Gunmen kill two Guard members in Iran’s Kurdish area

Gunmen kill two Guard members in Iran’s Kurdish area
Members of Iranian Revolutionary Guard in a parade. On Wednesday unknown gunmen suspected of terrorism killed two members of Revolutionary Guard, IRNA reported. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 April 2021

Gunmen kill two Guard members in Iran’s Kurdish area

Gunmen kill two Guard members in Iran’s Kurdish area
  • Guard members killed two gunmen and wounded few accomplices in shootout near Kurdish town of Marivan
  • Iran’s Kurdish area has seen occasional fighting between Iranian forces and Kurdish separatists

TEHRAN: Unknown gunmen suspected of terrorism killed two members of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, the official IRNA news agency reported on Thursday.
The Guard members also killed two gunmen and wounded several of their accomplices in the Wednesday night shootout near Kurdish town of Marivan, near the border of Iraq.
It said other several other members of the terrorist group fled the site of the clash.
The report identified the fallen Guard members as Osman Jahani and Nasser Amini without giving their rank. It said they were buried on Thursday in Marvian cemetery, which suggested they were local forces of the Guard.
Iran’s Kurdish area has seen occasional fighting between Iranian forces and Kurdish separatists, as well as militants linked to the extremist Daesh group.
In December, unknown gunmen killed three Iranian border guards in the Kurdish area near the country’s northwestern border with Turkey. In July, Iran said “terrorists” killed two people and wounded a third person in an attack in a Kurdish area. In June, Iran attacked bases of Iranian Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.


Houthis to force virginity test on abducted Yemeni model, says Amnesty International 

Houthis to force virginity test on abducted Yemeni model, says Amnesty International 
Updated 35 min 35 sec ago

Houthis to force virginity test on abducted Yemeni model, says Amnesty International 

Houthis to force virginity test on abducted Yemeni model, says Amnesty International 
  • Amnesty’s Lynn Maalouf: Yemen’s Houthi de facto authorities must immediately halt all plans to subject Entesar Al-Hammadi to forced virginity testing
  • Locals said the abduction was part of a moral crackdown on artists and actresses as well as spaces where there was mixing between women and men

AL-MUKALLA: A Yemeni model who was abducted by the Houthis is going to be subjected to a virginity test, Amnesty International said on Friday.

The rights group urged the militia to immediately halt its plans.

“Yemen’s Houthi de facto authorities must immediately halt all plans to subject Entesar Al-Hammadi to forced virginity testing,” Lynn Maalouf,  deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said. “She is being punished by the authorities for challenging the social norms of Yemen’s deeply patriarchal society which entrench discrimination against women.” 

The Houthis have banned media outlets in areas under their control and social media users from publishing or sharing information related to Al-Hammadi’s case.

They have also banned her lawyers from speaking to international news outlets.

“The Houthi de facto authorities have a deplorable track record of arbitrarily detaining people on baseless charges – to silence or punish critics, activists, journalists and members of religious minorities – as well as subjecting them to torture and other forms of ill-treatment,” Maalouf added.

Khaled Mohammed Al-Kamal, the model’s lawyer, said a Houthi prosecutor had ordered the ban on media coverage and banned him or any other person from speaking to the media.

“This is against the law,” he told Arab News. “But there is no problem if this will lead to her release.”

The 20-year old model and actress and two other actresses were on their way to a movie shoot on Feb. 20 when armed rebels abducted them and imprisoned them in Sanaa.

Their abduction provoked condemnation and drew media attention, with rights activists demanding that the militia be designated a terrorist organization.

Irritated by media coverage of the case, the Houthis dismissed a prosecutor who had ordered the model’s release, put Al-Hammadi into solitary confinement and pressured Al-Kamal into dropping the case.

But he vowed to keep defending her and called for her release, even on bail, saying she was always crying and had threatened a hunger strike to force the Houthis into freeing her.

“I am her lawyer and will keep defending her until the last moment,” he added. He said that other local lawyers had agreed to join him in defending the model.

The Houthis have not presented clear charges against Al-Hammadi, but locals said the abduction was part of a moral crackdown on artists and actresses as well as spaces where there was mixing between women and men.

Meanwhile, fighting intensified in the provinces of Marib, Jouf, Hodeidah and Taiz, days after the UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths announced that peace efforts to end the war were crumbling.

In Hodeidah, government forces clashed with the Houthis in Hays and in contested areas inside the city of Hodeidah, local media said on Friday.

The Joint Forces, three major military units on the country’s west coast, said that 68 Houthis were killed and 176 were wounded.

A truce under the Stockholm Agreement, signed in late 2018, has largely failed to stop hostilities in Hodeidah. Local rights groups that document war casualties said that hundreds of civilians have been killed due to landmines and shelling.

In Marib, Yemen’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that troops had clashed with the Houthis in Mashjah and Al-Kasara as the rebels advanced toward Marib city.

State media showed dozens of military vehicles and fighters heading to the battlefield to push back the Houthis.

Thousands of combatants have been killed since early February, when the Houthis resumed an offensive to seize control of Marib.


Turkey reopens consulate in northern Iraq

Turkey reopens consulate in northern Iraq
Updated 07 May 2021

Turkey reopens consulate in northern Iraq

Turkey reopens consulate in northern Iraq
  • Cooperation against Daesh will ‘likely need to be on terms dictated by Baghdad,’ analyst tells Arab News
  • Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu recently announced plans to set up a military base in Iraq’s northern Dohuk region

ANKARA: Turkey has reopened its consulate in Mosul, in northern Iraq. The consulate has been closed for the past seven years, since Daesh seized control of the city.

At that time, Daesh held 49 consulate staff — including then-Consul General Ozturk Yilmaz — hostage for over three months.

Ankara has announced several times in recent years that it intended to reopen its consulate in Mosul, a city that was once part of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey recently appointed a new ambassador to Iraq as part of its efforts to boost its relations with its neighbor, and Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu recently announced plans to set up a military base in Iraq’s northern Dohuk region, in addition to a number of military outposts that Turkey has held in the Kurdistan Region since the mid-Nineties.

The aim of the new base is to restrict the movement of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Dohuk lies on a strategic route to the Qandil Mountains, where the militants’ hideouts are based.

On April 14, a missile hit a Turkish military base in Bashiqa, near Mosul, killing a Turkish soldier. On the same day, Erbil International Airport, which hosts US coalition forces, was hit by an explosives-laden drone.

In late April, the Turkish army launched a new offensive against PKK bases in northern Iraq, and Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar visited a military base in the Kurdistan Region.

However, that operation and Akar’s visit — which took place “without coordination or prior approval from authorities” — sparked anger from Baghdad. The Iraqi government sent a formal letter of protest to Turkey’s ambassador on May 3.

Nicholas A. Heras, senior analyst at the Newlines Institute in Washington, said Turkish military operations in areas south of the Kurdistan Region are problematic because Baghdad is strongly opposed to a larger and more active Turkish military footprint in Iraq.
“Baghdad might be open to intelligence cooperation with Ankara for counter-Daesh operations in areas around Mosul, but that cooperation would likely need to be on terms dictated by Baghdad,” Heras told Arab News.

To what extent Turkey’s expanded military presence in northern Iraq will enable it to launch its long-rumored operation against the PKK in Sinjar is still a matter of concern, considering the geopolitical dynamics of the region.

For Heras, any Turkish move against Sinjar would be a non-starter for Baghdad because there is a large People’s Mobilization Forces (PMF) presence in that area.

“Many PMF groups are powerful in Baghdad and are resolutely opposed to any moves by Turkey to expand its military reach in Iraq,” he said.

The PMF, an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia umbrella group which employs local PKK militias in its cadres, is active in northern Iraq and has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in recent times.

Ankara has repeatedly announced that it will not allow Sinjar to become a second Qandil — a stronghold for the PKK.

Turkey’s February 10 military operation against the PKK on Gare Mountain in Iraqi Kurdistan raised concerns that it was planning an operation in Sinjar, threatening the existence of Iran-backed groups in the area.

It is no secret that Iran strongly opposes Turkey’s military presence in Iraq and sees Turkey’s potential operation in Sinjar as opposing its own geopolitical interests.

Iran-backed militias are concerned by the growing rapprochement between Ankara and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that controls the Sinjar area. Both parties have urged the PKK and Iran-backed militias to leave the region.

“The Iranians view Turkey, especially (Turkish President Reycep Tayyip) Erdogan, as a rival for influence in the Levant. There’s expanding Turkish influence in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria that the Iranians want to limit,” Heras said. “Whenever and wherever possible, the Iranians will try to position local forces, such as those in Sinjar, to box Ankara out of more influence in the Levant.”


Houthis passed up major opportunity by refusing to meet UN envoy: State Department

The Houthis refused to meet with UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths (R) in Muscat. (AFP/File Photos)
The Houthis refused to meet with UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths (R) in Muscat. (AFP/File Photos)
Updated 07 May 2021

Houthis passed up major opportunity by refusing to meet UN envoy: State Department

The Houthis refused to meet with UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths (R) in Muscat. (AFP/File Photos)
  • Department also charged the militia were worsening the humanitarian situation in Yemen

WASHINGTON: The US State Department said on Friday the Iran-backed Houthi group had passed up a “major opportunity” to demonstrate a commitment to peace by refusing to meet with UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in Muscat.

In a statement, the department also charged that the militia were worsening the humanitarian situation in Yemen by continuing to attack Marib.

“Contradictory to their pronouncements regarding the humanitarian situation in Yemen, the Houthis worsen it by continuing to attack Marib and exacerbating dire conditions for already vulnerable, internally displaced Yemenis,” Friday’s statement read.

“There is a fair deal on the table that will bring immediate relief to Yemeni people. The Houthis passed up a major opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to peace and to make progress on this proposal by refusing to meet with UN Special Envoy Griffiths in Muscat—especially given the Republic of Yemen Government’s stated readiness to reach an agreement to end the conflict,” it added.

Lenderking recently met with officials from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and permanent members of the UN Security Council in the region to discuss the crisis.

Griffiths also said earlier this week that “we are not where we would like to be in reaching a deal.”

* With Reuters

 


German report reveals how Iran uses proliferation to smuggle illegal goods

German report reveals how Iran uses proliferation to smuggle illegal goods
Updated 07 May 2021

German report reveals how Iran uses proliferation to smuggle illegal goods

German report reveals how Iran uses proliferation to smuggle illegal goods
  • The report states that Iran creates state-controlled “neutral” companies to hide the true nature of the purchase from buyers
  • Iran also uses “detour deliveries over ‘third states’ in order not to identify the final buyer”

DUBAI: An intelligence report from Germany revealed on Friday details of how the Islamic Republic uses proliferation techniques to smuggle illicit technology for deadly weapons.
“Proliferation-relevant countries such as Iran, North Korea and Syria, but also Pakistan, try to circumvent safety precautions and legal export regulations and to disguise illegal procurement activities. To do this, they turn to mostly conspiratorial means and methods,” wrote the intelligence agency in northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein,” the report explains.
“Proliferation is still one of the central tasks of counter-espionage in Schleswig-Holstein,” the report adds.
According to the agency, proliferation is the “spread of weapons of mass destruction (ABC weapons) and the necessary know-how, as well as the products used for their manufacture and associated carrier technologies.”
ABC commonly refers to atomic, biological and chemical weapons.
The report states that Iran creates state-controlled “neutral” companies to hide the true nature of the purchase from buyers and establishes “illegal procurement networks which belong to the front companies and middlemen.”
Iran also uses “detour deliveries over ‘third states’ in order not to identify the final buyer” and “the use and misuse of inexperienced freight deliverers and transporters,” the report added.
Iran also breaks down the deliveries of illegal deliveries into several “individual non-suspicious deliveries to avoid exposing the entire business.” 
The report also said that Iran “conceals the end user” and the “individual, company or institution with which the goods ultimately remain.”
The report cited Iran 19 times in the 218-page report, covering security threats to the state’s democracy.
It also said that states such as Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Syria and Russia strive to acquire dual-use goods, items which have both civil and military use.
“Proliferation is a serious threat to security in many regions of the world, including the Federal Republic of Germany and thus for the state of Schleswig-Holstein. The Federal Republic of Germany is one of the most important export nations in the world. The export of military as well as civilian goods are subject therefore to special control,” the report added.


France to impose travel ban on officials hindering progress in Lebanon

France to impose travel ban on officials hindering progress in Lebanon
Updated 07 May 2021

France to impose travel ban on officials hindering progress in Lebanon

France to impose travel ban on officials hindering progress in Lebanon
  • Jean-Yves Le Drian: If these officials do not start acting responsibly, they will have to bear the consequences of their failure and defiance to the commitments they undertook
  • Le Drian: We have started to initiate restrictive measures to limit their entry to France, and this is only the beginning

BEIRUT: France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said France will impose travel bans on a number of senior Lebanese officials after he described “the inability of political actors in Lebanon to show responsibility” as “collective suicide.”

Le Drian, on his visit to Lebanon, added: “If these officials do not start acting responsibly, they will have to bear the consequences of their failure and defiance to the commitments they undertook.”

In a press conference on Friday at the Pine Residence in Beirut, Le Drian addressed Lebanese officials, saying: “We have decided to reinforce pressure on those hindering progress in the country. We cannot watch everything happening and do nothing. We have started to initiate restrictive measures to limit their entry to France, and this is only the beginning.”

Le Drian did not reveal the names of those who will be affected by these decisions, but talked about an “orchestrated political postponement by some and their defiance to commitments they had undertaken.”

He said: “Corrupt officials hindering efforts will not be able to enter France. If (corruption) persists, these measures will get more strict. We have started working along with the EU on drafting new measures to step up pressure if needed.”

Le Drian warned “the international community and France will not allow any attempt to postpone the next parliamentary elections in Lebanon” and said that “respecting the democratic deadlines in Lebanon is inevitable.”

He praised the “dynamic Lebanese civil society” and said: “I carefully listened to representatives of parties and movements with projects for different political models and I have met with exceptional women involved in amazing solidarity projects. It is up to the Lebanese to choose what they want for their country. The parliamentary elections in 2022 must constitute an opportunity for democratic talks about the future of Lebanon.”

The minister said he had not come to Lebanon to “get drawn into political inducements,” reiterating his invitation to Lebanese officials to commit to the promises made to French President Emmanuel Macron. His meetings at the Pine Residence excluded some top figures, such as jurists, constitution experts, academics and civil society activists.

Activist Dr. Mona Fayad told Arab News: “It is no coincidence that Le Drian did not meet any of the independent figures. Ever since the Beirut blast, France has only tried to absorb the resentment of the Lebanese and has enabled the ruling class to remain in power despite their complete unresponsiveness to the French initiative.

“The core problem that France must address is Hezbollah and its main supporter, Iran. Hezbollah controls the power in Lebanon and has messed with the country’s independence. Lebanon’s neutrality should be announced in an international conference organized to step up pressure against Iran and Hezbollah. Arms in Lebanon are owned and controlled by Hezbollah.”

She said: “Laws in Lebanon are not applied to everyone and no one is held accountable for violating the constitution. How is it possible for Gebran Bassil (the Free Patriotic Movement leader) for example, to justify hindering the government’s formation by the country’s customs, claiming he represents the largest group of Christians? What constitution stipulates that? The ruling class would never cede power because they know that by doing so, they will be held accountable.”

Over 40 senior officials, including constitutional experts, meanwhile, signed a document with a list of President Michel Aoun’s constitutional violations that “affect Lebanon and its future and change its identity and nature of the regime.”

Signatories urged lawmakers to “carry out their duties” warning “they will lead the country to hell” if they failed to.

“The president took an oath and promised to a be judge and not to take sides, which is something we have not yet seen during his mandate,” the document said.