Rebuild Iraq or risk return of Daesh, warns US

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives to attend the Kuwait International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq, in Kuwait City on February 13, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 13 February 2018
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Rebuild Iraq or risk return of Daesh, warns US

KUWAIT CITY: Nations fighting Daesh must help rebuild Iraq after three years of war or risk the country sliding back into chaos, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday.

He urged a meeting of major donors in Kuwait to unite and stay focused on defeating Daesh, which remains “a serious threat to the stability of the region, our homelands and other parts of the globe.”

His warning came amid escalating US-Turkish tensions over northern Syria, and a diplomatic standoff that has pitted Qatar against Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

The war against Daesh must remain the priority even though major combat operations are over, Tillerson said.

Having helped with the fighting, countries across the region have a duty to help Iraq rebuild its shattered infrastructure, he added.

“We must continue to clear unexploded remnants of war left behind by Daesh, enable hospitals to reopen, restore water and electricity services, and get boys and girls back in school,” he said.

Representatives of at least 2,300 companies from 70 countries are attending the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq, which is due to end on Wednesday. It has been organized by Kuwait, Iraq and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The task faced is enormous, with large parts of Iraq left in ruins by almost 15 years of war, dating back to the 2003 US-led invasion and subsequent occupation of the country.

In January 2014, an early incarnation of Daesh captured the city of Fallujah — the first major urban center in Iraq to fall into its hands.

Then in June that year it seized Mosul, followed by Ramadi in May 2015. At the same time, it governed large parts of Syria.

Last December, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi declared victory over Daesh in his country.

Speaking at the conference in Kuwait, he urged delegates to capitalize on this progress by helping Iraq get back on its feet.

“The return of those who were displaced requires our help to rebuild their homes,” he said. “Today, Iraq stands in rubble.”

But with violence escalating in neighboring Syria, donors have their work cut out. Tillerson said the US will spend $200 million on development projects in Syria, bringing its total contribution to the humanitarian effort there to almost $7.9 billion since the conflict began in 2011.

But with Turkish forces continuing to push into northern Syria to confront US-backed Kurdish militias, Damascus recently shooting down an Israeli warplane over Syrian territory, and Russia and Iran heavily involved in the war, the wider region remains highly volatile.

Tillerson called for an end to the long-running dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in which Riyadh accuses Doha of supporting extremists and being too close to Iran.


Sudan security forces tear gas protesters in Omdurman

Updated 22 January 2019
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Sudan security forces tear gas protesters in Omdurman

  • The mushrooming protests are widely seen as the biggest threat to Bashir’s rule
  • Protesters described using medical masks soaked in vinegar to fend off tear gas

KHARTOUM: Sudanese police fired tear gas at crowds of demonstrators in the capital’s twin city Omdurman on Tuesday protesting against the fatal wounding of a demonstrator last week, witnesses said.

The demonstration, which came ahead of planned nighttime rallies in both Omdurman and Khartoum just across the Nile, was the latest in more than a month of escalating protests against the three-decade rule of President Omar Bashir.

Bashir has made defiant appearances at loyalist rallies in Khartoum and other cities.

Chanting “overthrow, overthrow” and “freedom, peace and justice,” the catchword slogans of the protest movement, the demonstrators had gathered near the home of their dead comrade.

The doctors’ branch of the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA) said he had died on Monday from wounds sustained when demonstrators clashed with security forces in Khartoum on Thursday.

The SPA has taken the lead in organizing the protests after hundreds of opposition activists were detained, and its doctors’ branch has taken casualties.

Human rights groups say that several medics have been among more than 40 people killed in clashes with the security forces since the protests erupted on Dec. 19, 2018.

The authorities say 26 people have been killed, including at least one doctor, but blame rebel provocateurs they say have infiltrated the protesters’ ranks.

The mushrooming protests are widely seen as the biggest threat to Bashir’s rule since he took power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.

Triggered by the government’s tripling of the price of bread, which brought demonstrators onto the streets of the eastern farming hub of Atbara and other provincial towns, the protests rapidly spread to the metropolis and other big cities as people vented their anger against the government.

A chronic shortage of foreign currency since the breakaway of South Sudan in 2011 deprived the government of most of its oil revenues, has stoked spiraling inflation and widespread shortages.

Bashir has survived previous protest movements in September 2013 and January last year.

But his efforts to blame the US for Sudan’s economic woes have fallen on increasingly deaf ears as people have struggled to buy even basic foods and medicines.

“I am tired of prices going up every minute and standing up in bread lines for hours only for the bakery’s owner to decide how many loaves I can buy,” a 42-year-old woman, Fatima, said during protests last week on the outskirts of the capital of Khartoum.

Fatima and others speaking to the AP would not provide their full names, insisting on anonymity because they fear reprisals by the authorities.

Protesters described using medical masks soaked in vinegar or yeast and tree leaves to fend off tear gas. They said they try to fatigue police by staging nighttime flash protests in residential alleys unfamiliar to the security forces.

“We have used tactics employed by the Egyptians, Tunisians and Syrians but we have so far refrained from pelting security forces with rocks or firebombs,” said Ashraf, another demonstrator.

They said there was little they can do about live ammunition except to keep medics and doctors close by to administer first aid to casualties.

They also described checking paths of planned protests to identify escape routes and potential ambushes by police. Some of their slogans are borrowed from the Arab Spring days, like “the people want to bring down the regime.”