Maliki halted major Internet project in
Iraq for "Security Reasons"
September 12, 2012
Iraq's ousted communications minister Mohammed
Tawfiq Allawi. Photo: Flickr.
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ERBIL, — Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi was recently
removed from his post as minister of communication
by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The move
came after Allawi complained about the management of
the ministry and refused to annul a contract with
Newroz Telecom (NewrozTel)
as instructed to by the PM. Rudaw.net spoke with
Allawi about the issues surrounding Newroz Telecom,
who had been awarded a project to connect the
Internet in Iraq to Turkey through the Kurdistan
Region. Maliki halted the project due to "security
Q: Can we say
that you were sacked from your post because you
refused to obey an order from Maliki to give an
Iranian company the right to work on the Internet in
It was for many reasons. I believe the main reason
was a political one, like my being a member of the
Iraqiya List, although I have carried out my duties
professionally and never mixed my political views
with my job. I have never made a political statement
to the media. But unfortunately, in Iraq's current
political reality, everything is interpreted
politically. I have attended meetings in Najaf and
Erbil as a member of Iraqiya and this seems to be
The Internet project that has been halted had great
potential to benefit all of Iraq because it was
going to bring a lot of income to the country and
was going to connect the web from east to west.
Halting this project will harm Iraq because it could
have earned $10 to $20 million in profit every
Q: Were there
any pressure on Iraq from Iran to terminate the
contract on this project?
I don't think so. I don't believe giving the
contract to an Iranian company was the reason.
committees were formed in order to audit the Newroz
Telecom contract. These committees could not find
any sort of corruption, so why did Maliki insist on
terminating the contract?
Security was Maliki’s excuse. I was very clear with
him about this issue and told him that there would
be no security issues with the project. It was a
communication cable and had to pass through many
countries. If you want to protect the information of
your country from hacking, there are special
passwords provided by specialists in this field. All
the embassies in the world and the Iraqi Embassy are
now protecting their own information with such
passwords. The same kind of cable exists between
China, the United States, Russia, and they are all
The whole world is connected through Internet lines
and terminating the project for security reasons was
uncalled for. As I mentioned earlier, this project
had financial advantages for Iraq and the Kurdistan
region as it was a joint project. By terminating
this project, Iraq will be the most affected party.
Q: What is meant
by security threat? A threat from the Kurdistan
Region or another country?
Those who have advised Maliki against this project
have misinformed him. The safest communication
method in the world right now is underground fiber
optic cables. Not having underground cables and
depending on satellites is the riskiest way to
transfer information, which is what Iraq does
currently. Every country in the world can intercept
telephone communications via satellite, but doing
that to underground fiber optic cables is extremely
difficult because these cables transfer millions of
telephone calls and emails every second.
They are lying when they give security as a reason
for halting this project, because neither Turkey nor
the Kurdistan Region has such advanced spying
devices. If they are worried about Iraqi government
communications, they can use special passwords.
The MPs of the State of Law Coalition, who claim
that neighboring countries can eavesdrop on Iraqi
intelligence phone calls, are actually speaking out
of ignorance because the Iranian cables are passing
through Turkey as well. Iraq is using Internet lines
that pass through Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait.
Are these countries safer than Turkey?
Also, this is the route to communicate with the rest
of the world so it must pass through other
countries. I believe they are just fooling Iraqi
citizens with such excuses and nothing more. This
project will allow the communications of 99 percent
of Asian countries to pass through Iraq to Europe.
The information from Iraq that passes through this
cable does not constitute 1 percent of the overall
data of those Asian countries which will pass
through the same cable. Is Iraq more protective of
its data security than countries like China and
I know that Maliki is not knowledgeable in this
field, but have no doubt that the people he
consulted on this issue were ignorant.
Q: How did
Newroz Telecom win this contract? Were there any
Before awarding this contract to Newroz Telecom, I
personally visited the Kurdistan Region and spoke
with the Ministry of Communications of the Kurdistan
Region and told them about the importance of this
project for both of us. They told me that they had
no objection and were willing to continue with the
project, but we had an ongoing 10-year contract with
For the sake of transparency, we announced the
project and asked all the interested companies to
present their proposals. Only Newroz Telecom stepped
forward at that time.
Q: Some MPs say
that they will not accept your resignation. Are you
willing to go to Iraqi Parliament and speak out?
Yes, next month I will visit parliament and tell
Q: As you
explained in your letter to Maliki, it has been said
that he is employing an individual in your ministry
as an advisor but one who is more influential than
the minister himself. Is it the same in all
Yes, this is true and unfortunately he has given a
lot of authority to some individuals. I mentioned
this problem and said that the ministry must be
directed by the minister. An honorable minister does
not allow his advisors to take over. I myself will
not accept being a minister just on paper. They will
either let me do my job as a minister or else I will
not accept this job.
I told Maliki in my letter that I would not continue
as a minister and would resign if that advisor kept
doing my job. Instead of attempting to solve the
issue in our ministry, Maliki's answer to my letter
was "I accept your resignation."
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