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Category Archives: Middle East

Iraqi Kurdish referendum: Why international powers fear independence vote could derail fight against Isis

The Kurdish leadership is coming under intense international pressure to postpone the referendum on independence due to take place in Kurdish-controlled parts of northern Iraq on 25 September.

Outside powers see the poll as destabilising Iraq and neighbouring countries at the very moment when Isis and its self-declared caliphate are being defeated. But Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, who called the referendum, says he intends to go ahead with it and it would be a humiliating failure for him to back down at this late stage, having rekindled the fires of Kurdish nationalism so successfully.

“Barzani and his advisers do not take the threats from Iran and Turkey seriously, saying that they have heard them all before and nothing happened,” says the veteran Kurdish leader Omar Sheikhmous. He adds: “I hope they are right.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iraqi-kurdish-independence-referendum-preview-isis-krg-vote-a7955936.html

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Posted by on September 20, 2017 in Middle East

 

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Syrian civilians brace for humanitarian disaster in a final confrontation between Isis and Assad

SIX YEARS AFTER REVOLT first broke out in cities and villages across Syria, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has rolled back the fractious opposition to its rule and regained control of almost every major population center in the country — except one, the northwestern province of Idlib.

Once famous for its olive groves and archaeological ruins, Idlib is now the last redoubt of Islamist opposition to Assad. The capital, Idlib City, has been under Islamist control since 2015, and today the two million people living in the province — many of them refugees from other parts of the country – could be caught up in a disastrous final confrontation between jihadists and the Assad regime.

https://theintercept.com/2017/08/22/syrian-civilians-brace-for-humanitarian-disaster-of-a-final-confrontation-between-assad-and-jihadists/

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2017 in Middle East

 

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Isis is stepping up its attention-grabbing atrocities to counterbalance its defeat in Iraq and Syria, where the vast majority of terror victims are

Isis is the most likely inspiration for the bomb explosion on the tube train at Parsons Green station. The attempted mass killing is similar to the attacks in Barcelona, Manchester and London earlier this year in that it aimed to murder the maximum number of civilians in the most public way possible.

Isis is stepping up its attention-grabbing atrocities to counterbalance its defeats on the battlefields in Iraq and Syria. It aims to show strength, instil fear and dominate the news agenda at a time when it has lost the savage nine-month-long struggle for Mosul in Iraq and is being defeated in the battle for its last big urban centres in Deir Ezzor and Raqqa in Syria. The caliphate that Isis declared after its capture of Mosul in 2014, once the size of Great Britain, is today reduced to a few embattled enclaves in the deserts of eastern Syria and western Iraq.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/isis-parsons-green-bomb-iraq-syria-a7949336.html

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2017 in Europe, Middle East

 

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If Nikki Haley doesn’t drop her nonsensical pro-Israeli propaganda line at the UN, she could cause real problems for Lebanon

Under a broiling hot midday sun on the south Lebanese-Israeli border this summer, an extraordinary and very angry meeting took place between two major generals: the 60-year-old Irish UN force commander in Lebanon and the 54-year-old deputy chief of staff of the Israeli army. Listening to them was the ambitious, pro-Israeli – but very inexperienced – US ambassador to the United Nations. The row between the two men appears to have been pre-planned by the Israelis to impress the highly impressionable Nikki Haley. It worked.

Haley had been helicoptered up to the border from Jerusalem on 8 June by Israeli General Aviv Kochavi for a tour regularly laid on for visiting – and gullible – US officials: a walk to the Lebanese frontier wire with many a fearful warning from the Israelis about Hezbollah “terrorists”, “secret” Hezbollah missile bunkers in UN-controlled territory and the failure of UN troops to “disarm” the “terrorists” in Lebanon. This is a familiar horror story, trotted out for American and other Western diplomats and politicians over more than 30 years.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/nikki-haley-donald-trump-united-nations-un-lebanon-hezbollah-islamist-fighters-war-a7946226.html

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2017 in Middle East, North America

 

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Allegations that three Qataris were ‘tortured’ by UAE officials will put the UK at the centre of an inter-Arab squabble

The Metropolitan Police in London will in a few hours’ time find themselves involved in the Gulf crisis when UK lawyers for three prominent Qataris submit their evidence of alleged torture and illegal imprisonment for which they blame up to 10 senior officials of the United Arab Emirates – including a cabinet minister and a high-ranking security adviser.

Human Rights lawyer Rodney Dixon QC will hand the Met details of alleged beatings, torture and illegal imprisonment of the three Qataris, one of them close to the head of Qatar’s own State Security Service, under the terms of the 1988 Criminal Justice Act – which allows British police to investigate and arrest foreign nationals entering the UK if they are suspected of war crimes, torture or hostage-taking anywhere in the world.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/metropolitan-police-torture-illegal-imprisonment-united-arab-emirates-qatar-saudi-arabia-a7941506.html

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2017 in Europe, Middle East

 

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The West might hardly believe it, but it now seems the Syrian war is ending – and Assad is the victor

A message came through from Syria on my mobile phone last week. “General Khadour kept his promise,” it read. I knew what it meant.

Five years ago, I met Mohamed Khadour, who was commanding a few Syrian soldiers in a small suburb of Aleppo, under fire from Islamist fighters in the east of the city. At the time, he showed me his map. He’d recapture these streets in 11 days, he said.

And then in July this year, I met Khadour again, far out in the east of the Syrian desert. He was, he said, going to enter the besieged city of Deir ez-Zor before the end of August. I reminded him, a trifle cruelly, that the last time he told me he’d recapture part of Aleppo in 11 days, it took the Syrian army more than four years to retake. That was long ago, he said. In those days, the army had not learned to fight in a guerrilla war. The army were trained to retake Golan and defend Damascus. But they had learned now.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syrian-war-ending-bashar-al-assad-won-robert-fisk-syria-middle-east-israel-british-troops-a7933966.html

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2017 in Middle East

 

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When did protest against the Assad government turn to war in Syria?

When Nikolaos van Dam was a young diplomat in Damascus, he knew Syria better than many Syrians. A fluent speaker of Arabic, this Dutch scholar’s first book on Syria’s modern history was so well researched that even members of the Baath party would reportedly turn to its pages to understand the history of their institution and the nature of the regime for which they worked.

Precise, polite, his analysis as cool and lethal as a sword, Van Dam also possesses a cynical – perhaps sarcastic – attitude towards the diplomatic elite that other officials might secretly admire. “It is better to do nothing than to do the wrong thing with terrible results,” he told me a few days ago. “But Western democracies feel they have to do something … If there had not been any Western influence, there would have been a tenth of the violence, the country would not be in rubble, so many would not have died, you would not have had so many refugees.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-civil-war-rebellion-isis-assad-western-intervention-arms-a7921526.html

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2017 in Middle East

 

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While defeat of Isis dominates global attention, al-Qaeda strengthens in Syria

Al-Qaeda is creating its most powerful stronghold ever in north-west Syria at a time when world attention is almost entirely focused on the impending defeat of Isis in the east of the country. It has established full control of Idlib province and of a vital Syrian-Turkish border crossing since July. “Idlib Province is the largest al-Qaeda safe haven since 9/11,” says Brett McGurk, the senior US envoy to the international coalition fighting Isis.

The al-Qaeda-linked movement, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which used to be called Jabhat al-Nusra, has long been the most powerful rebel group in western Syria. After the capture of east Aleppo by the Syrian army last December, it moved to eliminate its rivals in Idlib, including its powerful former Turkish-backed ally Ahrar al-Sham. HTS is estimated to have 30,000 experienced fighters whose numbers will grow as it integrates brigades from other defeated rebel groups and recruits young men from the camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have sought refuge in Idlib from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-defeat-al-quaeda-syria-grow-global-attention-islamist-terrorists-jihadis-un-us-west-iraq-raqqa-a7932881.html

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2017 in Middle East

 

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The Sordid Double Life of Washington’s Most Powerful Ambassador

The women were brought into the Abu Dhabi apartment in abayas.“Pick who you want,” the men were told, and she would be theirs until noon the next day.Roman Paschal recalled about seven women to choose from. They dropped their long cloaks, he said, revealing “nightclub clothes” underneath. He picked a woman who turned out to be from Romania.Paschal had been flown to the United Arab Emirates by his friend Yousef Al Otaiba, in whose apartment they were gathered. It was the winter of 2003-2004, and Otaiba was a rising star in the UAE, though still a few years away from becoming the nation’s ambassador to the United States.He had recently befriended Otaiba at a Washington, D.C., strip club, quickly becoming a charter member of a tightknit crew that the Emirati once affectionately referred to as “team ‘Alpha.’” This was Paschal’s introduction to the high-flying life Otaiba led. And it wouldn’t be his last. For four years, he partied with Otaiba in Washington, New York, Los Angeles, and Abu Dhabi, with Otaiba footing the eye-popping bills.Paschal dropped out of the group of friends in 2007, but the lifestyle from their days together would eventually collide with Otaiba’s public life. In 2008, Otaiba hired an original member of his partying crew, his college buddy Byron Fogan, to run a personal foundation with millions of dollars in UAE funding. He also arranged for Fogan to be simultaneously employed by the embassy as a legal adviser, and by the Washington public relations firm, The Harbour Group, working on behalf of the UAE.

Source: The Sordid Double Life of Washington’s Most Powerful Ambassador

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2017 in Middle East

 

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Endtimes in Mosul

On 22 May, Ahmed Mohsen, an unemployed taxi driver, left his house in the Islamic State-controlled western part of Mosul to try to escape across the Tigris to the government-held eastern side of the city. He and his mother, along with ten other people, carried rubber tyres down to the river: most of them couldn’t swim, and they planned to tie them together to make a raft. The siege of Mosul was in its seventh month and Ahmed was both desperate and starving: he and his mother were living on handfuls of wheat they cooked, though he said it made him feel sick. His friends believe that lack of food made him light-headed and led him to risk crossing the river. ‘Even if I die in the river,’ he told them, ‘it will be better than living here.’

IS snipers were shooting people who tried to leave. Their commanders calculated that holding the civilian population hostage, as human shields, would deter Iraqi government troops and the US-led coalition air forces from using the full extent of their firepower. This strategy had worked, to an extent, during the siege of east Mosul, which began on 17 October; it was three months before that part of the city was captured. But by the time the assault on west Mosul began on 19 February there was little sign of Iraqi or American restraint. As the bombardment intensified, the only plausible escape route for Ahmed was across the Tigris between the Fifth and Sixth Bridges, both of which had been put out of action by coalition airstrikes. He had already seen IS snipers kill three people who’d tried to cross and his luck was no better: a sniper shot him in the back and killed him, along with nine other members of his party, before they had even put their tyres in the water. Only one man, a good swimmer, got across to the other side. According to people living in houses overlooking the riverbank, Ahmed’s mother stayed beside his body for three days. Nobody dared to go to help her because they were afraid of being shot; on the third day, they say, they could no longer see her or the body of her son. They were probably thrown into the river, like hundreds of others.

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n16/patrick-cockburn/endtimes-in-mosul

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2017 in Middle East

 

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