25 July 2016
English Arabic

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber attacked a security check point in northern Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 14 people, Iraqi officials said.

The bomber, who was on foot, detonated his device at one of the busy entrances of the Shiite district of Kadhimiyah, killing at least 10 civilians and four policemen, a police officer said. At least 31 other people were wounded, he added.

Three more civilians were killed and 11 wounded in a bomb explosion in an outdoor market in Baghdad's western suburb of Abu Ghraib, another police officer said.

Two medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

In an online statement, IS group claimed responsibility for the Kadhimiyah attack, saying it targeted a gathering of security forces and Shiite militia members. The Associated Press could not verify the authenticity of the statements, but they were posted on a militant website commonly used by the extremists. Security forces and public areas, mainly in Shiite neighborhoods, are one of the most frequent targets for the Islamic State group, which controls key areas in mainly northern and western Iraq.

Since late last year, the group has suffered a string of territorial losses, most recently last month in Fallujah, where it was driven out by Iraqi forces after occupying the city for more than two years. But the extremists have continued to carry out near-daily bombings in and around Baghdad, as well as complex attacks in other countries.

The Iraqi military will use a medieval tactic to keep control of Fallujah after recapturing it from the Islamic State group last month: It is digging a trench around the city.

The trench will have a single opening for residents to move in and out of the city, which is virtually empty since the offensive that defeated the IS militants, said Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, deputy commander of the counterterrorism forces that led the successful campaign.

It will be about 7 miles (11 kilometers) long and "will protect the city's residents, who have lived through many tragedies, as well as security forces deployed there," al-Saadi said in an interview with The Associated Press at his Baghdad headquarters.

Cutting off all roads but one will allow authorities to monitor the movements of residents more closely.Fallujah has been a source of car bombs used against Baghdad, which is 40 miles (65 kilometers) to the east. Restricting traffic will be one way to try to stop any explosives-laden vehicles from leaving the city.

Besides the trench, more modern security measures also will be used.

Personal details of the estimated 85,000 residents who fled during the May-June battle to liberate the city will be stored electronically, and forgery-proof ID cards will be issued, according to Mayor Issa al-Issawi. Cars owned by residents also will be issued display badges containing electronic chips.

The trenches will be about 40 feet (12.5 meters) wide and 5 feet (1.5 meters) deep.

Work has begun on the first leg, running about 4 miles (6 kilometers) on the north and northwest side of the city, al-Issawi told the AP. Digging the second leg, which runs 3 miles (5 kilometers) along the south and southeast, will begin soon, he said.

The western edge of Fallujah abuts the Euphrates River, providing a natural barrier. On the east side is the heavily patrolled main highway to Baghdad, which will be the sole entrance to Fallujah.

The two trenches run through open desert areas used in the past by militants, said Maj. Gen. Saad Harbiyah, in charge of military operations in western Baghdad.

Iraqis have used various earthworks, walls and fortifications ever since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. During the war, Saddam had trenches dug around Baghdad, filled them with oil and set them ablaze, using thick, black smoke to obscure the view for U.S. warplanes.

Since the war, Baghdad has become a city of concrete blast walls, erected to protect buildings but also to control the movement of people. During the 2006-07 sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunnis, entire neighborhoods were sealed off by blast walls to restrict and monitor access.

In January 2014, Fallujah became the first major Iraqi city to be captured by the Islamic State group. The extremists later swept through much of Anbar province, taking its capital, Ramadi, and much of the north, including Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul.

A U.S.-led coalition and Iranian-backed Shiite militia forces have helped the Iraqi army recapture territory from the Islamic State.

Security problems have plagued Iraq, especially in Fallujah. The city has been a center of Sunni opposition to Shiite-led governments in Baghdad, with Sunnis complaining of discrimination at the hands of the country's majority Shiites.

Fallujah residents have suffered under more than two years of rule by Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group. That suffering could be exacerbated if the security measures are seen by residents as too heavy-handed.

Security measures like the trench may make little difference in the long run if there is no reconciliation between Sunnis and a government many of them see as oppressive, illegitimate and a tool in the hands of Iraq's giant Shiite neighbor, Iran. Shiite hard-liners, in turn, see Sunnis as sympathetic to militants, many of whom view Shiites as infidels.

The Iraqi government also plans to dig a trench along the border between Anbar province, whereFallujah is located, and neighboring Karbala, home to one of Shiite Islam's holiest shrines. Work also has begun on walls and trenches around vulnerable parts of Baghdad's outer areas to guard against car bombs. In both cases, however, work has been slowed by lack of funds and corruption.

Fallujah faces its own internal differences as well. Some factions of its main tribal clans declared allegiance to IS, while others did not, prompting the extremists to kill prominent tribal members and blow up the homes of those who fled.

Iraqi authorities arrested about 21,000 Fallujah residents from among those who fled the city on suspicion of IS membership, according to al-Saadi. Following questioning, all were released except for about 2,000 who face further interrogation and possible prosecution, he added.

Tens of thousands of displaced residents will be allowed to return to Fallujah later this year, al-Saadi said.

"We must turn a new page with Fallujah. There is no other way for reconciliation," said al-Saadi, a veteran of the government's fight against militants in Anbar.

"We must punish those with blood on their hands, but not those who merely joined Daesh," he said, using the Arabic acronym for IS. "Revenge and mass trials will only breed more hatred and resentment."

Government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi echoed al-Saadi's view.

"We cannot judge people by their intentions. Only those who committed crimes will face justice," al-Hadithi told AP. The government intends to rely on the local police force and Sunni tribesmen to maintain security in Fallujah, he said.

But the chairman of Anbar's provincial council, Sabah al-Karhout, complained that "reconciliation efforts" were below what was needed and that much rides on how secure Fallujah residents feel when they return home.

"Marginalization must end so that calls for a federal system to disappear," he said, alluding to a growing sentiment among Iraq's Sunni Arabs for autonomy in their regions.

Published July 24, 2016

The Iraqi government has announced a two-day mandatory official holiday beginning on Wednesday due to a heatwave.

A statement issued by the Iraqi cabinet said temperatures were expected to soar above 50C (122F). It is the first heat advisory issued by the Iraqi government this summer.

The public holiday will apply to all government workers.

High temperatures in summer are common in Iraq, and endemic electricity outages make life harder for Iraqis when temperatures soar. To cope with the heat, Iraqis either stay indoors or swim in rivers. In some public places, showers are set up for those who want to cool down.

It is not uncommon for such public holidays to be declared when heatwaves hit during Iraq’s long, hot summers.

Source: The Guardian

A total of 1.5 million children in Iraq are displaced internally, living in camps like the one shown in this aerial video.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who posted the footage on Tuesday,  say that number equals one in every 10 Iraqi children.

The camp shown in the drone video is home to some of the 8,500 people who have fled fighting in Fallujah.

 

Source: The Telegraph

NAJAF, Iraq — Iraq’s Shiites are witnessing a political-religious rift in their stance toward Iran whose development can be traced back to 2003. While some express complete loyalty to the Shiite political regime in Tehran, others object to its regional policies, including toward Iraq, and distance from it. 

In one example, the predominantly Shiite Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) held a military parade July 1 in Basra. They destroyed US and Israeli flags and burned photos of Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. The march sparked criticism and anger among some Shiites, because the United States has friendly relations with Iraq and is supporting its security forces in their war against the Islamic State (IS). Also, given the state competition in the region, hostility toward Saudi Arabia is not in Iraq’s interest.

In a related development, differing attitudes could be detected surrounding the demonstrations on International Quds Day, July 1, essentially reflecting the debate over whether Iraqi Shiites should be affiliated with Iran or pursue interests and priorities different from those of the Tehran government. At Quds Day protests organized by the PMU faction Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in Najaf, a religious hub for Shiite clerics, there was no marked presence of clerics. In contrast, in Qom, Najaf’s religious competitor that receives funding from Iran, a remarkable number of clerics attended the annual protest. Jihad al-Asadi, an instructor in the religious seminary at Najaf, told Al-Monitor, “The Najaf seminary does not support any political agenda outside Iraqi national interests.”

On July 2, Interior Minister Mohammed al-Ghabban issued an order referring “several officers and policemen from the Basra police to an investigative council and implementation of the sanctions cited in the Penal Code of the Internal Security Forces” for their participation in the Quds Day protests because of its political nature.

Following the July 3 bombing at the Karrada market, in a predominantly Shiite area of Baghdad, that killed more than 300 people, Shiite activists criticized some Shiites for supposedly having more enthusiasm for International Quds Day than concern about the bomb attack, which produced the highest death toll in the country since the Iraqi invasion. Among those holding such a view is Khudeir Fleih al-Zeidi, an Iraqi author and novelist from Nasiriyah, who told Al-Monitor, “Those who celebrated the International Quds Day did not mourn the victims of the attacks. The question is easy: Karrada or Jerusalem?” 

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Naqaa al-Tamimi, a veterinarian who pursued her studies in Iran, said, “Why don’t Iranians show solidarity with our plight like the Karrada attack, knowing that we have the same confession, and we welcome them warmly on several yearly religious occasions?”

On July 4, apparently pro-Iranian Shiite militias, taking advantage of attention being focused on the aftermath of the Karrada attack, shelled Camp Liberty, where members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, an Iranian opposition movement, are housed. The shells also landed in a nearby, predominantly Sunni refugee camp, perhaps by accident, killing three people and injuring 11 others. A prominent cleric from Najaf told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Some armed Shiite groups are only interested in abiding by Iranian orders. Why would Iraq shell the Liberty Camp and kill innocent Iraqis even if by mistake?”

As can be gleaned from the clerics remarks, the armed Shiite factions are themselves divided on loyalty to Iran. Al-Aalem al-Jadeed newspaper published what appeared to be an official response from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on the matter of a letter from the leader of Liwa’ Ansar al-Marja’iya informing Abadi that Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis, the deputy chairman of the PMU, and reportedly Iran’s most powerful military man in Iraq, had stopped distributing government salaries to armed Shiite factions not connected to Iran. Abadi later ordered an investigation into the salary situation.

Most factions without relations to Iran — including Liwa’ Ansar al-Marja’iya, the Abbas Battle Group, Liwa’ Ali al-Akbar, the Imam Ali Troop and the Kadhimin Battle Group — are affiliated with the Shiite authority in Najaf, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani or Shiite holy shrines under Sistani’s supervision. Sajad al-Rabihi, a cleric fighting in the ranks of the Abbas Battle Group, confirmed the cutoff of salaries to Al-Monitor. The issue of divided loyalties, between Iran and Sistani followers, among the Shiite PMU militias had been identified earlier by the United States and appears now to have been confirmed by the salary cutoff.

Some observers believe the pro-Iran current within the PMU is trying to seize control and expel those not in line with Tehran from the movement. In addition to news of the salary cutoff, Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of the Badr Organization, which is close to Iran, and some other PMU militia leaders met with former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on June 27. Amiri praised Maliki, saying, “The decision to form the Popular Mobilization Units was Maliki’s. He has strongly supported them since the beginning.”

Amiri’s statements angered clerics in Najaf, because they contradicted the reality that the militias comprising the PMU began forming after a call by Sistani on June 13, 2014, for Iraqis to take up arms in the wake of IS' capture of Mosul on June 10. Maliki's role consisted of his administration bringing the PMU under some sort of government supervision to coordinate action with the Iraqi national army.

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Peace Battalion, one of the largest PMU factions, sarcastically dismissed Amir's statements, saying, “Maliki’s alleged Popular Mobilization Units, if they exist, do not represent me or Iraq,” highlighting the division in the organization.

The Iranian Fars News Agency published a news brief accompanied by an image of Maliki at his house welcoming Qasem Soleimani, the leader of the Iranian Quds Force, for iftar on June 29. Several PMU leaders were also invited. On July 3, Sky News Arabia, citing Iraqi sources, reported that Soleimani had allegedly proposed to Abadi that command of the PMU be given to Maliki. There were no corroborating reports of such a proposal having been made.

Ultimately, it seems, the Shiite division in Iraq revolves around how to organize relations with Iran in terms of pursuing Iranian agendas and building relations with Tehran based on mutual interests as well as Iraqi values and interests.

 

Baghdad-Amid high temperature reaching 47 degrees Celsius, thousands of protestors accompanied by Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gathered in Tahrir Square. Sadr did not deliver the speech himself despite his presence among the protestors.

Protestors called on an end to corruption and the unity among Shi’ite and Sunni Iraqis. They chanted “No, no to corruption. No, no to sectarianism. Yes, yes to reform. Yes, yes to Iraq”.

Demands included dismissing all corrupt individuals and submitting them to a fair trial as quick as possible. Sadr called for avoiding political pressures and for working independently.

Activist Mohamed Al-Daradji stated in Cairo that corruption has become unbearable, adding that those who ruled after Saddam Hussein in 2003 have failed. Another participant named Mushtaq Al-Awadi, 54 years old, said that this protest is to demand returning the stolen money to Iraqis, calling to account corrupt officials and terminating sectarianism.

Hakim al-Zamili, an Iraqi politician from the Sadrist Movement, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Friday’s protest led by Sadr is a continuation of previous ones that had the same purposes. Zamili urged the state to fulfill its pledges.

Judge and Former Minster Wael Abdul Latif also told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that reformation was the keyword of Sadr’s speech. “Sadr’s main focus is maintaining peaceful protests and issuing national, unified slogans and most importantly changing elections’ commissariat.”

Source: Asharq Al-Awsat

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for forming a government of competent members in February but was greatly opposed by political parties.

Furthermore, the parliament approved on 26 April dismissing five ministers and appointing five others within a governmental reformation program, suggested by Abadi, but the court later on abolished the resolutions of this session.

Saudi-Iranian Struggle in Iraq Tuesday, 12 July 2016 11:55

What is happening nowadays in Iraq and Syria is due to decades of conflict between two major axes, Iran and the Arab group.

It began with the 1979 Iranian revolution and continued with threats to change regimes of regional countries by force under the title of exporting Islamic revolution, followed by the Iran-Iraq war that lasted eight years.

The war eased for only two years then Iraq invaded Kuwait, triggering international intervention that led to the emergence of al-Qaeda and then the ISIS terrorist group.

I believe it is an interconnected disorder that has been ongoing since 1979 until today, and the turmoil will continue as long as regional powers are unable to create a political or military balance via agreements.

We must understand the logic and motives behind Tehran’s desire to maintain the struggle in Iraq, the Gulf, Syria and Palestine.

Iran wants to expand as it sees that on its western borders there are the world’s oil-rich countries such as Iraq and Gulf countries.

It acknowledges the fact that the West will not easily accept to abandon these countries that are important energy sources. This is why Tehran’s regime has attempted to dominate in different ways and has not succeeded much until recently.

ISIS certainly serves Iran, which joined the Western and Russian coalition under the flag of fighting terrorism.

Iraq is the most important country for Iran because it is its western gate, and Iran will only be able to control Iraq by dominating it indirectly.

Iran played different roles to convince the United States that it would be a beneficial partner in Iraq by helping it solidify security. During the administration

of U.S. President George W Bush, it was the only country, maybe except for Jordan, that cooperated with Washington then.

At the same time, Iran used different methods to destabilize Iraq.

Along with its ally, the Syrian regime, Tehran enabled al-Qaeda and armed Iraqi opposition groups to sneak from Syria into Iraq to sabotage the security and political situations and inflict losses in U.S. troops.

When Barack Obama became president, he withdrew all U.S. troops thus leaving Iraq open to Iranian intervention, at the time when armed groups like ISIS reemerged.

Today, Iran’s regime is in Iraq under the pretext of protecting it from ISIS, which is controlling Mosul and a number of Iraqi cities and provinces thus forming a threat.

Is Iran part of the turmoil in Iraq to stay in the country? No doubt it is, as Tehran supports certain Shi’ite groups against others. It is also behind the establishment of the Popular Mobilization Forces militia as a competitor to Iraq’s army to weaken the central government.

I believe that Iran is one of the masterminds behind ISIS, but it is difficult to prove that. Iran is the only party benefitting from ISIS, whose threats gave Iran an excuse to enter Iraq and manage the battles against the terrorist organization, bragging that if the Iranian National Guards did not interfere, Iraq could have been under ISIS’s rule by now.

ISIS is a reflection of al-Qaeda, which emerged during the U.S.-led occupation. Back then, al-Qaeda succeeded in sabotaging the political project, allowing pro-Iran groups to dominate in Baghdad.

Saudi ambassador to Iraq, Thamer al-Sabhan, recently said: “Someone is trying to create a rift in relations between Saudi Arabia and the different components of the Iraqi people.”

He means Iran, and this is the first time an official statement reflects the Saudi-Iranian struggle in Iraq.

Struggle between the two countries happens for different reasons as Tehran wants to dominate Iraq and its resources, but Saudi Arabia wants to protect its borders and halt Iran’s expansion.

The Saudi presence in Iraq was delayed for years because Riyadh rejected participating in the U.S.-led occupation and the establishment of the new Iraqi government.

Tehran, however, cooperated with the Americans, and in exchange it gained influence that resulted in the current status.

Saudi Arabia’s interest matches that of the Iraqi people, which is represented in having a country free from foreign domination and in control of its own water and oil resources.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are rich and do not need to control Iraq. Instead, they want a regime that does not resemble Saddam Hussein’s and is not a puppet for Iran.

Gulf countries are now aware that the spread of ISIS and al-Qaeda in Iraq, Syria and Yemen targets them first, and that countries such as Iran benefit from these extremist groups and use them to weaken the region’s powers, interfere in their affairs, and build international alliances to serve their goals.

 

Source: ASHARQ AL-AWSAT

By:

Anger grows as Baghdad residents accuse Iraqi government of failing to protect them after ISIL attack kills over 20

Anger is growing in Baghdad over the government's failure to protect civilians, after a devastating bombing in a crowded commercial area in the Iraqi capital killed more than 200 people, including many children.

 The powerful explosion early on Sunday came near the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when the streets were filled with young people and families out after sunset.

 The death toll from the blast in Karada, a predominantly Shia neighbourhood in central Baghdad, rose to over 200 on Monday morning, as the bodies of more victims were pulled from the rubble.

Hundreds were wounded when a lorry packed with explosives blew up in a busy shopping street filled with people after they had broken their fast.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement circulated by its supporters online.

The group, which has claimed numerous deadly bombings in mainly Shia areas of Baghdad, alleged that a suicide bomber targeted a crowd of Shia Muslims.

Many of the victims were women and children who were inside a multi-storey shopping and amusement mall. Dozens burned to death or suffocated, a police officer said.

There were fears the death toll could rise even further.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi condemned the bombing and declared three days of mourning across the country after visiting the scene of the attack.

Video footage posted online showed people jeering and throwing objects at his convoy.

Later on Sunday, protesters marched from Karada to Abadi's house.

Many Iraqis blame their political leadership for lapses in security in Baghdad that have allowed large amounts of explosives to make their way past multiple checkpoints and into neighbourhoods packed with civilians.

"All the politicians in Iraq are responsible for these blasts, including Abadi," a woman in Karada told local media.

"We can't enjoy the Eid; if it isn't ISIL, it's al-Qaeda, and if it isn't the two, it's the filthy corrupt politics in this country.

"We are being targeted while they are sitting safe and sound in their palaces. They are the ones who are allowing ISIL to come here and murder people."

Jan Kubis, the UN envoy for Iraq, said the attack was an attempt by ISIL to avenge losses on the battlefield.

"This is a cowardly and heinous act of unparalleled proportions, to target peaceful civilians in the closing days of the holy month of Ramadan," Kubis said in a statement. 

In a separate blast also on Sunday morning, at least five people were killed in a popular market in the mainly Shia neighbourhood of al-Shaab.

There were conflicting reports on the cause of the explosion.

Some sources said it was a bombing, while the interior ministry said it was caused by an accidental fire.  

The Karada bombing was the deadliest in the country this year and came after Iraqi forces late last month dislodged ISIL fighters from Fallujah, the armed group's stronghold just west of the capital that had served as a launch pad for such attacks.

Despite a string of territorial gains by Iraq's ground forces against ISIL, the group has repeatedly shown it remains capable of launching attacks in Iraqi territory far from the frontlines.

ISIL still controls Iraq's second largest city of Mosul.

Iraqi politician Mowaffak Baqer al-Rubaie said ISIL was "resorting to classic, traditional terrorist acts" in response to losing territory in Iraq.

"They are so desperate to boost the morale of their fighters, many of whom are leaving the group daily. I think attacks like this will increase," he told Al Jazeera.

Rubaie added, however, that ISIL would eventually fail in its mission of deepening sectarian tensions between Shia and Sunni communities.

 

Source: Aljazeera

 

 


PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release 5th July 2016

IRAQ: SHOCKING MISSILE ATTACK ON IRANIAN REFUGEE CAMP CONDEMNED

Four Urgent calls on UN and US

In yet another outrageous and unprovoked attack on the defenseless Iranian refugees in Camp Liberty, near Baghdad Airport, over 50 missiles were fired last night into the compound from within the tight government-controlled security zone surrounding the camp’s perimeter. Over 50 residents, including 14 women, were seriously injured and large parts of the camp were destroyed.

Struan Stevenson, president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) has strongly condemned the attack and demanded immediate action by the UN and US to safeguard the residents and expedite their resettlement in European countries. Struan Stevenson said: “This was a horrendous and cowardly attack. But I am forced to ask, what on earth are the United Nations and United States doing? While they had repeatedly given assurances regarding the safety and security of the residents in writing, they kept their silence and did nothing while Iranian agents, with the full connivance of the Iraqi government, undertook repeated surveillance missions to the camp, under the pretext of being family members of the refugees, while in fact they hurled abuse at the residents and took detailed photographs of the camp’s layout.

We repeatedly warned that this was a clear precursor to another missile attack, as we have witnessed this happening again and again in the past when dozens of Camp Ashraf and then Camp Liberty residents have been brutally murdered. Despite our warnings the UN and US did nothing.

“For the past 8 days food, fuel and medicines have been blockaded by the Iraqi government’s agents again acting on orders from their Iranian sponsors. This blockade has caused untold suffering to the residents during RAMADAN while temperatures have soared to over 50 degrees and they have no fresh food, or any means of fueling generators to provide air-conditioning and no vital medicines for the sick. The residents and their representatives and supporters had repeatedly warned that all of these measures were leading up to another attempted massacre. This is a pattern that has been repeated again and again and our warnings to the UN and US have simply been ignored. Their ineffectiveness and incompetence has been quite breathtaking.

“And now that 50 missiles have been launched into the camp causing horrifying injuries and destruction, we all know that the missile attack could not have happened without the active collusion of at least some parts of the Iraqi government and their Iranian patrons. 

“The EIFA demands the immediate intervention of the UN and the US embassy in Baghdad, firstly to hold the perpetrators of this crime accountable and bring them in to justice and secondly to guarantee the safety and security of the camp until the last person can be airlifted to safety. Thirdly the UN and US must immediately demand that the Iraqi Government stops any further suppressive measures against the camp’s residents, in particular preventing the entry of fuel, food, medicine and service trucks to the camp. Fourthly, the Government of Iraq must be prevented from allowing Iranian Intelligence (MOIS) agents, under any pretext whatsoever, from mounting further reconnaissance and surveillance missions at Camp Liberty”.      

Note: Struan Stevenson is President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA). He was a Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014.



Call to protect children, as escalating conflict threatens to destroy childhoods in Iraq

BAGHDAD/AMMAN, 30 June 2016- 3.6 million children in Iraq – one in five in the country - are at serious risk of death, injury, sexual violence, abduction and recruitment into armed groups, according to a new UNICEF report.

A Heavy Price for Children reveals that the number of children in danger of these violations has increased by 1.3 million in 18 months.

The findings show that 4.7 million children need humanitarian aid – a third of all Iraqi children – while many families now face deteriorating conditions following military operations in Fallujah and around Mosul.

“Children in Iraq are in the firing line and are being repeatedly and relentlessly targeted,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Iraq Representative. “We appeal to all parties for restraint and to respect and protect children.  We must help give children the support they need to recover from the horrors of war and contribute to a more peaceful and prosperous Iraq.” 

UNICEF’s report documents the scale and complexity of the humanitarian crisis in a country reeling from nearly four decades of conflict, insecurity and neglect, and where the impact on children worsens every day. 

Staggeringly, a total of 1,496 children have been abducted in the country over the past two and a half years. That translates to 50 children abducted each month, with many forced into fighting or sexually abused.

“The kidnapping of children from their homes, their schools and from the streets is horrifying”, said Hawkins. “These children are being ripped from their families and are subjected to sickening abuses and exploitation.”

The report also shows that almost ten per cent of Iraqi children – more than 1.5 million – have been forced to flee their homes because of violence since the beginning of 2014, often multiple times. Nearly one in five schools is out of use due to conflict and almost 3.5 million children of school-age are missing out on an education.

UNICEF is calling for urgent action to protect children’s rights in Iraq. There are five concrete steps that need to be taken immediately:

• End the killing, maiming, abduction, torture, detention, sexual violence and recruitment of children. Stop attacks on schools, medical facilities and personnel.

• Provide unhindered and unconditional humanitarian access to all children wherever they are in the country, including areas not under control of the government. In areas with ongoing conflict, civilians wishing to leave must be given safe passage and receive the services they need.

• Expand and improve education for out of school children through catch up classes. Increase access to learning and equip teachers and children with educational materials and training. These are the children who will rebuild Iraq and contribute to a more peaceful and stable future.

• Provide psychological and recreation programmes to help children heal and to reconnect with their childhoods.

• Increase funding, as resources are running short, already leading to cut backs in life-saving support for children. UNICEF is seeking US$ 100 million for its response in Iraq for 2016.

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber attacked a security check point in northern Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 14 people, Iraqi officials said.

The bomber, who was on foot, detonated his device at one of the busy entrances of the Shiite district of Kadhimiyah, killing at least 10 civilians and four policemen, a police officer said. At least 31 other people were wounded, he added.

Three more civilians were killed and 11 wounded in a bomb explosion in an outdoor market in Baghdad's western suburb of Abu Ghraib, another police officer said.

Two medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

In an online statement, IS group claimed responsibility for the Kadhimiyah attack, saying it targeted a gathering of security forces and Shiite militia members. The Associated Press could not verify the authenticity of the statements, but they were posted on a militant website commonly used by the extremists. Security forces and public areas, mainly in Shiite neighborhoods, are one of the most frequent targets for the Islamic State group, which controls key areas in mainly northern and western Iraq.

Since late last year, the group has suffered a string of territorial losses, most recently last month in Fallujah, where it was driven out by Iraqi forces after occupying the city for more than two years. But the extremists have continued to carry out near-daily bombings in and around Baghdad, as well as complex attacks in other countries.

The Iraqi military will use a medieval tactic to keep control of Fallujah after recapturing it from the Islamic State group last month: It is digging a trench around the city.

The trench will have a single opening for residents to move in and out of the city, which is virtually empty since the offensive that defeated the IS militants, said Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, deputy commander of the counterterrorism forces that led the successful campaign.

It will be about 7 miles (11 kilometers) long and "will protect the city's residents, who have lived through many tragedies, as well as security forces deployed there," al-Saadi said in an interview with The Associated Press at his Baghdad headquarters.

Cutting off all roads but one will allow authorities to monitor the movements of residents more closely.Fallujah has been a source of car bombs used against Baghdad, which is 40 miles (65 kilometers) to the east. Restricting traffic will be one way to try to stop any explosives-laden vehicles from leaving the city.

Besides the trench, more modern security measures also will be used.

Personal details of the estimated 85,000 residents who fled during the May-June battle to liberate the city will be stored electronically, and forgery-proof ID cards will be issued, according to Mayor Issa al-Issawi. Cars owned by residents also will be issued display badges containing electronic chips.

The trenches will be about 40 feet (12.5 meters) wide and 5 feet (1.5 meters) deep.

Work has begun on the first leg, running about 4 miles (6 kilometers) on the north and northwest side of the city, al-Issawi told the AP. Digging the second leg, which runs 3 miles (5 kilometers) along the south and southeast, will begin soon, he said.

The western edge of Fallujah abuts the Euphrates River, providing a natural barrier. On the east side is the heavily patrolled main highway to Baghdad, which will be the sole entrance to Fallujah.

The two trenches run through open desert areas used in the past by militants, said Maj. Gen. Saad Harbiyah, in charge of military operations in western Baghdad.

Iraqis have used various earthworks, walls and fortifications ever since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. During the war, Saddam had trenches dug around Baghdad, filled them with oil and set them ablaze, using thick, black smoke to obscure the view for U.S. warplanes.

Since the war, Baghdad has become a city of concrete blast walls, erected to protect buildings but also to control the movement of people. During the 2006-07 sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunnis, entire neighborhoods were sealed off by blast walls to restrict and monitor access.

In January 2014, Fallujah became the first major Iraqi city to be captured by the Islamic State group. The extremists later swept through much of Anbar province, taking its capital, Ramadi, and much of the north, including Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul.

A U.S.-led coalition and Iranian-backed Shiite militia forces have helped the Iraqi army recapture territory from the Islamic State.

Security problems have plagued Iraq, especially in Fallujah. The city has been a center of Sunni opposition to Shiite-led governments in Baghdad, with Sunnis complaining of discrimination at the hands of the country's majority Shiites.

Fallujah residents have suffered under more than two years of rule by Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group. That suffering could be exacerbated if the security measures are seen by residents as too heavy-handed.

Security measures like the trench may make little difference in the long run if there is no reconciliation between Sunnis and a government many of them see as oppressive, illegitimate and a tool in the hands of Iraq's giant Shiite neighbor, Iran. Shiite hard-liners, in turn, see Sunnis as sympathetic to militants, many of whom view Shiites as infidels.

The Iraqi government also plans to dig a trench along the border between Anbar province, whereFallujah is located, and neighboring Karbala, home to one of Shiite Islam's holiest shrines. Work also has begun on walls and trenches around vulnerable parts of Baghdad's outer areas to guard against car bombs. In both cases, however, work has been slowed by lack of funds and corruption.

Fallujah faces its own internal differences as well. Some factions of its main tribal clans declared allegiance to IS, while others did not, prompting the extremists to kill prominent tribal members and blow up the homes of those who fled.

Iraqi authorities arrested about 21,000 Fallujah residents from among those who fled the city on suspicion of IS membership, according to al-Saadi. Following questioning, all were released except for about 2,000 who face further interrogation and possible prosecution, he added.

Tens of thousands of displaced residents will be allowed to return to Fallujah later this year, al-Saadi said.

"We must turn a new page with Fallujah. There is no other way for reconciliation," said al-Saadi, a veteran of the government's fight against militants in Anbar.

"We must punish those with blood on their hands, but not those who merely joined Daesh," he said, using the Arabic acronym for IS. "Revenge and mass trials will only breed more hatred and resentment."

Government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi echoed al-Saadi's view.

"We cannot judge people by their intentions. Only those who committed crimes will face justice," al-Hadithi told AP. The government intends to rely on the local police force and Sunni tribesmen to maintain security in Fallujah, he said.

But the chairman of Anbar's provincial council, Sabah al-Karhout, complained that "reconciliation efforts" were below what was needed and that much rides on how secure Fallujah residents feel when they return home.

"Marginalization must end so that calls for a federal system to disappear," he said, alluding to a growing sentiment among Iraq's Sunni Arabs for autonomy in their regions.

Published July 24, 2016

The Iraqi government has announced a two-day mandatory official holiday beginning on Wednesday due to a heatwave.

A statement issued by the Iraqi cabinet said temperatures were expected to soar above 50C (122F). It is the first heat advisory issued by the Iraqi government this summer.

The public holiday will apply to all government workers.

High temperatures in summer are common in Iraq, and endemic electricity outages make life harder for Iraqis when temperatures soar. To cope with the heat, Iraqis either stay indoors or swim in rivers. In some public places, showers are set up for those who want to cool down.

It is not uncommon for such public holidays to be declared when heatwaves hit during Iraq’s long, hot summers.

Source: The Guardian

A total of 1.5 million children in Iraq are displaced internally, living in camps like the one shown in this aerial video.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who posted the footage on Tuesday,  say that number equals one in every 10 Iraqi children.

The camp shown in the drone video is home to some of the 8,500 people who have fled fighting in Fallujah.

 

Source: The Telegraph

NAJAF, Iraq — Iraq’s Shiites are witnessing a political-religious rift in their stance toward Iran whose development can be traced back to 2003. While some express complete loyalty to the Shiite political regime in Tehran, others object to its regional policies, including toward Iraq, and distance from it. 

In one example, the predominantly Shiite Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) held a military parade July 1 in Basra. They destroyed US and Israeli flags and burned photos of Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. The march sparked criticism and anger among some Shiites, because the United States has friendly relations with Iraq and is supporting its security forces in their war against the Islamic State (IS). Also, given the state competition in the region, hostility toward Saudi Arabia is not in Iraq’s interest.

In a related development, differing attitudes could be detected surrounding the demonstrations on International Quds Day, July 1, essentially reflecting the debate over whether Iraqi Shiites should be affiliated with Iran or pursue interests and priorities different from those of the Tehran government. At Quds Day protests organized by the PMU faction Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in Najaf, a religious hub for Shiite clerics, there was no marked presence of clerics. In contrast, in Qom, Najaf’s religious competitor that receives funding from Iran, a remarkable number of clerics attended the annual protest. Jihad al-Asadi, an instructor in the religious seminary at Najaf, told Al-Monitor, “The Najaf seminary does not support any political agenda outside Iraqi national interests.”

On July 2, Interior Minister Mohammed al-Ghabban issued an order referring “several officers and policemen from the Basra police to an investigative council and implementation of the sanctions cited in the Penal Code of the Internal Security Forces” for their participation in the Quds Day protests because of its political nature.

Following the July 3 bombing at the Karrada market, in a predominantly Shiite area of Baghdad, that killed more than 300 people, Shiite activists criticized some Shiites for supposedly having more enthusiasm for International Quds Day than concern about the bomb attack, which produced the highest death toll in the country since the Iraqi invasion. Among those holding such a view is Khudeir Fleih al-Zeidi, an Iraqi author and novelist from Nasiriyah, who told Al-Monitor, “Those who celebrated the International Quds Day did not mourn the victims of the attacks. The question is easy: Karrada or Jerusalem?” 

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Naqaa al-Tamimi, a veterinarian who pursued her studies in Iran, said, “Why don’t Iranians show solidarity with our plight like the Karrada attack, knowing that we have the same confession, and we welcome them warmly on several yearly religious occasions?”

On July 4, apparently pro-Iranian Shiite militias, taking advantage of attention being focused on the aftermath of the Karrada attack, shelled Camp Liberty, where members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, an Iranian opposition movement, are housed. The shells also landed in a nearby, predominantly Sunni refugee camp, perhaps by accident, killing three people and injuring 11 others. A prominent cleric from Najaf told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Some armed Shiite groups are only interested in abiding by Iranian orders. Why would Iraq shell the Liberty Camp and kill innocent Iraqis even if by mistake?”

As can be gleaned from the clerics remarks, the armed Shiite factions are themselves divided on loyalty to Iran. Al-Aalem al-Jadeed newspaper published what appeared to be an official response from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on the matter of a letter from the leader of Liwa’ Ansar al-Marja’iya informing Abadi that Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis, the deputy chairman of the PMU, and reportedly Iran’s most powerful military man in Iraq, had stopped distributing government salaries to armed Shiite factions not connected to Iran. Abadi later ordered an investigation into the salary situation.

Most factions without relations to Iran — including Liwa’ Ansar al-Marja’iya, the Abbas Battle Group, Liwa’ Ali al-Akbar, the Imam Ali Troop and the Kadhimin Battle Group — are affiliated with the Shiite authority in Najaf, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani or Shiite holy shrines under Sistani’s supervision. Sajad al-Rabihi, a cleric fighting in the ranks of the Abbas Battle Group, confirmed the cutoff of salaries to Al-Monitor. The issue of divided loyalties, between Iran and Sistani followers, among the Shiite PMU militias had been identified earlier by the United States and appears now to have been confirmed by the salary cutoff.

Some observers believe the pro-Iran current within the PMU is trying to seize control and expel those not in line with Tehran from the movement. In addition to news of the salary cutoff, Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of the Badr Organization, which is close to Iran, and some other PMU militia leaders met with former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on June 27. Amiri praised Maliki, saying, “The decision to form the Popular Mobilization Units was Maliki’s. He has strongly supported them since the beginning.”

Amiri’s statements angered clerics in Najaf, because they contradicted the reality that the militias comprising the PMU began forming after a call by Sistani on June 13, 2014, for Iraqis to take up arms in the wake of IS' capture of Mosul on June 10. Maliki's role consisted of his administration bringing the PMU under some sort of government supervision to coordinate action with the Iraqi national army.

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Peace Battalion, one of the largest PMU factions, sarcastically dismissed Amir's statements, saying, “Maliki’s alleged Popular Mobilization Units, if they exist, do not represent me or Iraq,” highlighting the division in the organization.

The Iranian Fars News Agency published a news brief accompanied by an image of Maliki at his house welcoming Qasem Soleimani, the leader of the Iranian Quds Force, for iftar on June 29. Several PMU leaders were also invited. On July 3, Sky News Arabia, citing Iraqi sources, reported that Soleimani had allegedly proposed to Abadi that command of the PMU be given to Maliki. There were no corroborating reports of such a proposal having been made.

Ultimately, it seems, the Shiite division in Iraq revolves around how to organize relations with Iran in terms of pursuing Iranian agendas and building relations with Tehran based on mutual interests as well as Iraqi values and interests.

 

Baghdad-Amid high temperature reaching 47 degrees Celsius, thousands of protestors accompanied by Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gathered in Tahrir Square. Sadr did not deliver the speech himself despite his presence among the protestors.

Protestors called on an end to corruption and the unity among Shi’ite and Sunni Iraqis. They chanted “No, no to corruption. No, no to sectarianism. Yes, yes to reform. Yes, yes to Iraq”.

Demands included dismissing all corrupt individuals and submitting them to a fair trial as quick as possible. Sadr called for avoiding political pressures and for working independently.

Activist Mohamed Al-Daradji stated in Cairo that corruption has become unbearable, adding that those who ruled after Saddam Hussein in 2003 have failed. Another participant named Mushtaq Al-Awadi, 54 years old, said that this protest is to demand returning the stolen money to Iraqis, calling to account corrupt officials and terminating sectarianism.

Hakim al-Zamili, an Iraqi politician from the Sadrist Movement, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Friday’s protest led by Sadr is a continuation of previous ones that had the same purposes. Zamili urged the state to fulfill its pledges.

Judge and Former Minster Wael Abdul Latif also told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that reformation was the keyword of Sadr’s speech. “Sadr’s main focus is maintaining peaceful protests and issuing national, unified slogans and most importantly changing elections’ commissariat.”

Source: Asharq Al-Awsat

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for forming a government of competent members in February but was greatly opposed by political parties.

Furthermore, the parliament approved on 26 April dismissing five ministers and appointing five others within a governmental reformation program, suggested by Abadi, but the court later on abolished the resolutions of this session.

Saudi-Iranian Struggle in Iraq Tuesday, 12 July 2016 11:55

What is happening nowadays in Iraq and Syria is due to decades of conflict between two major axes, Iran and the Arab group.

It began with the 1979 Iranian revolution and continued with threats to change regimes of regional countries by force under the title of exporting Islamic revolution, followed by the Iran-Iraq war that lasted eight years.

The war eased for only two years then Iraq invaded Kuwait, triggering international intervention that led to the emergence of al-Qaeda and then the ISIS terrorist group.

I believe it is an interconnected disorder that has been ongoing since 1979 until today, and the turmoil will continue as long as regional powers are unable to create a political or military balance via agreements.

We must understand the logic and motives behind Tehran’s desire to maintain the struggle in Iraq, the Gulf, Syria and Palestine.

Iran wants to expand as it sees that on its western borders there are the world’s oil-rich countries such as Iraq and Gulf countries.

It acknowledges the fact that the West will not easily accept to abandon these countries that are important energy sources. This is why Tehran’s regime has attempted to dominate in different ways and has not succeeded much until recently.

ISIS certainly serves Iran, which joined the Western and Russian coalition under the flag of fighting terrorism.

Iraq is the most important country for Iran because it is its western gate, and Iran will only be able to control Iraq by dominating it indirectly.

Iran played different roles to convince the United States that it would be a beneficial partner in Iraq by helping it solidify security. During the administration

of U.S. President George W Bush, it was the only country, maybe except for Jordan, that cooperated with Washington then.

At the same time, Iran used different methods to destabilize Iraq.

Along with its ally, the Syrian regime, Tehran enabled al-Qaeda and armed Iraqi opposition groups to sneak from Syria into Iraq to sabotage the security and political situations and inflict losses in U.S. troops.

When Barack Obama became president, he withdrew all U.S. troops thus leaving Iraq open to Iranian intervention, at the time when armed groups like ISIS reemerged.

Today, Iran’s regime is in Iraq under the pretext of protecting it from ISIS, which is controlling Mosul and a number of Iraqi cities and provinces thus forming a threat.

Is Iran part of the turmoil in Iraq to stay in the country? No doubt it is, as Tehran supports certain Shi’ite groups against others. It is also behind the establishment of the Popular Mobilization Forces militia as a competitor to Iraq’s army to weaken the central government.

I believe that Iran is one of the masterminds behind ISIS, but it is difficult to prove that. Iran is the only party benefitting from ISIS, whose threats gave Iran an excuse to enter Iraq and manage the battles against the terrorist organization, bragging that if the Iranian National Guards did not interfere, Iraq could have been under ISIS’s rule by now.

ISIS is a reflection of al-Qaeda, which emerged during the U.S.-led occupation. Back then, al-Qaeda succeeded in sabotaging the political project, allowing pro-Iran groups to dominate in Baghdad.

Saudi ambassador to Iraq, Thamer al-Sabhan, recently said: “Someone is trying to create a rift in relations between Saudi Arabia and the different components of the Iraqi people.”

He means Iran, and this is the first time an official statement reflects the Saudi-Iranian struggle in Iraq.

Struggle between the two countries happens for different reasons as Tehran wants to dominate Iraq and its resources, but Saudi Arabia wants to protect its borders and halt Iran’s expansion.

The Saudi presence in Iraq was delayed for years because Riyadh rejected participating in the U.S.-led occupation and the establishment of the new Iraqi government.

Tehran, however, cooperated with the Americans, and in exchange it gained influence that resulted in the current status.

Saudi Arabia’s interest matches that of the Iraqi people, which is represented in having a country free from foreign domination and in control of its own water and oil resources.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are rich and do not need to control Iraq. Instead, they want a regime that does not resemble Saddam Hussein’s and is not a puppet for Iran.

Gulf countries are now aware that the spread of ISIS and al-Qaeda in Iraq, Syria and Yemen targets them first, and that countries such as Iran benefit from these extremist groups and use them to weaken the region’s powers, interfere in their affairs, and build international alliances to serve their goals.

 

Source: ASHARQ AL-AWSAT

By:

Anger grows as Baghdad residents accuse Iraqi government of failing to protect them after ISIL attack kills over 20

Anger is growing in Baghdad over the government's failure to protect civilians, after a devastating bombing in a crowded commercial area in the Iraqi capital killed more than 200 people, including many children.

 The powerful explosion early on Sunday came near the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when the streets were filled with young people and families out after sunset.

 The death toll from the blast in Karada, a predominantly Shia neighbourhood in central Baghdad, rose to over 200 on Monday morning, as the bodies of more victims were pulled from the rubble.

Hundreds were wounded when a lorry packed with explosives blew up in a busy shopping street filled with people after they had broken their fast.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement circulated by its supporters online.

The group, which has claimed numerous deadly bombings in mainly Shia areas of Baghdad, alleged that a suicide bomber targeted a crowd of Shia Muslims.

Many of the victims were women and children who were inside a multi-storey shopping and amusement mall. Dozens burned to death or suffocated, a police officer said.

There were fears the death toll could rise even further.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi condemned the bombing and declared three days of mourning across the country after visiting the scene of the attack.

Video footage posted online showed people jeering and throwing objects at his convoy.

Later on Sunday, protesters marched from Karada to Abadi's house.

Many Iraqis blame their political leadership for lapses in security in Baghdad that have allowed large amounts of explosives to make their way past multiple checkpoints and into neighbourhoods packed with civilians.

"All the politicians in Iraq are responsible for these blasts, including Abadi," a woman in Karada told local media.

"We can't enjoy the Eid; if it isn't ISIL, it's al-Qaeda, and if it isn't the two, it's the filthy corrupt politics in this country.

"We are being targeted while they are sitting safe and sound in their palaces. They are the ones who are allowing ISIL to come here and murder people."

Jan Kubis, the UN envoy for Iraq, said the attack was an attempt by ISIL to avenge losses on the battlefield.

"This is a cowardly and heinous act of unparalleled proportions, to target peaceful civilians in the closing days of the holy month of Ramadan," Kubis said in a statement. 

In a separate blast also on Sunday morning, at least five people were killed in a popular market in the mainly Shia neighbourhood of al-Shaab.

There were conflicting reports on the cause of the explosion.

Some sources said it was a bombing, while the interior ministry said it was caused by an accidental fire.  

The Karada bombing was the deadliest in the country this year and came after Iraqi forces late last month dislodged ISIL fighters from Fallujah, the armed group's stronghold just west of the capital that had served as a launch pad for such attacks.

Despite a string of territorial gains by Iraq's ground forces against ISIL, the group has repeatedly shown it remains capable of launching attacks in Iraqi territory far from the frontlines.

ISIL still controls Iraq's second largest city of Mosul.

Iraqi politician Mowaffak Baqer al-Rubaie said ISIL was "resorting to classic, traditional terrorist acts" in response to losing territory in Iraq.

"They are so desperate to boost the morale of their fighters, many of whom are leaving the group daily. I think attacks like this will increase," he told Al Jazeera.

Rubaie added, however, that ISIL would eventually fail in its mission of deepening sectarian tensions between Shia and Sunni communities.

 

Source: Aljazeera

 

 


PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release 5th July 2016

IRAQ: SHOCKING MISSILE ATTACK ON IRANIAN REFUGEE CAMP CONDEMNED

Four Urgent calls on UN and US

In yet another outrageous and unprovoked attack on the defenseless Iranian refugees in Camp Liberty, near Baghdad Airport, over 50 missiles were fired last night into the compound from within the tight government-controlled security zone surrounding the camp’s perimeter. Over 50 residents, including 14 women, were seriously injured and large parts of the camp were destroyed.

Struan Stevenson, president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) has strongly condemned the attack and demanded immediate action by the UN and US to safeguard the residents and expedite their resettlement in European countries. Struan Stevenson said: “This was a horrendous and cowardly attack. But I am forced to ask, what on earth are the United Nations and United States doing? While they had repeatedly given assurances regarding the safety and security of the residents in writing, they kept their silence and did nothing while Iranian agents, with the full connivance of the Iraqi government, undertook repeated surveillance missions to the camp, under the pretext of being family members of the refugees, while in fact they hurled abuse at the residents and took detailed photographs of the camp’s layout.

We repeatedly warned that this was a clear precursor to another missile attack, as we have witnessed this happening again and again in the past when dozens of Camp Ashraf and then Camp Liberty residents have been brutally murdered. Despite our warnings the UN and US did nothing.

“For the past 8 days food, fuel and medicines have been blockaded by the Iraqi government’s agents again acting on orders from their Iranian sponsors. This blockade has caused untold suffering to the residents during RAMADAN while temperatures have soared to over 50 degrees and they have no fresh food, or any means of fueling generators to provide air-conditioning and no vital medicines for the sick. The residents and their representatives and supporters had repeatedly warned that all of these measures were leading up to another attempted massacre. This is a pattern that has been repeated again and again and our warnings to the UN and US have simply been ignored. Their ineffectiveness and incompetence has been quite breathtaking.

“And now that 50 missiles have been launched into the camp causing horrifying injuries and destruction, we all know that the missile attack could not have happened without the active collusion of at least some parts of the Iraqi government and their Iranian patrons. 

“The EIFA demands the immediate intervention of the UN and the US embassy in Baghdad, firstly to hold the perpetrators of this crime accountable and bring them in to justice and secondly to guarantee the safety and security of the camp until the last person can be airlifted to safety. Thirdly the UN and US must immediately demand that the Iraqi Government stops any further suppressive measures against the camp’s residents, in particular preventing the entry of fuel, food, medicine and service trucks to the camp. Fourthly, the Government of Iraq must be prevented from allowing Iranian Intelligence (MOIS) agents, under any pretext whatsoever, from mounting further reconnaissance and surveillance missions at Camp Liberty”.      

Note: Struan Stevenson is President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA). He was a Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014.



Call to protect children, as escalating conflict threatens to destroy childhoods in Iraq

BAGHDAD/AMMAN, 30 June 2016- 3.6 million children in Iraq – one in five in the country - are at serious risk of death, injury, sexual violence, abduction and recruitment into armed groups, according to a new UNICEF report.

A Heavy Price for Children reveals that the number of children in danger of these violations has increased by 1.3 million in 18 months.

The findings show that 4.7 million children need humanitarian aid – a third of all Iraqi children – while many families now face deteriorating conditions following military operations in Fallujah and around Mosul.

“Children in Iraq are in the firing line and are being repeatedly and relentlessly targeted,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Iraq Representative. “We appeal to all parties for restraint and to respect and protect children.  We must help give children the support they need to recover from the horrors of war and contribute to a more peaceful and prosperous Iraq.” 

UNICEF’s report documents the scale and complexity of the humanitarian crisis in a country reeling from nearly four decades of conflict, insecurity and neglect, and where the impact on children worsens every day. 

Staggeringly, a total of 1,496 children have been abducted in the country over the past two and a half years. That translates to 50 children abducted each month, with many forced into fighting or sexually abused.

“The kidnapping of children from their homes, their schools and from the streets is horrifying”, said Hawkins. “These children are being ripped from their families and are subjected to sickening abuses and exploitation.”

The report also shows that almost ten per cent of Iraqi children – more than 1.5 million – have been forced to flee their homes because of violence since the beginning of 2014, often multiple times. Nearly one in five schools is out of use due to conflict and almost 3.5 million children of school-age are missing out on an education.

UNICEF is calling for urgent action to protect children’s rights in Iraq. There are five concrete steps that need to be taken immediately:

• End the killing, maiming, abduction, torture, detention, sexual violence and recruitment of children. Stop attacks on schools, medical facilities and personnel.

• Provide unhindered and unconditional humanitarian access to all children wherever they are in the country, including areas not under control of the government. In areas with ongoing conflict, civilians wishing to leave must be given safe passage and receive the services they need.

• Expand and improve education for out of school children through catch up classes. Increase access to learning and equip teachers and children with educational materials and training. These are the children who will rebuild Iraq and contribute to a more peaceful and stable future.

• Provide psychological and recreation programmes to help children heal and to reconnect with their childhoods.

• Increase funding, as resources are running short, already leading to cut backs in life-saving support for children. UNICEF is seeking US$ 100 million for its response in Iraq for 2016.

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber attacked a security check point in northern Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 14 people, Iraqi officials said.

The bomber, who was on foot, detonated his device at one of the busy entrances of the Shiite district of Kadhimiyah, killing at least 10 civilians and four policemen, a police officer said. At least 31 other people were wounded, he added.

Three more civilians were killed and 11 wounded in a bomb explosion in an outdoor market in Baghdad's western suburb of Abu Ghraib, another police officer said.

Two medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

In an online statement, IS group claimed responsibility for the Kadhimiyah attack, saying it targeted a gathering of security forces and Shiite militia members. The Associated Press could not verify the authenticity of the statements, but they were posted on a militant website commonly used by the extremists. Security forces and public areas, mainly in Shiite neighborhoods, are one of the most frequent targets for the Islamic State group, which controls key areas in mainly northern and western Iraq.

Since late last year, the group has suffered a string of territorial losses, most recently last month in Fallujah, where it was driven out by Iraqi forces after occupying the city for more than two years. But the extremists have continued to carry out near-daily bombings in and around Baghdad, as well as complex attacks in other countries.

The Iraqi military will use a medieval tactic to keep control of Fallujah after recapturing it from the Islamic State group last month: It is digging a trench around the city.

The trench will have a single opening for residents to move in and out of the city, which is virtually empty since the offensive that defeated the IS militants, said Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, deputy commander of the counterterrorism forces that led the successful campaign.

It will be about 7 miles (11 kilometers) long and "will protect the city's residents, who have lived through many tragedies, as well as security forces deployed there," al-Saadi said in an interview with The Associated Press at his Baghdad headquarters.

Cutting off all roads but one will allow authorities to monitor the movements of residents more closely.Fallujah has been a source of car bombs used against Baghdad, which is 40 miles (65 kilometers) to the east. Restricting traffic will be one way to try to stop any explosives-laden vehicles from leaving the city.

Besides the trench, more modern security measures also will be used.

Personal details of the estimated 85,000 residents who fled during the May-June battle to liberate the city will be stored electronically, and forgery-proof ID cards will be issued, according to Mayor Issa al-Issawi. Cars owned by residents also will be issued display badges containing electronic chips.

The trenches will be about 40 feet (12.5 meters) wide and 5 feet (1.5 meters) deep.

Work has begun on the first leg, running about 4 miles (6 kilometers) on the north and northwest side of the city, al-Issawi told the AP. Digging the second leg, which runs 3 miles (5 kilometers) along the south and southeast, will begin soon, he said.

The western edge of Fallujah abuts the Euphrates River, providing a natural barrier. On the east side is the heavily patrolled main highway to Baghdad, which will be the sole entrance to Fallujah.

The two trenches run through open desert areas used in the past by militants, said Maj. Gen. Saad Harbiyah, in charge of military operations in western Baghdad.

Iraqis have used various earthworks, walls and fortifications ever since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. During the war, Saddam had trenches dug around Baghdad, filled them with oil and set them ablaze, using thick, black smoke to obscure the view for U.S. warplanes.

Since the war, Baghdad has become a city of concrete blast walls, erected to protect buildings but also to control the movement of people. During the 2006-07 sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunnis, entire neighborhoods were sealed off by blast walls to restrict and monitor access.

In January 2014, Fallujah became the first major Iraqi city to be captured by the Islamic State group. The extremists later swept through much of Anbar province, taking its capital, Ramadi, and much of the north, including Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul.

A U.S.-led coalition and Iranian-backed Shiite militia forces have helped the Iraqi army recapture territory from the Islamic State.

Security problems have plagued Iraq, especially in Fallujah. The city has been a center of Sunni opposition to Shiite-led governments in Baghdad, with Sunnis complaining of discrimination at the hands of the country's majority Shiites.

Fallujah residents have suffered under more than two years of rule by Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group. That suffering could be exacerbated if the security measures are seen by residents as too heavy-handed.

Security measures like the trench may make little difference in the long run if there is no reconciliation between Sunnis and a government many of them see as oppressive, illegitimate and a tool in the hands of Iraq's giant Shiite neighbor, Iran. Shiite hard-liners, in turn, see Sunnis as sympathetic to militants, many of whom view Shiites as infidels.

The Iraqi government also plans to dig a trench along the border between Anbar province, whereFallujah is located, and neighboring Karbala, home to one of Shiite Islam's holiest shrines. Work also has begun on walls and trenches around vulnerable parts of Baghdad's outer areas to guard against car bombs. In both cases, however, work has been slowed by lack of funds and corruption.

Fallujah faces its own internal differences as well. Some factions of its main tribal clans declared allegiance to IS, while others did not, prompting the extremists to kill prominent tribal members and blow up the homes of those who fled.

Iraqi authorities arrested about 21,000 Fallujah residents from among those who fled the city on suspicion of IS membership, according to al-Saadi. Following questioning, all were released except for about 2,000 who face further interrogation and possible prosecution, he added.

Tens of thousands of displaced residents will be allowed to return to Fallujah later this year, al-Saadi said.

"We must turn a new page with Fallujah. There is no other way for reconciliation," said al-Saadi, a veteran of the government's fight against militants in Anbar.

"We must punish those with blood on their hands, but not those who merely joined Daesh," he said, using the Arabic acronym for IS. "Revenge and mass trials will only breed more hatred and resentment."

Government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi echoed al-Saadi's view.

"We cannot judge people by their intentions. Only those who committed crimes will face justice," al-Hadithi told AP. The government intends to rely on the local police force and Sunni tribesmen to maintain security in Fallujah, he said.

But the chairman of Anbar's provincial council, Sabah al-Karhout, complained that "reconciliation efforts" were below what was needed and that much rides on how secure Fallujah residents feel when they return home.

"Marginalization must end so that calls for a federal system to disappear," he said, alluding to a growing sentiment among Iraq's Sunni Arabs for autonomy in their regions.

Published July 24, 2016

The Iraqi government has announced a two-day mandatory official holiday beginning on Wednesday due to a heatwave.

A statement issued by the Iraqi cabinet said temperatures were expected to soar above 50C (122F). It is the first heat advisory issued by the Iraqi government this summer.

The public holiday will apply to all government workers.

High temperatures in summer are common in Iraq, and endemic electricity outages make life harder for Iraqis when temperatures soar. To cope with the heat, Iraqis either stay indoors or swim in rivers. In some public places, showers are set up for those who want to cool down.

It is not uncommon for such public holidays to be declared when heatwaves hit during Iraq’s long, hot summers.

Source: The Guardian

A total of 1.5 million children in Iraq are displaced internally, living in camps like the one shown in this aerial video.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who posted the footage on Tuesday,  say that number equals one in every 10 Iraqi children.

The camp shown in the drone video is home to some of the 8,500 people who have fled fighting in Fallujah.

 

Source: The Telegraph

NAJAF, Iraq — Iraq’s Shiites are witnessing a political-religious rift in their stance toward Iran whose development can be traced back to 2003. While some express complete loyalty to the Shiite political regime in Tehran, others object to its regional policies, including toward Iraq, and distance from it. 

In one example, the predominantly Shiite Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) held a military parade July 1 in Basra. They destroyed US and Israeli flags and burned photos of Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. The march sparked criticism and anger among some Shiites, because the United States has friendly relations with Iraq and is supporting its security forces in their war against the Islamic State (IS). Also, given the state competition in the region, hostility toward Saudi Arabia is not in Iraq’s interest.

In a related development, differing attitudes could be detected surrounding the demonstrations on International Quds Day, July 1, essentially reflecting the debate over whether Iraqi Shiites should be affiliated with Iran or pursue interests and priorities different from those of the Tehran government. At Quds Day protests organized by the PMU faction Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in Najaf, a religious hub for Shiite clerics, there was no marked presence of clerics. In contrast, in Qom, Najaf’s religious competitor that receives funding from Iran, a remarkable number of clerics attended the annual protest. Jihad al-Asadi, an instructor in the religious seminary at Najaf, told Al-Monitor, “The Najaf seminary does not support any political agenda outside Iraqi national interests.”

On July 2, Interior Minister Mohammed al-Ghabban issued an order referring “several officers and policemen from the Basra police to an investigative council and implementation of the sanctions cited in the Penal Code of the Internal Security Forces” for their participation in the Quds Day protests because of its political nature.

Following the July 3 bombing at the Karrada market, in a predominantly Shiite area of Baghdad, that killed more than 300 people, Shiite activists criticized some Shiites for supposedly having more enthusiasm for International Quds Day than concern about the bomb attack, which produced the highest death toll in the country since the Iraqi invasion. Among those holding such a view is Khudeir Fleih al-Zeidi, an Iraqi author and novelist from Nasiriyah, who told Al-Monitor, “Those who celebrated the International Quds Day did not mourn the victims of the attacks. The question is easy: Karrada or Jerusalem?” 

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Naqaa al-Tamimi, a veterinarian who pursued her studies in Iran, said, “Why don’t Iranians show solidarity with our plight like the Karrada attack, knowing that we have the same confession, and we welcome them warmly on several yearly religious occasions?”

On July 4, apparently pro-Iranian Shiite militias, taking advantage of attention being focused on the aftermath of the Karrada attack, shelled Camp Liberty, where members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, an Iranian opposition movement, are housed. The shells also landed in a nearby, predominantly Sunni refugee camp, perhaps by accident, killing three people and injuring 11 others. A prominent cleric from Najaf told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Some armed Shiite groups are only interested in abiding by Iranian orders. Why would Iraq shell the Liberty Camp and kill innocent Iraqis even if by mistake?”

As can be gleaned from the clerics remarks, the armed Shiite factions are themselves divided on loyalty to Iran. Al-Aalem al-Jadeed newspaper published what appeared to be an official response from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on the matter of a letter from the leader of Liwa’ Ansar al-Marja’iya informing Abadi that Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis, the deputy chairman of the PMU, and reportedly Iran’s most powerful military man in Iraq, had stopped distributing government salaries to armed Shiite factions not connected to Iran. Abadi later ordered an investigation into the salary situation.

Most factions without relations to Iran — including Liwa’ Ansar al-Marja’iya, the Abbas Battle Group, Liwa’ Ali al-Akbar, the Imam Ali Troop and the Kadhimin Battle Group — are affiliated with the Shiite authority in Najaf, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani or Shiite holy shrines under Sistani’s supervision. Sajad al-Rabihi, a cleric fighting in the ranks of the Abbas Battle Group, confirmed the cutoff of salaries to Al-Monitor. The issue of divided loyalties, between Iran and Sistani followers, among the Shiite PMU militias had been identified earlier by the United States and appears now to have been confirmed by the salary cutoff.

Some observers believe the pro-Iran current within the PMU is trying to seize control and expel those not in line with Tehran from the movement. In addition to news of the salary cutoff, Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of the Badr Organization, which is close to Iran, and some other PMU militia leaders met with former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on June 27. Amiri praised Maliki, saying, “The decision to form the Popular Mobilization Units was Maliki’s. He has strongly supported them since the beginning.”

Amiri’s statements angered clerics in Najaf, because they contradicted the reality that the militias comprising the PMU began forming after a call by Sistani on June 13, 2014, for Iraqis to take up arms in the wake of IS' capture of Mosul on June 10. Maliki's role consisted of his administration bringing the PMU under some sort of government supervision to coordinate action with the Iraqi national army.

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Peace Battalion, one of the largest PMU factions, sarcastically dismissed Amir's statements, saying, “Maliki’s alleged Popular Mobilization Units, if they exist, do not represent me or Iraq,” highlighting the division in the organization.

The Iranian Fars News Agency published a news brief accompanied by an image of Maliki at his house welcoming Qasem Soleimani, the leader of the Iranian Quds Force, for iftar on June 29. Several PMU leaders were also invited. On July 3, Sky News Arabia, citing Iraqi sources, reported that Soleimani had allegedly proposed to Abadi that command of the PMU be given to Maliki. There were no corroborating reports of such a proposal having been made.

Ultimately, it seems, the Shiite division in Iraq revolves around how to organize relations with Iran in terms of pursuing Iranian agendas and building relations with Tehran based on mutual interests as well as Iraqi values and interests.

 

Baghdad-Amid high temperature reaching 47 degrees Celsius, thousands of protestors accompanied by Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gathered in Tahrir Square. Sadr did not deliver the speech himself despite his presence among the protestors.

Protestors called on an end to corruption and the unity among Shi’ite and Sunni Iraqis. They chanted “No, no to corruption. No, no to sectarianism. Yes, yes to reform. Yes, yes to Iraq”.

Demands included dismissing all corrupt individuals and submitting them to a fair trial as quick as possible. Sadr called for avoiding political pressures and for working independently.

Activist Mohamed Al-Daradji stated in Cairo that corruption has become unbearable, adding that those who ruled after Saddam Hussein in 2003 have failed. Another participant named Mushtaq Al-Awadi, 54 years old, said that this protest is to demand returning the stolen money to Iraqis, calling to account corrupt officials and terminating sectarianism.

Hakim al-Zamili, an Iraqi politician from the Sadrist Movement, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Friday’s protest led by Sadr is a continuation of previous ones that had the same purposes. Zamili urged the state to fulfill its pledges.

Judge and Former Minster Wael Abdul Latif also told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that reformation was the keyword of Sadr’s speech. “Sadr’s main focus is maintaining peaceful protests and issuing national, unified slogans and most importantly changing elections’ commissariat.”

Source: Asharq Al-Awsat

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for forming a government of competent members in February but was greatly opposed by political parties.

Furthermore, the parliament approved on 26 April dismissing five ministers and appointing five others within a governmental reformation program, suggested by Abadi, but the court later on abolished the resolutions of this session.

Saudi-Iranian Struggle in Iraq Tuesday, 12 July 2016 11:55

What is happening nowadays in Iraq and Syria is due to decades of conflict between two major axes, Iran and the Arab group.

It began with the 1979 Iranian revolution and continued with threats to change regimes of regional countries by force under the title of exporting Islamic revolution, followed by the Iran-Iraq war that lasted eight years.

The war eased for only two years then Iraq invaded Kuwait, triggering international intervention that led to the emergence of al-Qaeda and then the ISIS terrorist group.

I believe it is an interconnected disorder that has been ongoing since 1979 until today, and the turmoil will continue as long as regional powers are unable to create a political or military balance via agreements.

We must understand the logic and motives behind Tehran’s desire to maintain the struggle in Iraq, the Gulf, Syria and Palestine.

Iran wants to expand as it sees that on its western borders there are the world’s oil-rich countries such as Iraq and Gulf countries.

It acknowledges the fact that the West will not easily accept to abandon these countries that are important energy sources. This is why Tehran’s regime has attempted to dominate in different ways and has not succeeded much until recently.

ISIS certainly serves Iran, which joined the Western and Russian coalition under the flag of fighting terrorism.

Iraq is the most important country for Iran because it is its western gate, and Iran will only be able to control Iraq by dominating it indirectly.

Iran played different roles to convince the United States that it would be a beneficial partner in Iraq by helping it solidify security. During the administration

of U.S. President George W Bush, it was the only country, maybe except for Jordan, that cooperated with Washington then.

At the same time, Iran used different methods to destabilize Iraq.

Along with its ally, the Syrian regime, Tehran enabled al-Qaeda and armed Iraqi opposition groups to sneak from Syria into Iraq to sabotage the security and political situations and inflict losses in U.S. troops.

When Barack Obama became president, he withdrew all U.S. troops thus leaving Iraq open to Iranian intervention, at the time when armed groups like ISIS reemerged.

Today, Iran’s regime is in Iraq under the pretext of protecting it from ISIS, which is controlling Mosul and a number of Iraqi cities and provinces thus forming a threat.

Is Iran part of the turmoil in Iraq to stay in the country? No doubt it is, as Tehran supports certain Shi’ite groups against others. It is also behind the establishment of the Popular Mobilization Forces militia as a competitor to Iraq’s army to weaken the central government.

I believe that Iran is one of the masterminds behind ISIS, but it is difficult to prove that. Iran is the only party benefitting from ISIS, whose threats gave Iran an excuse to enter Iraq and manage the battles against the terrorist organization, bragging that if the Iranian National Guards did not interfere, Iraq could have been under ISIS’s rule by now.

ISIS is a reflection of al-Qaeda, which emerged during the U.S.-led occupation. Back then, al-Qaeda succeeded in sabotaging the political project, allowing pro-Iran groups to dominate in Baghdad.

Saudi ambassador to Iraq, Thamer al-Sabhan, recently said: “Someone is trying to create a rift in relations between Saudi Arabia and the different components of the Iraqi people.”

He means Iran, and this is the first time an official statement reflects the Saudi-Iranian struggle in Iraq.

Struggle between the two countries happens for different reasons as Tehran wants to dominate Iraq and its resources, but Saudi Arabia wants to protect its borders and halt Iran’s expansion.

The Saudi presence in Iraq was delayed for years because Riyadh rejected participating in the U.S.-led occupation and the establishment of the new Iraqi government.

Tehran, however, cooperated with the Americans, and in exchange it gained influence that resulted in the current status.

Saudi Arabia’s interest matches that of the Iraqi people, which is represented in having a country free from foreign domination and in control of its own water and oil resources.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are rich and do not need to control Iraq. Instead, they want a regime that does not resemble Saddam Hussein’s and is not a puppet for Iran.

Gulf countries are now aware that the spread of ISIS and al-Qaeda in Iraq, Syria and Yemen targets them first, and that countries such as Iran benefit from these extremist groups and use them to weaken the region’s powers, interfere in their affairs, and build international alliances to serve their goals.

 

Source: ASHARQ AL-AWSAT

By:

Anger grows as Baghdad residents accuse Iraqi government of failing to protect them after ISIL attack kills over 20

Anger is growing in Baghdad over the government's failure to protect civilians, after a devastating bombing in a crowded commercial area in the Iraqi capital killed more than 200 people, including many children.

 The powerful explosion early on Sunday came near the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when the streets were filled with young people and families out after sunset.

 The death toll from the blast in Karada, a predominantly Shia neighbourhood in central Baghdad, rose to over 200 on Monday morning, as the bodies of more victims were pulled from the rubble.

Hundreds were wounded when a lorry packed with explosives blew up in a busy shopping street filled with people after they had broken their fast.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement circulated by its supporters online.

The group, which has claimed numerous deadly bombings in mainly Shia areas of Baghdad, alleged that a suicide bomber targeted a crowd of Shia Muslims.

Many of the victims were women and children who were inside a multi-storey shopping and amusement mall. Dozens burned to death or suffocated, a police officer said.

There were fears the death toll could rise even further.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi condemned the bombing and declared three days of mourning across the country after visiting the scene of the attack.

Video footage posted online showed people jeering and throwing objects at his convoy.

Later on Sunday, protesters marched from Karada to Abadi's house.

Many Iraqis blame their political leadership for lapses in security in Baghdad that have allowed large amounts of explosives to make their way past multiple checkpoints and into neighbourhoods packed with civilians.

"All the politicians in Iraq are responsible for these blasts, including Abadi," a woman in Karada told local media.

"We can't enjoy the Eid; if it isn't ISIL, it's al-Qaeda, and if it isn't the two, it's the filthy corrupt politics in this country.

"We are being targeted while they are sitting safe and sound in their palaces. They are the ones who are allowing ISIL to come here and murder people."

Jan Kubis, the UN envoy for Iraq, said the attack was an attempt by ISIL to avenge losses on the battlefield.

"This is a cowardly and heinous act of unparalleled proportions, to target peaceful civilians in the closing days of the holy month of Ramadan," Kubis said in a statement. 

In a separate blast also on Sunday morning, at least five people were killed in a popular market in the mainly Shia neighbourhood of al-Shaab.

There were conflicting reports on the cause of the explosion.

Some sources said it was a bombing, while the interior ministry said it was caused by an accidental fire.  

The Karada bombing was the deadliest in the country this year and came after Iraqi forces late last month dislodged ISIL fighters from Fallujah, the armed group's stronghold just west of the capital that had served as a launch pad for such attacks.

Despite a string of territorial gains by Iraq's ground forces against ISIL, the group has repeatedly shown it remains capable of launching attacks in Iraqi territory far from the frontlines.

ISIL still controls Iraq's second largest city of Mosul.

Iraqi politician Mowaffak Baqer al-Rubaie said ISIL was "resorting to classic, traditional terrorist acts" in response to losing territory in Iraq.

"They are so desperate to boost the morale of their fighters, many of whom are leaving the group daily. I think attacks like this will increase," he told Al Jazeera.

Rubaie added, however, that ISIL would eventually fail in its mission of deepening sectarian tensions between Shia and Sunni communities.

 

Source: Aljazeera

 

 


PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release 5th July 2016

IRAQ: SHOCKING MISSILE ATTACK ON IRANIAN REFUGEE CAMP CONDEMNED

Four Urgent calls on UN and US

In yet another outrageous and unprovoked attack on the defenseless Iranian refugees in Camp Liberty, near Baghdad Airport, over 50 missiles were fired last night into the compound from within the tight government-controlled security zone surrounding the camp’s perimeter. Over 50 residents, including 14 women, were seriously injured and large parts of the camp were destroyed.

Struan Stevenson, president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) has strongly condemned the attack and demanded immediate action by the UN and US to safeguard the residents and expedite their resettlement in European countries. Struan Stevenson said: “This was a horrendous and cowardly attack. But I am forced to ask, what on earth are the United Nations and United States doing? While they had repeatedly given assurances regarding the safety and security of the residents in writing, they kept their silence and did nothing while Iranian agents, with the full connivance of the Iraqi government, undertook repeated surveillance missions to the camp, under the pretext of being family members of the refugees, while in fact they hurled abuse at the residents and took detailed photographs of the camp’s layout.

We repeatedly warned that this was a clear precursor to another missile attack, as we have witnessed this happening again and again in the past when dozens of Camp Ashraf and then Camp Liberty residents have been brutally murdered. Despite our warnings the UN and US did nothing.

“For the past 8 days food, fuel and medicines have been blockaded by the Iraqi government’s agents again acting on orders from their Iranian sponsors. This blockade has caused untold suffering to the residents during RAMADAN while temperatures have soared to over 50 degrees and they have no fresh food, or any means of fueling generators to provide air-conditioning and no vital medicines for the sick. The residents and their representatives and supporters had repeatedly warned that all of these measures were leading up to another attempted massacre. This is a pattern that has been repeated again and again and our warnings to the UN and US have simply been ignored. Their ineffectiveness and incompetence has been quite breathtaking.

“And now that 50 missiles have been launched into the camp causing horrifying injuries and destruction, we all know that the missile attack could not have happened without the active collusion of at least some parts of the Iraqi government and their Iranian patrons. 

“The EIFA demands the immediate intervention of the UN and the US embassy in Baghdad, firstly to hold the perpetrators of this crime accountable and bring them in to justice and secondly to guarantee the safety and security of the camp until the last person can be airlifted to safety. Thirdly the UN and US must immediately demand that the Iraqi Government stops any further suppressive measures against the camp’s residents, in particular preventing the entry of fuel, food, medicine and service trucks to the camp. Fourthly, the Government of Iraq must be prevented from allowing Iranian Intelligence (MOIS) agents, under any pretext whatsoever, from mounting further reconnaissance and surveillance missions at Camp Liberty”.      

Note: Struan Stevenson is President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA). He was a Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014.



Call to protect children, as escalating conflict threatens to destroy childhoods in Iraq

BAGHDAD/AMMAN, 30 June 2016- 3.6 million children in Iraq – one in five in the country - are at serious risk of death, injury, sexual violence, abduction and recruitment into armed groups, according to a new UNICEF report.

A Heavy Price for Children reveals that the number of children in danger of these violations has increased by 1.3 million in 18 months.

The findings show that 4.7 million children need humanitarian aid – a third of all Iraqi children – while many families now face deteriorating conditions following military operations in Fallujah and around Mosul.

“Children in Iraq are in the firing line and are being repeatedly and relentlessly targeted,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Iraq Representative. “We appeal to all parties for restraint and to respect and protect children.  We must help give children the support they need to recover from the horrors of war and contribute to a more peaceful and prosperous Iraq.” 

UNICEF’s report documents the scale and complexity of the humanitarian crisis in a country reeling from nearly four decades of conflict, insecurity and neglect, and where the impact on children worsens every day. 

Staggeringly, a total of 1,496 children have been abducted in the country over the past two and a half years. That translates to 50 children abducted each month, with many forced into fighting or sexually abused.

“The kidnapping of children from their homes, their schools and from the streets is horrifying”, said Hawkins. “These children are being ripped from their families and are subjected to sickening abuses and exploitation.”

The report also shows that almost ten per cent of Iraqi children – more than 1.5 million – have been forced to flee their homes because of violence since the beginning of 2014, often multiple times. Nearly one in five schools is out of use due to conflict and almost 3.5 million children of school-age are missing out on an education.

UNICEF is calling for urgent action to protect children’s rights in Iraq. There are five concrete steps that need to be taken immediately:

• End the killing, maiming, abduction, torture, detention, sexual violence and recruitment of children. Stop attacks on schools, medical facilities and personnel.

• Provide unhindered and unconditional humanitarian access to all children wherever they are in the country, including areas not under control of the government. In areas with ongoing conflict, civilians wishing to leave must be given safe passage and receive the services they need.

• Expand and improve education for out of school children through catch up classes. Increase access to learning and equip teachers and children with educational materials and training. These are the children who will rebuild Iraq and contribute to a more peaceful and stable future.

• Provide psychological and recreation programmes to help children heal and to reconnect with their childhoods.

• Increase funding, as resources are running short, already leading to cut backs in life-saving support for children. UNICEF is seeking US$ 100 million for its response in Iraq for 2016.

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