Iraq’s Sadr to form government of technocrats in Iraq

Leader of Iraq’s Sadrist Movement, Moqtada Al-Sadr

Iraqi Shia cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr called for a government of technocrats.

Al- Sadr’s remarks came after preliminary results revealed that his cross-sectarian coalition, Sairon appeared in the lead in Iraq’s parliamentary elections, meaning that the coalition will have the opportunity to form the next government.

The parliamentary elections which took place on Saturday, are the first after defeating the Daesh and the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 .

According to Transparency International Iraq has been one of the world’s most corrupt countries for the past few years.

Read: Democracy has taken a leap forward in Iraq

(Source / 17.05.2018)

Iraq impose tight measures on Palestine refugees

At the Iraqi and Jordan border, a family of Palestinians can be seen outside their make shift home

Iraqi authorities have stepped up tight measures against Palestinian refugees in Iraq likely to push them out of the country, Palestinian rights activists told Quds Press yesterday.

The activists, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that the Iraqi authorities have arrested or kidnapped between 35 Palestinian refugees on “terror charges” in order not to leave room for anyone to mediate their release.

According to Quds Press, the source noted a number of legal measures taken against Palestinian refugees including cuts to pensions.

“This plan is likely an introduction to depriving the Palestinian refugee worker from his right to a pension,” the activist said.

He also noted that if a Palestinian refugee travels for a period of more than three months, he must apply for a visa to return.

Read: Palestine envoy to Iraq denies changes to Palestinian rights

“These measures came amidst deportation of tens of Palestinian families to Western countries, including the UK,” the activists said, noting that about 50 Palestinian refugee families have arrived in the UK so far.

The activists said that the situation is complicated as there is no party to defend them, even the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.

Approximately 34,000 Palestinian refugees lived in Iraq, mainly in the capital Baghdad. Since the 2003 American invasion, Palestinian refugees have been subjected to violence and subjugation.

There is no precise numbers for the Palestinian refugees currently in the country, but some sources said that they are roughly 3,000 scattered across Baghdad.

(Source / 02.05.2018)

FAO: Iraq lost 40% of its agricultural production

Iraqis start reconstruction of their buildings after Mosul completely freed from Daesh in Mosul on 10 July, 2017 [Yunus Keleş/ Anadolu Agency]

Iraqis start the reconstruction of their buildings after Mosul completely freed from Daesh in Mosul on 10 July, 2017

Iraq has lost 40 per cent of its agricultural produce as a result of its war against Daesh, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said yesterday.

“There are 12 million Iraqis; almost a third of the country’s population who reside in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods,” the organisation said in a statement at the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq.

“Restoring the crucial agriculture sector that has been severely damaged by ISIL’s takeover of vast areas of Iraq is critical to the country’s recovery from years of conflict and to its long-term prosperity,” it added, using another acronym for Daesh.

Read: The reconstruction of Iraq is no longer a priority for the US

Violence in the past few years forced farmers in northern and north-western parts of Iraq to abandon their farms, destroying or damaging harvests.

“Infrastructure such as water supply for drinking and agricultural production was damaged or destroyed. Agricultural equipment, seeds, crops, stored harvests and livestock were looted.”

According to the statement, the FAO has set up a large-scale programme to help rehabilitate irrigation systems and veterinary services to help 1.6 million people living in these areas by 2018.

The lack of rainfall this season has further damaged the agricultural sector with the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture predicting a loss of up to 30 per cent of the wheat and barley crops due to drought.

(Source / 14.02.2018)

Iraq’s wanted list includes Saddam’s daughter but not Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi

Raghad Saddam Hussein, the eldest daughter of former President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein

Iraq has issued a wanted list that has been met with raised eyebrows. It includes the daughter of Saddam Hussain but omits the leader of Daesh, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

The list, seen by AFP, includes the name of the eldest daughter of the late Iraqi leader, Raghad, who lives in Jordan. It also features 28 suspected Daesh fighters, 12 from Al-Qaeda and 20 from the Baath party.

Arab news sources reported that a senior security official refused to explain the reasons for the absence of Al-Baghdadi, saying that the list included “the most wanted for the Iraqi judiciary”.

All those wanted are said to be Iraqis, with the exception of one Lebanese national; former Secretary-General of the Arab National Congress, Maan Bashour, accused of recruiting fighters to “participate in terrorist activities” inside the country.

Many former officers within Saddam Hussain’s regime are on the wanted list. Saddam Hussein Hamoud Al-Jubouri and Mahmoud Ibrahim Al-Mashhadani, a former officer under Saddam Hussein, are both on the list. Fawaz Mohammed Al-Mutlaq, a former member of Saddam’s Fedayeen Brigade and part of the military junta of the state and three of his sons are also on the list.

Others are said to be among the most prominent leaders of Al-Qaeda. The name of the military leader in Kirkuk, Ahmed Khalil Hassan, and Abdul Nasser Al-Janabi, Mufti and financier of the organisation in the area of ​​Jarf Al-Sakhr south of Baghdad, have also been included on the list.

Read: What you need to know about the post-Daesh battle for the Mideast

(Source / 05.02.2018)

ISIS Regroups in Kirkuk as Questions Surround Iran’s Plans


Erbil – Although Iraqi forces are close to ending the battle to liberate Mosul and eliminating ISIS militarily in Iraq, some areas in the Kirkuk province, Hamrin Basin and the outskirts of the Tuz Khurmatu district have recently witnessed intense ISIS movements.

The terrorists’ numbers have increased dramatically despite the presence of Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) military bases not far from these areas, raising questions about Tehran’s plans in the region.

“The Iranian regime wants to disrupt the referendum process on the independence of Kurdistan through ISIS’s control over Kirkuk,” Kurdish security sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The referendum is due to be held in September and the Kurdish leadership wants it to take place in disputed areas, like Kirkuk.

Sources added that Iran wants Kirkuk to be controlled by the Popular Mobilization Forces under the pretext of liberating it from ISIS. They noted that Iranian ambassador to Iraq Irj Musjidi, who is one of the leaders of Guards’ Quds Force, is supervising the implementation of the plan.

For his part, commander of the military wing of the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK) in Iran Hussein Yazdan Banna told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Iranian regime, through the IRGC and Musjidi, is overseeing the implementation of a plan by ISIS in the district of Hawija, a province of Kirkuk that is under the control of the terrorists.

The plan, Banna said, is to launch a large-scale attack on Kirkuk and occupy it or occupying a strategic area close to it to give the Popular Mobilization Forces an excuse to mobilize and send large numbers of its armed forces to Kirkuk under the pretext of liberating and protecting it.

This will achieve the Iranian goal of separating Kirkuk from Kurdistan, preventing it from participating in the referendum and disrupting the referendum altogether.

Banna pointed out that Hawija, Hamrin Basin and the Tuz Khurmatu district on the western and southern sides of the province of Kirkuk, have been witnessing intense movements by ISIS, which launched in the past weeks many attacks on Peshmerga forces positions.

(Source / 26.06.2017)

UN: More than 1,000 children killed in Iraq in 3 years

Iraqi children are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance due to the ongoing violence in Iraq

Three years after violence in Iraq intensified, 1,075 children have been killed, including 152 in the first six months of 2017, UNICEF said yesterday.

“Since 2014, in Iraq, 1,130 children have been maimed and injured, 255 in the first six months of 2017, over 4,650 children have become separated or unaccompanied by their families,” according to the agency’s assessment detailed in a new report, Nowhere to Go.

There have been 138 attacks on schools and 58 on hospitals; more than three million children do not attend school on a regular basis while 1.2 million children are out of school and, one in every four children comes from a poor household, UNICEF said.

In Iraq, children are trapped in an endless cycle of violence and increasing poverty

the children’s agency said, while noting the conflict has displaced 3 million people – half of them children.

Read: Mosul’s displaced are malnourished and weak

“In west Mosul, children are being deliberately targeted and killed to punish families and deter them from fleeing the violence. In less than two months, at least 23 children have been killed and 123 have been injured in that part of the city alone,” UNICEF said.

The agency said more than five million children are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

“Across Iraq, children continue to witness sheer horror and unimaginable violence,” UNICEF’s Representative in Iraq, Peter Hawkins, said in a statement. “They have been killed, injured, abducted and forced to shoot and kill in one of the most brutal wars in recent history.”

Iraq has been roiled by violence since Daesh seized vast swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq in 2014.

Iraqi forces, backed by air cover from a US-led coalition, are currently engaged in a wide-scale offensive aimed at dislodging Daesh from Mosul, the terrorist group’s last stronghold in northern Iraq.

(Source / 23.06.2017)

Moqtada Sadr to Dissociate his Military Arm


Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr delivers a sermon to worshippers during Friday prayers at the Kufa mosque near Najaf, Iraq September 23, 2016

Baghdad- “Iraqi Cleric and Leader of Sadrist Movement Moqtada al-Sadr is expected to announce the dissociation of Saraya al-Salam, the military arm of his bloc, during his speech infront of his followers in Baghdad on Friday,” an official in the Sadrist Movement told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He added that the aim of Sadr step is to halt a potential riot called the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and to support the government as well as to reveal bona fide towards the post-ISIS phase.

Saraya al-Salam is part of the joint armed factions in the war against ISIS and is located in Saladin and Samarra. Sadr announced forming it on June 10 2014 after ISIS seized wide space of Iraqi territories.

Back then, he said that its mission was to protect the sacred places in Iraq including mosques, churches, places of worship and shrines. The group consists of up to 40,000 fighters and around 6,000 of them are affiliated to the Popular Mobilization Forces.

Expectations of Sadr announcing dissociating Saraya al-Salam comply with what was previously announced by him on the fate of PMF after the ISIS phase is over.

Sadr called for integrating Popular Mobilization Forces discipline members with the security forces so the thereof can maintain its “stability, force and sovereignty through enacting a customized system.” He also stressed that arms in Iraq should be captured and handed out to the state through strict and clear mechanisms.

Sadrist Movement sources affirmed that its leader will urge in his speech to keep on the demonstration and calls for reforms.

Sadr followers have been protesting in Baghdad since a year in demand for “reforms and fighting corruption” – they also carried out a demonstration before the Council of Representatives and raided it end of April 2016.

(Source / 25.03.2017)

UN: Size of Mosul crisis exceeds our current capacity

Iraqi Red Crescent delivers food aid to civilians during the operation to retake Mosul from Daesh terrorists in Mosul continues on March 12, 2017 [Hemn Baban/Anadolu]

Iraqi Red Crescent delivers food aid to civilians during the operation to retake Mosul from Daesh terrorists in Mosul continues on March 12, 2017

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, said relief organisations are preparing to receive up to 320,000 additional civilians likely to be displaced from Mosul in the coming weeks.

Image of UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande [YouTube]

Image of UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande [YouTube]

“We have been preparing for the Mosul operation for months, but the magnitude of the crisis has exceeded our expectations, but we will do our best to ensure that people are helped,” Grande said in a statement on Monday.

She noted that humanitarian operations on the western side of Mosul are more complex than on the eastern side and she expressed fear that the fighting could lead to the displacement of about one million Iraqis from Mosul.

Read: Civilians bear brunt of US, Iraq assault on Mosul

For its part, the Iraqi government announced that more than 180,000 people have fled from the western side of the city of Mosul since the start of military operations last month to remove Daesh.

The Iraqi forces began, on 19th February, a large operation to restore the western section of Mosul, which is more densely populated than the eastern section and remains under the militant group’s control.

(Source / 21.03.2017)

Last Iraq veteran who fought Israel in 1948 passes away

Haj Hussein Muhammad al-Samarrai

The last Iraqi soldier to have fought against Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War that saw the establishment of the State of Israel and the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians from their ancestral homes, passed away peacefully on Friday.

Haj Hussein Muhammad Al-Samarrai passed away at the age of 95 surrounded by his children and grandchildren in his ancestral hometown of Samarra, 125 kilometres north of the capital Baghdad.

Al-Samarrai was known for recounting his stories and memories from the battles he fought at the age of 24 in 1948, as a part of what he believed was a sacred struggle to defend Palestine from Jewish colonialism, and to preserve the Palestinian people on their own lands.

Al-Samarrai’s family members and loved ones told the Arabi21 news website that they were surprised by how much Palestinian media outlets took note of and marked the passing of their aged hero. The fact that Palestinians remembered Al-Samarrai’s role in defending their rights and honour lifted the spirits of the family at a difficult and painful time.

A member of his family said:

Our dearly departed never forgot, and even at an advanced age, the battles that he took part in as a soldier in the Iraqi Armed Forces. He reached Lake Tiberias but after that the Iraqi army was ordered to withdraw

His family said that they viewed him as an exemplar and someone whom they were deeply proud of. According to the Al-Samarrai family, he would always recount his wartime stories to his children and grandchildren, and remember with pride his time in Palestine.

Al-Samarrai had to leave his hometown recently in order to receive treatment as far away as Erbil, rather than being welcomed in the capital Baghdad, a city far closer to him, as a hero and treated there. Upon returning to Samarra, he fell into a coma before passing away.

The aged warrior’s family expressed the pain they felt at the state of affairs of their country, Iraq, and how the Iraqi military has departed from its valiant roots since the illegal US invasion in 2003. The Iraqi armed forces fought Israel in Palestine proper in 1948, and again on the Golan Front in Syria during the 1973 October War.

Al-Samarrai was a combat engineer with the Iraqi Fifth Brigade, who fought with distinction and managed to save many Palestinian lives in Jenin and elsewhere.

Iraq’s military efforts to protect Palestine have been immortalised by the presence of many graves belonging to Iraqi soldiers on Palestinian soil. These Iraqi men gave their lives so that Palestine may be free.

(Source / 19.03.2017)

Iraq deputy FM: Daesh ‘picked the wrong country’ to invade

Iraqi security forces with weapons and armoured cars attend an operation held to retake Mosul from Daesh on 20 February 2017

Iraqi Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Nazar Khairullah said in comments at a prestigious London-based security think tank today that the Daesh extremist organisation had “picked the wrong country” to attempt to set up their caliphate in.

Speaking earlier this afternoon at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in the British capital, the deputy foreign minister said that Daesh and other extremist organisations would find it difficult to permanently hold territory in Iraq.

Since the last 40 years, Iraqis have been fighting wars and are trained for war, Khairullah said. “For example the war with Iran for eight years, the Gulf War…when volunteers sign up to fight Daesh, they’re sent immediately to the front because they are already trained.

Khairullah praised the Iraqi armed forces saying that Baghdad was “proud of our forces in the last six months” since just before the operation to recapture Mosul began.

Mosul, Daesh’s largest urban holding, has been under the extremist organisation’s control since June 2014 when they and several other Iraqi armed rebel groups routed the Iraqi army and captured about a third of the country.

Though he was optimistic that Iraq would eventually prevail against Daesh in Iraq, the Iraqi minister warned that “the next few weeks [in Mosul] will be harder”, as the “fighting has been tough, difficult…[and was being fought] under extremely difficult circumstances.”

Iraq needs ‘societal education’

In more controversial remarks, Khairullah said that Iraqi society required “education” for the country to be able to defeat terrorism and extremist ideologies espoused by groups like Daesh. The deputy foreign minister appeared to suggest that there was a problem with Iraqi society and its acceptance for radicalisation.

Khairullah laid the blame for this alleged Iraqi propensity for extremism firmly at the door of foreign fighters who joined extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda and subsequently Daesh following the illegal US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.

Read: Iraq unleashes mass destruction, death & displacement on Mosul

Claiming that it was unfair for critics to slam the Iraqi government and post-invasion political process for the rise of Daesh, the Iraqi diplomat said: “Why are there terrorist attacks in Belgium, France if Daesh are so interested in internal Iraqi politics?”

According to the minister, the Daesh threat was a global problem and one that needed to be fought internationally, with an ever-increasing participation of the world’s nations within the current US-led coalition.

Post-Daesh Iraq?

Due to the minister blaming foreign fighters and not the political process, MEMO asked Khairullah about the infiltration of Iran-backed Shia jihadists within the Iraqi state and security apparatus, particularly the Badr Organisation, who largely control the interior ministry and have tens of thousands of its former death squad members now in the uniform of the Iraqi federal police.

Khairullah did not respond fully to MEMO’s question, but instead said that the present Iraqi government is conscious of “previous mistakes” and that he believes that “inclusion is a main part of democracy”, indicating that Baghdad is conscious of the overall negative impact on Iraq of sectarian Shia militias. However, it was unclear if the authorities planned to do anything to counter this.

Iraqi officials are often hesitant to discuss issues relating to specific militias and death squads, as many of them receive support from Iraq’s powerful Shia neighbour Iran, who exerts control over much of Iraq’s policy. Also, many Shia jihadist groups control entire ministries, such as the Badr Organisation’s control over Iraq’s militarised police force.

However, Khairullah acknowledged that there were concerns regarding the Shia-dominated Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), an Iran-backed paramilitary organisation that was recently made as an official part of the Iraqi armed forces, though separate to the other service branches.

The Iraqi diplomat said: When the Hashd Al-Sha’abi [PMF] law was passed last year, it went through discussions in parliament. The [law legalising the PMF] now stipulates that 35 per cent of the Hashd must be from minority groups.

 By “minority groups”, Khairullah was referring to Sunni Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens and others. Collectively, however, these minorities are about 65 per cent of the total Iraqi population, so the PMF’s 35 per cent minority quota is about half of what is required for a truly representative force.

The deputy foreign minister concluded by stating that he hoped Iraq would be successful in building national institutions, including the army, and that his country may attempt to achieve this through initiatives such as reintroducing compulsory military service. In this way, the minister argued, Iraqis would be able to have a sense of joint belonging to the state in order to “preserve Iraq’s unity”.

(Source / 09.03.2017)