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Iraqi PM condemns rocket attack on US embassy in Baghdad

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Adel Abdul-Mahdi

Baghdad, Jan 27: The Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Sunday condemned the rocket attack on the US embassy in the Green Zone in central Baghdad.

An attack occurred once again against a foreign diplomatic mission when Katyusha rockets landed inside the campus of the US embassy, said a statement by Abdul Mahdi on his official Twitter Page, the Xinhua news agency reported.

“We denounce the continuation of these condemned and outlaw acts that weaken the state and undermine its sovereignty,” the statement said.

Abdul Mahdi, commander-in-chief of the Iraqi forces, said that he has ordered the Iraqi forces to deploy and look for the attackers, as well as launching an investigation into the incident, in order to arrest those who fired these rockets, according to the statement.

“The continuation of such irresponsible act, which makes the entire country to bear its consequences and serious repercussions, would lead to damage the country’s higher interests and its relations with its friends, which may turn Iraq to a battlefield,” the statement added.

Abdul Mahdi also confirmed that his government is “committed to protecting all diplomatic missions and take all necessary measures in accordance with the law.”

Abdul Mahdi statement came after an Interior Ministry official said that four Katyusha rockets landed in the evening near the US embassy in the heavily fortified Green Zone.

Later on, a statement by the media office affiliated with the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said that five rockets hit the Green Zone, without giving further details.

The heavily fortified Green Zone has been frequently targeted by insurgents’ mortar and rocket attacks. The roughly 10 square km zone is located on the west bank of the Tigris River, which bisects the Iraqi capital.

On Friday, the Iraqi prominent Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr called for a scheduled withdrawal of US troops from Iraq through peaceful means.

The Iraqi parliament passed a resolution requiring the government to end the presence of foreign forces in Iraq on January 5, two days after a US drone strike on a convoy at Baghdad airport, which killed Qassem Soleimani, former commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq’s paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces.

Over 5,000 US troops have been deployed in Iraq to support the Iraqi forces in the battles against the Islamic State militants, mainly providing training and advising to the Iraqi forces.

Disaster

5.7 magnitude earthquake hits Iran

According to local reports, communication means within the quake-hit region as well as the power network have been disrupted.

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Iran Turkey Earthquake

Tehran, Feb 24 : Another 5.7 magnitude earthquake hit Qotur region in West Azerbaijan Province in the northwest of Iran, according to Iran’s Seismological Centre.

The earthquake took place at 7:30 p.m. (local time) on Sunday, with the epicentre at the depth of 12 km, 38.505 degrees north latitude and 44.388 degrees east longitude.

Earlier in the day, another 5.7 magnitude earthquake hit the same region, injuring nearly 100 people and damaging dozens of villages, Xinhua news agency reported.

According to local reports, communication means within the quake-hit region as well as the power network have been disrupted.

The governor of the West Azerbaijan province told IRIB TV that the access to the region is very difficult, as the quake has took place in the mountain area.

He said that rescue operators have been sent to the area.

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Hardline Iran and aggressive nationalism

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Iran’s parliamentary polls are likely to elect a hardline Parliament when the country goes to the polls to choose a new Majlis on February 21. With an economy battered by renewed American sanctions and US President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy, Iran will turn more conservative after the new Parliament is elected.

The Guardian Council, appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rejected more than half the candidates, leaving an electoral arena dominated by hardliners. The large scale disqualification of reformist candidates has led to public disinterest in the polls and demands from dissident groups to boycott the elections.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has appealed to the people to cast their ballot in the February 21 election, but there is growing concern in Tehran that polling levels may drop sharply due to the voters ire at the high level of disqualifications. The present Majlis has about 100 reformists in the 290-member house, while the rest comprise hardline conservatives as well as a sizeable number of independents.

The Guardian Council has vetted the candidates in all parliamentary elections, and has usually rejected from 15 per cent to 40 per cent of the candidates in any election. But this time the rejection rate is much higher than before, leading to general disenchantment with the forthcoming elections. More than half the candidates for the parliamentary elections have not been approved and the rejections include many members of the existing Parliament.

The Majlis enacts legislation, approves the budget and ratifies international agreements. The election of a conservative legislature would affect the functioning of the government led by President Rouhani. The election result would also act as an indicator for the next presidential elections that are due in just over a year in mid-2021.

Iran has suffered under the additional sanctions imposed by the US after Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement in 2018. The additional sanctions severely impacted Iran’s economy, which has led to increasing unrest among the people. Public anger erupted in November last year when thousands of Iranians staged street protests in different parts of the country over hikes in fuel prices. The protests were put down through harsh action by the security forces. Tensions with the US escalated after Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani was killed in a targeted US air strike in January. Soleimani, a leader and General was deeply admired in Iran and the region, and his assassination had shocked most Iranians. But in the confrontation with the US, Iranian forces shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet plane killing all 176 passengers near Teheran. There was outrage in Iran and angry protests as officials first sought to deny and cover-up the incident before admitting that the passenger aircraft had been shot down by mistake.

Iran has gone through economic and political crisis; the reformists have been under pressure ever since the US quit the nuclear agreement. Though there was widespread support for the nuclear agreement in Iran, many hardliners had opposed the agreement. Trump’s rejection of the agreement seemed to validate the objections of the hardliners. Rouhani’s government has been criticised by the reformists for failing to fulfil election promises of providing greater freedoms and easing social restrictions, while the hardliners have attacked him for negotiating with western powers on the nuclear agreement which collapsed after Trump targeted Iran and reimposed sanctions.

The current Parliament was elected in 2016 when the moderates gained ground after a spell of conservative rule under President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. In 2016, a combination of reformists, centrists and moderate conservatives had won about 41 per cent of the seats, while the hardliners won 29 per cent and 28 per cent went to independent candidates. In 2004, large-scale disqualification of candidates before the polls had marginalised the reformist sections for several years and created the conditions for the election of hardliner, Ahmedinejad.

The 2016 elections brought back the reformists and moderates to power. The 2016 election was seen as Iran moving towards a more open society with greater social freedoms. A conservative or hardline Parliament will set the path to a more aggressively nationalist policy towards the US, and make it increasingly difficult for any government to make any moves towards engaging with the US.

(Shubha Singh is a foreign policy and strategic affairs commentator. The views expressed are personal. She can be reached at [email protected])

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Iran ready for interaction, cooperation with Europe: Rouhani

He expressed the hope that under new EU representative the relations between the Islamic republic and Europe will improve.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Tehran, Feb 4 : Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the Islamic republic is ready for interaction and cooperation with Europe to settle nuclear deal-related problems, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Rouhani made the remarks while meeting with Josep Borrell, high Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who arrived in Tehran on Monday for talks on a range of issues, Xinhua news agency reported.

Rouhani referred to Iran’s reduction of commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA,) saying that Tehran is ready to re-embrace its vows if the Europeans help protect Iran’s economic interests enshrined by the JCPOA.

He expressed the hope that under new EU representative the relations between the Islamic republic and Europe will improve.

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