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.


Egypt army drill ‘sends a message to Erdogan’

Updated 10 July 2020

Egypt army drill ‘sends a message to Erdogan’

  • Military exercise near Libyan border a ‘warning shot,’ experts say

CAIRO: A major Egyptian army exercise near the border with Libya is being viewed by military and strategic experts as a message of deterrence to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his backing for the Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj and supported by militia groups.

The combat exercise, codenamed “Hasm 2020” (Firmness 2020), was carried out by Egypt’s Western Region units together with armed forces formations and special troops, including paratroops and SEAL teams.

The drills included strategic incursions by land forces and land-sea operations by troops in coastal areas of the Western Region near the border with Libya. Other exercises focused on the threat from mercenary or terror groups.

Air defense and artillery maneuvers were also carried out during the exercises, which lasted several days. 

African affairs and national security expert Gen. Mohammed Abdel-Wahed said the Hasm 2020 exercise “carries many internal and external messages of assurance to our brothers in Libya and deterrence to some regional parties.”

The drill “was a message of deterrence to anyone who thinks he can threaten Egyptian national security” and “a simulation of war,” he added.

According to an army statement, the drill’s main phase was attended by Egyptian Minister of Defense Mohamed Zaki, and included live artillery and weapons fire.

Strategic expert Gen. Samir Farag said: “What happened was not an ordinary drill because the forces attacked mercenaries. Our army always fights a regular army. What is different about this drill is training to combat mercenaries. One of the training tasks is to carry out attacks to eliminate mercenaries in cooperation with the air force.”

Farag said the drill “is a message that we will operate on the coasts if they are under threat.”

He said the Egyptian air force succeeded in providing air supplies, “meaning that we have forces capable of going anywhere.”

Farag said that the Western Region had been carefully selected as a location for the exercises.

“We closely monitor any drill carried out by any of our enemies,” he said, adding that Hasm 2020 had been studied and followed up by some countries in the region. 

Egyptian MP and journalist Mustafa Bakry said that “every Egyptian should be proud of their armed forces and their extensive preparation to counter any attack on Egypt or threaten its national security.”

Bakry said that Hasm 2020 sent “a clear message to anyone who attempts to threaten Egypt or its people.”

The Libyan cities of Sirte and Al-Jufra are a red line, he said, adding that “Egypt will never leave Libya and its brotherly people as an easy prey to the Turkish invader.”