In preparation for the battle to take back the Iraqi city of Mosul, reports indicate that senior Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) fighters are trying to save their wives from being captured by Iraqi forces
A local source in the Nineveh Governorate who requested anonymity told Alsumaria News on Wednesday, October 19, “In the past two days, the city of Mosul has been cleared from ‘the women of the caliphate’ — wives of the seniors of ISIS, especially the ones that carry Arab or foreign citizenships.
“They were moved to the Syrian cities under ISIS [control], including Al-Raqqah. The departure of ‘the women of the caliphate’ has been given a green light by [self-proclaimed caliph] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in order to prevent their captivity, in case Mosul will be freed by the security Iraqi forces.”
In related news, another source in the Nineveh Governorate reported that the previous day, an uprising by youth in Mosul overtook control an ISIS position. The source said that the youth killed two ISIS jihadis, burned their car and raised the Iraqi flag, before retreating to safety.
While the Southern border with Mexico, about 2,000 miles, attracts much more attention, the 5,500-mile Northern border with Canada offers more opportunity for illegal crossing. In many places, there are few signs of where one nation ends and another begins. Some homes, farms and businesses even sit astride the two countries; in other areas, a small white obelisk is the only marker of a border. In the past year, agents made 3,000 apprehensions along the Northern border, compared with 100 times that many along the Southwestern border with Mexico. They also seized 700 pounds of marijuana and cocaine in the North compared with 1.6 million pounds along the heavily gated Southern border.
But the authorities acknowledge that they cannot say with certainty how much criminal activity occurs as a result of Northern border crossings because their means of detection are so limited.
“The problem is that we don’t know what the threats and risk are because so much attention is given to the Southwest border,” said Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota.
This area is a haven for smugglers and cross-border criminal organizations. Each year, Border Patrol agents catch hundreds of drug smugglers and human traffickers who use the sparsely populated and heavily wooded areas along the Vermont-Canada border to bypass the agents, cameras, sensors and other electronic devices that the Department of Homeland Security has installed to make up for the lack of personnel.
The expanse and remoteness of much of the Northern border, which includes Alaska, make the task of law enforcement daunting, said Norman M. Lague, who leads the border patrol station in Champlain, N.Y., one of the eight stations in the Swanton region that oversee border security operations in Vermont, upstate New York and New Hampshire. “We do the best that we can with the resources we have,” he said.
The border with Canada, the largest between two countries in the world, has hardly warranted a mention in a presidential campaign dominated by Donald J. Trump’s call to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. But officials and law enforcement officers say that makes the region more vulnerable in many ways to exploitation by criminal enterprises and possible terrorists.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Department of Homeland Security has increased the number of Border Patrol agents stationed along the Northern border to more than 2,000, from about 340, in addition to adding ground sensors, drones and other detection devices. Nearly 18,000 agents patrol the Southwestern border with Mexico.
Ms. Heitkamp has sponsored legislation, along with several other senators from border states, including Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan, and Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, that would require the Department of Homeland Security to assess the national security risks posed by the terrorist and criminal organizations operating on the Canadian border.
During a hearing last year before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, several law enforcement officials raised concerns about terrorists’ making their way to the United States through the sparsely populated areas along the border. In 2007, people from the Government Accountability Office managed to cross from Canada into the United States carrying a duffel bag with contents that looked like radioactive material, and they never encountered a law enforcement officer.
“No one is arguing that the Northern border is the same as what’s happening down on the Southwestern border, but we can’t forget about this area,” said Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana. “If we take our eye off of that, they will go where the weakest link is.”
Drug smuggling is a continuing issue because the lack of security and natural barriers makes the point of entry from Canada much easier for the smugglers than the Southern border.
While marijuana is the main drug, officials say they are starting to see an increase in drugs like fentanyl, which contributes to the national opioid and prescription drug abuse crisis.
In January, Border Patrol agents arrested Cedrik Bourgault-Morin, 22, a Canadian from Quebec, after he was detected by night vision cameras and ground sensors along a railroad track near the border in the village of North Troy, Vt., pulling a sleigh with a 182-pound duffel bag. Agents said Mr. Bourgault-Morin, who was wearing white camouflage, was trying to hide the bag in the snow when he was caught.
Agents found 300 vacuum-sealed bags of Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication, in the duffel bag. According to court records, the pills had a street value of $1.6 million. Mr. Bourgault-Morin was sentenced to one year in prison in August.
In addition to drugs, the smuggling of people is another challenge for law enforcement.
Bradley S. Curtis, the acting division chief for the Border Patrol Swanton Division, said agents had caught hundreds of people from dozens of countries trying to enter the United States through the dense forests and open fields.
“We’ve seen people from all over the world: Chinese, Haitians, Eastern Europeans, Brazilians, you name it,” Mr. Curtis said.
Law enforcement also faces another singular challenge in the North: Native American reservations where they have no legal authority to enter, making them attractive to drug smugglers.
Another issue is that officials here admit they do not actually know how many people and how much drugs get through. Officials acknowledge that many more people than they apprehend could be crossing the border illegally.
For example, cameras along the border recently showed four men dressed in camouflage outfits who appeared to have weapons crossing the border. Agents never caught them. Another camera image showed a group of about half a dozen people walking through the woods at night across the border. Agents said they had no information on the group.
“These guys make me nervous,” Mr. Curtis said. “My technology can show me when someone makes an entry, but it can’t tell me who they are, and we can’t always get there in time to catch them.”
In light of the increasing hate crimes committed against Jewish people in Britain, a British Parliament cross-party committee investigated the issue and released a report last week. The report contains a number of recommendations for the British Parliament aimed at reducing the number of anti-Semitic incidents throughout the country.
The committee recommended that the British government and all the political parties adopt an identical and updated definition of the term anti-Semitism. According to the committee, the purpose of this recommendation is to promote a zero-tolerance approach and unite the policies while providing freedom of expression regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The committee members identified a connection between the words anti-Semitism and Zionism, expressing deep concerns over the increasing use of the term Zionist in an accusatory context. According to the committee, this type of use should be considered “inflammatory and potentially anti-Semitic.” The committee members also noted in the report that it is not anti-Semitic to criticize the Israeli government’s actions and policies as long as there are no indications that the criticism stemmed from anti-Semitic motives.
The report was written by the Home Affairs Select Committee in light of the accusations of anti-Semitism against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the National Union of Students (NUS). “The failure of the Labour Party consistently and effectively to deal with anti-Semitic incidents in recent years risks lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement are institutionally anti-Semitic,” the committee members concluded in the report.
South Africa has decided to withdraw from the International Criminal Court following a dispute last year over a visit by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the tribunal for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
The decision comes after another African nation, Burundi, this week signed legislation to become the first to withdraw from the ICC – raising concerns that states have begun to act on years of threats to leave over what they call the court’s disproportionate targeting of the continent.
A copy of South Africa’s “Instrument of Withdrawal,” dated Wednesday and signed by Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, states that South Africa “has found that its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts at times are incompatible with the interpretation given by the International Criminal Court of obligations contained in the Rome Statute” which established the court.
Under the Rome Statute, South Africa as a party to the ICC has an obligation to arrest anyone sought by the tribunal.
“Our international legal obligations may hinder our efforts to remain a key player in conflict resolution in Africa,” Justice Minister Michael Masutha said on announcing that the government had notified the United Nations of the withdrawal, which would take effect within one year.
Arresting leaders such as al-Bashir would make it more difficult for South Africa to host peace talks and would also lead to forcing “regime change” in the countries of those leaders, Masutha said at a press conference.
The founding treaty of the ICC “is in conflict and inconsistent” with diplomatic immunity under customary law, the minister said. “Our focus is to ensure that our international law obligations are fully aligned with our local law obligations,” he said.
‘A last resort’
The charges against al-Bashir stem from the bloodshed in Sudan’s western Darfur region, which began in 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. The United Nations says 300,000 people have died in the conflict and 2.7 million have fled their homes.
In June 2015, al-Bashir went to South Africa to attend an African Union summit but the government didn’t arrest him. A provincial court ordered him to remain in the country while judges deliberated on whether he should be arrested on the ICC warrants, but al-Bashir left for Sudan before the court ruled that he should indeed be arrested. The Supreme Court of Appeal later described the government’s failure to arrest al-Bashir as “disgraceful conduct”.
The government said in a statement in late June 2015 that it would consider withdrawing from the International Criminal Court as a “last resort” following the dispute over al-Bashir. It cited “contradictions” in the statute and said South Africa would have found it difficult to arrest al-Bashir because of treaty obligations to the African Union.
The African Union has asked the International Criminal Court to stop proceedings against sitting presidents and has said it will not compel any member states to arrest a leader on behalf of the ICC.
South Africa’s decision to quit the court follows Tuesday’s announcement that Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza signed legislation to make his country the first to withdraw from the ICC, which had said it would investigate recent political violence there.
No country has ever withdrawn from the ICC, which was established to prosecute cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Burundi’s decision to withdraw follows a bitter dispute with the international community over the human rights situation in the East African country. More than a year of deadly violence has followed Nkurunziza’s controversial decision to pursue a third term, which some have called unconstitutional.
According to South Africa’s document, its withdrawal will take effect one year after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is officially notified.
In scenes that haven’t been common since the end of the Cold War, Russian warships sailed through the English Channel early Friday in a theatrical display of Russian military might.
Britain dispatched two of its own warships to carefully monitor the Russian flotilla, which included the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, as it sailed by, reportedly enroute to the eastern Mediterranean to aid in the war in Syria.
The aircraft carrier can hold as many as 40 planes, and it is suspected that they will be used in the bombing campaign in the Syrian city of Aleppo.
Given Russia’s fierce bombardment of that city, many Western military officials see the ships’ course as a slow-moving harbinger of bloodshed to come in Syria. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned the Kremlin on Thursday not to take any step that would escalate the violence.
“We are concerned that the Russian carrier group will support military operations in Syria in ways which will increase humanitarian and human suffering,” Stoltenberg said.
In Britain on Friday, there was widespread coverage of the Russian fleet sailing near English waters. British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said that it would be marked “every step of the way” as part of the government’s “steadfast commitment to keep Britain safe.”
It is routine for Britain’s Royal Navy to shadow ships, but the route taken by the Russian convoy — through the English Channel — was not routine.
“There’s huge amounts of theater here,” Paul Beaver, an aviation historian, told the BBC. He said that normally the Russians would “go around the top of Scotland, down past Hebrides, past Ireland on a deployment, and actually that’s probably the quickest route. This is very much about power play…. They want to be seen to be doing these things.”
And seen they were. Several British television stations broadcast footage of the carrier billowing black smoke as it sailed through international waters between Britain and France.
Jonathan Eyal, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said the passage through the English Channel in particular was a clear message from the Russians that “they are back” and that “anything you can do, we can do as well,” he said.
Analysts said that the move was an intentional snub toward Britain as one of Europe’s most vocal critics of Russia’s role in Syria.
“It was thanks to the U.K. that Russian action in Syria was on the agenda for this summit,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said, referring to a summit of the European Union’s 28 leaders Thursday and Friday. “It is vital that we keep up the pressure on Russia to stop the assault on Aleppo,” she told reporters.
But so far, Russia’s opponents have proven too divided to respond with any concrete measures. NATO has no plans to get involved, and at the E.U. summit, France, Germany and Britain failed to reach the unanimity required to put sanctions on the table over Russia’s actions in Syria. Diplomats warned that could change if Russia continues to contribute to Aleppo’s bombardment.
f“If Russia continues its airstrikes, it would expose itself to a response that the union would decide on, but we’re not there,” French President François Hollande said Friday after a meeting that was focused on Europe’s deteriorating relationship with the Kremlin.
Russian warships steam through English Channel as U.N. warns of war crimes in Aleppo
Russia has taken steps in recent weeks to reestablish itself as a permanent power in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean, ratifying an open-ended agreement to lease Syria’s Khmeimim air base and declaring that it will upgrade its naval facility in the Syrian port town of Tartus to a permanent naval base. The Kuznetsov will add to the firepower, both offensive and defensive, that Russia has concentrated in the region.
Aircraft flying from the Kuznetsov will increase the payload raining down daily on east Aleppo, especially if the carrier bears a full load of 40 aircraft, likely matching the current complement already on the ground.
Built during the Soviet era and launched as the Leonid Brezhnev, the aircraft carrier has deployed to the Mediterranean a total of five times during its 26 years in service, most recently in 2014. But this would be the carrier’s first combat deployment off Syria, where a Russian and Syrian blitz on the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo has brought that city to its knees.
The French Interior Ministry announced Friday that the Calais Jungle, the overcrowded and notorious refugee camp in Northern France, will be dismantled. There are 6,486 refugees currently in the Calais Jungle who will be moved to other camps throughout the country. “It is an operation that carries a risk,” said a French official in regards to the plan.
The official added that the evacuation plan will begin on Monday and is expected to last about a week. In the camp, there are refugees from all over the world, including Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea, who are requesting to enter Britain.
Britain usually rejects their asylum request in accordance with the EU law that states that refugees need to ask for asylum from the first country they enter. Last month, French President Francois Hollande announced the plans to close the camp. He described the situation in the camp as “unacceptable.” This week, a French court dismissed the petition to delay the evacuation until alternative housing for the refugees was found. The petition was submitted by various human rights organizations.
The refugees living in the Calais Jungle will be divided by families into several groups. The groups will then be divided among hundreds of refugee facilities in France where they will undergo medical tests and file an asylum request if they wish. 1,250 police officers and security personnel will oversee this operation, making sure that it goes smoothly.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced his “separation” from the United States on Thursday, declaring that it had “lost” and he had realigned with China as the two agreed to resolve their South China Sea dispute through talks.
Duterte made his comments in China, where he is visiting with at least 200 business people to pave the way for what he calls a new commercial alliance as relations with longtime ally the United States deteriorate.
His trade secretary, Ramon Lopez, said $13.5 billion in deals would be signed.
Duterte’s efforts to engage China, months after a tribunal ruling in the Hague over South China Sea disputes in favor of the Philippines, marks a reversal in foreign policy since the 71-year-old former mayor took office on June 30.
“America has lost now,” Duterte told Chinese and Philippine business people at a forum in the Great Hall of the People, attended by Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.
“I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to (President Vladimir) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world – China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way,” he added.
“With that, in this venue, your honors, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States,” Duterte said to applause. “I have separated from them. So I will be dependent on you for all time. But do not worry. We will also help as you help us.”
China has pulled out all the stops to welcome Duterte, including a marching band complete with baton-twirling band master at his official welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People, which most leaders do not get.
Red carpet welcome
President Xi Jinping, meeting Duterte earlier in the day, called the visit a “milestone” in ties.
Xi told Duterte that China and the Philippines were brothers and they could “appropriately handle disputes”, though he did not mention the South China Sea in remarks made in front of reporters.
“I hope we can follow the wishes of the people and use this visit as an opportunity to push China-Philippines relations back on a friendly footing and fully improve things,” Xi said.
Following their meeting, during which Duterte said relations with China had entered a new “springtime”, Chinese vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin said the South China Sea issue was not the sum total of relations.
“The two sides agreed that they will do what they agreed five years ago, that is to pursue bilateral dialogue and consultation in seeking a proper settlement of the South China Sea issue,” Liu said.
China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.
In 2012, China seized the disputed Scarborough Shoal and denied Philippine fishermen access to its fishing grounds.
Liu said the shoal was not mentioned and he did not answer a question about whether Philippine fishermen would be allowed there. He said both countries had agreed on coastguard and fisheries cooperation, but did not give details.
Sea row takes ‘back seat’
Duterte’s tone toward Beijing is in contrast to the language he has used against the United States, after being infuriated by US criticism of his bloody war on drugs.
He has called US President Barack Obama a “son of a whore” and told him to “go to hell” while alluding to severing ties with the old colonial power.
On Wednesday, to the cheers of hundreds of Filipinos in Beijing, Duterte said Philippine foreign policy was veering towards China.
“I will not go to America anymore. We will just be insulted there,” Duterte said. “So time to say goodbye my friend.”
The same day, about 1,000 anti-US protesters gathered outside the US embassy in Manila calling for the removal of US troops from the southern island of Mindanao.
Duterte on Wednesday said the South China Sea arbitration case would “take the back seat” during talks, and that he would wait for the Chinese to bring up the issue rather than doing so himself.
Xi said issues that could not be immediately be resolved should be set aside, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.
China has welcomed the Philippines approaches, even as Duterte has vowed not to surrender any sovereignty to Beijing, which views the South China Sea Hague ruling as null and void.
China has also expressed support for his drug war, which has raised concern in Western capitals about extrajudicial killing.
Duterte’s overtures to China have been accompanied by signs of improving business ties with the world’s second largest economy.
China’s Liu said Beijing will restore Philippine agricultural exports to China and provide financing for Philippine infrastructure.