US warship in Med wary of ‘tensions’ with Syria’s allies

The aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush is seen moored in the Mediterranean Sea off the Israeli port of Haifa on July 1, 2017. The 1,092 feet (333 metres) carrier which can carry 6,000 personnel, is one of the world’s largest warships. (AFP)
Updated 04 July 2017

US warship in Med wary of ‘tensions’ with Syria’s allies

ABOARD THE USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH: A senior officer aboard a US Navy supercarrier deployed in the eastern Mediterranean said Monday his forces were wary of “tensions” with allies of Syria’s regime, but ready to defend US-backed forces.
The USS George H.W. Bush has been a leading part of the US bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria, primarily against Daesh but on occasion targeting Syrian regime forces and their allies fighting US-backed groups.
The 330-meter ship carries between 70 and 90 aircraft at a time, including a fleet of F-18 fighter jets which are used to strike Daesh targets in Mosul, Raqqa and elsewhere.
The vast majority of the 1,600 sorties in the past five months have targeted Daesh in Iraq and Syria, James McCall, commanding officer of Carrier Air Wing 8, told journalists, but a small number have targeted allies of the Syrian regime.
The Syrian regime is also fighting Daesh, as well as battling US allies in other parts of the war-ravaged country.
McCall said an aircraft from the ship was the one that had downed a Syrian warplane on June 18, after the US military had issued a series of warnings. He admitted there had been “a lot of tension” with “pro-regime forces” in parts of Syria.
“We are looking out for coalition forces on the ground and ensuring their safety in that regard,” he told journalists aboard the aircraft carrier, which is moored off the Israeli city of Haifa for a few days.
“We have actually flown in support of some of those actions — to include air-to-surface engagements — so that is absolutely something we are paying a lot of attention to.”
The US carried out its first direct military action against Syria’s regime in April, firing 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat military airport in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack.
Last week, the White House said President Bashar Assad was potentially preparing a new chemical weapons attack.
Asked if the US military could strike Assad forces if chemical weapons were used again, Capt. Will Pennington said he would not speculate on any future responses.
Pennington said between 20 and 25 missions took off a day at peak times.
He said the forces had played a crucial role in pushing back Daesh in Iraq, with the militants losing control of the vast majority of their former stronghold city of Mosul.
“The battle is coming to a conclusion in Mosul, although I think the last few things will be tough given the narrow streets and densely populated (neighborhoods).”


Iraq PM in talks with UK's Boris Johnson on security, political reforms

Updated 22 October 2020

Iraq PM in talks with UK's Boris Johnson on security, political reforms

  • Johnson expressed his strong support for the Iraq government
  • Both leaders discussed issues of bilateral interest, and discussed recent political and security issues

LONDON: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson discussed security challenges in the Middle East on Thursday.
A-Khadimi met the UK leader at Downing Street as part of an a European tour. 
Johnson expressed his strong support for the Iraq government as they discussed economic reforms, the coronavirus pandemic and the continued effort to defeat Daesh.
The Twitter account of Al-Kadhimi's office said both leaders discussed issues of bilateral interest, and discussed recent political and security issues in Iraq and the region. 
They also agreed on more cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
“It was agreed to increase more cooperation in the field of combating terrorism, as well as in the political and economic sectors, in light of the economic challenges that Iraq faces,” his office said.
Prior to his UK trip, Al-Kadhimi met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
During these visits, Al-Kadhimi discussed Iraq’s main challenges such as the fight against terrorism and foreign interference in its affairs.
The Iraqi leader, who became prime minister in May, has a particularly affinity with the UK, having lived there for many years after fleeing Iraq in the 1980s.