Iraq reinforces border with Syria, fearing Daesh spillover

Iraqi forces gather near the Al-Qaim border crossing between Syria and Iraq, as troops reinforced their positions along the porous frontier with neighboring war-torn Syria. (AFP)
Updated 03 November 2018
0

Iraq reinforces border with Syria, fearing Daesh spillover

AL-QAIM: Iraqi troops have reinforced their positions along the porous frontier with neighboring war-torn Syria, fearing a spillover from clashes there between Daesh militants and US-backed forces.
For weeks, Daesh has fought back an assault by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on a key militant-held pocket in Syria’s eastern Deir Ezzor province near the border with Iraq.
It managed to recapture some territory from the SDF around Hajjin, prompting Baghdad to dispatch reinforcements to its own border, including paramilitary units from the Hashed Al-Shaabi and the army.
“All measures have been taken: we have control towers, observation posts, dirt berms and trenches,” Lt. Col. Abbas Mohammad, the head of one border unit, said Thursday.
“The SDF’s retreat will not be a threat to Iraq,” he added.
Soldiers could be seen posted along a sand berm topped by barbed wire and decorated with Iraqi flags, according to an AFP video journalist at the scene.
Military vehicles patrolled between barracks, and soldiers stationed at observation posts pointed their machine guns toward the Syrian border.
Helicopters and more armored cars arrived throughout the day.
According to Iraqi General Qassem Al-Mohammadi, who heads operations in Iraq’s western Anbar province, Daesh fighters were just “five or six kilometers away, inside Syria.”
Anbar, a massive desert governorate which extends from the edge of Baghdad west toward the Syrian border, served as a militant bastion before Iraqi forces retook it in late 2017.
Across the border in Syria, two separate offensives have aimed at ousting Daesh from the frontier with Iraq.
One has been carried out by Russian-backed Syrian troops, who have cleared Daesh from territory west of the Euphrates River.
That includes the Albu Kamal border post with Iraq, which was captured last year. Authorities in both Baghdad and Damascus said in mid-October that they hope to revitalize cross-border trade through it as soon as possible.
The SDF is still fighting Daesh east of the Euphrates around Hajjin, where the US-led coalition estimates around 2,000 militants are based.


Houthis mobilize to fight ahead of UN envoy’s visit

Pro-government drive in an industrial district in the eastern outskirts of the port city Hodeidah. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2018
0

Houthis mobilize to fight ahead of UN envoy’s visit

  • Dozens of Houthis put on a show of strength on the outskirts of Sanaa on Saturday
  • UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said on Friday that he plans to travel to Sanaa in the coming week

SANAA: Iran-backed Houthi militias have said they are ready to mobilize more fighters to the frontline despite a lull in battleground Hodeidah, as the UN envoy prepares to visit the country to boost peace efforts.

Dozens of Houthis put on a show of strength on the outskirts of Sanaa on Saturday, apparently getting ready to head toward Hodeidah, a Red Sea city home to a vital port.

Men, some of whom looked very young, were lining up with bandoliers around their shoulders and rifles in their hands, chanting Houthi slogans.

Residents said on Sunday that relative calm had held in Hodeidah city since pro-government forces announced a pause in their offensive last week amid international calls for a cease-fire and UN-led peace efforts.  They added, however, that they remain on edge.

Meanwhile, coalition fighter jets on Sunday carried out a series of strikes targeting Houthi positions west of Marib. The strikes, which were accompanied by shelling, came after the Iranian-supported militia launched ballistic missiles toward the city of Marib. Coalition forces successfully intercepted the missiles, Yemeni army media said.

UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said on Friday that he plans to travel to Sanaa in the coming week to finalize arrangements for peace talks to take place in Sweden soon.

Hameed Assem, a member of the militia delegation expected to take part in the negotiations, said that Houthis will continue to mobilize if UN efforts for peace fail to materialize.

Pro-government forces on Wednesday suspended their 12-day offensive in Hodeidah.

Griffiths said on Friday that both the government and the Houthis have shown a “renewed commitment” to work on a political solution and have given “firm assurances” that they will attend the talks. No date has yet been set.

(AFP)