Jordan’s King Abdallah receives Moqtada Sadr

Sadr with Jordan’s King Abdallah in Amman on Monday. (AP)
Updated 24 October 2017
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Jordan’s King Abdallah receives Moqtada Sadr

AMMAN: King Abdallah of Jordan met Moqtada Sadr, the head of Iraq’s Islamic Sadrist Movement, on Monday — the day after receiving Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi.
Al-Abadi visited the king on Sunday, following a high-level Saudi-Iraq summit attended by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Jordan’s official news agency, Petra, said that, during Monday’s meeting at Al-Husseiniya Palace, King Abdallah and Sadr focused on the importance of cementing economic and trade ties “in a manner to serve the common interest of the two countries and peoples.”
King Abdallah reportedly stressed how important it was “to preserve Iraq's territorial integrity and safety,” and praised the Iraqi army's victories against Daesh.
He also commended Sadr's nationalist and pan-Arabist approach, noting, in this context, the “positive improvement in Iraq's relations with Arab countries,” according to Petra.
Oraib Rantawi, director of the Amman-based Al-Quds Center for Political Studies, told Arab News that Jordan’s invitation to Sadr to meet with the king is part of a regional effort to distance Iraq from Iran.
“Moqtada Sadr is a Shiite Arabist and is opposed to Iranian hegemony,” Rantawi explained. He added that Sadr had taken a “strong position against” Iraq’s previous Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, who was widely perceived as pro-Iranian.
Sadr’s visit, Rantawi said, “fits neatly within the new Saudi strategy, which is aimed to bring Shiites who are against Al-Maliki closer to the Arab Sunni position.”
Sadr, Rantawi added, is “one of the few Iraqi leaders who can move the masses quickly.”
The Sadrist Movement currently holds 35 seats in the Iraqi Parliament, and his militia, Saraya Al-Salam is, Rantawi said, “very popular.”
Jordan’s interest in the meeting, Rantawi believes, is due to the proposed Iraqi-Jordanian pipeline — a crucial development for the energy-poor kingdom.
“Oil is pumped in Shiite-controlled areas and transported through Sunni-controlled areas; therefore Jordan’s interest is to have good relations with all components of Iraq,” Rantawi said.
Bassam Al-Amoush, former Jordanian minister of parliamentary affairs and former ambassador to Iran, told Arab News that this was not Sadr’s first visit to Amman.
“Jordan has good relations with all political components in Iraq, including the various Sunni tribes in Ramadi, Prime Minister Al-Abadi, and the Kurds,” Al-Amoush said.
He added that Jordan’s interests are not only related to oil: “Jordan has geopolitical interests in Iraq and is concerned about Iranian influence there, which some say constitutes Persian hegemony.”
The visits of Al-Abadi and Sadr appear to be part of a post-Daesh political reorganization of the region.
“Everyone wants to fill the empty space that they have left,” Rantawi said.


Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defense fire

Syrian pro-government forces hold a position near the village of al-Malihah, in the northern countryside of Deir Ezzor, on September 9, 2017, during the ongoing battle against Daesh group. (AFP)
Updated 10 December 2018
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Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defense fire

  • The accidental downing of a Russian transport aircraft by Syrian ground batteries during an Israel air strike on September 17 killed 15 service personnel

DAMASCUS: Syrian state media said Sunday that air defenses had opened fire near Damascus airport, before withdrawing the report after what appeared to be a false alarm.
“Our air defenses engaged hostile aerial targets in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport,” the official SANA news agency said, without providing more details.
But the report was later withdrawn by both SANA and state television without explanation.
SANA then quoted sources at the airport as saying that “there was no aggression” and that “traffic was normal.”
A well-informed source told AFP that “there was evidently a false alarm.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the sound of explosions rocked an area close to the airport and fire from air defenses was also heard.
The latest incident comes just over a week after Syria accused Israel of striking south of the capital.
The Britain-based Observatory said those were the first missiles to hit Syria since an air defense upgrade after the downing of a Russian plane in September.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in neighboring Syria against what it says are Iranian targets, many of them in the area south of Damascus.
Iran and Russia are the government’s key allies in the civil war that has raged Syria since 2011, and Moscow’s intervention in 2015 dramatically turned the tables against the rebels.
The accidental downing of a Russian transport aircraft by Syrian ground batteries during an Israel air strike on September 17 killed 15 service personnel.
Moscow pinned responsibility for the downing on Israel, saying its fighter jet used the larger Russian one for cover, an allegation Israel disputed.
Russia subsequently upgraded Syrian air defenses with the delivery of the advanced S-300 system, which Damascus insisted would make Israel “think carefully” before carrying out further air raids.
The move raised fears in Israel that its ability to rein in its arch foe Iran’s military presence in Syria would be sharply reduced.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia that Israel would continue to hit hostile targets, while also maintaining “security coordination” with Moscow.