The Baghdad Post presents to its readers the latest news updates and breaking news today in Iraq.
Siemens begins upgrading Iraqi power generation sector
German technology conglomerate Siemens announced on Wednesday kicking off a plan to upgrade the Iraqi power generation sector.
Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity signed an implementation agreement with Siemens for a series of projects that could be worth as much as $14 billion and will overhaul Iraq’s beleaguered power generation sector.
The agreement, signed by Iraq’s Electricity Minister Luay al-Khateeb and Siemens AG President Joe Kaeser, “includes the addition of new and highly-efficient power generation capacity, rehabilitation and upgrade of existing plants and the expansion of transmission and distribution networks,” Siemens stated in a press release.
The first phase consists of three contracts valued at 700 million euros ($785 million), according to Siemens. The three contracts are construction of a 500 megawatt gas-fired plant in al-Zubaidiya, Wasit province, upgrading 40 gas turbines, and installing 13 substations and 34 transformers across the country.
Emerging from years of war, Iraq has a chronic shortage of electricity and relies on imports from Iran. One factor that sparked deadly protests during the scorching heat last summer in Basra was power outages.
Siemens signed a memorandum of understanding with Iraq in October to explore proposals from the German company for Iraq’s electricity sector, but it faced tough competition from American GE, which inked its own memo with Baghdad at the same time.
IED wounds two Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq
An improvised explosive device (IED) on Wednesday wounded two Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq, media reports said.
The incident occurred within Operation Claw that Turkey launched against Kurdistan Workers’ Party, labelled as a terrorist organization by Turkish authorities.
A statement by the Turkish Defense Ministry on Tuesday said the military offensive initiated aims to neutralize terrorists in the area and destroy their caves and shelters, the ministry said.
Turkish soldiers killed six PKK terrorists, according to a statement on Wednesday.
"The total number of terrorists neutralized since the launch of the operation is now 15."
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK has been reportedly responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people.
Iraq hands over 188 Turkish children of suspected ISIS members
Iraq has handed over 188 Turkish children of suspected ISIS members to Turkey in the presence of government officials from both countries and UNICEF, a judiciary spokesman said on Wednesday.
The handover took place in Baghdad airport and representatives of the Iraqi judiciary were present until the children got on the aeroplane that would take them home, he said. A legal source told Reuters the transfers took place on Wednesday.
“The central investigations court which is responsible for the terrorism file and foreign suspects has handed the Turkish side 188 children left behind by ISIS terrorists in Iraq,” said Judge Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, the spokesman, in a statement.
He added that the figure included a few who had “come of age” and had been convicted of illegally crossing the border and served out their sentences. Children can be held responsible for crimes in Iraq from the age of nine.
An Iraqi foreign ministry official, a representative of the Turkish embassy in Baghdad, and representatives of international organisations including UNICEF were present, Birqdar said.
A Reuters special report revealed in March that about 1,100 children of ISIS are caught in the Iraqi justice system. The youngest stay with their mothers in prison. At least seven children have died because of poor conditions.
Several hundred older children are being prosecuted for offences ranging from illegally entering Iraq to fighting for ISIS. Some 185 children aged nine to 18 have already been convicted and received sentences from a few months to up to 15 years in juvenile detention in Baghdad.
Iraqi President Barham Salih returned on Wednesday from a brief visit to Turkey where he met Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
UN grants Miss Iraq 'Ambassador for Peace' award for promoting tolerance
The United Nations Watch has announced that Sarah Idan will receive the Swiss organization’s Ambassador for Peace Award.
Idan, who was announced as Miss Iraq in 2017, faced death threats for posting a photo of herself with Miss Israel.
The prize will be presented to Idan at a Geneva ceremony attended by senior diplomats of the U.N. Human Rights Council, during U.N. Watch’s 2019 annual gala dinner on June 13.
The prize was previously given to several figures including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate David Trimble; French Prime Minister Manuel Valls; Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar; Turkish journalist Yavuz Baydar; Chinese dissident Yang Jianli; and Esther Mujawayo, an activist for victims of the genocide in Rwanda.
Iraq to restore thousands of looted artifacts from US
The Iraqi Culture Ministry has declared intentions to restore thousands of antiquities from the United States.
In a statement, Minister Abdul Amir Al-Hamdani said he will visit Washington to recover 5,500 artifacts from the Hobby Lobby company and 10,000 clay figurines from Cornell University as well as artifacts from the University of Pennsylvania.
Moreover, Hamdani indicated a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with the Kuwaiti Minister of Information for the recovery of Iraqi cultural properties.
The MoU, according to Hamadani, has also been signed with Turkey to recover antiquities found in the Hatay Museum, as well as with Lebanon and the Nabu Museum.
Most of Iraq’s antiquities were looted after 2003 following the US invasion of Iraq, while the historical sites were destroyed by ISIS between 2014 and 2017.
Kurdish-Sunni disputes behind incomplete cabinet lineup: MP
Saairun Alliance Parliament Member Riyad al-Masoudi said on Wednesday that internal Sunni-Kurdish disputes are the reason behind the delay in completing the Iraqi cabinet.
In a press interview, Masoudi said Prime Minister Adil Abdel-Mahdi will not risk submitting candidates in light of Kurdish disputes over the Justice Ministry and Sunni disputes over ministries of defense and education.
Masoudi further pointed out that there are disputes over around 2,000 positions, which created a new political crisis after the majority of coalitions seek to possess these positions that are as important as the cabinet file.
Last October, Mahdi announced that he will occupy key cabinet posts left unfilled by parliament’s Thursday vote on the government lineup.
The lawmakers failed to vote on key ministries, including the defense and interior portfolios, forcing him to step in as caretaker minister.
He initially expected to nominate a full 22-member cabinet, but legislators from Moqtada al-Sadr's Sairoon bloc, former Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi's Victory Alliance, Vice President Iyad Allawi's Wataniya and Sunni Muslim blocs withdrew from the parliament session before voting began, citing disagreements.
Parliament voted in only 14 nominees, leaving key posts, like minister of higher education, culture, justice, and immigration empty, calling for caretaker ministers to be assigned to them.
UN says Middle East needs new generation of leaders like Nechirvan Barzani
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, has congratulated Nechirvan Barzani on becoming the new President of the autonomous Kurdistan Region.
“Congratulations to my good friend Prime Minister Barzani on being elected KRG President,” Mladenov tweeted. “He has always been a staunch voice of reason, moderation and progress for the Kurdish people and Iraq.”
In a dedicated parliamentary session on Tuesday, 68 lawmakers from the Kurdistan Region’s 111-seat legislature voted in favor of Barzani.
“The Middle East needs a new generation of leaders like Nechervan Barzani,” Mladenov further added.
Born in 1966, Barzani was elected as the deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region in 1996. He was elected as Prime Minister in 1999 and 2006.
He continued serving after subsequently being re-elected to the post in 2011 and 2013, until May 28, 2019.
Israel lifts ban on trade with Iraq amid US-Iranian conflict
Israeli Finance Minister announced lifting a ban on trade with Iraq, although the two countries have very strained relations and no official ties, Israel's Maariv reported.
The minister's directive does not adhere to Israel’s “Trade with Enemy Ordinance” law, which defines enemy states with which trade is forbidden, and which was adopted in 1948.
However, the directive did not change the status of other Middle Eastern countries including Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.
This comes as Iran tries to enhance ties with neighboring Iraq especially political and economic relations, in light of the US-Iranian conflict and threats Iran issues targeting Israel and Saudi Arabia.