Iraqi protesters dig in heels despite new PM-designate

Main highways leading out of Najaf and streets within the city were still blocked off with smoldering tires on Sunday morning. (AFP)
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Updated 02 February 2020

Iraqi protesters dig in heels despite new PM-designate

  • Mohammad Allawi announced his own nomination as premier on Saturday
  • Demonstrators had demanded a politically independent successor who had not served in government

NAJAF, Iraq: Furious anti-government youth held their ground in protest squares across Iraq’s south on Sunday, despite the previous evening’s appointment of a prime minister who insists he is an independent.
Mohammad Allawi announced his own nomination as premier on Saturday, which marked exactly four months since the anti-government movement erupted and two months since outgoing prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi resigned under growing pressure.
Demonstrators had demanded a politically independent successor who had not served in government and for them, ex-communications minister Allawi did not make the cut.
“Mohammad Allawi is rejected, by order of the people!” read a new sign hung in the holy city of Najaf on Sunday.
Young men with their faces wrapped in checkered scarves had spent the night torching car tires in anger at Allawi’s nomination, an AFP reporter in the city said.
Main highways leading out of Najaf and streets within the city were still blocked off with smoldering tires on Sunday morning.
Kut, about 170 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Baghdad, saw hundreds hit the streets chanting, “If it’s been tried before, it shouldn’t be tried again!”
In Diwaniyah, further south, protesters marched into government buildings to demand they close for the day, while students began sit-ins at schools and universities.
Protesters in Hillah blocked off all roads leading into the city and chanted, “Allawi is not the people’s choice!”
Allawi, named as a consensus candidate after months of political paralysis, now has a month to pull together his cabinet, which will be subject to a vote by parliament.
In his first formal address, he pledged to form a representative government, hold early parliamentary elections and ensure justice for protest-related violence — all key demands of demonstrators.
More than 480 people have died and nearly 30,000 have been wounded since the rallies began on October 1, but few have been held accountable for the bloodshed.
The protests first demanded an end to corruption, better services and jobs for unemployed youth, but they quickly spiraled to calls for a total government overhaul.


German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

Updated 24 November 2020

German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

  • Germany insists it acted correctly in boarding a Turkish ship to enforce arms embargo of Libya
  • Turkey summoned European diplomats to complain at the operation

BERLIN: Germany’s defense minister on Tuesday rejected Turkey’s complaints over the search of a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean Sea by a German frigate participating in a European mission, insisting that German sailors acted correctly.
Sunday’s incident prompted Turkey to summon diplomats representing the European Union, Germany and Italy and assert that the Libya-bound freighter Rosaline-A was subjected to an “illegal” search by personnel from the German frigate Hamburg. The German ship is part of the European Union’s Irini naval mission, which is enforcing an arms embargo against Libya.
German officials say that the order to board the ship came from Irini’s headquarters in Rome and that Turkey protested while the team was on board. The search was then ended.
Turkey says the search was “unauthorized and conducted by force.”
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed the German crew’s actions.
“It is important to me to make really clear that the Bundeswehr soldiers behaved completely correctly,” she said during an appearance in Berlin. “They did what is asked of them in the framework of the European Irini mandate.”
“That there is this debate with the Turkish side points to one of the fundamental problems of this European mission,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added, without elaborating. “But it is very important to me to say clearly here that there are no grounds for these accusations that are now being made against the soldiers.”
This was the second incident between Turkey and naval forces from a NATO ally enforcing an arms blockade against Libya.
In June, NATO launched an investigation over an incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, after France said one of its frigates was “lit up” three times by Turkish naval targeting radar when it tried to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking.
Turkey supports a UN-backed government in Tripoli against rival forces based in the country’s east. It has complained that the EU naval operation focuses its efforts too much on the Tripoli administration and turns a blind eye to weapons sent to the eastern-based forces.
In Ankara, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Irini was “flawed from the onset.”
“It is not based on firm international legal foundations,” Akar said. He renewed Turkey’s criticism of the German ship’s actions.
“The incident was against international laws and practices. It was wrong,” he said.
Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed that “Turkey is still an important partner for us in NATO.” Turkey being outside the military alliance would make the situation even more difficult, she argued, and Turkish soldiers are “absolutely reliable partners” in NATO missions.
But she conceded that Turkey poses “a big challenge” because of how its domestic politics have developed and because it has its “own agenda, which is difficult to reconcile with European questions in particular.”