Sunday, January 5, 2014


Iraq, due to the actions of its government, is fast approaching country risk levels that are too high to justify any investment, large financial exposure, and even a branch office footprint in-country. It could all go south; the parallels with the ill-fated Republic of South Vietnam in 1975 are disturbing.

(1) Two of its cities are presently in the hands of an Al-Qaeda affiliate, ISIS. Since the Iraqi Government refused to allow the US to leave any combat troops behind, and with the American people weary of war, do not expect any American feet on the ground; US Secretary of State John Kerry said so, in no uncertain terms. If Iraqi armed forces cannot defeat their opponents on the field of battle, then the government will not survive, and you will not like its successor.

(2) The civil war in Syria, in which Iraqi Shiite fighters are participating in, in ever-increasing numbers, looms on the other side of the frontier. ISIS is boldly calling for a state composed of both countries, and it already controls segments of Syria, and is focusing on Western Iraq.

(3) Corruption in government, and Iran sanctions evasion facilitation, run rampant, further alienating The US and the UK.

(4) The Kurdish problem, especially over oil revenues, remains an unsolved problem for Baghdad. Will the Kurds eventually create their own country, out of Northern Iraq, and perhaps even a portion of Syria ?

(5)  The Sunni-Shiite sectarian divide, twelve centuries of an ongoing problem that will simply not go away, complicates every issue in Iraq, a country poorly cobbled together after the First World War, but remaining tenuously attached. Will it go the way of Yugoslavia ?

Honestly, any investor, of either tine or money, in Iraq, must understand that he stands to lose all of it, and that is the core definition of an unacceptable level of Country Risk. Invest elsewhere, in my humble opinion, reduce existing exposure, and extract yourself, and your clients, forthwith.

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