With assault on Iraq, Turkey and Iran cement a partnership in crime

With assault on Iraq, Turkey and Iran cement a partnership in crime
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Turkish soldiers and Turkey-backed Syrian fighters gather on the northern outskirts of the Syrian city of Manbij in late 2019. (AFP)
With assault on Iraq, Turkey and Iran cement a partnership in crime
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Mourners attend a funeral, for Kurdish political leader Hevrin Khalaf and others including civilians and Kurdish fighters, in the northeastern Syrian Kurdish town of Derik, known as al-Malikiyah in Arabic, on October 13, 2019 (AFP file photo)
With assault on Iraq, Turkey and Iran cement a partnership in crime
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A Turkish military convoy is pictured in Kilis near the Turkish-Syrian border, as Ankara launches Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria in late 2019. (Reuters file photo)
With assault on Iraq, Turkey and Iran cement a partnership in crime
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A large Turkish military convoy moves into rebel-held areas of northwest Syria on Feb. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/APTN/file photo)
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Iranian armed forces members march during the National Army Day parade in Tehran on Sept. 22, 2019. (Iranian Presidency website/Handout via Reuters)
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Updated 22 June 2020

With assault on Iraq, Turkey and Iran cement a partnership in crime

With assault on Iraq, Turkey and Iran cement a partnership in crime
  • Turkey and Iran condemned for violating Iraq’s sovereignty with attacks on country’s northern Kurdish areas
  • Apparently coordinated assault seen as fresh attempt to assert joint hegemony over the Middle East

MISSOURI, USA: Over the past 10 days, Turkey and Iran have launched a series of apparently coordinated air strikes and artillery barrages on Kurdish targets in northern Iraq.

The strikes included attacks on areas at the Iraqi-Turkish border, where Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants remain active; Yazidi areas near Sinjar on the Iraqi-Syrian border; and areas on the Iraqi-Iranian border, where the PKK and a number of other Iranian Kurdish opposition groups have a presence.

International law appears to be of very limited use here. Both Turkey and Iran claim they are engaged in legitimate self-defense against Kurdish parties launching incursions against them from Iraqi Kurdistan.

Turkey in particular blames the PKK for a series of recent bombings in areas of predominantly Kurdish northern Syria, occupied by Turkish troops.

By contrast, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the UAE view the strikes as a clear violation of Iraqi sovereignty. From the Arab perspective, Turkey and Iran are brazenly flexing their muscles as if to remind Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, Iraq’s new prime minister, who the real regional powers are.

Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq remain too weak to do anything about the strikes, and the rest of the world appears silent on the issue.




Syrian Arab and Kurdish civilians flee with their belongings amid Turkish bombardment on Syria's northeastern town of Ras al-Ain on October 9, 2019. (AFP file photo)

Turkish special forces were airlifted into border areas to conduct ground operations there. For the first time, Turkey also appears to have used its air force to strike Kurdish targets on the Iraqi-Iranian border area of Haji-Omran rather than just the Turkish-Iraqi border.

While used to Iranian shelling, Haji-Omran never fell under Turkish crosshairs before this month. Iran in turn appears to have targeted its artillery at the PKK, which remains Turkey’s primary enemy, rather than just against Iranian-Kurdish parties.

In the Duhok region near the Turkish-Iraqi border, at least four civilians were reportedly killed in the strikes, while other casualty reports trickled in from the Iraqi-Iranian border.

Turkish military officials released a statement claiming to have killed a number of PKK fighters, rather than civilians, in strikes on some 150 different PKK targets.

The Erbil-based news agency Rudaw reports that of the 264 villages in Sidakan district alone, “118 have been emptied due to Turkish airstrikes and Iranian artillery targeting guerillas of the PKK and other Kurdish insurgent groups.”

Anger over the attacks erupted in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the government in Baghdad lodged protests with both Turkey and Iran over the attacks. But in this part of the Middle East, authoritarian leaders operate with impunity on the principle of “might is right.”

With regular projections of military power and occupation forces in Iraq, Syria, Cyprus and now even Libya, Turkey in particular is intent on throwing its weight around in the region.

Ankara’s message appears to be that it will act forcefully wherever and whenever it wishes, with Turkish naval ships in the Mediterranean now even engaging in brinksmanship over gas deposits there.

Ambiguities in international law notwithstanding, the strikes on Iraq seem unlikely to accomplish anything apart from harming hapless civilians in the area.

Turkey and Iran have been launching attacks on these very mountainous Iraqi-Kurdish border areas for the last 30 years, with little to show for them beyond placating Turkish and Persian nationalist sentiment at home.

Neither Ankara, nor Tehran nor Iraqi Kurdish authorities can dislodge the PKK and various Iranian-Kurdish opposition groups from such mountainous terrain. The rebel groups will not suddenly surrender and end their campaigns as a result of air strikes and artillery barrages.

In the meantime, local Kurdish farmers and shepherds suffer from being caught in the crossfire of such conflict. Embattled and impoverished Kurds need more than words of support in such circumstances, but little seems forthcoming from the international community.

US President Donald Trump in particular could not care less about such attacks on Kurdish opposition groups. Although many in the Pentagon value a close relationship with the Kurds, they play a limited role in US policymaking, a fact most recently confirmed by Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton in his White House memoir, “The Room Where It Happened.”

Opinion

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During the past year, influential voices within the US Department of State even argued for closer cooperation with Turkey as a means of containing Iran. This likely formed part of President Trump’s logic when he betrayed Syrian Kurdish groups to a Turkish onslaught in October of 2019.

The whole notion of partnering with Turkey to contain Iran appears utterly ridiculous to most informed observers of the region. Turkey and Iran behave as allies more often than not. Turkish officials and business leaders helped Iran evade sanctions for years, and even now Ankara opposes renewed US sanctions on Iran.

One never hears reports of Turkish-Iranian tensions on their mutual border. Turkey and Iran also both appear increasingly beholden to Moscow. As the Arab world saw during the past week, Turkey and Iran even collaborate closely against Kurdish targets in joint military operations.

This leaves only a few differences between Ankara and Tehran, including backing different sides in the Syrian civil war and competing for influence over Iraq (a competition that Iran has largely won).

These differences are easily manageable within a relationship in which both sides share so much in common, from the increased role of religion in both regimes to their shared antipathy towards the US and the West.




An Iraqi Kurdish woman in Sulaimaniyah at a protest against the Turkish assault on northern Iraq. Below, a Kurdish female volunteer from the newly formed Community Protection Forces. (AFP)

When Turkey was under different leadership before 2002, one might have reasonably considered Ankara as a bulwark against Iranian expansionism. Today, in contrast, they look more like comrades in arms, engaged in a little friendly competition on the side.

One thing about the Iranian-Turkish relationship remains as true now as it did in the past — their common opposition to any Kurdish political gains in the region. While Turkey’s anti-Kurdish perspective appears more candid, Iran’s is probably no less strong.

Neither wants their own Kurdish populations to aspire to any sort of autonomy or political and social improvement, which in turn justifies attacks on Kurdish groups in neighboring states as well.

When in October 2017 the Iraqi Kurds held a referendum on independence, for instance, Ankara and Tehran had little trouble speaking with one voice against them.

Many in the Arab world, in contrast, appear to have an evolving perspective regarding the Kurds. Although few in the Arab world favor Kurdish secession from Iraq or Syria, the prospect of Kurdish political gains is not anathema to the Arab world as it once was.

During the recent Turkish and Iranian strikes on Iraqi Kurdistan, voices in the Arab world were among the only ones speaking out on behalf of Iraq and the Kurds.

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David Romano is Thomas G. Strong professor of Middle East politics at Missouri State University

 


UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria’s return to Arab fold

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria’s return to Arab fold
Updated 09 March 2021

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria’s return to Arab fold

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria’s return to Arab fold

DUBAI: UAE Foreign Minster Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said Tuesday the sanctions imposed by the US Caesar’s Act complicate Syria’s return to the Arab fold. 

The return of Syria to the Arab League is in the interest of Syria and other countries of the region, he said.

The minister made the remarks during a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Abu Dhabi. 

He also announced that the UAE is looking forward to developing relations with Russia in various fields, saying: "Russia is a reliable friend and partner."

Meanwhile, Lavrov said that Russia has been in contact with UAE officials on developments in the Gulf and the region’s the stability.


UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant
Updated 09 March 2021

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant
  • The Nawah Energy Company became authorized to operate the second unit over the next 60 years

DUBAI: The UAE announced the issuance of a license to operate the second unit of the Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi’s Al-Dhafra region, state news agency WAM reported on Tuesday.
The Nawah Energy Company – which is responsible of operating unit one to four of the power plant - became authorized to operate the second unit over the next 60 years, the report said.
The extensive evaluation process during the past five years included a review of the design of the nuclear plant, and a geographical and demographic analysis of its location.
The evaluation process also included the cooling and safety systems of the nuclear reactor, security measures, emergency preparedness procedures, radioactive waste management, and other technical aspects.
The authority also reviewed the readiness of the Nawah Energy Company in making available all the necessary procedures and measures to ensure the safety and security standards of the power plant.
“Today’s announcement represents a milestone in the UAE’s journey and realization of the vision of the wise leadership. It is considered a strategic achievement that culminates in the efforts exerted over the past 13 years,” Permanent Representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the UAE Hamad Al-Kaabi said.


Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq
Updated 09 March 2021

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

DUBAI: A US-led coalition airstrike has destroyed a site housing 10 militants from the Daesh group in Nineveh, north of Iraq, according to the country’s state news agency Tuesday. 

“The international coalition warplanes carried out an air strike in Mount Adaya, within the Nineveh sector of operations, which resulted in the destruction of a den containing about 10 members of the Daesh terror group,” the agency reported. 

A brigade from the Iraqi army searched the targeted area after the coalition strike and neutralized two other Daesh militants wearing explosive-laden belts, the report said.


With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry
Updated 09 March 2021

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry
  • Rights groups say at least 10 people were killed when security forces opened fire on fuel porters in Sistan-Baluchistan
PARIS: After Iran last month imposed an Internet shutdown lasting several days in a southeastern region during a rare upsurge of unrest, activists say the government is now using the tactic repeatedly when protests erupt.
Rights groups say at least 10 people were killed when security forces opened fire on fuel porters around Saravan in the province of Sistan-Baluchistan on February 22, prompting protests where live ammunition was used on unarmed demonstrators.
But little information filtered out due to a near total shutdown of the Internet in the impoverished region bordering Pakistan, which has a large ethnic Baluch population and has been a flashpoint for cross-border attacks by separatists and Sunni extremists.
The Internet shutdown was a “measure authorities appear to be using as a tool to conceal gross human rights violations and possible international crimes such as extrajudicial killings,” freedom of expression groups Access Now, Article 19 and Miaan Group said in a joint statement with Amnesty International.
Campaigners say such shutdowns, which recall those seen in recent months during street protests in Belarus and Myanmar, have a dual purpose.
They seek to prevent people from using social media messaging services to mobilize protests but also hinder the documentation of rights violations that could be used to rally support at home and abroad.
Iran in November 2019 imposed nationwide Internet limits during rare protests against fuel hikes that the authorities suppressed in a deadly crackdown.
Rights groups fear the same tactic risks being used again during potentially tense presidential elections this summer.

The Sistan-Baluchistan shutdown saw mobile Internet services halted, effectively shutting down the net in an area where phones account for over 95 percent of Internet use.
“It is aimed at harming documentation and the ability of people to mobilize and coordinate,” Mahsa Alimardani, Iran researcher with the Article 19 freedom of expression group, told AFP. “It helps the authorities to be able to control the narrative.”
State media said there were attacks on government buildings in Saravan and that a policeman was killed when unrest spread to the provincial capital Zahedan.
The governor of the city’s region, Abouzarmahdi Nakahei, denounced “fake” reports of deaths in the protests, blaming “foreign media.”
Alimardani noted that targeting mobile Internet connections made the shutdown different from the one seen in November 2019.
Then, Iranians were cut off from international Internet traffic but were able to continue highly-filtered activities on Iran’s homegrown Internet platform the National Information Network (NIN).
She said the documentation of atrocities was the authorities’ biggest fear. “It is a big rallying call when these videos go viral,” she said.


Unlike some other minority groups in Iran like Arabs and Kurds, the Baluch do not have major representation in the West to promote their cause and draw attention to alleged violations on social media.
Most Baluch adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam rather than the Shiism dominant in Iran and rights groups also say Baluch convicts have been disproportionately targeted by executions.
According to information received by Amnesty from Baluchi activists, at least 10 people were killed on February 22 when Revolutionary Guards “unlawfully and deliberately used lethal force” against unarmed Baluchi fuel porters near Saravan.
The crackdown came after the security forces blocked a road to impede the work of the porters, who cross between Iran and Pakistan to sell fuel.
Amnesty added that security forces also used unlawful and excessive force against people who protested in response to the killings, as well as bystanders, leaving another two dead.


Amnesty’s Iran researcher Raha Bahreini told AFP that the toll was a “minimum figure” that Baluchi activists verified after confirming the victims’ names.
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran have an even higher toll of 23 dead, citing local sources.
The Internet shutdown “severely restricted the flow of information to rights defenders from contacts and eyewitnesses,” Bahreini told AFP.
“The authorities are fully aware they are preventing the outside world from learning about the extent and gravity of violations on the ground,” she added.
She said such unlawful shutdowns had turned into a “pattern” in Iran.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville said that the shutdown has impeded precise verification of the death toll and had “the apparent purpose of preventing access to information about what is happening there.”
The CHRI said Iran blocked Internet access “to kill protesters indiscriminately and out of the public eye and prevent protesters from communicating and organizing.”
“Security forces killed hundreds of protesters with impunity in November 2019, and they are doing it again now,” said its director Hadi Ghaemi.
sjw/jh/jz/oho

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam
Updated 09 March 2021

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

CAIRO: Egypt hopes to resume talks soon with Ethiopia over the controversial mega-dam to reach an agreement that serves the interests of the three parties involved in the dispute, its foreign minister said.   

Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said his country has been communicating with Ethiopia over the Grand Renaissance Dam, which Cairo fears it will significantly cut its crucial water supplies from the Nile River.

No talks on the matter were made outside the framework of the African Union (AU), Shoukry was cited by local daily Al-Masry El-Youm . The AU has been mediating the talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. 

Egypt and Sudan have voiced their concern about the possible threats posed by the dam and how it could negatively affect their water share if Ethiopia abstained from signing a binding and legal agreement on the dam operation and the process of filling its reservoir.