Sidetrack Sunday: President Trump’s executive orderFebruary 5, 2017
As dust kicked up by President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration begins to settle, TOGY asks oil and gas executives to weigh in on the measure, and how it might affect doing business in Iraq.
Trump’s executive order of January 27, temporarily barring nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, drew widespread condemnation upon its announcement. While the measure and the ensuing outrage received extensive media coverage, far less attention by comparison was paid to the reactions from affected countries – Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen.
On January 30, Iraq’s parliamentary foreign relations committee recommended that the government take reciprocal steps, and called upon it to reach out to international organisations such as the UN, the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation to secure backing for these steps.
While Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi labelled Trump’s executive order “an insult to the Iraqi people,” he has yet to take a decision on reciprocal measures, much to the annoyance of party leaders.
In a nutshell, in his efforts to ensure the continuity of security operations and oil and gas developments in the country, Abadi has found that his options at rebuttal are limited. As Thomas W. Donovan, managing partner at Iraq Law Alliance, pointed out, a reciprocal ban on Americans living and working in Iraq would “apply to oil and natural gas workers as well as civilian contractors supporting the Department of Defense and Department of State footprint.”
In comments to TOGY, Donovan further said the travel restriction was a “clear violation” of the reciprocal Strategic Framework Agreement between the US and Iraq, and one that “undercuts several other pieces of US legislation in regards to diplomatic relations and immigrant and non-immigrant visas.”
TOGY also spoke to Jafar Dhia Jafar, CEO of Iraqi engineering entity Uruk Group. One of the most influential and well-respected figures in the Iraqi oil and gas business community, Jafar takes a wait-and-see approach.
Wait and See
“If the Iraqi government adopts a reciprocal order by not allowing US nationals to enter Iraq, as required by the Iraqi parliament, then there will be some impact on the oil and gas industry in Iraq. But this impact will be minor because US nationals could be easily replaced by others,” Jafar said.
Once Iraq’s top nuclear scientist, Jafar went on to found Uruk Group while his brother, Hamid Jafar, set up Crescent Group. Between them, their business interests span the globe, covering sectors such as E&P, engineering and construction, power generation, logistics, healthcare and business aviation.
“Uruk will not be affected as a company but a few employees are affected adversely because they have families residing in the US whom they will be unable to visit,” Jafar told TOGY.
He further noted that Iraq should not have been included in President Trump’s list of countries, officially titled “Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.” Jafar said there was “no evidence in the public domain that Iraqis were involved in any terrorist activities on US soil.”
Mohammed Khudairi, an American of Iraqi descent, is managing partner of oil and gas services company Khudairi Group. Khudairi grew up mainly in Texas, obtaining a degree from the University of Texas at Austin. The Khudairi family has a history in trading going back more than 100 years, and moved into oil and gas in 2009.
Regarding the ban, he spoke of “unique and extenuating circumstances.”
“I believe the travel ban by the current White House administration undermines years of co-operation between the US and Iraqi government and makes business between the USA and Iraq more difficult. It’s already very difficult to get visas for non-Iraqis coming into Iraq and I am concerned this will make it more difficult for our US national staff members,” Khudairi told TOGY, adding that the company would nonetheless continue to employ both Iraqis and Americans between Houston, Dubai and its Iraq offices.