Turkey, Iran at odds over operations on Iraqi soil

Turkey, Iran at odds over operations on Iraqi soil
Turkey has deployed several military outposts deep inside Iraqi territories for decades. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 01 March 2021

Turkey, Iran at odds over operations on Iraqi soil

Turkey, Iran at odds over operations on Iraqi soil
  • Rhetorical tensions will escalate, but direct or proxy conflict highly unlikely: Oxford academic

ANKARA: The diplomatic crisis between Ankara and Tehran has escalated following the latest statement from Iran’s Ambassador to Baghdad Iraj Masjedi, who reiterated an opposition to Turkish military intervention in Iraq, a new move that highlights a broader rivalry between the two countries in the region.

“Turkish forces should not pose a threat or violate Iraqi soil,” Masjedi said on Sunday.
“We do not accept at all, be it Turkey or any other country, to intervene in Iraq militarily or advance or have a military presence in Iraq,” he said, calling on Ankara to withdraw its troops from Iraq and respect international borders.
“The security of the Iraqi area should be maintained by Iraqi forces and (Kurdistan) region forces in their area,” he said.
Turkey has deployed several military outposts deep inside Iraqi territories for decades to eradicate the presence of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Its forces conduct aerial and ground cross-border operations, which have increased in recent years.
These operations have recently drawn anger from Baghdad over territorial violations of Turkish forces and aircraft. But Ankara has continued airstrikes in the Kurdistan region of Iraq to kill senior members of the PKK.
The latest Turkish operation on Feb. 19 to free 13 nationals held captive by the PKK for many years failed in the Gara mountains in northern Iraq.
While Ankara accused the PKK of killing the prisoners during the operation, the PKK asserted that Turkey fortuitously bombed the cave where the captives were held.
The Iran-backed Iraqi militia, the Popular Mobilization Units also known as Hashd Al-Shabi, has deployed three brigades to Sinjar along the Syrian border to counter Turkish moves in the region.
Ankara summoned the Iranian envoy on Sunday following his remarks on Iraq operations. “Ankara expects Iran to support, not oppose, Turkey’s fight against terrorism,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry reportedly told the ambassador.
“The Ambassador of Iran would be the last person to lecture Turkey about respecting the borders of Iraq,” said the Turkish Ambassador to Iraq Fatih Yildiz.
Turkey recently arrested an Iranian official Mohammad Reza Naserzadeh over the killing of an Iranian dissident, Masoud Molavi Vardanjani, who was murdered in Istanbul in November 2019. This move further strained ties between Turkey and Iran.
“Turkish-Iranian relations are set to become more turbulent,” Galip Dalay, an associate fellow at Chatham House in London, told Arab News.
“Iraq still stands as the most important Middle Eastern country for Iran. The increased military presence and political leverage of Turkey in northern Iraq increasingly disturbs Iran, while the Iraqi central government would not welcome any Turkish operation into Sinjar,” Dalay added.
According to Samuel Ramani, an academic and analyst at Oxford University, Turkey-Iran relations are volatile, as phases of escalated competition and cooperation quickly follow each other.
Ramani told Arab News: “Right now, we are entering a phase of heightened competition, as Turkey sees a rising security threat from the PKK in Iraq, while Iran’s relationship with Iraqi Kurdistan has a positive moment following Iran’s most-senior commander Qassem Soleimani’s death last year.”
He added that Turkey’s expanded bilateral engagement with Iraq threatens Iran’s aspirations for hegemony, and that Iran is trying to capitalize on latent discontent in Baghdad with expansive Turkish military operations that violate Iraqi sovereignty.
“There is a broader context of tension between Turkey and Iran. Russia-Iran relations are growing in the Caspian region to counter Turkey, Ankara has arrested alleged Iranian spies and both countries are disagreeing over the situation in northern Syria, especially Ayn Issa,” he said.
Given the broader state of tensions, Ramani expects Turkey and Iran to continue having a rhetorical war of words about the legitimacy of Ankara’s anti-PKK operations and of Iran’s interference in Iraq, but direct conflict between Iranian and Turkish forces or local allies is unlikely.
But Dalay expects that a US-supported Turkish operation into Sinjar is highly likely. He said that if the ongoing crisis between Hashd Al-Shabi and Ankara escalates, Iran is likely to be drawn into this regional equation.
“Hashd Al-Shabi provides a cover to the PKK in the region, while the presence of Shingal Resistance Units, a Yazidi militia that collaborates with Hashd Al-Shabi, could trigger an international awareness about the Yazidi religious minority,” he said.


US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse

US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse
Updated 27 min 50 sec ago

US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse

US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse
  • U.S. official said America and the international community can do nothing meaningful without a Lebanese partner
  • Current crisis was the culmination of decades of mismanagement, corruption and leaders’ failure to put the country’s interests first, said Hale

BEIRUT: A senior US official on Wednesday berated Lebanese politicians for fighting over the formation of a new government for months while millions endure mounting economic hardship.
David Hale, US undersecretary of state for political affairs, said America and the international community are ready to help, “but we can do nothing meaningful without a Lebanese partner.”
Hale spoke on a two-day visit to Lebanon amid a months-long political deadlock and dangerous rift between the president and prime minister-designate. The split has prevented the formation of a new Cabinet tasked with halting the country’s rapid economic collapse.
The outgoing government resigned last August, following a massive explosion at Beirut’s port that killed 211 people, injured more than 6,000 and damaged entire neighborhoods in the capital.
The blast hastened the country’s economic and financial decline, which began in late 2019 and has emerged as the gravest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the 15-year civil war ended in 1990.
The local currency has been in free fall since late 2019, losing around 90 percent of its value. The government defaulted on its foreign debt last year and nearly half the population has been pushed into poverty and unemployment.
“America and its international partners are gravely concerned with the failure here to advance the critical reform agenda long demanded by the Lebanese people,” Hale told reporters Wednesday after meeting Lebanon’s longtime Parliament Speaker, Nabih Berri.
The current crisis, he said, was the culmination of decades of mismanagement, corruption and the failure of Lebanese leaders to put the interests of the country first.
“It is time now to call on Lebanese leaders to show sufficient flexibility to form a government that is willing and capable of true and fundamental reform,” Hale added, calling it the only path out of this crisis.
“It’s also only a first step. Sustained cooperation will be needed if we’re going to see transparent reforms adopted and implemented.”


Saudi Arabia: Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons

Saudi Arabia: Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons
Updated 47 min 22 sec ago

Saudi Arabia: Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons

Saudi Arabia: Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons
  • Saudi Arabia said it was following with concern the current developments of the Iranian nuclear program

DUBAI: The international community must take measure to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned on Wednesday.

Iran’s increase of uranium enrichment to 60 percent cannot be considered as part of a peaceful program, the ministry said in a statement reported by state tv Al-Ekhbariya.

The world should take into account the concerns of the countries in the region about the escalation of Iran, the statement said.

The international community must reach an agreement with Iran, the statement added, urging for “stronger parameters of a longer duration.”

Saudi Arabia said it was following with concern the current developments of the Iranian nuclear program and called on Iran to avoid escalation and not to expose the security and stability of the region to further tension.

The kingdom also called on Iran to seriously engage in the negotiations currently underway.

Meanwhile, the European powers party to the Iran nuclear deal told Tehran on Wednesday that its decision to enrich uranium at 60 percent purity and install a further 1,000 centrifuges at its Natanz site were contrary to efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
Talks between world powers, Iran and the United States are due to resume in Vienna on Thursday, but in a joint statement Britain, France and Germany said Tehran’s decision to enrich at 60 percent was not based on credible civilian reasons and constituted an important step in the production of a nuclear weapon.
“Iran’s announcements are particularly regrettable given they come at a time when all JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) participants and the United States have started substantive discussions, with the objective of finding a rapid diplomatic solution to revitalise and restore the JCPoA,” the three countries said.
“Iran’s dangerous recent communication is contrary to the constructive spirit and good faith of these discussions.”
Tehran has said its decisions came after arch-foe Israel sabotaged its key Natanz nuclear site on Sunday.
“In light of recent developments, we reject all escalatory measures by any actor, and we call upon Iran not to further complicate the diplomatic process,” the E3 said.

Iran's president said his country’s decision to dramatically increase its uranium enrichment after saboteurs attacked a nuclear site “an answer to your evilness,” saying Israel hoped to derail ongoing talks aimed at reviving Tehran's tattered nuclear deal with world powers.
This weekend's sabotage at the Natanz nuclear facility appears to be part of an escalating shadow war between the two countries. Israeli authorities have not commented on the attack, but are widely suspected of having carried it out.


Jordan begins investigation on those who attempted to destabilize the county

Jordan begins investigation on those who attempted to destabilize the county
Updated 43 min 54 sec ago

Jordan begins investigation on those who attempted to destabilize the county

Jordan begins investigation on those who attempted to destabilize the county
  • At least 16 detentions have been made in relation to the case

CAIRO: Jordan’s state public prosecutor has proceeded with an investigation of all those involved in an alleged plot to destabilize the country. 

Local state media, Al-Mamlaka TV, reported the news on Wednesday citing an unnamed source.

Jordanian officials announced on April 3 the arrest of citizens Al-Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, Bassem Awad Allah, a former head of the Jordanian Royal Court, for security reasons. 

At least 16 detentions have been made in relation to the case. 

Authorities at the time said those were being held as part of “joint comprehensive investigation undertaken by security forces,” according to state-run Petra news agency.  

Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi said previously that investigations found links between Bassem Awadallah and external parties, and the so-called foreign opposition. 


Turkey hails ‘new era’ with Egypt after tensions

Turkey hails ‘new era’ with Egypt after tensions
Updated 14 April 2021

Turkey hails ‘new era’ with Egypt after tensions

Turkey hails ‘new era’ with Egypt after tensions
  • Turkish officials said last month Ankara had established the first diplomatic contacts with Cairo since 2013
  • Cavusoglu told Turkish reporters that the appointment of ambassadors “will come up on the agenda”

ANKARA: Turkey’s foreign minister hailed the start of “a new era” with Egypt as Ankara pushes ahead with normalizing relations with Cairo, local media reported on Wednesday.
Turkey and Egypt broke off relations after the 2013 overthrow of ex-Islamist president Muhammad Mursi, who was supported by Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
That year Turkey and Egypt expelled each others’ ambassadors and froze their relations.
Turkish officials said last month Ankara had established the first diplomatic contacts with Cairo since 2013 as part of wider efforts to fix ties with other Middle Eastern rivals.
“A new era is beginning,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by NTV broadcaster.
He said there would be a meeting between the two countries’ deputy foreign ministers and diplomats but a date had not yet been set.
Cavusoglu told Turkish reporters that the appointment of ambassadors “will come up on the agenda” during those talks.
When asked, the minister also indicated there would be meetings between himself and his Egyptian counterpart.
“Why not. There can be reciprocal visits and meetings, too,” Cavusoglu said.
Last month, members of Egypt’s Istanbul-based opposition media said Turkish officials had asked them to “tone down” criticism of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
The request appeared to be an attempt by Turkey to curry favor with Egypt in a bid to mend relations.
An Egyptian broadcaster known for his outspoken criticism of Cairo on an Istanbul-based channel, said on Saturday he was going on “unlimited leave.”
Moataz Matar, 46, made the announcement during his popular daily show “With Moataz,” which he has presented for several years on the liberal El-Sharq channel.
Matar said he was not forced by Turkey or the channel to leave but added he did not want to “embarrass” anyone.
“I will come back when I am able to tell the truth on El-Sharq again as I always have,” he added.
After the Arab Spring, Istanbul became a capital of Arab media critical of their governments back home, especially for Egyptian media linked to Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.


Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt

Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt
Updated 14 April 2021

Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt

Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt
  • The bus from Cairo collided with a truck loaded with cement in the province of Assiut
  • Reckless driving and the poor condition of roads are responsible for many crashes in Egypt

CAIRO: Twenty people were killed and three injured in an accident involving a bus and a truck on a desert highway in Upper Egypt late on Tuesday, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

The bus from Cairo collided with a truck loaded with cement, which was stopping due to a malfunction, in the province of Assiut, about 370 km south of the capital, the provincial governor's office said in a statement.

The bus was burned out within minutes, and the bodies and the injured were removed from it with difficulty, it added.

Thirty-six ambulances rushed to the scene, the health ministry said.

Reckless driving and the poor condition of roads are responsible for many crashes in Egypt. Dozens have been killed in a recent spate of rail and road crashes.

Eighteen people were killed in March when a truck collided with a minibus in Giza province, about 80 km south of Cairo. At least 20 people were killed and nearly 200 people wounded injured when two trains collided near Tahta, about 440 km south of Cairo.