Two years after a failed independence bid plunged Iraq’s Kurdistan Region into months of instability, the new regional prime minister said his priority was strengthening ties with Baghdad, signalling dreams of self-rule should be put on hold. Masrour Barzani, sworn in as regional prime minister on Wednesday, told Reuters in an exclusive interview that under his leadership, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s focus would be to establish a “strong and constructive” relationship with Baghdad, leaving the question of independence aside for now. “This (independence referendum) happened in the past and it’s a reflection of the enduring aspiration of a nation,” said Masrour Barzani, speaking at his palace in the hillside village of Salaheddine, near regional capital Erbil. “However, the focus of my government will be how to build a stronger relationship and partnership with Baghdad,” he said, adding he would look to fix “those issues that were actually keeping us apart.” The independence bid was led by Barzani’s father Masoud, who stepped down as Kurdish president in 2017 after the referendum backfired and prompted a military offensive from Baghdad. At stake for the new premier are long-running disputes over independent oil exports, revenue sharing, security, and territory which have plagued ties between Erbil and Baghdad since a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. Barzani was instrumental in orchestrating the September 2017 referendum, which was held over the objections of Baghdad and regional powers. It was seen as the culmination of years of oppositional politics by the semi-autonomous region. The backlash
The Iraqi government’s move this week to place Iranian-backed militias under the command of the armed forces is a political gamble by a prime minister increasingly caught in the middle of a dangerous rivalry between Iran and the U.S, the two main power brokers in Iraq. Facing pressure from the U.S. to curb the militias, the move allows Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi to demonstrate a tough stance ahead of a planned visit to Washington, expected to take place in the coming weeks. It is unlikely, though, that he would be able to rein in the powerful Iran-supported militias, and he risks coming off as a weak and ineffective leader if he doesn’t. Besides having built credibility as an effective force against the Islamic State group, the mainly Shiite militias, known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces, are a significant political force, with government ministers and 48 seats in the 329-member parliament. The PMF “is among the parties that achieved victory for Iraq against (the Islamic State group), liberating Mosul and restoring security to the country. The time has come to organize their status in a legal way… meaning no weapons outside the framework of the state,” Abdul-Mahdi told reporters at a weekly news conference Tuesday. That’s a tough sell in a country awash with arms and militias, many of which operate outside the state’s control. The leaders of the larger militias, like Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Badr and the Peace Brigades, welcomed the decision, calling it a step in the right
Iraqi and U.S. military spokesmen denied on Saturday U.S. forces were preparing to evacuate hundreds of staff of Lockheed Martin Corp and Sallyport Global from an Iraqi military base where they work as contractors. Four separate military sources, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said on Friday contractors from the two firms were getting ready to leave Balad military base, which hosts U.S. forces some 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, over “potential security threats”, without saying what those threats might be. Iraqi and U.S. military spokesmen denied there were any such plans, which the sources disclosed at a time of rising regional tension between the United States and Iraq’s neighbour Iran. “There are no plans at this time to evacuate any personnel from Balad … Should there be increased threats to our people, the U.S. Air Force will put measures in place to provide the protections required,” Air Force Colonel Kevin Walker said in a statement. Iraq’s military spokesman said Iraq “protects the safety of our fighters and American advisers and trainers”. Three mortar shells hit the sprawling Balad base last week in an attack that caused no casualties, the military said. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. That incident was followed by attacks on two other military installations hosting U.S. forces, near Baghdad and in the northern city of Mosul. U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil evacuated at least 21 foreign staff from a site near the southern city of Basra on Wednesday after a
Baghdad’s Green Zone has been a barometer for tension and conflict in Iraq for nearly two decades. The 4-square mile (10-square kilometer) heavily guarded strip on the banks of the Tigris River was known as “Little America” following the 2003 U.S. invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. It then became a hated symbol of the country’s inequality, fueling the perception among Iraqis that their government is out of touch. The sealed-off area, with its palm trees and monuments, is home to the gigantic U.S. Embassy in Iraq, one of the largest diplomatic missions in the world. It has also been home to successive Iraqi governments and is off limits to most Iraqis. Various attempts and promises by the Iraqi government to open the area to traffic over the past years have failed to materialize, because of persistent security concerns. Here’s a look at the Green Zone, past and present: BEFORE THE INVASION Although not visible, security was always tight around the area, as Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace complex was located inside. So were the homes of some of Iraq’s top government officials. The road leading to the presidential palace had been closed for decades before the war. The zone is also home to important Baghdad landmarks including the “Victory Arch” — a 40-meter (131-feet) tall arch of two swords held by bronze casts of Saddam’s hands to commemorate the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. The area is also home to the Monument of the Unknown Soldier, Baghdad’s famous clock tower and the
Iran will defend itself against any military or economic aggression, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday, calling on European states to do more to preserve a nuclear agreement his country signed. Speaking at a Baghdad news conference with his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed al-Hakim, Zarif said Iran wanted to build balanced relations with its Gulf Arab neighbors and had proposed signing a non-aggression pact with them. “We will defend against any war efforts against Iran, whether it be an economic war or a military one, and we will face these efforts with strength,” he said. Strains have increased between Iran and the United States after this month’s attack on oil tankers in the Gulf region. Washington, a firm backer of Tehran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia, has blamed the attacks on Iran. Tehran has distanced itself from the bombings, but the United States has sent an aircraft carrier and an extra 1,500 troops to the Gulf, sparking concern over the risk of conflict in a volatile region. Iraq stands with Iran and is willing to act as an intermediary between its neighbor and the United States, Hakim said. Baghdad does not believe an “economic blockade” is fruitful, he added in a reference to U.S. sanctions. “We are saying very clearly and honestly that we oppose the unilateral actions taken by the United States. We stand with the Islamic Republic of Iran in its position,” Hakim said. The United States and Iran are Iraq’s two main allies. Meanwhile, Iranian Deputy Foreign
Saddam Hussein was born on April 28, 1937, in Tikrit, Iraq. His father, who was a shepherd, disappeared several months before Saddam was born. A few months later, Saddam’s older brother died of cancer. When Saddam was born, his mother, severely depressed by her oldest son’s death and the disappearance of her husband, was unable to effectively care for Saddam, and at age 3 he was sent to Baghdad to live with his uncle, Khairallah Talfah. Years later, Saddam would return to Al-Awja to live with his mother, but after suffering abuse at the hand of his stepfather, he fled to Baghdad to again live with Talfah, a devout Sunni Muslim and ardent Arab nationalist whose politics would have a profound influence on the young Saddam.
After attending the nationalistic al-Karh Secondary School in Baghdad, in 1957, at age 20, Saddam joined the Ba’ath Party, whose ultimate ideological aim was the unity of Arab states in the Middle East. On October 7, 1959, Saddam and other members of the Ba-ath Party attempted to assassinate Iraq’s then-president, Abd al-Karim Qasim, whose resistance to joining the nascent United Arab Republic and alliance with Iraq’s communist party had put him at odds with the Ba’athists. During the assassination attempt, Qasim’s chauffeur was killed, and Qasim was shot several times, but survived. Saddam was shot in the leg. Several of the would-be assassins were caught, tried and executed, but Saddam and several others managed to escape to Syria, where Saddam stayed briefly before fleeing to Egypt, where he attended law school.
Ismail Alwan Salman al-Ithawi was hunted down, caught and extradited after a joint operation involving Turkish, Iraqi and US intelligence agencies, according to the Iraqi authorities.
“The Karkh criminal court in Baghdad sentenced to death by hanging one of the most prominent leaders of IS, who served as a deputy of Baghdadi,” judicial spokesman Abdel Sattar Bayraqdar said.