Washington will not allow Turkish army into Manbij, says Kurdish leader

A convoy of US forces armoured vehicles drives near the village of Yalanli, on the western outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Manbij. (AFP)
Updated 06 February 2018
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Washington will not allow Turkish army into Manbij, says Kurdish leader

LONDON: The commander of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has said Washington told YPG forces that it will not allow the Turkish army and Ankara-backed militants to enter Manbij, northeast of Aleppo.
Sipan Hemo said that his fighters had destroyed “11 Turkish tanks and other tanks that were operating under the Ankara-backed militants” and that “the only aid we are provided is from Damascus, and it’s medical, rescue and humanitarian aid.”
Since Jan. 20, Turkey, along with Syrian rebel factions, has launched an offensive “targeting members of YPG” — seen by Ankara as a “terror group” — in Afrin, along the northern Syrian borders. Ankara fears that the Kurds will establish self-rule on its borders along the lines of Iraqi Kurdistan.
More than 20,000 fighters from Syrian factions are participating in Operation Olive Branch, along with the Turkish Army and affiliated “special units” under the cover of the Turkish air force, after Ankara had the green light from Russia, which is covering its air force in the regions in the West of Syria’s Euphrates River.
In a phone call with Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday, Hemo said from Afrin: “Seventeen days after launching the offensive, Turkey has not achieved any of it goals. Turkey is now reviewing and calculating, as it considers the current situation a matter of irreversible survival. As Turks launched the operation, they thought they would achieve their goals within days but that has not yet happened.”
He added: “Turkey is looking to destroy the will of the Kurds. However, tactically, what it really wishes to do is to take control over Afrin and the eastern and western country sides of Aleppo up to the city of Aleppo, as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has always wanted to annex Aleppo, considering it part of the Ottoman Empire. However, Turkey has not achieved a significant military advance.”
Hemo, leading the “units” from his residence in Afrin, indicated that his fighters “destroyed 11 Turkish tanks and other tanks. Many Turkish and pro-regime soldiers were killed.”
Hemo and Syrian Kurdish commanders sent Asharq Al-Awsat videos of fighters launching tank attacks with anti-tank missiles between Afrin and Turkish borders, as well as pictures of raids launched on Kurdish cites in the region. Some reports indicated that the units have used long-range Grad rocket-launchers, but this has yet to be confirmed.
It was said that it was Washington that handed the American-made TOW missiles to the YPG — the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces — to fight Daesh initially and that Moscow and Damascus provided the Russian-made Konkurs missiles.
Hemo said: “The missiles are not American nor Russian, but thermobaric missiles we found on the black market and developed ourselves. The US said many times that it has nothing to do with Afrin and Al-Shahba’ regions near Aleppo. Our joint work with the US is limited to the fight against Daesh in eastern Euphrates river.”
When asked about Damascus’ support of the Kurdish units to fight the Turkish army, Hemo said: “Our position is very clear. Syria should be protecting the Syrian border from any Turkish assault. However, we were only provided with medical, rescue and humanitarian aid.”


Iraq’s Al-Fattah leaders deep in coalition talks with Muqtada Al-Sadr

Updated 22 May 2018
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Iraq’s Al-Fattah leaders deep in coalition talks with Muqtada Al-Sadr

  • Negotiations between the leading Iraqi political forces to form the biggest parliamentary bloc started immediately after the official results were announced late on Friday.
  • The backing of Al-Fattah leaders is essential to nominate the next prime minister and form a strong and stable government.

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Al-Fattah, the Iranian-backed parliamentary bloc that won the second-highest vote in the parliamentary elections, are in deep negotiations with the powerful Shiite leader, Muqtada Al-Sadr to form a coalition.

While it is too early to talk about ministerial posts, Al-Fattah has no veto over Haider Al-Abadi, the current prime minister, from taking a second term, the alliance’s senior leaders told Arab News on Tuesday.

Negotiations between the leading Iraqi political forces to form the biggest parliamentary bloc started immediately after the official results were announced late on Friday. The biggest coalition has the exclusive right to nominate the prime minister and form a government.

The backing of Al-Fattah leaders is essential to nominate the next prime minister and form a strong and stable government.

Ahmed Assadi, the spokesman of Fattah and one of its leaders, said negotiations were continuing with Sairoon, the alliance which came first in the election with 54 seats and is led by Al-Sadr.

“There is no way to form a government without either of them,” Al-Assidi said.

“Both (Fattah and Sairoon) represent the biggest alliances among the winning forces and enjoy great support in the street and the region, so there is no way to ignore one of them.”

The Fattah alliance, which is openly funded and supported by Iran, won 47 seats, which includes 22 seats won by Badr Organization, one of the most prominent Shiite armed groups and 17 seats won by Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, the second most powerful Shiite paramilitary group.
The relationship between Al-Sadr and Fattah leaders is tense as the cleric has accused Fattah factions of carrying out an Iranian agenda in Iraq.

Al-Sadr has said on several occasions in the last two weeks that he is ready to negotiate with all political forces except Fattah and the State of Law — led by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki.

But Al-Sadr’s tone has changed in recent days and he has come back to say that the coalition he is working on, is open to everyone.

Assadi and two other Al-Fattah leaders said talks have focussed on forming the biggest parliamentary bloc so far not the nomination of the prime minister.

“Our vision is to form a big parliamentary bloc first within the Shiite winning blocs, and then go to the Kurdish and Sunni (winning) blocs,” Assadi said.

Along with Sairoon and Al-Fattah, the talks involving prime minster Al-Abadi’s Al-Nassir alliance, Hikma, led by the prominent cleric Ammar Al-Hakim, Al-Wattiniya, led by Vice President Ayad Allawi, and Maliki’s State of Law.

The only thing that has been agreed upon so far is the formation of a national majority government, not a political power sharing administration. Also, the negotiators have agreed to postpone talking about positions, including the post of prime minister, leaders said.

“It is still too early to announce any coalition,” a senior leader of Fattah involved in the talks and talked told Arab News. “Talks are still focusing on the government program and the details are too many.

“Al-Sadr, Nassir and Hikma are insisting to nominate Al-Abadi but we clearly said that we have no veto against him, but that there would be no discussions over the names until we agree on all the other details.”