Archive for November, 2011

US forces to stop joint operations in Iraq’s north

Tikrit, Iraq (AFP)
July 23, 2011

In one week US troops will cease joint operations with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, begun in early 2010 to dampen tensions between Kurds and Sunni Arabs in disputed northern zones, a US military official said on Saturday.

Colonel Michael Bowers said that from August 1, American forces will no longer be part of the trilateral operation.

“By August 1, they (operations) will be bilateral” between Iraqi Kurd and Arab forces, Bowers told AFP at the US Contingency Operation Base Speicher outside the city of Tikrit north of Baghdad.

He indicated that US troops would no longer be on the streets in the northern zones.

“Once they’re all bilateral supervised, the only place we are is in the command and control centers,” said Bowers, the strategist for Major General David Perkins, the Commanding General for the army’s US Division North.

He said that out of 22 checkpoints across the disputed zones, 15 already had no US participation. He said seven checkpoints remained with an active US presence, which would stop at the end of this month.

“If something were to go wrong, obviously we could go help mediate,” he added.

US forces began the tripartite operations with Kurdish and Iraqi army forces, that are dominated by Sunni Arabs, in the northern areas early last year. That marked a new chapter in the US military’s role since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

The US military, which currently has 47,000 troops in Iraq, began jointly manning checkpoints and carrying out security patrols in the provinces of Kirkuk, Nineveh and Diyala.

Apart from the oil-rich province of Kirkuk that is claimed by both Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish government in the north, there are 11 other disputed territories in northern Iraq.

All US forces are scheduled to pull out of Iraq at the end of this year in accordance with a 2008 security pact.

American forces suffered their worst month in three years in June, when 14 soldiers were killed, mostly in rocket attacks that Washington says were launched by Iranian-backed Shiite insurgents.

Four US soldiers have been killed in attacks this month.

The spike in attacks against US troops comes as Iraqi leaders approach decision time on whether they want to maintain a contingent of soldiers after the end of 2011.

Source: Space War.

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Iraq aims for 200,000 bpd at al-Ahdab

BAGHDAD, July 25 (UPI) — Oil production from the al-Ahdab field in southern Iraq could reach 200,000 barrels per day next year, the country’s oil minister said.

Iraqi officials announced production started at the al-Ahdab field in Wasit province along the border with Iran. Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul Kareem al-Luaibi said oil production would increase from the current rate of 60,000 bpd to around 200,000 bpd next year, Bloomberg News reports.

China National Petroleum Corp. won production rights for al-Ahdab during November 2008 auctions. Field totals are estimated at around 1 billion barrels.

The Iraqi finance minister in May confirmed the first oil export payment to contractors in the Kurdish region. Kurdish Prime Minister Barham Salih said the federal government in Baghdad confirmed payment to the Kurdistan Regional Government for revenues derived from the export of 5 million barrels of oil early this year.

Baghdad doled out dozens of oil and gas contracts since 2003. The country is trying to ramp up oil exports to help stimulate an economy ravaged by pre-war economic sanctions.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

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Drought-hit – Kuwait relief mission first to arrive in Somalia

– Asif Khalifa
Sunday, 24 July 2011

Global Arab Network – Kuwait Red Crescent Society’s mission was the first to arrive in Somalia to offer humanitarian relief aid to the drought-hit Somali people, Head of KRCS mission to Somalia Musaed Rashid Al-Enezi told KUNA.

KRCS has started its work in Somalia with sending two planes loaded with 20 tons of aid immediately following the UN appeal upon instruction from His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

HH the Amir has pledged USD 10 million in aid for the Somali people, who are suffering from malnutrition and famine as a result of the worst drought to hit the nation in 10 years.

The mission was warmly welcomed by the Somali people and government, Al-Enezi said, noting that Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmad has received KRCS mission and hailed HH the Amir’s initiative.

“The charitable work of the state of Kuwait is not strange to a country that used to offer all help to Somalia and all Arab nations,” he said.

Last week, the UN declared that two regions in the south of the war-torn country were suffering from famine. Hundreds were dying every day across the Horn of Africa region, the FAO said.

The United Nations issued an appeal of aid to address what it is calling the worst food crisis in Africa in 20 years.

Nearly half of Somalia’s estimated 10 million people face a food crisis and malnutrition rates there are the highest in the world.

Source: Global Arab Network.

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Kuwait loans Morocco to fund High Speed Train project

– Mohamed Tamer
Sunday, 24 July 2011

Global Arab Network – The Kuwait Fund for Arab and Economic Development (KFAED) loaned Morocco 712 million dirhams (89.2 million dollars) as part of the first phase of its participation in funding the project of the High Speed Train (HST) linking Tangier to Casablanca.

Two loan and guarantee agreements related to the project were signed, Tuesday in Rabat, by the Fund and Morocco with the attendance notably of Kuwati Ambassador in Rabat Shamlan Abdulaziz Al-Roomi.

This project is part of the ambitious development program meant to reduce the distance between the Kingdom’s cities. It also aims to promote high speed rail services to meet the growing demand for this environment-friendly transportation means and support Morocco’s development dynamic.

The two agreements were signed, on the Moroccan side, by secretary general of the Economy Ministry Khalid Safir, and director at the railway office (ONCF) Mohamed Smouni, and on the Kuwaiti side, by director general of the KFAED Abdelwahab Ahmed Al Badr.

Source: Global Arab Network.

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Teargas fired at protesters in Oman’s Sohar

July 22, 2011
By Sunil K. Vaidya

According to witnesses, the march started with a handful of protesters but later in the afternoon the numbers kept increasing.

Muscat: Security forces fired tear gas shells on demonstrators in Sohar on Friday and arrested a large number of young protesters as they marched from Shaikh Khalifa Mosque after afternoon prayers, according to an activist from the Industrial Port town about 230km north to Muscat.

According to witnesses, the march started with a handful of protesters but later in the afternoon the numbers kept increasing. After a while the security forces, present in big numbers, intervened.

The protesters, chased from the main road, spread into the nearby streets and gradually their number increased. The police had to fire tear-gas shells to disperse protesters. “Many shells were fired. Some shells fell very close to some of the houses,” an activist told Gulf News from Sohar on the condition of anonymity. Protesters handed over a letter listing their demands to a senior police official.

The protesters were demanding the release of those convicted last month for protesting in Sohar last February and March. They were also demanding reforms, better wages and jobs for young Omanis. The protests in Oman started with a peaceful Green March in January earlier this year but later turned violent in Sohar, the last week of February. Since then three people have died during confrontations with the police.

Last Friday no demonstrations were held after only about 50 turned up for demonstration on July 8.

According to witnesses, the number was much larger on Friday and several were also arrested. There are unconfirmed reports of injuries to some of the demonstrations following baton charge by security agencies to break them up. The demonstrators in Sohar ended their protest at around 5.30pm.

“To avoid confrontation with security forces that could have bad consequences, the young protesters decided to end their demonstration and returned home,” an activist said. A posting on a social media site claimed that an Omani journalist working for a local English daily was held in Sohar.

Source: Gulf News.

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Spain summons Iraqis over deaths of Iranian exiles

14 July 2011

A Spanish judge has summoned three Iraqi officers over a raid by Iraqi security forces on a camp housing an Iranian exile group.

The UN says 34 people were killed in the raid at Camp Ashraf, in Diyala province, in April 2011.

Judge Fernando Andreu has summoned Gen Ali Ghaidan Majid, the head of army, and two other officers to appear.

He is investigating allegations that crimes against humanity were committed during the raid on the camp.

The investigation is an enlargement of an existing probe on a separate raid which took place at the camp in July 2009, in which 11 people were killed.

Universal justice

Under Spain’s universal justice doctrine, grave crimes committed in other countries can be prosecuted.

Judge Andreu said that the Geneva Convention applied to the case, as it addresses the protection of civilians in wartime and all those killed and injured in the attack were considered “protected persons” under the terms of the Convention.

According to documents released by Madrid’s investigative court, a total of 377 “protected persons” were injured in the 8 April 2011 raid, 154 with bullet wounds.

More than 3,000 members of the banned opposition group, the People’s Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI), have been confined by the US military at the camp since the invasion in 2003.

The group, considered a terrorist group by the US and Iran, were given permission to shelter in Iraq by former President Saddam Hussein during the 1980-88 war between the two countries and they have lived at the camp ever since.

In January, the judge had said he would close the dossier into the July 2009 attack if the Iraqi authorities opened their own investigation.

Iraq responded by saying it had carried out its own legal inquiry but this was not judged sufficient by Spanish authorities.

The three Iraqi officers have been summoned to appear before the Madrid court on 3 October 2011.

Source: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

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Qatar breaks Arab ranks over Syria

Thursday 21 July 2011
Ian Black

Ian Black: While most Arab states sit on the fence, Qatar is standing up to Damascus over an attack on its embassy.

Qatar lived up to its reputation as a maverick in Middle Eastern politics this week by suspending the operations of its embassy in Damascus. The emir of the small but fabulously wealthy Gulf state has already gone far beyond the Arab consensus by supporting the Libyan rebels, sending cash and weapons to help them in their fight against Muammar Gaddafi. The United Arab Emirates is doing the same, but in a lower profile way.

Qatari investments in Syria have also reportedly been frozen, but the emirate was not reacting directly to Syrian repression. The measures were taken in response to attacks on its diplomatic mission in the leafy Damascus suburb of Ein Rummaneh, which was pelted with stones, eggs and tomatoes in protest at coverage of the unrest by al-Jazeera TV. The satellite channel is owned by Qatar, based in Doha and watched by millions of Arabs.

Qatar’s moves, in the words of analyst Karim Sader, were “more like a shrewdly calculated divorce from the Syrian regime than a fleeting spat”.

Other, more discreet action, is afoot. Arab media circles are rife with rumors of financial support from Qatar, the UAE and the Saudis for Syrian opposition groups— paying for conferences, communications and perhaps more.

Crucially though, there is no sign that Arab leaders are ready to publicly abandon Bashar al-Assad, five months into one of the bloodiest and most unpredictable episodes of the Arab uprising.

Nabil Elaraby, the new secretary general of the Arab League, certainly stuck to the non-interference script when he criticized Barack Obama for saying that Assad had “lost legitimacy”. That was an issue that could be decided only by Syrians, he insisted – a diplomatic disappointment for some critics – after visiting the Syrian president and sounding supportive about his belated, half-hearted attempts at reform.

It was easier for Elaraby’s predecessor, Amr Moussa, speaking just before stepping down and launching his bid for the Egyptian presidency. Moussa first criticized NATO’s bombing of Libya – despite having being instrumental in providing cover for UN-sanctioned action against Gaddafi – and then spoke of Arab “anger” about the violence in Syria, winning a rebuke from Damascus that he was “unbalanced and politically motivated”.

The turmoil in Syria has paralyzed other Arab regimes. The country that describes itself as the “beating heart of Arabism” may not be popular, but it is a powerful regional player with strategic ties to Iran and important relationships with Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories – and it craves a better relationship with the US.

Saudi Arabia, Syria’s bitter rival, especially in Lebanon, does not want to see chaos if Assad is forced from power or uses overwhelming violence and repression to hold on. Saudi officials have said nothing in public about the Syrian crisis and have no sympathy for the Arab spring. But they would doubtless like to see Assad cut down to size as a regional actor.

Post-revolution uncertainty in Egypt is a powerful reminder to the conservative Gulf states of the potential risks if “stable” dictators like Hosni Mubarak are abandoned by the US and forced from office. And their fear of fitna, which translates as sedition or sectarianism, look not entirely unjustified – as the ugly events in Homs have shown in recent days.

Syria’s neighbors Iraq and Jordan are watching anxiously, but keeping quiet. Their assumption is that the cohesion of the Damascus regime, opposition divisions and above all the near impossibility of Libyan-style foreign intervention all mean that Assad is not about to fall.

Israel is also monitoring the Syrian crisis but keeping uncharacteristically quiet. Its listening posts on the occupied Golan Heights, less than an hour from Damascus, must be picking up some unusual intelligence from Syria’s telephone and radio networks – and YouTube is a handy source for tracking defections by army officers refusing to kill their own people. As Binyamin Netanyahu acknowledged in an interview with the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV – which, like its rival al-Jazeera is covering the Syrian uprising closely – anything Israel says will be counterproductive.

But Syria’s crisis is mainly a problem for Arabs. This week the Arab Writers Union, meeting in Cairo, held heated discussions about the situation in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere in the region, but its final communique managed only to condemn the crushing of peaceful protests “in more than one country” – without daring to name which ones.

As Ahmed Asfahani, commentator for the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat, put it: “If even Arab writers can’t protest about what’s happening in Syria, what hope is there that their governments will do anything?”

Source: The Guardian.

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Bahrain slammed for arresting medics

Mon Jul 18, 2011

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized the Bahraini regime for arresting medical professionals and injured anti-government protesters, calling for an investigation into the violations.

In a report published on Monday, HRW urged Manama to immediately end its campaign of arrests of medical personnel and injured anti-regime protesters, saying the arrests have been part of an official policy of retribution against government critics and that Bahraini authorities have so far failed to provide any convincing reason for their actions.

The 54-page report, “Targets of Retribution: Attacks against Medics, Injured Protesters, and Health Facilities,” also documents serious government abuses since the beginning of anti-government protests in Bahrain in mid-February 2011, which include attacks on healthcare providers, denial of medical access to injured protesters, the siege of hospitals and medical centers, and the detention, ill-treatment, torture, and prosecution of medics and anti-regime patients.

“The attacks on medics and wounded protesters have been part of an official policy of retribution against Bahrainis who supported pro-democracy protests,” said Joe Stork, HRW’s deputy Middle East director.

“Medical personnel who criticized the severe repression were singled out and jailed, among the more than 1,600 Bahrainis facing solitary confinement and ill-treatment in detention and unfair trials before a special military court,” he added.

“The royal family in Bahrain is trying to punish all those people who were very visible and very vocal during protests, and that includes doctors and other medical staff.”

According to the report, Bahraini security forces attacked ambulances and prevented them from picking up injured anti-government protesters, some of them critically wounded. It also said that Bahraini forces prevented ambulances, patients, and medical staff from entering or leaving health facilities.

The report also documents one incident on March 27 in which security forces forcibly removed a 22-year-old injured anti-government protester from a clinic. The patient, who needed immediate surgery to remove more than 100 pellets that had penetrated his pelvic area and damaged internal organs, was taken by security forces.

HRW has been unable to obtain information about his subsequent well-being or whereabouts.

According to HRW, Bahraini authorities have arrested more than 70 medical professionals, including several dozen doctors, and suspended or terminated more than 150 medical workers from their jobs since March, when the country declared martial law as part of a brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters.

The medical professionals appeared before a military court for trial in June, in which they were charged with crimes that included participation in efforts to overthrow Bahrain’s monarchy, taking part in illegal rallies and refusing to help persons in need.

But activists and human rights groups say the medical personnel were arrested and are being prosecuted for treating anti-regime protesters.

Bahraini doctors have repeatedly said that they were under professional duty to treat all and rejected claims by the authorities that helping anti-regime protesters was akin to supporting their cause.

Some of the doctors recently released say they were intimidated, abused and forced to sign confessions while in detention.

Source: PressTV.

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Al-Wefaq quits Bahraini regime talks

Sun Jul 17, 2011

The largest party and opposition bloc in Bahrain has quit the so-called government-sponsored national dialogue currently underway in the country.

On Sunday, the Al Wefaq National Islamic Society said it was leaving the talks pending formal confirmation from its leadership, AFP reported.

The party’s representative at the dialogue, Khalil al-Marzuk said, “We have tried but without success to make it a serious dialogue.”

Manama launched the talks on July 2 with the alleged aim of introducing reforms in the Persian Gulf sheikdom’s system of governance.

Al-Wefaq says since the negotiations started, the government has been trying to muffle the voice of the opposition.

In a popular revolution, tens of thousands of Bahraini protesters have been holding peaceful anti-regime rallies throughout the country since February, demanding an end to the rule of the family.

Al Khalifa has governed the oil-rich island for over 40 years with major backing from the United States, Britain and the neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Scores of people have been killed and many more arrested and tortured in prisons as part of the clampdown in the country — a longtime US ally and home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

Source: PressTV.

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China, Iran sign major infrastructure, trade agreements

July 16, 2011

China and Iran on Saturday signed several agreements on infrastructure and trade cooperation, a fact further testifying to the already strong political and economic ties between the two countries.

He Guoqiang, a senior official of the Communist Party of China (CPC) who is currently on a three-day official visit to Iran, and Iranian Vice President Mohammad-Javad Mohammadizadeh witnessed the signing ceremony.

Under the agreements, Chinese companies will invest heavily in some major infrastructure projects in Iran, including a water diversion project and a dam. Chinese companies will also import large quantities of chrome ore and celestine from Iran.

China and Iran established diplomatic relations in 1971 and bilateral relations have developed steadily in recent years.

In 2010, bilateral trade reached a record 29.3 billion U.S. dollars, increasing by 38.5 percent over the previous year. China has also given financial and technological support to some major infrastructure projects in Iran.

Source: People’s Daily.

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