Rosneft, Russia’s main oil company, last week made a agreement “to take control of 60% of a central oil pipeline in northern Iraq and to increase its investments in the region to $3.5 billion.”
Turkey does not want the Kurds in Syria linking up with Iraqi Kurdistan and controlling large areas of northern Syria; then encouraging the ethnic Kurdish in Turkey to follow suit.
Turkey is gloating over the humiliating defeat of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters in Kirkuk by forces attached to Baghdad following the independence referendum held by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Sept. 25.
US and European opposition to the referendum in the name of preserving Iraq’s unity also pleased Ankara. Russia’s ambivalent position, however, was noted with silent disapproval.
Following the referendum, Moscow underscored its “unwavering commitment to the sovereignty, unity and integrity” of Iraq, according to a press statement issued by the Foreign Ministry. Moscow also added, however, that it “respects the national aspirations of the Kurds,” which is not what Ankara wanted to hear.
Speaking to the Kurdish daily Rudaw a few weeks before the referendum, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, “The desires and legal goals of the Kurds must be fulfilled like that of all other peoples.”
He added for good measure that the Kurds should “express their aspirations through a peaceful mechanism,” and that the goals of the referendum should also be “done peacefully … taking into account the view of Iraq’s neighbors.”
The key issue for Ankara, despite Moscow’s “unwavering commitment” to the unity of Iraq, is that Russia is not opposed to Kurdish political aspirations. Any form of self-rule, even under a federal or confederal system, is seen as a threat by Turkey, which fears the effect it will have on its restive Kurds.
Another disturbing development for Ankara was the agreement that Rosneft, Russia’s main oil company, concluded with the KRG last week to take control of 60% of a central oil pipeline in northern Iraq and to increase its investments in the region to $3.5 billion. Al-Monitor
Iraq and Russian authorities to bring Russian speaking orphans to Russian. The children’s pictures were shown on RT, some of the children were recognized by their relatives in Russia. These children are traumatized, very young, and have no official papers.
According to Samih Beno, a Jordanian politician of Chechen origin, 48 minors, presumably children of Russian citizens, are now being held in different Iraqi shelters. Beno, also the head of the Chechen Republic’s Friends Association in Jordan, helped begin the evacuation and serves as a mediator during talks between representatives of different countries and international public organizations. No concrete date as to when minors could be brought back home can be set at the moment, as the process of their return is full of legal complications. T
o bring the children back, it must be confirmed they are all Russian citizens, which is not easy as the minors lack documents proving their identity and can hardly tell the authorities anything about themselves or their family aside from a name. According to Beno, the kids will have to undergo a DNA test to prove they are relatives with people who claim so. RT
Just this week, two more children, whose parents are believed to be Russian-speaking, were brought into the orphanage in Baghdad. However, getting the new arrivals to open up and talk has proved to be a difficult process.
Mouhamed allegedly speaks a mixture of Russian and Arabic, but says nothing to reveal his identity. He has an injury on one of his knees. Haddja says nothing at all. She is suffering from a wound to her ankle, in what appears to be a severe burn.
One of their mates said both children were brought into the orphanage at night, and she has not heard either of them speak Russian since. The team working on the ground is now trying to establish if the children are of Russian descent. RT
Arriving In Russia
A four-year-old Chechen boy has been brought back to Russia after living with his jihadist father, who was fighting alongside ISIS in Mosul. Russian authorities are now seeking the return of several dozen such children from Iraqi orphanages.
Bilal Tagirov’s mother hadn’t seen him for two years. In October 2015, the child was kidnapped from his native Chechnya by his father, Khasan Tagirov, who went to fight alongside Islamic State jihadists, first in Syria and then in Iraq.
RT correspondent Murad Gazdiev traveled to the Russian republic of Dagestan, after grandparents of two sisters – Hadija and Fatima came forward. Both said they hadn’t slept for three days since they saw the video with the girls.
The girls were taken by their parents to Mosul some two years ago, then both parents were killed in a drone strike, leaving the children orphans, Gazdiev said, citing the girls’ grandparents.
“Our children secretly left us. How could they take away their own helpless kids? If you are leaving why do you need to traumatize the kids? I still don’t understand it,” the grandfather of the girls said passionately.
“We are waiting for our girls,” their grandmother added. RT
Mariam can hardly pronounce her name. At first she stayed silent, but then managed to speak of her injuries and the ordeal she suffered when the house she lived in with her family came under fire one day.
“Someone began shooting at the house. After that they threw grenades. And this is when the fire started,” she says. “Then I was hit by shrapnel. And this is how blood spilled from my head. Lots of blood,” she said, touching scars on her face, apparently left by shrapnel.
Mariam says that her mother was shot dead and she doesn’t know where her father is.
“There were snipers across the river. The snipers shot at my mother right here,” Mariam says. “They shot her in the arm. The head and the arm. And then she died.”
Hours after RT aired the report about Mariam, a woman from the Russian Republic of Dagestan contacted the channel, claiming that the girl in the video was her granddaughter.
“It’s my granddaughter!” the woman identified as Patimatzagra said through tears, adding that her daughter’s name was Madina. She was in shock to hear the girl say that her mother had died…
Mariam’s parents took the girl and left Dagestan in 2014, the woman said. From time to time Madina sent her photos and videos of Mariam and two boys, presumably, Mariam’s siblings. However, she stopped answering calls in January this year.RT
Mariam had problems even pronouncing her own name when she was discovered by RT in an Iraqi orphanage earlier in August.
The girl suffered immense psychological and physical trauma after her mother was killed by a sniper in front of her eyes and she herself was hit by shrapnel.
However, she was seen smiling for the first time in a long while as she was surrounded by the caring family in Grozny.
Earlier in August, a four-year-old Chechen boy, Bilal Tagirov, returned to Russia after living with his jihadist father, who was fighting for Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Mosul.
Around 50 children of Russian citizens currently remain in various shelters, Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, told RIA Novosti.
Their return home is a complicated affair due to the kids lacking passports, bureaucratic hurdles and the difficult security situation in Iraq. RT
A six-year old Iraqi Christian girl, kidnapped by Islamic State when she was three, was reunited with her family on Friday, and getting used to saying “mum” and “dad” once more. “The best day of my life is the day when Christina came back,” said her mother, Aida Nuh, on Saturday.
Dark circles around her eyes are evidence of sleepless nights since August 2014, when the militants snatched Christina from her, a few weeks after overrunning the town of Qaraqosh, 15 km (10 miles) southeast of Mosul.
“She stayed three years with the terrorists. Of course she forgot who her mother is, who her father is, that we are her family, but she will learn again.”
Islamic State has kidnapped thousands of men, women and children from Iraq’s minorities, mainly Yazidis. Reuters
After almost three years in captivity, an Iraqi Christian girl abducted by the Islamic State in August 2014 has finally been reunited with her parents.
Christina Abada, who is about to celebrate her sixth birthday, was welcomed home at around 10am this morning, local time. Locals say she was released by the Iraqi Special Forces.
“It is a very happy moment; everybody is dancing and clapping and singing,” one Christian woman told a World Watch Monitor contact from the Ashti refugee camp, near Erbil, where her parents have lived for the past two years.
“She looks OK, quite healthy. I believe she must have been in the house of a family who took good care of her. She was even wearing gold earrings, so it must have been a wealthy family,” she added.
But there was one note of caution.
“Although everybody was very happy, it was also sad to see that Christina herself is in shock about all the people around her,” the woman said. “Everybody is asking questions and speaking to her, but she does not say anything back, really. She also seems to be overwhelmed by the huge crowd of people welcoming her.”
In the below clip, posted on Twitter by local journalist Steven Nabil, Christina’s mother thanks people around the world for praying for them, and praises God that Christina is now home.
A historical moment Kristina the christian girl kidnapped by #isis in 2014 is reuniting right now with her family after beeing liberated pic.twitter.com/xLw9yfaMnz
Christina was abducted in August 2014, when IS overran Iraq’s second city, Mosul, and then swept into the Christian city of Qaraqosh in the Nineveh Plains, where the Abadas lived. Prior to IS’s occupation, it was the largest Christian city in Iraq.
Hundreds of thousands of Christians and other minorities had already fled the northern region. Christina’s family, however, stayed behind because the father, Khader, is blind. Other Christians too old or frail to flee also stayed, hoping for a measure of mercy from the invaders – a hope which was misplaced.
On 22 August, militants rounded up the Christians, saying they would receive medical check-ups. World Watch Monitor learnt how events unfolded for Christina’s mother, Ayda. Several times, she said, IS fighters pointed at her, with Christina in her lap.
Someone gave an order to take out any gold or valuables. The Christians produced whatever they had brought – money, gold, clothes, ID cards. The IS militants took it all.
As the Christians were bundled into a bus whose windows were smeared with dirt, a jihadist walked up to Ayda. He took her little girl from her arms and just walked away.
Ayda pleaded for her daughter, but the man others called ‘emir‘ – or chief – waved Ayda away with a despising gesture. At gunpoint, she was forced back onto the bus.
Until today, that was the last time Christina’s parents had seen her.
Rumours and pain
For the first two years of Christina’s abduction, there were regular rumours that she was still alive, but over the past year those rumours had begun to dry up, increasing fears about her fate.
A year after her abduction, her parents told a contact for the charity Open Doors about their pain of not being able to celebrate with their daughter on her fourth birthday.
“My biggest joy would be when my child, Christina, would return to us,” Ayda said.
“Christina, where have you been, beautiful?” one of the characters, Moshtak, said to a girl in a blood-stained dress. “Your mother is looking for you. She looked for you everywhere. Where did they take you, beautiful?”
“Can any of you bring Christina back to her mother?” Moshtak asked, before ending on a hopeful note, reminding the audience that, one day, “she will wear a new dress.”
The play was referencing the time when Christina will receive a new life in heaven, but for her parents and the rest of the community, today is a day they rejoice that there is still life for her, here on Earth.
ISIS is going around destroying any and all historical sites that belong to any religion besides Islam.
But they may have just unwittingly helped prove the veracity of at least one book of the Bible.
While occupying the Iraqi city of Mosul, ISIS demolished the traditional Tomb of Jonah, the biblical prophet tasked with preaching to the people of the Assyrian capital of Nineveh.
After ISIS was recently pushed out of Mosul, archeologists had a chance to examine the wreckage, and made a stunning discovery.
Fox News reported that below the ancient tomb lies the long-lost palace of the Assyrian King Sennacherib, whose invasion of Judah and miraculous defeat before the walls of Jerusalem is extensively documented in the Bible.
In the palace, archeologists have begun to uncover ancient inscriptions and documents from the time of Sennacherib, his son King Esarhaddon, and his son King Ashurbanipal.
The find is one of the more exciting archeological finds in recent years, and provides yet further evidence that the biblical account of Middle East history is accurate.
Christmas mass was held in Bartella and Qaraqosh in Iraq, towns near Mosul recaptured from ISIS.
Several hundred Iraqi Christians flocked on Saturday to a northern town recently retaken from Islamic State, celebrating Christmas for the first time since 2013, their joy tainted with sadness over the desecration of their church.
Once home to thousands of Assyrian Christians, Bartella emptied in August 2014 when it fell to Islamic State’s blitz across large parts of Iraq and neighbouring Syria. Iraqi forces took it back in the first few days of the U.S.-backed offensive that started in October.
Women holding candles ululated as they went into the town’s Mar Shimoni church, expressing their joy at returning to the place where many of them said they had been baptised.
“This is the best day of my life. Sometimes I thought it would never come,” said Shurook Tawfiq, a 32-year-old housewife displaced to the nearby Kurdish city of Erbil.
The church was badly damaged during Islamic State’s time in control of the town, with crosses taken down, statues of saints defaced and the chancel burnt.
A new cross has been affixed on top of the chapel, while a decorated plastic Christmas tree now stands near the massive gate. Soldiers stood guard nearby and others were posted on rooftops.
A peal of festive bells rang out over the town, which is still largely empty, with many houses reduced to rubble by the fighting that raged two months ago.
“It is a mix of sadness and happiness,” Bishop Mussa Shemani told Reuters before celebrating the Christmas Eve Mass.
“We are sad to see what has been done to our holiest places by our own countrymen, but at the same time we are happy to celebrate the first Mass after two years.”
The region of Nineveh is one of the most ancient settlements of Christianity, going back nearly 2,000 years. ChannelNewsAsia
Kurdish Peshmerga liberated the town of Bashiqa in Iraq afte two years of ISIS occupation.
Local residents and Kurdish militia fighters have restored a cross to the top of Saint George’s church in the Iraqi town of Bashiqa. The cross was destroyed by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) jihadists after they captured the town two years ago.
The restoration was made possible after Bashiqa and its twin village Bahzani were recaptured by Peshmerga fighters earlier this month.
In a solemn ceremony on Saturday, the symbol of the Christian faith was installed atop the church but the new plain white cross looks simple compared to the elaborately decorated one destroyed by the terrorists. RT
St. George Syriac Orthodox Church in Bashiqa, Iraq before ISIS.
Church bells rang in an Iraqi Christian town over the weekend for the first time since the Islamic State captured it more than two years ago, as Iraqi forces advance on the city of Mosul to push out the terrorist group.
The Christian town of Bartella was held by ISIS until Saturday, when Iraqi ground forces liberated the area. One Iraqi soldier signaled victory by ringing the bells of the town’s church, which ISIS defaced by writing on its walls, “Our God is higher than the cross,” the International Business Times reports. Free Beacon
Turkey has been in a row with Iraq’s central government over Turkish troops near Mosul. Erdogan has warned of bloodshed if the Iraqi army uses Shiite militia to retake Mosul, which is a largely Sunni city.
Turkey and Iraq have reached an agreement in principle that could eventually allow a Turkish role in the campaign to retake Mosul from Islamic State, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Friday after talks with President Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan has previously voiced frustration that NATO member Turkey has not been more involved in the U.S.-backed assault on the Iraqi city, once part of the Ottoman empire and still seen by Turkey as firmly within its sphere of influence.
Iraq, meanwhile, views Turkish military moves on its territory with apprehension, and any agreement on Mosul would defuse a major source of tension between the neighbors. Reuters
What is Ankara’s strategic thinking about the battle for Mosul in Iraq, even as Turkey unleashes airstrikes on US-backed Kurds in Syria? One undeniable fact: Ankara feverishly wants to be in Mosul when the cards in Iraq are reshuffled.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, responding to Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s ultimatum that Turkish soldiers can’t enter Mosul, said Oct. 17, “How can you keep me out? I have a 350-kilometer [200-mile] border there. Those who have nothing to do with the place are entering Mosul. Why? Because Baghdad is supposed to have invited them. … We will be there for the operation and at the table.”
The next day, newspapers close to Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government reported his words in banner headlines. Erdogan has thus made Mosul an important domestic political issue in Turkey. al-monitor
They took our houses, and we became one family. They took our churches, and now we became one church… -Father Douglas Al-Bazi
Iraqi Christians fled Qaraqosh, Iraq over a year ago, 149 are now in Slovakia.
Father Douglas Al-Bazi’s congregation, almost a quarter of which is now in Slovakia, hail from the northern Iraqi/Kurdi town of Qaraqosh. What was once the center of Iraqi Christianity was invaded by ISIS in August 2014. Tens of thousands Christians fled overnight. Facing a terrible dust storm, many abandoned their vehicles and walked the 50 kilometers to the nearest big city, Erbil, Iraq.
In Erbil, some 560 Christians from Qaraqosh sought refuge at Al-Biza’s Mar Elia Chaldean Catholic Church. Originally sleeping under the open sky, they soon moved to tents, and then to the semi-permanent “caravans,” the mobile-home like structures in which hundreds currently dwell [metal containers].
Al-Bazi’s concern in getting his congregants to safety came from personal knowledge of what extremist Muslims are capable of: In 2006 he was shot in his leg and kidnapped by Islamic extremists who, over a nightmarish nine days, tortured him — breaking his teeth, back and nose. His leg still carries his souvenir bullet.
U.S. officials were concerned that Iran was benefiting from the money and that Iraqi financial firms handling funds have ISIS ties.
Fed and Treasury officials were concerned that dollars were ending up at sanctioned Iranian banks and possibly being funneled to Islamic State militants
The Federal Reserve and Treasury Department temporarily shut off the flow of billions of dollars to Iraq’s central bank this summer as concerns mounted that the currency was ending up at Iranian banks and possibly being funneled to Islamic State militants, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials and other people familiar with the matter.
The previously unreported move to stop the cash shipments pushed the Iraqi financial system to the brink of crisis and marked a climactic moment in efforts to avert the flow of dollars to U.S. foes.
The situation sheds light on an important facet of the long-running U.S. battle against terror: Just as military officials worry about U.S. weapons getting to enemies, finance officials are on a global hunt to keep dollars from getting into the hands of adversaries who could use it to finance their activities. WSJ
Putin is taking the alliance built by the Soviet Union with Syria and Iran to a new level.
Russian, Syrian and Iranian military commanders have set up a coordination cell in Baghdad in recent days to try to begin working with Iranian-backed Shia militias fighting the Islamic State, Fox News has learned.
Western intelligence sources say the coordination cell includes low-level Russian generals. U.S. officials say it is not clear whether the Iraqi government is involved at the moment.
Describing the arrival of Russian military personnel in Baghdad, one senior U.S. official said, “They are popping up everywhere.” …
The Russian military flew 12 Sukhoi Su-25 “Frogfoot” and a dozen Sukhoi Su-24 “Fencer” attack aircraft in “tight formations” under the “steady stream” of the large Russian An-124 cargo planes that have been ferrying supplies from bases in Russia through Iran before traveling on to Syria, the official said.
The large cargo planes appeared as “a big blip” on radar, but flying beneath them were “tight formations” of the smaller Russian fighter jets that used jamming pods and switched off their IFF, which would identify the aircraft to radar.
The large Russian cargo planes have the capability to fly directly from Russia to Syria, but the smaller attack aircraft do not.
“The Russian jets did not have the legs to make it directly from Russia to Syria, and needed a base to refuel,” said the official, who spoke to Fox News under the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose sensitive information.
According to the Aviationist, the Russian cargo planes and fighter jets landed at an airbase in Hamadan, Iran, roughly halfway between Baghdad and Tehran on Sept 18-19.
Fox News also has learned from U.S. military sources that the Russians have begun flying some of the Sukhoi fighter and attack jets from Bassel al-Assad airport, in Latakia, now a Russian forward operating base along the Mediterranean.
The planes are not dropping bombs or conducting attack missions, but just flying around near the base, according to one official. The official also confirmed that Russian destroyers are in position off the Mediterranean coast. FoxNews