Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Basra port receives 3 cargo ships

Basra's port of Umm Qasr on Tuesday received three ships with varied cargo. The ships from Iran, Panama and Malaysia carried 2,000 tons of sugar and other assorted goods.

to find out more click here for Voice of Iraq

Monday, September 29, 2008

Scots find Iraqi allies

Scottish soldiers are playing a key role in restoring security to Basra, and as MORAG LINDSAY found out when she joined them on patrol, they are witnessing big changes for the better.

Back home, the prospect of sitting in traffic in temperatures of 50C would fill Lieutenant Colonel Felix Gedney with dread.

In Basra, where he is commanding the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, the everyday congestion that now plagues the city is a welcome sign that life is gradually returning to something approaching normality.

For the full story from the Press & Journal click here

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

MP strolls around downtown Basra

Dr Liam Fox had a stroll around downtown Basra witnessing for himself, the improved security situation in the city.
An early morning helicopter trip into the Basra Operations Centre allowed the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence to meet with Major General Mohammed, the Basra Security Forces Commander, before taking a leisurely walk along the Sha’at al Arab riverside.

Grant Sherlock in Iraq

NOW more than five years after the invasion which deposed Saddam Hussein, Iraq is at a crossroads. As the UK plans the eventual withdrawal of its troops, the focus has shifted to helping the Iraqis take back control.
In the first of a series of special reports from the city of Basra, chief reporter GRANT SHERLOCK explains the roles a band of Suffolk soldiers are playing in that effort.

Suffolk soldiers on deadly desert route - full story click here
From shelf stacker to bomb survivor - full story click here
Convoy rescue put TA skills to the test - full story click here
Don't mess with my mast
iff! - full story click here
Return to civvy street will be tough - full story click here

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

50 companies compete to design sports city in Basra

More than 50 global companies will arrived in Baghdad to present designs for a sports city in Basra.

“Representatives of more than 50 companies will arrive in Baghdad today to present their special designs of the sports city in Basra and then will head for southern city to view the location,” Mohamed Mosbeh al-Waeli told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq (VOI).

“The designing stage is one of the important stages,” he highlighted, noting that setting up some important projects will precede the main project to support and facilitate it.

“The project envisages the establishment of several sports institutions as it will be the largest establishment in Iraq since the establishment of the Iraqi state,” the mayor revealed.

Full story of Aswat al-Iraq

$62 million projects approved

The Planning Ministry’s strategic authority for reconstructing Iraq approved projects at a total cost of $62 million, a statement from the national media center said yesterday.

“The authority chaired by Planning Minister Ali Baban agreed, during its 45th meeting, projects for the agriculture, water sources, education, health, municipalities ministries in Iraq’s Kurdistan region,” the ministry said in a statement received by Aswat al-Iraq.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

UK defence chief: Britain at turning point in Iraq

Britain has reached a turning point in its mission in Iraq, Britain's defence chief said yesterday, but he warned that troops face a long and arduous task in Afghanistan.

Des Browne, who visited the southern Iraqi city of Basra in May, said troops based in the country's south had defeated militias and restored security.

"We have reached a turning point in our involvement in Iraq," Browne told his Labour Party's annual rally. "The Iraqi armed forces, supported by British and U.S. forces, have taken on — and defeated — the militia in Basra."

Read the full articles in the
International Herald Tribune
Gulf Daily News
Xinhua, China
GMA news

Trailer Park With International Flavours

Basra, Iraq may be the the only location in the world where an office of the US Embassy is located in a trailer park.

Known as the REO (Regional Embassy Office) the trailer park is home to 200 State Department personnel, contractors, security guards, and representatives of international agencies.
With people from Bosnia, Bangladesh, Jordon and Uganda is not suprising to hear a variety of languages within the REO. Living is crowded with some rooms housing up to four.
But despite the living conditions, or perhaps because of them, a sense of brotherhood and common mission exists in the REO. Maybe if the world lived closer together we'd be closer as a world.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Iraq, Royal Dutch Shell to ink gas deal

Iraq and Royal Dutch Shell PLC on Monday will formally launch plans to invest in a joint venture to tap natural gas in southern Iraq, a government spokesman said.

Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani will sign the deal with executives from the Anglo-Dutch company at the Cabinet's offices in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, his spokesman said.

A joint venture with the state-run Iraqi South Oil Co. will then be established to invest in natural gas in the southern oil-rich province of Basra, the spokesman Assem Jihad said.

Iraq will control 51 percent of the venture, while Shell will hold the remaining 49 percent in the company, which will exploit flared associated gas for domestic use and exports.

"Financial, legal and technical experts from both sides will start immediately to draw up the plans and basis for the new company that will run this operation," Jihad told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

"The agreement will help Iraq to make use of about 700 million cubic feet which is being flared everyday to process it and to meet the domestic needs and to export the surplus to the world gas market," he added.

Full story from AP
Iraq, Royal Dutch Shell to finalize gas deal - International Herald Tribune
Iraq expects to ink gas deal with Shell - Forbes
$4bn agreement between Shell and Iraq - The National

Iraqi VPs call for holding provincial election on time

Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdelmahdi and Tareq al-Hashimi have appealed that provincial elections are held on time.

Read the full text on Aswat Aliraq

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New facilities in Basra University

A project has been launched by two local firms in Basra to set up a new building for the science departments in the vocational faculty at Basra University.

"A three-story rhombus-shaped building will be established over an area of 200 square meters,," said, Qays Khudeir, the project engineer

read the full story on Voices of Iraq

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Basra's Khour al-Zubeir receives 3 ships

Today, Khour al-Zubeir Port received three Indian ships carrying a variety of cargo.

The Shiite province of Basra, 590 km south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, has five commercial ports and two oil ports.

More information is available on Voice of Iraq

Friday, September 19, 2008

Iraq to promote its tourist potential

Basra could become a jumping off point for tourists while its surrounding marshlands could become a haven for bird watchers, British officials have said.

The suggestion comes as the Iraqi government starts to explore ways to exploit the tourism possibilities in the war-torn country, including rides on Saddam Hussein's presidential train, following a reduction in the violence that has raged for the last five years.

Nigel Hayward, Britain's Consul General for southern Iraq, said Basra's port could be turned into a haven for cruise ships, offering a gateway to the historic sites of ancient Mesopotamia just a few hours north of the city.

They include the ancient city of Babylon - famous for its hanging gardens - and the town of Ur, located near the mouth of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.

Read the full article on the Daily Telegraph web site here

Thursday, September 18, 2008

30 suspects and an ammunition cache seized by Basra Police

Basra Police have arrested 30 criminals and siezed a significant quantity of ammunition in a recent operation.

IPS spokesman Colonel Kareem Az Zaydi announced that in the last few days the police department has arrested 30 terror and criminal suspects, seized 76 mortar rounds of varying sizes and diffused a locally made IEDs (improvised explosive device) in the Shat Al Arab district. The Police also took 25 medium-sized weapons with 70 rounds of ammunition, while impounding a stolen car.

The IPS emergency battalion in Al Qurna discovered a cache of ammunition in the An Najiriya area in the north of Al Qurna made up of 75 mortar rounds of differing calibres along with 5 ‘Katyusha’ rockets.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Japanese companies are ready to work in Iraq

Katsoki Nagazuka the economic consultant at the Japanese embassy in Baghdad, has been talking of the willingness of Japanese firms to work in Iraq.

The spokesman highlighted a number of sectors that are of interest including infrastructure (water, electricity and sanitation), communications and Iraqi Industry.

To read more from the Japanese Embassy on iraqupdates.com

Odierno warning on Iraq security

The new US military commander in Iraq, Lt Gen Ray Odierno, has said that recent security gains there are "fragile and reversible".

He was speaking in Baghdad at a ceremony to replace Gen David Petraeus.

Gen Petraeus, who implemented the "surge" of nearly 30,000 extra US troops in Iraq, is widely credited with driving down levels of violence there.

He has been promoted to oversee operations in Afghanistan and in the Middle East, including Iraq.

To see the full BBC report click here

Monday, September 15, 2008

Iraqi Army Search Op

Iraqi soldiers from the 50th and 51st Brigades were bolstered by commandos when they carried out a cordon and clear operation in the Hamden industrial estate. The search was aimed at disrupting any militia activity in this thriving area of Southern Basra.

During the search, workers continued their day to day business in garages and shop stalls. The soldier’s presence also gave workers a chance to highlight any concerns they might have about local services. One of the Iraqi officers in charge stated that these searches are welcomed as the local businesses also look forward to ongoing stability in the area.

Youth-into-work scheme at Khor Az Zubayr

Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Prentice, was in Basra this week to visit the Khor Az Zubayr VOTEC, a new youth-into-work scheme aimed at tackling the high levels of unemployment amongst the city's young people.

The Basra Development Commission has masterminded the project with 50 local employers. Up to 500 trainees aged 16 to 30 will start vocational courses in October at three colleges that are being supported by the city's private sector.

In time it is expected that each of the colleges will take between 3 to 4,000 trainees a year. The UK Government is providing funding of £250,000 to help the scheme get off the ground.

Iraq Oil Minister to Meet Oil Firms in UK

Iraq's oil minister will meet energy firms bidding for long-term oil and gas service contracts in London next month to discuss details of the fields on offer as well as contract terms, the oil ministry said on Sunday.

"The oil minister will meet representatives from international oil companies in London on October 13 to offer all the information they need to develop the oil and gas fields announced in the first bidding round," ministry spokesman Asim Jihad said.

The 41 companies which pre-qualified to vie for the contracts have all been invited to the meeting with oil minister Hussain al-Shahristani.

To read the full story on iraqupdates.com

Friday, September 12, 2008

Iraqi soldiers complete 'Scorpion' course

A group of Iraqi soldiers have become the first graduates of the Junior Non-Commissioned Officer Al Aqrab (Scorpion) course, which was completed in Basra earlier this week.

Major Bev Allen of 2 Royal Anglian (left) salutes Iraqi Army Brigadier Bilal at the passing out parade for the Iraqi Junior NCOs at the old Iraqi Naval Academy, Basra[Picture: LA(Phot) Jannine B Hartmann]

Under the watchful gaze of their instructors from 2nd Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment (The Poachers) the Iraqi soldiers, or Jundi, spent seven days being trained in tactics and leadership. The course culminated in a passing out parade attended by their Commanding Officer, Brigadier Bilal, of the 51st Brigade, Iraqi Army. He said:

"This is the first course of Al Aqrab from 51st Brigade our soldiers have completed, giving them knowledge and experience to pass on to other soldiers. We will make good use of the upcoming courses to build our forces to a high standard in order to conduct their duties and take this ground experience with them throughout their battalions and units."

For the full article click here

Iraqi big bang

While British scientists were celebrating the flawless start to the "Big Bang" experiment in Geneva a team of British explosive experts detonated a significant quantitiy of abandoned high explosives in the desert north of the city of Basra.

In a series of explosions that shook the desert, more than 160 artillery shells were destroyed. The high explosives, ranging from 105 to 155mm artillery shells dating back to the Iran-Iraq war were discovered by a routine patrol north of Al Qurnah.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Iraqi Army Special Operations Company

In the last week of August the Iraqi Army Special Operations Company, part of 14 Division based in Basra, launched an operation. British troops worked alongside them mentoring them. The Special Ops Company wear a winged parachute badge on their berets and are similar in concept to British Paras.

To see footage of the Op have a look at the youtube report:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Basra calm offers better future

In late August Mike Sergeant from BBC News visited Basra.

For most of the past five years, Basra was more of a battleground than a business centre. After many false starts, British and Iraqi officials say they are finally seeing signs of change.

While here in Basra the BBC and FT travelled with a British businessman Michael Wareing, who is also the co-chairman of the Basra Development Commission - the body overseeing reconstruction efforts here. Find out what the BBC and FT made of the trip:

For the full article click - Basra calm offers better future
The FT also visited - read their article and see pictures of the trip
For the media ops video cast on www.youtube.com/basrablog

First ever rugby sevens in Iraq

Welsh rugby players Scot Gibbs and Ieuan Evans visited the the Contingent Operating Base, (COB) Basra Iraq in order to promote the Help for Heroes charity.

As part of the visit the first ever Iraqi seven-a-side rugby event was run to raise money.

Read more on the links below:

Scott Gibbs and Ieuan Evans benefit Help for Heroes - Times online
Spending time on frontline in Iraq was humbling experience - Telegraph
Heroes of the rugby field meet heroes of the battlefield - Wales online
Help for heroes trip to Iraq photos - Zimbo
Simon Ward’s Basra trip diary for Help for Heroes - England Rugby

The match, to be played at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday, September 20th will feature two teams, a Help for Heroes XV and an International Select XV who will play a challenge match at the home of English rugby.

Watch out for LIVE coverage of the Match on SKY - it will also feature highlights from the match in Iraq!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Shell And Iraq Government Agree On Landmark $4 Billion Deal

Royal Dutch Shell is to become the first western oil company to sign a deal with the Iraqi government since the US-led invasion of 2003, agreeing a plan to capture and use gas in the Basra region that could be worth up to $4bn.

Full articles here:
Shell And Iraq Government Agree On Landmark $4 Billion Deal
Shell agrees landmark US$4 billion gas deal with Iraq

Basra's al-Najibiya power station renovated

The Ministry of Industry and Minerals said that it has completed renovation work on Basra's al-Najibiya electricity station, noting that all work has been carried out by "Iraqi hands."

"Ibn Majid General Company, which is owned by the Ministry of Industry and Minerals has finished rehabilitation work on al-Najibiya electricity station, which generates 90 megawatts for the country's national grid..," according to a ministerial statement received by Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI).

Read more here on Zawya
Voices of Iraq

Monday, September 8, 2008

Basra port receives 3 cargo ships

Basra's port of Khour al-Zubeir received three ships with varied cargos on Wednesday. Two of the ship were from Sierra Leone and one from Korea.

Basra, 590 km south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, has five commercial ports and two oil ports: al-Maaqal, established in 1916 by the British forces and handed over to Iraqi authorities in 1937; and Faw, a small port on the al-Faw Peninsula near the Shatt al-Arab and the Persian Gulf.

Read more here

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Iraqi Police and Army join forces in Basra

New Joint Security Stations for the Iraqi Police Service and Iraqi Army, from which the two forces will conduct joint patrols, have opened in the al Hussein area of Basra this week.

Major General Andy Salmon General Officer Commanding Multi National Division (South East) shakes hands with Major General Aziz General Officer Commanding 14th Division Iraqi Army at the Joint Security Station in the Hyyanniah district of Basra [Picture: LA (Phot) Jannine B Hartmann]

The creation of the Joint Security Stations (JSSs) marks a new period of co-operation and closer working between the two security forces. The stations will provide community bases from which the Iraqi Police Service and Iraqi Army will plan and conduct security patrols together, enabling a sustainable and permanent security solution for the people of Basra.
Full article on the MOD website - click here

Iraqi army and police join forces in Basra - Middle East Times

First Royal Navy visit to Iraqi port since 2003

Royal Navy ships have visited the Iraqi deep water port of Umm Qasr for the first time since 2003, highlighting the continued security improvements in southern Iraq.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Iraq's port city shows signs of an economic comeback

Tom Peter from US newspaper the Christian Science Monitor visited Basra at the end of August.

One of his trips took him down to Um Qasr port where he found out that the amount of cargo coming into Umm Qasr has tripled since April.

As Iraqi dockworkers unload rice from the Yichanghai, a Thai freighter, the boat's captain recalls the last time his company sent a ship to Umm Qasr, Iraq's only port city, in 2004. Boats had to wait one to two months outside the port before authorities allowed them to dock, and local militias often extorted extra duties.
"It was too much of a problem," says Captain Cao Zhanshu, explaining why his company did not send another ship until now. This time the situation looks much different. They only waited 10 days and paid no bribes. "I think it's safe to come here," he says.

Read the full story here

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Nottingham links to Basra

At the end of August the Nottingham Evening post visited the troops in Basra to find out what life was like for TA soldiers deployed in Iraq.

Read the articles here:

From the QMC to bullets of Basra - Cpl Kate Thornton
Language skill helps win over Iraqis - Sgt Steve Preisner
Colonel Frank Seely's grandson continues family tradition - Sgt Bob Seely

Monday, September 1, 2008

Improvements offer Iraqis optimism for the future 1 Sept 08

The UK's most senior military representative in southern Iraq has given an upbeat assessment of the progress he believes is being made in the region.

General Officer Commanding MND(SE), Maj Gen Andy Salmon, chats to local shopkeepers and businessmen during a visit to the al-Hayyaniyah district of Basra on Wednesday, 20 August. [Picture: Cpl Rob Knight]

Major General Andy Salmon's views echo those made by his predecessor, Major General Barney White-Spunner, from whom Maj Gen Salmon took over recently. On his return to the UK last month, Maj Gen White-Spunner praised the progress made in Basra in recent months, in particular the work of the Iraqi Security Forces in ridding the city of rogue militias as well as the increase in foreign investment.

2008 has seen a significant and noticeable improvement in the security situation in Iraq. Violence is down to levels not seen since 2003/04 and there are a number of signs that a degree of normality is slowly returning to a country that has been plagued by terrorist and ethno-sectarian violence:

"Basra and the surrounding region has undergone an incredible transformation over the last five months and there is a real sense of optimism," Maj Gen Salmon explained. "Since taking over command in MND(SE) I am eager to get on with the task of helping Basrawis rebuild their great country and supporting the Iraqi Government in providing peace and prosperity.

"A stable and secure environment is the foundation upon which much-needed economic development can take place. With the Iraqi Security Forces increasingly capable of protecting the Iraqi people, one of the key challenges remains how to help national and local government build civil capacity and stimulate economic growth so that the ordinary Iraqi citizen feels the benefit of his country’s considerable wealth."

As the security situation improves markets are reopening and the amount of trading is increasing. [Picture: MOD]

The country still faces a number of significant political, economic and administrative challenges, as well as security concerns that will take time to resolve. Nevertheless, a number of positive indicators give cause for hopefulness that a more secure and stable Iraq is gradually emerging.
The successful Charge of the Knights military operation in Basra, which began in March, demonstrated the Iraqi government’s intent to crack down on violent extremists and criminals regardless of religious or political affiliation. Subsequent operations in Sadr City, Mosul, Al Amarah and Diyala have reinforced the message and boosted public confidence in the Government:

"The last five months provides an indication of what a powerful partnership Iraq and Britain have but I realise there is much work to done, and I am confident that by working together we can achieve our goals. So it is with a sense of optimism that I look to the future and the challenges that lie ahead," Maj Gen Salmon added.

Improvements in electricity generation capability is essential to meeting the aspirations of the Iraqi people [Picture: MOD]

Several representatives have now been appointed to areas where there have been recent military operations, armed with considerable special funds to fast track regeneration and reconstruction projects. In addition six Arab countries have recently undertaken to appoint Ambassadors and to open Embassies and consulates in Iraq, signalling the return of normal regional diplomatic relations. Furthermore, recent high level visits to Baghdad – from King Abdullah II of Jordan and the Turkish PM, as well as Ministerial visits from several Gulf States – have reinforced this trend.

Infrastructure developments and inward investment
Although demand still outstrips supply, electricity generation has reached record post-war levels this year and investment in new generating capacity is planned. A new airport at Najaf has recently been opened, and improvements to Basra and Irbil are in train, adding to the network of provincial airports across the country. The development of Umm Qasar port is also playing an essential role of increasing import and exports from the country.

Foreign inward investment has now reached over $7.4Bn and an increasing number of visits from international investors demonstrate that Iraq’s business potential is clearly recognised. Work has also begun on a new 5-star hotel in the centre of Baghdad.

The opening of new embassies in Central Baghdad signals the return to normal diplomatic relations with Arab neighbours [Picture: MOD]

Maj Gen Salmon's view that Iraq is heading in the right direction is shared by General David Petraeus. In an interview with the International Herald Tribune newspaper on Thursday 21 August 2008 Gen Petraeus, who recently handed over command of Multi National Forces in Iraq to General Raymond Odierno, compared life in Iraq today to the situation he found when he arrived early in 2007:

"I don't know that it was a death spiral but it was a pretty dire situation," he said. "There have been very substantial gains at this point. "But don't take any of this to imply that we think we're anywhere near finished, or that there's anything but an enormous amount of hard work going on. It's not durable yet. It's not self sustaining - there is still a lot of work to do."