Foreign troops in Iraq cut by a quarter in 2018, says PM

Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. (AFP)
Updated 17 January 2019
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Foreign troops in Iraq cut by a quarter in 2018, says PM

  • US troop numbers in Iraq peaked at some 170,000 during the battle against Al-Qaeda

BAGHDAD: Foreign troop numbers in Iraq fell by a quarter during 2018, Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi said, as the fallout fizzled from Washington’s announcement it was withdrawing from neighboring Syria.

“In January 2018 there had been almost 11,000 foreign fighters, about 70 percent of them are American, the others are from other countries,” Abdel Mahdi told a weekly press briefing on Tuesday evening.

“In December, the numbers have been reduced to almost 8,000, and the American troops are around 6,000... maybe I am wrong by some hundreds.”

Abdel Mahdi said that more than 12 months after the government declared victory over Daesh in Iraq, the drawdown was accelerating.

“In recent months, the decrease has sped up and in the last two months there was a drop of 1,000 forces,” he said.

US President Donald Trump has said that US troops will remain in Iraq after the withdrawal of all troops from Syria and will be available to take action against Daesh on the other side of the border if necessary.

US troop numbers in Iraq peaked at some 170,000 during the battle against Al-Qaeda and other insurgents that followed the US-led invasion of 2003.

Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama ordered a withdrawal that was completed in 2011, but in 2014 ordered a new deployment as part of a US-led coalition battling Daesh, which had proclaimed a “caliphate” in large swathes of Iraq and Syria under its control.

Daesh is now confined to a shrinking enclave of just 15 sq. km in eastern Syria not far from the border where Kurdish-led forces have been engaged in a major offensive with coalition support since May last year.

In Iraq, the militants maintain sleeper cells in the cities and hideouts in sparsely populated desert and mountain areas from which they carry out periodic hit-and-run attacks, some of them deadly.


How Meir Kahane’s toxic legacy poisoned the Palestinian peace process

Updated 22 April 2019
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How Meir Kahane’s toxic legacy poisoned the Palestinian peace process

  • Brooklyn-born rabbi who demanded forced emigration of Arabs and inspired Israel’s far right is latest subject of Arab News ‘Preachers of Hate’ series
  • As a member of the Israeli parliament, Kahane proposed laws to strip Arabs of citizenship and force their emigration

JEDDAH: As Israel’s most right-wing government in living memory prepares to take office, the outlook for the Palestinian-Israeli peace process has rarely been more dismal.

After his narrow election victory this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is clinging to office by assembling a coalition of Knesset members with no interest in peace. They range from far-right ultra Zionists to overt racists. Many, in particular the Otzma Yehudit, or “Jewish Power” party, are acolytes of Meir Kahane — a Brooklyn-born rabbi who co-founded the militant Jewish Defense League in 1968,  joined the West Bank settler movement and established an extremist Israeli political party.

It is because of this toxic legacy that Kahane is the subject today of Preachers of Hate — the Arab News series that exposes extremist clerics of all religions and nationalities, places their words and deeds in context, and explains their malign influence on those who follow them.

As a member of the Knesset, Kahane proposed laws to strip Arabs of citizenship and force their emigration. 

In the end he proved too extreme even for the Israeli far right; he was disqualified from running for office, and was eventually assassinated in New York in 1990.

Kahane’s hatred lives on, however, in Israel’s continuing rejection of the Palestinian people’s entitlement to basic human dignity, far less a meaningful peace process and an independent state.

As the leading academic and Arab News columnist Yossi Mekelberg writes today: “Few people have contaminated the discourse within Israel with sheer hatred and anti-Arab bigotry as much as Meir Kahane.”

 

Also Read: Meir Kahane: A torch to fuel anti-Arab hatred