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Posts tagged ‘Lost Land of the Two Rivers’

France pledges 1B euros in aid to rebuild 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.

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Iran foreign minister in Baghdad for talks

Baghdad (AFP)

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”.

Source: SpaceWar.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Iran_foreign_minister_in_Baghdad_for_talks_999.html.

Turkey ‘has 11 temporary military bases’ in northern Iraq

21.06.2018

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.”

Turkey-US relations

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.

Link: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/turkey-has-11-temporary-military-bases-in-northern-iraq/1180935.

Erdogan Vows to Extend Offensive to East Syria, North Iraq

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.

Erdogan Threat

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.”

Source: Bloomberg.

Link: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-19/erdogan-vows-to-extend-offensive-to-east-syria-northern-iraq.

Qatar, Iraq sign security cooperation agreement

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.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180315-qatar-iraq-sign-security-cooperation-agreement/.

Tajikistan grants amnesty for over 100 Syria, Iraqi returnees

2018-02-08

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.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=87176.

Three French female jihadists face possible death penalty in Iraq

2018-01-23

PARIS – Three French women who joined the Islamic State group before being captured by Iraqi forces could be facing the death penalty as they await trial in Baghdad, sources close to their cases said.

The women were detained after Iraqi fighters ousted the jihadists from Mosul last July, one source said, confirming a report on RMC radio.

One 28-year-old woman left in 2015 for the group’s “caliphate” stretching over parts of Syria and Iraq along with her husband, who has reportedly been killed.

She is being detained with her daughter, who was born after their arrival.

“We don’t know what exactly she is accused of, what her detention conditions are like and whether she is being allowed the means to defend herself,” said the woman’s lawyer, .

He said he had received “no response” from France’s foreign ministry on the case, for which the Red Cross has been his only source of information.

A second woman, a 27-year-old named as Melina, also left for the region in 2015, and is being held with her baby. Her three older children have been returned to France.

“We expect France, if Melina is sentenced to death, to mobilize with the same intensity it has for other French citizens sentenced to death, in particular Serge Atlaoui,” said her lawyers, William Bourdon and Vincent Brengarth.

French diplomats have waged an intense campaign to free Atlaoui, who is being held in Indonesia and facing the death penalty on drug trafficking charges.

But government officials have said French fighters arrested in Syria and Iraq should be tried there if they can be guaranteed a fair trial.

Defense minister Florence Parly said Sunday that “we can’t be naive” regarding French citizens who left to join IS.

“When they are caught by local authorities, as far as possible they should be tried by these local authorities,” she told France 3 television.

– Children detained –

On Sunday, an Iraqi court condemned a German woman to death by hanging after finding her guilty of belonging to IS, the first such sentence in a case involving a European woman.

In December, an Iraqi-Swedish man was hanged along with 37 others accused of being IS or Al-Qaeda members, despite efforts by Sweden to have the prisoner serve a life sentence instead.

Iraqi authorities have not disclosed how many jihadists are being held prisoner since the counter-offensive that dislodged IS fighters from the country’s urban centers last year.

Around 40 French citizens, both men and women, are currently in detention camps or prisons in Syria and Iraq, including about 20 children, a source close to the matter has said.

On Monday, Parly reiterated that she had “no qualms” regarding the fate of French jihadists, despite requests by some of them to be repatriated.

“These jihadists have never had any qualms about what they’re doing, and I don’t see why we should have any for them,” she said.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86899.

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