by David Phinney
Sunday October 25th 2020

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Baghdad Embassy Contract Roils US Contractors

I said it before and I’ll say it again: Kuwait-based contractor now building the new $592-million US embassy in Baghdad has some pretty heavy baggage. It has been repeatedly accused of exploiting low-paid Asian workers and coercing them to work in war-torn Iraq against their will under US funded contracts.
A lot of people view such labor practices as labor trafficking, including the Bush administration. Nevertheless, the US State Department quietly awarded the half-billion-dollar-plus deal — apparently, no questions asked.
Now, contractors who competed for the embassy project are asking the questions. They are curious about why First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting, aka, FKTC, won the contract. They claim that competing contractors brought far stronger experience to the table and that at least one award-winning company offered to perform the work for much less money.
Now I hear that one US contractor bid on the project for $60 million to $70 million less than FKTC.
“It’s stunning what First Kuwaiti has been able to get from the State Department.” said on contractor.
Several contractors that competed for the embassy contracts speculate that the embassy contract was a high-level decision at the State Department that favored the Kuwait-based firm in appreciation for Kuwait’s support of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
“It was political,” said one contractor.
Mohammad I. H. Marafie, chairman and co-owner of FKTC, is a member of one of the most powerful mercantile families in Kuwait.
But there’s more. First Kuwaiti also won the final phase of the embassy work for what was originally earmarked exclusively for a US contractor.
US State Department contract officials initially identified the main building, known as the Chancery, as a classified project for contractors headquartered in the United States. That apparently was pared down so that First Kuwaiti can now build much of that building as well. Only the most classified technology is now reserved for a US contractor, according to those who have competed for the work.
Of course, the US State Department declines comment just as it has routinely done since I began asking questions last summer.
So when are they going to tell me I am all wrong? Or am I?

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