Iraq’s Sunni Sovereignty Alliance and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) announced that they were in favor of holding early elections, provided that they would be supervised by a government with full powers.
The head of Al-Sadrist Movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, had called on his allies to follow his step and withdraw from Parliament.
Al-Sadr, who did not respond to the announcement of his former allies, also ignored calls made by parties within the Coordination Framework about the importance of communicating with him to form a new government, amid differences that began to emerge within the ranks of the Framework forces.
Well-informed political sources noted that the undeclared truce imposed by Al-Arbaeen march to the city of Karbala, at the conclusion of the Ashura rituals, did not push the conflicting parties to resolve their dispute.
The forces of the Coordination Framework, which clashed with Sadr’s supporters in Baghdad’s Green Zone about two weeks ago, are not about to present any concession, especially with regards to dissolving Parliament or accepting that Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi supervise the early elections, along with President Barham Salih.
In an attempt to overcome the obstacle that prevents the appointment of a prime minister without electing a president, the Coordination Framework is seeking to persuade the two Kurdish parties (the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union) to resolve the node of the president’s election.
While Massoud Barzani, the leader of the KDP, found in Sadr’s call to keep Barham Salih an opportunity for a rapprochement with the Coordination Framework, the latter, which is already divided over the stance towards Sadr, is now witnessing internal divisions over the term of Salih and Kadhimi. This situation is further complicating efforts to reach a solution, amid fears of a resurgence of street clashes.
“There is a move by Iraqi Kurdistan region President Nechirvan Barzani, Speaker of Iraq’s parliament Mohammed Al-Halbousi , the head of the Al-Fateh Alliance Hadi Al-Amiri, head of the Al-Siyada Sunni Alliance Khamis al-Khanjar, for the purpose of holding a meeting between those politicians and Sadr,” a senior leader in the Sadrist Movement, who asked not to be named, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab‘s Arabic-language sister outlet.
“There are ongoing calls in this regard to make preparations for holding the meeting which is aimed at finding solutions for the political process, as well as convincing Sadr to not let his supporters take to the streets again, since there are concerns that public protests may develop into clashes with Iran-backed groups.”
Sadr’s Shia rivals, organised under the Coordination Framework, include former paramilitaries of the Iran-backed Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces) network and the party of former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, a long-time foe of the cleric.
At least 30 people were killed and more than 180 others injured during intense fighting between Sadr’s Saraya Al-Salam militia and Iran-backed militias in Baghdad late last month.
Iraqi National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji on Thursday expressed his optimism about resolving Iraq’s political deadlock.
However, Iraqi political observers say a solution is highly unlikely without Sadr endorsing a candidate for prime minister.
“Sadr is Iraq’s most powerful politician in terms of popularity. In the past, he proved that he can create tensions and end them as well. Accordingly, the Iraqi political sides need to knock on Sadr’s door to save Iraq from the political stand-off, even when he is no longer in the parliament or has declared retirement from politics,” Othman Gulpi, a Kurdish political analyst told The New Arabin a phone interview.
“Because forming any Iraqi government without Sadr’s consent is doomed to failure and Iraq will always be on the brink of public protests.”
Gulpi said that for future talks with Sadr to be successful, pro-Iran political groups must not allow Maliki to lead talks, as the latter will definitely reject it.
He added that in the past two decades, Iraq has been shielded from political deadlocks by closed-door politics and joint agreements between the US and regional and Iraqi allies on one side, and Iran and its proxies on the other.
“Thus, all the Iraqi political sides need a broad agreement to be supported by both Washington and Tehran,” Gulpi said.
Sadr was the biggest winner in the October vote but withdrew all his lawmakers – nearly a quarter of parliament – in June and resorted to whipping up street protests after his movement failed to form a government.
The cleric’s opponents have tried but failed to form a government in the face of the protests and unrest.
President Biden’s nominee to take over the U.S. military’s nuclear arsenal and missile-defense operations warned on Thursday that China’s rise as a nuclear power poses historic threats and challenges requiring a reevaluation of current policies.
Air Force Gen. Anthony Cotton, appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, told lawmakers reviewing his nomination to lead U.S. Strategic Command that the military’s assessment of China’s nuclear mettle had changed dramatically since 2018 when Beijing was judged as requiring “minimal nuclear deterrence.” At that time, the Pentagon’s nuclear posture review assessed China’s ambitions as being focused on “regional hegemony,” he explained.
That impression started to shift in recent years, as China made concerted efforts to expand its nuclear capabilities, and stepped up its aggressive posture toward the United States and its regional allies.
“We have seen the incredible expansiveness of what they’re doing with their nuclear force — which does not, in my opinion, reflect minimal deterrence. They have a bona fide triad now,” Cotton explained, meaning the Chinese military has nuclear-capable forces that operate on land, and in the air and sea.
The nuclear threat posed by China, he added, cannot be sufficiently addressed by duplicating the approach the United States has taken toward Russia, whose nuclear aims are familiar to the United States and date back decades to the Cold War.Beijing and Moscow, the general said, “act differently, from a doctrine’s perspective.”
After racing each other for years to build up their nuclear arsenals, the United States and the former Soviet Union struck several arms reduction pacts in the later part of the 20th century. Only one of those treaties — the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, which applies to intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and nuclear capable bombers — remains in effect.
“We need to seriously consider that we are entering a new, trilateral nuclear competition era,” the committee chairman, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) told Cotton. “You will be responsible for continuing to ensure that the United States and its allies can deter not one, but two near-peer nuclear adversaries, something your predecessors did not face.”
Cotton did not detail his plans for updating the military’s approach to China, but he acknowledged there was work to be done to correct the imbalance.
“We understand Russian nuclear theory and nuclear doctrine,” Cotton said, citing President Vladimir Putin’s decision to put his nuclear forces on high alert days after the invasion of Ukraine — a move met largely with indifference by the Pentagon, and one thatso far has not resulted in any direct assault on NATO.
“We’re going to have to understand more deeply the Chinese nuclear strategy,” he added.
Cotton was resolute, however, in assessing that“at the end of the day, Russia and China both understand that we have a strong, resilient nuclear force that is offering deterrence to ourselves and extended deterrence to our enemies.”
But the United States must takeseriouslythreats by Moscow or Beijing to use nuclear weapons, the general said — particularly when it comes to potentialconfrontation over Taiwan.
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“If you have a credible deterrent, it would make them think twice before engaging with us,” Cotton noted.
Some senators challenged Cotton to say not only what he would do to expand and update the military’s portfolio of nuclear weapons, but how he would go about ensuring that U.S. proliferation won’t get out of hand.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) asked Cotton to say whether he agreed with the Biden administration’s recommendation to scrap the development of sea-launched low-yield nuclearcruise missilesover concerns about the program’s cost and efficiency.
Thatposition, which administration officials have said was informed by the most recent nuclear posture review,has inspired some controversy, with some fearing the program’s cancellation will negatively impact the U.S. military’s ability to compete with its adversaries’ nuclear capabilities.
Earlier this year, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley publicly joined those criticizing Biden’s decision.When asked for his take Thursday,Cotton demurred, saying he wanted an opportunity to conduct a full review of the program after his expected confirmation.
But when Hirono asked Cotton whether he believesthe United States has a role to play in limiting the nuclear arms race, he answered: “I do.”
“Whatever treaty that we could do to prevent proliferation is good, with a caveat: that it incorporates every aspect of what the signing agreement would be. Weapons that are currently not seen as strategic weapons need to be added to that calculus,” Cotton elaborated, before concluding: “Any treaty that would prevent proliferation across the globe, I am for.”
Hamas and extremist Palestinian forces are trying to escalate the situation on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, with the aim of having it develop into an all-out conflict with Israel, Eyal Hulata, head of the National Security Council, said on Thursday.
“There are constant efforts by Hamas and others to escalate and create a narrative that al-Aqsa is in danger and to turn Jerusalem into an explosive detonator,”Eyal Hulata, head of the National Security Council
“Israel has not changed its policy on the Temple Mount, and does not want to change its policy on the Temple Mount,” he said. “We are in a very sensitive time, before the holidays and the election. These things have a great influence.”
His words referenced the status quo understanding by which Jews may visit Judaism’s holiest site, but only Muslims may pray at the al-Aksa mosque located on the historic hilltop which is the third holiest religious site in Islam.
IDF Chief of Staff (Lt.-Gen) Aviv Kohavi examines the area where the late Maj. Bar Falah was killed. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)
Right-wing activists have pushed back at the status quo restrictions, with an increasing number of Jews unofficially heading to the site to pray.
The right-wing NGO Beyadenu – Returning to the Temple Mount reported on Thursday that there was a 95% increase in the number of Jewish worshippers praying there, from 25,582 in 2021 to 50,000 this year.
“We want the PA to act in a determined fashion to thwart terror activity,” Hulata said. “It has a responsibility to do so. During periods when the PA did so, then Israel was not forced to engage in such a wide-ranging activity to foil it on its own.”
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi has placed the blame for the increased violence on the weakening PA. The Palestinians have blamed Israel.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesperson for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, called on the US to intervene to stop Israeli aggression.
“The US administration must pressure the Israeli government to stop its aggression, rather than look to justify Israel’s crimes while holding the Palestinian Authority responsible,” said the spokesman.
“Everyone should do more,” Nides said. “Violence is violence. We want everyone to do more, we want the Palestinian Authority to do more, the Palestinian security forces to do more to prevent it. Obviously, we want the IDF to do their job, to make sure they keep things secure as well as making sure that innocent people do not get killed.”
“Violence is violence. We want everyone to do more, we want the Palestinian Authority to do more, the Palestinian security forces to do more to prevent it. Obviously, we want the IDF to do their job, to make sure they keep things secure as well as making sure that innocent people do not get killed.”Tom Nides
The IDF has said that while it continues to make moves to strengthen the PA, both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the Biden administration need to understand the situation in the West Bank. If the PA is unable to exert control over its population and reign in terrorists, the IDF will continue to act inside West Bank cities.
Hulata and Kochavi spoke as Israel is in the midst of an intense anti-terror operation in the West Bank, known as Break the Wave, which began on March 31 after a spate of terror attacks claimed 11 lives in eight days. Eight more lives have been lost in Palestinian terror attacks since the start of the operation.
Tensions have spiked in the area in recent weeks, as the IDF has increased its pressure on the northern West Bank. There have been nightly arrest raids and other counter-terror efforts, including continued work on closing the Seam Line to prevent Palestinians from illegally crossing into Israel.
The Israeli military has focused Operation Break the Wave on the northern West Bank cities of Jenin and Nablus, where the majority of terror attacks have originated. Violent clashes, many times with heavy gunfire leveled at forces, are becoming an almost regular occurrence during the raids, which have led to 1,500 arrests.
“If we were not inside the [Palestinian] cities, there would be terrorism outside the cities,” Hulata said.
According to the military, the IDF has thwarted 550 terror attacks over the past two months. Shin Bet Chief Ronen Bar said on Wednesday that the security agency has foiled over 300 significant terror attacks this past year, including shootings and suicide attacks.
The military said that while the last deadly terror attack inside Israel was on the evening of Independence Day, when two Palestinians killed three Israeli civilians in the city of Elad, Operation Break the Wave will continue as long as necessary in order to prevent future attacks.
The IDF moves and other clashes in the West Bank have taken its toll on Palestinians. The UN reported 69 Palestinian deaths at the hands of Israeli security forces as of the end of August, almost all from live fire. Included in that number are terrorists and Palestinian combatants.
The IDF is investigating whether mistakes were made by the troops, including by Falah. Both he and the head of the Menashe Brigade, Col. Arik Moyal, were deployed to the area where the two suspects had been identified. A Zik drone was rushed to the area but was not used. The suspects were not initially identified as being armed, and opened fire on the IDF force, fatally wounding Falah.
Following a preliminary investigation, the military is looking at whether the force in the field received a full operational picture. The IDF said Falah and Moyal were at the front of the force taking part in the incident, showing that soldiers and officers have a strong sense of protecting the state.
On Thursday morning, Israeli security forces led by troops from Falah’s Nahal reconnaissance battalion carried out operations in Kafr Dan in the northern West Bank, the hometown of the two terrorists involved in the deadly shootout.
The forces mapped the terrorists’ houses in preparation for demolition and arrested two relatives of one of the terrorists.
During the operation, clashes broke out and a Palestinian who threw a Molotov cocktail was killed. According to Wafa Palestinian News Agency, 17-year-old Udai Salah had been shot in the head and killed. Three others were injured.
Haluta underscored that “the IDF’s task is to be a first defensive wall to protect to protect citizens.”
NEW DELHI (Reuters) -India is concerned about a U.S. decision to provide a sustenance package for Pakistan’s fleet of F-16 fighter aircraft, the Indian defence minister told his U.S. counterpart on Wednesday.
The U.S.-built aircraft are a critical part of the military arsenal of Pakistan, whose arch-rival India worries that the fleet could be used against it by its neighbour.
Last week, the U.S. State Department approved the potential sale of sustainment and related equipment to Pakistan in a deal valued at up to $450 million, with the principal contractor being Lockheed Martin Corp.
“I conveyed India’s concern at the recent U.S. decision to provide a sustenance package for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet,” Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh wrote on Twitter following what he called a “warm and productive” telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin.
Singh’s ministry said the two also reviewed U.S.-Indian defence cooperation and reiterated their commitment to further strengthen military-to-military ties.
On Tuesday Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky said his forces have recaptured more than 3,100 square miles of Russian-held territory amid reports of towns in the northeast Kharkiv region being liberated all the way to Russia’s border.
This could be “not only a nuclear weapon, but also a chemical weapon, or possibly even a biological weapon. So I do think that it’s a worry among experts. It’s a worry among government officials as well. Nobody knows exactly what he will do and how he will react,” she said.
Soon after the start of his invasion on February 24, Putin put his nuclear forces on “high alert,” adding a sinister specter to a conflict in which Western leaders were already wrestling with whether to give the Russian leader an off-ramp to avoid an even greater calamity.
But reports of Russian atrocities in Bucha and Irpin as well as strikes against civilian targets have hardened Western resolve to provide Ukraine’s forces with support, both moral and military.
Experts are divided over the likelihood of Putin resorting to nuclear weapons. The historian Thomas Ricks tweeted he believed there was a “25 percent chance” the Russian leader would, because “his back is to the wall.” This message was retweeted by the retired U.S. general Barry McCaffrey, who said there was “clearly a danger” of a tactical nuclear strike by a “desperate Putin.”
Justin Bronk from the London think tank the Royal United Services Institute said while the Russian military “don’t appear to have any good options for how to respond” to Kyiv’s counteroffensive, there is “little potential benefit” for Putin to turn to tactical nuclear weapons.
“Contrary to popular belief, they are not hugely effective battlefield weapons beyond their symbolic shock value, and would have to be used in quite large numbers to materially affect the balance of power on the battlefield,” he told Newsweek.
“Ukrainian forces and Russian forces are generally fairly close to one another, so fratricide would be difficult to avoid if [nuclear weapons were] used near a frontline position, and the nuclear fallout produced would inevitably contaminate other countries including Russia itself,” Bronk said.
“Furthermore, a nuclear use by Russia against Ukraine would force China to abandon even tacit support of the Putin regime, which would be crippling for Russia in the medium to long-term.”
Russian TV Pundits Try To Make Sense of Losses in Ukraine
Brent M. Eastwood, Defense and National Security Editor for Washington, D.C. foreign policy magazine 1945 believes the use of a battlefield nuclear weapon by Putin “is plausible but not probable.”
“The one thing I could see Putin doing on the nuclear side is to order a test of a low-yield weapon,” he told Newsweek. “This could warn the Ukrainians and the world that he is willing to do the unthinkable.
“This test could create time for the Russians to re-deploy forces and improve morale to retake the initiative. Hopefully, the Russians see that the nuclear option is not something they would seriously consider.”
“The Americans are advising the Ukrainians and are likely warning them not to advance too far or too fast in order to ensure that they can be re-supplied and avoid encirclement. Russia will eventually re-group and attack again, but when?” Eastwood said.
“We can already see that they are using their missile superiority to attack critical infrastructure inside Ukraine,” she told Newsweek, “including power infrastructure, the power plants, transmission lines and all related infrastructure in order to try to keep Ukraine in the dark.
“I expect that they will continue to strike civilian targets, apartment buildings and so forth in large cities, in order once again to try to drive the Ukrainian morale in a negative direction.”
General Sir Richard Shirreff served as the deputy supreme allied commander Europe between 2011 and 2014. He lauded Ukraine’s “brilliantly executed” counteroffensive to recapture a significant chunk of territory which has “utterly humiliated Putin personally and demonstrated the complete inadequacies of the Russians.”
“It’s not unlike the Iraqis in 1991 when we cut right through them. The Russian army is on the same sort of level as Saddam Hussein’s motley crew,” he told Newsweek, referring to the Iraqi leader who invaded Kuwait to start the Gulf War.
“However, they are still deadly, as we have seen with the missiles and artillery raining down on Kharkiv. They could still reorganize and stabilize the line. And so that’s what Ukraine’s got to be careful of.”
Shirreff said that “of course there is a danger” Putin might resort to nuclear weapons, “but we should not take counsel of our fears.”
“I think it is unlikely, but nevertheless, the rat is cornered and you have got to be prepared for the worst case,” said Shirreff, who is now executive vice president of Sigma7 Global Risk Outcomes. “This is unlikely because firstly, it’s a double-edged sword.”
This is because the use of chemical and nuclear weapons in a fast moving fluid battlefield “could be just as much of a hindrance to Putin, particularly if the prevailing wind is from the West as it could be for Ukrainians on the receiving end.”
“I think it requires a degree of coordination and command and control, which at the moment, the Russians are not demonstrating that they’ve got.”