15 de agosto de 2020
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At least 10 rockets hit US airbase in Iraq, Iran claims responsibility

Washington, Jan 7 (efe-epa).- At least 10 rockets of unknown type early on Wednesday morning local time hit the Al Asad airbase in central Iraq, where numerous US troops are stationed, in what appears to be the first retaliatory strike by Iran in the wake of the US drone strike that killed Iranian Quds Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani last week in Baghdad.

It is not yet known whether any casualties resulted from the missile strike or what kind of damage was sustained at the base. It is also not precisely known how many missiles were fired or what type they were. Furthermore, it is not known whether US anti-missile defenses at the base were able to intercept any of the incoming missiles.

The White House said that President Donald Trump was informed of the attack and is in contact with his national security team, while state-run Iranian media are saying that the Revolutionary Guards mounted the attack.

"This morning, courageous fighters of the (Iranian Revolutionary Guard) Air Force launched a successful operation called Operation Martyr Soleimani, with the code 'Oh Zahra' by firing tens of ground-to-ground missiles at the base of the terrorist and invasive U.S. forces named Ain Al Asad," Iran's ISNA news agency reported.

ABC News reported that a US official confirmed that "ballistic missiles" were fired from inside Iran at multiple US military facilities in Iraq, including Erbil in northern Iraq and the Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq.

"We are aware of the reports of attacks on US facilities in Iraq," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said a statement. "The President has been briefed and is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team."

Contenido relacionado

Stampede at Soleimani funeral ceremony kills dozens

By Marina Villén

Tehran/Baghdad, Jan 7 (efe-epa).- More than 50 mourners have been killed in a stampede that broke out at the funeral ceremony for slain Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in the eastern city of Kerman, state media said Tuesday.

The head of forensic medicine in Kerman, Abas Amian, said authorities had identified 50 people who were killed in the crush, the causes of which were as yet unknown, according to Tasnim news agency.

Videos circulating on social media allegedly showed several bodies lying on the floor, some with their faces purposefully covered over with jackets.

The head of Iran's Emergency Center Hossein Kolivand said hundreds of people had been injured.

Many thousands of mourners packed the streets of the late general's home town ahead of his burial following similar displays of mass mourning in Tehran on Monday.

The burial was delayed by the stampede.

Soleimani's death on Friday in a United States drone strike outside Baghdad's international airport marked a considerable escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Funeral processions were also held Tuesday in the Iraqi city of Basra for Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and four of his comrades who also died in the US strike.

As the head of the elite Quds Force, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Soleimani had for years wielded his country's influence across the wider Middle East, strengthening Shia militias from Lebanon to Iraq and coming to the aid of Tehran's allies, like Bashar Al Assad in Syria.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei led funeral prayers for the man widely regarded as the country's second most powerful figure on Monday.

US President Donald Trump has warned that any military retaliation from Iran would be met with American strikes.

Iranian lawmakers on Tuesday voted to designate the Pentagon and the US Army as a terrorist organization.

Iran had previously only considered the US Central Command (CENTCOM) as a terrorist organization — a measure that came in response to Washington's designation of the IRGC as a terror group.

Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani said Soleimani's killing had been a "brutal act" by Trump.

"The Iranian people will not pardon him."

There were cries of "Death to America" when lawmakers approved a financial package worth $223 million to the IRGC.

The head of the elite military wing in Iran, Hossein Salami, said the US would "lament its error" and vowed to oversee the expulsion of US troops from the Middle East.

There was confusion about the future of American troops in the US on Monday when the international coalition against the Islamic State released a statement suggesting soldiers would begin to "move out" of the region.

It was later contradicted by the Pentagon. EFE-EPA

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"Tehrangeles" - Los Angeles neighborhood fears US-Iran war

By Ana Milena Varon

Los Angeles, Jan 7 (efe-epa).- They found a peaceful place in Los Angeles, but the death of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani last week in a US drone strike has revived fears of a war and the possible consequences for immigrants in "Tehrangeles," the informal name of the largest Iranian community in the United States.

"There's concern. You can see it in the faces," Nader, an Iranian immigration who didn't want to give his last name out of fear, told EFE. It's the same fear that many in the Iranian community in Los Angeles have regarding a possible US-Iran war that could "bring problems" to them indirectly.

Nader works in Tehrangeles, the west Los Angeles district that acquired that informal name in the 1960s when many Iranians settled in the area.

After the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, more immigrants came to the area, where they opened restaurants and businesses that help connect them with their cultural roots.

Living in the US are about half a million people of Iranian descent, with more than 40 percent of them living in California. About 100,000 of them reside in Los Angeles, according to recent Census figures.

The possibility of living near other Iranians was what motivated Nader, 42, to settle in the city. He said that the cooking smells in the area remind him of his home in Iran, which he left more than 10 years ago.

"I'm grateful to Los Angeles. Here I found a lot of peace and I feel calm despite the tensions between the US and my country," he said.

However, the events of the past few days have undermined his tranquility, and Nader said that countrymen of his who have been in the US for more than three decades are keeping an eye peeled for tensions in the city.

Perhaps that's a good idea since even in less fraught times the Iranian community here has felt under attack.

The Los Angeles Times reported that in 2014 the Westwood Neighborhood Council, which is the governing body for the area including Tehrangeles, had to approve a motion asking the Los Angeles City Council to remove the signs written in Persian from some shops offering help to people wanting to travel to Iran.

And in 2019, the owners of businesses in Tehrangeles met with local residents to elect a new neighborhood council and try to heal the wounds caused by that request.

"That seems to me to be discrimination. What if we were to make the Latinos remove the (signs) in Spanish from their businesses, there wouldn't be any signs left in the city," said Alejandro Cardenas, a customer at Tacos Tu Madre, a business located in Tehrangeles.

And the unease of local residents here comes amid the reports and complaints by Human Rights Warch that US authorities are detaining people of Iranian origin for many hours at the border when they have been trying to enter the US.

The threats by the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, that Iran will take revenge on the US for Soleimani's death is what concerns Iranian immigrants most right now.

"Of course, it's scary to think about. If there's a war, there will be no winner! Only innocent people will be affected!" warned a young Iranian man who only gave his initials to EFE: AP.

The young man, who immigrated to the US in 2011 and now attends East Los Angeles College, said that Iranians "want peace."

"We want to have a life where, when we wake up in the morning, we can focus only on our aims instead of checking the news and being stressed out because we're in a war or ... seeing how much pressure is in our daily lives," he added.

Just like Nader, AP said that although he lives in Los Angeles, his daily life is still connected with Iran.

He said that he's got an immigration dilemma because - despite being grateful for the right to freely express himself in the US and the other advantages of living here - he thinks that if the US government had not intervened decades ago in his country, Iran's course could have been different.

"I wouldn't be here! I'd be in my country near my family and friends. I could reach my goals in my early 20s! Perhaps I wouldn't need to separate from my family," he said.

And as the tensions rise - with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper warning that the US is not seeking to "start a war" with Iran but it's certainly ready "to finish one" - the Iranian community in Los Angeles is hoping that things don't get worse and they can continue living in peace.

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The Iran-backed Iraqi Shiite groups that trouble the US

Cairo, Jan 7 (efe-epa).- Most of the Iran-backed Shiite armed groups have been formed in the wake of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq but they became stronger after the withdrawal of the US troops in 2011 and then with the fight against the Islamic State terror organization.

As the IS emerged mid-2014, all the militias were united under the flag of the Popular Mobilization Forces to fight the terror organization.

Since 2016, it has operated under the Operations Command with the Iraqi army.

The Popular Mobilization Forces, which collaborates with the international coalition against the IS, played a vital role in the defeat of the extremist group on Iraqi soil in late 2017.

Despite their collaboration in fighting the IS, the militia became an unwanted actor for the US in the past few months as its bases on Iraqi soil have been repeatedly attacked.

A US contractor was killed in the most recent of these attacks, launched on 27 December on a base in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

In response, Washington attacked positions belonging to the militia in western Iraq, killing 25 fighters.

Thousands of members and supporters of the Popular Mobilization Forces stormed the US embassy in Baghdad on 31 December, with no casualties reported.

The US then killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qasem Soleimani and the deputy leader of the Popular Mobilization Forces, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in a drone strike in Baghdad on 3 January.

The Popular Mobilization Forces was formed in 2014 after a religious verdict, futuwwa, by Iraq's top Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani urging to fight the extremists.

The futuwwa came after security forces were accused of ineptitude and even of letting IS control vast territories.

Following a three-year long offensive, the Popular Mobilization Forces, alongside the army, Federal Police and other non-Shiite militia, emerged victorious.

After the victory, they decided to run in the 2018 parliamentary elections forming the al-Fath alliance, which got 48 seats out of a total of 329.

The Popular Mobilization Forces is comprised of over 50 factions and over 100,000 fighters belonging to what Washington deems as Special Groups, some of which are labeled terrorist organizations.

After the US withdrawal from Iraq, these groups joined the Iranian militia in Syria as of 2011 fighting in favor of President Bashar al-Assad and started to battle Sunni radicals in Iraq even before the emergence of the IS.

Among its main factions are Kata'ib Hezbollah, Badr Organization, Asaib Ahl al Haq, and the Saraya al-Salam brigade.

1. Kata'ib Hezbollah

The Shiite group pledged allegiance to the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and it is directly linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force.

The group, formed between 2003-2007, has been included on a US list of terror organizations after it attacked US interests in Iraq between 2003-2011.

Washington blamed Kata'ib Hezbollah for the killing of the contractor, the first US citizen killed in these missile strikes.

Kata'ib Hezbollah, founded by al-Mohandes, joined the Popular Mobilization Forces, being a "nerve center" of Iran’s Guardians of the Revolution in Iraq, according to a report by Combating Terrorism Center, at the US West Point military academy.

2. Badr Organization

It emerged in 1982 to fight against the regime of former Sunni president Saddam Hussein.

Between 2006-2008, the organization was held responsible for killing Sunni Iraqis in the bloodiest years of sectarian war between the two branches of Islam.

Actually it is the most experienced among the Popular Mobilization Force's militias and it has a political arm, whose leader Hadi al Ameri is also the head of al-Fath, the main pro-Iranian political group in Iraq.

3. Asaib Ahl al Haq

Qais Jamali created Asaib Ahl al Haq in 2014 to fight against the IS after abandoning al-Mahdi Army, founded by the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sad to face the US invasion.

The group is active in northern Baghdad, where is has allegedly carried out acts of intimidation, extortion and looting, as well as attacks on US forces, which have proven the extremists' responsibility in at least one missile attack on al-Taji military base in May, according to the Combating Terrorism Center.

Following the killing of Soleimani, it was designated a terror organization by the US over its links with Iran.

4. Saraya al-Salam

When the activities of al-Mahdi army were suspended after the withdrawal of the US troops in 2011, the better part of its members joined the Special Groups and al-Sadr formed the Saraya al Salam brigade in 2014.

Although al-Sadr has laid down arms against the Americans over the past few years, he asked the Iraqi militias to be prepared to face it and even to collaborate with other non-Iraqi groups to create a "resistance international" after Soleimani’s killing. EFE

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Departure of foreign troops only solution: Iraqi PM

Brussels/Baghdad, Jan 7 (efe-epa).- The departure of the foreign troops is the “only solution” to the current crisis, according to Iraqi Prime Minister, while NATO announced it would temporarily redeploy part of its personnel in Iraq to protect its troops amid escalating tensions in the wake of a US strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.

“What we have proposed before the Parliament about the departure of the (foreign) forces is the only solution… We do not have another way out,” Adel Abdel-Mahdi said in a televised speech during a cabinet meeting held Tuesday.

Iraq had survived between 2011-2014 without the presence of international troops, the prime minister said.

The Islamic State terror organization - which the international coalition had been set up to fight - is now much “weaker” according to Abdel-Mahdi.

Abdel-Mahdi confirmed he received a message from the United States on Monday that included a “clear” reference to the “withdrawal” of troops, but it turned out to be a wrong message.

The message, published by Iraqi media, was talking about redeployment of the international coalition’s troops that was widely interpreted as a withdrawal announcement.

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper then denied any intention to withdraw troops from Iraq.

Iraq tried to verify the authenticity of the letter, the Iraqi official said.

He said the fact that "the Arabic translation of one of the paragraphs was contrary to the English text" drew his attention.

Subsequently, the US administration sent a new letter that coincided with the original language, he continued.

The Iraqi parliament passed a resolution on Sunday asking the government to end the presence of foreign troops on Iraqi soil.

The resolution came a few hours after the international coalition announced it would suspend training of the support for Iraqi troops to focus on the protection of the US bases in Iraq.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced on Tuesday the partial temporary redeployment of its troops to other positions in and outside the Arab country.

The move came after the alliance decided on Saturday to temporarily suspend its training of Iraqi army and security forces.

“We are taking the necessary preventive measures to protect our personnel. This includes the temporary repositioning of part of our personnel to different locations in and outside Iraq,” a source inside the alliance told Efe.

NATO said it maintains its presence in the country.

The organization did not provide more details to “to protect the safety of personnel on the ground.”

Earlier in the day Abdel-Mahdi told NATO's secretary general Jens Stoltenberg that Baghdad seeks the withdrawal of international troops from Iraq.

During a phone conversation with Stoltenberg, Abdel-Mahdi insisted on “the position of the Iraqi government and Parliament on the presence of foreign forces and their withdrawal from Iraq, and of maintaining their sovereignty,” the office of the prime minister said in a statement.

He highlighted the importance of collaboration between both parties.

For his part, Stoltenberg said NATO will to resume the training of Iraqi security forces when possible.

The Norwegian politician said allies remain committed to NATO's mission in Iraq, which is helping to strengthen Iraqi forces and prevent the return of the Islamic State to the territory.

The North Atlantic Council, the highest decision-making body of NATO, held an extraordinary meeting on Monday at the ambassadorial level to address the escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington.

During the meeting, the allies called for moderation and said a new conflict would not interest anyone.

They also urged Iran not to commit further violence and provocations. EFE-EPA

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