite methodology of three researches approaches (Text analysis, SCOR (Strength, Challenges; Opportunities and Requirements) and facts/evidence based) and comprises an introduction, three parts and concluding remarks. Part one provide brief review of CICCP document structure: preamble, articles, annexes, effective date and term of the deal, coordinating and supervising authorities. Part two, provides detailed assessment of eight fundamental topics/ areas of cooperation, from the perspectives of the political economy of bilateral relations and geopolitical considerations. Part three provides the direct official reactions to CICCP from Iraq, USA, Arab Gulf States/Saudi Arabia and Russia.

The political economy perspectives are related to the following basic issues: The first relates to the nature of bilateral relations in terms of sovereign independence or dependency and hegemony; the second is whether the principle of "mutually beneficial" is also equitable; the third concerns the structuring of the Iranian economy on whether the deal will eventually deepens the dependence on the export of raw materials, oil and gas, or introduces the required and desirable structural changes horizontal, vertical and knowledge-based levels; and the fourth is about the financial and banking independence, monetary and currency issues pertaining to funding investments and trade exchange.

The geopolitical considerations were addressed at four levels, starting from the domestic (national for both countries), continental (Asian from China to Syria), regional (West Asia / Middle East) and international levels.

The assessment argues that the timing of signing and announcing CICCP is tactically motivated and important, while its proper and timely implementation could be a game-changer and thus strategically impacting; but, as usual, reality seldom coincides with expectations.

This brief intervention focuses on the direct current evidenced impacts on Iraq. Interested readers are kindly invited to read the Arabic version of my detailed initial assessment through the web-links mentioned at the end of this article.

In a remarkable speed and substance CICCP has already prompted both Iraq and the US to react!

First; after the current prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, denied, rather harshly, in a press conference on November 18, 2020, the existence of an Iraq-China agreement by saying, 'You know there is no China agreement, why are you promoting these lies?', he returned to authorize, on March 30 - that is, only three days after the signing of CICCP, "to start implementing the Chinese agreement"!!

While I do not find it necessary, now, to discuss what has happened between Iraq and China since the government of Haider al-Abadi, I find it useful to remember the statement by the Prime Minister's Financial Affairs Adviser, Dr. Modhir Muhammad Saleh, on March 29, 2021, that the "Iraq-China agreement" became effective on October 18, 2020, and then he affirmed the "cooperation framework agreement ... and the final accounting and oil annexes were signed on September 23, 2019." So why has not been published to this day any official document on this agreement / cooperation framework agreement, nor any of its annexes or memoranda of cooperation/ understanding related to it!!??

But there is a document at the Ministry of Finance entitled "Export Credit Insurance Cooperation Framework" between the China Export & Credit  Insurance Corporation and the Iraqi Ministry of Finance) dating back to May 11, 2018 (that is, before the date of the agreement signed by former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi) !!!!

It is worth mentioning that 2021 State Budget Law includes a few infrastructure projects worth 1.803 trillion Iraq Dinnar to be funded, presumably by the above mentioned 2018 framework; since there is no new framework agreement officially published by the Ministry of Finance, nor approved by the Council of Ministers, nor legislated by the House of Representatives/ the Parliament. Moreover, even if such agreement is ratified and activated it utilization will be differed to future state budget for 2022 or even 2023 because of the national election scheduled for October this year.

Apparently, CICCP was a wakeup call for the Iraqi government but it is in reality too late for 2021 budget funding.

But on the other hand, the Iraqi Premier rushed for quick visits to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, immediately after signing CICCP; is there a relationship between the two events? Time will only tell!!!!

Second, among direct reactions by the US administration and as far as Iraq is concerned relates to Iraq-Iran interests. Just two days after signing the CICCP the U.S. renewed and extended the Iraqi exemption from the practices of maximum US pressure on Iran from 45 to 120 days; a waiver to avoid penalties for buying natural gas and electricity from Iran. This exception entails two positive consequences for both Iraq and Iran: the first is to ensure the continued supply of Iranian gas to generates electricity; this what the Iraqis suffer from its shortages especially the heated summer is on the doorstep, and the second is that Iraq pays Iran's accumulated dues for importing gas and electric power (which constitutes about a third Iraq's production of electricity) as the total of those receivables were mentioned in the 2021 budget, about 1688 billion Iraqi dinars.

Third, another important reaction by the US administration was its quick decision to hold a new round of strategic dialogue with Iraq; the discussions began on April 7, and mainly relate to the issue of US forces remaining in Iraq and the Strategic Framework Agreement signed in December 2008. (This agreement and related matters face strong opposition and many important, influential, legal and judicial challenges, especially after the Trump administration assassinated two leading heavy weight individuals, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis (Iraq) and General Qassem Soleimani (Iran), on January 3, 2021 near Baghdad airport).

It is worth noting that energy cooperation is one of the eight topics included in the said strategic framework agreement. Evidence suggests that the previous round of the Iraqi-American Committee for the Coordination of Cooperation in the Field of Energy, which was held, virtually remotely, on January 18 of this year was brief and did not include any important issues or noticeable impacts or new achievements. Hence, it did not attract attention from domestic or external media. Even the two ministries, i.e, Oil and Electricity, that should be directly involved, hardly mentioned anything on their websites on that latest meeting. Will CICCP invigorate Iraqi-American cooperation for the benefit of the energy sector in Iraq?? Who knows, will see!!!

Click here to download the full report in pdf format.

Mr Jiyad is an independent development consultant, scholar and Associate with the former Centre for Global Energy Studies (CGES), London. He was formerly a senior economist with the Iraq National Oil Company and Iraq's Ministry of Oil, Chief Expert for the Council of Ministers, Director at the Ministry of Trade, and International Specialist with UN organizations in Uganda, Sudan and Jordan. He is now based in Norway (Email: mou-jiya(at)online.no, Skype ID: Ahmed Mousa Jiyad). Read more of Mr Jiyad's biography here.

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Covid-19: Govt amends Curfew, Announces New Measures

By John Lee.

The Iraqi Government has issued the following announcement regarding measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  1. A partial curfew will be implemented during the blessed month of Ramadan from 20:00 to 05:00 the following morning for the first three weeks of Ramadan, while allowing restaurants to provide delivery service.
  2. A full curfew on Fridays and Saturdays every week. Exempt are pharmacies, food marts, fruit and vegetable stands, and bakeries, and allowing them to carry out their work until 19:00, and allowing restaurants to provide delivery service.
  3. Enforcing measures by health control teams and the security forces, and holding violators accountable.
  4. Directing health departments to ask their employees in hospitals and health centres to provide proof that employees are Covid-19 negative through PCR examination results, with tests being conducted within a week or providing proof of their inoculation with a Covid-19 vaccine, to allow them to work starting 1 May 2021. Directors of health institutions will be held legally responsible for implementing and following up these procedures.
  5. Conducting PCR tests on all patients and their caregivers if they are unable to provide a certificate of  inoculation against Covid-19.
  6. Starting 1 May 2021, those employed in retail stores, restaurants, malls, factories and other places of business subject to health control measures will require inoculation. Health permits for the aforementioned businesses will be conditional on providing proof of inoculation of all staff. Following this date, businessowners will be held accountable and subject to fines if any employee cannot provide evidence that:
    • The employee has been inoculated with a Covid-19 vaccine.
    • Those who are unable to be inoculated such as pregnant women and other contraindications, or those who can provide evidence that they contracted Covid-19 during the last three months, by providing a positive PCR test or CT-scan will need to provide proof of a negative PCR test taken within the most recent week.
    • Ministry of Health monitoring authorities, with the support of the security forces, must hold accountable violators of these health measure in accordance with the Public Health Law and the decisions of the Higher Committee for Heath and National Safety.
  1. Starting 1 May 2021 staff working in pharmacies, drug stores, laboratories and private clinics, including radiology clinics, and private hospitals will not be allowed to work if:
    • They cannot provide evidence that they are Covid-19 negative through a negative PCR test conducted within the most recent week.
    • There cannot provide evidence of being inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine.
    • Ministry of Health inspectors and the relevant associations (Doctors' Syndicate, Dentists' Syndicate, Pharmacists' Syndicate) will enforce the implementation of the above and hold violators accountable and closing the practice of violators in accordance with the laws and regulations in force.
  1. Citizens will not be allowed entrance into ministries and government agencies of a crowded nature  (pension department, traffic directorates, passport directorates, civil and national status directorates, etc.), as well as not allowing employees of the aforementioned to work starting from 20 April 2021, in case of:
    • They cannot provide evidence that they are Covid-19 negative through a negative PCR test conducted within the most recent week.
    • There cannot provide evidence of being inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine.
    • All government entities not associated with a ministry and all governorates are responsible for implementing the procedures and following up with their employees and considering any violating employee in absent without payment.
  1. Sports clubs will not allow the presence of any of the players unless they present their inoculation card for the Covid-19 vaccine.
  2. The Ministries of Education, Higher Education and Scientific Research, and Health will coordinate regarding conducting campaigns to vaccinate the covered groups of faculty and students.
  3. The Hajj and Umrah Authority will not register any of the citizens wishing to perform the Umrah and Hajj pilgrimages unless it is proven that s/he has obtained the inoculation card with the Covid-19 vaccine.
  4. Urging all government entities not associated with a ministry and all governorates to direct their employees to be inoculated with a Covid-19 vaccine.
  5. Calling upon community leaders, students of religious sciences, tribal sheikhs, intellectuals, activists and media professionals to take their national and moral responsibility in raising awareness and not to stand watching in light of the continuing dangerous epidemiological situation.
  6. Calling upon all media outlets, governmental and private institutions, and civil society organisations to make efforts to urge citizens to adhere to preventive measures, and to encourage citizens to take the vaccine in health centres and accredited hospitals.
  7. Putting into force the application of the provisions of Article 240 of Penal Code No. 111 of 1969, as amended, related to violating orders and regulations, and authorizing the security forces in support of health teams and their application against citizens in violation in the event that they fail to pay fines.
  8. The Joint Operations Command, Baghdad Operations Command, the Ministry of Interior, and the National Security Agency will continue to support health teams in their inspections and follow-up on the implementation of preventive measures in public places, restaurants, shopping malls, cafes and others during and outside of official working hours.
  9. Reducing working hours in public departments and institutions by one hour during the holy month of Ramadan.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

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Dhi Qar Protests: PM Replaces Governor

By John Lee.

Iraq's Cabinet held its weekly meeting on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.

The Prime Minister addressed the developments in Dhi Qar province, and confirmed that, following consultations with key stakeholders, a new governor has been appointed to run the province and his name will be announced shortly.

He told the Cabinet that an advisory council will be appointed in Dhi Qar, reporting to him, and that he he will follow up on a daily basis with the new governor and the council on all matters related to the reconstruction of Dhi Qar.

He also indicated that the results of the investigation into the violence during the recent demonstrations in Dhi Qar will be announced.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

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Iraq passes $89bn Federal Budget Bill

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

Iraq passes $89 billion federal budget bill

The budget confronted issues of unemployment, currency devaluation and non-oil revenues and was passed as lawmakers prepare for October's general election; the challenge is implementation.

Click here to read the full article.

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Protesters Block Entrances to Oil Facilities

By John Lee.

Protesters have reportedly blocked the entrances to the Dhi Qar Oil Company (DQOC), Dhi Qar Refinery, and the Oil Products Distribution Company.

According to Anadolu Agency, they were protesting the passing of the 2021 budget by the Iraqi parliament, which did not meet their expectations regarding guaranteed employment.

More here.

(Source: Anadolu Agency)

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Iraqi Parliament Approves 2021 Budget

By John Lee.

Iraq's Parliament (House of Representatives) has approved the Federal Budget Law for 2021 on Wednesday night.

The budget is reportedly based on an oil price of $45 per barrel, and oil exports of 3.25 million barrels per day, giving a budget of 129 trillion Iraqi dinars ($89 billion) and a budget deficit of 28.7 trillion trillion Iraqi dinars ($19.79 billion).

The 2021 budget set an oil price of $45 a barrel with expected oil exports of 3.25 million barrels per day.

More here, here, and here.

(Sources: Iraqi Parliament, Bas News, Shafaq, AP)

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Jiyad: The Federal Oil and Gas Law in Iraq

By Ahmed Mousa Jiyad.

Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Federal Oil and Gas Law in Iraq:

A sudden alarming move that calls for caution and readiness to encounter

In a very surprising and sudden move it was announced that the "Opinion Board" (Hayaatul raay  هيئة الرأي) of the Ministry of Oil (MoO) discussed and approved the final version of the Federal Oil and Gas Law (FOGL) at its meeting on Wednesday, February 24, 2021.

In a statement by Ministry's Press Office, Minister of Oil Ihsan A. Ismail confirms this final version will be referred to the Council of Ministers (CoM) for approval after it was reviewed by the "concerned authorities in the Ministry", and then CoM will review this text, and in turn refer it to the House of Representatives (HoR) to enact it as law.

The Press Office did not provide, in its brief statement, any important or new information about the components and contents of this final version of the bill, or on its similarity to any of the previously presented drafts (a minimum of three), or to what prompted the Ministry to take this action at this particular timing in this way!!

The real reasons behind this "suddenness" at this particular time could be explained by or related to many issues or events that are dominating the current political environment. It could be linked to the stalled approval of 2021 budget law, or to the ongoing back and forth dialogue between the federal government and KRG (including efforts by some politicians and heads of some politico-religious groups), or with the end of the current government's mandate and the HoR term, as the national election is rescheduled from June to October this year, or with the current debate at HoR regarding the 15 year old Federal Supreme Court Law (FSCL), or with the coordination efforts (covert or overt) between the announcement of this bill and the proposed first amendment to the Iraqi National Oil Company (INOC law), which seems to be expedited by the Head of the Oil and Energy Committee in the House of Representatives (Haybat Al-Halbousi) ... or all of these ... or a combination of them ... or maybe even others.

Each of the previously presented versions of FOGL is complex, incoherent, long and highly politicized; all has been under consideration for more than fifteen years, and much was written about the law throughout that period.

Because of the urgency, importance and necessity for discussing this "final version" of the law seriously and professionally to protect the country's hydrocarbon wealth in serving the Iraq interest and the rights of future generations, I find it imperative to make very brief assessment on the background and what has been revealed on this abrupt move.

Click here to download the full report in pdf format.

Mr Jiyad is an independent development consultant, scholar and Associate with the former Centre for Global Energy Studies (CGES), London. He was formerly a senior economist with the Iraq National Oil Company and Iraq's Ministry of Oil, Chief Expert for the Council of Ministers, Director at the Ministry of Trade, and International Specialist with UN organizations in Uganda, Sudan and Jordan. He is now based in Norway (Email: mou-jiya(at)online.no, Skype ID: Ahmed Mousa Jiyad). Read more of Mr Jiyad's biography here.

The post Jiyad: The Federal Oil and Gas Law in Iraq first appeared on Iraq Business News.

Iraq to buy Chinese COVID Vaccine

By John Lee.

The Iraqi Cabinet held its weekly meeting on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.

At the start of the meeting, the Prime Minister praised the efforts of state institutions and agencies to ensure the implementation of curfew regulations, and thanked all citizens for adhering to preventative health measures.

Following discussions, the Cabinet agreed to authorise the Ministry of Health to purchase the coronavirus vaccine from the Chinese company Sinopharm.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

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