Iran warns imperialists as Iraqi forces advance in Mosul and Yemenis condemn USA


LEADER of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has warned that the United States and Zionists are especially targeting Iran because it is the most prominent Islamic republic.

‘Today, all these animosities targeting Iran and Islam are spearheaded by the US and Zionists,’ he told candidates contesting the upcoming presidential election in Iran, which is slated for May 19. He went on: ‘The creation of terrorist groups in the name of Islam and engendering divisions among Muslim countries, including in Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen, are conspiracies devised by the oppressive US and the evil Zionist regime to fight Islam.’

Ayatollah Khamenei further warned the presidential candidates that they should not be eyeing foreign assistance to enable the country’s development. They should pledge to look to the Iranian nation itself, and not beyond the borders, for the advancement of the country’s affairs, its economic development, and for removing obstacles,’ he said.

• Iraqi security forces have pushed deeper into western Mosul, liberating the largest neighbourhood in the area in a major blow to the Takfiri Daesh terror group. Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Yarallah, the commander of ‘We Are Coming, Nineveh Operations,’ said Iraqi forces completely recaptured the neighbourhood of al-Tanak from Daesh on Tuesday. He added that Iraqi forces inflicted heavy losses on the terrorists during the operation.

To the east of Tanak, Iraqi armed forces have been facing tough resistance from Daesh in Mosul’s Old City, an area stretching along the Tigris River, which divides Mosul into its eastern and western half. The Old City’s narrow alleys and densely-populated areas have made it hard for Iraqi troops to move forward.

The development comes a day after Iraq’s Joint Operations Command had said Iraqi forces have so far liberated 70 per cent of western Mosul from the control of Daesh terrorists.Meanwhile, Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), also known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, said their fighters managed to liberate the village of Tal Helalah, north of the al-Hatra city in Nineveh Province, of which Mosul is the capital.

Iraqi forces have launched an operation from three directions to liberate Hatra. During the battles, the volunteer fighters found a cache of weapons and equipment north of the city, which lies to the south of Mosul.

Hatra is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site of the same name that was destroyed by Daesh.

In another development, Iraq’s Federal Police Forces said on Tuesday that some 260,000 civilians have been freed from the clutches of Daesh in the Old City. Lieutenant General Raed Shaker Jawdat said Daesh was using the civilians as human shields there.

Iraqi army soldiers and pro-government popular fighters have made sweeping gains against the Takfiri elements since launching the operation to retake Mosul. The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19.

•Turkey’s highest administrative court has refused to hear an appeal by the main opposition party against the acceptance of unstamped ballots in the recent referendum on expanding President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers. On Tuesday, the Council of State, which handles complaints and appeals against state and public institutions, said it had no jurisdiction over the case.

According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, the court’s decision was taken on a majority of votes, but the Council of State was not immediately available for comment. In the April 16 referendum, the ‘Yes’ campaign won over 51 per cent of the vote, while the ‘No’ campaign gained nearly 49 per cent.

The Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) lawyer Atilla Kart formally submitted the petition to the Council of State last Friday afternoon over the last-minute decision by the High Electoral Board (YSK) to accept unstamped ballots as valid. The news comes after Turkey’s highest electoral authority, the YSK, last Wednesday rejected an appeal, which had been made by the main opposition parties over allegations of vote-rigging.

Earlier, CHP’s deputy leader, Bulent Tezcan, said the party would file a case urging the annulment of the YSK’s decision to allow the rule change. He had earlier called for the outcome of the referendum not to be finalised until the case was concluded. The results are expected to be confirmed on today or tomorrow (April 27 or 28).

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim slammed the moves as ‘futile’ and said there was ‘no point in wasting more of everyone’s time.’ Yildirim told reporters in Ankara that it was ‘not the democratic way to go to court, to make complaints to fix the people’s decision.’

The CHP is also assessing whether to take the appeal against the referendum result to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Last Thursday, Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said the ECHR had no jurisdiction to rule on appeals against the result of the recent referendum.

Major Turkish cities have been the scene of anti-government protests since the referendum result was announced.

Supporters of the fresh constitutional changes claim that they will ‘modernise’ Turkey, but opponents warn of the imposition of authoritarian rule. Under the new system, the office and position of prime minister would be scrapped and the president would be granted executive powers to directly appoint top public officials, including ministers, and assign one or several vice presidents.

Under the amendments, Turkey’s next presidential and parliamentary elections will be held simultaneously on November 3rd, 2019 and the head of state would have a five-year tenure, for a maximum of two terms. The constitutional changes would mean that Erdogan could stay in power for another two terms until 2029.

• The UN last week urged the Saudi-led coalition not to bomb Hodeida. Yemeni protestors reached the Red Sea port city of Hodeida on Tuesday, ending a week-long march from the capital to demand the rebel-held port be declared a humanitarian zone. Some 25 protestors made the 225-kilometre (140-mile) walk, dubbed the ‘march for bread’, to call for unrestricted aid deliveries to Yemen, where Iran-backed Huthi rebels have battled government forces allied with a Saudi-led Arab coalition for two years.

Protestors waved flags emblazoned with loaves of bread and chanted slogans demanding the port be spared in the war, which the United Nations estimates has killed more than 7,700 people and left millions struggling to find food.

‘The Hodeida port has nothing to do with war… Let them fight anywhere, but leave the port alone. The port is for our women, children, our old people,’ said protestor Ali Mohammed Yahya, who walked for six days from Sanaa to Hodeida.

Hodeida, the main entry point for aid, is currently controlled by the Huthis but fears are mounting over a potential coalition military offensive to seize control. The UN last week urged the Saudi-led coalition not to bomb Hodeida, the fourth most populated city in Yemen.

Rights group Amnesty International warned on Tuesday that a military offensive ‘would be devastating far beyond Hodeida since the city’s port is a crucial access point for lifesaving international aid.’ A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition has however denied plans to launch an offensive on Hodeida.

The conflict in Yemen pits the Huthis, allied with former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, against government forces loyal to current President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi. The Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive early this year to help Hadi’s forces close in on Yemen’s entire Red Sea coast, including Hodeida. The UN has appealed for $2.1 billion in international assistance this year for Yemen, one of four countries facing famine in 2017.