Al-Maliki welcomes Syrian attacks against militants on Iraqi land
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki welcomed air strikes from the Syrian army against militants on the Syria-Iraq border on Thursday, reported independent news agency the Iraqi Press.
“Despite the fact that Iraq did not ask anyone to launch the raids on Iraqi soil,” al-Maliki said, “we welcome the attacks against the militants.”
On Tuesday, there were reports of air strikes on the al-Qaim district on the Iraqi side of the Syria-Iraq border, but no party has claimed responsibility.
The prime minister also rejected calls for a “national salvation” government Wednesday, calling the proposal a “coup” against the constitution.
The proposal, suggested by al-Maliki’s Shiite political rival Ayad Allawi, would have split political power between the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish powers, reported Iraqi pro-government news agency Almasalah.
“This is an attempt by small factions to exploit the terrorist attacks that the country has been exposed to for political gain, at the expense of the greater interests of the Iraqi people,” said al-Maliki in his weekly address to the nation.
In his speech, al-Maliki called supporters of the national salvation government “rebels,” observed SANA, the official Syrian news agency, on Wednesday. Syrian president Bashar Assad is closely aligned with the al-Maliki-led Iraqi government because of his Alawite ethnicity, a Shiite minority.
Al-Maliki said he would convene parliament in a week to begin the process of forming a new government. A coalition led by al-Maliki won 92 of the 328 seats in parliament in elections that took place in April.
Al-Maliki’s rejection of an emergency government comes in the wake of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Baghdad, in which he urged al-Maliki to move towards a more inclusive government.
Also on Wednesday, the prominent Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr called for a government of national unity, and urged that moderate Sunnis not be categorized as extremists, reported American-based news agency Alhurra.
Clashes intensify in Waer
The embattled opposition-controlled neighborhood of Waer in Homs was reportedly hit by mortar shelling and tanks Wednesday, injuring dozens of civilians, reported pro-opposition news agency the Syrian Media Center of Homs.
The new clashes come as the regime seeks complete control over the city since opposition fighters evacuated their positions in Old Homs last month after reaching agreements with the regime.
Similar negotiations between the rebels in Waer, comprised of fighters from the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic Front, and the government have stalled over the last several weeks. Waer is the last rebel-held neighborhood in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city.
“After the explosions, violent clashes broke out with the regime forces in the Seventh and Ninth districts [of Waer],” Hassan Abu Zein, a Homs-based pro-opposition activist, told Syria Direct on Thursday.
Pro-regime newspaper Al Watan appeared to confirm the clashes in Waer, reporting that government forces managed to kill several opposition fighters.
Waer, the last rebel-controlled district of Homs. Photo courtesy of al-Waer News Nework.
ISIS affiliate claims Beirut blast
ISIS-affiliated Liwa Ahrar a-Sunna-Balbek claimed responsibility on their Twitter feed Wednesday for a suicide bombing that struck the Duroy hotel on the same day in the western Beirut neighborhood of A-Rusha, wounding 11.
The attack comes on the heels of a suicide bombing earlier this week near a military checkpoint in Beirut’s A-Tayuna neighborhood, which resulted in an estimated 40 wounded, and another attack last Friday near an Internal Security checkpoint in Bekaa province, resulting in an estimated 33 dead and one wounded.
Liwa Ahrar a-Sunna-Balbek is a shadowy group that announced allegiance to ISIS in March of this year after a dispute with Jabhat a-Nusra over adopting a suicide attack in A-Nabi Uthman in al-Bekaa province. Yet it has not been established publicly who comprises the group.
Following the Duroy hotel attack, Minister of the Interior Nahad A-Manshouq went so far as to describe the group as “imaginary.” Similary, Jabhat a-Nusra has claimed that Liwa and its Twitter feed represent a Lebanese security services plot. Several religious figures connected with the Salafi-jihadi movement have also expressed doubt that Liwa Ahrar a-Sunna-Balbek exists at all.
Al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat a-Nusra admitted to conducting a suicide operation in Beirut’s southern outskirts in January, near Hezbullah’s headquarters, in addition to a suicide bombing in March in the A-Nabi Uthman district of Bekaa province, citing retaliation against Hezbullah operations in Syria as a pretext for the attacks.
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