Morocco Ministers, Senior Officials Donate a Month's Salary for Quake Relief Efforts

A meeting of Moroccan cabinet members (MAP).
A meeting of Moroccan cabinet members (MAP).
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Morocco Ministers, Senior Officials Donate a Month's Salary for Quake Relief Efforts

A meeting of Moroccan cabinet members (MAP).
A meeting of Moroccan cabinet members (MAP).

Morocco's government has announced that ministers, deputy ministers, and other officials will donate one month's net salary for the relief efforts for the earthquake victims in several Moroccan provinces.

During its meeting on Thursday, the government announced that the ministers, deputy ministers, the high commissioners, the general commissioner, and the ministerial commissioner would donate a one month's net salary.

Other public servants throughout the country will donate a one day's pay for each of the next three months: September, October, and November.

The pay will be deducted from their net salary before taxes or any retirement and social security contributions.

A government statement highlighted this national solidarity effort, referencing Article 40 of the constitution, which states everyone should bear, in a spirit of solidarity and proportion to their means, the costs required for the country's development and those resulting from the burdens caused by disasters and natural catastrophes that afflict the nation.

The initiative also comes in response to Moroccan King Mohammed VI's directives to address the devastating effects of the recent earthquake.

The government lauded the spirit of solidarity and unity exhibited by the Moroccan people during these challenging times.



Allawi to Asharq Al-Awsat: Saddam Was a Brave Young Man, Power Transformed Him into a Tyrant

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi during his interview with Asharq Al-Awsat Editor-in-Chief Ghassan Charbel. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi during his interview with Asharq Al-Awsat Editor-in-Chief Ghassan Charbel. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Allawi to Asharq Al-Awsat: Saddam Was a Brave Young Man, Power Transformed Him into a Tyrant

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi during his interview with Asharq Al-Awsat Editor-in-Chief Ghassan Charbel. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi during his interview with Asharq Al-Awsat Editor-in-Chief Ghassan Charbel. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The story began in 1964. Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi enjoyed a friendship with a colleague named Abdul Karim Al-Shaikhli, who had returned to the College of Medicine in Baghdad after a long break, due to his involvement in the assassination attempt against Iraqi leader Abdul Karim Qasim in 1959.

One day, a skinny young man came to the college, and Al-Shaikhli introduced him to Allawi. His name was Saddam Hussein. Saddam will repeat these visits and will always ask Allawi: “Where is my twin brother?” Allawi would answer that he was attending a lecture and would come after it ended, and the two would exchange conversations over a cup of coffee, then Al-Shaikhli would join them.

A friendship developed between the three, who would later be held in the same prison in 1964. But their paths would then converge, when Saddam became the undisputed master of the Baath party and the country.

In 1978, Saddam attacked Allawi with an axe, but he luckily escaped with his life. However, hostility did not prevent him from acknowledging his opponent’s qualities and characteristics. I asked him to describe Saddam during the first half of the 1960s, he replied: “When we met for the first time, he did not have an important role in the party. But he was a man of nobility and strong will, and was considered one of the party’s fighters and committed to its ideology.”

Allawi admitted that after the fall of Saddam, his government conducted investigations “and did not find a single property in his name, including the presidential plane.” While he blamed the young man he met in medical school for the disasters and tragedies that befell Iraq, he did not deny the qualities he possessed that helped him advance in the party. But he stressed that power turned the young fighter into a tyrannical ruler without a partner or anyone to keep him in check.

Saddam’s cruelty

I asked Allawi about Saddam’s cruelty, and he told me a story:

“I have never seen cruelty like Saddam’s. Here I can mention an important incident. Among the Baathists was a person from Karrada named Hussein Hazbar, who defected and worked with the Syrian wing of the Baath Party in Iraq. One day, a group of Baathists and I were sitting having dinner in the garden of a restaurant. Saddam and Saadoun Shaker came to us. They were cheerful and laughing... They said that they had set a trap for Hazbar, on the suspension bridge, adding that the man was beaten with the butt of pistols, and that he was taken to a hospital...”

“We were appalled by the incident and formed a delegation to go to the hospital to check on the man, and acquit the party of this act, which we saw as cruel and a kind of treachery. I was not part of the delegation, but I knew that five people had attacked Hazbar. He was alone crossing the bridge, so they surrounded him and beat him.”

A feast of surprises

Allawi also recounted how Saddam’s regime dismissed Al-Shaikhli from his post as foreign minister and member of the Baath part on the same evening as his engagement. He recalled:

“The story of Al-Shaikhli’s dismissal from his position in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs deserves to be mentioned. The man proposed to a girl to marry her. Saddam invited him to dinner with his fiancée, and also invited the Minister of Interior, Vice President of the Republic, Saleh Mahdi Ammash, and his wife. During the dinner, Baghdad Radio broadcast that Al-Shaikhli and Ammash were both relieved of their positions. Al-Shaikhli called me and asked me: Have you heard the news? [...] As I was taking my fiancée to her home, my driver asked me, ‘Did you hear the news?’ I replied: What news? He said: You will be relieved of all your posts and positions in the party and the state.”

Allawi continued: “Al-Shaikhli had participated, along with Saddam, in the attempt to assassinate Qasim. They both fled the country to Egypt, where they lived like brothers. Al-Shaikhli was an Arab nationalist and held senior roles within the party. Years later, the man was put under house arrest. The regime deliberately cut off the electricity to his home under the pretext of unsettled bills. When he went to the Electricity Corporation headquarters, they shot him dead in front of his wife. That was in 1980. Unfortunately, he did not take my advice not to return to Iraq when he was outside the country.”

In prison with Saddam and his companions

Allawi recounted the circumstances of his imprisonment, along with Saddam, in 1964.

“In the fall of 1964, the party decided to launch a coup attempt to restore power. For this purpose, a special body was formed under the name of ‘Jihaz Hanin’, and was led by Saddam, Al-Shaikhli, and Mohammad Fadel. In early September, the coup attempt was uncovered and the authorities launched a massive arrest and persecution campaign. I was among those arrested at that time, along with Saddam, Al-Shaikhli, Salah Omar Al-Ali, Imad Shabib, and Hamid Jawad.”

“Saddam and Al-Shaikhli escaped from prison through a pharmacy in the Al-Saadoun area. They usually returned from court to the prison, but on that day, they claimed that they needed to buy some medicine. They entered the pharmacy with some guards and fled through another entrance, where a car was waiting for them. They laid low until Abdul Rahman Al-Bazzaz, then-prime minister, pardoned them and others, through an official decision. This helped speed up the process of rebuilding and restoring the party, and revived talks about the means to change the regime in Iraq through a military coup.”

“I graduated from medical school in the summer of 1970 and left Iraq to live in Lebanon in October 1971, determined to reach an agreement with others to modify some of the party’s paths by changing the leaders and returning the party to its true spirit. The reasons for me leaving party work were many, most importantly restrictions on freedoms...”

Among those who advised Allawi to leave Iraq was a friend named Nazim Kazar, a famous member of what was known as the “Cruelty Club.”

The man was the director of Public Security and attempted in 1973, along with others, to assassinate Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr and Saddam together at Baghdad airport, in protest against their control over the party and the state. But when Al-Bakr’s plane was late in arriving, the conspirators thought that the plan had been uncovered. Kazar fled towards the border with Iran, but the army arrested him and quickly liquidated him.

Allawi said: “Kazar was executed quickly. They shot him in the back of the head. No one could confront him even though he was detained. He is the most daring man I have ever met. He knows no such thing as fear. We worked together in the party’s student office. He had unlimited boldness and absolute commitment to the party’s goals. He was as violent as Saddam. Violent, strong and fair. There is no doubt about his integrity.”

At the conclusion of the interview, I asked Allawi about the factors that made Saddam take control of the Baath Party. He replied: “There are two main reasons: the first was his extreme audacity, and the second was the support provided to him by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr. Later, Saddam felt that he had control over the party and turned against Al-Bakr... Saddam’s slide into dependence on the family and the Tikrit elements started two months after the Baath Party regained power.”

Allawi’s story is valuable, long and thorny. It cannot fit into a handful of pages. His narration sheds light on some of the features of that stage, especially since he had a direct relationship with the most prominent players in the “Cruelty Club.”


Libyan National Army Says Death Toll in Derna Flooding Rises to 4,120

Rescuers and relatives of victims set up tents in front of collapsed buildings in Derna, Libya, on Sept. 18, 2023. (AP)
Rescuers and relatives of victims set up tents in front of collapsed buildings in Derna, Libya, on Sept. 18, 2023. (AP)
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Libyan National Army Says Death Toll in Derna Flooding Rises to 4,120

Rescuers and relatives of victims set up tents in front of collapsed buildings in Derna, Libya, on Sept. 18, 2023. (AP)
Rescuers and relatives of victims set up tents in front of collapsed buildings in Derna, Libya, on Sept. 18, 2023. (AP)

The Libyan National Army announced on Wednesday that the death toll from the devastating flooding in the city of Derna has climbed to 4,120.

LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said 56 corpses were retrieved on Monday and 35 on Tuesday, raising the toll.

Libya’s chief prosecutor said Monday he ordered the detention of eight current and former officials pending his investigation into the collapse of two dams earlier this month, a disaster that sent a wall of water several meters high through Derna.

The two dams outside the city broke up on Sep. 11 after they were overwhelmed by Storm Daniel, which caused heavy rain across eastern Libya.

The failure of the structures inundated as much as a quarter of the city, officials have said, destroying entire neighborhoods and sweeping people out to sea.


Lebanese Army Says It Exchanged Smoke-bomb Fire with Israel

Border fence between Lebanon and Israel (AFP)
Border fence between Lebanon and Israel (AFP)
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Lebanese Army Says It Exchanged Smoke-bomb Fire with Israel

Border fence between Lebanon and Israel (AFP)
Border fence between Lebanon and Israel (AFP)

Lebanon's army said on Wednesday it had exchanged smoke bombs with Israeli troops at the border, the second such incident in a week, Reuters said.
The Lebanese army, in an online statement, said Israeli troops had fired smoke bombs at a Lebanese patrol that was accompanying workers removing "infringements" that the army said had been set up by the Israelis north of the Blue Line.
Tensions have flared along the frontier this summer, with rockets fired at Israel during flare-ups of Israeli-Palestinian violence, and members of the heavily armed Lebanese group Hezbollah or its supporters facing off with Israeli forces.
Neither the Israeli military nor the United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon immediately responded to Reuters requests for comment.
The current demarcation line between the two countries is known as the Blue Line, a frontier mapped by the United Nations that marks the line to which Israeli forces withdrew when they left south Lebanon in 2000.
Lebanese army troops "responded by firing smoke bombs toward enemy troops," the statement said.
It was the second such incident in a week after the troops exchanged tear gas and smoke bombs over a similar dispute at the Blue Line.


Egypt's Sisi: Last 10 Years Were Dedicated to Bridge Gaps in State’s Sectors

Sisi on Tuesday at the Suez Canal University (Egyptian Presidency)
Sisi on Tuesday at the Suez Canal University (Egyptian Presidency)
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Egypt's Sisi: Last 10 Years Were Dedicated to Bridge Gaps in State’s Sectors

Sisi on Tuesday at the Suez Canal University (Egyptian Presidency)
Sisi on Tuesday at the Suez Canal University (Egyptian Presidency)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Tuesday that the past 10 years were a transitional stage to bridge the gaps in the different state sectors, especially in the health and educational domains.

Sisi said the state finalized about 50 percent of the medical infrastructure and established about 700 hospitals out of the 1,400 hospitals which the state needs.

The President stressed on the need to “develop a true description of the reality of the Egyptian state in order to come up with solutions that contribute to the progress of the state, rebuilding, hope, and restoring confidence.”

Sisi made his remarks during a meeting with heads of universities comprising the Supreme Universities Council on the sidelines of a celebration marking the excellence of Egyptian universities at Suez Canal University.

He underlined the importance of striking a balance between educational specializations and labor market needs, emphasizing that university pathways should be responsive to labor market requirements in order to provide real employment opportunities.

He also referred to the efforts exerted over the past period to support the higher education infrastructure, noting that investment in the infrastructure of education has doubled in eight years.

The President said there is coordination with the government to address the infrastructure needs at the educational level, stressing that he would keep the Egyptians updated on the size and value of such works, both in the education sector and other sectors.

Sisi then called for a community dialogue on education. “We must be prepared to reassure citizens about education,” he explained.

On the selection and preparation of teachers, the Egyptian President said the Ministry of Education implemented programs for applicants to fill teacher job, he said.

“All teachers have a good opportunity to apply for jobs through a fair system that respects evaluation and testing.”

Tackling the country’s sports clubs, Sisi called for changing their management systems and financial rules. He said Egypt needs to raise the efficiency and qualification of about 4,000 youth centers.


More than 100 Dead, 150 Injured in Iraq Wedding Inferno

People gather at the site of a fatal fire, in the district of Hamdaniyah, Nineveh province, Iraq, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. (AP)
People gather at the site of a fatal fire, in the district of Hamdaniyah, Nineveh province, Iraq, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. (AP)
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More than 100 Dead, 150 Injured in Iraq Wedding Inferno

People gather at the site of a fatal fire, in the district of Hamdaniyah, Nineveh province, Iraq, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. (AP)
People gather at the site of a fatal fire, in the district of Hamdaniyah, Nineveh province, Iraq, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. (AP)

More than 100 people were killed and 150 injured in a fire at a wedding party in Hamdaniyah district in Iraq's Nineveh province that left civil defense searching the charred skeleton of a building for survivors into the early hours of Wednesday.

Nineveh Deputy Governor Hassan al-Allaq told Reuters that 113 people had been confirmed dead, with state media putting the death toll at least 100, with 150 people injured.

The fire ripped through a large events hall in the north-eastern region after fireworks were lit during the celebration, local civil defense said, according to state media.

Iraq's Interior Ministry said it had issued four arrest warrants for owners of the wedding hall, state media reported, and President Abdul Latif Rashid called for an investigation.

"We saw the fire pulsating, coming out of the hall. Those who managed got out and those who didn't got stuck," said Imad Yohana, a 34-year-old who escaped the inferno.

Video from a Reuters correspondent at the site showed firefighters clambering over the charred wreckage of the building, shining lights over smoldering ruins.

Preliminary information indicated that the building was made of highly flammable construction materials, contributing to its rapid collapse, state media said.

Ambulances and medical crews were dispatched to the site by federal Iraqi authorities and Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, according to official statements.

Eyewitnesses at the site said the building caught fire at around 10:45 p.m. local time (1945 GMT) and that hundreds of people were in attendance at the time of the incident.


French Envoy Urges 'Third Way' to Break Lebanon Presidency Deadlock

Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati meets with former French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Beirut, Lebanon June 22, 2023. (Reuters)
Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati meets with former French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Beirut, Lebanon June 22, 2023. (Reuters)
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French Envoy Urges 'Third Way' to Break Lebanon Presidency Deadlock

Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati meets with former French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Beirut, Lebanon June 22, 2023. (Reuters)
Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati meets with former French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Beirut, Lebanon June 22, 2023. (Reuters)

French President Emmanuel Macron’s special envoy urged Lebanese factions to find a “third way” for electing a new president, warning that France and its allies were losing patience after almost a year of deadlock and now reviewing their financial aid.

“The life of the Lebanese state itself is at risk,” Jean-Yves Le Drian, a former foreign minister, told AFP in an interview.

Lebanon has been without a president for almost a year after ex-head of state Michel Aoun’s mandate expired, with its feuding factions repeatedly failing in parliament to elect a new leader as an unprecedented economic crisis escalates in the multi-confessional former French colony.

Both sides have put forward their own candidate - the former minister Suleiman Franjieh for the pro-Hezbollah faction and the economist Jihad Azour for their opponents - but Le Drian said neither man had any chance of breaking the deadlock.

“Neither side can prevail. Neither solution can work,” Le Drian said.

“It is important that political actors put an end to this unbearable crisis for the Lebanese and try to find a compromise solution through a third way,” he added.

‘Denial of reality’

Le Drian said he planned to go to Lebanon in the next weeks to urge the Lebanese parties to get together for an intense week of talks and then hold votes in parliament and find a new president.

Lebanon’s president is elected by parliament, where neither side has a majority, rather than by universal suffrage.

The situation is further complicated by that in the wake of the accords that ended the civil war, Lebanon’s president is always a Christian, the premier a Sunni and the speaker a Shiite.

Parliament has now failed 12 times to elect a president over the last year.

Faced with what he described as a “denial of reality” from Lebanese officials, France and its allies the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt, are losing patience and could review their financial support for Beirut, he said.

The five countries, whose representatives met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last week in New York, “are totally united, deeply irritated and questioning the sustainability of their funding to Lebanon while political leaders take pleasure in irresponsibility,” Le Drian fumed.

‘Turnaround possible’

Despite the country’s economic bankruptcy, inflation at more than 200 percent and rampant unemployment, “political leaders are in denial, which leads them to pursue tactical games at the expense of the country’s interests,” he said.

Le Drian, who was named by Macron as his special envoy in early June, has made two visits to the country in his capacity, in June and July. But he has so far failed to make any inroads in breaking the deadlock.

Macron won praise from observers for heading to the Lebanese capital in the immediate aftermath of the August 2020 Beirut port explosion to push Lebanon’s leaders into radical reform. But he now faces pressure to follow up on these promises.

Le Drian declined to put forward any name for a candidate who could break the deadlock, saying that he is only a “mediator” and that it is up to the Lebanese to identify a compromise, which he considers possible.

“I carried out a consultation which shows that the priorities of the actors can easily be forged into a consensus,” he said.

Sanctions against those who block a compromise also remain a possible weapon. “It’s obviously an idea,” he said, while insisting “a turnaround is possible”.


Arman to Asharq Al-Awsat: Burhan Represents the Army, Not Sudan

Leading member of Sudan’s Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) Yasir Arman. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Leading member of Sudan’s Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) Yasir Arman. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Arman to Asharq Al-Awsat: Burhan Represents the Army, Not Sudan

Leading member of Sudan’s Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) Yasir Arman. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Leading member of Sudan’s Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) Yasir Arman. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Leading member of Sudan’s Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) Yasir Arman warned that the war between the army and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) will go one for a long time, remarking that neither party has managed to achieve a decisive victory after six months of fighting.

In an interview to Asharq Al-Awsat, he also warned that the conflict was still restricted to these two parties but could grow to become a civil war between various segments of society.

This demands the formation of a broad civilian front of national powers that can stop the conflict from growing, suggested Arman, who is also head of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), a main faction of the FFC.

On army commander Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, he noted that he was incapable of uniting the military behind a peace agenda, so he sought a conflict – which the Islamists are behind – to destroy the December 2019 revolution.

He explained that the army resorted to war after it had failed in its coup against the revolt in October 2021.

Moreover, Arman said: “This war is an opportunity for the isolated National Congress and Islamists to return to power.”

He added that they were keen on making the RSF their junior partner, so they won’t be opposed to reaching an agreement with them according to certain conditions.

‘War of wars’

Arman said the current war is different than the ones that erupted in Sudan after its independence. This is a “war of wars,” he remarked, explaining that it is a culmination of the failure of the national project that took shape when Omar al-Bashir, backed by Islamists, seized power in 1989.

They usurped the state, politicized the armed forces and couldn’t maintain one state institution, he lamented.

The army, for its part, resorted to forming smaller armies that could eliminate armed resistance groups so that it could maintain its grip on power, he went on to say.

The current war has destroyed the old version of the Sudanese state and has deeply harmed civilians and state infrastructure. The war will go on for decades, he said, adding that the state is on the verge of collapse.

Moreover, Arman denied claims that the FFC was the political wing of the RSF.

These are claims made by the Islamists who want to destroy the political and civilian society movement, he continued. They believed that the current war could be decided in their favor within three days, but they failed.

Burhan doesn’t represent Sudan

Commenting on Burhan’s speech before the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly last week, Arman said Burhan represents the armed forces, not Sudan, since he carried out a military coup against the civilian democratic rule.

During his foreign trip, Burhan didn’t offer any practical solutions or proposals to end the conflict, he remarked. All he did was discuss the possibility of prolonging the “reckless” war.

Meanwhile, RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, has offered a clear vision of how to end the war and has made clear commitments to the people.

Arman added that Burhan and Hemedti have announced that they were ready to end the war and commit to the Jeddah platform. “We demand that they sign a long-term ceasefire agreement, open safe passages for the delivery of humanitarian aid and cease violations,” he added.

They must also join hands with civilians who want to achieve change and address the roots of the crisis, he said. They must build a professional army that is far removed from the current armed forces.

Remnants of ousted regime

Arman noted, however, that the remnants of the ousted Bashir regime are the ones who are really controlling this war.

They are behind the mobilization of civilians to take part in the fighting and even attacking Burhan himself, he charged.

They had warned him against heading to Jeddah to sign a ceasefire deal and have instead encouraged him to continue the war, Arman said.

He described the Jeddah mediation, led by Saudi Arabia and the United States, as “the most important attempt to end the war, but it stumbled at the lack of political will to really end it.”

The platform needs to incorporate the initiatives of the African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). New forces should join the efforts, such as the European Union, Troika and Arab and African nations, to create a new drive for peace, he went on to say.

“The greatest obstacle, however, are the delusions of the Islamists who believe that they will be victorious in this war,” Arman told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“They want to prolong the war to replicate the scenario in Syria in Sudan,” he warned. They ultimately want the international community to recognize them.

Political will

An opportunity is at hand to stop the war and seek a new national project where Sudan is the winner, not any party against the other, he stressed.

“No progress can be made without the parties displaying a political will to end the war,” he stated.

Moreover, initiatives need pressure from regional and international powers so that they can be implemented.

“Yes, the current efforts include important countries, but without coordination and collective work, they won’t be able to influence the parties” on the ground, he noted, underlining the importance of pressure from the EU and UN in making an impact.

Other obstacles include a clash in regional and international interests and failure to effectively bring in civilians to the peace process.

Arman said all initiatives should be combined at one platform – Jeddah – to create a cohesive vision and for the civilians to be an active player in the process.

The international community must also take real resolutions against everyone prolonging the conflict, he urged.

The real pressure must also come from the Sudanese people themselves, he added. The political movement that was forced to flee Khartoum needs time to regroup and refocus its agenda.

No one in Sudan wants foreign intervention to end the war, he said.


25 Dead as Damascus Loyalists Clash with Kurdish-Led Forces, Says Monitor

Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gesture as they move from Deir Ezzor to the Dheiban front line in eastern Syria on September 4, 2023, during a guided media tour organized by the SDF. (AFP)
Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gesture as they move from Deir Ezzor to the Dheiban front line in eastern Syria on September 4, 2023, during a guided media tour organized by the SDF. (AFP)
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25 Dead as Damascus Loyalists Clash with Kurdish-Led Forces, Says Monitor

Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gesture as they move from Deir Ezzor to the Dheiban front line in eastern Syria on September 4, 2023, during a guided media tour organized by the SDF. (AFP)
Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gesture as they move from Deir Ezzor to the Dheiban front line in eastern Syria on September 4, 2023, during a guided media tour organized by the SDF. (AFP)

Fighters loyal to the Syrian government have clashed with Kurdish-led forces in a mainly Arab district of eastern Syria, leaving 25 people dead in two days, a war monitor said Tuesday.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who are backed by Washington, said they had "driven out the regime gunmen who had infiltrated the Dheiban area" of Deir Ezzor province in the gun battles which erupted on Monday.

Earlier this month, the same area saw 10 days of fighting between the SDF and armed Arab tribesmen in which 90 people were killed.

Britain-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the latest clashes erupted when pro-government fighters crossed the Euphrates river, which separates pro-government forces in southwestern Deir Ezzor from the SDF in the northeast.

It said 21 of the dead were Damascus loyalists and three were SDF fighters. A woman was also killed.

The SDF said the loyalist fighters had crossed the Euphrates "under cover of an indiscriminate bombardment" of its positions.

The SDF riposted by bombarding the right bank of the river which is controlled by government troops with support from Iran-backed militias, the Observatory said.

The SDF was Washington's main Syrian ally in its fightback against ISIS, which culminated in the extremists’ defeat in their last Syrian foothold on the left bank of the Euphrates in 2019.

War erupted in Syria after President Bashar al-Assad's government crushed peaceful protests in 2011.

The conflict has killed more than half a million people and driven half the country's pre-war population from their homes.


UN Says Cholera and Dengue Outbreaks Have Been Reported in Eastern Sudan as Conflict Grinds on 

People queue at a medical laboratory to get tested for dengue fever in the eastern Qadarif state of war-torn Sudan on September 22, 2023, amid reports of the spread of the viral infection. (AFP)
People queue at a medical laboratory to get tested for dengue fever in the eastern Qadarif state of war-torn Sudan on September 22, 2023, amid reports of the spread of the viral infection. (AFP)
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UN Says Cholera and Dengue Outbreaks Have Been Reported in Eastern Sudan as Conflict Grinds on 

People queue at a medical laboratory to get tested for dengue fever in the eastern Qadarif state of war-torn Sudan on September 22, 2023, amid reports of the spread of the viral infection. (AFP)
People queue at a medical laboratory to get tested for dengue fever in the eastern Qadarif state of war-torn Sudan on September 22, 2023, amid reports of the spread of the viral infection. (AFP)

Outbreaks of cholera and dengue fever have been reported in eastern Sudan, where thousands of people are sheltering as deadly fighting grinds on between the country's military and a rival paramilitary force, the UN health agency said on Tuesday.

According to the World Health Organization, there have been 162 suspected cholera cases admitted to hospitals in the province of Qadarif and other areas along the border with Ethiopia. Eighty cases have been confirmed and 10 people have died of cholera, a bacterial infection linked to contaminated food or water, WHO said.

Sudan was engulfed in chaos in mid-April, when simmering tensions between the military and a powerful paramilitary group exploded into open warfare in the capital of Khartoum and other areas across the east African nation.

The medical charity Doctors Without Borders has set up two centers to treat cholera patients along with two mobile teams in Qadarif. The UN health and refugee agencies have renovated the isolation center for cholera at the Qadarif Teaching Hospital, the province's main medical facility.

Cholera outbreaks are not uncommon in impoverished Sudan. The disease left at least 700 dead and sickened about 22,000 in less than two months in 2017, the latest major outbreak in the country.

WHO said more than 500 suspected cases of dengue were reported across Sudan, most of them in urban centers in Qadarif. Dengue is caused by the dengue virus transmitted to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes.

The reported figure was “the tip of the iceberg” as the actual number is much higher, given that most of the patients rely on home remedies and often do not go to hospitals, WHO said.

The Sudanese doctors union says “hundreds” of dengue patients have died in the east of the country, describing the outbreak as “a health crisis.” It did not give a timeframe for those fatalities or elaborate further but it said that most hospitals in Qadarif have been overwhelmed by patients.

The conflict in Sudan has turned Khartoum and other urban areas into battlefields, wrecking civilian infrastructure and an already battered health care system. Without the basics, many hospitals and medical facilities have closed doors.

At least 5,000 people have been killed and more than 12,000 others wounded, according to the United Nations, though the actual numbers are likely higher. The UN refugee agency said last week that more than 1,200 children under the age of 5 have died in nine camps in Sudan in the past five months because of a deadly combination of measles and malnutrition.

More than 5.2 million people have fled their homes, including more than 1 million who crossed into Sudan’s neighboring countries. Half of the country’s population — around 25 million people — needs humanitarian assistance, including about 6.3 million who are “one step away from famine,” according to UN humanitarian officials.


Allawi: America Ruined Iraq, in Partnership with Iran

Allawi and Al-Maliki in one of their meetings in Baghdad in 2010 (Getty)
Allawi and Al-Maliki in one of their meetings in Baghdad in 2010 (Getty)
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Allawi: America Ruined Iraq, in Partnership with Iran

Allawi and Al-Maliki in one of their meetings in Baghdad in 2010 (Getty)
Allawi and Al-Maliki in one of their meetings in Baghdad in 2010 (Getty)

When the United States invaded Iraq, the Arabs were astonished and worried, and chose to stay away from the Iraqi scene so as not to be accused of supporting the occupation.

Iran took advantage of this Arab absence and launched a massive operation to prevent the establishment of a pro-Western Iraqi regime.

Tehran facilitated the invasion, but hastened to shake the stability that the Americans were betting on to build what they called the new democratic Iraq. Iran also benefited from dangerous decisions taken by Washington, including the dissolution of the Iraqi army, the de-Baathification, and the illusion of being able to rebuild Iraq from scratch after the dismantling of the state.

Once I asked President Jalal Talabani, who was returning from a trip to Tehran, what Iran really wanted from America. He said that he had concluded that it was ready to negotiate with Washington over files ranging from Afghanistan to Lebanon.

He explained: “Iran does not say that it wants a share, but rather that it seeks normal relations with the US, an end to hostility and to the seizure of Iranian funds in America.”

Talabani was more realistic than former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. He realized that the relationship with Washington was not enough, and it was necessary to pass through Tehran.

In 2007, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Baghdad, which was under the US occupation.

As American checkpoints facilitated the passage of the visitor’s convoy, it soon became clear that the Iranian president’s visit constituted a message that the American army would leave one day, but Iran, by virtue of geography, would remain near and inside Iraq. This is what actually happened, especially when slain IRGC Commander Qassem Soleimani began to destabilize Iraqi soil under the feet of the American army.

Iyad Allawi was not pro-American. He did not recognize their right to tailor the new Iraqi political scene as they wanted. Moreover, his meetings with a number of US officials were not fruitful. In parallel, no language of understanding was found with Tehran. He did not accept its terms, while the Iranian capital failed to tolerate his approach.

On March 7, 2010, general elections were held in Iraq. The “Iraqiya” list, led by Allawi, won 91 seats, while the State of Law coalition, led by Nouri al-Maliki, obtained 89 seats.

According to the applicable interpretation of the constitution, Allawi was supposed to be entrusted with the task of forming the new government. Al-Maliki was able to get from the Federal Supreme Court another interpretation of the article that talks about the largest bloc. A severe political crisis erupted that lasted about nine months, and ended in Al-Maliki’s favor.

I asked Allawi about the parties that prevented him from forming the government, he replied: “We achieved victory in the elections despite everything we were exposed to. Five hundred people were subjected to procedures under the pretext of “de-Baathification.” Among them were a number of our candidates. They assassinated nine persons. They closed entire regions to prevent our supporters from voting, and yet we were ahead of them by three seats. In fact, I was surprised by what happened. I did not expect the American and Iranian stances to reach this point. America and Iran prevented me from forming a government. They worked together.”

Allawi continued: “During that period, then-US Vice President Joe Biden visited Baghdad about three times a month. His concern was that I would give up in favor of Al-Maliki. He asked me to assume the presidency of the republic, and I told him that the people elected us to form the government, so how could I become president of the republic without a job or work (the nature of the position is quasi-protocol)... Biden repeated his demand, and I replied: “By God, if you do not allow me to become prime minister, terrorism will grow stronger... as will hatred for the regime...”

“During that period, US-Iranian negotiations were taking place in Muscat. The American delegation was headed by Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor under then-President Barack Obama. The Iranian side conveyed to the Americans a threat, stating that Iran will stop negotiations and cause problems in Iraq if Iyad Allawi becomes prime minister.”

“The truth is that I met Biden about 20 times. I’ve known him since he was in charge of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His personality is shaky, and he is a liar and a hypocrite,” Allawi stated.

I asked the former premier whether the US destroyed Iraq, he replied: “Yes, America ruined Iraq.”

On whether Washington had partners, he said: “Yes, Iran. Beginning with the dissolution of the Iraqi army, to the Popular Mobilization Forces, the armed militias and terrorism, the death of democracy and the spread of political sectarianism...”

I am Major General Qassem Soleimani

After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, a prominent player appeared on the Iraqi scene: General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Quds Force. His role was not only limited to draining the American army, but went beyond to impose his decision in choosing presidents, forming governments, and determining paths. He assumed a similar role in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.

I asked Allawi about his relationship with Soleimani, he said: “I met General Soleimani in the house of Adel Abdul Mahdi (later Prime Minister). Adel invited me to dinner, but he did not tell me who would be present... Half an hour later, two men arrived at the place... The first one approached me and said: “I am Major General Qassem Soleimani.” During the meeting, Soleimani told me: “We worked against you all the time.” I replied: “And I was against you all the time.”

Allawi recounted his conversation with the Iranian commander.

“I told him: Why did you work against us? I included you in the Sharm El-Sheikh meeting in defiance of international will. I opened all ways for you. We stopped the activity of the Mujahideen Khalq and seized their heavy weapons. I sent you the strongest economic delegation, on the basis of improving the position of the Iraqi neighborhood. He replied: “We made a mistake, and I am now in the presence of a senior commander.” I told him: “I am neither a big leader nor a watermelon. Do not interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs, and things will return to their normal course.”

Putin: Why don’t you go to Iran?

I asked Allawi to recall the most important pieces of advice he was given to visit Iran, and I will let him narrate it.

“In the seventh month of 2010, I visited Moscow, but I did not have any official status. President Vladimir Putin invited me to a dinner in the Kremlin, attended only by the interpreter. Putin asked me why I don’t go to Iran, and I replied: “Would you, for example, go to Finland to become President of the Republic of Russia?” He said: “No.” I said: “Why do you want me to go to Iran to become their follower? I don’t want the premiership nor the presidency. I am a servant of the Iraqi people and the Arab nation and I am honored to do so, and I am not ready to beg Iran or others for a position.” He asked me: “Do you mind if I send them an advisor of my own?” I replied: “No, but on the condition that I meet them here, in Egypt, or in Baghdad, but I will not go to Iran.”

Allawi continued: “The truth is that Putin is a nice, important and knowledgeable person. My personal opinion is that Russia’s morals are closer to the Arabs than America’s. They are more serious, frank and direct than the Americans.”

Bush does not deserve to be president

I asked Allawi about his impression of his meeting with President George W. Bush. He replied: “He does not deserve to be president of America. I did not see him steadfast in clarity or ideas. They had no policy after the fall of the regime... Disbanding the army, de-Baathification, and all these random practices. I explained this to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and asked him to talk to him more about the Iraqi file.”