Iraq’s Shi’ite paramilitaries launched an offensive on Friday to drive Islamic State from a desert region near the border with Syria as security forces fought the militants in the city of Mosul. Spokesman Karim al-Nouri said the target of the operation was the Qairawan and Baaj areas about 100 km west of Mosul, where U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are advancing in their campaign to rout the militants from city. Seven months into the Mosul campaign, Islamic State has been driven from all but a handful of districts in the city’s western half including the Old City, where it is using hundreds of thousands of civilians as human shields. The paramilitaries have been kept on the sidelines of the battle for the city of Mosul itself, but have captured a vast, thinly populated area to the southwest, cutting Islamic State supply routes to Syria. Islamic State is losing territory in both Iraq and Syria. The Iraqi military said in a statement its air force was supporting the operation by the paramilitary groups known collectively as Hashid Shaabi or Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF). Unlike regular Iraqi security forces, the PMF does not receive support from the U.S.-led coalition, which is wary of Iran’s influence over the most powerful factions within the body. Officially answerable to the government in Baghdad, the PMF were formed when Islamic State overran around one third of Iraq including Mosul nearly three years ago and Iraqi security forces disintegrated. Nouri said PMF control over the border would assist Syrian government forces when they push toward the Islamic State-held city of Raqqa. On Friday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said their assault on Raqqa, the militants’ biggest urban stronghold, would begin soon and that they were awaiting weapons including armored vehicles from the U.S.-led coalition
The United States will arm the Kurds in Syria, a decision announced on 9 May. Turkey reacted indignantly. On May 11, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged Washington to “come back to his footsteps”, but more or less at the same time the US military confirmed that “very soon” will begin delivering mortars, heavy machine guns, light weapons and vehicles armored. For Turkey, the emergence of autonomous Syrian Kurdistan is therefore a huge problem. Turkey, in fact, can not do anything to prevent it. Ankara can not approach Russia more than it has already done, because it can not break with the Americans at a time when its relations with the European Union are at the lowest level.
President Essebsi warmly congratulated new President of France Emmanuel Macron. Essebsi said that his congratulation came from all Tunisian people, and that this is an encouragement to the “noble mission”. He added that election of Macron is a symbol of traditional French values: freedom, equality and fraternity. He reminded traditional relationship between the two countries, renewing the strength bilateral cooperation in all fields. President Essebsi said that with new President, France will improve its help to stabilize the Country. He then auspicated a major dialogue between Tunisia and France to fight terrorism, to stabilize Libya and Syria, to bring the Country in the hearth of interests of European Union, with the aim of build peace in the region. He added that France will help Tunisia to develop green economy, digital transition and blue economy.
A vision plan for the current and future perspective of Middle East railways has been drawn up based on the activities of the Regional Assembly Middle East (RAME), CEO of the Railways of the Islamic Republic of Iran said Tuesday. “Vision plan for the ‘current status of Middle East railways, moving in the right direction’ has been drawn up with collective efforts from the RAME member states which introduces the current status of railways in RAME states as well as various railway projects currently under construction”, Abbas Nazari, CEO of the Railways of the Islamic Republic of Iran, said at the 19th RAME summit held in Tehran. Iranian as well as foreign companies from Russia, Germany, China, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, the Czech Republic, India and Slovenia are expected to participate in the exhibition that will put on display the latest technological achievements in rail and transportation industries, wagon construction and transportation services. RAME members are the railway administrations of Turkey (TCDD), Islamic Republic of Iran (RAI), Syria (CFS), Saudi Arabia (SRO), Jordan Aqaba Railways (ARQ), Iraq (IRR), Hejaz in Syria (CFH), NIROO RAIL Transport Co. and METRA Consulting Engineers Co. from Iran, and HIZTAZ Co. from Turkey. The RAME Chairmanship is performed by Turkey Railway (TCDD) and its vice-chairmanship is carried out by the railways of I.R. Iran (RAI) and Syria (CFS).
Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Mar Beshara Boutros Rahi welcomed, at Bkerki on Friday, Central African MP Guy Roger Moskit, accompanied by Central Africa’s Consul in Lebanon Camille Fenianos. Talks reportedly touched on an array of affairs of common interest between the two countries. “The meeting was very rich. We discussed the situation in Central Africa Republic, which is very similar to that in Lebanon. Our country suffered a lot from the civil war, which they called sectarian; but it was political just like Lebanon war. But today we are living in peace and stability,” the visiting official told reporters following the meeting. “The situation in Syria is concerning the entire world. And we have heard the Patriarch’s view”.
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, three days after Turkish warplanes launched air raids in Sinjar that killed five Peshmerga. The 45-minute meeting was held at Yildiz Palace in Istanbul. Barzani held talks at Yildiz Palace in Istanbul at 4 p.m. on Friday (April 28), according to Anadolu Agency, yet the content of the meeting was not then revealed. Yeni Safak news reported the leaders discussed Turkish operations to eliminate the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Sinjar and that Turkey and the Kurdistan Region are against the PKK camps in the region. Barzani said new operations would be carried out against the PKK, Yeni Safak reported. Barzani and the KRG Minister of Natural Resources attended the two-day Atlantic Council Istanbul Summit 2017 April 28, which began on April 27. The Atlantic Council hosts world leaders for the eighth time in Turkey, focusing on regions from Syria to Africa and the Black Sea region to the eastern Mediterranean. Issues on the international agenda regarding the economy, national security, energy, trade and the Syrian refugee crisis are discussed. Erdogan said during the summit that Turkey would not allow any political party to be created in Rojava (Kurdish controlled areas in northern Syria). Turkish military jets launched airstrikes on Kurdish fighters in Sinjar and northern Syria on April 25, killing five members of Peshmerga forces, one fighter of Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) and 20 members of People’s Protection Units (YPG). The airstrikes have raised the concern of the United States, Russia and the Coalition forces as well as Iran and Egypt.
Israel struck an arms supply hub operated by the Lebanese group Hezbollah near Damascus airport on Thursday, Syrian rebel and regional intelligence sources said, targeting weapons sent from Iran via commercial and military cargo planes. Israel does not usually comment on action it takes in Syria. But Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, speaking to Army Radio from the United States, appeared to confirm involvement. “The incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel’s policy to act to prevent Iran’s smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah”, he said.
Within the framework of combating smuggling of persons from Syria to Lebanon, and as a result of close follow-up and monitoring, Internal Security Forces (ISF) Information Branch managed to arrest 91 Syrian people (29 men, 29 women and 33 children) in the Beqai town of Al-Suwairi, for attempting to illegally enter into the Lebanese territories, ISF Directorate General said in a communiqué. In details, some of the detained Syrians tried to illegally enter the Lebanese territories aboard two “Renault Kango” and “Kia Picanto” cars, while others attempted to cross walking.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis landed in Israel on Thursday as part of his first official visit to the Middle East. Mattis met Friday with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Tel Aviv, before heading to Jerusalem to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Pentagon chief was also scheduled to meet with President Reuven Rivlin. While in the country, Mattis plans to discuss U.S. Israel ties and the challenges facing the Middle East, chiefly Iran and its attempts to consolidate its regional dominance.During a press conference in Tel Aviv, Mattis said Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of a 2013 agreement to get rid of its entire stockpile. He reiterated the U.S.’s “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and its qualitative security advantage over Iran”, adding that Washington looks forward to increasing its defense ties with Israel and to “strengthen our alliance with Israel as a cornerstone of our cooperation with Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf states. My goal is to increase regional cooperation.”Lieberman thanked Mattis for his “friendship, support and understanding of the complexities and challenges Israel faces. There is no doubt that the main problem is the axis of evil from North Korea to Tehran, Damascus and Hezbollah in Beirut. The common thread is Iran, which is trying to erode stability throughout the Middle East. We [Israel and the U.S.] share the same positions and values, and we hope that with your support we will be able to overcome the threats and bring stability to the region”. Lieberman went on to say that “on behalf of the Israeli public and myself, I would like to express my appreciation to the Trump administration. We are delighted to see the first visit by a [Trump] cabinet member, and we hope President Donald Trump visits Jerusalem this year as well”.
The United States told Russia at the United Nations on Wednesday that is it isolating itself by continuing to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Britain said its scientists found sarin was used in a deadly toxic gas attack on Syrian civilians last week. Russia is set to block a push by Western powers at the United Nations later on Wednesday to bolster support for international inquiries into the April 4 toxic gas attack in Syria. It will be Moscow’s eighth veto in support of the Assad government since the Syrian war began six years ago. “To my colleagues from Russia – you are isolating yourselves from the international community every time one of Assad’s planes drop another barrel bomb on civilians and every time Assad tries to starve another community to death”, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, told the U.N. Security Council.