The Cable

Jim Jones named top lobbyist for U.S. businesses in Kurdistan

Former National Security Advisor Jim Jones took on yet another job last week when he was named the chief executive officer of the U.S.-Kurdistan Business Council, a new trade association in charge of advocating for U.S. companies in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

"General Jones is exceptionally knowledgeable about Kurdistan and about the history and importance of U.S. engagement with the region. His long experience will be an asset to the U.S. business community interested in Kurdistan and its important investment opportunities," said Alex Cranberg, chairman of USKBC founding member company Aspect Holdings, in a Monday press release.

The council is brand new. It was launched this month with a reception last week held in honor of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Mahmoud Barzani, who was in Washington to meet with top administration officials. Jones was announced as its first CEO at the event.

"The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is very pleased and proud to recognize the launching of the USKBC," Qubad Talabani, the KRG representative to the United States, said. "I expect this U.S. trade group will provide American companies with a new and important platform to do business in Iraqi Kurdistan."

"Founding members" can join for only $30,000 per year, "associate members" can join with fewer privileges for $10,000 a year, and NGOs can apply for "affiliate membership," which is free.

 "The USKBC is dedicated to facilitating trade and commerce for U.S. companies in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and to strengthening ties between the private sector in the U.S. and Kurdistan Region," the organization's website reads. "With one of the most liberal investment laws in the Middle East and significant needs in almost every industry sector, the Kurdistan Region presents untapped business opportunities for U.S. companies."

Kurdistan's oil reserves are vast, and new pockets of oil resources are being discovered on a regular basis. But the KRG is embroiled in a fight with the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki over who controls the rights to Kurdistan's oil and who can sign contracts with foreign firms for exploration and extraction.

For Jones, this is just the latest in a list of private-sector jobs he has taken on since leaving government. He is also a fellow at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a member of the board of directors of General Dynamics, and a senior advisor at Deloitte Consulting.

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