650-mile trench stakes out claim for bigger Kurdish territory in Iraq

Line extending along northern Iraq symbolises expect more land when battling versus Isis ends

On the plains north and east of Mosul, far from the fight in the city centre, a brand-new frontline is taking shape. Mounds of earth have actually been loaded above a trench gouged out of the ground along about 650 miles (1,050 km) of northern Iraq, which prior to the war with Islamic State remained in Arab hands.

The berm ranges from Sinjar, in the north-west, to Khanaqin, near the Iranian border, following the line of Kurdish military control. Woven into it are peshmerga positions, and on the top flies the Kurdish flag, a clear declaration of the Kurds hope that their function in battling the war has actually currently protected them a larger piece of Iraq

As Iraqi forces have actually pressed even more into main Mosul over the previous week, ousting Isis from the university and reaching the Tigris river that divides the city, the Kurds have actually been putting the ending up discuss exactly what authorities in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, call a military line that commandeers more land than they have actually ever had in the contemporary Iraqi state.

The trench and berm, the Kurds state, is an acknowledgment of their function in protecting the citys northern and eastern borders in the very first week of battling, which began on 17 October in 2015 and is now into its 4th month. Regional authorities anticipate the fight for Mosul to continue for a minimum of 3 more months, perhaps into the summertime, in spite of the restored momentum of the Iraqi army. Throughout the river is the Grand Mosque where the Isis leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announced himself caliph of an Islamic state in July 2014.

A soldier at a frontline station in Sinjar. Photo: Alessandro Rota for the Guardian

Out of the combating, the Kurds have actually turned their focus on advancing political objectives. Combining military gains made by the peshmerga around the Christian towns of Bartella and Bashiqa have actually been main to the strategies of senior leaders.

After losing the Nineveh plains and nearly losing Erbil as Isis rampaged to them in August 2014, the Kurds have actually increased the land mass under their control by approximately 40 %. In the very first week of defending Mosul, another 193 sq miles(500 sq km)was included. Were stagnating from the frontlines, stated one Kurdish authorities. Specifically the hills such as Sinjar.

Focus amongst the individuals in the battle to regain Mosul is beginning to move to exactly what follows Isiss apparently inescapable defeat. Iraqs deteriorated main federal government is intending to restore its authority in Mosul, with the success of its military seen by numerous in federal government as a nation-building procedure that might bring back trust in between the minority Sunnis, who are dominant in Mosul, and Iraqs Shia Muslim bulk, which fills the ranks of the armed force.

Ceding ground, or more authority, to the Kurds of the mainly self-governing north has actually been highly withstood by Baghdad, which has actually played a lessening function in Kurdish affairs over the previous years. Senior Kurdish authorities state the end of the war ought to mark a time of numeration.

Iraq map with Erbil

The president of the Kurdish north, Masoud Barzani, in 2015 cannot provide a referendum he had actually promised to keep in November, which he stated would even more move the location far from main federal government control. Dealing with domestic political paralysis and an economy nearly exclusively depending on oil, the sale which Baghdad firmly insists should be collaborated centrally, Barzani has actually hung much on the fate of the Isis war.

He and other senior authorities are hoping that the shared problem of the status quo, together with the recently sculpted line in the dirt will offer the Kurds utilize.

A great deal of Iraqi leaders comprehend deep down that it is gone, that its a lost cause, stated the chancellor of the Kurdish area security council, Masrour Barzani, of the principle of a combined Iraq. The essence of this relationship must be one in between Kurdistan and Iraqi Arabs, not a nationalistic technique, however a territorial relationship. We can not live under the exact same formula any longer. We have to exercise how we can be excellent neighbours.

The line where we are right now is a military line, not a political line. This is the minimum outreach of Kurdistan. We are not going to jeopardize on anything we did prior to 17 October. Anything beyond that undergoes arrangements and the will of individuals in those locations. The trenches are not politically binding, however that does not imply we do not have a say in exactly what takes place beyond those locations.

<img class="gu-image"itemprop="contentUrl"alt=
“A”frontline station in sinjar in october.”src=”https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/e4232cddee0b307fed6f4a6cb0e9f18781076e2e/0_84_4200_2520/master/4200.jpg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=f636f27fb323ef0de158345079fa0330″/> A frontline station in Sinjar in October. Picture: Alessandro Rota for the Guardian

The Kurds are hoping that in the postwar shakeout some towns beyond the brand-new, small border might pick them over Baghdad, more increasing their hold in the Nineveh plains. They have actually likewise firmly insisted that Sinjar, which was reconquered in a peshmerga-led offending 15 months back more than a year after they had actually surrendered it, will not be gone back to Baghdad.

About 12 miles from the foothills of Mount Sinjar, which towers above the Yazidi town, Isis stays bunkered down in the towns of Baaj, Billij and Tel Afar. Nearby, Shia militias, an effective part of the battle versus the horror group, are getting ready for the Iraqi army attack on Mosul west of the Tigris. To their west is the staying heartland of Isis, which spills to the Syrian border and on to Raqqa, among the groups 2 staying primary centres of gravity.

There is a lot in this defend everybody, stated a senior Iraqi minister. The Kurds are getting ahead of themselves as they frequently do. They constantly overlook. When the terrorists are beat, the spoils of war will be divided on lots of levels. Everybody will desire their share.

Additional reporting by Cengiz Yar

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/20/kurdish-trench-in-iraq-stakes-out-claim-for-bigger-territory

Rare photos shine light on ‘degrading’ conditions in Iraqi jails

Concerns overcrowding at prisons for Isis suspects could fuel radicalisation

Photos have surfaced of overcrowded and degrading conditions in Iraqi detention centres used to hold thousands of men, women and children with suspected links to Islamic State.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday it had acquired rare photographic evidence of conditions falling short of the most basic international standards at three facilities in Nineveh province. HRW warned the situation could lead to the radicalisation of vulnerable prisoners.

In one photograph, taken at Tal Kayf prison, dozens of women and small children are so tightly packed into a cell that the floor is not visible and clothes and belongings are hung on the wall. In another, of a juvenile cell at Tal Kayf, there is so little room a sea of teenage boys are forced to sleep in the foetal position.

Womens
Womens cell at Tal Kayf prison. Photograph: Human Rights Watch/Private

Detention centres, police stations and prisons across Iraq have been overwhelmed in the two years since the government declared victory over Isis.

HRW and other rights groups have received multiple reports the overcrowding has led to infections and disease as well as mobility health issues. At least four people have died in custody and two people have had legs amputated.

Concerns around overcrowding dont solely affect the detainees, but also the community as a whole, said Lama Fakih, HRWs acting Middle East director. The authorities should ensure that the conditions in Iraqs prisons do not foster more grievances in the future.

The three pre-trial facilities named by HRW on Thursday, Tal Kayf, Tasfirat and Faisaliyah, were designed to hold about 2,500 people. They currently house about 4,500 people, including 1,300 who have already been tried and convicted and should have been moved to less crowded facilities in Baghdad.

Most are being held on terrorism charges under Iraqs sweeping counter-terrorism legislation. None have access to lawyers and there is no clear legal basis for their detentions, HRW says, calling for the use of pre-trial detention as a last resort and the release of detained children in accordance with UN rules.

As well as longstanding concerns over inhumane prison conditions and unfair trials, rights groups have repeatedly accused Iraqi forces of unlawful interrogations and torture and of executing men and boys believed to be former Isis fighters, which could amount to war crimes.

We documented these abuses two years ago and very little has been done to alleviate the situation, said Belkis Wille, a senior Iraq researcher at HRW.

As long as the policy is to detain anyone who may have assisted Isis, even if they were forced to, even if they were medical staff or clerics, this problem is going to persist. There is no discussion around national reconciliation or any alternative strategy.

The situation in Iraqs prisons could be set to worsen: Baghdad is in talks with the US to transfer and place on trial tens of thousands of suspected Isis fighters and their families from detention centres in Syria to Iraq for a multibillion-dollar fee.

Isis was defeated in its last stronghold, in Baghuz on the Syrian-Iraqi border, in March.

The thousands of international fighters and their families who are among the last remnants of the so-called caliphate pose a legal headache for their countries of origin, which are under pressure from the US to repatriate citizens for trial at home.

Conditions in Kurdish-run facilities in Syria for suspected Isis members are also dire. Al-Hol camp is home to 74,000 people, 65% of whom are children under the age of 12.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

More Iranians ‘buying’ passports in other countries to evade U.S travel ban, sanctions – Trending Stuff

More Iranians ‘buying’ passports in other countries to evade U.S travel ban, sanctions – Trending Stuff

More Iranians are paying big money to buy passports in neighboring countries through bribery or fraudulent information, in a bid to evade U.S. sanctions and the Trump administration’s travel ban on Iran and six other nations, multiple sources have told Fox News. 

The Iranians are getting passports from a number of nations, sources said. But Iran’s influence with some elements of the Iraqi goverment is now so prominent the issuing of passports through payoffs and corruption there has become a growing concern, Iraqi and other sources told Fox News.

“It means that Iranians aren’t then flagged as being from a country barred by the United States,” one Iraqi insider told Fox News. “Mostly, it has been used by business people and merchants wanting to get around the economic sanctions and continue doing business with the West.”

One longtime Iraq-based, Western security expert stressed the Iranian influence inside Iraq has become “significantly heightened” since the ISIS onslaught, along with the establishment of a “Shia corridor” that enables unprecedented access – from Tehran through Baghdad, onto Damascus and then Beirut, posing a direct threat to Israel’s security.

Several counter-terrorism specialists in the U.S also affirmed that security concerns over the passport issue have been heightened in recent months.

“It is going on, and it is not difficult to do – especially if you have a friendly government helping you out,” noted a former intelligence official currently working as a counter-terrorism consultant in the Middle East. “Iran has many allies in high-level positions in Baghdad.”

Sanctions are in the process of being re-imposed on Iran  (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Sources also believe the passport issue may be a factor in the assassination of three Iraqi officials in just the last three months. The director of a provincial Iraqi Citizenship Department, Col. Amer Qasem Mohammed, and his aide, Lt. Col. Shaker Mahmoud were killed on Wednesday afternoon by gunmen on the road between Diyalah, near the Iranian border, and Baghdad. 

And in late June, Col. Safa Hassan al-Dulaimi – the head of the directorate of passports in the southern Iraqi province of Babil – was assassinated in broad daylight on his way home. Several Iraq sources claimed the motive behind the assassination stemmed from his refusal to issue forged Iraqi passports to the powers behind the Iranian-backed militias.

Long-running international sanctions against Iran were lifted following the 2015 signing of the Iran nuclear deal – formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). But President Donald Trump in May pulled the United States out of the controversial agreement, prompting the U.S. Treasury to institute new sanctions against money transfer services, some state-operated airlines, as well as individuals aligned with the Iranian  Revolutionary Guards and missile program.

A full slate of U.S sanctions will be re-imposed by November.

Corruption remains a prominent problem in much of the Middle East

The Iranian government does not officially permit its country’s citizens to hold a second passport. But intelligence bureaucrats are known to allow select business figures to carry other passports for ease of travel, and doing buisness eabroad.

Several Iraqi officials denied the notion of a fraudulent passport operation.

“Iraqi passports are issued with a high security standard and it is impossible to make forged passports through the institutes or through the officers who issue them. We get the eye cornea prints and fingerprints, we guarantee high security,” General Saad Maan Al Mousawi, a spokesperson for Iraq’s Ministry of the Interior, told Fox News. “But I say it is possible to fake the passports after they have been issued, if someone lost their passport or it was stolen, it could be forged. But not through legal ways.”

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani  (REUTERS)

Another high-ranking ministry official, who requested not to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media, also insisted Iraq has not issued frauduently obtained passports for Iranian nationals. He said that if Iranians who could legitimately claim Iraqi citizenship want a passport, they must first obtain Iraqi national documents “which is not easy, is a long procedure, and requires the father to be Iraqi.”

But Iraq isn’t the only neighboring country doling out passports to Iranians.

According to one Afghan government official, the problem is most evident in the border province of Herat, where national identification cards can be easily purchased on the black market, or through unscrupulous channels, thus making it significantly easier to obtain a passport under false pretenses.

One Kabul authority said Iranians have been known to pay between $5000-$10000 to acquire all the needed documents – beginning with a national identification card – which then allows them to apply for a second passport.

While both the Iraqi and Afghanistan passports have little value on the internationally recognized Henley index of travel freedom, both ranking close to the bottom, their holders are not on the U.S travel ban list. Moreover, in the latest available Corruptions Perceptions Index, unveiled in February, Iraq ranked as the 169th most corrupt country out of 180, while Afghanistan fell almost at the bottom, standing at 177.

Representatives for Iranian and Afghanistan governments did not respond to a request for comment.

“The proliferation of forged documents enables a host of illegal activities, like the travel of sanctioned or wanted individuals and other forms of illegal immigration. It is also a deliberate attack on the authority to secure its borders,” said David Ibsen, Executive Director of the not-for-profit, non-partisan policy organization Counter Extremism Project (CEP). “This is not surprising, as Iran will do what it can to circumvent sanctions.”

And the problem isn’t contained in neighboring countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

A Reuters investigation published in June revealed the Comoros Islands, a small nation off the east coast of Africa, suddenly had to cancel the passports “purchased” by more than 100 Iranians –including those of senior executives in industries all targeted by international sanctions.

The legitimate purchasing of a passport in some countries is legal, and traditionally tied to individuals agreeing to invest a certain amount of money to boost small economies. This so-called “citizenship by investment” has been used by Iranians in a number of countries. 

U.S has top-notch security for entry, but no system is foolproof, experts caution  (istock)

“Diplomats and security sources in the Comoros and the West are concerned that some Iranians acquired the passports to protect their interests as sanctions crimped Iran’s ability to conduct international business,” the Reuters report stated. “While none of the people or companies involved faced sanctions, the restrictions on Iran could still make a second passport helpful. Comoros passports offer visa-free travel in parts of the Middle and Far East and could be used by Iranians to open accounts in foreign banks and register companies abroad.”

Iranians are also among the largest national groups to be buying up passports as part of the Citizenship by Investment program for the Commonwealth of Dominica, as well as the island of Grenada. Passports from those countries allow visa-free travel to more than 100 countries.

This is not a new problem, some experts told Fox News.

A July, 2013 Congressional hearing on homeland security documented “the acquisition by hundreds and perhaps thousands of Iranian nationals of legitimate, original passports, codulas, and other national identity documents from Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela and Bolivia” had been granted largely to operatives in the Quds Force, Ministry of Intelligence and other intelligence services in Iran who can then “move across the region relatively undetected because they are no longer identifiable as Iranians.”

Recommendations at the time were made to “focus on the thousands of passports” that had been issued by these countries to Iranians, given the “vast bulk of people receiving these passports by complicit governments” were not tourists but agents “whose primary objective is to find vulnerabilities and points of entry into the United States, identify vulnerable targets in the region and prepare a military response if Iran’s nuclear program were to be attacked.”

The small Caribbean island of St. Kitts and Nevis drew the indignation of the U.S Treasury Department in late 2014 after three suspected Iranian operatives were seized using St. Kitts passports to launder money at the behest of banks in Tehran, in violation of U.S sanctions.

Furthermore, more than 5,000 passports then had to be annulled as they did not have listed a birthplace or were awarded to individuals who had changed their names.

The island did make a formal announcement in 2011 that going forward, Iranian investors would be suspended from participation in the citizenship by investment program, citing the “unfolding events coming from the international community” and re-asserting its own position as a “country friendly to all, and an enemy to none.”

But Iranians living abroad were, according to National Interest, were still applying for the citizenship in droves.

In August this year, Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) of Saint Lucia suddenly announced Iranians were no longer eligible for the program, saying they were “unable to undertake due diligence checks on site in Iran and validate documents issued from Iran.” No mention was made of second citizenships already issued.

“We know that much of the international Islamist terrorism is being directed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (ICRG). If entrants can acquire a passport from an ESTA eligible country, then they could more easily gain entry to the U.S,” noted Tom Wilson, Research Fellow in the Center on Radicalization and Terrorism at the Henry Jackson Society, referring to the “Electronic System for Travel Authorization,” which facilitates visa waivers to the U.S.

“Iranians who hold second passports may well be able to buy property in the U.S, or do business with ordinary Americans,” Wilson said. “In particular is the concern that key Iranian figures will use these passports to try and avoid the full effects of sanctions.”

One British-based lawyer – a leader in facilitating legitimate pathways for people to procure second nationalities through investment – told Fox News that since Trump took office, and made clear the Iran nuke deal was in jeopardy, there has been a sharp pullback in taking on Iranian cases. 

“It’s not worth the hassle,” the lawyer said. 

A spokesperson for the U.S State Department insisted national security remains the top priority when adjudicating visa applications.

“Every prospective traveler to the United States undergoes extensive security screening. Maintaining robust screening standards for visa applicants is a dynamic practice that must adapt to emerging threats,” the representative insisted.

“We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening process, allow travel and immigration to the United States while protecting U.S citizens and excluding individuals who might pose a threat.”

But security experts emphasized that while U.S technology and screening is top-notch, it is not unassailable.

“As long as the demand is there, criminals will find a way,” said Larry Johnson, former Secret Service agent and now CEO of CyberSponse. “In the meantime, the United States Government has to remain vigilant.”

Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/

Donald Trump attacks Theresa May over her criticism of his far-right retweets – Trending Stuff

Donald Trump attacks Theresa May over her criticism of his far-right retweets – Trending Stuff
Theresa May visits the Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad on Wednesday. Photograph: Lee Goddard/EPA

It is expected that the prime minister will deal with the issue in questions after her speech, which will address the UKs involvement in Middle East security, including training for Iraqi forces to clear Mosul and Raqqa of explosive devices left by Isis as it fled, and more security assistance for Jordan.

Among the likely questions will be whether she regrets being the first overseas leader to visit Trump after his inauguration, and his planned state visit to the UK.

Justine Greening, the education secretary, said the row should not undermine the UKs long and close relationship with the US.

Asked if she was shocked that Trump was directly attacking a close ally, Greening told the BBCs Today programme: The UK and US have been longstanding allies and our relationship with America is a hugely important one, and I dont think we should allow this tweet to undermine that in any way.

[Our relationship] will succeed long after presidents come and go I dont agree with the tweet President Trump has made but I also dont believe it should distract from the agenda we have domestically or detract from the close relationship the UK has had for many, many years and will go on to have with the American people.

However, Sajid Javid, the local government secretary, who is Muslim, took a much harder line. He posted on Twitter: So POTUS has endorsed the views of a vile, hate-filled racist organisation that hates me and people like me. He is wrong and I refuse to let it go and say nothing.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who has previously clashed with Trump, also issued a strongly-worded statement of condemnation, calling on the prime minister to demand an apology.

Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan)

President Trump has used Twitter to promote a vile, extremist group that exists solely to sow division and hatred in our country. It’s increasingly clear that any official visit from President Trump to Britain would not be welcomed. pic.twitter.com/oZ1Kt0JCfY

November 30, 2017

The feud marks a new, unexpected twist in the special relationship that has benefited from personal chemistry between leaders such as Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.

There had been hopes that May and Trump whose mother was British would achieve a similar rapport. She was the first foreign leader to visit after he took office, they were photographed holding hands at the White House and she invited him on a state visit to the UK. But that has yet to take place after a series of controversies and warnings that protesters will take to the streets to show he is not welcome.

Hostility in the UK deepened on Wednesday when Trump highlighted videos from the feed of Jayda Fransen of Britain First that purported to show a group of Muslims pushing a boy off a roof. Another claimed to show a Muslim destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary, and a third claimed to show a Muslim immigrant hitting a Dutch boy on crutches.

The credibility of the last video was immediately undermined when the the Dutch embassy in the US said the perpetrator of the violent act in the video was born and raised in the Netherlands. Fransen has been charged with using threatening or abusive language following an appearance at a far-right rally in Belfast this summer.

Mays spokesman made clear Trumps invitation still stood but said it was wrong for the president to have done this. Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, added: UK has a proud history as an open, tolerant society & hate speech has no place here.

The Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, described the retweets as abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our society. He and several other members of parliament called for the state visit to be cancelled.

The Labour MP David Lammy posted: Trump sharing Britain First. Let that sink in. The President of the United States is promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group whose leaders have been arrested and convicted. He is no ally or friend of ours. @realDonaldTrump you are not welcome in my country and my city.

Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, urged Trump to remove the retweets. And Brendan Cox, widower of Jo Cox, an MP murdered last year by a man reportedly shouting Britain first as he shot and stabbed her, told CNN: I think we probably got used to a degree of absurdity, of outrageous retweets and tweets from the president, but I think this felt like it was a different order.

Here he was retweeting a felon, somebody who was convicted of religiously aggravated harassment, of an organisation that is a hate-driven organisation on the extreme fringes of the far, far right of British politics. This is like the president retweeting the Ku Klux Klan.

US Democrats joined the condemnation. Keith Ellison, the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee and a Muslim member of Congress, branded the president a racist.

But the White House defended the retweets. The principal deputy press secretary, Raj Shah, told reporters on Air Force One: We think that its never the wrong time to talk about security and public safety for the American people. Those are the issues he was raising with the tweets this morning.

Asked if Trump was aware of the source of the tweets, Shah replied: I havent spoken to him about that.

The spokesman insisted: The president has the greatest respect for the British people and for Prime Minister May.

Trumps new salvo echoed his criticism in June of Londons mayor, Sadiq Khan, after seven people were killed and 48 injured in a terror attack in the city. Khan, the first Muslim mayor of a western European capital city, hit back on that occasion and tweeted on Wednesday: Britain First is a vile, hate-fuelled organisation whose views should be condemned, not amplified.