Iraqi court rules elections must take place on May 12

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi attends an event in Baghdad. (File photo/Reuters)
Updated 21 January 2018

Iraqi court rules elections must take place on May 12

BAGHDAD: Parliamentary and provincial elections in Iraq must take place on their scheduled date of May 12, the Federal Supreme Court ruled on Sunday.
The order ends a two-month debate on the issue after Sunni and Kurdish parliamentary blocs asked for voting to be postponed.
They argued that there was a lack of preparation because of the fight to drive Daesh out of towns and cities they had held for three years.
Gaining more time is crucial for Sunni politicians who lost their influence to political and tribal figures who fought Daesh alongside the government under the umbrella of Shiite-dominated paramilitary troops.
Kurds have also been looking to gain more time. Since October, they have lost their control over disputed areas after Baghdad launched a military campaign to drive the Kurdish forces back into their own region.
In their appeal for a postponement, the Sunni and Kurdish blocs relied on the previous electoral law, which said the date of the election should be approved by the parliament.
But the Supreme Court ruled that the constitution was “the supreme law in Iraq and is binding in all its regions, without any exceptions,” so the parliamentary and provincial elections should be held according to the constitutional dates.
“The Federal Court’s decision ended the debate over delaying the elections,” said Salim Al-Joubori, the parliamentary Speaker.
“The government must abide by its commitments to bring the displaced people back to their homes and provide them with the appropriate environment to ensure the participation of all in the upcoming election.”
Rebuilding infrastructure in cities and towns affected by the fighting, and bringing back more than three million displaced people to their homes, are the biggest challenges for the government before the elections.
Sunni politicians argue that the government cannot meet these commitments before the election date.
“This decision … is wrong and against the interest of Iraqis,” Hamid Al-Mutlaq, a senior Sunni politician, told Arab News. “The Supreme Electoral Commission is not ready to held the elections.” Hilding elections in May “does not give a fair or professional impression about the situation in Iraq,” he said.
“There will be a parliamentary session on Monday and we will see what to do.”

US Treasury imposes sanctions on Iranian network supporting child soldiers

Updated 38 min 39 sec ago

US Treasury imposes sanctions on Iranian network supporting child soldiers

WASHINGTON: The US Treasury announced new sanctions against Iran's Bank Mellat and Mehr Eqtesad Bank on Tuesday.

The Treasury also announced sanctions against Iran Tractor Manufacturing Company, Esfehan's Mobarakeh Steel Company, as well as other firms.

According to the Tresury, the group make up a multibillion-dollar financial network that supports an Iranian paramilitary force that recruits and trains child soldiers for the country's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The Bonyad Taavon Basij network supports a volunteer paramilitary group, the Basij Resistance Force, which works with the IRGC, the Treasury said in a statement.

Both Basij groups were targeted by the new sanctions.

"This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij's efforts to recruit, train, and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC's direction," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The Basij is involved in violent crackdowns and serious human rights abuses within Iran, the statement said. It recruits and trains fighters for the IRGC-Quds Force, including Iranian children as young as 12, who then deploy to Syria to support the government of President Bashar al-Assad regime, it said.

The designations highlight that "this Iranian regime is not a normal government," a senior administration official said. "Normal governments don't have revolutionary arms that support revolution and wreak havoc with their neighbors. They don't recruit indoctrinate and use child soldiers."

The sanctions were imposed on Bank Mellat, Mehr Eqtesad Bank, Mehr Eqtesad Iranian Investment Co and five other investment firms, the Treasury said.

The sanctions also target Iran Tractor Manufacturing Co, the Middle East's largest tractor manufacturer, and Esfahan's Mobarakeh Steel Co, the largest steelmaker in the Middle East and North Africa region, Treasury said.