Khamenei’s representative says Islamic state’s Baghdadi ‘definitely dead’: IRNA
A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made what would be his first public appearance at a mosque in the centre of Iraq’s second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken from video. REUTERS/Social Meda Website via Reuters TV
Iran’s state news agency quoted a representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday as saying Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was “definitely dead”.
“Terrorist Baghdadi is definitely dead,” IRNA quoted cleric Ali Shirazi, representative to the Quds Force, as saying, without elaborating. IRNA later updated the news item, omitting the quote on Baghdadi’s death.
The Quds Force is in charge of operations outside Iran’s borders by the country’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iranian Foreign Ministry officials were not available to comment on the report of Baghdadi’s death.
The secretive Islamic State leader has frequently been reported killed or wounded since he declared a caliphate to rule over all Muslims from a mosque in Mosul in 2014, after his fighters seized large areas of northern Iraq.
Russia said on June 17 its forces might have killed Baghdadi in an air strike in Syria. Washington said on Thursday it had no information to corroborate such reports. Iraqi officials have also been skeptical in recent weeks.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; editing by Andrew Roche)
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad said a suspected chemical weapons attack was a “fabrication” to justify a US strike on his forces, in an exclusive interview with AFP in Damascus.
The embattled leader, whose country has been ravaged by six years of war, said his firepower had not been affected by the attack ordered by US President Donald Trump, but acknowledged further strikes were possible.
Assad insisted his forces had turned over all their chemical weapons stocks years ago and would never use the banned arms.
The interview on Wednesday was his first since a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun.
“Definitely, 100 percent for us, it’s fabrication,” he said of the incident.
“Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack,” added Assad, who has been in power for 17 years.
At least 87 people, including 31 children, were killed in the alleged attack, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.
But Assad said evidence came only from “a branch of Al-Qaeda,” referring to a former jihadist affiliate that is among the groups that control Idlib province, where Khan Sheikhun is located.
Images of the aftermath, showing victims convulsing and foaming at the mouth, sent shockwaves around the world.
But Assad insisted it was “not clear whether it happened or not, because how can you verify a video? You have a lot of fake videos now.”
“We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhun. Were they dead at all?”
He said Khan Sheikhun had no strategic value and was not currently a battle front.
“This story is not convincing by any means.”
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has begun an investigation into the alleged attack, but Russia on Wednesday blocked a UN Security Council resolution demanding Syria cooperate with the probe.
And Assad said he could “only allow any investigation when it’s impartial, when we make sure that unbiased countries will participate in this delegation in order to make sure that they won’t use it for politicised purposes.”
He insisted several times that his forces had turned over all chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013, under a deal brokered by Russia to avoid threatened US military action.
“There was no order to make any attack, we don’t have any chemical weapons, we gave up our arsenal a few years ago,” he said.
“Even if we have them, we wouldn’t use them, and we have never used our chemical arsenal in our history.”
The OPCW has blamed Assad’s government for at least two attacks in 2014 and 2015 involving the use of chlorine.
The Khan Sheikhun incident prompted the first direct US military action against Assad’s government since the war began, with 59 cruise missiles hitting the Shayrat airbase three days after the suspected chemical attack.
Assad said more US attacks “could happen anytime, anywhere, not only in Syria.”
But he said his forces had not been diminished by the US strike.
“Our firepower, our ability to attack the terrorists hasn’t been affected by this strike.”
“There is no proof that the cause of the explosion was what they said it was. Remember what happened in Iraq…I’ve seen testimony alleged from witnesses who said they saw chemical bombs dropping from the air. Well, you can not see chemical weapons dropping from the air. Such testimony is worthless.”“But think about the consequences because this is not likely to be the end of it. It doesn’t make sense that Assad would do it. Lets not leave our brains outside the door when we examine evidence. It would be totally self-defeating as shown by the results…Assad is not mad.”
As we pointed out yesterday, Ford’s comments seemingly align with the opinion of former Representative Ron Paul who argued that there was a 0% chance that Assad deliberately launched a chemical weapons attack on Syrian citizens.
Meanwhile, this CNN anchor was left speechless Wednesday during a televised interview when a congressman questioned the mainstream narrative that Bashar al-Assad attacked his own people with chemical weapons.
“It’s hard to know exactly what’s happening in Syria right now. I’d like to know specifically how that release of chemical gas, if it did occur — and it looks like it did — how that occurred,” Representative Thomas Massie told CNN’s Kate Bolduan.“Because frankly, I don’t think Assad would have done that. It does not serve his interests. It would tend to draw us into that civil war even further.”
“I don’t think it would’ve served Assad’s purposes to do a
chemical attack on his people…It’s hard for me to understand why he
would do that — if he did.”
If the Trump administration falls into the trap of following that same disastrous policy, many more innocent people will die than those who sadly lost their lives in Khan Sheikhoun.
Nationalism over the establishment
‘Muqtada is not the establishment, but he is an ally of the Shia political and religious mainstream for now, against Maliki’– Michael Knights, Washington Institute for Near East Policy