Archive for category Iraq
January 14, 2019
BAGHDAD (AP) — France is committing $1 billion euros ($1.15 billion) to help Iraq rebuild after its war against the Islamic State group, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday. Le Drian was in Baghdad on a busy day that also saw Iraq’s top officials receiving King Abdullah II of Jordan.
The French diplomat said the aid would go to rebuilding Iraq’s most devastated areas. He also promised that France would support Iraq’s stability, while seeking a rapid “political exit” from Syria, where France has deployed an estimated 200 troops in the battle against the extremist group.
“The situation in Syria has to stabilize, and we have to eliminate terrorism,” Le Drian said at a press conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Alhakim France is a member of the U.S.-led international coalition that has defeated the group in most of its territory in Iraq and Syria.
U.S. President Donald Trump surprised allies last month when he announced he was pursuing a complete military withdrawal from Syria. On Saturday, the U.S. began pulling equipment, but not troops, out of the country. An estimated 2,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Syria.
Iraq’s Planning Ministry last year estimated the cost of reconstruction at $88 billion. The country was able to raise $30 billion at a donor conference in Kuwait in February. Alhakim thanked France for its assistance to Iraq’s minority Yezidi community. Islamic State militants enslaved and killed thousands of Yezidis during their brief reign in north Iraq earlier this decade.
King Abdullah II met with Iraqi President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi. It was his first visit to the country in a decade. The king and prime minister discussed regional and bilateral issues, Abul-Mahdi’s office said in a statement.
Jan 13, 2019
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with his Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad on Sunday for wide-ranging talks, including on US sanctions against Tehran.
The visit came just days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a surprise stop on his regional tour to urge Iraq to stop relying on Iran for gas and electricity imports.
Washington has granted Baghdad a waiver until late March to keep buying Iranian gas and power, despite reimposing tough sanctions on Tehran in November.
After a two-hour meeting on Sunday, Iraq’s top diplomat Mohammed Ali al-Hakim said he had talked through the restrictions with his counterpart.
“We discussed the unilateral economic measures taken by the US and are working with our neighbor (Iran) on them,” Hakim said.
Zarif slammed Washington’s role in the region.
“These failures have continued for the past 40 years and my proposal to countries (in the region) is to not bet on a losing horse,” he told reporters.
Iran’s foreign minister went on to meet Iraqi premier Adel Abdel Mahdi, who released a statement affirming: “Iraq’s policy is built on seeking the best ties with all of its neighbors.”
Zarif is expected to attend several economic forums in various Iraqi cities, including Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdish north.
While in Baghdad, he discussed numerous political and economic issues with his Iraqi counterpart including Syria and Yemen.
Hakim said Iraq was in favor of the Arab League reinstating Syria’s membership, eight years after suspending it as the conflict there unfolded.
Following Zarif’s visit, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is also expected to travel to Iraq in the near future.
Iran is the second-largest source of imported goods in Iraq.
Besides canned food and cars, Baghdad also buys 1,300 megawatts of electricity and 28 million cubic meters of natural gas daily from Iran to feed power plants.
That dependence is uncomfortable for Washington, which sees Tehran as its top regional foe and expects Iraq to wean itself off Iranian energy resources.
But energy ties between Baghdad and Tehran appear to have remained close, with Iran’s oil minister visiting Baghdad last week to denounce US sanctions as “totally illegal”.
Turkey has 11 temporary military bases in northern Iraq, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Thursday.
Speaking in a live interview to private A Haber broadcaster, Yildirim also said 400 square-kilometers of the region has been cleared of terrorists.
“We are shelling Mt. Qandil through air operations at times. This time PKK terrorists are crossing into Iran when they are on the back foot,” the prime minister said.
He added Turkey has no problem with Iran over its Qandil operation.
“We cleared the area in northwestern Syria’s Afrin during Operation Olive Branch. We will do the same thing in Mt. Qandil area,” the prime minister added.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to remove YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin region. On March 18, Day 58 of the operation, Turkish troops, and Free Syrian Army members liberated the town of Afrin.
Turkey has been conducting a counter-terrorism operation in the area to clear it of PKK terrorists.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.
The group’s three-decade-long terror campaign against Turkey has left more than 40,000 people dead, including numerous women and children.
About a possible joint operation with Iran, Yildirim said: “Iran expects to work with us all the time, including sharing intelligence, but it is naturally reluctant to launch a joint counter-terror operation within its borders.”
On relations between Turkey and the U.S., Yildirim said: “The reluctance over the extradition of FETO terrorist leader Fetullah Gulen is bothering us and our citizens’ doubts about the U.S. are increasing. Less than 20 percent of our citizens rely on America, according to the field researches.”
One of the main issues between the two sides is the U.S. cooperation with the PYD/YPG terrorist organization. “The U.S said we would part company with them [PYD/YPG] but did it happen?” he asked.
Speaking about the Manbij deal, Yildirim said: “In close cooperation, if the U.S. operates in Manbij in line with Turkey’s concern, relations between Turkey and the U.S. may be normalized.”
On June 12-13, Turkish and U.S. military officials agreed on a plan for ridding terrorists and stabilizing the northern Syrian city of Manbij during a preliminary meeting for implementation of the plan at the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany.
On June 18, Turkish and the U.S. troops started coordinated/independent patrols in the region, which are still ongoing.
Earlier on Wednesday, Turkish Armed Forces began a second round of patrolling in Manbij as part of its objective to rid the area of the YPG/PKK terror group.
Source: Anadolu Agency.
TEHRAN – Iran plans to boost its ballistic and cruise missile capacity and acquire modern fighter planes and submarines, the Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted a senior Defense Ministry official as saying on Saturday.
News of the military development plans came a day after Iran dismissed a French call for negotiations on Tehran’s future nuclear plans, its ballistic missile arsenal and its role in wars in Syria and Yemen, following the US pullout from Tehran’s nuclear agreement with world powers.
State media also reported the launch earlier this week of war games involving some 150,000 volunteer Basij militia members, who vowed to defend the Islamic state against “foreign threats” including its arch foe, the United States.
Tehran is furious over US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the accord on Iran’s nuclear program and re-impose sanctions on Tehran.
Senior Iranian officials have warned the country will not yield easily to a renewed US campaign to strangle Iran’s vital oil exports. They say the country’s missile program is solely for defense purposes and is not negotiable as demanded by the United States and European countries.
“Increasing ballistic and cruise missile capacity … and the acquisition of next-generation fighters and heavy and long-range vessels and submarines with various weapons capabilities are among the new plans of this ministry,” said Mohammad Ahadi, deputy defense minister for international affairs, IRNA said.
Speaking to Tehran-based foreign military attaches, Ahadi said international sanctions had not hampered the development of Iran’s arms industry.
“We have the necessary infrastructure and what we need to do is research and development, and at the same time upgrade and update the defense industry while relying on the country’s very high scientific capacities and tens of thousands of graduates in technical fields and engineering,” Ahadi was quoted as saying.
He also defended Iran’s role in conflicts in Iraq and Syria: “If Iran and its allies in Syria and Iraq had not stopped Islamic State, today the map of the region would be different and the world would face a terrible challenge.”
Separately, the head of the Defense Ministry’s naval industries said Iran was developing a water jet propulsion system that would be ready by next March and a military commander said the air force planned to adopt Iran’s new Kowsar fighter plane after successful tests, the semi-official news agency Tasnim reported.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last month the Islamic Republic’s military prowess was what deterred Washington from attacking it.
The exercises by the Basij militia, which are led by the elite Revolutionary Guards, come ahead of massive annual rallies planned for later this month to mark the start of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.
“The motto of these war games is unity … and to declare that, when it comes to adversity and threats from foreigners, we all join to defend the (Islamic Republic’s) system,” Basij commander Gholam-Hossein Gheibparvar was quoted as saying by IRNA.
Source: Middle East Online.
March 19, 2018
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, buoyed by his army’s capture of a Kurdish stronghold in northwest Syria, threatened to extend the offensive against separatist Kurdish militants to eastern Syria and northern Iraq.
Turkey’s military will shift their campaign to several towns under the control of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, including Manbij, Kobani, Tal Abyad, Rasulayn and Qamishli, “until this terror corridor is fully eliminated,” Erdogan said Monday. Turkey’s threat to attack Manbij, where U.S. troops are based, has put Ankara at loggerheads with Washington, and talks between the NATO allies have so far yielded no agreement. The U.S. also has a diplomatic presence in Kobani.
Erdogan on Sunday claimed victory in the cross-border operation he launched in January to expel the YPG from Afrin, a town along the Turkish border. While the loss of Afrin delivered a major blow to the YPG’s hopes to establish a contiguous autonomous region, Turkey has resolved to clear the separatist fighters from other areas near its frontier.
Turkish authorities see the YPG as an extension of PKK militants who have used bases in northern Iraq as a springboard for attacks on Turkish targets in a decades-long war for autonomy.
Turkey has served notice to the Iraqi government in Baghdad that its forces would attack the major PKK camp on Mount Sinjar near the Syrian border unless Iraq takes action.
“If you are going to handle this, you do it,” Erdogan said in remarks directed at Iraq. “If you can’t handle it, then we may suddenly enter Sinjar one night and clear out the PKKs there.”
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier that Turkish and Iraqi armies would carry out a joint offensive against the PKK bases in northern Iraq, probably after Iraqi elections set for May 12.
Turkey has had hundreds of troops deployed at the Bashiqa training based near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul since the end of 2014. It has also had a tank battalion stationed near the Iraqi frontier town of Bamerni for about two decades, and has frequently sent planes and troops across the border to target the PKK.
The U.S., meanwhile, expressed deep concern over reports that many residents had fled Kurdish-majority Afrin under threat of attack from the Turkish army and allied rebel forces.
“This adds to the already concerning humanitarian situation in the area, with United Nations agencies reporting a displaced population in or from Afrin district in the hundreds of thousands, who now require immediate shelter and other assistance to meet basic needs,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in an emailed statement on Monday.
“We have repeatedly expressed our serious concern to Turkish officials regarding the situation in Afrin.”
March 15, 2018
Qatar signed yesterday a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Iraq to strengthen security cooperation between the two countries, the Qatar News Agency (QNA) has reported.
The agreement aims to enhance security cooperation and exchanging information and experiences between Qatar and Iraq.
“The MoU between the Qatar and Iraq aims at further joint security cooperation and regulates the coordination process between the two countries, as well as the exchange of information and experience, as Iraq accumulates experience in the security field,” QNA quoted the country’s head of public security, Major General Saad Bin Jassim Al Khulaifi, as saying.
He further explained that it will cover all security-related areas, including training and exchange of information in the field of combating terrorism, money laundry, combating counterfeiting, organised crime, drugs and human trafficking as well as all security of ports and airports.
Praising the “close cooperation between the two countries in all fields,” Al Khulaifi noted that the two parties intend to form a joint committee of specialists to follow up and monitor the implementation of the MoU’s provisions.
Source: Middle East Monitor.
DUSHANBE – Tajikistan has granted amnesty to more than 100 of its nationals following their return home from Syria and Iraq, where they had joined radical Islamist groups, the interior minister said Thursday.
Speaking at a news conference in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, Interior Minister Ramazon Rahimzoda said the returnees had been pardoned in line with a 2015 government pledge.
“Regarding the fate of 111 Tajik citizens who returned from Syria and Iraq voluntarily, all of them are free under Tajik law,” Rahimzoda said.
Most of the returnees in question had spent time in Syria, which became a magnet for jihadists from around the globe following its descent into civil war in 2011.
Rahimzoda also told reporters that 250 citizens of Tajikistan, a majority-Muslim country, had died fighting for radical groups in Iraq and Syria, mostly the Islamic State group.
Authorities have previously said that over 1,000 Tajik citizens, including women, had joined the radical militants.
Most had traveled to Syria and Iraq through Russia, where over a million Tajiks are believed to work as labor migrants.
The Islamic State group’s most high-profile Tajik recruit Gulmurod Khalimov had served as the chief of the interior ministry’s special forces unit prior to his sensational defection in 2015.
Russia’s defense ministry said in September last year that Khalimov, who may have been IS’s “minister of war”, had been killed in an airstrike.
Rahimzoda said Thursday that Tajikistan was still verifying that report.
Mountainous Tajikistan, the poorest former Soviet republic, shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Afghanistan, long a hotbed of Islamist militancy and the world’s largest producer of opium and heroin.
Governments have warned that fighters returning to their home countries after the collapse of the Islamic State group could raise the terror threat there.
Source: Middle East Online.