Tag Archives: Iraq

Turkey’s Erdogan accuses US of being supportive of terrorism in Iraq.

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The US State Department on Sunday it “deplores the death of Turkish citizens” but was waiting for further confirmation that Ankara’s account of the 13 men’s death was true.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday accused the United States of siding with “terrorists” after blaming outlawed Kurdish militants of executing 13 Turks in northern Iraq.

Erdogan’s comments came a day after Ankara said Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels had killed 13 captives — most of them Turkish soldiers and police officers — they had allegedly abducted in southeast Turkey and kept in an Iraqi cave.

The PKK has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 that is believed to have left tens of thousands dead.

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The United States and Turkey’s other Western allies recognise the PKK as a terror group.

But Washington has supported another Kurdish militia in Syria that Turkey sees as an offshoot of the PKK.

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Turkey this month launched a military operation against rear PKK bases in northern Iraq that Erdogan said on Monday was designed in part to free the 13 hostages.

“The statement made by the United States is a farce,” Erdogan said in his first public comments on the incident.

“You said you did not support terrorists, when in fact you are on their side and behind them,” Erdogan said in televised remarks.

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The US State Department on Sunday it “deplores the death of Turkish citizens” but was waiting for further confirmation that Ankara’s account of the 13 men’s death was true.

The PKK said the 13 died when Turkish forces bombed the cave where the men were being kept.

“If reports of the death of Turkish civilians at the hands of the PKK, a designated terrorist organisation, are confirmed, we condemn this action in the strongest possible terms,” the State Department said in a statement.

Erdogan said Turkey’s NATO allies had to pick sides.

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“After this, there are two options. Either act with Turkey with no ifs or buts, without questioning, or they will be a partner to every murder and bloodshed,” he said.

“The terrorist organisation on our doorstep, on our borders, is killing innocents.”

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#Newsworthy

Pope Francis lauds dialogue ahead of meeting with Iraqi Grand Cleric

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Iraq once counted more than 1.5 million Christians but today only an estimated 400,000 Christians remain after being ravaged by violence

Pope Francis hailed the power of inter-religious dialogue on Monday as the Vatican confirmed he would meet Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani during his forthcoming trip to Iraq.

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The March 5-8 visit — the first-ever by a pope — will include stops in Baghdad, Najaf, Nasiriya, Erbil, Mosul and Qaraqosh, according to the official itinerary published by the Vatican.

On March 6, the pontiff is scheduled to make a “courtesy visit” to the 90-year-old Sistani in Najaf.

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The pope had previously suggested his visit to Iraq might be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but on Monday, made clear his desire to go.

This photo taken on February 7, 2021 and handout by the Vatican Media on February 8, 2021 shows Pope Francis waving from the window of the apostolic palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square during the weekly Angelus prayer in the Vatican, during the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – MANDATORY CREDIT “AFP PHOTO /VATICAN MEDIA / HANDOUT “

“I myself wish to resume my Apostolic Visits, beginning with that to Iraq,” he told ambassadors to the Holy See.

“These visits are an important sign of the solicitude of the Successor of Peter (the pope) for God’s People spread throughout the world and the dialogue of the Holy See with states,” he said.

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“They also frequently provide an opportunity to promote, in a spirit of sharing and dialogue, good relations between the different religions.”

Inter-religious dialogue, he added, “can become an opportunity for religious leaders and the followers of different confessions, and can support the responsible efforts of political leaders to promote the common good”.

Last month, the patriarch of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church Louis Sako said the pope would have a private visit with Sistani, who is never seen in public and rarely accepts visitors.

Sako said then he hoped the two religious leaders would sign the document on “human fraternity for world peace”, an inter-religious text condemning extremism that Francis signed in 2019 with the leading Sunni cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar.

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Iraq once counted more than 1.5 million Christians but today only an estimated 400,000 Christians remain after being ravaged by violence, most recently sectarian warfare that followed the 2003 US-led invasion and attacks by Islamic State.

Francis plans to celebrate Masses at Baghdad in a cathedral that was the site of a 2010 bloody attack and in a stadium in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region, where many Christians have fled after being displaced by Islamic State.

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#Newsworthy

Baghdad Court order Trump’s arrest after being permanently suspended

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Invoking it would require Vice President Michael Pence to lead the cabinet in a vote on removing him.

A Baghdad court has issued a warrant for the arrest of the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, as part of its investigation into the killing of a top Iraqi paramilitary commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

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Al-Muhandis, who was the Deputy Head of Iraq’s largely pro-Iran Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary network, was killed in the same US drone strike that took out Iranian general Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad airport on January 3 last year.

Trump, who ordered the strike, subsequently boasted that it had taken out “two (men) for the price of one”.

The UN special rapporteur for an extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, has called the twin killings as “arbitrary” and “illegal”.

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Iran already issued a warrant for the arrest of Trump in June and asked Interpol to relay it as a so-called red notice to other police forces around the world.

The court for east Baghdad has now issued the warrant for Trump’s arrest under Article 406 of the penal code, which provides for the death penalty in all cases of premeditated murder, the judiciary said.

The court said the preliminary inquiry had been completed but “investigations are continuing to unmask the other culprits in this crime, be they Iraqis or foreigners.”

Meanwhile, some members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet on Wednesday opened discussion on the possibility of removing Trump from office after his supporters stormed the Capitol, according to reports by three US news channels.

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The discussions focused on the 25th amendment to the US Constitution, which allows for a president’s removal by the vice president and cabinet if he is judged “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

NoRM quoted undisclosed Republican leaders saying the 25th amendment had been discussed, saying they had described Trump as “out of control.”

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: Hospitals in Iraq fear ‘losing control’ as cases surge

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Authorities warn hospitals may ‘lose control’ amid record rise in single-day COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

Iraq has recorded its highest single-day rise in COVID-19 cases since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, prompting authorities to warn hospitals may “lose control” in the coming days.

According to the Iraqi health ministry, 5,036 new coronavirus infections were confirmed within 24 hours on Friday, bringing the total number of cases across the country to 252,075, of which 7,359 had died.

The health ministry attributed the spike to recent “large gatherings” that took place without recommended safety measures, including mask-wearing or social distancing.

The events included the marking on August 30 of Ashoura, a significant Muslim day of mourning that commemorates the killing of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein in 680 AD.

On that day, tens of thousands of Shia Muslims converged on the holy city of Karbala in southern Iraq.

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Karbala’s authorities introduced new measures to stem the spread of the virus, including restricting access to areas of worship and widespread spraying of disinfectants.

Northern Iraqis protest over salary arrears
But the health ministry warned the measures were not enough.

The health ministry attributed the spike to recent ‘large gatherings’ [Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu]

“The number of cases is expected to escalate further in the coming days, which we fear will lead our health institutions to lose control as they try to deal with these large numbers,” its statement said on Friday.

“This will lead to an increase in the number of deaths, after we made headway in reducing them over the past few weeks.”

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Iraq’s hospitals have already been worn down by decades of conflict and poor investment, with shortages in medicines, hospital beds and even protective equipment for doctors.

Before Ashoura, the World Health Organization had warned that COVID-19 cases in Iraq were rising at an “alarming rate” and said Iraq should take action to end the community outbreak “at all costs”.

“The country is already in a semi-lockdown. There is a partial curfew,” Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Baghdad, said on Saturday.

“Twenty-five percent of government employees are allowed to go to work. Schools are still not reopening until probably the end of October.”


#Newsworthy…

Emmanuel Macron backs Iraq sovereignty on first visit.

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In first foreign visit since PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi formed gov’t in May, French president pledges support for Iraq.


French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged support for Iraq and said the main challenges facing the country are Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group fighters and foreign interference in its affairs.

Macron is the first head of state to visit the Iraqi capital since Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq’s former intelligence chief, formed a new government in May.

“We are here for and we will continue to support Iraq,” Macron said at a news conference in Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart Barham Salih.

“Any foreign intervention may undermine the efforts exerted by you as a government.”

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Iraqi officials should continue to share the vision of restoring “Iraq’s sovereignty,” he said, adding that this is a “very significant enterprise not only for Iraq, but also the entire region”.

“I would like to reiterate that France totally supports the Iraqi state and institutions.”

Macron had earlier said he was heading to Baghdad “to launch an initiative alongside the United Nations to support a process of sovereignty”.

Later on Wednesday, the French leader met al-Kadhimi during his day-long trip, which comes amid a severe economic crisis and coronavirus pandemic that has put a huge strain on Iraqi economy and politics. He is also expected to meet Nechirvan Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region.

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Al-Kadhimi was selected by parliament in May to head a government that would guide the country towards early elections and has called for one to be held in June 2021.

His predecessor Adel Abdul Mahdi quit under pressure from protests against corruption and foreign interference in December last year.

Salih told Macron the Iraqi leadership is looking forward to a future where Baghdad will claim an ‘essential and a central role in the region’. [The Presidency of the Republic of Iraq Office/Handout via Reuters]

Early elections are a main demand of anti-government protesters who staged months of mass demonstrations last year and were killed in their hundreds by security forces and gunmen suspected of links to Iran-backed armed groups.

Salih told Macron the Iraqi leadership is looking forward to a future where Baghdad will claim an “essential and a central role in the region”.

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“This area must be in a peace and stability situation, and the base of this stabilities proceed from the strengthening of Iraq’s role as a competent country with sovereignty,” he said.

President Salih said he looked forward to a longer visit by Macron in 2021, and al-Kadhimi said he hoped France and Europe as a whole could help “restore stability” to the rocky region.

“We do not want to be an arena for confrontations but a zone of stability and moderation,” al-Kadhimi said in a news conference, adding that France and Iraq would sign energy agreements in the future and deepen military cooperation.

“We talked about a future project, using nuclear energy to produce electricity and peaceful projects, which will be under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency … which will create jobs and address electricity shortages.”

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US-Iran tensions
After a United States-led invasion toppled former president Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq was ravaged by waves of sectarian conflict that culminated in ISIL capturing swaths of the country six years ago.

At the same time, the country has been caught for years between its two main allies, Iran and the United States, a balancing act that has become increasingly tortured since Washington’s withdrawal in 2018 from a multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran.

France is among the European nations that remain key backers of the 2015 agreement.

Reporting from Baghdad, Noble Reporters Media learnt Macron’s visit was an “important step”, especially since the country is caught between two allies who are at odds with each other.

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Al-Kadhimi, who is backed by the US, assumed office on May 7 when Baghdad’s relations with Washington were precarious. Like previous Iraqi leaders, he has to walk a tightrope amid the US-Iran rivalry.

The January assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and top Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis by the US in Baghdad prompted demands by Shia legislators that US forces leave Iraq.

Al-Kadhimi visited Washington last month, where he held talks with President Donald Trump. He said his administration is committed to introducing security reforms as rogue militia groups stage near-daily attacks against the seat of his government.

Other crises for al-Kadhimi include slashed state coffers in the crude oil-dependent country following a severe drop in prices, adding to the woes of an economy already struggling amid the pandemic.


#Newsworthy…

France president, Macron, first foreign leader to visit Iraq since May.

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French president is the first foreign leader to visit Iraq since PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi formed a government in May.


French President Emmanuel Macron has landed in Baghdad on his first official trip to Iraq, where he hopes to help the country reassert its “sovereignty” after years of conflict.

Macron is the first head of state to visit the Iraqi capital since Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq’s former intelligence chief, formed a new government in May.

The French leader is expected to meet al-Kadhimi and President Barham Salih at the presidential palace during his day-long trip on Wednesday, which comes amid a severe economic crisis and coronavirus pandemic that has put a huge strain on Iraqi economy and politics.

The visit would be of “great importance, as it’s the third by French officials in a single month,” said Husham Dawood, an adviser to the Iraqi premier.

Speaking in Lebanon on Tuesday night while concluding his two-day visit there, Macron said he was heading to Baghdad “to launch an initiative alongside the United Nations to support a process of sovereignty”.

In Lebanon, Macron offers the carrot or the stick
“The fight for Iraq’s sovereignty is essential,” Macron had told reporters on Friday, before departing for Lebanon.

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He said Iraqis, who “suffered so much”, deserved options besides domination by regional powers or groups such as ISIL (ISIS).

“There are leaders and a people who are aware of this, and who want to take their destiny in hand. The role of France is to help them do so,” Macron said.

Macron will hold a series of high-level meetings during his visit [Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters]

He said he would also discuss the case of French citizens who fought with ISIL, which was defeated in Iraq in 2017 with international support. Nearly a dozen French ISIL members have been sentenced to death before Iraqi courts.

Macron is also expected to meet Nechirvan Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region.

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Soon after winning the presidency in 2017, Macron had tried to mediate between the Kurdish north and the federal government, but financial and security disputes between the two sides remain unresolved.

US-Iran tensions
After a United States-led invasion toppled former president Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq was ravaged by waves of sectarian conflict that culminated in ISIL capturing swaths of the country six years ago.

At the same time, the country has been caught for years between its two main allies, Iran and the United States, a balancing act that has become increasingly tortured since Washington’s withdrawal in 2018 from a multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran.

France is among the European nations that remain key backers of the 2015 agreement.

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Al-Kadhimi, who is backed by the US, assumed office on May 7 when Baghdad’s relations with Washington were precarious. Like previous Iraqi leaders, he has to walk a tightrope amid the US-Iran rivalry.

The January assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and top Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis by the US in Baghdad prompted demands by Shia legislators that US forces leave Iraq.

Al-Kadhimi visited Washington last month, where he held talks with President Donald Trump. He said his administration is committed to introducing security reforms as rogue militia groups stage near-daily attacks against the seat of his government.

Other crises for al-Kadhimi include slashed state coffers in the crude oil-dependent country following a severe drop in prices, adding to the woes of an economy already struggling amid the pandemic.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Cases in Iraq tops 200,000.

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Iraq on Saturday registered nearly 4,000 cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases recorded by the country to over 200,000.

According to the Iraqi health ministry, 201,050 Iraqis have contracted the virus, including 6,353 who have died, while 143,393 are declared to have recovered since the pandemic began.

The daily increases have hovered around 4,000 for more than a week, but authorities have declined to reimpose a strict lockdown that was lifted earlier this summer.

Ashura is a period of mourning in remembrance of the seventh-century martyrdom of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Imam Hussein, who was killed in the battle of Karbala in modern-day Iraq, in 680 AD. (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

An overnight curfew remains in place, most restaurants are closed for dine-in customers and land crossings are officially shut.

But airports, supermarkets and take-out cafes are open, with varying degrees of social distancing or mask-wearing.

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Many fear yet another spike in cases is imminent, as Shiite Muslims converge on the holy city of Karbala to commemorate the beginning of the mourning month of Muharram.

Muharram, which includes the memorial of the killing of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson Hussein in 680 AD, is typically marked by mass funeral processions and self-flagellation.

Iraqi Shiite Muslim men get their temperature checked amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as they arrive to participate in Ashura commemorations at the headquarters of Shiite Muslim leader and head of Hikma party Ammar al-Hakim, in the capital Baghdad, on August 21, 2020. (Photo by Ahmad AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

It usually sees thousands of pilgrims cross the border from neighbouring Iran, which has suffered the largest mortality figure from COVID-19 infections in the Middle East, with more than 20,200 deaths officially registered.

Iraq’s hospitals have already been worn down by decades of conflict and poor investment, with shortages in medicines, hospital beds and even protective equipment for doctors.


#Newsworthy…

Breaking: Zarif’s visit to Baghdad won’t address Iraqi gov’t power “Dynamic”

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Zarif’s first visit to Baghdad since assassination of General Qassem Soleimani aims to mend strained relations.


Iran’s foreign minister arrived in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Sunday to discuss several issues related to political, commercial and security matters, in an attempt to patch up relations with the government.

Ties between Baghdad and Tehran have been strained since the United States assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleimani – the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – and deputy commander of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in January.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein, Mohammad Javad Zarif stressed his country’s belief on “maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq” and that a “stable and powerful” Iraq was in the interest of both countries.

“That is why we look forward to continued constructive bilateral negotiations. The stability, security and peace in Iraq is the stability of the entire region,” he said.

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John Bolton on Iran, North Korea and ‘accountability’ for US wars
For his part, Fuad Hussein said his country looked forward to continuing its “balanced relations” with all the countries in the region “based on first our national interest, then on mutual interest with our neighbours without any interfering in our domestic affairs”.

Iraqi security analyst Ahmad al-Abyad told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media), that Zarif’s visit, which comes a day before Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi travels to Saudi Arabia, is no coincidence.

“Zarif’s visit carried two messages,” he said. “One is a cushioned warning to al-Kadhimi not to go forward with attempts to shore up economic links with the Gulf states, and the other is a message of mediation to its regional rival Saudi Arabia.”

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Another Baghdad-based security analyst, who wished to remain anonymous, told Al Jazeera one of the main topics of discussion will be about the al-Munthiriya border crossing with Iran, which has long been used as a smuggling route to Lebanon and Syria in terms of weaponry and fighters.

“The PMF used to be in control of the border, but after a no-fly zone was imposed it has gotten harder to smuggle weapons across,” the analyst said, adding the crossing is now under Iraq’s security forces and Counter Terrorism Service (CTS).

The other topic of interest will be about preparations for the religious pilgrimage season known as the Arbaeen, which takes places in the Iraqi holy city of Karbala in two months’ time following the end of the 40-day mourning period for Ashoura.

Yet regarding efforts to curb the PMF’s influence on the political and security front, the analyst said Zarif was not the right person to act as a buffer between the umbrella group and Iraq’s government.

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“The PMF file is in the hands of the Revolutionary Guards, not Iran’s foreign office,” he said.

Sarmad al-Bayati, an Iraqi political analyst, said Zarif’s visit will focus more on bilateral relations between the two countries.

“The Iranian foreign minister did not come to Baghdad to discuss the PMF,” he said. “It is more likely that he will talk about the killing of Soleimani and al-Muhandis instead.”

PMF’s sphere of influence
Prime Minister al-Kadhimi has been a strong advocate of Iraq’s sovereignty, and has upset armed groups within Iraq that are affiliated to Iran, such as Kataib Hezbollah. At the end of last June, al-Khadimi ordered a raid on Kataib Hezbollah’s offices in Baghdad, which led to the arrest of 14 fighters.

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Kataib Hezbollah in turn and other armed groups within the PMF have accused al-Kadhimi of assisting the US in its assassination of Soleimani and al-Muhandis, which has created a rift within the prime minister’s government.

The PMF, which is made up of dozens of mostly Shia militias that are dominated by powerful factions who take their orders from Iran, enjoys political influence as it dominates dozens of seats in parliament through the Fatah Alliance and State of Law coalitions.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) meets with his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein in Baghdad [Murtadha al-Sudani/Anadolu via Getty Images]

Incorporated within the Iraqi government in 2016 following the defeat of the armed group ISIL (ISIS), the sphere of influence of the PMF has only continued to grow.

Critics point out the PMF, backed by Iran, has expanded its authority on the political, economic and security front. In 2019, it received $2.16bn from the defence budget, yet it is independent from any control or oversight by the Iraqi defence ministry.

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“Security-wise it controls the liberated areas that were previously under ISIS, which includes many border areas and land ports,” al-Abyad told Al Jazeera.

“Its control has spread inside and outside the cities and has its own security and intelligence services. It has become a force that exceeds the ability of the government, and it runs parallel to the Revolutionary Guards project in Iran.”

The Baghdad-based anonymous security expert said the PMF and its proxy armed groups also “wield influence on the streets of Baghdad”.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif makes a speech at a news conference in Baghdad [Murtadha al-Sudani/Anadolu via Getty Images]

“Whoever stands against them – politically, legally, ideologically – find themselves killed, imprisoned, or persecuted,” he said. “My good friend and colleague Hisham al-Hashemi was neither the first nor the last to be killed.”

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Al-Hashemi, a well-known and top security analyst, was shot dead by unknown gunmen outside his home in the capital earlier this month.

Following the government raid on Kataib Hezbollah’s offices last month, al-Hashemi provided his social media followers with insights over allegations the group was behind rocket attacks on US and other diplomatic interests in Iraq.

The group quickly issued a statement on its Telegram channel denying responsibility for his killing.

“Activists and members of rights groups fear for their lives because they do not trust nor can count on the Iraqi government to hold accountable the armed groups behind targeted killings,” the security expert said.


#Newsworthy…

Iran’s Zarif on his first visit to Iraq after Soleimani’s death

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Ties between the neighbours have been turbulent since the US assassinated the Iranian commander in Iraqi in January.


Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is visiting Iraq, for the first time since the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Soleimani in January.

Zarif and his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein stressed the necessity for a stable Iraq for the “good of the region” as the two top diplomats discussed their ties and regional developments in Baghdad on Sunday.

Zarif is also expected to meet Iraq’s president, the speaker of parliament and the prime minister during the visit as regional security, bilateral relations and business investments feature on the agenda.

Zarif’s visit to Iraq comes amid tensions between the United States and Iran, which escalated following Soleimani’s killing in an air attack in the Iraqi capital.

In a joint news conference with Hussein, Zarif said a “stable and powerful” Iraq was in the interest of both the countries.

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“That is why we look forward to continued constructive bilateral negotiations. The stability, security and peace in Iraq is the stability of the entire region,” he said.

“Again, we reiterate that we are keen on maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq.”

The two foreign ministers met in the Iraqi foreign ministry in Baghdad [Khalid al-Mousily/Reuters]

Fuad Hussein said his country looked forward to continuing its “balanced relations” with all the countries in the region.

“[The relations are] based on first our national interest, then on mutual interest with our neighbours without any interfering in our domestic affairs.”

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Zarif visits Soleimani memorial
During his visit, Zarif visited a memorial to Soleimani at the site where he and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), were killed near Baghdad’s international airport.

Tehran had retaliated by firing a volley of ballistic missiles at US troops stationed in Iraq.

While the attack on the western Iraqi base of Ain al-Assad killed no US soldiers, dozens were reported to have suffered brain trauma.

Zarif said the assassination of Soleimani was “a criminal act”.

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“It is a loss to our country and to the entire region, and it undermines the international efforts for combating ISIL (ISIL) and terrorism in the region,” he said.

This was Zarif’s first visit to Iraq since the killing of Soleimani and formation of the new Iraqi government.

Reporting from Baghdad, Noble Reporters Media said the recent months have been turbulent for relations between Iran and Iraq.

“New Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has been stressing the importance of Iraq’s sovereignty,” she said.

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“He also recently moved against armed groups present in Iraq, such as Hezbollah, which is considered close to Iran,” she said, referring to the Lebanese Shia group backed by Tehran.

“This visit is aimed at recalibrating mutual relations and making sure Iran’s security, economic and political interests are represented in Iraq.”

Zarif’s visit comes a day before al-Kadhimi travels to Saudi Arabia and Iran next week in apparent attempt to balance his country’s ties with regional rivals in his first foreign trip as Iraq’s prime minister.


#Newsworthy…

Iran denies Iraq’s rocket on U.S interest.

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Missiles fired after the arrest of 14 Tehran-backed fighters as a ‘message’ to deter future Kataib Hezbollah attacks.


Two rockets targeted American diplomatic and military installations overnight, Iraq’s security forces said on Sunday, as a powerful Iran-backed armed group denied responsibility for a series of such attacks.

Since October, US diplomats and troops across Iraq have been targeted by about three dozen rocket attacks that Washington has blamed on pro-Iranian armed factions.

In the first move of its kind, elite Iraqi troops in late June arrested more than a dozen Tehran-backed fighters who were allegedly planning a new attack on Baghdad’s Green Zone, home to the United States and other foreign embassies.

Iraqi government officials said the raid would serve as a “message” to deter future attacks, but late on Saturday more attacks were launched.

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One rocket fired at the Green Zone landed near a home, wounding a child, according to the Iraqi military.

The rocket was launched from the Ali al-Saleh area of Baghdad and landed next to a house close to a local TV channel, a military statement said. The child suffered head injuries and the house was damaged.

An Iraqi security officer stands guard next to the Arch of Victory memorial in Baghdad’s Green Zone [File: Khalid al-Mousily/Reuters]

“At the same time, our forces were able to thwart another attack and seize a Katyusha rocket and launcher that were targeting the Taji base north of Baghdad,” where US-led coalition troops are based, it added.

In March, two Americans and one British soldier were killed following a barrage of rockets on Camp Taji.

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The latest uptick in attacks comes shortly before Iraq embarks on strategic talks with the US, in which the presence of American forces in the country is expected to top the agenda.

New defence system
The attempts came just hours after the US embassy tested a new rocket defence system known as a C-RAM, according to a senior Iraqi security source.

The C-RAM, set up earlier this year at the embassy, scans for incoming projectiles and explodes them in the air with thousands of rounds fired per minute.

A series of muted blasts could be heard across Baghdad on Saturday night as the system was apparently tested, leaving passersby confused and Iraq’s parliament outraged.

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Deputy Speaker Hassan al-Kaabi slammed the trial as “provocative” and “unacceptable” as it could put residential areas in danger.

Al-Kaabi called on the government to take action against the “illegal” move that would “provoke the Iraqi people”, according to a statement.

There was no immediate comment from the US embassy on whether the system was used against the rocket overnight.

Iraq has long been caught in a tug-of-war between its two main allies, Iran and the United States – arch-enemies whose relations have further crumbled since Washington pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran in 2018.

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Baghdad carefully balances its ties with the two countries, but the repeated rocket fire risks rocking its tightrope.

The US blames the attacks on Kataib Hezbollah, a Tehran-backed faction within Iraq’s state-sponsored network of armed units known as the Hashd al-Shaabi (the Popular Mobilisation Forces or PMF).

Washington has demanded Iraqi authorities be tougher on the group. Local forces had long hesitated, fearing direct action against such a powerful actor would risk broader confrontations.

But last month, state security forces carried out the first raid of its kind against a Kataib Hezbollah base on the edge of Baghdad, seizing rockets and arresting 14 fighters allegedly planning an attack on the Green Zone.

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The move was hailed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who said armed groups are “the single biggest obstacle to additional assistance or economic investment” for Iraq.

But within days, all but one of the fighters were released and some were seen burning US and Israeli flags and stepping on pictures of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

Al-Kadhimi has repeatedly promised to put an end to the missile fire and the continued attacks are seen as a challenge to his authority.

‘Agent of the Americans’

Kataib Hezbollah is deeply suspicious of al-Kadhimi, accusing him of complicity in the US killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Hashd’s deputy chief in a January drone attack in Baghdad.

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“The prime minister has totally failed and he has to understand if he relies on the Americans rather than the Iraqi people, he will fail,” Mohammed Mohie, a spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, said.

“If he continues this way he will show his cards as an agent of the Americans and that he serves the Americans more than his homeland.”

The armed group first began fighting US troops in 2003 following the American-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

According to paramilitary expert Michael Knights, it is the top armed Iraqi ally of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which Washington has designated a “terrorist” group.

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Media known to Noble Reporters Media gained exclusive access to one of its military bases in southern Baghdad after it was raided by Iraq’s counterterrorism forces.

Kataib Hezbollah’s members said the raid was illegal as it was carried out without an arrest warrant.

“If they have evidence for this allegation they can show it to the people, but here there are no missiles and launching pads,” one member said on condition of anonymity.

“This base has been here since 2015 and we have a formal letter from Baghdad Operations Command. This base is used for logistical support.”


#Newsworthy…

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Iran issue warning to US against seizure of oil tanker to Venezuela.

Reports suggest four US Navy warships are in the Caribbean for a ‘possible confrontation with Iran’s tankers’.


Iran’s foreign minister on Sunday warned the United States against deploying its navy in the Caribbean to disrupt Iranian fuel shipments to Venezuela.

According to an oil shipment analyst, five Iranian-flagged tankers loaded with tens of millions of dollars worth of fuel are heading towards Venezuela.

In a letter to United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, Mohammad Javad Zarif warned against “America’s movements in deploying its navy to the Caribbean in order to intervene and create disruption in [the] transfer of Iran’s fuel to Venezuela”.

He said any such action would be “illegal and a form of piracy” adding the US would be responsible for “the consequences”, according to a foreign ministry statement.

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A senior official in US President Donald Trump’s administration told Reuters news agency on Thursday that the US was considering measures it could take in response to Iran’s shipment of fuel to crisis-stricken Venezuela.

Iran’s Fars News reported on Saturday it received information that four US Navy warships are in the Caribbean for a “possible confrontation with Iran’s tankers”.

Zarif’s deputy summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents Washington’s interests in Tehran, to communicate Iran’s “serious warning” on Sunday. Abbas Araghchi said any potential threat to Iran’s tankers would be met with a “quick and decisive response”.

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The US has imposed unilateral sanctions aimed at ending oil exports by both Iran and Venezuela, both major crude producers.

Full speed ahead
Five Iranian tankers likely carrying at least $45.5m worth of petrol and similar products are now sailing to Venezuela, part of a wider deal between the two US-sanctioned nations amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington.

The tankers’ voyage come after Venezuela’s socialist leader Nicolas Maduro already turned to Iran for help in flying in chemicals needed at an aging refinery amid a petrol shortage, a symptom of the wider economic and political chaos gripping Latin America’s one-time largest oil producer.

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For Iran, the tankers represent a way to bring money into its cash-starved country and put its own pressure on the US, which, under President Trump, has pursued maximalist campaigns against both nations.

But the strategy invites the chance of a renewed confrontation between the Islamic Republic and the US both in the Gulf, which saw a series of escalating incidents often involving the oil industry last year, and wider afield.

“This is like a new one for everyone,” said Captain Ranjith Raja, an analyst who tracks oil shipments by sea at the data firm Refinitiv, of the petrol shipments. “We haven’t seen anything like this before.”

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All the vessels involved belong to Iranian state-owned or state-linked companies, flying under the Iranian flag. Since a pressure campaign on Iranian vessels began, notably with the temporary seizure of an Iranian tanker last year by Gibraltar, the country’s ships have been unable to fly flags of convenience of other nations, a common practice in international shipping.

Nothing to lose
The ships all appear to have been loaded from the Persian Gulf Star Refinery near Bandar Abbas, Iran, which makes petrol, Raja said. The ships then travelled around the Arabian Peninsula and through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea, according to data collected from the ship’s Automatic Identification System, or AIS, which acts as a tracking beacon.

Given the crushing US sanctions imposed on Iran, also-sanctioned Venezuela appears to be a country that would have nothing to lose from accepting the shipments.

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Raja said Refinitiv had no data on any Iranian petrol shipment ever going to South America before.

TankerTrackers.com, a website focused on the oil trade at sea, first reported the ships likely were heading to Venezuela.

The capacity of the five ships is some 175,000 metric tonnes. On the open market, the petrol and product carried within them would be worth at least $45.5m, though Iran likely reached a discounted, non-cash deal with Caracas given the circumstances the two nations face, Raja said.

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It remains unclear how the US will respond to the tankers. On Thursday, the US Treasury, State Department and Coast Guard issued an advisory warning the maritime industry of illegal shipping and sanctions-dodging tactics by countries including Iran.

The advisory repeated an earlier promise of up to $15m for information disrupting the Revolutionary Guard’s finances. It also warned anyone “knowingly engaged in a significant transaction for the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport or marketing of petroleum” faced US sanctions.

The US State Department and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Analysts already have been warning about the growing chance for a renewed confrontation between the US and Iran.

In April, the US accused Iran of conducting “dangerous and harassing” manoeuvres near American warships in the northern Gulf.


#Newsworthy…

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