KIRKUK/WASHINGTON (CI MENA) — (Update on October 10, 2017 to add interview with Hyatt Hotel Corporation (NYSE:H) Chairman Thomas Pritzker) — Kirkuk Governor Dr. Najmaldin O. Karim, MD is providing a road map for a stable and prosperous Iraq without the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with his no-nonsense management of the liberated oil rich territory next to the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) based in Erbil.
[US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross speaks to Capitol Intelligence/CI MENA using CI Glass at US Chamber of Commerce’s US-Iraq Business Initiative dinner for Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Haider Al-Abadi at US Chamber of Commerce, March 20, 2017]
President Donald Trump decision to bolster US military forces to free Iraq’s second city Mosul from ISIS control has now put creating a new road map for post-ISIS Iraq on the forefront of the administration’s agenda.
Kirkuk’s Dr. Karim can-do management style — combined with US private sector leadership corralled by US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — can transform Iraq from a geopolitical quagmire into a regional economic power.
In an interview with Capitol Intelligence at his office in the Kirkuk Governorate, the US trained neurosurgeon said he has been successful in uniting the diverse ethnic group of Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and Turkmen following the liberation of the area by Kurdish Peshmerga forces by delivering services ranging from trash pickup to supplying reliable electricity.
Dr. Karim, who worked as a neurosurgeon at Washington, DC’s George Washington University Medical Hospital when President Ronald Reagan’s life was saved after the attempted assassination by John Hinckley,Jr on March 30, 1981.
[Kirkuk Province Governor Dr. Najmaldin O. Karim, MD speaks with Capitol Intelligence/CI MENA using CI Glass in his office in Kirkuk Governorate, Kirkuk, Iraq. December 6, 2015]
Governor Dr. Karim immediately made his mark in the post-ISIS Kirkuk by making the clearing of trash and litter of the city a source of common pride for all residents. Governor Karim has also ordered that commercial trucks not enter the city between 8am to 10 am to ease rush-hour traffic congestion.
He is also unique for Iraq or the West for his absolute no smoking policy inside the Kirkuk Governorate. Visitors are not only carefully searched for weapons but any type of tobacco product, and are required to leave any offending cigarettes and cigars at the entrance of the large government compound.
Kirkuk Governor Dr. Karim and KRG officials all express frustration that Western leaders continue to receive misinformation regarding on the ground security in the KRG and Kirkuk.
“These international organizations come to Kirkuk for half a day and that report that the situation is terrible without even doing basic research and seeing for themselves,” Governor Dr. Karim said. ”
In fact, Capitol Intelligence was able to drive to Kirkuk for the interview with Governor Dr. Karim using a Hertz rental car without incident while the UN and other foreign government officials and NGOs needlessly hire bullet-proof Toyota Land cruisers at USD 1,500 per day and personal security details (PSD) for about USD 10,000 a day.
[CI MENA driving to Kirkuk from Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan with a Hertz rental car filmed with CI Glass on December 6, 2015]
The oil rich Kirkuk, where Houston-based American oil giant Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) and British/Dutch BP (NYSE:BP) are operators, is proof that the indisputable economic success seen in Erbil and the KRG can be copied in other Iraqi provinces such as ISIS-occupied Mosul located only 80 kilometers from Erbil.
Dr. Karim played a key role in formalizing a joint oil production sharing agreement between Iraqi Central Government in Baghdad and Kirkuk/KRG involving a massive daily production of 500,000 barrels of oil, with the lion share produced in Kirkuk province.
Dr. Karim said while an agreement is in place, Iraq’s State Organization for Marketing of Oil (SOMO) has been slow in paying the KRG and Kirkuk the revenues it is owed from oil exports, thus placing Kirkuk and KRG in a severe economic hardship made even worse by the large number of internally displaced persons on their territories.
[CI MENA films Peshmerga frontlines with ISIS at Bartella near Mosul, Iraq using CI Glass (Google Glass) on December 7, 2015]
Not only is Gov. Karim negotiating with Baghdad but also with the heads of the world’s major oil companies. Dr. Karim said he has met with BP CEO Bob Dudley and he had hoped to meet than Exxon Mobil CEO [and now US Secretary of State] Rex W. Tillerson sometime in the future.
The key to a stable and prosperous post-Mosul Iraq will depend on efforts by President Donald Trump and Wilbur Ross to convince Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Haider Al-Abadi to radically lessen the role of the Iraqi central government in economic policy and allow the country’s private sector and regional authorities greater autonomy in self-government.
[Iraq Prime Minister Dr. Haider Al-Abadi speaks with Capitol Intelligence/CI MENA using CI Glass at US Chamber of Commerce’s US-Iraq Business Initiative dinner following meeting with President Donald J. Trump. US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC. March 20, 2017]
During his speech to US business leaders at a US-Iraq Business Initiative held at the US Chamber of Commerce following his Oval Office meeting with President Trump, Prime Minister Dr. Al-Abadi said he is committed to fighting corruption in all its forms, including government bureaucracy.
But President Trump and Prime Minister Dr. Al-Abadi will be much better served at learning from the successful strategies carried out by General David Petreaus and General Stanley McCrystal to defeat Al-Qaeda by reviving the moribund Iraqi economy.
Petreaus, now a principal at US private equity giant KKR, as Commanding General of Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) from February 2007 to September 2008 made the decision that the turnaround of the Iraqi economy left destroyed by the complete ineptitude by the original head of the Coalition Provisional Authority Paul Bremer.
General Petreaus and Defense Secretary Robert Gates instituted the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations led by a civilian CEO Paul Brinkley who as as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense was given the task for putting life back into defunct Iraqi state-owned factories and stimulate private sector enterprise throughout Iraq.
[Hyatt Hotel Corporation Chairman and The Pritzker Organization CEO Thomas Pritzker speaks to Capitol Intelligence/CI MENA using CI Glass on Basra Port investment at CSIS event on NSC at 70 years with US National Security Adviser Lt. General H.R. McMaster. October 10, 2017]
Brinkley was so successful in breathing new life into the Iraqi economy by bulldozing over ineffective US government contractors that he is still vehemently loathed by State Department and US AID bureaucrats.
After leaving government, Brinkley partnered with Hyatt Hotels Corporation Chairman Thomas Pritzker to form North American Western Asian Holding (NAWAH) to work on building a modern container terminal in the historic port of Al Maqal in Basra.
Wilbur Ross — who is an equal among equals among US business leaders from his takeover and turnaround of major industrial companies such as International Steel Group, International Coal Group and International Textile Group — is the best suited to takeover over the Iraq dossier following Mosul’s likely liberation in the coming weeks.
[US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross speech about Iraq filmed by Capitol Intelligence/CI MENA using CI Glass at US Chamber of Commerce’s US-Iraq Business Initiative Dinner for Iraq Prime Minister Dr. Haider Al-Abadi following meeting with President Donald Trump. US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC. March 20, 2017]
Unlike the central government, Iraq has a number of dynamic private sector leaders such as Kar Group owner Baz R. Karim in Erbil; the Baghdad-based Shamara and Al-Bunnia families; and the Al-Moussawi family in Basra who can effectively work with US and foreign companies to modernize Iraq and build a solid economic foundation unmolested by central government interference.
Mosul, a city known for its accountants and pharmaceutical industry, can once again be a financial and industrial center of a renewed and revitalized Iraq and the region as a whole.
By PK Semler in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan; Kirkuk, Iraq and Washington, DC. Additional reporting by Brusk Jasim in Kirkuk and Erbil.
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