Archive for July, 2016

6 Iraqi cabinet ministers resign

July 21, 2016

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi has accepted the resignation of six cabinet ministers, his office revealed yesterday.

According to a press release posted on the prime minister’s website, Al-Abadi has accepted the resignation of the ministers of oil, transport, construction and housing, water resources, industry and interior.

Interior Minister Mohammed Salem Al-Ghabban resigned earlier this month following the attacks in central Baghdad that killed 300 people.

Political analyst Haroun Mohammed told Quds Press that Al-Abadi’s acceptance of the ministers’ resignation is an endorsement of the status quo.

“The ministers already resigned about two months ago and stressed at the time that they will not join their ministries whether Al-Abadi accepted or rejected their resignation. But Al-Abadi has filled up the vacuum by mandating their tasks to other minister in order not to lose the quorum,” Mohammed said.

He rejected reports that Al-Abadi accepted the ministers’ resignations due to pressure from the Sadrist movement.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


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Iran destroys 100,000 satellite dishes

Tehran (AFP)

July 24, 2016

Iran destroyed 100,000 satellite dishes and receivers on Sunday as part of a widespread crackdown against the illegal devices that authorities say are morally damaging, a news website reported.

The destruction ceremony took place in Tehran in the presence of General Mohammad Reza Naghdi, head of Iran’s Basij militia, who warned of the impact that satellite television was having in the conservative country.

“The truth is that most satellite channels… deviate the society’s morality and culture,” he said at the event according to Basij News.

“What these televisions really achieve is increased divorce, addiction and insecurity in society.”

Naghdi added that a total of one million Iranians had already voluntarily handed over their satellite apparatuses to authorities.

Under Iranian law, satellite equipment is banned and those who distribute, use, or repair them can be fined up to $2,800 (2,500 euros).

Iranian police regularly raid neighborhoods and confiscate dishes from rooftops.

Culture Minister Ali Jannati pleaded on Friday for a revision of the law.

“Reforming this law is very necessary as using satellite is strictly prohibited, but most people use it,” Jannati said.

“This means that 70 percent of Iranians violate the law” by owning satellite dishes, he added.

Naghdi criticized Jannati’s comments and said those in charge of cultural affairs “should be truthful with people rather than following what pleases them”.

“Most of these satellite channels not only weaken the foundation of families but also cause disruptions in children’s education and children who are under the influence of satellite have improper behavior,” Naghdi said.

There are dozens of foreign-based Farsi satellite channels broadcasting mostly news, entertainment, films and series.

Conservatives regularly denounce the channels as an attempt to corrupt Iranian culture and Islamic values.

Moderate President Hassan Rouhani, whose four-year mandate ends in June 2017, has repeatedly said that the ban on satellite dishes is unnecessary and counterproductive.

Source: Space War.


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Turkish army orders troops to withdraw from Iraq

16 July 2016 Saturday

There are claims that Turkey’s army has ordered the country’s troops stationed in neighboring Iraq to withdraw immediately from that country and return to garrisons in Turkey, media reports said.

The Turkish army’s decision came in the wake of the failed military coup in Turkey, the Arabic-language media outlets reported.

The Turkish army had sent hundreds of its troops to a military base in Northern Iraq on the pretext of training Kurdish forces to fight the ISIL terrorist group.

Source: World Bulletin.


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Yemeni government delegation pulls out of Kuwait consultations

May 18, 2016

The Yemeni government delegation on Tuesday has walked out of talks in Kuwait saying rebels insist on power sharing in violation of UN resolutions.

A source in the government delegation told Anadolu news agency that the delegation will issue a formal statement later in the day adding that the delegation intends to stay in Kuwait.

Yemen’s Saba News Agency (state owned) reported Foreign Minister, Abdulmalek Al-Mikhlafi who heads the government delegation as saying that he had asked UN envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to oblige the rebels to respect the negotiations references as precondition to return.

Anadolu news agency reported sources close to the talks earlier as saying that the rebels had asked to transfer President Hadi powers to a transitional council which includes them before they withdraw from cities they control.

According to sources the rebels have also asked to respect the peace and partnership agreement signed in September, 21 2014.

President Hadi has described the agreement void after moving to Aden in February 2015, saying it was signed under force of arms.

Meanwhile, the UN envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed on Monday said the two sides were still discussing the best way to reach a peaceful solution in Yemen after nearly 4 weeks of fruitless talks.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


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Hundreds flee northern Iraq as fighting rages on

July 3, 2016

Hundreds of families have fled northern Iraq as fighting rages on between Iraqi forces and Daesh militants, according to the Ministry of Migration and Displacement.

In a Saturday statement, ministry official Muhannad Saleh said 455 families have fled the northern Salahuddin province in the past two days.

“The ministry is pursuing efforts to evacuate and welcome families displaced from liberated areas,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Iraqi army launched an offensive north of the Salahuddin province with a view to recapturing Daesh-held areas.

The city of Sharqat is currently the only remaining area controlled by Daesh in the Salahuddin province.

According to Salahuddin mayor Ahmed al-Jabouri, more than 350,000 people are still trapped in Sharqat. Efforts are underway to liberate the area,” he said, going on to call for providing aid to these families.

UN estimates that more than two million Iraqis will flee northern Iraq following an expected Iraqi offensive to recapture Mosul from Daesh. Last week, the Iraqi army, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, retook the city of Fallujah from Daesh after a more than one-month battle.

Iraq has suffered a devastating security vacuum since mid-2014, when Daesh captured Mosul and overran large swathes of territory in the northern and western parts of the country.

According to the UN, more than 3.4 million people are now displaced in Iraq — more than half of them children — while more than 10 million are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


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EXCLUSIVE: Iraqi troops pay heavy price for Fallujah victory

Friday 1 July 2016

Suadad al-Salhy

BAGHDAD – Hundreds of Iraqi soldiers were killed and more than 3,000 wounded during the five-week battle to recapture Fallujah from the Islamic State (IS) group, Middle East Eye can reveal.

Since the beginning of Iraq’s war against IS in June 2014, when almost a third of the country’s territory was seized after the dramatic collapse of the Iraqi army, officials have either refused to comment or downplayed the numbers of casualties among Iraqi security forces.

General Hadi Erzaje, deputy of the Fallujah military operations commander, previously told MEE: “We have casualties, but not that many. We are involved in fighting so we cannot reveal such information.”

But a senior security official speaking on condition of anonymity told MEE that at least 394 members of the security forces were killed and 3,308 wounded in the battle, which started on 23 May and ended earlier this month.

Medical and other military sources put the death toll even higher, telling MEE this week that more than 900 soldiers were killed in the battle.

These numbers do not include members of militias slain while fighting in Fallujah. Nor have Iraqi officials released figures for deaths of Fallujah residents. More than 80,000 residents are estimated to have been displaced during the fighting.

The same sources said that 35,000 Iraqi forces, backed by multi-sect paramilitary troops and the US-led international coalition against IS, killed thousands of militants during the offensive.

The recapture of the city represents a “devastating blow” to the organisation, analysts and military officers told MEE.

A US military official told the Military Times on Thursday that the true size of IS’s fighting force was in question after Fallujah.

For at least the second time in recent weeks, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday announced the liberation of Fallujah and raised the Iraqi flag on government buildings in the city center.

But until now, it has been unclear what the cost of the campaign has been for Iraqis.

‘A nuclear bomb’

Most of the security forces who died in Fallujah were killed either by suicide car bombs or rocket attacks used by the militants on a wide scale towards the end of the battle to block the advancing forces, sources said.

The Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Squad, an elite fighting unit, had the lowest number of deaths. The highest casualties, military sources said, were among federal police troops who fought without air cover in the northern region of Fallujah and also secured the city center.

“We are not army or counter-terrorism services, we are federal police… We do not have tanks or jets. We were fighting in our flesh,” General Lieutenant Ra’ad Jawdat, the commander of Iraqi federal police, told MEE.

Jawdat said federal police operating in the city’s northern hub were attacked by 90 suicide car bombs.

“If we put them together, their impact would be equal to a nuclear bomb,” he said.

Jawdat would not comment on how many police died in Fallujah.

Militant casualties

Fallujah – which is also called the City of Mosques after the hundreds of places of worship built in the era of Saddam Hussein, who encouraged Sunni Muslim merchants to build the religious establishments tax-free – had been the base of most of IS’s senior commanders in Iraq and Syria.

Some experts say its capture may mark the beginning of the end for IS in Iraq, although the group still controls the key northern city of Mosul.

“Fallujah was the brain of the insect,” Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi expert on armed Islamic groups and a governmental security adviser, told MEE.

Hashimi and most Iraqi officials that MEE spoke with say that Fallujah was the weak flank of Baghdad, Babel, Karbala, Najaf, Ssalahuddin and Anbar provinces and was used as a launching pad for most suicide attacks that targeted these provinces over the past decade.

Iraqi military sources told MEE that at least 2,500 IS fighters were killed in Fallujah and its suburbs. Another 2,186 were arrested by Iraqi forces trying to flee the city among displaced families.

“They [IS militants] left the city with the fleeing families. Some of them used fake IDs, others were disguised in women’s clothing,” General Erzaje told MEE.

The number of arrested militants may increase because Iraqi security authorities are still screening the records of another 6,000 detainees held by local security authorities in temporary detention sites near Fallujah, Erzaje said.

The number of casualties on both sides is also expected to increase as current figures do not include those deemed missing or the bodies of soldiers and militants still in the city, the sources said.

Despite the losses, some analysts said the recapture of Fallujah should be seen as a triumph that has raised the morale of Iraqi forces.

“Fallujah was the dynamo of the organisation. Whoever won the battle in Fallujah, won the war,” Hashimi said.

“Now, we can say Daesh [IS] lost the war. When it lost Fallujah, it lost the war in Iraq.”

Source: Middle East Eye.


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Aid group: 4,000 more flee IS-held city of Fallujah in Iraq

June 13, 2016

BAGHDAD (AP) — An aid group says 4,000 more people have fled the Islamic State-held city of Fallujah in Iraq after government forces retook a key road to the IS stronghold over the weekend. The Norwegian Refugee Council, which works with refugees and internally displaced Iraqis, said on Monday that this brings the total number of residents who have fled Fallujah since the Iraqi offensive to retake the city started in late May to 27,580.

Aid groups estimate that 50,000 civilians still remain trapped inside Fallujah, which has been under IS control for over two years — the last major city in western Iraq still held by the extremist group.

NRC says some refugees reported that IS militants are demanding payments of 150,000 Iraqi Dinars, around $130, per person to let them leave.

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