Iran’s Soleimani in Baghdad for talks to shape next Iraqi government

A file photo showing Iran’s IRGC leader General Qasem Soleimani.(AFP)
Updated 16 May 2018
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Iran’s Soleimani in Baghdad for talks to shape next Iraqi government

LONDON: Iran and its allies were launching a bid on Wednesday to limit the role of fiery Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr in Iraq’s next government after his shock election win reshaped the country’s political landscape.
AFP reported that Iran’s “strong man” General Qassem Soleimani held talks in Baghdad with two prominent Shiite parties.
AFP, quoting a source who attended both meetings, added that Soleimani will push for a broader coalition to re-unite former Iraqi prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki and the current PM Haidar Al-Abadi, both from the Shiite Daawa party.
The source confirmed that the Iranians hope to build the largest Iraqi Shiite coalition to lead the next government, and Soleimani is working to mend fences between Abadi and Al-Maliki in addition to Bader militia leader Hadi Ameri, and Ammar Al-Hakim as well as Iraqi Kurds loyal to Iran.
Preliminary numbers from last weekend’s vote put the ‘Conquest Alliance’ of pro-Iranian former militia leader Hadi Al-Ameri, whose forces helped battle Daesh, in second place, followed by incumbent Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s bloc.
Abadi, a consensus figure favored by the US had been seen as a likely frontrunner after declaring victory over Daesh five months ago.
The vote, which saw record high abstention, was considered a slap in the face to the widely reviled elite that has dominated Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
According to the officials, Soleimani ruled out any alliance with Sadr, who surprised many last year by visiting Iran’s regional foe Saudi Arabia as Riyadh sought increased involvement in Iraq.


US believes Daesh likely responsible for Manbij blast

Updated 1 min 56 sec ago
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US believes Daesh likely responsible for Manbij blast

  • US government sources say the Pentagon and other national agencies are investigating the bombing
  • This is one of the deadliest attacks on US forces in Syria since their deployment in 2015

WASHINGTON: The US government believes the Daesh militant group is likely responsible for Wednesday’s attack in northern Syria that killed four Americans, although it has not reached a firm conclusion, two US government sources said on Thursday.
The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Pentagon and other US agencies were investigating who carried out the attack in Manbij, Syria.
Officials studying the incident are not dismissing Daesh’s claim of responsibility for the blast, which killed two US troops and two civilians working for the US military, and regard it as plausible if not likely, one of the sources said.
The attack occurred nearly a month after President Donald Trump confounded his own national security team with a surprise decision on Dec. 19 to withdraw all 2,000 US troops from Syria, declaring Daesh had been defeated there.
The Manbij attack appeared to be the deadliest on US forces in Syria since they deployed on the ground there in 2015 and it took place in a town controlled by a militia allied to US-backed Kurdish forces.
If Daesh carried out the attack, that would undercut assertions, including by US Vice President Mike Pence several hours after the blast on Wednesday, that the militant group has been defeated.
Experts do not believe Daesh has been beaten despite its having lost almost all of the territory it held in 2014 and 2015 after seizing parts of Syria and Iraq and declaring a “caliphate.”
While the group’s footprint has shrunk, experts believe it is far from a spent force and can still conduct guerilla-style attacks. A Daesh statement on Wednesday said a Syrian suicide bomber had detonated his explosive vest in Manbij.
Trump’s Dec. 19 announcement was one of the reasons his former defense secretary, Jim Mattis, resigned. It stunned allies and raised fears of a long-threatened Turkish military offensive against US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
How and when US forces leave has deepened uncertainty in northern Syria, with Turkey and Syrian President Bashar Assad ready to fill the vacuum.
The US-backed YPG militia that is allied to the fighters holding Manbij last month invited Assad into the area around the town to forestall a potential Turkish assault. Syrian army troops entered the area soon after.
The YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces vowed on Thursday to ramp up attacks on Daesh remnants.