Iraq forces launch anti-Daesh push in western desert

An elderly woman and a child are pulled on a cart as civilians flee heavy fighting between Daesh militants and Iraqi special forces in western Mosul, Iraq. (AP)
Updated 12 May 2017
0

Iraq forces launch anti-Daesh push in western desert

HABBANIYAH, Iraq: Iraqi forces have launched a broad operation to root out Daesh fighters who have been harassing security forces in remote border areas, officers said Thursday.
The army, backed by aircraft from the US-led coalition and local tribal fighters, launched their sweep at dawn in desert areas of Anbar province where the terrorists have hideouts, an army lieutenant colonel said.
“The security forces are advancing from an area called Kilometer 160, west of Ramadi, toward Nukhaib,” said the officer stationed in Rutba, an outpost that is the last town on the road to Jordan.
Maj. Gen. Mahmud Al-Falahi, the head of Anbar Operations Command, said the goal of the operation is to flush out Daesh fighters in the desert and secure Rutba.
About 30 members of the security forces have been killed in attacks and ambushes by the terrorists in the Rutba area over the past three weeks.
Anbar is a sprawling desert province traversed by the Euphrates River and borders Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
It has long been an insurgent stronghold, and Daesh already controlled parts of it when it swept through Iraq in 2014 to take over around a third of the country.
Pro-government forces have since retaken most towns and cities in Anbar, but the terrorists still control areas near the Syrian border and have desert hideouts from which they harass federal forces.
Iraqi forces are also conducting a major operation further north in Anbar aimed at retaking the last towns along the Euphrates still controlled by Daesh near the Syrian border.
A major offensive launched in October to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, has also made steady gains.


Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2018
0

Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

  • By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011
  • Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has survived attempts by his own party and unions to force him out but, with elections looming, looks less and less able to enact the economic reforms that have so far secured IMF support for an ailing economy.

Last week, the Nidaa Tounes party suspended Chahed after a campaign by the party chairman, who is the son of President Beji Caid Essebsi.

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence by working with the co-ruling Islamist Ennahda party and a number of other lawmakers including 10 Nidaa Tounes rebels. But his political capital is now badly depleted.

By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011.

In that time, he has pushed through austerity measures and structural reforms such as cutting fuel subsidies that have helped to underpin a $2.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial support.

Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up, not least as a bulwark against extremism.

Yet the economy, and living standards, continue to suffer: inflation and unemployment are at record levels, and goods such as medicines or even staples such as milk are often in short supply, or simply unaffordable to many.

And in recent months, the 43-year old former agronomist’s main focus has been to hold on to his job as his party starts to look to its ratings ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls in a year’s time.

The breathing space he has won is at best temporary; while propping him up for now, Ennahda says it will not back him to be prime minister again after the elections.

And, more pressingly, the powerful UGTT labor union on Thursday called a public sector strike for Oct. 24 to protest against Chahed’s privatization plans.

This month, the government once more raised petrol and electricity prices to secure the next tranche of loans, worth $250 million, which the IMF is expected to approve next week.

But the IMF also wants it to cut a public wage bill that takes up 15 percent of GDP, one of the world’s highest rates.