US welcomes Iraqi victory in Hawija

Fighters from the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation units), backing the Iraqi forces, advance through Hawija on Thursday, after retaking the city from Daesh group fighters. Iraqi forces retook one of the Daesh group's last two enclaves in the country on October 5, overrunning the longtime insurgent bastion of Hawija after a two-week offensive. (AFP)
Updated 06 October 2017
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US welcomes Iraqi victory in Hawija

BAGHDAD: The US-led coalition has welcomed Iraq’s “swift and decisive victory” against Daesh in the northern town of Hawija.
Prime Minister Haider A-Abadi had declared victory in Hawija earlier on Thursday during a visit to France.
The town was among the last Daesh strongholds in Iraq after troops retook the northern city of Mosul earlier this year.
Lt. Gen. Paul Funk II, the commanding general of the coalition in Iraq, said: “Our Iraqi partners fought bravely and professionally against a brutal and determined enemy, safeguarding innocent civilians throughout the entire campaign.”
Daesh still maintains a presence in the far western part of Iraq’s sprawling Anbar province, where another US-backed Iraqi offensive is underway.
The capture of Hawija was a boost for the Iraqi government, which faces a separate crisis in the north of the country, where the Kurdish minority last month voted overwhelmingly in support of independence for their autonomous region.
In Hawija, state TV showed footage of Iraqi forces raising flags in one of the town’s squares while Humvees patrolled empty streets littered with car wrecks, houses riddled with bullets and shattered storefronts.
Al-Abadi said the fight against Daesh was now focused on the border zone with Syria.
“This a victory not only for Iraqis but also for the whole world,” the premier said, as he announced the town’s recapture after talks in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Al-Abadi also urged Kurdish peshmerga forces to keep working with Iraqi forces in the fight against Daesh despite tensions over the independence referendum.
The premier made an appeal to his compatriots saying “we don’t want armed confrontation” among Iraqi forces at a time when the government is ousting Daesh from its last strongholds.
After Thursday’s talks with Al-Abadi about French support for the fight against Daesh and rebuilding Iraqi’s economy, Macron offered for France to mediate between the Iraqi government and Kurds.
Macron said France and others are worried about the situation of the Kurds after last month’s referendum, and said France supports the stability and territorial integrity of Iraq.
He insisted on the importance of “national reconciliation and inclusive governance” that includes Kurds, “with whom France maintains close ties.”
Macron said dialogue “is the only path” and “France is ready to contribute actively to mediation.”
Hawija lies between the two main routes north from Baghdad — to Mosul and to the city of Kirkuk and the autonomous Kurdish region — and its recapture is both a symbolic and a strategic victory for the government.
There was no immediate word on the fate of civilians in Hawija.
The UN said this week that an estimated 12,500 people had fled since the launch of the offensive to retake the town and surrounding areas last month.
The UN’s humanitarian affairs office said the number of people still in the town was unknown but could be as high as 78,000.
It said humanitarian agencies had set up checkpoints, camps and emergency sites capable of receiving more than 70,000 people who could flee.
The Norwegian Refugee Council said many of those arriving in the camps had little more than the clothes on their backs.
“In addition to the terror they have experienced during years under the control of the IS group (Daesh), many of the families who are arriving are malnourished,” said its acting area manager, Silvia Beccacece.


Iran warns US against provocations, but peace possible

Updated 38 min 13 sec ago
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Iran warns US against provocations, but peace possible

  • Rouhani warned Trump on Sunday: “Do not play with the lion’s tail or else you will regret it”
  • Trump suggested Iranian leaders are “going to call me and say ‘let’s make a deal’” but Iran rejected talks

DUBAI: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday cautioned US President Donald Trump about pursuing hostile policies against Tehran, saying “America should know ... war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” but he did not rule out peace between the two countries, either.
Iran faces increased US pressure and looming sanctions after Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from a 2015 international deal over Iran’s nuclear program.
Addressing a gathering of Iranian diplomats, Rouhani said: “Mr Trump, don’t play with the lion’s tail, this would only lead to regret,” the state-news agency IRNA reported.
“America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” Rouhani said, leaving open the possibility of peace between the two countries which have been at odds since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
“You are not in a position to incite the Iranian nation against Iran’s security and interests,” Rouhani said, in an apparent reference to reported efforts by Washington to destabilize Iran’s Islamic government.
In Washington, US officials familiar with the matter told Reuters that the Trump administration has launched an offensive of speeches and online communications meant to foment unrest and help pressure Iran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups.
Current and former US officials said the campaign paints Iranian leaders in a harsh light, at times using information that is exaggerated or contradicts other official pronouncements, including comments by previous administrations.
Rouhani scoffed at Trump’s threat to halt Iranian oil exports and said Iran has a dominant position in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping waterway.
“Anyone who understands the rudiments of politics doesn’t say ‘we will stop Iran’s oil exports’...we have been the guarantor of the regional waterway’s security throughout history,” Rouhani said, cited by the semi-official ISNA news agency.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday backed Rouhani’s suggestion that Iran may block Gulf oil exports if its own exports are halted.
Rouhani’s apparent threat earlier this month to disrupt oil shipments from neighboring countries came in reaction to efforts by Washington to force all countries to stop buying Iranian oil.
Iranian officials have in the past threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for any hostile US action. Separately, a top Iranian military commander warned that the Trump government might be preparing to invade Iran.
“The enemy’s behavior is unpredictable,” military chief of staff General Mohammad Baqeri said, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.
“Although the current American government does not seem to speak of a military threat, according to precise information it has been trying to persuade the US military to launch a military invasion (of Iran),” Baqeri said.
Iran’s oil exports could fall by as much as two-thirds by the end of the year because of new US sanctions, putting oil markets under huge strain amid supply outages elsewhere.
Washington initially planned to totally shut Iran out of global oil markets after Trump abandoned the deal that limited Iran’s nuclear ambitions, demanding all other countries to stop buying its crude by November.
But it has somewhat eased its stance since, saying that it may grant sanction waivers to some allies that are particularly reliant on Iranian supplies.