Thursday, December 6, 2012

How China won the Iraq War

How China won the Iraq War

New fracking technology is going to make the US the number one oil producer by 2017
Baghdad Invest - Baghdad.
It seems the answer to the question “who won the Iraq war?” is – China. India might also be deemed an acceptable answer. But China looks like the real winner of the Iraq war. How come? Because if the point of that war was oil, as many critics have asserted, then China looks like coming away with the lion’s share of that oil – and without having to fire a shot.
According to the International Energy Agency, Iraq has loads of undiscovered oil, and unlike other countries in the region has opened up exploration to foreigners, many of them from China. Not only is the oil plentiful in Iraq, it’s also cheap to get at – 15 times cheaper than extracting Russian oil, 30 times cheaper than Canadian Oil sands.

In the view of the IEA, Iraq is going to become the number two oil exporter over the next couple of decades. And 90% of those exports are going to go to Asia – mostly China, then India.
Indeed much of the oil in the Middle East seems destined for Asian markets in the coming decades, setting up an interesting three way power relationship between Baghdad, Beijing and Delhi. That has profound geopolitical implications, according to the Chief economist at the IEA, Dr Fatih Birol, who gave a fascinating presentation of this year’s World Energy Outlook to the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin last week. Trade and Defence policies have a habit of closely tracking energy policy.
So what about the Americans, who did most of the fighting in Iraq? It seems they are headed for virtual energy self sufficiency – thanks to fracking. The controversial new extraction technology is going to make the USA the number one oil producer by 2017, according to the IEA. It may even start exporting oil.
The same fracking technology is also unleashing vast reserves of gas from shale deposits in the US, so much so that it may overhaul Russia in gas production sometime in the next decade.
But already fracking has had a major impact on the American – and world – energy scene. Firstly the spectacular rise of shale gas has led to massive price drops for gas users in the USA. So much so that electricity producers there have converted power stations from coal burning to gas burning to such an extent that two things have happened – over the past five years, the IEA says the US has seen the biggest drop in CO2 emissions of any country in the world – pretty amazing for a country with no climate change policy. Secondly, the price of coal has fallen to such an extent that Europeans have started importing cheap American coal to fire their own power stations. Europe has seen the second highest growth in coal imports in the world after boomtime China.
There has been one significant policy driver in the US which is also impacting on the global energy scene, and that is the CAFÉ fuel efficiency standards the Obama administration has gotten through the legislative mill. This will lead to a big average improvement in fuel consumption of the US vehicle fleet, reducing pollution and making their increasing fuel reserves last longer.
Up until recently, the Middle East region was exporting oil to both the East and the West on a 50/50 basis, but the IEA sees this shifting to a 90/10 split in favour of the East.
Meanwhile, the Chinese have become more concerned with energy import dependence, and are increasingly turning to alternative sources of energy and energy efficiency. Such is the vast scale of the Chinese market that, according to Dr Birol, when China decided which technology it will adopt, it will become the global standard because the scale effect will mean prices for that technology will plummet.
China, India and Europe are increasingly becoming dependent on imported energy: Japan has already reached 100% dependence on imports. Only North America is heading in the opposite direction, and moving towards self sufficiency.
The gas revolution – led by the US, Canada and Australia – is bad news for traditional gas producers like Russia and Algeria, who export to Europe in particular. Europeans are paying five times more for their gas than Americans (the Japanese pay eight times more!), largely because the contracts link gas prices to the price of oil. But the fracking revolution has decoupled those prices in the US. This price gap has been a present to European governments from the US , who now have some leverage to negotiate prices down. Which is, of course, bad news for the Russians and Algerians.
Not only will this major energy shift have implications for diplomatic and military relations between different regions of the world, they will also have big economic implications, especially for energy intensive industry.
The IEA estimates EU electricity prices will be 50% higher than US electricity, and three times higher than Chinese prices.
Why? For three reasons - firstly natural gas is more expensive. Secondly, Europe has significant subsidies for renewable energy sources like wind power. And thirdly, EU states have carbon taxes. The subsidies for renewable energy may be justified in building the critical mass needed to shift more production to this sustainable sector, and the Carbon Tax is driving technological change towards more climate friendly energy consumption patterns. But they do add to costs for energy intensive businesses in Europe, which may find themselves disadvantaged in their home market.
Indeed the high cost of energy was specifically mentioned by German chemical giant BASF and Bayer in recent decisions to increase investment in the low cost USA last month.
The IEA has taken a special look in this year’s report at Energy Efficiency, treating it as a fuel source in its own right. This is particularly important for European Countries like Ireland, which are very dependent on imports (and Ireland is one of the most dependent in the EU). The EU has a policy aimed at achieving a 20% improvement in energy efficiency by 2020. This involves all sorts of things, from low energy lightbulbs and electrical appliances to the virtual rewiring of the European electricity grid. But the promised gains are immense – a 20% improvement in efficiency would, according the European Commission, save the equivalent output of 1,000 coal fired power stations or half a million wind turbines. In cash terms, the annual saving is equivalent to the GDP of Portugal.
Ireland is pushing ahead with renewable energy investments, mainly in windpower. The Government is also trying to ramp up retro-fitting of Ireland’s housing stock to make it more energy efficient. Energy Minster Pat Rabbitte says the plan is to phase out direct grants for things like external insulation and more efficient gas boilers. Instead the Government and industry are working on a pay-as-you-save scheme, with the power utilities funding efficiency measures while consumers pay off the costs over the long term through savings in their monthly bills.
But according to the IEA, Europe’s ambitious policies only unleash about one third of the potential that energy efficiency has to offer. If the big energy using regions of the world went all out for efficiency by simply removing the barriers to using economically viable efficiency measures, energy demand would start to fall from the end of this decade. And it says the savings could push economic growth. The IEA thinks a $12 trillion investment in efficiency technologies would produce an $18 billion boost to GDP out to 2035. The biggest gainers in terms of economic growth would be India, China, The US and Europe.
And it would lead to cleaner air and might – just might – help to keep global warming within tolerable limits.

Latest Iraqi related news from:

Baghdad Stock Broker

Shwan Taha is chairman and sole owner of Rabee Securities, a brokerage that handles 80 percent of stock trades by foreign investors on the Iraq Stock Exchange.
Baghdad Invest - Baghdad.

It was exceptionally cold in Sulaymaniyah, a city in northern Iraq's Kurdish region, Shwan Taha was sitting in the airport lounge with a bag of gifts, waiting to get back to his wife and children at home in Istanbul.
Just before boarding, he got a call on his mobile phone from Rabee Securities, the Baghdad-based brokerage he owns, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its December issue. The manager was on the line to report that a car bomb had exploded next door at the government anti-corruption agency.
Taha hung up. Fortunately, the last trading day of the year had been two days earlier, so none of Rabee’s 16 employees were in the office. He tapped out an e-mail to Rabee’s clients that said in part:

“All client information is safe in multiple locations inside and outside Iraq. Praying for a peaceful New Year.”

Recalling his firm’s brush with danger six months later, Taha says such incidents are a hazard of doing business -- and making money -- in one of the world’s most dangerous frontier markets.

“I’ve always told people the major risk of running Rabee is, one day it may blow up, not Lehman style but physically,” Taha says, spreading both arms to suggest an explosion. “What can you do?”

Biggest Brokerage

Taha, who’s 6 foot 2 inches (1.88 meters) tall and has dark curly hair, is sitting in his office in Istanbul, where he spends a third of his time. The 43-year-old smiles and points to his iPhone case emblazoned with a morale-boosting exhortation made famous by a World War II-era poster in the U.K.:

“Keep calm and carry on.”

That’s what Taha has had to do for years as chairman and sole owner of the biggest stock brokerage tailored to foreign investors in postwar Iraq. Born in Baghdad to Kurdish parents and raised in the city, he bought Rabee for a small, undisclosed sum in 1998 to handle his personal trades in Iraqi stocks.

It now handles about 80 percent of all share transactions by foreigners on the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX), says Taha, whose selling point to his clients is that he’s an Iraqi with a decade of experience working at different times for investors Mark Mobius and George Soros. Other Baghdad brokers deal mostly with Iraqi clients.

‘Smart Money’

“Rabee stands out from all Iraqi brokers because Shwan understands how things work with Western investors,” says Geoffrey Batt, a partner at New York-based Euphrates Advisors LLC, an Iraq-focused hedge fund with about $27 million under management.

Taha estimates Rabee has funneled about $200 million in investments through the ISX since 2008, when the brokerage began attracting non-Iraqi investors. A broker in Baghdad would typically earn a 2 percent commission on a two-way trade.

“It was not easy to start with,” Taha says. “People got scared just hearing the word Iraq. Now, we see more and more smart money coming.”

Taha is on the verge of his biggest deal ever. Along with HSBC and Morgan Stanley, Rabee is managing the initial public offering of Asiacell Communications PJSC, Iraq’s first mobile phone service provider and one of its largest companies.

Asiacell had about 10 million customers and $1.8 billion in revenue in 2011. According to two people with direct knowledge of the IPO, the share launch of up to $1 billion could happen as early as the end of this year and would value Asiacell at about $4 billion, doubling the Baghdad exchange’s total market capitalization, which was $4 billion as of June 30.

Economic Potential

“Asiacell’s IPO will be a milestone for Iraq and its believers,” says Henrik Kahm, investment analyst at Stockholm- based Fund Management Group, which operates an Iraq fund of about $20 million.

Taha became a believer earlier than most. From 1997 to 2008, he worked as a money manager in the Middle East, first for Mobius’s Templeton Emerging Market Group and then for Soros’s Quantum hedge fund. He says he was particularly struck by Iraq’s economic potential just ahead of the global credit crunch in 2008, when he noticed that Iraqi shares were mostly trading at about half their book value while stock markets across the region were booming.

Taha figured Iraq had nowhere to go but up after the devastation wrought over two decades by the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War and the Iraq war.

Hitting Bottom

He timed his entry well. Since hitting bottom at $13.6 billion in 2003, the year U.S.-U.K. coalition forces invaded Iraq, gross domestic product has soared. It grew about 10 percent, to $108.4 billion, last year and is expected to expand even faster in the three years through 2014, according to data compiled by the International Monetary Fund and the Washington- based Brookings Institution.

One reason for optimism is the relative decline in sectarian violence, which fell to four civilian deaths a day last year compared with 95 a day in 2006, according to the Brookings Institution.

Oil production, Iraq’s main industry, reached 2.6 million barrels a day in 2011, making Iraq the world’s ninth-largest producer, according to the International Energy Agency.

In 2003, it had collapsed to 1.3 million barrels a day, less than half of its peak production of 2.9 million barrels per day in 1989, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Understandable Caution

On the strength of rising production, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki plans to double the government’s $100.5 billion 2012 budget by the end of 2016 and spend $9.8 billion on roads, bridges and housing, according to Construction and Housing Minister Mohammad Saheb al-Darraji.

While Taha’s small corner of the economy has also grown -- trading by foreign investors in Iraqi equities tripled to $147 million in 2011 from a year earlier, according to the ISX -- many big investors remain wary.

New York-based Black Rock, the world’s largest asset manager, invested just 3.4 percent of its Frontier Investment Trust, or about $4 million, in Iraq, according to a Feb. 29 fact sheet.

Such caution is understandable. The Baghdad exchange is 1/16 the size of the market capitalization of Istanbul’s benchmark ISE National 100 Index. The economy of the United Arab Emirates, with a population of 5.1 million compared with Iraq’s 33 million, is three times larger than Iraq’s.

What’s more, Iraq sits in the middle of a region wracked by instability.

Beyond Bombs

To the east, Iran is pursuing a nuclear development program that Israel, among other countries, says could lead to outside intervention, if not war. To the west, a civil war flares in Syria, home to more than 750,000 Iraqi refugees, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Iraq is further hobbled by an underdeveloped legal system and overdependence on oil, says Emma Sky, a visiting professor in the War Studies Department at King's College London and a former adviser to the U.S. military in Iraq.

Taha says he’s been able to see beyond the image of a bloodied and bombed Iraq. The carefree Baghdad of his childhood as the son of a prominent doctor bears little resemblance to the shellshocked capital of today.

Skyrocketing oil prices in the 1970s made many Iraqis rich, and he didn’t feel the sting of war until the mid-1980s, when he was a teenager and the conflict with Iran was escalating.

Wrong Turn

One day he took a wrong turn into an unfamiliar neighborhood and wound up driving down a street eerily decorated in black banners signifying mourning.

“There was one house with four banners,” Taha says. He recalls turning down the blaring car radio out of respect. “These things you don’t recover from,” he says. “War forces you to grow up. You are not surprised by things any more, death or whatever. It happens.”

After high school, Taha went to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in 1986 to study biomedical engineering.

As graduation approached in 1990, he was getting ready to go home when Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait. The United Nations slapped sanctions on Iraq. The economy started to shatter. Taha got a call from his father telling him to stay in the U.S. It wasn’t easy. To earn a living, he worked as a waiter at La Dolce Vita Bistro in Cleveland.

Gradually, Taha’s fortunes took a turn for the better in the early 1990s. With money borrowed from family friends, he enrolled in a master’s program in business administration at George Washington University.

Lacking Pretense

He also turned to the Internet, which many people hadn’t even heard of then. He created, a now-defunct website that gathered information about privatization in the Middle East and North Africa.

The potential he saw led him into finance. His own career began with a distinct lack of pretense. The office he opened for Templeton in Dubai in 1997 was in an apartment above a children’s store called Mummy & Me.

“Some brokers, after seeing my address, called up Templeton to see if I was for real,” he says.

In 2006, he went to work for Soros, co-managing a hedge fund out of Istanbul. While he was on vacation the following year, a small jet he was traveling in made an emergency landing and had to be rescued by the Greek coast guard.

“I felt my life could go away any minute,” Taha says. “If I want to do something,” he remembers thinking, “I better start now.”

Going Home

He resigned and returned to Baghdad to transform Rabee from a personal investment vehicle into what it is today.

Someday, Taha says, he may move his Turkish wife, Ipek Tem Ceha, a businesswoman and former TV journalist; their two daughters, 9 and 10; and a 4-year-old son back to the city of his childhood. Not now.

“It’s not because of the bombs that I wouldn’t want my kids to live there; it’s the mentality,” he says. “There’s one thing that takes a long time and real effort to repair: the hate brought by the war, between Shiite and Sunni, Kurds and others, rich and poor, you name it.”

In the meantime, he will do what he’s always done: keep calm and carry on.

Latest Iraqi related news from:

Iraq Investment Concerns

Baghdad Invest - Baghdad.

Iraq investment concerns remain as trade fair ends.
BAGHDAD: Nuri al-Maliki may have trumpeted Iraq last week as the top destination for investment in the region, but experts warn that myriad problems keep it from being a good choice for all but the most adventurous.

Excessive red tape, rampant corruption, an unreliable judicial system and still-inadequate security, as well as a poorly trained workforce and a state-dominated economy all continue to plague Iraq, which completed its biggest trade fair in 20 years last week to much domestic acclaim.

The various difficulties of doing business in Iraq cast doubt on efforts to raise $1 trillion (788 billion euros) in investment income over the coming decade that officials say is needed to rebuild its battered economy.

“If you want to attract capital, if you want to attract firms, you’ve got to make it positive,” complained one Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “You’ve got to provide the incentives to invest here, and there are already so many disincentives.”

A recent World Bank report listed a litany of problems: a tiny private sector, limited access to loans, an exodus of educated Iraqis, decades of isolation from global trade, destroyed infrastructure, unsteady power and water supplies and a poor transport network.

“In addition to securing and stabilising the country, these key challenges must be addressed in order for Iraq to truly fulfill its economic potential,” it noted.

A survey of firms conducted by the bank, which ranks Iraq as the 165th worst country in the world to do business, listed the three biggest obstacles as poor electricity supply, political instability and corruption.

Overall, Iraqi firms lose around 22 percent of their sales to what the World Bank classes as “investment climate weakness,” a greater figure than losses suffered by companies in Yemen, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, Jordan or Morocco.

Iraqi officials say they are in the early stages of reforming the economy into more of a market-driven system, but counsel patience with a country that only recently emerged from a decade of conflict and isolation.

“People are impatient; they want you to almost create miracles... and I fully sympathise with them,” said Sami al-Araji, head of Iraq’s National Investment Commission.

Araji insisted that reforms to Iraq’s bloated state-owned enterprises, antiquated banking sector and Byzantine legal system were all in the works, but acknowledged that the country’s bureaucracy was averse to wide-scale changes.

He said he hoped mooted reforms would remove “all these different chains that have handcuffed” Iraq.It is widely agreed that the country has vast potential rewards for firms that manage to negotiate the various difficulties.

A swathe of industries are seen to represent good prospects, including electricity, transportation, construction, housing, agriculture, healthcare and defence, as well as energy.“You’re talking about 30 million people, with an infrastructure that needs to be almost re-done,” Araji said. “Not very many countries have that potential.”

Latest Iraqi related news from:

Investing in Iraqs Dinar

A customer counts Iraqi Dinars at a money changer in Baghdad
Baghdad Invest - Baghdad.

The U.S. stock market almost wiped out his retirement account, but retired pilot Ronald Scarpa hasn't lost his taste for risk. Lately he has turned to one of the chanciest investments in the world - the Iraqi dinar.

"It's not a question of if, but when Iraq revalues its currency," said the Las Vegas-based Scarpa, who keeps dinars in his retirement account. "The dinar will eventually have substantial value, possibly the highest in the world."
He's not alone in risking his money on an investment that can charitably be described as a long-term turnaround project that will pay off only for the extremely patient. Thousands like Scarpa in America are buying the dinar, hoping someday the war-torn nation can revalue a currency worth just a fraction of a penny.

The fundamentals for buying the dinar are precarious. The United States invaded the country in 2003 and has only recently removed most of its troops. The country's political situation remains unstable, and destabilization in the Middle East - most recently with rockets fired between Israel and the Gaza Strip - could undermine the fledgling republic further.

U.S. retail investors' interest in Iraq's currency is part of a broad push for investment opportunities that will give some yield. Most of them cite near-zero interest on their U.S. savings and certificates of deposits as a reason for buying dinars and other exotic currencies.

The dinar, worth just a tenth of one U.S. cent, is experiencing additional downward pressure as a result of international economic sanctions imposed on neighbouring Iran and Syria.

Also, buying the dinar is a task in and of itself. The currency is only traded in Iraq, so it can only be purchased by U.S. customers through a handful of dealers around the U.S. who get their dinars from Iraqi banks. If a customer wants to sell his dinars, the dealer will only buy it back at a 30 percent discount - so no quick trades here.

But Scarpa said he is prepared to wait. The country has the second-largest oil reserves in the Middle East and exports 3.4 million barrels of oil per day, making it one of the world's largest oil producers.

"If the dinar rises to just even a penny, you would have realized a profit of 900 percent," Scarpa said.


In the last four years, the dinar has barely moved. Since 2008, it has appreciated by just 5 percent against the dollar, and at a tenth of a penny, the Iraqi dinar is the weakest currency among oil-producing Arab nations.

The Kuwaiti dinar is worth about $3.50, while Saudi Arabia's riyal is equivalent to roughly 26 U.S. cents.

The old dinar was worth $3.20 before the United Nations embargo that followed Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. By August 2002, the dinar had plummeted to a fraction of a penny.

Speculators are betting that given Iraq's potential as an oil-driven economy, the dinar could rise to a value of $1 to $3.

"I looked at the risks and I decided that this is not going to bankrupt me," said 35-year-old Ryan Williams, a former sheriff in Bakersfield, California.

"You invest a couple of hundreds or a couple of thousands of dollars and even if it just appreciated by 10 to 15 percent a year, that's still a lot better than investing in certificates of deposits here."

The Iraqi central bank sells dollars daily at a fixed price of 1,166 dinars through two state-run financial institutions and some private lenders Those institutions set the market rate through sales to customers. The current market rate is 1,215 dinars to one U.S. dollar.

Hassnain Ali Agha, founder of Las Vegas-based currency dealer Dinar Trade, is the biggest U.S. market-maker in Iraq's currency. He also sells other exotic currencies such as Afghanistan's afghani and the Libyan pound.

The United States is a huge market for Agha's firm, which has nearly 900,000 customers, 90 percent of which have purchased dinars. His customers are U.S. mom-and-pop investors - teachers, police officers, and construction workers. He also sold dinars to many U.S. soldiers coming back from Iraq.

Agha, who formerly traded at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and New York Futures Exchange, himself holds more than $2 million in dinars, he said.

In 2011, Agha said, his firm sold about $577 million in dinars to U.S. customers, most of whom hold dinars for investment purposes.

"People in the U.S. really feel that Iraq is the next frontier market to make money on," said Agha. "There will come a time when the Iraqi government will have to adjust the dinar exchange rate given the country's oil exports. That will start fuelling the fire."

Agha sells dinars in 1 million lots for $1,120. For the U.S. investor, however, it has to be a long-term holding. Dinar Trade will buy Iraqi notes at $850 per million, so the dinar would have to appreciate by about 30 percent before an investor could sell and break even.


In Iraq, prices are quoted both in dinars and dollars, but many prefer the greenback, locals interviewed by Reuters said.

Saja Majeed, a 30-year-old civil servant in Baghdad and a mother of two, said she carries dollars in her wallet because it is safer and she sees little opportunity for the dinar to rise.

"There is no industry in Iraq except oil. The dinar is linked to oil, but oil will run out one day," Majeed said.

Revaluation will only happen once the Iraqi government stabilizes. Iraq's central bank hopes to make one dinar equal to $1 at some point through redenomination and central bank-induced appreciation.

Iraq's deputy central bank governor Mudher Kasim told Reuters that process could take three years.

America investors are remaining patient.

"The big question is: where do you put your money in the U.S.? You can't get any interest in your money. Banks give you almost nothing on deposits," said Donna Simko, a real estate agent in her mid-sixties in Riverside, California.

"The gold rush into Iraq is just getting started."

Latest Iraqi related news from:

Friday, September 28, 2012

Ali Abbas Iraqi Footballer

Ali Abbas - Dream come true for this Iraqi Footballer
Baghdad Invest - 28/09/2012 Baghdad.
An Iraqi refugee with a sweet left foot has completed a remarkable journey from the war-scarred streets of Baghdad to one of Australia's most glamorous football clubs.
Ali Abbas, a 25-year old midfielder was a member of Iraq's victorious Asian Cup squad that beat Saudi Arabia 1-0 in July 2007.
Four months later he was to take a decision that was to change his life. He and two Iraqi teammates sought asylum in Australia following an Olympic games qualifier in the city of Gosford 75km north of Sydney.
"In 2007 it was a really bad situation in Iraq. We came here and played against the Olyroos. After we lost I decided to stay here to make my life better than in Iraq," Ali explained to the BBC.
"Like any sportsman, actor or doctor, I couldn't do my job properly because there were too many bad people there. It is not the Iraqi people, they come from outside of the country and that is why I saw my future here (in Australia)."
Ali was granted refugee status and has recently signed a contract with Sydney FC, former winners of the Australian A-League, which has previously boasted within its ranks former Manchester United star Dwight Yorke and Brazilian maestro Juninho.
"It was a hard decision to make (to leave Iraq) and look now I'm really happy and playing for a big club in Australia," he added.
'Massively appealing'
The former Iraqi international's footballing journey at the elite level in Australia began in the industrial city of Newcastle with the Jets in 2009. He has gone on to impress some of the sharpest minds in the game with his tenacity and skill.
The midfielder was the first signing for new Sydney FC coach Ian Crook. The Englishman says Ali Abbas' technical ability and desire to succeed will suit his team's up-tempo style.
"He is technically very good, he's got lovely technical ability and he can beat people in one on-ones and deliver killer passes," Mr Crook said.
"To go through what he put himself through to come here proves to me that he is hungry and desperately wants it. To me that is a massively appealing thing," added the former Spurs and Norwich City mid fielder.
Australia has offered sanctuary to waves of Iraqi refugees, but the transition to a new country and a very different culture is not always easy.
But Dr Mohamed Al Jabiri, a former Iraqi diplomat who went into exile in Australia after being imprisoned by Saddam Hussein, says Ali Abbas is a tremendous role model for other migrants.
"He is very easygoing, very humble. He is a good person from a good background. He has adapted to Australian society and I hope he will not forget he was part of Iraq," Dr Al Jabiri told the BBC at his home in Sydney.
"The Iraqis, my goodness, are so fond of soccer and they are so happy to see their players are achieving fame all over the world," he added.
Asked whether Abbas has the professional qualities to succeed at the highest level, Dr Al Jabiri, a keen follower of the English Premier League, declared: "I think he is like a fine racehorse ready to go the race."
Sydney FC's new Iraqi signing will make his debut for the Sky Blues against the Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand in early October.
Ali's journey took another significant step forward on Australia Day this year, when he became a citizen of his adopted country.
Latest Iraqi related news from:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Baghdad Invest - Thank You

Iraq Investment - Our Video

Baghdad Invest has decided to have a bit of fun. We have good reason to celebrate as we have just reached over 1,000 fans on Facebook and over 68,000 followers on Twitter. We wasn't too sure how to share our excitement

- eventually we decide to sing our joy!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Amanat Baghdad Clean Up Operation

Baghdad Invest - 05/09/2012 Baghdad.

Amanat Baghdad is planning to sign contracts with foreign companies for clean-up work in several neighbourhoods of the capital, officials said.
The move comes as part of a new strategy to privatise the cleaning sector.

According to Amanat media director Hakim Abdul Zahra, "This policy was adopted following the success of a pilot project with a Turkish company, which was awarded work cleaning up the neighbourhoods of Karrada and Rusafa."

In December 2010, Amanat Baghdad announced it signed a one-year, 31 billion dinar contract with the Turkish firm Akdeniz to clean the area extending from the University of Baghdad in Jadiriya through Karrada Dakhil, Karrada Kharij, Abu Nuas Street, Bab al-Sharqi, Palestine Street and up to Bab al-Muadham.

"The work was praised by several government bodies, such as the general secretariat of the council of ministers, the Baghdad Services Commission and residents who live in the areas that were cleaned," Abdul Zahra said, citing an Amanat survey on the company's performance.

"After evaluating the results of this project, the mayoralty found it necessary to continue to develop the initiative by providing the same opportunity for more foreign companies to compete to clean up larger areas of Baghdad," he added.

Officials invited a number of international companies to submit offers for clean-up work in Karkh and Rusafa municipalities, Abdul Zahra said, confirming that "several companies from Europe, the Emirates, Turkey and Jordan submitted bids."

"We are evaluating the offers and will choose the best one based upon the company's experience, reputation, its previous similar works and cost estimates of the work," he said. "When we are done with this phase, we will announce the winning bids."

Abdul Zahra said, "Privatisation in this sector will not mean the end of the municipal district clean-up services. Instead they will be sharing in the provision of these services [with public workers]."
"This step is also important for economic reasons, because the contracts make it conditional on companies to benefit from the local manpower and provide work for a big number of unemployed people," he said.

Privatisation to support municipalities

Meanwhile, Ghalib al-Zamily, deputy chairman of Baghdad provincial council's services commission, told Mawtani, "Privatisation will help us achieve progress in clean-up services in order to create a clean, civilised environment."

"We support the idea of allowing foreign investment companies not only to enter into this sector, but also to venture into other service sectors, such as water, sewage and roads," he added.
Al-Zamily said meetings were recently held with representatives from Italian, Swedish and German companies that specialise in clean-up services.

"These companies expressed eagerness to compete for available opportunities in the clean-up sector, and they presented us with numerous documents and pictures to show the clean-up projects they completed in several Arab countries," he said.

Wahda al-Jumaily, member of the parliament's services and reconstruction committee, emphasised the necessity of "attracting the investment companies that specialise in clean-up services to support the efforts of municipalities".

"It is also necessary to intensify the education process through media, seminars and posters to increase public awareness of cleanliness as a basic, civilised practice for a healthy environment," al-Jumaily said.

Latest Iraqi related news from:

Baghdad Burger Boom

Baghdad Invest - 01/09/2012 Baghdad.
BAGHDAD'S embattled residents can finally get their milkshakes, chili-cheese dogs and buckets of crispy fried chicken - original recipe or extra spicy, of course.
A wave of new American-style restaurants is spreading across the Iraqi capital, enticing customers hungry for alternatives to traditional offerings like lamb kebabs and fire-roasted carp.

The fad is a sign that Iraqis, saddled with violence for years and still experiencing almost daily bombings and shootings, are prepared to move on and embrace ordinary pleasures - like stuffing their faces with pizza.

Iraqi entrepreneurs and investors from nearby countries, not big multinational chains, are driving the food craze. They see Iraq as an untapped market of increasingly adventurous eaters where competition is low and the potential returns are high.

"We're fed up with traditional food," said government employee Osama al-Ani as he munched on pizza at one of the packed new restaurants last week. "We want to try something different."

Among the latest additions is a sit-down restaurant called Chili House. Its glossy menu touts Caesar salads and hot wing appetisers along with all-American staples such as three-way chili, Philly cheesesteaks and a nearly half-pound "Big Mouth Chizzila" burger.

On a recent afternoon, uniformed servers navigated a two-story dining room bustling with extended families and groups of teenagers. Toddlers wandered around an indoor play area.

The restaurant, located in the upscale neighbourhood of Jadiriyah, is connected to Baghdad's only branch of Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken, a US chain concentrated in a handful of Midwestern and Southern states.

Azad al-Hadad, managing director of a company called Kurdistan Bridge that brought the restaurants to Iraq, said he and his fellow investors decided to open them because they couldn't find decent fried chicken and burgers in Iraq. He called the restaurants a safe investment for companies like his that are getting in early. He already has plans to open several more branches in the next six months.

"Everybody likes to eat and dress up. This is something that brings people together," he explained. "People tell us: 'We feel like we're out of Baghdad. And that makes us feel satisfied.'"

Baghdad's Green Zone and nearby US military bases once sported outposts of big American chains, including Pizza Hut, Burger King and Subway, but they shut down as American troops left last year. Because they were hidden behind checkpoint-controlled fortifications, most ordinary Iraqis never had a chance to get close to them, anyway.

Yum Brands Inc., owner of the Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC chains, has no plans to return to Iraq for now, spokesman Christopher Fuller said. Burger King declined to comment on its Iraq plans, and Subway did not respond.

Dining out in Iraq is not without risk. Ice cream parlours, restaurants and cafes were among the targets of a brutal string of attacks that tore through Iraq on August 16, leaving more than 90 people dead.

Iraqis say the chance to relax in clean surroundings over a meal out is worth the gamble. For them, the restaurants are a symbol of progress.

"This gives you a feeling the country's on the right track," said Wameed Fawzi, a chemical engineer enjoying Lee's fried chicken strips with his wife Samara.

Baghdad's Mansour district is the heart of the fast-food scene.

At the height of sectarian fighting in 2006 and 2007, it was tough to find shops open along the neighbourhood's main drag. Militants targeted shop owners in a campaign to undermine government efforts to restore normality.

These days, roads are packed with cars. The traditional Arabic restaurants long popular here now find themselves competing against foreign-sounding rivals such as Florida Fried Chicken, Mr. Potato, Pizza Boat and Burger Friends.

There is even a blatant KFC knockoff called KFG, which owner Zaid Sadiq insists stands for Kentucky Family Group. He said he picked the name because he wanted something similar to the world-famous fried chicken chain. And he believes his chicken is just as good.

"In the future my restaurant will be as famous as KFC. Why not?" he said.

One of Mansour's newest additions is Burger Joint, a slick shop serving up respectable burgers and milkshakes to a soundtrack that includes Frank Sinatra. It is the creation of VQ Investment Group, a firm with operations in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates.

Its Mansour store is outfitted with stylish stone walls and flat-screen televisions. Another branch just opened across town in the commercial district of Karradah.

The group also runs the Iraq franchises of Pizza Pizza, a Turkish chain, and is planning to launch a new hot submarine sandwich brand called Subz.

Mohammed Sahib, VQ's executive manager in Iraq, said business has been good so far.

Even so, running a restaurant in Iraq is not without its challenges.

Burger Joint's servers had to give up the iPads they originally used to take orders because the Internet kept cutting out, he said. Finding foreign ingredients such as Heinz ketchup and year-round supplies of lettuce is also tricky, and many customers need help understanding foreign menu items like milkshakes and cookies.

Health experts are predictably not thrilled about the new arrivals.

"The opening of these American-style restaurants ... will make Iraqis, especially children, fatter," said Dr. Sarmad Hamid, a physician at a Baghdad government hospital. But even he acknowledged that the new eateries aren't all bad.

"People might benefit psychologically by sitting down in a quiet, clean and relatively fancy place with their families, away from the usual chaos in Iraqi cities," he said.

Purveyors of traditional Iraqi specialties, who might be expected to oppose the foreign-looking imports, don't seem to mind at all.

Ali Issa is the owner of fish restaurant al-Mahar, which specialises in masgouf, the famous Iraqi roasted carp dish. He said every country in the world has burger and fried chicken restaurants, so why shouldn't Iraq?

Besides, he said, he and his family are fans of "Kentucky," the name Iraqis use for fried chicken, regardless of where it's made.

"Sometimes we need Kentucky. Not just fish, fish, fish," he said.
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Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi

Iraq's communications minister has resigned, accusing Prime Minister Nouri Maliki of refusing to stop "political interference" in his ministry.

Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, a member of the Sunni-backed Iraqiyya bloc, said he had submitted his resignation a month ago, but that it had only now been accepted.

There has been no word yet from the prime minister on the allegations.

Mr Allawi is thought to be the first member of the national unity government to resign since it was formed in 2010.

Last year, Electricity Minister Raad Shallal al-Ani, an independent who was nominated by Iraqiyya, was sacked after allegedly authorising £1.1bn ($1.7bn) of improper contracts for power stations with foreign companies.

Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi, Iraq's most senior Sunni Arab politician and a leading member of Iraqiyya, is meanwhile on trial in absentia, accused of financing a sectarian death squad targeting Shia officials.


Mr Maliki's support of the prosecution led Iraqiyya to boycott cabinet meetings for more than a month, bringing the government to a standstill.

They accused the prime minister, who is a Shia, of trying to marginalise the country's minority Sunni community and cement his grip on power.

On Monday, Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi told the AFP news agency: "I required certain conditions from the prime minister, to stop the political interference in my ministry."

"Otherwise, I told him: 'I am not ready to work at the ministry with this big interference.'"

"I told him: 'Either you fulfil those conditions or accept my resignation.' He decided after one month to accept my resignation."

In separate development on Monday, security officials said gunmen had shot dead a senior army officer outside the capital, Baghdad.

Brig-Gen Abdul Muhsin Khazal was killed in the town of Taji. One report said the assailants used weapons with silencers.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Iraq Water Project

Iraq signed a contract with Pell Frischmann Ltd. for the design of a $85 million water project in the western Al Anbar province, a local municipal official said.
The U.K.-based consulting company will draw designs for a new water station in Hadeetha, which will pump 4,500 cubic meter of water an hour to feed surrounding towns, within two years, Basim Naji said by phone today. Pell Frischmann will also design an upgrade to an existing water station in the same district which pumps 1,500 cubic meter an hour, he said.
The Iraqi government is seeking foreign investment and expertise to rebuild its infrastructure and energy industry damaged by decades of conflict and sanctions. Iraq holds the fifth-largest proven crude reserves, including Canada’s oil sands, according to data from BP Plc.

Latest Iraqi related news from Baghad Invest

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Baghdad History

Baghdad was once the capital of an empire and the centre of the Islamic world, but at 1,250 years old, the Iraqi city is a far cry from its past glories after being ravaged by years of war and sanctions.
Construction of the city on the bank of the Tigris River began in July 762 AD under Abbasid Caliph Abu Jaafar al-Mansur, and it has since played a pivotal role in Arab and Islamic civilisations.
"Baghdad represented the economic centre of the Abbasid Empire, and it was used as a starting point for controlling other neighbouring regions to enhance Islamic power," said Issam al-Faili, a professor of political history at Mustansiriyah University.
"Baghdad witnessed a renaissance of thought through translation, which was usually mastered by Jews and the Christians, and became a destination for intellectuals, poets and scholars from all parts of the world, and a centre for craftsmen and a city of construction," Faili said.
"Baghdad today, after it was the capital of the world, has become one of the most miserable cities," he said.
British consultancy firm Mercer ranked Baghdad as the worst place in the world to live in its 2010 Quality of Living Survey.
The city has been conquered several times in its history, the first in 1258 when the Mongols destroyed Baghdad.
It was captured in 1831 by the Ottomans, in 1917 by the British, and in 2003 by a US-led coalition that overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein but also ended up unleashing internecine violence that killed tens of thousands of people.
Baghdad was a modern capital known for its nightlife in the 1970s, but it has fallen into gloomy disrepair in the years of conflict since.
Saddam started a war with Iraq in 1980 that lasted for eight years, and then launched a disastrous invasion of Kuwait in 1990 only to be forced out in 1991.
Iraq was hit by a harsh regime of international sanctions over the Kuwait invasion, and later lived under an ever-present threat of bombings, assassinations, gun battles and death squad killings in the years after 2003.
Even now, government employees, including high-ranking officers in the security forces, are frequently gunned down in the streets.
Concrete blast walls still surround official buildings, hotels, and other structures that could be the target of attacks.
Despite its long history, there are only fleeting signs of historic buildings on even its oldest streets. Ugly, uninspired concrete boxes are far more common.
Checkpoints cause massive traffic jams, and security forces in the city are armed for war, with equipment including assault rifles, machine guns and armoured vehicles.
Baghdad's streets are often strewn with rubbish and riven by potholes. What public works projects there are move at a glacial pace.
Spider webs of power cables criss-cross many streets, linking houses to private generators -- a testament to the failure of the government electricity grid to provide citizens with consistent power.
The government is headquartered in a heavily fortified area known as the Green Zone, which is defended, among other things, by newly acquired US-made Abrams tanks.
Entry to the area requires passing through a Byzantine series of security checks, some of which are of questionable value in deterring attacks, and journalists' cameras are regarded with deep suspicion.
While Baghdad was once the centre of an empire, the Iraqi government has been paralysed by political crises for almost eight months, during which it has accomplished little.
"Baghdad today is like Baghdad of yesterday in terms of the luxury that was enjoyed by the caliph and his family in the days of the Abbasid era, while the people were in misery," Faili said.
Corruption is widespread, and while Iraq takes in billions of dollars a month in oil revenues, signs of it benefiting the general public are hard to find.
Iraq has made some efforts to return its capital to regional prominence, hosting a summit of Arab leaders in March and talks between world powers and Iran on the Islamic republic's controversial nuclear programme in May.
Preparations for those events cost around $1 billion, although the impact of that outlay for most Iraqis was limited.
Iraqi writer and journalist Rifaat Mahmud said that the "issue of restoring Baghdad to what it was is a difficult matter, and cannot be achieved in circumstances such as those in which the neglected city now lives.
"Baghdad needs what we can call a miracle to regain its form and heritage and at least a part of its past."

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Iraq Oil Producers Opec

Iraq has finally overtaken Iran as the second largest oil producer in OPEC according to the International Energy Agency. Baghdad chalked up 3mb/d production compared to 2.9mb/d from Tehran. For some, that’s cause for celebration – ‘proving’ that international sanctions against Iran are ‘working’ – but it merely highlights the profound supply side problems afflicting the oil world. Bad news all round.
The idea that Iraq, now the second largest producer in OPEC, could be relied upon to provide consistent (let alone) excess supplies, flies in the face of all the political problems afflicting the country. Its main output gains have come in Kurdistan, a region that the central Shia government in Iraq refutes as a self-standing oil producing region. The dictum was very clear after Saddam fell; those who do business in Kurdistan will be barred from far bigger fields in the centre and South of the country. Ballpark numbers certainly backed it up. Baghdad sits on 143bn barrels of ‘proven’ oil reserves, compared to 40bn barrels in Kurdistan. For a time, it was a message that most IOCs were happy to heed. The likes of Exxon, BP, Lukoil and Shell signed very unattractive service contract agreements (i.e. hired help), with a view to securing proper production sharing agreements with Baghdad down the line. The problem is that Baghdad has never worked out what’s good for them; decent contracts have never been put on the table to entice IOCs (or national counterparts) to see Iraq as a serious proposition. Fields haven’t been developed. New infrastructure hasn’t been built.
That’s exactly why the biggest players, including Exxon, Chevron, and Total have called Baghdad’s bluff by signing bilateral deals with Kurdistan as the more credible (if modest) output option. Unless Iraq blinks first to revise contractual terms, don’t expect IOC investment anytime soon. Baghdad might take their chances with the Chinese, (if Beijing happens to still be interested). Russia might invest when asked, but they’ll make sure new fields only come online at times of their choosing for global fundamentals. Alas, far from blinking, Baghdad has kept their eyes wide shut. Although it didn’t chuck Exxon out of West Quarna plays, it barred them from their latest licensing rounds, and indeed Chevron for their ‘Erbil betrayals’. Baghdad will hit its ‘12mb/d’ production targets by 2017, with or without international help – or so the story goes. The snag isn’t just that Kurdistan provides IOCs with the perfect hedge to put pressure on Baghdad, but that Iraq hasn’t understood the unfolding contours of the new energy world. Ten years ago, the greatest risk for IOCs wasn’t operating in high risk, uncertain return markets, but not having access to prospective elephant fields in the first place. It was ‘follow the resources, or die’.
The global unconventional explosion has totally re-written this analysis. If you aren’t willing to offer decent terms and decent conditions, investment won’t come. International players can pick and choose jurisdictions for the best returns. You’re as likely to find a herd of elephants in the US Mid-West these days as you are in a highly explosive Middle East, which, if anything, provides the real kicker for Iraq here: Not only is Baghdad offering poor fiscal terms on new concessions (without any serious legal structure), it’s doing so in an increasingly large security vacuum. Since the US upped-sticks, local grievances have been sharpened without a common enemy. 19% unemployment and chronically high levels of absolute poverty afflicting the population don’t help. But it’s sectarian schisms that remain the most divisive fault lines rather than rich vs. poor in Iraq. Oil sits at the heart of this debate.
However you spin things, IOCs are bankrolling Kurdish succession in the North thanks to enhanced oil receipts (Turkey could obviously do without such developments), while Sunni politicians (let alone insurgency groups) have never come to terms with Shia power, embodied by the al-Maliki central government. Something will eventually have to give in Iraq on how state formation does (or doesn’t) play out, with oil providing the underlying formula for who gets what, where, and when. That’s before you ‘price in’ external meddling from neighbouring Iran, a nation that’s more than happy to stir the Shia pot to progress its economic and political interests in the region. Clipping Iraqi oil production is the perfect way of doing that. It hardly went unnoticed in Tehran that Iraq made as much cash ($22-24bn) in the last quarter. That’s not been the order of things since the 1990 Gulf War; Iran will work hard to keep it that way.
Put all that together, and Iraq will struggle to nudge output towards 4mb/d over the next few years, let alone hitting 5, 6, or 7mb/d over the next decade. As for 12mb/d production targets by 2017 as a the new ‘swing producer’, forget it. Iraq has squeezed out all it can from its older fields; any further gains will be attritional, at best. The upshot is that we’re left with the same oil market equation we’ve had for decades: Saudi Arabia and Russia are simply too big to fail. No one, least of all Iraq is going to change that anytime soon when it rejoins OPEC quotas in 2014. It’s therefore all the more disturbing that the IEA are pinning their main global supply growth hopes on Iraq over the next decade.
But let’s be generous and assume Iraq prevails against all the odds; you then have to beg the serious question: Would enhanced oil royalties from 7mb/d oil production be the catalyst to hold Iraq together from sharing the spoils, or would it rip the country apart? In a winner takes all system between its constituent parts, my bet would be on the latter. The more Iraq gets it oil ‘right’, the more likely things will end in spectacular (and very crude) failure…

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Iraqi Lawyers face daily risks

Iraqi lawyer Ahmed al-Abadi put up with years of threatening phone calls for taking on sensitive sectarian cases but, after he narrowly escaped death when three shots were fired at his car last year, he could take no more.
Abadi had just finished successfully defending a woman accused of involvement in a sectarian killing and he thinks this was the reason behind the gun attack - but he decided against seeking legal redress.
"I did not go to the police station to report it. I knew it would not get me anywhere," he said, seated in the lawyers' room of Rusafa appeal court in eastern Baghdad. "It has affected me mentally and sapped my enthusiasm for work. I started to handle only easy cases which do not cause me problems."
After years of vicious sectarian strife between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims, individual cases are increasingly coming to court. But justice suffers because lawyers are an easy target in a country where rule of law remains weak, tribal loyalties take precedence and sectarian armed groups still operate.
Abadi is one of many lawyers who have suffered constant threats and intimidation from relatives of the accused or the plaintiff. Lawyers come into contact with both sides of a case and they must appear in court, where everyone can see their faces. Lawyers say some judges treat them as if they were involved in the crime simply because they defend the accused.
"We are very sensitive about terrorism cases," the 55-year-old Abadi said, employing the term regularly used to describe sectarian cases in Iraq.
"After taking more than one terrorist case, I quit," he said as he removed his robe after attending the guilty verdict in a corruption case of two clients who worked in a government-spending watchdog.
Sectarian warfare plagued Iraq in 2006-7, when death squads, insurgents and militias claimed thousands of victims.
Violence is no longer an around-the-clock menace but remains common. At least 116 people were killed and about 300 wounded in bomb and gun attacks on July 23 - by far the bloodiest day since U.S. troops withdrew in December, eight years after the invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
And tensions between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims still run high as politicians feud over power-sharing in government.
Practicing law is often a life-threatening profession.
Iraq's lawyers syndicate says 103 lawyers were killed between 2003-2008 but the actual number could be double that since not all cases are reported. The syndicate, which has 50,000 members, lacks figures on victims for after 2008.
Abadi defended a woman who was accused with her husband of kidnapping and killing her husband's friend, a Shi'ite, when he visited them in their home in a Sunni district of Baghdad.
The couple said gunmen had broken into their house and kidnapped the guest, but the victim's relatives accused them of the crime. Abadi, who was the woman's lawyer, won the case and his client was released from prison.
Shortly afterwards three gunmen in a BMW car opened fire at him when he was driving and three bullets whizzed past his head, shattering the window. He stopped his car, and they thought he was dead and drove away.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the judiciary faces enormous pressure in Iraq, particularly lawyers when intimidation, including threats through text messages, is a fact of life.
"The lack of security allows lawyers to be threatened particularly if they take on sensitive cases and those who make threats are able to do so with impunity," Samer Muscati, a researcher at the New York-based watchdog, said.
Thair al-Qassim, a Baghdad-based specialist in sectarian cases, said he has been threatened 32 times.
His son was kidnapped and beaten severely in 2006 and only freed when Qassim paid a $40,000 ransom. He was kidnapped briefly himself in 2009 after militiamen targeted his car, interrogated him and told him to stop covering certain cases. He managed to escape unharmed.

Qassim has endured hand grenade attacks, threatening phone calls and text messages and a letter thrown into his garden.
"All that because I defend Sunnis against Shi'ites or Shi'ites against Sunnis," Qassim said.
"When I defend a client who is from the Sunni sect...someone from the other side, the Shi'ite side, calls me and says 'Sir, leave this case, otherwise you will face regrettable consequences' - and vice versa."
But Qassim said he did not abandoned these cases because this is how he earns his living.
He was part of the defense team for an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at then-U.S. President George W. Bush in December 2008. He received a phone call from someone telling him to drop the case or he or his family would be killed.
It proved an empty threat - but it sticks in his mind.
Apart from the threats, lawyers say they are often prevented from meeting clients, who undergo lengthy interrogations. The Iraqi legal system is especially slow and bureaucratic.
According to Iraqi criminal law, arrested people should be presented to a judge in 24 hours, but this rarely happens in practice, lawyer Farhan al-Bighani said. "They should not stay at the mercy of a police officer for a month or longer just because he wants to extract a confession."
Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, spokesman for the Supreme Judicial Council, said lawyers could present their complaints and the council would take legal procedures in such cases.
Lawyers complain some judges are under political pressure, make decisions based on sectarian or tribal affiliations or are corrupt, charges rejected by the Supreme Judicial Council which says judges are independent, and not politically affiliated.
In one of Iraq's most high-profile and contested cases, Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni politician in the Iraqiya bloc, says he is being targeted in a legal investigation partially because of sectarianism.
Hashemi fled Baghdad in December when the Shi'ite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sought his arrest on charges that he ran a death squad.
Hashemi has said he is ready to face trial, but not in a Baghdad court, which he believes is under the sway of Maliki in a judicial system tainted by political bias.
Maliki's allies say the Hashemi trial is not political. But many Iraqi Sunnis say they see a sectarian hand behind the case, accusing Maliki of shoring up his position at their expense.
Lawyers and Human Rights Watch criticized a government campaign in November to arrest Baathists and former military officers who authorities maintained had plotted to oust Maliki one month before the departure of U.S. troops.
Maliki said more than 600 people had been arrested on evidence that they sought to undermine security in Iraq.
"We have spoken to lawyers and the families of detainees who said they would not take on these types of cases because it would put the lawyers at risk," HRW's Muscati said.
For lawyer Abadi who dodged the bullets, the lawyers syndicate is not doing enough to defend his profession. He even laments that lawyers cannot be armed to defend themselves.
"The lawyer is in the courtyard, fighting alone," he said.

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Baghdad Property Investment

Baghdad needs 750,000 new homes to make up for a massive housing shortfall, Iraq's investment commission chief said on Sunday as he called for bidders for a new property development project.
Iraq is aiming to build one million new homes in the coming years, including a vast construction project southeast of Baghdad that officials hope will provide new housing for 600,000 people.
"Baghdad now needs 750,000 more homes," Sami al-Araji told reporters.
Araji called for bidders for a new housing development project at a former Iraqi army military camp known as Al-Rasheed in southeast Baghdad.
The area is currently home to a small Iraqi army base, as well as a refuse dump where poor families have built make-shift accommodation.
Araji hopes that up to 70,000 apartments and 5,000 independent houses will eventually be built there, along with sports and entertainment facilities, shopping and medical services.
After decades of war, sanctions and under-investment, Iraq is experiencing a major housing shortfall, and the difficulty in finding a home was one of the reasons protesters demonstrated nationwide last year.
Around 57 percent of Iraq's urban population lives in "slum-like conditions", according to a report published by the United Nations in 2011.
The report noted that 13 percent of houses in urban areas have more than 10 people living in them, with 37 percent holding three or more people per room.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

Iraq Shopping Malls

Baghdad Invest - 05/07/2012 Baghdad.
Once a traditionally socialist country, Iraq is witnessing a burgeoning growth in malls, according to a report.

Big malls are being built across the capital, Baghdad, the largest will include a five-star hotel and a hospital, and at one already in operation, a truck arrives each week carrying frozen Big Macs from a McDonald’s in Amman, Jordan, The International Herald Tribune reported on Monday.

On the edge of the upper-class neighborhood of Mansour a huge mall is under construction and will eclipse any of the existing malls. Boutiques will sell Western brands like Ecco shoes, Zara suits and Timberland outdoor apparel, and there are plans for a video game arcade, several cinemas, more than a dozen restaurants and a bowling alley.

“People have to have fun,” said Maythem Shakir, the chief engineer of the $25 million project, which is being underwritten by a group of wealthy Iraqis and built by a Turkish company.

“People have to have the same things as everyone else in the world.”

Lamiya al-Rifaee, 40, a mother and a businesswoman, however, complained that the mall was not as big or as fancy as the ones she had visited in Dubai or Turkey. But for Iraq, she said, it is a good start, and one of the few places where she would let her children out of her sight.

“I can watch my kids playing safely and get whatever I need in the stores.”
While, the construction boom is encouraged and hailed as proof of Iraq’s progress, economists and other experts warn of a dark side. They say that the budding consumer culture covers fundamental flaws in an economy by stifling productive enterprise through the sole dependence on oil profits.

“Basically, Iraq is trying to build a consumer society, not on state capitalism like in China, but on socialism,” said Marie-Helene Bricknell, the World Bank’s representative in Iraq.

The country, mainly dependent on government jobs, also suffers from a patronage system that can quash entrepreneurial and private spirit.

“The state’s payrolls have massively expanded, not with technocrats but with party functionaries, because the state has become a way of funding party loyalty,” said Toby Dodge, a professor at the London School of Economics, at a recent panel discussion in London about Iraq.

Latest Iraqi related news from:

Indonesia Investment in Iraq

Baghdad Invest - 03/07/2012 Baghdad.

Iraq is calling on Indonesian companies and professionals to help build the fledgling nation, its deputy prime minister for energy, Hussain Ibrahim Saleh al-Shahristani, said in Jakarta on Monday.

“The Iraqi deputy prime minister stressed that the situation now is relatively safer and they will welcome Indonesian companies and professional workers in participating in their development process,” Yopie Hidayat, the spokesman for Vice President Boediono, said after the latter had met with Saleh.

Saleh said Iraq’s development needed professionals in construction and in services such as finance and logistics. There were also good opportunities in the energy sector, he added.

Yopie said that according to the Iraqi official, “Indonesia should have the biggest opportunity in entering those fields, not only focused on energy but also its supporting services.”

The two countries are currently discussing ways to overcome visa problems that continue to be an obstacle to bilateral exchanges.

“The vice president directly asked the deputy foreign minister to follow up this demand. The facilities and ease to get visas, including official and diplomatic [visas], is currently starting to be addressed,” Yopie said.

He added that the Iraqi government was offering various investment opportunities for Indonesia.

The 30-minute meeting between Boediono and his guest was also attended by Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Jero Wacik and his deputy minister, Mahmuddin Yasin, as well as the deputy foreign minister, Wardana.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Baghdad Fast Food

An Iraqi entrepreneur has opened a burger joint in Baghdad reminiscent of the classic New York diner - a symbol of the changing face of the war-torn city.

Frank Sinatra croons from speakers and the walls of the small restaurant in the Mansour commercial district are decorated with posters of Miles Davis, James Dean and Muhammad Ali.

"Burger Joint is a quick service fast-food restaurant and the only one with a western look and feel to it," said Omar Hadi, the managing partner of VQ Investment Group, an Iraq-focused firm run by private-equity veterans and entrepreneurs based in Abu Dhabi and Baghdad.

A slew of new restaurants has opened in the same area, and many more are expected to launch in coming months as Iraq returns to something like normality with falling levels of violence and the withdrawal of the last United States troops last December.

Like many adventurous businessmen in Iraq, Mr Hadi hopes to capitalise on Baghdad's large population. He plans to open six Burger Joint restaurants in the capital before the end of the year with an investment of a "few million dollars".

"In Baghdad alone, you have a population of 8 million people with an increasing middle class, and sizeable income," he said.

VQ has also bought franchise rights through Turkey to Pizza Pizza, a Canadian company, with two restaurants already open and plans for two more this year. Mr Hadi and his investors expect to make their money back in 18 months to two years.

"Iraq is a virgin market," he said.

Burger Joint plays on nostalgia, but also uses international quality standards and cutting-edge technology. The cooks use 100 per cent Iraqi lean beef and the servers take orders using iPads.

"We are using new technology, and can see from our offices in Abu Dhabi how the orders are being made."