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The Strategic Consequences Of A Possible French Military Intervention In Mozambique

19 MAY 2021

The Strategic Consequences Of A Possible French Military Intervention In Mozambique

A publicly available expert-level newsletter on Mozambique news reports and clippings from the middle of May predicts that France might launch a limited military intervention in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province in order to protect the offshore energy deposits of its national champion Total, which necessitates an analysis of such a move’s strategic consequences if it does indeed come to pass.

A Must-Read Report About Mozambique

The 16 May edition of the “Mozambique News Reports & Clippings” expert-level newsletter predicts that France might launch a limited military intervention in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province in order to protect the offshore energy deposits of its national champion Total that are threatened by a newfound insurgency that some have linked to ISIS. Editor Joseph Hanlon does an excellent job educating his audience about this scenario and it’s highly recommended that all interested readers review his work in full. What follows are some of the main points that he put forth in his newsletter in the order that they’re introduced:

* There’s a growing debate behind the scenes in Europe over whether France should receive an exclusive security corridor in northern Mozambique or if a Portuguese-led EU force should take the lead instead

* Whatever is ultimately decided upon, it’ll probably take at least two years before any visible progress is made on the ground against the insurgents/terrorists

* ISIS is likely to exploit the optics of a foreign military intervention in order to increase both its reported role in the combat as well as its international recruitment efforts

* Domestic political infighting in Mozambique and subsequent politicization of the conflict suggests that there won’t be any clear consensus on it until after the next presidential elections in 2025

* Influential international associations regard the offshore region of northern Mozambique as a conflict zone at risk of piracy and other threats, thereby raising insurance costs for ships operating in those waters

* Maritime security can either be achieved unilaterally by France or jointly through it, South Africa, India (which has a base in nearby Mauritius), and Mozambique carrying out patrols there

* France might replicate the Baghdad Green Zone model to protect energy-relevant localities in the northern Mozambican mainland through walls, barbed wire, drone surveillance of the area, and other such measures

* There’s talk that France might even take control of the nearby vacation resort island of Vamizi in order to base helicopters, attack and surveillance boats, and drone control systems there

* The other foreign military players to keep an eye on are Portugal, the US, Rwanda, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), EU, and private military contractors (PMCs, which France might also employ)

* Nevertheless, military intervention might not address the possible socio-economic and political roots of the conflict but only combat its terrorist manifestations, potentially creating another Mali, Somalia, or Libya

Hanlon’s points are all very important and should be deeply reflected upon by all interested readers. Building upon his implied prediction that France is the most likely party to take the lead in this growing conflict, it therefore follows that one should conduct an analysis of the strategic consequences of such a move if it indeed comes to pass. France is regarded as Africa’s military hegemon despite being located in Europe due to the commanding influence that it wields in its former colonies that are commonly referred to as “Françafrique”. Mozambique, however, lays outside of France’s traditional “sphere of influence” in Africa.

Energy Geopolitics

Paris’ interest in the country stems from its vast offshore energy reserves that national champion Total planned to develop before the conflict erupted a few years back. These resources were initially expected to be a game-changer for the Mozambican people who remain among the world’s poorest. Regrettably, large-scale international corruption scandals in recent years ruined the ruling Frelimo party’s reputation and it’s now widely feared that these hydrocarbon riches probably won’t end up making much of a difference for the average Mozambican at the end of the day.

Even so, they’re significant enough of a find to have a powerful impact on the industry upon their future development, which adds a conspiratorial dimension of sorts to the conflict since some have speculated that foreign forces might be backing the insurgency/terrorism so as to delay those projects’ completion. In any case, it doesn’t seem like they’ll come online anytime soon considering the worsening intensity of the violence there, hence the reason why Paris is contemplating a military intervention in order to save its national champion’s investment.

Indian Ocean Region Conflicts

Observers should take note of Mozambique’s geostrategic location astride the southwestern reaches of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) that’s nowadays considered to be the world’s most important body of water as all 21st-century processes increasingly converge there. Although Mozambique isn’t located near any European-Asian trade routes, it still sits near the French islands of Mayotte and Réunion. This convenience could facilitate any prospective French military intervention, which in that scenario would mark the country’s participation in its first IOR conflict.

At the moment, the IOR is the scene of four armed conflicts – northern Mozambique, Somalia, Yemen, and Myanmar. The first two are closer in essence than the others, ergo Hanlon’s earlier mentioned fear of the former transforming into a variation of the latter with time. Both also count ISIS among the warring parties, albeit to questionable extents in each. For this reason, any French military intervention would be an energy-driven spiritual expansion of its ongoing Operation Barkhane mission in the Sahel that’s been launched on an anti-terrorist basis despite having ulterior interests as well such as stopping large-scale immigration to the EU.

The Franco-Indian Strategic Partnership

Seeing as how India considers the entire IOR to lay within its envisioned “sphere of influence” despite presently lacking the military capabilities to exert hard power all throughout this domain, it’s possible that New Delhi might consider playing a minimal role in the conflict even if only for prestige’s sake. This explains why Hanlon brought up the country’s naval base in Mauritius’ North Agalega island. Most realistically, India could carry out highly publicized joint anti-piracy missions, perhaps even emphasizing any partnered role with nearby South Africa so as to portray it a a partial BRICS operation in order to deflect criticism of following France’s lead.

On the topic of Franco-Indian relations, the two Great Powers signed a military logistics pact in 2018 which enables them to use one another’s bases. Many at the time thought that this might see India expanding its naval presence in the Horn of Africa via France’s outpost in its former colony of Djibouti or perhaps paying more frequent visits to the French islands of the South Pacific to support Australia’s reassertion of traditional influence there against China. It now appears possible that the Southeast African country of Mozambique might be where the French-Indian military partnership first “cuts its teeth” so to speak.

Mission Creep”?

From the French perspective, the primary mission is to secure Total’s investments. All other objectives are secondary and perhaps even beyond its intentions to tackle. This means that France might easily succeed with its actual mission but fail in the soft power realm if it isn’t as forthcoming with its true intentions and instead clothes its intervention in anti-terrorist rhetoric similar to its Sahel mission. In other words, even if France “wins” what it wants, it might still “lose” in the eyes of the world unless it engages in the dangerous trend of “mission creep” to expand its military “sphere of influence” there to ultimately stop the insurgency/terrorism.

France probably wouldn’t take that step unilaterally, which is why it’s more likely to expect that it’ll lead a multinational force whether on its own or perhaps in joint partnership with fellow EU-member and Mozambique’s former colonizer Portugal together with a formidable army of PMCs. Even so, since neither of them have the primary mission of stopping the insurgency/terrorism, they might not make much progress right away, instead relying more on PMCs and the Mozambican military to do such “dirty” and highly dangerous work for them though of course under their supervision.

Perception Management

With this in mind, one needs to consider how this mission would be sold to the rest of the world. The anti-terrorist angle is the most obvious one, but as mentioned, France’s interests in this respect aren’t all that sincere, nor for that matter are Portugal’s, since their involvement is really all about energy geopolitics, as is every foreign party’s as well. Presenting it in such a way also leads to high expectations for visible progress on the ground, which likely won’t be forthcoming anytime soon especially considering that it’s heavily forested terrain and France can’t even succeed in stopping insurgency/terrorism in the barren Sahel.

It might therefore end up being that they hype up their intent to “contain” the military threat instead of outright stop it. This would lead to more realistic expectations than talking about completely wiping out the insurgents/terrorists and appear as less selfish than being transparent about the true energy motivations. It would also engender wider support, perhaps even among domestic critics in those two EU countries and more broadly in the West since it’s veritably a virtuous mission (at least on the surface) to want to stop the spread of such threats into Tanzania and elsewhere.

Concluding Thoughts

To wrap it all up, France doesn’t appear to have many expected costs associated with its possible military intervention in northern Mozambique while standing to gain quite a lot in terms of energy interests and Great Power prestige, especially if it leads a multinational force in this conflict. Presenting its mission in terms of “containing” insurgency/terrorist threats instead of intending to completely wipe them out (at least right away) would also temper expectations and increase international appeal, including among India and South Africa who might participate in joint anti-piracy missions. For these reasons, Hanlon’s general prediction is very credible.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: France, Mozambique, ISIS, EU, Portugal, US, South Africa, SADC, India, Terrorism, Energy Geopolitics.


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U.S. Humanitarian Aid and Supplies Help Respond to Insecurity in Mozambique | SOURCE: US DEPARTMENT STATE

The United States is working to increase humanitarian assistance in Mozambique in response to the devastating violence by ISIS-Mozambique in Cabo Delgado province. The United States is the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance in Mozambique. 

SOURCE: US DEPARTMENT STATE


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AFRICA

MOZAMBIQUE:

  • French energy company Total halted operations on its $20 billion investment in a liquefied natural gas project in northern Mozambique after ISIS attacks and repeated rebel insurgency. The US sent 12 special forces officers to help train Mozambique’s military, and the EU is considering sending a military training mission.

SOURCE: THE NATIONAL NEWS


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Mozambique’s The Newest Front In The US’ So-Called Global War On Terror

30 MARCH 2021

Mozambique

Many observers missed the US’ designation in early March of Mozambique’s “Al Shabaab” as an ISIS-affiliated global terrorist organization and its subsequent dispatch of roughly a dozen Green Berets to the country to aid the national military in its counter-terrorist operations, but this development signals that the Southern African state has importantly become the newest front in America’s “Global War On Terror”.

The US’ newest front in its “Global War On Terror” has officially opened in the Southern African state of Mozambique following the State Department’s designation in early March of the country’s “Al Shabaab” as an ISIS-affiliated global terrorist organization and the subsequent dispatch of roughly a dozen Green Berets there to aid the national military in its counter-terrorist operations. Many observers missed these developments, perhaps because they were too busy paying attention to the latest twists and turns of what I describe as World War C, or the world’s uncoordinated attempt to contain COVID-19 which catalyzed full-spectrum paradigm-changing processes across every sphere of life. I warned last September that “Mozambique Might Require Foreign Military Assistance To Clean Up Its Hybrid War Mess” after it became clear that the country couldn’t tackle this pressing task on its own, nor were its previously reported private military contractor (PMC) partners able to sufficiently assist it to this end. That prediction ultimately came to pass in March.

American interests in Southern Africa are varied, but they share the common objective of pushing back against regional multipolar trends, particularly China’s rising influence there. In the Mozambican case, the country stands the chance of becoming one of the world’s top LNG exporters in the future should its vast northern offshore gas deposits that are uncoincidentally in close proximity to the current terrorist-afflicted zone be fully tapped. There had hitherto been some serious concerns on the US’ part that Chinese influence in Mozambique could indirectly shape the global energy industry, as well as facilitate Beijing’s efforts to more closely connect the landlocked countries beyond to its Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) through trans-Mozambican commercial corridors. These fears are now somewhat more manageable as the US expands its own influence in the country through its close military cooperation with its partner’s armed forces for the purpose of jointly defeating this newly designated ISIS affiliate.

History attests, however, that the US’ motives aren’t ever truly benign and that it always takes advantage of anti-terrorist pretexts in order to pursue ulterior objectives. The evolving anti-terrorist situation in Mozambique is no exception since it deserves mention that the earlier cited State Department designation also imposed the same label on the anti-Ugandan “Allied Democratic Forces” (ADF) that have been operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for a few decades already. That group is responsible for carrying out large-scale killings and other acts of terrorism, and its pairing with Mozambique’s “Al Shabaab” as part of ISIS’ larger “Central African Province” proxy network creates the pretext for the US to turn the entire Central-Eastern-Southern African theater into the latest front of its more comprehensive anti-terrorist operations should the Pentagon have the political will to exploit the situation to this end. Once again, the true objective would be to roll back China’s rising influence in this strategic space.

To be absolutely clear, genuine terrorist groups – especially those connected to ISIS – must be thwarted at all costs lest they continue carrying out greater acts of carnage and thus catalyze an uncontrollable chain reaction of destabilization that ultimately risks turning this transregional space into a black hole of chaos similar in a sense to what previously happened in parts of the West Asia (especially along the Syrian-Iraqi border) and is currently unfolding in West Africa. That said, while anti-terrorist cooperation with the US might achieve short-term military goals for America’s partners such as Mozambique, it might eventually be against their long-term strategic interests if the US exploits its “military diplomacy” over these increasingly desperate governments to impose political strings to continued security cooperation upon which those states might soon become dependent. In a perfect world, no such fears would credibly exist, but as previously mentioned, history proves that these concerns are completely founded by established precedent.

With this in mind, the ideal solution would be if terrorist-afflicted states didn’t have to rely on the US for anti-terrorist assistance, but the reality is that they seem to have little choice. China doesn’t partake in anti-terrorist operations abroad though it does train some of its BRI partners’ military forces, presumably also sharing its own domestic anti-terrorist experiences in the process. As for Russia, it’s developing bespoke “Democratic Security” solutions (counter-Hybrid Warfare tactics and strategies) for Global South states such as the Central African Republic, the Congo Republic, and most recently Togo, but its model is still far from perfect and thus requires plenty of improvements before such services are exported more broadly. This difficult state of strategic affairs compelled Mozambique to eventually request the US’ anti-terrorist assistance as its Hybrid War mess in Cabo Delgado Province spiraled out of control over the past few years, though it remains to be seen exactly what political strings America will attach to its continued security support in this respect.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Mozambique, ISIS, Terrorism, Hybrid War, US, China.


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AFRICA

MOZAMBIQUE:

  • ISIS attack on Mozambique last weekend raises prospect of greater US involvement in the African country. The US is in discussions with other countries in the area worried that the extremist threat could spill over, especially following ISIS incursions from Mozambique into Tanzania last year.

SOURCE: THE NATIONAL NEWS


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SOUTH ASIA

AFGHANISTAN:

  • The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is looking to keep the U.S. troops in Afghanistan past May 1 deadline while exploring a deal in which the Taliban would allow a U.S. counter-terrorism force to remain as they confront their Islamic State foes. The Taliban has been fighting Islamic State’s local affiliate, and the U.S. airstrikes on ISIS have proved critical to helping them rout their rivals.

SOURCE: CGTN


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MIDDLE EAST

IRAQ:

  • France has called for a meeting of the US-led International Coalition over the “revival” of the Islamic State in Iraq. The so-called Coalition against Daesh has not met for a long time, despite France, which is also part of the international coalition, called on new US President Joe Biden to continue fighting ISIS as a priority.

SOURCE: SHAFAQ


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EUROPE:

UKRAINE:

  • The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has discovered an Islamic State (IS) cell near Ukraine’s capital of Kiev, which was allegedly led by a combatant wanted for participating in combat in Syria.

SOURCE: RMX NEWS


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Balancing Regional Interests In Syria Is The Only Way Reach A Compromise Solution

8 FEBRUARY 2021

Balancing Regional Interests In Syria Is The Only Way Reach A Compromise Solution

Politically resolving the Hybrid War of Terror on Syria will involve difficult compromises on all sides, but this is only possible if each party acknowledges their counterparts’ regional interests and Russian diplomats are able to successfully devise a creative solution for “balancing” between them as best as possible.

The Impossibility Of A Military Solution

The Hybrid War of Terror on Syria cannot be resolved militarily by any of the participating parties. The US and its fellow anti-Syrian allies, which importantly include “Israel” and Turkey to differing but not necessarily always coordinated degrees, are unable to forcefully overthrow the country’s democratically elected and legitimate government. In fact, one can argue that they don’t even pursue that goal all that seriously anymore after having informally accepted President Assad’s continued leadership of Syria, who they’ve learned to imperfectly live with after all these years. At the same time, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is unable to unilaterally liberate all of its territory from the occupying American and Turkish forces. This is especially the case after Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov reaffirmed late last month that Russia “cannot expel it, and we will not clash with US forces” in Syria, hence why he reminded everyone of his country’s “so-called deconfliction” talks with it. It’s for this reason why the war has largely remained frozen on the military front over the past few years.

The Long Path Towards A Political Solution

The only solution is therefore a political one, but this is only possible if each party acknowledges their counterparts’ regional interests and Russian’ diplomats are able to successfully devise a creative solution for “balancing” between them as best as possible. This might sound like wishful thinking to many at the moment, but it’s the only realistic way out of the present impasse, no matter how difficult some of the compromises might be. Of course, any potential solution must involve the means to verify each party’s compliance and ensure enforcement against all violators without discrimination. It might still be a long way off before anything like that is agreed to, but that noble goal must be the basis for beginning talks to that end at the soonest possible moment. To facilitate these efforts, it’s worthwhile remembering each party’s regional interests, after which a discussion can commence for exploring the most realistic extent to which each one of them might compromise on reaching a final Russian-brokered agreement to end the war.

Respective Interests

Syria:

* Sustain Anti-Terrorist Gains

* Liberate The Rest Of The Occupied Territories

* Retain The Centralized State Structure

* Remove The Crippling Sanctions Regime

* Reconstruct The Country

Russia:

* Sustain Anti-Terrorist Gains

* Maintain A Long-Term Military Presence In Syria

Avoid A Larger War Erupting In Syria Between Iran & “Israel”

* Leverage Diplomatic Leadership To “Balance” The Region

* Maximize Post-War Economic Dividends

Iran:

* Sustain Anti-Terrorist Gains

* Prove To Damascus That It’s More Of An All-Around Reliable Ally Than Russia

* Receive An Eventual Economic “Return On Investment” For Saving Syria

* Entrench Military Presence In Syria As Long-Term Strategic Leverage Against “Israel”

* Strengthen The Axis Of Resistance

Turkey:

* Prevent The Emergence Of A PKK-Pioneered Terror Corridor In Northern Syria

* Ensure That Turkish-Backed “Rebels” Have A Political Role In Post-War Syria

* Demonstrate To Regional Allies That It’s A Reliable Partner

* Strengthen Strategic Relations With Russia And Iran Through The Astana Process

* Establish Global Respect As A Rising Great Power

US/”Israel”

* Maintain Pressure On Damascus Through Unconventional (“Rebel”/Terrorist/Sanctions) Means

* Permanently Neutralize The Anti-”Israeli” Capabilities Of The SAA

* Expel Iranian Military Forces From Syria

* Retain “Freedom Of Action” To Conduct “Surgical Strikes”

* “Decentralize” Syria To Redistribute Damascus’ Power To Allied Proxies

Assessing Strategic Successes And The Lack Thereof

With the above-mentioned strategic goals of all relevant players in mind, it’s now time to assess their successes and lack thereof. What follows is a simplified bullet point list of the present state of affairs:

* ISIS’ “Caliphate” Has Been Dismantled But Terror Threats Persist Along Syria’s Periphery

* Foreign Forces Continue To Support “Rebel”/Terrorist Groups

* Political Progress Towards Peace Is Practically Non-Existent Because Of A Refusal By All To Compromise

* Turkey Is The Only Party Continuing To Resist The Syrian Kurds’ Participation In The Peace Process

* US-Enforced Sanctions Will Remain Until Damascus Irreversibly Compromises On Political Issues

* Russia Sat Back While “Israel” Reportedly Hit 50 Targets In Syria Last Year Alone

* Russia Has Yet To Allow Syria To Operate The S-300s To Defend Itself From “Israeli” Strikes

* Russia’s Reshaping Syria’s ‘Deep State’ In Its Own Image” To Reduce Iranian Influence

* Russia’s Regional Diplomatic Role Continues To Rise As A Result Of Its “Balancing” Act

Zero-Sum Interests

Building off of these observations, the following zero-sum interests are presently obstructing a solution:

* Syria Won’t Consider Political Compromises Until Its Territory Is Liberated And Sanctions Removed; The US And Turkey Won’t Withdraw And Remove Their Sanctions Until Syria Makes Political Compromises

* Turkey Won’t Fully Support The Political Process In Syria If The Kurds Are Involved; All Other Players Believe That The Political Process Can’t Succeed Without The Kurds’ Involvement

* “Israel” Will Continue Bombing Iran In Syria Until The Latter Fully Withdraws; Iran Won’t Seriously Consider Withdrawing From Syria Until “Israel” No Longer Poses A Direct Threat To It And Its Syrian Ally’s Forces

* The US & “Israel” Will Continue Pressuring Damascus Through Unconventional Means Until It Politically Compromises And Expels Iran; Damascus Won’t Consider Either Until Those Two Stop Pressuring It

* Russia Is The Best Suited Of Syria’s Allies For Promoting Damascus’ Interests Among Relevant Hostile Players; Syrian Interests Will Always Be Subservient To Russia’s Own With Respect To Its “Balancing” Act

Summarized Insight

Considering everything, a Russian-brokered compromise solution would have to do the seemingly impossible by resolving the contradictions between each relevant players’ zero-sum interests. This would naturally involve painful compromises by each party except for itself since none of the others have the political will to cross its red lines by either militarily targeting its forces (relevant for Iran/Turkey/US/”Israel”) or expelling it from the country (such as if Syria ever became fed up with Russia’s “balancing” act being carried out as its “perceived expense”). The three most controversial issues in the grand scheme of things are the refusal of any domestic party to compromise on the peace process and thus lead to promised sanctions relief, the continued US and Turkish military occupations of Syria (“Israel’s” Golan one is taken for granted), and Iran’s continued military presence in Syria which is exploited by “Israel” to “justify” its regular attacks. Quite clearly, these three bones of connection must somehow be creatively addressed by any speculative Russian-brokered compromise solution.

Speculating On A Russian-Brokered Compromise Solution

As the most realistic starting point, Russia can “lean on” Syria to promise constitutionally enshrined decentralization in the currently occupied territories allowing for a greater degree of local political and cultural autonomy for groups opposed to Damascus’ centralization policies there while preventing them from conducting their own military and diplomatic relations with foreign powers. If agreed with all relevant players ahead of time, this could satisfy some of the US and Turkey’s political demands while also ensuring Syria’s national security interests. Should progress be made on this front, then Syria could request Iran’s dignified but phased withdrawal from the country in parallel with symmetrical US and Turkish steps culminating with the gradual lessening of sanctions in order to facilitate much-needed reconstruction. As a guarantee against continued “Israeli” aggression afterwards, Russia could then transfer control of the S-300s to the SAA and even consider exporting state-of-the-art S-400s to it too upon all foreign forces’ ultimate withdrawal from Syria.

Concluding Thoughts

The proposed Russian-brokered compromise solution for politically ending the Hybrid War of Terror on Syria is admittedly imperfect and might even be unrealistic so long as even one of the relevant parties lacks the political will to compromise on their zero-sum interests. The key to success lies in Russia leveraging its “balancing” act to foster indirect trust between hostile players through their shared belief in the sincerity of Moscow’s efforts to achieve tangible gains in these respects, after which they could all work on agreeing to timelines for each phase of the suggested peace plan. Nevertheless, partisan disagreements within each relevant party’s government could ultimately derail any progress that might be made if even one of them unilaterally reverses its previously (whether publicly or secretly) agreed commitments to each step, such as if their opponents provocatively presented their compromises as being a “loss of face”. It’ll therefore be very difficult to pull this off, but a political solution is the only possible one since a military solution is impossible.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Syria, US, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Israel, Kurds, ISIS, Balancing.


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MIDDLE EAST:

IRAQ:

  • More than two years after the end of the self-proclaimed ISIS caliphate in Iraq, Iraqi politicians and political factions are engulfed by waves of concerns about Washington’s plot to revive the terrorist group in their country. Reports suggest that the US is transferring to the Iraq-Syrian borders for future terrorist operations the ISIS prisoners who were kept in Hasakah jails in northeastern Syria.

SOURCE: ABNA 24


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