Iran re-opens border crossing with Iraqi Kurdistan region

A view of Hajj Omran border between Iran and Kurdistan, Iraq October 14, 2017. Picture taken October 14, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 October 2017
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Iran re-opens border crossing with Iraqi Kurdistan region

BEIRUT: Iran opened a border crossing with the Kurdistan region of Iraq Wednesday after having closed it following last month’s vote in favor of independence in the Kurdish area, Iranian state media reported.
Iran backs the Shi’ite-led central government in Baghdad in its opposition to Kurdish secession, and Iranian-backed militias assisted government forces when they seized a number of Kurdish cities last week.
The decision comes on the same day as the Kurdish Regional Government offered to put their independence drive on hold, stepping up efforts to resolve a crisis in relations with Baghdad via dialogue rather than military means.
“After the referendum and changes within the Kurdistan region our borders with the Kurdistan region of Iraq were closed... today the Bashmagh border is open,” Jahangir Bakhshi, the head of customs for the border crossing, said, according to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) news agency.
The report made no mention the KRG’s offer for resolving the dispute through talks.
The Bashmagh border crossing is located approximately 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of the city of Sulaimaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Last week, Iraqi security forces took control of several cities, including the oil-rich Kirkuk, from Kurdish forces in a lightning assault. Shi’ite fighters from the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), many of whom have been armed and trained by Iran, took part in the military action.
Prior to the assault, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of foreign operations for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, traveled to Iraq’s Kurdistan region to encourage Kurdish leaders to withdraw their forces, known as Peshmerga, from Kirkuk.
Peshmerga commanders have accused Iran of orchestrating the operation, a charge Iranian officials have denied.
Bakshi said on Wednesday that it was not clear when the other borders points between Iran and the Kurdistan region of Iraq would reopen.
There are approximately 20 billion dollars of annual cross-border trade through the Bashmagh border point Bakhshi said, according to IRIB.


Lebanese budget protesters clash with security in Beirut

Updated 20 May 2019
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Lebanese budget protesters clash with security in Beirut

  • Over one hundred protesters gathered Monday outside the Government House in downtown Beirut
  • Lebanon faces a looming fiscal crisis as the economy struggles with soaring debt

BEIRUT: Security forces opened water cannons on Lebanese anti-austerity protesters in the country’s capital on Monday, as the government continued to hold marathon meetings to discuss severe budget cuts.
Lebanon faces a looming fiscal crisis as the economy struggles with soaring debt, rising unemployment and slow growth. The government’s tightened budget and key reforms aim to unlock billions of dollars in pledged foreign assistance. But planned cuts have unleashed a wave of public discontent, amid leaks that austerity could target public wages, services and social benefits.

A retired Lebanese soldier chants slogans while holding an army flag, during a protest in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday. (AP)

Over one hundred protesters gathered Monday outside the Government House in downtown Beirut shouting “Thieves, thieves!” as the Cabinet met for its 16th session and struggles to reach agreement.
Protesters pushed back against police lines and set fire to tires outside the building. At least two policemen and one civilian were wounded in the scuffles.
Among those demonstrating Monday were public and private school teachers and retired officers.
The government, headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, has sought to calm nerves while also describing the upcoming budget as the most austere in Lebanon’s history.
Hariri said he hopes the government will be able to send the budget to parliament later this week.
Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said the cabinet made “important progress” in discussions Sunday.