Ankara has right to defend itself, says NATO chief

NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Lisbon, Portugal on Friday. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 January 2018
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Ankara has right to defend itself, says NATO chief

BRUSSELS: NATO Secretary- General Jens Stoltenberg said that member state Turkey had a right to act in self-defense as Ankara presses a military operation against Kurdish-held positions in northern Syria.
“All nations have the right to defend themselves, but this has to be done in a proportionate and measured way,” Stoltenberg said in a statement issued by his office.
Turkey launched an offensive against the Kurdish YPG (people’s protection units) militia on Saturday in their enclave of Afrin, supporting Syrian opposition with airstrikes and ground troops.
The assault has raised fears among NATO member states that the fight against extremists in Syria might be impacted by Turkey’s push.
“Turkey has also briefed allies at NATO this week on their operation in northern Syria,” Stoltenberg said.
“Turkey is one of the NATO nations that suffers the most from terrorism.”
The NATO chief added that the alliance was providing air defense support for Turkey “against missiles fired from Syria” but stressed it had no forces on the ground in the nation.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday threatened to expand the offensive and vowed to “clean up” the Syrian city of Manbij.
Erdogan vowed in a speech in Ankara that Turkey would “continue our fight until there is no terrorist on our border.”
He said the operation would last until “we reach our goals,” adding: “Afterwards we will, as promised, clean up Manbij of terrorists.”
But Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday insisted Turkey was not intending to occupy Afrin and would return the region to its “real” owners.
According to Anthony Skinner, director of MENA at global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, “direct military conflict” between Turkish and US forces is possible because of Erdogan’s threats to expand the campaign to Manbij.
“Turkish-US relations are teetering on the brink of a precipice,” Skinner added.
The EU has also expressed concern over the Turkish intervention in Syria, which is further complicating the war that has claimed more than 340,000 lives since 2011.


Iraqi cleric Al-Sadr threatens to withdraw support for Abdul Mahdi’s government

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2019
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Iraqi cleric Al-Sadr threatens to withdraw support for Abdul Mahdi’s government

  • “No one can predict what Al-Sadr thinks and even his MPs do not know what the man thinks, so it is likely that this threat is part of the ongoing negotiations”

BAGHDAD: Moqtada Al-Sadr, the powerful Iraqi Shiite cleric, on Monday threatened to withdraw his support for the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi if the prime minister fails to finalize the formation of his Cabinet within 10 days.
Al-Sadr is one of the most influential clerics in the country, with millions of followers, a large armed faction and a parliamentary bloc. He is the official sponsor of the Reform Alliance, the second-largest parliamentary coalition, which is overseeing the formation of the government following the national parliamentary elections in May last year. The removal of his support for Abdul Mahdi’s government might take the form of an announcement that he no longer has confidence in the Parliament, or the organization of mass demonstrations.
Abdul Mahdi, who became prime minister in October, formed his government with the support of Reform and the pro-Iranian Construction coalition. The latter is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, the commander of Badr Organization, one of the most powerful Shiite armed factions. However, disputes between the two alliances over some of the candidates erupted at the last minute, as a result of which four ministries remain vacant: Interior, defense, education and justice.

Monday’s statement, which was signed by Al-Sadr and described as his “last call,” was addressed to his Saeiroon parliamentary bloc, the leaders of all political blocs, and Abdul Mahdi. It was issued in response to criticism on social on Monday because of the vote by members of the parliamentary blocs, including Al-Sadr’s MPs, the day before to grant all the privileges enjoyed by the former MPs to the deputies who ruled out by the Federal Supreme Court due to the error of counting their votes.
“All the political blocs must authorize the prime minister to complete his ministerial Cabinet within 10 days…and he (Abdul Mahdi) must choose (the ministers) according to the standards of integrity, efficiency and specialization, or I will not support him,” Al-Sadr’s statement read.

His position is the latest in a series of events that have put pressure on Abdul Mahdi in recent weeks. These include efforts by some political blocs, including Saeiroon, to dismiss a number of ministers under the pretext of failure to improve services and inability to combat the financial and administrative corruption that is rampant in their departments.
While most political leaders believe that reaching a political agreement on candidates to fill the vacant ministries within 10 days “will be very difficult” and predict “this may be the end of the government of Abdul Mahdi,” some believe that Al-Sadr’s goal is to pile more pressure on Abdul Mahdi as a way to obtain certain concessions.

“Saeiroon is still negotiating with the prime minister and the other political partners to obtain some key government posts that its rivals are looking to get, and Abdul Mahdi refused to give them to the Saeiroon candidates, so this could be a part of this,” said a prominent Shiite negotiator who asked not to be named. “No one can predict what Al-Sadr thinks and even his MPs do not know what the man thinks, so it is likely that this threat is part of the ongoing negotiations."