ISIS Members from Iraq, Syria Tell their Stories

ISIS militants (Photo: AFP)
ISIS militants (Photo: AFP)
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ISIS Members from Iraq, Syria Tell their Stories

ISIS militants (Photo: AFP)
ISIS militants (Photo: AFP)

I had a strange sensation while I was sitting in the counter-terrorism headquarters in Erbil, amidst hundreds of ISIS men distributed in the prison chambers and cells. In the morning I discussed with Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Masoud Barzani the future of Kurds, Iraq and regional affiliates, and in the evening I interviewed detainees over their motives to join ISIS. 

In the headquarters, there are hundreds of detainees from Syrian, Iraqi and other nationalities. There were French and Swedish citizens who were handed over to their governments and there are still three American ISIS members with wide knowledge in the electronic field. 

The detainees are questioned then sent to their countries when possible. However, if they have committed crimes on the territory, then they are referred to trial. Regular visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross and humanitarian organizations are made to provide them with medical care.

The detainees’ confessions contributed in revealing several matters on the way ISIS works, mobilizes, intimidates and executes rules. They also unveiled plans for several groups to act in case the ISIS strongholds collapsed. Therefore, some expect that the group will continue to carry out terrorist attacks in the region and the world.

In the headquarters, I interviewed two ISIS men, a Syrian and an Iraqi, in the presence of two guards.

N.A., born in 1990, received his education in Raqqa and enrolled in a technical institution after acquiring his baccalaureate. “I have four brothers and four sisters. At the onset of the revolution I stopped my studies and participated in peaceful protests in the hope that the regime would change,” he said.

He fought in Raqqa with the Free Syrian Army when the confrontation turned into military action. “My uncle was my supervisor. Then the FSA was forced out of the region so I joined ISIS. I did so because I wanted to fight the regime and because ISIS presented itself as the Sunni defender against the regime’s barbarism. My monthly salary was USD50,” he added. 

N.A. continued that, “last year, me and four others were asked to sneak to Iraqi Kurdistan in a security mission. My role was to build ties with Peshmerga forces, gain their confidence and promise them to provide information about Raqqa so that I become a double agent … We were ambushed at a border region and were arrested in August 2016.”

Before leaving, he said: “Neither ISIS nor the regime have mercy.”

The ISIS Member from Tal Afar

J.W entered the office with a surprised look on his face. “I live in Baghdad but am originally from Tal Afar. I was born in 1986. I received my intermediate studies, then worked with my father in an electronic devices company. We witnessed the discrimination, assassination and marginalization that the Sunnis were facing in Baghdad especially during the term of Nuri al-Maliki.”

He joined ISIS in 2015 and was a soldier before becoming an administrator in a battalion. 

“I feel the regret because like many others I was deceived. We considered that the Sunnis are being threatened and ISIS will defend them … Later on, we discovered that ISIS is the most dangerous method to destroy the Sunnis,” he added.

He handed himself over to the authorities 50 days ago, revealing that his mother visited him and conveyed a threat from his uncle - who belongs to ISIS - that he will kill him at the first opportunity.



Libya Court Sentences 23 to Death for ISIS Campaign

Suspects sit behind bars during a judgement sentence against 56 defendants accused of joining ISIL [ISIS], in a court in Misrata, Libya [Ayman al-Sahili/Reuters]
Suspects sit behind bars during a judgement sentence against 56 defendants accused of joining ISIL [ISIS], in a court in Misrata, Libya [Ayman al-Sahili/Reuters]
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Libya Court Sentences 23 to Death for ISIS Campaign

Suspects sit behind bars during a judgement sentence against 56 defendants accused of joining ISIL [ISIS], in a court in Misrata, Libya [Ayman al-Sahili/Reuters]
Suspects sit behind bars during a judgement sentence against 56 defendants accused of joining ISIL [ISIS], in a court in Misrata, Libya [Ayman al-Sahili/Reuters]

A Libyan court sentenced 23 people to death and another 14 to life in prison on Monday for their role in a deadly ISIS militant campaign that included beheading a group of Egyptian Christians and seizing the city of Sirte in 2015.

The Attorney General's office said in a statement that one other person was sentenced to 12 years in prison, six to 10 years, one to five years and six to three years while five were acquitted and three others died before their case came to trial.

ISIS's Libyan branch was one of the militant group's strongest outside its original territory in Iraq and Syria, taking advantage of the chaos and warfare that followed a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, Reuters said.

In 2015 it launched an attack on the luxury Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, killing nine people, before abducting and beheading dozens of Egyptian Christians whose deaths it featured in grisly propaganda films.

After gaining territory in Benghazi, Derna and Ajdabiya in eastern Libya, the group seized the central coastal city of Sirte, holding it until late 2016 as it enforced a harsh regime of public morality backed up by brutal punishments.

Mustafa Salem Trabulsi, head of an organization for bereaved families of people killed or disappeared by the group said he had hoped that all the suspects would face the death penalty but he accepted the outcome.

"My son is missing and my relative, my brother-in-law, was murdered in Sirte Square," he said.

Speaking in court on Monday, Fawzia Arhuma said she welcomed the death sentences after her son was killed by the group at a power station near Sirte.

"Today my son raised my head. Today I buried my son," she said.

 


After Erdogan’s Elections Victory, Türkiye Holds Back on Assad Meeting

A view shows a roundabout with a sculpture featuring the Turkish flag and the Syrian opposition flag, in the opposition-held city of Azaz, Syria May 15, 2023.(Reuters)
A view shows a roundabout with a sculpture featuring the Turkish flag and the Syrian opposition flag, in the opposition-held city of Azaz, Syria May 15, 2023.(Reuters)
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After Erdogan’s Elections Victory, Türkiye Holds Back on Assad Meeting

A view shows a roundabout with a sculpture featuring the Turkish flag and the Syrian opposition flag, in the opposition-held city of Azaz, Syria May 15, 2023.(Reuters)
A view shows a roundabout with a sculpture featuring the Turkish flag and the Syrian opposition flag, in the opposition-held city of Azaz, Syria May 15, 2023.(Reuters)

Türkiye has slowed down the pace of its efforts to normalize ties with Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has no plans to hold talks with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in the first presidential statement following Erdogan’s reelection for a third five-year term on Sunday.

"So far, there is no date for such a meeting... We need to see what steps the Syrian side will take," he said in a televised interview on Monday.

The foreign ministers of Türkiye, Russia, Syria and Iran had met in Moscow on May 10 to push forward normalization between Ankara and Damascus.

At the time, Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu said intense efforts will be made to normalize relations, hinting that a meeting between Erdogan and Assad may be held this year.

The only obstacle to the meeting was the Turkish military deployment in northern Syria.

Assad had said that he would not meet his Turkish counterpart before the complete troop withdrawal.

For his part, Erdogan had stressed that Türkiye will not pull out its forces and that they would continue their mission to combat “terrorist organizations” - a reference to the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that Ankara views as an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Cavusoglu had warned that the withdrawal will allow such groups to fill the void left by the Turkish troops.


Egypt is Open to ‘Positive Iranian Signals’ on Developing Relations

Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during his reception of the Sultan of Oman, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, and his accompanying delegation (Khamenei website)
Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during his reception of the Sultan of Oman, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, and his accompanying delegation (Khamenei website)
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Egypt is Open to ‘Positive Iranian Signals’ on Developing Relations

Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during his reception of the Sultan of Oman, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, and his accompanying delegation (Khamenei website)
Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during his reception of the Sultan of Oman, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, and his accompanying delegation (Khamenei website)

Iran has displayed several signs about its willingness to boost bilateral relations with Egypt, according to well-informed Egyptian sources on Tuesday.

 

The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Cairo is open to developing bilateral ties with Tehran in a manner consistent with the main political determinants that govern Egypt's regional policies.

 

Relations between Egypt and Iran have often been fraught in recent decades, although the two countries have maintained diplomatic contacts.

 

The sources pointed out that the repeated Iranian signals regarding developing relations with Egypt "were welcomed."

 

They recalled Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian's statement last July, who said that the "development of relations between Tehran and Cairo is in the interest of both nations."

 

It was followed by a tweet by the head of Iran's Interests Section Office in Cairo, Mohammad Hossein Soltanifar, praising what he said is Egyptian rejection of an American alliance project against Iran.

 

Soltanifar continued to hint at the improvement of relations between Cairo and Tehran through an article he published in the Iran Daily newspaper and reported by the Iranian News Agency on Saturday.

 

He said the current developments "require raising the bilateral relations between the two countries... to the desired political level."

 

In December, the Iranian foreign minister welcomed a proposal by Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al-Sudani aimed at "launching a dialogue between Cairo and Tehran."

 

During their meeting in Jordan, Amir-Abdollahian said the Iraqi prime minister expressed the desire to launch Iranian-Egyptian talks on the security and political levels, which leads to improving ties between the two nations.

 

On March 06, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Tehran hoped relations with Cairo would be restored, adding that Iran is taking advantage of all opportunities to improve foreign relations, including with Egypt.

 

Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei received Sultan of Oman Haitham bin Tariq Al Said during his visit to Iran.

 

During the meeting, the Sultan of Oman pointed to Egypt's willingness to resume relations with Iran, and Khamenei emphasized that Iran welcomes this position and has no problems in this regard.

 

Former Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy told Asharq Al-Awsat that recent reports about Cairo's desire to improve its ties are a "principled position," noting that both sides are interested in developing relations.

 

Fahmy added that over the past years, during his position as a minister, he had maintained contacts with Iranian authorities, adding that officials discussed the importance of developing the bilateral relations and "favored that."

 

Observers believe the Iranian signals, including Khamenei's statements, coincide with changes to ease regional tensions.

 

In March, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to restore diplomatic relations under a deal brokered by China.

 

Fahmy pointed out that after the death of the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in Cairo, Iran pursued a harsh policy towards the Arab world in general, including Egypt, with an attempt to export the "revolution" at a particular stage.

 

He indicated that with the change in Iranian policy, it was logical for Arab countries to test the waters to see if this reflects a strategic shift towards the Middle East.

 

The diplomat believes there is a shift in the Iranian position, hoping that improving relations with regional countries will be a priority and primary concern.

 

Fahmy referred to the Saudi-Iranian agreement and the Egyptian-Iranian contacts, which he considered a prelude to discussing the restoration of relations, especially after the visit of the Omani leaders to Cairo and Tehran.

 

Member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, Nourhan al-Sheikh, believes that fundamental determinants regulate the normalization of relations between Cairo and Tehran.

 

Sheikh explained that some of these determinants have already been achieved, such as the Gulf acceptance and reassurances regarding the security of the Gulf countries.

 

She told Asharq Al-Awsat that the second determinant is Iran's position on supporting Islamic movements, asserting the importance of this issue which requires reassurances that Tehran would not interfere in Egypt's domestic affairs.

 

 

 


UN Warns More Than One Million May Flee Sudan Fighting by October

Filippo Grandi, head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reacts during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, Egypt May 29, 2023. (Reuters)
Filippo Grandi, head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reacts during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, Egypt May 29, 2023. (Reuters)
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UN Warns More Than One Million May Flee Sudan Fighting by October

Filippo Grandi, head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reacts during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, Egypt May 29, 2023. (Reuters)
Filippo Grandi, head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reacts during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, Egypt May 29, 2023. (Reuters)

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned on Monday that estimates that about a million people might flee Sudan by October may be conservative and conflict there risks increasing people trafficking and spreading weapons across a fragile region

More than 350,000 people have already fled across Sudan's borders since war between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) erupted on April 15, with most heading to Egypt, Chad and South Sudan.

Furthermore, within Sudan itself, more than one million people have been displaced due to heavy fighting in the capital Khartoum and violence in Darfur.

The UNHCR initially predicted that around 800,000 Sudanese and 200,000 foreigners would leave Sudan in six months, but Grandi now believes these figures may be an underestimation.

Speaking during an interview in Cairo, Grandi said: “This projection, that in the next few months we'll reach these high figures, may even be conservative.”

“At the beginning, I didn't believe it would be, but now I'm beginning to be worried,” he said, according to Reuters.

Sudan's neighbors, Ethiopia, Central African Republic and Libya have faced political upheaval or conflicts themselves.

Grandi expressed concern about the collapse of law and order in Sudan and said that with “a lot of people desperate to move on” the situation is ripe for creating conditions for human trafficking. He also said that the circulation of arms across borders could fuel the violence.

“We've seen it in Libya with the Sahel. We don't want a repeat of that because that will be a multiplier of crisis and of humanitarian problems,” he added.

The United Nations has appealed for $470 million for its refugee response to the Sudan crisis over six months, an amount that Grandi said was just 1% funded, adding that a donor pledging conference was “very much needed” and that an international community preoccupied by Ukraine was not paying enough attention.

“You can clearly sense a disparity which is very dangerous. This crisis has the potential to destabilize an entire region and beyond as much as Ukraine does in Europe,” he warned.

Grandi said the UNHCR was trying to establish a presence in the northern Sudanese town of Wadi Halfa, where many Sudanese men aged 16-50 have become stuck applying for visas to enter Egypt, but that he was not sure when this would be possible. Women, children and the elderly do not need visas.

He said aid needed to be delivered into a buffer zone between the Egyptian and Sudanese border posts where those fleeing have also faced long waits.


Tehran Seeks to Upgrade Syria’s Air Defenses

International affairs official at the Ministry of Defense Hamzah Kalandari. (websites)
International affairs official at the Ministry of Defense Hamzah Kalandari. (websites)
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Tehran Seeks to Upgrade Syria’s Air Defenses

International affairs official at the Ministry of Defense Hamzah Kalandari. (websites)
International affairs official at the Ministry of Defense Hamzah Kalandari. (websites)

Iran wants to boost the Syrian military by upgrading the country's air-defense with medium and long-range systems to confront threats, an Iranian official in the Defense Ministry said Monday according to the Fars news agency.

 

Deputy Defense Minister for International Affairs Brigadier General Hamzeh Ghalandari told the news agency that although Syria possesses air-defense capabilities, the country is witnessing a wide range of threats.

 

“We have declared openly and publicly that we, along with our Syrian brothers, seek to strengthen the Syrian air defense in various ways,” Ghalandari said.

 

He affirmed that Iran will support Syria with equipment and tactical upgrades.

 

“In light of the air threats against Syria, efforts are underway to strengthen its air defense capabilities by using medium and long ranges systems,” he noted, adding that the type of systems will be announced in due course.

 

On Monday, Syrian news outlets said Syrian army air defenses confronted an Israeli missile.

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said government air defense sites near Damascus where fighters from the Iran-backed Hezbollah group are present were targeted.

 

Meanwhile, the official Syrian news agency, SANA, said Syrian air defenses have shot down incoming Israeli missiles.

 

It quoted a military source as saying that the attack took place at about 23:45 pm local time on Sunday.

 

The source added that the missile strike targeted some areas in the vicinity of Damascus.

 

“Our air defenses intercepted the [Israeli] aggression’s missiles and shot down some of them,” the source said, adding that the attack only led to material damages.

 

SOHR reported that one site north of the capital lying around 10 kilometers (six miles) from the Lebanese border was also a target. Five Hezbollah fighters were reportedly wounded.

 

Another site between the airport and the Sayyida Zeinab area southeast of the capital where Iran-backed forces are present was also targeted, the Britain-based war-monitor, which has a vast network of sources on the ground in Syria.

 

Since the start of the war in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes against regime positions as well as Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces, allies of Damascus and arch-foes of Israel.

 

Israel rarely comments on the strikes on a case-by-case basis, but says it seeks to prevent Iran establishing a foothold on its doorstep.

 

 


Iraqi National Security Adviser Visits Iran to Discuss Border Issues

Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Akbar Ahmadian receives Iraqi National Security Adviser, Qasim al-Araji in Tehran on Monday. (Mehr)
Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Akbar Ahmadian receives Iraqi National Security Adviser, Qasim al-Araji in Tehran on Monday. (Mehr)
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Iraqi National Security Adviser Visits Iran to Discuss Border Issues

Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Akbar Ahmadian receives Iraqi National Security Adviser, Qasim al-Araji in Tehran on Monday. (Mehr)
Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Akbar Ahmadian receives Iraqi National Security Adviser, Qasim al-Araji in Tehran on Monday. (Mehr)

Iraqi National Security Adviser Qasim al-Araji arrived in Iran on Monday at the head of a high-ranking security delegation to discuss tightening security measures on the border between the two countries.

The visit comes at the directives of Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, said Araji's press office.

Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Akbar Ahmadian met with Araji, calling for the quick activation of a recent security agreement between their countries, reported Iranian media.

Ahmadian said the agreement underscores the role of the Iraqi government in ending the presence of "dissident" elements on the border, a reference to Iranian Kurdish opposition groups.

The meeting was Ahmadian's first official appearance after his appointment to his post. He succeeded Ali Shamkhani, whose last foreign visit was to Baghdad in March where he signed the border agreement.

Araji's visit comes two days after extensive meetings with security and political leaders in Sulaymaniyah and Erbil in the Kurdistan region, during which he met head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Bafel Talabani.

Araji’s talks in Kurdistan and Tehran likely focused on the activities of the Iranian Kurdish parties that have used Kurdish regions to launch attacks against Iran.

On March 19, Iraqi PM Sudani sponsored the joint security agreement between Baghdad and Tehran.

The agreement calls for coordination in "protecting the common borders" and "consolidating cooperation in several security fields."

A source close to the PUK said the security arrangements aim to protect the Iranian borders from the movements of the opposition parties and prevent Iraqi regions, especially Kurdish ones, from coming under Iranian retaliatory bombardment.

The source, who preferred not to be named, noted that even though the border stretches 1,200 kilometers, the focus is really on a few kms between Iran and the Sulaymaniyah and Erbil provinces.

He remarked that the governments in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah and the federal government in Baghdad have been unable to rein in the Iranian opposition groups, some of which have been deployed in the rugged joint border for nearly three decades.

All parties want to avoid angering Tehran, he stated.

Tehran has for years been calling on the Kurdish authorities to control the borders and expel Kurdish militants and party headquarters, especially in the town of Koysanjak, located 60 kilometers east of Erbil, and in the Zirkuiz region.

The source said over six Kurdish opposition parties have headquarters in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. The majority of them usually mobilize their supporters in Iran to hold protests and other activities in opposition to the authorities, most notably in regions that are predominantly Kurdish.


Berri to Asharq Al-Awsat: No New Developments Related to Election of Lebanese President

01 October 2020, Lebanon, Beirut: Speaker of the Lebanese parliament Nabih Berri speaks during a press conference. (Lebanese parliament/dpa)
01 October 2020, Lebanon, Beirut: Speaker of the Lebanese parliament Nabih Berri speaks during a press conference. (Lebanese parliament/dpa)
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Berri to Asharq Al-Awsat: No New Developments Related to Election of Lebanese President

01 October 2020, Lebanon, Beirut: Speaker of the Lebanese parliament Nabih Berri speaks during a press conference. (Lebanese parliament/dpa)
01 October 2020, Lebanon, Beirut: Speaker of the Lebanese parliament Nabih Berri speaks during a press conference. (Lebanese parliament/dpa)

Lebanese parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is unlikely to call the legislature to convene to elect a new president given the lack of “real competition” that would yield a result from a vote.

 

Lebanon has held eleven sessions to elect a president. The country’s top post has been vacant since late October and political rivals have since then been squabbling over a candidate.

 

A western diplomatic source told Asharq Al-Awsat that regional and international powers “don’t mind” the election of former minister Suleiman Franjieh, but their patience has an “expiration date”.

 

Lebanese officials have been informed by the powers that the Arab and international community “doesn't mind” the election of any figure, including Franjieh, but that the election should be done within a deadline.

 

There is a pressing need to elect a president given the dire state of affairs in Lebanon, they went on to say. They also cited the instability on the international scene, which makes Lebanon the least of concerns for global powers if Lebanese officials don’t seize the initiative and reach an agreement over a president.

 

Such an agreement is a priority, but so is the need for Lebanon to launch real reforms that would restore the international community’s trust in the country.

 

The new president must be able to kick off the reform process, said the source.

 

The patience the international community has shown may end if the local powers continue to stumble in electing a president, it warned.

 

An agreement over a candidate appears unlikely given the “sectarian vetoes” over the two current nominees: Franjieh and former minister Jihad Azour. If the dispute persists, then Lebanese officials are better off coming up with a third candidate that is accepted by all parties.

 

Berri told Asharq Al-Awsat that he had received no information about any “expiration date”, stressing that he will not call for a parliament session to elect a president knowing that it would end in failure like the eleven others.

 

The speaker had previously underlined the need to elect a president before June 15, before the term of Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh ends in July. Failure to elect a president by then will lead to monetary instability in Lebanon, he warned.

 

Berri added that he wants the election of a president as soon as possible, but at the same time, he refuses to call for an electoral session that would end in failure.

 

Meanwhile, Hezbollah, which backs Franjieh’s nomination, has continued its attack on the opposition and its possible agreement on Azour as a presidential candidate.

 

Hezbollah deputy secretary general Sheikh Naim Qassem said a “national Christian president is a better option for Lebanon than a president coming from a sectarian background.”

 

“Abandon petty interests and let’s elect a free president who would save the country and would not be hostage to those who elected him,” he tweeted.

 

Head of the Kataeb Party MP Sami Gemayel criticized Qassem’s statement, saying: “Does this mean we have to either agree to your challenging candidate or always succumb to your dictates?”

 

“Don’t you have any other options besides destructive ones? Your confusion is both laughable and lamentable,” he tweeted.


Arab League Calls for Strengthening Stability of Global Food Market

A joint civilian inspection team comprising officials from the Russian Federation, Türkiye, Ukraine and the United Nations visited the merchant vessel Razoni on 3 August 2022. (UNOCHA/Levent Kulu)
A joint civilian inspection team comprising officials from the Russian Federation, Türkiye, Ukraine and the United Nations visited the merchant vessel Razoni on 3 August 2022. (UNOCHA/Levent Kulu)
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Arab League Calls for Strengthening Stability of Global Food Market

A joint civilian inspection team comprising officials from the Russian Federation, Türkiye, Ukraine and the United Nations visited the merchant vessel Razoni on 3 August 2022. (UNOCHA/Levent Kulu)
A joint civilian inspection team comprising officials from the Russian Federation, Türkiye, Ukraine and the United Nations visited the merchant vessel Razoni on 3 August 2022. (UNOCHA/Levent Kulu)

The Arab League (AL) on Monday called for strengthening the stability of the global food market and reducing the food gap at the global level, affirming its support for all efforts in this regard, an AL statement said.

 

The statement came following a meeting between AL Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and UN Coordinator for the Black Sea Grain Initiative Abdullah Dashti.

 

The spokesman for the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Jamal Rushdi, said that during the meeting, Aboul Gheit expressed his support for the Initiative that provides the needed grains to most consuming countries, including Arab countries.

 

The AL Chief hoped the Initiative would receive support from all parties to ensure its continuation.

 

Meanwhile, the UN coordinator explained the Initiative’s mechanisms of action and its implementation in coordination with the two warring parties, Russia and Ukraine.

 

“Since its announcement in July 2022, the Initiative provided more than 50 million tons of commodities and grains to the global market. Arab countries benefited from a third of this quantity,” Dashti said.

 

Rushdi thanked the UN coordinator for his efforts and his team to implement the Initiative, despite the difficult security and political circumstances.

 

He then stressed the importance of the Initiative’s continuation to enhance the stability of the global food market, which is witnessing alarming rises in the prices of basic materials.

 


Erbil Accuses Baghdad Parliament of Violating Political Agreement

In this picture taken on April 15, 2023, people row traditional "meshhouf" boats in the Tigris river in Baghdad. (AFP)
In this picture taken on April 15, 2023, people row traditional "meshhouf" boats in the Tigris river in Baghdad. (AFP)
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Erbil Accuses Baghdad Parliament of Violating Political Agreement

In this picture taken on April 15, 2023, people row traditional "meshhouf" boats in the Tigris river in Baghdad. (AFP)
In this picture taken on April 15, 2023, people row traditional "meshhouf" boats in the Tigris river in Baghdad. (AFP)

Kurdish forces accused the Iraqi parliament of violating the political agreement reached between Baghdad and Erbil over the federal budget.

Parliament had introduced amendments over oil in the draft budget, delaying a parliamentary vote more than two months after legislators received the budget plan.

Oil has been a source of recurrent tension between Kurdistan's autonomous regional government and federal authorities in Baghdad. Kurdish leaders see the budget amendments as contradictory to an agreement concluded in April over oil exports.

Iraqi Kurdistan's Prime Minister Masrour Barzani said Saturday the changes amounted to "treason" and an affront to Iraqi Kurdish rights, while Nechirvan Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdistan president, said he was "deeply concerned" about the changes.

The federal government in mid-March sent the draft three-year budget to parliament, where changes were introduced to the original text.

The Kurdish regional government had for years earned billions of dollars in revenues exporting 475,000 barrels of oil daily to Türkiye without the Iraqi federal government's approval.

But in March the region was forced to halt its lucrative sales following international arbitration ruling in favor of Baghdad's exclusive rights over exports.

The April deal cleared the way for resuming exports, and stipulated that Baghdad's State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) would manage the oil sales.

Revenues from the sales would be paid into a bank account overseen by Baghdad, and the Kurdish autonomous region would also receive a share of the federal budget, it said.

But Iraqi deputies changed the original budget text.

It now says the Kurdish region must first deliver 400,000 barrels of oil daily to the federal authorities, along with non-oil revenues, before it can receive its federal budget allocation, according to Kurdish Iraqi economist Govand Sherwani Sherwani.

The original draft, he said, had guaranteed that Kurdistan "would receive its share of the budget without condition, as a constitutional right".

Furthermore, the changes stipulate that Kurdish oil revenues would be deposited "in an account belonging to the Iraqi Finance Ministry, at the Iraqi Central Bank", instead of an international bank account as previously agreed, Sherwani said.

In a country where political agreements are concluded after endless negotiations between political parties, the objection of the Kurds is delaying a parliamentary vote on the budget.

Iraq's oil dependent economy has traditionally been plagued by budget delays, which the government's three-year proposal aimed to avoid.


Fighting Subsides in Sudan’s Capital After Ceasefire Extended

Smoke billows over buildings in southern Khartoum on May 29, 2023, amid ongoing fighting between the forces of two rival generals. (AFP)
Smoke billows over buildings in southern Khartoum on May 29, 2023, amid ongoing fighting between the forces of two rival generals. (AFP)
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Fighting Subsides in Sudan’s Capital After Ceasefire Extended

Smoke billows over buildings in southern Khartoum on May 29, 2023, amid ongoing fighting between the forces of two rival generals. (AFP)
Smoke billows over buildings in southern Khartoum on May 29, 2023, amid ongoing fighting between the forces of two rival generals. (AFP)

Clashes subsided in Sudan's capital on Tuesday though fighting could be heard in some areas, residents said, after military factions battling for more than six weeks agreed to extend a ceasefire aimed at allowing aid to reach civilians. 

The army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) agreed to extend a week-long ceasefire deal by five days just before it was due to expire late on Monday. 

The truce was brokered and is being remotely monitored by Saudi Arabia and the United States, which say it has been violated by both sides but has still allowed for the delivery of aid to an estimated two million people. 

"We hope this truce succeeds even if only to stop the war a little and that we can return to our normal lives. We have hope in the truce and we don't have other options," said Hind Saber, a 53-year-old resident of Khartoum. 

Hours before the ceasefire extension was signed, residents reported intensive fighting in all three of the adjoining cities that make up Sudan's greater capital around the confluence of the Nile - Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri. 

The war has caused nearly 1.4 million people to flee their homes, including more than 350,000 that have crossed into neighboring countries. 

Areas of the capital have been hit by widespread looting and frequent cuts to power and water supplies. Most hospitals have been put out of service. 

The conflict erupted on April 15 over internationally backed plans for a transition to elections under a civilian government. 

The army and the RSF had held the top positions on Sudan's ruling council since former leader Omar al-Bashir was toppled during a popular uprising in 2019. 

They staged a coup in 2021 as they were due to hand leadership of the council to civilians, before falling out over the chain of command and restructuring of the RSF under the planned transition. 

UN children's agency UNICEF said more than 13.6 million children in Sudan, a country of 49 million people, were in urgent need of lifesaving humanitarian support. 

The UN World Food Program, which expects up to 2.5 million people in Sudan to slip into hunger in coming months, said that 17,000 tons of food had been looted since the conflict began. 

WFP said on Monday that it had begun to distribute food in parts of the capital for the first time since the outbreak of fighting.