Baghdad Recaptures Kirkuk and its Oil without Resistance as Irbil Condemns ‘Treason’

Kirkuk

Baghdad, Washington, Irbil – Iraqi government forces and members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) seized control on Monday of the city of Kirkuk and pulled down the Kurdish flag from the province headquarters, amid reports of the displacement of Kurdish residents from the city.

It was surprising that Kirkuk fell without resistance, which pushed officials in the autonomous Kurdistan Region to speak about “treason” committed by the leadership of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) for their collaboration with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

Shakhuan Abdullah, a member of the Iraqi Parliament on the Committee for Security and Defense, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the PUK withdrawal from Kirkuk came following a meeting held in the city between Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds force and Bafel Talabani, son of late former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Kurdish leaders spoke on Monday about a direct role played by Suleimani in pushing the Peshmerga to pull out of Kirkuk without resistance.

Residents in Kirkuk also spoke about a plan by leaders of the PUK with the support of Iraqi President Fouad Massoum and Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.

The residents said that the attack on Kirkuk was the implementation of a warning sent from Suleimani in a message carried by Massoum to the Kurdish leaderships in the past few days.

Meanwhile, Kurdish sources were surprised by the US position regarding the latest developments in the area.

The sources explained Washington’s position as emanating from their desire to strengthen the chances of Abadi in the upcoming Iraqi elections and to thwart the possible return of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House that Washington would not take sides in the Kirkuk dispute, but “we don’t like the fact that they’re clashing.”

For his part, Abadi “stressed the importance of avoiding the use of force and of seeking dialogue in order to preserve Iraq’s unity and long-term stability, while upholding the provisions of the Iraqi constitution.”

Meanwhile, informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Iraqi forces’ next step might see an advance towards the Mosul dam, located north of Kirkuk city.

Ruins of King Rameses II Temple Discovered in Giza, Egypt

Ramesses

Cairo – The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities announced that an Egyptian-Czech archaeological mission discovered the remains of the King Rameses II Temple during an excavation at the Abusir archaeological site in Giza.

Dr. Miroslav Barta, the head of the Czech mission, explained that it discovered the name of King Ramses inscribed on some artifacts, as well as inscriptions referring to the gods Ra and Amun.

He stressed that the discovery of the Ramses II Temple provides a unique insight on the king’s activities in the Memphis area.

It also highlights the worship of the sun god Ra who was venerated in Abusir since the Fifth Dynasty and until the age of the New Kingdom.

Ramses is considered among the greatest kings of Egypt, and his reign ran from 1279 to 1213BC.

Mustafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said that the Egyptian-Czech mission had found in its first excavation season in 2012 archaeological evidence indicating that a full temple exists in the area.

Google Launches New App for Lucrative Surveys

google

San Francisco, London — Google has launched a new app called “Google Opinion Rewards” which allows users make some profit after taking surveys which are usually conducted by certain companies.

The US Company said the new app is currently available for IOs users in the United States. A user can receive 99 cents for answering the survey’s questions through this app.

According to the German News Agency (DPA), Google stated that the surveys cover all topics and fields, from the favorite TV shows to the apps that people love to use.

The CNET.com website reported that the brain-picking surveys usually take less than 30 seconds and are always 10 questions or less.

The user receives a notification on his mobile device when a new survey is ready, and if he’s just not that into one of them, he can simply skip it. The money he earns goes to whatever PayPal account you’ve linked to the app.

Facebook Joins Food Delivery World

Facebook

London – Facebook launched a service through which its users can order food they want from the restaurants or websites like DoorDash, Chew Now and EatStreet without the need to leave the social media website.

The Facebook Company, which runs the website, published a message via the internet saying that its users are now able to order their favorite meal from restaurants including Chipotle, Five Guys and Panera.

The German News Agency (dpa) reported that Alex Himel, Facebook Vice President in the United States said that Facebook has connected users to their favorite restaurants, whether locally or to international chains through a few steps.

According to CNET.com, people can find the Order Food option by going to the Explore menu. The feature is rolling out in the US on iOS, Android and desktop.

Yemeni Militias Resort to Planting Mines Across Villages after Losing in Taiz

Yemeni students attend a class on the first day of the new school year in the capital Sanaa, on October 15, 2017

Taiz- Militia sources in Yemen said that coup factions have stepped up their weaving of landmines into the southwestern villages near Taiz. The increase in mine-planting activity comes after suffering steep losses in the battlefield.

On the other hand, a pro-government military source belonging to the 35th Armored Brigade said that insurgency militias continued to plant mines across civilian infrastructure, such as farms, residential neighborhoods, and near water wells.

Al-Houd, Al-Sayyar, Al-Sharaf villages and the Othman Bin Affan School in Al-Houd, were among areas targeted.

The source further stressed that national army units pushed against attempts for coup militias to advance into the city of Taiz and the countryside.

Most attempts were staged to progress and restore sites lost east and northwest of the city.

The source added that Houthi-planted mines have killed 9 civilians, including two women and three children, in August alone.

Last Friday, the mines killed a citizen named Saif al-Qamri, and wounded four women in the area of ​​Hamli, west of Taiz.

Planting mines increased fiercely in retaliation to Zaid bin Ali al-Sharfi, a senior Houthi field commander, being killed in the fierce battles between militias and the Yemeni armed forces in the north-western frontier of Harad.

The statement issued by the Media Center of the fifth military region underlined that the leader of the Houthi militia, Zaid bin Ali Sharfi was killed on Friday evening, in the battles between the forces of the National Army on the one hand and Houthi, Saleh militias on the other near the border frontier of Harad.

The center quoted military sources as saying that the corpse of Sharfi is still laying in the Harad desert as the militias were unable to retrieve their dead due to fierce ongoing battles.

The statement said that the arms officer in the warehouse of the Midi Front and the leader of the Houthi militia, Waleed Mohammed Ahmed al-Houthi, was also killed along with four other Houthi leaders in an air raid by the Arab coalition east of Midi.

European Countries Will Remain Committed to Nuclear Deal

Trump, Nuclear deal

London– Reactions to the announcement of US President on Iran’s nuclear deal are still surfacing, and despite Germany and UK’s confirmation that they will stand committed to the nuclear deal, both countries stated they are “concerned by the possible implications” of Trump’s refusal to certify it and reiterated the importance of thwarting Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region.

Britain and Germany agreed on Sunday they remained committed to the nuclear deal with Iran even after US’ decision to decertify the agreement.

“They agreed the UK and Germany both remained firmly committed to the deal,” spokeswoman of UK Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement after a call between the PM and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The spokeswoman stated that the two officials also agreed that the international community needed to continue to come together to “push back against Iran’s destabilizing regional activity, and to explore ways of addressing concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday the US is trying to stay in the Iran nuclear deal while hoping to achieve more from it.

During an interview with CNN, Tillerson said the US is open to the possibility of seeking another agreement.
“We’re going to work with our European partners and allies to see if we can’t address these concerns,” he added.

Tillerson said Iran had committed technical violations of the deal, but that the agreement was structured in a way to give Iran significant time to remedy its violations.

Tillerson explained that Trump demanded a broader strategy on Iran, adding that the US was focused on more issues than simply Iran’s potential nuclear ambitions, citing the nation’s ballistic missile program and support for groups adversarial to the US throughout the Middle East.

“What the President wants is a more comprehensive strategy,” Tillerson confirmed.

He said the US was working to address issues it had with the multilateral agreement and anticipated that might require a new deal.

During several occasions, Tehran confirmed it refuses re-negotiations on its nuclear programs.

Earlier last week, Head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Mohamad Ali Jafari announced that Iran believes that many issues in the region can be solved outside the negotiations’ table.

When asked if he agrees with Defense Minister James Matis, Tillerson said he agrees with the minister that they shouldn’t rush the Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran.

Meanwhile, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said the US will stay in for now, as it looks for ways to help the American people “feel safer” by going to Congress.

“I think what you’re going to see is the president’s going to work very closely with Congress to try and come up with something that is more proportionate, something that does make sense for the US to agree to,” Haley told NBC.

Haley said that Iran should not become the next North Korea.

“So what this says to North Korea is, ‘Don’t expect us to engage in a bad deal. And also, if at any point we do come up with something, expect us to follow through with it. Expect us to hold you accountable. You’re not just going to have a free-for-all,” she stated.

For his part, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said that nobody else will trust any US administration to engage in any long-term negotiation.

During an interview with CBS, Zarif reiterated that this is not a bilateral treaty between Iran and the United States, adding that the US is a permanent member of the Security Council and if it’s not going to uphold a resolution, that not only it voted for but it sponsored, then the credibility of the institution that the United States considers to be very important would be at stake.

Zarif warned that this administration is withdrawing from everything and people cannot trust anymore the word of the US.

“I believe the Trump administration is closing its eyes on the realities of our region. We believe it would be important for the United States for the Trump administration to exercise a reset in its cognitive disorder with regard to our region,” Zarif told CBS.

Speaking in an interview with state TV late Saturday, Zarif also said, “Trump’s last night remarks on Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), are inconsistent with articles 26, 28 and 29 of the treaty.

“The action plan bans the US administration officials from making negative comments on JCPOA,” he said.

The deal is required to be implemented “in good faith” and the US should “refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing” sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme.

Zarif said he lodged nine complaints to the Joint Commission and will write a new one concerning Trump’s statements.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded to Trump’s statements saying no president could single-handedly revoke an international document backed by UN. He added that Trump’s decision made the US more isolated than ever.

The future of the agreement is at stake, now that the Congress has 60 days to decide whether it will re-impose sanctions on Iran or not.

Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi declared that the country would no longer abide by the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty if the nuclear deal fell apart.

“Without the nuclear agreement its application is meaningless,” Salehi told state television.

He warned that Iran could very quickly return to the production of highly enriched uranium if the US reimposed sanctions.

“If one day, the leaders of the country conclude that the nuclear agreement is no longer to the benefit of the country and decide to resume 20 percent enrichment we can do so within four days,” he said.

SDF Launches Final Assault Against ISIS in Raqqa

People displaced in fightings between the Syrian Democratic Forces and Islamic State militants are pictured at a refugee camp in Ain Issa

US-backed forces are battled on Monday ISIS militants from their former Syrian stronghold Raqqa, bringing their four-month campaign for the city to the brink of victory.

Sporadic artillery fire rang out and thick columns of smoke rose above the city as US-led coalition air strikes targeted remaining jihadists in a handful of last positions.

The field commander in Raqqa described Monday’s fighting as “a clearing operation” and said he expected it to be completed by the end of the day with the SDF controlling the whole city.

Ilham Ahmed, a senior politician in the SDF, said she expected the end of the campaign to be declared “within hours of days”, but the US-led coalition said it could not put a timeline on the battle.

An alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, the Syrian Democratic Forces, broke into Raqqa in June and is poised to seize the last 10 percent of the city after a weekend deal to evacuate civilians.

“The Syrian Democratic Forces are currently waging their toughest battles yet,” AFP quoted Jihan Sheikh Ahmed, spokeswoman for the operation to capture the city, as saying.

The latest fighting “will bring an end to Daesh’s presence,” she added, using the Arabic acronym for IS. “They can choose between surrendering and dying.”

An estimated 300 mostly foreign ISIS fighters are surrounded, mostly in central parts of the city, but are expected to resist fiercely

Overnight, SDF fighters captured the northern Al-Barid neighborhood, and their efforts would focus Monday on several adjacent districts, she added.

ISIS defeat in Raqqa mirrors its collapse across Iraq and Syria, where its enemies have driven it from cities, killed its leaders in air strikes and regained the oil fields that funded its self-declared caliphate.

It lost Mosul, its largest city and most prized possession after months of fighting in July.

The group, which at its height ruled millions of people in both countries, is in Syria now forced back into a strip of the Euphrates valley south of Deir al-Zor and areas of desert on each side.

“We have conducted some strikes in the last 24 hours, but I suspect that that will pick up here very soon with the SDF advancing into the final remaining areas of the city,” said Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the US-led coalition.

According to a Reuters correspondent, some cars in the streets had loudspeakers mounted on their roofs broadcasting messages to the last ISIS fighters telling them they would not be ill-treated if they surrendered.

Another SDF field commander, who gave his name as Ashraf Serhad, said he had heard that 250 ISIS militants remained and that on Sunday he had seen several minivans and buses leave the hospital carrying some who had surrendered.

Saturday night’s convoy out of Raqqa included about 100 ISIS fighters and nearly 200 family members, said Omar Alloush, a member of the Raqqa Civil Council set up by the SDF to run the city.

The fighters who left in the convoy are being held by security forces before interrogation and may be tried in court, he added.

Israel Expects UNESCO to Change its Policy following Selection of Azoulay

Tel Aviv – Israel will not follow Washington’s steps in leaving the UNESCO, saying it expects positive change towards Tel Aviv following the selection of Audrey Azoulay as chief of the organization, according to political sources in Tel Aviv.

The sources indicated that Israel was surprised by the US decision on Thursday to quit United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Four senior Israeli and American officials said there was no coordination with Israel in the days leading to the decision, adding that the Trump administration did not inform Israel.

Over the past few months, Israeli and US diplomats in New York and Paris discussed the possibility of US leaving the UNESCO during bilateral talks, according to senior Israeli officials.

Officials added that the issue was discussed during US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley’s visit to Israel in June, but at no point did US officials tell Israel a decision had been made to withdraw.

In spite of close relations between Israel and Trump’s administration, the incident exposed lack of coordination between the two countries.

Senior Israeli officials confirmed that Israel learned of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s decision from the website of Foreign Policy very late Wednesday night.

Following the announcement, Israeli diplomats at the embassy in Washington and UN’s delegation asked US counterparts for clarification.

Thursday morning Israel was told that in a few hours the State Department would announce the US departure from UNESCO.

Senior US officials confirmed that Washington did not inform Israel of its decision.

The process that led to the decision to withdraw was an internal US issue and was not discussed with any non-US governmental entity prior to the secretary’s decision, according to a senior official.

Actually, even after the decision was made, Tillerson did not inform Israel. He only reported the decision to UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova. Only after the announcement was published in the media, the US informed its allies including Israel.

The surprise in Jerusalem and the fact that the decision was made during the Simhat Torah holiday, were the main reason behind Israel’s rather strange announcement on Thursday night that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had directed the Foreign Ministry “to prepare” for the possibility of Israel leaving UNESCO.

Israel had no information about the timing of the US decision, and that is why there had been no real discussions with the prime minister on the subject. Netanyahu’s instructions were the result of a conference call held with a few of his advisers and senior Foreign Ministry officials.

However, with the selection of France’s former Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay as director of UNESCO, Israeli officials are leaning towards cooperating with her.

Azoulay is the daughter of Jewish adviser of King of Morocco Andre Azoulay who is also close friends of Israel’s Envoy to the UNESCO Carmel Shama.

Amr Moussa Appointed Representative at African Union Panel of the Wise

Moussa

Cairo – The African Union Commission (AUC) appointed on Saturday former Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa as the first Egyptian to become a member of the African Union Panel of the Wise.

He has been appointed as a successor to Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, said Moussa in a statement.

The Panel of the Wise includes Nobel Peace Prize winner Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Gabon former Minister for Social Affairs Honorine Nzet Biteghe, in addition to the former President of Namibia Hifikepunye Pohamba and former Vice President of Uganda Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe.

Moussa underlined the vital role the Panel played following the June 30, 2013 revolution in Egypt through the visits its members paid to to Cairo, Addis Ababa, and various African capitals. He stressed the importance of Egypt’s presence among African circles and its defense of the continent’s interests.

The Panel of the Wise deals with conflict prevention, management and resolution among African countries. It provides consultations to the Peace and Security Council on relevant issues. The Panel of the Wise serves a three-year term and is composed of five members representing the North, East, West, South and Center of Africa.

It was established in December 2007, and since then it had been concerned with issues of justice, national reconciliation, preserving the rights of women and children in armed conflicts, democracy and governance.

The first Panel of the Wise was comprised of late Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella, Tanzanian diplomat Salim Ahmed Salim, former President of Sao Tome Miguel Trovoada and others.

King Salman Praises US Strategy on Iran

Riyadh – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz has affirmed his country’s support to the US strategy towards Iran.

During a telephone conversation with US President Donald Trump on Saturday, King Salman welcomed the firm strategy announced by the president towards Iran, its aggressive activities and support for terrorism in the region and the world.

The White House said Sunday King Salman lauded Trump’s decision to decertify the Iran nuclear deal in a call.

“King Salman praised President Trump for his visionary new Iran strategy and pledged to support American leadership,” the statement regarding the telephone call between the two leaders read.

The king praised the leadership role of the new US administration, which recognizes the magnitude of these challenges and threats, stressing the need for concerted efforts and taking firm positions on terrorism and extremism and its first sponsor, Iran.

Trump expressed his appreciation for the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and his support, and stressed US keenness to work with its allies to achieve world security and peace.

“President Trump thanked King Salman for Saudi Arabia’s support and emphasized the importance of the Gulf Cooperation Council in countering Iran’s destabilizing activities in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and elsewhere in the region,” explained the White House statement.

The two sides also discussed relations between the two countries and ways of developing them, as well as issues of mutual concern.