Iraqi security forces have killed a high-ranking commander of the ISIS Takfiri terrorist group and detained more than a dozen other terrorists during a counter-terrorism operation in the country’s northern province of Nineveh as government troops and allied fighters from Popular Mobilization Units are trying to purge the Arab country of the last remnants of the terror outfit.
AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Iraqi security forces have killed a high-ranking commander of the ISIS Takfiri terrorist group and detained more than a dozen other terrorists during a counter-terrorism operation in the country’s northern province of Nineveh as government troops and allied fighters from Popular Mobilization Units are trying to purge the Arab country of the last remnants of the terror outfit.
“Troops from the Nineveh Operations Command launched a major security campaign in Badush district, northeast of Mosul, and managed to kill a senior ISIS leader,” Provincial police officer Major Azad Fouad told Arabic-language Dijlah television network on Sunday.
“The troops also arrested 17 ISIS militants,” Fouad said, adding that a large amount of munitions and firearms were seized from the Takfiris as well.
Turkey’s president has warned the US it has made a "grave mistake" asking for protection for Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State in Syria and threatened once again to launch an assault against them.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who considers the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) terrorists, said Turkey would “not make concessions” and said preparations for an offensive were nearly complete.
"John Bolton has made a grave mistake on this issue,” a furious Mr Erdogan told parliament as the US national security adviser arrived in Ankara for talks with Turkish officials. “The (YPG’s) fight with Islamic State in Syria is a huge lie."
Mr Bolton was in Turkey on Tuesday as part of a tour of the Middle East with Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, aimed at limiting damage over the announcement by Donald Trump, the US president, that he would remove its troops from Syria.
Such a move would leave YPG allies, whose fighters have led a coalition to defeat Isil, exposed to a Turkish attack.
british foreign office says it has no plans to reopen its embassy in damascus, and a former ambassador says syria doesn't want it anyway
iraq & turkey want to increase economic cooperation
israel removes iraq from its list of enemy states
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have hatched a plan with Israel to welcome Syrian President Bashar al-Assad back into the Arab League to marginalise the regional influence of Turkey and Iran, Middle East Eye can exclusively reveal.
The diplomatic initiative was agreed at a secret meeting held in a Gulf capital last month which was attended by senior intelligence officials from the four countries including Yossi Cohen, the director of Mossad, Gulf sources with knowledge of the meeting have told MEE.
The meeting was also convened in response to a noticeable “cooling” of relations between US President Donald Trump and Riyadh since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.
The officials also agreed at the meeting that they considered Turkey, rather than Iran, to be their major military rival in the region, and discussed plans to counter Ankara’s influence.
The Israelis told the meeting that Iran could be contained militarily, but that Turkey had a far greater capability. In the meeting Cohen is reported to have said: “Iranian power is fragile. The real threat comes from Turkey."
To tackle these issues, those present at the meeting agreed four measures.
Talks with the Taliban
The first was to help Trump in his efforts to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan, where about 14,000 American soldiers remain deployed in support of Afghan government forces fighting the Taliban and militant groups.
A meeting between US officials and Taliban officials was held in Abu Dhabi the following week in talks which included Saudi, Emirati and Pakistani officials.
The second measure was “to control the Sunni card” in Iraq, by which was meant efforts to minimise the influence of Turkey among the Alliance of the National Axis, the largest parliamentary bloc of Sunni Iraqi deputies.
Path back to the Arab League for Assad
The third measure discussed was a diplomatic initiative to restore full diplomatic relations between the three Arab states and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The meeting of intelligence chiefs discussed the message they wanted to convey to Assad, who has relied heavily on Iranian military support and Tehran-backed Hezbollah fighters during the country’s civil war.
“They did not expect Bashar to break relations with Iran, but they wanted Bashar to use the Iranians rather than be used by them,” a Gulf official briefed on the discussions said.
“The message was: ‘Return back to how your father treated the Iranians, at least as an equal at the table, rather than subservient to Iranian interests.’”
A flurry of visits followed the intelligence meeting. Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, arrived in Damascus on 16 December in the first official visit by an Arab leader since 2011 and a move that, according to Syria analyst Kamal Alam writing in MEE, could not have happened without a nod from Riyadh.
Support for Kurds against Turkey
The fourth measure agreed on at the meeting was to support Syria’s Kurds against Turkey’s attempts to expel the YPG and its political counterpart, the PYD, from the Turkish border right up to the Iraqi border.
The intelligence officials also agreed to strengthen relations with Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and prevent any reconciliation with Ankara since the semi-autonomous region’s failed independence referendum in 2017.
"The Saudis themselves do not want to be in the vanguard of this diplomatic push to court Assad. However they agree with the policy of attempting to lever Assad to weaken Turkey," the official said.
Key Takeaway: Russia and Iran have begun to exploit the new strategic environment created by the forthcoming withdrawal of the U.S. from Syria (map). Russia, Iran, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad mobilized additional units to the Middle Euphrates River Valley in Eastern Syria in late December 2018. These reinforcements - which included elite units of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) as well as elements of the Russian Armed Forces - are postured to cross the Euphrates River and seize valuable oil-rich terrain currently held by the U.S. Anti-ISIS Coalition and allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Russia and Assad also deployed reinforcements to block an imminent offensive by Turkey against the SDF in Manbij in Northern Syria on December 28. These deployments are not included in this graphic’s field of view. The Russo-Iranian Coalition likely intends to deter further gains by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan while it engineers a political reconciliation between the SDF and Damascus.
The Russo-Iranian Coalition is also using the announced withdrawal to coopt partners and allies of the U.S. in Syria and Iraq. The SDF has recognized that it cannot withstand combined pressure from Russia, Iran, Syria, and Turkey without the support of the U.S. Anti-ISIS Coalition. It has reopened talks - albeit from a weaker bargaining position - regarding a diplomatic resolution with Assad. It has also called for further pro-regime deployments to secure the Syrian-Turkish Border. The ultimate outcome of these negotiations will likely include the handover of large parts of Northern and Eastern Syria to the Russo-Iranian Coalition. Meanwhile, concerns over border security have also drawn Iraq closer to the Russo-Iranian Coalition. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mehdi dispatched a high-ranking delegation led by Iran-friendly Iraqi National Security Advisor Falih al-Fayyadh to Damascus on December 30. Assad authorized Iraq to conduct unilateral cross-border airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. Russia and Iran will likely attempt to encourage these deepening ties as yet another vector to increase their influence over the Government of Iraq and develop regional power projection capability at the expense of the U.S. in the Middle East.
Edited by amor de cosmos, 08 January 2019 - 09:13 AM.