Iraqi education minister resigns over brother’s Daesh links

Iraq's new Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is seen leaving the Parliament building in Baghdad. (AP)
Updated 30 December 2018
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Iraqi education minister resigns over brother’s Daesh links

  • Shaima Khalil Al-Hayali was approved by Parliament last week
  • Websites linked to Daesh published videos showing her brother praising the militants and inciting people to fight the Iraqi military.

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s new education minister has resigned over allegations her brother was a leader with Daesh just days after she was handed the post.

The scandal is the latest blow to Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi who has still not completed his Cabinet amid deep divisions between the Parliament’s main political blocs over the key positions. 

Shaima Khalil Al-Hayali was approved by Parliament last week to head the Education Ministry but had not yet taken the ministerial oath.

She submitted her resignation on Saturday to Abdul Mahdi after intelligence information emerged that her brother was a Daesh leader in Mosul between the summer of 2014, when the extremist group overran the city, and October 2016, when it was liberated by security forces.

Laith Khalil Al-Hayali, was an engineer working for the Nineveh Water Directorate, local security officials in Mosul told Arab News. He was dismissed from his post before 2014 for his association with Daesh, but he was reappointed as a director after 2014 when the militants seized the city. 

Websites linked to Daesh published videos showing Laith praising the militants and inciting people to fight the Iraqi military.

The intelligence also said that two of Laith’s sons were killed fighting for Daesh during the liberation of Mosul in 2016.

The first was killed in clashes between the militants and security forces, while the second one blew himself up in a bid to halt advancing forces.

The minister did not deny her brother’s involvement with Daesh but said he was forced to work with them and that he showed up in the videos under the threat of being shot.

The information is an embarrassment to the leaders of the pro-Iran Al-Binna’a coalition who nominated Al-Hayali. 

It was not clear whether the resignation was Al-Hayali’s decision alone or whether her backers had ordered her to quit.

Abdul Mahdi was sworn in at the end of October but has faced a series of crises during his short time in the position. 

This is not the first time he has presented his preferred candidates for ministerial positions without checking their security and political backgrounds — something that has deepened mistrust between the prime minster and political parties that could bring down his government.

He is still without without three key ministers — defense, interior and justice amid a dispute between the two main blocs in Parliament over the candidates, lawmakers told Arab News on Sunday.

Reform, led by the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, opposes the candidates nominated by Al-Binna’a for interior and defense. Al-Binna’a is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, commander of the Iran-backed Badr Organization, the most powerful armed faction.

Abdul Mahdi has not commented on Al-Hayali’s resignation and not even announced whether he has accepted her letter.

The incident has brought to the forefront allegations against other new ministers. They include Communications Minister Naeim Al-Rubaie, a former senior figure in Saddam Hussein’s Baath party. Anyone linked to the organization is banned from involvement in Iraq’s government.

“It would be better for Abdul Mahdi to accept her (Al-Hayali’s) resignation to save face,” a key negotiator from Reform told Arab News. 

“We asked him at the first session of Parliament to submit the names of the candidates to the security services to be checked. We also demanded that they be presented to the bodies of integrity and accountability and justice, but our requests were ignored.

“The result is that the government now includes a minister representing Daesh, another one representing Al-Qaeda and a third one representing Baath party.”

Iraq has struggled to form a government since an election in May led to two main parliamentary camps, one pro Iran and the other anti. An agreement in September broke the deadlock, with the two coalitions agreeing to try and negotiate a new Cabinet led by Abdul Mahdi.


Turkey sends weapons to opposition fighters in Syria

Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters get a major boost as Ankara backs them with fresh supplies of weaponry to help them hold their ground. (Reuters)
Updated 26 May 2019
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Turkey sends weapons to opposition fighters in Syria

  • Ankara signals readiness to preserve its influence in Syria’s Idlib province in northwestern region

AMMAN: Turkey has equipped an array of mainstream Syrian opposition fighters it backs with fresh supplies of weaponry to help them try to repel a major Russian-backed assault, senior opposition officials and opposition sources said on Saturday.
Russia is backing the Syrian army’s large aerial and ground assault as it seeks to gain control of the last big stretch of opposition-held territory in the northwest of the country.
Syria’s Bashar Assad launched the assault last month, saying fighters had breached an existing cease-fire, triggering a civilian exodus by bombarding Idlib and adjacent areas. It has been the biggest escalation since last summer between Assad and the opposition fighters in Idlib province and a belt of territory around it.
Ankara stepped up supplies in recent days after failing to persuade Russia in recent meetings of a joint working group that it should end its escalation to avert a major influx of refugees pouring into Turkey, two senior opposition figures said.

FASTFACT

Ankara stepped up supplies in recent days after failing to persuade Russia in recent meetings of a joint working group that it should end its escalation to avert a major influx of refugees pouring into Turkey.

In doing so Turkey signaled its readiness to preserve its influence in northwestern Syria, where it has beefed up its troop presence in a dozen military bases that were set up under a de-escalation deal with Russia, a senior opposition commander said. Turkish officials were not immediately available for comment.
Overnight, a Turkish military convoy arrived in a base in northern Hama near opposition-held Jabal Al-Zawiya, where Russian and Syrian jets have been pounding for weeks, a fighter and a witness said.
The delivery of dozens of armored vehicles, Grad rocket launchers, anti-tank guided missiles helped roll back some army gains and retake the strategically located town of Kfar Nabouda.