Rockets hit Iraq base with US troops; no word on casualties

A barrage of 17 rockets landed near a military base hosting US forces in northern Iraq on Friday but caused no injuries or major material damage, an Iraqi military statement said. (File/AFP)
Updated 09 November 2019

Rockets hit Iraq base with US troops; no word on casualties

  • Some hard-line Iraqi militias loyal to Iran have recently threatened to carry out attacks against Americans in the country
  • Mosul, which was largely destroyed during the war against Daesh, lies north of Baghdad and has not seen any anti-government protests

BAGHDAD: A barrage of Katyusha rockets targeted an Iraqi air base that houses American troops south of the city of Mosul on Friday, two security officials said. There was no immediate word of casualties from the attack.
The rocket fire appears to have originated in Mosul and struck the Iraqi army base in Qayyara, about 60 kilometers (38 miles) south of Mosul, where a US-led coalition is helping Iraqi forces battle remnants of Daesh. 
The Iraqi officials who spoke to The Associated Press did so on condition of anonymity under regulations.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility nor was it clear if any of the rockets struck the base.
Iraq announced victory over Daesh two years ago, but the extremist group is still active through sleeper cells and frequently mount attacks on Iraqi security forces.
Some hard-line Iraqi militias loyal to Iran have recently threatened to carry out attacks against Americans in the country. The US maintains about 5,000 troops in Iraq.
American forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011 but returned in 2014 at the invitation of the government to help battle Daesh after it seized vast areas in the north and west of the country, including Iraq's second largest city, Mosul. A US-led coalition provided crucial air support as Iraqi forces regrouped and drove Daesh out in a costly three-year campaign.
The attack on Friday came as large parts of Iraq, including the capital of Baghdad and Shiite-majority southern provinces, are engulfed in anti-government protests. Rockets have been fired near the US Embassy in the heavily fortified Green Zone in the Iraqi capital on several occasions recently.
Mosul, which was largely destroyed during the war against Daesh, lies north of Baghdad and has not seen any anti-government protests.


Syrian pound plummets as new US sanctions loom

Updated 06 June 2020

Syrian pound plummets as new US sanctions loom

  • Syria is in the thick of an economic crisis compounded by a coronavirus lockdown and a dollar liquidity crunch in neighboring Lebanon
  • The UN food agency said any further depreciation risked increasing the cost of imported basic food items

BEIRUT: Syria’s pound hit record lows on the black market Saturday trading at over 2,300 to the dollar, less than a third of its official value, traders said, ahead of new US sanctions.
Three traders in Damascus told AFP by phone that the dollar bought more than 2,300 Syrian pounds for the first time, though the official exchange rate remained fixed at around 700 pounds to the greenback.
After nine years of war, Syria is in the thick of an economic crisis compounded by a coronavirus lockdown and a dollar liquidity crunch in neighboring Lebanon.
Last month, the central bank warned it would clamp down on currency “manipulators.”
Analysts said concerns over the June 17 implementation of the US Caesar Act, which aims to sanction foreign persons who assist the Syrian government or help in post-war reconstruction, also contributed to the de fact devaluation.
Zaki Mehchy, a senior consulting fellow at Chatham House, said foreign companies — including from regime ally Russia — were already opting not to take any risks.
With money transactions requiring two to three weeks to implement, “today’s transactions will be paid after June 17,” he said.
Heiko Wimmen, Syria project director at the conflict tracker Crisis Group, said that with the act coming into force, “doing business with Syria will become even more difficult and risky.”
Both analysts said the fall from grace of top business tycoon Rami Makhlouf despite being a cousin of the president was also affecting confidence.
“The Makhlouf saga is spooking the rich,” Wimmen said.
After the Damascus government froze assets of the head of the country’s largest mobile phone operator and slapped a travel ban on him, the wealthy feel “nobody is safe,” he said.
They are thinking “you better get your assets and perhaps yourself out preparing for further shakedowns,” he said.
Mehchy said the impact of the pound’s decline and ensuing price hikes on Syrians would be “catastrophic.”
Most of Syria’s population lives in poverty, according to the United Nations, and food prices have doubled over the past year.
The UN food agency’s Jessica Lawson said any further depreciation risked increasing the cost of imported basic food items such as rice, pasta and lentils.
“These price increases risk pushing even more people into hunger, poverty and food insecurity as Syrians’ purchasing power continues to erode,” the World Food Programme spokeswoman said.
“Families may be forced to cut the quality and quantity of food they buy.”