Iraq rejects Israeli role in Gulf flotilla

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali Al-Hakim. (Reuters/File)
Updated 12 August 2019

Iraq rejects Israeli role in Gulf flotilla

  • Tensions have escalated in past months, with drones downed and tankers mysteriously attacked in Gulf and nearby waters

BAGHDAD: Iraq rejects any Israeli participation in a naval force to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, at the heart of tensions with Iran, Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali Al-Hakim said on Monday.

Tensions have escalated in past months, with drones downed and tankers mysteriously attacked in Gulf and nearby waters.

Washington and its Arab allies in the Gulf region have accused the Islamic republic of carrying out the tanker attacks. The US has since sought to assemble an international coalition it says is to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

Israel has made no official announcement on the operation, although Israeli media have reported a possible role for the Jewish state. Iraq “rejects any participation of forces of the Zionist entity in any military force to secure passage of ships in the Arabian Gulf,” Hakim said on Twitter. “Together, the Gulf states can secure the passage of ships,” he said.

He added that “Iraq will work to lower tensions in our region through calm negotiations,” while “the presence of Western forces in the region would raise tensions.”

Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a nuclear accord between Iran and world powers in May 2018, reimposing biting sanctions.

If the coalition is formed, each country would provide a military escort for its commercial ships through the Gulf with the support of the US military, which would carry out aerial surveillance and command operations. 

The UK has said it will take part, but other European countries have so far kept out, fearing it might harm efforts to reach a negotiated settlement with Iran.

Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami said on Thursday any Israeli involvement could have “disastrous consequences” for the region and the formation of a US-led flotilla in the Gulf would increase insecurity.


Air strikes kill five pro-Iran fighters in Syria: monitor

Updated 34 min 55 sec ago

Air strikes kill five pro-Iran fighters in Syria: monitor

  • The strikes targeted ‘positions of Iranian forces and allied militias’

BEIRUT: Air strikes by unidentified warplanes have killed five pro-Iran fighters in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor near the Iraqi border, a Britain-based war monitor said on Sunday.
The strikes late Saturday targeted “positions of Iranian forces and allied militias” on the edge of the town of Albukamal, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“Five non-Syrian fighters were killed,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP, without being able to provide their nationalities.
Regime troops, Iranian forces and allied Iran-backed fighters, including from Iraq, are present in the area on the western banks of the Euphrates River, he said.
According to the Observatory, 10 Iraqi fighters were killed in September in air strikes of unknown origin in the same area.
At the start of that month, air raids killed 18 pro-Iran fighters, the monitor reported.
In June 2018, strikes near the Iraqi border killed 55 pro-regime forces, mostly Syrians and Iraqis, the Observatory said.
An American official said at the time that Israel was responsible, but the Jewish state declined to comment.
Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria on what it says are positions of Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah and Iranian forces, which it has vowed to prevent gaining a foothold in Syrian territory.
But the US-led coalition that has been fighting Daesh has in the past also admitted to carrying out air strikes against pro-regime fighters.
The coalition is backing Kurdish-led fighters on the eastern shores of the Euphrates.