Syrian Kurdish official: deal for Syrian army to enter Afrin

A picture taken from the Syrian village of Atme in the northwestern province of Idlib shows smoke plumes rising in the village of Deir Ballut in the Afrin region. (AFP)
Updated 19 February 2018
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Syrian Kurdish official: deal for Syrian army to enter Afrin

BEIRUT: Syrian Kurdish forces and the Damascus government have reached an agreement for the Syrian army to enter the Afrin region to help repel a Turkish offensive, a senior Kurdish official told Reuters on Sunday.
Badran Jia Kurd, an adviser to the Kurdish-led administration in north Syria, said army troops will deploy along some border positions and could enter the region within the next two days.
The agreement underscores the increasingly complex situation in northern Syria where Kurdish groups, the Syrian government, rebel groups, Turkey, the United States and Russia are tangled in a complex web of enmities and alliances.
The complex relationship between the Damascus government and the Syrian Kurds, which each holds more territory than any other side in the war, will be an important element in determining the future course of the conflict.
Turkey launched an air and ground offensive last month on Syria’s Afrin region, opening a new front in the multi-sided Syrian war to target Kurdish fighters in the autonomous canton in the north.
The Kurdish YPG militia, which has received arms from the United States, has seized swathes of northern Syria from Daesh during the conflict, and has a rival vision for the country’s future to that of the Damascus government.
But while the United States has a military presence in the much larger area of Syria the YPG and its allies control further east, it has not given any support to the YPG in Afrin.
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government has had a complex relationship with the YPG during the conflict. They have mostly avoided direct conflict and both sides have at times suggested a long-term agreement between them might be possible, but they have also sometimes clashed and espouse utterly different visions for Syria’s future. Assad has said he wants to take back control of the whole country.
Jia Kurd said the agreement that had been reached with Damascus was purely military and that no wider political arrangements had been made yet.
“When it comes to the political and administrative matters in the region, it will be agreed upon with Damascus in the later stages through direct negotiations and discussions,” he said.
He added that there was opposition to the deal that could prevent it being implemented: “We don’t know to what extent these understandings will last because there are sides that are not satisfied and want to make (the understandings) fail.”


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."