Ital­ian de­fense min­is­ter in Iraq for Mo­sul dam talks

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS -

Ital­ian De­fense Min­is­ter Roberta Pinotti made an unan­nounced visit to Iraq on May 9 to dis­cuss lo­gis­tics for de­ploy­ing 450 troops near the front line with the Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant (ISIL) to pro­tect work­ers car­ry­ing out re­pairs to the Mo­sul dam.

Pinotti met in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from his of­fice. She later trav­elled to Ar­bil, the cap­i­tal of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Govern­ment (KRG) some 115 kilo­me­ters east of Mo­sul dam, Ital­ian de­fense forces said.

Italy has about 750 sol­diers in Iraq, mostly train­ing Iraqi army and po­lice in Baghdad and Ar­bil, but the new troops will be de­ployed not far from ISILheld Mo­sul, less than 20 kilo­me­ters away from the dam, in a po­ten­tial com­bat zone.

The Iraqi govern­ment signed a $296-mil­lion con­tract in Fe­bru­ary with Italy’s Trevi Group to make badly needed up­grades to the 3.6-km-long Mo­sul dam, which has suf­fered from struc­tural flaws since it was built in the 1980s.

A del­e­ga­tion from Trevi vis­ited the dam in March to be­gin pre­par­ing a nearby site to host the engi­neers and sol­diers, which a source said could take up to six months to com­plete.

Is­lamist in­sur­gents seized the dam in Au­gust 2014, lead­ing to fears they might blow it up and un­leash a wall of wa­ter on Mo­sul and Baghdad that could kill thou­sands of civil­ians. Kur­dish Pesh­mer- ga fighters re­cap­tured the dam two weeks later with the help of U.S. and Iraqi govern­ment forces.

A U.S. govern­ment brief­ing pa­per re­leased in late Fe­bru­ary said the 500,000 to 1.47 mil­lion Iraqis liv­ing in the high­est-risk ar­eas along the Ti­gris River “prob­a­bly would not sur­vive” the im­pact of a flood un­less they were evac­u­ated. Iraqi au­thor­i­ties have played down the threat, es­ti­mat­ing only a one in 1,000 chance of fail­ure.

Mean­while, The Pen­tagon said that a U.S.-led coali­tion air strike has killed a se­nior ISIL leader in Iraq’s An­bar prov­ince, along with three other ISIL ji­hadists.

Pen­tagon spokesman Peter Cook said the May 6 strike near the town of Rutba - deep in the An­bar desert - tar­geted Abu Wahib, ISIL’s “mil­i­tary emir” for the vast western prov­ince.

Wahib was “a for­mer mem­ber of al-Qaeda in Iraq who has ap­peared in ISIL ex­e­cu­tion videos,” Cook said.

“We view him as a sig­nif­i­cant leader in ISIL lead­er­ship over­all, not just in An­bar Prov­ince,” he added.

“Re­mov­ing him from the bat­tle­field will be a sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward.”

The men were trav­el­ing in a ve­hi­cle when they were hit. Cook pro­vided no ad­di­tional de­tails and did not spec­ify if a war­plane or a drone had car­ried out the strike.

May/10/2016

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