Iraq: Deal reached over Turkish forces’ pullout from Bashiqa

Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim meets with his Iraqi counterpart Haider Al-Abadi in Baghdad, Iraq. (Hakan Goktepe/Prime Minister's Press Office/Handout via REUTERS)
Updated 08 January 2017
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Iraq: Deal reached over Turkish forces’ pullout from Bashiqa

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said on Saturday an agreement had been reached with Turkey over an Iraqi demand that Turkish forces withdraw from a town near Mosul in the north of the country, Iraqi state TV reported.
Abadi met his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim in Baghdad.
State television did not provide further details about the agreement over the town of Bashiqa, where Turkish forces have been stationed since before a recent offensive against Daesh in northern Iraq.
It said Turkey had pledged to “respect the sovereignty of Iraq” and that Baghdad and Ankara agreed not to interfere in each other’s domestic affairs.
Iraq and Turkey came to blows in October over the continued presence of Turkish forces in Bashiqa and elsewhere in northern Iraq, with each government summoning the other’s ambassador just as the US-backed campaign to drive Daesh out of Mosul was set to begin.
The issue grew into a rare and bitter public feud between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Abadi.
At one point, Erdogan gave a speech telling Al-Abadi to “know his place,” and adding, “you are not at my level, you are not my equivalent, you are not of the same quality as me.”
Al-Abadi responded by mocking Erdogan’s use of a video messaging app during Turkey’s failed coup last year.
An Iraqi court later issued an arrest warrant against the former governor of Ninevah province, of which Mosul is the capital, Atheel Al-Nujaifi, accusing him of facilitating the entry of the Turkish forces.
Meanwhile, Iraqi special forces closed in on the Tigris river that runs through central Mosul on Saturday, advancing in parallel with other troops and forcing Daesh retreat in its last major stronghold in the country.
Daesh has been driven out of more than half the areas it held east of the Tigris river, which bisects the city, but is still in control of the west. It will be harder for the terrorists to defend Mosul once Iraqi forces reach the river.
Detailed report — Page 4


Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

Alister Shepherd, the director of a subsidiary of FireEye, during a presentation about the APT33 in Dubai Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 6 min 31 sec ago
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Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

  • The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.
  • Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

DUBAI: An Iranian government-aligned group of hackers launched a major campaign targeting Mideast energy firms and others ahead of US sanctions on Iran, a cybersecurity firm said Tuesday, warning further attacks remain possible as America reimposes others on Tehran.

While the firm FireEye says the so-called “spear-phishing” email campaign only involves hackers stealing information from infected computers, it involves a similar type of malware previously used to inject a program that destroyed tens of thousands of terminals in Saudi Arabia.

The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.

“Whenever we see Iranian threat groups active in this region, particularly in line with geopolitical events, we have to be concerned they might either be engaged in or pre-positioning for a disruptive attack,” Alister Shepherd, a director for a FireEye subsidiary, told The Associated Press.

Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

“Iran’s cyber capabilities are purely defensive, and these claims made by private firms are a form of false advertising designed to attract clients,” the mission said in a statement. “They should not be taken at face value.”

FireEye, which often works with governments and large corporations, refers to the group of Iranian hackers as APT33, an acronym for “advanced persistent threat.” APT33 used phishing email attacks with fake job opportunities to gain access to the companies affected, faking domain names to make the messages look legitimate. Analysts described the emails as “spear-phishing” as they appear targeted in nature.

FireEye first discussed the group last year around the same time. This year, the company briefed journalists after offering presentations to potential government clients in Dubai at a luxury hotel and yacht club on the man-made, sea-horse-shaped Daria Island.

While acknowledging their sales pitch, FireEye warned of the danger such Iranian government-aligned hacking groups pose. Iran is believed to be behind the spread of Shamoon in 2012, which hit Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Qatari natural gas producer RasGas. The virus deleted hard drives and then displayed a picture of a burning American flag on computer screens. Saudi Aramco ultimately shut down its network and destroyed over 30,000 computers.

A second version of Shamoon raced through Saudi government computers in late 2016, this time making the destroyed computers display a photograph of the body of 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, who drowned fleeing his country’s civil war.

But Iran first found itself as a victim of a cyberattack. Iran developed its cyber capabilities in 2011 after the Stuxnet computer virus destroyed thousands of centrifuges involved in Iran’s contested nuclear program. Stuxnet is widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation.

APT33’s emails haven’t been destructive. However, from July 2 through July 29, FireEye saw “a by-factors-of-10 increase” in the number of emails the group sent targeting their clients, Shepherd said.