Iraq Kurd chief announces ‘liberation’ of Sinjar from Daesh

Updated 13 November 2015

Iraq Kurd chief announces ‘liberation’ of Sinjar from Daesh

Sinjar, Iraq: Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani announced the “liberation” of Sinjar from the Daesh group Friday in an assault backed by US-led air strikes that cut a key jihadist supply line with Syria.
The operation, led by the autonomous Kurdish region’s peshmerga forces, also involved fighters from the Yazidi minority, a local Kurdish-speaking community targeted in a brutal Daesh campaign of massacres, enslavement and rape.
The success of the campaign is the latest sign that Daesh, which won a series of victories in a stunningly rapid offensive in Iraq last year, is now on the defensive.
“I am here to announce the liberation of Sinjar,” Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, told a news conference near the northern town.
Barzani’s remarks also made clear that political conflict over Sinjar would likely follow the military battle for the town.
“Sinjar was liberated by the blood of the peshmerga and became part of Kurdistan,” Barzani said.
Baghdad, which has long opposed Kurdistan’s desire to incorporate a swathe of disputed northern territory, is unlikely to welcome that.
Mahma Khalil, the local official responsible for the area, told AFP Friday evening: “The security situation is stable now in Sinjar.”
“All the (Daesh) gunmen escaped from Sinjar.”
Earlier in the day, hundreds of Kurdish fighters, dressed in camouflage uniforms and armed with assault rifles and machine guns, moved into the town on foot, an AFP journalist reported.
Carrying the Kurdish region’s flag, they firing in the air and shouted “Long live the peshmerga!” and “Long live Kurdistan!“
Inside Sinjar, many houses and shops, a petrol garage and the local government headquarters had been destroyed.
Burned out cars sat in the streets, while barrels apparently containing explosives had been left behind.
The huge task of clearing Sinjar of bombs planted by Daesh remains, and there is also the possibility of holdout jihadists, who have kept up attacks even after other areas in Iraq were said to have been retaken.
The regional security council said “peshmerga forces entered Sinjar town from all four directions to clear remaining (Daesh) terrorists from the area.”
Sinjar has been pounded by US-led air strikes and Kurdish artillery fire targeting Daesh positions, which sent massive columns of smoke drifting up from the town on Thursday.
The coalition carried out 36 strikes against jihadists in the Sinjar area on Wednesday and Thursday, and 15 more across the border in Al-Hol, where Syrian Kurdish forces and their Arab allies are battling Daesh.
In a rare admission Thursday, the Pentagon said US ground forces advising the Kurds on their offensive were close enough to the front to identify Daesh targets and call in strikes.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters most of the US-led coalition troops were behind the front lines working with Kurdish commanders.
But “there are some advisers who are on Sinjar mountain, assisting in the selection of air strike targets.”
“They’re not directly in the line of action, but they might be able to visibly see it,” he added.
On Thursday, Kurdish forces cut the key highway that links Daesh-held areas in Iraq and Syria.
“Sinjar sits astride Highway 47, which is a key and critical resupply route” for Daesh, said Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for the international operation against Daesh.
“By seizing Sinjar, we’ll be able to cut that line of communication, which we believe will constrict (Daesh’s) ability to resupply themselves, and is a critical first step in the eventual liberation of Mosul,” said Warren, referring to the jihadists’ main hub in Iraq.
Daesh overran Sinjar in August last year, forcing thousands of Yazidis to flee to the mountains overlooking the town, where they were trapped by the jihadists.
The United Nations has described the attack on the Yazidis as a possible genocide, and on Thursday the US Holocaust Memorial Museum echoed that assessment in a report detailing allegations of rape, torture and murder by Daesh against the minority.
Aiding the Yazidis, whose unique faith Daesh considers heretical, was one of Washington’s main justifications for starting its air campaign against the jihadists last year.


Iranian foreign minister Zarif arrives in Biarritz during G7

Updated 25 August 2019

Iranian foreign minister Zarif arrives in Biarritz during G7

  • Iranian foreign ministry says Zarif will not hold talks with Trump and his team
  • Earlier Trump dampened down Emmanuel Macron's optimism on Iran talks

BIARRITZ, France: -Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif landed in the French seaside resort of Biarritz Sunday for talks during a G7 summit.

"Zarif... has arrived in Biarritz, where the G7 is being held, to continue talks regarding the recent measures between the presidents of Iran and France," foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, referring to their efforts to salvage a nuclear deal.

Earlier, US President Donald Trump appeared to brush aside French efforts to mediate with Iran on Sunday, saying that while he was happy for President Emmanuel Macron to reach out to Tehran to defuse tensions he would carry on with his own initiatives.
European leaders have struggled to tamp down the brewing confrontation between Iran and the United States since Trump pulled his country out of Iran’s internationally-brokered 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy.
Macron, who has pushed mediation efforts in recent weeks to avoid a further deterioration in the region, had told LCI television that the G7 had agreed on joint action on Iran.
The French presidency said G7 leaders had even agreed that Macron should hold talks and pass on messages to Iran after they discussed the issue over dinner at a summit in southwestern France on Saturday evening.
However, Trump, who has pushed a maximum pressure policy on Iran, pushed back.
Asked if he had signed off on a statement that Macron intends to give on behalf of the G7 on Iran, Trump said:
“I haven’t discussed this. No I haven’t,” he told reporters, adding that Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were free to talk to Iran.
“We’ll do our own outreach, but, you know, I can’t stop people from talking. If they want to talk, they can talk.”
Macron, who has taken the lead to defuse tensions fearing that a collapse of the nuclear deal could set ablaze the Middle East, met Zarif on Friday. The aim was to discuss proposals that could ease the crisis, including the idea of reducing some US sanctions or providing Iran with an economic compensation mechanism.
Macron appeared to backtrack on his own team’s comments later, saying there was no formal mandate from the G7 leaders to pass a message to Iran.
Highlighting just how difficult agreeing on concrete measures between allies is, Macron said the leaders’ views had converged on not wanting Iran to acquire a nuclear bomb and ensuring peace and security in the Middle East.
He was supposed to discuss those ideas with Trump on the sidelines of the G7, which also comprises Britain, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and the EU.
“Everyone wants to avoid a conflict, Donald Trump was extremely clear on that point,” Macron told LCI.
“We have to continue to take initiatives and in the coming weeks that on the one hand there are no more Iranian decisions that contradict this objective and that we open new negotiations,” Macron said without giving details.
In response to the tougher US sanctions and what it says is the inability of European powers party to the deal — France, Britain and Germany, to compensate it for its lost oil revenue, Tehran has responded with a series of moves, including retreating from some of its commitments to limit its nuclear activity made under the deal.
The United States has made no indication it will ease any sanctions and it is unclear what kind of compensation mechanism Macron wants to offer Iran given at this stage a proposed trade channel for humanitarian and food exchanges with Iran is still not operational.
Macron has also said that in return for any concessions he would expect Iran to comply fully with the nuclear deal and for Iran to engage in new negotiations that would include its ballistic missile program and regional activities.