Iran, Iraq hold exercises near border with Kurdistan

Iraqi forces and the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation units) advance towards the Daesh group's stronghold of Hawija on October 2, 2017 to recapture the town from the terrorists. (AFP)
Updated 03 October 2017

Iran, Iraq hold exercises near border with Kurdistan

SULAIMANIYAH: Iranian and Iraqi forces staged joint military exercises on Monday near the border with Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, a Kurdish official said, following tensions over the Kurds’ independence vote.
Iraqi Kurds voted 92.7 percent in favor of independence on Sept. 25 in a non-binding referendum held in defiance of the central government, which quickly retaliated.
Following the vote, Iraq, Iran and Turkey — which all have sizeable Kurdish minorities — took measures to isolate Iraqi Kurdistan, including suspending international flights to and from its two main airports.
The measures included Iran announcing an indefinite ban on the transport of oil and energy products to and from Iraqi Kurdistan.
An Iranian official said Monday that some 600 full fuel tankers were now blocked by Iranian customs from crossing the border.
“Iraqi and Iranian units began exercises at 11:00 a.m. (08:00 GMT) with tanks and infantry only 250 meters from the border,” said Shwan Abu Bakr, the Kurdish customs chief at the Bashmakh border post.
“Iraqi forces are dressed in black and there is a large number of Iranian forces,” he said, the black uniforms indicating that the Iraqi forces were from the country’s elite Counter Terrorism Service.
The Iranian military on its website announced joint military exercises with units of the Iraqi army involving armor and artillery units as well as drones and other air units.
An Iranian military official had announced on Saturday that the joint exercise would be staged in response to the referendum.
Baghdad declared the ballot illegal and suspended flights in retaliation.
Turkey and Iran, which fear the vote will embolden their own sizeable Kurdish minorities, also threatened action against the Iraqi Kurds.
On Saturday, Iranian armed forces spokesman Masoud Jazayeri said the exercises would be held “in the coming days along the shared border.”
The decision to carry out the exercises followed a high-level meeting of Iranian commanders where “the territorial integrity and unity of Iraq and the illegitimacy of the independence referendum in northern Iraq were stressed again,” he said.
Iraqi soldiers last week also took part in a Turkish military drill close to the Iraqi frontier.
The referendum was held in the three provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan and in several disputed areas under Kurdish control.
Iraqi authorities have demanded that Kurdish forces withdraw from disputed areas and that Kurdish authorities hand over control of the region’s airports and border posts.
The Iraqi government on Monday demanded that the Kurdish authorities stop “provocations” in disputed territories.
Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s office insisted that the Kurdistan region halt movements of its peshmerga security forces and return Baghdad’s control over areas Irbil claimed after a 2014 advance by Daesh.
“The region must stop the escalation and provocation in areas seized by it,” spokesman Saad Al-Hadithi said in a statement.
Al-Hadithi said that Kurdish forces had declared they would remain in several disputed areas and were continuing movements in Nineveh province that were meant to be “temporary.”
“These movements have to cease,” he said.
Officially comprising Irbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniyah provinces, Iraqi Kurdistan also claims other territory including oil-rich Kirkuk province — a dispute that is a major source of contention with Baghdad.
Hadithi demanded that Irbil “cancel the results of the referendum” and “engage in serious dialogue to strengthen the unity of Iraq.”


Daesh mortar attack on soccer field kills 6 in Iraq

Updated 25 August 2019

Daesh mortar attack on soccer field kills 6 in Iraq

  • The attack occurred late Saturday in the village of Daquq
  • The area of the attack is controlled by the Popular Mobilization Forces

BAGHDAD: Police in Iraq say Daesh militants have fired mortar rounds at a soccer field near a Shiite shrine, killing six civilians and wounding nine others.
The attack occurred late Saturday in the village of Daquq, in Iraq’s northern Kirkuk province, as people were exercising.
Police officials confirmed the attack, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
The area of the attack, southeast of the city of Kirkuk, is controlled by Iran-supported militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces.
Daesh, which once ruled a self-styled Islamic caliphate sprawling across Iraq and Syria, no longer controls territory in either country but has continued to stage sporadic attacks.