An Update on Iraq's Cell Phone Towers

The good news is that Iraq's cell phone towers are still standing.  The bad news is that the towers now are being "protected" by a Shia militia that may have ties to Iran.

As previously reported on AT, Iraq's mobile telephone network was in danger of collapse last month due to a commercial dispute between Zain Group, the Kuwaiti company that operates Iraq's primary cell phone network, and an Iraqi company called Babylon Eagles Security Company (BESC).  Zain had stopped all payments to BESC, and for months that company's 7,000 employees, who guarded the cell phone towers and thus kept terrorists from blowing them up and crashing Iraq's communications networks, were paid privately by BESC's owners.  Their funds were running out, fast.

In the last few weeks, according to BESC officials - Zain officials won't respond to queries - negotiations between the two companies have collapsed.  All BESC employees have been terminated, and a new contract to protect the vital towers has been awarded by Zain to the Al Ihsan Security Company.  This company "belongs" to Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of SIIC, which is the largest political party in the Iraq Council of Representatives.  Al-Hakim, a cleric who spent much of the Saddem Hussein years in Iran - and who some believe continues to hold ties to Iran -- heads the Badr Organization, which is Shia militia that rivals Moqtadr al-Sadr's militia.

As with so much in Iraq, the murkiness of the country's politics is exceded only by the murkiness of the country's commercial activities.  Getting straight answers to queries is just about impossible.

But - at least for now - the cell phone towers are still standing.
The good news is that Iraq's cell phone towers are still standing.  The bad news is that the towers now are being "protected" by a Shia militia that may have ties to Iran.

As previously reported on AT, Iraq's mobile telephone network was in danger of collapse last month due to a commercial dispute between Zain Group, the Kuwaiti company that operates Iraq's primary cell phone network, and an Iraqi company called Babylon Eagles Security Company (BESC).  Zain had stopped all payments to BESC, and for months that company's 7,000 employees, who guarded the cell phone towers and thus kept terrorists from blowing them up and crashing Iraq's communications networks, were paid privately by BESC's owners.  Their funds were running out, fast.

In the last few weeks, according to BESC officials - Zain officials won't respond to queries - negotiations between the two companies have collapsed.  All BESC employees have been terminated, and a new contract to protect the vital towers has been awarded by Zain to the Al Ihsan Security Company.  This company "belongs" to Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of SIIC, which is the largest political party in the Iraq Council of Representatives.  Al-Hakim, a cleric who spent much of the Saddem Hussein years in Iran - and who some believe continues to hold ties to Iran -- heads the Badr Organization, which is Shia militia that rivals Moqtadr al-Sadr's militia.

As with so much in Iraq, the murkiness of the country's politics is exceded only by the murkiness of the country's commercial activities.  Getting straight answers to queries is just about impossible.

But - at least for now - the cell phone towers are still standing.