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Two Iraqis Receive Gold Medal Award for Work with the Commercial Service

Heroic work by two Iraqi nationals to establish the Commercial Service’s Baghdad post is recognized at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Two Iraqi employees of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service (USFCS), a Shia and a Sunni, were awarded the Commerce Department’s highest award—the Gold Medal for Heroism—at a ceremony held in Washington, D.C., on November 8, 2006. The two men, who have asked that they not be identified by name because of threats to their families in Iraq, were part of an Iraqi staff of five who helped to establish the USFCS’s office in Baghdad in 2004. Such locally employed staff members are a vital part of overseas operations for the USFCS, which has a presence in more than 80 U.S. embassies. Especially in hardship posts such as Baghdad, employees make great personal sacrifices to provide the essential local knowledge needed to successfully operate a U.S. embassy’s commercial section.

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The two Iraqi employees of the USFCS who were awarded the Department of Commerce's Gold Medal for Heroism are seen here in May 2006 at the U.S. embassy in Amman, Jordan.
The two Iraqi employees of the USFCS who were awarded the Department of Commerce’s Gold Medal for Heroism are seen here in May 2006 at the U.S. embassy in Amman, Jordan.

 

In Baghdad, insurgents, terrorists, and organized criminals ruthlessly target Iraqi citizens—especially professionals—who work for the U.S. government or the coalition. Both men had to expose themselves and their families to enormous risks to carry out their duties. Every day for two years, the men departed from their homes in Baghdad to embassy jobs in the international zone, running a gauntlet of surveillance, intimidation, and attack. As security deteriorated, so did their personal lives: their commutes became circuitous and they had to use aliases. Threats and stress eventually forced three of their colleagues who started the commercial section to resign.

Despite those challenges, during the past two years the men have led eight Iraqi business delegations to the United States and to Germany. Eventually, one of them was reassigned to Amman, Jordan, where he has helped open a new commercial section focusing on the Iraqi business community.

Both men saw their work with the commercial section of the embassy as a way to contribute to the rebuilding of their country. They have tirelessly encouraged, counseled, and cajoled Iraqi firms to reenter global commerce, where the companies serve as cultural bridges between Iraq and the world. The men’s shared vision and hardships forged a powerful bond that transcends sectarian differences. They continue their close friendship to this day.

Doing Business with Iraq

The work that the two Iraqi employees have done for the USFCS is a vital part of the efforts by the U.S. government to rebuild the Iraq economy. The Iraq Investment and Reconstruction Task Force, a U.S. Department of Commerce clearinghouse of information for U.S. companies interested in Iraq, oversees part of this effort. The task force works closely with the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, other U.S. government agencies, and international organizations to provide companies with the latest information on the commercial environment and potential reconstruction business opportunities in Iraq. For more information, visit the task force’s Web site.