At border with Iran, Iraq PM vows to fight customs corruption

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Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi speaks to the media at Mandali border crossing between Iraq and Iran, in Mandali, Iraq July 11, 2020. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani/Pool
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Iraqi border police stand guard on the Iraqi side of the Mandili crossing on the border with Iran on July 11, 2020. (AFP)
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Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi speaks to the press at the Mandili crossing on the border with Iran on July 11, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 11 July 2020

At border with Iran, Iraq PM vows to fight customs corruption

  • “This is the beginning of our promise to combat corruption. The first phase is to protect border crossings with new security forces,” Al-Kadhimi said
  • Iraq imports virtually all of its consumer goods from its neighbors Iran or Turkey

MANDILI BORDER CROSSING: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi launched a new campaign on Saturday against corruption at the country’s borders, saying millions of dollars were being lost by not properly taxing imported goods.
Speaking at the Mandili crossing on the border with Iran, Kadhimi said Iraq’s frontier had become “a hotbed for corrupt people.”
“This is the beginning of our promise to combat corruption. The first phase is to protect border crossings with new security forces,” he said.
“The second is to fight ‘ghosts’ trying to blackmail Iraqis, and the third is to automate the crossing with new technology,” the premier said, standing alongside Border Crossing Commission head Omar Al-Waeli.
In response to a question by AFP, Kadhimi added: “We encourage businessmen (importing goods) to pay the customs, not the bribes.”
“This will serve as a message to all corrupt people.”
Iraq imports virtually all of its consumer goods from either its eastern neighbor Iran or its northern neighbor Turkey.
But government officials, foreign diplomats and businessmen have long complained that the import process at both borders is complicated and rife with corruption.
They accuse customs offices of getting kickbacks from traders in exchange for charging no or low import duties.
In June, Finance Minister Ali Allawi said the government would seek to boost its non-oil revenues, including through import duties, to make up for the collapse in state income from falling oil prices.
“The ports should give us revenues of seven trillion Iraqi dinar a year. We only get one trillion right now,” he told reporters at the time.
“To close that gap, we’ll need a string of reforms to the customs administration,” he said.
Mandili was established in 2014 and is currently controlled by a mix of intelligence forces and the Hashed Al-Shaabi, a state-sponsored network of groups including many close to Tehran.
There was no noticeable activity at the border on Saturday, as all of Iraq’s 32 crossings remain officially closed to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Hashed fighters could be seen standing in the blistering midsummer sun.
Iraq is ranked one of the top 20 most corrupt countries in the world according to Transparency International, with some $450 billion in public funds vanishing into the pockets of shady politicians and businessmen since 2003.
Every premier has pledged new measures to fight corruption but few have been able to make a dent in the deep-rooted practices across the public and private sector.


Saudis warn UN of oil spot in shipping lane near decaying Yemen tanker

Updated 24 min 49 sec ago

Saudis warn UN of oil spot in shipping lane near decaying Yemen tanker

  • The UN has been waiting for formal authorization from Yemen’s Houthi movement to send a mission to the tanker
  • The UN has warned that the Safer could spill four times as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia warned the UN Security Council on Wednesday that an “oil spot” had been seen in a shipping transit area 31 miles (50 km) west of a decaying tanker that is threatening to spill 1.1 million barrels of crude oil off the coast of Yemen.
The Safer tanker has been stranded off Yemen’s Red Sea oil terminal of Ras Issa for more than five years. The United Nations has warned that the Safer could spill four times as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska.
In a letter to the 15-member body, reviewed by Reuters, Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi wrote that experts had observed that “a pipeline attached to the vessel is suspected to have been separated from the stabilizers holding it to the bottom and is now floating on the surface of the sea.”
The United Nations has been waiting for formal authorization from Yemen’s Houthi movement to send a mission to the Safer tanker to conduct a technical assessment and whatever initial repairs might be feasible.
The Security Council and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have both called on the Houthis to grant access.
Al-Mouallimi wrote that the tanker “has reached a critical state of degradation, and that the situation is a serious threat to all Red Sea countries, particularly Yemen and Saudi Arabia,” adding “this dangerous situation must not be left unaddressed.”
Yemen has been mired in conflict since the Iran-allied Houthi group ousted the government from the capital Sanaa in 2014. A Saudi-led military coalition in 2015 intervened in a bid to restore the government.