Archive for Middle East
All 294 US diplomatic outposts are on high alert after the terror threats were posted online by rebels. One ISIS post said: “If America attacks Iraq every American embassy in the world will be exposed and attacked with car bombs.” Another vowed: “If the United States bomb Iraq, every American citizen is a legitimate target.” The terrorists said that companies in Arab countries employing US citizens would also be targeted, after threatening to “slaughter” US doctors around the world. The messages came amid a US government fightback on Twitter against ISIS militants who urged followers to tweet threats. The @ansaar999 account, which appears to have links with the rebel group, tweeted its 23,400 followers, telling them to post anti-US messages in English. The messages, sent to politicians and celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, contained images of dead US soldiers, the 9/11 attacks and masked ISIS fighters.
The Obama administration plans on having a U.S. presence in Iraq of roughly 1,000 troops and advisers to protect its embassy in Baghdad, but deployed personnel won’t lack firepower – Apache helicopters will be at their disposal. Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, announced that in addition to the Apaches, unarmed surveillance drones will help U.S. personnel and Iraqis gather intelligence on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Apache helicopters are capable of firing Hellfire missiles and 70 mm rockets. The aircraft includes a 30mm automatic cannon with up to 1,200 high-explosive, dual-purpose ammunition rounds. Currently there are about 475 U.S. military personnel deployed to Iraq for security purposes, AFP reported. Adm. Kirby said that the Obama administration has approved sending up to 300 more military advisers to augment the 180 currently in Iraq
Czech police have shelved the investigation into a Semtex explosion at the Palestinian Embassy in Prague in January that killed Ambassador Jamal al Jamal, because the police did not uncover any crime. Detectives were investigating the case as a killing out of negligence and also because of unauthorized armaments, because 12 weapons originating in the 1980s were found in the building after the accident. The police shelved the investigation into the death because no crime was involved. The same applies to the suspicion of armaments. Allegedly, it has not been proved that anyone else but the ambassador could be suspected of causing the death. Since he has died, the respective law rules out his criminal prosecution. The blast shattered the embassy in Prague-Suchdol on New Year’s Day. Jamal al Jamal succumbed to his serious injuries sustained in the explosion. Representatives of the embassy said in February the death was caused by an unintentional error, and the same applies to the possession of unregistered weapons. Palestinian authorities later apologized to the Czech government. According to investigators, Jamal al Jamal was killed by Semtex hidden in a book. His daughter spoke about a possible murder.
The helpline set up by the Indian embassy in Baghdad has been receiving many calls for rescue. Travel documents of more than 800 people have been readied so that they can be brought back to India from different parts of Iraq. The ministry of external affairs issued a travel advisory for Indian nationals in Iraq and the Indian Embassy in Baghdad has opened six camp offices at Najaf, Karbala and Basra for assisting Indians with travel documents and paper work. Instructions to the workers have been issued in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Urdu and Hindi. Two officials from Hyderabad have been posted at Basra and Najaf to assist in Telugu. Srinivas Rao, a Telugu-speaking official assisting people in Najaf, Iraq, said that there are over 200 Telugu speaking people in Najaf. “The city so far has been peaceful. We have already issued a total of 800 to 1,000 documents for Indians to return to the country. Most of the men are construction workers and most of the women are nurses,” he said adding “We get over 100 calls every day. Some call for help, some call to enquire about their family.”
President Obama announced that he is sending approximately 200 American troops to Iraq to reinforce security at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the Baghdad International Airport, as the country wages a bloody battle against jihadists. The troops will serve a different mission in Iraq than the 275 advisory troops sent to Iraq earlier this month in response to advances by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Syria (ISIS). The additional troops will serve to solely augment security. “The presence of these additional forces will help enable the Embassy to continue its critical diplomatic mission and work with Iraq on challenges they are facing as they confront (ISIS),” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement. Obama notified House and Senate leaders in a letter on Monday. Obama said the additions include security forces, rotary-wing aircraft, and support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Obama said the troops will stay in Iraq until security improves so that the reinforcements are no longer needed.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Michael Corbin, has been racking up speeding tickets, misusing a government credit card and contributing to low morale among his staff, according to a recently released report by the State Department’s inspector general. A State Department spokesperson told CBS News that it is reviewing the report and will formally respond to the inspector general. CBS News made numerous requests for comment from Corbin but has not received a response. The report says that in the past three years, Corbin received a “large number of speeding fines” during periodic trips to Dubai. Later, the inspector general notes, Corbin asked the UAE to pardon the fines. The inspector general recommended that embassy staff stop asking for “special handling of traffic fines.” The inspector general also recommends that Corbin stop using government credit cards to pay for personal expenditures. According to the report, the ambassador reimbursed the State Department for personal expenditures on his work credit card but he “benefited from the corporate rate and inappropriately used government resources for personal purposes.” The report criticized Corbin’s leadership saying he failed to focus on his staff and the internal workings of the embassy. It says that Corbin’s focus on business development left the rest of the embassy’s mission “adrift.”
The Iranian ambassador to Beirut says terrorist acts by militants in the Middle East serve the interests of Israel. Mohammad Fat-hali made the remarks in a meeting with Lebanese Shia cleric Sheikh Abdel Emir Qablan. The Lebanese cleric, for his part, urged a united front against Takfiri militants from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) carrying out terror acts in Iraq, Lebanon and other regional countries.
The NRI Sabha Punjab has alleged that Indian embassy in Baghdad was not cooperating with Indians stranded in Iraq, who have been complaining about the callous attitude of its officials. Sabha president Jasbir Singh Shergill said he tasted the callousness of officials posted in the Indian embassy when he desperately tried to inform them about 15 Punjabis stranded in Sulaymaniyah city of Iraq wanting to move from there to a safer place like Baghdad. Shergill said he received two calls from stranded persons on June 21, who sought help to be moved to a safer place. The NRI Sabha chief said he called up the Indian embassy in Baghdad to inform about the stranded persons requesting to be moved to a safer place. “The person attending the call said he was not concerned with the case, and asked me to contact on the other number. Then, after repeated calls at the other number, there was no response. Later, the previous number was also not being picked up. I then informed Jalandhar deputy commissioner about it, who then brought the matter to the notice of Punjab government and Centre. However, by that time, five of the stranded persons were abducted and no contact could be established with them,” he alleged. “We have received calls not only from Punjabis but people hailing from other states, too, who are stranded in Iraq. There was one common complaint from them that the Indian officials were callous and not helping them,” Shergill said, adding that the Indian government should have sought cooperation from US and UK, who are taking out their citizens from Iraq.
As militant Sunni fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) continue their assault on Iraq, following their recent take-over of Baquba, President Barack Obama has ordered the deployment of 275 combat-ready troops to help defend Baghdad and, in particular, the new and expensive embassy there. At 4,700,000 sq ft, the Yaeger Architecture-designed embassy is the largest in the world and, with a cost exceeding $700 million, it was the most expensive to construct. Its multiple gyms, conference rooms, pools, private gardens, department stores, and fortified apartments are all protected by blast-resistant walls and multiple security checks. An American working at the embassy has no real need to venture beyond its walls. The complex is a city-within-a-city –– or, more accurately, a city-within-a-city-within-a-city, as the embassy is situated in the heavily-fortified “Green Zone” that harbors Baghdad’s international population. The urgent rush to protect the supposedly impenetrable embassy brings renewed scrutiny to a building complex that has been plagued by controversy and delays since the State Department unveiled designs for it in 2004, a year after the initial invasion that toppled the reign of Saddam Hussein.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says Australian embassy staff in a “tense but calm” Iraq have made plans for evacuation. But she would not confirm reports they have begun destroying documents at the mission in Baghdad because of military advances by Sunni militants. A small Defence team has been sent to Baghdad to review security at the mission and to help prepare for an evacuation if it becomes necessary. Non-essential staff at the embassy have already been evacuated following the capture of several key Iraqi cities by Sunni extremists, who overnight seized a key Syrian border crossing. Ms Bishop said staff in Baghdad were still doing some embassy work, although this was limited. “Our embassy is making contingency plans should we have to evacuate them but at this stage there is no discussion about that beyond putting those plans in place,” she told ABC’s Insiders. “They are still doing diplomatic work, including consular work, but that is limited.”