Baghdad begins sealing Syria border to block Daesh

Baghdad declared victory over Daesh at the end of last year. (AFP)
Updated 01 July 2018
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Baghdad begins sealing Syria border to block Daesh

  • Baghdad declared victory over Daesh at the end of last year, but the group holds pockets of territory in the vast deserts of eastern Syria and maintains its ability to strike inside Iraq
  • The supreme court has ratified a decision by the outgoing Parliament to dismiss Iraq’s nine-member electoral commission and have them replaced by judges

BAGHDAD/MOSUL: Iraq has begun building a fence along its border with Syria to stop Daesh militants crossing into the country, a border guards spokesman said Sunday.

“Ten days ago we started to set up a barbed wire security fence with surveillance towers along the border with Syria,” said Anwar Hamid Nayef, spokesman in Iraq’s Anbar province.
The frontier barrier includes a six-meter-wide trench and involves thermal cameras and drones scanning the border for militants attempting to cross from Syria.
Baghdad declared victory over Daesh at the end of last year, but the group holds pockets of territory in the vast deserts of eastern Syria and maintains its ability to strike inside Iraq.
The new fence so far runs for 20 km north from the area around the border town of Al-Qaim, which Iraqi forces retook from Daesh in November. In total the frontier stretches for some 600 kms.
Border spokesman Nayef said that experts from Baghdad’s Ministry of Defense and an anti-Daesh coalition spearheaded by the US would come “to evaluate the effectiveness of the fence.”
“If they approve the installations, we will continue along the whole border with Syria,” he said.
In a sign of the continuing menace it poses to Iraq, the bodies of eight captives executed by Daesh were this week found along a highway north of Baghdad.
In a bid to combat the militants, Iraqi forces have carried out a series of airstrikes against Daesh inside Syria.

Parliamentary vacuum
Iraq’s Parliament held its final session on Saturday, leaving the country without a national assembly for the first time since 2003 as it awaits a vote recount from May parliamentary polls.
The manual recount was demanded by the supreme court in polling stations with contested results, in line with a decision by the outgoing Parliament following allegations of fraud.
Parliament’s Deputy Speaker Aram Sheikh Mohammed announced “the end of the third parliamentary mandate,” at a gathering attended by 127 members of the 328-seat house.
Since the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq has had three parliaments each with a mandate of four years.
The last ballot was won by populist leader Moqtada Al-Sadr’s electoral alliance with communists, as long-time political figures were pushed out by voters seeking change in a country mired in conflict and corruption.
Results of the May election were contested mainly by the political old guard. The supreme court has ratified a decision by the outgoing Parliament to dismiss Iraq’s nine-member electoral commission and have them replaced by judges.
The judges’ spokesman, Laith Hamza, said Saturday that the partial recount would start Tuesday in the Kurdish provinces of Irbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk, as well as in Kirkuk, Nineveh, Salaheddin and Anbar.
Meanwhile, Iraqi cellist and conductor Karim Wasfi has played a concert for “peace and co-existence” amid the ruins of Mosul, almost a year after Iraqi forces ousted Daesh from the city.
Dozens of people attended on Friday as Wasfi, in full concert dress, played on a makeshift stage among the most iconic religious monuments of Iraq’s second city.


Libya warlord casts shadow over Italy’s bid to solve crisis

Updated 39 min 31 sec ago
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Libya warlord casts shadow over Italy’s bid to solve crisis

  • Haftar arrived in Palermo from his Benghazi stronghold on Monday evening after days of doubts over his crucial presence, but did not attend a working dinner with other leaders
  • Analysts say the Sicily summit risks being compromised not only by tensions between Libyan factions but also the competing agendas of foreign powers

PALERMO: Italy hosts Libyan and global leaders on Tuesday to try to kick-start a long-stalled political process and trigger elections, with eastern Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar casting a shadow over the fresh bid to bring stability to the chaos-stricken nation.
Italy is the latest country aiming to bring Libya’s disparate and often warring factions together after a Paris summit in May saw the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and Haftar agree to hold national polls on December 10 — a date which has fallen by the wayside.
Acknowledging the chaotic political situation since dictator Muammar Qaddafi was deposed in 2011, the United Nations last week conceded elections will not be viable before at least the spring of 2019.
Haftar arrived in Palermo from his Benghazi stronghold on Monday evening after days of doubts over his crucial presence, but did not attend a working dinner with other leaders.
“The path to Libyan stability is complex and does not include shortcuts or miraculous solutions,” Conte told the dinner, according to Italian media.
Conte did not confirm reports that he would hold bilateral talks on Monday evening, and it was not certain that Haftar would join roundtable talks set for Tuesday morning.
Analysts say the Sicily summit risks being compromised not only by tensions between Libyan factions but also the competing agendas of foreign powers.
Just as in May, the key Libyan invitees are Haftar, the eastern parliament’s speaker Aguila Salah, GNA head Fayez Al-Sarraj and Khaled Al-Mechri, speaker of a Tripoli-based upper chamber.
The GNA says it will use the Palermo talks to lobby for security reforms that unify the army, a constitutionally rooted electoral process, economic reform and an end to “parallel institutions.”

The US, Arab countries and European nations have all sent representatives to the talks, including Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
For Rome’s populist government, a top priority is stemming the flow of migrants who exploit Libya’s security vacuum in their quest to reach European shores, often via Italy.
UN envoy Ghassan Salame told the Security Council on Thursday that a national conference in early 2019 would be organized to provide “a platform” for Libyans to spell out their vision for the future.
But diplomatic wrangling between Italy and France hangs over this summit.
In September, Italy’s defense minister and parliamentary speaker both partly blamed France for Libya’s security crisis, which continues to simmer some seven years after the NATO-backed uprising toppled Qaddafi.
The Italian swipes came as Tripoli was plagued by militia clashes that killed at least 117 people and wounded more than 400 between late August and late September.
Salame’s deputy Stephanie Williams on Monday hailed the GNA’s moves to secure Tripoli since then but said more must be done to “generate regular forces ready to assume security responsibilities in the capital.”
Rome and Paris have for months been at loggerheads over Libya’s election timetable. While France repeatedly endorsed the December date, Italy opposed it.
Italy has not been alone in pushing for elections to be delayed. The December 10 date was also viewed skeptically by Washington and Moscow.
One Italian diplomatic source said that no definitive poll date should be set at the summit and it is “not sure that there will be a final document” after the talks.
According to diplomats and analysts, Russia, France, Egypt and the UAE support Haftar, while Turkey and Qatar have thrown their weight behind rivals to the eastern strongman, especially Islamist groups.