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LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK/KURDISTAN

A place to post daily news of Kurdistan from valid sources .

Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK/KURDISTAN

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:30 am

Despite losses, Kurds have ‘promising future’ if united: Masrour Barzani

The referendum revealed a previously-existing Iraqi plot against the Kurdistan Region that led to devastating losses, but Kurds can still face a positive future if they now put aside political aspirations and are united, Masrour Barzani, national security advisor of the Kurdistan Region, said in an interview with Rudaw's Shaho Amin that aired Wednesday evening.

Explaining the discussions that went on behind the scenes in the lead up to Kurdistan’s independence referendum, Barzani argued that the US alternative proposed at the last minute was not sufficient because it offered no commitment, no firm time frame, and no way to hold Baghdad to the agreement.

“If someone is not prepared to show a commitment, then one should not take a letter as an alternative,” said Barzani, who is also a senior member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

Despite the fallout from the referendum – economic, territorial, and emotional losses – Barzani maintains that holding the vote was the right choice.

“We did not commit a crime,” he said, arguing that whether or not Kurdistan went ahead with the referendum, “Iraq never intended to accept the facts established by Kurds on the ground.”

Regarding the loss of Kirkuk, Barzani said he had not thought it possible that people could be so “depraved” to commit such a betrayal. He said the Iraqi forces only had the courage to march on the Kurdish forces when they realized there was disunity among the Kurds and some were willing to bring the Iraqis behind the Kurdish lines.

Referring to violence and deaths in the disputed areas after October 16, Barzani said “The guilt of all this has to be carried by the Baghdad authority and the group of traitors of October 16,” who permitted Iraqi forces to take Kirkuk and other disputed areas.

However, facing elections in both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region this year, Barzani believes that if Kurds are united, harmonious, and not driven by individual, political needs, then “a promising future awaits us.”


The referendum is still a hot and effective topic in the Kurdistan Region. How was the decision to hold it made?

Holding a referendum is a natural and legitimate right of every nation. This right is also enshrined in the United Nations Charter, which stipulates that every nation has the right to decide its fate. Holding a referendum is a right of a nation against which injustices have been done throughout history, especially from the last century until now. This is our right.

But the question is: when to exercise this right? Let’s not delve into the past too much. But if we start from 2003 onwards, after a new constitution was drafted for Iraq, we were all expecting this constitution to be a basis for coexistence of all the nations in a democratic and federal Iraq. But, contrary to these expectations and what we were trying to achieve, we saw the constitution being violated and the national rights of our people in Kurdistan being denied. This right was not given to our people. There were systematic efforts to reduce the role of the Kurds as a real partner in running Iraq and distance them from positions of power.

Things got to the point where even Kurdistan’s budget was gradually being reduced until it was finally cut completely. There were no efforts in any way, shape, or form to recognize or deal with the Peshmerga forces as an effective part of the Iraqi government’s failure to implement Article 140 and violating 55 articles of the constitution made us think of a way to live in a future without having to resort to war, to prevent the recurrence of the calamities and problems which previously happened to our people and nation, and find a way to completely resolve our problems with Baghdad. That is why we thought that we should seek the opinions of our people. This led to the idea of holding a referendum.

And this is not new. Mr. President [Masoud Barzani] called on the parliament in 2014 to form a high committee for referendum and elections. The parliament then approved the request and other parties discussed it too. In light of failure to reach an agreement and the Iraqi government’s lack of readiness to grant inalienable constitutional rights to our people, we thought we had to think of this [referendum].

We had two options: resorting to war, God forbid, and rejected this option, or find another way peacefully. We thought that holding a referendum is the most democratic and civil way to convey the desires of our people to Iraq and the world. The underlying reason behind the referendum was to find out what our people wanted, how they wanted to live in the future with a government that has been violating their rights to date.

Some people and parties say the timing of the referendum was not right. You spoke abroad at pro-referendum rallies and were one of those who strove internally to ensure the process was a success. Do you agree with the idea that the timing was not right? Do you think regional and international reactions would have been different if the referendum was held at a later time?

I think the question of timing is merely an excuse. It was long overdue. The rights of our people were violated throughout all these years. Did anyone come and say the timing for this was not right? No one spoke of the timing of these violations.

Despite all this, we tried hard with neighboring and other world countries like the United States and European countries. We also held discussions with Baghdad several times. Official delegations from the Kurdistan Region held talks with these parties. I was one of the delegates who spoke about this abroad.

US officials said three things. They never said they were against the right to self-determination or holding the referendum. They only said they were somehow concerned about its timing for three reasons. Their first reason was the question of the war against ISIS. They thought holding the referendum might negatively affect the war on ISIS. Second, it might affect Prime Minister Abadi in a way he might not win a re-election. Third, the areas that have been broken away from the Kurdistan Region might cause more problems between the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Region. It was because of these reasons.

But we thought these reasons were unsatisfactory because we thought they were not the kind of reasons that could make one unable to hold a referendum. What is a referendum? It is a vote in which you consult your own people who will then express their opinion. But we didn’t say at the time that we will make a decision on the basis of its outcome the day after. Rather, we said there would be opportunities for dialogue with the Iraqi government.

We thought the Kurdish leadership should at least have the decision of the nation so that the leadership doesn’t speak about the fate of the nation under the name of a party or a person alone. Rather, we thought they should have the opinion of the nation.

In regard to the three points they mentioned, we think the question of the war on ISIS has nothing to do with the referendum at all. The people of Kurdistan decided to defend themselves when ISIS attacked Kurdistan. It was the hard work and courage of the Peshmerga that prevented ISIS from advancing. The Peshmerga were the heroes of defeating ISIS. It was a decision made by us, not Baghdad.

In essence, ISIS emerged at a time and in a place where there were security, economic, and political vacuums. The reason behind the failure of the political system in Iraq is the Iraqi government that left behind all these weapons for ISIS after Iraqi armed forces failed. These factors strengthened ISIS and enabled it to attack Kurdistan. But the Peshmerga defended themselves and defeated ISIS.

If we look at this point this way, we can see that the decision to fight ISIS was ours. The Iraqi government was not the reason behind this decision. Thus, the decision to go ahead with the referendum has no impact on our stance on confronting ISIS now or terrorism in the future. That is why we thought this concern was not accurate.

Why couldn’t you convince the US?

Let me discuss the other two points, if I may? The second concern was about the reelection of the prime minister. We thought we didn’t have much influence on the election of the next prime minister. The party that wins the Iraqi elections is supposed to nominate a candidate for the position of prime minister. In accordance with Iraq’s current electoral system, the Iraqi government has designed a system that is a Shiite-majority. That is, we, the Kurds, and the Sunnis together as a minority cannot become the authority that nominates a candidate for the position of prime minister. It is the Shiites who will nominate the prime minister. This is one of the factors. The party with the most votes will get to nominate a prime minister.

There are two other factors. One of them is the question of religious authority in Najaf, which should approve and decide it. The other factor is not hidden. In fact, Iranian influence on political decision-making in Iraq is very obvious. That is, all these factors weigh in on this matter. They should all agree in order for a prime minister to be elected. Thus, our referendum would have had no impact on who would become Iraq’s next prime minister. That is why we thought of this as a weak point that couldn’t hinder the referendum.

Third, the question of disputed areas: we said if the presence of the Peshmerga in these areas was a problem, we haven’t yet held the referendum, but the Peshmerga are there. Why did the Peshmerga go to these places in the first place? They went there because of the failure of the Iraqi government and the emergence of ISIS. The Peshmerga went to these places in order to prevent the authority of ISIS in these places. They defeated ISIS in some places and liberated places. That is, the Peshmerga went there to protect these places, their people and territories.

I never said the presence of the Peshmerga in these places will become de facto and will be imposed on the future system in Iraq. Similarly, we didn’t say the referendum would determine geographic borders between the Kurdistan Region and the federal

We are always looked at as a minority in the Iraqi parliament (government). Rather, we said the referendum was aimed at knowing the desires of the people of Kurdistan, as to how they wanted to live with the Iraqi government in the future. We should resolve the issue of disputed territories in light of the constitution – according to Article 140. We are prepared to find suitable solutions to these places.

This was our response to the third point, which they mentioned as their concern about the timing of the referendum. We thought this was not accurate either because we didn’t say we were going to impose de facto rule, demarcate the borders or settle the fate of these places through the referendum. We didn’t say this. We said this was a national desire to determine future ways of governance. We really thought the argument against the referendum and the idea that its timing was not right was nothing other than an excuse.

These excuses are logical to viewers of this interview. Why didn’t US officials buy them?

I can’t think on their behalf. They surely have their own interests which might not only be viewed from the perspective of the Kurdistan Region. They have other things to consider. They generally look at the world and the entire Middle East. They might have had another agenda or might have thought the question of the referendum would affect their future agenda in some respects, which they might not have wished to discuss with us. There might have been some other reasons. Or, Baghdad might have convinced the US that holding the referendum would be against the interests and stability of the region. But this is baseless and we will see it. It is results of actions that show this, not words.

Was there a consensus between the Kurdish leadership with regard to the referendum, especially between the PUK and KDP?

Of course.

How?

Not only between the KDP and PUK, this issue was discussed between Mr President with all the political leaders and political parties of the Kurdistan Region. This is despite the fact Gorran and Komal avoided the issue to some extent. But all other political parties who were taking part in the meetings on this issue decided for themselves. Nobody knew that the referendum would be held on September 25 until the meeting that took place on June 7 – a meeting of the political leadership hosted by Mr. President. All the parties made the decision together. All of the parties were eager to be part of this pride – and I believe it is a pride of our national cause – all parties want to be part of this referendum.

It is a different matter when it comes to its outcome or what was the reaction of the people. But at the beginning, I tell you this with certainty that all parties were in agreement, all were together. There was a clear and public consensus on this issue.

Why was there reluctance in statements made by some of these parties?

Before or after?

After, when the time was getting close to the referendum.

You know what, this depends on the personality of the people. Some people believe in an issue, would support it right from the beginning, and would then shoulder the responsibility for its outcome. There are other people who place themselves away from the center, wait for an opportunity, and if successful, they would then claim the achievement at the expense of other people. But if, God forbid, it failed, they would say I do not care and would distance themselves. There are some other people as well who publicly opposed it. This all depends on the personality of such people.

There is a lot of talk about an alternative to the referendum that had been presented to the Kurdish leadership by some countries. Some have said it was an opportunity that was lost. Did the alternative have the potential to replace the referendum? Did Baghdad support this alternative?

We heard this talk a lot. What is a fact, and here I want to explain this to the audience so that they will understand some of the details on the issue, it is that this was a draft presented by the US Ambassador along with Mr. [Brett] McGurk and others who were in touch with our colleagues. It was to prepare a draft to present it as an alternative. This alternative was exchanged and things were amended until finally, two or three days before the referendum, they brought a draft – not a letter. This is a fact. They said this is a draft to be seen as an alternative. But when you look at it, this alternative lacks every sort of guarantees. There is no commitment in such a way that the United Nations, the United States, or Europe can impose this on the government of Iraq, or to affect the relations between Erbil and Baghdad, or for these parties to defend the agreement. This is one point.

Second point, there were negotiations before, promises made, letters were written and handed down to the Kurdistan Region by the United States itself and Europe, but the staff [working for these countries] had changed, and therefore as a result none of the

Whether or not referendum was held, Iraq never intended to accept the facts established by Kurds on the ground
promises were honored, nor were owned up by anyone, neither did anyone pay the price for breaking them except us.

So this time, when the alternative was presented, what does it say? It says ‘you postpone the referendum for a year’, and then ‘this period may be extended,’ and that ‘you should enter negotiations with the government of Mr. Haider al-Abadi within the framework of Iraq. If the government of Iraq did not approach the negotiations with good will, we [the countries that presented the alternative] will then understand this right as a definition, that you have the right to hold a referendum.’

It does not stipulate that it recognizes the achievement, or that it respects the achievements. It doesn't even mention the achievement of a referendum at all. It stipulates that ‘you may have the right to hold referendum after this period.’ Referendum is a natural right. It is in the first chapter of the UN charter. This is the right of every nation.

This means nobody has the right to tell us whether or not we have the right to a referendum. The alternative does not mention any commitments. It stipulates that if the government of Iraq did not approach with goodwill, we will then say that you have the right to hold a referendum after a year or when it extended beyond that timeframe whether within a federal or confederal framework or that it will be independent or will take another shape.
There is no commitment.

What is important here is to shed light on the fact that it mentions the goodwill of the government of Iraq, which ‘you should negotiate within the frame of a united Iraq.’

Let’s say that a referendum was not held and talks began. Sometime from now, Mr. Abadi is facing an election himself. This means that the government of Iraq will face elections several months from now, if held. [Abadi] will either win or not. If he loses, then this commitment would have been made with a prime minister who lost the elections. It would not be a binding agreement, but a gentlemen's agreement. This means that Kurds would lose one of their rights again and nobody will be out there to recognize a different thing as an alternative, because the agreement is not binding in the first place.

On the other hand, let’s say that [Abadi] was elected to a second term. He would come and say ‘as the prime minister, I will use all my efforts to implement the terms of the agreement, but this is not within my powers as prime minister since you talk about changing borders, talk about the political system in Iraq, and talk about independence and confederation system. Whatever it is, it is not within the power of prime minister, this issue has to be referred to the parliament. The parliament has to take a decision. If the parliament agrees, that is great, if not, I have already expressed my goodwill. But it did not yield any results because the parliament did not approve it.’

We all know the principle of consensus has long gone in the parliament. It has been replaced by majority versus minority. We are always looked at as a minority in the parliament and decisions passed with a majority are not in the interest of the people of Kurdistan. So the parliament may not have approved the agreement. Mr. Abadi would have then said that ‘I showed my goodwill.’

The United States would have said he expressed his goodwill but the parliament did not approve it, that ‘this is a democratic process and therefore we cannot do anything more than that.’ Or they would have said that the constitution have to be amended or replaced. The constitution stipulates that if three provinces veto any of the changes to the constitution then the changes will be null. We all know that there are several Iraqi provinces who oppose it would have then vetoed it. Under such a scenario, Mr. Prime Minister would have expressed his goodwill. But neither in the parliament, nor in the constitution would this right of Kurds would have been achieved. So this should not be looked at as an alternative.

Some people want to use this as an excuse to strengthen their current political stance, or to blame everything on the referendum, something that is baseless. But this was not binding in any shape or form, nor was it signed, nor was it a letter. It was a draft that discussed these things and because of these reasons, we requested back then that in place of the things that you wrote down, just say that ‘we support holding a referendum if during a period of one, two years or a different time frame they [Iraq] were not ready to honour the agreement.’

If someone is not prepared to show a commitment, then one should not take a letter as an alternative.

One hundred days on from the referendum, I ask you which one was the right decision – referendum or accepting that letter?

Definitely holding the referendum, because first of all, we did not commit a crime. Our nation has expressed its opinion, has stated what it wants, but did not act on it. If Kurds were to make a decision against the interests of all other countries and that of Iraq, that‘we will unilaterally decide about independence and we are not ready to negotiate with any side regarding its outcome,’ then Kurds could have been blamed. But we did nothing, we just expressed our will. We just said that we have this aspiration and our aspiration is based on an essential negotiation with the government of Iraq to solve the problems and challenges. So the government of Iraq did not want to take this path. Otherwise, I do not believe there has ever been any better alternative to the referendum, not now or in the future.

A national court, should have decided the fate of such people who committed treason

I want to ask you about the meeting before October 16 in Dukan. It was published in the media with great interest. I want you to explain the details and facts of the meeting. Why did Kirkuk events happen following that meeting?

We said and expressed our intentions both before and after the referendum – that we want to hold a referendum so that we can then negotiate with Baghdad. Baghdad in essence did not want to negotiate with the Region. It did not want to do this in the first place. Or else, what was the referendum? When I visited Baghdad and talked to Mr. Abadi, he said ‘why don’t you hold a public vote, not under the name referendum, but a public vote that will lack legal power.’ I did not know they were so much against the issue.

But there were two essential things: they showed that they did not want us to enter negotiations in any shape or form that would allow us not only to perceive the current achievements, but also to take further steps. They were indeed against the current achievements that we enjoyed.

I will come back to your question later. But in Mosul, when the fight for Mosul happened, we tried a lot to reach an agreement between us and the government of Iraq and the ethnic and religious components within the administration of Nineveh province, under the supervision of the United States as part of the Coalition, to have a political agreement alongside the military plan to solve the problems and challenges after the defeat of ISIS. None of them were ready to step forward with regard to this point raised by us. They all insisted that there should be a military operation, but none of them was concerned about a political agreement. This was like raising a red flag that indicated the intention of the Iraqi government for the future of the area. This is point number one.

Second is postponing the Hawija war. Hawija war could have successfully been carried out after Tikrit. Why did they postpone it? We expressed our concerns to all our friends then. We said that we are fearful that Hawija was postponed to the last stage, in such a way that all Iraqi forces – following the liberation of all areas and the defeat of ISIS – would be deployed to these areas using Hawija

The achievements of Mr. President [Barzani] have made the president a national symbol
as an excuse, but their destination was Kirkuk and the disputed areas. And this is what happened.

In essence, whether or not referendum was held, Iraq never intended to accept the facts established by Kurds on the ground. We tried our best to express our opinion in a peaceful and democratic way, but unfortunately Iraq resorted to the use of force, weapons, and military force to take the area back from the Kurds.

The referendum revealed the plan. It may have also forced Iraq to execute the plan earlier than planned. On this basis, when the referendum was held, they used it as an excuse and the forces were already deployed to the areas using the Hawija excuse. Unfortunately, there were other groups, even the Hashd al-Shaabi forces were brought in and deployed to some Kurdistani areas under the justification of fighting ISIS. These were all like time bombs that were due to explode just about any day. There was this threat.

We tried our best to avoid engaging in a war, to talk to the government of Iraq and other countries over what can we do to prevent a war between Peshmerga and the government of Iraq. That is why a meeting was held in Dukan on October 15 between the PUK and KDP leadership. Some talked there. I do not mention names. But some of the people from their [PUK] side mentioned that they talked to Iraq, the United States, and the United Kingdom to form a base as a coordination committee – as is the case in Erbil and other places – between the Coalition, the government of Iraq, and the Kurdish forces at K-1 base. If we agreed to that, then the Republican Brigade who were previously were brigades of [former Iraqi President] Mam Jalal [Talabani] in Baghdad, would be brought to some of the places in Kirkuk. But there was never any mention of Kirkuk be handed over to the government of Iraq militarily. Even in relation to this issue, we asked them ‘did you make a deal or this is a suggestion?’ They said ‘no, this is a suggestion.’

Certainly Iraqi President Fuad Masum was at the meeting, as well as the other colleague, Mr. Bafel [Talabani] – though I did not want to mention his name – and other people. Mr. Bafel, even though he did not have any senior official position within his party, he was the one who held talks with these parties in place of the PUK, together with some of his relatives. And then when these things happened, we were of the view that Kirkuk does not belong to one single party alone. It does not belong to the PUK, nor the KDP, or any other political party alone. We all have to take part in making a decision in this regard. We suggested talking to other parties as well.

Five points reached at the meeting were published in the media. This was the content of the agreement between the KDP and PUK on October 15.

But that night, these people visited Rashad, Tuz Khurmatu, and these areas where they met with some leadership of the Hashd al-Shaabi, the government of Iraq, and some Iranian officials. They had a plan in place beforehand as to how to hand over Kirkuk to these that were moving into Kirkuk.

The other people of the PUK who had their forces at the frontline together with other forces of the Kurdistan Region, those who may have affiliation with the KDP, were stationed at their defense lines. [These elements of the PUK], unfortunately all of a sudden put in place a program that brought the government of Iraq and the Hashd al-Shaabi behind the defense lines and moved them into Kirkuk.

Indeed, one cannot minimize this issue. It is the biggest treason ever committed in modern Kurdish history. It was this treason that sold out the territory of Kurdistan, that handed over Kirkuk. It invited the forces of Iraq so that they can attack from behind, one that first and foremost made the PUK Peshmerga – who were in defense – to fall victim. This also created a situation that affected the entire front. The Peshmerga forces that were ordered to withdraw step-by-step made the front lose its battle capability. Each front affected the other front, and therefore unfortunately found itself in a difficult position, in such a way that we could not put up the necessary defense against the Iraqi attack. What is surprising indeed is that we may have calculated everything, but…

I was going to ask you this, how did you not sense these side movements?

We in fact sensed this. We also knew that talks were taking place. There were talks between this number of people from the PUK and the Iraqi government. But we never believed that the Peshmerga force of Kurdistan, especially those forces of the PUK, would listen to these people. We thought that they will endure, fight, and prevent any attack. A number of brave PUK commanders remained in their defense lines, fought and were martyred – I do not mean these people.

Unfortunately sometimes things are misinterpreted. When PUK is mentioned we do not mean the PUK. We do not mean those revolutionary PUK people who defended, those whose national and revolutionary spirit prevailed. They did not side with this big treason committed by some people not for the interest of their political party, but for their limited personal interests. They did this for material gains, to steal and sell Kirkuk oil, to take the oil here and there. Indeed, they were the ones who turned this issue to affect the overall situation of the Kurdistan Region.

If the Iraqi government did not have this agreement with these people, it would not have had the courage to attack the Peshmerga. We have heard it back and we also heard this from our friends, we also knew that the [Iraqi] government could not do this. The Peshmerga had such a high reputation that the Iraqi government did not want to, nor did it have the courage to attack the Peshmerga. But when it realized that there are such low people among the Kurds who could betray their friends, their brothers, their country, to sell their land, and to bring about a gap from where the Iraqi government can pass through to lines behind the Peshmerga, this made the Iraqi government deploy forces and have the courage to make advances.

In Pirde, Qaraqosh mountain, Makhmur, Zummar, and Tel Skof, all Iraqi attacks were defeated by the Peshmerga. Why was not there the same defense in Kirkuk?

Just like I mentioned, we expected that when the defense line was put in place, as it is clear to comrades who have military knowledge that fronts can count on one another. When a front is defeated, or falls – especially if treason is committed – remember that treason is not just a failure, treason is when you expose your brother’s back, bring the enemy behind the lines. When this happened, then the Peshmerga was forced to think about how to regroup to defend what it can defend, the Peshmerga sensed the treason when it was happening. Otherwise, nobody in their right mind ever thought this would happen. I did not believe at the time, I still do not believe that there could be people this much depraved. This is one.

Second, the weapons that the Coalition, especially the United States, gave to Iraq fell into the hands of the Hashd al-Shaabi, and for these forces to attack the Peshmerga, a force that was described as brave and a partner several days before that, to be attacked by American weapons and be martyred with Abrams tanks – these things were not expected.

Nobody believed the world would be indifferent. It was not expected the people of Kurdistan would keep silent against this big treason, either. If someone committed treason, they do it, this shows how depraved they are…

What did you expect from the people?

People, like a national court, should have decided the fate of such people who committed treason against the people and the homeland.

The issue of the presidency came under the spotlight after October 16. I want to hear your understanding of the issue?

The issue of presidency has a little background. If we go back in time to the year 2013, when the term of the presidency was close to expiring, then I was with Mr. President. We were in Paris. At the time, Mr. Imad Ahmad [from the PUK] and Dr. Fuad were with us. We had an appointment with the French president. There, this issue was discussed over the phone [with the PUK], that there is a matter and at the time KDP and PUK delegations were discussing this matter.

There is a fact that must be stated clearly here. There was a big rivalry between PUK and Gorran in Sulaimani. The PUK was fearful that it may not win in the elections. It was making just about any effort to postpone the elections, but did not want to own up to the idea that the elections were postponed at the request of the PUK. They wanted to make a deal with the KDP to postpone the elections and within that frame to extend the presidency issue for two years.

They are now unfortunately talking about this issue as though they gifted this to the KDP, or Mr. President, that they extended it for two years. God knows that they themselves wanted to postpone the elections. This should not be regarded as a gift, because Mr. President did not want the presidency be extended for him in the first place. He also said at the time ‘I do not want it. I do not want my term be extended, nor the election law be changed. Let elections be held, and then, whoever won the confidence of the people, shall assume the seat of the presidency.’

Even when the deal was made between the KDP and PUK for the presidency to be extended for two years and elections postponed, and when the decision was sent to Mr. President from the parliament, he did not sign it, but sent it back to the parliament. Then it became a law since if it is sent back to the parliament and the parliament did not oppose it, it will become a law. This extended the presidency for two years at the time.

The second time [it was extended] was when we entered the ISIS war. When the ISIS war happened, as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the Kurdistan Region, Mr. President was at the forefront of the war. He was reorganizing the Peshmerga force. He was in the fight against ISIS. He was supervising the front against ISIS. Then the Shura Council decided the presidency can continue until elections held. There was nobody else and elections were not held, either. Neither was there a person to assume the presidency position. It was possible to leave the position vacant. It was a challenge. It was a challenge over the survival of the Kurdistan Region against a brutal attack by the terrorists. Mr. President acted like a Peshmerga. He defended the land and the country at the frontline together with the Peshmerga. I witnessed this myself many times. He did his duty.

If they are united, I am certain Kurds will be stronger than if they each negotiate with Baghdad separately

Mr. President did not need the position, nor did he need the seat. But those who were eager to take his seat always made this excuse, because they wanted to take the seat themselves. They wanted to take that seat. That is why they did what they did. Otherwise, the history of Mr. President, the struggle of Mr. President, the past of Mr. President, the achievements of Mr. President have made the president a national symbol. It is not like a government position for him to assume power for four, eight, twelve years, and then when post is over, then his role will be diminished. The role of Mr. President will not be over with this, as it did not begin with this. He is a president made by history. We need him, as opposed to him needing a seat.

When it was again time to extend the term of the presidency for a second time, Mr. President said ‘I am not ready in any shape or form for the presidency be extended, or the law be amended.’ But this happened that the presidency term and the referendum coincided. But the president did not allow this, because he made a promise to himself and the people that he will give up his powers in a peaceful way, that he is ready until the next elections – we will all commit to whatever government system the next parliament will vote on.

The referendum of the people of the Kurdistan Region raised national feelings and the will of the people of Kurdistan to their peak. The people of Kurdistan gathered around an issue, headed towards independence. Regional and international conditions now require that Kurds be united. What are the plans that will ensure Kurds continue and prevent a setback when it comes to this strategic right, one that the Kurds have sacrificed a lot, for a long time to achieve?

We all believe that national unity and unanimity is a guarantor to our success. I have already said this: in order to be independent, we should belong to ourselves, not other parties. We shouldn’t submit to others or sell cities or this country for our own vested interests. There was unity, but this led to disunity. There was unity in politics, Peshmerga endeavors, and defense of the country. The Peshmerga fought ISIS all these years united. They were martyred on the same frontlines together, regardless of their political beliefs. There was this kind of unity which was lost after the treason that was committed on October 16.

But this shouldn’t become an obstacle. Educated people, and I think most people in Kurdistan have the understanding and awareness to get past this stage, should defend the question of unity and unanimity among political parties. And I hope politicians can understand that they can achieve more through unity and unanimity. They can defend this experience and achievement. I hope we realize all our aims in the future.

Now the Arabization process has entered into serious stages in Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu and other areas. What effect will the lack of a consensus among the parties in the Kurdistan Region have on the process?

Unfortunately now the disputed territories are the occupied territories because the Iraqi government neither wanted to implement Article 140 nor allowed us to run the territories together. They came and wanted to run these places militarily. There was a fight and people died. They assaulted and abused the people. They burned houses and displaced people. The guilt of all this has to be carried by the Baghdad authority and the group of traitors of October 16, because this will leave an extremely negative effect on these territories. It is unacceptable. As we have stated before, we are willing to resolve the issues between the KRG and Iraq according to the constitution and principles. However, these territories have been invaded and the Arabization process is underway.

Assigning a new governor in Kirkuk has become a point of dispute among the parties, even between PUK and KDP. How would you resolve this?

Look, a city has been taken by force, so how would you approve of that situation when you are the victim? To us, Kirkuk is an occupied city and we would not approve of the ‘reality’ Iraq wants to impose. The Kurds have become displaced. They demolish the houses of the Kurdish citizens on a daily basis. They assault them.

Now if they act as if none of this has happened and elect a new governor, we would not approve of that reality, something which goes against the interest of our people. There is an elected governor in Kirkuk, who has been stripped of legitimacy. If they bring another under force, how would they have legitimacy?

There are a few events coming up this year – negotiations between Erbil and Baghdad, elections in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. What do you think will be the future for Kurds within Iraq?

If you look at the Iraqi government, it has skillfully caused crisis in the past and has used it as pretext to meddle in the affairs of the Kurdistan Region. The economic crisis and security issues and other issues, after attacking the Kurdistan Region and upsetting the state, are part of the same plan to cause trouble and deepen the crises. These are the plans of the Iraqi government.

But look what they did. They took advantage of some naïve politicians in the Kurdistan Region. Once again, they hold the KRG and Kurdish people responsible for the crises. However, the main culprit is the Iraqi government. They benefited from naïve people who would dance to their tunes. Iraq will not be able to solve all this. Other previous regimes were not able to rule the country peacefully, by attacking, eliminating, marginalizing, and not recognizing people’s rights. Now we think if the Kurds decide unanimously in the upcoming elections, they can have a more effective role in determining the future of the Iraqi government politics.

Do you agree that in the May 12, 2018 elections, all Kurdistani parties should take part on one list?

I personally say, if all the parties come together, if they are united, I am certain Kurds will be stronger than if they each negotiate with Baghdad separately.

Is it possible for the Kurdistan Region elections to be held in April, or a month before Iraqi elections?

Why not. In fact, it is necessary because we have wanted to show that the Kurdistan Region is in the forefront of building democracy. Elections are one of the principles of democracy. Why wouldn’t we want to take part in the elections? Maybe it is because a party does not want to participate for a reason, or does not feel capable or trust its capabilities to participate. This is normal. But as a right and necessity, we think Kurds show their true value, that they are committed to the principles of democracy and elections. This will also solve the issue of some groups who demand a transitional government. Each party will know its status. A government which is trusted by people is much stronger than one formed by political agreement reached by a few parties.

What is the assurance that after October 16 the international community guarantees the Kurdistan Region as an entity?

Now all the parties we speak with want a stronger Kurdistan Region in Iraq. Now we want Iraq to follow the constitution. If they had not overridden the rights of our people, we would not have proceeded with the referendum. But this was not the case. Therefore, we were obliged. We need certainty from the international community to protect the right of our people which would protect us from the offensive of the Iraqi regime and neighbors. The countries have said that the Kurdistan Region has been a successful example and it should continue. They would also support it. So it is up to us. As one nation, we have to be united and harmonious. We think about the general interest of our people, not as an individual or a party. If we do so, I think a promising future awaits us.

Now what steps have you taken towards an understanding between the KRG parties?

There are a lot of efforts. There is a discussion between the leadership of all the parties. I think everyone has realized that they cannot succeed alone. We have to stay united. I hope that the parties who want the well-being of the country and the people are willing to forget about their individual interests. Hopefully, as I mentioned, the parties will come together in one political entity and will act in agreement. Then there will be a promising future.

What is your predication for the future of the political crisis?

I think this is temporary. It will pass. The political and economic crises are all related. But if there is an effective political handling of the issues, the economic situation may also improve. This will in turn help the political process succeed in the Kurdistan Region.

http://www.rudaw.net/english/interview/10012018
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK/KURDISTAN

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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK/KURDISTAN

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Jan 12, 2018 1:12 pm

Armed Kurdish groups want disputed territory back from Iraq

The myriad armed groups in Iraq are constantly emerging, merging and dividing. The list is as mutable as everything else in the country. Get ready to add some more names.

Iraqi security sources told Al-Hayat on Dec. 18 that a new group has formed called Khawbakhsh, which is Kurdish for “volunteers.”

The group calls for the "liberation" of Kirkuk and Tuz Khormato from the Iraqi army and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), which recaptured those areas from Kurdish forces in October. Khawbakhsh has been accused of shelling houses Dec. 5 and targeting federal forces.

This development came in tandem with news about recently formed anti-Shiite armed forces in the areas surrounding Tuz Khormato, numbering about 1,000 and lending credence to forecasts that new armed groups would emerge after the Islamic State was defeated in Iraq.

These developments have led Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to order a special operation in Kirkuk to confront the increasing terrorism in the province. On Jan. 3, before an operation that day, he acknowledged the ongoing security challenges in Iraq, despite the pronouncement of victory over IS last month. Following Abadi's statement, Iraqi security forces conducted several raids against suspected sleeper cells in the provinces of Kirkuk and Diyala and the city of Mosul.

Parliament member Jassem Mohammed Jaafar told Al-Monitor, “The so-called Khawbakhsh group consists of several armed groups headed by Koran Jawhar and Jawhar Kajagji, who are close to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK], as well as gunmen living off oil theft and blocking roads." The PUK, however, has denied denied that Jawhar has any status in the party.

The PUK are a party of taitors at lease Khawbakhsh are on the side of the Kurds

Jaafar, whose State of Law Coalition has close ties to the prime minister, added, "All of them are Kurds who receive direct support from the government of Erbil,” where the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is based. “The group’s main goal is to undermine security in Tuz Khormato and the disputed areas, to force non-Kurds out and prepare to restore Kurdish influence."

The operative word being RESTORE as in giving back to the people which was originally theirs :ymapplause:

However, PUK parliament members have rejected Jaafar’s statements, saying they consider them part of a systematic campaign targeting Kurds in south Kirkuk that includes bombing their houses and arresting them arbitrarily.

An informed Kurdish source who asked not to be named told Al-Monitor, “The Khawbakhsh group has protected the Kurds against the Arabs and the Turkmens in Tuz Khormato and the disputed areas in Kirkuk since the Kurds were displaced by PMU-affiliated Turkmen and Arab groups.”

Kurdish forces arrested hundreds of IS soldiers, but none have been handed over to federal forces or tried in the region.

The PMU launched military campaigns in mid-December in the mountains overlooking Tuz Khormato, according to PMU leader Mohammed Mahdi al-Biyati. “Khawbakhsh includes former members of IS, mostly Kurds, who reorganized in a group that upholds their ideology and style in terrorizing society,” Biyati told Al-Monitor. Bullshit, they just want to discredit it

However, Biyati does not believe those groups pose as great a threat as IS, as the PMU has gained a great deal of experience and competence in dealing with such organizations. Nevertheless, Khawbakhsh and similar groups could still spread to other areas such as Diyala province to the south.

Security analyst Fadel Abu Raghif told Al-Monitor, “The emergence of these groups coincided with two separate events: the defeat of IS in Mosul and other areas it had occupied since 2014, and the recapture of Kirkuk from the Kurds by the Iraqi army and the PMU on Oct. 16.”

He added, “Preliminary estimates indicate that the number of fighters in these groups is still limited. Their speeches are incoherent and their activities do not suggest they are in control."

Abbas al-Adrawi, a researcher in the Hamorabi Center for Strategic and Security Studies, told Al-Monitor, “These groups, including Khawbakhsh, are fighting in unstable areas. They include Naqshbandi fighters and the remnants of Saddam [Hussein]’s army, as well as drug-smuggling gangs.”

Adrawi explained why he believes the number of such fighters is increasing: “Many IS elements turned themselves in to the Kurdish forces without fighting in the military operations during the liberation of Mosul, Sinjar, Tal Afar and Hawija. Today, those fighters are being rehabilitated and deployed on the front lines to face the federal forces, or sent to [help] form and join the Khawbakhsh group, which takes orders and support from the Kurdish military leadership."

Kurdish writer Shaal Mal Adel Salim has a different view. “Khawbakhsh and other similar groups include fighters from the areas affected by the policies of the Baghdad-based central government and the violence employed by the Iraqi army and the PMU in Kirkuk and the areas from which the Kurdish peshmerga forces withdrew,” Salim told Al-Monitor.

Many of those people felt abandoned when the peshmerga — the armed forces of Iraqi Kurdistan — pulled out as central government forces arrived in October to take back the disputed territory in response to the KRG holding an independence referendum in September against Baghdad's wishes. The disputed territory is land the Kurds had won in battles against IS.

Salim refused to call these citizen-fighters terrorists. They make up “a group of armed volunteers who announced the resistance after the withdrawal of the peshmerga forces from their areas, which they considered a betrayal," he said. "They believe it is their duty to defend their land and people after the federal authority took control of their Kurdish areas."

Ministry of Interior spokesman Brig. Gen. Saad Maan said the threat from these new armed groups has been exaggerated.

“Some parties who are taking advantage of what is happening are being hyperbolic when it comes to these groups and their influence on the ground," he told Al-Monitor. He declined to discuss the real number of these groups and the extent of their geographical spread, saying that information is classified. He did say, “The intelligence services have determined the size of the group and the extent of the threat they pose. The security forces have begun to deal with them.”

Armed groups like Khawbakhsh will continue to emerge and be active in Iraq until the political, social and economic causes behind them are addressed.

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/origin ... rmatu.html
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK/KURDISTAN

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Jan 15, 2018 3:29 pm

Baghdad, Erbil agree to lift flight ban :ymapplause:
pending PM Abadi's approval :ymsick: X(


1:39 p.m.

Baghdad, Erbil agree to lift flight ban, pending PM Abadi's approval

Iraq has no problems with reopening the airports, Mawlood Bawamurad, the KRG minister of transportation, told Rudaw.

The airports and other land gates will be run jointly by the Kurdish and central governments. The draft of the discussion will be submitted to Abadi.

The meeting is ongoing, according to Rudaw’s correspondent.

10:57 a.m.

Iraqi delegation arrives in Erbil to solve flight ban with Kurdistan

Kurdish officials have welcomed the arrival of a high-level delegation from Baghdad to Erbil on Monday, when both sides are expected to work to finalize a blueprint agreement that would reopen the Kurdistan Region's airports to international travel.

Rudaw's Sanger Abdulrahman reported on Monday morning that the Iraqi delegation has arrived and consists of 15 people.

An Iraqi delegation will meet with the Kurdistan Regional Government's Ministry of the Interior to discuss the mechanisms of resolving the issue of airports and border-crossings.

The agreement will work to “resume activities” to international entry points and then be presented to the Iraqi federal government for approval, according to a statement from a senior Kurdish delegation who visited Baghdad on Saturday.

The two sides have agreed to hold a bilateral meeting in Erbil on Monday to prepare a joint statement that will include “solutions to be reached.”

Iraq introduced a ban on international flights to and from the Kurdistan Region in late September after the Kurdish vote on independence.

Cargo arriving at Erbil airport dropped from 2,500 tons to just 10 after the flight ban, and in Sulaimani it has dropped to almost zero, down from 550 tons, according to the KRG’s Ministry of Interior’s office responsible for humanitarian aid – the Joint Crisis Coordination Centre (JCC).

Kurdish Peshmerga injured in the war to defeat ISIS have been unable to fly directly abroad to seek specialized treatment.

Civilians have also been negatively affected — locals and expats. They must choose to fly through Baghdad or Basrah or take a lengthy land route through Turkey to reach their international destinations by air.

Tourism, which was a growing sector in the Kurdistan Region, has also suffered.

This is a developing story...

http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/15012018
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK/KURDISTAN

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:56 pm

Kurdish parties tried and have failed to unite for Iraqi election

A group of Kurdish parties met over the weekend to discuss running in Iraq’s May elections on a joint list in order to strengthen their hand in Baghdad, but failed to reach an agreement, Rudaw has learned.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) hosted the meeting at their politburo office on Saturday, with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party, Communist Party in Kurdistan, Kurdistan Toilers Party, and other parties in attendance.

“Kurdistan Islamic Group [Komal] initially wanted to take part in the meeting… but eventually did not attend,” said an attendee at the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The meeting aimed to determine the mechanism of participating on one list in the elections,” said the source, adding, “Unfortunately we did not reach a conclusion because KIU withdrew and other parties had demands. PUK and KDP were left alone.”

“Kurds have never been so divided,” the source said. :((

This was not the first attempt to bring the parties together.

On January 7, the Kurdish parties, absent KDP, held a meeting at the PUK office in Kirkuk to discuss how to participate in the upcoming Iraqi elections and agreed to devise a new list consisting of all the Kurdistani parties. The KDP, which has refused to enter Kirkuk while it is under Iraqi military “occupation” agreed to the list over the phone.

The would-be alliance ended when Gorran later withdrew. :ymsick:

“KDP did not attend the meeting because of some reasons, but they expressed agreement to a Kurdistani list via a phone call. We then started the process of registering ‘Kirkuk Alliance is our Future’ with the commission of elections. But Gorran called me and said they will withdraw from the alliance,” said Rawand Mala Mahmoud, the PUK's office deputy in Kirkuk.

Iraqi elections are scheduled for May. In the aftermath of the October 16 events when Iraqi forces took control of the disputed areas Kurds were expected to unite in preparation for the May vote, at least forming one list to run in Kirkuk and the other disputed areas.

“The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) tried their best to take part on one Kurdistani list in the Iraqi elections, but the attempts were fruitless,” Khasraw Goran, head of KDP’s election office, told Rudaw.

“Similar to the 2014 elections, the Kurdish parties will seemingly participate in the elections each individually,” he said.

Political pundits argue that 28,000 votes were lost in Kirkuk because Kurds did not run united in the 2014 elections. Gorran, KIU, and Komal ran on different lists. They garnered 28,609 votes, but were unable to win any seats. The PUK won six, and KDP two in Kirkuk.

This year, Gorran, Komal, and the Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ) have formed the joint Nishtiman list to run in Kirkuk and Nineveh provinces. :ymsick: X(

The PUK’s Mala Mahmoud lamented the move. “Unfortunately, the Kurdish parties treat each other with irritation and vengeance. Arabs and Turkmen have formed one list, but Kurds are divided,” he said.

Mala Farman, a Gorran member in Kirkuk, said the coalition welcomes any party to join, but not PUK or KDP.

“The door of our coalition is open to all the parties, except PUK and KDP, since these two parties have failed and brought calamities upon our people. People in Kirkuk and other areas will not vote for these two parties,” he said.

This division of the parties compelled KIU to go it on their own, running independently in the Iraqi elections.

“For the Iraqi elections in Kirkuk and the areas within Article 140, the best choice for us is one list and a shared list of all Kurdistani parties. But we did not have that choice. We as KIU will take part as one list,” Hadi Ali, KIU spokesperson, told Rudaw.

Kurds currently have 62 seats in the 328-seat Iraqi parliament. They have been influential in the formation of the government post-2003, including in the drafting of the constitution. :-?

http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/150120186
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK/KURDISTAN

PostAuthor: Anthea » Wed Jan 17, 2018 7:32 pm

Mysterious Turkish delegation in Kirkuk

A high-level delegation went from Turkey to Kirkuk and is having talks with Turkmen and Arab provincial assembly members at the governor's office.

A high-level delegation went from Turkey to Kirkuk Wednesday morning and is having talks with Turkmen and Arab provincial assembly members at the governor's office.

According to information provided by our correspondent for Kirkuk, all the press members were taken out of the governor’s office before the delegation’s meeting which is also attended by officials from Turkish intelligence MIT and Turkey’s Consulate in Hewler (Erbil).

Kurdish members of Kirkuk provincial assembly have confirmed the Turkish delegation’s visit, noting that they have not been provided with information regarding the meeting.
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK/KURDISTAN

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Jan 19, 2018 12:19 pm

Kurds in Kirkuk profiled after MİT’s visit to the province

Following the meeting the Turkish MİT held in the Kirkuk with the Turkmen and Arab members of the city council, Kirkuk Governor launched a profiling campaign against Kurds.



A committee that included Turkish intelligence agents visited the Kirkuk Governorate on January 17 and held a secret meeting with the Turkmen and Arab members of the Kirkuk City Council. Following this meeting, the Kirkuk Governorate has launched a profiling campaign against Kurds.

Reports say the Kirkuk Governorate sent a notice to neighborhood and village headmen in the province and asked them to “determine families who have contact with the PKK”. The notice signed by Kirkuk Governor Rakan Said has been sent to all headmen in the province.

One of the headmen who wishes to stay anonymous for safety reasons spoke to the ANF and said the notice asked them to “determine families in Kirkuk who support the PKK or have children in the ranks of the PKK”.

The headmen were also asked to remove posters of Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan from the neighborhoods and paint over pro-PKK graffiti on the streets.

On January 17, a committee that included the Turkish MİT and members of the Turkish Consulate in Hewlêr went to Kirkuk in secret and met with Arab and Turkmen city council members in the governorate.

The committee met with Kirkuk Governor Rakan Said and has reportedly proposed to “form a military force comprised of Arabs and Turkmens and act together so the city will be controlled by Arabs and Turkmens”.

Two officials from Iraqi intelligence, one aide of MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan, the Turan Brigade under the Iraqi Turkmen Front, Sunni Arab circles and Kirkuk Governor Rakan Said had participated in the meeting that lasted three hours.
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK/KURDISTAN

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Jan 20, 2018 12:20 am

Divided over Kurdistan elections:
PUK pushes for September, KDP before May

The ruling parties of the Kurdistan Region whose government suffered a blow when three parties withdrew from the coalition are now in a row regarding the date for Kurdish elections.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) are now the only two remaining parties from what was called a broad-based coalition government. And now, the two main parties who have ruled the Kurdistan Region since its foundation after the First Gulf War of 1991 disagree about the date for the next KRG elections.

“We prefer it to be held before the Iraqi elections, because we will be happy to see a high turnout,” Khasraw Goran, the head of the KDP election office, told Rudaw.

Iraqi elections are scheduled for May 12, pending the approval of the Iraqi parliament.

Khasraw Goran argued that if the regional and federal elections were held in a row it will result in a low turnout. Other concerns he listed were the high temperatures in the summer and the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims observe fasting.

Ramadan is from mid-May to mid-June.

The PUK is pushing for elections to be held on its stated time in September, four months after the Iraqi elections.

The Kurdish parliament in late October postponed parliamentary and presidential elections which were scheduled to take place on November 1 last year by eight months, a fact noted by a senior PUK official.

“We want the elections on time, September, as it was set,” Farid Asasard, a member of the PUK leadership council told Rudaw, adding that they do not support a proposal to set the date anytime earlier.

Bryar Sharif, the spokesperson for the PUK election office, also said that they want elections on time in September, while explaining that the elections commission can use the period between now and then to “clean the voter list.”

He said that the Kurdistan Region may commit a “mistake” by rushing the elections; something he said will not yield good results for the election process.

Mala Bakhtiyar, a senior PUK official, earlier this month told Rudaw that they may lose somewhere between 10 to 15 percent of their votes due the fall of the oil-rich Kirkuk, a stronghold of the party where some of its elements are accused of cooperating the handover of the diverse province to the Iraqi forces and Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi on October 16. Such elements deny the accusations, but the party has opened an investigation into the matter.

KDP has publicly accused the PUK elements of “treason” for the events of Kirkuk.

PUK currently has 18 out of the 111 seats in the Kurdistan parliament.

Gorran, Kurdistan’s second-largest party, as well the smaller Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and the Islamic Group (Komal) all have withdrawn from the KRG coalition government in late-December and mid-January. They have called for elections on time, on the condition that the voter record is cleared from duplicate names, or names of dead people.

“We, as Gorran, always insisted that elections be held on time,” Zmnako Jalal, from the election office of the party said.

As well as calling on the election commission clean the voter record, he demanded for the Kurdistan Region to use smart technology to conduct the elections, similar to the system Iraq announced it will be using.

The elections commission announced earlier this month that the process of cleaning the voter registration was to be finished this month with an official advocating for the removal of some 100,000 repeated names or those of the deceased.

Gorran separately held two meetings with Komal and the KIU this week, during which the three parties have expressed support for holding elections in a free and fair manner.

PM Nechirvan Barzani, who is from the KDP, has already held two meetings with the election commission to set the date. He told reporters this week that the KRG will meet with the parliament and the election commission to make a decision regarding the date.

Shirwan Zirar, the spokesperson for the election body, said that they have expressed their willingness to hold elections, but also explained that they need time and a $23 million budget.

Rudaw earlier reported that the commission was ready to hold the elections in April.

The Kurdish parliament in late-October 2017 decided to postpone the election that was initially scheduled for November 1, mainly because of Iraq’s military incursion into disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad, such as Kirkuk that fell to the Iraqi forces on October 16.

http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/190120181
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK/KURDISTAN

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Jan 21, 2018 3:01 am

Iraqi PM meets Kurdistan region leader

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met on Saturday with the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani for the first time since conflict broke out over a Kurdish independence referendum, officials said.

The Kurdish referendum on Sept. 25, which produced an overwhelming ‘yes’ for independence, angered Baghdad and Iraq’s neighbors Turkey and Iran, which have their own restive Kurdish minorities, and brought a rebuke from the United States and European Union, the Iraqi Kurds’ Western supporters.

Kurds are nobody's slaves - Kurds are human beings and must be treated with dignity

At the meeting, Abadi renewed his conditions for lifting restrictions imposed on the Kurdistan region after the referendum, including a direct international air travel ban.

He said the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) airports and border crossings have to come under the control of the federal authorities, according to a statement from his office.

Abadi also demanded that the Kurds stop exporting crude oil from the KRG independently from the central government.

    “Kurdistan delegation headed by PMBarzani is in Baghdad now, met with HaiderAlAbadi,” Hemin Hawrami, a senior official of Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party said on Twitter.
“Later today the delegation will fly to Tehran for official meetings with senior Iranian officials Sunday,” added Hawrami, who is also an assistant of ex-KRG president Massoud Barzani.

Iraq’s central government said “an atmosphere of trust” marked talks held on Monday with the KRG to resolve their conflict, which saw armed clashes in October.

Under Abadi’s orders, government forces responded to the referendum by dislodging Kurdish militia from disputed regions including the oil city of Kirkuk.

I would like to remind people exactly [b]WHY some areas are disputed by the Iraqi government - these areas are places that Saddam stole from Kurds - the thieving Arabs want to retain them because of the oil[/b]

Abadi also retaliated with a series of measures curtailing the KRG’s autonomy, including a ban on direct international travel to the two main Kurdish airports.

A TV channel close to the KRG, Rudaw, said on Monday Iraqi and Kurdish negotiators agreed on a series of points to jointly manage the airports of Erbil and Sulaimaniya.

The KRG would accept that representatives of the Iraqi civil aviation authority would be posted in the two airports to oversee the implementation of federal regulations, it said.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mide ... SKBN1F90JL
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK/KURDISTAN

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Jan 21, 2018 3:06 am

PM Barzani, Kurdistan delegation will visit Iran tomorrow

The Prime Minister of the KRG will visit Tehran on Sunday and Monday, when he and a delegation will hold meetings with Iran's president, speaker of parliament, and a chancellor to the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader.

Kurdistan Regional Government PM Nechirvan Barzani will visit Tehran as an extension of his diplomatic endeavors and dialogue with other countries in order to talk about political, economic, security and cultural issues, according to a statement from Iran’s consulate in Erbil that was released on Saturday

The premier will be accompanied by a delegation including Deputy PM Qubad Talabani, according the consulate.

The consulate considers the visit very important.

It added that the visit by the delegation is positive, as it is the first by the KRG PM since the Iraqi-opposed referendum and the decision by a federal court labelling the Kurdistan Region's vote "unconstitutional."

The Kurdish delegation will hold meetings for two days with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Iran Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, and other Iranian officials including Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council who is also a chancellor to the Supreme Leader, according to Iranian Mehr News Agency.

The Kurdistan Region held an independence referendum in September. It was opposed by Baghdad. The ‘Yes’ vote won with 93-percent of ballots indicating in favor of independence.

The KRG has said it “respects” a federal court in Baghdad ruling labeling the referendum as unconstitutional.

Iran has reopened all of its official border crossings with the Kurdistan Region.

http://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iran/20012018
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK/KURDISTAN

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Jan 21, 2018 3:26 am

Kurdish oil exports must come under Iraqi control
Abadi tells PM Barzani in Baghdad X( X( X(

Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has met with his Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad on Saturday, just a day before he is scheduled to have a meeting with Iranian officials including President Hassan Rouhani.

PM Abadi stressed that the “International borders must be under the Federal Authority since it is within the exclusive powers of the Federal Authority,” a statement from his office published after the meeting read.

It is important for the oil produced in the Kurdistan Region be “handed over” to the Iraqi government so that it exports it through the Iraqi oil marketing company (SOMO), the statement explained.

Baghdad is to commit to the KRG borders as outlined in the Iraqi constitution, meaning that it respects the Kurdish rule over all areas it was under the KRG administration before 2003.

Abadi reiterated the “position of the [Iraqi] government that it is necessary to commit to the borders of the [Kurdistan] Region as stipulated by the constitution,” according to the Iraqi statement.

He also stressed on the “unity and sovereignty of Iraq”, that the committees for technical talks over the issues of the Kurdish airports and payment of salaries must continue between the two sides.

He ordered the committees to continue their work including those tasked with “reopening the airports,” after completing all procedures that would allow the “return” of Federal Authority to the airports of Erbil and Sulaimani.

The two sides discussed the latest political and security development including solving their outstanding issues, the statement added.

The KRG has not issued a statement yet regarding the meeting.

It is the first meeting between the two leaders since the Kurdish referendum was held in September, opposed by Baghdad and neighboring countries.

PM Barzani headed a Kurdish delegation to the Iraqi capital, accompanied by his deputy Qubad Talabani and chief of staff to the Kurdish presidency Fuad Hussein.

The visit comes in the backdrop of months of international pressure to jumpstart “political dialogue” by the likes of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, all members of the US-led anti-ISIS global coalition.

The two sides have already started “technical talks,” regarding disagreement over the KRG’s share of the Iraqi budget, oil, airports and border entries.

A senior Iraqi delegation visiting Erbil earlier this week agreed to present a list of recommendations to the Iraqi government for approval. It included a proposal aimed to end an ongoing Iraqi-imposed flight ban on international flights to and from the Kurdistan Region as part of a series of punitive measures against the Kurdish vote that saw about 93 percent of the people of Kurdistan choosing to leave Iraq.

The new arrangement commits the Kurdish government to put the airports under the federal authority regulations and oversight, something Erbil argues has always been the case since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

They also discussed an oil-for-budget proposal, pending the approval of PM Abadi that will allow the KRG to receive its share of the budget in return for allowing the Iraqi government to export and sell oil produced by the Kurdish government.

PM Abadi said on Tuesday that the talks between the two sides reached a “high level” of satisfaction, while vowing to resolve all outstanding issues with Erbil, some of which he said are a century old. PM Barzani made similar remarks later in the week.

PM Barzani is expected to visit the Iranian capital later today where he is expected to meet with Iranian officials, according to Iranian and Kurdish officials.

Iran opposed the Kurdish vote, closed its borders with the Kurdistan Region for months, and helped Baghdad to bring the majority of disputed areas under its control following deadly clashes such as the oil-rich Kirkuk, dealing a blow to the KRG revenues that has since slashed by half, a move that further worsened the Kurdish financial crisis that began since early 2014 mainly because of the budget cut by Iraq at that time.

Baghdad cut the Kurdish budget in response to the KRG’s plans to export oil via Turkey’s Ceyhan port independent of Baghdad.

PM Barzani said this week that Erbil is on the right path to mend ties with Tehran, and Ankara, two countries that strongly opposed the Kurdish vote.

The visit to Baghdad comes days after the US Envoy to the war against ISIS, Brett McGurk, visited both Erbil and Baghdad to make yet another push for dialogue between the two.

The KRG has stated that it “respects” a number of rulings by the Iraqi Federal Court that in effect considered the Kurdish vote “unconstitutional” and its outcome null and void.

Erbil has also said that they are ready for political dialogue on the basis of the Iraqi constitution provided that the entire charter is implemented one by one.

Baghdad has recently taken a number of steps to mend ties including a promise to send the salaries of the Kurdish state employees for both the education and health sectors after a partial audit is complete.

http://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/20012018
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK/KURDISTAN

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Jan 22, 2018 4:42 am

Kurdistan to deploy Peshmerga to help Afrin against Turkey if possible

A senior member of the ruling Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said that they would like to send the Kurdish Peshmerga to help fellow Kurds in their “sacred resistance” against Turkey in Afrin, but this may not be possible given the current situation.

Probably trying to make amends for selling us to the Iraqis

“Countries of the region, in particular Turkey, knows about our stance in Kobane,” Mala Bakhtiyar told reporters as he visited the Sulaimani office of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the ruling party in Syrian Kurdistan or Rojava.

The Kurdistan Region, with the approval of Turkey and the US-led anti-ISIS Coalition, deployed its Peshmerga forces to help the Rojava fighters against ISIS in late 2014 in Kobane, a city that was under ISIS siege at the time.

“If we can, we will help Afrin now. If they allow us, we will deploy forces to Afrin,” Bakhtiyar said.

“But if they allow us, before deploying forces, we will send a delegation to Ankara for dialogue. We prefer dialogue over war,” the Kurdish official said.

He added that deploying forces to Afrin from the Kurdistan Region is almost impossible.

He called the Rojava defense against the Turkish military operation a “sacred resistance.”

“We support our nation,” he explained about his party’s stance about the Kurds in Syria.

The Kurdish people in Rojava call for their natural rights, he said, and therefore the PUK supports their quest for democracy in Syria.

He said that the solution for the Syrian Civil War including the Kurdish question in that the country is “political, not military.”

He criticized the pro-Turkish militias, the so-called Free Syrian Army, who support the Turkish military incursion.

The Syrian rebels have left their towns and cities in favor of the Syrian regime, but are now on offensive against the Kurdish city of Afrin, he said.

“Syrian opposition should know their rights are [deprived] by Damascus,” not Afrin, Bakhtiyar concluded.

Turkey has launched a military operation against the Kurdish-controlled Afrin canton in western Syria on Saturday to drive out the Kurdish fighters from the border areas.

Ankara claims that the YPG, the Kurdish armed force in control of the Syrian Kurdistan, is an extension of the PKK, an armed group that is fighting for greater national and cultural rights of millions of Kurds in Turkey but considered a terrorist organization by Ankara. YPG denies any organic links to the PKK.

YPG, the backbone of the US-backed forces in Syria, won many battles against ISIS including in Kobane and Raqqa, the then de-facto capital of the extremist group.

http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/210120181
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK/KURDISTAN

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Jan 22, 2018 3:43 pm

‘Afrin Front’ campaign launched in Southern Kurdistan

Dozens of intellectuals, writers, journalists, academics, artists, politicians, deputies and civil society organization representatives in Southern Kurdistan have founded ‘Afrin Front’ against the Turkish army’s invasion operation on Afrin.

Dozens of intellectuals, writers, journalists, academics, artists, politicians, deputies and civil society organization representatives in Southern Kurdistan have founded ‘Afrin Front’ against the Turkish army’s invasion operation on Afrin.

As part of the campaign that was launched by the Democratic Idea and Politics Academy in Sulaymaniyah, mass demonstrations and a series of actions will be organized in Southern Kurdistan against the Turkish state’s attacks on Afrin.

The launch of the campaign was announced in a press conference held after the meeting, which was closed to the press.

Speaking here, journalist Kemal Raûf saluted Afrin and the resistance mounted there and stressed that they always stand with Afrin and are ready to do their part for it.

Recalling that Afrin is facing a great threat as the Turkish state has launched its attacks on the canton, Raûf said they have gathered and made a series of decisions as to what they can do against this invasion attempt.

Raûf said they have established a 26-person committee for the organization of mass demonstrations for Afrin, noting that their actions will kick off in Sulaymaniyah and continue in other cities of Southern Kurdistan.

Raûf called upon the people of Southern Kurdistan to stand with Afrin with a spirit of mobilization.

“Today is the day to defend Afrin. We will not allow the invasion of Afrin”, said Raûf and added that they have also made a series of plans to create awareness in world public opinion regarding Afrin.


What the *** is going on here?

There was no such support against the Iraqi invasion of Southern Kurdistan

Who is behind this - the evil traitorous PUK or the vile Goran

There is no logic to this :-\

Perhaps it is the PUK trying to pretend they are the good guys :o)

Well far too late for that, we all know the PUK are TRAITORS and there is NOTHING they will ever be able to say or do to change the fact, that their people handed Southern Kurdistan to Baghdad X(
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK/KURDISTAN

PostAuthor: Anthea » Wed Jan 24, 2018 1:33 am

Kurdistan airports expected to open in 2 weeks

International flights should resume in the Kurdistan Region within the next two weeks, according to an MP who said there is good understanding between Erbil and Baghdad on the issue.

“Baghdad has two demands and the Kurdistan Region delegation was okay with both of them: jointly running the airports and returning their income to Baghdad,” said Nawzad Rasul, an MP with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the Iraqi parliament, adding that dialogue is ongoing.

“International flights at the Kurdistan Region airports will resume in the next two weeks,” he said, basing his estimate on information from officials in Baghdad.

The past few weeks have seen a spike in talks between Erbil and Baghdad after months of frozen relations following the independence vote in September.

“The Kurdistan Regional government (KRG) through the committees it has formed for dialogue has shown Baghdad that it has taken legal measures and has left Baghdad with no excuses,” said Masoud Haider, a Gorran MP in the Iraqi parliament.

The committees formed for dialogue have met at border ports, he added.

Except for the flight that brought the body of former Iraqi president Jalal Talabani from Berlin to Sulaimani and the plane that flew PUK leader Kosrat Rasul from Sulaimani to Berlin to receive medical treatment, it has been four months since the last international flight landed at a Kurdistan Region airport.

Baghdad imposed its flight ban in late September. Humanitarian and military flights are not affected by the ban. Domestic flights are still operating.

Delegates from the two governments reached a tentative agreement last week, to bring the airports under "Iraqi Civil Aviation Law," following all instructions and regulations released by the Iraq Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA).

The agreement is pending approval from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Manager of Sulaimani’s international airport, Tahir Abdullah, said they have received no news about reopening the airports following the recent meetings.

Technical teams from the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) should arrive in the Kurdistan Region soon, a source from the council of ministers told Rudaw.

“And Haider al-Abadi in the next Iraqi council of ministers meeting is due to make a decision on reopening the airports,” the source added.

No timeframe has been set for reopening Kurdistan Region’s airports, though progress is being made, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said on Monday.

“We are waiting for some technical matters to be implemented and, God willing, they will be opened as soon as possible,” he explained.

International pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to lift the embargos he has imposed on the Kurdistan Region is mounting daily. The greatest pressure is being applied with respect to the international flight ban, according to Kurdish MPs in Baghdad.

On January 16, the British ambassador to Iraq said the Kurdistan Region’s airports will reopen for international flights in the near future.

Spokesperson for the US State Department Heather Nauert said at the end of 2017 that they will be putting pressure on Baghdad to reopen the airports.

http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/230120184
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK/KURDISTAN

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Jan 25, 2018 6:09 pm

Two Peshmerga divisions reunify following Kirkuk fallout

Two infantry divisions of Kurdish Peshmerga forces reunified in a step to unify the Peshmerga forces. The two units separated after the events in Kirkuk.

Infantry Brigades 1 and 2 of the Peshmerga Ministry reunified after a 100-day separation following the events of October 16 albeit with tweaks to high ranking positions. The process will be completed by next week.

“Peshmerga forces have always been ready [for unity] and the two Peshmerga units have never had issues with each other”, Col. Hemin Hassan, told Rudaw, who was previously deputy commander of the 1st Brigade will now lead the 2nd Brigade of Peshmerga forces.

He added that the day of the separation was a day of crying for Peshmerga, akin to a child crying for his mother and a brother crying for his brother.

Kurdish leaders finger-pointed and made claims of treason after Iraqi forces supported by Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi controlled Kirkuk in 2017.

The unification is “a feast” for us, exclaimed the colonel.

All Peshmerga forces are officially under the command of Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani since the resignation President Masoud Barzani in November.

As the Office of the Presidency has not been dissolved, the Kurdistan Region parliament passed the powers of the commander-in-chief of all armed forces to the prime ministry.

The 1 and 2 Brigades directly were paid salaries, armed, and trained by the United States, which leads the international anti-ISIS coalition, in early-2016 prior to the operation to oust ISIS from Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul.

The Ministry of Peshmerga has a number of other brigades and special units. Some like the 80 Force units and the 70 Force which are aligned with the PUK and KDP, respectively.

The Kurdistan Region’s parliament in 2014 stipulated for the KRG to unite all Peshmerga as a national army within six months, especially the political units, but remains fully unimplemented.

“It is planned by the next week that the Chief of General Staff of Peshmerga [Jamal Iminiki] will meet with a committee to initiate the unification of the Peshmerga forces,” Sarbast Lazgin, Peshmerga deputy minister told Rudaw.

Plans also will be formulated to unify the rest of the Peshmerga.

“We have discussed this matter with Sheikh Jaafar as well, and we realize that changes need to be made,” Lazgin added.

Sheikh Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa commands the 70 Force. Najat Ali Saleh commands the 80 Force.

The Peshmerga ministry and 70th units will prepare projects on the unification process that will later on be submitted to PM Barzani. A committee will be formed to address the shortcomings and ease the process of the unification.

There were 14 unified Peshmerga brigades prior to the events of October 16, but just six unified brigades currently. The unification is set to rectify that and add more unified divisions.

Opposition parties, especially the Change Movement (Gorran) have called on the government to nationalize the Peshmerga forces and eliminate party influence over them, citing events of Kirkuk as why such control is bad.

Barham Salih, the head of the newly-formed Coalition for Justice and Democracy, met with Brett McGurk, the US Special Presidential Envoy to the Coalition, on January 18 in Sulaimani.

Salih said discussed “nationalizing the Peshmerga forces.”

McGurk then met with KRG leaders PM Barzani and Deputy PM Qubad Talabani in Erbil.

“Constructive meetings with KRG PM Barzani and DPM Talabani on post-ISIS stabilization, support to Peshmerga, and the vital importance of a strong and unified KRG within the constitutional framework of Iraq,” wrote McGurk in a subsequent tweet.

The United States has approved a funding of $365 million for Peshmerga in 2018, a move welcome by the Peshmerga ministry.
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK/KURDISTAN

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Jan 27, 2018 11:58 am

Kurdistan needs help from the US and
international community to build a stable future


Kurdistan’s Peshmerga forces fought alongside a U.S.-led coalition to break the back of ISIS and drive terrorists from Mosul, Kirkuk and other parts of the Nineveh Plains. But while this success was a critical milestone in the fight against ISIS, it left in its wake immense collateral damage. More than 3.5 million people are displaced from their homes. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has accepted its critical humanitarian role, while bearing the cost. It is a proven partner of the United States.

In addition to taking on ISIS, the Kurdistan Region has been a factor of stability and religious tolerance in the Middle East. Without humanitarian aid, the victims of ISIS easily could become radicalized. If the KRG does not care for them, these people will stay on the move, threatening our region and global stability.

This is certainly not a problem for the United States to solve on its own. International cooperation is needed to face this humanitarian emergency, lest it metastasizes into a broader security crisis.

To understand the complexity of this humanitarian challenge, consider its scope. The Kurdistan Region, which has roughly the population of Wisconsin at about 5 million inhabitants, has welcomed nearly 2 million displaced people, including hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, in the past five years. That would be like the United States, with a population of 325 million, absorbing nearly 100 million refugees — or roughly the combined populations of California, Florida, Texas and New York — virtually overnight.

Most of these displaced people are women and children, some of them the families of deceased ISIS fighters. Kurdistan hosts many unaccompanied minors. Meeting their basic human needs and helping them heal from the mental and physical wounds of war is more than a moral imperative. Refugees are vulnerable to radicalization while in settlements, particularly when terror groups promise basic resources the KRG cannot provide on its own.

Kurdistan wants a deeper partnership with the United States and the international community to effectively provide post-war humanitarian relief to displaced people and to help rebuild from years of war. An effective response will mitigate the next conflict in the region, drain support for extremism, and prevent the next-generation of global terrorists.

To ensure the KRG can build a stable future for its people and for millions of internally displaced people and refugees on its territory, as well as advance our common interests in the region, the KRG seeks a meaningful dialogue with the Iraqi government. The KRG is fully prepared to continue a dialogue to solve all pending issues within the framework of the Iraqi constitution.

We must work together to resolve disagreements between the KRG and the Iraqi government. Without having to choose sides, the United States could facilitate a productive dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad, and keep both governments as indispensable allies.

A cornerstone of any settlement between Erbil and Baghdad must be restoration of international commercial flights out of Erbil and Sulaimani airports. Such freedom of movement is prevented by Baghdad’s embargo. The ban on commercial flights is affecting U.S. business interests in the region and preventing residents from traveling internationally. Moreover, it has thwarted delivery of international humanitarian aid to more than 1.5 million displaced people living in the Kurdistan Region.

The Middle East is changing. Stable governments and institutions are desperately needed. As we look to the future of the Middle East, Iraq and Kurdistan — not to mention the future of America’s role in counter-terrorism in the region and in Iraqi reconstruction — the KRG will be an invaluable partner. Ensuring the Kurdistan Region continues to have a functioning democratic government, strong security forces ready to aid in the pursuit of a secure and prosperous Kurdistan and Iraq, and an effective humanitarian response system is critical to stabilizing the region.

Although ISIS is on the run, this is hardly the end of the fight. America will continue to rely on its Kurdish allies in the global war on terror. Conflict between Kurdish and Iraqi forces serves no one’s interest.

The United States has some friends who offer little in return for its generous support. They take U.S. assistance for granted. This is not the case in Kurdistan. Investing in a strong Kurdistan Region will result in a key security partner tomorrow, as it did over the past decade.

As long as the Kurdistan Region and its people are being suffocated by a humanitarian crisis and increasing economic isolation and pressure from Baghdad, its capacity as an ally is limited. The goal of a stable Middle East, free from terror, pays the price. The United States should stand by friends. The Kurds have proven they are a reliable democracy and security partner.

Karim Sinjari is interior minister and acting minister of Peshmerga for the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq. David L. Phillips directs the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University and has served as senior adviser to the U.S. Department of State.

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