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Genres: Biography , Drama , Thriller , Action , Spy
Screenplay By: Latif Yahia and Jp Rolls
Filming Locations: Austria - London - Norway - Germany - Holland - Ireland
Runtime: 110 min
Budget: €10,000,000 (estimated)
“My friend, Iraq is a rich, virgin country!” one of its richest men, Namir al-Akabi, told me with a startling enthusiasm when I met him earlier this year at his office in Baghdad. Akabi is the chairman of the Almco Group of Companies, a conglomerate he built from nothing in the wake of the American invasion in 2003. What makes Iraq’s economic potential so great, he explained, despite everything, is not just its abundant natural resources — it is the shattered state of Iraq itself: the damage done by the American war, but also the long, steady decay under Saddam Hussein, from the war with Iran that began in 1980 through the invasion of Kuwait a decade later and the crushing international sanctions that followed the first gulf war. The country has been decimated, and therein lies its potential.
Like many of Iraq’s wealthiest men, Akabi grew up in exile: his family left in 1970, when he was just 7, in the early days of Baath Party rule. He lived first in Jordan, then London, then Moscow. He was back in Jordan building housing when the United States invaded his homeland and made him a very, very rich man. “How many five-star restaurants are there in Baghdad?” he asked as we drove in a convoy of Chevy Suburbans through the bleak streets and highways. “None! I’ve tasted them all.” Houses, hospitals, roads, bridges, electricity, communication networks, hotels, supermarkets and, not least, pipelines and refineries for the coming boom in oil and natural-gas production. “Iraq needs everything!” he said. “Anything you can think of. A car rental! Everything you take for granted in the West.”
He was not exaggerating. Not long after that conversation, I met Ayad Yahya, the general director of Al-Bilad Islamic Bank. While we talked in his office, a young, English-speaking assistant came in and proudly showed off the bank’s first debit card. They were planning on rolling out the card to customers the following week, as soon as they worked out the kinks in the computer system Yahya recently bought from Oracle. The A.T.M. itself was still in its shipping box in the bank’s lobby.
Yahya, an aging economist who once worked for Iraq’s state bank, recalled visits to Amman and Beirut under Hussein’s rule. “We brought back bananas and Pepsi for our children,” he told me. “We said to them, ‘This is a banana.’ ” In 2007, while the sectarian fighting in Iraq was still in full bloom, Yahya acquired the means to make Pepsi himself. He led a group of investors that took over the formerly state-run Baghdad Soft Drinks Company, a factory on the city’s southern outskirts that was once partly owned by Hussein’s erratic and fearsome son, Uday. It was the officially licensed Pepsi franchise in Iraq from 1984 until it shut down production after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Now it’s humming again. With new management, a renewed Pepsi license and an extensive refurbishment, including new bottling lines, generators and water purifiers (the source being the Tigris River, half a mile away), it supplies 80 percent of the soda in Baghdad and nearly half in all of Iraq. This makes it one of the country’s largest manufacturers, which is a sign of its managerial success and also the sad state of manufacturing in Iraq.
“The economy is growing, but the path is long,” Yahya said later over a lunch at the soda plant that included Iraq’s national dish, a delicious roasted carp, called masquf, and Diet Pepsi. “This is just the very beginning.” As we ate, Al Jazeera murmured on a flat-screen, broadcasting the protests in Egypt that toppled Hosni Mubarak. Yahya watched the scenes, riveted. “Arab investors used to think Egypt was the most stable,” he said. “Now we are.”
The war in Iraq is widely seen as a colossal blunder of American hubris that killed tens of thousands and displaced many more, leaving a shattered, sectarian wreck of a country. Even now, as President Obama withdraws the last of nearly 50,000 American troops by the end of the year, the insurgency simmers and the state is neither stable nor fully democratic. The government is rife with corruption and paralyzed by an ossified bureaucracy. And yet also, undeniably, Iraq has turned a corner. After years of war, looting, sectarian bloodshed and political infighting, Iraq’s economy is beginning to take off, fueled by a resurgence in oil exploitation — and soon natural gas — and an influx of foreign capital that has swelled despite the protracted political impasse that followed Iraq’s parliamentary elections in March 2010.
The International Monetary Fund recently estimated that Iraq’s gross domestic product grew 2.6 percent last year — nearly as much as the struggling American economy did — and it projected astonishing increases exceeding 11 percent this year and next. Some say Iraq’s economy — estimated at roughly $80 billion today — could expand six or seven times in the next decade as it increases oil production to a level rivaling Saudi Arabia’s.
“That’s conservative,” James Hogan, the country director for the international banking giant HSBC, told me as we sat in his sleek, glass-walled office in Baghdad. HSBC acquired control of the Dar Es Salaam Investment Bank in 2005 and has since built it into one of Iraq’s largest private financial institutions. It had assets worth $91 million when HSBC took control; according to Hogan, it has $407 million in assets now. By market capitalization, it is the largest company traded on the Iraqi Stock Exchange, an institution that did not exist in 2003 and began electronic trades only two years ago. “What success will look like in 5, 10, 20 years, that’s what we’re all here for,” Hogan said.
“People used to say: ‘America is coming for our oil! America is after our oil!’ ” Abbas Fadhil Shamara told me. “But at the end of the day, you did not see many companies.” Today Iraqis complain not that Americans are coming to steal their oil but that our companies — and foreign corporations, too — are too slow to arrive.
It is not hard to understand why. On the lovely, cool day in January that I met Shamara in his home in Mansour, which counts as a tony neighborhood in Iraq’s dusty, garbage-strewn, barbed-wired and blast-walled capital, a roadside bomb exploded not far away, killing an Iraqi brigadier general on his way to work. Another bomb near a gas station across town wounded eight people. Men using silencers strafed the car of a police colonel, killing him. In Tikrit, the governor of the province north of Baghdad narrowly escaped an assassination attempt that injured five of his bodyguards. Two or perhaps three suicide car bombs — facts in Iraq are often hard to pin down — exploded on the outskirts of Karbala, the holy city where millions of Shiites marched in a religious ritual that was once banned and is now annually attacked by a relentless, if diminished, insurgency.
It would be wrong to say that Shamara was callous about the carnage still being wrought in his country. The attacks that day killed at least 30 people, culminating a bloody week that left some 200 Iraqis dead. But that is not the Iraq Shamara sees. He argued that the media and the international community, and especially equivocating investors, have clung to and perpetuated a misconception of Iraq as a politically unstable, deeply corrupt hell on earth. All of which is true, but he had a point.
Riding through Baghdad’s gridlocked traffic, I passed along Mansour’s main shopping street. It was thronged with people, Iraqis unaware of or undaunted by the day’s violence. In the first months after the American invasion in 2003 — that fleeting period of hope before darkness fell — Baghdad spilled over with cheap imports of everything imaginable: cigarettes, sodas and especially fans and air-conditioners, stacked in piles on sidewalks and in markets. It was typical of a postwar economy: chaotic and unregulated. Even in the worst years of “the events,” as Iraqis call the war, people shopped for necessities, though always well before dark. Today they do so in newly opened stores. Of all the so-called benchmarks that the United States Congress imposed to measure the progress of war, no one thought to include a count of the number of plate-glass windows in Baghdad’s storefronts. Installing one is a gesture of defiance, or at least resilience, in a place where bombs still routinely shatter glass. They began appearing more and more in the last couple of years, as good a measure of public confidence in improved security — and a rising retail economy — as any other.
When I noted to Shamara that I still had to drive through two checkpoints on the street leading to his house, he responded dismissively, as if the militarized cityscape was now a mere annoyance. “That’s because Chalabi lives here,” he said, referring to Ahmad Chalabi, the politician widely reviled for misleading the United States into war — and who is also a very rich man.
Shamara and his brother, Ali, are scions of a mercantile family that produced textiles in the 1960s and ’70s and later, as the regime withered under international sanctions following the disastrous invasion of Kuwait in 1990, supplied Hussein’s ministries with chemicals, pesticides, medical equipment and harvesters. (Shamara is a man of contradiction. He was imprisoned by Hussein’s secret service in the 1970s but later did business with his sons.)
Today in the new Iraq, the Shamara Holding Company builds power stations and steel mills. It is expanding into pipelines, refineries and other services for the various multinational corporations that in 2009 won the first contracts to exploit Iraq’s oil and natural gas, in what was one of the single biggest energy auctions in history.
“I always say we have a jewel in our hand,” he said, “but we don’t know how to market it.”
Two weeks before I met Shamara, he was in Japan doing just that, as a consultant for the Japanese Embassy in Baghdad. When I telephoned him a week later, he explained in a hush that he was in Istanbul attending a conference on Iraq’s plans to vastly expand its power stations by offering contracts and operating profits to private investors like Shamara Holding. Those contracts, given the sorry state of the country’s electricity, could eventually be worth billions of dollars.
From 2006 until January of this year, the American effort to rebuild Iraq’s economy was largely run not by the embassy but by the Pentagon. During the worst years of sectarian violence, the Pentagon created the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, led by an intense, taciturn engineer and deputy under secretary of defense, Paul A. Brinkley. It became known as the Brinkley Group, and as with much of the Pentagon’s conduct in the war, its work proved controversial. While it lured investors from all over the world, housing them in a motel-like villa in the Green Zone, its ultimate value is disputed even now. Brinkley himself was investigated for mismanagement and personal misconduct but was never charged with anything. (I have met him twice in Baghdad since 2009, but he did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this article.)
The task force has now shifted its efforts to Afghanistan, a country with far less economic potential than Iraq. Its last project in Iraq was to organize a trip to Baghdad in January for a nonprofit group called the Business Executives for National Security and a handful of prospective investors, including Georgette Mosbacher of the cosmetic maker Borghese; Anthony Scaramucci of SkyBridge Capital; and Rick Goings, the chairman of Tupperware. Their goal was not to seek out investment opportunities so much as to promote entrepreneurialism among the Iraqis themselves. At a meeting with students at Baghdad University, it became clear that much was lost in translation. Mosbacher, also an author and an ardent Republican fund-raiser, shared her up-by-the-bootstraps biography — small-town girl from Indiana achieves the American dream — and offered “practical advice” for anyone in the auditorium who wanted to begin a business. Some of the biggest companies in America, she said, “were started in garages.” “Look around,” she told the students, most of them young women. “Ask what’s not being done. Is it difficult to get shirts cleaned?” (Dry cleaning in Baghdad was, in fact, crippled by international sanctions that banned imports of chemicals. A colleague once told me his suit was cleaned with gasoline.)
The students — some in head scarves, some not — applauded politely, but then a third-year student in physics, Fatin Khalid, stood up and asked when these companies would be coming to Iraq to open businesses that they might work for. Rick Goings offered what he said was “the bitter truth.” “I think it is unlikely that most global corporations — European and American — are going to set up significant companies here because of security,” he told the students. Earlier he said the same thing to the dean. “They have China, India, Indonesia, where there is not a likelihood of getting killed.”
I met Mosbacher again two days later as the delegation prepared to leave. It was her first visit to Iraq, and her main impression was that it was less dangerous than she expected. When I asked her about investing in Iraq, though, she demurred. “Look,” she told me, “I’m going to do business anywhere where I can get quality products.” Iraq’s problem, she said, was that there was “no real concept of a market economy.” She had doubts about the infrastructure needed to warehouse and ship products, about access to capital and, above all, about corruption. “There’s a sense that everyone has their hand out,” she said. “That’s a real problem for U.S. investors.”
In the spring of 2008, as the Bush administration was eagerly defending the troop surge, the Brinkley Group appeared to have landed its most prominent American investment. Marriott International was negotiating to operate a business-class hotel in the Green Zone. Baghdad, a city with an estimated eight million people, had a dearth of hotels even before the American invasion. Even the most famous hotels — the Rashid, with its floor-tile mosaic mocking George H. W. Bush; the Ishtar Sheraton; and the Palestine, where most foreign journalists stayed — were dingy, fraying relics. After the invasion, they also became frequent targets of mortars, rockets and car bombs. Marriott’s interest was a desperately wanted sign of economic revitalization, but like many large projects in Baghdad, it was hyped with fanfare that proved to be unrealistic. In late 2008, a car bomb badly damaged the Marriott in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, underscoring the risks inherent in establishing an American brand in places roiled by anti-American extremism. The deal in Baghdad quietly failed to materialize.
The hotel has, however.
“It doesn’t need a feasibility study,” Hayder al-Judi, an engineer by training, told me at a bustling construction site in the center of the Green Zone. Judi returned from exile in New Zealand after the war and is now building an 11-story, 300-room hotel and conference center that will be the first significant addition to the Baghdad skyline since Hussein’s overthrow. As did Akabi and the others, he told me that the business opportunities in today’s Iraq were self-evident. The oil and gas investments will bring a new wave of businessmen and executives, all of whom need a place to stay in a country with very few hotels of the standard they are used to. “We need 20 of these as a start,” he said.
Brinkley’s task force worked feverishly to support the project, bringing Judi together with a group of American investors led by Summit Global Group, a company registered in Delaware and led by Robert K. Kelley, a former Congressional aide who at the start of the war shepherded members of Congress around Iraq for the American occupation authority and later for the United States Embassy. Judi and four other Iraqi investors, whom he declined to name, control 75 percent of the $100 million project; the Americans 25 percent. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation in Washington provided a loan of $50 million and, tellingly, $25 million in political-risk insurance. “It required a leap of faith,” Judi told me.
In May 2008, he and the others acquired a 50-year lease for the land and broke ground that July, even as negotiations with Marriott to operate the hotel fell through. The hotel was the first foreign investment licensed by Iraq’s National Investment Commission, but even with the high-level support from the American and Iraqi governments, the project struggled to navigate Iraq’s sluggish bureaucracy. In 2009, behind blast walls that shielded the site from view, workers cleared the ground and began driving pilings 80 feet into the sandy soil, a necessity because of the high-water table of the nearby Tigris. Bureaucracy and uncertain financing, however, stalled construction in August 2009, and even now Judi is awaiting still more approvals. “It was frustrating for all of us at the time,” Judi said, “but we were pioneers.” (Kelley told me in Washington that it was not entirely the Iraqis’ fault. He also attributed the yearlong delay to the transition at OPIC from the administrations of President Bush to President Obama.)
The investors ultimately reached a deal with Rotana, the hotel-management company based in the United Arab Emirates that, Kelley said, understood the cultural sensitivities of running a hotel for foreigners in the Arab world. Rotana opened its first hotel in Iraq this year — in Erbil, the capital of the relatively safe and increasingly prosperous Kurdish autonomous region. Rooms start at $215 a night and reach $1,415 for a presidential suite. The Baghdad Rotana will be no less swank, but it is designed with the realities of a violent city in mind. It has reinforced risers and girders and is far enough from any public road to minimize the threat of car bombs. The roof will have two layers to absorb the impact of mortars or rockets, which still occasionally land in the Green Zone. “We tried to get away from glass to the extent that we could,” Judi explained.
A glossy brochure shows rooms with sleek, modern furnishings, a patisserie, a cigar lounge, a Belgian beer cafe and an outdoor swimming pool. Nothing like it exists in Baghdad. The first time I saw the designs in 2010, at a time when construction was halted, it was impossible to imagine the hotel in the scarred, shabby cityscape. When I met Judi there in February, though, the hotel’s skeleton rose to the second floor. Bloodied handprints stained the walls — a ritual of Iraqi construction workers, using the blood of slaughtered lambs to celebrate the completion of each phase of work.
From the second floor, Judi pointed to a vacant lot to the west of the site. “I think it’s going to be a shopping mall,” he said as we watched the sunset cast a golden hue on the former Baath Party headquarters, once one of the most feared places in Iraq.
“People say, ‘When is the right moment?’ ” Judi said of investing in Iraq. “You never know when the right moment is.” Like most Iraqis I talked to, he declined to discuss money in detail. When I pressed him, though, he said the return on the investors’ share in the hotel could be “north of 35, 40 percent.”
Iraq remains a violent place, but standing there with Judi, a new Iraq no longer seemed simply a pipe dream of a desperate American administration hoping for some silver lining to emerge out of a disastrous war. “Everyone assumes stability will return, and then the investors will come,” he said. “My view is that investment will come into the country and then stability will improve.”
Namir al-Akabi, the very optimistic chairman of Almco, is typical of Iraq’s new class of entrepreneurs. They are men — almost without exception — with a genetic understanding of Iraqi culture, a business acumen honed in exile and an irrepressible acceptance of risk. Bearish and gregarious, unfazed by all that bedevils the place, he returned to Iraq for the first time in 33 years only days after the American tanks rolled into Baghdad. As he tells the story, his first contract was to supply $500 worth of gasoline to the invaders. He negotiated the terms of his deal over a satellite phone with a bad connection and little grasp of the American military’s jargon. “They kept talking about MoGas,” he recalled, referring to gasoline, as opposed to AvGas, or aviation fuel. “I didn’t know what it was.” He learned quickly, then filled a tanker and drove it to Mosul, where he found and filled up five American sport utility vehicles on the side of the road. “I lost money,” he said, but the deal opened the door to the vast opportunities afforded by an American war machine that to date has spent more than $61 billion trying to rebuild Iraq.
In 2003, Akabi created Almco — the Al Iraq al-Moaser Company, “the modern Iraq Company.” He soon won dozens of contracts at American bases across the country, building tent camps for troops and providing fuel, generators and security. He claims to have built three-quarters of the buildings at the sprawling military airfield in Taji, just north of Baghdad. In 2005, he underbid K.B.R. for the contract to cater the American detention center at Camp Bucca near Basra, which then held 22,000 Iraqis swooped up in American raids. (It has since closed, and the regional government in Basra has announced plans to turn Bucca into a business park or a tourist resort.)
“This was the single largest catering company in the world,” he boasted when I met him in one of Almco’s offices in the still heavily fortified Green Zone. The villa that housed the offices looked like a construction site, surrounded by generators and company trucks emblazoned with Almco’s motto: “We make the impossible happen.” Akabi now employs more than 7,000 people across the country and earns, he said, $600 million in revenue a year.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, he adores the Americans. His office walls are covered with dozens of grip-and-grin photographs of American commanders (outnumbering those of Iraqi leaders like Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki) and certificates of appreciation from the American military, including one praising the catering contract at Camp Bucca. A folded American flag rests on a shelf, a memento of an American military base he once serviced but has since closed, as most already have.
“What the U.S. did was a success,” he said later as we drove to Taji to visit his projects, including a newly finished helicopter hangar which, as his certificate of appreciation noted, is the largest open-span steel structure in all of Iraq. “They made mistakes along the way. They had a plan for the invasion but not for after the invasion. Now, it is a success.” He paused. “In 10 or 20 years, Iraq will be booming, by the way. Under Saddam Hussein, Iraqis didn’t have hope. Today we have hope.”
Working with the Americans in postinvasion Iraq had its risks, and it still does. Iraqi contractors working for the so-called occupiers were favorite targets of insurgents. On the drive to Taji, we passed near the spot where one night in 2004 gunmen opened fire on his convoy as it neared the base. He was traveling with 12 men; 4 were killed. He escaped by hiding in reeds beside the Tigris until morning. On the drive back to Baghdad, he showed me the gnarled guardrail on a bridge where a roadside bomb nearly killed him in 2008; a passing truck absorbed the force of the blast. He credits his business success to the fact that he never left Iraq but instead learned to work with the American contracting system, even as potential competitors fled for their lives.
That the American military is due to pull out completely by the end of 2011 has hardly curbed Akabi’s enthusiasm. The steady withdrawal of American soldiers that began to pick up speed under President Obama in 2009 has coincided with the first significant influx of international oil companies.
They all need the same services he provided the Americans — from housing to catering to security. “Oil and gas people are more pampered,” he said. “They live in the desert, but they’re used to quality. They’re not the military. They don’t want to live the hard life.”
As we drove, he received a telephone call from an official with Eni, the Italian energy company, inquiring about an estimate for installing security equipment at the Zubair oil field near Basra. Almco is already building the company’s camp there. (“I brought in an Italian chef,” he said.) The conversation seemed to go in circles over the details of what’s known in the bidding process as a request for proposal. When he hung up, after finally promising a bid within 10 days, he complained, “It’s so hard to work with the Italians.”
That, of course, can also be said of the Iraqis. In the cup holder beside his seat in the Suburban, Akabi had rested a black Zastava pistol, made in Serbia and engraved in Arabic. (I asked him about it in the hope that he would move it, since it was pointed at my right knee on a bumpy ride. He did, lifting it in his right hand while cradling a Nokia in his left.) The engraving on the pistol’s barrel explained that it was a gift from Maliki, who doled them out as campaign favors during a meeting with businessmen and tribal leaders on the eve of last year’s election, which he ultimately won by tenaciously outmaneuvering his chief rivals, including Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite much closer to the United States. “Honestly,” Maliki said at the time, “I wish I could give a pistol and a rifle to each one who stood beside the government against the gangs to express our appreciation.”
Maliki’s electoral munificence underscored the cozy, corrupted relationship between the state and business. The Iraqi state, after all, still controls an estimated 80 to 90 percent of the economy — from the oil fields to 176 state-owned enterprises, holdovers of Soviet-style central planning. As a result, Maliki’s government is the largest patron of economic development and, many say, the biggest obstacle to it.
The country’s laws remain largely untested or, in the case of foreign investment, still mostly unwritten. So far, the newly seated Parliament has shown little inclination to take on legislation that would open the economy to market forces.
“We still have politicians who believe investment is like occupation,” says Mohammed al-Rubaie, the chairman of strategic planning for the Baghdad Provincial Council and one of 11 brothers who own property and run businesses across the city, from a stationery-supplies chain to a mobile-phone franchise in a new headquarters on the eastern bank of the Tigris. One of the stationery supplier’s biggest customers is the Baghdad Provincial Council — the sort of nepotism that would be a conflict of interest in the United States but is commonplace in Iraq.
I met Rubaie in his brother’s store shortly after he returned from Paris, where he participated in talks with the French company Alstom to build, improbably, a monorail in Baghdad, at a projected cost of $2 billion for the first 15 miles. “They hate something from the West,” he said of those who opposed investment. “These people — we want to change them.”
Without exception, Iraq’s businessmen told me that their greatest challenge today is not security but the bureaucracy and its attendant corruption. Transparency International ranks Iraq at the very bottom of its list, with only three other countries considered more corrupt: Afghanistan, Myanmar and Somalia. For ease of doing business, the World Bank last year ranked Iraq 166th out of 183 countries.
Akabi complained that he was thwarted by government officials when he tried to create a helicopter taxi service in Basra for foreign oil workers. Ayad Yahya of Bilad Islamic Bank complained that an armored truck he bought had been stuck in customs for six months already at the country’s notoriously corrupt port south of Basra. When Hussein al-Shabibi, a charming pastry chef and cake decorator, tried to register the pastry shop he opened in the Jadriya neighborhood of Baghdad in 2008 — a modern, glass-fronted shop that would not be out of place in suburban America — he was turned down on the grounds that its name, Vanilla, was not Arabic. As a result, he acknowledged rather openly, he refuses to pay taxes. Bashir al-Obaidi, the youthful manager of Baghdad’s only Mercedes-Benz showroom, which opened a couple of years ago, said that the government could not provide the automaker the precise grade of gasoline used in the country because there were 12 different grades.
Even basic economic data are vague and often dubious. Iraq has not conducted a full census of its population since 1987, postponing it repeatedly because of the ethnic and sectarian divisions it would undoubtedly expose. James Hogan of Dar Es Salaam said that the level of imports and exports (and thus even G.D.P.) — which in a normal country would be precisely monitored and recorded at the borders — are largely guesses because of lax, antiquated and probably dishonest reporting. He noted that many businesses and even government agencies still prefer payments in cash, despite enormous efforts by the American government to introduce computerized accounting systems.
“It’s not a shadow economy,” Faisal al-Qaragholi, another former exile turned businessman, told me. “It’s a chaos economy.” I first met Qaragholi in Washington in October 2009, when hundreds of Iraqis and American officials gathered at the Hyatt Regency near Capitol Hill for what was billed as the first Iraqi-American investment conference. Several officials at the time, including Maliki and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, declared Iraq “open for business.” Still-troubled provinces like Anbar, once the heart of the Sunni insurgency, advertised “hidden opportunities.” The conference produced few concrete deals in the end, however, according to Qaragholi and other officials and businessmen.
One reason may be the American government itself, with its complicating laws like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids the kind of bribe-paying that greases contracts with government ministries. The State Department’s investment climate statement last year noted improved security and rising foreign investment but offered words of caution stark enough to scare off most investors. “Potential investors should prepare themselves for significant security costs; cumbersome and confusing procedures for business visas or new business registration; long payment delays on some Iraqi government contracts; and sometimes unreliable, nontransparent dispute resolution mechanisms. Allegations of corruption are still endemic, and the legacy of central planning and inefficient state-owned enterprises continue to inhibit economic development.”
Qaragholi, though, is as sanguine as he was the first time I met him in Washington. The country, he told me then and repeated now, “will be a gold mine” for the next 50 years as the oil flows and modern, transparent business practices, led by foreign investors, take root. “We will be second to none in the Middle East,” he went on, saying Iraq has more going for it culturally than the Persian Gulf states did when they began their economic expansions a few decades ago. “We have the people, we have the culture and we have the resources to back it up.”
Qaragholi was vague about exactly what business he was in except to say it involved construction and finance. He offers himself as an adviser to any foreigner interested but unsure how to enter the Iraqi market. “You have to have an Iraqi partner, because he knows how to work this,” he explained. “He can speak to people in the ministries.” I did not get the impression that Qaragholi, an impeccable English speaker, meant simply the ability to speak Arabic but more his grasp of the Iraqi mentality.
The Americans, he complained, risked falling behind — not just behind Iraq’s natural trading partners, neighbors like the Turks and Iranians, but also behind the Italians, the French and the South Koreans, all of whom announced more investments in Iraq in 2010 than American companies did. Those deals amounted to nearly a 50 percent increase from the year before. “Excuse my French,” Qaragholi said of the wary Americans who were reluctant to invest in the country they helped destroy, “but they have to have some kind of balls.”
Any of you who have seen my articles or posts recently will know a little about the many death threats that I receive, on a nearly daily basis. Some I put on the wall of my page for the world to see, but others are less visual and more vocal about their ill-intentions towards me and my family.
Having fought and lived through two wars and several assassination attempts, facing death isn’t as harrowing a prospect for me as it is for others, that however, does not mean that I should take the ranting of these would be assassins lightly. As I have said before, it only takes one to be successful, doesn’t it? You see, for all of us who escaped Iraq, these Militia men have brought the war with them here to Europe and the West.
While I have the training and experience to defend myself what about all of the other Iraqis out there who also suffer the death threats and beatings? When they make reports to the police they are asked “Where’s your proof?” and usually told that only when one is “caught in the act” can anything really be done about it. But generally the attitude of the police is that it is an “Iraqi on Iraqi feud” that they don’t understand or care to. I understand that most police are under exceptional pressure due to cuts in funding etc, but we are worth protecting, we are human and we have humanity.
The recording you will hear albeit in Arabic is of a high ranking member of The Al-Mehidi Militia, apart from calling my Irish wife a “loose woman” he also threatens to kill me and behead me amongst other things. Now while you may think “well he’s thousands of miles away, not much harm there really” he’s not that far away, he lives in London.
( Hassan Amouri ) fled Iraq and went to Germany where he applied for asylum, when he was refused he made his way to the UK directly to London where within a matter of years he became a British Citizen. Out of nowhere he opened garages of luxury cars, even though no one in the Iraqi community is really sure where the finances came from.
My biggest problem is that here is this British Citizen threatening to kill me and is anyone going to do anything about it? I will be sending copies of the recording to European authorities especially the British, but is anyone going to stand behind me as the British authorities would if I held British Citizenship? In this situation who do I, as an Iraqi exile look to for protection? I cannot help but wonder why it is that these Miltia men become European and western citizens so easily, yet they have no loyalty to the countries that give them this honour. Let’s face it, if they had loyalty to their adopted country would they still be in these Organisations whose sole function is to kill infidels and bring about the second coming?
It saddens me to no end to think that this virus has infiltrated each and every country in Europe, the Americas and Australia. That in the humanity of these countries they have been mislead into believing that these people have humanity themselves. They do not. If they are able to kill their own why do you believe that they hold yours in higher regard? If they can perform these acts of brutality upon themselves and their Brothers, would they have a second thought about you or me?
I’ve written many articles warning the West over the years about Militas and sleeper cells, but the days of warning are nearing an end and the days of seeing and maybe finally believing are drawing closer by the minute. You may not suffer too much at their hands but your future generations will.
For anyone who is interested here are his details:
823 Western Road
London NW1 08LT
By: Latif Yahia
The title above can refer to many aspects of protection, physical, mental, protection against diseases, preventative and pro-active protections. What I will be writing about today is my physical protection, the protection of Ireland and indeed all non-Muslim and Muslim countries from an insidious threat.
If I’m sounding a little “G.W” I apologise, but like all matters that I write about I am passionate about it. I of course hope to be more accurate than G.W.
I think that I should firstly start out by stating that like Christianity there
are several variations of Islam or Muslims and within those variations,
are a spectrum of believers from moderate to fundamentalist, with the fundamentalists usually bringing the spotlight upon themselves with acts of Un-Islamic behaviour. This unfortunately has become normal and like other religions Islam usually remains balanced or to be more accurate, the moderates are plentiful with the extremists/fundamentalists grabbing the headlines and giving everyone a bad name.
What then happens when there is a surge in fundamentalism?
This is what is happening today, right now in your country, in my country, in places you wouldn’t even think of!
I have written previously about Iran and its sleeper cells, you will have heard of the ones that have been uncovered but what you most likely won’t have heard about is the surge in the Iranian backed Shi’ite or Shia Islam also known as Safavid (Sah-fah-weed). It is this version of Islam that has indoctrinated parts of Nigeria and is trying to infiltrate moderate Islamic countries like Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. This Shi’ite Islam is led by the leader Ayatollah Khameni in Iran and his Iraqi counter-part Ayatollah Sistani.
History would have you believe that Saddam Hussein was a killer of Shia Muslims, yes he was, but he also killed Christians, Sunni Muslims, Kurds and Turkmen, if it got in his way he killed it. History would also have you believe that Saddam’s government consisted of only or the majority of Sunni Muslims, also not true, Saddam’s Prime Minister was Christian and his cabinet was
two thirds Shia, as set out by the deck of playing cards the American Army produced of “Iraq’s most wanted”, never mind all of the cogs and wheels that kept the machine that was the Hussein regime running like clockwork. Let me just say at this point also that there is a difference between Arabic Shia and those who follow the Iranian version , the Arabic Shia are moderate, generally.
The Shia of Iraq claim that Saddam Hussein religiously oppressed them, not true, they were allowed all of the normal religious ceremonies except one, the self-harming at Ashura.
Self harming is part of the Ashura tradition
Ashura is the festival of remembrance of the death of Imam Hussein at the hands of the people of Karbala, where the festival is situated. This festival is marked by the re-enactment of the death of Hussein and the streets are filled with men and women (separately) showing their remorse for his death. They do this by slapping, whipping with cat of nine tails and hitting themselves with swords (there are many videos on YouTube should you wish to verify this). Saddam along with many world leaders found this ritual to be against the teachings of Islam (most other religions would concur) and so banned it.
Interestingly enough upon the fall of the Hussein regime the first trucks to arrive into Iraq from Iran were loaded with zenjil (cat of nine tails)
Ashura is big business and attracts more pilgrims to Karbala in Iraq than Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Recently the authorities in Karbala erected a replica of the Kabbah (tomb of the Prophet Mohammad in Mecca) to “save people the journey”.
Along with the whips and chains also came the money, Mullahs in Iraq were being supported to spread this version of Islam and to build their own Militias, Badr Brigade, Hezbollah Iraq and Mehdi Army to name just a few of the thirty or so Shia Militias in Iraq today. Built in the belief that by killing in the most brutal and unusual ways they will bring about the second coming, they would bring Al Mehdi to the world, hence the amounts of beheadings and desecration of corpses in Iraq and now Syria.
Whether America would like to admit it or not it handed Iraq on a silver platter to Iran, a country that it had put at the top of its “Axis of Evil”.
But please don’t take my word for it, visit the website of Ayatollah Khameni
You’ll find lots of interesting reading there especially in the FAQ’s and recently asked sections. Check the Marriage section, I personally find the “Marrying a non-Muslim” question intriguing. While there is plenty to read in the English language version the Persian (Farsi) and Arabic are far more open about
issues that the West will find uncomfortable at best. Probably why they aren’t translated. Ayatollah Sistani also has a website www.sistani.org
So how are these religious people a threat to you or your country? Well let’s start at the fact that because they live in a non-Muslim country they don’t have to abide by your rules. It is perfectly okay for them to do whatever they think
is necessary to continue their lives as if they were “back home” regardless of what you or your country says, the social tolerance of Western countries allows for them to dress, import food, attend religious services and live as they would in their home country, well done! But that doesn’t matter, they hate what you stand for, they are willing to take advantage of everything you will give them and more and then stab you in the back for being a Khafir/infidel (unbeliever). It is Halal ( allowed) for them to do anything that is for their benefit including but not confined to, lying, sleeping with non-muslim women, drinking, stealing, fraud, crying to make you sympathetic to their needs (particularly useful in refugee interviews). With Christians they are more than Christian, with Jews they are more than Jewish, anything to make you believe whatever they want you to believe to get what they want.
Self harming is part of the Ashura tradition
Please do a little research on Youtube, look up “Shia on Edgeware rd. London” or “Ashura” and see for yourself how devout they are that they can severely injure themselves physically in the name of Hussein.Sistani
I cannot think of one religion in the world that tells you that to harm yourself
in the worship of not even God but a Prophet is right, in fact according to any scripture I am aware of we are told the complete opposite! Some who are a little more religiously aware or have seen a Dan brown movie will cry out “Opus Dei” yes some do purge their sins through mortification of the flesh, but even in Christianity it is not seen as normal or particularly wholesome. Shia Islam has made a business out of Ashura, when Saddam fell the first thing that happened was Iran sent in trucks loaded not with food or arms but with what you will be familiar with as “cat of nine tails” for the “worthy” to demonstrate their passion for Hussein with (Ironically, this practice is banned in Iran too) . Maybe you will say to me, “well, they’re only hurting themselves” they’re not, do you think that anyone who is witness to these acts is immune to them whether they are Shia or not? Plus whipping themselves is the least of our problems, think of the mindset of someone who can do that to themselves, what is he able to do to you?
I refer you back to the websites of Khameni and Sistani, especially the questions about “Mut’ah” literally translated “Mut’ah” means pleasure, a “Mut’ah” marriage is defined as:
“Temporary marriage like permanent marriage is permissible and requires
a marriage contract. Moreover, there is no difference between permanent marriage and temporary marriages except in some aspects of the law, such as there is no divorce in temporary marriage - it terminates with the expiration of the period. Likewise, neither spouse in a temporary marriage inherits from the other. In both permanent marriage and temporary marriages, she should not have another husband and not to be in ‘iddah for marriage with another man. If she is virgin, the permission of her father/paternal father is required based on obligatory caution.”
Now some men will think “Great!” except if you check further into these websites you will see that there is no fixed age limit to these marriages.
There are many cases of girls as young as 5 years old being given to men for “Mut’ah”, as with all Islamic marriages a dowry must be given for the marriage and as the contract is temporary one, a woman or girl can be married off in
this way innumerable times. Both Khameni and Sistani see this as an excellent alternative to masturbation or use of a prostitute which are both Haram (sinful).
But if you are paying money in a temporary marriage contract “for Pleasure” is this not Prostitution?
Now that I have explained that, let’s return to the “Marrying Christian or Jewish women”, both Khameni and Sistani say that this is problematic at best:
“For a Muslim man it is problematic to permanently marry a Christian or Jewish girl, while there is no harm in marrying them temporarily provided that the marriage contract is made in accordance with the Islamic law by the agreement of both parties. After the marriage is concluded according to the correct Islamic method, making it again pursuant to Christian teachings is meaningless. However, there is no objection to going to a church and holding artificial marriage ceremonies according to their method, in itself.”
So for any Ladies out there who have thoughts of marrying a Shia man in the Husseiniya and then in a Church please make sure that he’s not just doing it to fool you and really he believes it’s a farce. Also you may want to check that even though you believed it was “for life” he just asked for the “temporary marriage” at the Shia Husseiniya.
To highlight this, let’s talk about what recently happened in Egypt and why the Imam (religious leader) was killed, brutally at that. Egypt is a Sunni-Islamic nation, for its people public displays of affection (sexual) are illegal. Egypt is not as harsh as Dubai in this regard but is stern.
Sheikh Hassan Shehata was a Shia Cleric, he had trained in the highest school for Islam and graduated as a Sunni cleric. He then went to Iran and converted to Shia Islam. With the power and money of Iran behind him he returned to Egypt to lead the small Shia population there. Egypt had long resisted the growth of Shiism, but had not persecuted those who already lived in Egypt. From the
time of the Invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran had been pushing to build huge Shia Mosques/Husseiniya and open Shia printing houses in Egypt to convert Sunnis to Shiism ( a dream of Irans since 1979 when Khomeni deposed the Shah). Neither President Mubarak nor Mursi allowed this.
On June/ 23/ 2013, an angry mob of at least 300 people descended upon several Shia homes in the small town of Abu Muslam in Giza. The people were angry that the Sheikh was bringing shame and debauchery (Mut’ha) to Egypt. He, his brother and two other people were viciously killed and the Sheikhs body was dragged through the streets. I will say it now and clearly, what the people did was not right either.
Again if you wish to find out more information there is plenty on the internet, strangely most of it comes from Shia sources or Iranian backed media so has a specific slant, I have even heard some Shi’ites calling him a “Martyr”.
While I applaud the developed world for their humanity, tolerance and understanding, I cannot stand by and let the minority ruin it for everyone.
Marble Arch in London
Thank you for letting us live happily in your countries, freely practising our religions and culture but please be warned Shia Husseiniyas are costing you greatly. Firstly they are usually subsidised by the local council and or government under the “freedom of religion” act or its equivalent. Then they are centers for Mut’ah where a donation is given to the Cleric who performs the marriage contract, this Cleric often has a photo book of ladies that are available for Mut’ah there is also a book of men for the Ladies. Husseiniyas also collect a tithe known as “Khums” this money is divided between the Sheikh/Cleric and an Ayatollah it is non taxable, now you may think “It can’t be that much” but Ayatollah Sistani reportedly makes between 300-350 Million Dollars a month, from Iraq and the rest of the world. I can only guess at what Ayatollah Khameni makes! But it is certain that this money is one of the reasons that America doesn’t go after the Ayatollahs, their money is invested, in properties, businesses anything and everything, and it’s not limited to the middle east!
Very recently a Shia cleric was caught entering the UK with several million dollars in a briefcase, when he was detained and questioned with a view to taxing this money he registered his home in London as a Husseiniya and declared the money as a donation to a charitable foundation, him, Khaled Al-Attiyah is a member of the Iraq parliament and continues to claim Social welfare payments from the UK.
Each Husseiniya is there for one purpose, to make money. Khums, money- laundering, Mut’ah and more.
In the 35 years that Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq he stole from the country, but what he stole pales into insignificance when compared to the large scale thefts from Iraq under its Shia administration. And while there
are sanctions on Iran the sanctions on Iraq have been lifted, Iraq is now free to feed Iran with whatever it needs. When have you ever seen the Premier of one country going to seek permission from the religious leader of another like Nour Al -Maliki has from Khameni? How can you say that one country is independent of the other?
I receive death threats daily from Shia men on Youtube, Facebook and twitter, users who don’t like what I have to say about what is happening in Iraq, the world and exposing the lies that have been profligated by the Shia. Can you believe that they have tried to say that Mahatma Ghandi attributed his learning to Hussein (Hussein successor of Prophet Mohammed not Saddam Hussein)??? Or more scandalously that Mary mother of Jesus Christ gave birth to Ali, Hussein’s father!!! It has even been said that the Queen of England is from the family tree of Hussein!! I know! Ridiculous! But they make the uneducated people that they preach to believe these lies!
I cannot and will not stand by, some Shia clerics have sold little pieces of chocolate that were sent to them from God/Allah to the people for anything from 50 to 100 dollars apiece because “it will save your tribe” he had one and a half tons of the chocolate which was more than likely expired in the first place. If we were still living in the middle-ages, then this would be the norm, but we are in the 21st Century how can people be such fools??
And so because I speak out I am a target, I have been attacked, the most recent was in Ireland on 29/03/2013 when I entered a branch of Aldi with my elderly Mother, Brother and Niece. The security guard was a Shia whom I had never seen in my life before, he however knew who I was from my Youtube videos and Facebook. I won’t write the whole incident here but I will attach the letter that I wrote to Aldi Ireland about the attack. Aldi were swift with their actions and gave the letter directly to Sword security the Security company who hired the man, they in turn fired him or at least that was what I was led to believe. Three weeks later he was back at work at the same branch of Aldi, you can imagine my Mother’s horror after witnessing his attack not only on me but my Brother weeks earlier, they didn’t even bother to shift him to a different store believing that because I don’t live there I probably wouldn’t find out.
I contacted Sword security to find out how and why this man had been re- instated and got a terse response from the manager who basically told me
that he’s been cleared by the local Gardai (police) and therefore he had been reinstated, tough for me. The local Gardai hadn’t taken the matter seriously viewing it as a “foreigner on foreigner” dispute that they had no interest in. The Gardai in question are known for keeping their paperwork to a minimum by basically telling both parties, right or wrong, that if either party presses charges against the other then both will be bound over to the peace for at least six months, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Maybe it has more to do with the fact that most of the Shia in Ireland are now citizens. They come making refugee claims in aliases and upon getting their travel documents and eventual citizenship return to their jobs in Iraq as police, ministers and politicians and then bring their corrupt, stolen money back to Ireland that is in such financial woes it doesn’t really care where the money comes from once it goes into the economy.
Letter to Aldi
There is a section on my Facebook page, it is a “wall of shame” a photo gallery of those that wish to “behead ”, “kill” or “maim” me for my “slander” against the Shia “culture and religion” mostly they write in Arabic sometimes in English and although I may sound glib, it really only takes one to do the job right, doesn’t it?
So even if the Irish police don’t want to take these threats against me seriously, there are other countries who will and eventually the Irish will have to deal with the mounting Husseiniyas and Shias out on Dublin’s O’Connell Street trying to convert Irelands Catholics to Shia. Just make sure your daughter doesn’t get her face in the Mut’ah book.
Thank you for reading.
The Devil's Double
After fighting for two years with the Producers and Corsan to reclaim my unrestricted rights to The Devils Double, the sequel and remake, because of the breaches in my contract and after giving up the 15 million Euros in compensation, I finally have all of my rights back in my hands and I now am free to go ahead with the sequel. I will be making videos in the near future explaining how tax shelters work. How Corsan owned by Paul Bruels and his wife use the system to make money, don't own a chair in Belgium but do own plenty in Monaco and other European countries. And why producers don't really care if the movie makes any money or if the general public actually sees it.
As Ramadan begins, more than 100 hunger-strikers in Guantánamo Bay continue their protest. More than 40 of them are being force-fed. A leaked document sets out the military instructions, or standard operating procedure, for force-feeding detainees. In this four-minute film made by Human Rights organisation Reprieve and Bafta award-winning director Asif Kapadia, US actor and rapper Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), experiences the procedure.
تجربة التغذية القسرية بمعتقل جوانتانامو تدفع نجم هوليوود للبكاء
خاض نجم هوليوود، ومغني الراب المسلم ياسين باي، المعروف باسمه الفني “موس ديف”، تجربة تطوعية مصورة لما يسمى بـ”التغذية القسرية” للمضربين عن الطعام داخل معتقل خليج جوانتانامو بكوبا، احتجاجاً على حبسهم دون محاكمة، الأمر الذي جعله ينفجر في بكاء شديد، جراء القسوة التي شهدها خلال التجربة.
ووصفت صحيفة “الهافينجتون بوست” الأمريكية هذا الإجراء بـ “القاسي” و”اللاإنساني”، نظراً لما يقتضيه الإجراء من تثبيت المعتقل في كرسي ثابت لأكثر من ساعتين، يتم خلالهما إمداده بمكملات غذائية سائلة بطرق وحشية. وبحسب الوثائق المسربة، يقوم مجموعة من حراس السجن بتثبيت المعتقل على كرسي طبي ثابت، وتوثيق يديه وقدميه ورأسه بأغلال جلدية حتى لا يتمكن من الحركة، ليأتي دور الفريق الطبي الذي يقوم بإدخال أنبوب بلاستيكي بطول 61 سم داخل التجويف الأنفي للمعتقل حتى يصل معدته، ومن ثم دفق السائل المغذي داخل جسمه.
وذكر “ياسين باي” أثناء تطوعه لخوض التجربة أنه لم يستطع إكمالها من شدة الألم الذي شعر به لحظة إدخال الأنبوب، واصفاً إحساسه بما يشبه الحريق داخل رأسه، إضافة إلى الرعب من الاختناق لحظة وصول الأنبوب إلى حلقه.
Latif Yahia (l) was played by Dominic Cooper in The Devil's Double
An Iraqi exile who claims he was forced to become the body double for dictator Saddam Hussein's son has said he is in a legal limbo as he fights to become an Irish citizen.
Despite being married to an Irish woman and having an Irish child, Latif Yahia's application for citizenship has been rejected twice.
His battle is now in its 11th year.
Yahia, a former lieutenant in the Iraqi army, said he was forced to become the "fiday" - or double - of Uday Hussein in 1987.
Saddam Hussein and both his sons used decoys for important political occasions, or in situations where a bullet catcher might be needed.
Yahia, who eventually managed to escape Iraq with the help of the CIA, claims he stood in for Uday when addressing troops during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Yahia eventually settled in Daingean, County Offaly, where he married an Irish woman.
This week, Dearbhail McDonald, the Irish Independent's Legal Editor spoke to Yahia, who is in currently in Belgium.
She told the BBC: "He said he is very hurt and upset that the Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, has so far refused to make a decision in his case.
Latif Yahia with his wife Karen and daughter Dina
Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor.
AN Iraqi exile who claims he was forced to become the body double of dictator Saddam Hussein's playboy son Uday says he is "in a legal limbo" as his fight to become an Irish citizen enters its 11th year.
Despite being married to an Irish woman, and having an Irish child, Latif Yahia's application for citizenship has been rejected twice.
The former army captain, who has been waiting for more than five years for a decision on his third citizenship application, was involved in a movie about his experience as a "fidi" or body double, which were widely used by Saddam's regime.
The 2011 movie, 'The Devil's Double', starred British actor Dominic Cooper, who won critical acclaim for his portrayal of both Mr Yahia and Uday, Saddam's sadistic eldest son.
Mr Yahia told the Irish Independent that he finds it "hurtful and humiliating" that he has not yet received a decision from Justice Minister Alan Shatter, who has been credited with reducing waiting times for decisions in citizenship applications.
"The American CIA and Western government are Behind all the Dictators and Terrorists across the WORLD."
This is a teaser for my documentary, it explains why I am still stateless since I left my country in 1991.
My documentary throws a spotlight on "Democracy" in the West, especially Europe where I have spent the last two decades, sixteen of those years in Ireland alone.
It also proves that though I may satisfy certain criteria for citizenship, Marriage, children, residency, no criminal record, once I am vocal about my belief in the truth I will always be considered "dangerous" to the government of the country where I reside.
While my story has been used as propaganda for the War on Iraq, my voice against the War and the subsequent "governments" in Iraq have been down played.
To wish to see a regime removed is not the same as wishing to see your country and nation crushed and invaded, firstly by American troops and then by an Iranian backed government.
Democracy is an illusion, a tool used against countries that do not agree or want to deal with the West or whose business is over.
The first warning signs for an invasion? When the Americans in particular start talking about "free speech" and "Human rights", things that they themselves only allow a percentage of their population to have.