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MID-EAST

TUESDAY 23 MAY 2017,

SAUDI GAZETTE

6

US ambassador assures

Syrian refugees of more help

Trump’s inauguration to 1,566 in

the four months since, US statis-

tics show.

And Trump has called for

drastic cuts to US funding for the

United Nations and its affiliated

agencies — such as those aiding

people still in Syria and those

who’ve fled. Trump plans to re-

lease his budget blueprint Tues-

day, but his initial proposal in

March called for a one-third cut

to diplomatic and overseas pro-

gramming while boosting the US

military by $54 billion.

Haley told reporters accom-

panying her to Jordan that the

US was “not pulling back” and

was in fact “engaging more.” She

cited Trump’s stepped-up action

to try to hasten a political solu-

tion to the war, including a strike

punishing Assad’s forces for us-

ing chemical weapons that the

Syrian opposition and its backers

have enthusiastically applauded.

She echoed Trump’s de-

fense of his plan to temporar-

ily halt refugee admissions from

all countries — which was also

blocked in court — by saying the

US needed to protect Americans

by first improving its refugee-

vetting capabilities. And she

pointed to a group of women in

the camp who’d overwhelmingly

told her their hope was to return

to Syria, not relocate to the US

“So our goal is how do we get

these people back home to a safe

place?” Haley said.

Still, the situation in Zaatari

Refugee Camp — like in others

in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and

Iraq — tell the story of Syrians

who see no quick resolution to

their plight.

In Zaatari, half of the 80,000

refugees are children, and a doz-

en babies are born here per day,

according to UNICEF, the UN’s

child welfare agency. Thirty-five

percent of marriages involve a

child under 18, a reflection of the

economic hardships families in

the camp face.

Many of the younger children

wander unsupervised through

the camp, where gusts of dust

occasionally reduced visibility to

just a few feet as Haley’s motor-

cade rolled through the streets,

passing sparse, white-corrugated

buildings accorded a bit of cheer

by colorful murals painted on

their walls.

As ambassador, Haley plays

a key but only partial role in the

Trump administration’s decision-

making on Syria, refugees and

humanitarian aid. But her role at

the UN puts her at the center of

the debate about how the global

community takes on the crisis.

After all, it’s successive UN Se-

curity Council resolutions that

created the legal framework for

aid groups to send aid into Syria,

with or without Assad’s consent.

At the Marka military airport

in Amman, Haley went aboard

a cargo plane to get a rare look

at high-risk operations to air-

drop wheat, lentils and cooking

oil into Assad-controlled terri-

tory in Deir El-Zour, which is

completely surrounded by the

Islamic State group. In a sign of

Moscow’s outsize influence in

the Syria conflict, both the air-

craft and the company that flies

it on behalf of the World Food

Program are Russian.

“It’s smiles, and tears,” said

David Beasley, WFP’s executive

director. “It really is.”

— AP

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (L) meeting with Syrian refugee students in the Jordanian capital Amman.

— AFP

Boundary between Iraq, Kurdish territory divides communities

ABU JARBUAH, Iraq —

As

Omar Rashad’s combine clutters

down the barley field in north-

ern Iraq, the farmer shields his

eyes from the scorching sun and

points at the tall berm at the end

of his land, just past a cluster of

agricultural buildings.

The berm he points to marks

the de facto border between fed-

eral Iraq and its self-governing

Kurdish region in the north. It

was built in November after

Kurdish Peshmerga forces pushed

about 5 kilometers (3 miles) into

the Nineveh plains outside Mosul

with the support of the US-led co-

alition, retaking a cluster of towns

and villages from the Daesh (the

so-called IS) group.

Now, more than half of Ra-

shad’s land, some 20 hectares

(50 acres), is on the other side of

the line in Iraqi federal territory.

Crossing over to it is so compli-

cated — requiring daily approval

from both Iraqi and Kurdish au-

thorities — that he has given up.

“This is our village and here

is the berm. The berm divides our

land into two halves,” said Ra-

shad, an Iraqi who fled to Kurd-

ish territory when IS militants

came to his town. “It’s our land

and we want to plant and harvest

there. But now we can’t. You can

say that we lost that half.”

Since 2014, Iraq’s Kurds have

expanded the territory they con-

trol by about half at the expense

of Iraq. The status of some of

these areas, such as the city of

Kirkuk, is supposed to be decid-

ed by plebiscite under Iraq’s con-

In this file photo taken on Friday Nov. 18, 2016, a long trench created by Kurdish forces to demarcate their border,

is seen at an open field in the Nineveh plain, northeast of Mosul, Iraq.

— AP

Daesh

claims

attacks in

Iraq and

Syria

BAGHDAD –

Daesh

(the so-called IS) claimed

responsibility for an at-

tack Monday on a mili-

tary training center in

Diyala, north of Baghdad,

that killed at least four

soldiers and wounded

four others, including

two officers, according to

a statement released by

the group and two Iraqi

officers.

Six attackers struck

the base, according to

the Iraqi officers. The IS

statement put the num-

ber of attackers at four

and said “dozens” were

killed and wounded. The

Iraqi officers said five at-

tackers detonated sui-

cide vests once inside the

center and by afternoon

the situation was “under

control,” but five Iraqi

military vehicles were

torched by the blasts.

IS has carried out a

number of similar attacks

targeting military facili-

ties since the operation

to retake the Iraqi city

of Mosul was launched

in October. Iraqi forces

are closing in on the last

IS held neighborhoods in

western Mosul after the

city’s east was declared

liberated in January. IS

overran almost a third of

Iraqi territory in 2014.

IS has also claimed

responsibility for a sui-

cide attack in northwest

Syria that killed at least 14

insurgents.

IS said in a statement

Monday the attack against

Ahrar al-Sham fighters

was carried out by one of

its members who parked

his booby trapped motor-

cycle outside the group’s

office and detonated it

along with an explosive

belt he was wearing.

Ahrar Al-Sham had

blamed IS for Sunday’s

attack in the village of Tal

Touqan in Idlib province.

Ahrar Al-Sham said the

attacker blew himself and

his motorcycle up amid

the fighters, killing and

wounding dozens.

The

opposition-

operated Baladi News

Network quoted a wit-

ness as saying at least 15

people were killed while

the Britain-based Syr-

ian Observatory for Hu-

man Rights said 14 were

killed, including a local

leader.

– AP

ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP,

Jordan —

His skull and jaw

wrapped in bandages, the young

Syrian refugee stared noncha-

lantly into a small black box at

a supermarket in this sprawling,

dust-swept refugee camp. The

box scanned his iris to identify

him, charged his account and

sent him on his way.

If the boy noticed US Ambas-

sador to the United Nations Nik-

ki Haley watching intently from

just a few feet away, he didn’t

show it. But Haley would later

tout the iris-scanners as a fraud-

cutting tool boosting efficiency

for the more than $6.5 billion

the US has spent helping those

whose lives have been upended

by Syria’s harrowing civil war.

Yet as Haley pledged Sunday

that the US would increase sup-

port, her message was diluted by

President Donald Trump’s own

vow to put “America First,” his

planned budget cuts and hardline

position on admitting refugees.

“We’re the No. 1 donor here

through this crisis. That’s not

going to stop. We’re not going

to stop funding this,” Haley said.

“The fact that I’m here shows we

want to see what else needs to be

done.”

It was a theme the outspoken

ambassador returned to over and

over in Jordan at the start of her

first trip abroad since taking of-

fice. In her stops here and in Tur-

key — another Syria neighbor

— Haley is witnessing first-hand

the strains placed on countries

absorbing the more than 5 mil-

lion Syrians who have fled the

Daesh (the so-called IS) group,

President Bashar Assad’s govern-

ment, or both.

She climbed into the trailer

of an 18-wheeler staged at the

Ramtha border crossing less

than a kilometer (0.6 miles) from

Syria, inspecting boxes of peas,

tuna and canned meat stacked

shoulder-high. The truck was to

join 19 others in a convoy into

opposition-held territory in Syr-

ia, carrying supplies from UN

agencies and other groiups many

US-funded.

“This is all in the name of our

Syrian brothers and sisters,” Hal-

ey told aid workers in a nearby

tent, swatting away flies in the

summer heat. “We want you to

feel like the US is behind you.”

The US president’s message

to Syrians couldn’t be more dif-

ferent.

Trump, who was in Saudi Ara-

bia on his first overseas trip, once

called his predecessor “insane”

for letting in Syrian refugees. As

president, he tried to bar them

from the US, describing them as

a national security threat. A court

blocked that move, but the num-

ber of Syrian refugees admitted

has nonetheless dropped, from

5,422 in the four months before

We’re the No. 1 donor here through this crisis. That’s not going to stop. We’re not

going to stop funding this,. The fact that I’m here shows we want to see what else

needs to be done.

Nikki Haley

US Ambassador to the United Nations

This is our village and

here is the berm. The

berm divides our land

into two halves. It’s our

land and we want to

plant and harvest there.

But now we can’t. You

can say that we lost that

half.

Omar Rashad

A farmer

stitution. Others, including most

of the governorate of Nineveh,

technically belong to Iraq.

The berm, with fortified po-

sitions every half kilometer (half

mile) or so, cuts through the land

in a fairly straight line, but it sep-

arates some communities from

their land, from their administra-

tive centers and from each other.

“If you want to do anything

on the other side, you can’t. The

berm has paralyzed everything,”

Rashad said. “This is my land, my

father’s and grandfather’s land,

how can they divide our land like

this?”

On the Iraqi side of the berm,

in the village of Darawish, farmer

Raad Khalil is faced with an addi-

tional problem. He, too, has lost ac-

cess to land—about 8 hectares (20

acres) — leaving him dependent

on aid. But he has also in effect

been left without a government.

“All government functions

are in Bashiqa,” he said, referring

to the biggest town in the area

that is now on the Kurdish side

of the line. “Health care, educa-

tion, electricity. Now you have to

go to Mosul for everything but

then they tell you that we belong

to Bashiqa and I must go there.”

Crossing from Iraq into the

Kurdish region is even more

complicated than the other way

around because the Peshmerga

demand a Kurdish residency per-

mit or a sponsor.

The berm separates these

some small communities from

themselves, though for now not

everybody seems to mind. Arriv-

ing in Abu Jarbuah on the Iraqi

side of the berm, Shamsaddeen

Nouraddeen, a Kurd, said he had

been given a day permit to come

over for a relative’s funeral.

He said he hoped the berm

would eventually be removed but

added that for now it made him feel

safer because he was worried there

were still IS sleeper cells in some of

the villages on the Iraq side.

The situation is made more

delicate by the fact that the in-

habitants of these villages are a

mix of Sunni and Shiite Shabaks,

a Kurdish-speaking minority in

northern Iraq. While most Shi-

ite residents fled IS, many of the

Sunnis stayed, and that sowed

mistrust among the Shabaks.

Back on the Kurdish side of

the berm, Omar Rashad, a Sunni

Muslim, said he has gone back to

his village once but some of his

Shiite neighbors made it clear

that he wasn’t welcome. He was

now wearing a pistol and two

spare clips on his hip for person-

al security, he said.

“It’s like cutting a person in

half and that’s exactly what hap-

pened to us,” he said. “The Sha-

baks are a minority who have

been damaged by all these rival-

ries. They have been divided into

two as well.”

— AP