Shiite armed groups in Iraq decide to disband

A member of Iraqi security forces carries an Iraqi flag as he celebrates the final victory over the Daesh at Tahrir Square in Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday. (REUTERS)
Updated 11 December 2017

Shiite armed groups in Iraq decide to disband

BAGHDAD: A number of armed Shiite factions that fought Daesh alongside Iraqi government forces have voluntarily announced their dissolution and placed their fighters under the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Iraqi officials and Shiite leaders told Arab News on Sunday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, announced on Saturday the liberation of all Iraqi territories and the end of the three-year war against Daesh, which seized almost a third of the territories in the west and north in summer 2014.
“At least four (armed) factions have voluntarily decided to disband their troops and gave the prime minister full authority to determine the fate of their fighters,” a senior security Iraqi official told Arab News on condition of anonymity.
“The procedures for disbanding these forces and the implementation mechanisms have not yet been decided, but 90 percent of them are likely to be disbanded and the remainder will be appointed to be a part of the regular security services,” the official said.
“No weapon will remain in the hands of anyone outside the control of the state. The decision to disarm the irregular armed factions will be issued in a few weeks and those who refuse to hand over their weapons will be considered outlaw,” he added.
Some of these details have been confirmed to Arab News by Karim Al-Nuri, a member of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and a senior Badr Brigade leader; Aws Al-Khafaji, the head of the Abu Fadhal Al-Abbas armed faction; and Hisham Al-Hashimi, a security expert and one of the national security advisers.
In a statement on Saturday, Al-Khafaji said: “After the final and big victory against Daesh, we are putting all these troops (Abu Fadhal Al-Abass troops) — which are a part of the PMF — fully under the command of the commander in chief of the armed forces.”
Shiite armed factions have played a vital role in the fighting against Daesh. They had been fighting under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) which was established by Nuri Al-Maliki, the former Iraqi prime minister, in June 2014, to cover the armed factions who volunteered to fight Daesh alongside the government. More than 120,000 is the number of fighters officially registered in the payroll of the PMF.
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Saraya Al-Salam, or the Battalions of Peace, the biggest Shiite armed faction linked to the powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr; Kataib Al-Imam Ali and the Battalions of Imam Ali, which is linked to the Shiite clergymen in Najaf, led by Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, are among these factions, officials said.
“To restrict the arms at the hand of the state and limit the unjustified militarization of the society, Sadr has called to legalize all the armed factions in Iraq, including the Popular Mobilization Forces,” Safa’a Al-Timimi, the spokesman of Saraya Al-Salam, told Arab News.
“Of course we are included in this (Sadr’s) call,” Al-Timimi said.
“We have already begun discussions with the ministers of defense and interior weeks ago to put in place a mechanism to include a number of our fighters in their formations,” he added.
Saraya Al-Salam has 6,000 fighters who are formally registered within the PMF, and they have been deployed in northwestern Karbala, central Samarra, Balad and Ishaqi, Al-Timimi said.
“Our call is clear and explicit. The weapons have to be exclusively in the hands of the government and no one but the disciplined fighters will be included within the regular security services,” Al-Timimi said.


Turkish Cypriots elect Erdogan’s candidate amid east Med tensions

Turkish Cypriot politician Ersin Tatar celebrates his election victory in Turkish-controlled northern Nicosia, Cyprus October 18, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 October 2020

Turkish Cypriots elect Erdogan’s candidate amid east Med tensions

  • The European Union has deplored Turkey’s drilling for hydrocarbons in disputed waters and warned Ankara against further “provocations,” while multiple countries have staged military drills in the region in recent months

NICOSIA: Turkish Cypriots in breakaway northern Cyprus on Sunday narrowly elected right-wing nationalist Ersin Tatar, backed by Ankara, in a run-off poll, at a time of heightened tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.
Tatar, 60, clinched his surprise victory in a second round of presidential elections, winning 51.7 percent of the vote, official results showed.
He edged out incumbent Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, 72, a supporter of reunification with the Greek Cypriot south of the divided island, leaving attempts to relaunch long-stalled UN-brokered talks hanging in the balance.
Tatar is an advocate of a two-state solution and held the post of premier in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), recognized only by Ankara.
He controversially received the open backing of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the election campaign.
In a victory speech to hundreds of cheering and Turkish flag-waving supporters, Tatar thanked Turkey’s head of state and said: “We deserve our sovereignty — we are the voice of Turkish Cypriots.
“We are fighting to exist within the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, therefore our neighbors in the south and the world community should respect our fight for freedom.”
There was no immediate official reaction from the Greek Cypriot government or ruling party in the south of the island, which is a European Union member state, although opposition parties were quick to lament the outcome.
Erdogan was swift to celebrate the victory, which followed a high 67-percent turnout at the polls.
“I congratulate Ersin Tatar who has been elected president ... Turkey will continue to provide all types of efforts to protect the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people,” he wrote on Twitter.

HIGHLIGHT

Ersin Tatar edged out incumbent Mustafa Akinc, leaving attempts to relaunch UN-brokered talks hanging in the balance.

In a telephone call the same night, Erdogan said he was confident the two leaders would maintain close cooperation in all areas, “starting with the hydrocarbon linked activities in the eastern Mediterranean,” his office said.
Under Erdogan, Turkey has become an increasingly assertive regional power that is now engaged in a bitter dispute with Greece and Cyprus over oil and gas reserves in eastern Mediterranean waters.
The European Union has deplored Turkey’s drilling for hydrocarbons in disputed waters and warned Ankara against further “provocations,” while multiple countries have staged military drills in the region in recent months.
The second-round ballot was triggered after Tatar won 32 percent of the vote on Oct. 11 ahead of Akinci, who garnered just under 30 percent.
Akinci was tipped to secure a second term, having won the backing of Tufan Erhurman, a fellow social democrat who came third last time around.
After his defeat, Akinci, who had accused Ankara of meddling in the polls, thanked his supporters and said: “You know what happened ... I am not going to do politics on this.”
The TRNC, with a population of about 300,000, was established after the north was occupied by Turkey in 1974 in reaction to a coup that aimed to annex Cyprus to Greece.
Earlier in October, Turkish troops angered the Republic of Cyprus by reopening public access to the fenced-off seaside ghost town of Varosha for the first time since Turkish forces invaded the north.
The reopening was announced jointly by Erdogan and Tatar at a meeting in Ankara just days before the first round of polling.
It drew EU and UN criticism and sparked demonstrations in the Republic of Cyprus, which exercises its authority over the island’s south, separated from the TRNC by a UN-patrolled buffer zone.
On the eve of Sunday’s vote, Greek Cypriot demonstrators massed at a checkpoint along the so-called “Green Line,” holding signs that read “Cyprus is Greek,” in protest at the reopening of nearby Varosha to the Turkish Cypriots.
Turkey has repeatedly said it seeks to defend Turkish and Turkish Cypriots’ rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
Akinci’s relationship with Ankara had come under strain, especially after he described the prospect of the north’s annexation by Turkey as “horrible” in February.
When Akinci took office in 2015, he was hailed as the leader best placed to revive peace talks.
But hopes were dashed in July 2017 after UN-mediated negotiations collapsed in Switzerland, notably over Greek Cypriot demands for the withdrawal of the tens of thousands of Turkish soldiers still stationed in the TRNC.