No Iraqi casualties as 22 Iranian missiles hit bases: Iraq military

No Iraqi casualties as 22 Iranian missiles hit bases: Iraq military
Missiles which hit Ain Al-Asad air base were launched from inside Iran. (AP)
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Updated 09 January 2020

No Iraqi casualties as 22 Iranian missiles hit bases: Iraq military

No Iraqi casualties as 22 Iranian missiles hit bases: Iraq military
  • Seventeen missiles hit Al-Asad air base, five other missiles hit Erbil
  • President Donald Trump says on Twitter: ‘All is well!’

TEHRAN, Iran: The Iraqi military on Wednesday said there were no casualties among its troops as a result of an Iranian missile strike at bases in Iraq used by US forces.
The military said in a statement carried by the state news agency that the attack lasted half an hour, starting at 1:45am local time.
The statement said 22 missiles were fired. Seventeen missiles hit Al-Asad air base, including two that did not explode in the Hitan area west of the town of Hit. Five other missiles hit the northern region of Erbil.

State new agency KUNA earlier reported Kuwaiti Defense Minister Ahmad Mansour Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah has received an official letter from the commander-in-chief of Camp Arifjan declaring imminent withdrawal of all US military forces in three days.
The receipt of letter from Camp Arifjan was unexpected, Kuwait defense minister was quoted as saying, and they were communicating with the US Department of Defense for more details and information.

The statement was later removed, with KUNA saying their Twitter account was hacked.

Iran struck back at the United States on Wednesday for the killing of Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani, in a major escalation that brought the two longtime foes closer to war.

A US official said there were no immediate reports of American casualties, but buildings were being searched.

An adviser to the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted saying any adverse military actions by the US would be met with all-out war in the region.

And a senior official in the Iranian supreme leader’s office said the missile attacks against the US targets were the weakest of Iran’s retaliation scenarios.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called on all sides to practice self-restraint, adhere to international agreements, and respect Iraqi state. This dangerous crisis threatens a “devastating all-out war” in Iraq, the region, and the world, he added.

Germany’s defense minister condemned the missile attacks, and called on Tehran to end a “spiral” of conflict.
“The German government strongly condemns this aggression ... it is now primarily up to the Iranians to refrain from further escalation,” Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told broadcaster ARD.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also condemned the attacks on ‘Iraqi military bases hosting Coalition – including British – forces.’
“We are concerned by reports of casualties and use of ballistic missiles. We urge Iran not to repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks, and instead to pursue urgent de-escalation,” Raab said.

 

The Iranian army repeated earlier demands for the US to withdraw its troops from the Middle East, state TV reported.

“Now that they have understood our power, it is time for the United States to withdraw its troops from the Middle East,” Iran’s armed forces chief of staff General Mohammad Baqeri said in a statement.

A top commander in Iraq’s Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary network said Wednesday it was time for an ‘Iraqi response’ to a US drone strike that killed the network’s deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

“That response will be no less than the size of the Iranian response. That is a promise,” Qais Al-Khazali, a hardline Hashed commander, threatened in a tweet.

UAE Energy Minister Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei, meanwhile, said he was not expecting to see a war, and did not think the US wanted to become more aggressive in the Middle East. He allayed fears of a possible shortage of oil supply, adding that OPEC would respond if necessary but ‘we have limitations as well’ to replace possible oil shortages.

President Donald Trump said he would make a statement on the situation on Wednesday morning.
‘All is well!’ Trump said in a post on Twitter.

 


Soleimani’s killing and the strikes by Iran came as tensions continued to rise across the Middle East after Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

 

 

They also marked the first time in recent years that Washington and Tehran have attacked each other directly rather than through proxies in the region. It raised the chances of open conflict erupting between the two enemies, which have been at odds since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday the US should withdraw from the region and said Tehran’s missile attacks on US targets in Iraq were “a slap on the face” for America.

“Military action like this is not sufficient. What is important is ending the corrupting presence of America in the region,” Khamenei said in a televised speech, ruling out any resumption of talks with Washington about a 2015 nuclear deal.

The US Federal Aviation Administration said it would ban US carriers from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, the Gulf of Oman. Several foreign airlines also said they would also avoid flying over the affected areas.

 

Iran initially announced only one strike, but US officials confirmed both. US defense officials were at the White House, likely to discuss options with Trump, who launched the strike on Soleimani while facing an upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard warned the US and its regional allies against retaliating over the missile attack against the Ain Al-Asad air base in Iraq’s western Anbar province. The Guard issued the warning via a statement carried by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency.


“We are warning all American allies, who gave their bases to its terrorist army, that any territory that is the starting point of aggressive acts against Iran will be targeted,” The Guard said. It also threatened Israel.
After the strikes, a former Iranian nuclear negotiator posted a picture of the Islamic Republic’s flag on Twitter, appearing to mimic Trump who posted an American flag following the killing of Soleimani and others Friday in a drone strike in Baghdad.

Iran is not seeking escalation or war, Iranian Foreign Minister tweeted after Tehran hit US targets in Iraq on Wednesday, adding that Tehran would defend itself against any aggression.
“Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched. We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted.

Ain Al-Asad air base was first used by American forces after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, and later saw American troops stationed there amid the fight against Daesh in Iraq and Syria. It houses approximately 1,500 US and coalition forces.
Two Iraqi security officials said at least one of the missiles appeared to have struck a plane at the base, setting it on fire. It was not immediately clear whether it was an Iraqi or US jet. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the attacks, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they had no permission to brief journalists.

About 70 Norwegian troops also were on the air base but no injuries were reported, Brynjar Stordal, a spokesperson for the Norwegian Armed Forces told The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s acting Prime Minister Winston Peters said personnel in Iraq are as safe as they can be in the developing circumstances.

 




Trump visited the same base in 2018. (Reuters)

Trump visited the sprawling Ain Al-Asad air base, about 100 miles or 60 kilometers west of Baghdad, in December 2018, making his first presidential visit to troops in the region. He did not meet with any Iraqi officials at the time, and his visit inflamed sensitivities about the continued presence of US forces in Iraq. Vice President Mike Pence also has visited the base.
Iranian state TV said the Guard’s aerospace division that controls Iran’s missile program launched the attack, which it said was part of an operation dubbed “Martyr Soleimani.” Iran said it would release more information later.
The US also acknowledged another missile attack on a base in Irbil in Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region.
“As we evaluate the situation and our response, we will take all necessary measures to protect and defend US personnel, partners and allies in the region,” said Jonathan Hoffman, an assistant to the US defense secretary.

The US blames Soleimani for killing US troops in Iraq and accused him of plotting new attacks just before he was killed. Soleimani also led forces supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad in that country’s civil war, and he also served as the point man for Iranian proxies in countries like Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Assad in Syria on Tuesday amid the tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Soleimani’s slaying already has led Tehran to abandon the remaining limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers as his successor and others vow to take revenge.
In Iraq, pro-Iranian factions in parliament have pushed to oust American troops from Iraqi soil following Soleimani’s killing. Germany and Canada announced plans to move some of their soldiers in Iraq to neighboring countries.

The US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said it would work with shippers in the region to minimize any possible threat.
The 5th Fleet “has and will continue to provide advice to merchant shipping as appropriate regarding recommended security precautions in light of the heightened tensions and threats in the region,” 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Joshua Frey told The Associated Press.
Iran’s parliament, meanwhile, has passed an urgent bill declaring the US military’s command at the Pentagon and those acting on its behalf in Soleimani’s killing as “terrorists,” subject to Iranian sanctions. The measure appears to be in response to a decision by Trump in April to declare the Revolutionary Guard a “terrorist organization.”
The US Defense Department used that terror designation to support the strike that killed Soleimani.

 


Italy calls for return of ‘constitutional order’ in Tunisia

Italy calls for return of ‘constitutional order’ in Tunisia
Updated 04 August 2021

Italy calls for return of ‘constitutional order’ in Tunisia

Italy calls for return of ‘constitutional order’ in Tunisia
  • Since turmoil broke out in Tunisia, arrival of migrants to small Italian island has significantly increased
  • Italian prime minister reassures Tunisia of support, donates 1.5m vaccine doses, other medical aid

ROME: Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi urged Tunisian President Kais Saied to “re-establish promptly the constitutional order.”

The Italian premier spoke directly for the first time on Wednesday with the Tunisian president since July 25, when Saied froze the parliament, dismissed the prime minister and announced he will temporarily rule by decree. He also rescinded parliamentary immunity and issued a nationwide curfew for 30 days.

Last week, members of the Tunisian government, including the foreign minister, were expected in Rome for talks, but their visit was canceled at the last moment.

Since political turmoil broke in Tunisia, the arrival of migrants to the tiny island of Lampedusa has significantly increased, and Italian security forces expect that their number could reach up to 20,000 in a few weeks if the country does not achieve stability.

In a long telephone call, described to Arab News as “cordial but firm” by a source in Draghi’s office, the Italian prime minister reassured Saied that the “assistance and support that Italy has offered to Tunisia will continue.”

Italy has made good on this offer, delivering 1.5 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Tunisia last Sunday to help the country to fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Twenty-five tons of health equipment, including ventilators, protective masks, gloves, surgical gowns and sanitizing gel, were also provided by the Italian government to Tunisia in the past few weeks.

Draghi, it is understood, asked Saied for “more cooperation” in the management of migration flows.

In a press event attended by Arab News, Deputy Foreign Minister Marina Sereni said that Italy, along with other EU nations, is “very concerned” about the current crisis in Tunisia, a country with which it shares “a long friendship and historical ties.”

“COVID, the stagnant economy and the difficulty in carrying out economic and social reforms have fueled the discontent of the population. In this situation, we all hope that the country will go back to normal soon, that the constitution will be respected and the functionality of the Parliament is restored,” she added.

Concerning the issue of migration, Sereni said that Italian Minister of the Interior Luciana Lamorgese “is following the situation of instability and difficulty in Tunisia as well as that of Libya.”

In this regard, she said it was understood that people whose lives were in danger “must be saved” and called on Europe to take on not only the rescue operations but also the redistribution of those who land on Italian coasts.


Iran made ‘big mistake’ with tanker attack: UK’s top soldier

Iran made ‘big mistake’ with tanker attack: UK’s top soldier
Updated 04 August 2021

Iran made ‘big mistake’ with tanker attack: UK’s top soldier

Iran made ‘big mistake’ with tanker attack: UK’s top soldier
  • Gen. Nick Carter slams Tehran “reckless behavior,” urges West to “restore deterrence”
  • Response to Iranian aggression must be kinetic, not just cyber, analyst tells Arab News

LONDON: Iran made a “big mistake” in attacking a commercial tanker last week, claiming the life of a British Army veteran, the chief of general staff and the UK’s most senior soldier said on Wednesday.
“What we need to be doing, fundamentally, is calling out Iran for its very reckless behavior,” Gen. Sir Nick Carter told the BBC. “We’ve got to restore deterrence because it’s behavior like that which leads to escalation, and that could very easily lead to miscalculation, and that would be very disastrous for all the peoples of the Gulf and the international community.”
The attack on the Liberian-flagged Mercer Street tanker killed a Briton and Romanian. The Briton has been identified as Fiji-born Adrian Underwood, a married father who was working as a security contractor when the tanker was struck in Omani waters. The UK and Romania have blamed the drone strike on Iran. 
Tehran is accused of masterminding maritime attacks since 2019, with tankers linked to both Saudi Arabia and Israel — its major rivals — being blighted by mines and other explosive assaults.
Furthermore, investigators determined that drones and missiles that struck a major Saudi oilfield were manufactured in Iran, which has ratcheted up its maritime attacks in recent months, allegedly launching strikes on vessels linked to Israel. 
“Gen. Carter said Iran made a ‘big mistake’ by carrying out the attack that killed Underwood since it has ‘internationalized’ the response, and he’s obviously correct that deterrence needs to be restored because without it Iran will continue escalating,” Kyle Orton, an independent geopolitical researcher, told Arab News.
“The question now is over what form this response takes. So far, the discussion within the British government seems to be about options that are covert and in the cyber realm, neither of which are adequate,” he added.
“If the response to murdering a British citizen isn’t overt, kinetic retaliation, then it will fail. The Iranians — who are quite sensitive to the limits they can push — will conclude that the cost of lethal attacks on us is tolerable.”
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said his country is “working on enlisting the world” in response to the tanker strike, but warned Iran that “we also know how to act alone.” 
He added: “The Iranians need to understand that it is impossible to sit peacefully in Tehran and from there ignite the entire Middle East. That is over.” 
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called for a “collective response” to the assault, which British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called an “outrageous attack on commercial shipping.”
On Monday, Britain summoned Iranian Ambassador Mohsen Baharvand to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to demand that vessels be allowed to freely navigate the region’s waters. On the same day, Iran said it would respond promptly to any threat to its security.


British navy group: Hijackers have left vessel off UAE coast

British navy group: Hijackers have left vessel off UAE coast
Updated 19 min 50 sec ago

British navy group: Hijackers have left vessel off UAE coast

British navy group: Hijackers have left vessel off UAE coast
  • “Iranian people are onboard with ammunition,” a crew member said in a radio recording
  • Apparently responding to the incident, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman on Tuesday denied that Iran played any role

FUJAIRAH, UAE: The hijackers who captured a vessel off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf of Oman departed the targeted ship on Wednesday, the British navy reported, as recorded radio traffic appeared to reveal a crew member onboard saying Iranian gunmen had stormed the asphalt tanker.
The incident — described by the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations the night before as a “potential hijack” — revived fears of an escalation in Mideast waters and ended with as much mystery as it began.
Hints of what unfolded on the Panama-flagged asphalt tanker, called Asphalt Princess, began to emerge with the maritime radio recording, obtained by commodities pricing firm Argus Media and shared with The Associated Press. In the audio, a crew member can be heard telling the Emirati coast guard that five or six armed Iranians had boarded the tanker.
“Iranian people are onboard with ammunition,” the crew member says. “We are … now, drifting. We cannot tell you exact our ETA to (get to) Sohar,” the port in Oman listed on the vessel’s tracker as its destination. It was not clear whether the crew members, whom he identified as Indian and Indonesian, were in immediate danger.
No one took responsibility for the brief seizure, which underscored mounting tensions as Iran and the United States seek a resolution to their standoff over Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Apparently responding to the incident, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh on Tuesday denied that Iran played any role. He described the recent maritime attacks in the Arabian Gulf as “completely suspicious.”
Over the past years, the rising tensions have played out in the waters of the Arabian Gulf, where just last week a drone attack on an oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire off the coast of Oman killed two crew members. The West blamed Iran for the raid, which marked the first known fatal assault in the years-long shadow war targeting vessels in Mideast waters. Iran denied involvement.
Late on Tuesday, the intruders boarded the Asphalt Princess sailing off the coast of Fujairah, authorities said. The official news agency of Oman’s military said it received reports that the Asphalt Princess had been hijacked and immediately dispatched Royal Air Force maritime patrol aircraft and naval vessels “to contribute to securing international waters.”
In the recorded radio traffic, when the Emirati coast guard asks the crew member what the Iranian gunmen were doing onboard, he says he “cannot understand the (Iranians),” his voice muffled, before trying to hand over the radio to someone else. The call then cuts off.
Possible signs of trouble began to emerge that evening when six oil tankers off the coast of Fujairah announced around the same time via their Automatic Identification System trackers that they were “not under command,” according to MarineTraffic.com. That typically means a vessel has lost power and can no longer steer.
Satellite-tracking data for the Asphalt Princess had showed it gradually heading toward Iranian waters off the port of Jask early Wednesday, according to MarineTraffic.com. Hours later, however, it stopped and changed course toward Oman, just before the British navy group declared the hijackers had departed and the vessel was now “safe.”
In an analysis, maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global described the seizure of the Asphalt Princess as the latest Iranian response to outside pressures, economic conflicts and other grievances.
“Iran has consistently shown that in conducting this kind of operation, it is calculated in doing so, both by targeting vessels directly connected with ongoing disputes and (vessels) operating within the ‘grey space’ of legitimacy,” which may be involved in illicit trade, Dryad Global said.
The owner of the Asphalt Princess, listed as Emirati free zone-based Glory International, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The US military’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet and the British Defense Ministry also did not respond to requests for comment. The Emirati government did not immediately acknowledge the incident.
The Gulf of Oman sits near the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Arabian Gulf through which a fifth of all traded oil passes. Fujairah, on the UAE’s eastern coast, is a main port in the region for ships to take on new oil cargo, pick up supplies or trade out crew.
For the past two years, after then-President Donald Trump withdrew the US from Iran’s nuclear deal and imposed crushing sanctions, the waters off Fujairah have witnessed a series of explosions and hijackings. The US Navy has blamed Iran for a series of limpet mine attacks on vessels that damaged tankers.
In the summer of 2019, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard troops detained a British-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero, near the Strait of Hormuz. Last year, an oil tanker sought by the US for allegedly circumventing sanctions on Iran was hijacked off the Emirati coast and later ended up in Iran, though Tehran never acknowledged the incident.
And in January, armed Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops stormed a South Korean tanker and forced the ship to change course and travel to Iran. While Iran claimed it detained the ship over pollution concerns, it appeared to link the seizure to negotiations over billions of dollars in Iranian assets frozen in South Korean banks.


Iran court sentences German woman to decade in jail: daughter

Iran court sentences German woman to decade in jail: daughter
Updated 04 August 2021

Iran court sentences German woman to decade in jail: daughter

Iran court sentences German woman to decade in jail: daughter
  • Taghavi was arrested at her Tehran apartment on Oct. 16 after years fighting for human rights in Iran
  • Taghavi suffers from pre-existing conditions including high blood pressure and diabetes

BERLIN: A German-Iranian woman held in Iran has been given a decade-long jail term by an Iran court for participating in an outlawed group, her daughter said Wednesday.

Nahid Taghavi, 66, was given “ten years for membership in an illegal group” and “eight months for propaganda against the regime,” said her daughter Mariam Claren.

Taghavi was arrested at her Tehran apartment on Oct. 16 after years fighting for human rights in Iran, in particular for women’s rights and freedom of expression, according to the rights group IGFM.

According to Claren, Taghavi has been held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, where she contracted Covid-19 last month.

Claren has repeatedly flagged up warnings about her mother’s health, saying that she suffers from pre-existing conditions including high blood pressure and diabetes.

Germany’s foreign ministry said in October that it was aware of the arrest of a German-Iranian woman in Iran, but did not name the detained citizen.

Frank Schwabe, who is the spokesman on human rights issues for the Social Democrats, condemned the verdict.

“The charges are baseless and the verdict a farce,” he wrote on Twitter.


UAE reports 1,519 new coronavirus infections, 5 additional deaths overnight

UAE reports 1,519 new coronavirus infections, 5 additional deaths overnight
Updated 04 August 2021

UAE reports 1,519 new coronavirus infections, 5 additional deaths overnight

UAE reports 1,519 new coronavirus infections, 5 additional deaths overnight
  • The UAE is one of leading countries in coronavirus testing and immunization

DUBAI: The UAE health ministry on Wednesday reported 1,519 new coronavirus cases and five more COVID-19 related fatalities overnight, bringing the country’s caseload to 686,981 with 1,965 deaths.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) said it conducted 191,032 additional COVID-19 tests over the past 24 hours, as the Emirates aggressively pursues early detection of the highly contagious disease for necessary treatment and the prevention of community infection.

The UAE, one of leading countries in coronavirus testing and immunization, has deployed an initial dose of COVID-19 vaccines to 79.3 percent of its population, while 70.96 percent have been fully vaccinated.

A total 16,884,412 doses have been dispensed so far, for a vaccine distribution rate of 170.72 doses per 100 people.

The vaccination drive is in line with plans to provide the vaccine to the populace to acquire herd immunity, which will help reduce the number of cases and control the spread of the virus.