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News - MENA News

Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-12-18 07:53:20
As U.S. fighter jets pound Islamic State targets in Syria, Washington's coalition allies appear increasingly absent from the air war. Although President Barack Obama's administration announced the Syrian air strikes three months ago as a joint campaign by Washington and its Arab allies, nearly 97 percent of the strikes in December have been carried out by the United States alone, according to U.S. military data provided to Reuters. The data shows that U.S. allies have carried out just two air strikes in Syria in the first half of December, compared with 62 by the United States. That accentuates a shift that began shortly after the start of the campaign in late September, when U.S. allies carried out 38 percent of the strikes. The percentage quickly dropped to around 8 percent in October and 9 percent in November, according to Reuters calculations based on the data. U.S. officials are keen to prevent the coalition from fraying over concerns about the air campaign's direction. Some allies have long worried the air strikes might unintentionally bolster Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by striking a common enemy, sources said. Others in the region are also saying privately that the U.S.-led campaign against Sunni extremists needs to do more to help Sunni Muslims. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-12-14 08:34:15
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi recently revealed that there are 50,000 “ghost soldiers” who haunt the payrolls of the Iraqi Army. Many see the phenomenon as a factor in the army’s defeat at the hands of the Islamic State, and as an example of how Prime Minister Abadi is trying to initiate reform. How corruption like this is handled will tell the tale of the army’s future, and of the U.S.’ investment. The current Iraqi Army is a U.S. construct. The second official act of the U.S. occupation in Iraq was to disband Saddam-era forces and create a new Iraqi Army. This would ultimately cost U.S. taxpayers over $20 billion dollars. What did they get for their money? The Iraqi Army the U.S. wrought was created within the climate of the insurgency. It was thus never really a national institution, but rather a loose collection of fiefdoms divided along sectarian lines. Sunni units were based in Sunni areas and led by Sunni generals, Shi’ites were in their areas and, of course, the Kurds and their peshmerga were off on their own (the peshmerga also benefited greatly from never having been disbanded in the first place). The U.S. accepted these divisions out of expediency. The alternative, a non-starter, was to wait until sectarian problems were resolved first. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-12-14 07:57:17
Libya's eastern Es Sider oil export port has stopped working due to clashes nearby, an oil official said on Sunday. The Ras Lanuf port east of Es Sider is still working, the official said. The al-Waha Oil Company running the Es Sider port had halted work, he said. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-12-10 07:32:28
From somewhere, a sniper opened fire on the seven battle-scarred Humvees of Iraqi Defence Minister Khaled al-Obeidi's convoy as they rode on a crater-pocked highway. The convoy's gunners replied with volleys of fire. The drivers did not stop. Obeidi was proving a point by making his first visit to Iraq's biggest oil refinery, where a battle that broke a five month siege has been the main focus of the government's U.S.-backed fightback against Islamic State. That the defense minister could now drive the 30 km (20 mile) desert highway to Baiji from an air base near Tikrit is one of the government's few military achievements since the army collapsed and abandoned most of northern Iraq in June. Government troops and their Shi'ite militia allies finally lifted the siege of the refinery three weeks ago, after special forces troops held out, encircled inside the plant. Along the road there is little sign of life. Unfilled craters from roadside bombs obstruct vehicles. A bridge spanning the dual carriageway has been blown up. By the roadside, electricity pylons have fallen and a communications tower is toppled. Some buildings are burnt out, or blown up. Religious banners strung along the highway feature slogans and images lauding the Shi'ite militia - a jarring sight in a part of Iraq where most of the population are Sunni Muslims. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-12-04 09:16:41
The World Food Program launched an unusual campaign Wednesday to raise $1 contributions from 64 million people around the world so it can restore food vouchers to Syrian refugees who won't be getting any U.N. help in December. The 72-hour campaign effort comes two days after the U.N. food agency announced it was forced to suspend food vouchers to 1.7 million Syrians refugees because it doesn't have the $64 million to cover the cost. The WFP warned the suspension would force many Syrian families who fled to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt to go hungry. The suspension of the vouchers highlighted the difficulty the U.N. has had in raising funds for soaring humanitarian needs not only in Syria but around the world. Governments, aid organizations and regional bodies are increasingly overwhelmed with appeals for assistance. In a speech Wednesday, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said more than 100 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance today — three times as many as 10 years ago. He said the amount requested through humanitarian appeals has risen nearly 600 percent in the past decade, from $3 billion to $17.9 billion. "The humanitarian landscape is darkening and changing faster than ever before," Eliasson said. WFP is asking people to visit its website to donate online. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-12-04 09:16:40
The United States has indications that Iran has carried out air strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq in recent days in what appeared to be the first such operations by Iran's air force, U.S. officials said on Wednesday. A senior Iranian official denied that Iran had launched any such strikes. U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States had indications that Iran had used F-4 Phantoms to launch the raids in Diyala near the Iranian border in the last several days. An Iraqi security expert gave a slightly different account, saying the strikes took place 10 days ago. "It is true that Iranian planes hit some targets in Diyala. Of course the government denies it because they have no radars," Hisham al-Hashemi told Reuters. A Pentagon spokesman declined to go into details about the air raids during a media briefing. Officials said the strikes appeared to be the first carried out by the Iranian air force. Diyala is an ethnically mixed province, where the Iraqi army, backed by Kurdish Peshmerga and Shi’ite militias, drove Islamic State out of several towns and villages last month. A British-based analyst said footage on Al Jazeera television of an F-4 Phantom striking Islamic State in Diyala was the first visual evidence of direct Iranian air force involvement in the conflict. "Iran and Turkey are the only regional operators of the F-4, and with the location of the incident not far from the Iranian border and Turkey's unwillingness to get involved in the conflict militarily, indicators point to this being an Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force aircraft," said Gareth Jennings of IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declined to comment. "I am not going to make any announcements, or confirm or deny the reported military action of another country in Iraq. It is up to them (the Iranians) or up to the Iraqis to do that if it did indeed take place,” Kerry told a news conference in Brussels. The White House reiterated U.S. policy against cooperating with Iran in the fight against Islamic State. "At this point our calculation about the wisdom of cooperating with the Iranians hasn't changed. We're not going to do it," spokesman Josh Earnest said. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told a Washington news briefing on Tuesday that it was up to the Iraqis to manage their air space. “It's the Iraqi air space and (Iraq’s) to deconflict. We are not coordinating with nor are we deconflicting with Iranian military,” Kirby said. Deconflict in military parlance means to avoid overlap. The prospect of U.S. and Iranian militaries separately carrying out air strikes in the same country raises questions about the degree of advanced coordination that might be needed, even indirectly, to avoid a mishap. The U.S. military detailed on Wednesday 11 more strikes in Iraq. But officials noted that there were no U.S. air operations or American troops on the ground in the areas where they said Iranian aircraft had operated. A senior Iranian official said no raids had been carried out and Tehran had no intention of cooperating with Washington. "Iran has never been involved in any air strikes against Daesh (Islamic State) targets in Iraq. Any cooperation in such strikes with America is also out of question for Iran," the senior official said on condition of anonymity. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, in Brussels for a meeting of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, said he was not aware of any Iranian air strikes. While Shi'ite Iran and the United States have been at odds for decades, they have a common enemy in Islamic State, the hardline Sunni group that has seized large areas of Iraq and Syria. Iran backs the Iraqi Shi'ite militias which are battling Islamic State and has sent senior commanders to help advise the Iraqi army and militia operations since the group took parts of northern Iraq in the summer. Iraqi officials say there are no Iranian troops on its soil. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-12-01 08:08:02
A U.S.-led coalition carried out at least 30 air strikes in Syria against Islamic State militants in the northern province of Raqqa on Saturday, a monitoring group said. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the air strikes hit Islamic State positions in the northern outskirts of Raqqa city, a major stronghold of the hardline Islamist militants. The areas hit by the strikes included the 17th Division, a Syrian army base that Islamic State seized in July, the Observatory said. The U.S.-led coalition began bombing Islamic State in Syria in September. Syria's nearly four-year-old civil war has continued unabated throughout the country. The Observatory said 19 people were killed including seven women and two children when Syrian government warplanes struck the town of Jassim in the southern province of Deraa on Sunday. Dozens of others were wounded and the death toll was expected to rise because a number were in critical condition, the Observatory said. Fighting also continued in the Kurdish town of Kobani, northwest of Raqqa on the border with Turkey, where Kurdish defenders have been holding off an assault by Islamic State fighters for more than two months. At least 62 people have been killed in fighting in Kobani, known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic, since early on Saturday, the Observatory said. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-11-30 07:36:01
U.S. air support and pledges of weapons and training for Iraq's army have raised expectations of a counter-offensive soon against Islamic State, but sectarian rifts will hamper efforts to forge a military strategy and may delay a full-scale assault. The Sunni Islamists stormed through northern Iraq in a 48-hour offensive in June, charging virtually unopposed toward the outskirts of Baghdad, humiliating a U.S.-trained Iraqi army which surrendered both land and weapons as it retreated. By contrast, even a successful effort by the Shi'ite-led government to dislodge Islamic State, also known as ISIS, from Sunni territory where it rules over millions of Iraqis would be fiercely fought and could stretch well beyond next year. The Baghdad government relies on Shi'ite militias and Kurdish peshmerga to contain Islamic State - a dependence which underlines and may even exacerbate the sectarian rivalry which opened the door for the summer offensive. U.S. newspapers have cited officials in Washington saying the Americans' training mission aims to prepare Iraqi troops for a spring offensive to retake territory, including Mosul, northern Iraq's largest city and Islamic State's powerbase. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-11-29 07:14:31
Syria's foreign minister said U.S.-led air strikes had failed to weaken Islamic State it in Syria and the jihadist group would not be tackled unless Turkey was forced to tighten border controls. A U.S.-led alliance started attacking Islamic State targets in Syria in September as part of a wider effort to destroy the al Qaeda offshoot that has seized large areas of the country and neighboring Iraq. "All the indications say that (Islamic State) today, after two months of coalition air strikes, is not weaker," Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said in an interview with the Beirut-based Al Mayadeen TV broadcast on Friday. The Syrian government has said it was willing to join the fight against Islamic State, but the United States refuses to deal with President Bashar al-Assad, who it says has lost legitimacy and must leave power. "If the Security Council and Washington do not force Turkey to control its borders then all of this action will not eliminate (Islamic State)," Moualem said, referring to foreign jihadists who have crossed into Syria from Turkey. More»
Amwal Al Ghad - 2014-11-24 09:45:28
The United States plans to buy arms for Sunni tribesmen in Iraq including AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds to help bolster the battle against Islamic State militants in Anbar province, according to a Pentagon document prepared for Congress. The plan to spend $24.1 million represents a small fraction of the larger, $1.6 billion spending request to Congress focusing on training and arming Iraqi and Kurdish forces. But the document underscored the importance the Pentagon places on the Sunni tribesmen to its overall strategy to diminish Islamic State, and cautioned Congress about the consequences of failing to assist them. "Not arming tribal fighters will continue to leave anti-ISIL tribes reluctant to actively counter ISIL," the document said, using another acronym for the group which has seized control of large parts of Syrian and Iraq and is gaining territory in Anbar despite three months of U.S.-led air strikes. A U.S. official said on Saturday that the document was posted this week. It said all U.S. support was directed "with, by and through" Iraq's government, suggesting any weapons would be supplied through Baghdad, in line with existing policy. It noted Iraqi security forces were not "not particularly welcome in Anbar and other majority Sunni areas," citing their poor combat performance and sectarian divisions. Iraq's army has been burdened by a legacy of sectarianism in Anbar, whose dominant Sunni population resented former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite majority government and were incensed when he ordered troops to clear a protest camp in Ramadi in December 2013. The ensuing Sunni tribal revolt prompted the entrance of Islamic State into Falluja and Ramadi, where U.S. troops had met fierce resistance from Sunni insurgents including al Qaeda during their occupation of Iraq after the 2003 invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein. The United States, which has deployed a small number of military advisors to Anbar province, hopes the Sunni tribesmen can later form part of a more formal Iraqi National Guard. The Pentagon document also detailed $1.24 billion to be spent on Iraqi forces and $354.8 million on Kurdish troops. "While the trend on the battlefield has been promising in stemming ISIL gains, Iraq lacks the training expertise and equipment to field the forces needed to liberate territory," the document said. More»