Iraq’s striking students defiant amid unrelenting protests

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL-JAZEERA NEWS)

 

 

Iraq’s striking students defiant amid unrelenting protests

Despite pressure to return to classes, strikers say they will not stop until anti-gov’t protesters’ demands are met.

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Iraq's striking students defiant amid unrelenting protests
Tiba, 23,says she believes the school strikes will force politicians to make concessions to protesters [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

Baghdad, Iraq – Tiba says she decided to boycott her university classes the moment she learned that her friend Amer had been killed during clashes with Iraqi security forces.

The pair first met in October in Tahrir Square, the capital’s main site for anti-government demonstrations which have continued for two months. Amer told her that he was protesting on behalf of his brother, who had died in clashes with security forces. Days later, Tiba received news that her new friend had joined a growing list of Iraqi lives cut short during the protests.

“When I saw his picture among the martyrs, I knew I had to do something for my country,” said Tiba, a 23-year-old engineering student at Baghdad University. “The best thing I could do was go on strike,” she added.

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For two months, protesters have taken to the streets in Baghdad and towns and cities across the mostly Shia south to demand jobs, basic services and an end to corruption. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has since quit and now leads a caretaker government with limited powers, but the grassroots movement wants a complete overhaul of the political system before new elections are held. More than 400 people have been killed and thousands of others wounded in clashes with security forces.

Since October 25, university and school students across Baghdad and Iraq’s south have defied the government and gone on strike to support protesters’ demands.

The students believe the walkout is a potent tool to pressure politicians to act on the protesters’ demands.

“If we keep it up, the government will have to respond,” says Tiba. “Our university campuses have been literally empty for weeks. This can’t go on forever.”

‘No future’

For Hussein, an 18-year-old medical student at the University of Mustansiriya, taking part in the protests is his only hope for a better future.

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“There are barely any jobs out there, even if you’re a university graduate,” he told Al Jazeera. “So, what’s the point of going to class now and then being unemployed a few years later.”

Instead of attending university, Hussein helps organise weekly rallies at the ministry of education, attends the protests at Tahrir Square and participates in campaigns to encourage the sale of local products.

“We do everything from cleaning the streets and painting the walls in Tahrir to holding protests at our university gates to encourage people to join in,” he said, adding that the strikes would continue despite the prime minister’s decision to step down.

“Abdul Mahdi’s resignation means nothing. He’s just a tool in the hands of the corrupt political parties,” said Hussein.

“We’re continuing our strike until the electoral law changes. Unless that happens, our main ask for a complete overhaul of the political system can’t be achieved.”

While university students say the ministry of education has done little to force them back to classes, university professors say strong measures have been taken against faculty members who choose to go on strike.

According to Fayez Abdel Hamid, who teaches medicine at the University of Baghdad, Iraq’s public universities received communication from the ministry of education to ensure staff were attending their jobs.

“Deans were given orders to pass on the names of professors who have been on strike and to deduct money from their salaries as punishment,” he said.

Zaid Shafik, an IT professor at al-Nahrain University, says while he has been forced by his university to prove his attendance, he continues to join the protests.

“After I sign the register in the morning, I head to Tahrir with the students,” he told Al Jazeera. “It’s our right to protest, and we’ll continue to do so no matter the measures taken against us.”

Dhamiaa al-Rubaei, spokesperson for the ministry of education, said students and teachers had been given space to protest.

“We’ve only been encouraging students to attend classes for the sake of their own futures,” she told Al Jazeera.

“With regards to lecturers, they have been mostly attending their classes even if some support students on strike.”

Iraq education story
University campuses in Baghdad and parts of southern Iraq have become empty as thousands of students continue to boycott classes and join protests in Tahrir Square instead [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

Schools participate

Most of those boycotting classes have been university-level students but school teachers and students have also taken part.

After the Iraqi teachers’ syndicate called for a nationwide strike from October 28 to November 7 to mark the beginning of school walkouts, most schools in Baghdad and Iraq’s southern provinces shut their doors, according to the syndicate’s secretary-general Odai Essawi.

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“During the official strike, we saw 100 percent adherence at most schools across Baghdad and the south,” he told Al Jazeera.

Essawi claimed that when the education ministry tried to end the strike by threatening to blame the syndicate for any measures it takes against striking teachers, the body fought back.

“We warned the ministry of education that we would stand up to it. Protesting and expressing our opinions are human rights,” he told Al Jazeera.

Despite the challenges, Essawi says 50 to 75 percent of school students in Baghdad and the south were on partial strike or attended protests after school hours.

The ministry of higher education has warned that if university students continue to strike it may cancel spring break, while the army has warned it would detain administrators who keep schools shut as part of its fight against “terror”.

The threat forced many schools to resume classes, while some set exam schedules in an attempt to force students to return to class.

Omar al-Mukhtar High School in Baghdad, which took part in the strike for more than a week, officially resumed classes after security forces visited the school.

“The whole school, teachers and students, were on strike. Many of us would even go to Tahrir together,” Abbas Tamimi, the school’s headteacher, told Al Jazeera.

“But intelligence staff threatened to take measures if we don’t resume classes,” said Tamimi, adding that 80 percent of students attended classes after he set an exam schedule.

Iraq education story
Headteacher Abbas al-Tamimi says the government has taken measures against schools to ensure that teachers and students attend classes [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

Ali, an 18-year-old student at the school told Al Jazeera that while he had not prepared for the exams, he decided to end his boycott to avoid possible repercussions.

“I boycotted classes for a whole month to show my support for those who died for us,” Ali told Al Jazeera.

“But I had to come back when exams were set. I was worried my name would be sent to the ministry or that I’d be suspended from school altogether,” he added.

Tamimi said that while he has to enforce some rules, he remains lenient towards students who don’t show up.

“We won’t take any measures against students who don’t attend. But people [from the intelligence] do come asking for the register, so we have to maintain some level of adherence,” explained Tamimi.

“But as soon as we finish school hours, students and teachers go to Tahrir hand in hand,” he added.

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Oil-rich but powerless: Who can solve Iraq’s electricity crisis?

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

Iraq protests death toll rises to 300 with nearly 15,000 injured

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Iraq protests death toll rises to 300 with nearly 15,000 injured

Protesters try to scale walls of Iranian consulate
Protesters try to scale walls of Iranian consulate 02:08

Baghdad (CNN)At least 301 people have been killed and nearly 15,000 have been injured in Iraq since the start of anti-government protests in October, the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq (IHCHR) said in a statement Saturday.

The higher death toll includes two people who were killed Friday in the southern city of Basra during violent protests, the IHCR said. Basra is an oil-rich city located some 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Iraq’s capital Baghdad.
Another 100 people were wounded in Basra as Iraqi security forces used teargas and live bullets.
Iraqi demonstrators gather in al-Khalani square in central Baghdad on November 9.

Protests erupted in Baghdad and in several Shiite provinces in the south over unemployment, government corruption and the lack of basic services — such as electricity and clean water.
Many Iraqis blame the current political parties in power for their economic hardship and the scale of the protests, believed to be the biggest since the fall of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003, took the government by surprise.
Following the deadly response from Iraqi security forces, demonstrators are calling for early elections and demanding that the government step down.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi agreed to resign on October 31 after weeks of anti-government protests.
In a televised speech to the nation on Iraq’s Al-Iraqiya TV, President Barham Salih said Abdul Mahdi had agreed to step down on the condition that a successor is agreed to replace him.
“The Prime Minister has agreed to resign,” Salih said, adding that Abdul Mahdi had asked “political blocs to reach an acceptable alternative” in order “to prevent a vacuum.”
Officials have attempted to regain control with the use of lethal force, while also imposing curfews and internet blackouts. The government said it only shoots when attacked, but demonstrators have disputed that.

‘We Pray For The Caliphate To Return’: ISIS Families Crowd Into Syrian Camps

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

‘We Pray For The Caliphate To Return’: ISIS Families Crowd Into Syrian Camps

LISTEN·5:30QUEUE

Women carry children near the al-Hol camp in Syria’s Kurdish-majority region of Rojava. The camp is filled with more than 72,000 people — most of them women and children who came out of the last ISIS-held territory.

Jane Arraf/NPR

The women huddle for shelter from the rain under a corrugated iron roof, their long black cloaks dragging in the mud as they wait in line for food and pray for the return of the ISIS caliphate.

The squalid al-Hol camp, in the Kurdish-majority region of Syria known as Rojava, is filled with more than 72,000 people — most of them women and children who came out of the last piece of ISIS-held territory in Baghouz.

They include thousands of Iraqis and Syrians who believe they will usher in a new caliphate. And they pose a risk to the Iraqi government, seeking to repatriate the Iraqis, and to Syrian Kurdish authorities, having nowhere to send the Syrians.

“This is injustice — we pray for the caliphate to return,” says one of the women, who says this is the third day they have been turned away from promised cartons of food. Everything is in short supply here.

“If it weren’t for the airstrikes on our tents and camps killing our children,” she says, “we would not have left the caliphate.” All refuse to give their names.

All of the women are completely covered in long black cloaks, with only a slit for their eyes. A few have covered even their eyes.

“Convert, convert!” a group of women and girls shout at me, urging me to recite the shahada, the Muslim profession of faith: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his messenger.”

“If you became Muslim and cover like us and became a member of our religion, you would not be killed” in the ISIS caliphate, one woman tells me.

To the world, to the governments it threatened and the hundreds of thousands it killed in Iraq and Syria, ISIS was one of the most brutal organizations known.

To its followers — who number in the tens of thousands and escaped the fall of the last ISIS territory in Syria with their beliefs intact — ISIS could do no wrong.

In their caliphate, they say there was justice. There was no bribery or corruption or wasta — the influence-peddling at the heart of most countries in the region.

“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and any shepherd were on the same level,” says an Iraqi boy, referring to the ISIS leader now believed to be in hiding.

They say when there was food in the caliphate, it was distributed. Here at the camp, they say they come every day to be humiliated and told there’s nothing for them.

Malnourished infants have died due to lack of shelter and medical care in the camp in this breakaway region of Syria, according to the World Health Organization and other aid groups. With the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, the Rojava region now faces an uncertain future.

The women in the camp believe its harsh conditions are deliberate — part of what they believe to be a continuing war against Muslims around the world.

They say everything under ISIS was what God wanted.

“Of course there were beheadings — why should I lie?” says a Syrian woman. “It’s based on the Quran and the rules of God.”

Asked about the Yazidi minority, which ISIS targeted with a campaign of genocide, the women shout: “Devil worshippers!”

Misconceptions about the ancient Yazidi religion have led to dozens of massacres over the centuries. When ISIS took over a third of Iraq in 2014, thousands of Yazidis were killed or captured as sex slaves.

Women and children wait for distribution of food at the al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria. Most are family members of ISIS fighters, viewed by the region’s Kurdish Syrian leadership as a potential danger. Iraq says it wants to bring back 30,000 of its citizens to place in Iraqi camps, but few are willing to return.

Jane Arraf/NPR

“If they don’t convert to Islam and they don’t become Muslim like us and worship God, then they deserve it,” an Iraqi woman says.

This camp, they complain, is full of infidels. There is music. Male and female guards wear tight clothing and smoke cigarettes. They say the men harass women.

They insist that everything was better in what they call al-dawla — the state.

“There, a woman would walk with her head held high and a man would lower his eyes,” a Syrian woman says. “Here, it’s the opposite.”

The region’s Kurdish Syrian leadership views the large numbers of radicalized women and children as a continued danger.

“The women and children who have been raised on the mentality of ISIS and terrorism need to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into their communities,” says Abdulkarim Omar, a foreign relations official in the Kurdish region of northeast Syria. “Otherwise, they will be the foundations of future terrorism.”

But there is little money or political will for reintegrating ISIS families in either Iraq or Syria.

At a smaller camp run by the Kurdish Syrian forces, ISIS wives from Western countries are exposed to lectures about how ISIS is not Islam and what ISIS did to Yazidis and other women.

But there are no similar programs at al-Hol camp for Syrian and Iraqi ISIS families — and there are very few in Iraq.

“Any official who goes for an hour and speaks to them can’t change anything — are you a prophet that they would believe in you?” says Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi counterterrorism expert in Baghdad.

“We have proposed [deradicalization] programs in the past, but no one has implemented them,” says Ali Abbas Jahaker, a deputy director at Iraq’s Ministry of Migration. Jahaker says the Iraqi government plans to repatriate 30,000 Iraqi women and children over three months but will not force the families to return against their will.

In Syria, camp officials say so far, fewer than 1,000 Iraqis have indicated they want to go home.

The women at al-Hol say they are there because ISIS leader Baghdadi told them to escape to save their children.

“This is the next generation of the caliphate,” one of the women says. “If you talk to them, they have the true creed implanted in their minds. The true creed will remain.”

And in fact, it’s a girl from the Iraqi city of Tikrit who is among the most fervent in the group. She appears to be 11 or 12.

On judgment day, the girl tells us, God will pour molten metal in the ears of those who listen to music.

“The ones who are not covered, now I ask God in the next life to light the fires of hell with their hair!” she declares.

She says she went to school under ISIS — what she calls a proper school, with boys and girls segregated — and vows she won’t go to school again until the caliphate returns.

They all believe it’s just a matter of time.

Awadh al-Taee contributed reporting from Baghdad.

7.2 magnitude earthquake jolts Iran-Iraq border area

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWS AGENCY ‘DAWN’)

 

A magnitude 7.2 earthquake shook Iraq on Sunday, authorities said, without causing any casualties or major damage in the country or in neighboring Iran and Turkey where it was also felt.

The temblor was centred 32 kilometres southwest of Halabja, near the northeastern border with Iran, the US Geological Survey said.

It struck the mountainous area of Sulaimaniyah province at 9:18 pm (local time) at a depth of 33.9 kilometres (21 miles), the monitor said.

It was felt for about 20 seconds in Baghdad, and sometimes for longer in other provinces of Iraq, AFP journalists said.

In the province of Sulaimaniyah, located in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, residents ran out onto the streets at the time of the quake and some minor property damage was recorded, an AFP reporter said.

In Iran, the ISNA news agency said that the earthquake was felt in several cities in the west of the country including Tabriz.

In southeastern Turkey, the earthquake was felt “from Malatya to Van”, an AFP correspondent said. In the town of Diyarbakir, residents also left their homes before returning.

Saudi-Iraqi Joint Statement: Opening Border Crossings, Developing Ports and Roads  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Saudi-Iraqi Joint Statement: Opening Border Crossings, Developing Ports and Roads

Monday, 23 October, 2017 – 07:15
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman he speaks with Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi in Riyadh on October 22, 2017. Saudi Press Agency via Reuters
Riyadh – Asharq Al-Awsat

Saudi-Iraqi ties have entered a new stage of cooperation and coordination in which the two countries signed on Sunday a minutes of establishing a Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council (SICC).

The first meeting of the council was convened and it resulted in an agreement to open border crossings and develop ports, roads and border areas. They also agreed to review an agreement on customs cooperation and study bilateral trade.

The council expressed its satisfaction with the state of the oil market following an agreement between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producers. The SICC stressed the importance of participants’ full commitment to the agreement until its target is achieved.

“The Council was briefed on the results of the Kingdom’s participation in the Baghdad International Fair, which was a great contribution to economic and trade relations. The Saudi side also noted the level of welcome and hospitality enjoyed by the Saudi delegation from reception to departure,” a statement said.

They also agreed to develop private sector partnerships, inform businessmen of trade and investment opportunities and encourage the exchange of technical and scientific expertise and research.

The Iraqi side thanked the Kingdom for its initiative in studying the implementation of customs ports, which will facilitate bilateral trade.

The SICC announced the resumption of flights from the Kingdom to Iraq, the opening of a Saudi Consulate there, and the reopening of Saudi chemical manufacturing company SABIC’s office in Iraq.

In addition, it was agreed that Saudi Arabia will participate in exhibitions in Iraq, including the Baghdad International Fair, the Basra Oil and Gas Exhibition, and the Business and Investment Forum.

During the SICC’s first meeting, the two parties discussed its priorities for the next two years, implementation of its work and the formation of a working group. Its second meeting will be held in Iraq’s capital Baghdad in the presence of ministers and senior officials from both countries.

 

Looks Like ISIS Leader al-Baghdadi Is Still Alive

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

(CNN)The leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, seems to have broken his 11-month silence with a long audio message in which he mocks the United States, calls on jihadis to rally against the Syrian regime and insists that ISIS ‘remains’ despite its rapid loss of territory.

A spokesman with the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence told CNN: “We are aware of the audio tape purported to be of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and are taking steps to examine it. While we have no reason to doubt its authenticity, we do not have verification at this point.”
The speech seems to have been recorded relatively recently, as it references North Korean nuclear threats against Japan and the United States, as well as Syrian peace talks — in which Russia, Turkey and Iran are trying to extend ceasefires across Syria.
The release appears to lay to rest claims by the Russian military that they had almost certainly killed Baghdadi in an airstrike near Raqqa on May 28. US officials say ISIS has largely been forced out of Raqqa as well as Mosul, and Baghdadi may be somewhere in the middle Euphrates River Valley.
That is an area that straddles Syria’s border with Iraq, to which much of the group’s leadership is thought to have relocated earlier this year.
A spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting ISIS said they were not aware of the audio recording. “This is the first I’ve heard about it,” US Army Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters Thursday at the Pentagon by teleconference from Baghdad.
Dillon later added “without verifiable evidence of his death we have continued to assume he’s alive.” Dillon said he was “sure our people” are looking at the recording, and if there is any information in the recording as to his location “we may have folks moving in right now.”
In his 46-minute message, Baghdadi urged fighters (“the mujahideen”) to persevere, and to show that the bloodshed in Mosul, Raqqa and elsewhere was not in vain “by clashing the shining swords and shedding filthy blood.”
He appealed for jihadi attacks worldwide, claiming that “America, Europe and Russia are living in a state of terror,” according to a translation provided by the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks jihadi groups. Baghdadi also rallied Sunni Muslims against the Shia, saying that they would never accept “half-solutions” — especially after all the destruction and the gains they’ve made. This appears to be a reference to Iran’s growing reach across the region.
Scholar Hassan Hassan, who has written a book about the rise of ISIS, said in a tweet that a key theme of Baghdadi’s speech was that he sees ISIS’s fight as a “ceaseless war of attrition to deplete enemies.” In that regard, Baghdadi claims the US decision not to send ground troops to Syria as vindication of ISIS’s strategy. (In fact, the United States has several hundred combat troops in Syria.)
Baghdadi says the US suffers from fatigue and Russia has taken control of the Syria situation. Baghdadi also echoes the message of another ISIS leader, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, who declared that holding territory mattered less than the will to fight. Adnani was killed in 2016.
In his speech, Baghdadi says that the prophet had not told his companions when or how Islam would be victorious, “so that they don’t make victory or defeat dependent upon losing territory or some of the believers being killed.”
Both US and Russian air power, as well as a variety of ground forces, are active in the area, but ISIS still holds some towns on the Euphrates.

Iraq, Syria and the Kurdish Fingerprint

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

Iraq, Syria and the Kurdish Fingerprint

We reap what we sow. Many countries did not pay attention to the fact that maps need constant maintenance to prevent them from aging and rotting, and that relations between entities should be continuously repaired as well.

The first condition of maintenance is to prioritize the notion of citizenship and to build a state that deserves to be called as such; which means a state of law and institutions, a state that guarantees equal rights and duties.

Discrimination against citizens creates a hole in the map; a hole that allows the infiltration of winds and foreign influence. The ruler believes that power can silence the people forever. He has forgotten that the balance of power can be distorted and twisted and that the oppressed can grab any opportunity to take revenge. Grievances can make them jump out of the map.

The ruler commits a fatal error when he gives power the last say and when he refuses to listen to people’s complaints or demands. He believes that he has an endless ability to silence them and that fear can make the wounded and the disadvantaged forget their injuries and the injustice against them.

The worst scenario of all is when the ruler regards a group of citizens as a foreign body that was planted by destiny inside the map, and when he believes that the solution is to abolish the features of this group, separate it from its heritage, weaken its language and force it to gradually relinquish its identity.

The call for holding an independence referendum in Iraq’s Kurdistan region on September 25 has ignited the Kurdish issue. Baghdad opposed the call. Iran rejected it. Ankara saw it as a huge mistake. The reactions of those parties are not surprising. Countries that have scattered Kurds across their maps following World War I, including Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, can disagree over anything but on the necessity to abort the Kurdish dream of having an independent state.

Masoud Barzani is aware of this truth. It is clear that the referendum will not lead to immediate measures. Lessons have taught Barzani to differentiate between dreams and illusions. He understands that rushing to completely leave the Iraqi entity could make the province an easy prey for major players in the region.

It is widely believed that Barzani is hopeless over the future of Iraq as a whole, especially in the wake of the ongoing rivalries between the Sunni and Shiite entities.

However, Barzani knows well that reviewing the borders involves major risks unless it is achieved under an international umbrella that sponsors a process of such size and nature.

ISIS’ invasion of Mosul has accelerated the dismantling of the Iraqi entity. It has intensified conflicts between the Sunnis and the Shiites. It has also increased the distance between Erbil and Baghdad.

ISIS attempted to invade the Kurdish province to fortify its presence in its mountains and take advantage of its location on the border of three countries. The Kurds engaged in a fierce battle to defend their region. They paid heavy prices. The Kurdish leader has once again concluded that the Sykes-Picot entities are artificial and not endlessly viable. He considered that “new maps are drawn with blood.”

Barzani knows that a Kurdish state in northern Iraq is a quasi-impossible dream. Yet, perhaps he is trying to consolidate the right to independence, even if it was not possible to be achieved in the near future. Some people believe that he is ready to accept a less-than-a-divorce formula. A formula that is based on confederate states that would save Erbil and Baghdad from being entangled in complex relations.

However, such formula needs a dance partner. It needs a realistic partner in Baghdad. Without the presence of such collaborator, Baghdad might be pushed towards a new conflict following the fall of ISIS: a conflict that can be triggered in “disputed areas”, beginning with Kirkuk. Some people do not exclude an upcoming confrontation between the Peshmerga and the Popular Mobilization Forces, with all the consequences that may imply on the Iraqi and regional levels.

While talking about Iraq, one should not neglect the deep transformations taking place in Syria. Syria’s Kurds today are different from those who were living there six years ago when the war broke out. Syria’s Kurds did not rush to engage in the country’s uprising. They took the role of spectators and were preparing for the worst. ISIS’ insistence to target their areas has offered them several opportunities. Their victory in Kobani has given them a much longed-for legitimacy. The Democratic Union Party, led by Saleh Muslim, succeeded in militarizing a society that felt threatened.

It was widely believed at the beginning that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has not cut its relations with the regime, and that the latter was able to manipulate it at the right time to suit its own interests. Nonetheless, the Kurds proved to be coherent forces at a time when the Syrian opposition was being struck on several sides. Syria’s Kurds have found a major role in fighting ISIS. They received training and arms. Washington was betting on their role, despite Erdogan’s anger and warnings.

It is true that the Turkish Army succeeded in preventing geographic communication between Kurdish areas, but this did not keep the YPG from changing the landscape in several Syrian regions.

Saleh Muslim says that the Syrian regime has practically collapsed. He means the single-party regime. He also says that it was impossible to revert to the pre-war situation in 2011. He notes that the Kurds will live in self-administered zones. The role of the Syrian Democratic Forces in Raqqa reinforces the belief that the Kurds will not have a marginal role.

In the past century, maps were sketched on the detriment of the Kurds. It looked like they were confined inside the borders. Abstaining from treating the Kurds with equity while preserving our maps has led us to the explosion.

It is clear that the Kurdish fingerprint will be seen when drawing the future of Iraq and Syria, which raises the fears of Turkey and Iran.

Ghassan Charbel

Ghassan Charbel

Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

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Jordan Army Shoots Dead 5 For Approaching Border Near Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Jordan Army Shoots Dead 5 for Approaching Border near Syria

Jordan

The Jordanian army announced on Sunday that its forces shot dead five people who were approaching their position from the Syrian side of the border.

The border guards killed the individuals who were coming from Tanf, a Syrian desert town where US special forces training rebels are based.

The Jordanian army said it destroyed a car and two motorbikes in the incident.

The army statement did not give any details of the identity of the men and whether they were smugglers or militants in the area where Jordan’s northeastern borders meet both Iraq and Syria.

The statement however said that before the shooting, a convoy of nine cars had approached from the Tanf area but fled after the army fired warning shots.

The town has been a flashpoint in recent weeks as militias backed by Iran have tried to get near the US garrison, prompting US coalition jets to strike back.

Tanf lies near the strategic Damascus-Baghdad highway that was once a major weapons supply route for Iranian weapons into Syria.

ISIS militants launched a suicide attack last April on the heavily defended base in which the Pentagon said an estimated 20-30 ISIS fighters were involved. US jets bombed the militants in the hit and run attack.

Staunch US ally Jordan has also been threatened by the militants.

Moscow on Wednesday condemned the US-led coalition strike on pro-regime fighters in Tanf as an “act of aggression” that targeted the most effective forces battling “terrorists” in the war-torn country.

“It was an act of aggression which breaches the territorial sovereignty of Syria and intentionally or not targeted those forces that are the most effective in fighting the terrorists on the ground,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

The US-led coalition on Tuesday said it had destroyed a unit of pro-regime forces in Syria as they advanced near an area where coalition commandos have been training and advising rebels.

A group of about 60 pro-regime forces moved into the area with a tank, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons and armed technical vehicles, the coalition said in a statement. They posed a threat to the coalition forces at the Tanf Garrison, it added.

The assault marks the second time in less than a month that coalition forces have attacked pro-regime forces as they headed toward the garrison inside a supposed “deconfliction zone” claimed by the US.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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Sadr Delegation Holds Talks with Kurdistan Leadership

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Middle East

Sadr Delegation Holds Talks with Kurdistan Leadership

Sadr

Headed by Ahmed al-Sadr, son of the movement’s leader Moqtada, the delegation was welcomed in Irbil by President Masoud al-Barzani.

The president’s media officer Kifah Mahmoud told Asharq Al-Awsat that the two sides discussed the political situation in Iraq and the ongoing war against ISIS in the city of Mosul.

They also tackled the post-ISIS phase, especially in Iraq, he revealed.

The Sadr delegation said that they are making preparations for the upcoming elections, he said.

Meanwhile, Kirkuk governor Najm Eddine Karim announced that Baghdad is not offering any aid to the city.

He told reporters during a celebration in honor of Kurdish journalism: “There are over half a million refugees in Kirkuk, including 30,000 families that have fled al-Huweija district.”

“This is posing a major burden on the city and the residents are sharing medicine, water, electricity and other services with these refugees. Their patience will not last long,” he warned.

He therefore demanded that Baghdad work on allowing the displaced to return to the liberated areas “as soon as possible.”

“The delay in liberating al-Huweija does not serve Kirkuk or Iraq,” Karim said.

He said that Baghdad’s aid to refugees in Kirkuk is so slim that it is bordering on nonexistent, urging the Iraqi government and Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to seriously address Kirkuk’s demands.

“Everyone in Baghdad and anywhere else should know that the residents of Kirkuk will not accept this attitude,” he warned.

CIA: Saddam Hussein Should Have Been Left In Power In Iraq

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Saddam Hussein should have been left to run Iraq, says CIA officer who interrogated him

December 16 at 12:44 PM

Both President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump believe the United States never should have invaded Iraq in 2o03 (or, at least, Trump claims he now does). The war in Iraq and its chaotic aftermath in many ways prefigure the present moment in the Middle East; it triggered a sectarian unraveling that now haunts both Iraq and Syria and looms large in the minds of an Obama administration wary of further intervention in the region’s conflicts.

In a new book coming out this month, John Nixon, a former CIA officer who interrogated Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein after he was captured by coalition forces in December 2003, details his encounter with the toppled despot and the varied discussions that followed. Early on, Hussein warned that the occupation of Iraq wouldn’t be as much of a “cakewalk” as Washington’s neoconservatives assumed at the time. From an excerpt published on Time magazine’s website:

When I interrogated Saddam, he told me: “You are going to fail. You are going to find that it is not so easy to govern Iraq.” When I told him I was curious why he felt that way, he replied: “You are going to fail in Iraq because you do not know the language, the history, and you do not understand the Arab mind.”

Nixon now reckons Hussein had a point and that a ruthless strongman like him was necessary to “maintain Iraq’s multi-ethnic state” and keep both Sunni extremism and the power of Shiite-led Iran, a Hussein foe, at bay.

“Saddam’s leadership style and penchant for brutality were among the many faults of his regime, but he could be ruthlessly decisive when he felt his power base was threatened, and it is far from certain that his regime would have been overthrown by a movement of popular discontent,” he wrote. “Likewise, it is improbable that a group like ISIS would have been able to enjoy the kind of success under his repressive regime that they have had under the Shia-led Baghdad government.” (ISIS is another name for the Islamic State.)

This may all be rather true. Trump himself insists that regime change should no longer be in Washington’s interest and has embraced dictatorial leaders such as Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi.

“Although I found Saddam to be thoroughly unlikeable, I came away with a grudging respect for how he was able to maintain the Iraqi nation as a whole for as long as he did,” wrote Nixon. “He told me once, ‘Before me, there was only bickering and arguing. I ended all that and made people agree!'”

Many Arab commentators, though, reject the simplicity of the assumptions here — that if not ruled by tyrants, their nations would automatically turn into breeding grounds for militancy. That’s a logic, after all, that serves the autocrats. Moreover, there’s a direct connection between the heavy-handed policies of the region’s autocrats and the conditions that spawn extremism and deepen sectarian animosities. Pluralistic, multi-ethnic societies have been the norm, not the exception, for centuries.

Diana Qeblawi

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