Iraq sees end to terror group as iconic Mosul mosque is recaptured

Iraq declares end of caliphate after capture historic Mosul mosque
Updated 30 June 2017
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Iraq sees end to terror group as iconic Mosul mosque is recaptured

JEDDAH/MOSUL: Iraq said Daesh’s “caliphate” was coming to an end three years to the day after it was proclaimed, following the recapture of Mosul’s iconic Al-Nuri Mosque on Thursday.
The terror group announced its “caliphate” on June 29, 2014, across swathes of territory its fighters overran in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
Staff Lt. Gen. Abdulghani Assadi, a senior Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) officer, confirmed the mosque’s recapture.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi hailed it as a sign of Daesh’s impending defeat. “We are seeing the end of the fake Daesh state,” he tweeted.
But Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, advised caution before declaring Daesh finished.
“It’s important that we remain cautious and vigilant of efforts by Daesh to transform itself into an underground movement,” he told Arab News. “Daesh maintains long-term ambitions despite its loss of Mosul and significant amounts of territory in the past two years. If the international coalition drops the ball and doesn’t invest in rebuilding, political reconciliation and ensuring that the rule of law — not sectarian militias — maintain order, Daesh will find the opportunity it needs to re-emerge.”
Shahbandar said the Iraqi government should avoid committing the mistakes of Al-Abadi’s predecessor Nuri Al-Maliki.
“The previous administration … demonstrated exactly what not to do when it comes to ensuring that a defeated terrorist insurgency doesn’t re-emerge,” he said. 
“The lessons learned from 2010-2013 in Iraq and Syria are telling. The regime in Baghdad at the time maintained narrow sectarian political ambitions that prioritized a paranoid regime-centric mindset rather than actual security. Daesh was able to expand as a result, even though its predecessor, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), was largely defeated militarily.”
Shahbandar said the seeds of Daesh’s emergence were planted and allowed to grow in fertile soil by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, which before 2011 gave small units of the ISI leadership safe haven in eastern Syria.
“The consequences of poor governance and the brutality of the Assad and Al-Maliki regimes hopefully will serve as a wake-up call to the international community and show that the defeat of groups such as Daesh shouldn’t pave the way to the chaotic brutality and incompetence of regimes such as Assad’s and Al-Maliki’s,” he said.
On fears about Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi taking over liberated areas, Shahbandar said the Shiite militia “isn’t going to lay down its arms after Daesh is defeated in Iraq. It has become a state within a state, much along the lines of how Hezbollah now controls the Lebanese government. Al-Hashd leaders retain the ability to act with little or no checks on their power by the central government in Baghdad. This is a recipe for disaster that may bring forth a Daesh 2.0 in the near future.”
He added: “Daesh’s leadership is now confined to a small part of Syrian rural desert terrain and the lower Euphrates River valley in small pockets in western Iraq. The leadership structure has more or less been eliminated by international coalition strikes and local forces. But Daesh has a way to rebuild if it’s offered the opportunity to do so. Al-Qaeda’s original leadership was almost totally wiped out, yet a new generation took over and allowed the terrorist group to continue global operations. That should serve as a reminder that the fight against Daesh doesn’t end simply with the liberation of Mosul and Raqqa.”
Columb Strack, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit, said Daesh’s “rise and fall has been characterized by rapid inflation followed by steady decline. Three years after the ‘caliphate’ was declared, it’s evident that the group’s governance project has failed.”
IHS senior Middle East analyst Ludovico Carlino said: “Losing control of the heavily populated Iraqi city of Mosul, and oil-rich areas in the Syrian provinces of Raqqa and Homs, has had a particularly significant impact on the group’s ability to generate revenue.”
— With input from AP, AFP


Erdogan proclaimed winner of Turkey’s presidential election

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan waves to supporters as he leaves his residence in Istanbul, Turkey on Sunday. (REUTERS)
Updated 29 min 3 sec ago
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Erdogan proclaimed winner of Turkey’s presidential election

  • Erdogan has just under 53 percent in the presidential poll while Ince, of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), was on 31 percent, state-run Anadolu news agency said, based on a 96 percent vote count
  • The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was polling 11 percent, well over the 10 percent minimum threshold needed to win 46 seats, which would make it the second largest opposition party in the new chamber

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won Turkey’s landmark election Sunday, the country’s electoral commission said, ushering in a new system granting the president sweeping new powers which critics say will cement what they call a one-man rule.
The presidential and parliamentary elections, held more than a year early, complete NATO-member Turkey’s transition from a parliamentary system of government to a presidential one in a process started with a referendum last year.
“The nation has entrusted to me the responsibility of the presidency and the executive duty,” Erdogan said in televised remarks from Istanbul after a near-complete count carried by the state-run Anadolu news agency gave him the majority needed to avoid a runoff.
Speaking early Monday, Supreme Election Council head Sadi Guven said 97.7 of votes had been counted and declared Erdogan the winner.
Guven said that based on unofficial results, five parties passed the threshold of 10 percent of votes required for parties to enter parliament.
Cheering Erdogan supporters waving Turkish flags gathered outside the president’s official residence in Istanbul, chanting, “Here’s the president, here’s the commander.”
“Justice has been served!” said Cihan Yigici, an Erdogan supporter in the crowd.
Thousands of jubilant supporters of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, also spilled into the streets of the predominantly Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir after unofficial results from Anadolu showed the party coming in third with 11.5 percent of the legislative vote — surpassing the 10 percent threshold needed to enter parliament.
The HDP’s performance was a particular success since presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas, eight more of its lawmakers and thousands of party members campaigned from jails and prisons. HDP says more than 350 of its election workers have been detained since April 28.
The imprisoned Demirtas, who has been jailed pending trial on terrorism-related charges he has called trumped-up and politically motivated, was in third place in the presidential race with 8.3 percent of the vote, according to Anadolu.
Revelers waved HDP flags and blared car horns. One party supporter, Nejdet Erke, said he had been “waiting for this emotion” since morning.
Erdogan insisted the expanded powers of the Turkish presidency will bring prosperity and stability to the country, especially after a failed military coup attempt in 2016. A state of emergency imposed after the coup remains in place.
Some 50,000 people have been arrested and 110,000 civil servants have been fired under the emergency, which opposition lawmakers say Erdogan has used to stifle dissent.
The new system of government abolished the office of prime minister and empowers the president to take over an executive branch and form the government. He will appoint ministers, vice presidents and high-level bureaucrats, issue decrees, prepare the budget and decide on security policies.
The Turkish Parliament will legislate and have the right to ratify or reject the budget. With Erdogan remaining at the helm of his party, a loyal parliamentary majority could reduce checks and balances on his power unless the opposition can wield an effective challenge.
The president’s critics have warned that Erdogan’s re-election would cement his already firm grip on power and embolden a leader they accuse of showing increasingly autocratic tendencies.
Erdogan’s apparent win comes at a critical time for Turkey. He recently has led a high-stakes foreign affairs gamble, cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin with pledges to install a Russian missile defense system in the NATO-member country.
Ince said the results carried on Anadolu misrepresented the official vote count by the country’s electoral board. The main opposition party that nominated him for the presidency, the CHP, said it was waiting for an official announcement from the country’s electoral board.
Erdogan also declared victory for the People’s Alliance, an electoral coalition between his ruling Justice and Development Party and the small Nationalist Movement Party, saying they had secured a “parliamentary majority” in the 600-member assembly.
The unofficial results for the parliamentary election showed Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, losing its majority, with 293 seats in the 600-seat legislature. However, the small nationalist party the AKP allied with garnered 49 seats.
“Even though we could not reach out goal in parliament, God willing we will be working to solve that with all our efforts in the People’s Alliance,” Erdogan said.
The president, who has never lost an election and has been in power since 2003, initially as prime minister, had faced a more robust, united opposition than ever before. Opposition candidates had vowed to return Turkey to a parliamentary democracy with strong checks and balances and have decried what they call Erdogan’s “one-man rule.”
A combative president, Erdogan enjoys considerable support in the conservative and pious heartland, having empowered previously disenfranchised groups. From a modest background himself, he presided over an infrastructure boom that modernized Turkey and lifted many out of poverty while also raising Islam’s profile, for instance by lifting a ban on Islamic headscarves in schools and public offices.
But critics say he has become increasingly autocratic and intolerant of dissent. The election campaign was heavily skewed in his favor, with opposition candidates struggling to get their speeches aired on television in a country where Erdogan directly or indirectly controls most of the media.
Ince, a 54-year-old former physics teacher, was backed by the center-left opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP. He wooed crowds with an unexpectedly engaging campaign, drawing massive numbers at his rallies in Turkey’s three main cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.
More than 59 million Turkish citizens, including 3 million expatriates, were eligible to vote.