Iraqi sectarian political system has failed: Chaldean patriarch

Iraqi sectarian political system has failed: Chaldean patriarch
Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako said people must recognize the failure of the country’s sectarian quota system, which has produced “corruption and injustice.” (AFP)
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Updated 04 August 2022

Iraqi sectarian political system has failed: Chaldean patriarch

Iraqi sectarian political system has failed: Chaldean patriarch
  • Country ‘is in an incandescent phase’: Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako
  • ‘Political leaders, religious authorities must remedy situation before tsunami is unleashed that can overwhelm us all’

LONDON: The patriarch of the Chaldean Church has urged Iraqi political blocs to start a national consultation to break the stalemate that has stifled the country.

Warning about an upcoming political “tsunami … that can overwhelm us all,” Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako’s comments come after the occupation of the Iraqi Parliament by supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr following months of political stalemate since elections in October 2021 that failed to produce a government. MPs elected in October’s vote have also yet to select a new president.

The occupation of Parliament by Sadrists has led to pro-Iran Shiite parties organizing demonstrations and sit-ins nearby.

Iraq “is in an incandescent phase, marked by political stalemate and by the unemployed and poor who take to the streets,” said Sako.

“The scenario is frightening, and delays cannot be tolerated. Political leaders and also religious authorities must remedy the situation before a tsunami is unleashed that can overwhelm us all.”

Sako said people must recognize the failure of the country’s sectarian quota system, which he said has produced “corruption and injustice.”

He added that people need to find “new approaches and new ways” to design an efficient political system where partisan interests are not prioritized over the needs of the people.

The division of Iraqi institutional offices has been conducted on an ethnic-sectarian basis since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The president must be a Kurd, the Parliament speaker a Sunni and the prime minister a Shiite.


HRW urges EU to condemn Israeli crimes against humanity

HRW urges EU to condemn Israeli crimes against humanity
Updated 13 sec ago

HRW urges EU to condemn Israeli crimes against humanity

HRW urges EU to condemn Israeli crimes against humanity
  • EU-Israel Association Council meeting taking place next week after 10-year hiatus
  • Human Rights Watch: European officials should stop ‘reciting empty platitudes’

LONDON: Human Rights Watch has urged the EU and its member states to use next week’s EU-Israel Association Council meeting to condemn Israeli crimes against humanity.

The meeting comes just weeks after Israeli authorities raided and ordered the closing of the offices of seven prominent Palestinian civil society organizations — some of which receive EU funding — despite objections from the bloc and its member states.

“Europeans should know they’ll be shaking hands with representatives of a government committing crimes against humanity and outlawed prominent civil society groups challenging these abuses,” said Omar Shakir, HRW’s Israel and Palestine director.

“Pretending it’s business as usual with Israel amid escalating repression sends the message that EU condemnation is worth little more than the paper it’s written on.”

Criticized by Palestinian, European and international NGOs, as well as 47 members of the European Parliament, next week’s meeting will mark the first in a decade after they were paused following Israel’s objections to the EU’s position on West Bank settlements.

HRW, however, has said the bloc’s position represents “empty platitudes” that fail to consider the human rights identified as essential within the Association Council.

Alon Liel, former director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, told the press earlier this year that as long as the Europeans did not take concrete action, “Israel doesn’t give a damn. It feels very confident this anti-human rights behavior will have no cost in the international arena.”

In May 2021, EU member states abstained or voted against the UN Human Rights Council’s establishment of an inquiry to investigate abuses and identify the root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite consistent voting to support accountability mechanisms in other contexts.

“The decades-long European failure to take action in the face of grave human rights abuses has emboldened Israeli authorities to brazenly escalate their repression of Palestinians,” said Claudio Francavilla, EU advocate at HRW.

“Instead of reciting empty platitudes, European officials should use the Association Council to finally condemn Israel’s apartheid and persecution and make clear there will be meaningful consequences should the Israeli government not reverse course.” 


Arab envoys urge UK PM to rethink Jerusalem embassy move

Arab envoys urge UK PM to rethink Jerusalem embassy move
Updated 14 min 35 sec ago

Arab envoys urge UK PM to rethink Jerusalem embassy move

Arab envoys urge UK PM to rethink Jerusalem embassy move
  • Letter signed by all Arab states, including those that signed Abraham Accords with Israel
  • Liz Truss warned that embassy move could jeopardize free-trade agreement with GCC

LONDON: Arab ambassadors have urged Prime Minister Liz Truss to backtrack on “an illegal and ill-judged” plan to move the UK Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, warning that it could jeopardize a free-trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council, The Guardian reported on Friday.

The comments were made in a private letter sent before her trip to the UN last week. It was signed by all Arab states, including those that signed the 2020 Abraham Accords with Israel.

Palestinian Ambassador Husam Zomlot said: “Any embassy move would be a blatant violation of international law and the UK’s historic responsibilities.

“It undermines the two-state solution and inflames an already volatile situation in Jerusalem, the rest of the occupied territories, and among communities in the UK and worldwide. It would be disastrous.”

It is the understanding that some of the states most inclined to the accords are those particularly concerned, believing that the accords could be thrown into disrepute by the claim that they paved the way for the embassy move.

Given that the pending UK-GCC FTA is seen as central to Truss’s foreign policy for the region, any worries that this may be thrown into doubt could cause a backtrack.

Allies in Europe have also questioned the move, letting the UK know that they consider it unwise, while others have privately speculated that Truss’s decision is based as much on her desire to be perceived as a “disruptor” as it is anything to do with her close ties with Israel.

A former British diplomat told The Guardian: “She seems to think she should ape (former President) Donald Trump (who moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem in 2018). The difference is that the US is big enough to get its way in the Middle East. The UK is not.”

The former diplomat added: “If the UK shifted its embassy it would … damage British interests in the Arab world.”

Truss pledged to the Conservative Friends of Israel during her leadership campaign that she would open a review into the location of the UK Embassy, instituting the review last week during a meeting at the UN with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Details of how the review is being conducted inside the Foreign Office have yet to be made public.


Yemen truce deadline approaches as wait for peace drags on

Yemen truce deadline approaches as wait for peace drags on
Updated 39 min 10 sec ago

Yemen truce deadline approaches as wait for peace drags on

Yemen truce deadline approaches as wait for peace drags on
  • Yemen’s war between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the The Coalition has left hundreds of thousands dead
  • Talks to strike a lasting peace deal and a definitive end to the war remain at a standstill

SANAA: As a cease-fire deadline in war-ravaged Yemen draws near, civilians hope the truce will be extended — fearing any fresh fighting would wipe out the small gains they have made.
In the rebel-held capital Sanaa, agriculture graduate Loujain Al-Ouazir has been working to raise goats and chicken poultry for three years on a farm on top of one the ancient city’s iconic mud brick tower houses.
Ouazir only managed to make the farm successful in recent months amid the truce, which allowed goods to move more freely and cut the price of supplies.
“Thanks to the truce, the prices of animal feed and fuel have come down,” Ouazir said. “It’s easier to bring in feed and goats from other regions.”
Yemen’s war between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the The Coalition has left hundreds of thousands dead and created what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
A UN-brokered cease-fire, which took effect in April and has twice been renewed, has reduced casualties by 60 percent and quadrupled fuel imports into the rebel-held Hodeida port, more than 40 humanitarian groups said on Thursday.
The truce has largely held, although the rival sides have traded blame over violations.
Ouazir said the relative peace — especially an end to air strikes in Sanaa — has created a safer environment for her business of selling milk and eggs.
“I hope the truce will continue until the war stops completely,” she said, adding that she dreamt of expanding her farm “on the ground, and not on the roof of the house.”
The truce is due to expire on Sunday, with the UN working to ensure each side agrees to extend once again.
Under the truce, commercial flights have resumed from the rebel-held capital Sanaa to Jordan and Egypt, while oil tankers have been able to dock in Hodeida, also under Houthi control.
The series of temporary truces have brought some respite to a people exhausted by eight years of war, where about 23.4 million of Yemen’s population of 30 million rely on humanitarian aid.
But there has been little fundamental progress toward peace.
A seige remains in place on Taiz, a large city in the southwest controlled by the government but surrounded by Houthi forces.
Despite the cease-fire, the main roads around the mountainous city remain shut.
In the center of Taiz, old pickups are packed tight with passengers who want to go to the nearby town of Al-Hawban, taking bumpy back roads through the mountain.
Before the war, it was a simple journey of 15 minutes.
“Now I need four or five hours,” Taiz resident Bassem Al-Sabri said.
Diego Zorrilla, UN deputy humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said the truce had improved the situation “in many respects” but “life remains difficult” for the vast majority.
“From a humanitarian point of view, the renewal of the truce on October 2 is a moral imperative,” Zorrilla said.
“Only a resolution of the conflict can allow the economy to recover, lift people out of poverty and reduce humanitarian needs,” he added.
Talks to strike a lasting peace deal and a definitive end to the war remain at a standstill.
In May, the UN envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, said the truce “presented a window of opportunity to break with the violence and suffering of the past.”
But in view of the stalled peace talks, a key aim of the truce, it has therefore “fundamentally changed nothing” and is proving to be “a failure in certain respects,” said Thomas Juneau, from the University of Ottawa.
“On the Houthi side, there is no serious will to negotiate and therefore to make compromises with the government,” said Juneau.
On the government side, differences between multiple anti-rebel factions have widened.
“We have seen the lines of fracture which were very deep widen, tensions worsen and, in many cases, become violent,” he said.
For Juneau, there is an “absurdity in renewing a truce which does not work,” and which therefore only “delays the return” of violence.
But, he added, “I don’t see any other alternative.”


Kuwait announces winners of National Assembly elections

Kuwait announces winners of National Assembly elections
Updated 50 min 35 sec ago

Kuwait announces winners of National Assembly elections

Kuwait announces winners of National Assembly elections

DUBAI: Kuwait has announced the winners of Thursday’s National Assembly elections after months of political gridlock in the oil-rich country.

Thousands of Kuwaitis turned up at polling stations to select 50 members out of the 305 candidates, who will be in office for the next four years, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported.

The candidates also included 22 women who competed for the seats in five different constituencies. The Parliament has been all-male since the only woman MP lost her seat in December 2020.

Only two women were elected, according to the results published on KUNA.

The winning candidates for the first constituency:

1. Abdullah Al-Mudhaf

2. Hasan Johar

3. Osama Al-Zaid

4. Ahmad Lari

5. Issa Al-Kanderi

6. Adel Al-Damkhi

7. Osama Al-Shaheen

8. Saleh Ashour

9. Hamad Al-Medlej

10. Khaled Al-Amairah

Second constituency:

1. Bader Al-Mulla

2. Mohammad Al-Mutair

3. Shuaib Shabaan

4. Hamed Al-Bathali

5. Khalil Al-Salih

6. Falah Al-Hajri

7. Aliya Al-Khaled

8. Hamad Al-Mutar

9. Abdulwahab Al-Issa

10. Abdullah Al-Anbaie

Third constituency:

1. Ahmed Al-Saadoun

2. Mahalhal Al-Mudhaf

3. Abdul Karim Al-Kanderi

4. Muhanad Al-Sayer

5. Abdulaziz Al-Saqebi

6. Jenan Ramadan

7. Ammar Al-Ajmi

8. Hamad Al-Obaid

9. Fares Al-Otaibi

10. Khalil Abul

Fourth constituency:

1. Shuaib Shabab Al-Muwaizri

2. Mohammed Al-Mutairi

3. Mubarak Al-Tasha

4. Mubarak Al-Hajraf

5. Thamer Al-Dhafiri

6. Marzouq Al-Shimarri

7. Saad Al-Rashidi

8. Abeed Al-Mutairi

9. Abdullah Al-Enezi

10. Yousef Al-Bathli

Fifth constituency:

1. Hamdan Al-Azmi

2. Saud Al-Hajri

3. Khalid Al-Otaibi

4. Al-Saifi Mubarak Al-Saifi

5. Mohammad Al-Huwaila

6. Hani Shams

7. Majed Al-Mutairi

8. Mohammad Al-Mahan

9. Marzouq Al-Hubaini

10. Faisal Al-Kanderi

The polls are the sixth to take place in 10 years in Kuwait – the only Gulf Arab state with a fully elected parliament.

The elections came after Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah announced the dissolution of parliament in June following disputes between lawmakers and the government, the fourth to be named in two years.


Russian strikes in Syria decreased since Ukraine war: monitor

Russian strikes in Syria decreased since Ukraine war: monitor
Updated 30 September 2022

Russian strikes in Syria decreased since Ukraine war: monitor

Russian strikes in Syria decreased since Ukraine war: monitor
  • A total of 241 people have been killed by Russian strikes in Syria during the past year
  • Moscow has been among the top political, economic and military backers of the government in Damascus since 2011

BEIRUT: Russian strikes in Syria have decreased since it invaded Ukraine, resulting in fewer deaths, a war monitor said Friday, seven years into Moscow’s intervention in the Middle Eastern country.
A total of 241 people have been killed by Russian strikes in Syria during the past year, mostly fighters from the Daesh group but also including 28 civilians, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
That marked the lowest annual death toll since Russia launched its strikes in Syria in support of the government of President Bashar Assad on September 30, 2015.
“Russia’s role has generally declined in Syria since the start of the war on Ukraine” in late February, said the Britain-based monitor, which relies on a network of sources on the ground in Syria.
This led to a “significant decline in its strikes on the Syrian desert” where Russia has been targeting IS jihadists, the Observatory said.
Moscow has been among the top political, economic and military backers of the government in Damascus since the start of the conflict in Syria in March 2011.
Its military intervention was crucial in turning the tide for Assad and lending him the upper hand in the conflict after his forces had lost large swathes of territory to rebel and jihadist groups.
The Observatory has put the death toll from the Russian strikes throughout seven years at more than 21,000 — including 8,697 civilians, a quarter of whom were children.
Almost half a million people have been killed, with millions more displaced and large swathes of the country devastated during the conflict.