Turkey, Iraq get closer through defense purchase

 Iraq recently announced its willingness to buy a multimillion-dollar arms package from Turkey. (Anadolu Agency/File Photo)
Iraq recently announced its willingness to buy a multimillion-dollar arms package from Turkey. (Anadolu Agency/File Photo)
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Updated 02 September 2021

Turkey, Iraq get closer through defense purchase

 Iraq recently announced its willingness to buy a multimillion-dollar arms package from Turkey. (Anadolu Agency/File Photo)
  • Turkey recently began exporting advanced weaponry to several countries including Poland, the Philippines and Azerbaijan

ANKARA: Relations between Turkey and Iraq are evolving with an increase in military purchases between the two nations. 

Iraq recently announced its willingness to buy a multimillion-dollar arms package from Turkey, including armed drones, attack helicopters, electronic warfare systems and advanced weaponry. 

Iraqi Defense Minister Juma Inad announced Baghdad’s request to Turkey during a speech at a local television station on Aug. 30, and added an agreement had been reached for the purchase of TB2 Bayraktar armed drones.

Ankara says the deal has not yet been finalized, and negotiations are still ongoing because the sale of the helicopters requires an export permit from the US, as they use engines manufactured by a joint venture between American and British companies. 

The arms package is expected to boost the Iraq’s military readiness in the fight against Daesh. It is also likely to strengthen the political ties between the two states that have been developing since Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi assumed office last year.

“If Iraq is unstable, the whole area will not achieve stability. We will keep supporting Baghdad to achieve stability,” said Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu during the Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership on Aug. 28.

Turkey recently began exporting advanced weaponry to several countries including Poland, the Philippines and Azerbaijan. 

During the International Defense Industry Fair 2021 held in Istanbul on Aug. 19, Inad met his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar.

Ismail Demir, head of Turkish Defense Industries, also signed an agreement with his Iraqi counterpart Mohamed Saheb Al-Daraji in Istanbul last week for the sale of defense articles and the exchange of technical knowledge. 

“Unmanned aerial vehicles and armed drones manufactured by Turkey were tested both in Turkey and in other conflict areas. Whether it’s the payload they carry or their visibility and targeting rates, the drones performed very well. They produced very effective results especially against armed groups and terrorist organizations using unconventional methods,” Erol Bural, head of the Ankara-based Research Center for Defense Against Terrorism and Radicalization, or TERAM, told Arab News. 

According to Bural, the Turkish-made defense equipment has also proven its capability for monitoring fields from the air whilst firing at the same time. 

“For this reason, Iraq wants to control both its borders and conflict areas as well as potential conflict areas using the same method and system,” he said. 

“Every country wants to have such sophisticated weapons systems in its inventory. If the countries do not produce these systems themselves, they want to diversify their resources as much as possible by buying the same system or equipment from different countries. I think Iraq does not want to be dependent on one country to diversify its UAV systems,” Bural said. 

Experts also note the importance of being an “exporter country” in the defense industry. 

“The fact that Iraq has such technological systems to ensure its own domestic and border security will also contribute to Turkey’s security itself,” Bural said. 

Tuna Aygun, an Iraq expert at Ankara-based think-tank ORSAM, agrees. 

“Increasing Iraqi defense capacity is important especially in terms of establishing federal control over gray areas such as Sinjar and borderlines,” he told Arab News.

“The shared disapproval of the independence referendum by northern Iraq in 2017 helped Ankara and Baghdad in cultivating close ties. To what extent the purchase of this new defense equipment, especially armed drones, will be used against terror threats in the region will determine the areas of cooperation between the two countries.” 

Aygun also noted that the prospective defense deal between Ankara and Baghdad might come with a logistics and training package, which will bring the two countries even closer.  

Turkey has become the world’s fourth-largest drone producer, with the flight automation and performance of Bayraktar drones standing out as the world’s most advanced system in its category. 

The presence of Daesh and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party on Iraqi soil has been a source of dispute for Ankara. Turkey’s Ambassador to Iraq Ali Riza Guney said at a forum in Baghdad on Monday that Turkey will continue to support Iraq’s sovereignty, stability and security against the two groups. 


4 Sudanese ministers, a member of sovereign council arrested - Alhadath TV

4 Sudanese ministers, a member of sovereign council arrested - Alhadath TV
Updated 5 sec ago

4 Sudanese ministers, a member of sovereign council arrested - Alhadath TV

4 Sudanese ministers, a member of sovereign council arrested - Alhadath TV

KHARTOUM: Unidentified Sudanese military forces arrest four cabinet ministers and one civilian member of the ruling sovereign council, Alhadath TV said on Monday citing unnamed sources. 

(Developing story)


Dozens of Yemenis feared dead in botched Houthi missile launch

Dozens of Yemenis feared dead in botched Houthi missile launch
Updated 25 October 2021

Dozens of Yemenis feared dead in botched Houthi missile launch

Dozens of Yemenis feared dead in botched Houthi missile launch
  • PM urges factions to unify and foil ‘Iranian-led criminal project’

AL-MUKALLA: Dozens of civilians were reportedly killed or wounded in Yemen’s northern province of Dhamar on Saturday when a ballistic missile fired by the Iran-backed Houthis failed to reach its target and ripped through a residential area, residents and local media said.

Launched by the Houthis from a military base under their control in Dhamar city, the missile landed in a densely populated area close to the base, triggering a huge explosion that rocked the city.

The Houthis quickly sealed off the streets and banned people from entering or leaving the area.

Al-Sharae newspaper reported that the missile “destroyed many houses” in the Al-Najeda neighborhood as ambulances with blaring sirens were seen rushing to the area.

Images seen on social media showed a large fireball and smoke billowing from the site.

The Houthis have intensified drone and missile strikes on the central city of Marib as their ground forces have aggressively pushed to seize control of the strategic city since February.

During the last several days, Arab coalition jets targeted military sites in Houthi-held Hodeidah and Sanaa, where ballistic missiles, explosive drones and bomb boats are manufactured and stored.

Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed. (AFP/File)

In the southern city of Aden, the interim capital, Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed on Saturday urged factions to forge unified ranks for war against the Houthis and to end the Iranian regime’s strategy in the country.

During a virtual meeting with representatives of political parties included in the government, the prime minister warned that the Houthis are “seeking to seize control of Yemen and would target all opponents who challenged their rule,” urging Yemenis to “come together” to defeat the Houthis.

“The Houthi danger and the Iranian project in Yemen will not exclude anyone, and no party is immune. If we don’t fight it together today, no party will find the time and ground to fight this Iranian-led criminal project in the region,” Saeed said, according to the official news agency.

Yemeni political analysts and officials argue that ongoing infighting among the anti-Houthi camp has weakened it politically and militarily, and enabled the militia to expand across Yemen.

Najeeb Ghallab, undersecretary at Yemen’s information ministry and a political analyst, urged Yemeni parties to “positively respond” to the prime minister’s call, adding that unifying splintered groups and factions would lead to defeat of the Houthis and push them into accepting peace initiatives.

“The only beneficiary of the conflicts and splits within anti-Houthi forces is the Houthis. Unifying factions would place powerful pressure on them,” Ghallab told Arab News.

On the ground, dozens of Houthis and several government troops were killed in fierce clashes over the past day in Juba district, south of Marib province, a Yemeni military official who visited the battlefield told Arab News. The Yemeni army and allied tribesmen foiled consecutive attacks by more than 15 groups of Houthi fighters in Juba who staged a bid to break through Marib defenses.

“The Houthis seized control of a remote village in Juba in the morning and we liberated it by the end of the day,” the official, who requested anonymity, said.


Pope: Don’t send migrants back to Libya and ‘inhumane’ camps

Pope: Don’t send migrants back to Libya and ‘inhumane’ camps
Updated 24 October 2021

Pope: Don’t send migrants back to Libya and ‘inhumane’ camps

Pope: Don’t send migrants back to Libya and ‘inhumane’ camps

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Sunday made an impassioned plea to end the practice of returning migrants rescued at sea to Libya and other unsafe countries where they suffer “inhumane violence.”
Francis also waded into a highly contentious political debate in Europe, calling on the international community to find concrete ways to manage the “migratory flows” in the Mediterranean.
“I express my closeness to the thousands of migrants, refugees and others in need of protection in Libya,” Francis said. ”I never forget you, I hear your cries and I pray for you.”
Even as the pontiff appealed for changes of migrant policy and of heart in his remarks to the public in St. Peter’s Square, hundreds of migrants were either at sea in the central Mediterranean awaiting a port after rescue or recently coming ashore in Sicily or the Italian mainland after setting sail from Libya or Turkey, according to authorities.
“So many of these men, women and children are subject to inhumane violence,” he added. ”Yet again I ask the international community to keep the promises to search for common, concrete and lasting solutions to manage the migratory flows in Libya and in all the Mediterranean.”
“How they suffer, those who are sent back” after rescue at sea, the pope said. Detention facilities in Libya, he said “are true concentration camps.”
“We need to stop sending back (migrants) to unsafe countries and to give priority to the saving of human lives at sea with protocols of rescue and predictable disembarking, to guarantee them dignified conditions of life, alternatives to detention, regular paths of migration and access to asylum procedures,” Francis said.
UN refugee agency officials and human rights organizations have long denounced the conditions of detention centers for migrants in Libya, citing practices of beatings, rape and other forms of torture and insufficient food. Migrants endure weeks and months of those conditions, awaiting passage in unseaworthy rubber dinghies or rickety fishing boats arranged by human traffickers.
Hours after the pope’s appeal, the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders said that its rescue ship, Geo Barents, reached a rubber boat that was taking on water, with the sea buffeted by strong winds and waves up to three meters (10 feet) high. It tweeted that “we managed to rescue all the 71 people on board.”
The group thanked the charity group Alarm Phone for signaling that the boat crowded with migrants was in distressed.
Earlier, Geo Barents, then with 296 migrants aboard its rescue ship, was awaiting permission in waters off Malta to disembark. Six migrants tested positive for COVID-19, but because of the crowded conditions aboard, it was difficult to keep them sufficiently distant from the others, Doctors Without Borders said.
In Sicily, a ship operated by the German charity Sea-Watch, with 406 rescued migrants aboard, was granted permission to enter port. But Sea-Watch said that a rescue vessel operated by a Spanish charity, with 105 migrants aboard, has been awaiting a port assignment to disembark them for four days.
While hundreds of thousands of migrants have departed in traffickers’ boats for European shores in recent years and set foot on Sicily or nearby Italian islands, many reach the Italian mainland.
Red Cross officials in Roccella Ionica, a town on the coast of the “toe” of the Italian peninsula said on Sunday that about 700 migrants, some of them from Afghanistan, reached the Calabrian coast in recent days on boats that apparently departed from Turkey.
Authorities said so far this year, about 3,400 migrants had reached Roccella Ionica, a town of 6,000 people, compared to 480 in all of 2019. The migrants who arrived in the last several days were being housed in tent shelters, RAI state television said.
Italy and Malta have come under criticism by human rights advocates for leaving migrants aboard crowded rescue boats before assigning them a safe port.
The Libyan coast guard, which has been trained and equipped by Italy, has also been criticized for rescuing migrants in Libyan waters and then returning them to land where the detention centers awaited them.
On Friday, Doctors Without Borders tweeted that crew aboard the Geo Barents had “witnessed an interception” by the Libyan coast guard and that the migrants “”will be forcibly taken to dangerous detention facilities and exposed to violence and exploitation.”
With rising popularity of right-wing, anti-migrant parties in Italy in recent years, the Italian government has been under increasing domestic political pressure to crack down on illegal immigration.
Italy and Malta have lobbied theirs European Union partner countries, mainly in vain, to take in some of those rescued at sea.


Diplomatic row heats up in Turkey over envoys’ joint declaration

Diplomatic row heats up in Turkey over envoys’ joint declaration
Updated 25 October 2021

Diplomatic row heats up in Turkey over envoys’ joint declaration

Diplomatic row heats up in Turkey over envoys’ joint declaration
  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordeed the Foreign Ministry to declare the envoys “persona non grata”
  • Ankara’s foreign policy being driven by domestic political considerations, analyst tells Arab News

ANKARA: The joint declaration by 10 ambassadors of Western countries urging the release of the 64-year-old jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala continues to shape domestic politics in Turkey, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordering the Foreign Ministry to declare the envoys “persona non grata.”

The move is expected to have domestic and international political and economic repercussions.

Kavala, who denies the charges, is behind bars for four years, accused of financing nationwide anti-government protests in 2013.

The ambassadors of France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand, the US, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands called for a quick and just resolution of Kavala’s case on Oct. 18 — the day marking four years of the start of his detention.

We “believe a just and speedy resolution to his case must be in line with Turkey’s international obligations and domestic laws. Noting the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights on the matter, we call for Turkey to secure his urgent release,” the ambassadors’ statement read, echoing the European Court of Human Rights ruling on its member country Turkey.

An undated handout file photograph released on Oct. 15, 2021, by Anadolu Culture Center shows Osman Kavala speaking during an event in Istanbul. (AFP)

The ambassadors were summoned by the Foreign Ministry after the release of the statement.

“I gave the necessary instruction to our foreign minister and said what must be done: These ten ambassadors must be declared persona non grata immediately,” Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday.

“They will know and understand Turkey. The day they do not know and understand it they will leave,” he added, noting that these ambassadors would not release “terrorists” in their own countries.

A declaration of “persona non grata” — an envoy who is no longer welcome — is a diplomatic move that is one step before expulsion.

The Turkish government considers the ambassadors' declaration as direct interference into domestic politics, rather than reminding European top court's ruling.

In the meantime, Kavala, who served on the advisory board of US philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society’s national foundation in Turkey until 2018, released a statement on Friday saying that he would not attend his next trial on Nov. 26 to deliver his defense, as he believes his hearing would be not fair in light of recent circumstances.

The ambassadors referred to the ECHR in their declaration. The top European court urged the immediate release of the Turkish philanthropist in late 2019, saying that his detention was aimed at silencing him.

Last month, the Council of Europe warned that infringement proceedings against Ankara would begin at the end of November if Kavala was not released.

The Danish, Dutch and Norwegian embassies in Turkey said that they had not received any notification from Turkish authorities and would continue to urge Turkey to comply with its international obligations.

Experts, however, note that the expulsion of 10 European and North American ambassadors — unprecedented in Turkish political history — may trigger actions in kind from these countries.

“As elsewhere in the world, all politics is local,” Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara director of the German Marshall Fund of the US, told Arab News.

“Turkish foreign policy has been driven excessively driven by domestic political considerations and this case is no different,” he said.

According to Unluhisarcikli, Erdogan’s instruction to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to declare these ambassadors as “persona non grata” may please his voters and divert attention from domestic troubles, but it will also contribute to Turkey’s international isolation at a time when the country is already under US sanctions and came close to being sanctioned by the EU last year.

Last year, the US administration sanctioned the Turkish defense industry over its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile system. The action was taken under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

“Moreover ,Turkey is going through a currency crisis, which could trigger a financial crisis about 18 months before the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for June 2023,” Unluhisarcikli said.

In public statements, Turkey’s former ambassadors underlined that although harsh reactions could be given in diplomatic proceedings, the main goal should be the management and resolution of the crises.

Abdurrahman Bilgic, a retired envoy who served as the ambassador to Tokyo and the UK, said the ambassadors in Turkey had the right to declare their countries’ stance on Kavala’s release, either individually or through a joint declaration.

“In return, the Turkish Foreign Ministry can also retaliate with a declaration to show their uneasiness. But in the meantime the ambassadors should not target our ruling government and judiciary with their consecutive social media statements,” he told Arab News.

However, for Bilgic, declaring these diplomats “persona non grata” would not serve Turkey’s interests and could trigger retaliation.

“If the process is being handled like this, Turkey could not only loose its voting rights at the Council of Europe but even its membership,” he said.

Article 90 of the Turkish Constitution provides that in the case of conflict between international agreements in the area of fundamental rights and freedoms, the provisions of international agreements shall prevail.

“Expelling ambassadors is not the way to defend national interests or to explain one’s position on any given matter. Impulsive foreign policy with an eye on domestic politics has only served to aggravate Turkey’s isolation. This should not be deepened through rash action,” tweeted Alper Coskun, the former Turkish ambassador to Azerbaijan and senior fellow at Washington-based think-tank Carnegie Endowment.

In the past 50 years, Turkey has declared only three diplomats — one from Libya in 1986, Syria in 1986, and Iran in 1989 — as persona non grata, while the last foreign ambassador Ankara declared persona non grata was an Iranian envoy.


Arab coalition: Over 200 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah

Arab coalition: Over 200 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah
Updated 24 October 2021

Arab coalition: Over 200 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah

Arab coalition: Over 200 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah
  • The coalition said it had carried out 88 air strikes on the districts of Juba and Al-Kasarah during the last 72 hours
  • Arab coalition said it had destroyed four explosive-laden Houthi boats in Hodeidah on Saturday

RIYADH: The Arab coalition said on Sunday that more than 264 Houthis had been killed and 36 military vehicles destroyed in air strikes on two districts near the central Yemeni city of Marib.

The coalition said it had carried out 88 air strikes on the districts of Juba and Al-Kasarah during the last 72 hours.

Juba is some 50 km south of Marib, whilst Al-Kasarah is 30 km northwest of the city.

Later on Sunday, the coalition said it had destroyed an explosive-laden Houthi boat on the Kamaran Island that had been prepared to carry out an imminent attack.

The Houthi militia continues to violate the Stockholm Agreement and the cease-fire in Hodeidah, the coalition said.

The coalition added that the hostile behavior of the Houthi militia threatens navigation in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the southern Red Sea

On Saturday, the Arab coalition said it had destroyed four explosive-laden Houthi boats in Yemen’s western province of Hodeidah.

Warplanes targeted Al-Jabanah coastal base, east of Hodeidah city, where the vessels had been prepared to attack international ships sailing through the Red Sea, the coalition said.