Protests in which 250 people have died over the past month have accelerated dramatically in recent days, drawing huge crowds from across Iraq’s sectarian and ethnic divides to reject the political parties in power since 2003. Protests in which 250 people have died over the past month have accelerated dramatically in recent days, drawing huge crowds from across Iraq’s sectarian and ethnic divides to reject the political parties in power since 2003. Thousands have been camped out in Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square, with many thousands more joining them by day. Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, was expected to draw the biggest crowds yet, with many taking to the streets after worship. More than 50 people were wounded overnight and early Friday morning, police and hospital sources said. By late morning hundreds were marching to the square from side streets, condemning elites they see as deeply corrupt, beholden to foreign powers and responsible for daily privations. In recent days protests have been comparatively peaceful by day, joined by elderly people and young families, becoming more violent after dark as police use tear gas and live ammunition to battle self-proclaimed “revolutionary” youths in the street. Amnesty International said on Thursday security forces were using “previously unseen” tear gas canisters modelled on military grenades that are 10 times as heavy as standard ones. In Baghdad, protesters had set up checkpoints in the streets leading into and surrounding Tahrir Square, redirecting traffic. New arrivals joined and assisted those who had camped overnight. A
Iraq declared a curfew in Baghdad on Monday as two people were killed and 112 injured in the fourth day of anti-government protests, and the coalition government’s most powerful erstwhile supporter called for early elections. Baghdad’s top military commander imposed the curfew from midnight (2100 GMT) until 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) effective “until further notice,” state television said, but protesters in the capital’s central Tahrir Square remained defiant. The curfew provides cover for security forces to clear the square, demonstrators said, but they intended on going nowhere. “No, we will stay. They have now declared a curfew and severe punishments for anyone not going to work, this is how they fight us. We will stay here until the last day, even if there are a thousand martyrs,” one protester said. The unrest, driven by discontent over economic hardship and deep-seated corruption, has broken nearly two years of relative stability in Iraq, which from 2003 to 2017 endured a foreign occupation, civil war and an Islamic State insurgency. Counting Monday’s deaths, which security and medical sources said resulted from security forces launching tear gas canisters directly at the heads of protesters, some 233 people have been killed overall in the disturbances this month. Security forces on Monday fired tear gas at school and university students who defied a warning from Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and joined thousands in Baghdad protesting against his government. A spokesman for the premier, whose position is increasingly precarious in the face of the stiffest challenge
Once again, Syrian President Bashar Assad has snapped up a prize from world powers that have been maneuvering in his country’s multi-front wars. Without firing a shot, his forces are returning to towns and villages in northeastern Syria where they haven’t set foot for years. Assad was handed one victory first by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from northeastern Syria, analysts said. Then he got another from a deal struck between Turkey and Russia, Damascus’ ally. Abandoned by U.S. forces and staring down the barrel of a Turkish invasion, Kurdish fighters had no option but to turn to Bashar al-Assad’s government and to Russia for protection from their No. 1 enemy. For once, the interests of Damascus, Moscow and Ankara came into alignment. Turkey decided it was better having Assad’s forces along the border, being helped by Russia, than to have the frontier populated by Kurdish-led fighters, whom it considers to be terrorists. On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan struck a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin that allows Syrian troops to move back into a large part of the territory and ensure Kurdish fighters stay out. The Kurds once hoped an alliance with Washington would strengthen their ambitions for autonomy, but now they are left hoping they can extract concessions from Moscow and Damascus to keep at least some aspects of their self-rule. Turkey, which had backed rebels trying to oust Assad, has now implicitly given the Syrian leader “de facto recognition,” said Lina
Syria’s troops have entered a northeastern town, Syrian state media said on Monday, after Washington announced it was abruptly pulling out its forces, and its former Kurdish allies reached a deal with Damascus to help resist a Turkish attack. The abrupt U.S. withdrawal from the eight-year Syrian war, and the potential return of the Syrian army to the Kurdish-controlled northeast, are major victories for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies Russia and Iran. The U.S. announced on Sunday it would swiftly withdraw its remaining 1,000 troops from northeast Syria, just four days after Turkey launched its cross-border offensive with a green light from President Donald Trump. The Turkish assault has prompted widespread criticism and alarm that it could allow Islamic State fighters in Syria to escape their Kurdish-run prisons and regroup. Trump decided a week ago to move U.S. troops out of the way of the Turkish assault, an act denounced as a stab in the back by the Kurds, thousands of whom died fighting against Islamic State in partnership with Washington since 2014. The Kurds announced on Sunday they were pursuing a new pact instead with Washington’s foes, Assad and his Russian backers. Meanwhile, the United States said it was pulling its troops out of Syria altogether. Ankara says its operation aims to neutralise the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which was the key U.S. partner in dismantling the jihadist “caliphate” set up by Islamic State militants in Syria. Ankara views
In the week since three men were killed in a midday shootout in an Arab town in northern Israel, the country has seen mass protests, complaints of police negligence and a public debate about violence in Arab communities that has veered into racist generalizations. A recent spike in killings within Arab towns has exposed the longstanding mistrust between the marginalized community and Israeli authorities, with each side accusing the other of neglecting the problem. Arab citizens, who suffer from widespread discrimination, say Israel’s vaunted security forces are suspiciously powerless when it comes to combatting violence in their communities. Police say local leaders and residents must do more to help them impose law and order. The debate was reignited last week by the shootout in the northern town of Majd al-Krum, which killed two brothers, Ahmed and Khalil Manaa, and a third man, Mohammed Sabea. Another Manaa brother was wounded and remains in hospital, and a fifth man is said to be on the run. The police have opened an investigation but refuse to provide any details. “They loved everyone and everyone loved them,” Aisha Manaa said as she sobbed and held a picture of her two slain sons, one of whom is survived by a wife and two small children. “How can something like this happen?” Israel’s Arab citizens make up just 20% of the population but account for more than half of all murder victims nationwide. At least 71 Arabs have been killed so far this year, nearly as
With a simple tweet, Gideon Saar did what no Israeli politician from the ruling conservative party has done in more than a decade — openly challenge its chief, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The brazen move against the long-serving Israeli leader has solidly positioned the 52-year-old Saar as the Likud party’s leading candidate to replace Netanyahu, who is fighting for his survival amid a pending corruption indictment and post-election political paralysis. A former aide and senior Cabinet minister under Netanyahu, Saar has long been considered a rising star in Likud and one of the lone independent voices in a party that has, in general, blindly followed its leader. But that has begun to change. Netanyahu failed in two elections this year to capture a parliamentary majority, and the possibility of a criminal indictment in the coming weeks has hindered his efforts to head a coalition government. Seeking to solidify his status, the premier last week floated the prospect of a snap internal leadership primary in which he expected Likud to endorse him. But he quickly backed down after a two-word Twitter response from Saar: “I’m ready.” It was a risky maneuver in a party that fiercely values loyalty and has had only had four leaders in its 70-plus-year history. Saar followed it up with a more detailed tweet clarifying that he was not out to topple the prime minister, as Netanyahu has long claimed. Still, Saar left no doubt about his ultimate objective. “No one is denying the prime minister’s role
Iran’s top military commander says the country’s military stands ready to defend its interests and protect its security in the Persian Gulf. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is fully ready under the current circumstances to defend its security and interests in the Persian Gulf,” Chairman of Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri said while addressing cadets in China’s PLA National Defense University in Beijing on Thursday. “History shows that we have never initiated [an act of] aggression or a war and will not do so, but we will firmly defend our security and sovereignty in case of any aggression or intervention by foreigners,” he added. The senior military commander further reiterated Iran’s position that security of the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, through which passes a major portion of all oil globally consumed, should be provided by regional states and not the foreigners. He said the presence and deployment of forces from the US and other Western countries, and plans like the already failed US-led coalition in the Persian Gulf purportedly seeking to boost security in the region, have and will have no result but aggravated insecurity. “The Islamic Republic of Iran has done its share of ensuring security of this sensitive region through the years and would continue to do so,” said Mohammad Baqeri, adding, “However, it views the military presence of foreign powers as a major challenge to the security of the region.” He said Iran’s policy for establishing regional
Avigdor Lieberman entered Israeli politics as a loyal protégé of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Now, the maverick politician could be the one to topple his former mentor. Lieberman, a burly, tough-talking immigrant from the former Soviet Union, forced Israel’s unprecedented second election of the year and is poised to be the kingmaker again. Polls suggest Netanyahu won’t be able to form a coalition government without Lieberman’s support. Lieberman has played hard to get. “I don’t have to join at any cost,” he told Channel 12 news over the weekend. “The prime minister’s policy is simply submission to terrorism.” For years, Netanyahu and Lieberman have had a roller-coaster relationship. Lieberman, once Netanyahu’s chief of staff, has held a series of senior Cabinet posts and was often a staunch partner. But he’s has also been a rival, critic and thorn in Netanyahu’s side. In a high-stakes gamble, he passed up the post of defense minister in Netanyahu’s government following April’s election, leaving the prime minister without a parliamentary majority and forcing the Sept. 17 do-over vote. Their dispute, over what Lieberman says is excessive influence of ultra-Orthodox religious parties, has become a central issue in the current campaign. Lieberman says he will insist on a secular unity government between Netanyahu and his main challenger, Benny Gantz, in order to push out ultra-Orthodox parties. But Netanyahu says his former ally’s real goal is to oust him from office, and Lieberman is suddenly discovering newfound support from those who hope he does just that.
France has proposed offering Iran credit lines worth about $15 billion (12 billion pounds) until the end of the year in return for Tehran coming fully back into compliance with its 2015 nuclear deal, an offer that hinges on Washington not blocking it, Western and Iranian sources said. European leaders have struggled to calm confrontation between Tehran and Washington since U.S. President Donald Trump quit the deal, which guarantees Iran access to world trade in return for curbs to its nuclear programme. The United States re-imposed sanctions on Iran last year and tightened them sharply this year. Iran has responded by breaching some of the limits on nuclear material in the deal, and has set a deadline for this week to take further steps. Macron has spent the summer trying to create conditions that would bring the sides back to the negotiating table. An Iranian delegation was in Paris on Monday, including oil and finance officials, to fine tune details of credit lines that would give Iran some respite from sanctions that have crippled its economy and cut off its oil exports. “The question is to know whether we can reach this $15 billion) level, secondly who will finance it, and thirdly we need to get at the very least the tacit approval of the United States. We still don’t know what the U.S. position is,” said a source aware of the negotiations. A senior Iranian official familiar with the negotiations said: “France has offered the credit line of $15
An escalation between Israel and Hezbollah has ended after a brief exchange of fire, but tensions remained high along the Lebanese border Monday after a series of accusations from the two enemies. Burnt fields could be seen in the border area and a new military checkpoint was set up outside the Israeli community of Avivim. Schools were however open and residents were returning to normal activity in Avivim, from where the Lebanese town of Maroun al-Ras is clearly visible on a nearby hill. “The war can start in a minute. I am worried it could happen,” Dudu Peretz, 35, said as he was dropping his son off at kindergarten. Sunday’s incident — which caused no casualties — followed a week of rising tensions that included what Hezbollah described as an Israeli drone attack on its Beirut stronghold on August 25. Israel has not acknowledged that attack but subsequently accused Hezbollah of working with Iran in Lebanon to produce precision-guided missiles. Hezbollah had warned of retaliation, and on Sunday it fired up to three anti-tank missiles from Lebanon at an Israeli battalion headquarters near Avivim and at a vehicle Israel said was a military ambulance. Israel retaliated with around 100 artillery shells targeting the squad that fired the missiles. Hezbollah issued a statement soon afterward saying it had destroyed an Israeli military vehicle and killed and wounded those inside. Israel’s military later refuted the claim, saying no one was injured, but Israeli media reported that a ruse may have contributed to
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to annex all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, he said on Sunday, reiterating an election promise made five months ago but again giving no timeframe. Settlements are one of the most heated issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinians have voiced fears Netanyahu could defy international consensus and move ahead with annexation with possible backing from U.S. President Donald Trump, a close ally. “With God’s help we will extend Jewish sovereignty to all the settlements as part of the (biblical) land of Israel, as part of the state of Israel,” Benjamin Netanyahu said in Sunday’s speech in the West Bank settlement of Elkana, where he attended a ceremony opening the school year. He did not say when he planned to make such a move. Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Netanyahu’s announcement was a “continuation of attempts to create an unacceptable fait accompli that will not lead to any peace, security or stability”. Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, made a similar pledge days before an Israeli general election in April. After the vote, he failed to form a governing parliamentary majority and the country will hold a new election on Sept. 17. His reaffirmation of the annexation promise came amid a campaign push to draw supporters of far-right factions to Likud in the coming election, in which votes are cast for a party’s list of parliamentary candidates. In power for the past decade, but with corruption
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the US must return to a 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement and end its economic terrorism against the Islamic Republic as a prerequisite for negotiations. “The United States is engaged in an economic war against the Iranian people and it won’t be possible for us to engage with the United States unless they stop imposing a war and engaging in economic terrorism against the Iranian people,” Javad Zarif told reporters in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, on Thursday. “So if they want to come back into the room there is a ticket that they need to purchase and that ticket is to observe the agreement,” he added. Zarif also stressed that Iran does not want to meet for the sake of meeting, saying, “We need to meet if there is a result.” He made the remarks days after French President Emmanuel Macron expressed hopes for a meeting between President Hassan Rouhani of Iran and his American counterpart, Donald Trump, “in the next few weeks.” Rouhani, however, rejected any such talks under pressure, urging the US to lift all its “cruel” bans and begin respecting the nation’s rights as a “first step” towards dialog. The nuclear deal — officially named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — was signed between Iran and six world states — namely the US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China. Washington, however, left the accord last May, leaving the future of the historic deal in limbo. Critical of Washington’s
Tangible steps “can, and must, be taken” to urgently reverse the “negative trajectory” of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and revive the peace process, a senior United Nations envoy told the Security Council on Tuesday. “Against the backdrop of the complete political deadlock of the Middle East peace process and the lack of any perspective to revive it,” Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that “the rising specter of violence in the West Bank and Gaza” threatens a regional escalation. Warning again of repercussions over the lack of a political horizon towards resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of the two-state solution, he said that unilateral moves on the ground, terror attacks and a multitude of other factors risk are creating “an explosive mix” that can only be resolved through strong leadership returning to the table for “meaningful negotiations towards a sustainable and just peace”. Mr. Mladenov, who briefed the Council via videconference from Jerusalem, elaborated on the need for “a leadership that can stand up to extremists and radicals and uphold what the international community, the Security Council and the region have said so many times – that lasting peace can only be based on the idea that Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side in peace, security and mutual recognition, as both peoples have a legitimate and historic right to their own statehood”. Straying from a framework based on UN resolutions and mutual agreements will lead to “inevitable radicalization”, stressed Mr. Mladenov. Giving up on the
The main U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia has begun withdrawing its fighters from two towns near Turkey’s border, part of a deal for a so-called safe zone in northeastern Syria involving the U.S. and Turkey, the Kurdish-led regional administration in northern Syria said Tuesday. Turkey has been pressing for a safe zone, running east of the Euphrates River toward the Iraqi border, to push U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish militias away from its frontier. Turkey wants to control — in coordination with the U.S. — a 19-25 mile (30-40 kilometer) deep zone within civil war-ravaged Syria. Turkey wants the region along its border to be clear of Syrian Kurdish forces and has threatened on numerous occasions to launch a new operation in Syria against Syrian Kurdish forces if such a zone is not established. Turkey sees the Syrian Kurdish fighters, who make up the majority of the Syrian Democratic Forces and are allied with the U.S., as terrorists aligned with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey. American troops are stationed in northeast Syria, along with the Kurdish forces, and have fought the Islamic State group together. The differing positions on the Kurdish fighters have become a major source of tension between NATO allies Turkey and the U.S. The administration said “the first step” in these understandings began three days ago in the town of Ras al-Ayn, from where members of the militia known as YPG withdrew with their heavy weapons. The statement that was read by Zeidan al-Assi, head of defense office at the
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has accused Israeli surveillance companies of paving the way for attacks on media freedom around the world by easing rules governing the export of offensive cyber weapons, despite grave concerns by human rights and privacy groups that the technologies are used by some governments to spy on political foes and crush dissent. The New York-based group, which seeks to promote press freedom and defends the rights of journalists, stated that Israeli officials had confirmed that, under a rule change by the ministry of military affairs a year ago, Israeli surveillance companies “are able to obtain exemptions on marketing license for the sale of some products to certain countries.” The CPJ stated that Israeli-exported technology undermined press freedom globally by allowing authorities to track reporters and potentially identify their sources. The group then highlighted that the Mexican government had deployed super-stealth Pegasus spyware, developed by Israeli cyberarms firm NSO Group, in order to infiltrate the mobile phones “of at least nine journalists.” Back in early November 2018, former US National Security Agency contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden said Saudi Arabia might have used Pegasus to track prominent dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed after visiting the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul the previous month. “Over and over again, we see Israeli technology facilitating press freedom abuses around the world, by lending a hand to governments that want to track and monitor reporters,” CPJ Advocacy Director, Courtney Radsch, said in Washington, D.C.