Iran

Orwellian ironies of US Persian Gulf war moves

Amid alarmingly sketchy accounts of Iranian attacks on Saudi oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, Trump has dispacthed the USSS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group to the Persian Gulf. An oil pipeline that runs across Saudi Arabia was also hit by drones, according to the kingdom’s energy ministry. Meanwhile, Iran-backed war crimes and “sectarian cleansing” in Syria and Iraq are safely invisible to the outside world. Well, oil matters; people do not. We already knew that. But adding to the Orwellian nature of it all—the US and Iran are on the same side in Syria and Iraq. De facto in the former (where the US has tilted to Assad, rhetoric notwithstanding), de jure in the latter (where Washington and Tehran alike openly back the Baghdad regime). Let’s hope that Trump’s mutuality of interest with the ayatollahs (however sinister) will compel both sides to retreat from the brink before they blunder into total disaster. As always, US war moves put the civil opposition in Iran in a more difficult position, making it easier for the regime to paint them as pawns of Washington. Any anti-war position must be clear on solidarity with the people of Iran, including in their democracy struggle—emphatically not with the regime. (Photo via Stars & Stripes)

Iraq

Shi’ite militia forces ‘sweep’ Iraq-Syria border

Baghdad’s irregular Hashd al-Shaabi militia has joined with the National Defense Forces, one of the Assad regime’s paramilitary militias, to conduct “sweeps” along the Iraqi-Syrian border for remnant ISIS cells. These are both sectarian Shi’ite formations backed by Iran. The use of such sectarian militias has been concomitant with widespread abuses of the Sunni population of the region. Human Rights Watch is now urging the Iraqi government to reject a plan for the indefinite detention of whole families with suspected ISIS affiliations. Under the plan, up to 300,000 could be interned in camps in the desert. (Photo: Defense Post)

Iraq

Iraq prosecuting children suspected of ISIS ties

Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government authorities have charged hundreds of children with terrorism for alleged Islamic State affiliation based on dubious accusations and forced confessions obtained through torture, Human Rights Watch charges. The 53-page report claims that Iraqi and KRG authorities often arrest children with "any perceived" connection to ISIS, use torture to coerce confessions and prosecute them in "hasty and unfair trials." International law observes children recruited by armed groups as victims who should be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

Iraq

Yazidis fear renewed genocide

Authorities in Ezidikhan, the self-declared Yazidi autonomous homeland in northern Iraq, appointed an Investigative Team on Genocide, primarily looking at massacres and enslavement that targeted the Yazidi people when ISIS was in control of their territory. But the team will also examine possible crimes and complicity by the Iraqi national government, its allied paramilitary forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, and foreign powers such as Turkey. The body is cooperating with the UN investigative team also working in the area, with an eye toward eventual establishment of an International Tribunal on Genocide for Yezidi and Neighboring Peoples. Yazidi leaders in the international diaspora are meanwhile expressing concern that the announced US withdrawal from Syria could lead to an ISIS resurgence—potentially threatening Yazidis both sides of the border. (Photo via Ezidikhan Public Information Bureau)

Iraq

Iraq: Baghdad and KRG in Kirkuk pipeline pact

The export of oil from northern Iraq's contested enclave of Kirkuk is to resume under a deal struck between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Iraq's Ministry of Oil announced. With Baghdad's Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline disabled during fighting with ISIS, the so-called KRG pipeline is currently the only method of delivering Kirkuk oil to foreign markets other than through Iran. That route has now also been cut off by the resumption of US sanctions against the Islamic Republic. But Baghdad and the KRG have long been at odds over terms, and the situation was worsened with the central government's seizure last year of Kirkuk and its oil-fields, which had been in Kurdish hands since the KRG routed ISIS from the enclave in 2014. US National Security Advisor John Bolton welcomed the agreement between Baghdad and the KRG as a "promising first step to return to 2017 levels." The KRG pipeline is jointly owned by the Erbil-based KRG, BP and Russia's Rosneft. (Photo via Iraqi News Agency)

Iraq

Mass graves found in former ISIS territory

In a joint report, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) highlighted the challenges faced in providing justice for the families of victims found in mass graves in the territory formerly controlled by the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant." The final number of mass graves found was 202, with an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 victims buried at these sites. However, the final number of victims will not be available until all the sites are exhumed. The victims range from women and children to the elderly and those with disabilities, as well as members of the armed forces and police, and some foreign workers. It is anticipated that more mass grave sites will be found in the coming months and years. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

Iraq

Wave of femicide in Iraq, vocal women targeted

Four prominent Iraqi women had been assassinated over the past weeks, including Tara Fares, a model and social media star, and Souad al-Ali, a feminist and leader of the recent popular protests in Basra. Other outspoken women are receiving threats and have been forced to flee the country—including Yanar Mohammed, leader of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered an investigation into the killings, but Mohammed is skeptical, saying, "The police are collaborating with the murderers and covering up. for them. We never get the exact story." (Image via Gulf News)

Iraq

Turkey bombs Yazidi territory in Iraq

Authorities in Ezidikhan, the self-declared Yazidi autonomous homeland in northern Iraq, issued a statement protesting a Turkish air-raid on their territory. The attack was apparently a targeted assassination of Yazidi leader Zeki ?engali, who is a representative of the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), the international body in the political orbit of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Four members of the Yazidi territorial militia, the Sinjar Protection Units (YBS), were also killed in the attack, and a home destroyed. The raid actually took place as Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was on an official trip to Turkey, sparking outrage from some Iraqi officials. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

Iraq

Yazidis reject hand-over of Sinjar to KRG control

The Provisional Government of Ezidikhan—the self-declared autonomous homeland of the Yazidi people in northern Iraq, centered around the town of Sinjar—issued a statement flatly rejecting a political deal cut between Baghdad and Kurdish authorities in Irbil to hand control over the enclave to the Kurdistan Regional Government. Said Ezidikhan Prime Minister Waheed Mandoo Hammo: "The Yezidi people reject the Iraq government’s attempt to install the Kurdish Regional Government as the military and political authority over the nation of Ezidikhan without our consent. The Ezidikhan Provisional Government is the sole, legitimate government representing the peoples of Ezidikhan. No decisions regarding the political, economic or strategic actions [of] the nation of Ezidikhan can legitimately be made without our free, prior and informed consent." (Map: Ezidikhan.net)

Iraq

Econo-protests rock Iraq’s oil-rich south

Protests against unemployment, poor government services and corruption that began in Iraq's southern oil hub of Basra have spread to several other cities, including Najaf, Amara, Nasiriya and even Baghdad. At least three have been killed since the protests erupted a week ago. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi arrived in Barsa to try to calm the situation July 13, flying straight into the city from the NATO summit in Brussels. But the next day he convened a meeting of Iraq's National Security Council, where the decision was taken to cut Internet access in Basra and mobilize army troops to the city. Units from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service and the Army’s Ninth Division have now arrived in Basra. (Photo: Kurdistan24)

Iraq

Iraq elections in regional Great Game

Iraq's first parliamentary elections since the defeat of ISIS were supposed to herald a return of stability to the country after 15 years of practically incessant war. But turn-out was at a record low, and candidates were openly aligned with foreign powers playing for influence in Iraq. Incumbent Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, backed by the US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, appears to be squeaking past more populist tickets seen to be in the sway of Iran. These include the coalition of vice president and former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. The ruling Dawa Party split into rival coalitions as Abadi and Maliki fell out. But the surprise so far is the strong showing of Shi'iite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in an unlikely alliance with the Iraqi Communist Party. Sadr played to resentment against the cronyism and corruption endemic to both factions of the Dawa Party. (Map: CIA)

Iraq

Turkish warplanes hit Nowruz festival in Iraq

Turkish air-strikes killed four civilians camping in a rural area of northern Iraq's Qandil Mountains as part of a gathering celebrating the traditional Kurdish spring festival, Nowruz. The raid was ostensibly aimed at PKK positions, but local residents said the young men killed in the strikes were all civilians.? Ankara openly threatened this week to mount an offensive against northern Iraq's Sinjar region if the Baghdad government doesn't act against the PKK stronghold there. This is an implicit reference to the Yazidi minority of the Sinjar area, who have formed a militia that is aligned with the PKK. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)