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No Happy Ending to the Child Refugee Crisis

By , October 24, 2014 4:18 am

Detainees at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Texas. (Reuters)

Did you notice that all that fuss over those Central American kids who were crossing the U.S. border alone suddenly died down?

As recently as June, more than 10,000 children fleeing unchecked gang violence in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala made it here over the course of a month. Then, a major security crackdown in Mexico slowed the pace of their arrivals down to about 3,000 in August — the lowest rate since January and about the same as the pace of arrivals last year. It’s what passes for “normal” in this sad situation.

Customs and Border Protection chief Gil Kerlikowske calls this decrease “good news.” He’s only right if you believe that putting a problem out of sight and out of mind constitutes solving it.

There are many plausible reasons that may explain why fewer kids are now braving the risky trip through Mexico and across the Rio Grande on their own. The widespread realization that their misery would probably continue at dismal U.S. detention centers probably played a big role in ending the undocumented immigration spike that became known as the “border crisis.”

While the plight of these children dominated the headlines, an ugly xenophobic wavewashed across the country, spreading rumors about how these kids would spread disease and endanger the communities where they were getting rudimentary shelter and services.

But meaningful questions surfaced too. Chief among them: How much did U.S. military intervention, deportation policy, and Drug War blunders contribute to making El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras unstable and dangerous places, especially for tweens and teens?

A lot, actually. This growing realization prompted calls for the kids to be treated as legal refugees.

So how is the Obama administration responding? By pretending to make it easier for some of them to get refugee status while actually making it harder.

As the White House recently announced, the government plans to give Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Honduran children a chance to apply for refugee status without leaving their own countries. It will make this opportunity available to unmarried people under 21 with “certain qualifying lawfully present relatives in the United States.” Translation: kids whose parents are citizens or have green cards.

How many children are likely to benefit from this new approach? Chances are, very few.

A similar effort the Clinton administration tried in Haiti completely failed. It drew more than 15,000 applicants and resulted in just 136 people getting welcomed to the United States. Countless more Haitians were returned to persecution back home, according to immigration expert Bill Frelick.

Worse still, the White House is only reserving 4,000 slots for persecuted Latin Americans next year — which is actually 200 fewer slots than Cold War-minded immigration authorities granted to Cubans alone in 2013.

As a consolation prize, people from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador will be able to compete with Cubans, Eastern Europeans, and Iraqis for another 2,000 slots reserved for refugees from an array of high-priority countries.

Given the massive proportions of the refugee crisis in Iraq and Syria — now exacerbated by Islamic State extremists and a new U.S. military intervention — and the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, those remaining spots will be extremely difficult for Central American children to claim.

Since World War II, U.S. presidents have responded to urgent circumstances by letting large groups of immigrants from some countries find shelter in the United States. Those actions gave rise to thriving communities of Vietnamese and Eastern European immigrants, among others. And they made this nation more diverse and interesting.

While it’s true that the United States can’t welcome every refugee in the world, the instability and insecurity flaring in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras follows more than a century of U.S. meddling in those countries. It’s time to adopt a more humane foreign policy toward Central America and start accommodating more of the people fleeing the mess our country helped create.

Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies.

Foreign Policy In Focus

US Officials: Iraqi Army Regrouping Slowly

By , October 24, 2014 4:16 am

(AP) — Iraq’s fractured army has begun to regroup and stage modest, localized attacks on the Islamic State militants who routed them last spring and summer, but they are unlikely to be ready to launch a major counteroffensive for many months, senior U.S. military officials said Thursday.

“We’ve seen them start to act like an army,” one official said in a lengthy exchange with a group of Washington reporters who were invited to U.S. Central Command headquarters for the command’s most extensive briefings on operations in Iraq and Syria.

The Iraqi security forces, trained for years by the U.S. prior to its departure from Iraq in 2011, have suffered sectarian divisions, a breakdown in leadership and a loss of confidence. To compound the problem, they surrendered tanks, armored personnel carriers and other U.S.-supplied equipment several months ago when IS fighters overtook Mosul.

The officials, who were not authorized to be quoted by name in discussing details of the U.S. military strategy in Iraq and Syria, made it clear that no large Iraqi counteroffensive was imminent or even feasible for the time being. Their remarks coincided with a Pentagon statement that said Iraq’s new defense chief, Khaled al-Obeidi, told Defense Minister Chuck Hagel in a telephone call that Baghdad was committed to regaining the initiative.

“The minister was quite clear on more than one occasion … that he has every intention of going on the offensive,” the Pentagon press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said in Washington. He said Hagel encouraged al-Obeidi to rebuild the army in a manner that “engenders trust and confidence” not only among soldiers but also among the Iraqi people.

The Iraqi government is blamed by U.S. officials for having sown the sectarian seeds of this year’s collapse in much of northern and western Iraq. Yet Baghdad is the key to President Barack Obama’s approach to rolling back IS gains in Iraq.

Obama has ruled out re-engaging U.S. troops in a ground war there; instead he has told the Iraqis they must regroup and unite against IS, with American and certain partner countries like France and Britain assisting. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in September that he would recommend to Obama that he authorize a more aggressive use of U.S. military advisers in Iraq if the situation called for it. So far those advisers are not operating in the field with Iraqi troops but rather are working in higher headquarters at military offices in Baghdad and the Kurdish capital of Irbil.

Hagel told reporters Thursday that Dempsey has not recommended that U.S. troops take a more direct hand in assisting Iraqis, such as calling in airstrikes from the battlefield. Hagel said he has had no discussion of this with senior military officers.

“They feel confident that what we’re doing is working,” Hagel said.

Other officials, however, have said that U.S. advisers may be needed on the battlefield when the Iraqi army attempts to dislodge IS fighters from an urban area like Mosul.

The Central Command officials who briefed reporters said the U.S. was encouraged that the Iraqi army was taking early, albeit modest, steps toward reclaiming lost territory. They pointed to an ongoing Iraqi army attack toward Bayji, home of the country’s largest oil refinery. The officials declined to discuss certain details but said the Iraqis were clearing large number of roadside bombs planted by IS fighters along the highway north of Tikrit.

In Washington, Kirby said the Iraqi move toward Bayji has been slowed also by poor weather conditions. The U.S. has sought to help the Iraqis by providing periodic airstrikes. Central Command said one airstrike overnight Thursday destroyed an IS fighting position south of Bayji.

One Central Command official said it could be as long as a year before the Iraqi army is ready to take back the northern city of Mosul. Iraqi troops abandoned their posts when IS fighters swept into Mosul in the spring.

The official said the Iraqi army needs a lot of help in basic things like properly maintaining its equipment, sufficiently planning combat operations and using battlefield intelligence, in order to restore its combat power. He called this a “months-long kind of thing.”

On Syria, the officials said a prospective U.S. effort to train and arm moderate Syrian opposition forces was at its earliest stages of recruiting and vetting candidates for a force of perhaps 5,000 fighters. They said the fighters initially would be expected to simply defend their own villages inside Syria, with a longer-term goal of “getting them to the point where they can take on ISIL.”

The official said the U.S. envisions training these opposition fighters in units of 100 to 300 men. The training is to take place in Saudi Arabia and perhaps other Arab countries in the region.

Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

Assyrian International News Agency

Egyptian Christians Feel Safer, Though Islamism Still Looms

By , October 24, 2014 4:16 am

Cairo — While problems still exist, Christians in Egypt feel “much safer” under the presidency of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a former military officer who played a key role in the coup that ousted Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013, a Catholic official said.

“The mood has improved considerably. The security situation is getting better. There is greater stability,” Father Rafik Greiche, press officer for the Egyptian bishops’ conference, told Aid to the Church in Need Oct. 21.

“Christians feel a lot safer. They are going to church without feeling threatened as they did under President Morsi … In all, a more peaceful atmosphere is being created.”

A 2011 revolution, part of the Arab Spring, had overthrown Hosni Mubarak, a military officer who had been Egypt’s president since 1981. The following year Morsi, of the Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood, became the first democratically elected Egyptian president.

“Under the Muslim Brotherhood Molotov cocktails were hurled at churches or graffiti was sprayed on the walls,” Fr. Greiche recounted.

On July 3, 2013, Egypt’s military ousted Morsi, and in August began a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Violence then spread across the country, with Islamists killing hundreds of people from August to October. Churches were vandalized, burned, and looted, as were the homes and businesses of Christians.

In January, the interim government approved a new constitution, and then el-Sisi won elections in May, which were boycotted by the Muslim Brotherhood as well as other political groups.

Three journalists from Al Jazeera have been imprisoned in the country since December 2013, accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and of spreading false news; the three have an appeals hearing scheduled for Jan. 1, 2015.

“The number of acts of aggression has fallen to a low level, a minimum,” Fr. Greiche explained. “Sometimes there are still inter-religious tensions in some villages. It still happens that jihadists abduct Christian girls. But the situation has nevertheless improved considerably. The problems that exist are only a fraction of those that Christians experienced under Morsi.”

He added, though, “That does not mean that there are no incidents whatsoever. There continue to be Muslim-Christian difficulties of the kind we have been familiar with for more than 30 or 40 years.”

Fr. Greiche said that el-Sisi has received representatives from both the Orthodox and Catholics, as well as Protestants: “He told them that Christians have every right to have their churches and to pray.”

El-Sisi’s government is working with Christians “to prepare a law governing the construction of churches,” the priest reported. “This is one of our most urgent problems here in Egypt — to-date it has been very difficult to build a new church.”

The drafted version of the law, Fr. Greiche said, would allow such symbols as crucifixes to “be mounted visibly on the exterior” and would “also stipulate that the construction of new places of worship is no longer subject to the approval of state security authorities.”

“The President himself will no longer himself have to grant permission to build a new church; instead this will be the responsibility of the provincial governor. If the latter has no objections after a period of 60 days after a proposal is submitted, the work can proceed.”

The proposed legislation, however, “is in limbo, as the country currently has no Parliament that could pass such a law.”

Fr. Greiche said parliamentary elections “are due to take place at year’s end,” but he fears that Islamists will play a major role in the new legislative body.

“The problem is that the civilian parties are very weak and lacking direction. They also don’t have much backing. The Islamists will probably not have a majority, but they could form a substantial minority that is capable of upholding or delaying the passing of legislation.”

Egyptian Christians, he said, are threatened both by “jihadists based in neighbouring Libya, who are sending weaponry into Egypt” and by those on the Sinai Peninsula.

The priest added that when the Islamic State began to drive Christians from Mosul, “not a word was heard initially from the Sunni Al-Azhar University, for example.”

It was only when Copts gathered in Cairo and appealed to the university — the highest authority in Sunni Islam — to condemn the violence that “the school actually did publish a statement.”

“Unfortunately, the curriculum of the university and that of the schools managed by Al-Azhar feature many aspects that are pretty much in line with ISIS transgressions,” Fr. Greiche said.

“Fundamental changes must be made because such teachings have a big effect on people’s thinking.”

Assyrian International News Agency

UN Launches $2.2bn Appeal for Iraq

By , October 24, 2014 4:06 am

UN Launches $  2.2bn Appeal for Iraq

The United Nations has launched a US$ 2.2 billion appeal to address the protection and humanitarian needs of 5.2 million people in conflict-affected Iraq.

“The needs of the Iraqi people are immense,” Neill Wright, acting Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, said in Baghdad. “It’s imperative we step up our efforts.”

The third revision of the Strategic Response Plan (SRP) of the UN and NGO humanitarian community aims to continue its support of the Government of Iraq in effectively addressing the humanitarian and protection needs of 5.2 million Iraqis across the country through 2015.

Included in this are 1.8 million displaced since January 2014, 1.5 million within communities hosting many of the displaced, and 1.7 million living in conflict areas outside Government control.

An estimated 2.8 million people are in need of food assistance and approximately 800,000 people are in urgent need of emergency shelter assistance.

Throughout Iraq, 1.26 million people are in need of some form of winterisation assistance. The provision of winterisation packages, warm clothes, shoes, health services and food are all critical requirements.

The multi-sectorial plan was produced by more than 45 humanitarian organizations, including UN agencies, international and national NGOs operating in Iraq, and covers the provision of assistance in non-food items/shelter, protection, health, food, water sanitation and hygiene (WASH), education, and logistics until the end of December 2015.

To date, more than $ 600 million has been contributed to the 2014 -2015 Iraq SRP, including a major contribution by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in July. The remaining $ 1.6 billion needed is required for activities over the next 15 months, but early contributions are essential with the onset of winter.

“Although much has been done, much more is needed in the coming weeks to prevent additional, unnecessary suffering for many Iraqis,” Wright said. “This effort requires all of us – the UN, non-governmental organisations, civil society and the private sector – to work together. All of us have a role to play.”

(Source: UN)

Iraq Business News

Blackwater contractors convicted

By , October 24, 2014 2:44 am

Blackwater contractors convicted
By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON – A federal jury here on Wednesday convicted one former Blackwater contractor of murder and three of his colleagues of voluntary manslaughter in the deadly shootings of 14 unarmed civilians killed in Baghdad’s Nisour Square seven years ago. The judge in the case ordered the men detained pending sentencing.

The massacre, which resulted in a wave of popular anger in Iraq against the United States, and especially the army of private security contractors which it employed there, contributed heavily to the Iraqi government’s later refusal to sign an agreement with Washington to extend the US military presence there.

It also sealed the reputation of Blackwater, a “private military” firm headed by Erik Prince, a right-wing former Navy Seal, as a trigger-happy mercenary outfit whose recklessness and insensitivity to local populations jeopardzed Washington’s interests in conflict situations.

After the incident, the Iraqi government banned the company, which had a US$ 1 billion contract at the time to protect US diplomats. Iraq’s parliament subsequently enacted laws making foreign contractors working in the country subject to Iraqi legal jurisdiction for criminal acts they committed.

It was Baghdad’s insistence in 2011 that such a condition also apply to all US military forces that scotched a proposed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that would have permitted Washington to maintain thousands US troops in Iraq after the December 31, 2011 deadline for their final withdrawal.

“The verdict is a resounding affirmation of the commitment of the American people to the rule of law, even in times of war,” said Ronald Machen, the US attorney who prosecuted the case, after the Wednesday’s verdicts were announced.

“Seven years ago, these Blackwater contractors unleashed powerful sniper fire, machine guns and grenade launchers on innocent men, women and children. Today, they were held accountable for that outrageous attack and its devastating consequences for so many Iraqi families,” he said in a statement.

While praising the verdicts, some observers said that Blackwater itself should have been on trial. “Holding individuals responsible is not enough,” noted Baher Azmy, the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which represented Iraqi victims of the killings in a human-rights case against Blackwater that settled in 2010.

“Private military contractors … have engaged in a variety of war crimes and atrocities during the 2003 Iraq invasion and occupation while reaping billions of dollars in profits from the war. To this day, the US government continues to award Blackwater and its successor entities millions of dollars each year in contracts, essentially rewarding war crimes,” he said.

Wednesday’s verdicts, which confirmed initial findings by a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe carried out within two months of the massacre, are likely to be appealed to a higher court by the defendants’ attorneys, who contend that the convoy they were leading had come under attack and that their clients were acting in self-defense at the time.

They are also likely to challenge the verdicts on the grounds that key evidence presented to the jury consisted of initial statements of what took place that were effectively “coerced” by interrogators, who allegedly assured them that what they said would not be used in court. That issue has been bounced between courts since the Justice Department filed the case in 2010.

Altogether, 17 Iraqi civilians, including two boys aged nine and 11, were killed and 20 more injured when, on September 16, 2007, a State Department convoy entered Baghdad’s busy Nisour Square with the armored Blackwater vehicle in the lead.

While defendants and Blackwater itself insisted that the convoy came under attack, the FBI and prosecution contended there was no evidence to sustain such a conclusion.

According to the latter, the unit’s sniper, Nicholas Slatten, opened fire on a car which, according to the defense, had approached the Blackwater vehicle in a suspicious manner. Slatten’s shots, which killed the car’s driver, a medical student, triggered chaos throughout the circle.

In addition to Slatten, who was convicted of first-degree murder, a total of six members of the Blackwater team fired their weapons as they moved through the circle, according to the prosecution.

One team member, Jeremy Ridgeway, pleaded guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter in 2008 and served as a prosecution witness in the case. Charges against another defendant were dropped shortly afterwards. Several other team members also testified against the defendants.

Aside from Slatten’s conviction, three other guards Wednesday were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, as well as various weapons offenses.

The Justice Department had charged that they “unlawfully and intentionally, upon a sudden quarrel and heat of passion, did commit voluntary manslaughter”.

If sustained, Slatten’s murder conviction requires a sentence of life imprisonment. Each count of voluntary manslaughter – and each of the other three defendants were convicted of multiple counts – can carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

The trial itself began earlier this summer and lasted two months. In addition to the Blackwater guards who testified for the prosecution, the Justice Department brought 30 Iraqi witnesses, including surviving family members who witnessed or were injured in the incident, to testify. Despite their dramatic and often wrenching accounts, the trial received relatively little media attention.

The verdicts were hailed by Paul Dickinson, an attorney who represented six of the families – including the nine-year-old victim, Ali Kinani, whose father was the first witness to testify for the prosecution in the current case – whose members were killed or injured in the massacre in a separate civil lawsuit filed against Blackwater in North Carolina in 2009. That case was settled with an undisclosed compensation agreement in 2012.

“I am confident that my clients are pleased with today’s verdict, knowing that the men they alleged killed their family members have been brought to justice and held criminally accountable for their actions,” he told IPS in an email. “While a criminal conviction can never fully satisfy a family that lost a loved one, it does provide some closure for my clients.”

The verdict, he said, was “significant because it shows that government contractors who commit crimes abroad can be prosecuted in US courts for their criminal actions”.

Pratap Chatterjee, an investigative reporter who has focused on the operations of US military contractors, including Blackwater, in Iraq and Afghanistan, agreed with that assessment, but, echoing CCR’s Asmy, stressed that it was “only one step of many that need to be taken in bringing justice to Iraq”.

“Many similar incidents have neither been investigated nor anyone prosecuted,” Chatterjee, who currently heads California-based Corpwatch, told IPS. “To this day, the private companies and their executives who turned Baghdad into a free-fire zone have yet to be charged.”

Earlier this summer, the New York Times reported that the State Department had initiated an investigation of Blackwater’s operations in Iraq just before the Nisour incident but had abandoned it after Blackwater’s top manager there issued an apparent death threat. According to a State Department memo of the conversation, the Blackwater official said “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq”.

Jim Lobe’s blog on US foreign policy can be read at He can be contacted at

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George Soros Slams Putin, Warns Of “Existential Threat” From Russia, Demands $20 Billion From IMF In “Russia War Effort”

By , October 24, 2014 12:00 am

George Soros Slams Putin, Warns Of “Existential Threat” From Russia, Demands $ 20 Billion From IMF In “Russia War Effort”
By: Zerohedge on: 23.10.2014 [14:49 ] (278 reads)

George Soros Slams Putin, Warns Of “Existential Threat” From Russia, Demands $ 20 Billion From IMF In “Russia War Effort”

Tyler Durden’s picture
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/23/2014 08:51 -0400

If even George Soros is getting concerned and writing Op-Eds, then Putin must be truly winning.

Here are the highlights from what the Open Society founder has to say about the “existential” Russian threat in a just released Op-E
Europe is facing a challenge from Russia to its very existence. Neither the European leaders nor their citizens are fully aware of this challenge or know how best to deal with it. I attribute this mainly to the fact that the European Union in general and the eurozone in particular lost their way after the financial crisis of 2008.

Getting warm

Europe fails to recognize that the Russian attack on Ukraine is indirectly an attack on the European Union and its principles of governance. It ought to be evident that it is inappropriate for a country, or association of countries, at war to pursue a policy of fiscal austerity as the European Union continues to do.

Even warmer:
All available resources ought to be put to work in the war effort even if that involves running up budget deficits

And hot, hot, hot

IMF should provide an immediate cash injection of at least $ 20 billion, with a promise of more when needed. Ukraine’s partners should provide additional financing conditional on implementation of the IMF-supported program, at their own risk, in line with standard practice.

And there it is: the Russian “existential” war threat is, to Soros, nothing but an excuse to end the whole (f)austerity experiment (just don’t show Soros Europe’s latest record high debt load), and to return to its drunken sailor spending ways.

Ironically, this is precisely what we said would happen, only the globalist neo-cons were hoping the Ukraine civil war would become an all out war between Russia and Ukraine, thus unleashing the “spend your way to prosperity” Soroses of the world. For now, this plan has failed which is why ISIS was brought into the picture.

But it never hurts to try, eh George. And the one thing that is not mentioned is that the people who would gain the most from this latest IMF spending spree would be, you guessed it, billionaires like George Soros of course

From George Soros, first posted in the New York Reviews Of Books

Wake Up, Europe

Europe is facing a challenge from Russia to its very existence. Neither the European leaders nor their citizens are fully aware of this challenge or know how best to deal with it. I attribute this mainly to the fact that the European Union in general and the eurozone in particular lost their way after the financial crisis of 2008.

The fiscal rules that currently prevail in Europe have aroused a lot of popular resentment. Anti-Europe parties captured nearly 30 percent of the seats in the latest elections for the European Parliament but they had no realistic alternative to the EU to point to until recently. Now Russia is presenting an alternative that poses a fundamental challenge to the values and principles on which the European Union was originally founded. It is based on the use of force that manifests itself in repression at home and aggression abroad, as opposed to the rule of law. What is shocking is that Vladimir Putin’s Russia has proved to be in some ways superior to the European Union—more flexible and constantly springing surprises. That has given it a tactical advantage, at least in the near term.

Europe and the United States—each for its own reasons—are determined to avoid any direct military confrontation with Russia. Russia is taking advantage of their reluctance. Violating its treaty obligations, Russia has annexed Crimea and established separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine. In August, when the recently installed government in Kiev threatened to win the low-level war in eastern Ukraine against separatist forces backed by Russia, President Putin invaded Ukraine with regular armed forces in violation of the Russian law that exempts conscripts from foreign service without their consent.

In seventy-two hours these forces destroyed several hundred of Ukraine’s armored vehicles, a substantial portion of its fighting force. According to General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, the Russians used multiple launch rocket systems armed with cluster munitions and thermobaric warheads (an even more inhumane weapon that ought to be outlawed) with devastating effect.* The local militia from the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk suffered the brunt of the losses because they were communicating by cell phones and could thus easily be located and targeted by the Russians. President Putin has, so far, abided by a cease-fire agreement he concluded with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on September 5, but Putin retains the choice to continue the cease-fire as long as he finds it advantageous or to resume a full-scale assault.

In September, President Poroshenko visited Washington where he received an enthusiastic welcome from a joint session of Congress. He asked for “both lethal and nonlethal” defensive weapons in his speech. However, President Obama refused his request for Javelin hand-held missiles that could be used against advancing tanks. Poroshenko was given radar, but what use is it without missiles? European countries are equally reluctant to provide military assistance to Ukraine, fearing Russian retaliation. The Washington visit gave President Poroshenko a façade of support with little substance behind it.

Equally disturbing has been the determination of official international leaders to withhold new financial commitments to Ukraine until after the October 26 election there (which will take place just after this issue goes to press). This has led to an avoidable pressure on Ukrainian currency reserves and raised the specter of a full-blown financial crisis in the country.

There is now pressure from donors, whether in Europe or the US, to “bail in” the bondholders of Ukrainian sovereign debt, i.e., for bondholders to take losses on their investments as a precondition for further official assistance to Ukraine that would put more taxpayers’ money at risk. That would be an egregious error. The Ukrainian government strenuously opposes the proposal because it would put Ukraine into a technical default that would make it practically impossible for the private sector to refinance its debt. Bailing in private creditors would save very little money and it would make Ukraine entirely dependent on the official donors.

To complicate matters, Russia is simultaneously dangling carrots and wielding sticks. It is offering—but failing to sign—a deal for gas supplies that would take care of Ukraine’s needs for the winter. At the same time Russia is trying to prevent the delivery of gas that Ukraine secured from the European market through Slovakia. Similarly, Russia is negotiating for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the borders while continuing to attack the Donetsk airport and the port city of Mariupol.

It is easy to foresee what lies ahead. Putin will await the results of the elections on October 26 and then offer Poroshenko the gas and other benefits he has been dangling on condition that he appoint a prime minister acceptable to Putin. That would exclude anybody associated with the victory of the forces that brought down the Viktor Yanukovych government by resisting it for months on the Maidan—Independence Square. I consider it highly unlikely that Poroshenko would accept such an offer. If he did, he would be disowned by the defenders of the Maidan; the resistance forces would then be revived.

Putin may then revert to the smaller victory that would still be within his reach: he could open by force a land route from Russia to Crimea and Transnistria before winter. Alternatively, he could simply sit back and await the economic and financial collapse of Ukraine. I suspect that he may be holding out the prospect of a grand bargain in which Russia would help the United States against ISIS—for instance by not supplying to Syria the S300 missiles it has promised, thus in effect preserving US air domination—and Russia would be allowed to have its way in the “near abroad,” as many of the nations adjoining Russia are called. What is worse, President Obama may accept such a deal.

That would be a tragic mistake, with far-reaching geopolitical consequences. Without underestimating the threat from ISIS, I would argue that preserving the independence of Ukraine should take precedence; without it, even the alliance against ISIS would fall apart. The collapse of Ukraine would be a tremendous loss for NATO, the European Union, and the United States. A victorious Russia would become much more influential within the EU and pose a potent threat to the Baltic states with their large ethnic Russian populations. Instead of supporting Ukraine, NATO would have to defend itself on its own soil. This would expose both the EU and the US to the danger they have been so eager to avoid: a direct military confrontation with Russia. The European Union would become even more divided and ungovernable. Why should the US and other NATO nations allow this to happen?

The argument that has prevailed in both Europe and the United States is that Putin is no Hitler; by giving him everything he can reasonably ask for, he can be prevented from resorting to further use of force. In the meantime, the sanctions against Russia—which include, for example, restrictions on business transactions, finance, and trade—will have their effect and in the long run Russia will have to retreat in order to earn some relief from them.

These are false hopes derived from a false argument with no factual evidence to support it. Putin has repeatedly resorted to force and he is liable to do so again unless he faces strong resistance. Even if it is possible that the hypothesis could turn out to be valid, it is extremely irresponsible not to prepare a Plan B.

There are two counterarguments that are less obvious but even more important. First, Western authorities have ignored the importance of what I call the “new Ukraine” that was born in the successful resistance on the Maidan. Many officials with a history of dealing with Ukraine have difficulty adjusting to the revolutionary change that has taken place there. The recently signed Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine was originally negotiated with the Yanukovych government. This detailed road map now needs adjustment to a totally different situation. For instance, the road map calls for the gradual replacement and retraining of the judiciary over five years whereas the public is clamoring for immediate and radical renewal. As the new mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, put it, “If you put fresh cucumbers into a barrel of pickles, they will soon turn into pickles.”

Contrary to some widely circulated accounts, the resistance on the Maidan was led by the cream of civil society: young people, many of whom had studied abroad and refused to join either government or business on their return because they found both of them repugnant. (Nationalists and anti-Semitic extremists made up only a minority of the anti-Yanukovych protesters.) They are the leaders of the new Ukraine and they are adamantly opposed to a return of the “old Ukraine,” with its endemic corruption and ineffective government.

The new Ukraine has to contend with Russian aggression, bureaucratic resistance both at home and abroad, and confusion in the general population. Surprisingly, it has the support of many oligarchs, President Poroshenko foremost among them, and the population at large. There are of course profound differences in history, language, and outlook between the eastern and western parts of the country, but Ukraine is more united and more European-minded than ever before. That unity, however, is extremely fragile.

The new Ukraine has remained largely unrecognized because it took time before it could make its influence felt. It had practically no security forces at its disposal when it was born. The security forces of the old Ukraine were actively engaged in suppressing the Maidan rebellion and they were disoriented this summer when they had to take orders from a government formed by the supporters of the rebellion. No wonder that the new government was at first unable to put up an effective resistance to the establishment of the separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine. It is all the more remarkable that President Poroshenko was able, within a few months of his election, to mount an attack that threatened to reclaim those enclaves.

To appreciate the merits of the new Ukraine you need to have had some personal experience with it. I can speak from personal experience although I must also confess to a bias in its favor. I established a foundation in Ukraine in 1990 even before the country became independent. Its board and staff are composed entirely of Ukrainians and it has deep roots in civil society. I visited the country often, especially in the early years, but not between 2004 and early 2014, when I returned to witness the birth of the new Ukraine.

I was immediately impressed by the tremendous improvement in maturity and expertise during that time both in my foundation and in civil society at large. Currently, civic and political engagement is probably higher than anywhere else in Europe. People have proven their willingness to sacrifice their lives for their country. These are the hidden strengths of the new Ukraine that have been overlooked by the West.

The other deficiency of the current European attitude toward Ukraine is that it fails to recognize that the Russian attack on Ukraine is indirectly an attack on the European Union and its principles of governance. It ought to be evident that it is inappropriate for a country, or association of countries, at war to pursue a policy of fiscal austerity as the European Union continues to do. All available resources ought to be put to work in the war effort even if that involves running up budget deficits. The fragility of the new Ukraine makes the ambivalence of the West all the more perilous. Not only the survival of the new Ukraine but the future of NATO and the European Union itself is at risk. In the absence of unified resistance it is unrealistic to expect that Putin will stop pushing beyond Ukraine when the division of Europe and its domination by Russia is in sight.

Having identified some of the shortcomings of the current approach, I will try to spell out the course that Europe ought to follow. Sanctions against Russia are necessary but they are a necessary evil. They have a depressive effect not only on Russia but also on the European economies, including Germany. This aggravates the recessionary and deflationary forces that are already at work. By contrast, assisting Ukraine in defending itself against Russian aggression would have a stimulative effect not only on Ukraine but also on Europe. That is the principle that ought to guide European assistance to Ukraine.

Germany, as the main advocate of fiscal austerity, needs to understand the internal contradiction involved. Chancellor Angela Merkel has behaved as a true European with regard to the threat posed by Russia. She has been the foremost advocate of sanctions on Russia, and she has been more willing to defy German public opinion and business interests on this than on any other issue. Only after the Malaysian civilian airliner was shot down in July did German public opinion catch up with her. Yet on fiscal austerity she has recently reaffirmed her allegiance to the orthodoxy of the Bundesbank—probably in response to the electoral inroads made by the Alternative for Germany, the anti-euro party. She does not seem to realize how inconsistent that is. She ought to be even more committed to helping Ukraine than to imposing sanctions on Russia.

The new Ukraine has the political will both to defend Europe against Russian aggression and to engage in radical structural reforms. To preserve and reinforce that will, Ukraine needs to receive adequate assistance from its supporters. Without it, the results will be disappointing and hope will turn into despair. Disenchantment already started to set in after Ukraine suffered a military defeat and did not receive the weapons it needs to defend itself.

It is high time for the members of the European Union to wake up and behave as countries indirectly at war. They are better off helping Ukraine to defend itself than having to fight for themselves. One way or another, the internal contradiction between being at war and remaining committed to fiscal austerity has to be eliminated. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Let me be specific. In its last progress report, issued in early September, the IMF estimated that in a worst-case scenario Ukraine would need additional support of $ 19 billion. Conditions have deteriorated further since then. After the Ukrainian elections the IMF will need to reassess its baseline forecast in consultation with the Ukrainian government. It should provide an immediate cash injection of at least $ 20 billion, with a promise of more when needed. Ukraine’s partners should provide additional financing conditional on implementation of the IMF-supported program, at their own risk, in line with standard practice.

The spending of borrowed funds is controlled by the agreement between the IMF and the Ukrainian government. Four billion dollars would go to make up the shortfall in Ukrainian payments to date; $ 2 billion would be assigned to repairing the coal mines in eastern Ukraine that remain under the control of the central government; and $ 2 billion would be earmarked for the purchase of additional gas for the winter. The rest would replenish the currency reserves of the central bank.

The new assistance package would include a debt exchange that would transform Ukraine’s hard currency Eurobond debt (which totals almost $ 18 billion) into long-term, less risky bonds. This would lighten Ukraine’s debt burden and bring down its risk premium. By participating in the exchange, bondholders would agree to accept a lower interest rate and wait longer to get their money back. The exchange would be voluntary and market-based so that it could not be mischaracterized as a default. Bondholders would participate willingly because the new long-term bonds would be guaranteed—but only partially—by the US or Europe, much as the US helped Latin America emerge from its debt crisis in the 1980s with so-called Brady bonds (named for US Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady).

Such an exchange would have a few important benefits. One is that, over the next two or three critical years, the government could use considerably less of its scarce hard currency reserves to pay off bondholders. The money could be used for other urgent needs.

By trimming Ukraine debt payments in the next few years, the exchange would also reduce the chance of a sovereign default, discouraging capital flight and arresting the incipient run on the banks. This would make it easier to persuade owners of Ukraine’s banks (many of them foreign) to inject urgently needed new capital into them. The banks desperately need bigger capital cushions if Ukraine is to avoid a full-blown banking crisis, but shareholders know that a debt crisis could cause a banking crisis that wipes out their equity.

Finally, Ukraine would keep bondholders engaged rather than watch them cash out at 100 cents on the dollar as existing debt comes due in the next few years. This would make it easier for Ukraine to reenter the international bond markets once the crisis has passed. Under the current conditions it would be more practical and cost-efficient for the US and Europe not to use their own credit directly to guarantee part of Ukraine’s debt, but to employ intermediaries such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the World Bank and its subsidiaries.

The Ukrainian state-owned company Naftogaz is a black hole in the budget and a major source of corruption. Naftogaz currently sells gas to households for $ 47 per trillion cubic meters (TCM), for which it pays $ 380 per TCM. At present people cannot control the temperature in their apartments. A radical restructuring of Naftogaz’s entire system could reduce household consumption at least by half and totally eliminate Ukraine’s dependence on Russia for gas. That would involve charging households the market price for gas. The first step would be to install meters in apartments and the second to distribute a cash subsidy to needy households.

The will to make these reforms is strong both in the new management and in the incoming government but the task is extremely complicated (how do you define who is needy?) and the expertise is inadequate. The World Bank and its subsidiaries could sponsor a project development team that would bring together international and domestic experts to convert the existing political will into bankable projects. The initial cost would exceed $ 10 billion but it could be financed by project bonds issued by the European Investment Bank and it would produce very high returns.

It is also high time for the European Union to take a critical look at itself. There must be something wrong with the EU if Putin’s Russia can be so successful even in the short term. The bureaucracy of the EU no longer has a monopoly of power and it has little to be proud of. It should learn to be more united, flexible, and efficient. And Europeans themselves need to take a close look at the new Ukraine. That could help them recapture the original spirit that led to the creation of the European Union. The European Union would save itself by saving Ukraine. (en) RSS feed for articles and news

Central America’s Other Refugees

By , October 23, 2014 10:37 pm

(Photo: Charles Roffey / Flickr)

Central Americans are not the only ones risking their lives to get to the United States through Mexico. Tucked in among this northward flow are hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers from Africa and Asia.

They include hundreds from the troubled northeast African state of Eritrea.

Eritreans have been taking this perilous route for more than a decade to escape the repressive police state their new nation has become. Many have traveled halfway around the world or more just to get to the starting point of this leg of their journey: Quito, Ecuador.

Wode Alem, 39, is one of them. His story is typical.

Wode’s Story

Wode Alem fled Eritrea after he was accused of destroying an army truck in a welding accident and was brutally beaten for three months on suspicion he’d done it on purpose. He swears he didn’t. When the beatings stopped, he disappeared into Eritrea’s draconian prison system with no release—or trial—in sight.

He escaped by hiding in a pile of hay on a plantation where he and other prisoners were forced to work and then dashing through a hail of bullets to a nearby forest. He paid smugglers to get him out of the country, whose border guards have shoot-to-kill orders for anyone trying to leave. He, like others I interviewed, asked that his name be changed out of fear of retribution against his family in Eritrea.

Wode was born in Addis Ababa, but his parents were Eritreans who had gone to the Ethiopian capital for work in the 1970s. Ethiopia had annexed Eritrea, a former Italian colony, in the early 1960s, but lost it three decades later after a protracted liberation struggle.

Newly independent Eritrea went back to war with Ethiopia over unresolved border issues in 1998—following similar confrontations with each of its other neighbors—and Wode’s family, along with 75,000 other Eritreans, was deported to Eritrea.

Months later, Wode was conscripted into the Eritrean army, first to fight in the Border War, then to work in a military motor pool earning 70 nakfa per month ($ 4.70 at official rates). This is typical for those in Eritrea’s “national service,” which can last a decade or longer. Because the border dispute has never been laid to rest, the country is in a perpetual and ambiguously defined state of emergency.

I’ve been researching and writing about these issues for more than two years, interviewing Eritreans in refugee camps and communities in Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, and Israel. Over the past three months, I spoke with more than 100 recent arrivals in seven cities in Canada and the United States about why they left and how they got here.

Unlimited national service factored into the decision to leave for the overwhelming majority, though political or religious factors often played a role. Some described incidents of punishment that provided a “last straw.” For example, some were beaten for asking questions at a public meeting, others for getting “caught” praying while in uniform. Others cited accusations of acts of defiance that they insisted they had not committed, and a subsequent fear of detention and torture.

Few appeared to have had much information on what to expect in either the United States or Canada, so “pull” factors were rarely in evidence. Often the determining factor in where they went was the presence of family or friends who could help them.

Many came through personal sponsorship or structured resettlement programs, especially those who went to Canada. But the largest share who came unannounced did so by flying to South America and traveling overland to the Texas or California border. Some crossed with coyotes in small boats or swam the Rio Grande. Others walked across bridges and announced themselves when they got here. Until now, their stories have not been reported.

Out of Eritrea

Wode was already on the outs with his superiors when the garage incident took place in 2006. His commanding officer, a colonel, had been bullying him for months after nicknaming him “Amhara,” one of Ethiopia’s dominant ethnic groups, because of his Ethiopian birthplace. He said that one day an oxygen bottle apparently leaked and caught fire from a spark, causing a major explosion in which a fellow worker was killed and the car on which they were working was destroyed. The colonel blamed Wode without an inquiry and called soldiers to take him to prison immediately.

He was driven to a prison in the nearby Ala Valley where he was beaten each day, week after week, as they interrogated him over why he had “sabotaged” the garage by causing the explosion. Each time, he said, he answered the same way: “It was an accident. I don’t know how it happened.” But they kept beating him, using a variety of instruments including fists and feet.

At the end of three months, the beatings suddenly stopped. Eight months later, guards took him out of the holding cell and put him to work on a state-owned farm, along with other detainees. Together they weeded, watered, harvested, and hoed fields of tomatoes and cabbage in a strictly enforced silence.

One afternoon when the guards were some distance away, he crawled inside a large pile of hay and hid. When he saw the detainees lined up for roll call, he slipped out and made a run for the forest, zigzagging as several guards shot at him with AK-47 assault rifles (which are not very accurate at long distance). Once he felt safely away he hid again and waited until midnight to move. Then he slipped away. A smuggler arranged his escape to Sudan, from where he flew to Kenya with papers purchased in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

The Refugee Business

Wode spent close to two years in Nairobi taking odd jobs as a mechanic until he secured a full-time job in a garage. He saved virtually all he earned beyond his rent and meals until he had $ 16,000. With these savings and help from members of his extended family, he came up with the $ 40,000 smugglers demanded to get him to the United States.

The trip was managed by a smuggler based in Dubai, the headquarters for much of the clandestine movement of refugees from the region. This smuggler had lieutenants in most major East African cities and many in Europe and the Americas. It is a thriving global business. He, or someone working for him, sent Wode a passport with a visa to Dubai, where he spent five days getting the rest of his papers in order. Then he was put on a flight to Moscow, where he picked up a flight to Havana with three other Eritreans in similar circumstances.

As instructed, they took a taxi to a small seaside hotel that housed 15-20 Eritreans, Ethiopians, and Somalis, all traveling on forged documents. I asked if he’d gone into the sea, but he said they all stayed close to the hotel in fear of being picked up by local authorities. All he remembers is the inside of his room and the sight of other anxious refugees.

During this interlude, the smuggler at the next port of call—Quito—had arranged visas for him and the other three Eritreans with whom he was traveling and sent them by fax. However, on the second day a Cuban solder came and collected all their passports, telling them to fetch them again in the morning. “Everybody was scared,” said Wode. “No one was sleeping.”

When they went to the police station to get their passports, they were asked where they were coming from and where they were going. They said they were drivers on their way from Kenya to jobs in Ecuador. At the end of the questioning, they were dismissed and went back to the hotel, frightened that they’d be sent back to Africa. But several hours later a messenger arrived with their passports. “Everybody slept that night,” Wode said.

After three tense days, they boarded the flight for Quito, where they were met at the airport by an Eritrean smuggler who took them to his home and immediately burned their passports. From then on they would travel without papers. He gave them new bags and new clothes but no identification. They were warned they would have to cross each border illegally. That night they left.

Latin American Odyssey

Sometime around 8 or 9 p.m., according to Wode, they got out of the car and set off into the jungle on foot, following a Colombian guide hired by the smuggler. Once over the border, they boarded a second-class bus and rode to within several miles of Panama. Again, they set out on foot through the bush. It took them three days this time.

“You couldn’t see even the sky,” said Wode, describing chest-deep river crossings and blind plunges through mosquito-infested thickets. At some point, their guide left them to return to Bogotá, and they were on their own. Perhaps not surprisingly, the track they were following led to a military camp. When the soldiers saw them, they ordered them to undress completely for a full-body search. The refugees, none of whom understood Spanish, were convinced they were being robbed. But once the search was done, they were allowed to put their clothes back on and taken into the camp where they spent a relatively comfortable night, relieved but anxious about what would come next.

From there, they traveled by foot, boat, and bus to Panama City, where they stayed five days at another hotel crammed with refugees and migrants headed north. Local authorities interviewed Wode and his companions to ascertain their status and then gave them temporary papers to transit the country. When they neared Costa Rica, they again descended from the bus and walked around the border post, destroying their Panamanian papers.

On the other side they caught a bus to San José, where they again went to the local immigration office to plead their case. And again they were given transit papers to the next frontier, which they crossed on foot out of sight of those authorities. They repeated this across Nicaragua and El Salvador until, by pre-arrangement, they met a boat that took them to Guatemala on a turbulent five-hour trip that left most of them wretchedly ill. Again they walked.

Another smuggler guided them into Mexico and hired a taxi to take them to the immigration office in the Chiapas capital, Tapachula, where they were put in a United Nations-supplied refugee camp that mostly housed other East Africans—some 300-400 by Wode’s count. After 21 days, they were given 30-day transit visas.

Bound for America

Five days later, they left for Reynosa just south of the Texas border. They were met there by a Mexican smuggler known to them only as “Tiger,” whom they had to pay another $ 500 each. After five more days they boarded a boat under cover of darkness and tried to cross the Rio Grande.

“We were not lucky,” said Wode. The boat leaked badly and soon sank. One migrant from India drowned, he said. The others made it back to the Mexican shore as U.S. Border Patrol officers arrived on the opposite side.

The next day they tried again with a larger group of 14 people, including six Eritreans, an Indian, and several Mexicans and Somalis. They were divided between two boats this time, both of which made it. Once across, they set out on foot on a road close to the town of Hidalgo. At about 8 a.m., a small plane passed overhead. Soon afterward Border Patrol officers showed up, sending the frightened travelers in all directions.

“I dove into the water,” said Wode. “It was too dirty!”

“One officer yelled, ‘Come out! I see you,” he said. “The Mexicans were crying. Finally, I came out.”

The Africans were questioned separately.

“‘You guys are from Eritrea or Ethiopia or Somalia, right?’” Wode said they asked, clearly familiar with the influx from the Horn. Wode said they took down the details of who they were, where they’d come from and how they did it before being taken to another prison. He spent 45 days there, but he is not complaining. By contrast to what he’d already been through, this was a vacation—and he knew it would end.

Today, Wode lives in a poor working class suburb of Atlanta, along with scores of other recent arrivals from Eritrea. Shortly after his arrival there, he got a driver’s license and found work as a driver for a small company. When he had saved enough, he got a used, long-haul truck from another friend on a lease-to-buy arrangement. Now he drives for himself. Meanwhile, he sends what he can to his family in Eritrea.

Foreign Policy In Focus

Inside Mosul’s Demolished Churches: Video

By , October 23, 2014 10:34 pm

Rudaw has obtained an exclusive video, shot in recent days, showing the ruins of a church in Mosul destroyed by Islamic State (ISIS) militants.

“Until this very moment, the destroyed churches have remained untouched since Daash blew them up,” says the person who filmed the site, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

ISIS leveled the Church of the Virgin Mary in late July, a month and a half after they topple Mosul and pushed on to control much of northern and central Iraq.

The Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights announced days later that ISIS had loaded the church with improvised explosive devices and successfully detonated the church.

Since its destruction “no one is allowed to get close to it,” the reporter added, but he was able to film the site because “no people can be seen around the churches and the city in general.”

Graffiti has been written on the walls, stating that “these places are destroyed under ISIS order,” among other jihadi slogans and directives. The Assyrian International News Agency reports that all 45 Christian churches or institutions in Mosul are now destroyed or occupied by the group.

Days before blowing up the church, ISIS decreed strict new laws for the Christian population, marking the homes of Christians with red spray paint. Residents were given the option to convert to Islam, pay the ‘jizya’ — a historic tax levied on non-Muslim populations since the first years of the religion–go in to exile, or face execution.

Most opted to leave the city, and most were systematically robbed of any valuables, goods, or livestock at ISIS checkpoints.

This was a shock Mosul’s Christians, who were promised protection when the city fell into ISIS hands. In the first days of their administration, they went house to house in Christian neighborhoods, offering their phone numbers in case locals were harassed by Sunni militias or neighbors.

The Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Pope’s envoy to Iraq, had previously confirmed that priests were allowed to come and go from the city and administer the sacraments to Christians in their homes.

But blowing-up churches sent a strong message to the Christian community, virtually all of which subsequently left Mosul for the Kurdistan Region or the surrounding Nineveh plains, home to a number of Christian villages.

Thousands more came to Kurdistan after ISIS pushed further into Nineveh and Shingal in early August, where they massacred Christians, Yezidis, and other religious minorities, with reports of other crimes such as rape and selling women as slaves.

Today the majority of Iraq’s internally displaced Christians live in Kurdish camps or within the region’s cities, with a high concentration in Erbil’s Christian quarter, Ainkawa. Fundamentalist salafists in Mosul have also destroyed a number of Muslim shrines, including the 14th century mosque containing the tomb of the biblical prophet Jonah, sacred to all Abrahamic traditions.

Assyrian International News Agency

$240m Iraq Desalination Contract

By , October 23, 2014 10:24 pm

$  240m Iraq Desalination Contract

By John Lee.

A consortium has been awarded a $ 240-million engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) order from Iraq’s Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works to build pretreatment facilities at a desalination plant in Basra.

Japan’s Hitachi and Veolia Environnement of France have won $ 100 million of the total, with Egyptian engineering firm ArabCo getting the rest for civil engineering, construction, and on- site installation work.

Construction is scheduled to begin in immediately, with completion scheduled for April 2017.

The pretreatment facilities include surrounding river water intake facilities and water transport networks, for which he Japanese government has provided loan assistance.

According to WaterWorld, the contract is an addition to an earlier EPC and five-year operation and maintenance deal, won by the Franco-Japanese consortium, for the Basra plant.

The Basra reverse osmosis (RO) desalination plant will be the largest facility of its kind in Iraq, capable of supplying drinking water at 199,000 m3/d.

(Sources: Desalination & Water Reuse, WaterWorld)

Iraq Business News

$240m Iraq Desalination Contract

By , October 23, 2014 10:24 pm

$  240m Iraq Desalination Contract

By John Lee.

A consortium has been awarded a $ 240-million engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) order from Iraq’s Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works to build pretreatment facilities at a desalination plant in Basra.

Japan’s Hitachi and Veolia Environnement of France have won $ 100 million of the total, with Egyptian engineering firm ArabCo getting the rest for civil engineering, construction, and on- site installation work.

Construction is scheduled to begin in immediately, with completion scheduled for April 2017.

The pretreatment facilities include surrounding river water intake facilities and water transport networks, for which he Japanese government has provided loan assistance.

According to WaterWorld, the contract is an addition to an earlier EPC and five-year operation and maintenance deal, won by the Franco-Japanese consortium, for the Basra plant.

The Basra reverse osmosis (RO) desalination plant will be the largest facility of its kind in Iraq, capable of supplying drinking water at 199,000 m3/d.

(Sources: Desalination & Water Reuse, WaterWorld)

Iraq Business News