Tag Archives: Iraqi

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

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…

COVID-19: Shiite pilgrims gather for mourning month.

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Shiite pilgrims poured into the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala on Friday for the rites of the holy month of Muharram, ignoring calls to stay home as COVID-19 spreads.

The pilgrimage is expected to be one of the largest religious gatherings in the Muslim world since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which already forced Saudi Arabia to hold the smallest hajj in modern history.

Now begins Muharram, the first month of the Islamic year, which will later include commemorations for the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson Hussein, killed in 680 AD at the Battle of Karbala, the seminal event in Islam’s confessional divide.

Usually, millions of Shiites from around the world flock to Iraq to commemorate the birth of their faith, praying, eating and reflecting together.

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But this year, authorities in Iraq, Iran and beyond have repeatedly urged their citizens to forgo real-life pilgrimages due to the high risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Shiite-majority Iran is the hardest-hit Middle Eastern country with more than 20,000 coronavirus deaths. Iraq is second with more than 6,200.

Still, by Thursday night, thousands of pilgrims were already en route to the gates of the golden mausoleums in the holy city of Karbala, some masked and gloved but others proceeding shoulder-to-shoulder as they always had.

Iraqi Shiite Muslims respect social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic as they gather to commemorate the start of the month of Muharram ahead of Ashura, in the central city of Najaf, on August 20, 2020. AFP

– ‘Dramatically Different’ –

Enormous tents have been erected as usual to host pilgrims in Baghdad and Basra as well as Karbala, but with a new twist, an attempt at social distancing.

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On the ground, stickers of footprints or large crosses suggest how far worshippers should stay from one another.

“It’s dramatically different from other years,” said Salim Mahdi, a tent manager in Basra near the Iraq-Iran border.

“People are disinfecting themselves as soon as they enter the tent, then positioning themselves far away from one another and disinfecting themselves again.”

In neighbouring Iran, reformist newspaper Arman called it “the most astonishing Muharram of the century.”

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Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the health ministry banned the usual marches, musical performances and banquets, and any ceremonies indoors.

Some worshippers adapted quickly: Ali Moadab, who writes funerary chants traditionally recited during Muharram, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) he would perform the hymns live on Instagram.

Iraqi Shiite Muslims respect social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic as they gather to commemorate the start of the month of Muharram ahead of Ashura, in the central city of Najaf, on August 20, 2020. AFP

At home, he said, “I will read to my family books telling the story of Imam Hussein.”

In Lebanon, powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah announced that no large tents would be installed this year and families were urged to celebrate at home.

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Muslims in the Bahraini capital Manama watched televised and online commemorations, as access to mosques was severely restricted.

“We are used to being there in person, and before Muharram starts we usually help with the placing of the black cloths. This year, it is heart-breaking,” said Ali, a 22-year-old shopkeeper in Manama who was watching prayers online.

– Big flags, small crowds –
Without the throngs of people worshipping or marching outside, the only indications Muharram had begun were the ubiquitous black flags.

In Karbala, there were markedly smaller crowds under the grim banners of the Imam Hussein mausoleum — and for the first time, nearly all were locals, as entry to the province had been banned for non-residents.

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Iraqis from other provinces managed to sneak into the city, using unmarked roads to circumvent checkpoints.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the top cleric for many of the world’s Shiites, had called for all ceremonies to be broadcast live and for the faithful to pray at home or to wear masks and keep their distance if praying in public.

Other religious figures appear to have thrown caution to the wind, directing their followers to gather in large numbers as usual throughout the first 10 days of “Muharram.”

On August 30, they are expected to gather for Ashura, the apogee of mourning, when some worshippers flagellate themselves or make small cuts to their heads in displays of grief over Hussein’s death.


#Newsworthy…

Iraq’s invasion on Kuwait 30 years ago

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On August 2, 1990, the army of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein swarmed into neighbouring Gulf emirate Kuwait, annexing the small oil-rich territory.

Seven months later, Iraq was chased out by a US-led international coalition, leaving behind a devastated and pillaged Kuwait, and 750 oil wells ablaze.

Here is a recap of the conflict and its aftermath:

– Accusations –
On July 18, 1990, tensions spiral after Iraq accuses Kuwait of stealing petrol from the Rumaila oil field and encroaching on its territory.

Saddam demands $2.4 billion from the emirate.

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Kuwait counters, saying Iraq is trying to drill oil wells on its territory.

It is one of several disputes, the most complex involving their border — a bone of contention since Kuwait’s independence in 1961.

Iraq also accuses the emirate of flooding the oil market, driving down crude prices.

Attempts by the Arab League and Saudi Arabia to mediate an end to the crisis fail and talks are suspended on August 1.

– Invasion –
The next day, Iraq invades.

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“Iraqi troops began at 2 a.m. local time to violate our northern borders, to enter Kuwait territory and to occupy positions within Kuwait,” Radio Kuwait announces in its first news bulletin.

It is followed by patriotic music and calls on Kuwaitis “to defend their land, their sand and their dunes”.

Violent clashes with heavy weaponry break out in Kuwait City between Kuwaiti units and the Iraqi army.

Faced with 100,000 Iraqi troops and 300 tanks, the 16,000-strong Kuwaiti army is overwhelmed.

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The capital falls that morning and Kuwait’s head of state Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad Al-Sabah flees to Saudi Arabia.

His brother Fahd is killed as Iraqi troops seize the palace.

In Baghdad official radio announces the end of the “traitor regime” it accuses of being an accomplice in an “American Zionist plot”, aimed at undermining the recovery of the Iraqi economy.

– Shockwaves –
The international community condemns the invasion and oil prices soar on world markets.

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At an emergency meeting, the UN Security Council demands the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Washington freezes Iraqi assets in the US and its subsidiaries abroad, along with Kuwaiti assets, to prevent them benefiting Baghdad.

The Soviet Union, Iraq’s main arms supplier, halts its deliveries.

On August 6, the UN Security Council slaps a trade, financial and military embargo on Iraq.

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Two days later, the US president George H.W. Bush announces he is sending troops to Saudi Arabia.

Iraq closes its borders to foreigners. Thousands of western, Arab and Asian civilians are held against their will in Iraq or Kuwait, with some 500 people used for months as human shields at strategic sites.

– Annexation –
On August 8, Baghdad announces Kuwait’s “total and irreversible” incorporation into Iraq.

Later in the month, Iraq annexes the emirate as its 19th province.

“Kuwait is part of Iraq,” Saddam declares.

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– Liberation –
On November 29, the UN Security Council authorises the use of “all necessary means” to force Iraq out of Kuwait if it has not withdrawn its troops voluntarily by January 15, 1991.

Baghdad rejects the ultimatum.

On January 17, after diplomatic initiatives fail, Operation Desert Storm is launched with intensive bombardments of Iraq and Kuwait.

On February 24, Bush announces a ground offensive.

The allied troops free the emirate in days.

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Bush announces on February 27 the liberation of Kuwait and the cessation of hostilities the next day, at 0400 GMT.

Iraq accepts all UN resolutions.

The crisis divides Arab states.

Egyptian and Syrian armies take part in the coalition, but it is denounced by other Arab countries.

More than a decade later, in 2003, Kuwait serves as a bridgehead for the US-led invasion of Iraq, which leads to the overthrow of Saddam.


#Newsworthy…

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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(When you think it’s over) – U.S launches air raids in Iraq.

…after deadly rocket attack.


The United States has launched a series of air raids in Iraq against several locations of an Iran-backed militia that it blamed for an earlier rocket attack that killed and wounded US and British troops.

Among the facilities attacked late on Thursday was an airport under construction in the holy city of Karbala, an Iraqi airport official confirmed.


Iraq’s military said in a statement that the US air raids hit four locations in the country.

In a statement, the Pentagon said the US conducted “defensive precision strikes” against Kataib Hezbollah facilities across Iraq.


“These weapons-storage facilities include facilities that housed weapons used to target US and coalition troops,” it said.

Separately, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab described the air raids as a “proportionate” response to the rocket attack south of the capital, Baghdad that killed two US troops and a British soldier.


“UK forces are in Iraq with coalition partners to help the country counter terrorist activity and anyone seeking to harm them can expect a strong response,” Raab said in a statement.

NobleReporters, heard that aside from Kataib Hezbollah, other militia groups under the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) were also hit south of Iraq’s capital as well as in Babylon and Karbala.


So far, there have been injuries reported following the attacks, but no confirmation on fatalities, she said.

A US official told The Associated Press news agency news agency that the raids were a joint operation with the British. The officials spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.


Earlier on Thursday, US President Donald Trump gave the Pentagon the authority to respond after a rocket barrage killed two US troops and a British soldier, again raising tensions with Iran after the two countries came to the brink of war earlier this year.

Washington had blamed Kataib Hezbollah for a strike in December that killed a US contractor, leading to a cycle of tit-for-tat confrontations that culminated in the January 3 US assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and a retaliatory Iranian missile attack that left more than 100 US troops with brain injuries.


In the latest rocket attack, responsibility for which has not been claimed, some 14 US-led coalition personnel were also wounded, including US , British, Polish and others. Private industry contractors were among the wounded.

Following the retaliatory attack, Iran warned Trump against taking “dangerous actions”.


“Instead of dangerous actions and baseless accusations, Mr Trump should reconsider the presence and behaviour of his troops in the area,” foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a statement.

N.Rs learnt it remains to be seen how the militia groups will respond to the retaliatory strikes, but added that the latest attacks are likely to once again ignite calls in Iraq for the expulsion of US troops.

She noted that the Popular Mobilisation Forces commanders have already come out to condemn the latest raids “as a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.”

Kataib Hezbollah was one of the Iraqi militia groups that helped defeat the ISIL (ISIS) group.


#Newsworthy…

U.S vs Iran: 3 rockets hit US embassy


Three rockets slammed into the US embassy in Iraq’s capital on Sunday in the first direct hit reported after months of close calls, as thousands of protesters kept up anti-government sit-ins across the country.

The attack marked a dangerous escalation in the spree of rocket attacks in recent months that have targeted the embassy or Iraqi military bases where American troops are deployed.


None of the attacks has been claimed but Washington has repeatedly blamed Iran-backed military factions in Iraq.

On Sunday, one rocket hit an embassy cafeteria at dinner time while two others landed nearby, a security source told media.


A senior Iraqi official told media at least one person was wounded, but it was not immediately clear how serious the injuries were and whether the person was an American national or an Iraqi staff member working at the mission.

The US embassy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


The US State Department called on Iraq late on Sunday to “fulfil its obligations to protect our diplomatic facilities”.

The attack took place earlier in the day than usual, with AFP reporters hearing the booms on the western bank of the river Tigris at precisely 7:30 pm (1630 GMT).


Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi and Speaker of Parliament Mohammed Halbusi both condemned the incident, saying it risked dragging their homeland into war.

Iraq has already been dragged into a worrying tit-for-tat between the United States and Iran over the last month.


A similar attack on a northern Iraqi base killed an American contractor, and the US retaliated with a strike on an Iran-backed faction known as Kataeb Hezbollah.

Less than a week later, a US drone strike killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani outside the Baghdad airport — prompting Iran to fire ballistic missiles at an Iraqi base where US troops are stationed.


‘Only for you, Iraq!’

Some 5,200 Americans are stationed in Iraq to lead the global coalition fighting the Islamic State militant group, but the US strike on Baghdad has rallied top Iraqi figures around a joint call to order them out.

Vehemently anti-American cleric Moqtada Sadr organised a mass rally in Baghdad on Friday, where thousands of his supporters called for American troops to leave.


Sadr had previously backed separate anti-regime protests sweeping Iraq’s capital and south, even though he controls the largest bloc in parliament and top ministerial posts.

Bolstered by his own protest on Friday, Sadr announced he was dropping support for the youth-dominated reform campaign rocking the country since October.


His followers, widely regarded as the best-organised and well-stocked of the anti-government demonstrators, immediately began dismantling their tents and heading home.

Activists feared that without his political cover, authorities would move to crush their movement — and indeed, within hours, riot police tried to storm protest camps.


Those efforts continued into Sunday, with security forces using live rounds and tear gas to try to flush protesters out of squares and streets they had occupied for months.

One protester was shot dead in Baghdad and another in the flashpoint southern city of Nasiriyah, medical sources said, and dozens more were wounded across the country.


In the capital, riot police have tried to clear streets around the main protest camp of Tahrir Square but have yet to enter the symbolic area, where many protesters stood their ground even after tents there were dismantled.

Just after midnight in Nasiriyah, unknown assailants stormed the main protest camp in Habbubi Square and set the tents on fire, the flames lighting up the night sky, NobleReporters learnt


UN hails ‘Iraqi hopes’

Despite the renewed violence, thousands of students flooded the streets in the capital and across the south in a bid to keep national attention focused on their demands.

“Only for you, Iraq!” read a sign held by a young protester in the shrine city of Karbala, hinting at the movement’s insistence on not being affiliated with any political party or outside backer.


In Basra, hundreds of students gathered to condemn the riot police’s dismantling of their main protest camp the previous day, N.Rs culled

The youth-led protests erupted on October 1 in outrage over lack of jobs, poor services and rampant corruption before spiralling into calls for a government overhaul after they were met with violence.

More than 470 people have died, a vast majority of them demonstrators, since the rallies began.

Protesters are now demanding snap elections, the appointment of an independent premier and the prosecution of anyone implicated in corruption or recent bloodshed.


#Newsworthy…

U.S vs Iran: Rockets landed close to US embassy in Baghdad


There are reports that two rockets landed near the US embassy in Baghdad on Monday. The extent of damage is not clear yet. Also not clear was where the rockets came from.

A BBC reporter Nafiseh Kohnavard near the scene confirmed the rockets in a tweet and said alarms were sounded warning people to take cover.


#Breaking

“Rocket attack alarms sounding off multiple times on the #US #Baghdad Embassy Complex and Union III. Heard the booms myself on Union III. Speakers telling all to take shelter immediately.” pic.twitter.com/F1lpbWm9RE

— Nafiseh Kohnavard (@nafisehkBBC) January 20, 2020


In recent times, rockets had targeted some military bases used by the US soldiers, after Iranian missile attacks on 8 January on Al Asad and Erbil air bases. Although the US initially claimed no person was injured or killed, a dew days ago, the Pentagon admitted some injuries to 11 US soldiers.

The US has blamed recent rocket attacks on the Green Zone on Iran-backed paramilitary groups. There has never been a claim of responsibility.

*This is a developing story.


#Newsworthy…

5 countries decide behind Iran


Leaders of Britain, Ukraine, Canada, Sweden, and Afghanistan have demanded compensation from Iran over the shooting down of Ukrainian international airline which caused the death of the 176 victims onboard.

In a joint statement, the five countries issued a five-point plan for cooperation with Iran.


It called for “full and unhindered access” for foreign officials to and within Iran and “a thorough, independent and transparent international investigation”. Iran should “assume full responsibility for the downing of flight PS752 and (recognise) its duties towards the families of the victims and other parties – including compensation”, the statement said, as quoted by Al Jazeera.

Earlier on Thursday during a meeting in London, Canada’s Foreign Minister, Francois-Phillippe Champagne promised to push Iran for answers about the tragedy.


“Families want answers, the international community wants answers, the world is waiting for answers and we will not rest until we get them.”

Champagne was speaking after talks with counterparts from countries whose nationals were among the people killed when the plane was hit.

However, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Abbas Mousavi has warned that countries whose citizens were killed in the incident should avoid turning the plane crash into a political issue, according to ISNA news agency.

Iran had last Saturday admitted that its military downed the plane.


#Newsworthy…

U.S vs Iran: 11 soldiers injured in Iranian missile attack – U.S admit


Although the US military and President Donald Trump had previously maintained there were no casualties in Iranian missile attack on Iraqi air base on 8 January, it has now been revealed that at least 11 American troops were injured.

The revelation was made by the US Central Command on Thursday, .


“While no US service members were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack on al-Asad Air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed,” US Central Command spokesman Captain Bill Urban said in a statement.

At the time of the attack, most of the 1,500 US soldiers at the base had been tucked away in bunkers, after advance warning from superiors.


The strike caused significant material damage but no casualties, according to previous reports from the US military.

US President Donald Trump also said on the morning following the volley that “no American were harmed in last night’s attack.”


However, Urban said that “in the days following the attack, out of an abundance of caution, some service members were transported from al-Asad Air Base.”

“At this time, eight individuals have been transported to Landstuhl, and three have been transported to Camp Arifjan,” he said, referring to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.

In addition to the sprawling Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq, Iran’s missiles also targeted a base in Arbil, housing both American and other foreign troops deployed in a US-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islamic State jihadist group.

“When deemed fit for duty, the service members are expected to return to Iraq following screening,” Urban said.


#Newsworthy…

89years Iraq’s cleric, Ali al-Sistani underwent surgery


Iraq’s most influential cleric Ali al-Sistani, on Thursday, underwent successful surgery on a broken thigh bone, an Iraqi medical source said.

The 89-year-old cleric wields clout in Iraq and his views are closely followed by the country’s politicians.


A team of Iraqi surgeons operated on al-Sistani in Iraq’s southern province of Najaf, the source added.

“He left the operating room a while ago. The operation was successful,’’ the source added without details.


Earlier Thursday, al-Sistani’s office said he had suffered the day before a sprain in the left leg resulting in a fracture in the thigh bone.

Al-Sistani was last seen in public in December when he met with UN envoy to Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert amid pro-reform protests in the country.

Iraq’s most influential cleric Ali al-Sistani


In late November, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi, the target of mass street protests, announced he would step down after al-Sistani called on parliament to stop backing his government.

In recent years, special representatives have been reading out on al-Sistani’s behalf his mosque sermons ahead of the weekly Friday Muslim prayers.


#Newsworthy…

U.S vs Iran: Iraqi Shia Cleric, al-Sadr stage million-man march


Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has asked Iraqis stage a “million-man march” against the continued US military presence in the country, days after the parliament voted to expel the American troops following an assassination operation by Washington on Iraqi soil.

The march was needed “to condemn the American presence and its violations”, Sadr, who leads the largest parliamentary bloc, Sairoon, said in a tweet on Tuesday.

“The skies, land, and sovereignty of Iraq are being violated every day by occupying forces,” he added.


The cleric, however, cautioned that such a show of popular disapproval should be a “peaceful, unified demonstration”, without giving any location or date for the rally, Fars News agency reported.

Sadr in a meeting with leaders of the country’s popular forces on Monday conferred on ways to end the US occupation of Iraq.


On January 5, the parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution calling for the expulsion of all US-led forces, days after the US assassinated Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), or Hashad al-Shabi, five Iranian, and five Iraqi soldiers near the Baghdad airport.

Sadr condemned parliament’s resolution as a “weak response”, stating that the move fell short of an appropriate reaction to recent developments in Iraq and calling on armed groups in Iraq to unite.


Following the parliamentary vote, the office of Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi asked Washington to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad to initiate preparations for the withdrawal of 5200 American troops.

In response, President Donald Trump threatened to sanction Iraq “like they’ve never seen before ever” if Baghdad were to expel US troops.

Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr


Also on Tuesday, the Iraqi military announced that Katyusha rockets have hit an airbase North of the capital Baghdad, which houses the US-led coalition forces. The statement from Iraq’s military added that Camp Taji had been targeted by Katyusha rockets but reported that there were no casualties, with no group claiming responsibility for the attack.

On Sunday, four people were wounded after eight Katyusha rockets were fired at Balad airbase, which houses US personnel about 80 kilometers North of Baghdad.


#Newsworthy…

U.S vs Iran: Iran dismiss Trump’s new deal


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani dismissed a proposal for a new “Trump deal” aimed at resolving a nuclear row.

Rouhani said the new dealt was a “strange” offer and he criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for always breaking promises.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has praised Trump as a great dealmaker, called on Tuesday for the president to replace Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers with his new pact to ensure Tehran does not get an atomic weapon.


Trump said he agreed with Johnson that a “Trump deal” should replace the Iran nuclear deal. In a televised speech, Rouhani told Washington to return to the nuclear pact, which Washington abandoned in 2018.

However, President Rouhani of Iran replied “This Mr. Prime Minister in London, I don’t know how he thinks. He says let’s put aside the nuclear deal and put the Trump plan in action, If you take the wrong step, it will be to your detriment. Pick the right path. The right path is to return to the nuclear deal.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani


Rouhani said Iran could reverse steps that exceeded restrictions in the agreement as soon as sanctions are lifted.

“What we have done is reversible. Whatever we do on the nuclear issue is under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA),” said Rouhani.


#Newsworthy…

U.S vs Iran: Soleimani, son of a bitch! – Trump said


U.S. President Donald Trump has called Qassem Soleimani a “son of a bitch” in his latest round of fierce criticism of the Iranian general he had assassinated earlier this month.

Trump told a rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Tuesday that there were many “young men and women walking around without arms and without legs” because of Soleimani.

“Great percentages of people don’t have legs right now and arms because of this son of a bitch,” Trump said, adding that “he should have been killed 20 years ago.”


Trump was this week forced to defend the targeted killing of Soleimani after critics questioned the “imminent” nature of the threat the president said justified the move.

Washington credits the general with orchestrating the killing of hundreds of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.


Trump’s administration has also been criticised over conflicting statements on the rationale behind the killing. Defence Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday said he never saw evidence that Iran was planning an attack on four U.S. embassies, as Trump had claimed two days earlier.

Republicans have used the strike on Soleimani to defend Trump as taking action against enemies while Democrats try to remove him from office as impeachment proceedings move forward.

Qassem Soleimani (lt.)


Iran retaliated against the Soleimani attack by firing ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces.

No one was harmed in the strikes and Trump has since ordered additional sanctions on Iran, instead of striking back, in what has been taken as a de-escalation of tensions.


#Newsworthy…

We will punish those responsible for Ukraine’s plane crash – Iran


Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said the downing of the Ukrainian plane that crashed in Tehran is an “unforgivable error” and “all those involved will be punished.”

In a televised speech on Tuesday, Hassan Rouhani also added that the “tragic event” would be investigated thoroughly, claiming “one person cannot be solely responsible for the crash”.


“There are others, too, and I want that this issue is expressed honestly,” he said, without elaborating.

He continued: “Iranian armed forces admitting their mistake is a good first step. We should assure people that it will not happen again” – but said his government was “accountable to Iranian and other nations who lost lives”.


He also ordered for a special court to be set up to investigate, with a “ranking judge and dozens of experts”.

“This is not an ordinary case” – he said.”The entire the world will be watching this court”.

Iran’s judiciary spokesman, Gholamhossein Esmaili, also confirmed that some people have been arrested for their role in the incident on Wednesday.

This comes after Ukraine demanded that Iran punish those guilty for the shooting of the Ukrainian airliner and compensate victims after they admitted they accidentally downed the Ukraine International Airlines plane, killing all 176 people.


#Newsworthy…

U.S called on Iran to apologise

…for arresting UK ambassador


The United States called Saturday on Iran to apologize for detaining the British ambassador to Tehran, reportedly during protests against the regime.

“This violates the Vienna Convention, which the regime has a notorious history of violating. We call on the regime to formally apologize to the UK for violating his rights and to respect the rights of all diplomats,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus tweeted.


#Newsworthy…

Buhari, others mourn Qaboos death


Nigeria’s leader, President Muhammadu Buhari has described the death of Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said of Oman as “a great loss not only to his country, but also the entire humanity”.

The loss, he said, was because of the Sultan’s record as a peace maker and tireless mediator for peace in the troubled Middle East.

Reacting to the death of the longest reigning ruler in the Middle East on Sunday in Abuja, President Buhari said “the promotion of peace is one of the most important contributions we can make for humanity, and I am pleased that the late Sultan Qaboos dedicated his life to this worthy cause.”

Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said


President Buhari explained that, “apart from his contributions to peace in the Middle East, the late Omani ruler had also transformed his once poor country into a modern state. His record was so remarkable that he would be remembered for years to come.

“Let me use this opportunity to extend my condolences to the government and people of Oman as well as the family of the deceased. May his soul rest in peace. May Allah grant him paradise and reward his good deeds. May Allah grant his family the fortitude to bear this great loss”, the President concluded.


#Newsworthy…

Iran summon Rob over anti-government protests


British ambassador to Tehran Rob Macaire: summoned by Iranian authorities

Iran has summoned the ambassador of the United Kingdom to the country, Rob Macaire over anti-government protests in the country.

Macaire on Saturday was briefly detained by the authorities after being found at the University of during a protest that broke out after Iranian admission it mistakenly brought down a Ukrainian plane bound for Kiev.


#Newsworthy..

Protesters flood Iran over Ukraine’s plane crash


Protests were reported late Saturday in several parts of the Iranian capital Tehran over the shooting down of the Ukrainian passenger plane by the Iranian military, according to Iranian media.

Hundreds of people took part in Saturday night protest rallies outside Tehran, Amir Kabir and Sharif, according to news agencies IRNA and Isna.


They criticised both the shooting down and the day-long denials by Iranian authorities and the media.

According to Isna, some demonstrators outside Amir Kabir University called for those responsible for the downing of the airliner to resign.


Thousands of Iranians posted a black page on social media as a sign of their grief and as a protest against the government.

For them, the shooting down of the passenger plane does irreparable damage to Iran’s image.


After days of vehement denials, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on Saturday admitted it mistakenly shot down a Ukraine International Airlines passenger plane outside Tehran this week, killing all 176 people on board, including 57 Canadians.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday voiced support for anti-government protests in Iran just days after the two countries stepped back from an escalated military conflict.


“We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage.

“The government of Iran must allow human rights groups to monitor and report facts from the ground on the ongoing protests by the Iranian people,” Trump said in a tweet.


“There can not be another massacre of peaceful protesters, nor an internet shutdown. The world is watching,” he added.

Among those taking part in the demonstrations was the UK ambassador, who was reportedly detained briefly.


In London, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused Iran of a “flagrant violation of international law” after it briefly detained the British ambassador during anti-government protests on Saturday in Teheran.

“The arrest of our ambassador in Teheran without grounds or explanation is a flagrant violation of international law,” Raab said in a statement after reports that ambassador Rob Macaire was detained for more than one hour.

“The Iranian government is at a crossroads moment.

“It can continue its march towards pariah status with all the political and economic isolation that entails, or take steps to de-escalate tensions and engage in a diplomatic path forwards,” he added


#Newsworthy…

Britain reject Iran’s plea to arrest Envoy Rob

…says it’s flagrant violation of international law


Britain’s Foreign Office has denounced the arrest of the country’s ambassador in Tehran as a “flagrant violation of international law”.

Earlier, the Tehran-based Tasnim news agency reported that British envoy Rob Macaire was arrested for several hours in front of Amir Kabir University for inciting anti-government protesters.


“The arrest of our Ambassador in Tehran without grounds or explanation is a flagrant violation of international law,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

“The Iranian government is at a cross-roads moment. It can continue its march towards pariah status with all the political and economic isolation that entails, or take steps to de-escalate tensions and engage in a diplomatic path forwards,” Raab said.


#Newsworthy…

U.S vs Iran: Trump warns against students massacre


US President Donald Trump warn Iranian leaders against attempting the massacre of protesting students or shutting down the internet.

He said the United States was monitoring Iranian demonstrations closely after protests broke out on the heels of Tehran admission it shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane, in error.


Iran said it unintentionally downed a Ukrainian jetliner outside Tehran, killing all 176 people aboard, in an abrupt about-turn after initially denying Western claims it was struck by a missile. The firing came shortly after Iran launched missiles at bases in Iraq housing American forces.

President Hassan Rouhani said a military probe into the tragedy had found “missiles fired due to human error” brought down the Boeing 737, calling it an “unforgivable mistake.”

Iranian students demonstrate in in front of Amir Kabir University in Tehran on January 11

At a student protest to pay tribute to the crash victims on Saturday, Iranian authorities briefly detained Britain’s ambassador, in what the British government called a violation of international law. He was later released.


Trump told Iranians — in tweets in both English and Farsi — that he stands by them and is monitoring the demonstrations.

“To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I’ve stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you,” he tweeted.


“There can not be another massacre of peaceful protesters, nor an internet shutdown. The world is watching,” he added, apparently referring to an Iranian crackdown on street protests that broke out in November.

“We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage,” he said.

US President Donald Trump


The new demonstrations follow an Iranian crackdown on street protests that broke out in November. Amnesty International has said it left more than 300 people dead.

Internet access was reportedly cut off in multiple Iranian provinces ahead of memorials planned a month after the protests.


#Newsworthy…

Iran saddened, says shooting down Ukraine’s plane was a mistake


Iran said on Saturday its armed forces “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet that crashed after taking off from Tehran, killing all 176 people aboard.

President Hassan Rouhani said a military investigation had found “missiles fired due to human error” brought down the Boeing 737 on Wednesday, calling it an “unforgivable mistake”.

The about-turn came after officials in Iran had categorically denied Western claims that the Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) airliner had been struck by a missile in a catastrophic error.


The plane, which had been bound for Kiev, slammed into a field shortly after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport before dawn on Wednesday.

It came only hours after Iran’s armed forces launched a wave of missiles at bases hosting American forces in Iraq in response to the killing of Qasem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top generals, in a US drone strike.


Iran had come under mounting pressure to allow a “credible” investigation after video footage emerged appearing to show the plane being hit by a fast-moving object before a flash appears.

The Ukrainian and Canadian leaders called for accountability after Iran’s admission.


The armed forces were first to acknowledge the error, saying the Boeing 737 had been mistaken for a “hostile plane” at a time when enemy threats were at the highest level.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake,” Rouhani said on Twitter.


“Armed Forces’ internal investigation has concluded that regrettably, missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane & death of 176 innocent people.”

Iran ‘Saddened’
In a statement posted on the government’s website, Rouhani said Iran’s armed forces had been on alert for possible attacks by the Americans after the “martyrdom” of Soleimani.


“Iran is very much saddened by this catastrophic mistake and I, on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran, express my deep condolences to the families of victims of this painful catastrophe,” he said.

Rouhani added he had ordered “all relevant bodies to take all necessary actions (to ensure) compensation” to the families of those killed.


“This painful incident is not an issue that can be overcome easily.”

He said, “the perpetrators of this unforgivable mistake will be prosecuted”.


“It is necessary to take necessary steps and measures to remove the weak points of the country’s defence systems so that such a catastrophe is never repeated again.”

The majority of passengers on UIA Flight PS752 were dual national Iranian-Canadians but also included Ukrainians, Afghans, Britons, and Swedes.


Demands For Justice
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded Saturday that Iran punish those responsible for the downing of the plane and pay compensation.

“We expect Iran… to bring the guilty to the courts,” the Ukrainian leader wrote on Facebook.


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said closure and accountability were needed in the wake of the incident.

Trudeau also demanded “transparency and justice for the families and loved ones of the victims”.


“This is a national tragedy, and all Canadians are mourning together,” his office said in a statement.

The disaster came as tensions soared in the region after the Soleimani killing, and fears grew of an all-out war between Iran and its arch-enemy the United States.


Washington said the Soleimani strike was carried out to prevent “imminent”, large-scale attacks on American embassies.

Tehran had vowed, “severe revenge” for the killing of Soleimani before launching missiles at the bases in Iraq.


“Human error at the time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted.

“Our profound regrets, apologies, and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.”


Iran has invited the United States, Ukraine, Canada, and others to join the crash investigation.

It is Iran’s worst civil aviation disaster since 1988 when the US military said it shot down an Iran Airplane over the Gulf by mistake, killing all 290 people on board.


Video footage of the UIA 737, which The New York Times said it had verified, emerged and appeared to show the moment the airliner was hit.

A fast-moving object is seen rising at an angle into the sky before a bright flash appears, which dims and then continues moving forward. Several seconds later, an explosion is heard and the sky lights up.

Many airlines from around the world canceled flights to and from Iran in the wake of the crash or rerouted flights away from Iranian airspace.

Nations around the world have called for restraint and de-escalation, and fears of a full-blown conflict have subsided after US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that Iran appeared to be standing down after targeting the US bases in Iraq.


#Newsworthy…