Archive for November, 2017

Thirteen Arab and Turkmen Parites in Kirkuk Oppose Kurdish Referendum

September 10, 2017 Sunday

SULAIMANI — Thirteen Arab and Turkmen political parties in the city of Kirkuk issued a statement on Sunday (September 10) expressing their opposition to the referendum on the independence of Kurdistan, just two weeks ahead of the vote.

A plan by Kurdish authorities towards an independent state does not comply with the Iraqi constitution and that risks the country’s unity, the statement read.

The Arab political parties said a recent session held by the Kirkuk Provincial Council to include the city in the independence referendum lacked legal legitimacy as it was boycotted by Arab and Turkmen sides.

“The decision [to include Kirkuk in the referendum] is in the extension of the autocracy that is still being implemented in Kirkuk and surrounding areas since 2003,” the statement continued.

The move to declare a Kurdish independent state will hinder effort to dislodge Islamic State (ISIS) militants, the Arab political parties said, calling on the three Iraqi presidencies not to allow the referendum to take place in Kirkuk.

A total of 22 members of the Kirkuk Provincial Council voted in favor of Kirkuk’s involvement in the referendum. Turkmen and Arab blocs, however, boycotted the session.

The Kurdistan Region declared on June 7 a plan to hold a referendum on the region’s independence this year on September 25. The announcement came following a meeting between the region’s political parties, not including the Gorran and Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG).

Source: NRT.


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Slow recovery for Iraq’s Mosul after Daesh ouster

Sep 09,2017

MOSUL, Iraq — Two months since Iraqi forces recaptured Mosul from the Daesh terror group extremists, Mohammed Seddiq’s bullet-riddled car is still off the road and his fruit and vegetable shop has yet to reopen.

Much of Iraq’s second city lies in ruins and many businesses are still at a standstill, even those that produced the famous muslin cotton fabric for which Mosul was renowned before the extremists seized it in 2014.

Three years ago, Seddiq, 32, owned two cars, but the extremists set fire to one and the other was damaged by mortar shells and bullets.

With all the garages still closed in his west Mosul neighborhood, he sought out a mechanic in the industrial zone in the city’s east which was less severely damaged by fighting.

He expects the repairs to cost $1,000. In the meantime he will have to pay for taxis using his savings because “the state has announced that it will reimburse for cars and houses, but up to now nothing” has been paid.

Many of the cars awaiting repairs at Ghezwan Aqil’s workshop were damaged when bulldozer-driving extremists used them to form barricades against advancing Iraqi troops.

Their owners cannot afford to buy new cars and are prepared to wait one or two months for the repairs instead.

Aqil says that sometimes he will reduce a customer’s bill by half depending on their circumstances.

Even after Mosul’s recapture life is uncertain and insecurity is rife.

“There have been many burglaries,” says taxi driver Mohammed Salem.

“And people have been detained by unidentified groups. No one knows what happened to them,” the 33-year-old adds.

“There are regular problems between the various armed forces, especially the paramilitary units,” Hossam Eddine Al Abbar, a member of the provincial council of Nineveh, of which Mosul is the capital, tells AFP.

The presence of the Hashed Al Shaabi (Popular Mobilization) paramilitary units, dominated by Iran-backed Shiite militias, has stirred tensions in the Sunni-majority city.

Without genuine reconciliation between communities, there are fears that the country could once again descend into violence.

“The best way to control [armed groups] is to integrate them into the regular forces that enjoy much more trust among citizens than paramilitary forces,” Abbar said.

Omar Al Allaf, a local tribal dignitary who oversees Hashed Al Shaabi units, rejects the idea.

His men will never join the police because “they are infiltrated by terrorists”, he says.

In 2014, as Daesh staged a rapid advance across northern Iraq, police and military personnel abandoned their posts to the extremists with barely a fight.

That allowed the group to establish its “caliphate” across parts of Syria and a third of Iraq’s territory including Mosul.

Today, many police in the Iraqi city are demanding their reinstatement, but the process of identification and investigation of each one takes time, Abbar said.

“More than 13,000 policemen have yet to return to their jobs despite our requests to the authorities in Baghdad,” he added.

Mosul’s famed Old City was reduced to rubble by the fighting and the iconic leaning minaret of its Al Nuri Mosque, the image of which adorns the 10,000 dinar note, left in ruins.

For many of Mosul’s displaced, it is impossible to envisage a return to a city where, in addition to finding nothing left of their previous life, they risk losing more.

In the past year, a million Iraqis have fled their homes in Nineveh province.

Source: The Jordan Times.


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Iraq: Car bombing at busy Baghdad market kills 12 people

August 28, 2017

BAGHDAD (AP) — A car bomb ripped through a busy market area in eastern Baghdad on Monday morning, killing at least 12 people, Iraqi officials said. The explosives-laden car went off at the wholesale Jamila market in Baghdad’s Shiite district of Sadr City, a police officer said. The explosion also wounded 28 other people, he added, saying the death toll was expected to rise further.

A medical official confirmed the casualty figures. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists. A plume of thick black smoke billowed from the area and people were running away in panic. At the site, twisted metal and shards of glass littered the pavement, along with vegetables and other goods sold at the market.

“It was a thunderous explosion,” said Hussein Kadhim, a 35-year old porter and father of three who was wounded in his right leg. “It sounds that the security situation is still uncontrollable and I’m afraid that such bombings will make a comeback.”

At least one soldier was seen being evacuated from the scene, which was sealed off by security forces. The Islamic State group quickly claimed responsibility in an online statement on its media arms, the Aamaq news agency. The Associated Press could not verify the authenticity of the statement. Sunni militants consider Shiites to be apostates and Shiite-dominated areas are prime targets for IS.

The bombing came as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are in final stages of recapturing the northern town of Tal Afar from IS, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Syria’s border. On Sunday, Iraqi military said it had “fully liberated” Tal Afar’s town center from IS militants. On Monday, the troops fought at the outskirts of al-Ayadia district, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) northwest of Tal Afar, where most of the militants fled.

Tal Afar was one of the few remaining towns in Iraq still in IS hands following the liberation of Mosul in July from the Islamic State group. The Sunni militant group still controls the northern town of Hawija, as well as Qaim, Rawa and Ana, in western Iraq near the Syrian border.

Associated Press writer Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad and Maamoun Yousef in Cairo contributed to this report.

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Iraqi forces make gains in Tal Afar offensive


BAGHDAD – Iraqi forces made further gains in their offensive to dislodge Islamic State from Tal Afar, seizing five more villages on the eastern and southern outskirts of the city, the military said on Thursday.

In the fifth day of their onslaught, Iraqi forces continued to encircle jihadists holding out in the city in far northwestern Iraq close to the Syrian border, according to statements from the Iraqi joint operations command.

Within the city limits, Iraqi forces captured three more neighborhoods – al-Nour and al-Mo’allameen in the east and al-Wahda in the west, taking over several strategic buildings in the process.

The advances were the latest in the campaign to rout the militants from one of their last remaining strongholds in Iraq, three years after they seized wide swathes of the north and west in a shock offensive. On Tuesday, the army and counter-terrorism units broke into Tal Afar from the east and south.

The main forces taking part in the offensive are the Iraqi army, air force, Federal Police, the elite US-trained Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) and some units from the Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) that began encircling the city on Sunday.

About three quarters of Tal Afar remains under militant control including the Ottoman-era citadel at its center, according to an operational map published by the Iraqi military.

Located 80 km (50 miles) west of Mosul, Tal Afar lies along the supply route between that city – which Iraqi forces retook from IS in July after nine months of fighting – and Syria.

Tal Afar has produced some of IS’s most senior commanders and was cut off from the rest of IS-held territory in June.

Up to 2,000 battle-hardened militants remain in Tal Afar, according to US and Iraqi military commanders. Between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians are estimated to remain in the city and its surrounding villages.

Source: Middle East Online.


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40,000 troops preparing to take Iraqi town from Daesh

August 16, 2017

Some 40,000 Iraqi troops are preparing for military operations to retake the Iraqi town of Tal Afar from Daesh, the Anadolu Agency reported.

Iraqi authorities have announced that the town, located 80 kilometers west of Mosul, will be the next target in the war against Daesh following the recapture of Mosul.

Tal Afar, which had a population of 200,000, has seen intense aerial bombardment to clear the way for ground troops to retake the town completely. At dawn today US planes stepped up air raids ahead of a ground offensive to drive out the 1,500-2,000 Daesh fighters currently in the area.

Following the announcement, armored and elite units were said to be heading towards the Tal Afar which is some 70 kilometers from the Turkish border.

A coalition of different security personnel that includes the police, the military and various fighting units has gathered according to Iraqi military officials. Disputes regarding the participation of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a state-sponsored umbrella organisation composed of some 40 militias that have been accused of committing numerous human rights abuse on the battlefield, have not been resolved.

Turkey, which has a close affinity with Tal Afar’s predominantly ethnic Turkmen population, opposes the involvement of Shia paramilitary groups fighting with Iraqi forces, some of which are also backed by Iran. The sight of the build-up of troops not too far from the Turkish border may cause further irritation to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has previously said that the involvement of Shia militia was a “red-line”.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


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Not all Kurds on board with Kurdish independence vote

Fazel Hawramy

August 10, 2017

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq — The majority of Kurdish parties agreed June 7 to hold a referendum for independence in September. While outside pressure to stop the controversial referendum has been constant, the deadliest blow might, however, come from within. Ordinary Kurds, in particular those in Sulaimaniyah, are angry about the government’s mismanagement of the economy, and many appear ready to express their dissatisfaction in their approach to the referendum.

Over the last two months, Al-Monitor has spoken with several dozen people, primarily in Sulaimaniyah, to gauge their views on the upcoming referendum. Those interviewed include police officers, teachers, peshmerga, shopkeepers, taxi drivers and civil servants, the overwhelming majority of whom reject the referendum outright. They consider it a ploy by the current leadership to distract attention from its failure to efficiently run the government and manage the economy for the last 25 years, since the establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in 1992.

Sulaimaniyah, nestled between several mountain ranges, is the largest province in Iraqi Kurdistan, the other two being Dahuk and Erbil. Sulaimaniyah is home to around 2 million of the region’s total indigenous population of 5.2 million people. The anger and frustration among them is palpable.

“Why should I vote yes in the referendum?” Shaho Mahyaddin, a father of two, asked rhetorically. “After 17 years of being a traffic police officer, what do I have? No electricity. No water. I have no house or investment. I have nothing. The only thing I had was my salary [$980 a month], but over the last two years, they have cut it by more than 30%. How can I feed two children on that amount?”

Reeling from low oil prices, the KRG last year resorted to cutting the salaries of public sector employees — a bloated 1.4 million-person workforce — by up to 65% to counter the economic meltdown. The move had serious adverse effects for the economy, including a decline in purchasing power. Traders in the bazaar, already hit hard by the economic crisis, are now also worried about the possible impact of the upcoming referendum.

“People are buying only essential goods, such as flour and rice, because they are worried about the day after the referendum,” said Dashtawan, an assistant in a shop selling kitchen wares. “This July was the worst month in terms of trading in the bazaar for me, even worse than when Daesh attacked,” referring to the Islamic State offensive in summer 2014. Dashtawan said that with only few exceptions, the majority of the people he knows in the bazaar are angry about the economy and are very likely to vote no at the polls.

“We have had this business since 1953, but it has never been this bad,” said Najat, who has worked in his father’s tea house in Sulaimaniyah’s main bazaar since he was 15. Najat said his business has been in decline for the last three years, since Baghdad and Erbil began having serious disputes.

“I used to sell about 400 teas per day, but now it is around 120,” said Najat, as he poured tea for the only customer in the little tea house. “Despite this, I will vote yes in the referendum, because this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and we should not miss it.”

Many civil servants have spent their savings since early 2014, when Baghdad refused to disburse Kurdistan’s share of funding in the national budget, and salaries were cut. With no social security net, many residents are anxious about the negative impact of the referendum. Teachers are one group that has been particularly hit by the financial crisis, with cuts to their salaries of almost 70%.

“I will go to the polls, and I will mark a resolute no,” said Nesar, a primary schoolteacher from Halabja who has taught for 18 years. “The government has slashed my salary of $900 by 65%.” When Al-Monitor asked whether he would vote yes if the government reinstated his salary, he responded, “No, because I have no trust whatsoever in the current leadership.”

It is ironic that under the British and other regimes in Iraq, the people of Sulaimaniyah have always been rebellious, including at the forefront of the independence movements, but 25 years of Kurdish rule have turned them against a referendum for independence. During parliamentary elections in September 1930, the Kurds of Sulaimaniyah called on the British government, which held the League of Nations mandate over Iraq, to allow them to create an independent state as a British protectorate so they would not be at the mercy of an Arab king in Baghdad.

When the Sulaimaniyah Kurds realized the futility of their effort, anger grew toward the British and what the Kurds saw as their betrayal. Rejecting Baghdad Arab rule, they poured into the streets while most of the rest of Kurdistan remained silent. By the end of election day, 14 residents were dead and many more wounded, killed or injured at the hands of British and Iraqi forces.

In the second half of the 20th century, the people of Sulaimaniyah rebelled several more times. Ordinary Kurds were only too happy to name their children after a famous peshmerga commander or a battle that the peshmerga won against the Iraqi army. They have supported the peshmerga with whatever they could, but many are now scratching their heads and looking for answers to what went wrong. These days it is difficult to mention the name of a certain former peshmerga commander turned politician and not elicit a curse from the average Kurd. The people today despise or have no patience for their Kurdish rulers.

“The main problem is the trust between the public and the political elite,” said Abdulbaset Ismail, who fought for four years as a peshmerga commander against the Iraqi army in the 1980s. “We fought to free the Kurds from the yoke of the Iraqi state, but I never thought we would create this mess.”

Ismail, whose nom de guerre in the mountain was Halo Soor, is driving a taxi these days in Erbil and has difficulty making ends meet. He had commanded a unit of 26 peshmerga in the mountains, 24 of whom lost their life fighting the Iraqi army in the pursuit of Kurdish independence.

“Don’t get me wrong. I am all for independence, but not under the banner of these thieves,” Ismail said. Asked if he would vote on Sept. 25, he replied, “I’d rather cut off my index finger than vote in the referendum.”

Source: al-Monitor.


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Saudi Arabia’s Acwa Power Inaugurates $1Bn Power Plant in Turkey

Tuesday, 28 November, 2017

Saudi-based Acwa Power has announced the launch of the $1-billion Kirikkale Combined Cycle Power Plant in Turkey which has a 1,000 MW capacity, enough to meet three percent of the country’s total electricity demand.

The project was officially launched at a major ceremony held at the Presidential Complex in the presence of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Berat Albayrak, the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources besides other senior officials.

It is located in the municipality of Kiliclar in the Yahsihan District, 15km from Kirikkale City Center and 50km east of Ankara.

“The inauguration of this project is a clear sign of the growth and modernization in Turkey, which is making the country set for continued development,” Acwa Power Chairman Mohammad Abunayyan said.

The plant is the first and largest of Saudi energy investments in Turkey’s power sector. Abunayyan said that it stressed Acwa Power’s role in boosting Saudi foreign investment base in the economic, strategic and investment sectors, in line with requirements of Saudi Vision 2030 and its objectives.

“We applaud the Turkish authorities on delivering a key infrastructure project to drive the economy forward for future generations,” he added.

For his part, Managing Director at ACWA Power Thamer al-Sharhan said that achieving this significant milestone has only been possible through the support extended by various institutes, including Energy Ministry, Regulator (EPDK), TEIAS, Kirikkale Governor and Municipality.

“This project is an ideal example of the power of public-private partnerships in fulfilling national ambitions,” Sharhan said.

Notably, the Kırıkkale Power Plant will provide a steady and reliable energy to Turkey’s national grid.

The project is also among the top three most efficient combined cycle gas power plants in Turkey, significantly contributing to the country’s economy through savings in gas consumption.

Source: Asharq al-Awsat.


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