Middle East Updates / Drones spotted over Islamic State-controlled areas in Syria

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Iran rules out cooperation with U.S. in Iraq; ‘Lady Al-Qaida’ trying to abandon legal fight for freedom; Suicide bombs in Baghdad kill at least 11; Rohani says Islamic State wants to ‘kill humanity’.

By Haaretz |

10:36 A.M. The Netherlands will consider contributing F-16 fighter jets and arms for Kurdish fighters to help counter the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a Dutch newspaper reported on Thursday.

The Trouw daily, citing government sources, said an unspecified number of planes will take part in air strikes against insurgent targets in Iraq and possibly Syria.

The Netherlands was not among the nations approached by U.S. President Barack Obama at a NATO meeting in Wales earlier this month, when he was seeking to build a coalition of allies against the hardline Islamic offshoot of al Qaeda.

Washington had not taken the Dutch offer to provide 1,000 helmets and bullet proof vests to the Kurdish troops in northern Iraq seriously, Trouw reported. (Reuters)

10:32 A.M. At least one unmanned surveillance aircraft has been seen over Islamic State-controlled areas of the Syrian province of Aleppo, where the radical group has evacuated most of its bases, a group which tracks the war in Syria reported on Thursday.

Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said multiple sources in northeastern Aleppo had spotted at least one drone over towns including al-Bab and Manbij. “They hadn’t seen them before,” he told Reuters by telephone.

U.S. President Barack Obama last month authorized surveillance flights in Syria. Unmanned surveillance aircraft have already been spotted over the city of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s stronghold in Syria 450 km (250 miles) northeast of Damascus, activists have reported. (Reuters)

8:01 A.M. A Pakistan-born neuroscientist has become a rallying cry for militant groups demanding her release from a U.S. prison. But in a little-noticed move she is trying to abandon her legal fight for freedom, saying the U.S. court system is unjust.

Islamic militants in Syria, Algeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan have made Aafia Siddiqui’s release a condition for freeing certain foreign hostages. Islamic State, for example, proposed swapping American journalist James Foley for her, but he was executed after their demands, which also included an end to U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, were not met.

A 42-year-old mother of three with degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University, Siddiqui is serving an 86-year sentence in a prison medical center in Texas. A jury in 2010 convicted her of attempting to shoot and kill a group of FBI agents, U.S. soldiers and interpreters who were about to interrogate her for alleged links to Al-Qaida.

Siddiqui, who during her trial interrupted proceedings repeatedly and at times was removed from the courtroom, wrote U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan on July 2 seeking to end her most recent appeal.

“I refuse to participate in this system of total injustice that has punished and tortured me repeatedly, and continues to do so, without my having committed a crime,” she wrote. (Reuters)

7:32 A.M. Iran’s foreign minister ruled out cooperating with the United States in helping Iraq fight Islamic State militants and warned that the terrorist group poses a much broader global threat that needs new thinking to eradicate.

Mohammad Javad Zarif said Wednesday that Iran has serious doubts about the willingness and ability of the United States to react seriously to the “menace” from the Islamic State group “across the board” and not just pick and choose where to confront it as it has just started doing in Iraq.

“This is a very mobile organization,” he told the Council on Foreign Relations. “This is not a threat against a single community nor a threat against a single region. It was not confined to Syria, nor will it be confined to Iraq. It is a global threat.”

The U.S.-Iranian relationship is at a delicate moment, with a new round of talks on a deal to rein in Iran’s nuclear program set to begin on Thursday, which Zarif said is his top priority. Leaders of the two countries — who talked a year ago — are also arriving next week for the annual ministerial meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.

Iran was the first country to provide help to neighboring Iraq when the Islamic State group swept across the border from Syria in July. France wanted Iran to attend an international conference in Paris on Monday aimed at coordinating actions to crush the Islamic State extremists in Iraq, but the United States said “no.” (AP)

10:00 P.M. A suicide car bombing on a security post outside Baghdad and explosion on a crowded commercial street in the Iraqi capital killed at least 11 people Wednesday, officials said.

The deadliest attack took place after sundown when a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into an abandoned building used by security forces in the town of Tarmiyah, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Baghdad, police officials said.

Five soldiers and three policemen were killed, and at least 16 members of the security forces were wounded, the officials said.

The second bombing struck a commercial street in Baghdad’s northern district of Khazimiyah, killing three people and wounded eight, police said.

Medical officials confirmed the causalities. All of the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. (AP)

8:57 P.M. Iranian President Hassan Rohani denounced Islamic State’s beheading of innocent people, saying the militant group wants to “kill humanity,” NBC News said in excerpts of an interview released on Wednesday.

“From the viewpoint of the Islamic tenets and culture, killing an innocent people equals the killing of the whole humanity,” Rohani told the television network, according to NBC. “And therefore, the killing and beheading of innocent people in fact is a matter of shame for them and it’s the matter of concern and sorrow for all the human and all the mankind.” (Reuters)

 

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