Baghdad begins sealing Syria border to block Daesh

Baghdad declared victory over Daesh at the end of last year. (AFP)
Updated 01 July 2018

Baghdad begins sealing Syria border to block Daesh

  • Baghdad declared victory over Daesh at the end of last year, but the group holds pockets of territory in the vast deserts of eastern Syria and maintains its ability to strike inside Iraq
  • The supreme court has ratified a decision by the outgoing Parliament to dismiss Iraq’s nine-member electoral commission and have them replaced by judges

BAGHDAD/MOSUL: Iraq has begun building a fence along its border with Syria to stop Daesh militants crossing into the country, a border guards spokesman said Sunday.

“Ten days ago we started to set up a barbed wire security fence with surveillance towers along the border with Syria,” said Anwar Hamid Nayef, spokesman in Iraq’s Anbar province.
The frontier barrier includes a six-meter-wide trench and involves thermal cameras and drones scanning the border for militants attempting to cross from Syria.
Baghdad declared victory over Daesh at the end of last year, but the group holds pockets of territory in the vast deserts of eastern Syria and maintains its ability to strike inside Iraq.
The new fence so far runs for 20 km north from the area around the border town of Al-Qaim, which Iraqi forces retook from Daesh in November. In total the frontier stretches for some 600 kms.
Border spokesman Nayef said that experts from Baghdad’s Ministry of Defense and an anti-Daesh coalition spearheaded by the US would come “to evaluate the effectiveness of the fence.”
“If they approve the installations, we will continue along the whole border with Syria,” he said.
In a sign of the continuing menace it poses to Iraq, the bodies of eight captives executed by Daesh were this week found along a highway north of Baghdad.
In a bid to combat the militants, Iraqi forces have carried out a series of airstrikes against Daesh inside Syria.

Parliamentary vacuum
Iraq’s Parliament held its final session on Saturday, leaving the country without a national assembly for the first time since 2003 as it awaits a vote recount from May parliamentary polls.
The manual recount was demanded by the supreme court in polling stations with contested results, in line with a decision by the outgoing Parliament following allegations of fraud.
Parliament’s Deputy Speaker Aram Sheikh Mohammed announced “the end of the third parliamentary mandate,” at a gathering attended by 127 members of the 328-seat house.
Since the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq has had three parliaments each with a mandate of four years.
The last ballot was won by populist leader Moqtada Al-Sadr’s electoral alliance with communists, as long-time political figures were pushed out by voters seeking change in a country mired in conflict and corruption.
Results of the May election were contested mainly by the political old guard. The supreme court has ratified a decision by the outgoing Parliament to dismiss Iraq’s nine-member electoral commission and have them replaced by judges.
The judges’ spokesman, Laith Hamza, said Saturday that the partial recount would start Tuesday in the Kurdish provinces of Irbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk, as well as in Kirkuk, Nineveh, Salaheddin and Anbar.
Meanwhile, Iraqi cellist and conductor Karim Wasfi has played a concert for “peace and co-existence” amid the ruins of Mosul, almost a year after Iraqi forces ousted Daesh from the city.
Dozens of people attended on Friday as Wasfi, in full concert dress, played on a makeshift stage among the most iconic religious monuments of Iraq’s second city.


Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

Updated 28 May 2020

Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP is working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties

ANKARA: Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is looking at ways to change electoral laws in order to block challenges to power from two new breakaway political parties.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP and its nationalist coalition partner the MHP are working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties — a move that has fueled rumors of an imminent snap election in the country.

Under Turkish election rules, political parties must settle their organization procedures in at least half of the nation’s cities and hold their first convention six months ahead of an election date.

Any political party with 20 lawmakers in Turkey’s parliament is entitled to take part in elections and be eligible for financial aid from the treasury for the electoral process.

The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has hinted at the possibility of transferring some CHP lawmakers to the newly founded parties to secure their participation in elections.

Turkey’s ex-premier, Ahmet Davutoglu, and the country’s former economy czar, Ali Babacan, both longtime allies of Erdogan, recently left the AKP to establish their own opposition groups, and have come under pressure from the AKP and MHP to leave their parties out of the race.

Babacan has been critical of Erdogan’s move away from a parliamentary system of governance in Turkey to one providing the president with wide-ranging powers without any strong checks and balances.

“The AKP is abolishing what it built with its own hands. The reputation and the economy of the country is in ruins. The number of competent people has declined in the ruling party. Decisions are being taken without consultations and inside a family,” Babacan said in a recent interview.

He also claimed that AKP officials were competing against each other for personal financial gain.

Babacan, a founding member of the AKP, was highly respected among foreign investors during his time running the economy. He resigned from the party last year over “deep differences” to set up his DEVA grouping on March 9 with a diverse team of former AKP officials and liberal figures.

Berk Esen, a political analyst from Ankara’s Bilkent University, believes Babacan’s recent statements have angered Erdogan.

“As a technocrat, Babacan gains respect from secular circles as well as the international community, which Erdogan clearly lacks. Despite being in office for 13 years, Babacan has not been tainted by corruption allegations and is known as the chief architect of Turkey’s rapid economic growth during the AKP’s first two terms,” he told Arab News.

“The legislation that the AKP-MHP coalition is working on may prevent deputy transfer only in case early elections are scheduled for the fall. Otherwise, the newly established parties will most likely build their organizations across the country and become viable for elections by summer, if not the spring of 2021.”

If Davutoglu and Babacan were successful in capturing disillusioned voters, they could prevent the ruling coalition getting the 51 percent of votes needed to secure a parliamentary majority.