Tag Archives: Iraq

MEPs condemn Erdogan “blackmail”

Greek officials said that in 24 hours between March 2 and March 3 morning hours, 5,183 people were prevented from entering the country,  45 people were detained they added. (Image: social media).

On March 3 morning, two men — one from Mali and one from Afghanistan — were arrested by Greek agents shortly after crossing the border, and loaded into a van with about 20 more people, from Somalia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Iraq, the Associated Press reported.

The new flow of migrants attempting to illegally enter Europe comes days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced his country was easing restrictions on those wishing to cross the border to leave Turkey.

Erdogan said his country, which has more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, is unable to cope with a new wave and demands Europe’s “support”.

“It’s done, the gates are open,” Erdogan said March 2 in a TV announcement. “You will have your share of this burden now, ” adding that Europe could expect “millions” of migrants and refugees from now onward.

We strongly condemn the cynical blackmail by Turkish President Erdogan with the lives of people. The European border to Greece is not open and sending people there is dangerous and irresponsible. What happens at the border is fully Turkey‘s responsibility”  wrote in his Twitter micro blog Manfred Weber, the leader of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) in the European Parliament.

EU focus on counter-terrorism in Iraq

The Minister of foreign affairs discussed the latest developments in Iraq. The diplomats have been assessing the consequences of the recent escalation of tension and major security incidents in Iraq and its impact on the entire the region. They also considered the impact of these developments on the international coalition engaged in the fight against Da’esh.

Ministers have exchanged views on possible ways to de-escalate tensions both in the short and long term.

Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO, invited to the Council has assessed the discussion with Foreign Ministers as important.

He expressed the opinion of a profound need to continue to support Iraq, fighting  international terrorism, and stay united in face of the threat.

NATO Stoltenberg participates in EU Council

On Friday, 10 January 2020, the NATO Secretary General, Mr. Jens Stoltenberg will attend the Extraordinary Meeting of the European Union Foreign Affairs Council, NATO announced via the site of the organisation.

They also informed a transcript of the Secretary General’s remarks, will be available on the NATO website following the event.

“Sharing strategic interests and facing the same challenges, NATO and the European Union cooperate on issues of common interest and are working side by side in crisis management, capability development and political consultations, as well as providing support to their common partners in the east and south. The EU is a unique and essential partner for NATO. The two organisations share a majority of members, have common values and face similar threats and challenges.

NATO and the EU currently have 22 member countries in common.

Both NATO and the EU are engaged in combating terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). They have exchanged information on their activities in the field of protection of civilian populations against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks.

Iraqi Parliament voted January 5 to obligate Iraq’s government “to work towards ending the presence of all foreign troops on Iraqi soil,” according to the media office of the Iraqi Parliament.

NATO announced on that it had suspended its training mission, which fields 500 instructors.

The NATO official said other mission personnel were being moved to other parts of Iraq, and emphasised that “NATO maintains a presence”.

The alliance plans to resume its training there “when the situation permits”.

The US was “disappointed” in Iraq’s actions Sunday, a US State Department spokeswoman said.

EU attempts to reanimate JCPoA

The the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell convened an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council on January 10, to discuss with the 28 EU Foreign Ministers the crisis situation in Iraq and Libya, concluding a common EU strategy.

The EU diplomacy underlines its vital interest to promote peace and stability in the Middle East and Maghreb.

However Josep Borrell underlines that the situation in Libya remains a priority for the European Union and that an immediate cessation of hostilities and a sustainable ceasefire on the ground would be crucial for regional and European security.

Ahead of the meeting Charles Michel (pictured), the EU Council president, called Iranian authorities to comply with the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPoA) during a phone conversation with President Hassan Rouhani, and afterwards he urged the EU to opt for a more ambitious foreign policy.

Just spoke with Hassan Rouhani about recent developments. JCPOA remains crucial for global security. I called Iran not to pose irreversible acts,” Michel tweeted.

Amid the U.S.-Iran crisis Teheran announced that it was renouncing its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), that was designed for non-proliferation of the nuclear weapons.

The Ministers have to clarify their policies vis-a-vis Iraq, where parliament voted for the expulsion of the American military. During his conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi the EU head of diplomacy reaffirmed the European “unwavering support to Iraqi sovereignty and stability in the region”. He also reconfirmed the urgent need for de-escalation and EU’s readiness to support Iraq in fighting Da’esh and engage in regional dialogue.

NATO suspends training in Iraq

NATO Ambassadors met on 6 January 2019 in Brussels headquaters to address current tensions in the Middle East and implications for NATO’s training mission in Iraq.

“…Allies expressed their strong support for the fight against ISIS and for the NATO mission in Iraq. In everything that we do, the safety of our personnel is paramount. As such, we have temporarily suspended our training on the ground,” – Jens Stolenberg said.

Allies called for restraint and de-escalation. A new conflict would be in no one’s interest. So Iran must refrain from further violence and provocation” he added.

Speaking after the meeting of NATO’s North Atlantic Council, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that the safety of NATO’s personnel in Iraq is paramount and that the Alliance had temporarily suspended training activities on the ground. He added that NATO was prepared to continue training and capacity-building when the situation permits, emphasizing that the Alliance remains strongly committed to the fight against international terrorism, namely Daech in Middle East.

Borrell calls for extraordinary Council

The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell has called for an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council with the Member States on Friday afternoon, 10 January, to discuss recent developments in Iraq and Iran.
“EU will play its full role to seek de-escalation of tensions in the region”, Borrell wrote on his Twitter micro blog.

Initially the Council of Foreign Affairs was scheduled on 20 January 2020.

Soleimani: lethal record & impact

MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor after the US-Qataris airstrike in Baghdad, described top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani as a “terrorist mastermind who operated without constraint”. 

Soleimani made it his life’s work to take the Iranian revolutionary call for death to America and death to Israel and turned them into action. But this terrorist mastermind was not just a threat to the United States and Israel. For more than a decade, he masterminded Iran’s malevolent and destabilizing work throughout the entire Middle East,” the Kentucky Republican said. Any imbalance in the security of the Middle East will also negatively affect the global economy, in particular for U.S., Europe, Russia, and China all having security interests in the region, and their respective levels of influence will change over time. The relationship between Qasem Soleimani and Iranian militias such as “Hezbollah” and the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) as terrorist forces in which Iran threatens the countries in the region are well known. 

Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) is an Iranian-sponsored, anti-American Shiite militia operating in Iraq with ancillary operations throughout Syria. During the U.S.-led war in Iraq that began in 2003, KH earned a reputation for planting deadly roadside bombs and using improvised rocket-assisted mortars (IRAMs) to attack U.S. and coalition forces. According to U.S. diplomat Ali Khedery, KH is responsible for “some of the most lethal attacks against U.S. and coalition forces throughout the U.S.-led war in Iraq. The group’s deceased leader, Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi—also known by his alias Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes—was the alleged mastermind behind the U.S. and French embassy bombings in Kuwait in 1983 and the assassination attempt on Kuwait’s emir in 1985. The group is also suspected of involvement in extrajudicial killings and abductions in Iraq’s Anbar province, including the May 27, 2016, abduction of more than 70 Sunni boys and men from al-Sijir, and the murder of 49 men from Saqlawiyah.”

According to Counter Terrorism Program, the group has gained exclusive control over the Jurf as-Sakr area west of Baghdad where it prevents displaced Sunni residents from returning and operates private prisons. In August 2019, Washington Institute for Near East Policy fellow Michael Knights assessed that KH posed the greatest threat to U.S. interests in the country.

The Daily Mail published the last photos of the head of the elite Quds Force meeting Hezbollah‘s secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut. Iranian media released the images, which are understood to have been taken last week, showing the friendship between the two as Soleimani prayed behind Nasrallah. According to the U.S. Department of State, KH is “a radical Shia Islamist group with an anti-Western establishment and jihadist ideology.” The group is virulently anti-American and ideologically loyal to the Iranian regime and supported by other terroristic organizations like Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his deepest condolences for the killing of Soleimani, who was behind the killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Syrians, and Americans.

The funeral of the Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was also attended by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, his deputy Salah al-Aruri and the leader of Islamic Jihad Ziad Nakhale. To confirm the aid provided by Iran to the Palestinian militias, Haniyeh said: “The resistance project in the land of Palestine and in the Region will not be weakened or receded. The raid has the only result of infusing us with new strength for the liberation of Jerusalem. Qasem Soleimani has dedicated his life to resistance and is a martyr to al-Quds”, the Arabic name for Jerusalem. “The resistance has emerged victorious in Lebanon and Gaza and will be right about the Zionist project”. It’s also reported by Gaza’s media that Haniyeh will be received by Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei. 

According to the U.S. government, Hezbollah is primarily funded by the government of Iran and, specifically, Iran’s IRGC-Quds Force. In November 2014, wounded U.S. military veterans and family members of deceased U.S. soldiers filed a lawsuit against European banks for processing money from Tehran that bankrolled terrorist attacks in Iraq. According to the lawsuit, KH allegedly received money from Iran to finance terrorist attacks against U.S. soldiers. Syrians who fight in KH’s Syrian branch also receive their salaries directly from Iran.

 The group has also reportedly secured funding through kidnap-and-ransom operations, reportedly taking hostage more than two dozen people in December 2015, including Qatari royals, and releasing the hostages more than a year later in exchange for a large pay-out. In April 2017, Qatari officials arrived in Baghdad carrying a bag with “millions of dollars” in ransom money, destined to Hezbollah and other Islamist groups, including Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an umbrella group that includes the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. Documents released in April 2018 revealed that the Qatari officials had paid $25 million of a $150 million ransom to Soleimani and Hezbollah in 2017. Regarding the Iran-Qatar relations, it is important to emphasize that Doha is revealing confidential information from al-Udeid’s U.S. military base, endangering the lives of hundreds of American citizens, who may become targets for an expected Iranian revenge.

Iraq: Borrell calls for restraint

“The current cycle of violence in Iraq must be stopped before it spirals out of control. The EU calls on all the actors involved and on those partners who can have an influence to exercise maximum restraint and show responsibility in this crucial moment. Another crisis risks jeopardizing years of efforts to stabilise Iraq. Furthermore, the ongoing escalation threatens the whole region, which has suffered immensely and whose populations deserve life in peace” says the statement of the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell (Pictured).

“More dialogue and efforts to enhance mutual understanding are necessary to offer long term solutions to the stabilisation of the Middle East. The EU stands ready to continue its engagement with all sides in order to contribute to defusing tensions and reverse the dynamics of the conflict.”

AMENDED:

Josep Borrell wrote on his Twitter page that he spoke with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif about recent developments in Iraq, underlining the need for de-escalation of tensions, to exercise restraint and avoid further escalation. The diplomats have also discussed importance of preserving JCPOA, which remains “crucial for global security“.

I am committed to role as coordinator” Borrell confirmed.

Iraq milita protests at US Embassyш

Reportedly the protesters, among which the majority are the militia fighters, enraged by U.S. air strikes on Iraq staged a violent demonstration outside the American Embassy in Baghdad at New Year eve, setting ablaze a security post and hurling stones as security forces. The embassy guards retaliated with stun grenades and tear gas.

Iraqi officials said the ambassador, the diplomats and the staff had been evacuated, but this could not be confirmed with American officials, according to Reuters news agency.

In Washington, President Trump accused Iran of orchestrating the violence and underlining that Tehran would be held responsible.

AMENDED: Image source social media.

Space as NATO “operational domain”

‘Two weeks from now, NATO leaders will meet in London. Together, we will mark our Alliance’s seventieth anniversary. And look to the future” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meetings of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

‘Tomorrow, Foreign Ministers will finalize our preparations for the London meeting. This leaders’ meeting is timely. Not least because questions are being asked about the strength of the transatlantic relationship. There are indeed differences among Allies on a range of different issues. Such as trade, climate, the Iran nuclear deal. And more recently, the situation in North East Syria. But differences and doubts among Allies are not new. Despite them, NATO has only grown stronger over the last seventy years. And we continue to provide security for almost 1 billion people.     

“In fact, Europe and North America are doing more together in NATO today than we have for decades. We are strengthening our deterrence and defence, with more forces at higher readiness. Stepping up our response against cyber attacks and hybrid threats. And playing a key role in the fight against international terrorism, including with training missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Because ultimately, being part of a strong transatlantic Alliance is in the national interest of each and every one of our countries.  Everything we do must be underpinned by fair burden sharing. We are now in the fifth consecutive year of rising defence spending across European Allies and Canada. With more than $100 billion extra invested in defence. This is unprecedented progress. And we are determined to keep up the momentum.

“In a fast-changing world, NATO continues to adapt to face strategic challenges. And tomorrow, we will take another important step. I expect ministers will agree to recognize space as an operational domain, alongside air, land, sea, and cyber. Space is essential to the Alliance’s defence and deterrence. For early warning, communication and navigation.

“Around 2,000 satellites currently orbit the Earth. Around half are owned by NATO countries. So recognising space as an operational domain will be a clear sign that we continue to strengthen our deterrence and defence in all areas. Our approach will remain defensive and fully in line with international law. NATO has no intention to put weapons in space. But we need to ensure our missions and operations have the right support.

We will also address a range of other issues. Including NATO’s role in the fight against terrorism. Our training missions in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to play an important role in preventing the resurgence of ISIS and other terrorist groups.

“Our work to counter hybrid threats will also be on the agenda. Allies are stepping up, including with new baseline requirements for resilient telecommunications, including 5G. And our first counter-hybrid support team is in Montenegro this week.  We will also discuss other strategic issues, including Russia the implications of the rise of China, the future of arms control, and energy security.”

“NATO is the only forum that brings nations from Europe and North America together, to address strategic security challenges NATO remains the only guarantor of European and transatlantic security. And it is the responsibility of each of us to maintain and strengthen our unity. In order to ensure credible deterrence and defence for all of us.” 

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