Daesh on verge of collapse in Iraq

Daesh on verge of collapse in Iraq
Iraqi forces and members of the Hashed Al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization units) advance toward the city of Al-Qaim, in Iraq's western Al-Anbar province on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 04 November 2017

Daesh on verge of collapse in Iraq

Daesh on verge of collapse in Iraq

BEIRUT: Clashes have erupted on the Syrian-Iraqi border between Daesh militants and Iraqi paramilitary fighters as the terrorist group defends its last stronghold in the region, a Syria monitoring group and an Iraqi official said Saturday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the clashes started late Friday and continued into Saturday. The Observatory said that Daesh militants inside Syria repelled an attack by Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the paramilitary group of mostly Shiite fighters within the Iraqi security forces. The Observatory said the attack took place near the border town of Bu Kamal but that the PMF fighters crossed back into Iraq.
Jaafar Al-Husseini, a spokesman for Iraq’s Kataeb Hezbollah, a group within the PMF, told the Associated Press (AP) his forces clashed with Daesh just meters from the border with Syria. He said his forces also fired rockets inside Syria from Qaim, the Iraqi border town reclaimed from IS Friday.
But Al-Husseini said his fighters did not cross into Syria. He said forces from Iraqi militias were already fighting in Syria alongside the Syrian government and other Iran-supported militias to reclaim the last stronghold of the group and secure the road between Iraq and Syria, all the way to Lebanon.
He said his forces are building berms along the border to prevent militants from sneaking back.
On Friday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi proclaimed victory in retaking the town of Al-Qaim on the border, the militants’ last significant urban area in Iraq.
Al-Husseini said the PMF will participate in the liberation of Bu Kamal and will head north to protect the borders and secure the road from Iran to Lebanon.
The US-led coalition said anti-Daesh forces would hunt down jihadists to the last one.
“The coalition must and will deny IS (another name for Daesh) safe haven in Iraq and Syria,” spokesman Ryan Dillon told AFP.
As their dream of a state continues to disintegrate, surviving militants are expected to hide in the desert area straddling the border and go dark for some time.
The group has retained its capacity to carry out suicide bombings in cities such as Damascus and Baghdad, as well as to inspire high-profile attacks in the West such as this week’s Manhattan truck attack.
Despite its defeats on the battlefield, analysts are warning that Daesh is not down and out in the absence of a political vision to ensure stability in Iraq and Syria.
“This absence of a long-term strategy leaves Daesh a lot of room for regrouping in the near future, while continuing to work its networks of supporters around the world,” said Jean-Pierre Filiu, a professor at Sciences Po university in Paris.


EU, Turkey call for better ties after tough 2020

EU, Turkey call for better ties after tough 2020
Updated 21 min 12 sec ago

EU, Turkey call for better ties after tough 2020

EU, Turkey call for better ties after tough 2020
  • Turkey faces threat of EU economic sanctions over a hydrocarbons dispute with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean

BRUSSELS/ANKARA: The European Union and Turkey pressed each other on Thursday to take concrete steps to improve relations long strained by disagreements over energy, migration and Ankara’s human rights record.
Turkey, which remains an official candidate for EU membership despite the tensions, is facing the threat of EU economic sanctions over a hydrocarbons dispute with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean, but the mood music between Brussels and Ankara has improved since the new year.
“We have seen an improvement in the overall atmosphere,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said as he welcomed Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu for talks, describing 2020 as complicated.
“Intentions and announcements need to be translated into actions,” Borrell said.
The improved tone follows a video conference between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on Jan. 9 in which both stressed the importance of the bilateral relationship.
Cavusoglu said he hoped von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the head of the European Council which represents the 27 EU member states, would visit Turkey after an invitation from Erdogan.
“It is of course important for there to be a positive atmosphere in Turkey-EU ties, but in order for this to be sustainable, we must take concrete steps,” Cavusoglu added.
2020 proved particularly difficult for relations between Turkey and the EU, especially France, with Erdogan expressing publicly his hope that protests in French cities would topple President Emmanuel Macron.
Greece and Cyprus, strongly backed by France, want to punish Turkey for what they see as provocative oil and gas exploration by Turkish vessels in disputed waters, but Germany and Italy are reluctant to go ahead with any sanctions on Ankara.
Turkey has now withdrawn the vessels and is set to restart talks with Greece, although the EU has accused Ankara of playing “cat and mouse” in a pattern of provocation and reconciliation.
EU leaders will decide in March whether to impose sanctions.
Brussels also accuses Erdogan of undermining the economy, eroding democracy and destroying independent courts and media, leaving Turkey’s bid to join the EU further away than ever.
“We remain concerned about the (human rights) situation in Turkey,” Borrell said on Thursday.
The European Parliament is expected on Thursday to back a resolution calling for the release of Selahattin Demirtas, a leading Kurdish politician jailed in 20216 on terrorism-related charges.
But Turkey remains a big destination for EU trade and investment and also hosts some 4 million Syrian refugees. The EU aims to agree fresh funds for the refugees from 2022 to discourage them from coming into the bloc.
Ankara wants progress on Turks’ right to visa-free travel to the EU, an upgrade of its trade agreement with Europe and recognition of its claims to hydrocarbons off its maritime shelf.