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.


Jordan campaigns to combat drug addiction taboo

Jordan courts sentence drug traffickers for up to 20 years. (AFP)
Updated 13 min 8 sec ago
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Jordan campaigns to combat drug addiction taboo

  • The number of drug addictions in Jordan increased by 32% since 2017
  • Authorities arrested 20,000 in 2018 for drug abuse

AMMAN: Issam was reduced to tears recounting his life as a drug addict, as Jordanian authorities press an unprecedented campaign in the Muslim-majority country where substance abuse remains taboo.
Slogans such as “No to Drugs” are part of the new drive, launched in the wake of a worrying rise in the number of cases of addiction, possession and smuggling, to raise overall awareness of the issue, according to the anti-narcotics department.
Jordan’s public security directorate has also started a primetime radio show that airs every Tuesday to address the dangers of drug addiction.
“Drugs have made me an outcast. No one respects me or even looks at me,” Issam said during the show, hosted by Major Anas Al-Tantawi of the anti-narcotics department.
“It got to the point where I sold my furniture and my five-year-old daughter’s gold earrings ... I tried to commit suicide twice.”
As the show came to a close, Tantawi said: “They are victims, and we must help them, not discard them.”
Brigadier Anwar Al-Tarawneh, director of the anti-narcotics department, told AFP there has been a 32 percent increase in cases of addiction, possession smuggling in Jordan since 2017.
The evidence is there. In a room in the department, the shelves are crammed with white plastic bags and brown envelopes bulging with seized drugs — including heroin, cocaine and amphetamines. Some were smuggled into the country in hollowed-out books, or shoes or disguised as pastries in a box.
But authorities say hashish is the most commonly used drug in the kingdom, where 20,000 people were arrested in 2018 for drug abuse.
Drug traffickers in Jordan, which has a small population of just over nine million, face sentences of between three and 20 years, depending on the amount and type of drugs seized.
Under a 2016 law, addicts are exempted from serving time if they agree to treatment at a rehabilitation center.
But drug addicts are generally still looked down upon by Jordan’s conservative society.
“Drugs are a (vice) that affects one’s mind, soul, finances and health,” Muslim preacher Raed Sabri, who has a YouTube channel, told AFP.
Recovering addicts however must be “cared for and not discarded so that they can again be contributing members of society,” he insisted.
The kingdom’s anti-drugs campaign targets those aged between 18 and 27, who make up 47 percent of users, according to the anti-narcotics department.
According to Jamal Al-Anani, a psychiatrist and drug addiction specialist, “curiosity, lack of maturity and stress” are the main causes that lead to addiction among teenagers.
Apart from workshops in schools and universities, Tarawneh said authorities were using “modern methods,” including social media, to reach those most vulnerable.
At a 170-bed rehab center in the capital Amman, affiliated with the public security directorate, posters on the walls read “Drugs are a Monster, don’t come near” and “Drugs are a Waste of Money.”
Treatment lasts between one and two months, said Fawaz Al-Masaeed, the center’s director.
“There are three stages: detox, treatment and rehabilitation,” he told AFP, and the center follows up with patients for four months after their discharge.
Omar, 32, said his mother encouraged him to check in to the center after having struggled with drug addiction for 14 years.
“A friend offered me a cigarette when I was depressed, telling me ‘Take this, it’ll make you relax,’” Omar, now a father of four, told AFP.
“When I asked for another, I realized it was hashish ... I was 18 years old.”
After years of substance abuse, “my health deteriorated, I lost 27 kilos, I lost my job, and it strained my relationships with everyone around me. I destroyed my life.”
Now after his rehabilitation, Omar hopes “to start a new life.”