US Designates Leader of Kataib Hezbollah Militia as Global Terrorist

Washington is intensifying pressure on the group, which, according to the US State Department, is linked to the killing of an American military contractor in Iraq in December.

The United States has designated the leader of Kataib Hezbollah, Secretary-General Ahmad Al-Hamidawias, as a “specially designated global terrorist or SDGT” and is targeting him in a new action, the US State of Department said on Wednesday.

“The Kataib Hezbollah group continues to present a threat to US forces in Iraq”, US Counterterrorism Coordinator Ambassador Nathan Sales said.

A 27 December 2019 rocket attack on the K-1 airbase in Kirkuk, northern Iraq, killed a US civilian military contractor and injured four US soldiers and two Iraqi security officers, leading to an escalation of the already high tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Following the December 2019 attack, the US conducted a targeted airstrike near Baghdad International Airport on 3 January, killing Iran’s top military commander Qasem Soleimani, as well as several other high-ranking military officers. The US justified his killing claiming that Soleimani was responsible for plotting the attacks against US citizens and US interests in Iraq.

However, Iraq’s military and intelligence community believe Daesh*, and not Iran-affiliated Khaitab Hezbollah, was responsible for the 27 December attack. “All indications are that it was Daesh”, Brig. Gen. Ahmed Adnan, chief of intelligence for Iraqi Federal police at the K-1 base, told the New York Times newspaper.

Soleimani was a highly respected figure in Iran, praised for combatting militant and terrorist groups in the region, including Daesh, and considered an architect of the whole Iran’s security infrastructure. In retaliation, Tehran conducted missile strikes against two facilities in Iraq housing US military personnel. 64 US servicemembers were diagnosed with concussions and traumatic brain injuries as a result of those strikes.

*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist organisation outlawed in Russia and many other states

‘Bombshell’: Iraqi Officials Say ISIS —Not Iran— Likely Behind Rocket Attack Trump Used to Justify Soleimani Assassination

“Al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. on 9/11 and we went to war with Iraq. If this report is true, ISIS attacked the U.S. and we nearly went to war with Iran.”

 

Global Research, February 10, 2020
Common Dreams 7 February 2020

In a “bombshell” revelation that calls into question one of the Trump administration’s stated justificiations for assassinating Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani—a move that nearly sparked a region-wide military conflict—Iraqi intelligence officials told the New York Times that they believe ISIS, not an Iran-linked militia, was likely responsible for the Dec. 27 rocket attack that killed an American contractor at an air base near Kirkuk, Iraq.

The Times reported Thursday that “Iraqi military and intelligence officials have raised doubts about who fired the rockets… saying they believe it is unlikely that the militia the United States blamed for the attack” was responsible.

“All the indications are that it was Daesh,” Brigadier General Ahmed Adnan, the Iraqi chief of intelligence for the federal police at the K-1 air base, told the Times, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. “We know Daesh’s movements.”

The Trump administration has not released a single piece of evidence showing that the Iraqi militia Khataib Hezbollah, which has ties to Iran, was responsible for the attack on K-1. The group has denied carrying out the attack.

The U.S. responded to the rocket attack days later with deadly airstrikes on Khataib Hezbollah targets in Iraq and Syria, setting off a dangerous escalatory spiral that brought Iran and the U.S. to the brink of war.

On Jan. 2, the U.S. assassinated Soleimani with a drone strike in Baghdad ordered by President Donald Trump. Following the assassination, which was widely condemned as an act of war, the U.S. Department of Defense issued a statement claiming without evidence that Soleimani “orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months—including the attack on December 27th—culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel.”

But Iraqi officials told the Times that “based on circumstantial evidence and long experience in the area where the attack took place,” there is good reason to be skeptical about U.S. claims that Khataib Hezbollah was behind it.

As the Times reported:

The rockets were launched from a Sunni Muslim part of Kirkuk Province notorious for attacks by the Islamic State, a Sunni terrorist group, which would have made the area hostile territory for a Shiite militia like Khataib Hezbollah.
Khataib Hezbollah has not had a presence in Kirkuk Province since 2014.
The Islamic State, however, had carried out three attacks relatively close to the base in the 10 days before the attack on K-1. Iraqi intelligence officials sent reports to the Americans in November and December warning that ISIS intended to target K-1, an Iraqi air base in Kirkuk Province that is also used by American forces…
These facts all point to the Islamic State, Iraqi officials say.
“We as Iraqi forces cannot even come to this area unless we have a large force because it is not secure,” Brig. Gen. Adnan said of the area from which the rocket attack was launched. “How could it be that someone who doesn’t know the area could come here and find that firing position and launch an attack?”

In response to the Times report, Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council, tweeted:

“Al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. on 9/11 and we went to war with Iraq. If this report is true, ISIS attacked the U.S. and we nearly went to war with Iran.”

Sina Toossi@SinaToossi

 

 

This is huge: Iraqi military & intelligence officials say it’s highly unlikely that a rocket attack that killed an Iraqi-American contractor in early January—& led to an escalation cycle that almost started a war—was carried out by an Iran-allied militia.https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/06/world/middleeast/iraq-iran-hezbollah-evidence.html 
Iraqi soldiers at the K-1 base, which was struck by rockets on Dec. 27.

Was U.S. Wrong About Attack That Nearly Started a War With Iran?

Iraqi military and intelligence officials have raised doubts about who fired the rockets that started a dangerous spiral of events.

nytimes.com

 

 

127 people are talking about this

 

CODEPINK@codepink

 

 

The US almost started WWIII based on questionable evidence.After all of the violence in the Middle East following the attack on US bases, officials are now questioning the US’s claim that the -backed militia Khataib Hezbollah are to blame. https://buff.ly/31CpWqT 

Iraqi soldiers at the K-1 base, which was struck by rockets on Dec. 27.

Was U.S. Wrong About Attack That Nearly Started a War With Iran?

Iraqi military and intelligence officials have raised doubts about who fired the rockets that started a dangerous spiral of events.

nytimes.com

 

 

46 people are talking about this

 

U.S. officials insisted to the Times that they have “solid evidence” showing that Khataib Hezbollah carried out the attack, but they have not released any of this evidence to the public or to Iraqi officials.

“We have requested the American side to share with us any information, any evidence, but they have not sent us any information,” Lt. Gen. Muhammad al-Bayati, chief of staff for former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, told the Times.

Ilan Goldenberg, Middle East security director at the Center for a New American Security think tank, tweeted that the U.S. Congress “must ask questions about this and get the intel.”

Responsible Statecraft managing editor Benjamin Armbruster agreed.

“Congress needs to investigate ASAP,” Armbruster tweeted.

*

Note to readers: please click the share buttons above or below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

 

Trump’s Brink of War with Iran Spun on a Lie

Finian Cunningham

February 9, 2020

Iraqi military intelligence has found that almost certainly the rocket attack on a U.S. base in December which killed an American contractor was carried out by the Islamic State terror group – not an Iranian-backed Shia militia, contrary to what Washington has been claiming.

The rocket attack on the base in Kirkuk in northern Iraq on December 27 led to a spiral of violence which brought the U.S. to the brink of war with Iran last month. For a few days, the world held its breath in dread of a war which could have engulfed the entire Middle East and beyond.

It turns out that President Trump’s brink of war with Iran was most likely spun on a cynical lie. That misinformation also led to the U.S. assassination of top Iranian military leader, Major General Qassem Soleimani on January 3, and to the subsequent shoot-down of a civilian airliner in Iran with 176 lives lost.

Following the deadly barrage on the American base in Kirkuk on December 27, the U.S. immediately blamed the Iranian-backed militia called Khataib Hezbollah. Washington took revenge within days by launching airstrikes on December 29 against the militia at sites across Syria and Iraq, killing dozens of fighters.

That then prompted furious protests at the U.S. embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on January 1. Trump fulminated against Iran for orchestrating the assault on American personnel and property, warning of a devastating military response.

On January 3, Trump ordered a drone strike against Iran’s Maj. Gen. Soleimani after he arrived at Baghdad international airport. Soleimani was murdered along with Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al Muhandis who was leader of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, which includes Khataib Hezbollah – the Shia group that the Americans blamed for the multiple-rocket attack killing the U.S. contractor on December 27 in Kirkuk.

There then followed an intensive media campaign by Trump and his top officials which sought to portray the Iranian general as the ultimate author of the December 27 rocket attack. Soleimani was overnight transformed into a monster-terrorist who had to be “taken out”.

In his State of the Union address last week, Trump repeated the vilification of Soleimani and the justification for his assassination.

The president stated: “Soleimani was the Iranian regime’s most ruthless butcher, a monster who murdered or wounded thousands of American service members in Iraq. As the world’s top terrorist, Soleimani orchestrated the deaths of countless men, women, and children. He directed the December assault [at Kirkuk U.S. base] and went on to assault U.S. forces in Iraq. Was actively planning new attacks when we hit him very hard. And that’s why, last month, at my direction, the U.S. military executed a flawless precision strike that killed Soleimani and terminated his evil reign of terror forever.”

Neither Trump nor his senior administration officials have presented any evidence to link Soleimani with the rocket attack at Kirkuk. Nor have they provided evidence that the Khataib Hezbollah militia group were responsible. The Americans say their information is classified and therefore cannot be disclosed publicly. For its part, the militia group has denied any involvement.

Iraqi military officials, however, are now coming out to say that they believe the perpetrators of the Kirkuk attack were Islamic State (also known as Daesh). The New York Times last week quoted Iraq’s Brigadier General Ahmed Adnan as saying: “All the indications are that it was Daesh… We as Iraqi forces cannot even come to this area unless we have a large force because it is not secure. How could it be that someone [Khataib Hezbollah] who doesn’t know the area could come here and find that firing position and launch an attack?”

The area surrounding the U.S.-Iraqi base in Kirkuk is a hotbed for the radical Sunni Islamic State network. It would therefore be nigh impossible for a Shia militia like Khataib Hezbollah to mount a major operation in a hostile and remote northern area of the country.

Furthermore, the Iraqi military said it had notified the Americans of imminent Islamic State hostile activity in the Kirkuk area in the weeks before the attack on December 27.

That points to another anomaly in Trump’s State of the Union speech when he bragged about how he had achieved the “100 per cent” destruction of the IS terror organization in Iraq and Syria. Trump’s bravura necessarily means denying that the terror group could have killed an American contractor. Better to blame a Shia militia affiliated with Iran so as not to spoil the self-congratulations.

More than that though, it seems that the Trump administration had Iran’s military leader in its cross-hairs for months before he was finally assassinated. It is reported Trump wanted to kill Soleimani as far back as 2017. Thus, the rocket attack on the base in Kirkuk and the subsequent protests at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad were merely a cynical pretext to trigger the assassination plan.

The killing of Soleimani resulted in an outpouring of national grief across Iran for a hero figure and a retaliation ballistic missile attack by Iran against two U.S. bases in Iraq on January 8. There were no American casualties in those attacks. But the world was brought to the brink of war. A war which could have spiraled into a regional conflict and even a world war given the strategic balance of forces in the region, including those of Russia, NATO and Israel.

In the event, war was narrowly averted. But one tragic outcome was the accidental shooting down of Ukrainian airliner Flight 752 above Tehran on the morning of January 8. Iranian air defenses fired in the mistaken belief it was an enemy target amid heightened tensions of war with the U.S. in retaliation for the Iranian missile attack on American bases in Iraq only hours earlier. All 176 onboard the airliner were killed. All the more damnable is that assassinations, the brink of war and the loss of innocent civilians all stemmed from what appears now to be an odious lie from the Trump administration.

الشعب العراقي في مواجهة دولة «بريمر»

يناير 6, 2020

د. وفيق إبراهيم

للمرة الأولى منذ الاحتلال الأميركي للعراق في 2003، يتكشف ان الدولة التي ضغط لإنشائها المندوب الأميركي “بريمر”، هي مجرد آلية شكلية مصابة بعطل بنيوي بالولادة وغير قابل للاصلاح او المعالجة.

لقد بذل الأميركيون جهوداً جبارة لبناء دولة عراقية تشبه النماذج الكونفدرالية التي يحتاج أي قرار فيها لموافقات كبيرة من المؤسسات الدستورية وتتطلب في البعض تأييداً يفوق الثلثين في مجالسها النيابية وحكوماتها ورؤساء بلدياتها. وهذا يعني استحالة صدور أي قرار إلا بالاتفاق المسبق والعميق بين قادة المذاهب والقوميات بما يؤكد عجز هذا النوع من الدول الاتفاق على القرارات الوطنية الكبرى. وهذا يعني شللاً في إنتاج المواقف التاريخية الكبرى مع الميل الى المساومات بين القوى السياسية للتحاصص الداخلي فقط، في الوظائف والأموال العامة والتعيينات.

هذا حال العراق الذي اجتاحه الأميركيون قبل سبعة عشر عاماً من دون إذن أممي متذرعين بوجود اسلحة دمار شامل على اراضيه، فقضوا على نظام صدام حسين سافكين دماء مئات آلاف العراقيين ومؤسسين هذه الدولة الضعيفة التي فرضوا عليها بموجب سيطرتهم على موازنات القوى، توقيع معاهدة تجعل احتلالهم شرعياً للعام 2011، فانتهت هذه المهلة ولم يخرجوا إلى أن اكتشفت دولة “بريمر” العراقية الحل الناجع فأجبرت حكومة العراق على توقيع اتفاق جديد يسمح للقوات الأميركية بالبقاء لتدريب القوات العراقية ورفدها باستشارات ونصائح في اوقات المحن.

ضمن هذا السيناريو الدقيق عمل الأميركيون على السيطرة على الجيش العراقي ومجمل القوى الأمنية، ولم يكتفوا بذلك، ساعين الى التفتيت بمستويات متعددة: سياسي طائفي وآخر داخل كل قوة مذهبية بمفردها، وثالث قومي وعرقي، وذلك لصنع المزيد من الفرقة بين الكتل السياسية الشيعية والسنية من جهة والشيعية الشيعية والسنية السنية من جهة أخرى مع خلافات عربية كردية مشجعين الإرهاب على قتل المسيحيين والايزيديين ما أحدث خللاً سياسياً وطنياً ادى الى اضعاف الأقوياء والأقل قوة في آن معاً حتى بدا أن القوى الوحيدة هو ذلك الأميركي المتحكم بمفاصل القوة، فهو محتل ومستشار وسياسي وإعلامي يلعب على نيران الفتنة الداخلية ولص يسرق نفط كردستان وكركوك ويسوّقه في تركيا، بما يؤدي الى انتفاع ثلاثي في هذه الثروة العراقية: آل البرزاني المتحكمون بالسلطة في كردستان واردوغان البراغماتي الذي لا يريد دولة كردية، لكنه يأكل من نفطها، والأميركيون أصحاب الرعاية والتنسيق الذين يحمون مقابل حصة من نفط العراق.

بشكل يشابه ما يفعلونه دائماً مع الإمارات والسعودية وقطر والكويت أي: ادفع تسلم.

كما ذهبوا في مناطق الوسط الى حدود دعم كل التيارات الانفصالية والعشائر مستعينين بخدمات الأحزاب الإسلاموية الموالية لتركيا، وادوار السعودية والإمارات في التأثير على عشائر الأنبار وبعض احزاب الوسط عبر تزخيم شعار العداء لإيران وتصوير العراق على أنه ساحة للنفوذ الفارسي المجوسي كما تقول إشاعاتهم اليومية.

ولم ينسوا جذب بعض القوى الشيعية التي تريد الإمساك بالحكم على غرار سائرون جماعة مقتدى الصدر وطموحات عراقيين شيعة آخرين، مستعدين لبيع سراويلهم مقابل رئاسة الحكومة.

فأمسك الأميركيون بهذه الطريقة بالكثير من الأحزاب في كردستان والوسط والكلدان والصابئة والايزيديين وبعض قوى الجنوب والعاصمة.

بذلك استطاعت دولة “بريمر” لعب دور مرجعية لا يمكن لأي قرار وطني ان يعبر إلا بإذنها، واداء دور المنظم للأحجام والحائل دون وصول قوة الى درجة تستطيع فيها إلغاء الآخر.

انها اذاً دولة مشلولة وعاجزة تراقب “بصمت العاجزين” ولادة مشروع سياسي أميركي جديد يريد تحويل العراق الى جدران تمنع تطوير العلاقات التنسيقية مع سورية وتلغي أي دور سياسي او اقتصادي لحدودها مع إيران، ولو استطاعت إلغاء انظمة الزيارات الدينية لمراقد الأولياء والأئمة بين العراق وايران لما تلكأت لحظة واحدة.

لذلك يذهب الجنون الأميركي هذه المرة الى حدود اغتيال قائدين أمنيين من الدرجة الاولى، أحدهما رجل أمن إقليمي تاريخي له مكانة متقدّمة في محور المقاومة في لبنان وسورية والعراق وإيران واليمن وفلسطين، والشهيد الثاني نائب رئيس الحشد الشعبي في مواجهة الأميركيين.

هذا إذاً اغتيال له أبعاد سياسية عراقية لكن جغرافيته العراقية تتطلب رداً سياسياً حازماً من الدولة العراقية اولاً، ولن تستطيع التقدم بشكوى لمجلس الامن الدولي بسبب الفراغ السياسي في المؤسسات الدستورية، فبرهم هارب الى باكستان والحلبوسي صاحب الآراء الرمادية وعاد عبد المهدي المستقيل الذي لم يعد باستطاعته حتى جمع وزراء من حكومته. هذا الى جانب أن حكومة تصريف الأعمال الحالية لا قدرة قانونية لديها على إنتاج موقف وطني.

فهل يعجز العراق عن تأمين بديل من مؤسساته الدستورية المشلولة؟

إنه الشعب العراقي بكامل أطيافه الذي ملأ بغداد والنجف بالملايين المستنكرين لاغتيال القائدين. هي الآلية الشجاعة وعلى رأسها مفتي السنة والشيعة المنلا الذي يجهر مطالباً بإخراج الأميركيين. هؤلاء هم القادرون على إصدار فتوى شعبية تعلن انتهاء مفاعيل كل المعاهدات والاتفاقات مع الأميركيين على أساس حظر كامل لأي تفاعل مع القواعد العسكرية الأميركية ومعاملتها كمراكز تنتهك سيادة العراق وصولاً الى حدود إعلان الكفاح الشعبي لطرد هذا الاستعماري.

المطلوب إذاً أن يلعب الشعب العراقي دوراً في إعادة بناء عراق داخلي موحّد وعراق إقليمي قادر على التنسيق مع سورية لبناء أقوى معادلة ممكنة منذ سقوط النظام العربي القديم على يد الرئيس المصري السادات في 1979.

فهل يتحوّل الاغتيال الأميركي للشهيدين الى مناسبة لطرد الأميركيين من العراق وسورية؟هذا ممكن بالقوة الشعبية وحلف المقاومة ورفع شعار يقوم على المساواة بين الشعوب في سورية والعراق ولبنان وفلسطين على أساس المساواة في السياسة والاقتصادي والاجتماع بمنأى عن التباين الديني والعرقي، لذلك فالمأزوم اليوم هم الأميركيون الذين يفقدون آخر أوراقهم في المنطقة بما يبشر بفجر جديد لشعوب مضطهدة منذ ألف عام وأكثر.

SYRIAN KURDISTAN: FROM “OLIVE BRANCH” TO “FALLEN STATE”

South Front

26.04.2018

Syrian Kurdistan: From "Olive Branch" to "Fallen State"

Kurdish fighters raise flag of PKK leader in centre of Raqqa

Written by Maksim Alexandrov; Originally appeared on warsonline.info; Translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront

Not long ago in Washington at the Institute of National Strategic Studies of the National Defence University the round table on “The Multimodal Threats in the Kurdish Region” took place, a continuation of the “NATO and Regional Military and Political Alliance in 2018” Council.

The organisers of the meeting, taking place on April 9 to 11, were the Institute of National Strategic Studies, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), the intelligence community and the commanders of the Special Forces of the US. The main agenda of the event was focused on clarifying the conceptual and analytical foundations of American policy in the framework of topical issues of the “Kurdish question”, the problem of improving the coordination of regional allies, as well as military and political modeling of crisis systems that fall under the topology of “fallen state”.

“Today, the USA, as never before, is faced with the destructive position of the Syrian regime and its allies, the Russian Federation and Iran. We met qualitatively new challenges and hybrid threats to freedom and democracy in Syria (SAR)”, with these words the special representative of the Department of Military and Political Modeling began his presentation, specialist in the field of pre-emptive analysis and the Greater Middle East of the Agency for the reduction of military threats Ray Ross.

During the discussion, experts highlighted the most complex structure of the problems that cause the revision of operational resources, and as a consequence, reducing operational sustainability and “window of response” to the crisis situations. First, such challenges include the issue of harmonisation of positions and approaches.

As an empirical base, analysts cite examples of the destructive positions of the Turkish Republic regarding the “united Kurdish space”, the inconsistent/punctual nature of the work of the UK, France and Germany in providing and preparing the Kurdish militia after the October operations in Iraq’s Kirkuk. During the meeting, the coalition failed to ensure prompt withdrawal of 140 Bundeswehr instructors and 30 specialist of the Special Aviation Service of the British Armed Forces.

Second, comes the imbalance of the asymmetric military and political education within the framework of the international coalition. The fragmentation of Kurdish troops and militia (YPG) during the events related to the referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan and the subsequent military and political crisis, the split of the Peshmerga and other Kurdish armed groups controlled by Erbil; the growth in popularity of the Movement for Change or “Goran”, are a ready counter-rally against ex-President Massod Barzani’s block, the “Democratic Party of Kurdistan” and the “Patriotic Union of Kurdistan”.

As a result, there is a curtailment of the potential of “Kurdish National Councils” in the Syrian Kurdish Supreme Council, in other words, the growing influence of the Democratic Union Party of Salih Muslim, supporter of the autonomy within the SAR, and the national Councils of Western Kurdistan, which may cause a potential strengthening of Moscow’s and Iran’s positions in the region.

The disagreements between the Kurdish and Arab (Sunni, 23 movements) ethnic and religious components are, in particular the revolt of the Arabs in Syria’s Raqqa, armed conflicts within “independent” groups in North-Eastern Syria, caused by both “humanitarian” and military-political aspects, systemic shortcomings of the previous presidential administration to unite the projects of the “Kurdish Zone”, “Syrian Democratic Forces” and the “Free Syrian Army”.

The data formed the need for duplication of “territorial formations” by independent structures, the creation of Kurdish security forces that are not included in the YPG during the last year. Along with this, it allowed partial substitution and assumption of the contingents of the Arab countries in the area of responsibility of the Alliance. Preliminary rounds of talks with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are now been held.

“The newly formed security forces, along with the implementation of substitution approaches are certainly a guarantee for stability and security in the North-East of Syria”, stated Ray Ross.

Third, the current problems required operational support for the concept “Balance of deterrence and engagement”, as described in previous submissions.

Thus, according to analysts, the greatest actual problems are:

  1. Security in the North East of Syria;
  2. Containment of Ankara;
  3. Exclusion of the growing influence of Damascus, Moscow and Tehran;
  4. Revision of the allies system, accompanied by a “balance of deterrence and engagement”.

Thus, the methods to achieve a “balance of deterrence and engagement” through the support and expansion of special measures aimed at the integration of non-system actors of the military and political process are of greatest interest. “We conduct constant monitoring of the military-political process and its dynamics. It has already been six months that we monitor the escalation of the conflict in the north of Syria, which we repeatedly inform our allies, Turkey and other countries. Today within the framework of the modeling, we understand the need to involve all parties in the settlement process. Potentially, it may include the Kurdish Workers’ Party and the Democratic Union”, said the representative of DTRA.

According to data received from the source “occupying a high position” in the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) since November 2017, personnel changes have begun, accompanied by an intra-party conflict. With the beginning of the Turkish operation “Olive Branch” the group “Will to Freedom” stood out, actively cooperating with the YPG troops, coordinated with the United States and its allies. The unit, numbering up to 5000 personnel, advocates for the change of the party’s leadership course and the formation of the “common Kurdish space”. “However, we must work to ensure that this organisation does not engage in destructive activities on Turkish territories”.

In addition, in the ranks of the PKK, according to intelligence, in December last year a “right-oriented core” was formed, which began the extradition of previously left in Afrin intra-party opponents of the “new forces” with Salih Muslim. “The United States have actively watched this process, today we have a unique opportunity to unite these PKK platforms into a new, powerful force that can affect the entire region. These processes are very complex, but positive for national security”, commented Ray Ross.

During the talks held at the end of December 2017, between the “new forces” and the Democratic Union Party, the parties could not agree on “extradition”, but agreements were reached in exchange for the deployment of seven training camps in North Africa in exchange for full support from the “right forces” in the PKK.

The personnel trained at these facilities were intended for deployment on the neighbouring Turkish territory. However the Turkish side took these processes as a strengthening, an attempt to unite the Kurdish Workers’ Party and on January 20 launched the army operation “Olive Branch”, which ended with the capture of the city of Afrin and the division of the canton into Turkish and Syrian-Russian areas of responsibility.

During the Turkish operation, with the support of the US, talks were held between the YPG and the Afrin security forces on the limited material and technical support, as well as sending a number of volunteer units subordinate to the military council of Manbij. Also, the “special contact mission” guaranteed full support in the case of coordination of the Afrin security forces, the dissolution of the HPX battalion and the “Desert Scorpion” brigade.

De facto, this process should be seen as providing an alternative resource base, aimed at the involvement of the security forces and councils of Afrin in the structure of the YPG and the expansion of cooperation with the International coalition, i.e. the removal of Iran and Russia from the northern province of Aleppo. However, cooperation between Moscow, Tehran and Ankara did not allow the formalisation of this union.

At the same time, analysts noted that the division, the failure of “involvement”, allowed to restore the balance of forces in the “Kurdish zone”, since after the military and political crisis caused by the “collapse” of Iraqi Kurdistan and the departure of Masoud Barzani as President, the “Democratic Union Party” significantly strengthened its position, “threatening the integrity of the Syrian Kurdistan”. However, after the division of Afrin, its potential, through natural processes, decreased, opening up new opportunities for the American side and the security forces that were created.

Thus, turning to the conclusions, we can say that the American side is now involved in the processes of operationalization of the concept of “containment and engagement”, considering factor projects of unification of multidirectional forces through the chaos of existing crisis systems and territorial associations. The growing military presence in the area of Al-Tanf, and the disparate information of the transfer of Arab-Kurdish troops to the area, could potentially mean the unification of the YPG, the security forces and the new Syrian Army into a single structure.

With the completion of operation “Olive Branch”, an extensive media company was launched to discredit the positions of Moscow, Tehran and Damascus in resolving the “Kurdish issue”.

In mid-March 2018 in north-eastern Syria, a “Syrian popular Resistance” was formed, advocating the liberation from occupation by a coalition led by the United States.

On April 15, 2018, the Department of Military and Political Modeling of the US agency for reducing military threats adopted the programme of development of the north-east of Syria, labelling this territory as “fallen state”.

Live from Baghdad: the secret of Iraq’s renaissance

November 14, 2017

by Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times (cross-posted by special agreement with the author)

BAGHDAD – On a sandstorm-swept morning in Baghdad earlier last week, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, the legendary deputy leader of Hashd al-Shaabi, a.k.a. People Mobilization Units (PMUs) and the actual mastermind of numerous ground battles against ISIS/Daesh, met a small number of independent foreign journalists and analysts.

This was a game-changing moment in more ways than one. It was the first detailed interview granted by Mohandes since the fatwa issued by Grand Ayatollah Sistani – the immensely respected marja (source of emulation) and top clerical authority in Iraq – in June 2014, when Daesh stormed across the border from Syria. The fatwa, loosely translated, reads, “It is upon every Iraqi capable of carrying guns to volunteer with the Iraqi Armed Forces to defend the sanctities of the nation.”

Mohandes took time out of the battlefield especially for the meeting, and then left straight for al-Qaim. He was sure “al-Qaim will be taken in a matter of days” – a reference to the crucial Daesh-held Iraqi border town connecting to Daesh stronghold Abu Kamal in Syria.

That’s exactly what happened only four days later; Iraqi forces immediately started a mop up operation and prepared to meet advancing Syrian forces at the border – yet more evidence that the recomposition of the territorial integrity of both Iraq and Syria is a (fast) work in progress.

The meeting with Mohandes was held in a compound inside the massively fortified Green Zone – an American-concocted bubble kept totally insulated from ultra-volatile red zone Baghdad with multiple checkpoints and sniffer dogs manned by US contractors.

Adding to the drama, the US State Department describes Mohandes as a “terrorist”. That amounts in practice to criminalizing the Iraqi government in Baghdad – which duly released an official statement furiously refuting the characterization.

The PMUs are an official body with tens of thousands of volunteers linked to the office of the Commander in Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces. The Iraqi Parliament fully legalized the PMUs in November 2016 via resolution 91 (item number 4, for instance, states that “the PMU and its affiliates are subject to military regulations that are enforced from all angles.”)

Its 25 combat brigades – comprising Shi’ites, Sunnis, Christians, Yazidis, Turkmen, Shabak and Kurds – have been absolutely crucial in the fight against Daesh in Samarra, Amerli, Jalawla, Balad, Salahuddin, Fallujah (35 different battles), Shirqat and Mosul (especially over the western axis from Qayarah base to the Iraq-Syrian border, cutting off supply chains and sealing Mosul from an attempted Daesh escape to Syria).

Retaking Kirkuk “in a matter of hours”

Mohandes describes the PMUs as “an official military force” which plays a “complementary role” to the Iraqi Army. The initial plan was for the PMUs to become a national guard – which in fact they are now; “We have recon drones and engineering units that the Army does not have. We don’t mind if we are called gendarmes.” He’s proud the PMUs are fighting an “unconventional war”, holding the high ground “militarily and morally” with “victories achieved in record time”. And “contrary to Syria”, with no direct Russian support.

Mohandes is clear that Iran was the only nation supporting Iraq’s fight against Daesh. Iraq reciprocated by helping Syria, “facilitating over flights by Iranian planes.” With no Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between Washington and Baghdad, “the Americans withdrew companies that maintain Abrams tanks.” In 2014

“we didn’t even have AK-47s. Iran gave them to us. The US embassy had 12 Apache helicopters ready to transport diplomats if Baghdad fell to Daesh”.

One year later, “Baghdad would have been occupied” were not for the PMUs; “It’s like you’re in a hospital and you need blood. The Americans would show up with the transfusion when it was too late.” He is adamant “the US did not provide a single bullet” in the overall fight against Daesh. And yet, Mohandes clarifies that the “US may stay in Iraq should the Iraqi government decide it. My personal opinion is well known.”

Mohandes considers the [Western] “media war waged against Hashd al-Shaabi” as “normal from the beginning”; “Countries that supported terrorism would not perceive that a popular force would emerge, and did not recognize the new political system in Iraq.” On that note, he added ruefully, “you can smell petrol”.

Mohandes was personally wounded in Halabja and also in Anfal – Saddam Hussein’s anti-Kurdish operations. He was “pleased to see Kurdistan saved after 1991”; stresses “we had martyrs who fell in Kurdistan defending them”; and considers himself a friend of the Kurds, keeping good relations with their leaders. Iranian advisors, alongside the Iraqi Army and the PMUs, also “prevented Daesh from conquering Erbil.”

Yet after a “unilateral referendum, Iraq had to assert the authority of the state”. Retaking Kirkuk – largely a PMU operation – was “a matter of hours”; the PMUs “avoided fighting and stayed only in the outskirts of Kirkuk”. Mohandes previously discussed operational details with the Peshmerga, and there was full coordination with both Iran and Turkey; “It’s a misconception that Kurdish leaders could rely on Turkey.”

Fallujah, finally secured

The PMUs absolutely insist on their protection of ethnic minorities, referring to thousands of Sabak, Yazidi and Turkmen – among at least 120,000 families – forced by Daesh rule into becoming IDPs. After liberation battles were won, the PMUs provided these families with food, clothing, toys, generators and fuel. I confirmed that many of these donations came from families of PMU fighters all across the country. PMU priorities include combat engineering teams bringing families back to their areas after clearing mines and explosives, and then reopening hospitals and schools. For instance, 67,000 families were resettled into their homes in Salahuddin and 35,000 families in Diyala.

Mohandes stresses that, “in the fight against Daesh in Salahuddin and Hawija, the brigade commanders were Sunnis”. The PMUs feature a Christian Babylon brigade, a Yazidi brigade, and a Turkmen brigade; “When Yazidis were under siege in Sinjar we freed at least 300,000 people.”

Overall, the PMUs include over 20,000 Sunni fighters. Compare it with the fact that 50 per cent of Daesh’s suicide bombers in Iraq have been Saudi nationals. I confirmed with Sheikh Muhammad al-Nouri, leader of the Sunni scholars in Fallujah, “this is an ideological battle against Wahhabi ideology. We need to get away from the Wahhabi school and redirect our knowledge to other Sunni schools.” He explained how that worked on the ground in Haditha (“we were able to control mosques”) and motivated people in Fallujah, 30 minutes away; “Fallujah is an Iraqi city. We believe in coexistence.”

After 14 years in which Fallujah was not secure, and with the Haditha experience fast expanding, Sheikh Muhammad is convinced “Iraq will declare a different war on terror.”

The inclusive approach was also confirmed by Yezen Meshaan al-Jebouri, the head of the Salahuddin PMU brigade. This is crucial because he’s a member of the very prominent Sunni Jebouri family, which was historically inimical to Saddam Hussein; his father is the current governor of Tikrit. Al-Jebouri decries “the state corruption in Sunni regions”, an “impression of injustice” and the fact that for Daesh, “Sunnis who did not follow them should also be killed.” He’s worried about “the Saudi accumulation of developed weapons. Who guarantees these won’t be used against the region?” And he refuses the notion that “we are looked upon by the West as part of the Iranian project.”

Military victory meets political victory

Far from the stereotyped “terrorist”, Mohandes is disarmingly smart, witty and candid. And a full-blooded Iraqi patriot; “Iraq now reinstates its position because of the blood of its sons. We needed to have a military force capable of fighting an internal threat. We are accomplishing a religious national and humanitarian duty.” Soldiers apart, thousands of extra PMU volunteers do not receive salaries. Members of Parliament and even Ministers were active in the battlefield. Mohandes is proud that “we have a chain of command just like the army”; that the PMUs harbor “thousands of people with college degrees”; that they run “dozens of field hospitals, intensive care units” and have “the strongest intel body in Iraq.”

In Baghdad, I personally confirmed the narrative accusing the PMUs of being Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s private army is nonsense. If that was the case, Grand Ayatollah Sistani should take the blame, as he conceptually is the father of the PMUs. Hadi al-Amiri, the secretary-general of the powerful Badr organization, also extremely active in the fight against Daesh, stressed to me the PMUs are “part of the security system, integrated with the Ministry of Defense”. But now “we need universities and emphasis on education.”

Pakistani Prof. Hassan Abbas, from the College of International Security Affairs at the National Defense University in Washington, went even further, as we extensively discussed not only Iraq and Syria but also Afghanistan and Pakistan; “Iraq is now in a unique position heading towards a democratic, pluralistic society”, proving that “the best answer to sectarianism is religious harmony.” This “inclusiveness against Takfirism” must now connect in the streets “with the rule of law and a fair justice system”. Abbas points out that the base for Iraq to build up is law enforcement via scientific investigation; “Policing is the first line of defense”.

Baghdad has been able, almost simultaneously, to pull off two major game-changers; a military victory in Mosul and a political victory in Kirkuk. If Iraq stabilizes, erasing the Daesh death cult, so will Syria. As al-Jebouri notes, “now every community must have a cut of the cake.” At least 7 million jobs and pensions are paid by Baghdad. People want the return of regularly paid salaries. That starts with decent security all over the country. Mohandes was the engineer – his actual profession – of key battles against Daesh. There’s a wide consensus in Baghdad that without him Daesh would be firmly installed in the Green Zone.

Hashd al-Shaabi is already an Iraqi pop phenomenon, reflected in this huge hit by superstar Ali al-Delfi. From pop to politics is another matter entirely. Mohandes is adamant the PMUs won’t get involved in politics, “and directly won’t contest elections. If someone does, and many individuals are now very popular, they have to leave Hashd.”

From hybrid warfare to national renewal

After days talking to Hashd al-Shaabi personnel and observing how they operate a complex hybrid warfare battlefield coupled with an active recruitment process and heavy presence in social media, it’s clear the PMUs are now firmly established as a backbone underpinning Iraqi state security, an array of stabilization programs – including much needed medical services – and most of all, introducing a measure of efficiency Iraq was totally unfamiliar for almost three decades.

It’s a sort of state-building mechanism springing out of a resistance ethic. As if the ominous Daesh threat, which may have led to as many as 3.1 million IDPs, shook up the collective Iraqi subconscious, awakened the Iraqi Shi’ite proletariat/disenfranchised masses, and accelerated cultural decolonization. And this complex development couldn’t be further from religious bigotry.

Amid Wilsonian eulogies and references to the Marshall Plan, Foreign Minister Ebrahim al-Jaafari is also a staunch defender of the PMUs, stressing it as “an experiment to be studied”, a “new phenomenon with a humane basis operating on a legal framework”, and “able to break the siege of solitude Iraq has suffered for years.”

Referring to the Daesh offensive, Jaafari insisted “Iraq did not commit a crime” in the first place, but hopefully there’s “a new generation of youth capable of reinforcing the experiment”. The emphasis now, following reconciliation, is on “an era of national participation”. He’s adamant that “families of Daesh members should not pay for their mistakes.” Daesh informers will be duly put on trial.

I asked the Foreign Minister if Baghdad did not fear being caught in a lethal crossfire between Washington and Tehran. His response was carefully measured. He said he had enough experience of dealing with “radical” neocons in D.C. And at the same time he was fully aware of the role of the PMUs as well as Iran in Iraq’s reassertion of sovereignty. His warm smile highlighted the conviction that out of the ashes of a cultish black death, the Iraqi renaissance was fully in effect.

The Winners & Losers of the Kurdish Independence Referendum

28-10-2017 | 07:38

As disgraced American soldiers withdrew from Iraq in 2011, US Secretary of Defense at the time, Leon Panetta, hinted that Washington’s battlefield disaster did not spell the end of US interference in that country.

Masoud Barzani


“We’ve invested a lot of blood in Iraq,” Panetta said. “The bottom line is, whether it’s diplomatic or whether it’s military, we’ve got a long-term relationship with Iraq.”

For many, the US defeat in Iraq marked the end of the golden age of American combat. However, politicians like Panetta and those who came after him insisted on treating their losses in the Middle East as a temporary setback on the road to ultimate triumph.

Just a few years after the 2011 withdrawal, American troops were sneaking back into Iraq under the cover of the black banner of Daesh.

The chaos crafted by the terrorist franchise – paid for by the Americans and their allies – first gave rise to the so-called Islamic State, and later aspiring Kurdish statelets. Both had the same objective: to restructure the region, starting with the division of Iraq and Syria.

But this month’s blitz campaign by Iraqi forces against Kurdish fighters and an offensive to route Daesh out from its final stronghold in the country translates into more of the same for Washington – military frustration and defeat.

The degree of frustration was best summed up by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who recently called on Iranian-backed groups in Iraq “to go home”.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis heeded a call to arms in 2014, forming the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) after Daesh seized a third of the country’s territory. Tehran’s invaluable contribution to the fight against the terror group is perhaps most evident in Iraq, where the Iranians funded and trained the PMU, which was integrated into the Iraqi security apparatus.

Tillerson’s suggestion that these fighters should now “go home” was met with condemnation and mockery.

“I don’t know how we can remove 65% of the Iraqi population and tell them to go home,” a member of Iraq’s State of Law Coalition, Saad al-Muttalibi said in reference to the country’s Shiite majority, which makes up the bulk of the PMU.

“A law passed by the parliament dictated that all the PMUs are part of the Iraqi armed forces,” Muttalibi added. “They cannot move without the approval of the Iraqi defense minister.”

Of course, it is highly improbable that Rex Tillerson did not know this.

The unrealistic request from the top US diplomat was a way of telling the Iranian-allied PMU, which is at the forefront of safeguarding Iraq’s territorial integrity, to make way for the real “foreign fighters” in Iraq – the tens of thousands of U.S. troops.

Winner and losers

The opportunistic Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil increased its territory by at least 40% between 2014 and 2017. Kurdish Peshmerga fighters occupied a number of disputed areas, including the oil-rich Kirkuk region, after the Iraqi army withdrew in the face of advancing militants.

Last month’s Kurdish independence referendum claimed all of the newly conquered territory.

The hope in Washington and Tel Aviv was that the Kurds could serve as the new force for destabilizing the region, and a base of operations for the project aimed at undermining the Iranian-led resistance axis.

However, one month on, and the entire scheme appears to be doomed.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi adopted an unusually hawkish stance following the referendum. He gave the Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, an ultimatum, and then delivered on his threat by taking back Iraqi territory while using the country’s armed forces.

The PMU was at the forefront of that effort. Qassem Soleimani’s presence on the ground was also instrumental. The commander of Iran’s Quds Force is widely believed to have made arrangements with local political and Peshmerga leaders, dissuading them from fighting.

As a testament to just how desperate things have become in Erbil, the KRG’s has offered to suspend its drive for independence in return for a promise from Baghdad to halt its military activity.

And in a display of just how confident Abadi has become, the Iraqi premier rejected the offer, demanding an annulment of the referendum results.

Meanwhile, Iran’s role as a guarantor of stability in Iraq has been sealed. The developments on the ground have only served to bring Baghdad and Tehran closer together, leaving Washington out in the cold yet again.

As such, the real winners of the Kurdish independence referendum are Abadi – whose handling of the crisis has likely secured him a second term in office – and certainly Iran, which further increased its influence in Iraq by quashing Washington’s grand designs for the region.

The threat of more war

Iraq is a country that can often be described as a place that produced too much history. It is the sight of seismic events that have a ripple effect on the entire region and beyond.

Over the last couple of years, these colossal developments have frequently given way to existential challenges for the country.

Despite the recent successes, Iraq is still at a crossroads. The threat of full-scale war between Baghdad and the Kurds remains a very real prospect.

And while Tillerson’s call for the PMU to “go home” may be a sign of growing desperation, it also suggests that the tussle for Iraq is still very much an ongoing affair.

Source: Al-Ahed News

كركوك وانتحار البرزاني

كركوك وانتحار البرزاني

ناصر قنديل

أكتوبر 17, 2017

– عندما هدّد داعش كركوك وصار على أبوابها هبّت واشنطن لتعلنها خطاً أحمر، وتركت البشمركة تتموضع فيها وفي حقول نفطها، وكما سعت قبل أيام لنقل الوحدات الكردية إلى حقول نفط دير الزور وترك الرقة لتنظيم داعش، منعاً لاقتراب الجيش السوري، عادت فنقلت وحدات داعش إلى هناك للهدف نفسه، وها هي ترفع الصوت عالياً لقيام الجيش العراقي بدخول كركوك وحقول نفطها.

– عندما أعلن مسعود البرزاني الاستعجال بالاستفتاء على انفصال كردستان، كان واضحاً أن الأمر لا صلة له بسبب يتعلق بحق تقرير المصير الذي انتظر شهوراً لنهاية داعش وانعقاد حوار عراقي شامل لرسم خريطة المستقبل، وقد انتظر عشرات السنين. فالاستعجال هو لاستباق نهاية داعش وفرض أمر واقع يتصل بالاحتفاظ بكركوك التي تمّت السيطرة الكردية عليها تحت غطاء إبعاد داعش عنها. كما كان واضحاً أن نتيجة الاستفتاء الكردي ستكون سلبية إذا كانت كردستان من دون كركوك. كما كان واضحاً أكثر أن الاستفتاء الذي قد تخضع شرعية إجرائه في المحافظات الكردية الثلاث لكثير من الاجتهادات والنقاشات، إلا أن إجراءه من طرف واحد في كركوك هو غير شرعي وباطل، ومشروط بتوافق وإشراف الحكومة المركزية في بغداد، طالما كركوك مصنفة كمحافظة متنازع عليها، وبالتالي يصير واضحاً أنه بقدر ما النيات المبطنة للاستفتاء تقوم على السطو على كركوك، فإظهار حسن النية يبدأ بإعادة كركوك للسيادة العراقية وإلغاء نتائج الاستفتاء فيها، والرفض في هذه الحال يعني قرار حرب.

– جاءت مواقف العراق وسورية وتركيا وإيران تقول لقادة إقليم كردستان إنها تأخذ شعبها للانتحار بالعناد الذي تبديه بالسطو على كركوك. وكانت قيادات كردية عاقلة ومعتدلة لا يُستهان بوزنها، وعلى رأسها الاتحاد الوطني الكردستاني، حزب الرئيس الراحل جلال الطالباني، تدعو لاستثناء كركوك من الاستفتاء وربط مستقبلها بالتوافق العراقي، وتسريع تسليمها للحكومة المركزية في بغداد، وصار التوافق العراقي الإيراني التركي السوري أن يجد نقطة لقاء مع هذه القيادة الكردية عنوانها، إلغاء نتائج الاستفتاء في كركوك، وإعادة كركوك إلى حضن الدولة العراقية كمدخل لحوار هادئ ينهي القضايا العالقة ومن ضمنها يبحث مصير الاستفتاء.

حمل الجنرال قاسم سليماني الصورة كاملة لقيادة البرزاني، داعياً لتلقف الفرصة قبل الدخول في مرحلة يصعب معها العودة إلى الوراء، فكان الردّ باستجلاب عناصر حزب العمال الكردستاني إلى كركوك، عشية انتهاء المهلة ليل الأحد الإثنين. وبدأت العملية التي استعد لها الجيش العراقي ووحدات الحشد الشعبي. واتخذت فصائل البشمركة في كركوك موقفاً إيجابياً، وهي في غالبها تتبع لحزب الطالباني، ومثلها العاصمة الكردية الثانية في السليمانية التي تسعى لتوافق مع دول الجوار ومع الحكومة المركزية في بغداد، بخلاف أربيل وزعيمها البرزاني، ما جنّب العراق والمنطقة حرباً أهلية تجتمع فيها حكومات العرب وإيران وتركيا بوجه الأكراد، لتنقذ الحكمة الطالبانية المنطقة من الخطة «الإسرائيلية» الهادفة لحروب تقوم على اصطفافات عرقية صافية. كما حدث عندما أحبطت حلب ودمشق حلم الحرب المذهبية في سورية.

ما جرى في كركوك سيشكل نقطة تحوّل في مصير المنطقة. فهو من جهة يقول للأكراد في سورية والعراق أن الأميركيين والسعوديين و»الإسرائيليين» الذين يشجّعونهم على التصعيد نحو الانفصال لن يقدموا لهم شيئاً ساعة الصفر. ويقول للعرب والإيرانيين والأتراك، إن المواجهة سياسية وليست عرقية ولا قومية، وإن القيادة الحكيمة للسليمانية شريك في إعادة صياغة العلاقة بين مكوّنات شعوب المنطقة بطريقة تقوم على الاحترام المبتادل للخصوصيات، والعيش السلمي الواحد، وإحباط مشاريع الفتن والحروب الأهلية.

البرزاني ينتحر بعدما لعب ورقة حظه الأخيرة، بكامل الرصيد الكردي والإقليمي والدولي، وفقاً لمعادلة «يا قاتل يا مقتول»، وها هو يخرج مقتولاً، من دون أن ينجح بدفع المنطقة للاقتتال. فالمعادلة المطروحة اليوم أمام الأكراد كردية كردية وليست بين الاستقلال والتبعية، فقد منحوا مشروع البرزاني تفويضاً مفتوحاً للسير بدولة الانفصال وفشل بتوفير المقوّمات وتجمّد عند الخطوة الأولى وثبت خطأ حساباته وتحالفاته، ليكون الخيار المقابل الداعي للتعقل والذي يمثله تيار الطالباني بين الأكراد خشبة الخلاص الكردية بعقلانية وروح المسؤولية التي أبداها تجاه مستقبل ناسه وعلاقات الأكراد بجيرانهم، الذين عاشوا معهم آلاف السنين التي مضت وسيعيشون معهم آلاف السنين التي ستأتي.

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IRAQI GENERAL ANNOUNCES START OF OPERATION TO RETAKE KIRKUK PROVINCE FROM KURDISH PESHMERGA – MEDIA

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Iraqi General Announces Start Of Operation To Retake Kirkuk Province From Kurdish Peshmerga - Media

An Iraqi army tank is pictured during a military operation toward the town of Hit, in west of Ramadi, March 8, 2016. Picture taken March 8, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

It looks Iraq is now heading to a military escalation between the Fedral Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Iraqi forces have launched a military operation to retake Kirkuk province from Peshmerga, a military force of the KRG, according to AFP.

“Iraqi armed force are advancing to retake their military positions that were taken over during the events of June 2014,” the general reportedly told AFP by telephone, asking not to be identified.

The report followed deployment of additional Peshmerga force to the disputed oil-rich areas and Kirkuk city.

On October 11, the Kurdistan Region Security Council said that Iraqi forces were preparing to launch an attack on areas controlled by the KRG north of Mosul and south of Kirkuk.

On October 13, the Peshmerga General Command said that the Iraqi Army and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) have been preparing to attack areas outside the oil-rich city of Kirkuk since Thursday night with “foreign backing,” according to the KRG-run media outlet Rudaw.

The entity added that the situation shows “dangerous indications for war and aggression against Kurdistan.”

Peshmerga Forces must be in highest state of readiness to defend people and land of Kurdistan and retaliate against all threats/attacks.

On October 12, Peshmerga forces reopened the Mosul-Duhok and Mosul- Erbil highways after closing them for hours on October 11, according to Kurdish sources. Peshmerga claimed that the highways were closed to prevent an attack of Iraqi government forces on the Kurdistan Region.

“There are two roads connecting the Kurdistan Region to Mosul, one from Erbil and the other from Duhok. Both have been closed. We are waiting orders from our superiors to open them again,” Arif Taefoor, commander of the Peshmerga told the Iraqi-Kurdish Rudaw news network.

Iraqi sources reported that the Peshmerga deployed more units in Kirkuk city, and north of Mosul city. From its side, the Iraqi security forces and the PMU also deployed more units north of Mosul city, and south of Kirkuk city, according to the sources.

The tensions between the Federal Government and the KRG will likely have a bad impact on the upcoming military operation against ISIS strongholds of al-Qa’im and Rawa in western Iraq.

Such negative effect was highly expected by many sides, and this questions the real motives behind the KRG decision to hold the Kurdistan Region independence referendum before clearing Iraq from ISIS. More accurate, only months before the last crucial battle against ISIS in Iraq.

However, Iraqi military source told the UAE-based Arab Sky News TV channel that the government forces “are ready to launch the battle of liberation of al-Qa’im and are not interested in any other battle”. The stament confirms that the Iraqi Federal Government is committed mainly to fight ISIS, although of the Kurdish pressure.

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Odd Developments on the Deir Ez-Zor Front

30-09-2017 | 08:24

The breaking of the three-year-long Daesh [Arabic acronym for “ISIS” / “ISIL”] siege over the eastern Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor has been followed by a series of strange developments along the frontline.

DeirEzzor

The first of these was the appearance of American Humvees and Cougars in areas occupied by Daesh militants.

Last week, the Russian Ministry of Defense released a collection of aerial images showing equipment used by US special forces operating freely among Daesh formations.

The images also showed American troops enabling the smooth advance of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) through Daesh-held territory.

“Facing no resistance from Daesh militants, the SDF units are advancing along the left shore of the Euphrates towards Deir ez-Zor,” the ministry said in a statement.

According to Moscow’s interpretation, US military personnel “feel absolutely safe” in the area controlled by terrorists, demonstrated by the fact that they chose not to deploy a “screening patrol”.

Shortly after the images were released, the battlefield witnessed another odd occurrence, involving the death of a Russian Lieutenant-General.

Death of Russian general in Syria is result of US hypocrisy – Moscow

Death of Russian general in Syria is result of US hypocrisy – Moscow

Valery Asapov, who was assisting in the liberation of Deir ez-Zor, was killed during Daesh shelling on a Syrian army command outpost.

Highlighting the peculiar nature of the attack is the sheer precision of a single projectile – most likely guided from the air – that killed the Russian.

Russian media reported that an investigation into the incident revealed that Asapov’s death was the result of “leaked information on his location to the side that carried out the attack”.

Earlier, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov made it clear where he believes the blame lies. He described the demise of the senior officer as his country’s “payment in blood for the duplicity of US policy in Syria”.

Both the images showing American troops teaming up with terrorists and Asapov’s death are further proof of Washington’s reliance on Daesh for securing an unopposed advance for its Kurdish proxies in Syria, as well as occupying the strategic and oil-rich territory in Deir ez-Zor.

The gloves come off

Forced to abandon their objective of toppling the Damascus government, the Americans and their allies have long since been focused on capturing eastern chunks of Syria and its oil-laden regions.

It is now an open secret that oil resources in both Syria’s Deir ez-Zor and Iraq’s disputed Kirkuk region have been earmarked as an essential revenue stream for emerging Kurdish statelets.

American control over the area was meant to aid in the rise of a Greater Kurdistan, which would not only separate Damascus from its allies in Iran and Iraq, but would also serve as the new regional buffer against the Resistance Axis.

Although the Syrian army’s push eastward and the breaking of the Deir ez-Zor siege created unforeseen obstacles for Washington’s agenda, the Americans have refused to admit defeat.

Instead, the world is being treated to an American military that is a lot less shy about its collaboration with terrorists and a lot more openly hostile towards Damascus and its allies.

As such, the fact that Washington has abandoned the ‘Assad must go’ mantra, should not be expected to translate into a less hostile US military effort in Syria.

On the contrary, Syria, Hezbollah, Iran and Russia should expect more attacks similar to the one that killed Valery Asapov as the race for Deir ez-Zor heats up.

Growing fears over a direct superpower clash

Earlier this month, the mainly-Kurdish SDF reportedly occupied the Tabiyeh and al-Isba oil fields in the northwestern countryside of Deir ez-Zor. There is little doubt that the SDF were accompanied by US Special Forces, who likely provided the same sort of logistical and tactical support captured in the images released by Russia’s Ministry of Defense.

However, neither Damascus nor its allies can be expected to hand over Syria’s oil fields without a fight.

The developments on the ground have led some experts to conclude that the current phase of the six-year-long war may be its most dangerous.

The fear is that the battle for Syria’s crucial resources and strategically located territory could spark a direct confrontation between the world’s rival superpowers.

And although some steps have been taken to avoid such a scenario, the only way to guarantee that a clash is averted is if one side backs down. Thus far, there is little sign of compromise.

Source: Al-Ahed News

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حق تقرير المصير للكرد… ومعهم للعرب والترك أيضاً؟

سبتمبر 16, 2017

د. عصام نعمان

هزمت بريطانيا وفرنسا السلطنة العثمانية في الحرب العام 1918. أعلن مصطفى كمال اتاتورك وفاتها بإقامة الجمهورية في تركيا العام 1924. اختلف الورثة من تركٍ وعرب وكرد على حصر إرثها وتقاسم تركتها وما زالوا. المفارقة أنّ «قاتلَيّ» السلطنة تولّيا، من خلال مؤتمرات ومعاهدات نظّماها، تحديد هويات الورثة وعددهم وحصصهم الارثية. أقرّا للترك دولةً في برّ الاناضول. اصطنعا للعرب بضع دويلات في بلاد الشام وبلاد الرافدين. وعدا الكرد بدولة في مفاوضات معاهدة سافر Severes 1920 ثم أنكراها عليهم لاحقاً. منذ ذلك التاريخ تدير دول أوروبا، ومعها أميركا، نزاعاً متمادياً بين ورثة شرعيين وآخرين مفترضين للإرث العثماني التليد.

الكرد كانوا وما زالوا ساخطين على ما انتهت إليه قسمة التركة العثمانية: غالبيتهم أُبقيت في تركيا الكمالية. أقليتهم جُعلت من نصيب العراق وسورية. أما مَن كان منهم يعيش خارج السلطنة العثمانية فقد أُلحِق بالكيانات السياسية القائمة وأهمّها إيران.

دول الغرب قرّرت، اذاً، مصير الكرد. ليس مصير الكرد فحسب، بل مصير الترك والعرب والأرمن أيضاً، وهي ما

زالت تتلاعب بمصائر هذه الأقوام بقدر ما تتيحه موازين القوى الدولية. في هذا المجال، نشأت مفارقات لافتة. فالترك الذين أسقطت أوروبا امبراطوريتهم وتصرفت بـ «ممتلكاتها» انحازوا إلى دولها في الصراعات الدولية التي أعقبت الحرب العالمية الثانية 1945-1939. والعرب الذين كانت بريطانيا وعدت الشريف حسين الهاشمي بدولة تضمّ الولايات العربية المطلوب سلخها عن السلطنة العثمانية أُحبِطوا فارتضى بعض قادتهم نصيبه من التركة التي جرى تقاسمها، واعترض بعضهم الآخر. أما جمهورهم الأوسع فكان وما زال يتوق الى إقامة دولة واحدة تضمّ الشتات.

اليوم يعود بعض الكرد بقيادة مسعود البرزاني الى طرح مسألة حق تقرير المصير، وأقرّ تنظيم لذلك استفتاء في 25 الشهر الحالي ليشارك فيه سكان المناطق العراقية الواقعة تحت سلطة قواته البيشمركة . الدول الحاضنة لسكانٍ أكراد تركيا، العراق، سورية، إيران رفضت مشروع الاستفتاء، كما أنّ الولايات المتحدة أعلنت رفضها ؟ له أيضاً. بعض هذه الدول رفض مبدأ الاستفتاء وطلب إلغاءه. بعضها الآخر طلب تأجيله. البرزاني أعلن تمسكه بإجرائه في موعده مع انّ قوى سياسية كردية عدّة تعارض إجراءه في الوقت الحاضر. الى أين من هنا؟

يرسم إصرار البرزاني على إجراء الاستفتاء رغم المعارضة الدولية الواسعة علاقة استفهام كبيرة. ذلك أنّ القيادات الكردية المتعاقبة حرصت بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية على التعاون مع دول الغرب، ولا سيما بريطانيا والولايات المتحدة، والانخراط في مخططاتها وسياساتها وحروبها لدرجة حملت بعض معارضيها في العراق على تسميتها «تاكسي الدول»، فهل يتجاوز البرزاني تقليداً اتبعه معظم أسلافه ويمضي في الاستفتاء إلى النهاية برغم الدول المعارِضة… وكيف ستكون النهاية؟

يرى بعض المراقبين أنّ البرزاني يناور ولا يصادم، وأنه يحاول استغلال حال الاضطراب والفوضى التي يعيشها العراق وحال الشجار والاختلاف التي تمرّ بها الدول الإقليمية والدول الكبرى كي يعزّز مركزه التفاوضي إزاء حكومة بغداد بغية حملها على تقديم تنازلات في مسألتين رئيسيتين: إقرار «حق» الأكراد في محافظة كركوك وفي المناطق المتنازع عليها في محافظات نينوى وصلاح الدين وديالى التي تضع البيشمركة يدها عليها، وتكبير حصة إقليم كردستان في ميزانية الدولة الاتحادية وفي عائدات النفط المستخرَج من منابعه في الإقليم المذكور.

فوق ذلك، يبتغي البرزاني تنازلاً آخر: موافقة جميع الأطراف، العراقية والإقليمية والدولية، على تأجيل الاستفتاء وليس على إلغائه. ذلك أنّ تأجيل الاستفتاء ينطوي على معنى الإقرار بحق تقرير المصير، رغم الانصياع إلى مطلب إرجاء تنفيذه، بينما يعني إلغاء الاستفتاء إنكار حق تقرير المصير برمّته.

قد يتوصّل أطراف النزاع إلى تسويةٍ للخلاف بالتوافق على مصطلح ديبلوماسي يؤمّن مخرجاً ولو مؤقتاً من حال التأزّم والحرج، أو قد يُترك البرزاني لمصيره في تنفيذ استفتاء لن يكون له في الظروف الراهنة مفعول أو مردود عملي. لكن سؤالاً مصيرياً يبقى مطروحاً وضاغطاً على جميع أطراف الصراع: كيف يمكن الخروج من المعضلة التاريخية؟

المعضلة التاريخية هي حاجة جميع أقوام السلطنة العثمانية المهزومة إلى تقرير المصير من جهة، ومن جهة أخرى ضرورة ألاّ يمارس كلٌّ من هذه الأطراف حقه في وجه الآخرين وعلى حسابهم. فالعرب والكرد والترك وغيرهم من الأقوام لهم الحق بتقرير المصير الذي مارسته عنهم عنوةً بريطانيا وفرنسا غداةَ انهيار السلطنة العثمانية باصطناع كياناتٍ سياسية هشّة وقيامهما بتوزيعهم عليها اعتباطاً بينها أو في داخلها.

كيف تمارس هذه الأقوام حقها في تقرير المصير بعد أن انتهت الرقعة الجغرافية التي كانت تسيطر عليها السلطنة العثمانية في المشرق الى ما انتهت اليه من كياناتٍ متعددة، ركيكة ومتنازعة؟ أبالاحتراب في ما بينها أم بالحوار؟ وكيف يكون الحوار في هذا الزمن الصعب؟

الجواب: برسم مسار طويل يبدأ بتعايش الأقوام داخل كلّ كيانٍ من كيانات بلاد العرب والترك واتحادها في طلب الحرية والديمقراطية وفي بناء دولة مدنية على أسس حكم القانون والعدالة والتنمية. والمأمول أنّ بلوغ هذه الأقوام حال الدولة المدنية الديمقراطية يضعها أمام خيارين: 1 البقاء فيها بإطار نظام مركزي ديمقراطي أو اتحادي فدرالي ديمقراطي، أو 2 الحوار والتفاوض مع الأطراف المعنيين لتحقيق الاستقلال بمودة وإحسان.

كِلا الخيارين أقلّ كلفةً من النزاع والاحتراب.

وزير سابق

Iraq: ISIS sets its sight on oil-rich Kirkuk

Security forces supported by tribes take position to fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in Ramadi, Iraq, on October 17, 2014. (Photo – Anadolu Agency)
Published Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Since its inception and the beginning of its expansion, ISIS sought to control oil resources and wealth in Syria. Its power extended to Iraq through control of the oil fields in Nineveh and Kirkuk governorates and the raid of the Baiji refinery, one of the largest in the Middle East. In its attempts to capture Iraqi cities, the organization used malicious military tactics, engaging army units in one city and forcing security forces to increase their presence there, then attacking and taking over another city that it considers more important.
Kirkuk – This policy was embodied when fighting on al-Anbar front exploded in the past few days with the ISIS assault against the city of Hīt and the siege on the strategic cities of Haditha, al-Baghdadi, Amiriya, and Faluja. This is in addition to the wide-scale assault on al-Ramadi, the capital of al-Anbar region.
However, exclusive sources informed Al-Akhbar of a large mobilization of ISIS forces around the city of Kirkuk (240 km north of the Iraqi capital) on three fronts.
Eyewitnesses from the city contacted by Al-Akhbar maintained seeing a
“massive mobilization by ISIS in the vicinity of al-Hawija (50 km west of Kirkuk), as hundreds of foreign fighters arrived in the city along with huge amounts of ammunition, heavy weapons, and vehicles.”
Hawija had fallen under ISIS control on June 10, 2014, after the almost complete withdrawal of the four brigades of the twelfth division of the Iraqi army who were charged with protecting the city. The city is the center of one of Kirkuk’s largest districts and is a tribal area with a majority Sunni population.
To the south of Kirkuk in the Daquq district, eyewitnesses also confirmed that ISIS was preparing and rallying its troops for a possible attack on Kirkuk.
On the city’s eastern front, in al-Dibs, eyewitnesses from the region saw large gatherings of ISIS fighters organizing their ranks and receiving a large amount of supplies from Mosul.

“It [ISIS] began using a policy of distraction, diverting the attention of security forces towards one particular goal and at the same time carrying out a surprise attack in another location.” – Alaa al-Juhaishi, military expert

“A close observation of the movements of ISIS allows the prediction of its possible next moves,” military expert Alaa al-Juhaishi told Al-Akhbar. “It began using a policy of distraction, diverting the attention of security forces towards one particular goal and at the same time carrying out a surprise attack in another location.”
“This is what ISIS is doing now in Kirkuk. It created a need to deploy troops to al-Ramadi, Anbar’s capital, and the vicinity of Qarah Tapah east of Diyala. At the same time, it is amassing troops on three active and vital fronts around Kirkuk.”
The city remained under the control of the Iraqi government until ISIS began attacking several of its districts and vicinities. This led to the withdrawal of the Iraqi army’s twelfth division, which was replaced by the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government.
For ISIS, taking control of Kirkuk is important due to its oil reserves. The city has six main oil fields – Baba Karkar with 433 oil wells, al-Qayara and Ujail with 91 wells each, Khabbaz with 36 wells, Bai Hassan with 196, and Jambour with 25.
ISIS currently controls the majority of the oil fields in Kirkuk governorate, with the exception of the largest – Baba Karkar. The group has begun to extract crude oil from Ujail and is selling it to international mafias.
According to petroleum expert Musab al-Kaabi,
“Kirkuk is one of Iraq’s most important cities in the north, due to its natural wealth, especially in oil and natural gas. It has the capacity to produce 400,000 barrels a day, which could be increased to 750,000 barrels per day in the next few months.”
“Controlling the oil-rich city will provide ISIS with unprecedented amounts of money. In a month’s time, the fields could provide it with millions of US dollars,” Kaabi told Al-Akhbar. These warnings coincided with a statement by the Kirkuk Governorate Council maintaining that security forces have the city under control and are ready to defend it from any attack.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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Iraq court decision in favor of Maliki’s bloc

No surrenderو Iraq’s Maliki fights for political life.

Published Monday, August 11, 2014

Iraq’s highest court ruled on Monday that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s bloc is the biggest in parliament, meaning he could retain his position, state television reported.

The president, according to the constitution, must now ask Maliki, who has been serving in caretaker capacity since an inconclusive election in April, to form a new government in Iraq, which is facing a major challenge from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) insurgents and widespread sectarian bloodshed.

The decision by Iraq’s highest court is “very problematic”, said a senior Iraqi official.

“This will make the situation very, very complex,” said the official who asked not to be named due to sectarian sensitivities in Iraq.

Unity government

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday the formation of an Iraqi government was critical for stability and urged Maliki not to stoke political tensions further.

US President Barack Obama has urged Iraqi political leaders to bury their sectarian differences and form a more inclusive government that can unite Iraqis against ISIS militants.

The United States has carried out three consecutive days of air strikes over Iraq, stepping up assistance to Kurdish forces to counter the advance of Islamic militants in the north of the country.

Amid the violence, political pressure is mounting as special forces loyal to Maliki deployed in strategic areas of Baghdad on Sunday night after he delivered a tough speech indicating he would not cave in to pressure to drop a bid for a third term.

“The government formation process is critical in terms of sustaining stability and calm in Iraq, and our hope is that Mr Maliki will not stir those waters,” Kerry told reporters in Sydney ahead of annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN).

“One thing all Iraqis need to know, that there will be little international support of any kind whatsoever for anything that deviates from the legitimate constitution process that is in place and being worked on now.”

At a separate briefing in Sydney, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that the air strikes “have been very effective from all of the reports we’ve received on the ground.”

“We’re constantly assessing where we can continue to assist the Iraqi security forces and where as we build partnerships  we will work with the Iraqi government,” Hagel said.
Kerry said it was up to Iraqis to decide who their prime minister was going to be, but added it was clear civilians were looking for change.

Maliki, who has been premier since 2006, has alienated some allies, including the United States, who blame him for failing to forge consensus and fuelling sectarian violence that is breaking Iraq apart.

A bloc comprising Iraq’s bigges parties is close to nominating a prime minister, the deputy speaker of parliament Haider al-Abadi said in a tweet on Monday, directly challenging Maliki.
“What we urge the people of Iraq to do is to be calm, there should be no use of force, no introduction of troops or militias in this moment of democracy for Iraq,” Kerry said.

The Yazidi refugees

Australia, along with France and Britain, has offered assistance to provide aid to thousands of Iraqi citizens trapped by Islamic militants in the northern Sinjar mountains. US officials said on Sunday they were exploring options to evacuate the group, made up of the Yazidi minority, following airdrops of food and water.

“We are coordinating a group of partners to assist in this effort,” Hagel told reporters, noting that Obama had spoken with French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had both offered assistance.

“This is a humanitarian issue of great consequence for all of the world and I think great powers understand they have responsibility in these areas,” Hagel said. “It’s well underway, those last details of planning and we’ll have more to announce.”

Asked whether the United States was prepared to allow the self-styled ISIS to remain in places it has already occupied or make an effort to push them out, Hagel said:
“President Obama has made it very clear, ISIS is a threat to the civilised world, certainly to the United States, to our interests, it is to Europe, it is to Australia,” Hagel said.

“As to how the United States is responding to that threat in Iraq, the president has also made it clear, we’re going to continue to support the Iraqi forces in every way we can.”

(Reuters)

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Iraqi Kurdistan and Israel: A choice between political strategies and moral stances

Iraqi Kurdish protesters deploy a giant flag of their autonomous Kurdistan region during a demonstration to claim for its independence on July 3, 2014 outside the Kurdistan parliament building in Arbil, in northern Iraq. (Photo: AFP-Safin Hamed)
Published Saturday, July 19, 2014
Over the course of the past decade, Iraqi Kurdistan, also known as South Kurdistan, has been pushing harder for secession from Iraq and forming an independent Kurdish state. If and when this occurs, will the Kurdish politicians and the population be comfortable allying with Israel?
The journey for Kurdish self-determination has been long and arduous throughout the 20th century.
As early as 1919, Kurdish groups in northern Iraq led by Mahmoud Barzanji rebelled against British colonial domination. The revolt was ferocious, only quelled after the colonial British air-force unleashed a barrage of deadly gas bombs on villages and towns. Barely two years later, in 1922, as Barzanji declared the Kingdom of Kurdistan, another Kurdish revolt against the British was sparked but it too was quickly repressed by force.
Yet the dream of an independent Kurdish state that encompasses north-eastern Syria, south-eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, and western Iran lingered and grew over time. Since those events in the early 20th century, various Kurdish political and resistance groups have surfaced in Syria, Iran, Turkey and Iraq, each of whom having utilized different tactics and alliances to uphold the Kurdish cause, with the aim of demanding representation and self-determination whether in the form of having a voice within these states or forming an independent nation.
It was in Turkey and Iraq especially, that struggles for Kurdish independence bore the brunt of the worst forms of repression.
Today, Iraqi Kurdistan, or South Kurdistan as many Kurds call it, has been able to achieve the greatest level of autonomy ever witnessed in modern Kurdish history. There are already discussions about formally announcing independence from Iraq, at a time when the central government is at its weakest and a referendum has been called to vote on independence. This desire for independence is complemented by wide-spread and often heated debate within Kurdish communities of northern Iraq, and beyond, on what the appropriate means are in declaring independence.
Within this debate questions of what this state’s foreign policy would look like and what alliances should such a newly-born state pursue are also raised.
There is arguably nothing more controversial, at least regionally, than the consideration of allying oneself with the Zionist state, Israel.
A “second Israel”
The Kurdistan Regional government (KRG) began administrating the territory after the illegal Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Since the formation of the KRG, there have been numerous reports of the alleged presence of Israeli political, military and intelligence personnel in northern Iraq. So much so that in 2006, during a visit to Kuwait, Massoud Barzani, the head of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and president of KRG, was asked by Kuwaiti reporters of such ties. He responded, “It is not a crime to establish ties with Israel. If Baghdad sets up diplomatic ties with Israel, we will have them open a consulate in Erbil.”
The point for Barzani was that as long as Iraqi Kurdistan was part of Iraq, it was still technically at war with Israel. But Barzani also noted in the 2006 press conference that other Arab countries had ties with Israel, an argument that echoes in many of the debates by Kurdish politicians and public.
Arabs fear Kurdish ties to Israel, linking it to the belief of an attempt by non-Arab communities to subvert and hinder pan-Arabist inclinations.
As far back as the mid-1960s, Iraqi Arab officials and commentators describe the Kurdish desires for independence as an attempt to form a “second Israel,” evoking the fear that another non-Arab state aligned with Western interests would be formed.
Decades later, the description of Iraqi Kurdistan as a “second Israel” would be appropriated in October 2006, this time by Omar Othman (also know as Za’im Ali), the KRG’s Minister of the Peshmerga (a Kurdish term used for armed Kurdish fighters), during a meeting with American officials, as a cable document released by WikiLeaks revealed.
Unlike the intentions of Iraqi officials and other Arab commentators decades before, Othman’s description of KRG as a “second Israel” was “because of [KRG’s] support of American policies and its opposition to terrorism.”
“He developed this concept, saying that before 2003 the KRG got along well with ‘the Arabs’ (other Arab countries), but that now the Arab world hates the Kurds because the KRG supports the US. Za’im Ali said Kurds made sacrifices to stand by the US and now they are paying the price. However, he said the case of the Palestinians also hurts the Kurds, because – like the Kurds – the Palestinians are struggling for their legitimate national rights,” the diplomatic cable added.
On June 29 of this year, Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his government’s support for the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan. It was a surprising announcement, making Israel the first country to publicly voice its support for Kurdish self-determination.
“The Israelis are clearly acting on their own accord,” Ruwayda Mustafa Rabar, a British-Kurdish journalist and commentator, told Al-Akhbar. “[The Israelis] see it as an important opportunity for them because Kurdistan has oil and breaks their alienation in the region.”
“They were acting unilaterally…but it was like the kiss of death,” she added.
Already, the support has garnered criticisms from Arabs in Iraq and the region. Netanyahu’s announcement also came after unsubstantiated rumors, propagated by Iraqi television channels and circled by the international mainstream press, that the KRG was selling oil to the Israelis spread throughout social media.
But even if the story was true, Kawa Hassan, knowledge officer for the Dutch-based Hivos organization and visiting fellow at Beirut’s Carnegie Middle East Center, pointed out that many Kurds referred to Egyptian oil sales to Israel as a precedent.
“This position therefore says, ‘Why is it halal for them, butharam for us?’” Hassan told Al-Akhbar.
“The unfortunate thing about politics is all the back door dealings and under the table agreements. The Arab countries do little to help the Palestinians and are on good terms with the Israeli government behind the scenes. But as soon as support for Kurdistan is mentioned, the Kurds are at the receiving end of the harshest criticism,” Lawen Azad, a former Kurdish journalist and currently an employee in an oil and gas company in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyeh, echoed.
“Like a poisoned chalice”
What benefit does Israel provide for Iraqi Kurds? For one thing, military capabilities.
“The US administration has refused to fund and train the Kurdish armed forces, as there’s currently an embargo on the Peshmerga. ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) are fighting with new weapons and the Peshmerga have outdated ones. Ties with Israel could fill that vacuum,” Rabar opined.
Furthermore, Israel offers an ally for the Iraqi Kurds in a neighborhood that seems hostile to Kurdish aspirations.
“When Saddam Hussein showed his support for the Palestinian cause and the people, many Palestinians saw him as their voice which in turn made them supportive of him and were not vocal against the atrocities he committed against the Kurdish people. This led to much resentment towards the Palestinian people and is one of the reasons Kurds support the Israeli government more,” Azad claimed.
Even then, there seems to be a very pragmatic approach to the debates.
“There is a very healthy public debate about this in Kurdish communities,” Hassan said, “and there are many positions. One view points to the betrayal by the US, Israel, and Iran during the [Kurdish] revolution in 1975 as the need to be cautious. Others argue that there is no need for an alliance with Israel, that it is a poisoned chalice. Others point to the other Arab countries that have ties with Israel as an example – this is the stronger position in the political sphere I think.”
“At the same time, researchers, academics, intellectuals, activists and others feel that an alliance with Israel simply won’t help,” he added.
Similarly Rabar said, “An alliance with Israel is unlikely because Iraqi Kurdistan is surrounded by Arab countries, and today the priority is to prioritize ties with Turkey – which has become hostile to Israel. But in terms of the discussions on social media, there is a growing argument about how can one accept support from an oppressor when one was the oppressed elsewhere.”
“Ultimately, the key point is, is an alliance in the interest of Kurds? What matters is that independence will be declared and who will support it. Talk is cheap, after all.”
A day after Netanyahu’s announcement, the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the press that Israel “was taking no action to help the Kurds achieve formal statehood.”
Another, and perhaps more important wrinkle to the issue is the position of other Kurdish groups that clash with the KDP’s potential alliance with Israel.
“Many Kurds, historically, and even now, support the Palestinian cause. There is a sense of empathy, a shared sense of injustice,” Hassan argued, pointing to organizations like the Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK) founded and led by Abdullah Ocalan, who is currently in a Turkish prison. Ocalan’s arrest, many believe, would not have been possible without thealleged involvement of the Israeli Mossad.
“There were lots of Kurdish political organizations that have strong ties. Many were in Beirut and in Syria, working with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Don’t forget as well that there is a Palestinian Authority consulate, and not an Israeli one, in Erbil,” he added.
To buttress this point, Rustum Joudi, an official for the Syrian Kurdish organization, the Democratic Union Party, harshly criticized any moves to establish relations with Israel by the KDP.
“We, at the PYD in Syria, are against relations with the Zionist state. It is repressing the Palestinians, and has committed attacks against Syria and the rest of the region. We fully support the Resistance in Palestine,” Joudi told Al-Akhbar.
“The relationship with Israel is particular to the KDP. If [the KDP] are building a nation, Israel is exploiting this to create division between Kurds and Arabs in the region,” he said, and added, “There are 25 other Kurdish political groups, many of them are against KDP. This does not help our cause, the Kurds have their inalienable rights, but this will not help us one bit.”
The shadow of disunity looms large if an independent Iraqi Kurdistan forms an alliance with Israel, and it is likely part of the calculations among the Kurdish politicians and their supporters in the region.
As Azad opined to Al-Akhbar, “There needs to be a unifying approach to Kurdish independence and that includes all the other parties in the other parts of Greater Kurdistan. They need to be consulted at some point because yes whilst the notion of an independent Kurdistan (South Kurdistan) is a great achievement, the situation in the other parts cannot be ignored or neglected either. Again, the humanitarian aspect should not be sold for the political gains.”
“Their support could make you a country, which I doubt but you never know, but at what cost? It is a very hard line to walk. Do your political aspirations get in the way of your moral and humanitarian obligations?”

A (brief) history of the Kurds in Iraq
“It was specifically between (Massoud) Barzani and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), and not other Kurdish groups, that had and built ties with Israel,” Kawa Hassan toldAl-Akhbar.
There is a common misconception that the Kurds are a monolithic, homogeneous group, aligned and unified in terms of ideologies and tactics in the goal for self-determination. In reality, there are 30 million Kurds, spread out amongst numerous countries, each with their own dialect. More so, Kurds are composed of numerous denominations and religious beliefs that tie them with different communities beyond their own. The vibrancy and heterogeneity of the Kurds are even more prevalent when considering history.
Unlike other Kurdish groups, as noted by Hassan, Iraqi Kurdistan and KDP’s chief Barzani, have a peculiar relationship with the Zionist state, shaped by their subjective experience in Iraq.
The ties between Barzani, the KDP, and Israel were first facilitated by Iraqi Kurdish Jews, who left Iraq for Israel in 1950-51. The ties further developed secretly during the 1960s with the first Kurdish-Iraqi war. The war was led by Mustafa Barzani, the father of current KDP chief Massoud Barzani, following the collapse of a brief and fragile detente between Barzani and the Baghdad government in 1961. It was a war that came about as part of a series of uprisings headed by the Barzani family since the establishment of the modern Iraqi state.
The conflict between Mustafa Barzani and Baghdad persisted, even with radical changes in the Iraqi government from a military coup in 1963 and the Baathist coup five years later.
During the course of the first Kurdish-Iraqi war, Mustafa Barzani established strong ties with the US, Iran, and Israel for political, military, and economic support. In terms of Israel,
Mustafa Barzani himself had secretly visited the Zionist state twice, first in 1968 and then in 1973, meetings with senior Israeli officials including then- Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, while a handful of Israeli military advisers were welcomed in the Kurdish regions.
With Levy Ashkoul 1968
With Dayan 1968
Maier Amit on left of Mostafa Barazani and David Kron on his right-1966
Mostafa Barazani (on left) with Deputy Mossad Director in Northern Iraq-1966
Massoud Barzani and Mustapha Barzani have been puppets of the Mossad since 1952..

 

Head of Mossad delegation, Haim Libkob with Mutafa Barazani-1972
The war ended in 1970 with a cease-fire agreement that granted basic autonomy for the Kurdish regions of northern Iraq, and promises to allow Kurdish representation in the Iraqi government. However, peace was brief and fleeting.
Only four years later, after the failure of the Baathist government to implement parts of the agreement, did a second war break out. Unlike the first Kurdish-Iraqi war, the second Kurdish-Iraqi war lasted a year because Mustafa Barzani was pressured by his international backers to end the conflict. As a result, he and nearly 100,000 of his followers were forced into exile in Iran.
Mustafa Barzani would die there in 1979, and his son Massoud became head of the KDP.
Despite Mustafa Barzani’s failure, the Kurdish struggle in Iraq was far from over. Now it faced a new chapter with even greater obstacles.
The KDP’s exile allowed another Kurdish group known as the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by Jalal Talabani, currently president of Iraq, to appear. The rise of the PUK sparked off intense fighting between the KDP and PUK, each attempting to monopolize leadership of the Kurdish cause in Iraq. While this was happening, sporadic fighting by various Kurdish groups against the Iraqi government persisted, and then the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s began, in which the Kurds were enticed to join on the Iranian side.
In the face of these challenges, the Iraqi government pursued a policy, described by historians and commentators as genocidal, against Kurdish communities that included rapid Arabization of Kurdish areas and cities such as Kirkuk, brutal bombardment and violence by the Iraqi military, and even the use of chemical weapons on towns like Halabja in 1988. Almost 200,000 Kurdish civilians in total were killed during the campaign launched by Saddam Hussein’s regime.
After the Iraq’s failed invasion and occupation of Kuwait, and a short Kurdish uprising in 1991, a no-fly-zone was enforced by mainly American and other Western forces over the northern Iraqi region, effectively giving security and autonomy to the Kurdish communities. Due to this opportunity, Massoud Barzani and the KDP were able to return to Iraq, and participated in an elections, where the votes were split between the KDP and their PUK opponents.
The vote-sharing alliance with the PUK quickly broke-down, spurring another inter-Kurdish conflict. It was only through military support from Saddam Hussein’s regime that the KDP was able to maintain supremacy. A 1998 peace accord in Washington ended the inter-Kurdish conflict between the PUK and KDP, and both shared various parts of territories. A unified government known as the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) was formed after the 2003 Anglo-American invasion, and continues to be in power today. Barzani heads the KRG, while Talabani was placed as Iraq’s president.
In the last few years, the power and autonomy of KRG grew conversely to the ever-weakened central government led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Iraqi Kurdistan region has escaped most of the violence ranging in the rest of Iraq, as well as achieved economic and social independence. More so, cities and towns like Kirkuk have returned into the Kurdish fold, in an attempt to reverse Saddam Hussein’s Arabization policy. One of the key frictions in regards to Kurdish independence is that the oil fields that lay below these places would be lost by the Iraqi government.
Recently, the motivation for Kurdish Independence has reached almost fever-pitch.
As Lawen Azad noted to Al-Akhbar: “In the last few years we have seen President Barzani threaten the central government with [independence] when tensions have a reached boiling point but this time it was different. The ISIS advance in Iraq caught everyone by surprise and it was an opportunity for many Iraqis and non Iraqis to see that the policies of the Maliki government have marginalized the communities that ISIS has taken and that he is incapable of securing the country’s stability. So when independence was spoke about this time, it had more weight, more substance.”
She added, “When President Barzani called on the Kurdistan Parliament for a referendum to be held, everyone was overwhelmed, the time had come. Then of course, you have to face the realities on the ground. Your neighbors and international community. Iran is strongly opposed, Turkey less so (the oil helps of course), Syria is in turmoil as is Iraq. The US calls for the unification of Iraq and places this burden, unfairly, on the shoulders on the Kurds… And then came the Israeli government’s declaration in support of Kurdistan.”
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Oil refinery in the southern Rumaila area, Iraq (AFP Photo / Essam Al-Sudani)

Oil refinery in the southern Rumaila area, Iraq (AFP Photo / Essam Al-Sudani)
Armed Kurdish forces seized control of two state-run oilfields on Friday in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk as the Kurdish political bloc withdrew from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government, deepening the rift between the Kurds and the PM.
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Baghdad’s national oil ministry has slammed the Kurdish takeover, as Arab workers were replaced with Kurdish employees at sites in Bai Hassan and Kirkuk, saying there would be serious repercussions if they didn’t immediately withdraw, reported Reuters.
“We appeal to rational Kurds about the need to understand the danger of such [an] attitude and to ask the people responsible for this disorderly behavior to withdraw immediately from these sites in order to avoid dire consequences,” a ministry spokesman said, as reported by France 24.
The production capacity of the facilities is approximately 450,000 barrels a day. However, this has been significantly reduced since March when Baghdad’s Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline was sabotaged.
The oil field seizure has exacerbated existing problems between the Kurds and the Shiite led central government. Kurdish politicians pulled out of their roles in Maliki’s government after the PM accused them of harboring terrorists in the Kurdish capital of Arbil.

Iraqi Kurdish forces (AFP Photo / Karim Sahib)

 Iraqi Kurdish forces (AFP Photo / Karim Sahib)
Maliki said that Kurds were letting their capital be used as an Islamic State base and members of Saddam Hussein’s now-banned Baath Party.
“Those who host them will lose,” Maliki said on Wednesday in his weekly televised address. “We will not stop until we have retaken all the areas that were taken from us.”
Kurdish Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told Reuters on Friday that the unity of the country is now at stake. “The country is now divided literally into three states: “Kurdish, a black state (ISIL) and Baghdad,” he said.
If Iraqi leaders didn’t rise to the challenge of successfully and quickly building a federal Iraq, “the consequences are very dire: complete fragmentation and failure.”
The oil field seizure and the withdrawal of Kurdish politicians from government falls a month after armed Kurdish forces known as the peshmerga took control of Kirkuk, when Iraqi armed forces withdrew following the predominantly Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) assault on the city.
Kurds have since resolved to hold a referendum on independence, with Regional Kurdish President Massoud Barzani telling his parliament in Arbil to prepare one, a development that displeases Maliki.
On Friday, the country’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, also urged unity: “We have repeatedly called for the closing of ranks and for unity and to refrain from radical discourse,”Sistani said in a sermon which was delivered by one of his advisers.

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Iraq Accuses Kurds of Seizing Oil Fields


Via Al-Manar

Iraq accused Kurdish forces of seizing two northern oil fields near the disputed city of Kirkuk Friday, as relations between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan region hit a new low.

Iraq oil

The Kurdish regional administration rejected the charge, which marks an escalation of tensions. “The oil ministry strongly condemns the seizure and control of crude oil (wells) in the Kirkuk and Bey Hassan oil fields this morning by groups of Kurdish peshmerga forces,” Iraq’s oil ministry said in a statement.

“The oil ministry strongly warns the Kurdistan region of the danger of this irresponsible behavior which violates the constitution and the national wealth, and disregards the federal authorities and threatens national unity.”

Halkurd Mulla Ali, the spokesman for the ministry responsible for Kurdish peshmerga forces, told AFP that “peshmerga forces have not approached the oil fields in Kirkuk” province.

Iraqi lawmakers are due to meet on Sunday for a parliamentary session meant to revive flagging efforts to form a new government. The only other time parliament has met since April polls ended with MPs exchanging heckles and others walking out.

Source: AFP

11-07-2014 – 16:12 Last updated 11-07-2014 – 16:12

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